Ana calls her mum the next day – it turns out that Bob (Ana’s mum’s new husband) has had a fall, and this means that Ana’s mum can’t come to her graduation. E. L. James doesn’t like mummies very much, does she? I don’t know many mums that would miss their only daughter’s graduation ceremony for any reason. Ana is a complete saint, so she is serenely forgiving about the entire thing and doesn’t get mad about the fact that her parent won’t be present at one of the biggest events of her life. I swear Ana is constructed entirely from cardboard. It’s okay to have negative feelings, you know. Most people do.
When she’s finished on the phone, Ana finds an email from Christian. “… maybe he’s cancelling dinner,” she thinks. “The thought is so painful.” I bet it’s not as painful as the time he tugged on your pubes. Whatever.
Turns out Christian has sent her a dictionary definition of the word ‘submissive’. The definition dates back to 1580-1590, and in her reply, Ana reminds Christian that we are actually in 2011. Ana didn’t have an email address until five minutes ago, but is effectively telling Christian to ‘get with the times’. She also sends him the dictionary definition of the word ‘compromise’. Touché.
Ana calls Ray (her stepdad and father figure), who confirms he’s coming to her graduation. Ana contemplates that Ray’s ‘quiet fortitude’ is exactly what she needs when she meets Christian to discuss their terms tomorrow. “Maybe I can channel my inner Ray,” she says. She wants to channel her inner stepdad to properly prepare for a discussion about BDSM with her new lover. I don’t think I need to add anything to that sentence, I think we’re all on the same page here.
“Kate and I concentrate on packing, sharing a bottle of cheap red wine as we do.” Yeah, that long-standing tradition of quaffing red wine, at least for the last week or so that you’ve been consuming alcohol.
Next thing I know, Ana has gone to sleep, woken up and someone called Paul is begging her for a date. I actually have no idea who Paul is, and I’ve been analysing this book chapter by chapter. If you know who Paul is, please put your answers on a postcard (or in the comments below) because I am clueless.
Anyway, after Ana declines the offer of a date with ‘Paul’ (whose sole purpose seems to be to reaffirm how irresistible Ana is to men), she starts getting ready for her meal with Christian. “I wish I could feel more enthused about clothes and make an extra effort, but clothes are just not my thing,” says Ana. “I decide on the plum-coloured sheath dress.” Ana hates fashion, but she knows what a ‘sheath dress’ is, obviously.
“I rarely wear make-up – it intimidates me,” she says. Right, of course, because you’re so pure and virginal and naturally beautiful and you don’t need to sully your face with such muck, and none of your literary heroines had to put up with this crap, and you know what? Just give me a break. Your dazzling perfection, which you are so ridiculously oblivious to, is making me want to puke.
Ana meets Christian at the hotel he’s been staying at, and he sits them down and orders them some drinks. They start to discuss their contract. Christian admits that the contract isn’t legally binding, and I think that is just a real shame, because I’d definitely read the alternate ending where Ana breaks the contract and Christian drags her through the courts to try and legally exert his right to use nipple clamps on her whenever he sees fit. Part of me thinks the contract only exists in the novel so that E. L. James could go into gory detail about anal fisting and show off her knowledge of legal jargon simultaneously.
Christian asks Ana whether she’d prefer to eat in the restaurant or in his suite. Ana says that she’d prefer to conduct this conversation on neutral ground, in public, probably so that he can’t tie her to the nearest bedframe and try to sexually manipulate her into giving in to him again. Christian says he has a private dining room already booked. So he pretty much asked her what she wanted to do, and when she answered him honestly, he said, “Well sorry, we’re not doing that, we’re doing it my way, so I don’t know why I asked.” This guy, I swear…
Christian orders oysters for their starter. Ana’s never tried oysters. Let’s just say from this point on - to save me typing it out every single time - Ana has never tried anything before. Ana tries the oysters and likes them. “Good girl,” says Christian. Patronising. So Ana is channelling her inner stepdad, and Christian is treating her like his adopted daughter. This is creepy on so many levels.
They continue discussing the contract; Ana wants to know whether Christian ever hurt any of his submissives. He admits that he once tied a rope too tight when suspending someone from his playroom ceiling. “I hold my hand up begging him to stop,” Ana says. Why ask if you don’t want to know? It seems to me that she’s come here to discuss this contract in detail but whenever Christian does go into detail, she freaks out and doesn’t want to hear it.
Christian gives a speech that’s quite disturbing, but it seems to be coming from the right place. He says that from the moment she crosses his threshold, she will be his, and he will fuck her, discipline her and train her as he sees fit. But he understands that she’s never done this before, and he promises to take it very slowly and earn her trust. He admits that the terminology in the contract is just to help her get into the mindset of the role he’s asking her to fulfil, and the whole thing is quite convincing, actually. I’m still not quite over the fact that he tried to pressure her into it using tied-to-the-bed sex, and I still think he wants Ana for purely selfish reasons, but it’s a convincing speech.
Ana seems convinced too, and they get back to negotiating the smaller details. Ana says she wants full control over what she eats. On one hand, that’s a completely reasonable demand, but on the other, Ana has constantly reiterated throughout the book so far that she doesn’t feel like eating and can’t stomach any food, which sends eating-disorder-alarm-bells ringing in my head. She never finishes a meal. It’s reasonable for Christian to want his sub to be in good health, but it’s also fair that Ana should be able to eat what and when she wants. I find myself on the fence, and I like it. Books are supposed to encourage debate, not be so utterly one-sided and make you hate every single one of the characters.
They continue to negotiate, and then Christian reverts back to the self-serving sociopath from earlier chapters. They’re politely discussing the fact that Christian needs her fit and healthy, so she must improve her diet, and then… “And right now, I want to peel you out of that dress.” The author literally cannot go one chapter without a sex scene, now that the floodgates have opened (no pun intended… ew).
“Christian. You use sex as a weapon. It really isn’t fair,” Ana says. I fist-pumped so hard at this.
“You’re right, I do,” muses Christian. “In life you use what you know, Anastasia. Doesn’t change how much I want you. Here. Now.” No apology, no acknowledgement that what he does is fundamentally wrong, just a lame excuse about him knowing nothing else, and a diversionary tactic in the form of sex, again.
“How can he seduce me with just his voice? I’m panting already,” says Ana. I really hope she doesn’t mean this literally, and that she’s not sat in the restaurant panting like an actual dog as a result of those cringe-worthy sentences. How embarrassing.
Christian tells her that he knows she wants him, because he felt the tablecloth move and that definitely means she’s pressing her thighs together. This is some next level Derren Brown shit.
There’s another half-baked reference to classic literature. Always Elizabeth Bennett, Jane Eyre and Tess. Ana has never read anything else. Neither has E. L. James. She’s read synopses on BookRags at best. Christian tells her he couldn’t care less about food right now. Make your bloody mind up; you wanted full control over her eating habits about thirty seconds ago! Get it together, man.
Ana decides to do her very best to play him at his own game. “Picking up a spear of asparagus, I gaze at him and bite my lip. Then very slowly put the tip of the cold asparagus in my mouth and suck it.” She’s giving an asparagus blowjob. There’s a sentence I bet you never thought you’d read.
But seriously, she lost her virginity a week ago and now she’s giving head to random vegetables as a form of seduction. This is some very fast progression; vegetable blowjobs are usually saved for at least the fifth date.
The waiter enters while she’s teasing Christian with her seductive asparagus, and Ana decides that she must leave right now, to ensure she has a clear mind to mull over this discussion. She knows that if she stays, it will only end one way. I hate how she phrases this; it makes it sound as though she has no choice but to have sex with him, which, for your (and Ana’s) information, is probably classed as rape.
Ana also has her graduation ceremony the next day, which she has to be up early for (and which, coinci-fucking-dentally, Christian is making a speech at. Whaddya know). Christian tries to persuade her to stay. Honestly, it’s just one night apart; you’re not going to combust. Get a grip.
Christian gives in and escorts her to the lobby. “Holy crap, this could be it,” thinks Ana. This could be what? He’s just walking you out; you’re going to see him tomorrow at your graduation. “Holy crap, this could be the last time I see him for a whole twenty-four hours!”
Christian gives Ana his jacket so she doesn’t get cold (aw), and then completely insults the bashed up VW Beetle that Ana drives, which was a present from her stepdad. “Oh, Anastasia. I think we can do better than this.” How awfully condescending. Way to make her feel inferior, you complete and utter arse.
Ana drives home crying. I don’t know what she’s crying about; maybe her plans for a vegetable-themed night of tantalising seduction have been completely ruined. I would definitely read that spin-off - 50 Shades of Gherkin.
Orgasm count: remains at seven in total.
Alcohol units: a bottle of wine shared with Kate (as they do), a glass of wine ordered by Christian.