That's a high-energy soda made by the fine people at Coca Cola, and I'm not just saying that because they promised to hook me up with a lifetime supply of lard. It's highly caffeinated, and so am I. Which is why I probably dreamt...
I was dreaming, and in my dream I was falling down an up escalator. It took me an hour and a half to reach the bottom. As I was bouncing upward off of the moving stairs, I remember thinking, "Haven't I already written this before?" But it doesn't matter, because, even if I have, I'm writing it again. When I finally hit the bottom, I bolt upright in Christian's bed. Am I a woman in Christian's bed who dreamt I was falling down an up escalator? Or am I a woman falling down an up escalator dreaming that I'm in Christian's bed?
I start to get up. Well, isn't that odd. My panties are down around my ankles. I wonder how that happened. I look around suspiciously for Bill Cosby. When I don't see him, I pull them from the waistband back up to where they should be, up around my armpits. I get up to open the bedroom window for some fresh air. We're twenty stories up, and the view is magnificent. As I turn to walk back to bed I stop suddenly in my tracks.
Somehow that cute little mangy cat survived being crushed by the giant penny and being smashed by the heavy mechanical foot of the gigantic robotic dinosaur in Christian's Fortress of Solitude, which is a place I know belongs to a different superhero.
"Meow," Fluffy purrs, sitting on my bed.
With her tiny paw, she gently pushes a little red ball toward me. I immediately recognize it from the photo shoot Kate and Jose had with Christian at the beginning of this book. Ah, good times.
"Oh, you want to play?" I ask the cat, so happy she's alive.
"Meow," the cat answers.
I pick up the ball and bounce it gingerly to the foot of the bed. The cat pounces and, carrying it in her mouth, brings it back to me. Oh, how cute. I've never known a cat that could play fetch. I pick up the ball again and toss it across the room. Fluffy pounces again, jumping energetically off the bed, and once again retrieves the ball for me.
"Meow," Fluffy says, with a tone of challenge in her voice.
"Oh, you want to play some more?" I ask her playfully, but rising to her challenge.
"Well, let's see what you can do," I say, and give the ball a hard toss. It bounces off the wall, hits the night table, and flies out the open window with Fluffy close behind.
"Me-oooooooooooooooooooow!" I hear Fluffy howl down the twenty stories to the sidewalk.
I look guiltily around for Christian. Fortunately, he's not there. That's when I hear music playing in the distance. Someone is playing the piano and playing it beautifully, I might add. Since it's just me and Christian, I'm pretty sure it's not me.
The music reminds me that I'm famished. Well, not really, but I am. Famished, that is. I put on my bathrobe, then wander quietly in the direction of the kitchen. To get to the kitchen I have to pass the great room, which is a name as well as an accurate description. When I first saw it, I thought to myself, "Now THAT'S a great room." Unfortunately, the great room is where the music seems to be emanating from. I take a peek around the corner and see Christian shrouded in darkness sitting in a bubble of light, which I know is impossible according to the known laws of physics.
So he's the one tickling the ivories.
I bet I can sneak my way past him and get to the kitchen.
He saw me.
My stomach would pick the wrong time to rumble. Traitorous digestive system. My Subconscious twitters delightedly behind her hand like a Japanese geisha.
Caught, I have no choice but to join Christian. Malala Yousafzai has nothing on me, as I bravely sit on the piano stool next to Christian and make a musical contribution of my own.
Christian and his practical jokes.
"Sorry," Christian says, but I don't think he is. Not really, at least.
And then another odd thing happens. Christian gets up from the piano, but the beautiful piano music continues to play. It's The Flower Duet from Léo Delibes' opera Lakmé. With a press of a button, it stops.
"You mean, you weren't really playing the piano?" I ask him.
"Ana," Christian tells me, taking the soundtrack from The Hunger out of his CD player, "to learn how to play the piano would take hours and hours of hard work and dedication. I've never had time for that. I've always been way too busy finding women to spank."
I sit there. Dumbfounded.
"I learned," Christian continues, "at a very young age, that it's easier to pretend to do something, than to actually do it. When I was a student at Hogwarts, my parents insisted I play sports, but they never went to any of my quidditch games, so I eventually quit the team and just told them that I was playing. That way, everybody was happy."
"And all your trophies?"
"I bought them all."
Again, there's that vague feeling of deja vu. Still, I don't know whether to be disappointed by his deviousness or impressed with his cleverness.
"Stick with dumbfounded," my Inner Goodness recommends, so I do.
I shift positions, so I can get up and complete my trip to the kitchen, but Christian mistakes it for something else and scoops me into his lap.
"Do you know what I'd like" he asks, salaciously.
"Bacon?" I suggest.
"No, but it does include eating. Do you know what I'd like to eat?" he teases, lasciviously.
"No, that's not on the menu, but a kind of fatty meat is close."
Menu? Hmm... that's my cue.
"Speaking of menus, Christian," I tell him, menu-speakingly, "I want to get something straight."
"You already have," he says, mischievously, gyrating his hips underneath my kind of fatty meat.
"I'm talking about the sexual menu you want me to agree to. There are a lot of things in it that I'm uncomfortable with."
Christian, surprisingly enough, has the menu in his hand. He offers it to me, and I notice a lot of the "items" have already been crossed out.
"As you see," Christian tells me, "I've even taken out the Pink Sock. That one disgusts even me, if you can imagine. There's just one thing I have to stand firm on, and that's the stipulation that you must fast before every sexual encounter."
"I think I've already answered in the affirmative."
"You expect me to fast?"
Hey, them's fighting words, and my highly-caffeinated metabolism agrees with me. I stand up suddenly and slam my two fists on top of the piano. Wood splinters everywhere and the legs shatter from the force of the blow, causing the piano to crumple to the floor like an accordion. A broken accordion.
Christian jumps out of the way as I grab the piano stool he's sitting on and throw it against the wall. It smashes into a million little pieces, just like James Frey's writing career. The framed painting it hits falls to the floor, broken, torn, and unrecognizable, but that last one is mainly because it was a Picasso.
I HATE Picasso!
"You expect me to fast?" I scream at Christian. "To go without food? That... Makes... Hulk... MAD! And when Hulk gets mad, Hulk SMASHES!"
I pick the couch up over my head and hurl it through the wall. It crashes into the kitchen, where it crushes the refrigerator and destroys all that beautiful ham.
Christian raises his hands in front of his face in a protective gesture against the force of my wrath. When he sees me advance toward him, he tries to hide behind the drapes.
"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtains!" he squawks. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtains!"
I stomp over to the drapery, grab two big fistfuls of cloth and tear them down from their rods. They fall on top of Christian like the trash they've become.
"Ana! Please!" he wails, trying to calm me down, to reason with me, but I'm beyond calming down and being reasoned with.
I angrily clomp over to the bookshelf and start firing off the books left and right like missiles. One goes crashing through a window. Another sticks in the wall like a literary work of modern art. Christian has to duck to keep from being clobbered by a third.
"A first edition Edgar Allen Poe?" I yell, glancing at the book in my hand. "I LOVE Edgar Allen Poe!" and immediately tear the book into confetti. "And THAT'S what I do to the things I LOVE!" I shout at Christian, who's cowering in the corner, waiting for the tempest to subside.
Oh, my goobers!
Have I gone too far?
I just tore apart a priceless literary artifact. It's irreplaceable, and now it's no more. I pick up some of the torn pages from the floor and try to stick them together using a little bit of spit.
They fall limply to the floor.
And so do I.
I sit there, crying.
"I'm so hungry," I wail. "Oh, Christian, don't you understand? I'd never be able to fast."
"There, there," Christian says, joining me on the floor. He takes me in his arms, trying to comfort me. "Well work something out. We'll find a compromise."
"No," I say wiping away some snot with the sleeve of my robe. "Can't you see, we'll never be able to work things out. We're too different. I'm coffee, you're tea. I'm beer, and you're a fine wine. I'm rubber and you're glue, everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you."
I look at Christian. He looks so lost, so heartbroken. Fifty shades of sadness. The J. Geils Band was right, love stinks.
"I'll return everything you've given me," I tell him. "Everything, that is, except for that car you gave me, the Adobe SNL. It rained and now it's just a puddle of mud.
"Surely, you're joking," he says, pleadingly.
I shake my head.
"No," I say, "and my name's not Shirley." I stand, straightening up, and prepare to leave. "If I don't leave now, we'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives. I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the sexual problems of two little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that."
Christian stands up and holds me close.
"Here's looking at you, kid," Christian tells me, and with that he gives me a hard slap on the ass.
I bet that will leave a mark.
"You know you don't have to act with me, Christian," I tell him. "If you want me, just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow."
"I'm not into that," Christian says.
I hug him.
Reluctantly, I let him go, and walk over to the line of people who have suddenly appeared out of nowhere to wish me well. Crockett, Doobie, Mr. and Mrs. Grey. I walk down the line of well-wishers, and say goodbye to each.
"Now I know I've got a heart," Crockett tells me, "because it's breaking."
Little Doobie looks up at me with his big sad eyes.
"Wanna get high?" he squeaks, offering me for a final time a wet, limp joint.
"No, thank you," I say, quickly bypassing him and moving on to Christian's father.
"I'm glad you found your freedom, Mr. Grey," referring to the murder he could have been arrested for.
"Well, I would never've found it if it hadn't been for you," he tells me, giving me an enthusiastic hug.
I re-hook my bra as I walk up to Mrs. Grey, Christian's mother.
"I wish you weren't leaving, Ana," she tells me.
"Do you really mean that, Grace?" I ask her.
"No," she says.
There's only one person left to say goodbye to, and then I'll have to leave.
"I'll miss you most of all," I tell the Scarecrow, and reach down to pick up Toto.
I turn to Kate, who's dressed in a beautifully fancy pink dress.
"I just want to go home," I say.
"You had the power all along," she tells me. "Just click your heels three times and say, 'There's no place like home. There's no place...'"
"...like home. There's no place like home."
The world begins to spin, and, when it stops, I'm laying in my own bed. Kate's applying a cool, wet cloth to my forehead. She's wearing her cute little baby-doll nightie with fur along the bottom to keep her neck warm. There's an old Humphrey Bogart movie playing on the television set.
"She's awake!" says one voice.
"Ana's awake!" says another.
I look around. Not only is Kate there, but so is José and his cousin.
"Oh, Ana, we were so worried," José tells me. "Weren't we, Sy?"
"Of course we were," Kate interjects, then adds, "You were delirious the whole time you were unconscious."
"Did you call a doctor?"
But before I could answer...
"I thought I'd drop by and see how she's doing..." a familiar voice from behind me says.
"...her head had a rather nasty bump against that lamp post in chapter 3."
It's true. I feel my head and there's a rather large lump on it, much larger than the other ones.
He's standing just outside of the window in my room, which is odd since my apartment is on the fourteenth floor.
"Gravity boots," he says, but I think he means anti-gravity boots.
"I was in a magical land, and you were there, and you and you and you," I say, pointing to Christian.
They laugh politely. That's okay, I'm used to people laughing at me.
"We're not laughing at you, Ana," Christian says, gently. "We're laughing with you."
I don't know, it sure feels like they're laughing at me.
"I'm okay," I tell them. "Can I have some privacy? I'd like to take a bath."
They look at each other, concerned.
"Well, at least we know her nose works," Kate says, and they all file out.
I get up, start to undress, when...
"I can still see you," I tell the eyeball peeking at me from the bottom corner of the window.
"I was just leaving," Christian says, and does just that.
I walk into the bathroom and look at myself. I'm naked in the mirror like Reese Witherspoon in the movie Wild, only without her paycheck.
Could it all have just been a dream?
I turn away from my reflected image and bend over to turn the hot water knob in the bathtub so I can have a nice long soak, when...
Glimpsing back, something catches my eye. A red mark. On my butt. And it's in the shape of a hand.