“Mrs. Lincoln?” I thought Mrs. Robinson was divorced. Perhaps she’s remarried to some poor sap.
Oh, Ana, you petty, catty creature you.
Gretchen gives up the goods- Lincoln's first name (Elena, duh) and that she's the co-owner of the chain of salons. She's not usually in (called it!) but someone was sick so she had to cover. ... Just throwing this out there, but in service industry, you usually know damned well how to deal with being down a man. The DM for my area is never in just to help out unless there's some paper work or huge ass event, so I am confused by this. The thought of calling him in because our line cook is sick... I imagine I'd be fired for trying. Maybe they were in the midst of hiring someone new so they were already short staffed? I know with hair dressers they often basically rent the chair from the owner of the salon and get paid by their customers (or at least a vast majority of any hair dresser I've ever been to does) so this seems extra bizarre to me. I just- I do not get. I'll just tell myself this is a spa thing, if someone in the comments works in/goes to spas often enough to know anything about their inner workings feel free to correct/confirm this.
I’m swamped by a strange sense of relief that my spidey sense has not let me down.
Spidey sense? My subconscious snorts, Paedo sense.
Yes EL James, we get it. You need to reassure the reader that Ana isn't being petty, jealous, and mean spirited, Elena is an evil and deserves it. Also paedo senses seems like it would be a highly marketable skill. I mean, if that was a thing, there would be no school board without one on hand for hiring processes. Need to hire a new baby sitter? Just give your local pedophile senser a call for screening potential candidates! And they could charge a FORTUNE! Do you know how much people will shell out for the sake of their babies safety? It would be way less work than publishing, way more money, annnnd... actually do good in the world!
Another nod, and she glances at me and offers me a small reassuring smile.
I can only stare at her stony-faced. I think I’m in shock. How could he bring me here?
As someone who in that situation would be too stunned to think to be mean as my Good Girl programming runs deep (I'm in the process of deprogramming but it's an ongoing and lengthy process) so my thought here is actually congratulatory. You need to piss me off in the moment to remind me to be unfriendly, and I think Ana not making an effort to be nice here is... reasonable. Grey will naturally disagree, but I'm actually unsure of how EL James will treat this in text.
She nods, and I think she’s wishing him luck, but my lip-reading skills aren’t highly developed.
Wha- you have been able to narrate their entire conversation up to this point! Apparently you are an expert body-language and lip-reader! Don't try and fool me Ana!
Fifty strides back to me, anxiety etched on his face. Damn right. Mrs. Robinson returns to the back room, closing the door behind her.
I wish I could follow Elena and go into hiding to avoid this scene...
“Not really. You didn’t want to introduce me?” My voice sounds cold, hard.
His mouth drops open, he looks as if I’ve pulled the rug from under his feet.
“But I thought—”
“For a bright man, sometimes . . .” Words fail me. “I’d like to go, please.”
“You know why.” I roll my eyes.
IHATEYOUSOMUCH! Ana, you couldn't even bring yourself to SMILE at her, and you're mad he didn't introduce you? I can read your every thought and I'm surprised you're mad at him for that. I get that you're upset that he brought you where she'll be, but you and I now both know that she wasn't supposed to be there that day and what the what? Grey also points out "She opened a new store where she's usually based" and Ana's response is to storm out.
“We won’t need Franco, Greta,” Christian snaps as we head out of the door. I have to suppress the impulse to run. I want to run fast and far away. I have an overwhelming urge to cry. I just need to get away from all this fuckedupness.
Okay, so, firstly, Grey, stop being awful to your employees/service people in general. It is not their fault you're a d-bag who keeps pissing off his girlfriend. Secondly, for all the harshness I heap on Ana, I actually get that she is just floored and totally overwhelmed here, and that's... well, pretty reasonable. If I was dating a dude who had just gone through a really messy divorce because she cheated on him blah blah blah they're still friends, I would be HELLA uncomfortable with that. If he (even accidentally) just ambushed me with this woman, my instinct would be to run the fuck away and sort my thoughts out, too. Although the conversation for me would be:
"Dude. What the what?"
"Yeah, sorry, I didn't mean to. She wasn't supposed to be there and I just wanted to do something nice."
"Alright. Maybe next time call ahead just in case? I'm not at a point where I want to hang out with your ex wife in anything resembling a one on one sense. First time I officially meet her, big group, okay?"
"Done." and that would be that or he would not be a dude I was seeing.
BUT I'm trying to be nice here, so let's concentrate on Ana being totally justified in being freaked out and overwhelmed and upset at the moment, even if it isn't rational because funny thing, people aren't usually very rational when it comes to their feelings.
“I see. So Mrs. Robinson met all your subs.”
“Did they know about her?”
“No. None of them did. Only you.”
“But I’m not your sub.”
“No, you most definitely are not.”
I stop and face him. His eyes are wide, fearful. His lips are pressed into a hard, uncompromising line.
“Can you see how fucked-up this is?” I glare up at him, my voice low.
“Yes. I’m sorry.” And he has the grace to look contrite.
D-did he just apologize? Without it immediately being followed up by some sort of move to establish dominance? Is he actually worried and scared that he has pissed off Ana? I struggle to understand why Ana is so upset that HE TOOK OTHER WOMEN THERE! Yes, he OWNS the place and wanted to do something nice for them, why take them to a place he didn't own? However I'm going to put this in the pile of "really fucking overwhelmed right now". Or is this all supposed to be feeding back into her being resentful that he's trying to backdoor his RULES from book 1? I suppose that makes more sense than the other alternatives at this point- so clearly that can't be true.
“She’s very attractive.”
He blinks. “Yes, she is.”
“Is she still married?”
“No. She divorced about five years ago.”
“Why aren’t you with her?”
“Because that’s over between us. I’ve told you this.”
DAMN IT ANA I'M TRYING TO BE NICE HERE AND GIVE YOU SOME CREDIT WHY DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THAT SO DIFFICULT?! Does Grey need to conquer the moon and have "Christian + Ana 4 Evarz" carved on it with a laser in a little heart before you realize that he wants to be with you and not every other woman who soils herself in arousal at the sight of him?
They don't get a chance to REALLY start fighting because Grey gets a MYSTERIOUS PHONE CALL! Obviously about Leila as he talks about being watched 24-7. So, there are two ways I can take this. 1 is that Leila is THERE and watched them RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT! The other is that Grey has hired security dudes to watch him, which means he's hired them to watch Ana because it's Grey. ...
So bets on Grey having hired people to watch Ana 24-7 without her knowledge or consent?
“Wait a minute. We were in the middle of a discussion, about us. About her, your Mrs. Robinson.”
Christian’s face hardens. “She’s not my Mrs. Robinson. We can talk about it at my place.”
“I don’t want to go to your place. I want to get my hair cut!” I shout. If I can just focus on this one thing . . .
So, I commented a lot last book how any time Ana stood up for herself she painted it as she was throwing a tantrum. Now she actually is and doesn't seem to notice- again, she's upset, she's overwhelmed, and Grey is trying to change the subject and not telling her anything. Grey responding with having some poor hair dresser arranged to come to his place, where he is demanding he and Ana go RIGHT NOW, isn't helping Ana's frayed emotions at the moment.
Alright, so, warning, wall of text, but I can't NOT put this up.
“Anastasia, Leila is obviously suffering a psychotic break. I don’t know if it’s you or me she’s after, or what lengths she’s prepared to go to. We’ll go to your place, pick up your things, and you can stay with me until we’ve tracked her down.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“So I can keep you safe.”
He glares at me. “You are coming back to my apartment if I have to drag you there by your hair.”
I gape at him . . . this is beyond belief. Fifty Shades in Glorious Technicolor.
“I think you’re overreacting.”
“I don’t. We can continue our discussion back at my place. Come.”
I fold my arms and glare at him. This has gone too far.
“No,” I state stubbornly. I have to make a stand.
“You can walk or I can carry you. I don’t mind either way, Anastasia.”
“You wouldn’t dare.” I scowl at him. Surely he wouldn’t make a scene on Second Avenue?
He half smiles at me, but the smile doesn’t reach his eyes.
“Oh, baby, we both know that if you throw down the gauntlet I’ll be only too happy to pick it up.”
We glare at each other—and abruptly he sweeps down, clasps me round my thighs, and lifts me. Before I know it, I am over his shoulder.
“Put me down!” I scream. Oh, it feels good to scream.
He starts striding along Second Avenue, ignoring me. Clasping his arm firmly around my thighs, he swats my behind with his free hand.
“Christian!” I shout. People are staring. Could this be any more humiliating? “I’ll walk! I’ll walk.”
What's that? Respect? Boundaries? Being treated like an adult? Grey being worried about paparazzi? LOL NOPE! This is also terrifying, and Ana is too busy being ZOMG SO EMBARRASSED by him heaving her off. He is doing this in the middle of the god damned day- why is no one saying anything? Calling the cops? Ana's response rather than telling him to fuck off and die- she'll take her chances- is to stomp home. Grey follows her. She is about to ignore the fact that he has threatened her- again. I've commented on him using violence in more subtle ways before (pinning her and forcefully kissing her) but he is outright saying he will make her do what he wants by force here. There is no shade of gray here Ana, this is a huge fucking red flag. She's shocked, she knows this is awful and outrageous, but she isn't going to act on it ever again. I also want to draw attention to Grey treating Ana standing up for herself as a cute challenge. Oh, look at the little woman who thinks she's people!
UGSJDBGEBAIOwbnibhioaebn9RUBDAKJLVN ioguhSCNJETHI. BDSFIS.
I know there is so much to unpack there but I am struggling to come up with anything that isn't incoherent rage sputtering, so have a pineapple and let's move on!
As I stalk back home, I make a mental list:
1. Shoulder carrying—unacceptable for anyone over the age of six.
2. Taking me to the salon that he owns with his ex-lover—how stupid can he be?
3. The same place he took his submissives—same stupidity at work here.
4. Not even realizing that this was a bad idea—and he’s supposed to be a bright guy.
5. Having crazy ex-girlfriends. Can I blame him for that? I am so furious; yes, I can.
6. Knowing my bank account number—that’s just too stalkery by half.
7. Buying SIP—he’s got more money than sense.
8. Insisting I stay with him—the threat from Leila must be worse than he feared . . . he didn’t mention that yesterday.
Oh no, realization dawns. Something’s changed. What could that be? I halt, and Christian halts with me. “What’s happened?” I demand.
I hate how this is all being framed as Grey being the perfectly reasonable one, Ana just didn't know what was really going on and should have trusted the big strong man to keep her safe to start with! I at least like how the text is treating it as reasonable for Ana to demand to know what's going on. Now, Ana is also pointing out some things that make no sense, like the ongoing "he's such a stoopid head". ZOMG HE SHOULD BE PSYCHIC AND FAILURE TO ANTICIPATE MY EVERY REACTION WHEN THE READER WHO SEES ALL MY THOUGHTS CAN'T MAKES HIM SUCH A JERKFACE!
“She managed to obtain a concealed weapons permit yesterday.”
Oh shit. I gaze at him, blinking, and feel the blood draining from my face as I absorb this news. I may faint. Suppose she wants to kill him? No.
“That means she can just buy a gun,” I whisper.
Yes, that is what these things mean. Although I thought you had to have a permanent address to do such a thing? If a bunch of people are looking for her- how did she manage to get a gun permit and potentially a gun without being found? Is this supposed to be a statement on American gun laws or just careless writing? I just- what?
Okay, let's try this again. Grey's ex who is apparently distraught with grief over the loss of her lover in a car accident, and stalking him and Ana because of... we don't know why, has now gone out and gotten a permit to buy a gun. She has turned up at the doorstep at Ana's place of work, and Ana's thought is... OH NO WHAT IF SHE HUTS GREY?! Absolutely no concern over herself? I just- what?
“Let’s get back,” he murmurs, and he reaches down and kisses my hair, and that’s it. All my fury is gone, but not forgotten. Dissipated under the threat of some harm coming to Christian. The thought is unbearable.
Right because one crisis will over ride everything. I feel he just doles out information when and where he needs to for the sake of keeping Ana so frazzled and upset she can't think straight.
So onto packing up to go stay with Grey "for a few days". Ana mentions that Ethan, Kate's brother, is coming to live with them as of Tuesday until he can get set up himself in Seattle. Grey is shockingly not totally horrible. I mean, he's clearly bitchy about it but behaves, shockingly.
“Well, it’s good that you’ll be staying with me. Give him more room,” he says quietly.
Holy crap, Grey is trying to behave and act like people.
It doesn't last for longer than 30 seconds though.
“Something wrong with my driving? Don’t tell me you know what I scored on my driving test . . . I wouldn’t be surprised with your stalking tendencies.” Maybe he knows that I just scraped through the written test.
“Get in the car, Anastasia,” he snaps angrily.
“Okay.” I hastily climb in. Honestly, chill, will you?
So rather then express what he's actually uncomfortable, "I'm not okay with you living with a guy" he will instead get upset at her for wanting to drive her own car and trying to crack jokes in a serious situation.
“Were all your submissives brunettes?”
He frowns and glances at me quickly. “Yes,” he mutters. He sounds uncertain, and I imagine him thinking, where’s she going with this?
“I just wondered.”
“I told you. I prefer brunettes.”
“Mrs. Robinson isn’t a brunette.”
“That’s probably why,” he mutters. “She put me off blondes forever.”
“You’re kidding,” I gasp.
“Yes. I’m kidding,” he replies, exasperated.
I stare impassively out the window, spying brunettes everywhere, none of them Leila, though.
So, he only likes brunettes. I wonder why? Did Mrs. Extraordinarily-Glamorous-In-Spite-Of-Being-Old Robinson really put him off blondes? I shake my head—Christian Mindfuck Grey.
What is this I don't even. Okay, so, Grey says "Yes, I was just kidding" in a way that proves he thought this should be super obvious, and Ana then goes onto obsess over WHAT DID IT ALL MEAN!? I am struggling to say anything intelligent as I feel the exerts should be speaking for themselves.
So Ana goes on to ask about Elena, which prompts Grey to explain that he's a silent partner in the beauty business. Silent, but he brings girls in for free shit and everyone who works there knows who he is, but he's totally a silent partner. Elena runs it well, and Grey explains that he "owed" her the money to help her start up this venture. This is because when he dropped out of Harvard after two years to start his own company from the ground up (naturally, because he doesn't NEED an education to be good at something because he's so perfect and awesome.) she gave him 100k to do so. 100k of her rich husband at the time's money, but he was evil and mean and wouldn't let her work so it was totally okay you guys!
So Ana and Grey get to his place, he vanishes to make some calls, and Ana despairs as she looks at the lavish gowns that he bought for her, and calls her Mother in a panic. This conversation lasts about five lines, and 3 of them are Ana realizing that other people have problems, too, and she seems surprised. I actually like this. Ana is 21ish. She has just graduated from university, and has been in the throws of her first romantic drama. Thinking she is the only one in the world with problems is one of the first things she has done that I thought "Yup, that's a 21 year old."
So Grey turns up, and Ana, rather then pointing at the phone and waving him off just hangs up with her Mother and asks Grey "WHY ME? YOU COULD HAVE ANY WOMAN! WHY AM I SO SPECIAL AND AWESOME?!" because your author decided you were, Ana.
“You make me look at the world differently, Anastasia. You don’t want me for my money. You give me . . . hope,” he says softly.
What? Mr. Cryptic is back. “Hope of what?”
He shrugs. “More.” His voice is low and quiet. “And you’re right. I am used to women doing exactly what I say, when I say, doing exactly what I want. It gets old quickly. There’s something about you, Anastasia, that calls to me on some deep level I don’t understand. It’s a siren’s call. I can’t resist you, and I don’t want to lose you.” He reaches forward and takes my hand. “Don’t run, please—have a little faith in me and a little patience. Please.”
So, in short, because... she's fun and not a terrible person? I mean, er, OH MY GOD HE'S SO ROMANTIC AND SENSITIVE *SWOON*. That's how I'm supposed to react, right? I've never been one to receive the big romantic speeches, usually because if a dude said this to me I would probably taunt him endlessly for it because I am a terrible girlfriend.
So that's that, and now for Ana's hair cut! It's literally a paragraph, because Grey isn't in the scene, it's skipped. We do, however, get this.
Franco is small, dark, and gay. I love him.
Oh, joy, the gay hairdresser. This is the second time we've met a gay character in this series, and both times they've been flamboyant cartoonish caricatures of stereotypes. The first time was a random dude Ana met in the airport, and somehow befriended (this naturally all happens off page) who ends up giving her a massage- something she uses to taunt Grey because deliberately making your boyfriend jealous is a mature and reasonable thing to do. She tells him (and the reader) he's gay to assure Grey (and the reader) that what she did was just a little mischievous, not actually bad and wrong. Still, we're left with Ana, private to the point of resenting people asking her how her day went, somehow befriending this random man in an airport, and all we know about him is he's gay.
Now, we have Ana, who is not a people person, and who is generally neutral at best to people, adoring this man. As far as I can tell BECAUSE he's gay. So, we have the narrator treating gay men like they're some small, silly, cute fuzzy animal.
Look he thinks he's people!
“Such beautiful hair!” he gushes with an outrageous, probably fake Italian accent. I bet he’s from Baltimore or somewhere, but his enthusiasm is infectious.
I know, I'm reading a lot into two cameos of gay characters (you've now basically seen everything the man will say or do, since Grey doesn't linger to tell him how to cut her hair, he isn't in the scene and therefore it is glossed over) but here is the thing- we're two books in, and these are the only two characters we've met who HAVE been gay. There hasn't been mention of a bisexual anywhere, either. I mean, it's possible that everyone that isn't trying to have sex with Ana is actually gay and just never talks about it, but that seems unlikely. The two character's we've met who are gay have largely been defined by their gayness, as to any other given trait. Plus almost everyone is either hitting on Ana, drooling over Grey, or talking about a boyfriend/wife of some sort, so that doesn't give me much hope for any hidden gay/bisexual characters.
I will have to end part 1 of this post here, as there is no way anyone will get through this cluster fuck of a chapter in one go. Part 2 will go up next Thursday!
Till Tuesday dear readers! As always, comments/generic encouragements/drink recipes are appreciated.