This is it. This is finally it. The last chapter of Fifty Shades of Grey. Twenty-six is a strangely appropriate number, because this monster of a book often feels like a marathon; it hurts like hell, you think it will never end and it may very well make you throw up in public.
The chapter begins with Ana waking up, and I don’t even care because I don’t have to read any more of this crap once this chapter is over.
It is dark, and I’m in Christian’s bed alone. Something has woken me, some nagging thought. I glance over at the alarm clock on his bedside. It is 5:00 in the morning…I can hear faint notes from the piano…
Five o’clock in the morning is a great time to play the piano. Especially if you want to avoid the hassle of a friendly relationship with any of your neighbours.
Shrouded in darkness, Christian sits in a bubble of light as he plays…
The first thing that popped into my head when I read this line was Lady Gaga playing the piano in her ‘bubble’ dress. I had fun with that image, and now you can too.
He looks lost, sad even, and achingly lonely…
…in his million dollar penthouse, playing his Bechstein piano.
…or maybe it’s just the music that’s so full of poignant sorrow.
Thanks for pointing out that sorrow is poignant, Ana. Is this like the time he was playing a ‘mournful lament’? What is it about that piano that makes her bust out even more redundancies than usual?
He glances up at me and frowns before his gaze returns to his hands. Oh crap, is he pissed off that I am disturbing him?
Oh Ana. Of course he’s not. Do you really think he’s playing the piano at 5am because he’s so brooding and interesting or because he wants you to wake up and pay attention to him?
He tells her she should be asleep, she says so should he and we’re already mired in the kind of tiresome bullshit that I almost feel well-disposed towards now that I know it’s nearly over.
“Are you scolding me, Miss Steele?”
“Yes, Mr. Grey, I am.”
“Well, I can’t sleep.”
Yeah, and neither can anyone else now. Hey, Christian – why don’t you bust out your no-doubt heavenly pipes and treat all the neighbours to a rousing rendition of Nessun Dorma, since you’re all about cockslapping everyone with your sophisticated taste in music? It would be the most appropriate use of music in this fucking book since Ana found Toxic on your iPod.
“What was that?” I ask softly.
“Chopin. Opus 28, number 4. In E minor, if you’re interested,” he murmurs.
Of course she’s interested. You’re practically begging her to be impressed with your every breath, you catastrophic failure of a human being. These people are so hilariously disingenuous with each other that it’s fortunate for them they’re too stupid to figure out one another completely transparent manipulations.
Ana then asks him to play the piece he usually plays when he’s trying to be brooding and complicated at what-the-hell o’clock in the morning, so that she can better feel sorry for him.
It is a hauntingly beautiful piece, sadder even than the Chopin, and I lose myself to the beauty of the lament. To a certain extent, it reflects how I feel. The deep poignant longing I have to know this extraordinary men better, to try and understand his sadness.
He’s not sad. He’s just sulky. And you’re an idiot for trying to figure him out and fix him. He’s really not that complicated – he’s just a textbook sociopath with a sadistic streak and a toddler’s comprehension of the word ‘no’.
“Why do you only play such sad music?”
I sit upright and gaze up at him as he shrugs in answer to my question.
“Because it makes you think I’m complicated and you’re stupid enough to think you can fix me. And also because they took my Huey Lewis and the News albums away when they came to dust for prints.”
She remembers she needs to take her birth control pill and realises that her timing of taking the pill is all screwed up because of time zones. Christian then says she should start taking them half an hour later in increments because…well…I don’t know, actually. I have no idea how this adds to the book or does anything but occupy space on a page. This is the final chapter, by the way. I doubt anything is going to be resolved, since we’re currently trundling along in even lower gear than we were back when Ana was hyperventilating over him in a coffee shop. I know it’s one of a series but even serial novels should strive to be fairly episodic.
Then again, I have no idea how I managed to read twenty-five chapters of this steaming pile and still even remember how good writing is supposed to work, let alone keep trying to apply the rules to this mess. I suppose I’m just an optimist.
Or a lunatic.
“Good plan,” I breathe. “So what shall we do for half an hour?” I blink innocently at him.
Not even kidding. They are actually sitting around musing about ways to kill time until Ana has to pop a blister on her birth control pack and wash that sucker down with water. These may easily be the dullest lovers in literature.
“I can think of a few things,” he grins, grey eyes bright. I gaze back impassively as my insides clench and melt under his knowing look.
“On the other hand, we could talk,” I suggest quietly.
His brow creases. “I prefer what I have in mind.”
Actually so do I. At least when they’re just humping like bored farm animals I don’t have to pay any attention to them. When they’re ‘talking’ there’s a chance they might drop a plot point somewhere in between the endless lines of cooing, quirking, smirking and smugging.
He suggests fucking her on the piano and she once again tries to talk about the contract.
“Well, I think the contract is moot, don’t you?” His voice is low and husky, his eyes soft.
“Moot.” He smiles. I gape at him quizzically.
See what I mean? Now they’re literally mooing at one another and she’s sitting on his lap with her mouth wide open like a ventriloquist’s dummy.
“But you were so keen.”
“Well, that was before. Anyway, the Rules aren’t moot, they still stand.” His expression hardens slightly.
“Before? Before what?”
“Before…” He pauses, and the wary expression is back. “More.” He shrugs.
So let me get this straight – she thinks ‘more’ means he’s going to become the magical skipping-through-daisies boyfriend of her silly dreams, and he thinks ‘more’ means extra vanilla sex on top of all the nasty things he wanted to do to her in that gross contract of his.
These are two people who never shut the fuck up and yet remain completely incapable of conveying their feelings and desires to one another. In case you weren’t suitably pissed off by the laughably bad psychological payoff in the previous chapter, E.L. James is about to pop a dingleberry cherry on top of that big old shit sundae by pointing out that the entire plot of this novel has been a total waste of your time.
All that ‘progress’ these shitbirds made in their awful mess of a relationship? Pointless. There was no progress.
Even Ana is annoyed at this point.
“So let me be clear. You just want me to follow the Rules element of the contract all the time but not the rest of the contract?”
“Except in the playroom. I want you to follow the spirit of the contract in the playroom, and yes, I want you to follow the rules – all the time. Then I know you’ll be safe, and I’ll be able to have you anytime I wish.”
So, Ana – about that ‘changing him’. How’s that working out for you?
“And if I break one of the rules?”
“Then I’ll punish you.”
“But you won’t need my permission?”
“Yes, I will.”
“And if I say no.”
He gazes at me for a moment, with a confused expression.
“If you say no, you’ll say no. I’ll have to find a way to persuade you.”
Yeah. He’s still not very clear on the whole ‘no means no’ thing, is he? Still getting a bit of a rapey vibe from him, to be honest.
Jeez, I need some tea. The future of our so-called relationship is being discussed at 5:45 in the morning while he’s preoccupied with something else – is this wise?
No. None of this has been wise. The wise course of action would have been to call the police the first time he kidnapped you.
Christian goes to get the ‘contract’, which – if you’ve read the book – is enough to make even the casual reader worry that they’re about to have to read the entire mind-numbingly boring contract for the fourth time. And I admit, I was worried that was going to happen to. I thought ‘No – come on. Not even E.L. James can suck that much’.
I was wrong. Like I say, I’m an optimist. And almost certainly a lunatic by this point.
Yes, the contract is back. Printed out with the exciting new addition of strikethrough over the controversial part where Ana refused to let him control her eating habits. All the creepy sex stuff, though? Yeah – that’s still the same. She has to get her pubes waxed by the beautician he chooses for her, wear the clothes he picks for her, work out when he tells her to and be his perma-lubed fuck-receptacle at all times.
She (understandably) rolls her eyes at the recurrence of this page-padding bullshit, and he threatens to spank her, prompting them to chase each other giggling around the apartment for a few pages.
“We can do this all day, baby, but will get you, and will just be worse for you when I do.”
“No, you won’t.” I must not be overconfident. I repeat this as a mantra. My subconscious has found her Nikes, and she’s on the starting blocks.
Ana has lots of mantras, it seems. She started the book reminding herself not to sleep with wet hair and now ends it reminding herself not to be overconfident. Sadly she doesn’t have any ‘mantras’ that go ‘The people who live in my head are not real’ or ‘I will not be a moron’.
“Anyone would think you didn’t want me to catch you.”
“I don’t. That’s the point. I feel about punishment the way you feel about me touching you.”
How many trees died before Ana finally managed to communicate effectively – in a single sentence – what this whole ridiculous book has been dancing around with for an absurd number of pages? Yes, dipshit – she doesn’t like pain. How is that difficult to understand? How is that difficult to explain?
His entire demeanour changes in a nanosecond. Gone is playful Christian, and he stands staring at me as if I’d slapped him. He’s ashen. “That’s how you feel?” he whispers.
Those four words, and the way he utters them, speaks volumes. Oh no. They tell me so much more about him and how he feels.
That he doesn’t feel anything because he’s so hopelessly broken as regards empathy that he couldn’t even understand your repeated and obvious insistence that you weren’t into pain?
They tell me about his fear and loathing. I frown. Now, I don’t feel that bad. No way. Do I?
Yes. Yes you do. And leave off the fear and loathing; we can’t stop here – this is batshit country.
You can’t say that Christian Grey isn’t good at what he does. They’ve been together for less than two weeks and he’s already got her completely convinced that the whole universe revolves around his cockhead. He’s already got her more or less apologising for telling him how much she hates it when he hits her.
He looks completely and utterly lost, like I’ve pulled the rug from under his feet.
Taking a deep breath, I move round the table until I am standing in front of him, gazing into his apprehensive eyes.
“You hate it that much?” he breathes, his eyes filled with horror.
Yes she does. Of course, I’m sitting here reading this thinking this guy’s a world class actor as well as a sociopath, but when E.L. James wrote this she didn’t intend to write Christian Grey as American Psycho. She wrote him (or Edward Cullen) as the hero of a romance. She clearly intends his obliviousness here to be genuine, which has the unfortunate side-effect of making him appear twice as stupid as Ana.
Apparently the times when she said ‘I don’t want to do that’ or ‘I’m not sure about this’ or the time he thought she was going to call the police on him for hitting her were still not sufficient to convince him that she didn’t like pain.
Ana finally explains what has yet to penetrate his armour-plated skull.
“I do it for you, Christian, because you need it. I don’t. You didn’t hurt me last night. That was in a different context, and I can rationalise that internally, and I trust you. But when you want to punish me, I worry that you’ll hurt me.”
His grey eyes blaze like a turbulent storm. Time moves, and expands and slips away before he answers softly.
“I want to hurt you. But not beyond anything that you couldn’t take.”
So that whole thing about being horrified about her not liking pain? You’re not that horrified, are you? Not really. Not if you’re saying this shit out loud.
He runs his hand through his hair, and he shrugs.
“I just need it.”
If you need to hurt people then you need psychological help. End of discussion.
But it’s not, because we are still in the dumbest book in human history. Cue Christian dangling the one thing he knows will make her unable to resist him – the magical puzzle-piece possibility that she will be the one to fix him.
He pauses, gazing at me with anguish, and he closes his eyes and shakes his head. “I can’t tell you,” he whispers.
“Can’t or won’t?”
“So you know why.”
“But you won’t tell me.”
“If I do, you will run screaming from this room, and you’ll never want to return.” He stares at me warily. “I can’t risk that, Anastasia.”
It works, as he knew it would, and the next moment she’s in his arms and locked in a frantic game of tongue hockey.
“Don’t leave me. You said you wouldn’t leave me, and you begged me not to leave you, in your sleep,” he murmurs against my lips.
Yeah. I’m not sure you can take someone at their word if they said the thing while they’re unconscious.
This is a man in need. His fear is naked and obvious, but he’s lost…somewhere in his darkness. His eyes are wide and bleak and tortured. I can soothe him, join him briefly in the darkness and bring him into the light.
Yeah, that will work out well, Ana. Come to think of it, that scenario always works out well and almost never ends in violence, misery and murder.
“Show me,” I whisper.
“Show me how much it can hurt.”
“Punish me. I want to know how bad it can get.”
Every time you think she can’t get any more witless, she goes and ups the ante. Run, you stupid girl.
Christian steps back away from me, completely confused.
“You would try?”
“Yes. I said I would.” But I have an ulterior motive. If I do this for him, maybe he will let me touch him.
No. He won’t. Just like he won’t understand what you meant or wanted when you said you wanted ‘more’. Because he has a terrifying ability to tune out other people’s desires to the point where he only responds to his own wants and needs. Again, it’s one of those Hamlet and the monkeys moments – E.L. James was trying to write Edward as a troubled-but-dreamy-lover but managed, completely by accident, to turn him into a disturbingly accurate psycho.
They go into the ‘playroom’ (formerly known as ‘the Red Room of Pain’) and he goes through his usual creepy ritual of baring her thighs and butt and telling her why he is going to punish her.
“I am doing this so that you remember not to run from me, and as exciting as it is, I never want you to run from me,” he whispers.
And the irony is not lost on me. I was running to avoid this.
Oh well done. That is actually what irony means. At last. After twenty-six chapters.
He beats her with a belt and it’s not fun or kinky or anything but what it is – violence. She’s in so much pain she can barely catch her breath and he makes her count the strokes out loud. Once again there is no mention of safewords. He gave her a safe-word the previous night, when he gave her a light tickling with a fur glove and warmed her skin a little with a flogger, but it would seem that safe-words do not apply to ‘punishment’ whether it’s requested or not.
This guy isn’t kinky. This guy is a sadist who likes to hit women.
My voice is a choked, strangled sob, and in this moment I think I hate him. One more, I can do one more. My backside feels as if it’s on fire.
“Six,” I whisper as the blistering pain cuts across me again, and I hear him drop the belt behind me, and he’s pulling me into his arms, all breathless and compassionate…and I want none of him.
I’m not surprised.
“This is what you really like? Me, like this?” I use the sleeve of the bathrobe to wipe my nose.
He gazes at me warily.
“Well, you are one fucked-up son of a bitch.”
I just want to curl up. Curl up and recouperate in some way. Heal my shattered faith. How could I have been so stupid?
Is that a rhetorical question?
It is still dark in the bedroom, dawn only a whisper in the skyline…what was I thinking? Why did I let him do that to me? I wanted the dark, to explore how bad it could be – but it’s too dark for me. I cannot do this.
Ah – there’s that light/dark metaphor again. The author loved it so much she wanted to bring it back for the final chapter. Unfortunately since it’s probably now about 6.30 on a June morning, the sun is already well and truly up.
What a monumental wake-up call. And to be fair to him, he warned me and warned me, time and again.
To be fair to you, he did just beat the shit out of you with a belt after once again failing to remind you of the existence of safewords.
He’s not normal. He has needs that I cannot fulfil. I realise that now.
It’s not a question of fulfilling anyone’s needs. His ‘needs’ are downright criminal.
I sob harder into the pillow. I am going to lose him. He won’t want to be with me if I can’t give him this. Why, why, why have I fallen in love with Fifty Shades?
“Boo hoo – he won’t want me if I don’t let him beat the shit out of me!” And they say romance is dead.
My subconscious is shaking her head sadly, and my inner goddess is nowhere to be seen. Oh, this is a dark morning of the soul for me. I’m so alone.
Oh cheer up. You still have one imaginary friend left. And in time you’ll come to realise what the rest of us have known all along; your inner goddess was really fucking annoying.
I have to go. That’s it…I have to leave. He’s no good for me, and I am no good for him. How can be possibly make this work? And thought of not seeing him again practically chokes me…my Fifty Shades.
I get it. First heartbreak sucks, Ana. Doubly so if you’re dating a criminal lunatic who beats women. But you have been with him for all of two weeks…so, you know. A little hurt now is going to save you a whole lot more down the line, because he’s just not right. He should be put in a cage and studied.
He comes in and begs her not to hate him.
I gaze at his beautiful face. He’s giving nothing away, but he keeps his eyes on mine, hardly blinking. Oh, he is so breathtakingly good-looking. In such a short time, he’s become so, so dear to me.
The two things are in no way related, by the way. Nuh uh.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper.
Uh, what? What the fuck just happened here? Why is she sorry? This asshole should be on his knees, in tears, begging her not to call the fucking police. Even he’s confused at this point.
He opens his eyes and looks at me puzzled.
“What I said.”
“You didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know.” And his eyes soften with relief. “I am sorry I hurt you.”
“I asked for it.”
What the hell is wrong with everyone in this book?
Anyway, long story short, she decides to break up with him because she can’t be what he wants her to be. This may be the first sensible decision she’s ever made. But we’re not done – there’s some more silly, melodramatic howling to get out of the way first, before she grabs the nearest donut shaped cushion and shuffles off out of his horrid life forever. (Or at least until chapter two of the sequel.)
“I’ve fallen in love with you, Christian.”
His eyes widen again, but this time, with pure undiluted fear.
“No,” he breathes as if I’ve knocked the wind out of him.
“You can’t love me, Ana. No…that’s wrong.” He’s horrified.
“Wrong? Why’s it wrong?”
“Well, look at you. I can’t make you happy.” His voice is anguished.
You can’t stop yourself from hitting women. I’d say that’s a slightly bigger problem.
Holy fuck. This really is it. This is what it boils down to – incompatibility.
And his habit of hitting women.
Having finally concluded that she’s just not compatible with Christian Grey, Ana wanders off, takes a shower, packs her things and – in true Ana fashion – throws herself a disproportionate pity party about exactly the wrong aspects of the entire fucked up situation.
I gaze at myself in the mirror. A pale and haunted ghost stares back at me. I scoop my hair into a ponytail and ignore how swollen my eyelids are from the crying. My subconscious nods with approval. Even she she knows not to be snarky right now. I cannot believe that my world is crumbling around me into a sterile pile of ashes, all my hopes and dreams cruelly dashed.
I’m sorry, but I laughed. I know, I shouldn’t, but it’s really hard when the author came so close to portraying actual human emotions and then blew it all on a bunch of bad teenage goth moping. Presumably Ana is going to wander off into a handful of blank pages now, like Bella at the start of New Moon.
I take a last lingering look at his apartment – at the art on the walls – all abstracts, serene, cool…cold, even. Fitting, I think absently. My eyes stray to the piano. Jeez – if I’d kept my mouth shut, we’d have made love on the piano. No, fucked, we would have fucked on the piano. Well, I would have made love. The thought lies heavy and sad on in my mind. He has never made love to me, has it. It’s always been fucking to him.
Oh for goodness sake. It’s been two weeks and he’s a pervert.
Okay, my sympathy is well and truly strained to breaking point by now. My Kindle says I’m at 99% and if I’m not on ‘by the same author’ in the next couple of pages I’m going to be severely miffed.
He stops, and the anguish in his expression is palpable, his grey eyes burning.
“I don’t want you to go,” he murmurs, his voice full of longing.
“I can’t stay. I know what I want and you can’t give it to me, and I can’t give you what you need.”
Will these people ever shut up and fuck off? Who do they think they are? Bogey and Bergman on the airstrip at the end of Casablanca? It’s not that complicated or noble, you morons. She’s an idiot and he’s a psychopath.
“Goodbye, Christian,” I murmur.
“Ana, goodbye,” he says softly, and he looks utterly, utterly broken…
He is. He always was. Probably always will be. You’re best off without him really. There’s always a bright side to these things. Hey – maybe he’ll kill himself!
…a man in agonising pain, reflecting how I feel inside. I tear my gaze away from hi before I change my mind and to comfort him.
The elevator doors close and it whisks me down to the bowels of the basement and to my own personal hell.
Oh, I know that feeling, Ana. I didn’t even believe in hell before I read this book.
She gets into the car with Taylor and cries some more and goes back to her apartment and cries some more and collapses on her bed and…wait for it…cries some more.
I fall onto my bed, shoes and all, and howl. The pain is indescribable…physical, mental…metaphysical…it is everywhere, seeping into the marrow of my bones.
So not completely indescribable then?
Grief. This is grief – and I’ve brought it on myself. Deep down, a nasty unbidden thought comes from my inner goddess, her lip curled in snarl…the physical pain from the bite of a belt is nothing, nothing compared to this devastation.
And that’s it. The book ends with Ana weeping and wailing on her bed and with the words guaranteed to piss off any reader who came in here expecting a self-contained story,
End of Part One
It’s a small ‘fuck you’, but in its own way it’s strangely perfect. “Buy the sequel. And up yours, sucker.”