Nobody moves. Nobody breathes. Christian, Elena, and I are all staring anxiously at Mr. Lincoln, waiting for a reaction. He’s just standing there, looking utterly shocked and staring back at Christian. There is a small movement to my right as Elena tries to say something or move towards her husband, I’m not sure which, because the small movement seems to bring Mr. Lincoln out of his stupor.
“Carrick!” He yells, and he begins backing down the hallway. He calls out for Mr. Grey once more and then turns and starts running towards the dining room.
“Andrew!” Elena cries as she hurries down the hallway after him. “Andrew, please!”
I turn to look at Christian, wondering if he plans to go after them, but he slumps against the wall at his back looking slightly deflated. It worries me at first as I wonder why he seems to regret his decision to admit the truth, but then I remember what he told me in a past conversation:
It’ll change everything. It’ll change the way my parents look at me, and the way they think of me.
As those words repeat in my mind, the full enormity of what has just happened hits me. Carrick and Grace are going to know about Christian and Elena. They’re going to know that she seduced him and that she continued to sexually abuse him for years. This is going to change everything. Grace is going to be furious, and hurt, and devastated all at the same time and Christian… I don’t even know what this is going to do to him.
“Are you okay?” I whisper, because that’s all I can manage as I fully comprehend the gravity of the situation.
“Come here,” He says quietly holding his arms out for me, and I go to him willingly. We stand there together for a moment, me wrapped tightly against him, as we both wait and listen. It doesn’t take long for a roaring commotion to break the silence in the lobby and we hear Carrick and Elena screaming at one another.
“Get the fuck out of my way you disgusting bitch,” Carrick roars, and while Elena tries to offer weak, simpering explanations, I see Christian cringe.
“It’s her, it’s not you,” I tell him, trying to be reassuring, and he nods.
“I’ve never heard my Dad talk like that. He’s always so polite and soft spoken,” Christian says.
“I think we can give him a pass,” I reply gently. He nods again as we hear the elevator ping. Carrick must be going up to Grace.
“I need to go to my mom,” Christian says. “This might kill her.”
“Okay,” I tell him, and he takes my hand and leads me down the hallway, walking like a man on his way to execution.
We round the corner into the lobby and see everyone at the elevator. Carrick is standing inside, furiously pressing the button to his floor while Mr. Lincoln stands next to him, gripping tightly to Elena’s arm, holding her in place. She looks extremely pale, frightened almost, and as the doors close, she glances up and offers one last imploring look to Christian.
“Let’s go,” Christian says, and he tugs my hand so that I follow him across the stone floor of the lobby and presses purposefully on the elevator call button.
“Christian…” Elliot says, his tone still full of shock and disbelief.
“I need to go make sure Mom is okay,” Christian says, cutting off any question Elliot may ask him. I turn to look at them. Elliot and Kate are both staring at Christian looking dumbfounded, while Mia looks to each one of us, clearly confused.
“I don’t understand what’s going on,” She says. “Why is Dad so mad? What did Aunt Elena do?”
“Something bad,” Kate says in a sad but still somehow reassuring voice. The elevator arrives again and both Christian and Elliot step inside. “Why don’t you and I go get some ice cream in the dining room and we’ll let the adults deal with this,” She continues.
“I’ll go with you,” I say but Christian throws his arm out to stop the elevator from closing and looks at me imploringly.
“No, Ana. I want you with me,” He says. I take a deep breath, knowing that being there for Christian is all that matters. No matter how horrible I know the scene upstairs is going to be, if he wants me there, that’s where I need to be.
“Okay,” I agree, and I step into the elevator next to him. He releases the door and both Kate and Mia disappear from view as the door closes. While we ride up to the 7th floor, I wonder idly if Elliot knows what room we need to go to, but upon our arrival, I realize almost immediately that we won’t need Elliot to find Grace and Carrick. The moment the doors open, I can hear Mr. Lincoln screaming through an open door just down the hallway from us.
“Tell her what you’ve done, Elena!” He yells over her trembling pleas for mercy. We hurry forward to the open door and the moment we step over the threshold, Christian closes the door behind us and Elliot walks over to stand next to Carrick and Grace. He’s shaking just like his father and I can see in this moment the ferocity of the protectiveness he feels for his little brother.
“Tell her!” Mr. Lincoln continues as Elena has still yet to say anything. “Tell her what disgusting things you’ve done to her child.”
“My child?” Grace asks confused. “What’s going on? Oh my god, Mia! Where’s Mia?”
“It’s not Mia,” Carrick growls, and he glances across the room at Christian.
“Christian?” Grace asks, the worry now overtly apparent in her voice. “What’s wrong with Christian?”
“Tell her!” Mr. Lincoln snarls at his wife. She presses her lips together, trying to remain stoic but she’s can’t stop trembling. Her silence pushes Mr. Lincoln over the edge and he tells Grace himself. “It turns out your best friend has been fucking your son.”
“Wha-” Grace gasps, her voice breaking as the shock makes her voice raise an octave too high.
“She’s roped him into that BDSM shit she used to be into. I’ve just heard Ana yelling at her downstairs about how Christian isn’t her submissive anymore and she’ll never fuck him again.”
Grace looks over at us, too shocked to react to anything Mr. Lincoln has said, but all Christian can do is turn his eyes away from her and down to the floor. She studies him and when she realizes his lack of eye contact and uncomfortable posture is an admission, her face crinkles with despair.
“Oh my god.” Grace gasps, suddenly unbalanced on her feet. She wobbles slightly and Elliot reaches out to catch her. She’s shaking in his arms, the color completely drained from her face. “I’m going to be sick.” She whispers.
“Grace,” Elena pleads. “Look, I’m sorry…”
“Don’t you dare apologize to me,” Grace spits back at her. The shock begins to fade as anger takes over and she’s turned on Elena with a fiery glare. “As if any apology could make what you’ve done okay. Oh my god! I trusted you! I left my kids with you! Oh my god, Elliot, did she…”
“No!” Elliot says suddenly. “I didn’t know anything about this.”
“Christian?” Grace screams both disbelieving and disgusted at Elena, tears now bursting out of her as she becomes more and more hysteric. “You knew, you knew everything he’d been through. You saw how all that trauma affected him. You saw how horrible his teenage years were because of what had already happened to him. How could you?”
“Why do you think it stopped?” Elena says, her voice suddenly icy and hard. “You didn’t really believe it was all your psycho-therapy bullshit, did you? I put a stop to his self-destructive behavior and now look at him. He’s at Harvard! He’s everything you’ve ever wanted him to be, because of me!”
Grace loses it. She screams a primal, blood curdling sound and launches herself at Elena. A murderous fire glinting in her eyes. Elliot could stop her, his arms are already around her. He could easily restrain his mother, but he doesn’t. Instead, he steps backwards, doing everything he can to make sure he doesn’t impede her path, and Elena gasps as Grace takes her to the floor, hitting her, clawing at her, pulling her hair…
Christian moves for the first time. He practically flies across the room, grasping his mother tightly and pulling her off of a now bleeding Elena.
“Mom!” Christian yells firmly, doing his best to restrain his mother who is now out of control with blood lust. “Mom, stop! She can press charges!”
“Not if she’s dead!” Grace screams. “Let me go, I’m going to fucking kill her!”
Christian struggles to hold her steady as Grace does everything she can to get out of his grip. I’m worried she’ll hurt Christian in her ardor to get to Elena, but thankfully, Carrick rushes forward and wraps his arms around her to hold her still.
“He’s right, Grace,” Carrick says soothingly. “We don’t need to make this messy.”
“What the fuck do you mean, messy? Don’t you realize what she’s done to our son? How can you just stand there and do nothing?”
“I’m not going to do nothing. I’m going to handle this the right way. Elliot, you need to call the police,” Carrick says. Elliot nods and takes out his phone.
“What?” Elena asks, suddenly alarmed. “What do you mean police?”
“You’ve been brutalizing my son!” Carrick yells back at her. “I know what that lifestyle entails!”
“Everything I did, I did with his consent. He’s not your innocent little boy, Carrick. He wanted it. He loved it. He begged for it.”
Grace begins flailing again against Carrick’s grasp to get at Elena, but he holds her firmly. Slowly, Carrick turns his imploring gaze to Christian.
“Christian,” He says, and I can hear the echo of tears in his voice. “I need you to tell me that she’s lying. I need you to tell me that she did those things against your will. I can’t do anything unless you tell me that you didn’t give her your consent.”
I watch Christian’s jaw tenses as he looks back at his father unable to give him the words he needs.
“Ha!” Elena laughs darkly. “I have signed contract. Everything is there in black and white. Fully consensual.”
“So there’s nothing we can do?” Grace croaks. I can see Carrick thinking, looking for some way around it, and my stomach roils at the thought of her getting away with this. Fortunately, I know the small detail that’s been left out, but that is all that matters. I shouldn’t be the one to say it, though. It should be Christian.
“Tell them, Christian,” I say, and he looks over at me. I hold his gaze. “This isn’t your fault. You’re not the one who should be paying for this. Look at the hurt and betrayal in this room right now. It’s all because of her. She deserves to go to jail for this and you can make that happen. But you have to tell them.”
“Christian,” Elena says in a warning voice, but Christian doesn’t look at her. He continues to stare at me as he makes the decision. Eventually, he nods, takes a deep breath to steel himself, and then turns to face his father.
“When it started, when I signed the contract… I was fifteen.”
There is a long beat of silence and then several things happen at once. Elliot dials the number for the police, not needing Carrick to confirm what this means, Grace’s body begins to convulse and then she vomits onto the carpet while Carrick tries to keep her hair away from her face, and Elena turns to run for the door. I step in her way, bracing myself for the impact but it doesn’t come as Mr. Lincoln reaches out and grabs Elena before she can move.
Once I know she won’t be able to make a break for it, I move to Christian, who is looking at the scene around him stunned. I know this is probably overwhelming for him so I push myself into his arms and hold him tightly.
“I’m proud of you,” I whisper, and his only response is to kiss my hair and hold onto me.
Twenty minutes later, the police are at the door. Christian, Mr. Lincoln, and Carrick are pulled aside to be interviewed by the police while Elena is put in handcuffs and read her rights. Elliot and I do what we can to console Grace, who is now crying uncontrollably on the bed.
It feels like it takes forever for the police to leave and when they finally do, Carrick calls down to the front desk to get a new room, as the smell of vomit is now overpowering. They tell him it will be twenty or thirty minutes but they’ll get one ready and let him know when they can move. Carrick thanks them, hangs up the phone, and turns to Christian.
“Can we talk?” He asks.
“I suppose,” Christian says quietly.
“We can go to my room” Elliot says, and Carrick nods. He and Christian help Grace out of bed, and half carry her out of the room. Fortunately by the time they’ve reached Elliot’s room, she’s fairly under control again.
Elliot opens the door and we see Kate laying on the bed, still dressed in her chiffon gown, watching TV with Mia fast asleep, cuddled into a ball, by her side. Kate looks at us worriedly. She knows what’s wrong, I’m sure she heard the police, but for the most part she’s been in the dark and that is not a place where Kate is comfortable.
She gets out of the bed and Carrick tucks Mia in, making sure she’s fast asleep before joining us on the couches in the corner. He settles down into the chair he’s pulled away from the desk and then looks at Christian expectantly.
“How did it start?” Carrick asks, and Christian takes another deep, steadying breath to begin.
“I had just been expelled from school. Mom didn’t want me to be rewarded with a free vacation sitting around the house, so she sent me over to Elena’s to do some work on her pool.”
“Oh god, it was me!” Grace cries, devolving into tears again. Elliot wraps his arm around her, comforting her so that Christian can continue.
“I was a real piece of shit that day,” He says. “She’d tell me to do something and I’d give her some smartass response. She doesn’t take that well, so she marched over to me and slapped me hard across the face. It was a good kind of release, like the fighting. Touch is bearable if it’s violent. I know that kind of touch, I understand that kind of touch, but after she slapped me, she grabbed my face and she kissed me. It wasn’t a sweet kiss, or a romantic kiss. It was punishing, possessive, and it didn’t scare me.”
“I was fifteen, all I could think about was sex but I couldn’t bear to be touched and now here was this beautiful woman giving me the sexual release I needed, and I didn’t find it threatening. And then she just… went back in the house. I finished my work and when I told her I was done, she told me to come back the next day. When I came back, she told me what she did, and what it was like, and told me she wanted to do it with me. I wasn’t sure but then she dropped to her knees and…” He stops but we all get the picture of what comes next.
“I signed the contract three weeks later. When I got back into school, she told me I had to stay out of trouble and keep my grades up. I was to be more respectful to my parents, stop drinking, and do what I was told to do. Elena told Mom that it was the hard labor that had turned me around and so when her pool was finished, Mom sent me there to do other things. Mr. Lincoln is hardly ever home so no one ever knew.”
“And when did it end?” Carrick asks.
“Not officially until this last Thanksgiving, but in practice about a month or so before that. She’d flown to Boston a few times at the beginning of the school year, gotten a hotel room. I put a stop to it when I realized my feelings for Ana. She’s been trying to break us up ever since.”
“What do you mean? How?” Grace asks.
“The money,” Carrick answers for him. “She tried to tell me Ana was after his money and that I should cut Christian off until he broke up with her.”
“There were phone calls, too,” Christian adds. “Text messages, emails. And tonight we found out she paid a guy at school to try and seduce Ana, make her leave me for him. It wasn’t working so they set up a meeting so he could kiss her and Elena could get a picture of it and send it to me. It almost worked but the guy showed up tonight demanding to be paid and we overheard it. That’s why Ana was yelling at Elena downstairs when Mr. Lincoln overheard us.”
“I’m so sorry, Christian,” Grace says as tears begin to flow again. “I knew about her… predilection, but I never thought for a second that she could… I mean, I trusted her. She was my best friend. She was always so good with you kids, I didn’t know. I-I thought she was helping you.”
“I know, Mom. It’s not your fault. She did help me. She wasn’t lying to you. I’d be in jail or dead by now if she hadn’t…”
“Don’t you dare!” Grace says, a stern anger overtaking the shaky tears. “Don’t you dare defend her. She didn’t help you! What she did was abusive and illegal. She’s manipulated you into thinking she helped you but make no mistake, you are here, not because of her, but in spite of her.”
“I wouldn’t have turned around,” Christian argues. “I’d be the same punk kid I was when I was fifteen.”
“You don’t know that,” Carrick says. “You just weren’t given the chance to change on your own.”
“Maybe,” Christian shrugs, clearly just wanting to end the discussion. Carrick and Grace aren’t ready to give up that easily but his cell phone rings and Mia wakes up. Carrick answers the phone and the front desk lets him know his room is ready. He thanks them again, hangs up the phone, and gets a very sleepy Mia out of bed.
“What do we do next?” Grace asks quietly. “I have to leave for Seattle in the morning, I have surgery. I don’t even want him in the same city as she is, especially if I’m across the country.”
“I’m here until Sunday,” Elliot offers.
“And then what?” Grace asks. “We don’t know how long she’ll be here. I don’t exactly see her going home with her husband, do you?” I notice that they’re not saying names, probably to try and keep Mia in the dark.
“Tomorrow we’ll take Christian down to the courthouse and get a restraining order and a no contact order. That will give us some time until this goes to trial,” Carrick says.
“How long will that take?” Elliot asks.
“A few months, maybe? If I know her, she’ll lawyer up and fight this, but as Christian is old enough to testify, there isn’t much she can do. A plea bargain, maybe, but either way it’s a prison sentence,” Carrick says, and then he turns to Christian. “Are you staying here tonight, son, or are you going back to school?”
“Ana and I have a room,” Christian replies.
“Good, after breakfast we’ll go to the courthouse. Until then try to get some sleep,” Carrick says. Christian nods and Carrick leads Mia out the door, but Grace stops and wraps her arms around me.
“You got him out of this,” She says, her voice nearly reverential. “If you’d never come along, it would all still be happening. Thank you, you darling girl.”
She pulls out of the hug and looks at me gratefully. I’m not sure how to respond so I smile meekly back at her. Grace then moves on to Christian. She reaches out and cups his cheek, staring sadly into his gray eyes.
“We’re going to take care of this,” She says. “I’m so, so sorry my dear, sweet boy.”
“Mom…” Christian says uncomfortably. Grace leans in and kisses him on the cheek, hugs Elliot and Kate on her way out, and then closes the door behind her, and we stand there, feeling frozen, in the room that feels too quiet now. Kate steps over to me and grasps my hand, a silent gesture of support if I need it, and I squeeze her hand in grateful acknowledgement.
“So…” Elliot says awkwardly to Christian. “Do you need to talk or anything?”
“No,” Christian replies.
“I just don’t understand,” Elliot continues. “How did you… I mean, Mrs. Lincoln? How did you keep it a secret all these years?”
“I hate to tell you this, but you’re all exceptionally unobservant,” Christian replies dryly.
“So, like… holidays and family vacations? You two were screwing the whole time?”
“You didn’t really think we needed that much ice when we went to Lake Tahoe did you? I spent more of that vacation with her in Reno than I did on the lake with you.”
“And that summer we all camped at Schweitzer and you two suddenly got really into ATVing?” Elliot asks cautiously.
“There was a ski resort on the other side of the ridge that rented out rooms in the summer,” Christian says, and Elliot grimaces.
“I just don’t get it. She’s like… our second mom. She used to take us to the State Fair every year for that weekend Mom and Dad went out of town for their anniversary and she’d stay at our house to watch us when Dad travelling and Mom was on call.”
“Yeah, well… that changed,” Christian says. Elliot shakes his head in disbelief and then it looks as though a thought comes into his head and he eyes Christian wearily as he decides whether or not to say it.
“What?” Christian asks exasperated.
“You won’t get mad?”
“No,” Christian replies.
“Well… okay. Are her tits real?” He asks.
“Elliot!” Kate reprimands him, but Christian just laughs.
“What?” Elliot says defensively. “She’s like 50 years old. Those things defy physics.”
“No, they’re not.” Christian answers, still smiling.
“I knew it,” Elliot says, and he motions to Kate as if Christian’s affirmative response justifies the question. She rolls her eyes.
“Maybe we should head back to our room,” I say, and Christian agrees. Kate hugs me goodbye, and I wave to Elliot and follow Christian out of the room. We’re silent as we head down to the lobby to get our keycard. I realize then I didn’t bring anything for an overnight stay, but thankfully Christian thought ahead and packed some things for both of us.
When we get to the room, he strips down to his boxers while I change out of the stiff satin gown and slip on the sweats and t-shirt he’s packed for me. He goes to the vanity outside the bathroom and begins brushing his teeth and I watch him for a minute and then walk over to him and wrap my arms around his waist, careful not to touch his chest. I know he’s probably feeling extremely vulnerable at the moment and I don’t want to make it worse.
“I’m proud of you,” I say, and he leans over and spits in the sink.
“You’ve said that already,” He says sullenly. I frown and move to sit on the counter next to him so I can look him in the eyes.
“Well, I mean it,” I tell him. “I know how hard this was for you. How you felt about it. But it was the right thing. It took a lot of strength to do what you did tonight. She can’t hurt you anymore. You’re free.”
“No,” He says, shaking his head and moving in between my legs. I look back at him curiously and he takes my hand in his. “I just belong to someone else now.”
He lifts my hand, staring down at it unsure for a moment and then slowly, he places it against his chest. He inhales sharply as my fingers make contact with his skin and I immediately try to pull away, but he stops me.
“No,” He says. “Please.”
I swallow hard and stare at his face as he tries to calm himself with my hands on him. His heart is racing beneath my palm, but miraculously, he holds my hand steady there. The fear, or pain, or whatever it is that normally overwhelms him doesn’t this time, and after several minutes, his body relaxes and he begins stroking the back of my hand, looking at me lovingly.
“I belong to you now, Anastasia,” He says. “And you belong to me. There isn’t anything left to come between us now.”
My lip quivers as the night’s events catch up to me, begin to overwhelm me, but he stops my impending tears with a kiss. I push myself against him, wrapping my arm around his neck and holding him tightly. I feel safe here, in his arms. I feel like I’m home. He kisses me deeply, passionately, his hands releasing the pins that hold the chignon in place and then running through my hair. We don’t break apart until we’re both in desperate need of air and he looks into me with a gaze that sees right through me.
“I love you,” He tells me, and his hand moves over mine which is still pressed against him, over his heart. He smiles slightly and then adds, “Forever.”