Hello again, everyone! Long time no see. Apologies for the unexpected hiatus, I’m just now getting back into the swing of things after a busy couple of months (tbh, things are still pretty hectic for me right now, but I’m really making an effort to get back to regular blogging), plus I’ve also been busy putting the final touches on a script for a video essay that I’ll hopefully have up on YouTube in the next few weeks. If you read my last blog post, then you’ll also know that after doing some difficult soul-searching regarding my planned rewrite/rerelease of Drawn into the Shadows (aka High Risk), I have unfortunately decided cancel it as I’d originally intended, with the caveat that some of the characters and plot ideas might eventually end up being incorporated into future books in my Immortal Artifacts series (renamed from Artifacts and Alchemy), which God willing I will publish one of these days if it’s the last thing I do.
(As usual, quotes from FSOG are in purple, and quotes from Grey are in green.)
Last time, Ana got laid, her virginity got slayed, and Grey’s fear of touching was inconsistently portrayed. It’s now the morning after, and once again Ana finds herself waking up in Christian Grey’s bed, though at least this time she knows how she got there.
Light fills the room, coaxing me from deep sleep to wakefulness. I stretch out and open my eyes. It’s a beautiful May morning, Seattle at my feet. Wow, what a view. Beside me, Christian Grey is fast asleep. Wow, what a view. […] How could anyone look this good and still be legal? I remember his room upstairs…perhaps he’s not legal.
I shake my head, so much to think about. It’s tempting to reach out and touch him, but like a small child, he’s so lovely when he’s asleep. I don’t have to worry about what I’m saying, what he’s saying, what plans he has, especially his plans for me.
“Perhaps he’s not legal”???
James, it’s too early for this; you can’t hit me with a nonsense line like that then go straight into Ana pretending Christian’s a little boy again in a sex-adjacent context, not at this ungodly hour of the morning.
Oh, but don’t worry, guys, Ana reverse-Lolita-ing Christian totally isn’t actually creepy at all! She’s only comparing him to an innocent sleeping child because she can temporarily pretend that she’s not constantly walking on eggshells around this man who sees her as little more than a sex doll: “I don’t have to worry about what I’m saying, what he’s saying, what plans he has, especially his plans for me.” Healthy!
Ana manages to pull herself away from the hypnotic perfection that is Christian Grey’s face and gets up to find the bathroom. “[…] I have needs—bathroom needs.” Okay, ELJ, you can have this one, I did chuckle at that. I mean, I’m being generous and assuming James intended that to be funny, anyway. She stumbles into his walk-in closet instead, conveniently giving ELJ an excuse to 1) indulge in more wealth porn; 2) show how down-to-Earth Ana is so she doesn’t have to feel guilty about indulging in the wealth porn; and 3) shit on Kate yet again because Kate is blonde and pretty and we’re not supposed to like her, I guess. Oh, and 4) pad her word count, naturally. Because Ana’s bathroom needs aren’t so urgent that she can’t stop to gawk at all of Christian’s expensive clothes.
Lines and lines of expensive suits, shirts, shoes, and ties. How can anyone need this many clothes? I tut with disapproval. Actually, Kate’s wardrobe probably rivals this.
Once again, the ADHD is strong with this one; Ana just plumb forgot all about her promise to let Kate know she’d safely arrived at Christian’s place the night before until seeing his massive closet reminded her of Kate’s massive closet, which in turn reminds her that she “was supposed to text her.” Didn’t I say her brain is like a pinball machine? I would empathize with her here, except her only concern is “I’m going to be in trouble,” as if Kate is her mommy scolding her for being out past her curfew on a school night and not simply her best friend who wants to make sure that this rich weirdo hasn’t gone all Patrick Bateman on Ana. Worst. Friend. Ever.
At long last her expedition pays off and she locates the bathroom, wherein she stares at the mirror and tries to figure out if she looks different after being de-virginated. She certainly feels different, though mostly because she’s sore. And oh goody, it’s time for another shame spiral, courtesy of Ana’s imaginary best frenemy (and I think our first “Red Room of Pain” namedrop, too):
[…] jeez, it’s like I’ve never done any exercise in my life. You don’t do any exercise in your life. My subconscious has woken. She’s staring at me with pursed lips, tapping her foot. So you’ve just slept with him, given him your virginity, a man who doesn’t love you. In fact, he has very odd ideas about you, wants to make you some sort of kinky sex slave.
ARE YOU CRAZY? She’s shouting at me.
I wince as I look in the mirror. I am going to have to process all this. Honestly, fancy falling for a man who’s beyond beautiful, richer than Croesus, and has a Red Room of Pain waiting for me.
Huge missed opportunity for the movies here to not show Ana literally arguing with her own reflection. The fact that it’s one of the corniest and most cliché visual cinematic devices ever would only make it all the more perfect a fit for this book. Although, I still personally believe that the way they should have done Ana’s subconscious and inner goddess is have them show up like Head Six/Messenger Six in Battlestar Galactica, just having full-on interactions with her while the other actors in the scene just have to pretend they don’t exist.
Fancy that indeed, Ana, honestly. She says this as if somehow Grey being “beyond beautiful” and “richer than Croesus”—like that’s a reference any American college student in 2011 would ever make—are the things that would make it strange or unlikely for her to fall for him, and not, you know, pretty much the only attractive attributes he has going for him. Seriously, what am I missing here that has Ana declaring herself to be falling for him already? So, he gave her a couple orgasms and flew her in his helicopter, big fuckin’ whoop. Guess that’s enough to override the primary feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and embarrassment she tends to feel in his presence, plus the fact that she’s so not on the same page with him regarding kink that she can only contextualize his playroom as being a terrifying torture chamber. No, she’s not “crazy” for deciding to lose her virginity with a guy who isn’t in love with her, but outdated sexual hangups aside, I think her subconscious might be onto something here about her questionable judgement.
Hot take, I know, but I’m starting to think Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t a particularly healthy portrayal of romance or BDSM.
Ana is actually hungry for once, so after checking on Christian in the bedroom again (this is the second time she’s peeked in on him in the first two pages of this chapter and been all like, yep, still sleeping) she heads to the kitchen. “Oh shit… Kate,” she thinks, because I guess during the five minutes or whatever she spent in the bathroom she forgot all about Kate again, so finally she grabs her phone and realizes she’s missed three increasingly worried texts from her. Then she drops this absolutely baffling reference that I think reveals a lot more than ELJ intended it to:
I call Kate. When she doesn’t answer, I leave a groveling message to tell her I am alive and have not succumbed to Bluebeard. Well, not in the sense she would be worried about—or perhaps I have.
Perhaps you have what, Ana? Been murdered and are now texting from beyond the grave? Methinks Ana’s willfully ignoring the serious danger that her subconscious is really trying to warn her about but can’t help this little Freudian slip, because why else would her mind automatically jump to a fairy tale about a serial killer who murders all his wives? This just feels so weird and out of place here; I get the sense that ELJ was trying to be lighthearted and witty, but whatever the “joke” is supposed to be it doesn’t land because it’s almost like she accidentally acknowledged that Christian Grey is legitimately a dangerous man that Ana should be afraid of, only to hastily backtrack and reassure the reader that Ana’s totally joking and totally safe, you guys! It’s just such a weird comparison to make that would only really fit in the context of a Dark Romance, maybe, and it’s just so obvious that ELJ didn’t think this through at all.
I just have no idea what she’s going for. Is Ana comparing herself here to Bluebeard’s new young bride and the playroom to the closet where he keeps all the corpses of his dead previous wives? If that’s the case, then Ana should have stumbled across the playroom by accident when she was snooping where Christian told her not to, or else the metaphor completely falls apart! Then again, ELJ does make it clear one paragraph later that she doesn’t know any more about “Bluebeard” than she does about The Stepford Wives considering this is Ana’s rationale for putting her hair in pigtails: “Yes! The more girly I look, perhaps the safer I’ll be from Bluebeard.” That… doesn’t make any sense. And for more reasons than just not having anything to do with Bluebeard, because in what sense is she trying to keep herself “safe” from the man she just had sex with and why is the narrative treating this like it’s a totally normal and not at all concerning thing? Also, who wants to be the one to tell Ana that looking more like a little girl is just gonna be even more of a turn on for this creep?
Whatever. Ana listens to music on her iPod and starts cooking breakfast. Am I the only one who thinks it’s a little rude and presumptuous to start messing around in someone’s kitchen the first time you come to their house after you’ve barely just met them? I mean, I guess it is nice that she’s making breakfast for both of them, and Grey apparently expects his submissives to cook for him anyway even though he hasn’t told Ana about that yet, but it just feels weird to me to jump up and start ransacking someone else’s fridge when I’m a guest in their house and haven’t been explicitly given free reign of their kitchen. IDK, maybe that’s just because I’ve never actually been in this kind of semi-casual staying-the-night situation in my love life before. I guess I’m kind of unusual in that regard since post-college I’ve only ever lived with a partner or causally dated someone without ever sleeping over, but maybe once I eventually have the time and emotional bandwidth to start dating again that’ll be a fun new experience for me to deal with.
On the flip side, though, it’s damn generous of Ana as Christian’s guest—and the one he’s trying to woo into a sex contract that’s entirely on his terms—to be making breakfast for him after he invited her over for dinner and then failed to provide dinner. Cheese and grapes are good enough for Ana, but nothing short of a full Denny’s Grand Slam will do for Mr. Billionaire. Okay, fine, so he got her breakfast at the hotel the day before, but that was literally the least he could do after the whole kidnapping thing.
James spends a ridiculous length of time describing Ana making bacon and pancakes. Ana blathers on about how listening to music and being busy with cooking is good because it gives her time to think about Christian but not too deeply because if she thought too deeply about the red flags he keeps waving in her face then she might reconsider pursuing a relationship with him, and of course we can’t have that. In typical E.L. James fashion, though, any serious and reasonable qualms Ana might have if she did allow herself to give this very weird situation any deeper thought end up being boiled down to the arbitrary distinction of “fucking vs. lovemaking.” She’s very hung up on the terminology and it’s very tiring, but she does stumble into a good point that not only do these two people have incompatible views on the meaning of sexual intimacy, but Ana herself is also aware of this… Ana just chooses to blithely ignore this fact, and what you end up with is another accidentally revealing moment that reads like the female lead being unable or unwilling to grapple with the cognitive dissonance of being a “good girl” while also having casual sex. Then we get this bizarre string of sentences:
Amy Studt is singing in my ear about misfits. This song used to mean so much to me, that’s because I’m a misfit. I have never fitted in anywhere and now… I have an indecent proposal to consider from King Misfit himself. Why is he this way? Nature or Nurture? It’s so alien to anything I know.
Okay, first off, all I can think about is this:
I just love having my hand held by the author, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Like golly gee, thanks for telling me that the character relates to a song called “Misfit” because she feels like a misfit, I never would have guessed. In what way is Ana supposed to be a misfit who had never “fit(ted) in anywhere,” though? Is it because she’s a college student in 2011 who doesn’t own a computer and likes to read classic literature? Nothing that we’ve learned about Ana’s character up until now has added up to her being a misfit so much as her being boring and unremarkable. “Misfit” implies standing out and typically going against the grain; Ana blends into the background and is utterly conventional.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that by virtue of the book she’s trapped in and the character of Bella Swan that she’s a fan fiction expy of, Ana can’t be too much of a misfit because making her too unique and complex would make her no longer the blank slate for the author/reader to step into the shoes of. The 2010s-era “not like other girls” backlash might be a bit reductive and occasionally reactionary on its own as a critique, but it’s easy to see how it gained traction as a response to characters like Ana Steele, because this is just plain lazy characterization. On top of being patently false, it tells me nothing about Ana, adds nothing to the story, and offers no insight into how she allegedly relates to Christian the “King Misfit.”
Hang on a minute… Ana has an iPod, but she doesn’t have a computer?
As Ana “put(s) the bacon under the grill,” (???) you may be wondering what Christian has been up to. Last we saw he’d been fast asleep next to Ana, but surely that must’ve been a hallucination on her part because we all know he never sleeps with anyone, right? HAHAHAHA ignorant fools! Don’t you know what sort of book we’re reading? See, after he tucked her back into bed the night before/earlier that morning, Grey “resolve(d) to spoon with her until she’s asleep. Then I’ll get up and do some work.” But of course she’s already changing him and of course he’s in denial about it, because wouldn’t you know it, he just so happened to fall asleep in bed with her again, whereupon he oh-so coincidentally happens to have a not-at-all-Oedipal bad poetry flashback dream courtesy of Baby!Grey:
Her scent fills my nostrils, reminding me of a happy time and leaving me replete…content, even…
Mommy is happy today. She is singing.
Singing about what love has to do with it.
And cooking. And singing.
My tummy gurgles. She is cooking bacon and waffles.
They smell good. My tummy likes bacon and waffles.
They smell so good.
He wakes up and goes to the kitchen when he realizes that he’s smelling bacon IRL, too. He silently watches her dance around while cooking for a bit, calling her “Good girl” (barf) for wearing his t-shirt and no underwear while doing so. ELJ also holds my hand again, having Grey kindly explain to the reader that Ana must be wearing earbuds since he can’t hear the music she’s listening to. I just have to ask about the “good girl” thing, though; is Ana a good girl because she automatically started cooking for him even though she doesn’t know he expects all his subs to cook for him, or is she a good girl because cooking without panties on is part of his stupid rules? Also, is it weird to anyone else that she threw on his shirt for modesty’s sake after waking up but didn’t put on underwear? I don’t know about you, but when I’m naked the first thing I think to put on is panties; no way in hell Ana isn’t noticing a crotch draft.
Apparently, Ana’s dancing is so horrendous that it falls into the same category as all the times he’s seen her nearly shatter all her bones tripping over her shoelace, causing him to think “She has to be one of the most uncoordinated females I’ve ever seen” and “I think of all the ways I can improve her coordination.” Bear in mind that the only description he’s given of her dancing is her “jiggl(ing) from foot to foot” so I don’t understand how we got from that to this, but okay.
Christian really seems to see her as more of a project than a person, doesn’t he? ELJ keeps flip-flopping between having him mentally praise Ana for how perfect she is (at least in terms of physical appearance) and tallying up all the things about her that need fixing (with his guiding hand, of course). Is there anything that Christian actually likes about her besides the fact that she’s hot, “innocent” in the ways of love (again, barf), and happily cooks for him without being told to? Methinks that when he said “She will be a joy to train” earlier that morning after they’d fucked, he didn’t just mean it in the BDSM sense; this man literally wants to teach her everything, to mold her into his own perfect creation. It’s like James was going for a My Fair Lady/She’s All That/Pretty Woman vibe here, while completely missing what made those love stories work.
Ana finally turns around and notices him watching her like a creep. I desperately want to go back and edit the films to add a horror movie musical sting and a dramatic zoom every time he jump-scares her, because this fucking guy is constantly doing this. I mean, I get it, I startle super easily, I’m just saying it’s pretty telling how overblown her reaction is every single time, like right now: “I freeze, flush, then gather myself and pull the headphones out of my ears, my knees weak at the sight of him.” Weirdly, though, she doesn’t actually describe her reaction until after giving us a lovingly detailed description of how pretty he is. Priorities, Ana. She even stutters as if to drive home the point that she’s never not a nervous wreck around Christian, and he teases her for her dancing as if to drive home the point that she’s not wrong to feel that way because he’s never not secretly making fun of her (or fantasizing about how he can make her be better at stuff if he hits her enough):
“Good morning, Miss Steele. You’re very…energetic this morning,” he says dryly.
“I—I slept well,” I stutter.
His lips try to mask his smile. “I can’t imagine why.” He pauses and frowns. “So did I after you came back to bed.”
“Are you hungry?”
“Very,” he says with an intense look, and I don’t think he’s referring to food.
Ah, so it begins. James can never friggin’ resist making eating into a double entendre, and she thinks she’s being so cheeky and clever every friggin’ time. But hey, at least Ana gets to be the one reading Christian’s mind for once:
“Are you hungry?” she asks.
“Very.” And I’m not sure if it’s for breakfast or for her.
She’s all embarrassed that he caught her dancing and he knows it, but continues to tease her for it because he’s a dick. Ana’s so embarrassed, in fact, that she knows she’s “turning puce.” 1) IDK how she knows exactly what color her face is turning; 2) can I just say how much I hate the word puce? And yes, it is because whenever I see it my mind automatically reads “puke” instead #Imverymature #atleastImmorematurethanAnaSteele. Once again, Ana is very aware and very not amused that Christian is not-so-secretly laughing at her. Truly the makings of a romance we should all be jealous of, let me tell you.
I purse my lips. Entertaining, eh? My subconscious has doubled over in laughter at me. I turn and continue to whist the eggs, probably beating them a little harder than necessary.
Meanwhile, Grey is wondering to himself “if she has any idea how disrespectful this is to someone like me…” for turning away from him with a pout, “but of course she doesn’t, and for some unfathomable reason it makes me smile.” Unclear if by “someone like me” ELJ means a Dominant or a billionaire CEO, but either way I hate it. I also can’t fathom why this makes him smile, except that maybe he sees it as a display of “brattiness” that he can punish her for. Clearly what ELJ is going for is an early example of him being softened in his rigid Domly Dom ways by the love of a woman, but there’s never any rhyme or reason to when he genuinely likes Ana acting unsubmissive and when he gets all angryhorny about it. I also can’t fathom in what way this is supposed to be super disrespectful. Is it just that he perceives her as pouting because she doesn’t like being teased, or does he expect her to continue making breakfast without breaking eye contact with him?
Oh, and if you were thinking that there was any chance he wouldn’t take notice of her illogical pigtails and wouldn’t jump on the chance to infantilize her some more, then I wish I could share your optimism. He made sure to note that “She looks even younger in her braids” earlier when spying on her dancing in the kitchen, and now he does this:
In a moment, he’s beside me. He gently pulls my pigtail.
“I love these,” he whispers. “They won’t protect you.” Hmm, Bluebeard…
Again, just what the hell does James think she’s doing with this Bluebeard allusion? There isn’t really any emotional content to Ana’s thought here; she doesn’t sound alarmed or freaked out that Christian somehow guessed that she put her hair in pigtails to “protect” herself from him and is now blatantly telling her that her nothing she does will keep her safe from him. Hell, if anything, that “hmm, Bluebeard” sounds dreamy and aroused! Yet another instance of him reading her mind, too, because why the hell else would he ever think to say that a childish hairstyle won’t protect her if he didn’t know that’s what she was thinking when she braided her hair? What even is EL James logic???
Grey’s thoughts don’t make this any better: “Not from me. Not now that I’ve had you.” SKIP PRISON, GO STRAIGHT TO THE FIRING SQUAD.
More boring and needless details about Ana cooking and Grey getting placemats out of a drawer. He thinks to himself about how weird it is for him to be doing such a menial chore for a woman because he’s used to either his submissives or his housekeeper (Gail, aka Mrs. Jones) doing everything for him. Keep in mind that said menial chore isn’t even him setting the table, just putting placemats on it. Wow, how selfless; try not to overexert yourself patting yourself on the back for it, pal. Ana turns the bacon over and again mentions putting it “back under the grill” (emphasis mine) and I proceed to lose my mind because what the hell do you mean UNDER the grill, ELJ? Am I just an idiot? Is this some kind of rich person kitchen thing or a British thing I’m just not getting? Because I swear I’ve never heard anyone refer to putting something under a grill rather than on one outside of this book. I wasted a good 20 minutes of my time looking up stovetop grills online to see if I could find anything like what she’s describing here, and still all I could find were griddles that you would certainly fry food on top of.
ANYWAY. Christian pulls out a box of Twinings English Breakfast Tea for Ana, who gets all self-conscious about apparently being a “Bit of a forgone conclusion, wasn’t I?” Yes, Ana, the only reason he could possibly have one of the most common types of tea from one of the most popular grocery store tea brands is that he knew for certain that you’d have sex with him and also stay the night. Granted, Christian did apparently ask Mrs. Jones to buy the tea for Ana according to his POV and he didn’t just happen to have it by coincidence… which is just another weird instance of Mr. Grey the generous, considerate billionaire who thinks of everything not actually thinking of everything. Buys her a whole new outfit because she got a little bit of vomit on her shoes? Doesn’t think that she might also need a toothbrush. Has her favorite tea that also happens to be super common on hand for breakfast? Doesn’t think to have dinner for her the night before even though he nominally invited her over for dinner. Truly, the inner machinations of Christian Grey’s mind are an enigma.
In addition to her clumsiness and fidgeting, Grey now “add(s) her self-deprecation to the list of behaviors that will need modifying.” Considering all his ideas of behavior modification seem to revolve around beating/sticking ginger root up her ass for breaking arbitrary rules and berating her like a child for doing nothing wrong, I struggle to imagine how he thinks he’s going to improve her self-esteem. Then again, if Ana actually did have a shred of self-esteem, she probably wouldn’t be with him at all, so I take it that what he really means is that he finds her sarcasm annoying and that if he spanks her enough she’ll eventually turn into the perfect, smiling sex doll who never complains about anything.
Ana winces as she sits, lest we forget that her lady garden got torn asunder last night by Grey’s monster cock.
“Just how sore are you?” he asks as he sits down.
I flush. Why does he ask such personal questions? “Well, to be truthful, I have nothing to compare it to,” I snap. “Did you wish to offer your commiserations?” I ask too sweetly.
Ana sure does snap a lot for seemingly no reason, usually when asked a perfectly banal, even polite question. Sure, the tone with which he asks (“Just how sore…”) might come across as a little rude/condescending, but it’s hardly an inappropriate or prying question considering you just had sex and it was also your first time. Then again, considering the whole tenor of their conversation on Grey’s part so far has been mocking, I can’t say I blame her for being a bit rude herself to him here and not exactly taking his question seriously. Especially considering he’s “surprised by an uneasy sense of guilt” at causing her soreness (hey asshole, I thought you said you wanted her to be sore?) and he’s also only really interested in her current level of pain because he wants to know how soon they can bang again.
I want to fuck her again, preferably after breakfast, but if she’s too sore that will be out of the question. Perhaps I could use her mouth this time.
Her sarcastic tone takes me by surprise. If she were mine, it would earn her a spanking at least, maybe over the kitchen counter.
Well, maybe she wouldn’t be acting all sarcastic if you were asking because you actually fucking cared about her feelings and weren’t constantly having a giggle at her expense, jackhole. He tells her that he doesn’t really give a shit about how she feels to her face, by the way. Ana, in classic Ana fashion, ignores his actual answer to her question and only focuses on the sex part:
I think he’s trying to stifle a smile, but I can’t be sure. “No. I wondered if we should continue your basic training.”
“Oh.” I stare at him dumbfounded as I stop breathing and everything inside me clenches tight. Ooh… that’s so nice. I suppress a groan.
They eat—though of course now that Christian is in the same room as her she’s too horny and anxious to eat without him telling her to—and the food “tastes mighty fine” according to Grey, because that’s exactly how all us Americans talk. He’s pleasantly surprised at her cooking abilities, which I’m just gonna chalk up to him being patronizing as usual and surprised that she can do anything right, since it’s pretty damn hard to screw up pancakes, eggs, and bacon apart from burning them to a crisp. Everyone in these books is way too easily impressed.
Ana basically does a comic spit take when Grey says that he wants to “stick to oral skills” for her basic training that morning… even though she already more or less predicted that’s what he had in mind a few paragraphs earlier, so I’m not sure why she’s so shocked now, but whatever. “Hell. I don’t want to choke the girl,” Grey thinks.
… I mean, I guess that is a good reason to practice oral skills…
They have some time-wasting back-and-forth about what time she needs to be home and he does my 2nd least favorite romance hero thing—number one being random spanking threats to women they just met—where he grabs her chin. At least he doesn’t tilt her head up to look at him (this time), but he does pull her lip out from her teeth. Haaaate. Now, as I said previously about spanking threats, it’s not like this kind of thing can never be cute or hot, but since these two do not have an established D/s dynamic or any kind of comfortable intimacy with each other in which chin-grabbing could be read as anything but patronizing, it just makes my blood pressure spike a bit.
Ana does at least stand her ground on getting home by that evening rather than staying the night again, but predictably Christian trying to railroad her into a decision makes her lose her appetite. Also predictably, this makes Christian yell at her to finish her breakfast. Oh yeah, nothing makes me hungry quite like being yelled at by an imperious dickweasel. Perhaps try a subtler approach if you want her to eat?
Ana gets a call from Kate, although I’m not entirely sure which of the two Kates we’re dealing with here. Perhaps both of them? Tell me this doesn’t read like a conversation between three people:
“Ana, why didn’t you text last night?” She’s angry.
“I’m sorry, I was overtaken by events.”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“Did you?” She’s fishing for information.
I roll my eyes at the expectation in her voice. “Kate, I don’t want to talk over the phone.” Christian glances up at me.
“You did… I can tell.”
How can she tell? She’s bluffing, and I can’t talk about this. I’ve signed a damned agreement. “Kate, please.”
“What was it like? Are you okay?”
“I’ve told you I’m okay.”
“Was he gentle?”
“Kate, please!” I can’t hide my exasperation.
“Ana, don’t hold out on me, I’ve been waiting for this day for nearly four years.”
“I’ll see you this evening.” I hang up.
Ugh, RUDE. How hard is it to tell her that you don’t have time to talk and say goodbye, Ana? Okay, to be fair, she did already say that she doesn’t want to talk over the phone and Kate proceeded to pry anyway, but still, it drives me up a wall how all of James’ characters always act so rude and annoying toward each other. It’s like on TV; no one ever says goodbye to each other before hanging up. And considering Kate is supposed to be her best friend, Ana seems to hardly ever actually want to talk to her. Then again, is it weird to anyone but me that Kate is so invested in her friend’s sex life that she’s been “waiting for this day for nearly four years”? Kate, get a life, please; you of all people should know that Ana’s not nearly so interesting to be worth living vicariously through.
Ana does want to talk to her, though, but doesn’t know how after signing the NDA. “She’ll freak and rightly so,” she surmises about Kate’s likely reaction to the NDA, and uh, yeah? No shit? But since ignoring her (often correct) gut reaction is the only way Ana knows how to function, she must find a way out of this problem of her own making. Having signed it without reading it yesterday, she now decides to ask Christian what it covers and what she can tell Kate about. Again, I’ve stitched together this conversation from both books for maximum effect. Notice how he manages to not actually address any of her concerns:
“The NDA, does it cover everything?” I ask tentatively.
“Why?” [Where’s she going with this? What has she said to Kavanagh?]
“Well, I have a few questions, you know, about sex.” I stare down at my fingers. “And I’d like to ask Kate.”
“You can ask me.”
“Christian, with all due respect…” My voice fades. [She’s embarrassed?] I can’t ask you. I’ll get your biased, kinky-as-hell, distorted worldview regarding sex. I want an impartial opinion. “It’s just about mechanics. I won’t mention the Red Room of Pain.”
[What the hell?]
He raises his eyebrows. “Red Room of Pain? It’s mostly about pleasure, Anastasia. Believe me.”
“What do you want to know?” he asks, and raising his hand runs his fingers gently down my cheek to my chin, tilting my head back so he can look directly into my eyes. I squirm inwardly. I cannot lie to this man.
“Nothing specific at the moment,” I whisper.
CHIN-GRAB NUMBER TWO! We have chin-grab number two for the chapter, and this time it’s also the dreaded head-tilt! Yay! Kill me!
Okay, so now it’s not about TELLING Kate she had sex, but about asking her questions? Also, how sheltered is Ana supposed to be? What questions does she really need to ask? Are we honestly meant to believe she’s unclear about how the basic mechanics of intercourse work?
Maybe I should give ELJ some benefit of the doubt here; her writing style is often frustratingly vague, and leaves at lot up for interpretation when it comes to Ana’s character and how naive and “innocent” she’s supposed to be. I guess one charitable interpretation could be that Ana might want to ask a female friend something along the lines of “what do men like when getting a blowjob/handjob,” or “is it normal to come/not come from xyz.” You know, embarrassing questions that don’t really have concrete answers because people are all unique, but ones that young, inexperienced virgins might be inclined to ask.
But Ana is such a self-conscious character with so much inner sexual shame that it’s hard to imagine her being comfortable enough to ask Kate those kinds of questions or even look them up on the internet. So it’s really hard to say if this is the kind of thing that ELJ intended, or if we really are meant to believe that Ana is confused about the literal mechanics of coitus.
Yet again, Ana has a rare perceptive moment here. She’s right that talking to Christian about sex isn’t the same as talking to a) her best friend; b) a woman; and c) someone that she’s not currently in a sexual relationship with. I do wish she’d explain how she feels out loud, but I think it’s plain to see that he’d bulldoze right over her reasoning no matter what she said. Because right here we have an example of the classic abuser tactic of isolating their partner from family/friends, already happening in subtle ways very early in their relationship. He’s not actively keeping her physically away from Kate, but he’s doing his damnedest to make sure she doesn’t breathe an unapproved word about the inner workings of their relationship to anyone. Wanting privacy about one’s sex life is one thing, but it’s entirely another to not want your partner to have any outside feedback on your relationship that might lead them to start wondering if maaaaybe it’s just a bit toxic.
I think the sex-talk ship has already sailed, though, Christian. Too many people already know you’re pseudo-dating for the NDA to really mean anything. Also, Ana, why the hell are you even bothering to ask this guy for permission to talk to your best friend about sex in a general sense anyway if you’re already not planning on telling her about the BDSM part, which is presumably the part that Christian most wants kept secret? You can just talk to Kate and not tell him, you know; like I said back in chapter six, what did he think was going to happen after she got back home after spending the night with him, lie to Kate’s face that they aren’t in some kind of relationship and pretend she doesn’t even know him?
And sure, Christian, the “Red Room of Pain” is mostly about pleasure… for you. The heat death of the universe will happen before this man ever stops to consider that not once has Ana given him the slightest indication that she’s at all interested in kink, but has given him plenty of indications that she finds the whole concept confusing and distasteful.
And I think this downer of a note is where I’ll leave things for the time being. The next recap will cover the bulk of chapter nine, but it’ll probably be slightly shorter since it’s mostly sex and like hell am I going to cover every excruciating detail. Leanne out.