“This is Christian Grey, leave a message.”
I scowl. This is the twelfth time I’ve gotten the voicemail greeting I’m never supposed to get. I wait for the electronic beep and then begin my tirade in a low, angry voice.
“Have I been too easy on you? Is this your way of pleading with me to punish you? Because I promise you, that is what is in store for you. You are now forty-five minutes late, and from this point forward every additional minute it takes you to walk through that door will equate to one additional lash. I do not like to be kept waiting, Christian. You know this and I have no idea why you are now choosing to test my patience.”
I hang up the phone and glare at the door, wondering what possible excuse he could have for being this late, for being late at all. But I never get an explanation because he never shows. By the end of the night I’ve listened to his voicemail a total of 37 times and have left 13 different messages, each more threatening than the last.
The next morning, as I re-pack all my things, fuming over Christian’s failure to appear the night before, I briefly consider driving down to the Harvard campus and finding him in his dormitory, but I don’t have time. Besides, I don’t actually know which dormitory is his, I never thought to ask. I can see now that was a mistake, but, truthfully, I never expected anything like this from Christian. He’s always so eager to do whatever it takes to please me. Now, my perfect little submissive is misbehaving. It’s not like him. In fact, his behavior over the last few months has been strange. Perhaps he was right all along. Maybe Harvard isn’t good for him.
Christian continues to ignore my calls for the rest of the week, and then the week after that. By the beginning of November, I’m so furious I decide to call Grace and find out exactly where Christian lives so that I can deal with him in person. I dial her number and drum my newly manicured fingernails on the marble of my bathroom vanity.
“Elena, I’m so sorry, I’m a terrible friend,” Grace answers.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve really been meaning to call you all week, but with work, and Mia’s dance and cello lessons, and Christian…”
“That was what I was calling to talk to you about,” I interrupt her, attempting to sound concerned. “I’ve been trying to check in with him and see how he’s doing, but he hasn’t been answering my calls.”
“Elena…” Grace says warmly, like my concern for her son is the sweetest thing she’s ever heard. “I’ll never be able to thank you enough for the love you’ve given Christian. I don’t know where he’d be if it wasn’t for you.”
Probably shooting up in a back alley like his crack whore mother. “Grace, please…” I reply, reassuringly. “You know how I love all the kids. Now, what’s going on with Christian?”
“Well, a couple weeks ago, he apparently went out and somehow got so drunk he couldn’t stand up straight and had to have a friend practically carry him home. Then Elliot flew out the next weekend so they could spend Halloween together and Christian got into a fight! I just don’t know what to do, Elena. He’s barely taking my calls and he won’t show up for any of the extra therapy sessions I schedule for him. Maybe… maybe he was right. Maybe college is too much for him.”
“He’s an adult, Grace. He has to learn to make it in the real world without everyone coddling him all the time,” I reply, struggling to keep my concerned tone while I silently fume. So he’s been drinking again and fighting? That’s rules three and seven broken as well… Perhaps I was naïve in believing I could leave him alone for extended periods of time. Well, that mistake will end immediately. I’ll have to find an excuse for Andrew but I think I’ll need to make it back East far more regularly. That is if I can ever get ahold of him…
“There is one thing, though,” Grace says, stopping me before I can ask her about Christian’s housing assignment.
“Well, Elliot seems to think Christian may have finally taken interest in a girl,” she says, a hint of satisfaction in her voice. My entire body tenses and I struggle to keep my voice even.
“Yes, her name is Ana. She’s roommates with Elliot’s new girlfriend Kate.”
“And you said Christian and Kate were neighbors right?”
So if this Ana is roommates with Kate and they’re both Christian’s neighbors, that must make her Anastasia Steele, Christian’s midnight visitor. He lied to me. He promised me nothing had happened between the two of them, that she meant nothing to him and that he had cut off all contact with her. Is that why he’s been ignoring me? Because he’s too busy fucking the little whore across the hall?
Oh, we’ll see about that.
“Well, I think you’re right that Christian is probably having a more difficult transition into college than we may have guessed, but I don’t think there is reason for concern quite yet. Perhaps he just needs to spend some time at home. Will he be home for Thanksgiving in a couple weeks?”
“Yes, he’s promised me he will be. He sent me the itinerary for the flight he booked home a couple days ago. He should be here the 17th.”
“Well it may be good to address all of this with him then, when he’s not so consumed with school work.”
“You’re right. Are you sure you and Andrew won’t make it for Thanksgiving?”
Oh, I’ll be there. But I don’t want you warning Christian first…
“I’m sorry, Grace. Andrew just can’t get out of this business trip. You know how much we both want to be there to share the holiday with you and all the kids.”
“I know, you’ll be very sorely missed. I’m sorry though, I’m going to have to let you go. I have to get Mia to dance rehearsal. She has a performance coming up and she’s won a very important solo.”
“Of course she has,” I say, forcing a small laugh. “Mia was born for the spotlight. Wish her all the best for me.”
I hang up the phone just as I hear the sound of the garage door opening downstairs. Andrew is home from a hard day at the office, and he’ll be expecting his doting wife to greet him. I sigh as I freshen up my lipstick and then head down the winding staircase towards the kitchen.
He’s on his phone when he comes through the garage door, shouting at someone over tree-cutting permits. I wait patiently for his call to end, occupying myself by staring out at the pool through the glass french doors that lead to the back yard. Years later, it’s still a beautiful sight to behold. Unfortunately that has nothing to do with Christian and everything to do with the lawn maintenance company I hired years ago. Christian’s responsibilities have been much more important than landscaping, but for the first time in four years, he’s ignoring them entirely.
“I’m sorry, dear,” Andrew says when he hangs up the phone. “How was your day?”
“Fine,” I sigh. “I spent most of the day at the spa.”
“I’m glad,” he replies absentmindedly as he replies to an email on his phone. “You’ve seemed tense these past few weeks.”
“Mmm,” I mumble. “Andrew, isn’t there any way we could make it back to Seattle to join the Greys for Thanksgiving dinner?”
“I don’t think so, this is a big contract. I need to be there to make sure nothing gets fucked up.”
“Please?” I pout. “Elliot and Christian will be back from school for the first time since they’ve left and we hardly ever even see Mia anymore. She’s been so busy with all her extracurricular activities.”
He sighs and then smiles at me. “You know, with how much you love those kids, it almost makes me sad we did have any of our own.”
“We don’t need any of our own, we have the Greys,” I smile back. “Please tell me we can make it there for Thanksgiving.”
“I’ll do what I can,” he acquiesces, and I smile back at him.
“Thank you. But let’s keep it a secret okay? I want to surprise them.”
“Sure, dear. Would you mind if I made a phone call before dinner?”
“Of course not.” I shrug and he kisses my cheek before disappearing into his study. I turn around and look back out at the pool.
Try and avoid me now, Christian Grey.