I am too eager to please. I am always happy to run errands for friends, take notes for classmates when they are sick and I’m the first one to take a shift at work when coverage is needed. As I sit in the office of Mr. Christian Grey, billionaire wunderkind and sexy secretary enthusiast, I’m realizing that this may be the final nail in the coffin of my Good Samaritan spirit. I only agreed to take over Kate’s interview responsibilities because she was so pathetically sick, but the two hour drive hardly seems worth it at this point.
Mr. Grey’s office is sleek and silver, with floor-to-ceiling windows covering two of the four walls and a Japanese-inspired water garden adorning the corner opposite his desk. He has a cup filled with pencils engraved “Grey,” the likes of which I haven’t seen since my uncle got me silver, sparkly “Anastasia” pencils for my twelfth birthday. There’s no indicator as to what he actually does for work.
He insists on standing across the room and staring out the window as we begin the interview, and rather than question the odd behavior, I choose to just begin with the usual getting to know you questions. To what do you owe your success? Who are your business inspirations? How do you keep from floundering in an unstable economy? All is going well and generally bland until I ask him about his sexuality, a consequence of my mindless cold-reading of Kate’s prepared questions.
“I suppose people are curious because they never see me out in public with women. It must make you curious.”
“Not really. It’s just a question Kate had on the list. I apologize, it was inappropriate.” Christian moves from the rain-streaked window to his desk, leaning and rapping his fingers against the edge. He cocks his head and seems to be trying to look through me. I can’t tell if this is his way of intimidating journalists who pry too much into his personal life or a misguided attempt at flirting.
“What about you,Anastasia? I want to know about you.” He inches towards me, reaching for the hair resting against the side of my neck. I try my best to not recoil in disgust, but the overwhelming smell of his generously-applied cologne makes it difficult.
“That’s not really how interviews work, Mr. Grey.” He steps back towards the window, offended at my lack of response. “There’s not much to know about me anyway. That’s why you’re the subject of the interview.” I can only hope that my closing statement will soothe his nerves and leave him with some friendlier feelings towards myself, Kate and the school paper.
“You’re very closed off, Anastasia.” Though my instinct is to roll my eyes and tell him to fuck off, I manage to control my impulse in the name of professionalism.
As I shake his hand to thank him for the interview, he lingers for a moment and squeezes hard. I admit his grip strength is demonstrative of his power, but the unnecessary stroke of my palm with his finger just solidifies my feeling that this is a man who feels the world, and particularly women, owe him more than he rightfully deserves.
I move towards the elevator and as the doors close in front of me I see Christian standing straight ahead. He smiles, winks and looks through me once again.
“Anastasia.” His gaze doesn’t leave my body.
“Mr. Grey.” I shudder internally.
Upon my return home, Kate informs me that she has already received an email from Mr. Grey stating that he rather enjoyed the interview and was very pleased with how I conducted myself. I tell her I was glad to help, but the interview and all further contact with Christian was now in her hands. I’m too busy to continue taking over her work. She’s baffled that I wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to talk with him again. He’s just so hot. After the palm-stroking, cringe-inducing, male-gaze-drenched day I had experienced, I was looking forward to forgetting the whole thing.
But I couldn’t forget the whole thing.
How can you forget a man who shows up at your work out of the blue? Here I am pricing out ice melt and this guy comes in asking me where to find cable ties, rope and masking tape. Some sort of home renovation. Not sure where he lives, but unless it’s the inside of a tauntaun, I’m pretty sure none of these objects qualify as home renovation tools. My quick thinking had me flagging down Paul from the back office to help me reach the requested rope from the top shelf, and when he saw the look of terror in my eyes he made sure to stay close and escort me to the check out. It was clear that Christian didn’t like this, and immediately targeted Paul as a threat in his mind. As he collected his bags he informed me he’d be back the next day after work to take me out for coffee. No thank you. He smiled.
I managed to duck out of work a half hour early the next day and avoided any direct confrontation, but my mind was quickly unsettled when I came home to discover a brand new Macbook, courtesy of Christian Grey. I had needed a new one for a little over a month, but not once had I mentioned it in his presence. I boxed it up and addressed it to Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. without any sort of note.
I thought the returned Macbook would make the point clear but then came the first editions of Tess of the d’Ubervilles, worth thousands of dollars and one’s first born child. If I didn’t want a $1,200 Macbook, I’m not sure what gave him the impression that I’d want a one of a kind book worth several thousand. I went ahead with the repackaging, readdressing and resending of the gifts. I don’t want, nor do I need, anything like that, especially from a virtual stranger. I’m a Jane Austen girl anyway.
When I came home to find that there was a new set of keys on my counter, and in turn a car that was not my old beat up Volkswagon buggie, I realized it was time to let somebody else know what was going on. I tried to tell Kate, but she insisted that it was romantic. I have the world’s most eligible billionaire bachelor after me. I should really lighten up.
There were a few days a relief from the whole situation as my attention turned to final exams and graduation. After several all-nighters, I had finally submitted my last paper and was ready to blow off some steam. Kate and I decided a night on the town was not only deserved, but absolutely necessary.
Maybe I took a few too many shots. Maybe my all caffeine diet of the past week intensified the effects of the alcohol. Whatever the case may be, I got way more intoxicated than I intended. It happens to the best of us from time to time.
What doesn’t happen to the best of us is waking up in a billionaire’s bed the next morning with no recollection of how you ended up there. As I scrambled to try to remember the events of the past night, I notice Christian eying me from the couch across the room. He nods his head to the table by my side, and I notice some blue gel pills and a glass of orange juice. He tells me to take the pills and drink the juice. I’ll feel better. He doesn’t like it when I drink like that, and I am not to do it again.
My brain feels as if it’s rolling free inside of my head, and as much as I would like to believe the pills are advil, I err on the side of caution and politely refuse. I begin to assess myself to see if we had sex the night before. Christian hasn’t exactly proven himself to be a noble individual, so asking him doesn’t seem like the best course to obtain an honest answer. I look up and see him smirk. He tells me nothing happened, and I need not worry. I’m baffled by a man who would tell me not to worry when he seems fully aware of the fact that he took me to his home without my consent.
“I would like to leave now.” I try to speak in my firmest voice, but it’s muffled by my conflicting need to vomit what tastes like 7-11 taquitos into the closest receptacle.
Christian tells me that he sent his driver to get me clothes to replace my soiled ones from the night before. I am expected to get cleaned up and dressed. He wants to show me something. My life flashes before my eyes, as I am now certain he is going to murder me. I watch ID Discovery. I know what a serial killer looks like.
If I make it out of this, Kate seriously owes me.
I figure my only hope is to play it cool and try to slip out, seemingly unaffected, before heading straight to the police station. I crawl out of bed, my head throbbing and stomach jumping, and move towards the folded clothes sitting on the chair in the corner. Christian is waiting for me in the hallway. It seems to be his attempt to appear as a gentleman, but at this point I have to wonder why he would bother.
The clothes themselves are nothing special, just a fitted white blouse and a pair of skinny jeans. The innocuous fashion choice makes the entire situation more unsettling. What could he be buttering me up for? I try not to let me imagination run wild as I tentatively step out into the hallway to meet Christian. I know my best bet is to be vigilant and survey the perimeter for a potential escape route.
Christian grabs my hand the minute it is within his reach. He begins to speak. I try to listen, but I’m too busy making note of the multitude of doors throughout his enormous penthouse. Before I know it, we have arrived at a door adorned with a gold lock unlike any other in his home and he mutters something about how special he thinks I am. Something about a playroom. My pulse quickens as he turns the key, and I close my eyes, trying once again to not let my imagination take hold.
When I open my eyes, I am blinded by garish red velvet padding and a slew of leather cuffs, whips, belts and toys of the like. It appears to be some sort of sexual torture chamber that has been decorated by suburban mom with a maribou obsession. There are equal amounts of chains and cat-o-nine tails as there are peacock feathers and Renaissance Fair raccoon tails. We are out of the playroom just as soon as we entered, door shut and locked. Christian grabs my wrist and says he’d like to show me another room. I no longer have any sort of control over my imagination. Why did he show me his “red room of pain” for a mere second? Is it all some sort of joke? Does he want me to function as some sort of sexy maid or interior designer? Does this middle-class nightmare just need a redesign?
By the time I recollect my mind and draw myself back to the present moment, I’m standing at the foot of a plush, white bed. The entire room looks like something out of my grandmother’s vacation home. A cream-colored, padded headboard with silver metal trim against an eggshell and pale pink floral wallpaper. The entire scene immediately calls up the smell of moth balls and bengay.
“There have been 15 who lived here before you.” Christian lets go of my hand and moves to the window, looking out into the gray Seattle sky. “If you are to live here, you may decorate the room however you like.”
Obviously my interior design theory has some validity, but with a much more sinister twist.
“Fifteen what?” I shouldn’t have asked. But my curiosity got the best of me. What did he do with those 15 people?
He just smiled and laughed. He told me to sleep well and then shut the door. I am all consumed with what has become of the previous 15. The mysterious 15 that once inhabited this room before me. I know that if I allow myself to stay the night, I will become the dreaded number 16, and I cannot let that happen.
After a quick survey, I notice that there is an entrance to a vent through the top of the closet. Once I am sure that Christian is a safe distance away, I make my way to the closet and work to wriggle my way into the vent. For once I am thankful for my skinny, awkward body. As I crawl, trying to slow my panicked breath, I am struck by the sound of mournful piano music coming from the room below me. It takes everything in me to not laugh. This guy is really walking the Hannibal Lector/Phantom of the Opera line quite well.
As I creep through the hot metal vents, trying my best to not let my skin get stuck as I drag myself from one panel to the next, I can’t help but think of Kate. If she thought he was so damn hot she should be the one desperately trying to keep her shirt in one piece as she slides through the ventilation system of a psychopath’s home. But no. She was sick. She didn’t feel like it. It was too long a drive. I, Anastasia Steele, super friend and best roommate in the world, should totally do it.
Come to the billionaire’s office, you’ll ask a few questions, he’s totally hot …
I continue to shimmy through the vents, moving briskly, but silent, until I see the potential for an escape. Below me I can see what appears to be the checker pattern of an elevator lobby floor. I try to delicately remove the vent from below my chest, but before I know it I’m falling through the ceiling, jolting the door open to the main entrance of Christian’s penthouse. I lay on the ground, frozen. Christian stands up from his piano bench, inexplicably shirtless and obviously furious. He begins charging towards the door, and instantly I leap to my feet.
We are both racing, him for me, and myself for the button to close the elevator door. My fingers can’t move fast enough as I press faster and faster, every moment feeling him coming closer to me. At last the doors begin to shut, and I find myself trying to manually help them seal completely. As I push them closer together I look up and see Christian, once again looking through me. He stops.
“Anastasia!” He yells and pounds on the doors as they close, and the last sliver of my body disappears from his view.
I lean back against the wall and let out a long breath.
Molly Regan is an improviser and writer in Baltimore. She likes chicken pot pie, Adam Scott’s butt and riot grrl.