Oh, forgive me. In the last post I said that every chapter opens with someone just waking up — but that’s not true. Because each chapter, like a shitty textual Cinderella, must end at the stroke of midnight. So if Christian hasn’t gone to bed by midnight, we instead pick up at random moments in the early morning even though that makes no sense from a storytelling standpoint:
I dread going to bed. It’s after midnight, and I’m tired, but I sit at my piano, playing the Bach Marcello piece over and over again. Remembering her head resting on my shoulder, I can almost smell her sweet fragrance.
For fuck’s sake she said she’d try!
So it took Christian just over a day to pin the blame on Ana.
I stop playing and clutch my head in both hands, my elbows hammering out two discordant chords as I lean on the keys. She said she’d try, but she fell at the first hurdle.
I think she means two discordant tones or two discordant notes because otherwise his tragic elbows have surprising accuracy on the keys.
But back to the real problem: what the fuck does he mean, “the first hurdle”? I thought the whole point of The Spankening was that it was meant to be the extremist limit of what he wanted to do to her. So that’s not the first hurdle — it’s the last. There were plenty of other hurdles she submitted to — they had a whole conversation about it and then they tried a bunch of stuff out. What’s the next hurdle if this was supposed to be the worst he’d ever do to her?
Then she ran.
Why did I hit her so hard?
This is the first point at which it looks like he might be taking on some of the blame himself. Watch how that pans out:
Deep inside I know the answer–because she asked me to, and I was too impetuous and selfish to resist the temptation. Seduced by her challenge, I seized the opportunity to move us on to where I wanted us to be.
So he only did it because she made him, and because she seduced him. Sure, it’s what he wanted — and what he’s explicitly asked for in a typed-up contract — but really, it was Ana’s fault. She made him. Wait, because it gets better:
And she didn’t safe-word, and I hurt her more than she could take–when I promised her I’d never do that.
I know it seems like the latter part is an admission of guilt, but when you bury it under 3 different reasons for why it was really Ana’s fault, it just doesn’t quite ring as authentic to me.
Anyway, he wanders around his sky mansion wondering how she’ll ever be able to trust him again. My suggestion would be to suggest to her that they don’t necessarily need to have forceful BDSM sex if that’s not what Ana’s into, and then she’d be able to “trust” him in the sense that they’d be having sex she actually enjoyed, and she wouldn’t just be submitting to his fetish. And that’s not kink-shaming Christian: if he wants her back, he has to acknowledge that she doesn’t want this. If he needs this sex more than he needs her, then he has to move on. But he wants both, and he shall have both — because it’s all about him.
Are you in danger of forgetting how sad Christian is? Well, stop that. Because Christian might actually have to resort to getting drunk — like some peasant — to deal with his sadness:
I contemplate getting drunk. I have not been drunk since I was fifteen–well once, when I was twenty-one.
So it was when you were twenty one, then. Why say fifteen when it was twenty one? What is that meant to convey to me? How crazy was that bender that you forgot the six intervening years?
I loathe the loss of control: I know what alcohol can do to a man. I shuddler and snap my mind shut to those memories, and decide to call it a night.
He literally drinks every single day. Obviously he doesn’t have a problem with alcohol if he can drink every day and is never tempted to go past his limit. So it’s weird to act as though he abstains from alcohol when he explicitly doesn’t, and weird to act like he’s worried about having alcoholism when he demonstrably doesn’t. If he was so worried about what alcohol “does to a man,” then he’d be teetotal. He isn’t.
But EL James never misses an opportunity to remind us of poor people and their alcoholism which leads, naturally, to molding cheese and domestic abuse. Christian could’ve been an alcoholic if he’d stayed with his poor family, but because he was adopted by rich people he’s cured of such ailments. Because that’s how alcoholism works.
Lying in my bed, I pray for a dreamless sleep… but if I am to dream, I want to dream of her.
That line sounds very familiar, but I can’t place it. Let me know if EL James did rip this off from something. Either way, I am so sick of EL James vacillating between Christian as a foul-mouthed fucker who loves to nail hot bitches and then suddenly spilling hot flower words from his poet mouth. This is not a contradictory character, it’s just an impossible one.
Anyway, Christian doesn’t dream of Ana. He dreams of Mommy. Mommy’s pimp comes home and makes her sleep with his friend for money — like sad poor people in Detroit always do. She gets called a bitch a lot, Christian gets hit by the bad man. It’s really gross and EL James is an awful person for including any of this.
I wake. My heart is hammering like I’ve run forty blocks chased by the hounds of hell.
So. Here’s the thing about similes: they have a genuine function in storytelling. They aren’t just a thing you throw in randomly to add terrible and confusing hyperbole to your already terrible story.
What they’re best used for is taking a situation that you probably haven’t been in — like, say, finding out that you’re a wizard — and comparing it to a situation that the reader probably has been in or can easily picture — like seeing a bunch of fireworks.
“Harry — yer a wizard.”
Questions exploded inside Harry’s head like fireworks and he couldn’t decide which to ask first.
Being a wizard: a thing you’re not (sorry).
Fireworks: a thing you’ve seen and can picture, which gives the reader a sense of the electric, dizzying, exciting, and slightly scary confusion of the moment.
So while most readers have woken up from a bad dream, I can be generous and assume that EL James thinks that most people have not experienced the saddest, moldiest dream in the world — like poor Christian. And yet if you want to convey to your readership what it would be like to wake up from such a nightmare, an experience you assume they haven’t had, is your best course of action to compare it to an experience you definitely know they haven’t had?
She could even say, “Like being chased by a pack of dogs.” But “chased by the hounds of hell” means fuck-all because the hounds of hell are not real. Just like EL James’s talent, or her understanding of the English language.
I vault out of bed, pushing the nightmare back into the recesses of my consciousness, and hurry to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water.
I know she’s just trying to get fancy with word choice again, but man I would be so much more interested in this story if Christian actually kept a pole vault by his bed so as not to waste time stepping onto the carpet like some paeon. Or else that he has some Wallace-and-Gromit style contraption where he’s shot down a shaft and falls into his pants so he can business without delay.
But neither of these things are true. He just gets out of bed. Then he thinks he should probably see his psychologist, because of the dreams:
I didn’t have the nightmares when I slept with Ana beside me.
How much more is Ana going to put him through!?!?!?!
Christian muses that it’s weird he never thought about sleeping next to people after sex before, but a pure and gentle Ana showed him the way:
It took an inebriated innocent to show me how restful it could be.
I think he means “unconscious and totally unable to consent”. But I’m glad that stripping down a woman who was passed out and then sleeping next to her in a hotel bed was a great moment for him.
And then, this:
I’d watched my subs sleep before, but it was always as a prelude to waking them for some sexual relief.
While screaming “SEX!” at the top of his lungs and banging a pot.
Christian continues to make my life harder by going into intricate detail about how he watched Ana sleep as she was passed out in his hotel bed and had no idea where she was:
The longer I watched her the more beautiful she became: her flawless skin luminous in the soft light, her dark hair fanning out on the white pillow, and her eyelashes fluttering while she slept. Her lips were parted, and I could see her teeth, and her tongue when she licked her lips. It was a most arousing experience–just watching her. And when I finally went to sleep beside her, listening to her even breathing, watching her breasts rise and fall with each breath, I slept well…so well.
Christian goes to his study to look at that fucking glider again because he’s sad that it’ll be the last gift she ever gives him:
Her first gift being…what?
Of course. Herself.
She sacrificed herself to my need. My greed. My lust. My ego…my fucking damaged ego.
You guys had boring sex for like two weeks. And please Please PLEASE stop talking about sex as a gift a woman gives to a man. It’s these moments that convince me that their sex is terrible because there’s no way that he’s a good in bed when he only thinks about himself.
Damn, will this pain ever just stop?
Not if we’re lucky.
Feeling a little foolish, I take the glider with me to bed.
He’s so wild and naughty.
Scene break. We open with Christian and Gail. Guess how the conversation goes.
“What would you like for breakfast, sir?”
A plot would be nice.
“Just coffee, Gail.”
She hesitates. “Sir, you didn’t eat your dinner.”
“Maybe you’re coming down with something.”
Poor Gail, she thinks her slow and deliberate food poisoning has finally taken hold.
“Gail, just coffee. Please.” I shut her down–this is none of her business.
As your housekeeper/private chef, your eating habits are literally her business.
Christian then storms to his office to look for a padded envelope. End of scene.
New scene: Christian is calling Ros from the car. They’re ready to make a move on SIP. The random factory, however, will be in Detroit even though Christian hates Detroit. You remember the random factory, right? It was the reason Christian just happened to be in Savannah at the same time as Ana when he definitely wasn’t stalking her. Yeah, well, the factory’s going to be in Detroit. So that’s the end of that thrilling tension.
Christian wonders if Ana’s bought a new car, and whether she realizes that she never really loved him yet. He hopes so.
She can’t love me.
And certainly not now–not after all I’ve done to her. No one’s ever said they loved me, except for Mom and Dad, of course, but even then it was out of their sense of duty. Flynn’s nagging words about unconditional parental love–even for kids who are adopted–ring in my head. But I’ve never been convinced; I’ve been nothing but a disappointment to them.
Like, I get that Christian is supposed to be in denial and full of self-loathing, but he makes SUCH a big fucking deal of being a Moneydick of the Universe and how impressive he is. And while I might believe that he doesn’t think his parents truly love him because of his moldy cheeseness, I don’t think anyone in the history of the world has gone, “Oh, yes — my handsome, philanthropic 27 year old billionaire son? I can’t stand anyone knowing we raised him. So humiliating.”
Christian realizes that Taylor’s been parked outside of Christian’s office for a while. Christian is amazed that he was daydreaming so hard.
End of another scene.
Next scene: Christian enters his office. Andrea and Olivia both look up. Olivia, however, looks up like a big whore:
Olivia flutters her eyelashes and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. Christ–I’m done with this silly girl. I need HR to move her to another department.
Isn’t she an executive assistant? How could she move to another department when her department is you?
“Coffee, please, Olivia–and get me a croissant.” She leaps up to follow my orders.
BUT HOW WILL HE TAKE HIS COFFEE?!?!?! Knowing this douche he’s going to throw it out the window and yell, “How was it not clear that I wanted a Spanish latte? My eyes clearly said, ‘Condensed milk!'”
“Andrea–get me Welch, Barney, then Flynn, then Claude Bastille on the phone. I don’t want to be disturbed at all, not even by my mother…unless…unless Anastasia Steele calls. Okay?”
First: I really hope that it’s a conference call between his business partner, psychologist, and personal trainer. That would be amazing.
But not even by his mom? Woah — someone has fucking business to do, you guys.
“Yes, sir. Do you want to go through your schedule now?”
“No. I need coffee and something to eat first.” I scowl at Olivia, who is moving at a snail’s pace toward the elevator.
Given that Olivia immediately leapt up from her desk, I have the most amazing image of her then literally walking in slow motion toward the elevator just to fuck with him.
“Yes, Mr. Grey,” Andrea calls after me as I open the door to my office.
So are Olivia and Andrea both running to get him coffee now?
From my briefcase I take the padded envelope that holds my most precious possession–the glider. I place it on my desk, and my mind drifts to Miss Steele.
I hate this glider so much.
She’ll be starting her new job this morning, meeting new people…new men. The thought is depressing. She’ll forget me.
It’ll be kind of hard to forget him when the fact that he bought out her company goes public. I get that this is meant to portray him as in denial, him unable to understand his feelings, etc. but it’s too stupid. He knows he’s going to try to force her back, and he’s already taken steps to do just that.
Wait, I spoke too soon:
No, she won’t forget me. Women always remember the first man they fucked, don’t they? I’ll always hold a place in her memory, for that alone.
She’ll probably put me in her scrapbook of “Dudes She’s Fucked” with my name surrounded by sparkly penis stickers. Women love that bullshit.
But I don’t want to be a memory: I want to stay in her mind. I need to stay in her mind. What can I do?
Buy the company she works for?
There’s a knock at the door and Andrea appears. “Coffee and croissants for you, Mr. Grey.”
So… Andrea did go out to get the food instead? What do Olivia and Andrea do for most of the day?
As she scurried over to my desk her eyes dart to the glider, but wisely she holds her tongue. She places breakfast on my desk.
There are only 26 pages left of this hideous book, and I’m already counting the seconds until I no longer have to type descriptions of women “scurrying” around this narcissistic fuckhead.
Black coffee. Well done, Andrea.
Andrea also confirms that she’s got all of those calls lined up for him (it won’t be a conference call with all parties, unfortunately). Then Christian wants Andrea to cancel all of his social engagements for the whole week. Then he wants her to call Barney so Barney can call Christian. Then he wants her to get him the number of a “good florist” so he can call the florist. So what does Olivia do all day? Why does Christian have two EAs?
[Andrea] nods and leaves promptly, as if she can’t get out of my office fast enough.
Weird. It’s like you’re a terrible boss.
And then — and THEN:
A few moments later the phone buzzes. It’s Barney.
“Barney, I need you to make me a stand for a model glider.”
Scene break. We open with Christian still at his office. He is calling the florist.
When will something happen?
Between meetings I call the florist and order two dozen white roses for Ana, to be delivered to her home this evening. That way she won’t be embarrassed or inconvenienced at work.
And she won’t be able to forget me.
No, she won’t be embarrassed at work. Instead, she’ll be terrified at home. Because — and feel free to yell at me about this — white roses are creepy even in the best of circumstances, but particularly when sent by your abusive ex less than 48 hours after your breakup.
Keep that last sentence in mind for what comes next:
“Would you like a message with the flowers, sir?” the florist asks.
A message for Ana?
What to say?
Come back. I’m sorry. I won’t hit you again.
How did she write this.
How did she write this and then go on to give countless interviews saying that this isn’t a perfect description of every abusive relationship in the world?
Good Christ. Only 26 pages to go. I can do it.
The words pop unbidden into my head, making me frown.
“I won’t hit you again” is a phrase that makes you frown a bit? Fuck you.
“Um…something like, ‘Congratulations on your first day at work. I hope it went well.'” I spy the glider on my desk. “And thank you for the glider. That was very thoughtful. It has pride of place on my desk. Christian.'”
Has this guy ever seen the card that comes with a bouquet of flowers?
The florist read it back to me.
Damn, it doesn’t express what I want to say to her at all.
What? It’s already the longest flower card in history.
“Will that be all, Mr. Grey?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, sir, and have a nice day.”
I look daggers at the phone. Nice day my ass.
It’s because he didn’t shave his asshole. That’ll throw his whole week off-kilter.
“Hey, man, what’s eating you?” Claude gets up from the floor, where I’ve just knocked him flat on his lean, mean rear end.
Christille shippers are going to be so excited. Also I’m so glad we get another scene with two regular dudes just shooting the shit and talking like regular dudes do.
“You’re on fire this afternoon, Grey.” He raises slowly, with the grace of a big cat reassessing its prey. We are sparring alone in the basement gym at Grey House.
Why can’t Christian see that what he really needs has been in front of him this whole time… with its lean, mean rear end.
“I’m pissed off,” I hiss.
His expression is cool as we circle each other.
“Not a good idea to enter the ring if your thoughts are elsewhere,” Claude says, amused, but not taking his eyes off me.
“I’m find it helps.”
This is too much. Enter the ring? We circle each other? EL, why didn’t you just write this slashfic instead?
Anyway, Christian and Claude fight a bit more. But then — even though Claude just said Christian was ‘on fire’, he wonders why Christian’s all shitty at fighting right now:
“Concentrate, Grey. None of your boardroom bullshit in here. Or is it a girl? Some fine piece of ass finally cramping your cool.” He sneers, goading me. It works: I middle-kick to his side and drop-punch once, then twice, and he staggers back, dreadlocks flying.
SURPRISE PERSON OF COLOR!
Wow, EL James got you good! It’s another non-white in her book which definitely isn’t racist. And this whole time you never would’ve guessed because she was so good about not being racist. Christian has, like, three black friends everybody. And he fucking loves Africa. This book isn’t problematic at all!
Unless Claude Bastille is a white dude with dreads who says things like ‘Some fine piece of ass finally cramping your cool,’ which sadly seems more likely.
Christian tells Claude to mind his business. They do more impressive fighting.
“Whatever shit’s happening in your privileged little world, Grey, it’s working. Bring it on.”
25 more pages. Just 25 more pages.
Oh, he is going down. I lunge at him.
That’s the end of the scene, so it’s safe to assume that they boned down.
The next scene opens with this. I hate everything:
The traffic is light on the way home.
“Taylor, can we make a detour?”
“Where to, sir?”
“Can you drive past Miss Steele’s apartment?”
I love that even Christian’s stalking needs to be extra fancy — phone tracking, DeepNet searches, creeping past your ex’s apartment with your personal driver.
Also, note that Taylor does not need to ask for the address. This isn’t the craziest thing he’s ever done, and I feel like most people have succumbed to this temptation at least once in the wake of a bad breakup, but I’ve run out of any sympathy for Christian. Especially because of what he does next:
“Drive slow,” I instruct Taylor as we near her building.
The lights are on.
Or one of her two roommates? Right, I forgot that Ana’s roommates were both on vacation because the text never bothered to add that. It did have room for 10 pages about a fucking toy glider.
I hope she’s alone, and missing me.
Has she received my flowers?
I want to check my phone to see if she’s sent me a message, but I can’t drag my gaze from her apartment; I don’t want to miss seeing her. Is she well? Is she thinking about me? I wonder how her first day at work went.
Again, this is creepy but not necessarily abnormal or horrible. And at least he isn’t actually beating down the door.
“Again, sir?” Taylor asks, as we slowly cruise past, and the apartment disappears from view.
That’s the sound of a thousand #TeamHanky supporters leaving the Taylor fan club.
Anyway, Christian (shockingly) decides he’s not going to spend the whole night driving past her apartment and heads home instead.
Elena texts him to ask if he’s okay. He ignores it. Once again, so glad that that’s been included. Because it would be terrible if, say, Christian had visited with Elena and lied to Ana about it. Terrible in the sense that it would be accurate to the character, and would give the reader a scene they weren’t expecting and that wasn’t explicitly laid down in the original text.
Back at the Grey Skyplex, Christian drinks fancy alcohols, but doesn’t get drunk. Because he’s rich:
Taking a sip of cognac, I wander listlessly into my library. It’s ironic I never showed her this room, given her love of literature.
Is it ironic, or is it that you never actually care about her interests, wants, or needs?
I expect to find some solace in here because the room holds no memories of us.
Except for the memory you just had, because you associate her with books. Like the books you sent her from this library.
Christian wanders around a bit and notices his billiards table. Lost in the tragedy of his wasted heart, his mind naturally drifts to the fact that they could’ve banged on this table:
An image of her spread-eagled over the green baize springs to mind. There may not be any memories in here, but my mind is more than capable, and more than willing, to create vivid erotic images of the lovely Miss Steele.
Let me quickly direct you to Jenny Trout’s video about the use of the word “baize” because it’ll do a better job of explaining why that’s stupid than I can:
I can’t bear it.
I take another swig of cognac and head out of the room.
And hat’s genuinely the end of the chapter.
I hope we all learned something today — namely why it’s a bad idea to re-write your novel from another character’s perspective when you clearly have nothing new to say, and have no interest in twisting, tweaking, or otherwise altering your story to provide any interest for the reader at all. It’s like EL James thinks that what her readers are breathless to know is exactly how Christian sent the flowers we already know he sent, or how the glider wound up on his desk.
Nobody cares. You can add in a throw-away line about these things, but the point here should have been to tell a new story, or to tell the previous story in a new way.
But I guess it’s hard to write a new story when you didn’t really write a full story in the first place.
22 pages and 3 chapters to go. We can do this, everybody.