Previously, on Fifty Shades of Neigh, our heroine Hanna Squeal woke up in a bad novel and was sent, by way of a plot contrivance that makes no sense to anyone, to interview internet billionaire and fedora-sporting douchebag Crispian Neigh.
This went about as well as expected because Hanna has the social skills of a cauliflower, but for some reason (The main one being that this is a bad novel.) the mysterious billionaire has seen something special in her.
This looks really dull written down, doesn’t it? Well, brace yourself, because it’s only going to get worse.
My heart is pounding. I am so agitated that I stand poetically in the rain and indulge in a whole two paragraphs of repetitive introspection before getting into the car. No man has ever affected me in the way that Crispian Neigh has. Is it because he’s courteous and attentive and the only man to ever pay attention to me or is it because he’s really really rich? I have a strange fizzy feeling in my panties and I don’t understand it. When I get home, Kate is feeling much better.
“Eat shit and die, you fucking zombie clitwart!” she hisses, through clouds of sweet smelling smoke. Our friend Jesús is sitting next to her on the sofa, both of them hunched over video game controllers. The room resounds with the mashing of buttons and the moans of computer game zombies.
“I’m back…” I say, feeling more insignificant than ever. Did someone really pay attention to me for a whole forty minutes? Normally I just fade into the background, like now. They don’t even look at me.
“Hijo de puta,” says Jesús. He’s ethnic. His second name is Riviera. “Get him, get him…”
“Get the axe, Jesús – the fucking axe!”
“Excuse me,” I murmur. “I’m back. Excuse me?”
The screen goes red and Kate slumps back in her seat, throwing down the controller. “Oh hey,” she says, spotting me at last. “How was the interview?”
Oh great, she’s just going to interrogate me now. “I don’t want to talk about it,” I say.
“Okay.” Kate reaches over the arm of the sofa and brings out a tall plastic cylinder. There’s a little metal funnel sticking out of the side of it and this she burns with a cigarette lighter, before putting her mouth to the top of the cylinder and breathing in all the smoke.
“What’s that?” I demand. Sometimes I worry about Kate – she has a lot of boyfriends and goes out a lot. She has moodswings too. I saw a thing on CNN once – I think she might be doing drugs.
“Cold medicine,” she says, in a high, breath-held voice. She passes the thing to Jesús. “So what happened to you? Did Crispian Neigh try to stick his hand up your skirt?”
“I said I didn’t want to talk about it.”
“Bullshit, Hanna. I know you. When you say ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ you want us to all kiss your boo-boos and tell you everything’s going to be okay.”
Tears well in my eyes. “Why are you being so mean to me, Kate?” I whimper.
She sighs. “It’s like this, Hanna – you know those Twilight books you love? You know how there’s that one blonde vampire Bella hates – the one who’s ultimately only there to voice the author’s opinion on abortion and babies?”
“Rosalie,” I say.
“Yeah. Rosalie. I’m like that. I’m kind of like Rosalie, only I smoke a fuck of a lot more cheeba.”
“Dios mio,” says Jesús, who is Mexican. “It’s come to this already? Cheap meta-tricks?”
Kate shrugs. “What can you do, man? Have you read the original? It pretty much parodies itself.”
“What’s Jesús doing here?” I ask.
“I have a cold too,” coughs Jesus. Holy crap – Kate must be really contagious. His eyes are already red.
I’m so confused. Why did she ask me to go and do the interview when she knows I can barely cross the street without causing a traffic accident? Why is it that I was born in 1991 but don’t know how to use e-mail? What the holy pink dancing crap is Skype? And why the fuck does my no-no place feel all tickly?
Jesús and Kate are staring at me.
“I didn’t say all that out-loud, did I?” I say, flushing scarlet.
“No.” Kate shakes her head emphatically. “No. No-no, even.”
“Fine,” I huff, irritably. “When you’re all done with the third degree I’m going to go off to work. At my job. Which I have.”
“Well done you,” says Kate, picking up the plastic thing again. “Maybe this evening you can call your mom, in case any of the readers were unclear on the fact that you’re some kind of placental mammal.”
“Thank you, yes. I’ll do that.”
When I get back from my job at the toystore I call my mother, who lives in Florida. There is a continent between us and yet she still manages to gross me out. She has three ‘husbands’ and lives in what she calls a ‘anarchobisexual-polyamorous collective.’ I don’t know what that is, but she sends me a lot of macrame potholders.
“Have you met a boy, Hanna?” It’s the first thing she asks me.
“No,” I murmur down the phone. “Yes. Maybe. I don’t know. Anyway, it’s not important. Are you coming to my graduation?”
“So that’s a no?”
“Honey, it’s complicated right now. You know your Uncle Bob really fulfils my sexual needs, right? It’s just that right now Uncle Chet and Uncle Tate are going through something together and it’s a very delicate situation. It’s taken Chet a long time to get over his internalised homophobia and realise the importance of the root chakra within a loving and consensual relationship.”
I hold the reciever away from my ear and stare at it for a moment, as if it might provide some physical clue as to the meaning of the strange sounds coming out it. “I don’t understand,” I say.
“I know you don’t, poopkin. Sometimes I wonder how you ever came out of my yoni.”
“What’s a yoni?”
“Hanna, baby – I have to go. I have crystal healing in half-an-hour and you called right after Uncle Bob had finished making love to my anus. I must shower.”
So must I. I shower and dry my hair and put on my nightclothes and get in my bed under the covers. When I sleep my dreams are full of strange pastel-coloured glyphs, five dollar striped fedoras from Target, and other stone obvious references to what happened in chapter one. I wake up confused and needing to pee.
I work at a small toystore somewhere in Seattle. I used to work at a hardware store but they fired me after I tripped over the hem of my jeans and landed with my face less than half an inch from the blade of a large circular saw. The saw wasn’t running or anything but I’m told it could have easily cut my head in two, so I agreed to leave. The manager was very nice about it, and wrote to his friend Mr. Claypole, who runs the toystore. He even gave me a reference.
I feel safe in the toystore. There have been accidents, like the time when I fell over a nickel someone had dropped on the floor of the stockroom, or the incident when I nearly removed my spleen with a boxcutter, but on the whole a toystore is a good place for someone as big-eyed, long-legged and winsomely uncoordinated as me. I can sit and check off the inventory in the soft play area and Paul Claypole even found me one of those padded helmets designed for children with epilepsy or behavioural difficulties.
Paul Claypole is the owner’s son. I think he likes me, and he’s very kind, but I want someone dark and mysterious, someone who has secrets and a dark past. And money. Maybe. Not that money is important to me. No.
I am eating a bagel for my lunch (They don’t let me have cutlery – not even plastic.) when I am suddenly conscious of a mysterious presence. Thinking it might be ghosts, I look up and see a pair of chocolate brown eyes blinking inquisitively at me.
Holy crap. Neigh.
“Well,” he says. “Fancy seeing you here.”
I scramble out of the ball pen and remove my head-guard. My bagel sinks to the bottom of the pen, as forgotten and unloved as a bad extended metaphor. There it will linger for at least two weeks and probably constitute a health hazard and grounds for litigation. “I work here,” I quiver, my heart going ten to the dozen.
“Cool,” he mutters, adjusting his fedora. “Do you always have lunch in the ball pen?”
His voice is melting and tender, like sous vide chicken breast with a fontina cheese sauce…or something.
“Oh yes,” I say, my knees trembling dangerously. I wish I hadn’t removed the headguard – I’m in severe danger of falling and braining myself on the corner of the nearest shelf. And my hair looks weird. “I do inventory there too. It’s not so bad once you get used to the smell of child pee.”
“I see,” he murmurs, looking directly at my lips. Oh my. The strange tickly feeling is back – I think I might faint.
“Can I help you with something, Mr. Neigh?” I fumble, tripping over my words. My hands are clammy and my underpants aflame. He’s a man, a man! I’ve never talked to one of those before, well…except for Jesús and Paul Claypole and a bunch of other guys but they’re not romantic and sexy and fascinating and…
…and filthy stinking dirty rich.
Who are you?
Italicised voice inside your head. Nothing to worry about. Carry on.
Crispian Neigh removes his hat. “There is something I want,” he says, with peculiar emphasis. His eyes are all smouldery. Unf.
“Yes,” I gibber, meeting his sensual gaze with reluctance but also with a strange stirring deep down inside places I have never explored before. I was never one for spelunking.
“And I suppose you can figure out for yourself,” he whispers. “That I always, always get what I want.”
“Yes, Mr. Neigh,” I blither. My underpants feel funny.
“I’m a very wealthy man, Miss Squeal,” he pouts. I try to answer him but when I open my mouth the only thing that comes out is a sort of long drawn out ‘Ahhhhnnnnn’ noise.
“So,” he says, closing my mouth with his forefinger. “I want you to find me the Rarity’s carriage playset.”
I nod and take him to the pink aisle, the little girl’s toy aisle. “This one?” I say, taking a My Little Pony from the shelf.
Oh no. His gaze has turned cold. He pinches the bridge of his nose with his fingers – his perfect fingers with those delicate orange crescents under the fingernails – and sighs slowly. “I said Rarity, Miss Squeal,” he says. “This is obviously Twilight Sparkle.”
“I’m sorry.” I want to run away and asphyxiate myself in the ball pen. I wonder how much self-harm I could inflict with a toy lightsabre. “I don’t understand.”
“I know you don’t,” he says, and it’s like the bright, dark moon coming out from behind a cloud. His voice is fragrant with meaning again and I’m basking like a dizzy drunk lizard in the chocolate sun of his beautiful eyes. He’s a God, an Adonis. He’s the most exquisite male animal I’ve ever met in my life and I want to have his fucking babies.
I may as well admit it to myself – I quite like him.
“You’re innocent, Hanna,” he murmurs, standing so close that I can smell his pungent, plangent male musk. It’s like cinnamon and woodspice and all things nice. “You’re innocent and unspoiled. Not like those shallow sluts who only want me for my money. You’re not even wearing make-up, are you?”
I shake my head. Every time I try to put it on I end up looking like a drunk clown. I’m so bad at everything.
“I came looking for Rarity,” he whispers, mysterious as the misty Andes or the far away Islets of Langerhans. “Maybe I found her.”
I try to talk but I just end up making the Ahhhhhnnnnnn noise again. He closes my mouth again, this time with a peculiar tenderness. “Here,” he says, handing me a business card. “My cell number. Call me.”
He takes the toy from the shelf and sweeps off towards the checkout, leaving me breathless, bereft, bemused – and somewhat alliterative. He’s so freaking hot.
He’s so freaking rich.
Shut up, Italics. Who asked you?