Let’s just take a moment to celebrate the fact that my book, which was horrifically overdue, is now finished. That’s twenty-two books I have written since 2002, when I started writing. Some books are really easy to write. Some are struggles like unto pushing a boulder up a mountain, and then up another, bigger mountain that is inexplicably perched atop that first mountain. This book was the latter, but it is finished now.
The good news is, I get to pass the savings on to you! I am going to endeavor to get back to two recaps a week, and I have a lot of other fun blog topics coming up, which may include:
- Why male bashing is anti-feminist
- Why Pinterest is going to destroy Western civilization
- Famous people I suspect of being aliens
- Why I don’t give a shit about other people’s bad moods
- Stuff I don’t understand about Harry Potter
She’s here, gazing at me with an unnerving blank expression, holding a gun. My subconscious swoons into a dead faint, and I don’t think even smelling salts will bring her back.
That’s right. Even with a gun pointed at her, Ana has to think up something for her imaginary friends to do.
I blink repeatedly at Leila as my mind goes into overdrive. How did she get in? Where’s Ethan? Holy shit! Where is Ethan?
Note that she thinks about Ethan only after she checks up on her internal imaginary friend.
Leila’s expression remains blank, and her appearance is as scruffy and ill-kempt as ever. She’s still wearing that grubby trench coat, and she looks desperately in need of a shower. Her hair is greasy and lank, plastered against her head, and her eyes are a dull brown, cloudy, and vaguely confused.
If her eyes are “cloudy,” does she have cataracts? And of course Ana would think Leila needs a shower. Remember how often Ana showers. If you’re not bathing three times a day minimum, of course you’re going to look dirty to her.
Ana decides to try to talk to Leila, and when she does, Leila responds:
“She speaks,” she whispers, and her voice is soft and hoarse at the same time, an eerie sound.
She spoke the first time Ana met her. In fact, they had a conversation, so I don’t see why this should surprise Leila, even if she is crazy. Judging by the way the character of Leila is written, I would go so far as to say to that E.L. James has never interacted with a truly unhinged person, and she based this entire character off Nancy in the last twenty minutes of The Craft.
“Alone,” she whispers. “Alone.” And the depth of sadness in that one word is heart wrenching. What does she mean? I am alone? She’s alone? She’s alone because she’s harmed Ethan?
It doesn’t take a lot to figure this one out, Detective Ana. You already know that she’s recently left her husband and her boyfriend just died. Or maybe it was the other way around. I can’t keep all these subplots straight. Anyway, she left someone, someone died, and she’s still obsessed with Christian. It isn’t all about you, Anastasia Rose Steele.
“What are you doing here? Can I help you?” My words are a calm, gentle interrogation despite the suffocating fear in my throat. Her brow furrows as if she’s completely befuddled by my questions. But she makes no violent move against me. Her hand is still relaxed around her gun. I take a different tack, trying to ignore my tightening scalp.
Okay, she’s not doing anything violent… except she has a gun and she’s broken into your house. This is where we finally see Ana’s bravery, by the way. We hear about how brave and strong she is, and she finally has the chance to prove it to us, and does, by not just screaming and shitting at the sight of a crazy person with a gun.
“Would you like some tea?” Why am I asking her if she wants tea? It’s Ray’s answer to any emotional situation, resurfacing inappropriately. Jeez, he’d have a fit if he saw me right this minute. His army training would have kicked in, and he’d have disarmed her by now.
Wait, is she “Jeez”ing the fact that her father wouldn’t want her to be in a room with a crazy person holding a gun? Guh, dads. They’re so unreasonable. And we’ve talked about Britishisms in this book before. As an American person, let me just say that it strikes me as comically, stereotypically British to offer an armed intrude a cup of tea.
She’s not actually pointing that gun at me. Perhaps I can move. She shakes her head and tilts it from side to side as if stretching her neck.
I take a deep precious lungful of air, trying to calm my panicked breathing, and move toward the kitchen island. She frowns as if she can’t quite understand what I am doing and shifts a little so she is still facing me. I reach the kettle and with a shaking hand fill it from the faucet. As I move, my breathing eases. Yes, if she wanted me dead, surely she would have shot me by now.
Or not. She might use the gun to get you into a car, where she will drive you to a secondary location and torture you for hours. Not that I’ve daydreamed about this scenario over the past five or so months that I’ve been recapping these books or anything.
She watches me with an absent, bemused curiosity.
How does that work, exactly? Absent implies a lack of concern in the moment. Curiosity kind of requires you to be in the moment, and if you’re bemused, you would be even more focused, because you’re actively trying to puzzle out what’s going on. At least we got to the second page of this chapter before we got our first sentence tragedy.
Ana tries again to ask Leila if Ethan is in the apartment, but she can’t get anything out of her that isn’t crazy:
She inclines her head the other way, and with her right hand – the hand not holding the revolver – she grabs a strand of her long greasy hair and starts twirling and fiddling with it, pulling and twisting.
While Ana watches Leila act out every scene Angelina Jolie had in Girl, Interrupted, she thinks again how alike they look. Ana and Leila, that is, not Leila and Angelina Jolie. There, I committed a sentence travesty of my own.
“Alone. All alone,” she murmurs. I find this comforting. Maybe Ethan isn’t here.
There really is nothing more comforting than the ramblings of a crazy person.
“Not thirsty,” she answers softly, and she takes a cautious step toward me. My feeling of empowerment evaporates. Fuck! I start panting with fear again, feeling it surge thick and rough through my veins. In spite of this, and feeling beyond brave, I turn and fetch a couple of cups from the cupboard.
“What do you have that I don’t?” she asks, her voice assuming the singsong intonation of a child.
I totally get why he’s into her now.
“Master – Mr. Grey – he lets you call him by his given name.”
“I’m not his submissive, Leila. Er… Master understands that I am unable, inadequate to fulfill that role.”
She tilts her head to the other side. It’s wholly unnerving and unnatural as a gesture.
“In-ad-e-quate.” She tests the word, sounding it out, seeing how it feels on her tongue. “But Master is happy. I have seen him. He laughs and smiles. These reactions are rare… very rare for him.”
“You look like me.” Leila changes tack, surprising me, her eyes seeming truly to focus on me for the first time. “Master likes obedient ones who look like you and me. The others, all the same… all the same… and yet you sleep in his bed. I saw you.”
“I never slept in Master’s bed,” she murmurs. She’s like a fallen ethereal wraith. Half a person. She looks so slight, and in spite of the fact that she’s holding a gun, I suddenly feel overwhelmed with sympathy for her.
Note that Ana only feels sympathy for her when she realizes that Leila is half a person because she’s not with Christian anymore. Because ladies, if you haven’t experienced Christian Grey, if you’re not worthy of his shining, golden love, you’re basically half a person. Which makes Ana the only fully realized woman in the past and future of the human race. So… that’s good news.
“Why does master like us like this? It makes me think something… something… Master is dark… Master is a dark man, but I love him.”
No, no he’s not. I bristle internally. He’s not dark. He’s a good man, and he’s not in the dark. He’s joined me in the light. And now she’s here, trying to drag him back with some warped idea that she loves him.
The air was heavy with vampire allegory, dear reader. How can Ana possibly say that Christian isn’t a dark person, when she’s spent most of this book and all of the last book thinking about how dark and tortured he is? In the last fucking chapter she was thinking about how dark he is. What has changed?
Oh, that’s right. She’s brought him into the light with the shining goodness of her pure, not-BDSM sexuality. Because BDSM is dark and horrible, and she’s going to heal and rescue him with the power of the missionary position. Or something.
Ana asks Leila to give her the gun, and that doesn’t go down well:
“This is mine. It’s all I have left.” She gently caresses the gun. “So she can join her love.”
Shit! Which love – Christian? It’s like she’s punched me in the stomach. I know he will be here momentarily to find out what’s keeping me. Does she mean to shoot him? The thought is so horrific, I feel my throat swell and ache as a huge knot forms there, almost choking me, matching the fear that’s balled tightly in my stomach.
Oh, so she is having an asthma attack. Glad she cleared that up for us. But seriously? “Which love – Christian?” Who the fuck else, Ana? Who else would she be talking about, if she’s stalking Christian?
Now, this is a nit-pick of total personal opinion, so if you don’t agree, don’t worry about it. But I find it kind of stupid that only when Ana considers that Leila might want to shoot Christian that it’s a “horrific” situation. Not when she thought about Leila shooting Ethan, or shooting her. It’s only “horrific” if the most important person in the world, Christian Philipe Louis Arthur Trevalyan Grey, Esq. is going to be shot. Fuck you, Ana. Anyone getting shot is horrific. ANYONE.
Christian busts through the door, with Taylor behind him. Taylor isn’t a very good bodyguard, is he? I mean, I hate to criticize him (because he is all that is good and pure in this world), but what kind of bodyguard lets the person they’re supposed to be protecting burst through a door ahead of them? Isn’t that like, Body Guarding 101?
My world teeters precariously in the hands of this poor, fucked-up woman. Will she shoot? Both of us? Just Christian? The thought is crippling.
You know what else is crippling sometimes? Being shot. Like, actually crippling, not just emotionally.
But after an eternity, as time hangs suspended around us, her head dips slightly and she gazes up at him through her long lashes, her expression contrite.
Wow, they really do look alike, huh? Right down to the impossibly weird facial expressions.
Christian holds up his hand, signaling to Taylor to stay where he is. Taylor’s blanched face betrays his fury. I have never seen him like this, but he stands stock-still as Christian and Leila stare at each other.
Because Taylor protects what’s his, Ana, and he’s in love with you! Okay, but in the reality of this actual storyline… why does Christian have a bodyguard? He talks about how badass Taylor is, how safe he can keep them, but every time some danger comes up, Christian charges in like the fucking cavalry and tells Taylor to stand back. If Christian is such a bad ass, why does he need a security team?
The answer is, of course, that he doesn’t need a security team, because the author is so convinced of the perfection of her main characters that she can’t pass up any opportunity to display to the readers just how perfect they are, even if doing so would inject a little tiny bit of much needed realism to her work.
This is where everything goes all hilariously shitty. I actually cackled and rubbed my hands together before I typed the next excerpt:
I realize I am holding my breath. What will she do? What will he do? But they just continue to stare at each other. Christian’s expression is raw, full of some unnamed emotion. It could be pity, fear, affection… or is it love? No, please, not love!
No! Suddenly I feel I’m the interloper, intruding on them as they stand gazing at each other. I’m an outsider – a voyeur, spying on a forbidden, intimate scene behind closed curtains.
Christian’s intense gaze burns brighter, and his bearing changes subtly. He looks taller, more angular somehow, colder, and more distant. I recognize this stance. I’ve seen him like this before – in his playroom.
So, of course, this is going to bring up all of Ana’s insecurities on the subject of BDSM:
Finally he mouths a word at her. I can’t make out what it is, but the effect on Leila is immediate. She drops to the floor on her knees, her head bowed, and the gun falls and skitters uselessly across the wooden floor.
This is how E.L. James apparently sees people who are into BDSM. Brainwashed automatons who are mentally ill and dangerously unstable. Ana isn’t that way, because she’s not a true submissive. Are you guys picking up those subtle clues? I’m pointing them out because I don’t want you to miss the jist of the entire series, which is that BDSM is fucked up and only for people who are fucked up.
Christian walks calmly over to where the gun has fallen and bends gracefully to pick it up. He regards it with ill-disguised disgust, and then slips it into his jacket pocket.
Oh, and guns. Guns are also bad.
Christian tells Ana to go with Taylor. Ethan is safe downstairs. But Ana doesn’t want to go, because her boyfriend might cheat on her with her home invader:
I don’t want to leave him – leave him wit her. He moves to stand beside Leila as she kneels at his feet. He’s hovering over her, protectively. She’s so still, it’s unnatural. I can’t take my eyes off the two of them – together…
I’m beginning to get a sense of why Christian doesn’t want to go to the police about Leila. Whatever he did to her to make her like this has to be a crime. Brainwashing another person is a crime, right? I mean, if you’re not doing it as a form of advertisement or religion?
Ana still isn’t leaving, but luckily Christian is there to say what we’re all thinking:
“For the love of God, Anastasia, will you do as you’re told for once in your life and go!” Christian’s eyes lock with mine as he glowers at me, his voice a cold shard of ice. The anger beneath the quiet, deliberate delivery of his words is palpable.
Angry at me? No way. Please – no! I feel like he’s slapped me hard. Why does he want to stay with her?
Get over yourself, Anastasia Rose Steele. As I’ve mentioned before, not everything is about you. Christian is trying to get you safely away from the woman who broke into your apartment with a drawn firearm. How pathetically insecure do you have to be to think you need to protect your claim on this guy from her?
I glance down at Leila and notice a very small smile cross her lips, but otherwise she remains truly impassive. A complete submissive. Fuck! My heart chills.
This is what he needs. This is what he likes. No! I want to wail.
Oh, that insecure. Thanks for clearing that up for us.
I am immobilized by the horrific spectacle before me. It confirms my worst fears and plays on all my insecurities: Christian and Leila together – the Dom and his sub.
“Taylor,” Christian urges, and Taylor leans down and scoops me into his arms. The last thing I see as we leave is Christian gently stroking Leila’s head as he murmurs something softly to her.
Add “No!” to the drinking game. But it must have the exclamation point. Check out the recurrence of “horrific.” Before, it was “horrific” to think of Christian getting shot, now it’s “horrific” to see him in proximity to one of his ex-girlfriends. That word is losing a lot of meaning for me right now. I used to say that the overall message of this book and it’s popularity were “horrific,” but clearly I need to find a stronger word. “Catastrophic,” maybe, or some combination of tragic and hilarious. Traglarious. Tragilaristrophic.
Here’s the beginning of a new fic, for all you Ana/Taylor shippers:
As Taylor carries me down the stairs, I lie limply in his arms trying to grasp what’s happened in the last ten minutes -or was it longer? Shorter? The concept of time has deserted me.
Also, the concepts of common sense and trust in her romantic partner, but we’re not here to judge.
Oh, shit, yes we are! That is exactly why we’re here, so:
Christian and Leila, Leila and Christian… together? What is he doing with her now?
Fucking her probably, are you happy?
Ana explains to Ethan what’s happening, but only after he has to ask her three times what’s going on. When Ana explains it, Ethan asks:
“Has anyone called the cops?”
You know, like any rational person might wonder. But Ana tells him, “‘No, it’s not like that.'” What is it not like? It’s “not like” there’s an armed intruder in your home? Because it seems like it’s exactly like that.
Still, Ethan accepts that lame explanation and says:
“Hey, Ana, let’s go get a drink.”
I can’t talk about this – I have signed an NDA. And for the first time, I really resent that fact, plus that Christian’s said nothing about rescinding it.
No, you felt a fair amount of resentment about it before, when he told you that you couldn’t share details about your sex life with your best friend. This isn’t even the first time in this book that you’ve resented the NDA.
Ana gives him the Reader’s Digest condensed version of what was going on, including the gun, and Ethan wants to know what Christian is doing with the crazy gun lady:
This is the crux of my problem. What the fuck are they doing? Talking, I hope. Just talking. Yet all I can see in my mind’s eye is his hand, tenderly stroking her hair.
This is not the crux of your problem. The crux of your problem is that you’re too emotionally immature to be in a romantic relationship with anyone, let alone a broken billionaire who is emotionally abusive and exhibits clear symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. Leila is just a little satellite problem orbiting the vast galaxy of problems you have.
She’s disturbed and Christian cares about her; that’s all this is, I rationalize. But in the back of my mind, my subconscious is shaking her head sadly.
All that proves is that your subconscious is a fucking idiot, too, Ana.
Ana spends some more time mentally torturing herself about how Leila can fulfill Christian’s needs more than she can, and what Mrs. Robinson said about missing the playroom, etc.
My mind, my heart, my soul are still in that apartment with my Fifty Shades and the woman who used to be his submissive. A woman who thinks she still loves him. A woman who looks like me.
Which I guess would be a problem if you were dating a facial recognition software package, but you’re dating a human being, so I’m one hundred per-fucking-cent certain that he’s going to know she’s not you, or that he can’t replace you with her. If he’s really made all this progress that you keep bragging about, then he’s not apt to be fucking around with some other woman just because she looks like you. Also, maybe you need to work on your trust issues.
Ana sees Dr. Flynn go into the apartment building. Someone who is current on the state of mandated reporting, let me know here… doesn’t Dr. Flynn have to call the police? Isn’t it required of him, by law, to report if someone is having a breakdown and has gone through all the steps necessary (like acquiring a firearm and tracking down a target) to commit a murder? For what it’s worth, in the text it says Dr. Flynn gets out of “a large cruiser,” but it’s never specified that it’s a police cruiser or that any law enforcement officers are there. Just Dr. Flynn and a woman in blue scrubs.
After some more of Ana feeling sorry for herself, Ethan walks her back to the Escala – because Christian left them with no ride. When she gets there, Christian is pissed off because she didn’t follow his orders and come right back to the apartment:
He’s angry with me? He’s the one that just spent God knows how long with his loony ex-girlfriend, and he’s angry with me?
First of all, you know how long he spent with her, you were watching the apartment building the whole time, and second, fuck you, Ana. It’s not like he went on a date with another woman, he was with someone he clearly fucked up, and he was trying to make the situation right. Just because he went about it in a stupid, self-important way doesn’t really minimize the fact that he’s trying to help. Sorry that his attention was diverted from you for a few fucking minutes.
“Have you been drinking?” he asks, appalled.
“Always,” Jen says, rolling her eyes. Christian lifts his hand to spank her, and she slams the book closed, because she is having none of that nonsense.
Ana is bit drunk, by-the-by, and she decides to let all her insecurities out right then and there:
“I went for a drink or three with Ethan while you attended to your ex,” I hiss at him. “I didn’t know how long you were going to be… with her.”
I shake my head. “I’m no good for you.”
She goes on to say that she can’t be everything he needs, and she knows that now that she saw him with Leila. Then he says what I’ve been saying for most of this fucking chapter:
“Why do you do this to me? This is not about you, Ana. It’s about her. ” He takes a sharp breath, running his hand through his hair again. “Right now she’s a very sick girl.”
This is not enough for Ana, and Christian goes into full-on panic mode, absolutely sure she’s breaking up with him. Then he falls on the ground and goes into submissive mode, and the chapter of hilarious, overwrought, stupid, stupid needless drama ends.