Friends, followers, people who clicked the wrong link and are sticking around in dazed confusion… THE TIME HAS COME.
I’ve had a lovely few weeks off. I’ve eaten lots of delicious food. I’ve spent time with amazing friends and family members. Life, dare I say it, has been good. But, like all good things, my period of freedom had to come to an end, some time. And that time is now.
I’m kissing goodbye to a world in which I don’t have to read about a controlling, manipulative bastard as though he’s some kind of romantic hero. I’m leaving the comfort of an existence that doesn’t include the perpetuation of offensive abuse myths and dangerous misrepresentation of BDSM, in order to jump head-first back into the world of EL James, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.
PRAY FOR MY SOUL.
Firstly, there is a caveat in the small print at the start of the book (you know, the publishing date etc), that actually says this:
Portions of this book, including significant portions of the dialogue and e-mail exchanges, have previously appeared in the author’s prior works.
Shall we do a quick translation? I do believe what that actually says is:
This author has no discernible talent and has copied and pasted much of her previous work into this book, in order to continue milking the badly-written cash-cow she created (by stealing Stephanie Meyer’s characters in the first place). Don’t expect anything original here.
Emma Translate is much like Google Translate, except way, way bitchier.
We also get a list of contents, detailing the chapter titles (again, all named after the date the action takes place). So, for fact fans, I can remind you all that the entirety of this book takes place over the course of nine days. Remember all that stuff we’ve talked about, with regards to quick involvement being a sign of abuse?! NINE FREAKING DAYS. Their previous “relationship” only lasted a few weeks, too.
The dedication of the book reads:
For my readers.
Thank you for all that you’ve done for me.
This book is for you.
Yo, readers? You made a book that glorifies abuse become such a massive part of popular culture, that people like myself, who actually lived through abuse at the hands of a man very much like Christian Grey, no longer have our voices heard, because suddenly this crap is “romantic.” You also made a millionaire out of a woman who seemingly has no concern for others and who possesses so little writing talent, I honestly wonder whether she wrote the first book as a joke.
I also have a message for you:
Aw, remember when I wanted to play nice, with these recaps?! That was a more innocent time…
EL then goes on to make a full Oscars speech, thanking various people. Hilariously, she credits her publishers for their “love of the written word,” which made me choke, because clearly if they appreciated good writing, this would still be in the bowels of HELL where it belongs.
She also mentions having an editorial team and, having read all of her previous, mistake-strewn crap, I say to that: HAHAHAHA, NO.
Interestingly, she mentions nothing about having had help researching BDSM, but does thank the people who helped her research helicopter accidents, soil science, the Pacific North West and “Americanisms.” So, I’m expecting Grey to sound less like a ninety seven year old British bastard, in this book.
Finally, once EL has instructed her sons to “stay golden,” we get to the first chapter of this book. YAY.
Before we jump in, a quick reminder that text from the book will always appear in italics and anything I deem especially abusive will be in red.
We start out on Thursday the 9th of June 2011. Yes, just two days after the last book ended. Grey is parked outside Ana’s workplace, ready to pick her up and take her to José’s art exhibition. He tells us he’s early and then bitches about how annoyed he is that she’s not outside, yet. Because clearly, he’s still an asshole.
The atmosphere feels stifling, and though I’m trying to remain calm, the anticipation and anxiety are knotting my stomach and pressing down on my chest. Taylor sits in the driver’s seat, staring straight ahead, wordless, looking his usual composed self, while I can barely breathe. It’s irritating. Damn it. Where is she?
Remember his truly gross comment from the first book, about preferring women to wear dresses, because he likes them accessible? Well, apparently that extends to buildings, too. Because he seems miffed that you can’t tell that SIP is a publishing firm, from outside:
Set back beyond a wide, open sidewalk, the building is shabby and in need of renovation; the company’s name is etched haphazardly in the glass, and the frosted effect on the window is peeling. The business behind those closed doors could be an insurance company or an accounting firm—they’re not displaying their wares. Well, that’s something I can rectify when I take control. SIP is mine. Almost. I’ve signed the revised heads of agreement.
And he’s taking over the company, why? TO CONTROL THE WOMAN WHO HE’S CURRENTLY NOT IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH! YAAAAAY! OH, I HAVE MISSED THIS.
Grey at least internally admits that he’s an asshole (sort of), as Taylor gets out of the car, to wait outside:
Taylor clears his throat and his eyes dart to mine in the rearview mirror. “I’ll wait outside, sir,” he says, surprising me, and he climbs out of the car before I can stop him. Maybe he’s more affected by my tension than I thought. Am I that obvious? Maybe he’s tense. But why? Maybe it’s because he’s had to deal with my ever-changing moods this past week, and I know I’ve not been easy.
You’ve not been easy ever. This past week has just been additional levels of bastard, that’s all. Feel free to change.
Whilst he sits alone in the car, Grey contemplates emailing Ana to let her know he’s outside, waiting. It’s been two minutes since he last checked his watch, but you guys, time is just passing SO slowly whilst he waits for the woman he apparently now adores, but constantly refused to fully commit to a proper relationship with, during their time together, instead choosing to threaten, gaslight and manipulate her, literally the entire time. Forgive me if my heart doesn’t exactly break for this guy.
He wonders whether Ana – who he says has been in relatively regular email contact with him, over the past couple of days – is only viewing tonight as a free ride to José’s show, rather than as a potential romantic reunion.
He recognises that he was the cause of their split, yet immediately becomes possessive and gross:
The image of Ana leaving surfaces in my mind’s eye: her sad, ashen face stricken with hurt and confusion. The memory is unwelcome. Painful. I made her that miserable. I took everything too far, too quickly. And it fills me with a despair that has become all too familiar since she left. Closing my eyes, I try to center myself, but I’m confronted by my deepest, darkest fear: she’s met someone else. She’s sharing her little white bed and her beautiful body with some fucking stranger.
I wish, with every fibre of my being, that she had.
But don’t worry, you guys, Grey shakes himself out of his misery with sheer, bloody-minded determination that “no” is not an option Ana is ever allowed, where he’s concerned:
You’ll be seeing her shortly. Your plans are in place. You are going to win her back.
Red, because of the total absence of the possibility of her saying no. And also because he sounds like a serial killer.
Then, despite having already admitted that he’s been full of mood-swings and difficult to be around, this supposedly very intelligent businessman notices that Taylor also looks nervous and fails to understand why his staff might also be hoping for some kind of positive resolution to this situation:
Taylor is pacing outside and glancing toward the front door. Christ, he looks as nervous as I feel. What the hell is it to him?
I DON’T KNOW, MAYBE HE’S HOPING YOU’LL BE LESS OF AN ASSHOLE IF YOU WIN ANA BACK??!!
Good LORD. Where is the evidence for this guy having a single freaking brain cell?!
And once again, he starts referring to his entire relationship with Ana as a business transaction:
This is worse than waiting for her in the Marble Bar, and the irony is not lost on me. I thought that was the biggest deal I’d ever negotiate with her and that didn’t turn out the way I expected. Nothing turns out as I expect with Miss Anastasia Steele. Panic knots my stomach once more. Today, I have to negotiate a bigger deal. I want her back.
She said she loved me… My heart rate spikes in response to the adrenaline that floods my body. No. No. Don’t think about that. She can’t feel that way about me. Calm down, Grey. Focus.
So, let me get this straight… You’re crazy about this woman, supposedly, but she’s not allowed to love you? Okay. Sure. I mean, I know this is supposed to play in to the whole “poor ickle Christian feels he’s not worthy of love” bullshit EL James is trying to spin, but… It’s just stupid.
Finally, Ana emerges from the doors of SIP and she’s wearing Kate’s plum dress. Because this woman has no other clothes, apparently.
But it’s not just the dress that Grey notices. It’s her weight.
But it’s not her clothing or her hair that holds my attention. Her face is pale, almost translucent. There are dark circles beneath her eyes, and she’s thinner. Thinner. Guilt lances through me. Christ. She’s suffered, too.
Ten points to Slytherin, for actually recognising that someone else is allowed to suffer.
But then, in literally the next sentence…
My concern at her appearance turns to anger. No. Fury.
Nine million points from Slytherin, for being Christian FUCKING ABUSIVE HELL BEAST SHIT FACE BASTARD Grey.
And it just keeps going from there:
She hasn’t been eating. She’s lost, what, five or six pounds in the last few days? She glances at some random guy behind her and he gives her a broad smile. He’s a good-looking son of a bitch, full of himself. Asshole. Their carefree exchange only fuels my rage. He watches her with blatant male appreciation as she walks toward the car, and my wrath increases with each of her steps.
I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY.
- THIS GUY LITERALLY WENT AROUND, IN THE LAST FEW CHAPTERS OF “GREY,” REFUSING TO EAT AND MOPING CONSTANTLY. BUT ANA IS NOT ALLOWED TO DO THE SAME?! DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE HAS JUST ACKNOWLEDGED THAT HE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR HER PAIN?!
- THEY ARE NOT IN A RELATIONSHIP. THIS LEVEL OF FURY, BASED ON A BRIEF SMILE GIVEN TO – PRESUMEDLY – A WORKMATE IS SO UNHEALTHY I CAN’T EVEN BELIEVE I AM HAVING TO EXPLAIN THAT IT’S NOT SOMETHING THAT HAS ANY PLACE IN A “LOVE” STORY.
- HIS GRAND PLAN TO WOO HER BACK IS NOW DITCHED IN FAVOUR OF HAVING A GO AT HER AND I FAIL TO SEE HOW ANYONE WOULD GO BACK TO THIS UTTER PIECE OF SHIT.
Seriously, you guys, I was so incensed by this, that I had to go downstairs and get myself a blackcurrant sundae tart, in order to eat my feelings. And I’m meant to be dieting.
Of course, the vileness doesn’t stop, there. Because literally the first thing Grey does when Ana gets into the car is start bitching at her:
“When did you last eat?” I snap, struggling to keep my composure. Her blue eyes peer up at me, stripping me bare and leaving me as raw as they did the first time I met her.
“Hello, Christian. Yes, it’s nice to see you, too,” she says.
What. The. Fuck. “I don’t want your smart mouth now. Answer me.” She stares at her hands in her lap, so that I’ve no idea what she’s thinking, then trots out some lame excuse about eating a yogurt and a banana. That’s not eating!
I try, really try, to keep a rein on my temper.
No, you don’t, you lying scumbag. We’re inside your putrid head. We can see how little effort you’re putting into controlling your temper. You could have said “hi, Ana. I’ve missed you. Are you okay? You look like you’ve lost weight.” THAT would have been keeping a rein on your temper. But you snapped at her the second she got into the car. This woman, you supposedly missed so much, you were moping around, driving past her apartment in order to freaking stalk her. If this is you, keeping a rein on your temper, I would hate to see you lose it.
Now, we progress to Jack Hyde. Okay, I know he’s a baddie (but then again so is the “hero” of this book), but the crucial thing at this point, is that Grey doesn’t. And what’s the betting that when he finds out, he’ll be smug and vile about it, thinking “ha! I knew it!” when in fact, the only issue he has about Jack Hyde right now is that Jack has a penis and he’s someone Ana knows. That’s literally it.
Taylor pulls away from the curb, and Ana waves to the prick who followed her out of the building. “Who’s that?”
So that’s Jack Hyde. I recall the employee details I flipped through this morning: from Detroit, scholarship to Princeton, worked his way up at a publishing firm in New York but has moved on every few years, working his way across the country. He never retains an assistant—they don’t last more than three months. He’s on my watch list, and I’ll have my security adviser Welch find out more.
I can’t stress this enough: Grey’s determination to get some dirt on Hyde has nothing to do with any real concern for his assistants. Look at the way Christian treats women, for crying out loud, including his staff! It’s just about the fact that Jack Hyde is a man and Ana is going to be spending time around him. Honestly, I’m shocked Grey hasn’t just pissed all down Ana’s leg in order to mark his territory.
When Ana doesn’t provide any further details about her boss, Grey returns to lecturing her about food, instead:
“Well? Your last meal?”
“Christian, that really is none of your concern,” she whispers.
“Whatever you do concerns me. Tell me.” Don’t write me off, Anastasia.
Red, because right at this particular moment, nothing she does is his business. She’s not in a relationship with him. She has every right to refuse to answer his invasive questions. And let’s face it, he’s not really concerned for her wellbeing. He’s just angry that for a week, he hasn’t been controlling everything she flaming well does.
But, rather than be horrified by this prick’s actions since she got in the car, Ana… Well, Ana finds it cute and smiles. Because this book wants me to die of some kind of rage-induced aneurism.
She sighs in frustration and rolls her eyes to piss me off. And I see it—a soft smile pulling at the corner of her mouth. She’s trying not to laugh. She’s trying not to laugh at me. After all the heartache I’ve suffered, it’s so refreshing that it cracks through my anger. It’s so Ana. I find myself mirroring her, and I try to mask my smile.
I thought – naively, it turns out – that we’d maybe get a chapter or two before this shit got really bad. My mistake. I will never doubt EL James’ ability to make abuse “cute” right from chapter one, ever again.
Ana admits that she hasn’t eaten a proper meal since the last one she ate with him and Grey is horrified. He wants to hit her, then realises he can’t and doesn’t know what to do instead.
I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but… If you honestly don’t know what to do instead of beating your partner – or in this case ex – then please, please seek help. You are a danger to the people you claim to care about. And if this is how your partner treats you, please know that you deserve a million times better. Help is out there. Talk to someone.
Still, we don’t dwell too long on Grey not knowing how to react if he isn’t allowed to hit her, because he then takes comfort in her misery, because it becomes clear to him that she can’t have met anyone else. No, really:
As I study her it becomes achingly clear that my biggest fear is unfounded. I know she didn’t get drunk and meet someone. Looking at how she is now, I know she’s been on her own, tucked up in her bed, weeping her heart out. The thought is at once comforting and distressing. I’m responsible for her misery. Me. I’m the monster. I did this to her. How can I ever win her back?
Don’t try. Fuck off.
Instead, we get:
“How are you?” I ask, because I want to hear her voice.
Not because he gives a shit about the reply.
Thank you, Google image search, for reminding me of a film I’ve not seen in ages. That’s going on my to-do list.
Back in Hell, Ana replies and Grey completely manipulates the situation:
“If I told you I was fine, I’d be lying.”
Damn. I’m right. She’s been suffering—and it’s all my fault. But her words give me a modicum of hope. Perhaps she’s missed me. Maybe? Encouraged, I cling to that thought. “Me, too. I miss you.” I reach for her hand because I can’t live another minute without touching her. Her hand feels small and ice-cold engulfed in the warmth of mine.
“Christian. I—” She stops, her voice cracking, but she doesn’t pull her hand from mine.
“Ana, please. We need to talk.”
“Christian. I…please. I’ve cried so much,” she whispers, and her words, and the sight of her fighting back tears, pierce what’s left of my heart.
“Oh, baby, no.” I tug her hand and before she can protest I lift her into my lap, circling her with my arms.
Gross, gross, gross. She’s visibly upset. She’s trying to force out what she wants to say to him and rather than give her the space she needs to do that, he grabs her “before she can protest” because he wants to touch her and because he knows how easily manipulated she is by said touch.
Jeez, I really didn’t expect to be this angry and upset by this book so early on. I should have. I really should have.
“I’ve missed you so much, Anastasia.” She’s too light, too fragile, and I want to shout in frustration, but instead I bury my nose in her hair, overwhelmed by her intoxicating scent. It’s reminiscent of happier times: An orchard in the fall. Laughter at home. Bright eyes, full of humor and mischief…and desire. My sweet, sweet Ana.
Mine. At first, she’s stiff with resistance, but after a beat she relaxes against me, her head resting on my shoulder. Emboldened, I take a risk and, closing my eyes, I kiss her hair. She doesn’t struggle out of my hold, and it’s a relief. I’ve yearned for this woman. But I must be careful. I don’t want her to bolt again. I hold her, enjoying the feel of her in my arms and this simple moment of tranquility.
Red-ink here, because she’s stiff with resistance, which shows why he should not be forcing all this physical contact on her and because he even expects her to wriggle away from him when he kisses her hair. Why? Because this guy is fully aware that this behaviour is too much. And he still doesn’t stop it.
They arrive at a building with a helipad on the top of it, from which they’re going to fly to Portland for José’s exhibition. Ana makes an innocent comment to Taylor about giving him back the handkerchief that he gave her when she left (because she was snotty-crying) and it turns Grey into even more of a possessive shitbag:
“I should give you back your handkerchief,” she says to Taylor with a coy smile.
“Keep it, Miss Steele, with my best wishes.”
What the hell is going on between them? “Nine?” I interrupt, not just to remind him what time he’ll pick us up in Portland, but to stop him from talking to Ana.
“Yes, sir,” he says quietly. Damn right. She’s my girl. Handkerchiefs are my business, not his.
It’s a handkerchief, you freakish moron, not his penis, for crying out loud. And she IS NOT YOUR GIRL RIGHT NOW.
Is it possible that this book is already worse than its predecessor?! IN THE FIRST GODDAMN CHAPTER???!!!
He thinks wistfully – I shit you not – of her vomiting outside the club when he tracked her phone and of the fact that he gave her his handkerchief, before taking her back to his hotel room and creepily watching her sleep.
Back in the here and now, they get out of the car and into an elevator to go up to the top of the building with the helipad. And because they’re in an elevator, Grey starts thinking about sex:
The elevator is small, and we’re no longer touching.
But I sense her.
All of her.
Shit. I swallow. Is it because she’s so near? Darkening eyes look up at mine. Oh, Ana. Her proximity is arousing. She inhales sharply and looks at the floor. “I feel it, too.” I reach for her hand again and caress her knuckles with my thumb. She looks up at me, her fathomless eyes clouding with desire.
Fuck. I want her. She bites her lip.
“Please don’t bite your lip, Anastasia.” My voice is low, full of longing.
Just as a pro-tip: A person inhaling sharply and looking at the floor does not necessarily mean “I FEEL CHEMISTRY, WE SHOULD TOTES HAVE SEX RIGHT NOW!” And yet that is exactly how Grey interprets it, because it’s what he wants. I mean, sure, Ana is a living sex doll who practically becomes aroused by Grey blinking at her, but she’s been visibly nervous, upset and resistant to him on the whole, for their meeting so far. There’s little reason to assume she’s feeling the same need for sexy-times as he is.
I’ve not even finished the first chapter and I want to rip this book to shreds. This does not bode well.
Grey thinks some rapetastic thoughts:
I want to fuck her here, and make her mine again…
...I am used to control—and I’m practically drooling over her because her teeth are pressing into her lip. “You know what it does to me.” And right now, baby, I want to take you in this elevator, but I don’t think you’ll let me.
He doesn’t think she’d let him, but he’s still all “BUT I WANNA.” Ew. So much ew.
Thankfully, the elevator doors open and they walk onto the roof. Remember how angry Grey was about Ana having lost weight? Well, now he’s apparently okay with it:
She feels too slight, but her petite frame fits perfectly under my arm. See? We fit together so well, Ana.
And hey, they’re a perfect fit, now! I mean, aside from him wanting to non-consensually beat her all the time and control her life against her will, they’re just perfect for each other! YAY! ROMANCE!
Because – as we’ve been warned – EL James has bugger all new to tell us in this book, Grey straps Ana into her seat and gets all excited, because bondage:
As I strap her into the seat, her breath hitches. The sound travels straight to my groin. I cinch the straps extra-tight, trying to ignore my body’s reaction to her.
“This should keep you in your place.” The thought runs through my head, and I realize I’ve said it out loud. “I must say, I like this harness on you. Don’t touch anything.”
She flushes. Finally, some color stains her face—and I can’t resist. I run the back of my index finger down her cheek, tracing the line of her blush.
Again, sometimes people blush because they’re embarrassed, or even angry or frustrated. And even if she’s blushing because she’s turned on, what will that prove? They are still totally incompatible. Grey hasn’t changed. He hasn’t used any of his time away from her to really think about how he could treat her better. He seems to think if they shag, everything will be okay again. That’s… That’s not how relationships work.
There’s a bit of boring flight stuff, just tossed in to prove that EL James researched something, then Grey starts thinking about how determined he is to enjoy his time with Ana and how proud Dr Flynn would be of him. Um… Okay? I mean, a good therapist would be horrified by your anger issues and your possessive nature, but then again, we’ve established that Dr Flynn is a useless quack, milking you of money whilst he smiles and tells you what great progress you’re making. So… Sure.
He starts talking about “chasing the dusk” and points out various landmarks. It’s important to note here that Ana actively reminds him that they’re not a couple, anymore and changes the subject when he tries to suggest taking her out:
“Escala’s over there. Boeing there—and you can just see the Space Needle.”
Curious as ever, she cranes her slim neck to look. “I’ve never been,” she says.
“I’ll take you. We can eat there.”
“Christian, we broke up.” I hear the dismay in her voice. That is not what I want to hear, but I try not to overreact.
“I know. I can still take you there. And feed you.” I give her a pointed look and she blushes a lovely pale rose.
“It’s very beautiful up here. Thank you.” She changes the subject.
No, Grey. You can’t necessarily still take her to the freaking Space Needle. Not if she isn’t interested in going with you. Side-note, I have been to the Space Needle and I liked it and now I’m sad it’s connected with this trash.
Ana tells him it’s impressive that he can fly a helicopter, to which Grey reminds her that he’s “a man of many talents.” She does the whole flirty “I’m fully aware of that” response, which is depressing. I mean, I know they get back together, but for a few, wonderful pages, she did ever so well at pretending like she didn’t want to. Oh, Ana. You could have let me have my moment for a little longer…
Grey asks Ana about work:
“What’s your boss like?”
“Oh. He’s okay.” She sounds less than enthusiastic about Jack Hyde. Has he tried anything with her?
“What’s wrong?” I want to know—has that prick done anything inappropriate? I will fire his ass if he has.
HOLY FORESHADOWING, BATMAN!
But let’s not get carried away, because as I said earlier, Jack doesn’t have to be a rapist or anything like that for Grey to want to fire him. All he’d have to do is give Ana a consensual hug and Grey would have him hung, drawn and quartered, for daring touch his property.
Now, I cut out a lot of shit from these recaps. There’s more waffle in these books than you’d find at a branch of IHOP. But it’s important to say how utterly shoe-horned the whole, tormented refrain of “will she ever take me back?” has been, in this chapter. It’s been every few paragraphs. We’re supposed to believe that Christian Grey is in deep, emotional turmoil, asking himself over and over whether his beloved Ana could ever possibly want to be with him again, after what he did to her. Of course, all of that is undone constantly by his actions and his other thoughts – all of which present Christian as he really is: an abusive fuckwit who fully expects to get whatever he wants and to hell with anyone else. But we have yet more of the “oh, what if she won’t take me back” crap here and I want to highlight it, because the whole point of these repeated refrains is to make Christian Grey seem vulnerable. Because, you see, if we feel sorry for him, he’ll seem sweet and normal and we can put his abusive behaviour down to his emotions being all over the place. I’m rolling my eyes so hard right now, I’ve given myself a headache…
But as we near our destination my confidence falters. I hope to God that my plan works. I need to take her somewhere private. To dinner, maybe. Damn it. I should have booked a table somewhere. She needs feeding. If I get her to dinner, I’ll just need to find the right words. These last few days have shown me that I need someone—I need her. I want her, but will she have me? Can I convince her to give me a second chance?
Time will tell, Grey—just take it easy. Don’t frighten her off again.
See, we get shit like this in his internal monologue, but what are his actions?! Oh, yes. Yelling at her about her weight the second he sees her, thinking about how much he wants to non-consensually hit her for it and then overly sexualising their every interaction.
He’s not vulnerable. He’s a creepy, abusive shit. And EL James is merely trying to manipulate her readers into feeling sorry for him (AGAIN, just like she did in the first book, via his nightmares), so they make excuses for his behaviour. Vile. This is genuinely vile.
We get yet another one of these manipulative passages, once the helicopter lands in Portland:
I need to tell her how I feel, and that’s going to be hard—because I don’t understand my feelings toward her. I know that I’ve missed her, that I’ve been miserable without her, and that I’m willing to try a relationship her way. But will it be enough for her? Will it be enough for me?
OH, CAN ANYONE LOVE ME?! I AM SUCH A MONSTER!
As they climb out of Charlie Tango, Grey refers to José as “the boy,” which feels racist, seeing as José is only a few years younger than Grey, so he’s hardly young enough for Grey to refer to him as a child, but he is non-white. I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if “massive racist dick-wipe” was yet another of Grey’s “enviable” qualities.
They have to take the stairs down from the roof, as the elevator is out of order. Grey is thrilled about this, as it gives him an “excuse” to put his arm around her (he remembers her falling into his office and jokes that she needs to be careful going down the stairs in her high heeled boots).
Grey then starts worrying that José and Ana may have become a couple during the last week and Ana somehow manages to read his mind and tells him “José is just a friend” as they walk down the stairs.
We then get some hypocrisy so brilliant (unintentionally, of course, EL James isn’t that clever) that I have to share it. So, in the car on the way to the exhibition, Grey makes Ana promise to eat. She agrees and he snaps that he “means it.” Then this happens:
“Do you, now?” Her voice is laced with sarcasm, and I almost have to sit on my hands. Fuck this.
She’s sarcastic towards her and it makes him feel like he almost has to sit on his hands, presumedly so he doesn’t spank her, seeing as that’s what he always threatened when she was snarky with him. So, we can see that he is exactly the same as he always was. And yet, this is the moment he decides to tell her he wants her back and this is Ana’s response, complete with his inner thoughts:
“But nothing’s changed.” Her expression shifts to a frown.
Oh, Ana, it has—there’s been a seismic shift in me.
WHERE???!! IN WHAT WAY HAVE YOU CHANGED, BEYOND THAT YOU’VE DECIDED YOU’LL HAVE AN ACTUAL RELATIONSHIP??!! YOU STILL WANT TO HIT HER. YOU STILL FEEL YOU HAVE SOME KIND OF RIGHT TO POSSESS HER AND CONTROL HER FUCKING LIFE. WHAT HAS ACTUALLY CHANGED??!! NOTHING.
Fans criticise our campaign all the time, using the notorious “but Christian changes” argument. And HE. DOES. NOT. This is evidence of that fact. He’s saying he’s changed (admittedly not out loud at this point), but there is literally nothing that backs up that claim. His behaviour is as creepy, invasive and gross as always. Are we supposed to believe he’s become a better person, just because he’s contemplating giving up BDSM?! And if that’s the case, why is this franchise being touted as some kind of freaking sexual revolution?!
This is bullshit. I’ve not even finished one chapter and I’m done with the whole damn thing.
Thankfully, I have chocolate brioche bread & butter pudding, downstairs. Apparently food is going to get me through this book.
Anyway, they’ve arrived at the exhibition, so Grey chooses not to continue the conversation. Understandably, this makes Ana mad:
We pull up at the gallery and I have no time to explain before the show.
“Let’s talk on the way back. We’re here.” Before she can say she’s not interested, I exit the car, walk around to her side, and open the door. She looks mad as she climbs out. “
Why do you do that?” she exclaims, exasperated.
“Do what?” Shit—what’s this?
“Say something like that and then just stop.”
That’s it—that’s why you’re mad? “Anastasia, we’re here. Where you want to be. Let’s do this and then talk. I don’t particularly want a scene in the street.”
The inclusion of the “that’s it – that’s why you’re mad?” part really piles on the whole idea that it’s Ana who’s overreacting, here. But she isn’t. She was clearly nervous at seeing him, they’ve had some mild flirtation, but she’s been the one who has reminded him that they’re not together, anymore. By randomly dropping “I want you back” on her, then suddenly changing the subject, he’s messing with her head and Ana has every right to call him out for it. But of course, he turns it all back on her, suggesting she’s making a scene in the street.
I’ve just remembered all the many ways I’ve imagined murdering this guy…
They head into the exhibition and – of course – the first woman who speaks to them is clearly eyeing up Christian. He’s just that gorgeous. But she turns out to know Ana (HAHA) and starts chatting to her, as Grey heads to the bar to get Ana a drink. Whilst he’s gone, José greets Ana and Grey takes this every bit as well as you’d imagine:
Turning, I see that that boy has his arms wrapped around my girl. Hell.
I can’t hear what they’re saying, but Ana closes her eyes, and for one horrible moment I think she’s going to burst into tears. But she remains composed as he holds her at arm’s length, appraising her. Yeah, she’s that thin because of me.
I fight back my guilt—though it seems she’s trying to reassure him. For his part, he looks really fucking interested in her. Too interested. Anger flares in my chest. She says he’s just a friend, but it’s obvious he doesn’t feel that way. He wants more. Back off, buddy, she’s mine.
Obvious red ink for all the possessive bullshit, particularly as they are NOT back together right now and she is therefore NOT his. Also, the whole “yeah, she’s that thin because of me” almost sounds like he’s proud of it, despite the guilt he claims to be fighting back. So, that gets red-inked, too, because ew. Don’t be glad that you’re such a life-ruiner.
Grey is rude to the bartender, because apparently it’s somehow his fault that Ana is talking to a male friend. Then he stares at Ana, thinking how hot she looks and simultaneously being annoyed that she’s talking to José. Ana turns and stares at him and he can tell she doesn’t want to look away when José continues talking to her, which pleases him. But Ana does turn back to José and gives him a warm, genuine smile, so Grey lurches immediately back to wild fury, which he again takes out on the bartender.
I’m so hot for this guy.
Grey declares the wine at the exhibition to be disgusting, because he’s a massive snob as well as an abusive dick. He again refers to José as “the boy,” when agreeing with Ana that he’s a talented photographer, which is just… Creeping me out. But of course, whilst it’s fine for Grey to compliment José, it’s not okay when Ana does it:
Her pride in his work is obvious. It irks me. She admires him and takes an interest in his success because she cares about him. She cares about him too much. An ugly emotion with a bitter sting rises in my chest. It’s jealousy, a new feeling, one that I’ve only ever felt around her—and I don’t like it.
DID HE JUST CALL JEALOUSY A “NEW FEELING”?!
As IF he’s unused to jealousy. It flows through his freaking veins in place of blood, for crying out loud!
A press photographer (who Grey describes in deeply unflattering terms, naturally) asks for a photo of him, which causes Grey to grab Ana and pull her close, so he can show the world she belongs to him:
“Sure.” I reach out and pull Ana to my side. I want everyone to know she’s mine; if she’ll have me.
UGH. Ana gives her name to the press guy, so I guess she’s officially stamped with Property Of Christian Grey, now.
Ana then mentions that she’s never seen a press photo of him with a date at an event, having searched for his images online before interviewing him. It’s apparently why Kate threw in the “are you gay?” question. Grey reminds her that he doesn’t do dates with anyone but her. Aaaaw, that totally makes up for all the shit he pulls. Bless. This is TRUE LOVE, right here.
Grey goes on to say he sometimes took his previous submissives out shopping, or possibly to an event as a reward for good behaviour. But he insists the only person he ever wanted more with, is Ana.
Oh, good. I’m glad we’re back to saying “more” so often, it loses its meaning. I missed that.
Grey holds out his hand and Ana takes it. They walk around the gallery, admiring “the boy’s” photography, before turning a corner and coming face to face with the creepy Ana exhibit. Now, I hate Grey and I loathe him referring to José as “the boy,” but José isn’t exactly covering himself in glory in these books, either. First, he tried it on with Ana and got too forceful, ignoring her when she said no, and now he’s showcasing seven portraits of her, which she had no idea would be happening. That’s not the way to get someone to want to go out with you. It’s a way of ensuring they take out a restraining order.
Anyway, Grey reacts really well:
There she is. Seven full-blown portraits of Anastasia Steele. She looks jawdroppingly beautiful, natural, and relaxed—laughing, scowling, pouting, pensive, amused, and in one of them, wistful and sad. As I scrutinize the detail in each photograph, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that he wants to be much more than her friend. “Seems I’m not the only one,” I mutter.
The photographs are his homage to her—his love letters—and they’re all over the gallery walls for any random asshole to ogle.
Ana is staring at them in stunned silence, as surprised as I am to see them. Well, there’s no way anyone else is having these. I want the pictures. I hope they’re for sale.
“Excuse me.” I abandon Ana for a moment and head to the reception desk.
“May I help you?” the woman who greeted us when we arrived asks.
Ignoring her fluttering eyelashes and provocative, overly red smile, I inquire, “The seven portraits you have hanging at the back, are they for sale?” A look of disappointment flits across her face but resolves into a broad smile.
“The Anastasia collection? Stunning work.”
“Of course they’re for sale. Let me check the prices,” she gushes.
“I want them all.” And I reach for my wallet.
“All of them?” She sounds surprised.
“Yes.” Irritating woman.
“The collection is fourteen thousand dollars.”
“I’d like them delivered as soon as possible.”
“But they’re due to hang for the duration of the exhibition,” she says. Unacceptable. I give her my full-kilowatt smile, and she adds, flustered, “But I’m sure we can arrange something.” She fumbles with my credit card as she swipes it.
Because of course, Grey is so dreamy, anyone will do anything for him.
Also, I’ve been thinking about this a lot: why does he buy them? He’s giving “the boy” money in doing so. Surely, if he’s pissed off that he’s exhibiting photos of Ana without her consent, he has the legal clout to threaten action, unless he takes them down?! But of course, then he wouldn’t have the photographs to ogle. I could write a thesis on why Christian Grey is worse than José and Jack Hyde put together, but don’t worry, I won’t.
You’d think EL James might have wrung all the “possessive asshole” it’s possible to get out of this appalling excuse for an opening chapter, but nope. Once Grey has bought all the photos of Ana, she has a male character chat to Ana purely so Grey can become possessive again.
WHO HURT YOU, EL? WHO TOLD YOU THAT THIS IS LOVE?!
When I return to Ana, I find a blond dude chatting with her, trying his luck. “These photographs are terrific,” he says. I place a territorial hand on her elbow and give him my best fuck-off-now glare. “You’re a lucky guy,” he adds, taking a step back.
“That I am,” I answer, dismissing him as I usher Ana over to the wall.
Oh, for fuck’s sake. If Ana didn’t have the personality of a dishcloth, this would be where she could snap: “ARE you lucky, Christian? Because I’m your ex, not your girlfriend” and she could wrench her arm away and suggest going to the bar with the blond dude. At least, that’s what would happen in my version. But in my version, Christian Grey also gets eaten alive by wolves. And then Ana adopts the wolves and they all live together in Christian’s mansion.
Once “blond dude” is out of the way, Grey admits to Ana that he’s bought all of the photos. He also admits that he’s going to ogle them:
“I bought them all, Anastasia.” And I know I sound condescending, but the thought of someone else owning and enjoying these photographs is out of the question. Her lips part in astonishment, and I try not to let it distract me. “I don’t want some stranger ogling you in the privacy of their home.”
“You’d rather it was you?” she counters. Her response, though unexpected, is entertaining; she’s admonishing me.
“Frankly, yes,” I respond in kind.
“Pervert,” she mouths, and bites her lip, I suspect to suppress a laugh.
Lord, she’s challenging and funny and right. “Can’t argue with that assessment, Anastasia.”
HAHAHAHAHA, you’re so invasive and creepy and cute. I love that people think this is romantic. It doesn’t at all make me want to gouge my own eyes out or anything…
Ana jokes that she’d discuss his perversion further, but she can’t, because she’s signed an NDA. This makes Grey decide he wants her “under me or on her knees.” He tells her there’s plenty he’d like to do to her smart mouth and she goes even pinker than usual.
Then, hilariously, this happens:
I glance back at the pictures. “You look very relaxed in these photographs, Anastasia. I don’t see you like that very often.”
I cannot think why a man who purposefully intimidates her, manipulates, threatens and controls her against her will has never seen her relaxed. It just doesn’t make sense. I’m so stumped.
People, prepare yourselves for a shock: Ana is about to grow a backbone (probably briefly, don’t get those hopes too high…)…
“I want you that relaxed with me.” I sound hopeful. Damn it. Too hopeful.
“You have to stop intimidating me if you want that,” she retorts, surprising me with her depth of feeling.
“You have to learn to communicate and tell me how you feel!” I snap back.
Erm… I’m pretty sure Ana is the one who did communicate. She’s the one who openly said she wanted more. She’s the one who said she didn’t think she was into being hit as a form of punishment. She’s the one who tried to make him open up about his issues around being touched… This feels a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.
Of course, Grey is now pissy that Ana is responding to the conversation topic he started, because he wants to discuss this in private. But given the way he’s treated her, I don’t blame Ana at all for wanting to have it out in a place where there are witnesses.
I want to do this in private. She clears her throat and draws herself up to full height.
“Christian, you wanted me as a submissive,” she says, keeping her voice down. “That’s where the problem lies. It’s in the definition of a submissive—you e-mailed it to me once.” She pauses, glaring at me. “I think the synonyms were, and I quote, ‘compliant, pliant, amenable, passive, tractable, resigned, patient, docile, tame, subdued.’ I wasn’t supposed to look at you. Not talk to you, unless you gave me permission to do so. What do you expect?”
We need to discuss this in private! Why is she doing this here? “It’s very confusing being with you,” she continues, in full flow. “You don’t want me to defy you, but then you like my ‘smart mouth.’ You want obedience except when you don’t so that you can punish me. I just don’t know which way is up when I’m with you.”
Okay, I can see that could be confusing—however, I do not want to discuss it here. We need to leave.
Can I just say something I literally never thought I would say? GO ANA!
Seriously, everything she has said here is bang on. And Grey might not want to air his dirty laundry in public, but he’s the one who randomly told her “I want you back” just before they went into the exhibition and he’s the one who’s been acting like a jealous, possessive prick if she so much as sets eyes on anyone else with a penis. His anger that she’s saying all this when they’re in a public setting isn’t really fair.
But Ana isn’t backing down:
“Good point well made, as usual, Miss Steele.” My tone is arctic. “Come, let’s go eat.”
“We’ve only been here for half an hour.”
“You’ve seen the photos. You’ve spoken to the boy.”
“His name is José,” she asserts, louder this time.
“You’ve spoken to José—the man who, if I am not mistaken, was trying to push his tongue into your mouth the last time I met him, while you were drunk and ill.” I grit my teeth.
“He’s never hit me,” she retaliates with fury in her eyes.
Grey is massively pissed off at this, despite it being, well, true.
I can’t believe it. She fucking asked me how bad it could get! Anger erupts like Mount St. Helens deep in my chest. “That’s a low blow, Anastasia.” I’m seething. Her face reddens, and I don’t know if it’s from embarrassment or anger. I run my hands through my hair to prevent myself from grabbing her and dragging her outside so we can continue this discussion in private. I take a deep breath.
Red ink, because for all his “there’s been a seismic shift in me” bollocks, he’s still having to stop himself from physically manhandling/assaulting her. He hasn’t changed one bit. He never will.
And when he’s not having to override his natural urge to drag her about, he’s controlling her:
“I’m taking you for something to eat. You’re fading away in front of me. Find the boy, say good-bye.” My tone is clipped as I struggle to control my temper, but she doesn’t move.
“Please, can we stay longer?”
“No. Go. Now. Say good-bye.” I manage not to shout. I recognize that stubborn, mulish set to her mouth. She’s mad as hell, and in spite of all I’ve been through over the last few days, I don’t give a shit. We are leaving if I have to pick her up and carry her. She gives me a withering look and turns with a sharp spin, her hair flying so that it hits my shoulder. She stalks off to find him. As she moves away I struggle to recover my equilibrium. What is it about her that presses all my buttons? I want to scold her, spank her, and fuck her. Here. Now. And in that order.
Nope. Biiiiig bag of nope.
Okay, yes, Ana asked him to show her how bad it could be. So, technically, she consented to the beating he gave her at the end of the last book. But equally, she’d made it plain to him that she wasn’t really into that before he did it. She was also crying, plus throughout the beating, his only thought was that as long as she didn’t say the safe word, he didn’t have to stop. A HUGE amount – if not all – of this is ON HIM. His rage at her for mentioning it, given that he supposedly wanted them to talk things through (was he imagining she’d forgotten, or something and it just wouldn’t come up?!) is just… Ugh.
Oh, by the way, who here is missing Possessive Shit Bag Grey?! Nobody?! Well, that’s a shame, because he’s BACK!
I scan the room. The boy—no, Rodriguez—is standing with a flock of female admirers. He notices Ana, and, forgetting his fans, he greets her like she’s the center of his whole goddamn universe.
Maybe you should try that, sometime…
He listens intently to everything she has to say, then sweeps her into his arms, spinning her around.
Get your fat paws off my girl.
STILL NOT CURRENTLY YOUR GIRL, DICKHEAD.
She glances at me, then weaves her hands into his hair and presses her cheek to his and whispers something in his ear. They continue talking. Close. His arms around her. And he’s basking in her fucking light. Before I’m even aware that I’m doing it, I’m striding over, ready to rip him limb from limb. Fortunately for him, he releases her as I approach.
Well, that’s just… That’s just the “hero” of this franchise, prepared to commit assault on a guy he barely knows, purely because said guy is making consensual, friendly physical contact with a woman the “hero” wants to OWN. Where is this sexy? Am I missing something?! Do women actually want their partners to be so damned possessive that no other man is allowed within five feet of them??!!
I know this is going to get much, much worse, too. So, self-care, everyone. If seeing someone drag their ex not-actually-girlfriend around and forcing kisses on her to prove she’s their property is liable to upset you (and I fully understand why it would), just know that that’s what’s coming up.
Grey storms over to José and starts saying goodbye, using the word “we” to emphasise that Ana is leaving with him.
Then… Oh, God. Here it comes:
“Bye, José. Congratulations again.” She leans away from me, gives Rodriguez a tender kiss on his reddening cheek, and I’m going to have a coronary. It takes all my self-control not to haul her over my shoulder. Instead I drag her by the hand to the front door and out onto the street. She’s stumbling behind me, trying to keep up, but I don’t care. Right now. I just want to—
There’s an alley. I hurry us into it, and before I know what I’m doing I’ve pressed her against the wall. I grab her face between my hands, pinning her body with mine as rage and desire mix in a heady, explosive cocktail. I capture her lips with mine and our teeth clash, but then my tongue is in her mouth. She tastes of cheap wine and delicious, sweet, sweet Ana. Oh, this mouth.
I literally could not give less of a shit that in the next paragraph, EL James tells us that Ana starts to “ignite” with desire (that plum dress must be made of combustible material). Up to this point, she has been angry with Grey. She has been “stumbling” behind him as he drags her along. He doesn’t therefore know she’s going to react with desire. He just decides he’s angry and horny (his constant state, to be fair) and he’s going to have her, regardless. This isn’t some sexy reunion. Dragging her into an alleyway, pressing her against the wall and forcing his tongue into her mouth? Is sexual assault.
Grey even admits that the kiss was meant as a punishment and a sign of ownership. I’m not making that up, he actually fucking THINKS that. And we’re supposed to swoon, because Ana being hot for him makes him decide the kiss means more. Aaaah.
I’m so aroused—I want her now, here, in this alley. And what I’d intended as a punishing I-own-you kiss becomes something else.
She wants this, too. She’s missed this, too. And it’s more than arousing.
He’s literally admitting he didn’t know she wanted it. He’s fucking admitting to assault.
WHO ARE YOU, PEOPLE WHO DEFEND THIS PIECE OF SHIT?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??! WHAT IS THERE INSIDE YOUR HEAD WHERE YOUR BRAIN SHOULD BE??!!
I’m sorry. I didn’t want to get this pissed off in the very first recap. I didn’t want to end up bitching at the fans. But this? IS SO OBVIOUS. Real-life abuse goes unseen, even by those it happens to sometimes, because it is insidious. You’re being manipulated. You’re experiencing all kinds of emotional pressures and you try to make sense of behaviour that is unforgivable. You blame yourself. There is none of that, here. We are reading about an abusive man, in black and white. There are abuse survivors and abuse charities going “hang on, this is abuse.” There are members of the BDSM community saying “this is a dangerous misrepresentation.” And yet the fans of this utter car crash – and the author, of course – are just going: “NOPE, this is HOT!” I can’t excuse that, anymore.
Grey wants to fuck her right there in the alleyway, but he hears a police car in the distance and it brings him back to reality:
She moans as my fingers find the hem of her dress and start tugging it higher. My goal is to pull it up, fuck her here. Make her mine, again.
The feel of her. It’s intoxicating, and I want her like I’ve never wanted her before. In the distance and through the fog of my lust, I hear a police siren wail.
No! No! Grey! Not like this. Get a grip.
No, no, Grey! Assault her somewhere else, instead!
And of course, as soon as the “hot” kissing and fumbling comes to a stop, Grey is just angry. Again.
I pull back, gazing down at her, and I’m panting and mad as hell.
“You. Are. Mine!” I growl, and push myself away from her, as my reason returns. “For the love of God, Ana.” I bend over, hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath and calm my raging body.
“For the love of God, Ana” is just… Why is this on her? Because she made him mad by reminding him that he hit her? Because she spoke to José and let him hug her?! SHE didn’t drag anyone into an alleyway, without giving a shit whether they consented. Screw you, Grey.
ONE CHAPTER IN, YOU GUYS.
My blood pressure is in trouble, I can tell.
Once again, Grey makes out as though he’s never been jealous before in his life:
This is jealousy. This is what it feels like: my insides gutted and raw, my self-control absent. I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit.
Then stop it. Control your own emotions. If you had a decent therapist, they’d help you to do that, before you fucking kill someone.
And of course, Ana then apologises:
“I’m sorry,” she says, hoarse.
“You should be. I know what you’re doing. Do you want the photographer, Anastasia? He obviously has feelings for you.”
“No.” Her voice is soft and breathless. “He’s just a friend.” At least she sounds contrite, and it goes some way toward pacifying me.
SHE HAS DONE FUCK ALL WRONG. HE IS GASLIGHTING AND MANIPULATING HER. I HATE HIM. I WANT HIM TO DIE. PLEASE GOD, LET HIM BE GRUESOMELY MURDERED.
We then get a short monologue that is just entirely Grey blaming Ana for his behaviour:
“I have spent all my adult life trying to avoid any extreme emotion. Yet you… you bring out feelings in me that are completely alien. It’s very…” Words fail me. I cannot find the vocabulary to describe how I feel. I’m out of control and at a loss. “Unsettling” is the best I can manage. “I like control, Ana, and around you, that just”—I stand and look down at her—“evaporates.” Her eyes are wide with carnal promise, and her hair is mussed and sexy, falling to her breasts. I rub the back of my neck, thankful that I’ve recovered some semblance of self-control. See how I am around you, Ana. See? I run my hand through my hair, taking deep, thought-clearing breaths. I grab her hand. “Come, we need to talk.” Before I fuck you. “And you need to eat.”
WE are in control of our OWN behaviour. Sure, our feelings are far harder to stay on top of, sometimes, but that does not mean that we get to behave any way we like and blame someone else for inspiring feelings within us. When you act out in gross ways and blame other people for making you feel things, then you are, quite simply, a wanker.
Grey leads Ana to the nearest restaurant. He immediately gets snobby about it, then thinks to himself that the walls are the same colour as his playroom. On being seated at a table by a waiter, Grey takes it upon himself to order for both of them, having only had the slightest glance at the menu on the wall and, more importantly, without Ana having the chance to look at it and choose for herself:
“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,” he says, and rushes off.
Ana purses her lips, annoyed. What now? “And if I don’t like steak?”
“Don’t start, Anastasia.”
“I am not a child, Christian.”
Okay, firstly, if someone ordered for me so abruptly, I’d be furious. Secondly, nobody tells me how I should have my steak. RARE, you bastard. I want it RARE.
And notice that when Ana quite rightly has a go at him for ordering for her, he tells her not to “start.” You’ll be thrilled to know that that argument continues, with Grey once again apportioning blame to Ana where it does not belong:
“Well, stop acting like one.”
“I’m a child because I don’t like steak?” She doesn’t hide her petulance.
No! “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?” Her cheeks pink and she examines her hands. Yes. You should be embarrassed. You’re confusing him. Even I can see that. Is that what she’s doing to me? Leading me on? In the time we’ve been apart, maybe she’s finally recognized that she has power. Power over me.
I’m guessing that we’re supposed to take Ana’s blush and her sudden need to look down at her hands as some kind of signal that she’s guilty. That she knows she has been leading José on and she has been deliberately trying to make Grey jealous. Well, frankly, even if she was trying to make him jealous (which is monumentally stupid, given his violence), telling her she’s childish when she’s angry about something he did is just a convenient way of avoiding having to deal with any conversation about his own behaviour. Well played, you piece of shit.
And far be it for Grey to be even slightly contrite. Instead, he continues to play mind games with Ana, as they sit and wait for their meal:
I glance at Anastasia, who looks like she’s sulking. I know that look. Perhaps she wanted to select her own meal. And I can’t resist toying with her, aware that she has little knowledge of wine. “Would you like to choose the wine?” I ask and I know I sound sarcastic.
“You choose.” She presses her lips together.
Yeah. Don’t play games with me, baby.
Fuck. This. Guy.
Grey orders wine and is an asshole to the waiter. Ana lets him know she thinks he’s behaving badly and shockingly, he actually admits to it and apologises (zero points from me, because this is literally the least he could do):
“Two glasses of the Barossa Valley Shiraz, please,” I say to the waiter, who’s hovering.
“Er, we only sell that wine by the bottle, sir.”
“A bottle, then.” You stupid prick.
“Sir.” He retreats.
“You’re very grumpy,” she says, no doubt feeling sorry for the waiter.
“I wonder why that is?” I keep my expression neutral, but even to my own ears I’m now sounding childish.
“Well, it’s good to set the right tone for an intimate and honest discussion about the future, wouldn’t you say?” She gives me a saccharine smile. Oh, tit for tat, Miss Steele. She’s called me out again and I have to admire her nerve.
I realize our bickering will get us nowhere. And I’m being an ass. Don’t blow this deal, Grey. “I’m sorry,” I say, because she’s right.
I absolutely love it when he refers to Ana as a business deal. It’s so romantic.
Grey finally begins to discuss the idea of them getting back together:
“Ana, the last time we spoke, you left me. I’m a little nervous. I’ve told you I want you back, and you’ve said…nothing.”
She bites her lip as the color drains from her face. Oh no. “I’ve missed you…really missed you, Christian,” she says, quietly. “The past few days have been…difficult.” Difficult is an understatement. She swallows and takes a steadying breath. This doesn’t sound good. Perhaps my behavior over the last hour has finally driven her away. I tense. Where’s she going with this?
Red ink for the admission that he’s behaved like a piece of shit.
Ana tells him that nothing has changed; she still can’t be what he wants her to be. Grey counters that she is everything he wants. Then, they begin discussing what happened the night she left him, which is an excuse for him to blame her, entirely.
“You’re upset because of what happened last time. I behaved stupidly, and you—so did you. Why didn’t you safe-word, Anastasia?” She looks surprised, as if this isn’t something she’s considered. “Answer me,” I urge. This has haunted me. Why didn’t you safe-word, Ana?
She wilts in her seat. Sad. Defeated. “I don’t know,” she whispers.
What? WHAT? I’m rendered speechless. I’ve been in hell because she didn’t safe-word.
But before I recover, words tumble from her mouth. Soft, quiet, as if she’s in a confessional, as if she’s ashamed. “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.” Her look is raw, her shrug small and apologetic. “You know…I forgot.”
What the hell? “You forgot!” I’m dismayed. We’ve been through all this shit because she forgot?
That’s something that a responsible Dom might have been prepared for. He saw that she was crying – he must have – as he was hitting her. He thought throughout the scene, that as long as she didn’t use her safe word, he didn’t have to stop. But it was the most intense thing they had ever done and if he saw her crying, he ought to have asked her if she was alright. He didn’t and I genuinely believe it’s because he didn’t want to hear that she might not be. She had never done anything like it before and whilst yes, she should have used her safe word, it’s not out of the realms of probability that someone would forget what they were supposed to say, especially if they were in pain and emotionally distressed. For him to decide to fully blame Ana like this is gross and it proves that he’s not a respectful Dominant.
He briefly wonders whether he should have reminded her of her safe words, but then immediately discounts this:
Did I remind her of her safe words? Christ. I can’t remember. The e-mail that she sent me the first time I spanked her comes to mind. She didn’t stop me then. I’m an idiot. I should have reminded her.
Wait. She knows she has safe words. I remember telling her more than once.
Yep. So, he thinks about his own role in the situation for about three seconds and then goes back to blaming her.
EL then regurgitates a passage from the last book, in which Grey makes Ana repeat what her safe words are. You know, so we can see what a fantastic Dom he really is.
He moans about not being able to trust her (because he’s given her nothing but reasons to trust him…) and then decides it’s all going to be fine, because now he’s decided he wants a vanilla relationship (yeah, right):
“How can I trust you? Ever?” If she can’t be honest with me, what hope do we have? She can’t tell me what she thinks I want to hear. What kind of relationship is that? My spirits sink. This is the problem in dealing with someone who isn’t in the lifestyle. She doesn’t get it. I should never have chased her.
The waiter arrives with the wine as we stare with incredulity at each other. Maybe I should have done a better job of explaining it to her. Damn it, Grey. Eliminate the negative. Yes. It’s irrelevant now. I’m going to try a relationship her way, if she’ll let me.
Yet again, Ana apologises:
“I’m sorry,” she whispers.
“Sorry for what?” Hell. Is she done with me? Is there no hope?
“Not using the safe word,” she says. Oh, thank God. I thought it was over.
“We might have avoided all this suffering,” I mutter in response, and also in an attempt to hide my relief.
If he wasn’t a nuclear grade prick, that would have been a good time for him to say “hey, I’m sorry too. I took things too far.” But… Meh.
We get a repeat of the angsty line from Fifty Shades Darker, where he tells her he’s in “perpetual night” without her. He also finally tells her what she said in her sleep a few weeks ago: that she’d never leave him. He tells her that hearing that made him relax and feel comforted. All of which serves to make Ana feel sorry for him, which he uses to his advantage:
She inhales sharply. Her open and honest compassion is written all over her lovely face as she reaches for her wine. This is my chance. Ask her, Grey. Ask her the one question I haven’t allowed myself to think about because I know I’ll dread her answer, whatever it is. But I’m curious. I need to know. “You said you loved me,” I whisper, almost choking on the words. She can’t feel that way about me still. Can she? “Is that now in the past tense?”
“No, Christian, it’s not,” she says, as if in the confessional again. I’m unprepared for the relief that rushes through me. But it’s relief mixed with fear. It’s a confounding combination because I know she shouldn’t love a monster.
“Good,” I mumble, confused. I want to stop thinking about that right now, and with impeccable timing, the waiter returns with our meal.
So, he doesn’t want her to love him. But he’s glad she does. Cool.
And then, we get the infamous threat of assault in a public place:
“Eat,” I demand. The woman needs feeding.
She examines the contents of her plate with distaste. “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!”
It will have NOTHING TO DO WITH HIS SEXUAL GRATIFICATION. He’s not suggesting some consensual spanky fun times. He’s threatening to non-consensually beat her in anger, because she doesn’t have much of an appetite for food she wasn’t allowed to choose for herself.
If you want to defend this to me, might I please suggest that you instead fuck very far off. Because that is indefensible.
And for further evidence that he’s not trying to be cutesy or even sexy:
“Okay. I’ll eat. Stow your twitching palm, please.” She’s trying for humor— but I’m not laughing.
Neither am I. You’re not even slightly funny. This isn’t remotely funny.
Grey watches Ana eat and gets turned on, because… When doesn’t he? As they eat in silence, he thinks:
She hasn’t told me to fuck off. This is good. And as I study her I realize how much I’m enjoying just being in her company. Okay, so I’m tied up in all kinds of conflicting emotions…but she’s here. She’s with me and she’s eating. I’m hopeful we can make my proposition work. Her reaction to the kiss in the alley was…visceral. She still wants me. I know I could have fucked her there and she wouldn’t have stopped me.
I’m red-inking that, because not stopping him is like, the very least level of consent someone should be looking for.
Ana comments on the music being played in the restaurant and it makes Grey think about the iPad he’s got her. He’s filled it with music, photos and apps for her and has had a message engraved on the back. He’s hoping she’ll accept it, given her habit of turning down expensive gifts from him.
Ana tells Grey she’s full, having eaten half of her dinner and after some internal annoyance, he accepts that she won’t eat everything on her plate. He then tells her that it’s almost time for Taylor to pick them up:
“We have to go shortly. Taylor’s here, and you have to be up for work in the morning.” I hadn’t considered that before. She’s working now—she needs sleep. I may have to revise my plans and my body’s expectations. The thought of deferring my desire displeases me.
I’m just… Sorry, did EL James purposefully try to make him more rapey in this book??!!
Once again, Grey refers to Ana as a business deal and once again, he blames her for his behaviour:
I shift uncomfortably in my chair. Stage three of the campaign has not gone as smoothly as I anticipated. She’s made me jealous. I’ve lost control. Yes. As usual, she’s derailed me. But I can turn this around and close the deal in the car.
Grey worries that Ana might not want to talk about their personal relationship in the car, with Taylor driving. So, he tells Taylor to wear earphones and listen to his iPod on the entire way home. This isn’t apparently illegal, but there is a whole heap of information online about how dangerous it is. So… Great plan, Grey.
Once Taylor starts driving and Grey has proved to Ana that Taylor can’t hear anything they say, they begin discussing their potential new relationship:
“Let me ask you something first. Do you want a regular vanilla relationship, with no kinky fuckery at all?”
“Kinky fuckery?” she squeaks in disbelief.
“I can’t believe you said that.” She looks anxiously at Taylor again.
“Well, I did. Answer me.”
“I like your kinky fuckery,” she whispers. Oh, baby, so do I. I’m relieved. Step one…okay. Keep cool, Grey.
“That’s what I thought. So what don’t you like?”
She’s silent for a moment, and I know she’s scrutinizing me in the light and shadows of the intermittent street lamps. “The threat of cruel and unusual punishment,” she says.
Let me just say that the day I never have to hear or read the words “kinky fuckery” ever again can not come too soon.
“What does that mean?”
“Well, you have all those—” She stops, glancing at Taylor once more, and her voice lowers. “Things in your playroom, the canes, and whips, and they frighten the living daylights out of me. I don’t want you to use them on me.”
This, I have worked out for myself. “Okay, so no whips or canes. Or belts, for that matter,” I add, unable to keep the irony out of my voice.
He shouldn’t be finding any kind of humour in this discussion, ironic or not.
Ana is open and honest with Grey and he proves with his inner reaction that the two of them are in NO way compatible:
“Fundamentally, Christian, it’s your joy in inflicting pain that’s difficult for me to handle. And the idea that you’ll do it because I have crossed some arbitrary line.”
Hell. She knows me. She has seen the monster. I’m not going there, or I will blow this deal. I ignore her first comment and concentrate on her second point. “But it’s not arbitrary—the rules are written down.”
“I don’t want a set of rules.”
“None at all?” Fuck—she might touch me. How can I protect myself from that? And suppose she does something stupid that puts herself at risk?
“No rules,” she states, shaking her head for emphasis.
Firstly, if she puts herself at risk, that’s on her. You don’t need to freaking beat her for it. Secondly, this is infuriating, because she’s saying she doesn’t want to have to adhere to his rules, yet we know he will continue to control her and get her to do whatever he wants by stealth, if necessary. Because he is a monster.
Grey then lays his “proposal” on the line, after checking that she actually enjoys being spanked:
Okay, million-dollar question. “But you don’t mind if I spank you?”
“Spank me with what?”
“This.” I hold up my hand. She shifts in her seat, and a silent, sweet joy unfurls deep in my gut. Oh, baby, I love it when you squirm.
“No, not really. Especially with those silver balls…”
My cock stirs at the thought. Damn. I cross my legs. “Yes, that was fun.”
“More than fun,” she adds.
“So you can deal with some pain.” I can’t keep the hope out of my voice.
“Yes, I suppose.” She shrugs. Okay. So we may be able to structure a relationship around this. Deep breath, Grey, give her the terms.
“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.”
Ana has a long pause, where she tries to work out what to say in response. Eventually, she asks for more clarification and Grey goes down the “oh, how could I hurt such a wonderful angel” route again:
“But what about punishments?” she says finally.
I close my eyes. It’s not a no. “No punishments. None.”
“And the rules?”
“None at all? But you have needs…” Her voice trails off. “
I need you more, Anastasia. These last few days have been hell. All my instincts tell me to let you go, tell me I don’t deserve you. “Those photos the boy took—I can see how he sees you. You look untroubled and beautiful, not that you’re not beautiful now, but here you sit. I see your pain. It’s so hard knowing that I’m the one who has made you feel this way.”
He goes on to use his horrendously emo line from the first book about “the thought of anyone else having (Ana) is like a knife, twisting in (his) dark soul.” And I laugh, because it’s so awful and I’m so tired and this recap has so far taken over eight hours and I’m currently on the verge of praying for death.
Ana takes this as her cue to say some stuff about Grey that is… Well, none of it is true:
“Christian, why do you think you have a dark soul?” she cries out, totally surprising me. “I would never say that. Sad maybe, but you’re a good man. I can see that—you’re generous, you’re kind, and you’ve never lied to me.
She then goes on to blame herself for not trying hard enough to be what he needed, which makes me want to smash things.
She then gives him some home truths:
“I never know what you’re thinking.”
She doesn’t? Baby, you read me like one of your books; except I’m not the hero. I’ll never be the hero.
“Sometimes you’re so closed off, like an island state,” she continues. “You intimidate me. That’s why I keep quiet. I don’t know which way your mood is going to go. It swings from north to south and back again in a nanosecond. It’s confusing and you won’t let me touch you, and I want so much to show you how much I love you.”
Now, a decent guy would hear someone saying this and think about his behaviour and how much it has obviously confused the woman he apparently wants a relationship with. But not Grey. Nope, he just freaks out because OH NO, SHE SAYS SHE LOVES HIM AND SHE CAN’T, BECAUSE HE IS AN UNLOVEABLE MONSTER AND WHAT IF SHE TOUCHES HIM? AAAAARGH! Thankfully, we’re spared too much of his emo-shit, because Ana decides to take matters literally into her own hands with a declaration of her unworthiness, which makes me feel physically sick.
But before I can respond, before the darkness takes hold, she unfastens her seatbelt and crawls across the seat and into my lap, ambushing me. She places her hands on either side of my head, staring into my eyes, and I stop breathing. “I love you, Christian Grey,” she says. “And you’re prepared to do all this for me. I’m the one who is undeserving. And I’m just sorry that I can’t do all those things for you. Maybe with time—I don’t know—but yes, I accept your proposition. Where do I sign?” She curls her arms around my neck and hugs me, her warm cheek against mine.
There’s a load of flowery bollocks from Grey about how happy he is and how he doesn’t deserve her, but he has her and it’s so wonderful blah, blah, blah. He has to go through some kind of freaking mantra to remind himself he’s capable of a vanilla relationship, so… Yay?
She loves me. I test the phrase in my head and what’s left of my heart, and swallow the knot of fear that forms in my throat as those words ring through me. I can do this. I can live with this. I must. I need to protect her and her vulnerable heart. I take a deep breath. I can do this.
Good for you, where shall I send your “Big, Brave Boy” medal?!
He tells her that touching is still a hard limit for him and Ana says she wishes she understood why. Personally, I wish this chapter would END, but we can’t have everything. Grey decides to hint as to why, rather than just, you know, tell her. So he merely says: “One of the crack whore’s pimps…”
We then get a flashback of the pimp hitting him and stubbing a cigarette out on him. I won’t repeat it here, because it’s not pleasant, but also, because this recap is already SO DAMN LONG.
Ana asks if Ella was abusive:
“Was she abusive? Your mother?” Ana’s voice is hoarse.
“Not that I remember. She was neglectful. She didn’t protect me from her pimp.” She was a sad excuse and he was a sick fuck.
She may not have protected you, but she was also being abused herself, was addicted to drugs and wasn’t really in position to be able to protect you. She doesn’t deserve the hate you give her.
“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 close my eyes and see vague, muted images of my mother slumped on the floor, me covering her with my blanket and curling up beside her.
Anastasia gasps. “That’s pretty fucked up.”
“Fifty shades.” She kisses my neck, a soft, tender press of her lips onto my skin. And I know it’s not pity she’s offering. It’s comfort; maybe even understanding. My sweet, compassionate Ana. I tighten my hold on her and kiss her hair as she nestles in my arms. Baby, it was a long time ago.
If it was a long time ago and you’re placating Ana, as though your tragic childhood ain’t no big thang, why do you constantly use it to excuse your shitty behaviour?!
I can’t help my self-satisfied grin. I’ve done it. I’ve won her back. Now all I have to do is keep her, which will be challenging enough. My first vanilla relationship—who would have thought? Closing my eyes, I imagine the look on Elena’s face when I tell her.
Oh goodie, I can’t wait for that abusive relationship to be normalised further, too. Grey goes off into a daydream/flashback about his time with Elena. He recalls telling her he’d gotten into Harvard and Elena telling him that means that he’ll leave her, whilst he insists he never will. At the end of the flashback, Elena turns into Ana, telling him she loves him.
Aaaaaaw. How cute?
Grey tells Taylor to drive them to Ana’s place, rather than his. He’s shocked to realise they’re only five minutes away; he and Ana have both been fast asleep in the back of the car. When Ana realises he’s taking her home and not back to his place, she’s frustrated that it means they’re not going to have any sexy fun times (I, meanwhile, am thrilled). Grey decides they need to be more open about what they want in the bedroom:
And as I watch her, I realize that I’ve got to get her to open up about sex. If we’re going to be honest with each other, she has to tell me how she feels. Tell me what she needs. I want her to be confident enough to express her desires. All of them. “Anastasia, I am not going to touch you again, not until you beg me to.”
“What!” She sounds a little upset.
“So that you’ll start communicating with me. Next time we make love, you’re going to have to tell me exactly what you want in fine detail.” That will give you something to think about, Miss Steele.
Ah, a plea for open communication. Coming from him. And is it just me, or could this also be taken as a way of him remaining firmly in control, using sex as a weapon, the way he always has?!
Grey tells her he has a gift for her, but she’s not to open it until she’s back inside the apartment. He hands her the wrapped iPad. Then, he suggests seeing her the next day and immediately gets possessive again:
“So when will I see you?”
“My boss wants me to go for a drink with him tomorrow.” What the hell does that fucker want? I must chase Welch for his report on Hyde. There’s something off about him that isn’t reflected in his employee records. I don’t trust him one bit.
“Does he, now?” I try to sound nonchalant.
“To celebrate my first week,” she says, quickly.
“I don’t know.”
“I could pick you up from there.”
“Okay. I’ll e-mail or text you.”
This level of dialogue is ENTHRALLING, let me tell you.
And let’s be real: the ONLY reason he’s offering to pick her up is so he can make damn sure Hyde sees that she’s spoken for. He’s literally one step away from making her a Property Of Christian Grey t-shirt. And depressingly, if he doesn’t want to make it himself, you can buy that shit all over the internet.
They have a lingering, supposedly sensual moment in the doorway, as both of them struggle to contain their desire for one another. Grey insists she goes in alone and applauds himself for not shagging her:
“In you go,” I order, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done: letting her leave knowing that she’s mine for the taking.
No red ink here, because the text indicates she was desperate for him to go in and have sex with her.
Shortly after dropping her off and heading home (whilst arranging to have the Audi sent back to Ana the next day), Grey gets an email from her:
You’ve made me cry again. I love the iPad. I love the songs. I love the British Library app. I love you. Thank you. Good night.
I grin at the screen. Happy tears, great! She loves it. She loves me.
And here endeth the first chapter of Darker.
I’m off to cry over there being eight more chapters of this shit to go.