Before we get into the recap proper, I have to address something that came up in the comments, re: formatting of the book. In my last recap, there was a section where all the dialogue blended together, like this:
“I am saying something,” person one said. “I am saying something, as well,” person two said. “Well, I am not listening to you,” person one replied.
Some of you have commented that since this book started as fanfic, it’s bound to be rife with errors. I feel like that’s kind of insulting to fanfic. I’ve read a lot of it in my time, and let me tell you, this is some of the worst fanfic I’ve ever read. It’s right up there with the one where the Incredible Hulk rapes Princess Jasmine to death. Let’s not tar all fic with the same brush.
But that said, formatting errors like that aren’t present in the book. At least, the Vintage Books paperback. What happens is that every so often, when I use the block quote function on Blogger, it goes all stupid and lumps everything in together. When I proofread the post, it looks okay. But when I hit publish, sometimes, things go terribly wrong.
I understand blogger in the same way that I understand facebook: I can sort of convince people that I know what I’m doing, but I actually have no idea what’s going on.
So, just like with Jose’s missing accent mark, the book is properly formatted, I just can’t get blogger to accept that format. There is no justice in blogger, and there is no mercy.
When we last left Miss Steele, she was about to drop dead from hunger, because she’s just so skinny. Waaaaay too skinny. So skinny, in fact, that Christian says this upon entering a restaurant:
“This place will have to do,” Christian grumbles. “We don’t have much time.”
Because the timed chip he put in Ana’s brain is set to explode if she doesn’t eat on a certain schedule.
Here is the description of the restaurant that Christian is “settling” for:
The restaurant looks fine to me. Wooden chairs, linen tablecloths, and walls the same color as Christian’s playroom – deep bloodred – with randomly placed small gilt mirrors, white candles, and vases of white roses. Ella Fitzgerald croons softly in the background about this thing called love. It’s very romantic.
One of things I find most annoying about Christian is how he makes a huge deal about how rich he is. Now, I’m not talking about the buying lavish gifts thing. I’m talking about how nothing, ever, is up to his standards. The complimentary wine at a graduation reception or an art show. A perfectly nice restaurant. Other people’s cars. He turns up his nose at everything, and Ana, because she’s Ana and totally naive despite having allegedly attended four years of college with people from all different walks of life, always seems to believe that it’s because he’s rich. It’s not. It’s because he wants people to know that he’s rich, and he wants them to be impressed and intimidated by his very high standards and exquisite tastes. Or maybe he really believes that because he’s rich, he deserves to have the very best of everything all the time. Either way, this guy is still a massive dick.
“We don’t have long,” Christian says to the waiter as we sit. “So we’ll each have sirloin steak cooked medium, béarnaise sauce if you have it, fries and green vegetables, whatever the chef has; and bring me the wine list.”
Ana doesn’t get to order her own food. But more on that in a second, I’ve got a nit that needs fierce picking. He makes a big deal about how the restaurant will “have to do,” because it’s clearly not FANCY enough for his FANCY tastes, and then he orders… sirloin and fries? Meat, starch, veg… what a FANCY meal for a FANCY guy. Seriously? If he wanted Ana to be impressed, he should have ordered the filet, and when they said, “I’m sorry, sir, we’re just not FANCY enough to carry that cut,” he should have flipped the table and shouted, “THIS IS BULLSHIT! WE ARE LEAVING!”
Just don’t do that at an Applebees, because the tables in those booths are bolted to the walls. Or so I hear.
Ana asks him what the fucking deal is, ordering for her, and he tells her she’s acting childish. Because ordering someone what you want them to eat, rather than what they want to eat, is not a childish act of control. But Christian isn’t referring to that:
“For deliberately making me jealous. It’s a childish thing to do. Have you no regard for your friend’s feelings, leading him on like that?” Christian presses his lips together in a thin line and scowls as the waiter returns with the wine list.
I blush – I hadn’t thought of that. Poor Jose – I certainly don’t want to encourage him. Suddenly I’m mortified. Christian has a point; it was a thoughtless thing to do.
I hate that Christian has a point, by the way, but he’s right. I just find it interesting that in the midst of all his rightness, Ana is still going to end up eating what Christian ordered for her. I have this crazy feeling that Christian is less concerned for Jose and more concerned with changing the subject. To capitulate to her demands for control over what she puts in her body, he tells her to choose the wine. Probably so he can point out how not fancy enough it is. It doesn’t matter, though, because whatever they order, it will have spit in it. Christian treats the waiter like total shit.
I frown at Fifty. What’s eating him? Oh, myself probably, and somewhere in the depths of my psyche, my inner goddess rises sleepily, stretches, and smiles. She’s been asleep for a while.
Too bad she’s not in an irreversible coma. What is with calling Chedward “Fifty” all of a sudden? Did he get shot nine times?
“Ana, the last time we spoke, you left me. I’m a little nervous. I’ve told you I want you back, and you’ve said… nothing.”
Okay, it’s been five days. First of all, were they even dating long enough to use the phrase “you left me”? They didn’t live together. They weren’t even really boyfriend/girlfriend. They were more emotionally-stunted billionaire/sexual servant. And the way he’s phrased it sounds like he’s expecting that since he asked her to take him back, she’s just going to. Although we know that she’s going to take him back (because we know that this entire series is just a landslide into frustrating abuse-apology), he doesn’t know this. And he’s just… expecting it. After being broken up for five days. What has changed so much, in five days?
Ana says that she’s missed him, and that it’s been “difficult” without him:
This last week has been the worst in my life, the pain almost indescribable. Nothing has come close.
I understand that what the author is trying to do here is show us how strong the love between Christian and Ana is, that it so completely destroys them to be apart. But this just comes off as melodramatic. Really, nothing has ever hurt as much as breaking up with your first love? I admit, first heartbreak suuuuuuucks. And the ones that follow? Not fun either. But if that’s the worst pain you’ve ever felt, to the point that you’ve never felt anything like it? Ana is living a pretty charmed life.
Ana tells him that nothing has changed, she can’t be the person he wants her to be. He argues that she’s exactly the person he wants her to be, and then he says this:
“You’re upset because of what happened last time. I behaved stupidly, and you… So did you. Why didn’t you safe-word, Anastasia?” His tone changes, becomes accusatory.
This skeeves me off so much. You took her into your Red Room, knowing that she was afraid of pain, and beat her with a belt. Not a flogger, not a whip, not a strap, not a paddle, a fucking belt with a buckle on it, and you beat the shit out of her. Whether or not she used the safe word doesn’t matter, you should never have taken her into that room that night in the first place, because she specifically said she was going to go beyond her limits in a negative way, just to see how much it could hurt.
“I don’t know. I was overwhelmed. I was trying to be what you wanted me to be, trying to deal with the pain, and it went out of my mind. You know… I forgot,” I whisper, ashamed, and I shrug apologetically.
This is exactly why she should not have been in that room. And you know, Christian, it’s okay for you to shut down the session, too. You kind of have a responsibility, as a dom, to be in control of the situation and make sound judgments, because guess what? People do sometimes get caught up and forget to use the safeword. If you didn’t want to beat the shit out of her with a belt, her not using the safeword didn’t force your hand.
Christian tells Ana he doesn’t know how he’s ever going to trust her again, and then he’s a dick to the waiter again, and Ana apologizes to him for not using the safeword. Christian uses the opportunity to make her feel even more guilty, saying:
“I’m anything but fine. I feel like the sun has set and not risen for five days, Ana. I’m in perpetual night here.”
The original title of this book was “Twilight 6: Night.”
“You said you’d never leave, yet the going gets tough and you’re out the door.”
“When did I say I’d never leave?”
“In your sleep. It was the most comforting thing I’d heard in so long, Anastasia. It made me relax.”
Well, that solves the mystery of the thing she said in her sleep. I like how he thinks he can hold up statements made when one is unconscious as evidence of some kind of betrayal. “You said in your sleep that you’d stay! It doesn’t matter that I wouldn’t tell you what you said, I expect you to stick to it!”
The food comes, and so does the unavoidable conversation about Ana’s eating habits. Unsurprisingly, she doesn’t want to eat, and Christian wants her to.
Deep down, I know I’m hungry, but right now, my stomach is in knots. Sitting across from the only man I have ever loved and debating our uncertain future does not promote a healthy appetite. I look dubiously at my food.
“So help me God, Anastasia, if you don’t eat, I will take you across my knee here in this restaurant, and it will have nothing to do with my sexual gratification. Eat!”
So… it would be a regular old beating, then? Is that what you’re saying, Christian? Let it be known, the hero of this not abuse-promoting book is threatening physical violence in an non-BDSM context against the heroine. Swoon ladies, swoon.
We eat our supper in silence. The music’s changed. A soft-voice woman sings in the background, her words echoing my thoughts.
This is the stuff I live for in these books. They eat their supper in silence… listening to music. Well, that’s not silence, is it? You just didn’t speak, is all.
Ana decides to try to have a normal conversation, so they talk about the music a little bit. But normal isn’t as fascinating as talking about how much Ana eats.
I have eaten half the food on my plate. I cannot eat anymore. How can I negotiate this?
Just say you’re not hungry anymore? I mean, seriously, Ana, you could just say, “Christian, I’m not hungry anymore. I’m going to need a doggie bag.” And if he says anything else about it? Kick him in the dick and scream “No! NO NO NO!” just like they tell you to do in self defense for women.
He stares at me impassively, not answering, then glances at his watch.
Mercifully, Christian is as bored with the “What did Ana eat today” conversation as we all are, and they’re going to leave. Ana asks if they’re going to take Charlie Tango, which sounds like a great idea after they’ve been drinking. Luckily, Christian has arranged for Taylor to drive them back to Seattle:
“[...] Taylor will pick us up. Besides, this way I have you in the car all to myself for a few hours, at least. What can we do but talk?”
Remember how he was talking about their communication problem? They’ve been doing nothing but talk about their relationship this entire evening. When they haven’t been talking about their relationship, they’ve been talking about what Ana is eating. And when they haven’t been talking about that, they’ve been talking about how they need to talk about their relationship. Their communication skills appear to be so incredibly bad that they can’t even recognize that they’re talking about their relationship while they’re talking about their relationship. They’re stuck in some kind of endless loop of talking about their relationship while simultaneously thinking they need to talk about their relationship. It’s like Portal, where you put the orange portal directly about the blue portal, and you jump in and just keep falling faster and faster and faster until you’d seriously concerned that you might not be able to get yourself out this time and you can’t remember when you last saved.
He has a proposition? What now? A couple of scenarios run through my mind: kidnapping, working for him.
Maybe he wants you to work for him, and the job will be kidnapping people. Seriously, those are the first two options that jump to mind? Not, “Maybe he wants to revise the sex contract,” or “maybe he wants to put the Audi in my name,” something like that. I mean, I understand the one about working for him, since he’s dangled that carrot in the past. But kidnapping? How does she arrive at kidnapping now, and not waaaaaay back in the first book, when he was buying abduction supplies literally right from her? Ana is a weird person.
They go to the car, and Ana’s obsession with kidnapping continues unfettered:
Christian opens my door. Climbing in, I sink into the plush leather. He heads to the driver’s side; Taylor steps out of the car and they talk briefly. This isn’t their usual protocol.
I love that she’s cautious now. Not in the first book, where she went back to his fortress of solitude after knowing him for like, a week, and in that week she’d seen him buy Dexter-level murder supplies. Not when he locked her in a room with him against her will, or when he stalked her all the way to her mother’s home in Georgia. She let those things pass without a second thought, but she gets suspicious when he changes his car-getting-into protocol, like she’s some foreign dignitary in a hostile country.
When Christian does get into the car, he wants to talk about their relationship, but Ana is concerned about Taylor overhearing. Christian reassures her:
“Happy now? He’s listening to his iPod. Puccini. forget he’s here. I do.”
Not only is Christian super charming in the way he treats his employees, he’s also got his driver listening to earbud headphones while driving. Yeah, that’s illegal in Washington state. It’s illegal in a lot of states, actually, and could endanger Taylor’s commercial driver’s license. Also, I wonder if Christian picked the music Taylor is listening to. I bet he did.
“Did you deliberately ask him to do that?”
No, Ana, he accidentally asked him to wear earphones so he wouldn’t overhear your conversation. Isn’t that a funny coincidence?
Christian gets right down to business with the proposition:
“Let me ask you something first. Do you want a regular vanilla relationship with no kinky fuckery at all?”
Kinky. Fuckery. Forever, that phrase will be burned into my brain. Keeping in mind that the “kinky fuckery” was the reason Ana ran for the hills in the first place, this is her response:
“I like your kinky fuckery,” I whisper.
Girl. Girl, girl, girl. Girl. Sit down and shut your obviously confused mouth for a quick second. You like his “kinky fuckery”? You spent all of the first book talking about how much you hated that he was into BDSM, how much you hated doing it, and then you ultimately broke up with him because you thought he was fucked in the head for liking it. You seriously were so disgusted by the “kinky fuckery” that you broke up with him. And now you like it?
She goes on to explain what she doesn’t like about the “kinky fuckery,” and basically, it’s all of it. She doesn’t like pain, she doesn’t like not being able to touch him, she doesn’t like punishments or anything in the Red Room. So basically, she fucking loves pizza, except for the cheese and the sauce and the crust and the toppings.
Oh, and the eating part, lest we forget.
Ana asks Christian if he’s trying to redefine the hard limits:
“Not as such. I’m just trying to understand you, get a clearer picture of what you do and don’t like.”
That’s called dating, Christian. Most people do this shit as they go along, instead of trying to force their partner into a mold to make them adequate in one conversation that will settle it forever and for all time, which is what the contract tried to do in the first place.
“Fundamentally, Christian, it’s your joy in inflicting pain on me that’s difficult for me to handle. And the idea that you’ll do it because I have crossed some arbitrary line.”
“But it’s not arbitrary; the rules are written down.”
If you remember the contract from the first book, you’ll recall how incredibly vague those rules are, leaving literally any of Ana’s actions open to “punishment.” It’s totally arbitrary, because Christian can and has fit any of her actions and reactions, even involuntary physical reactions, under some clause or another so that he’s allowed to “punish” her.
He asks her if she minds being spanked with just his hand, and when she says she’s okay with that, and she actually liked it when he used the ben wa balls and spanked her, this is how he interprets her answer:
“So you can deal with some pain.”
That’s not what she said at all! She said she didn’t mind being spanked with ben wa balls in her cooch. I wonder how long it’s going to take Chedward to use this against her? “But you said you could take some pain! By refusing to let me beat you with a patio umbrella, you’re betraying me!”
He strokes his chin, deep in thought. “Anastasia, I want to start again. Do the vanilla thing and then maybe, once you trust me more and I trust you to be honest and communicate with me, we could move on and do some of the things that I like to do.”
In other words, maybe if we get back together and get more serious, you’ll be invested enough in this unhealthy relationship that I can manipulate you into doing things you don’t want to do. Have your panties magically melted off your body yet, ladies?
He wants the light, but can I ask him to do this for me? And don’t I like the dark? Some dark, sometimes. Memories of the Thomas Tallis night drift invitingly through my mind.
If you haven’t read the first book, the Thomas Tallis night was when Christian tied Ana up, blindfolded her, put headphones on her and played classical music while he teased her with like, a feather and some light flogging before he fucked her. It was about as dark as a game of Candy Land.
“But I’m a selfish man. I’ve wanted you since you fell into my office. You are exquisite, honest, warm, strong, witty, beguilingly innocent; the list in endless. I’m in awe of you. I want you, and the thought of anyone else having you is like a knife twisting in my dark soul.”
HA HA HA HA WHAT? Why is he talking like a seventeen-year-old goth kid writing breakup poetry before he’s ever even gone on a date? “a knife twisting in my dark soul?” I’m pretty sure that’s from a Sisters of Mercy song. And I love the “endless” list of adjectives to describe Ana, that tops out at six items, half of which aren’t true at all. Ana isn’t honest, she lies to her friends constantly about her relationship with Christian. She isn’t warm, not even to her mom or dad. And she sure as hell isn’t strong, if she’s planning on getting back together with this creepo rather than go through some post-break up depression.
After listening to Christian objectify her for a few paragraphs, this is Ana’s response:
If that isn’t a declaration of love, I don’t know what is.
Clearly, you don’t know what a declaration of love is. The guy basically just said he’d settle for fulfilling your needs because he views you as a toy he doesn’t want to share. But positively dazzled by his declaration of “love,” she tells him that she didn’t try very hard at their relationship the first time, and that she thinks the pain of being without him would be worse than any physical pain he could inflict on her. She gets into his lap and says:
“I love you, Christian Grey. And you’re prepared to do all this for me. I’m the one who is undeserving, and I’m just sorry that I can’t do all those things for you. Maybe with time… I don’t know… but yes, I accept your proposition. Where do I sign?”
Do all what for her? Not beat her because she doesn’t like it? What a fucking prince. Oh, hey, is this my domestic violence handout that Kelsey St. James sent me? I think it might be. “You feel bad about yourself when you are around him.” Huh. You mean like, thinking you’re undeserving and feeling guilty that he’s sacrificing his sexual fetish for you? Gee.
Christian hints that the reason he doesn’t like to be touched is because his mom’s pimp molested him or abused him or something. I’m confused about this whole pimp thing, myself. Isn’t a crack whore (and yes, he refers to his mother as “the crack whore” in this scene) someone who fucks people for crack? Do pimps really need their girls tricking for drugs? I thought the whole point of pimping was to make money. Have rappers been lying to me all along? He also tells Ana that he was alone with his dead mom for four days after she committed suicide.
Somehow, the story of Chedward’s horrific childhood of abuse and trauma lulls Ana to sleep, and she doesn’t wake up until they’re in Seattle, where Christian comments that he could “watch you sleep forever, Ana.” So, yeah, I guess we’re still on schedule for that murder. Chedward doesn’t want to sleep with Ana, because she has to work early in the morning. I feel like he’s getting that wrong, that’s what you say when you’re leaving the girl’s house after you’ve fucked her. Also, he wants her to have to beg him first. Probably something like, “Mister, if you let me go, I won’t – I won’t press charges I promise. See, my mom is a real important woman… I guess you already know that…” depending on the situation.
He does have a present for her, though, and she’s supposed to open it when she’s inside. But first, she has to tell him information he doesn’t need to know, in order to complicate her life further:
“My boss wants me to go for a drink with him tomorrow.”
Christian’s face hardens. “Does he, now?” His voice is laced with latent menace.
I don’t think “latent” is a word you can use to describe Christian Grey’s menace. He suggests that he could pick her up after drinks, and she thinks this is a fine idea and not a bid for control in yet another aspect of her life. There is some kissing, it is dramatic and moany, and he says “laters, baby,” and I take another shot.
Inside, Ana opens the present. It’s her laptop and BlackBerry. I suppose those are her rewards for going out with him again. A commenter suggested that there is a keystroke logger on the laptop, and I laughed, and then realized that yup, there probably is. There is also an iPad, and a note from Christian saying that the music on it says what he feels.
I have a Christian Grey mix tape in the guise of a high-end iPad. I shake my head in disapproval because of the expense, but deep down I love it. Jack has one at the office, so I know how they work.
Wait, Christian made a mix tape for your boss? He’s so thorough.
The wallpaper image on the iPad is a picture of the model glider she gave Christian as a breakup present. There’s also a picture of the two of them at Ana’s graduation.
Christian looks so handsome and I can’t help my face-splitting grin – Yes, and he’s mine!
Stand back ladies! He’s all hers!
Ana does a walkthrough of all the apps on the iPad. No, I’m not kidding, she tells us all about the apps, from one of the British Library’s historical collection, a food app, etc. There is an entire page, all about the damn iPad and the apps, before she gets to the music. Ana mentions a few songs by name, the most unsurprising of which is “Possession.” I can only assume she means Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession.” Have you ever heard it? I suggest you listen to it right now. Try to ignore the fact that she looks like Buffy’s mom.
Funny story about this song. It’s not meant to be romantic. It was written by McLachlan modeled on letters she was receiving from “fans,” some of which had threatening sexual content. Even just a cursory listen tells you that it is an entirely appropriate song for Chedward and Anabella’s relationship, but not the way Ana (and I suspect, E.L. James) thinks it is.
Ana listens to some more of the songs (“Try,” by Nelly Furtado, “The Scientist,” by Coldplay) and thinks about what they mean.
This iPad, these songs, these apps – he cares. He really cares.
That would make a great Apple commercial, right before Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day or something. “Show mom you care, with the gift of apps.”
As Ana listens to the songs and compares the meanings against her relationship, I become more acutely aware that this was a fanfic. If you are unfamiliar with fanfic, then let me tell you, the device of having a character apply lyrics and meanings of popular songs to the (relation)ship in the fic is so common that it has its own name: Songfic.
Ana being Ana, she’s ready to just dismiss the whole iPad thing, thinking that she’s probably reading too much into this. See, if they just accepted that they want each other, there would be no reason to continue with the book, so Ana needs to doubt Christian every step of the way. This gives the illusion of conflict.
They email each other about the iPad, and during the exchange, we learn that Christian also put “Every Breath You Take,” by The Police in the “I love you/I want to make a dress out of your skin” playlist. You have got to be fucking kidding me. He also tells her that spanking can be a part of “vanilla” relationships, “Usually consensually and in a sexual context… but I am more than happy to make an exception.” So, that’s the second time in this chapter alone that he’s threatened to hit her in anger. Of course, Ana responds to all of this with hearts and flowers and romance, and she even pulls out the deflated mylar balloon he gave her and hugs it in bed. Because Ana is fourteen.
Jose Gonzalez starts to sing a soothing melody with a hypnotic guitar riff, and I drift slowly into sleep, marveling how the world has righted itself in one evening and wondering idly if I should make a playlist for Christian.
I don’t know, Ana. How many times can you put “Good-bye, Earl” on repeat?