Chapter 44

I don’t feel anything. The entire flight from Newark to Hilton Head Airport I keep waiting for my emotions to take over, but they don’t. I sit in the seat of the tiny plane Christian was able to charter this morning feeling like a blank canvas. Not speaking. Registering nothing.

“Do you want to eat?” Luke asks from the seat across from me. I don’t even look at him as I shake my head. “Ana, you may not get a chance once we land. Have some pretzels.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Ana…”

“Just… bring me a bottle from the diaper bag. Calli should eat before we land.”

I hear his sharp intake of breath through his nose, but he doesn’t argue with me again. He gets up to do exactly as I ask and while I listen to him shaking the bottle of formula behind me I tighten my hold on my daughter, who is now sleeping in my arms. She screamed when the plane took off and continued to cry until long after we’d reached cruising altitude, but I almost prefered that. Now that she’s quiet and resting peacefully, there’s nothing to distract me from my thoughts. I know my mother is in critical condition, bad enough that Christian had been concerned about the time it would take me to fly from New York to Georgia, but I don’t know what happened to her or if anyone else I care for is among the injured. Or worse.

Carter. Taylor. Ryan. Bob.

They’re all question marks to me right now.

But they’re not the only questions keeping me silent. The thing making this the most difficult for me right now are the words that Luke said to me in the dressing room at the Today show, about Hyde.

“From what we know of this guy, he doesn’t seem to have a very forgiving nature when it comes to the people he has working for him not coming through…”

Hyun, Leila, Isaac. All people we know were working for him, and now they’re all dead because they didn’t accomplish what they were supposed to. When my mom did what she did after Calliope was born, I couldn’t understand it. I knew she’d been scared after what happened to me during spring break and, while I didn’t agree with it, I could even understand why she’d let that fear manifest into blame on Christian. But what I couldn’t understand was how she could, as a parent herself, let another parent believe their child was dead. How she could be selfish enough to try and steal a child away from her father when she believed that child had just lost her mother. How she could put the entire Grey family, who have been nothing but warm and welcoming from the day they met, through that much pain.

Unfortunately, the answer to those questions now seems obvious. She did what she did because he told her to. It was his plan. He wanted to hurt Christian, and he used someone I trusted to do it. That’s why she was so adamant about trying to break up Christian and I. That’s why she drug my dad into this and tried to poison him against Christian. Because of him. He wanted to take me away from Christian any way he could and my mother was going to help him. She didn’t though, and now she’s paid the price. But after everything Christian has given her, what could he have possibly promised her that would make her do this to him? To me?

I take a deep breath and tilt my head back, trying to fight back tears as I wonder what would have happened had I not made it through Calliope’s birth. She was in the hospital for 10 days. If they’d taken me off life support on day three, Christian and his family would have been gone long before she was discharged. Would she have been allowed to take her home? And if so, would she have tried to raise Calliope as her own, or would she have delivered her straight to him? Given him the ultimate leverage to use against Christian and take everything else he has away from him. Would he have ever gotten her back?

As I take the bottle from Luke and start to feed my daughter, my arms tighten around her tiny frame and I don’t relax my hold on her until after we’ve touched down in Savannah. A strange mix of nerves and dread course through me as we prepare to deboard because I’m not sure I even want to see my mother or know what her condition is. The betrayal I’ve felt so acutely since Calliope’s birth has been made even worse by my suspicion that she’s been involved in all of this and I can’t deal with that and the pain I still feel over the idea of losing her forever. Because, despite everything that’s happened over the last few months, she’s still my mother.

The choices she’s made don’t erase the twenty-two years of memories I have with her. They don’t negate all of the kisses on scraped needs, cuddles after nightmares, or the touch that was the only thing that felt good when I was sick. Hating what she’s done doesn’t make me forget about birthdays, or Christmases, or the one week every summer we spent on the beach playing in the surf and building sand castles. It doesn’t take back every I love you, even if it does make me question the sincerity behind it. It’s one thing to hate your mother when you know she’s safe. It’s an entirely different thing altogether when you know you’ll never speak to her or see her again. When you know that you’ll never have the chance to make things right.

I let out a long calming breath as I take the stairs from the plane down onto the tarmac, but the effects are wasted when I look up at the car waiting for us and see Christian step out. Not from the backseat, but the driver’s seat. Neither Taylor or Ryan are with him and after what happened last night, there’s only one explanation for why he would be alone out in public right now.

“Let’s get everything in the car as quickly as possible,” Christian says, looking past me to Luke. “We need to get back to the hospital.”

“What happened, Christian?” I ask.

He ignores me. “Get in the car, Ana.”

“No, where is everyone?” My voice is desperate as I seek answers to all the questions that have plagued me since I last spoke to him on the phone, but again, he doesn’t answer. Instead, his eyes flit nervously over the empty airfield around us and he pushes me towards the passenger seat of the black Cadillac.

“Just get in the fucking car.”

The bite in his tone momentarily extinguishes my need for answers as I too find myself looking over my shoulder before allowing him to take Calliope out of my arms and hurry me into the car. Luke buckles the carseat in behind me and once Calliope is secured inside the seat, Luke piles in next to her and Christian comes back around to the driver’s seat. Again, he looks warily around before he begins pulling off the tarmac and then speeds down the vaguely familiar highway in the direction of the hospital.

“What happened?” I ask again.

He takes a breath through his nose and when he speaks, his voice is tight. “They were ambushed.”

“How?” Luke asks.

“I don’t know… I don’t know the whole story. Everything happened very quickly. When they called me and I got on the plane, everything had gone according to plan. They had Isaac, they were bringing Carla back to Seattle… but when I landed, no one was there. None of them answered their phones, I had no idea what was going on. All I had was your mother’s address so I went there first and when I got there, the street was covered in glass and blood and everything was roped off by the police. They said it was a drive by.”

“As in… a shooting?” I ask. He nods.

“Your mother and Taylor are in critical condition, they were both in surgery when I got to the hospital.”

“Carter?” I check.

“He was wounded, but I think he’s going to be okay. I’m not really sure. He was admitted but he was also being questioned by the police so I haven’t had the chance to speak with him.”

“And, Ryan?” Luke asks. Christian presses his lips into a thin line and then slowly, shakes his head.

“Jesus Christ.” I look over my shoulder at Luke, who looks a little winded, and then reach back to take his hand. They were friends, and now he’s gone. Just like that. He squeezes my fingers with his, and then takes a few long deep breaths.

“Was there anyone apprehended at the scene?”

“No, the police are still looking for the car but Reed is the only witness who isn’t dead or unconscious. From what I’ve heard all he’s been able to tell them was that it was a black SUV with its lights off.”

I shake my head with disgust. “How did he coordinate something like this? Georgia, New York…”

“Washington,” Christian says, and the words send a tingle up my spine.

“Washington? What?”

“Kate and Elliot went to a concert in Tacoma last night and they stayed in a hotel, so my parents were watching her dog. Apparently he woke everyone up in the middle of the night barking his head off but when my dad got up to let him out, he didn’t see anything unusual. This morning though, after you called looking for me, Elliot brought Kate back to the house before going to Escala and when my dad told her that Champ had freaked out in the middle of the night, she asked Harrison to take a look around. The lock on the gate had been broken and the control panel on the alarm had been dismantled. It looks like someone tried to break in but got scared away when they came face to face with a 130 lb Bullmastiff.”

“Oh my god… everyone’s okay though?”

“Yeah.” He nods. “Thank god for Champ. I’m going to personally see to it that dog is never fed kibble for the rest of his life.”

“How did they get that close? Where was the security guard you hired to stay at your parent’s house?”

“You fired him last weekend. Remember?”

Right. Mia. Fuck, I forgot all about Mia. Should I tell Christian everything she said to me the morning of the wedding now? In the middle of all of this? I don’t know if he can handle much more.

“There’s more…” he says hesitantly. Shit.

“More?”

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone, then presses his thumb into the news app on the screen before passing it across the console to me. There are a few stories spread across the home page, all Seattle news, so it takes me a second to realize what he’s showing me.

 

Women’s Correctional Facility Riot Leaves One Inmate Dead, Others Wounded.

 

I don’t have to read the article to figure out who it was. Besides, this brings up another issue. One I don’t want to face or admit is an issue at all, but because I love the man sitting next to me, I have to.

I take a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Christian.”

“No, you’re not,” he replies bluntly. “And it’s fine. There’s no reason to be.” He’s brushing me off but I catch him swallowing, as if he’s trying to force down a lump in his throat, and the muscle in his jaw ticks as he clenches his teeth.

“You can talk to me, I won’t be upset. Are you… Are you okay?”

“No, I’m not okay,” he says bluntly. “But that has nothing to do with Elena. I’ve done everything I know how to do and I can’t stop him. He’s always one step ahead of me.” His hand moves up and drags through the light stubble over his chin and when he reaches back down for the steering wheel, he squeezes it so hard that his knuckles turn white. “Did I make the wrong choice?”

“What do you mean?”

“When Elena offered me his name for her freedom. Did I make the wrong choice?”

“You mean when you refused to put a child molestor and a convicted sex criminal back on the streets in exchange for the vague promise of a name? No, Christian. You didn’t make the wrong choice.”

“It’s very easy to moralize the situation when you frame it in black and white like that but things turn gray real fast when you consider what we’ve lost trying take the high road. I sent them here, Ana. Ryan’s blood is on my hands, and if Taylor or your mother…” He stops and swallows again. “It would be different if he was coming for me, but he isn’t. He attacks the people I love and I can’t stop him.”

“You will,” I reply firmly. “We’ll find a way.” We have to. There is no other choice. He doesn’t seem as sure though.

“When? And who else am I going to lose before that happens? Mia? You? I can’t keep lying to myself and think I’m protecting you when Hyde was in your fucking dressing room. I can’t stop him and I can’t risk losing you, Ana.”

“You’re not taking risks, this is happening to you. To all of us. You’re doing everything you can to make sure we’re all safe.”

“Am I?”

“What are you saying, Christian?”

“I don’t know.” He shakes his head. “I don’t know what I’m saying, I don’t know what I’m thinking… I don’t what I want to do. Maybe your mom was right. Maybe the answer is that… I’m too dangerous for you.”

“No, that’s not true,” I snap, but he doesn’t look at me. He focuses only on the road as he turns into the parking lot of the hospital. I don’t know how to take what he’s said. I don’t know if he’s serious or if he’s just scared, but his thought process over this whole thing has obviously changed, and this new direction has taken the wind out of me. Suddenly, in a whole new way, it feels as though I may be fighting for my life.

Once we’re parked, he gets out of the car and comes around my side to open the door. I over examine everything, from the way holds my hand in his to the way he walks beside me. In this moment, I can’t even think about what’s waiting on the other side of the automatic doors, even after we step through them.

“Christian,” I whisper. “I love you.”

He stops, pulling gently against my hand to stop me with him, and then looks deep into my eyes. They gray of his irises seems darker than normal, concealing his thoughts and emotions from me. I can’t read him, so I’m surprised when he takes my face in his hands, leans down, and kisses me. Not politely. This kiss is entirely inappropriate for the number of strangers in the waiting room around us, and for my CPO standing only a few feet away, carrying my daughter. His tongue invades my mouth and tangles forcibly with mine. He groans passionately against my lips. When he pulls away, it’s only because we’re both breathless and he has to take a moment to rest his forehead against mine to catch his breath.

“I love you too,” he whispers, sounding pained. “So much.”

There’s resignation in his voice that is terrifying and when he reaches down for my hand again, my throat tightens and tears spring to my eyes.

“Christian…”

He cuts me off. “Come. Let’s get an update.”

 

Taylor and my mother are out of surgery, but it’s too early to tell anything real about their condition. They’ve been moved into the ICU, where they’ll remain under constant supervision for at least the next 24 hours. Carter is no longer being interviewed by the police though, so we go to his room first to get the story of what actually happened.

“Carter,” I gasp as we step into the room. He’s shirtless, sitting up in bed, and there’s a large white bandage wrapped around his left shoulder. When he turns to look at me, he winces.

“Ana, are you okay?” There’s genuine concern in his voice that makes me feel guilty.

“Me? What about you?”

“I’ll be alright, it’s just the shoulder. Hurts like a bitch but it should leave a pretty cool scar that I can use to impress some girl who’s way too hot for me when I get out of here.”

I laugh and then carefully ease myself down on the side of his bed. “I’m so sorry, Carter. This is all because of me. I shouldn’t have agreed to what you proposed. You should have said no.”

“I’m not sorry,” he says. “What happened would have happened whether I was there or not and if I had said no and your mom was taken or killed, I wouldn’t have been able to ever look you in the eye again. We gave your mom a chance when she had nothing before, and at the very least, he lost someone too. Someone important. The fewer people he has to use to get to you and Calli, the better we’ll all sleep at night. I don’t regret going, Ana. I’m proud of my decision.”

“And I’m forever grateful,” Christian says. “This didn’t work out the way we’d hoped, but I want you to know that what we talked about still stands. And, if you ever need anything, it’s yours. Just call me.”

“Thanks, Grey.”

“Christian,” he corrects him. “My friends call me Christian.”

Carter smiles but then winces again and takes a deep breath as he allows his body to relax back into the pillows.

“I don’t want to put you through more than you’ve already had to endure,” Christian says. “But Ryan is dead and the head of my security is unconscious. I’d really like to talk to you about what happened.”

He nods. “Of course. Um… Isaac pulled me out of bed just after midnight. There was no phone call or advanced warning, he just shook me awake in the middle of the night and told me we had to go. Ana wasn’t supposed to be in Atlanta until Friday so we all thought we had more time. I was worried that Taylor wasn’t ready. I knew he had me under surveillance but I also don’t really know what that means so I thought maybe he might not have been prepared to go right then. We snuck out of the house and drove off my block, but I had no idea if Taylor knew we were leaving or not and I had no way to contact him. I just had to sit.”

“It’s like three hours from my house to Savannah and Isaac didn’t say a single word to me the entire drive. I didn’t even know where we were going. We just pulled up alongside the street of this random neighborhood and he started walking me through the plan. How we were going to get into the house, where the target would be, how we were going to restrain her. He never told me an exit plan and I realize now, that should have been a red flag, but I don’t know enough about this stuff to ask. I just agreed and silently hoped Taylor was there.”

“We got out of the car and went down this alley and jumped a back fence. It was only 4:30 so it was still dark outside and we came up behind this strange house. He jimmied the lock on the external garage door.”

Suddenly, I can picture the scene he describes with perfect detail. I know exactly the door he’s talking about and I know that my mother doesn’t lock the door from the garage into the house. From there, it’s only a few short steps to her bedroom.

“We got into the house and he handed me a gun. I waited for him to move first and then followed him through a laundry room and then off the right to the bedroom. She was still asleep so she didn’t hear us come in. She didn’t know we were there. He was fast. He got to her and pulled her out of bed, and she was so disoriented he’d already had the duct tape out before she started to scream. He didn’t even ask me for help as he tied her up, he didn’t need it. The way he restrained her and tied the ropes around her wrists, it’s like he’d done it a thousand times before and watching him do it was almost sickening. I still didn’t know who she was, but I knew that he planned to kidnap her and would probably end up killing her, and because I didn’t know where Taylor was, it felt like I was just letting it happen. I almost had to try and stop him, but as she struggled to get away from him and he finally called me for help, I heard the click of a gun behind me and Taylor’s voice telling Isaac to put his hands in the air.”

“He did and once Ryan came into the room and we both lifted our guns and pointed them directly at him. He dropped his weapon and backed up against the wall. Taylor wanted to get him out of the house, to get him somewhere secure, so while he dealt with Isaac, Ryan called you, and I moved to help the woman. It was only after I’d freed her that I got an inkling who she was. She has Ana’s eyes. She started to cry and I hugged her and told her that Ana had sent us for her and that she was safe. Then Ryan came back into the room to help Taylor. They talked for a while, trying to decide where to take him that would be safe until you arrived. I don’t even know where they decided, I was too focused on trying to calm down Ana’s mom, but once a decision had been made, they each hooked an elbow through Isaac’s arms and started dragging him from the room. They had a big SUV outside to get us all out of there and Ryan got in first so that they could put Isaac in the back seat between him and me. Taylor got in the driver’s seat, and I helped Ana’s Mom into the front passenger seat. I’d just closed the door and moved to get in the backseat myself when another car without headlights on pulled beside the car and opened fire.”

“The whole thing happened so fast. It probably only lasted maybe ten seconds but they unloaded a full magazine from an automatic rifle into the side of the SUV. I got hit almost immediately so I fell to the ground and I think now they must have thought I was dead. I probably would have been had I been in the car because both Ryan and Isaac…” He shudders. “I could hear their tires screeching as they peeled out on the asphalt and then a few seconds later the neighbors started coming out into their lawns and someone called the police. The ambulance came and brought us here and once they took the bullet out of me and patched up my arm, the police came in to question me. I don’t know anything else. Are Taylor and Ana’s mom okay?”

“We don’t know,” Christian says. “They just got out of surgery. They’re alive though.”

“Good.” He nods and I reach out to rest my hand over his, but I’m distracted again by a worried voice from the hallway.

“Ana?” It’s Kate and when she passes the open doorway and sees us sitting inside, she first looks relieved. Then her eyes fall on Carter and the bandage around his shoulder and her mouth falls open with shock.

“Kate? What are you doing here?” I ask.

“We just landed,” she explains. “The whole family came. We went to see your mom and Taylor and they told us you were here. They asked me to…” Her words cut off and she almost seems to gasp, like she’s having a hard time catching her breath. “Carter?”

“Hey, Katie…” he croaks. Her eyes widen with disbelief as she comes into the room and starts to examine him.

“Oh my god. Why are you here? What happened to you?”

“Oh you know. Just casually taking a bullet on the side of the road, typical Monday night stuff.”

“He was trying to save my mom,” I add.

“What? Why? Jesus Christ, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s nothing really. Actually…” He hesitates. “Katie, I’ve meaning to call you…”

“Ana?” It’s Elliot this time, standing awkwardly in the doorway, and he shifts uncomfortably as his eyes move from Kate and Carter, to me. “The doctors said you need to come. It’s not looking good.”

“Who?” I check, but the answer is in his eyes. I scramble quickly off the bed, reaching for Christian’s hand as I scurry across the floor. “I’ll be back, Carter,” I call over my shoulder. “I promise.”

“Don’t worry about me, Annie,” he replies. Kate takes the place I’ve vacated on his bedside and Elliot lingers in the doorway for just a moment, but he doesn’t say anything. He turns and follows Christian and I back down the brightly lit sterile hallway towards the ICU.

There are too many people surrounding my mother’s bed. Kate was right, the entire family came, and I have to force my way between Mia and Grace before I can see her.

It’s a shock.

She’s paler than I’ve ever seen her look before and there’s dry blood matted in her hair. They have her covered from the neck down so I don’t really know where she’s injured, but her halted breathing, even with the help of an intubation tube, gives me a good idea. Her eyes are closed, but the blood and the tubes make it impossible for me to imagine she’s just sleeping.

Looking at her, I feel so small. The shock grips my lungs like a vice, making it hard to breathe, and I can feel by body shaking. I want to cry and scream and be sick all at once, but I can’t do anything. I can’t can’t move. I can’t hold myself up. As the shaking becomes more violent, my knees give out and I’m swept with a wave of vertigo.

“Annie!” my dad cries worriedly from the other side of the bed.

“I’ve got her,” Christian says. He holds all of my weight as he catches me and pulls me against him, then turns to Elliot. “Bring me that chair, please.”

With a nod, Elliot turns and drags the chair against the wall near the foot of the bed towards me, and slowly Christian lowers me into it. My dad comes around the bed and kneels down next to me, then reaches up and takes my mother’s pale hand in his. The touching gesture catches my eye and brings up another question that was nagging at me on the plane. There should be another man here, holding her hand.

“Where’s Bob?” I ask.

My dad glances up at Christian and then back to me. He looks nervous. “I’m sorry… I should have said something but you and your mom weren’t really, uh…” He takes a breath. “Bob left your mom, Annie. Right after your graduation. He’s been living in an apartment a few miles away from her since June.”

“Oh…” At first the news doesn’t seem to make much impact on me, I think because I’m still in so much shock over everything that’s happened, but then, without warning, the dam holding back all of my emotions bursts with unbelievable force and my body crumples in the chair as I’m overtaken by horribly painful sobs. My dad pulls me into his chest and wraps as much of me as he can in his arms. He doesn’t whisper words of comfort into my ear, he knows there’s nothing he can say. He just holds me and lets me cry.

“Umm… excuse me. Are you Anastasia Steele?” I look up and, through my tears, see a very somber man looking down on me.

“Grey,” I cough, the correction now automatic, but when I nod, he takes a breath and steps past Carrick. He gives me a rundown on the severity of my mother’s condition and her injuries, which include three gunshot wounds to the chest and one to the abdomen. From his explanation of the surgery and everything they’ve observed since she’s been brought into the ICU, I get my first taste of how grim the prognosis really is. She’s not going to wake. She’s gone, and as her next of kin, they’re looking to me to make a decision on what to do. Only there isn’t really a choice. There’s only one thing to do. I just have to be the one to say it.

“It’s crowded in here…” Grace chokes from behind me, trying to hide her own tears. “Why don’t we go back to the waiting room and give Ana and Ray a little space, huh?”

Mia nods, but reaches out and hugs me over the back of my chair. “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I love you, Ana.”

“I love you too, Meems.”

She sniffs and then let’s her mother lead her from the room with Elliot dragging along behind. Carrick gives me a tortured but sympathetic look, then tells Christian they’ll be outside before he follows after his wife and children.

“Mrs. Grey?” The doctor presses me. I glance back down at my mom and blink away tears.

“Can I just have a moment alone with her, please?”

“Of course,” the doctor says. “We’ll come check on you again in a few minutes.”

“Thank you.” He turns to leave and my dad stands and leans over my mother’s bed to kiss her on the forehead.

“Good-bye, Carla,” he says, unsuccessfully covering the crack in his voice. He turns back to me, reaches into his jacket, and pulls out a thick bunch of envelopes that are held together with a blue rubber band. “I met Elliot at Escala and he saw the letters piling up on the counter that your mom’s been sending to you. He thought you might like them now. If you want.”

“Thank you,” I tell him, reaching out and taking the letters from his shaking hands. His eyes are glassy and he takes a deep, wet breath before nodding, then kisses the top of my head and exits after the doctor.

“Do you want me to go?” Christian asks.

“Please,” I whisper. “But stay close. Okay? Don’t leave.”

“I won’t.” He too kisses me, on my forehead though. “I’m so sorry, Ana. If you need me for anything, I’ll be in the waiting room.”

“I’ll be out soon, okay?”

“Okay. I love you, baby.”

His words make me start to cry again but I shake off his attempts to comfort me and instead ask him to leave again so I can have one more moment alone with my mother. He does, and once I hear the door close behind him, I sink out my chair and onto my knees. I place the letters on the bed and then entwine my fingers with my mother’s

“It’s just you and me now, Mom. No one else. Please wake up.” I pause, gripping her hand tightly with mine as I wait, but she doesn’t stir. “Please,” I beg again. “Okay, we can talk. I shouldn’t have just ignored you, I’m sorry. But we can talk now. We can work out everything between us, we’ll figure out a way, but just wake up, okay? Please? Please, Mom.”

I wait, but there’s nothing. The room is silent except for the slow, steady beep of her heart on the monitor. A beep that won’t last forever.

“Please.”

The doctor doesn’t give me long. When he returns I ask him to explain everything to me one more time so I can be absolutely sure once this is over that I’ve made the right decision. After all, I was on life support once. But this isn’t like when I was in the hospital after Calliope. There isn’t a chance that she’s going to wake up and be fine. There isn’t even a chance that she’ll wake up with severe mental deficiencies or impaired motor function. This is about a machine that’s moving her lungs, and pumping her heart, and how long I want those machines to keep running.

He hands me a form to sign saying that he’s explained everything to me and that I understand what removing life support means. I scrawl a very shaky signature across the bottom and when he asks if I’d like another moment, I shake my head. There’s no sense in prolonging this. There’s no reason to hold on to something that isn’t there or to drawing out this pain. Hope is worse than defeat right now.

“I can’t watch you do it,” I tell him. He nods as his team comes into the room and then steps aside to let me pass.

I pause outside the room to let myself unravel. There’s no sound to whatever they’re doing inside so I don’t have to hear the final moments, which I’m grateful for. I slide slowly down the wall at my back until I’m sitting on the floor and while I try to regain control of my breathing, I reach out for the letters at my side, and slowly, open the one on top.

 

Anastasia,

I know you can’t understand what I did and I don’t expect you to. Hell, I think I was half out of my mind myself. I don’t intend to make excuses. I don’t expect you to forgive me. But at the very least, I do want you to know that what I did wasn’t purely out of selfishness. I was trying to protect you. I was trying to protect your daughter.

Before I came to Seattle for your baby shower in March, I’d gotten a phone call. It was a man who told me that your involvement with Christian was going to get you killed. He said that it was in my best interest to get you to leave Christian of your own volition, that that was the only way you’d be safe. I asked him who he was but he told me not to ask questions. Questions would get you killed. Words in general would get you killed. I was to convince you to leave, to break Christian’s heart, and if I could do that, you would be fine. He promised me that if you walked away, he wouldn’t harm you and he wouldn’t harm your baby. But if you didn’t, you would die. If I spoke of this conversation, you would die. If I called the police, you would die.

It’s not the first time I’ve gotten calls from crazies about you. Ever since your name started being printed in the news, people have called me. They always say vile things about what a slut you are or about raping you… I thought this was just the same in a long line of terribly unfunny prank calls.

But it wasn’t.

After your baby shower, you were attacked, and I knew it was real. And it was all because of me. Because I didn’t take it seriously. He called me again, and gave me one last chance. I took it. I knew you were too stubborn to listen to me, especially with a baby on the way, so I screamed at Christian on the phone and brought up everything he’s ever done and how it affected you. I blamed him for every hurt, for every tear, for every ounce of physical pain hoping that he might just give up and leave. But he wouldn’t. So then I tried Ray.

When he called you on your graduation, I thought that was the day. I thought I’d run out of time. I watched you laying in that hospital bed and I couldn’t stop all the horrible thoughts that some how, he’d done this to you. None of this was an accident, that you’d been poisoned or he’d found a way to hurt you, maybe while you were sleeping. It’s seems implausible now, but at the time, I was too blinded by fear and the reality that I was going to lose you for it not to all make sense.

I thought I’d lost you, Ana. I wasn’t going to lose Calliope too. That’s why I said what I said to Christian. I wanted to protect her from him. When I wrote my first letter to you, I still wasn’t sure I should tell you. I’m still so scared. Your father told me about the Leila girl and the boy from Thanksgiving, I don’t want that to be you.

But you won’t listen to me anymore, so I can’t protect you. There doesn’t seem to be any benefit to staying quiet if I can’t do what he’s asked me to do to keep you safe, so here it is. You’re in danger, Ana. Please, please, consider that. Consider the safety of your daughter. Run away. Please.

And don’t hate me forever.

I love you, darling baby girl. I’ll always love you. I’ll always be here for you. I’ll always be your mom.

 

Heartbroken. That’s the only way I can explain the way I feel right now and as I watch the doctors come out of my mother’s room while more hospital personnel go inside, I know I need to get out of here. Taylor is still here somewhere, and I don’t want to leave Carter alone, but I can’t be here right now. I need somewhere I can let myself fully absorb the gravity of what’s happening and then properly fall apart. Maybe in a hotel room, maybe just in the car, but either way, I need to leave this hospital.  

I peel myself off the floor, and make my way down the hall to the waiting room, where I know my father and the Grey’s are waiting. It’s an extremely nice setup they have here, the opposite really of the waiting room in Seattle. There are wooden partitions up that create private spaces for family members to come together, probably because this floor has seen so much death. But it means, as I search for my family, that I hear them talking before they see me and when I hear Christian’s voice, I stop to listen.

“I don’t know what else to do, Elliot,” he groans. “You think this is really what I want? You think I could live a day without Anastasia? He’s coming after me and you’re all in danger because of it. Because of me. I can’t let him hurt her.”

“So get on your plane,” Elliot says. “Let Ros have GEH, get on your plane with Ana and Calliope and just go somewhere he can’t find you. I know that you’re scared but you can’t leave her, Christian. It would destroy the both of you and… you’re a father now. That little girl deserves to have you in her life.”

“There’s got to be a way we can stop him,” Carrick says. “Something we haven’t thought of yet.”

“Are you willing to lose people we care about while we try?” Christian counters. “He was at your house last night, Dad. Ana’s mother is going to die because of him.”

“Yeah, so… are we going to talk about what that means?” Elliot asks.

“What do you mean?” Grace asks.

“Well, this guy knows everything Ana and Christian does, so he would know that Ana was estranged from her mother. That doesn’t make her a very likely target if he was trying to get her just to hurt Ana. We all had questions after she tried to basically kidnap Calliope after she was born, maybe… Don’t hate me for saying this, but maybe she was working with him. He does go after his own people when they don’t live up to his expectations and Carla didn’t deliver a baby to him.”

“No,” Christian says. “Carla didn’t like me, but she loved Ana. She wouldn’t have helped the man who was trying to hurt her.”

“She would if she thought that is what she was trying to prevent,” I say, and the voices on the other side of the partition go silent. I take a breath and wipe away the moisture still clinging to my cheeks before I step into view. Every pair of eyes turn to look at me, so I hold up my mother’s letter. “He called her before my shower and told her that if she didn’t break Christian and I up, he was going to hurt me and Calliope. He promised her that if she could convince me to break Christian’s heart and that she never said anything about him, that he wouldn’t harm me. He used my life as leverage over her and she fell for it.”

“What?” my dad asks. I hand him the letter. It’s silent as we all watch his eyes scan through the pages, and when he’s finished, there’s almost a green tint to his completion. “Why would someone do this?”

“Because it’s how he gets what he wants,” Mia says, her voice breaking as she forces out the words. “People are surprisingly self-sacrificing, so he demands your silence by going after the people you love. He sends flowers to your private dressing room at your rehearsal space with a note reminding you to keep your mouth shut. He sends you pictures from the inside of your house of your mother doing laundry with a red dot on the back of her head. He calls you from an anonymous number to talk about how much work your dad’s golf swing needs when you know he’s out on the course. He leaves pictures of Ana or Elliot or Kate on the the windshield of your car at school. He does everything he can to show you that he can get to the people you love and reminds you over and over again that staying silent is the only way to keep them from getting hurt.” She starts crying and every person sitting inside the closed off vestibule goes stiff.

“Mia…” Christian breathes. She looks up at him with tear filled eyes and shakes her head with shame.

“Christian…. I know who it is.”

Next Chapter

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