Okay, folks. I can do this. I can make it to the end of Chapter 18.
We pick up with Christian back at his hotel room and it seems that Ana may have melted his icy robot exterior. Let’s all gather round to watch this heartwarming moment:
In my room, I call Taylor.
“Yeah...thanks for organizing this morning.”
“You’re most welcome, sir.” He sounds surprised.
Thanking his personal driver/bodyguard literally one time is what counts as “progress” and character development in EL James’s mind. Maybe Christian will even maintain the same coffee order for a whole week as a special treat for his assistant. I don’t want to hope for too much, but let’s see.
Christian — who, remember, came to Georgia for business and not to stalk his girlfriend — then turns on his computer and spends about twenty minutes exchanging inane e-mails with Ana. Exciting e-mails like her thanking him for taking her gliding, and him joking that she snores (which she doesn’t even! Haha!). Then Christian ends by taunting Ana with the suggestion that she said things in her sleep, but he won’t tell her what they were — he’ll just hold them over her head until the end of the book when he can use it against her.
Christian finally leaves the hotel so he can do business, but gosh, wouldn’t you know it? He gets immediately interrupted by Taylor who needs to update him on a lady-related emergency:
There’s a knock at the door and Taylor enters the small conference room. His face looks grim, but what’s more worrying is that he never, ever interrupts my meetings. My scalp prickles.
Ana? Is she okay?
“Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen,” he says to all of us.
“Yes, Taylor,” I ask, and he approaches and speaks discreetly in my ear.
“We have a situation at home concerning Miss Leila Williams.”
His ex-sub whose appearance was heavily foreshadowed in almost every chapter? You don’t say.
Leila? What the hell? And part of me is relieved that it’s not Ana.
Before he even knows what it is. She could be dead, but hey — she’s not a magical virgin, so fuck her.
RoboChristian has a hard time processing feelings, so let’s watch him try to absorb the fact that something not good has happened to someone who is not him, but is also not someone he is currently sleeping with. It’ll be a challenge. Let’s see how he manages:
“Miss Williams is in an ambulance on the way to the ER at Seattle Free Hope.”
“Yes, sir. She broke into the apartment and made a suicide attempt in front of Mrs. Jones.”
Fuck. “Suicide?” Leila? In my apartment.
Is he making flashcards?
“She slashed her wrist. Gail went with her in the ambulance. She’s informed me that the EMTs arrived in time and Miss Williams is not in any immediate danger.”
“Why Escala? Why in front of Gail?” I’m shocked.
I guess this is EL James’s attempt to show him flustered, but just summing it up with: “Taylor tells me these things, I’m shocked as a result” would suffice. With this weird call-and-echo dialog, it sounds instead like he’s glitching.
Taylor shakes his head. “I don’t know, sir. Neither does Gail. She can’t get any sense out of Miss Williams. Apparently, she only wants to talk to you.”
Exactly, sir,” Taylor says without judgment.
I’m sure he’s judging you on the inside.
I scrape my hands through my hair, trying to grasp the magnitude of what Leila has done. What the hell am I supposed to do? Why did she come to me? Was she expecting to see me? Where’s her husband? What’s happened to him?
Of course. Of course a suicide attempt is something she’s “doing” to him. Of course it’s immediately about him — or another man. But never about her, because she’s a woman and woman are only ever relevant if they are relevant to men.
Christian manages to stop thinking about himself for just long enough to ask how Gail, his housekeeper who had to witness a suicide attempt, is doing. Taylor says that Gail is well, so Christian is free to never think about her again. He then muses about the fact that Leila seemed really happy six months ago, and can’t figure out how someone could go from happy to not happy within the space of six months. Even though that seems like just long enough for someone to have gone through quite a bit, but whatever.
He then decides he can’t possibly figure anything out in Georgia and must fly home AT ONCE to — probably — beat down the door of Leila’s hospital room and harass answers out of her. Just guessing. Because he’s awful.
Christian calls Ana to tell her that he can’t have an awkward family dinner with her that night, and jets off to Seattle to have what I’m sure is going to be a respectful and calm conversation with a mentally ill woman. Can’t wait!
On the flight I throw myself into work to distract me from the problem waiting at home.
Someone else’s suicide attempt is a “problem” for him. Lovely.
By the time we’ve touched down I’ve read three reports and written fifteen e-mails.
Savannah to Seattle non-stop (which isn’t available from a commercial airline, but is probably fine for a private jet and I don’t really care if it technically isn’t) would be about a 7 hour flight. So reading three reports and writing 15 e-mails isn’t particularly impressive. Unless EL James is trying to say that Christian is so distracted by this issue that he only managed to get a little work done during what constitutes a normal work day for most people. But since she’s a terrible writer, and he’s a terrible fake businessman, it’s just too difficult to know for sure.
Our car is waiting, and Taylor drives through the pouring rain straight to Seattle Free Hope. I have to see Leila and find out what the hell is going on. As we near the hospital my anger surfaces.
Why would she do this to me?
I’m such a broken record on this point, but what is EL James trying to convey to me at this point? Because this is possibly the worst thing you could say about someone who’s committed suicide, and yet there are plenty of people who do view suicide as a “selfish” act. So are we meant to agree with Christian that Leila did something selfish and it’s a problem for him — or is this another example of how Christian started out being terrible but Ana’s magic vagina eventually healed his heart in subsequent books?
I feel like — given the way ALL other women are the enemy in this book — it’s actually meant to be the former. Which is the worst.
Everything’s the worst.
Burn it all down.
The rain is lashing down as I climb out of the car; the day is as bleak as my mood.
You don’t literally command the sky with your shitty emotions, Christian Grey. Yours is the most pathetic fallacy of all.
I take a deep breath to control my fury and head through the front doors. At the reception desk I ask for Leila Reed.
Oh, a scene where Christian is forced to interact with people who are just doing their jobs? This should be fantastic.
“Are you family?” The nurse on duty glowers at me, her mouth pinched and sour.
Of course he thinks she’s a bitch for making sure random people aren’t able to walk into hospital rooms.
“No.” I sigh. This is going to be difficult.
“Well, I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”
“She tried to open a vein in my apartment. I think I’m entitled to know where the hell she is,” I hiss through my teeth.
That’s not how anything works, crazy.
“Don’t take that tone with me!” she snaps. I glare at her. I’m not going to get anywhere with this woman.
“Where is your ER department?”
LET THE MEN TALK, SIMPLE NURSE!
“Sir, there’s nothing we can do if you’re not family.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll find it myself,” I growl, and storm over to the double doors. I know I could call my mother, who would expedite this for me, but then I’d have to explain what’s happened.
Is he actually threatening to on the hospital to his mommy? Is that what’s happening here? Fuck this babyman.
The ER is bustling with doctors and nurses, and triage is full of patients.
I accost a young nurse and give her my brightest smile. “Hello, I’m looking for Leila Reed—she was admitted earlier today. Can you tell me where she might be?”
So Christian, who absolutely hates that women fawn all over him, is using his amazing fantastic charismatic charm to seduce a nurse into breaking the law? But I thought he hates when women treat him well because he’s attractive! He hates it so much that he punishes waitresses and assistants on a daily basis! Right?
He’s so awful. He’s just so awful all the time. How do you write a character like this and not feel duty-bound to drop your laptop in the ocean afterward?
“And you are?” she asks, a flush creeping over her face.
“I’m her brother,” I lie smoothly, ignoring her reaction.
Ignoring the reaction you intentionally created? Why are you ignoring it? What does it even mean to acknowledge something and to then claim to ignore it?
“This way, Mr. Reed.” She bustles over to the nurses’ station and checks her computer.
But the first nurse doesn’t see you for some reason? Why?
“She’s on the second floor; Behavioral Health ward. Take the elevators at the end of the corridor.”
“Thanks.” I reward her with a wink and she pushes a stray lock behind her ear, giving me a flirtatious smile that reminds me of a certain girl I left in Georgia.
Ooh, does she remind you of Leandra — the other girl whom you ignored so hard that you knew details about her appearance and whom you also intentionally made feel uncomfortable? J/k — I know it’s Ana, the only woman who matters because she’s ~special and ~different.
Christian charges to the correct ward where everything is in chaos but he pretends “not to notice the commotion” while — by definition — noticing it. He does, however, meet with a wacky collection of folks — because if you thought EL James was classist or racist, she so isn’t:
“Can I help you?” asks a young man with a ring through his nose.
Does she mean a nose ring or a septum piercing? Does he work at the hospital? Are nurses, doctors, and orderlies even allowed to wear jewelry on shift? Isn’t that a potential hazard? Why has she written this random nose-ringed gentleman?
“I’m looking for Leila Reed. I’m her brother.”
He’s so smooth at lying you guys.
He pales. “Oh. Mr. Reed. Can you come with me?”
I follow him to a waiting room and sit down on the plastic chair that he points to; I note it’s bolted to the floor.
Why. Why do you note that?
The random hospital worker (it’s never made clear who this guy is or what he does) tells Christian that the doctor will see him shortly. Christian demands to know why he can’t see Leila. The random hospital worker cryptically tells him that the doctor will explain everything. Christian imagines, as you well might, that this means Leila has died. Let’s see how he processes this possibility:
Shit. Perhaps I’m too late.
The thought nauseates me.
That’s it? Okay.
Christian considers calling his housekeeper, but decides against it. Which was a necessary thing to narrate.
A young man with short dreads and dark, intelligent eyes enters.
It’s like she followed a step-by-step guide called “How to Describe Black People When You’re Not Racist, But...”
Is he her doctor?
So he knew nurses on sight, because they were women and presumably dressed in scrubs. But he’s not sure if the “dark-eyed man with dreads” who entered the waiting room while Christian was waiting for Leila’s doctor... is a doctor. But give EL James credit, you guys — she has now thrown in exactly one extra token person of color who I’m sure won’t just be there to act as human exposition.
“Mr. Reed?” he asks.
He assesses me for a moment, then sighs and steels himself. “I’m afraid I don’t know,” he says. “She’s managed to give us the slip.”
OH EL JAMES NO DOCTOR WOULD SAY THAT COME ON.
“She’s a Real Bearcat, Mr. Reed — I like to think of myself as a Big Six, but this Dumb Dora double-crossed us and now she’s on the lam!” said the doctor with skin the color of coffee with just a hint of creamer and a sly spoonful of sugar for good measure.
“She’s gone. How she got out I don’t know.”
“Got out?” I exclaim in disbelief, and sink onto one of the chairs. He sits down opposite me.
“Yes. She’s disappeared. We’re doing a search for her now.”
“She’s still here?”
“We don’t know.”
Again, is it shock or is he just painfully stupid? We’ll never know for sure.
“And who are you?” I ask.
Yeah, now’s the time to ask.
“I’m Dr. Azikiwe, the on-call specialist.”
Oh good Christ.
He looks too young to be a psychiatrist.
“Too young.” For sure. I hear you, EL. Weird that you didn’t feel the need to comment on the ages or seeming qualifications of any of the nurses you encountered, but “Dr. Azikiwe” with the dreadlocks and the dark eyes looks too young.
The “young” doctor then proceeds to lay out a full psychological examination of Leila for Christian which definitely seems like something that wouldn’t violate doctor-patient confidentiality.
“She said it was a cry for help. Nothing more. And, having made a spectacle of herself, she was embarrassed, and wanted to go home. She said she didn’t want to kill herself. I believed her. I suspect it was just suicidal ideation on her part.”
Apparently suicide attempts can be filed under “suicidal ideation,” but surely it would be difficult for a psychologist to determine that someone didn’t really want to kill themselves within a single afternoon and when the patient was still in the middle of her traumatic experience. And I definitely don’t think that said psychologist would then talk freely about that rushed diagnosis with a family member whose identity no one has actually confirmed.
But obviously what this scene is really about is absolving Christian of any responsibility because Leila wasn’t “really” going to kill herself. So in the next book, when Leila comes after Ana with a gun, it wasn’t really Christian’s fault for not warning Ana that his mentally ill ex was missing and had tried to kill herself.
Christian asks how the hospital “let” Leila escape, and given that nothing in this section of the book is remotely plausible, it’s kind of hard to call bullshit on anything at this point. The doctor patiently tells him that they don’t know how she got out — for the millionth fucking time.
Christian decides to take off and look for Leila himself.
I take the fire escape stairs two at a time. I loathe hospitals. A memory from my childhood surfaces: I’m small and scared and mute, and the small of disinfectant and blood clouds my nostrils.
It’s like EL James could sense that she’d tipped Christian Grey way too far into insane asshole territory and so she immediately applied the moldy cheese antidote.
“Is he being the worst? REMEMBER HIS CHILDHOOD!”
Christian calls Welch to deploy the bat signal on the deep net and find Leila. Then he goes home.
Gail is pale and quiet as she studies me with concern. “You’re not going to finish, sir?” she asks.
He made his housekeeper cook him dinner? He didn’t give her the day off? What the fuck.
I shake my head.
“Was the food okay?”
I hope she spat in it.
“Yes, of course.” I give her a small smile. “After today’s events, I’m not hungry. How are you bearing up?”
So he came home, let her cook him dinner, and he only now asks how she’s doing?
Fuck this guy.
Fuck him so much.
“I’m good, Mr. Grey. It was a total shock. I just want to keep busy.”
Sure, Gail. Not that you have a choice.
Christian thanks Gail for making him dinner — what a prince! — and then asks her if she remembers anything else:
“...Like I said, she only wanted to speak to you.”
Why? What is she expecting me to do?
I mean, Leila sounds like she’s in a really rational, mentally healthy place. So you can probably expect a clear, straight-forward answer.
“Thanks for not involving the police.”
“The police are not what that girl needs. She needs help.”
Wait, what? The police would be involved regardless, but especially now that she’s gone missing from a hospital.
“She does. I wish I knew where she was.”
“You’ll find her,” she says with quiet confidence, surprising me.
Because Gail knows you’re a stalker. You probably have a file on her. She probably knows about it. And she has to clean your butt plugs.
Christian asks Gail if she needs anything, but she doesn’t — so don’t worry about her. If you were thinking Christian was shitty and neglectful when it comes to his staff, he definitely isn’t.
Christian has himself a think about everything, because without police on the case only Christian can save his mentally unwell ex-sub. Which is terrible news for Leila:
She’s not at the hospital, and they’re still mystified as to how she escaped. A small part of me admires that; she was always resourceful.
Unless she escaped and actually killed herself. Or unless she was kidnapped.
But what could have made her so unhappy? I rest my head in my hands. What a day—from the sublime to the ridiculous.
No. It’s all been ridiculous.
Soaring with Ana, and now this mess to deal with.
GOD what a self-involved child.
And then — because this chapter WILL NEVER END — EL James decides to introduce the missing element to really complete my suffering:
As I sit down my phone buzzes with a text.
NO MORE ELLIOT.
I can’t do this. I can’t do it. I can’t make it through whatever weird broski macho misogyny is waiting on the other side of this page.
Elliot: Hey Hotshot. Wanna shoot some pool?
Shooting pool with Elliot means him coming here and drinking all my beer. Frankly, I’m not in the mood.
Christian: Working. Next week?
Elliot: Sure. Before I hit the beach.
I’ll thrash you.
Christian tosses his phone aside — giving readers the small mercy of ending his conversation with Breckin Meyer in every movie circa 1996 — and pores over Leila’s file. Which file is that, you ask? Oh, it’s the background check he had done on her when she became his sub. No big.
I don’t want to call her parents and alarm them. I call Welch and give him their number; he can find out if she’s been in touch with them.
I’m drained of so much energy at this point that I can’t even get mad. He won’t call her parents to let them know she’s missing and injured, but he will pull her parents’ call records to see when they last spoke with her. So he can stalk their injured daughter.
He’s human garbage.
He’s the worst.
Nothing could ever redeem him.
Then — God save me why won’t this chapter end — Christian gets an e-mail from Ana. She signs it with an “x.”
Before I know it, my finger is on the little kiss she’s sent me.
Sappy, Grey. Sappy. Get a grip.
He sends an e-mail back.
Everything is black emptiness.
This book is the devil.
I press send and wish that she was here with me. She brightens up my home, my life...me. I shake my head at my fanciful thoughts and look through the rest of my e-mails.
But he doesn’t really do that, because he immediately gets another e-mail from Ana where she says she cares about him. He is surprised by this for reasons:
She cares for me deeply? That’s nice.
The epic romance of our times, you guys.
All at once that foreign feeling, absent all day, stirs and expands in my chest. Beneath it is a well of pain I don’t want to acknowledge or deal with. It tugs at a lost memory of a young woman brushing out her long, dark hair...
Don’t go there, Grey.
Never, ever forget that EL James believes the psychological root of her love story surrounds an emotionally damaged man whose entire kink stems from a desire to fuck and punish his dead mother.
Never forget that.
Christian and Ana keep exchanging e-mails. They are boring. Christian decides to “tease” her with what she said while she was asleep. Eventually she gets annoyed because he won’t actually tell her what she said. He jokes back by offering to whip her. He is then surprised when she doesn’t respond and is actually upset. Or maybe she’s just sleeping. Who knows? Not Christian:
She doesn’t respond. I hope for once she’s doing what she’s told and she’s asleep. Briefly I think of what we could do tomorrow, but it’s too arousing, so I push the thought aside and concentrate on my e-mails.
But I have to confess I feel a little lighter after some e-mail banter with Miss Steele. She’s good for my dark, dark soul.
Well, guys, I did it.
That’s the end of the chapter.
I’m dead inside.
I’ll see you tomorrow maybe. Whatever. Life is meaningless. This book should be thrown into a volcano.