Previously, Christian and Ana arrive at her apartment, Christian takes a call in the car while Ana gets buzzed into the apartment by Ethan, but then when Christian gets off the phone, Ethan is downstairs! WHO LET ANA IN?
Darker: Chapter 5 (Part 2)
TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2011
Christian runs out of the car and scares the absolute shit out of Ana’s roommate’s brother.
“Kavanagh. I’m Christian Grey. Ana’s upstairs with someone who could be armed. Wait here.” There’s a spark of recognition in his expression, but wordlessly—confused I think—he relinquishes hold of the key.
Ethan Kavanagh never gets a word in this chapter. Goodbye, Ethan, who is hopefully ok after that.
I burst into the apartment and there they are.
Ana and Leila.
And Leila’s holding a gun.
No. No. No. A fucking gun.
If you think the writing is bad now (real evergreen statement about Fifty Shades right there), just wait until we get to the part where Christian and Leila, like, wordlessly feel the strength of the bond they once had.
Leila’s eyes are on me. Her stare intensifies, no longer lifeless. She’s drinking in every detail, as if she can’t believe I’m real. It’s unnerving. […] Time passes. Seconds. Minutes. And we stare at each other. […] I see a flash of the Leila I knew. There’s a spark of connection. A kindred spirit who enjoyed everything we shared.
It’s very important that you don’t forget that no one is talking in this minutes-long scene but everyone is just sensing each other’s… innate connectedness…
Our old bond, it’s there. I sense it between us.
And their wants and needs, because that’s not horribly distressing at all.
She’s giving this to me.
Seriously, it’s like we’re still reading A Court of Thorns and Roses with all the fantasy magic unspoken connections that everyone’s always just sensing.
This was already kinda janky in a fantasy novel with actual magically predetermined soulmates, but definitely gets way worse in a real-world setting where people aren’t magically stripped of their agency, which is an actual sentence I just had to write. And, weirder, is somehow a sentence only partially applicable to Fifty Shades.
Her breathing quickens and she licks her chapped lips, yet her tongue leaves no moisture.
But it’s enough.
Enough to tell me what she needs. What she wants.
She wants me.
Me at what I do best.
It is very important you remember that absolutely everything that has happened so far in this scene is communicated exclusively via very intense staring.
Her eyes brighten, her pupils enlarging.
Yes. This is what she wants.
Is it though?
To cede control.
She wants a way out.
Is- is that what she wants?
She’s had enough.
She’s weary. She’s mine.
Is that what she wants?
Christian tells Leila to kneel and “like the natural submissive she is,” she immediately drops to her knees and drops the gun. Still uncertain how stable Leila is, Christian asks his security to take Ana away while he keeps Leila sorta under control.
“For the love of God, Anastasia, will you do as you’re told for once in your life and go!”
Christian and Ana communicate via the strength of their silent bonds and/or staring at each other too, because why not.
Still not taking my eyes off Leila as she kneels with quiet grace on the floor.
“Anastasia, go with Taylor,” I say. […]
I can’t do this with her here. I don’t know how stable Leila is; she needs help, and she might hurt Ana. […] Our eyes lock and I implore her to leave.
Really brings a whole new meaning to that whole “lovers don’t need safe words” thing when apparently they don’t need words either.
I try to convey this to Ana with my beseeching look.
Ana finally leaves, which is a big deal because, yeah, this is definitely a scene where things are going to be really different from Christian Grey’s perspective. Which is going to be interesting, because we know this is the scene where – for some reason – Christian gives Leila a bath. So… let’s see how this sequence of events makes sense to Christian.
“Oh, Leila,” I whisper, and I embrace her.
We’re not off to a great start.
She stinks of poverty and neglect and homelessness. […]
She smells of him.
His unwashed body.
His squalor. […]
I hold her.
Trying not to retch. […]
When she’s gasping for air and her body is racked with dry sobs, I release her. “You need a bath.”
I like how Fifty Shades is still somehow finding new ways to make Christian Grey out-Christian Grey himself. I’m kind of torn here because I do like the idea of exploring Christian’s trauma as long as we’re rewriting this entire story from Christian’s point of view, but are we really making this all about Christian too? Darker had to make “my homeless ex needed a bath” make some kind of sense and somehow landed on “I needed to personally wash the stain of my the abuse and trauma I suffered as a child off of my ex. God, current girlfriend, how do you not get that?”
“Do you want a bath?” I ask.
She looks down at the foaming suds and then at me. She nods.
“Can I take off your coat?” […] It’s beyond salvation. It’ll need burning. […] “These clothes, they need to come off. Okay?”
In case you’re wondering if there’s a single goddamn line where Christian feels conflicted about asking his mentally unstable ex, who 1) still has feelings for him and 2) is portrayed as so emotionally distressed she essentially functions at a childlike level, to remove her clothes in front of him after he sends his girlfriend away, nope, not one. That’s not the sort of thing that bothers Christian Grey!
Dutifully she complies, and I pull off her blouse and try not to register my shock at her appearance. She’s emaciated, all jutting bones and pointed angles, a sharp contrast to the Leila of old. It’s sickening.
This is my fault; I should have found her earlier.
Leila’s recovery is something Christian is neither responsible nor qualified for. The venn diagram of things that Christian does have control over and things he thinks are his fault are just two separate circles. This scene really needed Christian to have any kind of self awareness about how he’s exploiting her heartbreak, that his attempt to help her is misguided, but instead it’s just Christian feeling bad he couldn’t save Leila from her own misfortune.
“You’ll need to take those off.” I’m referring to her grubby underwear. She looks at me. “No. You do it,” I say and turn around to give her a modicum of privacy. […] when she stops I turn around and she’s naked.
Gone are her lush curves.
E L James: “Oh no! She’s not hot anymore! What a tragedy!”
Reader: “WHY DID CHRISTIAN TURN AROUND”
E L James: “But poverty! So terrible! Oh noes!”
Reader: “BUT WHY DID CHRISTIAN TURN AROUND”
E L James: “Her lush curves tho”
I strip off my jacket and roll up the sleeves of my shirt and sit down on the floor beside the bath. She turns her small, sad face toward me but remains mute. […]
“Hand,” I say. Leila gives me her hand, and methodically and gently I start to wash her. […]
“Do you want me to wash your hair?”
She nods. And I reach for the shampoo. […]
“Long time since you did this,” she says. Her voice low and bleak, devoid of all emotion.
Look, obviously Leila needs help and allowing her to get clean is a real kindness, but it’s not like we’ve forgotten this is an erotic romance novel. Bathing her himself is some real exploitative poverty porn shit.
I’ve bathed her before. Several times. Usually as a reward for her behavior in the playroom. It was always a pleasure.
This, not so much.
Christian manages to find a moment where he can discreetly call his therapist, who agrees to show up right away to take Leila somewhere safe. Christian keeps biding for time and gives Leila clean clothes, water, and talks with her. Leila mentions that her husband is gone and that “He was like you”, but mostly just shakes her head whenever Christian asks her a question about anything, because I guess giving Leila an actual character by this point was too demanding a task.
Flynn shows up and they get Leila to his psychiatric clinic. Christian sticks around while Flynn has a private session with Leila, during which time his cell phone has died and he hasn’t been able to reach out to Ana or anyone on his team all evening. Apparently Flynn’s office doesn’t have any phones. This is canon now, I guess.
To Darker‘s credit, at least Christian’s therapist knows this chapter had some issues.
“You gave her a bath?” he says, surprised.
“She was filthy. The stench was…” I stop and shudder.
“Okay. We can talk about that at another time.” […]
“I feel responsible.”
Tune in next week for Christian and Ana to have a fight about all of this, and get to wonder why I was complaining about a scene where everyone communicated without dialogue.