I can still remember the day I met Grace, Carrick and their two sons, Elliot and Christian. Elliot was a very happy child who always loved to tell you everything he knew about everything and about anything that had happened to him that day. He loved to be the center of attention. Christian on the other hand, only four at the time, mostly just clung to Grace. He didn’t speak, he didn’t even look at me at first.
He warmed up to my wife more quickly. It only took only three meetings with him before he willingly went into Elena’s arms and let her hold him. I thought Grace was going to cry as Elena smiled down at her son, too small for his age, and he reached up and grasped a lock of her platinum hair and began twirling it around his tiny finger.
It took him nearly a year to warm up to me at all, and even then he would only come near me if I offered him a piece of candy or something to play with. But Carrick assured me that he’d had difficulty with Christian too. Christian just didn’t trust men. So I would watch my wife laugh and play with our best friends’ beautiful baby boy from across the room, and, even though I didn’t know if I’d ever get to have a bond with him the way I did with Elliot and eventually with Mia, I was happy to see her enjoy the love of a child.
From the moment they met, Elena was always extraordinarily protective of Christian. That’s why it wasn’t odd to me when she had him over to try and help him when he was in high school, or when she called him after he went away to college, or even when she’d openly questioned the motives of the girl he’d brought home for Thanksgiving in front of Carrick and Grace. She worried about Christian, about what any kind of further trauma would do to him, and that’s why she tried so hard to talk to him about this new relationship during Christmas. Why she was so adamant with Carrick and Grace on our family vacation to Aspen… But that facade of concern I’d imagined was falling apart all around me now. A perfectly constructed illusion shattered by a single accusation from the girl whom Christian loved.
He’s not your submissive anymore, and he’s never going to be again… Get it through your head, you’re never going to fuck Christian again.
“What did you just say?” I manage to breathe out through the shock at the girl in the black satin ball gown. Ana’s wide blue eyes, suddenly full of fear, turn to face me, as do the shocked gazes of Christian and the woman I’ve shared my life with for 25 years.
“Andrew, please. The girl is delusional,” Elena says, laughing at the ridiculousness of what she’s being accused of, but the guilt of being caught in Anastasia’s eyes is undeniable. This isn’t a lie.
“Is it true, Anastasia? I mutter roughly, feeling as though my throat is suddenly filled with gravel. “What you just said… is it true?”
Again, she doesn’t respond. She just stands before me, shaking slightly, and seeing her there, looking terrified, speaks to me more than words ever could. But before I bring Christian’s parents into this, before I do what has to be done, I need someone to say it.
“Christian?” I ask.
The scared little boy who has grown into an intelligent, capable young man, looks first to Anastasia, then to Elena before finally looking back to me, visibly warring with himself over what to do.
“Christian, is it true?” I ask again, finally finding strength in my voice.
He swallows hard, looks me dead in the eye and says, “Yes.”
The word seems to echo through the hall around us, sending everything I’ve ever known or believed crashing to the ground. I knew about Elena’s past, that before me she’d dabbled in BDSM relationships, but I always thought that was about money. The men she submitted herself to paid for a lifestyle she could not afford. But, when she met me, when she fell in love with me and I offered her everything she’d ever wanted and more without the pain and the humiliation she’d suffered at the hands of the men she’d slept with before, I thought she was glad to be rid of that lifestyle. I thought it was all in the past. I never thought for a second that she could… not with the little gray eyed boy that Grace had already once saved from a life of abuse.
Well, I could save him now. I could put an end to this, and I would.
“Carrick!” I yell, turning around immediately and sprinting back up the hallway for the dining room where I know Christian’s father is waiting for us all to return. I can hear Elena call out after me, pleading with me as she chases me across the lobby, but I ignore her. The very sound of her voice is sickening.
“Can I have ice cream for dinner?” Mia asks. She’s found the dessert section in the back of the menu and she’s looking hungrily at a huge, chocolate covered sundae.
“Why don’t you try something that won’t make you sick, huh?” I tell her, chuckling slightly. She grimaces and flips back to the entree section. I focus on my own menu, trying very hard to ignore Kate and Elliot canoodling next to me, even though Grace and I are both ecstatic to see him finally settling down with a girl.
Both of my son’s are in love, I think proudly, and then frown. Something is wrong with Christian tonight. He seems upset and I don’t know if it’s school or Ana… but they both disappeared just before we sat down at the table and they’ve been gone a disconcerting amount of time. I hope they’re not fighting… I know from experience that Christian can be cruel when he’s angry. I don’t want him driving Ana away, she’s been extraordinarily good for him.
There is a commotion just outside in the lobby and I turn to face the dining room doors, but it isn’t Christian and Ana I see, it’s Elena and Andrew. He’s walking purposefully towards me while Elena pleads with him to stop and listen to her.
“Carrick, I need to talk to you,” he says angrily.
“Please, Andrew… no! You don’t understand. It’s not what you…” Elena begs, gripping onto the arm of his tuxedo jacket, but he shrugs her off and pushes her roughly to the ground. I jump immediately to my feet and grab onto him.
“Andrew, what are you doing?” I demand, as Kate rushes around the table to help Elena to her feet.
“Do you have any idea what has been going on between my wife and your son?” he asks, eyes blazing. My brow furrows with confusion as I glance over at Elena and then back to Andrew.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that my wife has been using your son to fulfil her perverted BDSM fantasies.”
It feels as though a bucket of ice water has just been dumped down my back. Surely, I misunderstood him. Andrew looks over at Mia, who looks more confused than any of us, and then leans in to speak quietly in my ear to prevent her from overhearing him.
“Elena has been fucking Christian, but not just fucking him. She’s been beating him, torturing him, forcing him to do all kinds of twisted sex things to her.”
The feeling of cold immediately blazes away as I hear the absolute certainty in his voice and anger begins to rise within me. I’m swimming in a cocktail of emotions: hurt, betrayal, confusion, disgust… but what prevails is anger. I’m consumed by fury, deep fiery hatred for the woman Kate is still holding onto, too shocked to register that her fingers are still wrapped around her arms.
I glare at Elena, the woman we’ve trusted with our children when we were away, who we invited into our homes for holidays and celebrations, who we’ve brought along on family vacations, who we trusted to help Christian when he was falling off the rails… Oh god, is that how this started? Did we send him right into her trap? Is that why he turned around so entirely, she was raping him and beating him into submission, leaving him too terrified to act out again?
This is going to kill Grace, and I mean it might literally kill her. I’m not going to be the one to tell her. This disgusting bitch who has paraded herself around as Grace’s own best friend and closest confidant can reveal her betrayal herself. And then I’ll rake her across the coals and throw her into prison where child molesters like her belong.
Elena stares back at me, something close to panic in her eyes, and I lunge at her, grabbing her roughly by the arm and throwing her at Andrew, too sickened to drag her up to admit her crime to Grace myself. Thankfully, Andrew understands immediately and he pushes her forward as I storm out of the dining room for the elevators. Surprisingly though, Elena seems just as eager to grab on to me, to pull me back, as Andrew is to ensure she doesn’t make a run for it.
“Carrick, please, please no!” Elena pleads. “It’s not like that, you have to listen to me.”
“Get the fuck out of my way you disgusting bitch!” I scream at her, pushing her back and pounding on the elevator call button. I turn to look back and Kate is hugging Mia tightly to her side, trying to comfort her by rubbing her arm, while Elliot just stares at the three of us in complete shock. The elevator doors open and I follow Andrew, dragging a horrified looking Elena inside, and begin pounding on the round number seven. As the doors close, I can see Christian and Ana step into the lobby and my son, the boy I’ve loved and protected for fifteen years, looks back at me, pale as a ghost.
I glance nervously down at my phone on the bathroom vanity, just waiting for it to ring again. I’m already running so behind and I feel a wave a guilt flash through me as I think about my family eating dinner in the hotel dining room rather than the restaurant Carrick made reservations to all because I’m not ready to leave. I peel my eyes away from my phone to brush mascara over my lashes. I should be happy. Jonathan, the eleven year old boy who has been on dialysis for nearly two years under my care, is finally going to get a kidney. I’ve promised him this day would come soon every time he’d been brought back into the hospital and, over the last few months, I could see the hope begin to fade in his eyes. I’m finally going to have the chance to save him and that is the most important thing, even if it means giving up more time with Christian.
At least we have tonight.
I set down the mascara and search through my makeup bag for a tube of lipstick, but am distracted by the sound of my hotel room door banging open and my husband calling out my name.
“Grace!” he yells. Oh no, he sounds angry. I drop the bag in my hands and hurry out of the bathroom, seeing Carrick looking so furious that he’s panting and Andrew gripping firmly to Elena’s arm. Her gaze is pleading with me… pleading for what?
“What’s going on?” I ask, but Carrick doesn’t say anything he just turns his angry glare on Elena.
“Tell her,” he growls.
“Carrick,” Elena whimpers, but her plea elicits a low growl from her husband and he shakes her violently.
“Tell her!” he demands.
“Please, Andrew… it’s not true. This is all a misunderstanding! Don’t do this!” Elena begs, but her reaction only seems to further enrage her husband.
“Tell her what you’ve done, Elena!” The way he looks down at her scares me. But, before I can ask what’s going on, my attention is drawn by Elliot, Christian, and Ana walking through the still open door. Elliot crosses the room to my side quickly and he too glares at Elena. He’s angry too, so angry I can feel him shaking next to me.
“Tell her!” Andrew screams again. “Tell her what disgusting things you’ve done to her child.”
And suddenly, I’m enraptured. Whatever this is, whatever has happened, has happened to one of my kids.
“My child? What’s going on?” I ask. My eyes flitting to first Elliot and then Christian. They look fine.. but Mia isn’t here. “Oh my god, Mia!” I cry out. “Where’s Mia?”
“It’s not Mia,” Carrick growls, and, although I feel the briefest sensation of relief, it’s immediately wiped away when my husband’s eyes dart up to look at Christian.
“Christian? What’s wrong with Christian?” I ask, trying to examine him from across the room. He’s not looking at me, he’s staring at a bracelet around Ana’s wrist, and I know from past experience, if he won’t even look at me, it’s bad.
“Tell her!” Andrew snarls again, but when I turn to look at them, Elena simply presses her lips together. Andrew tenses and answers for her.
“It turns out your best friend has been fucking your son,” he says.
“Wha-” I say, my voice breaking off before I can get the word out. I look around the room in shock, looking at each of their faces. This can’t be… I mean, this is Elena. This is my best friend…
“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.”
My breath freezes in my chest as the weight of his words hit me. My mind is racing, my thoughts coming too quickly for me to find anything coherent. I look up at Christian, who is looking at me again, waiting for my reaction, but as I look into his eyes, trying to find the truth, he looks down at the floor and I know it isn’t a lie.
“Oh my god!” I choke. My knees buckle and Elliot has to reach out and grab hold of me to keep me on my feet. My breathing comes in shallow, horrible gasps and I’m suddenly overcome by a wave of nausea. “I’m going to be sick,” I murmur.
“Grace,” Elena says, her voice the same kind, worried tenor it is when she’s trying to reassure me about the kids. “Look, I’m sorry…”
“Don’t you dare apologize to me!” I snap disgustedly, looking up at her and seeing nothing but red. “As if any apology could make what you’ve done okay. Oh my god, I trusted you! I left my kids with you!” I’m screaming, shaking, as I’m forced to wonder if I allowed this to happen in my own house… and then another terrible thought crosses my mind. “Oh my god, Elliot! Did she…”
“No!” Elliot exclaims, shaking his head vehemently. “I didn’t know anything about this.”
I feel the a fleeting sense of relief, but it isn’t enough to wash away the devastation I feel for my other son. My son who was broken. My son who was so wounded and hungry when I got him we were all surprised he was alive. My son who still can’t bare to be touched, even by me, the person who loves him so completely that I’m consumed by it. This is the son she chose and as the realization that this is all really happening hits me, tears spring to my eyes.
“Christian?” I scream back her, so beyond hurt at this point I’m bewildered. “You knew. You knew everything he’d been through. You saw how that trauma affected him. You saw how horrible his teenage years were because of what had already happened to him. How could you?”
As I stare at the woman before me, murderous rage seeping through my every pore, her pleading demeanor changes. Her eyes harden and she glares back at me.
“Why do you think it stopped?” She asks venomously. “You didn’t really believe it was all your psycho-therapy bullshit did you? I put a stop to his self-destructive behaviour and now look at him. He’s at Harvard! He’s everything you ever wanted him to be because of me!”
The red in my vision darkens until I can’t see anything and the next thing I know I’m on top of her, hitting her as hard as I can, pulling at her, literally trying to rip her limb from limb. There is only bloodlust in me now, so potent I can taste it, and I continue my attack until I feel a pair of arms wrapping around me and yanking me away from her.
“Mom! Mom stop!” Christian yells. “She can press charges!”
“Not if she’s dead!” I scream back. “Let me go! I’m going to fucking kill her!” I do everything I can to escape my son’s grasp, but soon it’s not only his hands that restrain me and I’m pulled further backwards by both Christian and Carrick.
“He’s right, Grace,” Carrick says, trying to calm me. “We don’t need to make this messy.”
“What the fuck do you mean, messy?” I scream back at him incredulously. “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.”
Elliot nods and reaches into his pocket for his cell phone, but Elena begins screaming at him before he can dial.
“What? What do you mean police?”
“You’ve been brutalizing my son! I know what that lifestyle entails!” Carrick yells, and I’m glad to finally see some of the rage in him that has overpowered me.
“Everything I did, I did with his consent,” she snarls. “He’s not your innocent little boy, Carrick. He wanted it. He begged for it. He liked it.”
I’m going to murder her. I fight against Christian’s grip again, focused solely on destroying this horrible monster in front of me, but I can’t escape. All eyes turn to Christian, and I see the tension in his jaw. Surely, he wants to scream at her too. I can’t imagine the hurt he must feel listening to her try and put this on him… the victim.
“Christian,” Carrick says, his voice betraying him, telling everyone he’s on the brink of tears. “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.”
But Christian doesn’t respond. He looks back into his father’s eyes, and in that instant I know that any denial he gave, would be a lie. He did consent. The nausea returns and the red in my sight begins to darken. I think I’m going to pass out.
“Ha!” Elena laughs, bringing me back into the present. “I have a signed contract. Everything there in black and white. Fully consensual.”
“So there’s nothing we can do?” I ask, turning a pleading gaze to my husband, the man who knows the law inside and out. He’ll find us a way… I’m sure of it. But, he doesn’t seem so sure himself. I can see his eyes darting back and forth as he tries desperately to come up with a solution.
“Tell them Christian,” I hear Ana say across the room, and I look up to see her staring at my son in a comforting kind of way rather than imploring him. She knows something, Christian knows something and she’s trying to reassure him. And again, I feel the sinking feeling that I’m about to find out something terrible, worse than even what has already been said. “This isn’t your fault,” she continues. “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, her voice a warning not to speak, but thankfully Christian doesn’t look at her. He stares only at Anastasia, and when she nods and he turns to face his father, I don’t know if I’m prepared to hear what he’s going to say.
“When it started…” he begins quietly. “When I signed the contract… I was fifteen.”
Fifteen? Oh no… it’s worse, so much worse than I imagined. He was child. She did this to my son when he was still a child. My baby boy. My poor, lost baby boy. The gasping starts again, deeper this time and I begin to retch, vomiting onto the carpet of our hotel room as Elliot dials the police. The darkness comes again and I only just see Andrew pulling Elena back, preventing her from running, before I collapse into Carrick’s arms.