"Oh, Da-aad," I say, avoiding eye contact.
"I like it when you call me dad."
"Not really, I prefer Ray."
To celebrate my college graduation, Ray has brought me to the fanciest restaurant in El Paso, Bulimia's. "A Meal So Nice, You Can Eat It Twice" is their motto.
"Order anything you want, sweetheart," he tells me, as he looks up and down his menu. "Nothing's too good for my little girl."
"Well," I say, also perusing all the yummy entrees. No Cleveland Steamers on this menu. "I've never had caviar or lobster before."
"She'll have the cheese sandwich," Ray tells the waiter as he hands back the menu. "And bring her the check."
While we wait for our food to arrive, Ray turns serious.
"You know, sweetheart," he says, "it broke my heart when you left home. I know you were on your way to college, but it still hurt. I remember when I first moved out of my parent's house. The first thing I wanted to do was buy myself the fastest motorcycle I could find, but my brother, you see, had just died the year before in a horrible accident, so my mom told me no."
"Because she loved you and was afraid for your safety?"
"Because my brother had a motorcycle, and she wanted to sell that one to me. On that note, I want to give--not sell--you something precious. Some land that's been in my family for generations."
He reaches into his jacket pocket for--what?--a deed?
It was a jar filled with dirt.
"This is for you, sweetheart, you've earned it. It's for you, for your children, but not your children's children, because I don't believe children should be having sex."
I take the jar and hold it up to my eyes to get a closer look. I shake it up and down.
Yeah, it's dirt all right.
"Uh, gee... thanks dad," I say, my bank account feeling emptier than ever.
My cheese sandwich is delicious. It's just the right amount of cheese. Not too much cheese. Not too little. Who knew cheese could be so... cheesy.
Aw, who am I I kidding? Cheese sucks.
"How's your sandwich, sweetheart?"
"It's delicious, Ray."
After such a fancy dinner, my stepfather drives me back to my apartment. I roll down the car window and enjoy the fresh air it lets in. I had forgotten the restaurant's cheese and my lactose intolerance wouldn't mix.
"Well, it's been a big old day, hasn't it?" he says, when he's finally able to breathe. He pulls up to a stop in front of my apartment building.
"It sure has, Ray," I agree. "Come back when you can't stay so long."
"Want me to come in and make you some tea?" he asks, but he's too late.
I've already snuck out the window.
I wander listlessly back into my apartment. First thing I want to do is check my cell phone for messages. I guess I could have checked it at any time during the evening, or even on the walk to my apartment, but when have I ever done anything that's made any sense?
Hmm, the battery is low. I suppose I have to find my charger to charge it before I can collect my messages. That really has nothing to do with the story, but it sure... does... eat... up... space.
I have four missed calls, one voice message, and two texts. Three of the missed calls are from Christian. Boy, for a billionaire playboy, that guy sure does come across as desperate, but in a rich, self-confident kind of way. One of the calls is from Jose. He's also left me a voicemail.
"Can you lend me five bucks, Ana?" he asks me via the recorded message. I press delete.
That Jose. What a joker. A broke joker.
I open the texts.
"Where are you, Ana? Why aren't you answering my calls?"
"Um, don't get the idea that I'm desperate or anything. I've got plenty of billionaire stuff to do. Believe me, PLENTY of billionaire stuff."
They're both from Christian. You would have thought he would have put two and two together and realized I'd be with my stepfather, especially since I told him.
I better get in touch with him right away. Forget the phone, which I have in my hand. That would be too slow. I'd better get on the computer and contact him with an email. Talking with him personally is too impersonal for something so personal.
I see that he's already sent me several.
"Ana, are you there?"
"Ana, are you there? If you're there, why aren't you answering me?"
"Ana, where are you?"
"Where are you, Ana?"
"Why aren't you answering me?"
What does this guy do, sit by his computer sending emails all day long?
I quickly fire back an email to him.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: I Just Got Home
I just got home. I went to dinner with Ray, my stepfather. He treated me to a nice cheese sandwich and gave me a jar of dirt. I can't wait to show it to you.
I hit the "send" button and receive a reply almost immediately.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Not That I'm Desperate Or Anything But...
...why wait? I'll be right there.
And, sure enough, there's a knock at the door.
Fifty Shades of Humor