Last time on Fifty Shades Freed, there was some sort of car chase and Christian put a thing up Ana’s bum. It wasn’t important.
Later, in a truly shocking development, Ana did some work. Sort of. Well, actually she opened her laptop, decided to look at her honeymoon photographs and worked herself into such a state that she had to seek out her worthless skid-mark of a husband for reassurance. Said skid-mark was playing CSI with the security footage from his office and managed to magically enhance the footage (because you can totally do that) to reveal that the arsonist was in fact…wait for it…Jack Hyde!
But you knew that anyway, right? Sure you did. Because unlike the characters in this book, you have more than four braincells.
Anyway. Where were we? Oh yes. You know how Ana was bellyaching about not changing her name to his at work, and how there will probably be a fight about that? Yeah – well. Here comes the fight. And holy shit, it’s stupid and annoying even by the standards of all their other stupid and annoying fights.
We open with the dingbats gawping at the magic security footage of Jack.
“Why would he do this?” I ask Christian.
Why wouldn’t he? Why would anyone who had spent more than eight minutes in the company of these people not want to set them on fire?
For some reason they also have the contents of Jack’s hard drive in their possession and he’s kept some kind of creepy dossier on Christian. Like the one Christian kept on Ana. But that’s totally different and not creepy. Because he’s hot.
Right – that’s enough of the plot for one chapter. Let’s get back to what’s really important – stupid fucking dialogue that does absolutely nothing.
“So what would you like to eat, Sir?” I ask sweetly.
He narrows his eyes. “Are you being cute, Mrs. Grey?”
“Always, Mr. Grey…sir.”
He smiles a sphinxlike smile. “I can still put you over my knee,” he murmurs seductively.
Actually, E.L., you might want to give words like ‘sphinxlike’ a wide berth, considering you spent the last book basically confirming that Christian is sexually attracted to Ana because she reminds him of his Mom.
Ana goes to make Christian a sandwich and is unhappy to find Mrs. Jones in there. Because she wants to be the one to cook for her man. Except when she doesn’t.
I like the idea of cooking for Christian on the weekends. Mrs. Jones is more than welcome to do it during the week – the last thing I’ll want to do I when I come home from work is cook.
See? I’ve barely reached the bottom of the page and I already want to set fire to Ana. Wouldn’t it be nice to only cook for your family when you felt like playing house? Fuck you, Ana. Fuck you so very much.
Christian comes in and they talk about kids. He says he’s not ready to ‘share’ her yet and we all know he’ll never be ready to share anything ever, because he’s little more than an overgrown grabby toddler. I’m also reminded of a line from one of my favourite guilty pleasure movies – Goldie Hawn’s Overboard. “But darling, if you had a baby you wouldn’t be the baby any more.”
Then they talk about how they’re going to renovate the house.
Christian points to the master bedroom, and we start a detailed discussion on bathrooms and separate walk-in closets.
When we finish it’s nine thirty in the evening.
“Are you going back to work?” I ask as Christian rolls up the plans.
“Not if you don’t want me to.”
Of course she doesn’t. And what does she mean by ‘back to work’? He hasn’t been at work all day. Come to think of it neither of them – the workaholic billionaire and the driven, hot-shot young editor – have done any fucking work in this entire book.
There’s several boring pages in which they watch TV and fuck on the couch, which I’ll skip because they are pointless.
“It’s been a heavenly three weeks. Car chases and fires and psycho ex-bosses notwithstanding. Like being in our own private bubble,” I mutter dreamily.
“Hmm,” Christian hums deep in his throat. “I’m not sure I’m ready to share you with the rest of the world yet.”
“Back to reality tomorrow,” I murmur, trying to keep the melancholy from my voice.
Isn’t she precious? Hey, rich-girl – you don’t even have to swap phone numbers with reality if you don’t want to. And presumably you don’t, since you think Patrick Bateman’s evil twin here is anything but a repulsive, dead-eyed psycho with no sense of humour and all the sexual finesse of a drunken donkey.
The next morning Ana goes to work and starts sorting through three weeks worth of paperwork.
“…I have to say, reading through all this correspondence, I wish I was back in the South of France.”
Elizabeth laughs, but her laughter is off, forced, and I cock my head to one side and gaze at her like Christian does to me.
Elizabeth hates you, FYI. Elizabeth probably also wishes you were in the South of France. Or facedown in a dumpster somewhere. Anywhere where she didn’t have to deal with you, basically.
“Glad you’re back safely,” she says. “I’ll see you in a few minutes at the meeting with Roach.”
“Okay,” I murmur, and she closes the door behind her. I frown at the closed door. What was that about? I shrug it off. My e-mail pings – it’s a message from Christian.
And so it goes. God, I hate the e-mail thing. I hate it so much. You have no idea. Every time they start e-mailing I feel like I’m going to start pissing blood. It’s supposed to be cute and funny, but they’re not funny people – they’re just smug and thick.
He gets all miffy because her e-mail still says Anastasia Steele. She says she wants to keep her name at work, because they couldn’t have talked about things like this before they got fucking married. Oh no. Because that would cut into time better spent drinking, whining or having really boring sex.
As the meeting progresses, I grow more and more uncomfortable. There’s a subtle change in how my colleagues are treating me – a distance and deference that wasn’t there before I left for the honeymoon.
That’s because you married the boss, you stupid girl.
Perhaps Christian’s right…perhaps I can’t do this anymore.
What do you mean, anymore? The only book you ever talk about is Tess of the D’Urbervilles and you get that catastrophically wrong every time you do.
The thought is depressing – this is all I’ve ever wanted to do. If I can’t do this, what will I do?
You can’t do this. You’ve never been able to do this. You never do this. You do nothing but e-mail your boyfriend and phone your friends. Oh my God, how can you be this dumb without dying in some gruesome but darkly hilarious accident involving a lawn-chair, fourteen dozen helium balloons and a BB gun?
Can you imagine working with this cretin, let alone working for her? Well, it’s just about to get even more enjoyable for the long-suffering personnel at SIP Publishing.
Christian Grey turns up to ask his wife why it still says ‘Anastasia Steele’ on her e-mail. This is why your colleagues hate you, Ana.
“Christian, do we have to discuss this now?”
“I’m here. I don’t see why not.”
“I have a ton of work to do, having been away for the last three weeks.”
His eyes are cool and assessing – distant even. I marvel that he can appear so cold after last night, after the last three weeks.
They’ve been married for three weeks, by the way. In case you didn’t get that. Were these books even slightly edited at all?
To anyone with half a brain it’s obvious what’s going on here. He doesn’t actually want her to work – he’s said so on several occasions. So he’s making a mountain out of the molehill that is her married name, so as to cause so much embarrassment and disruption that she’ll never want to go back to the office. And she’ll be his. All his.
I’d feel more sorry for Ana if she wasn’t so fucking dense. My pity at this point is reserved for the people who work here and who are trying to have a career in publishing. There’s no way they can get rid of the Fisher-Price editor whose idiocy and laziness are no doubt costing the company dear, since she’s been foisted on them by the massive screaming manbaby who is currently having a giant hissyfit in their boardroom.
“Christian, when I took this job, I’d only just met you,” I say patiently, struggling to find the right words. “I didn’t know you were going to buy the company -”
What can I say about that event in our brief history?
How about ‘bye’?
His deranged reasons for doing so – his control freakery, his stalker tendencies gone mad, given completely free reign because he is so wealthy. I know he wants to keep me safe, but it’s his ownership of SIP that is the fundamental problem here. If he’d never interfered, I could continue as normal and not have to face the disgruntled and whispered recriminations of my colleagues.
By George, I think she’s got it! Well, she’s half got it. Like I say, I have very little sympathy at this point; back in book two she was angry about the buyout, but her anger was short-lived because he said something to remind her that he’s fundamentally broken and broken men give her a serious case of fizzy knickers.
“Why is it so important to you?” I ask, desperately trying to hold on to my fraying temper. I look up at his impassive stare, his eyes luminous, giving nothing away, his earlier hurt now hidden. But even as I ask the question, deep down I know the answer before he says it.
“Ana, I am a big spoilt baby and if you don’t change the name on your e-mail right now I’m going to cry until I make myself sick. And if that doesn’t work I’m going to climb up on the boardroom table, drop my pants and do a massive poo.”
Okay, he doesn’t say that. I wish he did, but he doesn’t.
“I want your world to begin and end with me,” he says, his expression raw. His comment completely derails me. It’s like he’s punched me hard in the stomach, winding and wounding me. And the vision comes to mind of a small, frightened, copper-haired, grey-eyed boy in dirty, mismatched, ill-fitting clothes.
Hey, I was close!
Holy shit, this relationship is ridiculous. Ridiculous. Is it paedophilia if your husband is mentally five? What the fuck is wrong with her? Every time he behaves like a total fucking psycho she’s all ‘Oh, but he’s pretty and he used to be a Victorian orphan or something, and I can’t be the bestest woman in the whole world if I don’t love him unconditionally’.
It’s like watching an exceptionally stupid child trying again and again to stuff the cylindrical brick in the star shaped hole.
Ana makes a little speech about how she’s always worked, and that she can’t be suffocated. She may as well have been speaking Urdu – to a parrot – for all the sense it makes to him. Then he decides to shit on her dream job (she says it’s her dream job, but take that with a pinch of salt, since she never actually does it) and tells her that he’s the reason she got the editor’s job in the first place.
WHICH WE ALL KNEW ANYWAY.
Except Ana didn’t know this, which proves without a doubt that not only is she the dumbest human being to ever defy the odds and survive infancy but is also so delusional as to her own abilities that it’s a wonder she hasn’t tried to invade Russia.
To further fuck things up, Christian announces he’s going to give her the company. As a wedding present.
At this point everyone who has been listening at the boardroom door stops listening at the boardroom door and runs to start shopping their resume to rival firms, if they haven’t done so already. Ana, for once on nodding terms with reality, says she can’t run a publishing house. Ana – running a publishing house. And there was me thinking I’d find few opportunities for comedy in this book.
Anyway, just like every time they’ve had a really terrible argument about something important (stalking, buying the company where she works, not wanting her to work for a living), he suggests they fuck and it’s all forgotten. They don’t fuck in the boardroom but I’m beginning to realise why there was apparently a dearth of office gossip when Ana got back from her honeymoon – they were all gossiping about her.
So. He leaves. Finally. She goes back to ‘work’, which involves requesting a cup of tea from her assistant.
And then she e-mails him.
Fuck. You. So. Much.
And she changes the name in her subject e-mail to read Anastasia Grey, so basically the whole argument was for nothing. Her spoilt husband has once again learned he can get away with any kind of bullshit by throwing a tantrum and reminding her that he was once a big eyed Victorian orphan who had to eat catfood.
Oh, these people. These fucking people.
She works herself into a snit via e-mail and goes home with every intention of continuing the argument. This has gone on for so long already, but I have to show you this. It’s an amazing insight into how Christian Grey built his billion dollar empire.
“How much did [SIP] cost you?”
“It was relatively cheap.” His tone is guarded.
“So if it folds?”
He smirks. “We’ll survive. But I won’t let it fold, Anastasia. Not while you’re there.”
“And if I leave?”
“And do what?”
“I don’t know. Something else.”
She should get a job with Microsoft. Good luck buying that company, shitlord.
Current theory on how Christian Grey has any money left at all is that he owns an ‘industrial laundry’ somewhere, but there’s a secret door behind one of the dryers and it takes you down into a wacky world of methamphetamine hijinks and bodies dissolved in plastic barrels. It’s the only explanation.
And to cap it all, he wants to give me SIP! How the hell could I run a company? I know next to nothing about business.
Neither does your husband, if he’s prepared to pour vast sums of money into a failing publishing firm just to keep his wife amused. And SIP is failing – it has to be failing. Surely everyone who matters knows that the company is little more than a toy in the hands of two complete assclowns who do nothing but squabble all day like a pair of greedy seagulls fighting over a spilled bag of chips. At this point the only thing that could hammer the share price any lower is if someone spread rumours that the Greys wanted ‘a good old fashioned Southern plantation wedding’, but didn’t have one because they were worried about how the media would react.
This chapter has gone on forever, and once again nothing has been resolved. Once she’s at home he plays some ‘stunning’ music and after a couple of glasses of wine and some more mentally challenged banter, Ana is all better and ready to face the architect who has come to discuss their plans for the house.
Chapter eight opens with the arrival of the architect, Gia Matteo. Gia is elegant, attractive and worst of all, blonde. And we all know what happens when Ana is confronted with a blonde – she gets up on her back legs and starts hissing like a cat threatened with the ironing spray.
“You both look so well after your honeymoon,” she says smoothly, her brown eyes gazing at Christian through long mascaraed lashes. Christian puts an arm around me, holding me close.
“We had a wonderful time, thank you.” He brushes his lips against my temple, taking me by surprise.
See…he’s mine. Annoying – infuriating, even – but mine. I grin. Right now I really love you, Christian Grey.
I don’t know how ‘You both look so well after your honeymoon’ translates to ‘Hey, bitch – I want to fuck your husband’, but at this point we have enough evidence to write these people off as hopeless freaks who are incapable of functioning socially.
They stand there like lemons until Ana ‘remembers her manners’ (what manners?) and goes to find some wine. Gia is determined to be difficult and requests a dry white, which is not in itself difficult, but this is Ana we’re talking about.
Shit! Sauvignon blanc – that’s a dry white, isn’t it?
The ‘blanc’ part would suggest that much, yes. Also how does Ana not know a Sauvignon from a Chablis by now? The woman spends most of her waking hours half-cut. Maybe she’s one of those downwardly mobile drunks who prefers hobo wine and cleaning products – seems a shame since she has the talent and the means to be a really high class alcoholic.
…I’m gripped by the uncanny feeling that Christian and I are putting on a show, playing a game together – but this time we’re on the same side pitted against Ms. Matteo.
“Our marriage was a mess until bullying employees brought us together!” Yeah. You’re terrible people.
Ana keeps on about how much Gia is after her husband, but there is absolutely no evidence of this, leading to the unfortunate impression that Ana has finally lost what is left of what passes for her mind.
Mine. Yeah, bitch – mine. My inner goddess is wearing her gladiatrix outfit, and she’s taking no prisoners.
Obviously the imaginary friends don’t help with this impression…
…she briefly touches his arm in a small, flirty gesture.
A tactile Italian – how strange. Never met one of those before.
She makes him uncomfortable. Why didn’t I see that before? That’s why I don’t like her.
Christian Grey – made uncomfortable by a successful, professional woman who is by all accounts really good at her job. Who would have thought it?
They talk about the renovations and there is nothing remotely suggestive said by anyone. Given that E.L. James does subtle about as well as Ana does sober-and-not-crazy, you’d have thought they’d all be smacking each other over the head with crap double-entendres the way Christian and Ana did when they first met in the hardware store. But they don’t, so Ana has definitely gone bye-byes.
Gia is looking at Christian, waiting for him to make the decision. I watch as her pupils dilate and her glossed lips part.
That slut. Look at the way her pupils react to light. Whore.
Her tongue darts quickly over her top lip before she takes a sip of her wine.
So she was parting her lips to drink? Ana, you are so far round the twist you should be upcycled as a novelty corkscrew.
When I turn back to Christian, he’s still looking at me – not at her at all. Yes! I am going to have words with Ms. Matteo.
Taylor conveniently calls Christian away, so that Ana – who has surely been looking forward to this far too much – can unleash the full force of her fury on Gia.
Then, calling on my inner strength and the fact that I’ve been seriously piqued for the last five hours, I let her have it.
I love how she basically admits she’s taking out her frustrations on this poor woman. And you don’t have any inner strength, Ana. You have an inner bully – I’ll give you that.
“You’re right to be nervous, Gia, because right now your work on this project hangs in the balance. But I’m sure we’ll be fine as long as you keep your hands off my husband.”
“Otherwise, you’re fired. Understand?” I enunciate each word clearly.
She blinks rapidly, utterly stunned. She cannot believe what I’ve said. I cannot believe what I’ve just said.
Signs that you’re going round the bend…
“Ana – Mrs. Grey…I’m so sorry. I never – ” She flushes, unsure what else she can say.
“I never realised you were off your meds. I’m so sorry.”
Now that I have the upper hand, I feel myself relax for the first time since my meeting with Christian this afternoon. I can do this. My inner goddess is celebrating her inner bitch.
Ana, you are a shitstain of a person. I hope the architect charges you double for every last floor tile.
Gia leaves and there’s a brief mention of Jack Hyde, but Christian tells Ana not to worry about it. They talk about Gia and Christian has a brief don’t-hate-me-because-I’m-beautiful moment and says Gia is a sexual predator. Isn’t it romantic when a couple start sharing joint delusions?
But it’s all fine now even though he bought the company where she works, bought her job, humiliated her at work and is trying to control every aspect of her life.
All my conflicting emotions from earlier resurface. How can I tell him how confused I am? I’ve been confounded and frustrated by his behaviour this afternoon in my office. One minute he wants me to stay at home, the next he’s gifting me a company. How am I supposed to keep up?
You’re not. That’s the point. Isn’t it funny how he gravitates to extremely stupid women with no self-esteem? It’s almost…predatory.
Ana makes a series of speeches about how she doesn’t want him to keep trying to control her life, but it’s all for nothing because you know he’s going to keep on doing what he does and she’s going to let him. Then she quotes King Lear, which proves that she has read at least one Shakespeare play. Or at least that bit of it.
Then they yap on about nothing and he raises the subject of a hair-cut and for the next four hundred pages or more she washes his hair and they play hairdressers together. Then they fuck for another four hundred pages.
Then Ana goes in search of a pair of scissors to cut his hair, even though his hair is probably dry by now because they’ve been at it so long. She comes across Taylor and Mrs. Jones in a compromising position.
Get some, Mrs. Jones. Almost makes up for having to clean the buttplugs. Almost.
Then Ana finds a gun in a drawer but it’s not mentioned again. Somewhere, up in moody Russian dramatist valhalla or wherever it is they go, Anton Chekhov is so over this shit.
And then they play hairdressers some more and gossip about Taylor and Mrs. Jones, because it is strange and mysterious to them that the slave people from below stairs have feelings just like us.
Then they get into bed and this chapter is never going to end. Ever. She says she’s not sure if she wants to run a company.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because it’s not something that has ever appealed to me.”
“You’re more than capable, Anastasia.”
“I like to read books, Christian. Running a company will take me away from that.”
Name one book you’ve read, Ana. In the last three weeks. Or ever. And Tess of the fucking D’Urbervilles does not count, because we know you’ve never read that. Or anything published after 1950.
“You could be the creative head.”
Or you could just do what hubby really wants you to do and give creative head. It’s so pathetically obvious he’s trying to persuade her to give up work.
“You see,” he continues. “running a successful company is all about embracing the talent of the individuals you have at your disposal…”
Christian, you hire – as security – people who are confused by the notion that a man might have long hair and who drive potential arsonists and murderers right up to your front door. I don’t think you’re in the business to talk about recognising talents, let alone embracing them. Fortunately Christian Grey lives in the magical land of Apprentice contestants, where all you have to do to be good at business is burble buzzwords and wallow in delusional self-belief.
“…if that’s where your talents and interests lie, then you structure the company to enable that. Don’t dismiss it out of hand, Anastasia. You’re a very capable woman. I think you could do anything you wanted if you put your mind to it.”
She couldn’t, but this is the point. She’ll go in there, get totally overwhelmed and give up. At which point she’ll have to come home and become his own little personal, private 24/7 concubine. Then again, she might learn a few things about wine. Like how to drink it.
Not that she needs much help in that direction.