I had the most demoralizing thought when I woke up this morning. I turn 28 this year, which means I’m officially the same age as Christian Grey. Our birthdays are even relatively close. I await my $1,000,000,000 check in the mail.
Just like last time, quotes from FSOG will be in purple and quotes from Grey will be in green.
When we last left Ana, she couldn’t seem to get out of Christian Grey’s office fast enough after the most thrilling interview to ever put me to sleep. Little did she know, Mr. Grey was at that very moment having some guy named “Welch”–his pet private investigator?–run a background check on her. As one does, of course.
My heart is pounding. The elevator arrives on the first floor, and I scramble out as soon as the doors slide open, stumbling once but fortunately not sprawling onto the immaculate sandstone floor. I race for the wide glass doors, and suddenly I’m free in the bracing, cleansing, damp air of Seattle. Raising my face, I welcome the cool, refreshing rain. I close my eyes and take a deep, purifying breath, trying to recover what’s left of my equilibrium.
Ah, yes, because when I think “bracing” I also think “damp.” Like being smacked in the face with a towel soaked in ice water. I’d forgotten just how fucking baffling so many of ELJ’s word choices and word associations are.
Also, every time I picture this scene in my head–either in the book or the movie–it always plays out with Ana running outside and immediately puking on the sidewalk. And the door is a revolving door. I don’t know why, but there are too few laughs to be had right now, and I need to make my own fun, alright?
No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why. Is it his looks? His civility? Wealth? Power? I don’t understand my irrational reaction. I breathe an enormous sigh of relief. What in heaven’s name was that all about?
Um, I’m going to go with
authorial fiat his looks, because I at least know for a fact that it wasn’t his “civility.” What fucking civility? He was rude and weird throughout the entire interview, and you remarked multiple times on how you were sure he was secretly making fun of you!
Granted, Ana was rude and weird to him right back, blurting out inappropriate questions and outright calling him a control freak. Accurate? Yes. Rude as hell? Also yes. But Ana’s own lack of manners aside, she’ll keep bringing up how formal and polite Christian was to her throughout this chapter, as if repeatedly telling herself that will somehow make it the truth.
On the drive home, she thinks back on the interview and the unbearable humiliation she had to endure thanks to that HORRIBLE BITCH Kate having the FUCKING NERVE to get sick with the flu. Let’s take this piece by piece, shall we?
Okay, so he’s very attractive, confident, commanding, at ease with himself—but on the flip side, he’s arrogant, and for all his impeccable manners, he’s autocratic and cold. Well, on the surface.
Here we have the first example of yet another classic EL James-ism; the old “in spite of X, they were also Y,” where X and Y are two things that are either completely unrelated or simply not opposed to each other at all. Pretending for a moment that Christian did have “impeccable manners,” how would being super polite make it strange or unlikely that a person was also “autocratic and cold?” Isn’t that kind of a common villain trope, for the bad guy with expensive tastes to be very cold and stiffly formal? Give this guy a cat to stroke or some notable eccentric feature, and Mr. Grey is essentially every Bond villain ever.
Also, get the fuck outta here with your “Well, on the surface” nonsense. You hardly had a deep conversation with the guy. And don’t tell me this is her seeing beyond his hard exterior to the heart of gold underneath because they talked for two seconds about him “feeding the world’s poor.”
He may be arrogant, but then he has a right to be—he’s accomplished so much at such a young age. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, but why should he? Again, I’m irritated that Kate didn’t give me a brief biography.
Um, no? Accomplishing however much at whatever age doesn’t grant someone the right to be an arrogant prick. God, I can’t believe I’d forgotten just how grossly classist and snobby this book is. I’m surprised this isn’t the favorite book of all those Elon Musk fanboys with their noses permanently lodged up his asscrack.
Reading through it again, I felt like it was just smacking me over the head repeatedly with little reminders of just how superior Christian is because of his money. Over and over, we’ll find Ana bemoaning the fact that he’s so out of her league, not just because of his good looks, but because of his wealth and the social status that comes with it. And she doesn’t just apply it to herself, either; she seems to think that Christian–and Kate to a certain extent as well, since she comes from money herself–is just inherently above other people who have less, and it’s therefore his God-given right to lord himself over them. Hell, even in the first chapter before they’d met, she was already thinking to herself, “his time is extraordinarily precious—much more precious than mine.”
Keep in mind, too, that at this point in the book, we the readers haven’t been told yet that Christian actually comes from money by virtue of having been adopted by a very wealthy family at the tender age of four. I feel like that kind of gets lost in the shuffle, since virtually everyone in the English-speaking world knows a lot about these books via pop culture osmosis, and as it started out as a Twilight fanfic, ELJ probably didn’t feel the need to establish that early on, since Twifans would of course already know that the Cullen-Greys were rich.
But as it stands, readers are left to assume for the first few chapters that Christian Grey is a totally self-made man, and be super awed by how he earned literal billions of dollars all on his own by the age of 27. When in actuality, that’s not the case. Remember my rant in chapter one about Christian’s galling lack of self-awareness about his privilege? Well, take that, and apply it to this series of a whole, because this notion of Mr. Grey the amazing self-made billionaire (and there’s no such thing as a real “self-made billionaire,” I dare you to fucking fight me on that) will persist throughout the books, despite the fact that throughout his whole life he always had his parents’ millions to fall back on. Not to mention the millions given to him by his former
rapist Domme, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
And of course, Ana just can’t go two paragraphs without shitting on her supposed best friend.
I’m truly perplexed as to what makes someone so driven to succeed. Some of his answers were so cryptic—as if he had a hidden agenda. And Kate’s questions—ugh! The adoption and asking him if he was gay! I shudder. I can’t believe I said that. Ground, swallow me up now! Every time I think of that question in the future, I will cringe with embarrassment. Damn Katherine Kavanagh!
Ignoring The Gay Thing TM, I’m truly perplexed by the fact that Ana is truly perplexed by Grey’s drive to succeed. Does Ana simply have no ambition in her life? Well, I guess we kind of already knew that, since according to last chapter’s interview, she has absolutely no plans for what to do next after college except move to Seattle. This also smacks of the author hammering home the point that Christian is so superior and special; that this sad little rich boy who has wanted for nothing since age four has succeeded beyond even the wildest imaginings of Ana the Average.
As she continues to drive, Ana realizes she’s driving more carefully than normal, and that it must be because Christian told her to. Because he’s just such a naturally commanding domly Dom, right? She tells herself to “Forget it, Ana […] Put it behind you,” and is “immediately cheered by the thought” of never having to see him again, which is just… so, so telling. Oh, Ana, you silly goose, if only you knew…
Once back at their apartment, Kate proceeds to make 2021 me break out into hives:
“Ana! You’re back.” Kate sits in our living area, surrounded by books. She’s clearly been studying for finals—she’s still in her pink flannel pajamas decorated with cute little rabbits, the ones she reserves for the aftermath of breaking up with boyfriends, for assorted illnesses, and for general moody depression. She bounds up to me and hugs me hard.
YOU BACK THE FUCK OFF AND GET YOUR CONTAGIOUS ASS SIX FEET AWAY RIGHT NOW, KATHERINE KAVANAGH, I SWEAR TO CHRIST.
(On a related note, isn’t totally weird how in a flu season when people have been generally encouraged to mask up, distance themselves, and wash their hands that the flu has basically not existed in the US? Hmmm…)
“Ana, thank you so much for doing this. I owe you, I know. How was it? What was he like?” Oh no—here we go, the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.
Yes, because basic questions about how an interview went that Kate was probably looking forward to and felt bad about missing out on are such an ordeal, am I right? How dare she be interested in your opinion rather than just ignoring you from the moment you walk in the door.
Ana, of course, whines that Kate should’ve given her a short bio of Christian so that she wouldn’t have looked like a total dumbass in front of him for not being prepared, and Kate, of course–being the best friend of our self-insert protagonist who can do no wrong–instantly apologizes. Even though, you know, most of Ana’s embarrassment comes down to her blurting out rude comments and inappropriate questions and not having actually read Kate’s questions beforehand. Granted, I’m not letting Kate entirely off the hook for thinking that The Gay ThingTM was somehow an appropriate interview question, but still.
Just to be a martyr, I guess, Ana decides to go to work, despite Kate saying “Ana, you’ll be exhausted.” One would think that we’d simply skip on ahead to her coming home later since nothing important happens while at work, but nope, we have to follow her there, too, in two bafflingly brief and doubly pointless sections (as in, with section breaks before, after, and in between). Doubly pointless because for starters, the first one is literally a single paragraph wherein she explains that she works at Clayton’s Hardware and learned a lot about DIY stuff from working there despite not actually liking DIY, while the second one is just a couple paragraphs in which 1) Ana says she grateful to have work to take her mind off Christian Grey; 2) her boss, Mrs. Clayton, expresses surprise at seeing her; 3) Ana says she can work for a few hours; and 4) Ana starts working and the scene ends. Wow. Riveting stuff.
More importantly than why are these two separate sections, though, why are they even here to begin with? The only relevant bit of info that’s conveyed is that Ana works at a hardware store, though I guess it also develops her character a bit by explaining that she’d rather be reading than doing DIY projects. Buuuut, just a few pages later in this very same chapter is another scene of her at work that’s actually relevant to the plot, and there’s no reason that these details couldn’t have been conveyed in that scene instead. There’s no reason for this inane interlude to exist except to pad the word count, because it’s not like the paperback edition of this book isn’t 530 pages long.
Back at home again, Ana grumbles more about her day, as if she couldn’t have made her own life a little easier by not going to work when she’d clearly already called off judging by her boss’s reaction.
I’m thoroughly drained, exhausted by the long drive, by the grueling interview, and by being swamped at Clayton’s. I slump on to the couch, thinking about the essay I have to finish and all the studying I haven’t done today because I was holed up with… him.
Yes, because it’s everyone else’s fault that you took time out of your day to earn an extra $30 or whatever instead of studying for the finals you were bitching so much about in the last chapter. This is the girl who “pays peanuts for rent” while living off the generosity of her roommate whose parents bought an apartment for their daughter. Remind me why I’m supposed to sympathize with this exhausting little martyr again?
Kate is working on the article, and since ELJ must find an excuse to facilitate another meeting between our future lovers, she mentions that it sure is a darn shame they don’t have any original photos of the “good-looking son of a bitch.” Because that’s how those horny college kids talk these days. Too bad there are apparently no usable pictures of pseudo-celebrity megabillionaire Christian Grey anywhere on the internet. Also, maybe this is just my lack of journalism experience showing, but don’t you think savvy journalist and editor Kate would’ve tried to arrange for the interview and photoshoot to happen at the same time? It’s almost like the author didn’t plan this out very well and was just making it up as she went along…
Kate–because she’s the best friend in a romance novel and therefore must always be in the position to encourage or outright push the female lead into a relationship–begins pressuring Ana into admitting that she’s attracted to Christian, saying things like:
“Oh, come on, Ana—even you can’t be immune to his looks.” She arches a perfect eyebrow at me.
“Come on—he practically offered you a job. Given that I foisted this on you at the last minute, you did very well.”
“You, fascinated by a man? That’s a first,” she snorts.
“Oh, Ana, it can’t have been that bad. I think he sounds quite taken with you.”
She also justifies her question about The Gay ThingTM by claiming that, “Whenever he’s in the society pages, he never has a date.” Asexuality just doesn’t exist in the Shadesverse, I guess. If a man doesn’t publicly date women, he must be gay, and if a woman–such as virginal Ana–doesn’t date men, she obviously hasn’t found the right man yet.
After yet another two-paragraph section (there are way too many section breaks in this chapter) in which Ana clumsily sets up the running literary parallel for this book by writing an essay on Tess of the d’Urbervilles, she goes to bed and dreams of “dark places, bleak, cold white floors, and gray eyes.”
Mercifully, ELJ skips ahead a bit and by two days later, Kate is apparently “much better, and I no longer have to endure the sight of her pink-flannel-with-too-many-rabbits PJ’s.” I call bullshit. Now, I haven’t had the flu within living memory; I had it as a baby, but only know that because I’ve been told the story more than once of that time I projectile vomited on my dad from my crib. But I did nurse my boyfriend through the flu several years ago, so I do know from experience that legit influenza knocks you on your ass for a while. He took almost a week off of work and it took him at least another week to feel almost fully better. The flu is no joke, people. If you feel like you have the flu on Monday and by Wednesday you’re back to normal, it was probably just a bad cold. Just one of the reasons why I dearly want to punch people who say COVID is “just the flu” in the face. Yeah, clearly you’ve never had the flu, then. It just doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people because of wide-spread vaccines and modern medicine, but people do still die of it. What was it again that Edward Cullen died of? Yeah.
Anyway, now that that annoying little PSA is out of the way, Ana calls her parents:
She proceeds to tell me about her latest venture into candlemaking—my mother is all about new business ventures. Fundamentally, she’s bored and wants something to occupy her time, but she has the attention span of a goldfish. It’ll be something new next week. She worries me. I hope she hasn’t mortgaged the house to finance this latest scheme. And I hope Bob—her relatively new but much older husband—is keeping an eye on her now that I’m no longer there. He does seem a lot more grounded than Husband Number Three.
Ana’s mom is 100% an MLM #bossbabe. Do you think she sells essential oils, too? Maybe that’s why Ana seems to have terrible fashion sense; half her closet is full of shitty LuLaRoe items that she didn’t have the heart to tell her mom she didn’t want, and maybe she was scared off of makeup by her mom trying to push Younique products on her. Maybe the reason she was so flustered over her hair last chapter was because she’d reluctantly tried some Monat shampoo, and now she’s afraid her hair is falling out.
Carla–having felt a seismic shift in the cosmos and instinctively recognizing that the universe now revolves around Christian and Ana–only wants to talk about her daughter’s love life:
For a moment, I hesitate, and I have Mom’s full attention. “I’m fine.”
“Ana? Have you met someone?” Wow … how does she do that? The excitement in her voice is palpable.
“No, Mom, it’s nothing. You’ll be the first to know if I do.”
“Ana, you really need to get out more, honey. You worry me.”
“Mom, I’m fine. How’s Bob?” As ever, distraction is the best policy.
Better distract her quick, Ana, before she tries to start selling you on the latest life-changing sex toy from Pure Romance…
She calls her stepdad, Ray, next, and we get another largely pointless bit of description that I won’t bore you with that boils down to: he’s not a big talker, he likes sports, and he works as a carpenter. Stereotypical dad stuff, totally nothing like Charlie Swan at all.
Dear god, another section break already? This time it’s Friday, and Kate and Ana’s friend
Jacob José comes by with champagne to celebrate almost-graduation and his upcoming photography exhibit next month. You know those college kids, always guzzling down that champagne…
José is the first person I met when I arrived at WSU, looking as lost and lonely as I did. We recognized a kindred spirit in each other that day, and we’ve been friends ever since. Not only do we share a sense of humor, but we also discovered that Ray and José Senior were in the same army unit together. As a result, our fathers have become good friends, too.
I feel like this is such a thing in a lot of romance, the “instant best friends/deep admirer” trope. Particularly in the billionaire subgenre for whatever reason, though usually it occurs in the present timeline between the FMC and the MMC’s female relatives or friends. Like, the protagonist will take one look at someone they just met and instantly decide they like them, or another character will start sharing intimate details of their life with her three minutes after meeting, or often times both. And we’ll certainly be seeing plenty of that with Ana in the chapters still to come.
he’s Jacob Black, guys we must simply be reminded at every opportunity that Ana is like catnip to every man in a five-mile radius even though she Doesn’t Know She’s Beautiful, José obviously wants to be more than friends. To her credit, Ana is actually not oblivious to this. However:
He’s more like the brother I never had. Katherine often teases me that I’m missing the need-a-boyfriend gene, but the truth is I just haven’t met anyone who … well, whom I’m attracted to, even though part of me longs for the fabled trembling knees, heart-in-my-mouth, butterflies-in-my-belly moments.
Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Perhaps I’ve spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high. But in reality, nobody’s ever made me feel like that.
Until very recently, the unwelcome, still-small voice of my subconscious whispers.
Ah, there it is, folks; the first appearance of Ana’s all-too-conscious subconscious. Oddly, though, thinking of being attracted to a man for the first time ever seems to remind her specifically of The Gay ThingTM:
NO! I banish the thought immediately. I am not going there, not after that painful interview. Are you gay, Mr. Grey? I wince at the memory.
It’s just so random and so coincidentally placed that it’s almost like there’s something surfacing from Ana’s actual subconscious; like the thought of this man she’s inexplicably drawn to having his sexuality brought into question triggered feelings of shame and confusion regarding her own deeply repressed sexual orientation. I mean, she is awfully hung up on the gay question, and she goes into detail about Kate’s beauty so frequently throughout the book that surely it can’t all be pure jealousy…
Okay okay, I know “secretly bisexual Ana” isn’t real, but I guess I’m just desperate for any headcanon that would make her more interesting, relatable, and likable as a character.
Finally, after an ungodly number of section breaks and one pointless vignette from Ana’s life after another, the chapter that will not end finally gives us a plot-relevant scene. Ana is “besieged by customers” at Clayton’s, and is so overwhelmed by the besiegement that she uses the word “besieged” twice in the span of two sentences. It’s shaping up to be a typical Saturday at the store, but little does she know that across the parking lot lurks a certain billionaire stalker…
So, I can’t imagine that there’s anyone in the world at this point with any lingering doubts that Christian showing up at Ana’s workplace was not pure coincidence. But in case you were uncertain, allow ELJ to assure you that Christian Grey is, in fact, a Certified Creeper. Chapter Two (or should I say, “Saturday, May 14, 2011,” because I guess she was trying to be “creative” by going by dates instead of normal chapters for Christian’s POV) of Grey starts out with the dossier he had the mysterious Mr. Welch draw up on Ana, which includes:
- Her full name (Anastasia Rose Steele)
- birth date
- cell phone number
- social security number
- bank, bank account number, and current balance
- occupation (listed as “Undergraduate Student” and including her school and major)
- GPA (an unbelievable 4.0, because God forbid we not be reminded of how super-smart our protagonist is supposed to be)
- her former high school
- her SAT score
- Employment (which is somehow separate from “occupation” and says she works at Clayton’s Hardware)
- her parents’ names, DOB’s, birth father’s date of death, and the marriage and divorce dates of her mom’s other three husbands
Alright, fine, I’m sure it is possible for someone with as much wealth and influence as Grey to obtain her SSN, checking account number and balance, and her goddamn SAT score, though certainly not by any legal means. Just why the hell he would need to know how well she did on her SAT I have no fucking clue, but the fact that he’s both willing and able to casually obtain such personal info on a woman he just met is downright bone-chilling.
What I do find hard to believe, though, is that Welch was able to find out all this, but the background check still says “Political Affiliations: None Found”? Is… is Ana not registered to vote? God, just when I thought I couldn’t hate her more, this bitch is probably one of those aggressively apathetic apolitical types. The dossier also states that her religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and relationship status are all unknown.
So Christian sits in the parking lot thinking such charming thoughts as:
I cannot get the damned woman out of my mind, and it’s seriously beginning to piss me off.
All this week… I knew I’d have to see her again. I’d known it since she uttered my name in the elevator. I’d tried to resist. I’d waited five days, five tedious days, to see if I’d forget about her.
And I don’t do waiting. I hate waiting… for anything.
It’s “beginning to” piss you off? You’re angry all the time, my dude, so what is the baseline that you’re judging this off of?
And wow, the inhuman restraint it must’ve taken for you to stay away from where she lives and works almost three hours away from you for five whole days! Clearly, this is the man that every woman should want to entrust themselves to while bound and helpless in his secret sex room.
Christian and Ana do have at least one thing in common: They’re both equally hung up on The Gay ThingTM.
Why no boyfriend, Miss Steele? Sexual orientation unknown–perhaps she’s gay. I snort, thinking that unlikely. I recall the question she asked during the interview, her acute embarrassment, the way her skin flushed a pale rose… I’ve been suffering from these lascivious thoughts since I met her.
Fuckin’ match made in heaven, these two. Also, funny how he distinctly recalls her, uh, “endearingly” uncomfortable reaction to that question and remembers the moment fondly, completely glossing over the fact that at the time, he was so furious that he fantasized about raping her to prove a point. You know, ELJ, if you wanted us to forget about that moment, you could’ve just… not included it in the first place?
Christian does, shockingly, briefly touch on how his current behavior could be considered questionable. But he gets negative points for it since he only thinks of it in terms of how he’s grateful for not mentioning Ana to his psychiatrist, Dr. Flynn, “because I’m now behaving like a stalker.” He wonders if he should bring it up during their next therapy sesh, but then decides nah, “I don’t want him hounding me about his latest solution-based therapy shit,” and decides that all he really needs is a distraction in the form of the woman he’s just tracked down to her place of work. Why is this man even in therapy? It clearly does nothing for him, and he doesn’t seem to have any respect for the field of psychiatry, either.
You’ve come all this way. Let’s see if Little Miss Steele is as appealing as you remember.
He walks in, thinking to himself that he’ll “find the delectable Miss Steele and have some fun” while secretly stocking up on bondage supplies. Absolute charmer, this guy.
He spots her behind the counter, and the sight of her eating a bagel does funny things to him in his pants region:
Absentmindedly, she wipes a crumb from the corner of her lips and into her mouth and sucks on her finger. My cock twitches in response.
What am I, fourteen?
My body’s reaction is irritating. Maybe this will stop if I fetter, fuck, and flog her… and not necessarily in that order. Yeah. That’s what I need.
As for Ana:
Then, for some reason, I glance up … and find myself locked in the bold gray gaze of Christian Grey, who’s standing at the counter, staring at me.
AND THAT’S HOW ANASTATIA STEELE DIED THE END.
Sadly, Ana recovers from her Christian-induced cardiac arrest and manages to greet him. And then… oh, and then, we get this absolute gem of a line, this artfully crafted arrangement of words that one can only believe the English language must have been specifically invented for:
“I was in the area,” he says by way of explanation. “I need to stock up on a few things. It’s a pleasure to see you again, Miss Steele.” His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel … or something.
…OR SOMETHING. Or something! Poetry, pure and simple. Shakespeare? Who’s that? Chaucer? Don’t know him. Poe? Doesn’t even go here. I love it. It’s like a mad-lib where you can just substitute Christian Grey’s husky caramel voice with whatever the hell you want.
Christian needs some help finding a few things: cable ties, rope, masking tape. You know, just normal redecorating stuff that wouldn’t set off any alarm bells in the head of the nervous hardware store employee who has already stated multiple times that she finds him intimidating. As she shows him to the cable ties, Ana is “so glad I decided to wear my best jeans this morning” since “my legs are suddenly the consistency of Jell-O.” I guess because her best jeans are the only ones with the power to contain her gelatin legs and keep them from oozing all over the floor.
This is all just one big sexual innuendo in Grey’s mind, of course, and he seems to be getting off on the notion that Ana has no idea what he’s talking about. Because he’s a dick, guys. He’d probably think it was even hotter if he knew she was thinking to herself that his shopping list sounds a lot like murder supplies. Which she actually isn’t, of course, because Ana has the self-preservation instincts of a gnat.
He also proves just what a terrible Dom he is:
You’d be amazed what I can do with a few cable ties, baby.
I select the longer ties. They are more flexible, after all, as they can accommodate two ankles and two wrists at once.
“I’ll take that one.” The wider [masking] tape is much more effective as a gag.”
If we’ve learned anything from 2021 so far, it should be that there’s a difference between the zip ties you can buy at the hardware store and the flex cuffs used by police. Now, I won’t say that you can’t ever use zip ties as sexual bondage if you know what you’re doing, know the risk of cutting off circulation, and pay attention to signs that your partner’s experiencing discomfort/trust your partner to listen to you when you’re in discomfort. It’s not generally advisable that you use them, and there are much better restraints available, but you do you. I would say that instead of using them against bare skin, you could, for example, put socks over your partner’s hands, fold them over the wrists, and keep them in place with zip ties like improvised bondage mitts. And however you use them, I’d say it’s best to put one around each wrist and thread the two together, or link them with a third zip tie.
But one zip tie around both wrists and both ankles at once? No fucking way, doesn’t matter how long it is. I don’t care if the bound partner is a masochist who likes the feel of them biting into their skin, that shit is legit dangerous.
Also, masking tape, seriously? Are we sure ELJ didn’t mean duct tape here? Again, not trying to say you should slap some duct tape on your partner’s mouth all willy-nilly without taking into account that that shit hurts coming off, but come on now. Unless Christian thinks it’s hot for a tape gag to become unsticky and limp in ten seconds, you’d think he’d want something that’ll actually stay in place.
Ana wonders why he’s there, and we get our first oblique reference to what I’m pretty sure will become her infamous inner goddess:
Why is he in Portland? Why is he here at Clayton’s? And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain—probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata near where my subconscious dwells—comes the thought: He’s here to see you. No way! I dismiss it immediately. Why would this beautiful, powerful, urbane man want to see me? The idea is preposterous, and I kick it out of my head.
Why indeed, Ana? Seriously, I have no idea what this man finds so fascinating about her that he simply had to stalk her across state lines just to see her again. They talked for like, 12 minutes, tops, and all she did was 1) show up at his office looking like she got dressed for church while hungover; 2) fall on her face; 3) tell him his paintings looked nice; 4) ask some banal questions; and 5) insult him. And somehow from all of that, Christian’s big takeaway was that she just had to be the most mysterious and captivating woman he’d ever met.
His excuse for being in the area is that he’s visiting the WSU farming division (false) because he’s funding soil science research (“That, at least, is true.”). Ana is disappointed that didn’t actually (except for the part where he did, actually) track her down.
“Anything else?” My voice is husky and breathy. His eyes widen slightly.
“Some rope, I think.” His voice mirrors mine, husky.
Yes, but is it as husky as dark chocolate caramel apple butterscotch whipped cream candy corn… or something?
Blah blah blah, she cuts him a length of rope–natural filament, because as Grey tells us, “It’s coarser and chafes more if you struggle against it… my rope of choice.” As she’s coiling it, he asks if she was a Girl Scout.
“Were you a Girl Scout?” he asks, sculptured, sensual lips curled in amusement. Don’t look at his mouth!
“Organized group activities aren’t really my thing, Mr. Grey.”
He arches a brow. “What is your thing, Anastasia?” he asks, his voice soft, and his secret smile is back.
“Books,” I whisper, but inside, my subconscious is screaming: You! You are my thing! I slap it down instantly, mortified that my psyche is having ideas way out of its league.
Ana has got to be the blankest of blank-slate protagonists I’ve ever seen in a romance. And I know a lot of it comes from the fact that she’s a derivative of Bella Swan, so readers of the original fanfic could just mentally flesh out her flimsy character with what they already knew about her from Twilight. But Bella Swan was a fairly blank-slate to begin with–a fairly obvious stand-in for the reader to project themselves onto and vicariously live out her drama-filled romantic adventures. Honestly, though, I just never personally got how this type of main character was supposed to be easier to connect with. Give me a protagonist with distinctive interests and sharply-drawn personality traits any day; I guarantee I’ll find them way more relatable even if I don’t have much in common with them.
I feel like with Ana and Bella specifically, what ends up happening is that in their quest to be both ultra relatable and generically not-like-other-girls, they often end up exhibiting some nasty, mean-girl traits that I don’t think the authors intended. They’re supposed to be the plain, shy, bookish girls who are secretly the most desirable women in the world, and we’re supposed to sympathize with them, see ourselves in their frequent displays of insecurity, and experience a vicarious thrill of victory when the love interest chooses them over all the pretty girls that surround them. But it never takes very long for the inner monologues to devolve into snide, snobby, petty jealousy.
What was I talking about again? Oh, right.
“What kind of books?” He cocks his head to one side. Why is he so interested?
“Oh, you know. The usual. The classics. British literature, mainly.”
See what I mean about a blank slate? “British literature” and “the classics” are about as generic you can get, but somehow I can’t see Ana being super into Dracula or Frankenstein or Varney the Vampire. I mean, the only book she ever talks about is Tess with maybe one or two references to Jane Austen or the Brontës thrown in for flavor, but here, she could be referring to anything.
Luckily for Christian, though, the author who’s writing him has a very limited pool of references, so his guess is right on the money:
British literature? The Brontës and Austen, I bet. All those romantic hearts-and-flowers types.
That’s not good.
Yes, because one could not possibly be into both Pride and Prejudice and rough, hair-pulling, ass-spanking, nipple-clamping, choke-me-daddy sex.
She asks him what else he needs for his DIY Dexter setup, and oh look, they actually have something else in common! “Oh, baby, DIY is not my thing,” Christian thinks. Ana blurts out “Coveralls,” to which Christian replies that he could avoid ruining his clothes by just doing home improvement projects in the nude. Because who just doesn’t love being sexually harassed by customers at their job? But he’s attractive, so it’s all cool, I guess, even though Ana is clearly so uncomfortable with his suggestive comment that “I must be the color of The Communist Manifesto.” Or, maybe that’s just her subconscious telling her that she secretly wants to eat Christian…
They talk about how the article is coming along, and Ana mentions Kate’s disappointment at not having an original photo of him to go along with it. This prompts Grey to hand her his business card so that she can call him about possibly arranging a photoshoot the next day. All the while secretly making plans to stay at The Heathman Hotel and have his manservant, Taylor, bring his stuff. Since, you know, this was impromptu stalking. Ana is thrilled at the thought of seeing him again, of course.
As they’re talking, Paul–Mr. Clayton’s brother–shows up and hugs Ana. She states that he’s “always been a buddy,” but in virtually the same breath makes sure to point out that she’s embarrassed by him keeping “a possessive arm draped over my shoulder” and that “he’s always been overfamiliar.” Because if every man alive isn’t throwing themselves at frumpy Ana, how else would we know that she’s actually the epitome of grace and beauty and more than worthy of the hero’s affections?
She makes awkward introductions, wondering why Christian is all cold now that another man has dared to put his hands on her.
“Anastasia has it covered, Mr. Clayton. She’s been very attentive.” His expression is impassive, but his words … it’s like he’s saying something else entirely. It’s baffling.
Is it, though? Ana, you’re in the middle of ringing up serial killer supplies for a terrifying, self-admitted control freak. You don’t need to read his mind to know this guy is just itching for his chance to give Paul Clayton the ol’ Paul Allen treatment.
But, since I do have the misfortune of literally reading the loathsome contents of Christian Grey’s mind:
His eyes are all over Miss Anastasia Steele. Who the hell is this prick?
She walks toward him, and the asshole engulfs her in a gorilla-like hug. My blood runs cold. It’s a primal response.
Get your fucking paws off her.
I fist my hands and am only slightly mollified when she doesn’t return his hug.
The boss’s brother, not a boyfriend. I’m relieved, but the extent of the relief I feel is unexpected, and it makes me frown. This woman has really gotten under my skin.
I bet you’d really like to get under her skin, Christian. Literally.
He mentally tells Paul to fuck off and refers to him as a prick yet again, and then it’s time to check out and go.
“You’ll call me if you want me to do the photo shoot?” He’s all business once more. I nod, rendered speechless yet again, and hand back his credit card.
“Good. Until tomorrow, perhaps.” He turns to leave, then pauses. “Oh—and Anastasia, I’m glad Miss Kavanagh couldn’t do the interview.”
Very swoon, much erotic. But it certainly leaves Ana all a-flutter, or as she puts it, “a quivering mass of raging female hormones.” She watches longingly as Christian walks out the door, probably to go return some videotapes.
Okay—I like him. There, I’ve admitted it to myself. I cannot hide from my feelings anymore. […] But it’s a lost cause, I know, and I sigh with bittersweet regret. It was just a coincidence, his coming here. But still, I can admire him from afar, surely. No harm can come of that. And if I find a photographer, I can do some serious admiring tomorrow. I bite my lip in anticipation and find myself grinning like a schoolgirl. I need to phone Kate and organize a photo shoot.
And thus endeth the chapter that felt like it would never end, with Ana coming to the conclusion that this rude creep is the first man ever to tickle her taco.
Yikes, this was another long one. I’m wondering if I should consider breaking some of these recaps into multiple posts, since both of these first two chapters took me all day to work on. Granted, I had other things to do and also a neurological condition that makes it hard for me to focus, but still. I’m worried that I might be getting a little too long-winded in my commentary, but I hope you find it amusing so far.