I do not own the Fifty Shades Trilogy or its characters; those belong to E. L. James. However, my characters do belong to me.
Chapter 20 | What A Tale It Is
I take a deep cleansing breath to try and steel myself for this tale. We don’t discuss this topic, I simply relive it night after night. I know for a fact I’ll regret this. Nevertheless, Christian has a right to know what went on before the experiences he remembers.
“Christian, Ella attended Harvard.” I tell him. In response to this statement, his eyes begin to glaze over, as if wandering back to his own memories. “Your mother was brilliant Christian. She attended Harvard to get her degrees in Economics, Mathematics and Music. She was an accomplished pianist for her age. I supported her decision, against the express wishes of our father.” I look back over my shoulder to see the anger emblazoned on my father’s face. When I turn to face Christian again, I can feel Dad’s eyes burning holes in my back. He refused to speak to me for the longest time and the more his animosity toward me grew the less I wanted to be his son.
Despite my father, I continue. “I felt she had the right to attend whatever school she pleased. Harvard is a good school and I considered attending there at one point in time. I am not as free-spirited as my sister was so I followed the beaten path and went to Melbourne.” Ella always told me how boring I was to simply ‘do what Dad told me to do’. She somehow believed I was the straightest arrow she’d ever seen.
Oh, my baby sister, how wrong you were.
“Ella became pregnant with you during her sophomore year, when she was home on Holiday. She and your father were ecstatic, our families less so. Ella wanted you, end of story. Ryan wanted Ella, so what Ella wanted, Ella got. She returned to school and worked as hard as she could to remain in Boston up until you were about to burst from her. We convinced her, before it was too late for her to travel safely, to come home and have you. The plan was for you to remain with us while she finished her studies then the three of you would do as your parents saw fit.”
It was all settled. Ellie and Ryan had full say in the matter and they were content with the arrangements. I was proud of she and Ryan at their willingness to negotiate with all of our parents.
“Mum and I made sure Ryan spent as much time as possible with you while Ellie was at school. He is no stranger to us nor was he a stranger to you.” I raise an eyebrow to stress my point.
Mum liked Ryan. The two of them had a connection similar to the one Ellie and Dad shared. Many’s the time Mum would chastise Dad for his treatment of her grandson’s father and soon to be son in law.
“Ellie returned home every chance she got as she stuck it out in school. She was determined to get her degrees. Ella and Ryan had a strong relationship. He supported her efforts and maintained a relationship with you, both in our home, at his own place and with his parents. He was your father in every way, feedings, spit-up, nights without sleep and diapers, oh how much fun I had watching you fire-hose your ole man. Ryan did everything Ellie couldn’t do from across the pond. They were committed to stay the course and each content with the role they would play in the end. Ryan was working for EB at the time. His business acumen proved to be incredible and he had a nice savings accumulated in anticipation of their reunion.”
“The summer following her junior year, Ellie returned home, as usual, for Holiday. She said she missed her son and wanted you by her side. She consulted with your father and he agreed, as long as she stuck to the plan and got her education. Ellie promised Ryan she was dedicated to him and their goal and she would be back, with you, after the school year ended.”
Ryan and Mum did not doubt Ellie’s ability, although they were very leery of seeing her go and take Christian with her. I chocked it up to missing their loved ones. I wasn’t happy with her leaving and taking my nephew with her either, but Christian’s parents agreed and as always, I took Hell fire and brimstone from my father for supporting my sister’s wishes.
“Ellie collected you and went back to Boston, or so we believed. Things went well at the start then, after some time passed, Ryan and I had a Hell of a time contacting her. So, I went to Boston myself to see you both and make certain all was well. I went to her apartment and some woman answered the door, informing me Ella Brown no longer resided at that address and she had no further information. The woman gave me Ellie’s mail, my letters, Ryan’s letters and cards from both of our families, to pass along when I saw her. I went directly to the Bursar’s Office and found out Ellie never returned to Harvard for her senior year. She withdrew before she came home that summer.”
“I contacted Dad and Ryan immediately and together we began to search for you both. Dad’s Security Team, as they called themselves, swore to us the two of you had simply vanished. You could not be found.”
I shake my head, still in disbelief. Those bastards didn’t even look. We later found out they took Dad’s money, repeated our personal investigations then called it a day. They took 12 months to tell us nothing and it took us another 12 months to discover their lies. By then it was far too late.
“Ellie sent me, Mum and Ryan postcards from New York City in the spring of what would have been her senior year. I dropped everything and raced to New York. Ryan did not have the leeway to simply pick up and go at a moment’s notice. I stayed in close touch with him while he, and then later Everett, kept record of my searches and findings, if any. I scoured the streets and homeless shelters of New York and hired private detectives to turn over every rock in each of the Five Burroughs. All to no avail.”
“In the summer, Mum Ryan and I received postcards, from Chicago. I dashed to Chicago and annoyed the fuck out of everyone, from the mayor to the city street sweepers. The following fall, the postcards were from Detroit. I ran there too. That time, Ryan told my father to fuck off and he accompanied me.”
“We searched Christian. Please believe me. We searched, on our hands and knees, what we thought was everywhere for both of you. I swear on my life we searched for you. We couldn’t find you.”
Ryan was a mess and I was having nightmares about what my baby sister and young nephew could be going through. They could be homeless, hurt or even dead and I was powerless to save them. Ryan was my friend and my brother in our search. My mother was our source of solace and comfort at every turn and dead end.
“The next spring, there were no postcards. Ryan and I went back to Detroit anyway and resumed our search.” Mum said something to Edward and my father never gave Ryan a hard time when it came to looking for Ellie and Christian. Mum would never tell either of us why Edward was so accommodating.
“Your father and I retraced our steps then ventured on to new ones. We did the same thing in the fall and again the next spring. We kept going back to Detroit because that was the location of her last postcards.”
“In June 1989, we got word that…” I almost can’t say the words. I can’t believe so much happened in such a short period of time. My baby sister was happy one day then…and my nephew was gone. I clear my throat and try again, just above a whisper, “We got word Ella was…dead…and buried in a potter’s field on the outskirts of Detroit. The police reports indicated a male minor was found with Ella’s body and taken to Henry Ford Hospital. People acted as if my hair was on fire as I ranted about finding my nephew. Ryan had to be restrained when we were told you were simply gone, vanished into thin air, never to be seen or heard from again. We knew it wasn’t true, but we couldn’t get anyone to listen to us or help us in the least.”
Ryan learned, sometime later, that by the time he and I became involved in this situation Christian was already through the American Foster Care and Adoption processes and in the custody of the Greys. The question of uprooting Christian to bring him home was a hot topic between Ryan, Me, Edward…and Mum.
“I was arrested for assaulting a city worker in some office who gave me a hard time about retrieving Ella’s remains and finding my nephew. Ryan, while at my side, had tried to stop me. I actually knocked him out in the process. It was a blessing because he was able to finish our latest search then return to Melbourne, with Ella’s remains. He reported it all to Everett, who had taken on the role of secretary and search analyst.”
I look over at my eldest son. Yep, he was a real Hardy Boy. He discovered the Security lapse.
“My actions didn’t endear me to anyone in Detroit or bolster my cause. Edward, much to the dismay of my mother and Ryan, felt as though I needed to spend those 30 days in jail to calm down.”
Again, I turn toward my father recalling his harsh words and the feeling of repugnance I had for him. I didn’t care that I was in jail. I was in the United States and I was in Detroit. I was going to find Christian.
My own life was taking a turn for the worse. My wife was none too pleased with me for all of the time I spent away from her. Everett and Ryan took control of my household, making sure all was in order and no one wanted for anything, Yvonne never let go of her jealousy over my relationship with Ellie and the time I spent in our search, but her feelings were meaningless to me.
She never forgave me and, somehow, I couldn’t blame her. Still, I refused to return without Christian. “By the time I was released from jail, Ellie’s body had already been taken back to Australia and buried in the family plot, in Melbourne. Our mother joined her, not long after.”
My personal conclusion was Mum died of a broken soul and a broken heart. Her only daughter, dead. Her only son, in jail. Her youngest grandson, gone. No one ever told me any differently leaving me to feel personally responsible for another fatality.
The final straw, my wife suffered a ruptured appendix not long after my return to Melbourne. We weren’t on the best of terms, but we did still share a home and semblance of a marriage. I found her unconscious on the bathroom floor when I got home from the office. We rushed her to the hospital where surgeons were able to remove her appendix, but she developed a general sepsis and couldn’t fight it off. She never regained consciousness. She was the last death I recall feeling responsible for. From that point forward, I was of no use to anyone.
My night terrors escalated. I didn’t go to work, I didn’t tend to my family, I just didn’t. Everett took care of everything, including Eran, Emerson and Ella. At the same time, Edward worked at and succeeded in having me declared an unfit parent, taking first guardianship then custody of my youngest sons and only daughter. Aside from Everett and Ryan, I was alone with my thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ and my nightmares of ‘what is’ and ‘what was’.
I drop my face into my hands in defeat. I can’t go on anymore. I can’t make Christian understand how I felt then or how I feel now. I couldn’t explain it to my father or my wife and I don’t expect this young man to comprehend or even give a fuck about the ravings of an old man.
I raise my eyes to see the impassive mask returned and firmly set on Christian’s face. I’m locked in this Hell and I will be forever. Resigned to my fate, I take a deep breath and shake my head as if chastising myself for wasting his time.
At the sight of my weakness Christian growls, “Are you finished?” I smile and actually laugh, but it sounded off, almost maniacal, to my own ears. I deserved that, I know I did. I raise my hand to silence Everett when I see him part his lips to speak.
I shake my head for emphasis, “Leave it Ev, just leave it. The man is entitled to his thoughts, feelings and emotions, you all are. Do not forget, you were in his place at one time.” Everett lowers his eyes and nods.
Yes, my eldest son was none too pleased with me either in the end. He was given the same Family Meeting where he and I tore at each other’s throats. Our relationship survived and has evolved over the years, but there are times when I see disappointment in his eyes.
Ryan told me I was being paranoid. He assured me Everett let go of his anger after that meeting and is on my side. Ryan claims Everett understands everything and holds no grudge against me. I still wonder though.
I get up from my seat on the ottoman and look down into my nephew’s face, the spitting image of his mother. I breathe deeply again then ask, “Do you have any questions Christian?” He doesn’t speak. “I’ll take that as a no. I have more to say, but if you are not interested then I will not regale you any further.” I look, unseeing, around the room before saying “Goodnight all” then I move, wearily, toward the door. Damn the Rules. I’m spent and I’m going to get a few drinks before I head off to my nightmares.
Of course Edward won’t leave well enough alone, he has to have another word, “Emmett, we are not finished here. I have some things I want to say to my grandson.”
Oh for fuck’s sake.
I spin around to look at my father, anger and defeat oozing from every pore of my being. “THEN FUCKING SPEAK UP!” He’s got two seconds then I’m done. The children, Christian included, have never seen Dad and I go toe to toe.
I’m not beyond standing up to my father. Mum always told me to treat him with respect if for no other reason than his being my father. At times, like this, her words are the only thing keeping me from wringing his fucking neck…and he knows I can do it.
“Does anyone of you have pressing business tomorrow?” My father’s eyes scan the room. That old bastard knows good and well I have meetings with several Russian scientist about a power plant tomorrow.
“I do.” I respond, my voice deadpan. They all look at me as if I’m speaking in tongues. Ella and Everett know Family Meetings are not to be taken lightly. Christian simply hears the venom in my voice. “I have back to back meetings all day. I can be finished by 6PM, at the earliest. I would appreciate the opportunity to have dinner prior to another episode of the Brown Bullshit drama series.” I know I sound nasty and I couldn’t give a shit less. Every fucking time I think about this subject means I’ll get no sleep and now I’ve spoken on it for the past two hours. Gimme a fucking break.
“Fine Emmett, if you must…”
I cut him off, the fucker will not patronize me, “WHAT? SLEEP? IF I MUST SLEEP? That’s a fucking joke. With the exception of Christian, we all know that’s not going to happen tonight or for a few nights to come so save the condescending attitude father. Good night!”
As I turn to leave I see Christian looking at me expectantly. “I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This conversation brings about a myriad of emotions for me and I tend to have rather violent night terrors as a result.”
Ellie whispers, to no one in particular, “That’s why he occupies the furthest wing of the house.” I nod my confirmation. I’m as far away as possible so as not to disturb anyone.
Christian seems intrigued by my pain when he arrogantly asks, “And when did that start?”
I glare at him with my own hatred for his abominable behavior then I spit back at him, “The night some woman told me my only sister and only nephew were gone.”
Suddenly, there’s a look of contrition on his face, but it does nothing for me. I turn again and proceed to quietly leave the room. My final sound, the click of the closing door.
…Please believe me. We searched, on our hands and knees, what we thought was everywhere for both of you. I swear on my life we searched for you. We couldn’t find you…
“Find me…no one…alone…hurt…alone…” I feel my heart beginning to pound harder in my chest.
“Find me…no one…alone…hurt…alone…” I feel beads of sweat trickling down my face.
You’re forgetting your education Pet. You’re letting the world dictate your actions. This is a sign of weakness and weakness deserves punishment.
Not this day…any day but this one…please.
You’ll always need me. People like you and I will never be loved. No one will ever care. No one will ever understand our needs…our desires. You need me, you need our lifestyle to help you stay in control. I am your reminder, my beautiful Pet.
She dragged her fingers through my hair and her nails down the side of my face to my mouth. She removed the ball gag she had in place so that she can hear me.
People want to confuse you Pet. No one else wants you…No one else understands you… You can depend on no one but me. I’ve taught you everything you know. I’ve given you everything you need. You’d be in jail or dead like your whore of a mother if it weren’t for me…for our lifestyle. COUNT PET!
I’ve done this to myself. I chose this lifestyle. I chose to be here. I came here of my own free will.
I’m unlovable…love is for fools…No fool would love me.
Grace and Carrick tried, but it was all for naught…I deserve this…I was made for this…this is what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life…
I hate this day. I hate my birthday. I…I…Yellow mistress…yellow.
You will learn Pet. No safewords, not today. This is my birthday gift to you. You will remember your 18th year. You will remember this time in our playroom while you are away at Harvard. YOU WILL NOT RELEASE PET! COUNT!
I’m trying to take the pain, but that’s all this is…pain. There’s no pleasure. There’s no… RED! RED MISTRESS! RED!!!
Fifty. I gasp. I can’t breathe. I can’t believe she did that. I can’t move. What happened?
Remember this gift Pet. Remember, you were destined to be here…to be with me… You’re mine Pet. You will always be mine. I’ll be here when you come to your senses Pet.
Love is for fools…
Love is for fools…
Love is for fools…
I can’t breath. Why is my chest hurting? I feel like I’ve run a marathon and…what the fuck is that sound?
“…here baby…back to me…here Christian, please…” I know she’s there. I can almost hear her, my Ana.
Just as I think I can reach her the sound changes. It’s familiar. The smell is familiar too. Then, I see it…the sticky rug.
You good for nothing little shit! Get the fuck out of my way! Fucking waste of space, that’s what you are. You’re lucky I let that bitch keep you around here.
MOMMY, MOMMY…HELP ME MOMMY PEASE! HIM’S HURTING ME!
Where is she? Where is she?
Shut the fuck up you little shit. She can’t fucking help you. NO ONE can help you. NO ONE can save you from me. Little BASTARD!
When he looks away, I crawl, as fast as I can. I almost made it to my hiding place under the kitchen sink when he catches my leg.
NO THE FUCK YOU DON’T! GET YOUR ASS BACK HERE! I’M NOT FINISHED WITH YOU!
My head hurts, my chest hurts my legs hurt, my stomach hurts…OW! NNNOOO!!! HHHEEELLLPPP MMMEEE!!!
I hear the cries in my head and all around me. The sound is distinctive and sharp. It spears my consciousness and burns my ears as well as my throat. OH GOD! THAT’S ME!
He’s beating the shit out of me. The strap he’s using is almost like a whip. The sound scares me as it snaps through the air and cuts into the flesh on my bare back.
“Help me…no one…alone…hurt…” He’s holding me down. I can’t get free.
“…Alone…hurt…” I feel myself thrash around. I feel like I’m being shaken…pulled.
“Ana.” The utterance is more of a thought than a spoken word. “Ana.” Suddenly, I can hear my voice, but it sounds strange, almost muffled. “ANA!” I finally yell. Sweat pouring off of me when I wake panting for breath. I smell it, as if I was covered in nicotine and cheap booze. I can’t pull my t-shirt off fast enough. I scramble out of a strange bed, in a strange room, in a strange place. Where the fuck am I?
Oh yeah, that’s right. I remember now, the Brown’s, that fucking Family Meeting. They’re to blame for this. The bathroom. I need the bathroom NOW! I manage to reach the toilet just in time to empty my stomach contents. Once I finish, I slowly sink to the tile floor trying to catch my breath. Trying to forget the scenes that just played through my mind’s eyes.
I must have passed out. When I open my eyes I see Ana. She’s in the doorway to the bathroom. Edward is holding her as tears stream down her face. When she sees my eyes open she breaks free of his hold and runs to me. She holds me tightly and whispers calming words in my ear. Her body close to mine, her arms around me, her breath in my ear. I cling to her for dear life. I bury my face in her neck and, eventually, she calms my racing heart and slows my whirling thoughts.
My peace is short-lived. “CHRISTIAN!” A wail, that’s the only way to describe it. A painful wail echoes through the empty halls of this cavernous house. “CHRISTIAN!” I look to Edward who appears as though he wants to bolt from the room in the direction of the sound. It’s then I see Everett in the bedroom doorway, blocking Edward’s escape.
“HE’S MY SON! HE NEEDS ME EVERETT! LET ME PASS!” Everett slowly shakes his head. He will fight the older man to keep him from leaving, I’m sure of it.
“CHRISTIAN! ELLIE! CHRISTIAN!” The sound has become shrill, a blood curdling scream, as if someone is being murdered. This time I struggle to get up from the floor and stumble to the door Everett is still blocking.
“Get out of my way.” I snarl directly in Everett’s face, my nose actually touching his.
“It’s nothing new Cousin. He’ll survive. Are you…” I punch him in the gut then in the face as he bends over to grab his midsection. “It’s something to him…and he’s calling my name not yours.” I roar at him as I rush from the room not knowing which way to turn. The sound is uttered again and again, more and more painfully each time. It’s so dreadful and so loud bouncing off the walls, yet and still I feel like I’m being pulled to its source. Finally I reach what I surmise is Emmett’s bedroom door where Ella is standing, key in hand, but not entering the room.
“What are you waiting for? Open the damn thing.” I demand, winded and still shaking from my own dance with the demons. What the fuck is wrong with these people? Don’t they understand what’s going on?
She shakes her head vehemently. The closer I look at her I see her eyes are red and swollen with streams of tears striding down her cheeks. “No”, she chokes out, “he’ll see it as a sign of weakness. He always does.” She breathes deeply several times, like she warring off an anxiety attack. She shutters then tells me, “I’ll wait here until the screams stop then I’ll enter.” She’s got to be fucking kidding me.
First I pound on the door, “Emmett! Wake up! It’s Christian! Wake up Emmett!” I turn quickly and look over my shoulder, “Dammit Ella, open the fucking door or I’ll knock it…” I’m cut off by a gasp from inside the room. It sounds as if he’s being strangled. He can’t breathe. We have to get in there!
Then he begins to whimper, “Please forgive me. I tried Ella, I tried. I couldn’t find you. I can’t find Christian. Tell me where he is Ella. Help me find my nephew.” His pleading is followed by a loud crash and the sound of glass breaking. I won’t stand here anymore.
I wrestle the key from Ella and fumble to get the door open as quickly as possible. Inside, the room is pitch black and all sounds have stopped. It’s eerily quiet. “Emmett.”, I say cautiously, as I slowly venture into his room. “Where are you Emmett? It’s Christian. Where are you?”
Ella opens the heavy drapes, letting a stream of moonlight flood the room, to show Emmett on the floor beside the bed. Ella kneels next to him.
“Is he alive?” My voice is wavering.
She simply nods. “Does this happen often?” I ask as I kneel next to him as well.
She nods again, new tears falling from her eyes. I shake my head and run my fingers through his hair, as if comforting a small child. He has nightmares about me.
We know nightmares don’t appear out of nowhere. We know there’s something deeper here, right?
Inwardly I nod.
In the doorway behind us, the others have gathered. Everett clears his throat, “Cousin, would you help me put Dad back into bed?” I nod my consent and together Everett and I get Emmett back to bed.
As Ella tucks her father in, his eyes pop open and he sits up to quickly scan the room. When his gaze rests on me, we share a look of bewilderment. “We can talk more tomorrow if you’re up to it.” He nods and slowly lays his head back down on the pillow. I pat his arm and move to leave the room, but I turn back to add, “If you like, it can be just you and I.” He nods again and we smile weakly at one another. I leave him, running, no sprinting, back to my Ana.
The Hardy Boys are fictional teenage brothers and amateur detectives. The characters were created by Edward Stratemeyer, the founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a book-packaging firm, and have been written by many different ghostwriters over the years.