Previously, on 50 Shades Freed:
I gaze in horror at the red marks all over my breasts. Hickeys! I have hickeys! I am married to one of the most respected businessmen in the United States, and he’s given me goddamn hickeys.
So, yeah, she’s covered in hickeys. I don’t see what being married to a respected businessman has to do with it, other than Ana needing to remind us at every turn that she’s married a rich husband and it’s such a fucking hardship. Also, how is this guy a respected businessman, exactly? From everything we’ve seen of his company, he seems to run it with his dick. Ex-Domme wants a hair salon? Better buy it for her. New girlfriend has a job with a male boss? Not on my watch, pal, I’m buying the company. And then we’ll take the company jet on our honeymoon, naturally! How is this jerk even successful, let alone respected? He’s the CEO of a company that doesn’t even have a board of directors, and he runs the place like a fifth grader’s lemonade stand.
How did I not feel him doing this to me? I flush. The fact is I know exactly why – Mr. Orgasmic was using his fine-motor sexing skills on me.
What does that even mean? And also, bullshit. How do you not feel someone sucking on you hard enough to give you a hickey, a bunch of times, all over your body? This is first person POV here, and the only time she mentions sucking in the last sex scene is when he’s trying to make her come from playing with her tits. Plus, she was blindfolded, so the only things she could really describe to us were what she heard and what she felt. I’m so not buying any of this.
My subconcious peers over her half-moon specs and tuts disapprovingly, while my inner goddess slumbers on her chaise longue, out for the count.
I gape at my reflection. My wrists have red welts around them from the handcuffs. No doubt they’ll bruise. I examine my ankles – more welts. Holy hell, I look like I’ve been in some sort of accident. I gaze at myself, trying to absorb how I look.
So, she’s taken aback by how fucking beat up she is after sex with Chedward, when in the last chapter he was like, “I don’t want to hurt you, you’re my wife, not my sub, I’m not going to cause you pain, it’s just going to be intense.” Now she’s covered with hickeys (and you know what? Hickey is just another word for bruise. They’re the same thing, just one is caused by canoodling and the other by violent trauma. Both are sore.) and her arms and legs are all marked up from being handcuffed. So, of course this is the moment when Ana realizes that she’s made a huge mistake, that Christian will never change, and that she needs to get out before this possessive assholery escalates.
Nope, she talks about how skinny she is, instead:
My body is so different these days. It’s changed subtly since I’ve known him… I’ve become leaner and fitter, and my hair is glossy and well cut. My nails are manicured, my feet pedicured, my eyebrows threaded and beautifully shaped. For the first time in my life, I’m well groomed – except for these hideous love bites.
“Love” bites, whatever. The important thing is for the reader to know that, abusive tendencies aside, fucking Christian Grey is like having an in-home stylist and a Bowflex. By the way, those last two excerpts? They’re in the same paragraph. It’s not like I cut out some part in the middle where she comes to grips with how awful it is that he did this to her. It’s literally, “I have bruises everywhere from sex, wow, look how great I look.” That’s Ana’s cognitive follow-through: “I’m skinny and hot, so that makes everything okay.”
No, that stunning leap of reasoning happens in the next paragraph:
I don’t want to think about grooming at the moment.
(But you did.)
I’m too mad. How dare he mark me like this, like some teenager. In the short time we’ve been together, he’s never given me hickeys. I look like hell. I know why he’s done this. Damn control freak. Right! My subconscious folds her arms beneath her small bosom – he’s gone too far this time.
EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS DISAPPOINTING AND WRONG. Ana’s reaction hits all the crucial points on a 50 Shades bingo card. She’s talking about the short time they’ve been together while on their honeymoon. She’s just gone on at length about how hot she is, then claims to look like hell. Her subconscious objects, but ultimately it won’t count because she has small titties.
Ana sits down to brush her hair, because when you’re angry, ladies, nothing calms you down like a good hair brushing, am I right? Christian calls to her to see if she’s okay. She’s not okay:
I ignore him. Am I okay? No, I am not okay. After what he’s done to me, I doubt I’ll be able to wear a swimsuit, let alone one of my ridiculously expensive bikinis for the rest of our honeymoon.
I guess she “got used to it” then, huh?
I seethe as fury spikes through me. I can behave like an adolescent, too!
Yeah, that will definitely help things, you should go do that.
Ana goes into the bedroom and throws a hairbrush at Christian, then runs up on deck.
I need some space to calm down. It’s dark and the air is balmy. The warm breeze carries the smell of the Mediterranean and the scent of jasmine and bougainvillea from the shore. The Fair Lady glides effortlessly through the calm cobalt sea as I rest my elbows on the wooden railing, gazing at the distant shore where tiny lights wink and twinkle.
“Christian, you have to stop unilaterally trying to bring me to heel. You made your point on the beach. Very effectively as I recall.”
He shrugs minutely. “Well, you won’t take your top off again,” he murmurs petulantly.
Ana says that hickeys are a hard limit for her, and Chedward says that her taking her clothes off in public is a hard limit for him. The next excerpt was honestly hard for me to read:
“Look at me!” I pull down my camisole to reveal the top of my breasts. Christian gazes at me, his eyes not leaving my face, his expression wary and uncertain. He’s not used to seeing me this mad. Can’t he see what he’s done? Can’t he see how ridiculous he is? I want to shout at him, but I refrain – I don’t want to push him too far. Heaven knows what he’d do.
A lot of people have left comments on my recap posts saying, “How can people not see that this is abuse?” Well, frankly, it’s because they’re willfully stupid. I’m not saying that every person who reads this book or likes it is stupid. I’m saying that the people out there who are defending this book and saying it doesn’t depict an abusive relationship are fucking stupid. There’s no other way to describe them. It’s like if you showed someone a picture of a duck, but they insisted it was a chicken, even after you explained all the ways that it’s, for real now, a fucking duck. The women who read this book and think Christian’s behavior makes him desirable? They want to be stupid. Yes, our society tells us that everything a rich man does is right, but at this point in our cultural evolution there are enough resources out there to educate people that the only reason anyone would want to defend this piece of shit book and its piece of shit hero against allegations of abuse is that it’s just more comfortable to be fucking ignorant. That excerpt above? That’s the picture of the duck that millions of really fucking stupid women insist is a chicken, because it’s more fun. No fucking wonder abused women and rape victims get blamed for the crimes perpetrated against them. It’s more fun if a privileged group (and yes, I’m blatantly stating that women who have not faced the realities of abuse and rape are a privileged group, if that’s a problem, oh fucking well) can cordone off a DMZ around their shallow, vapid little word view and shoot down any possible challenge to their outdated perceptions of the world before anything can get close enough to make them think for themselves for two seconds.
I realize that I’m coming off hostile here, but really, is there any other way to be at this point? When this piece of shit is the best selling ROMANCE of all time? When this relationship is the relationship that publishers are trying to sell to women as being the be all and end all, and we should all be sad about our marriages and how our husbands treat us with respect instead of as property? That’s it. After this chapter, I’m not pulling punches.
If you want to be in a relationship with Christian Grey, you’re fucking stupid.
Christian tells Ana that he gets it, and says he has a lot to learn. Dude, you’re almost thirty, if you haven’t learned that disfiguring another person isn’t okay, you’re probably not smart enough to figure it out.
Dr. Flynn’s words come back to me… Emotionally, Christian is an adolescent, Ana. He bypassed that phase in his life totally. He’s channeled all his energies into succeeding in the business world, and he has beyond all expectations. His emotional world has to play catch up.
Bullshit. Even adolescents are capable of understanding that hitting women, disfiguring them as punishment, etc. is wrong. And if he’s so amazing and adaptable that he’s been able to overcome this difficulty in order to become a success at business, why hasn’t he also been able to overcome it in personal relationships? The fact that he’s intelligent enough to recognize that he has to behave a certain way to be successful at business shows that he’s able to do the work. He’s just not willing to, because it doesn’t interest him the way business does.
But Ana’s a fucking idiot, so she thinks this explains everything, and in response to Christian’s assertion that he has a lot to learn, this happens:
My heart thaws a little.
“We both do.” I sigh and cautiously raise my hand, placing it over his heart.
What do you think you need to learn, Ana? Besides “how to not get beat up by your abusive asshole husband?”
“I’ve just learned that you’ve a good arm and a good aim, Mrs. Grey. I would never have figured that, but then I constantly underestimate you. You always surprise me.”
So, Christian compliments her, and the fight is over. She immediately responds with something about Ray teaching her how to shoot, and they tease each a little bit, then she falls into his arms and:
“Am I forgiven?”
I feel his smile. “Yes,” he answers.
We stand holding each other, my pique forgotten. He does smell good, adolescent or not. How can I resist him?
I would say that I hope you both get cancer, but that would be grossly unfair to cancer. Cancer shouldn’t have to put up with your bullshit. In this case, I’m Team Cancer.
Christian asks Ana if she’s hungry
but not for food:
“Yes. Famished. All the… er… activity has given me an appetite. But I’m not dressed for dinner.” I’m sure my sweatpants and camisole would be frowned upon in the dining room.
WTF is this shit, Downton Boatsby?
I crack my spoon through the burned sugar crust of my dessert and shake my head. Will I ever understand this man? Hmm – this creme brulee is delicious.
Lack of accent marks on the creme brulee are my fault. I love how this line seems to indicate that Ana is moving from Anorexia Nervosa straight on to Bulimia town. She’s actually eating, and she’s turning her lack of control over her love life into an intense concentration on food. That’s going to be healthy in the long run.
There’s another section break, which is a damn shame, because I would rather hear about Ana eating creme brulee than Ana interacting with Chedward, but oh well. She asks him why she wasn’t allowed to pee earlier, and he tells her exactly what all you guys said in the comments, that it makes the orgasm more intense. You know, so does edging, and there’s less chance you’re going to get peed on by mistake.
Chedward wants to dance with Ana, so he puts on some music:
A slinky, cheesy melody starts. Is this a Latin rhythm?
Latin music = cheesy?
“You dance so well,” I say. “It’s like I can dance.”
He gives me a sphinxlike smile but says nothing, and I wonder if it’s because he’s thinking of her… Mrs. Robinson, the woman who taught him how to dance – and how to fuck. She hasn’t crossed my mind for a while.
Yeah, for like, 46 whole pages so far. That’s a personal best.
Christian has not mentioned her since his birthday, and as far as I’m aware, their business relationship is over. Reluctantly, though, I have to admit – she was some teacher.
I think we previous established that this is a woman who took sexual advantage of a teenager who was clearly emotionally troubled. But yeah, thank god she taught your husband to fuck, because it probably didn’t screw him up to be preyed upon by a sexual predator.
“Come to bed with me?” he whispers, and it’s a heartfelt plea that tugs at my heart.
Good job, copy editor, you’re definitely earning your keep.
Ana wakes up the next morning:
I marvel at what it is like to go to bed with two different men – angry Christian and sweet let-me-make-it-up-to-you-in-any-way-I-can Christian.
That’s not going to bed with two different men. That’s going to bed with one man and his personality disorder.
Ana finds Christian shaving:
I love watching him shave. He pulls up his chin and shaves beneath it, taking long, deliberate strokes, and I find myself unconsciously mirroring his actions. Pulling my upper lip down just as he does, to shave his philtrum. He turns and smirks at me, one half of his face still covered in shaving soap.”
“Enjoying the show?” he asks.
“Christian! You are not shaving me!”
He tilts his head to one side. “Why ever not?”
I flush… isn’t it obvious? “Because… It’s just too…”
“Intimate?” he whispers. “Ana, I crave intimacy with you – you know that. Besides, after some of the things we’ve done, don’t get all squeamish on me now. And I know this part of your body better than you do.”
I gape at him. Of all the arrogant… true, he does – but still. “It’s just wrong!” My voice is prissy and whiny.
Thank god, I thought I had been imagining her voice all wrong during the last two books. Fuck this guy, seriously? He knows her body better than she does? Fuck her, too, then. It’s her body. She’s in it all day, she knows it best, no matter how many women Christian Grey has beaten before.
And try to imagine an American man saying, “Why ever not?” Did you do it? Did he sound old? Because I can’t imagine an American man under seventy saying, “Why ever not?” It’s just not how like, 99% of young American men talk. They’d be like, “Why not?” or “Huh?”
Christian tells Ana that shaving a woman turns him on, so of course, she decides she’s got to do it. Because it doesn’t matter what turns her on, or what she’s comfortable with. The end goal is to please Christian Grey, He Who Must Be Pleased Above All Other Things. Ana makes a crack about how “kinky” it is, probably because she’s never, ever looked at the internet even once in her whole life.
So, then Christian shaves her and is just starting to finger her when we hit the paragraph break. Back in the bathroom, Chedward is still shaving his face, and Ana is embarrassed about him shaving her that one time we just heard about, and THESE ARE THE PROBLEMS THESE PEOPLE HAVE.
Get your mind around that. In a world of crashing economies, record joblessness, women dying from gang rapes and denied abortions, children being murdered by drone strikes, the problems these idiots face? “Is letting my husband shave my beev too kinky?”
“Hey, I’m just teasing. Isn’t that what husbands who are hopelessly in love with their wives do?”
OTHER THINGS HUSBANDS WHO ARE HOPELESSLY IN LOVE WITH THEIR WIVES DO:
- Not disfigure her in a jealous rage.
- Not publicly shame their wives for sunbathing topless.
- Allows her to shop wherever she wants and buy what she wants to wear.
- Gets along with her friends.
- Refrains from incessantly calling his mother a crack whore after constantly telling his wife how much she looks like her.
- Does not buy her job.
- Does not seek to isolate her from her family.
- Does not follow her across the country when she needs space.
Holy shit, he’s going to let me shave him. Tentatively I slide my hand into the damp hair at his forehead, gripping tightly to hold him still. He clenches his eyes closed and parts his lips as he inhales. Very gently, I stroke his razor up from his neck to his chin, revealing a path of skin beneath the lather. Christian exhales.
“I know nothing about art, Christian.”
Except for the part where she totally did, in the last two books. In fact, the first time she meets Christian, in the very first book, they talk about the art hanging in his office. She told us all about the styles of paintings in Christian’s apartment. One of her very best friends is an artist, and she and Christian went to his gallery opening together, where Ana told us all about the composition of the various photographs. A part of me thinks this is just inconsistency on the author’s part, another, meaner part of me thinks it’s intentional, to show that Ana doesn’t need to actually know anything as long as she has a man to form her opinions for her.
Christian tells her he wants to buy art for their new house, the plans for which they just saw a few days ago. You know, the plans for the house Ana asked him not to build, in favor of keeping the house they bought?
Oh, the architect. He had to remind me of her… Gia Matteo, a friend of Elliot’s who worked on Christian’s place in Aspen. During our meetings, she’d been all over Christian like a rash.
We’ve officially reached the inner circle of hell, folks. Ana doesn’t even need other women around to hate them anymore, she can do it via satellite.
How can I tell him that I don’t like Gia? My dislike is irrational. I don’t want to come across as a jealous wife.
But you are a jealous wife. And you were a jealous girlfriend. In fact, the only difference between you and Christian in terms of possessiveness is the fact that he’s aggressive about his jealousy and you’re passive about it. And no, it’s not irrational to dislike a woman who is really trying to break up your marriage, but since Ana isn’t the most reliable narrator when it comes to this kind of stuff (after all, she thinks her relationship with Christian is romantic and that he is desirable), I have to wonder if all these women really are into him, or she’s just imagining they are because she’s a freaking lunatic.
“You’re not still mad about what I did yesterday?” He sighs and nuzzles his face between my breasts.
No, you fool, how could she be? You graced her with the touch of your magnificent penis, it’s impossible that she might still be angry over you maliciously marking her body as a sign of ownership.
Christian takes Ana to Saint-Paul-De-Vence, a Medieval French city:
We pass a tree-covered square where three old men, one wearing a traditional beret in spite of the heat, are playing boules. It’s quite crowded with tourists, but I feel comfortable tucked under Christian’s arm.
God, I fucking hate it when I’m trying to be a tourist and there are too many tourists around. I’m just trying to watch these old men be stereotypically French for my amusement.
In the first gallery, Christian gazes distractedly at the erotic photographs in front of us, sucking gently on the arm of his aviator specs. They are the work of Florence D’elle – naked women in various poses.
Those sound like some amazing sunglasses.
“Not quite what I had in mind,” I mumble disapprovingly.
“Good heavens, this art is full of naked people!” I absolutely love that Ana is jealous of naked women in photographs now. Is this like the Weeping Angels? A photographic representation of a naked woman actually becomes a naked woman, and if you blink she tackle-fucks your husband? This marriage has a rock solid foundation, y’all.
“Me neither,” Christian says, grinning down at me. He takes my hand, and we stroll to the next artist. Idly, I wonder if I should let him take photos of me.
Who, the next artist? Have we totally given up on subject/verb agreement here? Is it too hard? Also, LOL at the idea that if Christian wants nude artwork, she has to be the nude. Maybe Jose can photograph that. Of course, this is all because she feels the need to play keep up with the other subs that he photographed.
They find some paintings they like, and they discuss how much they cost and how Ana needs to get use to spending tons of money on stuff, because lord knows it’s practically sinful to have money and not throw it around. The best possible thing rich people can do with their money is, you know, let it trickle down.
After lunch, Ana and Christian are having coffee and talking again about why he braids her hair. You guess right if you speculated that it would have to do with his mother:
“The crack whore used to let me play with her hair, I think. I don’t know if it’s a memory or a dream.”
Whoa! His birth mom.
He gazes at me, his expression unreadable. My heart leaps into my mouth. What do I say when he says things like this?
I would go with, “Stop calling your mother a whore.”
Ana tells him she thinks he loved his mother, and he goes all mute and catatonic for a minute, then decides it’s time to go:
I exhale, relieved, and shrug. “I am just glad you’re still speaking to me.”
“You know I don’t like talking about all that shit. It’s done. Finished,” he says quietly.
Um, you’re the one who brought it up this time, Chedward, so suck it.
No, Christian, it isn’t. The thought saddens me, and for the first time I wonder if it will ever be finished. He’ll always be Fifty Shades… my Fifty Shades. Do I want him to change? No, not really – only insofar as I want him to feel loved. Peeking up at him, I take a moment to admire his captivating beauty… and he’s mine.
I would say, “maybe you should have thought of all of this before you got married,” but it’s clear that marriage, and ownership of Christian, was her end goal, no matter how fucked up he is. You know, because he’s pretty.
He gives me that look, down his nose, half amused, half wary, wholly sexy, then tucks me under his arm, and we make our way through the tourists toward the spot where Philippe/Gaston has parked the roomy Mercedes.
There’s really no better vehicle for a Medieval walled city with roads designed for horse and foot traffic than a car as wide as a Mercedes. Good thinking, Chedward.
In the car, Christian looks at the bruises on Ana’s wrists, and she reassures him that she’s fine, he didn’t really hurt her, then immediately tells us about the expensive watch he bought her in London, and how romantic that is. Priorities, ladies. A man can do whatever he wants to you, so long as he buys you expensive jewelry. It’s not prostitution, it’s just the way things should be.
After a paragraph break, Chedward buys Ana more jewelry, a platinum bracelet that costs 30,000 euros. Remember those starving children he’s so worried about?
“There, that’s better,” he murmurs.
“Better,” I whisper, gazing into his luminous gray eyes, conscious that the stick-thin sales assistant is staring at us with a jealous and disapproving look.
Ana is going to make fun of someone for being too skinny?
I’m tired as fuck of “skinny” or “thin” being used as characterization shorthand for “evil bitch.” Especially when so much of the last two books concentrated on how Ana can’t/doesn’t eat and how she’s so thin every man wants to fuck her while simultaneously feeding her cookies for her own good. Plus, Ana, you moron, that sales assistant just sold a 30k bracelet. I’m sure she’s not disapproving. She’s probably not even paying attention to you. It might just be that she gets a disapproving look on her face when she’s doing the mental math to calculate her commission.
Christian has bought the bracelet, by the way, because he wants to cover up the bruise on her other wrist. I suppose when he gives her a black eye, he’ll buy her an eyepatch covered in Swarovski crystals, and all will be forgiven.
But when he says he needs to buy the bracelet, she says:
“No, Christian, you don’t. You’ve given me so much already. A magical honeymoon, London, Paris, the Cote D’Azur… and you. I’m a very lucky girl,”
Yeah, you’ve given her so much. Like hickeys all over her body out of anger, and bruises she didn’t ask for on her ankles and wrists because you’re not a very good Dom. You’ve given her a beating with a belt, a good thorough stalking, all your emotional baggage, and a free ride to your hotel room when she was passed out drunk and couldn’t say no. You’ve given her so much. What you haven’t given her is like, respect, personal agency, a healthy relationship, aftercare, the freedom to do simple stuff like have her own bank account and job, etc. Just little shit no one really cares about anyway.
I’m so glad someone is out there, training women to value the things that are really important. Like money, and letting rich men do whatever they want to women without any consequences.
Back in the car, Christian looks at Ana’s ankles, and the bruises he left there.
“Doesn’t hurt,” I murmur. He glances at me and his expression is sad, his mouth a thin line.
He’s probably thinking that he has to spend another 60,000 euros to cover those bruises, and wondering if it wouldn’t just be cheaper to dump your body overboard once you’re back on the boat. But good on you for trying to make your abuser feel bad for abusing you.
“I didn’t expect to feel like I do looking at these marks,” he says.
Oh! Reticent once minute and forthcoming the next? How… Fifty! How can I keep up with him?
“How do you feel?”
Bleak eyes gaze at me. “Uncomfortable,” he murmurs.
Yeah, what a fucking shame that he feels bad for, at best, being an irresponsible Dom, at worst, being an abusive fuckwad who should have his balls smashed in a vise.
Ana tells him that aside from the hickeys, she liked everything else. Except, when she was first examining the marks on her body, she didn’t like the bruises left by the handcuffs. But I guess if it makes Chedward feel bad, she should just get over it and let him use cuffs that hurt her even if she doesn’t like it, because pleasing him is really the end goal.
Ana tells him the sex was mind-blowing:
He shifts in his seat. “Mind-blowing?” My inner goddess looks up, startled, from her Jackie Collins.
Get it? Women who don’t like sex are all nerdy prudes with small tits who read Dickens and lead bleak, horrible existences, and women who do like sex only read Jackie Collins, because it’s impossible to be smart enough to read literary fiction when you like sex. The best part of this is that a) Jackie Collins writes a much better book than E.L. James does, and b) E.L. just subtly insulted her readers by being dismissive of genre fiction. Which wouldn’t be the first time, since she blatantly used the Twihards to get famous and now shits on them every chance she gets.
E.L. James is a bad person, is what I’m saying here.
Christian gets a phone call, which sounds not great:
“Anyone injured? Damage? I see… When?” Christian glances at his watch again, then runs his fingers through his hair. “No. Not the fire department or the police. Not yet anyway.”
So, there was a fire at Christian’s office. As established in the last two books, Christian won’t call the police for any reason. Not even if his ex-girlfriend breaks into Ana’s apartment and holds her hostage at gunpoint. Now, there’s a fire in the server room at his office, and he doesn’t want to involve the fire department or the police? Exactly what is this guy doing, that he’s so afraid of the police coming anywhere near him?
Christian tells Ana that they’re not sure if it’s arson yet, but they decide to head back to the boat, and Ana wonders what more could possibly happen. The awesome part of that is, I really don’t give a fuck what happens to them, as long as it’s something tragic and violent, and then the chapter is over.