We pick up in swirling post-spanking aftermath, in which Ana realizes that she really, truly isn’t into BDSM — or at least isn’t into what Christian wants from her. Which isn’t BDSM so much as straight-forward abuse.
Ana begins crying and calls Grey a “fucked-up son of a bitch” who needs to “sort [his] shit out,” which... I mean, he does. But I feel like they both have to stop acting like it’s the BDSM that makes him awful. Spanking her with a belt when she clearly wasn’t ready, and clearly wasn’t enjoying it, was bad form on his part. Mostly, though, he’s just a really shitty, manipulative person and it’s that — rather than the sex — that should compel Ana to walk out the door and leave him.
But also the sex, because honestly, sis — if you’re aren’t into it, then that’s FINE. Sex isn’t a gift you need to give to your partner, it should be a team sport.
Anyway, Christian — who is really the most important person here, as you already know — is pissed and shocked and sad and who gives a shit:
No one has ever walked out on me. What the hell?
That’s his take-away? Ugh.
A moment ago I felt lighter, the weight of uncertainty between us gone.
It’s done. We’re there.
Now she knows what’s involved, we can move on.
I told her. People like me like inflicting pain.
But only women who like it.
My sense of unease grows.
First, have a kitten gif because this post is really only going to get worse from here:
If this was the only book in the series, I’d be pretty pleased with that penultimate line, wherein Christian finally comprehends the fact that sex really only works when both partners enjoy it. And that — best case scenario, if he wants to stay with Ana — going forward, he needs to figure out what she likes (not what she can “handle”) and then structure more of their sex around that, or at least agree to compromise.
But if he doesn’t want to do that, and if hitting women very hard with various objects is the number one thing that gets him off and he can’t live without that pleasure, then they do both need to move on. And while this book does end with their break-up (spoilers, spoilers), obviously the entire series does not. So I can’t even root for this line when I know that nothing that follows will live up to its promise. Instead, Christian will spend the better part of the next two books literally and figuratively beating Ana into submission.
Also, this next line:
Her reaction—the image of her injured, haunted look is back, unwelcome, in my mind’s eye. It’s unsettling. I am used to making women cry—it’s what I do.
Wait what the fuck?
One more quick kitten sanity break — with bonus angry owl:
I really want to tread lightly here out of respect to people who enjoy this kink, but “I’m used to making women cry” does actually make it seem like Christian — who swears up and down that he’s only ever had BDSM sex with other people who were already in the scene — has “broken in” the uninitiated before, and has pushed them past their limits. And enjoys that. Not BDSM sex, but specifically the physical and emotional manipulation of women.
Not convinced? Let’s keep reading:
I sink to the floor and lean my head against the wall, my arms on my bent knees. Just let her cry. She’ll feel better for crying. Women do, in my experience. Give her a moment, then go and offer her aftercare. She didn’t safe-word. She asked me. She wanted to know, curious as ever. It’s just been a rude awakening, that’s all.
But if he’s only ever had sex with women in “the scene,” why would they all run off sobbing afterwards? How would he know to give them some time to absorb the magnitude of what his kink means? Again, if this is a legitimate part of the kink, I apologize, but... doesn’t it read as something else? Like, say, a pattern of toxic behavior? And a total refusal to take responsibility for anything while enjoying his own sexual kink?
Maybe just a little?
Anyway, Christian thinks back to Ana calling him fucked-up and smiles to himself because, yeah, he so is.
Now we can move forward with our relationship...arrangement. Whatever this is.
It’s an episode of Law and Order: SVU.
But I am being slightly unfair here because it’s not like Christian’s just sitting in his sky palace twirling his mustache. He does vacillate between feelings of, “Everything’s so great now! She just needs to cry it off!” and “Hmm, maybe it’s not all okay? I feel the sad chest feels again. Am emotions grow self?” So that’s... not absolutely nothing.
Flynn springs to mind: Don’t dwell on the negative, Christian.
Flynn is a terrible psychologist. You should definitely dwell on the negative, Christian. And then fucking fix it.
Again, though, Christian does occasionally consider that maybe things aren’t the actual best:
What a fool I am.
This was way too soon.
Way, way too soon.
So he’s going to go comfort her so that they can keep doing this. Because his single biggest concern is that he introduced her to a large amount of physical pain too soon — and not that she literally said to him that she was not happy with pain at all. So there’s no such thing as “too soon,” because she’s categorically said “never.” That doesn’t matter, of course, because getting her to eventually agree to a beating again is important to his dick needs. But don’t worry — he’s not mad at her anymore:
I was angry with her for running from me. Why did she do that?
She told you why she was leaving as she left. I know he’s supposed to be really, really dense when it comes to human emotion, but surely when someone literally says, “Why do you want to do this to me?” and “You’re a fucked-up son of a bitch,” you shouldn’t be sitting back going, “Gosh, I wonder why she left the room so suddenly. Did she, like, see a mouse?”
Christian races around the apartment to find Ana. He finds her, lying and crying in the Sub room that he initially wanted her to stay in. He thinks — but doesn’t say aloud — that he really wants her to stay. He gets her some pills and cream for the pain, and a glass of water. Which... is aftercare, so good?
[I]t takes me a moment to find my beautiful girl. She’s curled up in the middle of the bed, small and vulnerable, sobbing quietly. The sound of her grief rips through me, leaving me winded. My subs never affected me like this—even when they were bawling. I don’t get it. Why do I feel so lost?
Even now it’s all about him. And all of his subs cried their eyes out? I mean, the fact that his own introduction to “the lifestyle” was through rape and manipulation should mean that he really doesn’t know what he’s doing, and that would explain basically everything that happens in this book. But it’s not like the text ever admits or acknowledges that. Instead, this scene seems to still put forward the idea that Ana’s reaction is normal and she needs to get over it.
I don’t even know anymore. I just want this chapter to end.
Christian — who yells at Ana to stop “fighting him” when she tries to push him off of her — then spoons her on the bed for a bit after giving her some cooling ass cream. He asks her not to hate him while she’s still crying. Doesn’t apologize, just manipulates her into feeling bad for him. After a few hours, I guess, Christian decides that this is actually really calming and comforting for him, and thinks that it’s a great idea for him to take her on his big yacht later if she’s down to chill.
He thinks this while she’s still crying, by the way.
After a lot longer, Ana wakes up (I guess), turns to Christian and...
APOLOGIZES TO HIM.
Here’s a puppy annoying a cat for you godless heathens who prefer dogs to cats:
Which I’m not snarking, because abuse victims are always made to feel like they are somehow at fault for their abuser’s actions, but that’s a really hard line to read after he spent all of this time whispering, “Don’t hate me,” and thinking about how he’s so not at fault and she totally is.
Anyway, she’s apologizing for calling him fucked-up.
Relief courses unchecked through my body. She’s forgiven me. Besides, what she said in anger was right—I am a fucked-up son of a bitch.
And proud of it!
He then tells her that, basically, she was pretty much right so don’t worry about it. And then — a million years after he should have already done so — he apologizes for beating her.
Her shoulders lift a little and she gives me a slight smile. I’ve won a reprieve. We’re safe. We’re okay. I’m relieved.
“I asked for it,” she says.
You sure did, baby.
Jesus Christ, EL James, this is TEXTBOOK. It’s TEXTBOOK abuser and abuse victim language and mentality. Fuck YOU.
Ana follows it up by adding that she does need to come to terms with the fact that, having experienced the full extent of his lifestyle, she’s just not interested. Oh, no — scratch that — it’s more that she feels she can’t give him what he wants:
“I don’t think I can be everything you want me to be.”
But what about what she wants? Doesn’t matter, of course:
“You are everything I want you to be.”
And... what about what she wants? Still nothing?
Anyway, they keep talking about how she can’t be his meek submissive partner. Christian admits that she’s probably right. Ana says she doesn’t want to leave him. He says he doesn’t want her to leave him, either.
If only they could figure out a way this could work. Like, for instance, if sex could benefit Ana, too! But no, that’s madness. What was I thinking?
Christian feels his sad inexplicable heart chamber soul gut robot feelings that he can’t understand because he’s never loved anyone before blah blah blah. Now he wants to dazzle her to make her stay. Yes, dazzle her:
I want to kiss her, hard. Make her forget. Dazzle her.
lololololol what. But let him continue:
Arouse her—I know I can. But something holds me back—her wary, injured look. Why would she want to be kissed by a monster?
She’s had no problem with it thus far.
Then Ana tells Christian she’s in love with him.
OH NO SHE USED THE WORD. ROBOT FEELS ACTIVATE. ABORT! ABORT!
I remember Carrick teaching me to dive. My toes gripping the pool edge as I fell arching into the water—and now I’m falling once more, into the abyss, in slow motion.
There’s no way she can feel that about me.
Not me. No!
You’ll get no arguments from me, friend.
And I’m choking for air, strangled by her words pressing their momentous weight on my chest. I plunge down and down, the darkness welcoming me. I can’t hear them. I can’t deal with them. She doesn’t know what she’s saying, who she’s dealing with—what she’s dealing with.
This kind of inner dialog may have made sense from Edward’s point of view as a vampire, but it makes literally no sense from some bratty privileged rich boy who likes to spank ladies.
Either way, though, Christian decides that this is his Oprah “a ha” moment, and so he must — he must! — let her go and live her normal, non-kinky life, away from him. Away from... the darkness.
Which would be a great realization to make, because it is true, and Christian needs to take a break from all relationships until he can learn to stop being a fucking asshole. And this might have been a good ending... if it ended there. Which of course it doesn’t.
Because Ana, who has taken Christian at his word, gets up and starts to leave.
Now? She can’t go now.
“No, don’t go.” I’m free-falling, deeper and deeper. Her leaving feels like a monumental mistake. My mistake. But she can’t stay if she feels this way about me, she just can’t.
Even if they weren’t breaking up for realsies, letting her get out of this situation would give both of them some much-needed headspace. But since Christian is an abuser whose entire control over Ana rests on his ability to manage her every thought and action, he can’t let that happen. So he says all of the right things — she needs to move on, she isn’t comfortable with this lifestyle, she isn’t right for him — but doesn’t really want her to go. Because, hey, his dick has needs after all.
Ana goes back to Christian’s room so she can get dressed, and Christian is left alone with his thoughts. God help us all:
She loves me?
How did this happen? How?
Grey, you fucking fool.
Wasn’t this always a risk, with someone like her? Someone good and innocent and courageous. A risk that she’d not see the real me until it was too late. That I would make her suffer like this?
What I particularly like about this inner monolog is that it implies he was totally cool with fucking over all of his previous subs, because they were disposable women with no real value. But Ana? She was a virgin — and to a man whose entire experience with relationships boils down to sex, that’s the golden prize... for some reason.
I follow her out of the room. She might want privacy, but if she’s leaving me I need clothes.
Oh, okay. So you instantly violate her one and only request. That’s cool.
When I reach my bedroom, she’s showering, so I quickly change into jeans and a T-shirt, I’ve chosen black—suitable for my mood.
This fucking diva, you guys.
Grabbing my phone, I wander through the apartment, tempted to sit at the piano and hammer out some woeful lament. But instead I stand in the middle of the room, feeling nothing.
I’d be screaming with laughter at this point if I wasn’t so worn out from the earlier parts.
In the middle of this, Welch — the DeepNet Expert — calls because there’s an update on Leila: she left her husband. But the husband might know where she is... if Christian bribes him. The bribe? $2000. Christian is livid — livid! And I don’t care. Just pay the money. That’s like pocket change to him, isn’t it?
In the middle of this desperately important conversation, dowdy old Ana — who has changed into her dowdy old poor people clothes to go rejoin the world of the poor — is ready to leave. Christian hangs up on Welch so he can confront Ana and definitely have a mature conversation with her. Ana returns all of the expensive gifts Christian gave her — including the laptop and the car keys — and wants Christian to give her the money that Taylor got for selling her old car.
“Are you really trying to wound me?”
Asks Christian, thinking about other people and their needs, like always.
No, Ana patiently explains, she just doesn’t want to keep a bunch of expensive gifts that will remind her of someone she’s in the middle of breaking up with.
Of course—she’s trying to protect herself from the monster.
Christian tells her to keep the fancy gifts, Ana says she doesn’t want the fancy gifts — just a check for her car. The car that Christian had one of his employees sell without her knowledge or permission. Which is neither ethnical nor legal. So Christian, naturally, thinks:
Money. It always comes down to the fucking money.
Yeah, that’s why she wants a small amount of money in exchange for a shitty car, and is giving back an expensive laptop and better car. Because she’s SUCH a gold-digger.
Christian calls Taylor to ask how much he got for the car. Taylor tells Christian that — because the car was a “classic,” he sold it to a collector for twelve grand. Christian doubles that amount and hands Ana a check. Ana is surprised by the amount, because she’s not a total fool. Christian pretends he didn’t just double the amount of money — this guy, the one who just accused her of being a gold-digger.
Christian then offers to have Taylor drive Ana home. Ana refuses. Christian is pissy about it:
No! Accept the ride, Ana. Why does she do this?
“Are you going to defy me at every turn?”
Gross. Anyway, Ana hits him back pretty good:
“Why change the habit of a lifetime?”
And instead of recognizing that she’s probably commenting on how absurd he is, he thinks:
That’s it in a nutshell—why our arrangement was doomed from the start. She’s just not cut out for this, and deep down, I always knew it. I close my eyes.
I am such a fool.
Is forcing someone to accept a car ride home with your driver a really key part of BDSM? Asking for a friend.
Anyway, they go back and forth on the ride issue until Ana agrees, because even during their breakup Christian needs to control her.
Christian tries to give Ana a hug goodbye or something, and she — understandably — steps back. Then he tries telling her he doesn’t want her to leave, which they covered earlier. He goes in for a hug again:
Oh, please, Ana—let me hold you one more time. Smell your sweet, sweet scent. Feel you in my arms.
What does he not get — on a basic, fundamental level — about a breakup?
Ana, obviously, keeps pushing him back because she’s not in a hugging mood. She takes off. Christian begs her to stay a bit more. He describes her in a creepy way as she leaves:
I can’t take my eyes off of her...her delicate, elfin face, those lips, the way her dark lashes fan out and cast a shadow over her pale, pale cheeks. Words fail me as I try to memorize every detail. I have no dazzling lines, no quick wit, no arrogant commands. I have nothing—nothing but a yawning void inside my chest.
K. Can she go now?
Ana finally gets in the elevator to leave. Christian begs her to stay again. Then finally says goodbye because the doors are literally closing. Christian is sad with himself for letting her leave.
Right? He should’ve shackled her to the couch, obviously.
Christian wanders around his sad, empty sky mansion, looking at his multiple paintings of the Madonna with Child — yes, really. Yes, he has really decorated a big chunk of his apartment with Mary-and-Baby-Jesus paintings. Yes, because of his mother. And now he’s looking at them after Ana has left. Because Ana was the stand-in for his dead mom. Whom he wants to fuck and hit. How is this book real?
When I look up again, the paintings in my foyer, my Madonnas, bring a mirthless smile to my lips. The idealization of motherhood. All of them gazing at their infants, or staring inauspiciously down at me.
They’re right to look at me that way. She’s gone. She’s really gone.
Christian wanders around thinking about how it’s good that Ana left — but also Ana’s a lying bitch because she said she wouldn’t leave. So... anyway. It’s not his fault, which is the main thing:
She promised me she’d never leave. [...] Okay, she said it in her sleep—and like the fool I am, I beleived her. I’ve always known deep down I was no good for her, and she was too good for me. This is how it should be.
Then why do I feel like shit? Why is this so painful?
Because you just hit her very hard, manipulated her with something she said in her sleep, and made her think that if she couldn’t meet your sexual needs then she was useless to you? No? Not that?
Christian keeps wandering lonely as a tragedy cloud around his sky palace, doing nothing important. He goes to have a shower — this guy and his endless fucking showers — and sadly looks at a table. Why a table?
I’d have liked to fuck Miss Steele over this. I close my eyes, imagining her sprawled across the table, her head held back, chin up, mouth open in ecstasy, and her luscious hair pooling over the edge. Shit, it makes me hard just thinking about it.
This is true sadness you guys.
Also one more reminder that Taylor and Mrs. Potts live in this apartment, too. Does he send them a quick text before fucking people in a common living area, or?
Christian has another shower. We have to hear about it. He narrates his fucking shower. I’m so sick of his showers. He scrubs off Ana’s scent like she’s a cat or something and thinks about how good it is that he’s cleaning off her scent. But wait — maybe he will miss her? He can’t decide. What will his life be like without her?
No more facetious, witty e-mails.
Facetious? And lol because those e-mails were the absolute worst.
No more of her smart mouth.
No more curiosity?
You’re just done with questions forever now?
I stare at the brooding morose jerk staring back at me in the bathroom mirror.
“What the hell have you done, asshole?” I sneer at him. He mouths the words back at me with vitriolic contempt. And the bastard blinks at me, big gray eyes raw with misery.
Again, how great would this be as an actual supernatural twist? But no, he’s just being the most dramatic person who has ever lived.
To hell with shaving for today.
Christian then starts to get dressed — this is all being narrated in fine detail — but notices a box on the bed:
The rug is pulled from under me again, revealing once more the abyss beneath, its jaws open, waiting for me, and my anger turns to fear.
It’s a model glider kit that Ana bought for Christian. I can’t remember when she leaves this for him in the original book, but I think it’s meant to be a goodbye gift or something.
It’s the perfect present from the perfect girl.
I get up, tossing the box onto the bed, and dress hurriedly. When I’m finished I grab the box and the note and head for my study. I will handle this better from my seat of power.
It’s a desk chair, bro, not the Iron Throne.
Anyway, that other plot you don’t care about is still happening for some reason. I can’t possibly recap all of this useless bullshit, so here’s the summary: Leila’s husband, the one who wants to be bribed for information about Leila, is apparently a “miserable lying bastard,” according to Christian. He and Leila got drunk-married in Vegas and Christian — who is (unbeknownst to him at this point, but still) going to marry Ana within two months of this moment snidely thinks that Leila’s marriage was always doomed because they got married so quick.
Awkward foreshadowing? The sad thing is, probably not.
Because Ana and Christian’s love is true. Because they’re rich.
Christian muses that Leila, too, wanted more from him than just sex and he couldn’t give it to her. But that, compared to what just happened with Ana, it was really easy to dump Leila who was also way better at sex compared to Ana:
I recall how much she enjoyed our sessions in the playroom. Leila loved the kink. A memory surfaces—I’m tying her big toes together, turning her feet in so she can’t clench her backside and avoid the pain. Yeah, she loved all that shit, and so did I.
But — as you might have already guessed — she wasn’t magically special like Ana. Why? Who knows?
He looks at the glider kit and touches it because he knows Ana touched it. Then he thinks about how ~different Ana is, but doesn’t go into any detail about what that difference is which would be helpful because she is SO goddamn boring. That’s not a matter of victim blaming. I can feel bad for her and still admit that she’s the blandest of pasty oatmeals.
Instead, Christian mostly talks about how her specialness related to him — how she made him “come alive,” and how these past few weeks have been the most fascinating of his life, which, if that’s true, then holy shit. I do actually feel bad for Christian now.
Christian keeps thinking about how Ana can’t be what he needs. I have no idea why this chapter is still happening. Nothing new is being said.
Then — please God save me — Christian starts to make the glider.
This is the same chapter.
I’m having to now read Christian following instructions on how to build a toy glider.
Christian cancels his appearance at tonight’s gala so he can make the glider.
Christian also opens his diamond box from earlier and thinks about Ana some more. He does not add the diamonds to the glider.
What follows is a real scene that is really in this book:
Where is the damned glue?
I buzz Taylor.
“I need some modeling glue.”
He pauses for a moment. “For what sort of model, sir?”
“A model glider.”
“Balsa wood or plastic?”
Ana you tacky bitch.
“I have some. I’ll bring it down now, sir.”
I thank him, a little stunned that he has modeling glue. Moments later he knocks on the door.
Oh my God this is still happening.
He paces into the study and places the small plastic container on my desk. He doesn’t leave and I have to ask.
“Why do you have this?”
“I build the odd plane.” His face reddens.
“Oh?” My curiosity is piqued.
But I thought you weren’t ever going to be curious again ever.
“Flying was my first love, sir.”
I don’t understand.
“Color blind,” he explains flatly.
“So you became a Marine?”
“Thank you for this.”
I swear to God this is actually in the book. And it’s not over.
“No problem, Mr. Grey. Have you eaten?”
His question takes me by surprise.
“I’m not hungry, Taylor. Please go, enjoy the afternoon with your daughter, and I’ll see you tomorrow. I won’t bother you again.”
He pauses for a moment, and my irritation builds. Go.
Like, EL James had literally no plans for this book. You can feel her completely floundering every time she goes off-page from the original and what we get, more often than not, are these hideously boring dialog moments.
What the fuck is this scene. Why is it in here? Why did any of us have to read that?
We’re still not fucking done. There’s a cut and then we open back on Christian, still working on the model, admiring it. He’s thinking about the time he took Ana in the glider. That was fun. Glider is fun. Christian love Glider. Glider love Christian.
We have another scene cut to Christian finishing the model. He’s impressed because the glider has its own FAA registration. Its name is November Nine Five Two Echo Charlie.
This scene is still happening. Please save me.
Christian checks his phone. Ana has not called. Elena calls, though. Christian doesn’t really want to talk, but Elena figures out that Ana’s left him:
“This life isn’t for everyone.”
Said the rapist.
But Christian doesn’t want Elena to come over right now. So I’m really glad we had this scene anyway.
Christian then checks his fridge, but he’s not really hungry. He finds some pretzels, though. And he eats the pretzels. He eats the pretzels, and he looks out at the sky. The deep soul night sky robot:
Outside, night has fallen; lights twinkle and wink through the pouring rain. The world moves on.
Move on, Grey.
And that final scene, with Christian staring blankly at the night sky while munching pretzels, is how this fucking abomination of a chapter ends.
Fuck this insane fucking book.
Everyone deserves some strong liquor for having got to the end. You’ve earned it.
But save some for later — we still have 5 more chapters.
5 more chapters which — I’m very sorry to remind you — are all “new content” not in the original. Almost all of the “new content” up to this point has consisted of nothing but Christian whining to himself and having long, boring conversations with side characters.
So strap right the fuck in for what’s sure to be masterpiece after masterpiece.