This chapter opens with Ana and Grey sitting down in a cozy romantic little restaurant that Grey sighs will have to do and they don't have much time.
“We don’t have long,” Christian says to the waiter as we sit. “So we’ll each have sirloin steak cooked medium, béarnaise sauce if you have it, fries, and green vegetables, whatever the chef has; and bring me the wine list.”
“Certainly, sir.” The waiter, taken aback by Christian’s cool, calm efficiency, scuttles off. Christian places his Blackberry on the table. Jeez, don’t I get a choice?
This passage bothers me more as someone who works in food than it does for other reasons. I mean, ordering for Ana is obnoxious, but we'll get to that in a minute. The waiter isn't taken aback by Christian's "cool, calm efficiency" he's taken aback by what a massive cock hole he is. Want to know why you don't order like that? Because your waiter is a fucking human being who 1) deserves some basic civility. "Sorry, we're in a real rush, can we please just have ..." vs "we don't have long so bring me this chop chop" 2) is not a fucking robot and that is a lot to process in seven seconds.
“And if I don’t like steak?”
He sighs. “Don’t start, Anastasia.”
“I am not a child, Christian.”
“Well, stop acting like one.”
It’s as if he’s slapped me. I blink at him. So this is how it will be, an agitated, fraught conversation, albeit in a very romantic setting but certainly no hearts and flowers.
“I’m a child because I don’t like steak?” I mutter trying to conceal my hurt.
“For deliberately making me jealous. It’s a childish thing to do. Have you no regard for your friend’s feelings, leading him on like that?”
Remember what I said last chapter about Grey quietly accepting Ana owning him and then making a few huge power plays to reestablish dominance? Like demanding that they leave right that second and then pulling her into a dark ally way, ramming his tongue in her mouth, and insisting she was "his"? Now she's trying to resist him ordering for her like she's a little kid. A reasonable complaint, especially if she actually doesn't like steak (I have no in text support one way or another on this) and his response is to call her childish. He immediately undermines her, insults her, and then begins to guilt her over her childish, inappropriate actions. Like leading poor, innocent Jose on just to make him jealous. Want to know what is childish? Flying into a jealous rage simply because she looked at a dude. The possibility that she was just hugging one of her best friends doesn't exist to him. She was hugging Jose at him! The possibility that Ana and Jose could be platonic friends doesn't exist in his world either. Now lets make this all more depressing by making him right. I would also be more forgiving of Grey if I thought his behavior actually had to do with being jealous of Jose and not just trying to reassert his dominance over her.
I blush—I hadn’t thought of that. Poor José—I certainly don’t want to encourage him. Suddenly, I’m mortified. Christian has a point; it was a thoughtless thing to do.
Alright, I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand, I don't think it's on the woman to police all of her actions least the poor innocent men folk get the wrong idea. Ana has said she doesn't care about Jose and is not interested in him. This was said in an awkward conversation as they re-established their friendship after he tried to assault her that one time. Jose can accept that this is the norm, they're friends, the huggy type, and nothing more, or he can continue to hope for more, and that's on him, not Ana. However and I feel dirty writing this however, if you have a dude friend you're super close to who you know is carrying a torch for you, maybe toning down the touching is the... considerate, thing to do?
“Two glasses of the Barossa Valley Shiraz, please.”
“Er . . . we only sell that wine by the bottle, sir.”
“A bottle then,” Christian snaps.
“Sir.” He retreats, subdued, and I don’t blame him. I frown at Fifty. What’s eating him? Oh, me probably, and somewhere in the depths of my psyche, my inner goddess rises sleepily, stretches, and smiles. She’s been asleep for a while.
Snapping at the waiter. Charming. I'm sure you've all heard the little adage of "Someone who is nice to you but not the waiter isn't a nice person" and I kind of want to print this on a t-shirt and distribute it to wait staff as a new uniform shirt. I also fucking hate Ana's "inner goddess" and would have been quite happy if she spent the whole book in a coma. Her inner goddess has been asleep for less than a week, and is being awoken at the knowledge that she is the cause of frustration and bitchiness in someone she cares about. Clearly this is a character I'm supposed to like!
The conversation takes a turn to the serious. Grey points out that he has told Ana he wants her back and she's said nothing. She points out that while she adores and misses him, nothing has changed and she can't be a good little Submissive like he wants her to be. I'm a little proud of Ana right now, not going to lie.
“You are what I want you to be,” he says, his soft voice emphatic.
“No, Christian, I’m not.”
“You’re upset because of what happened last time. I behaved stupidly, and you . . . So did you. Why didn’t you safe word, Anastasia?” His tone changes, becoming accusatory.
“I don’t know. I was overwhelmed. I was trying to be what you wanted me to be, trying to deal with the pain, and it went out of my mind. You know . . . I forgot,”
...“You forgot!” he gasps with horror, grabbing the sides of the table and glaring at me. I wither under his stare.
Shit! He’s furious again. My inner goddess glares at me, too. See, you brought all this on yourself!
“How can I trust you?” he says, his voice low. “Ever?”
There is so much to unpack here. Ana left because Grey beat the shit out of her- at her own request, and she realized "If this is what he needs then this is not going to work" and does the difficult and adult thing and PEACES THE FUCK OUT! Ana had asked him to go to town so she could make exactly that decision, "Is this something I can do?" and she decided "FUCK AND NO". That isn't behaving stupidly, that's cutting to the chase because she was tried of all this pussy-footing around. I don't agree with it, or think it was the best way to do it, but I don't think it was stupid, either.
Grey sees this as her fault- she should have used the safe word! She shouldn't have made him act like that! She shouldn't have provoked him! How can he trust her! What Ana should say here is "Well, we're not together anymore, which you're making me say a third time. So that isn't really a problem." and walk away with both middle fingers held proudly above her head. Maybe a song and dance number where she belts out "I will Survive?". Sadly I never get what I want in this book and that doesn't happen. What happens is Grey getting upset. Grey isn't just upset and blaming Ana for being overwhelmed and scared in what was an overwhelming and scary situation, he's getting furious and physical. So furious that Ana is getting nervous. His actions are all very physical, he's grasping tables and glowering and hissing and sounding, once again, fucking terrifying.
There is also the deep self loathing that is coming from Ana's inner goddess as to her subconscious about how she's bringing this all on herself and deserves his ire. He wouldn't get mad at you if you stopped fucking up! What?! EVERYTHING IS WRONG HERE! Also I can't be the only one who sees some pretty obvious abusive patterns here, right? The victim thinks it is their fault and they deserve it because the abuser has been feeding them a steady diet of "You MAKE me hit you/drink/cheat/etc it is all YOUR fault. If you didn't burn dinner this would never happen."
So, Ana, being wrong and bad, and Grey, being good and right, does what anyone in her situation would do. She apologizes for not using the safe word, and suddenly everything is different because she could have stopped him! This was not something she made clear at the time, if memory serves. Gas lighting? Gas lighting.
“You said you’d never leave, yet the going gets tough and you’re out the door.”
“When did I say I’d never leave?”
“In your sleep. It was the most comforting thing I’d heard in so long, Anastasia. It made me relax.”
I get why Grey was into hearing that, I get why Ana thought it, but I hate how he is holding something she said in her sleep against her like this. Unless they're confessing murder or infidelity, I think you should let things they mutter in their sleep stay off the books. People should get to have their private thoughts and dreams. If she had been a flippant bitch to him in his dream would he hold her accountable to that, too?
Deep down I know I’m hungry, but right now, my stomach is in knots. Sitting across from the only man I have ever loved and debating our uncertain future does not promote a healthy appetite. I look dubiously at my food.
“So help me God, Anastasia, if you don’t eat, I will take you across my knee here in this restaurant, and it will have nothing to do with my sexual gratification. Eat!”
I get that this is supposed to be "I CARE SO MUCH" but it comes off as "Women need a big strong man to take care of them" and HE IS FUCKING THREATENING HER IN A PUBLIC PLACE IF SHE DOESN'T DO WHAT HE WANTS! Yes, in this case, it is "for her own good" but damn it she is an adult and if she wants to take her time and nibble because if you haven't eaten in 5 days a fucking steak is not going to be easy, you should let her. If he was really worried about what was best for her, he wouldn't have ordered her a steak, but something small and light that would be easy for her to eat and easy for her stomach to handle. She's going to probably be ill after eating a huge hunk of red meat after 5 days of fasting.
“Okay, I’ll eat. Stow your twitching palm, please.”
He doesn’t smile but continues to glare at me. Reluctantly I lift my knife and fork and slice into my steak. Oh, it’s mouthwateringly good. I am hungry, really hungry. I chew and he visibly relaxes.
Still mad as she agrees to do what he wants, but naturally he was right and she was soooo hungry and the steak is like super tasty! Grooooaaaan.
So they finish eating in mostly silence and get into the car with Taylor, Grey's manservant, driving because Grey thought he might drink. I appreciate this, actually. Grey has had all of a glass, maybe two, of wine, and is arranging not to drive because of it (and, you know, to have more alone time with Ana). You don't see that often in writing and it's a touch I enjoy. The driver is listening to music so he can't over hear Ana and Grey (though if Ana started to scream bloody murder he would) and Grey gets to his mysterious "proposition". I'm terrified on Ana's behalf.
He starts to ask questions about their sex life and the parts she does and doesn't like to "get a more clear picture" and half of me is expecting this to end with him proposing.
“Fundamentally, Christian, it’s your joy in inflicting pain on me that’s difficult for me to handle. And the idea that you’ll do it because I have crossed some arbitrary line.”
“But it’s not arbitrary; the rules are written down.”
“I don’t want a set of rules.”
“None at all?”
Oh look there's Ana's back bone again! Hello there! Grey just keeps asking more questions.
I shrug. “Yes, I suppose.” Oh, where is he going with this? My anxiety level has shot up several magnitudes on the Richter scale.
YOUR ANXIETY LEVELS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH EARTH QUAKES!
He strokes his chin, deep in thought. “Anastasia, I want to start again. Do the vanilla thing and then maybe, once you trust me more and I trust you to be honest and to communicate with me, we could move on and do some of the things that I like to do.”
So, the offer is to scrap all of the contracts and rules and threats of beatings and punishments and just... fucking date and ease into it. Which is what I have been screaming at these fictional characters to do from the start.
I think this might be the most aroused I have been reading this series.
Joking aside, I hate how even when he is offering the biggest compromise he ever has, it's riddled with "and YOU stop fucking up" because he is the more experienced one here. It is on the Dom to take care of the Sub after play because sometimes, shit gets real and the Sub is left a mess. It's on the Dom to anticipate that. Sure, you can't expect them to be psychic, but after Ana's first spanking Grey just LEAVES and is then furious at her for not speaking up. He didn't stop, ask her how she was, ask if she wanted anything, just... "Welp I'm off!" and off he went. He has repeatedly left Ana improperly cared for in these situations, and he gets upset at her for not knowing when to speak up? He hasn't shown her when it is and isn't okay to speak up, why is he surprised that she's afraid to? Every time she tries he undermines and dismisses her.
Grey continues, a grandiose proclamation of love, just shy of "I love you" and goes on and on and on about how wonderful and special and perfect Ana is, and for once, Ana, rather than saying "NO HE DOESN'T MEAN THIS!" actually takes it as a confession of love and calls him out on saying he's dark and twisted because he's SO WONDERFUL AND AWESOME ZOMG! From here they move onto how "touching is a hard limit" for Grey, and Ana once again feels the need to ask why? This has been ongoing, and now we get an answer! Trigger warning: Appropriation, domestic abuse, neglect of children and things of that ilk.
Grey starts to talk about how the "crack whore's" pimps beat him- maybe molested him, it's vague, and then gets onto the real trauma!
He snorts. “I think it was me who looked after her. When she finally killed herself, it took four days for someone to raise the alarm and find us . . . I remember that.”
I cannot contain my gasp of horror. Holy mother fuck. Bile rises in my throat.
“That’s pretty fucked-up,” I whisper.
“Fifty shades,” he murmurs.
I know I shouldn't start here, but if this book keeps throwing around "50 shades of BLANK" I'm going to set fire to something. Probably myself. Now, Ana, in response to "I was left alone with my Mother's corpse for four days" "that's pretty fucked-up" seems like a bit of an understatement. As Grey reveals his HORRIBLE PAST to explain why "no touching" is a rule Ana... tries to snuggle him better?
I turn my head and press my lips against his neck, seeking and offering solace as I imagine a small, dirty, gray-eyed boy lost and lonely beside the body of his dead mother.
I guess it's only no touching with her hands? I don't even know where to start with this one, you guys. I get that we're not supposed to sympathize with Grey's Mother, but I do. She was clearly a disturbed and troubled woman, one who had fallen so far that she could be dead for 4 days and no one thought to check up on her, or her kid. The book is trying really hard to paint her as a bad guy. She was a crack whore! She didn't protect Grey from her pimps! She killed herself and abandoned her son! And yes, these things are all horrific, and maybe it's because I don't have kids, but I see an incredibly depressed, troubled, sick, and hurt woman just as much as I see a damaged kid. The damaged kid at least was given help and another chance at life shortly after all this, she never did. Speaking of Grey's second family, it's mentioned he was adopted by his parents because his Dad knew his Mother at some point. If his Dad knew his Mother WHY were children's services not called earlier? He's a doctor, isn't he? Shouldn't he have seen some pretty fucking obvious red flags?
Then Ana curls up in his lap and takes a nap. No, really. "So my Mother was a crack whore who killed herself in front of me, rotted for 4 days and never protected me from her pimps" "Dude, that shit be whacked" "Yup." "Welp, nap time." Grey doesn't seem bothered by this and drops Ana off with a promise to see her tomorrow and hands her a big mysterious wrapped up box. He had been planning to give her some sort of extravagant gift from the start, despite the fact that she had given the last few back. He kisses her goodnight, gets annoyed at her for having plans to go out for drinks with her boss tomorrow, and informs her that he's not laying a finger on her until she orders/begs him to. So no hilarious sex scene huh?
:/ Okay, then.
Also how long do you think they'll drag the "no fucking until she begs for it" thing out so they can have a second "first time"? THIS IS EROTICA. I WANT TO GET BACK TO THE HILARIOUS SEX SCENES DAMN IT!
So Ana goes up to her apartment, and opens up the mysterious box. There's the mac book she forcefully gave back to him, along with the blackberry, and a new iPad. Would he have still given her all this if she hadn't agreed to get back together with him? I can't help but think she was ending up with this box one way or another.
With the iPad is a note saying it's basically a mixed tape, and loaded up with a shit ton of e-books, the back ground is a picture of the glider she gave him when it's locked, and the background a picture of them when unlocked. This... Is actually the first thing that Grey's done that I can't help but think is sweet. The background when it's locked is something innocent but personal, the actual background still innocent but nice, and he actually thought about the things she's into when he loaded it up. He didn't just buy books, he's set it up with the British Library, since Ana has a soft spot for classical British literature. Between this and him saying "Okay, so, start over, none of this contract BS that I was scaring the crap out of you with and boring the readers to tears with. Lets just feel it out and go from there, kay?" if I squint real hard I can almost see the appeal! Almost. He's still a controlling, abusive, manipulative douche canoe, but I think I can almost see a good point in there now.
So Ana cracks open the play list, and once again things take a turn for the fanfiction-y. It's loaded with songs with very obvious titles like "witch craft" and "try" and there have been an ass ton of title drops through this chapter that I've been trying to ignore and then the big important one.
Ana cries a bit as she listens to it, seeing it as an apology, and I get why the author picked this song, but she doesn't tell us what the lyrics are. If you're not already familiar with it, or willing to look it up, the reader is going to be left wondering what the hell, why is a song about science making Ana cry?
This chapter has been riddled with song and band name drops, and this is just starting to hurt.
Does this mean Christian’s going to try? Try this new relationship? I drink in the lyrics, staring at the ceiling, trying to understand his turnaround. He missed me. I missed him. He must have some feelings for me. He must. This iPad, these songs, these apps—he cares. He really cares. My heart swells with hope.
Oh hey look, more patterns of abuse! The second Ana tries to run Grey becomes warm and charming and pulls some big romantic gesture! Rather then just say "I'm sorry I was a cock but I'm crazy about you" he has to do it THROUGH SONG! Like any normal nearly 30 year old man would. Communicating by sending songs to each other and letting the other person try to discern your meaning is totally an adult way to communicate.
So Ana and Grey e-mail back and forth, once again, instant responses rather then just call or text him until Ana goes to bed happy that the world has fixed its self again!
Ugh. This one was shorter than the one before it, but I think it hurt more. The first one had some obscenity to hide behind (angst zombies and Grey being absolutely nuts) but this one didn't. This was just the two of them LOVING at each other and I'm just going to go drink all of the things now k?
See you next week and sound off in the comments, I want to know what you guys make of this fluster cluck. Posting will continue on the normal Tuesday/Thursday schedule through the holidays, for those of you desperately looking for distractions from your family, I've got your back.