I clamber out of bed feeling stiff, but, sadly, not a stiffy. My subconscious looks at me disapprovingly. She has a black eye and a missing front tooth. Two bald spots where the hair had been torn out of her head. The black eye is on her left side. No, her right. Her left? Her right?
Let's see, which way am I facing?
My inner goodness glares at me in exasperation. It's her left, she corrects me, impatiently. Or is it her right? My inner goodness doesn't know which way she's facing either.
"Good morning, Miss Steele," a voice from the kitchen area calls out to me.
It's not Christian's voice, but, if it's not Christian's, then who?
It must be Christian's very attractive maid. I'm jealous at the very thought of her. I bet she even does windows. I wonder if she's the one he told me about who washes his balls at the golf course. I head to where she is.
"Would you care for some breakfast?" she asks me with a friendly smile.
Breakfast? Who cares who the voice belongs to? I'm starving!
"I don't want to be a bother," I say, playing hard-to-get. "I'm into natural foods. I can always go outside and lick a tree."
"No bother," she says, and then lists more than half a dozen breakfast items. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, waffles, ham, sausage, and biscuits.
"Okay," I tell her.
"Okay," she says.
That's what I like about Christian. He hires smart women.
Speaking of Christian, where the heck is he?
I scuttle off toward the study. As I get closer I hear his voice.
"All I'm saying, General, is selling the rights to name our missile defense system to the various erectile dysfunction companies is a smart way to go. Can you imagine how much Viagra would pay to have the latest missile named after it? The Viagra ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. Devastating. The Cialis cruise missile. Awesome. The Levitra long-range missile. The Stendra Bunker Buster. The Ron Jeremy Back-Door Intruder. The possibilities are endless, as are the sexual innuendoes."
He looks up and sees me. A slow, sexy smile spreads across his face like peanut butter. That's right, I said peanut butter.
"I'll talk to you later, General."
He hangs up and immediately calls Andrea, his personal secretary.
"Andrea, I'll need an extra ticket for that rich person's thing I have to go to later. Why? Because I have a date. That's right, a date."
He pauses as Andrea asks him something on the other end.
"Why is everyone always so surprised when I have a date?"
"Of course she's female."
He turns to me.
"You are female, aren't you?"
I nod my head.
"Just do it," he says into the phone, and hangs up.
"Good morning, Miss Steele," he tells me, walking around his desk.
"Hi'ya," I answer as he strokes my cheek. "I just wanted to see you before I had a shower."
"Wouldn't you rather have me instead?"
With that, and one mighty sweep of his hand, he clears his desk of all its important business clutter, bends me over, and takes me like Grant took Richmond.
Once sated, I figure it's my chance.
"Why don't you like to be touched," I ask him. The top of my inner goddess' head explodes, and my subconscious' sore jaw drops to the floor.
Christian takes a step back. He walks to his window, and gazes at the street below. To the freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow.
He is a rock. He is an island.
"And a rock feels no pain," he tells me. "And an island never cries."
He pauses, searching for just the right words.
"You know, Ana," he begins, "I'm a man who likes to buy the jar with peanut butter AND jelly in it. It's just too much work to open and close two jars, not to mention the extra knife I'd have to wash. I dream of the day when we have the technology to put peanut butter and jelly together in toothpaste tubes, but that is still in the future. I may not see it happen, but I pray my children will. My children, but not my children's children, because I don't think children should be having unprotected sex."
"Before you go any further," I interrupt, "I just want to tell you one thing."
"Don't go any further."
"Do you understand what I'm telling you, my dear?"
"I think I do."
"Good, then explain it to me."
"Well," I say, "it's like when I was taking Sex Ed in high school. The teacher was required to have us role a condom down a cucumber to practice for safe-sex. 'Boy, are you guys in for a let-down,' she told us. 'Much like the disappointment of finding out the stranger in the van doesn't really have any candy.' Then she broke down in tears and left the school soon after that."
"You've completely beguiled me, Miss Steele. You're the kind of girl who would stare at a can of orange juice because it says 'concentrate.'"
"I have to go," I tell him, my voice quiet. "You know, my... my... job interview."
"I know," he says softly, his eyes not meeting mine.
"I'll miss you," I tell him.
"I'll miss you, too. More than you know."
I turn to leave, and walk out the door to an uncertain future.
"That's the closet," he tells me.
I'm at my job interview.
"Miss Steele," Jack Hyde, the acquisitions editor at SIP, the company I'm applying to, begins by asking me some sharp, intelligent questions. I'd tell you some of them, but I don't feel like making any up.
"And where do you see yourself in ten years?" he says.
What is this, a trick question?
"Right here," I answer, confidently, "attending a party celebrating my ten-year anniversary with this company."
He laughs, and then says, "Miss Steele, I would like to do a word association with you, if you don't mind."
"Why would I mind?"
"You'd be surprised. Anyway, I'll say a word, and you can respond with the first word that comes into your mind."
"Well, let's start with something simple then. How about: boy."
"That's good. Now: man."
"Even better. Music."
"I said one word."
"Big, fat cock."
He stops, leans back, lights a cigarette, takes a drag deep into his lungs, and lets the smoke billow out from between his lips satisfyingly. Slowly, as if he's under water, he looks over to Elizabeth Morgan, the head of human resources at SIP, the company I'm applying to.
"Give this lady a job," he tells her.
Kate is practicing a magic trick when I come home. She's making a salami disappear.
"How did your interview go?" she asks.
I can't believe she's interested.
"Good," I tell her.
"Gee, that's too bad."
"Because the better people around me do, the less special my accomplishments seem in comparison. That's why I lent you those jean overalls to wear, to sabotage you. They belong to the family handyman, George. He works at our Vermont inn."
"Is that why you wanted me to go braless?"
"No, I thought going braless would help take the wrinkles out of your face."
I look at what I'm wearing. I thought I looked cute.
"Don't you know?" I tell her. "Boho country is in. Can you give me a lift to the airport?"
"Are you going somewhere?"
"To visit my mom. She's works there as a prostitute."
I wish I could say my mom and I are close, but, unfortunately, because of her alcoholism, that's not the case. As sad as it sounds, I used to wish I'd grow up to be a margarita so my mother would pay more attention to me. I remember how, when I was a toddler, my mother would tie a bone around my neck to get the dog to play with me so she could spend the afternoon drinking herself into a stupor. I love that woman so much.
Kate shocks me out of my reverie by telling me she broke up with Crockett. OMG!, WTF!, and LOL! And I thought they made such a great couple. They were practically attached at the hip, but the doctor refused to do the surgery at the last minute.
"How'd you do it?" I ask her.
"Break up with him?"
"Easy," she says. "I just told him I was pregnant."
"And what did he say?"
"He said, 'See ya,' and was out of the door faster than you chasing a donut downhill. Hee, hee... works every time."
Before we leave, I send Christian a quick email. I don't know if he'll respond, as busy as he is. I mean, he's a rich billionaire businessman, if I can be so redundantly blunt. He must have a ton of things to do, with people needing his attention every single second of the day.
He writes back immediately.
Well, if it isn't Farmer Jones. How did your interview go?
It went well. I just wanted to say bye, before I leave for the airport.
Are you going somewhere?
At the airport, Kate slows down enough for me to safely jump out of her car. I hope George doesn't mind a few tears at the knees. Fortunately, torn jeans are in.
I get to the airport, and I'm about to sit in public seating, when a security guard approaches me.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he tells me. "I'm here to escort you to the First Class waiting area, where you can drink, be massaged, and have your nose-hairs plucked."
"I don't need my nose-hairs plucked," I tell him, indignantly.
"I guess they do keep your upper lip warm," he acknowledges, and then, taking my arm, leads me away.
I can't help thinking: How dare Christian Grey arrange for me to be pampered in the First Class waiting lounge.
That guy is the biggest jerk I know.
I send him another email.
You are the biggest jerk I know!
What did I do now?
I narrow my narrow eyes narrowly and press send.
If that Christian Grey thinks he can buy me, well, he can, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy it the way a reasonably normal person would. It'll take more than a complimentary nose-hair plucking for that, and, just to make sure, I call the security guard over.
"Is it the end of the chapter?" I ask him.
"Yes," he tells me.
"Then I'll take the nose-hair makeover after all."