We first met our hero and heroine in 2012 when their bedroom exploits captivated the proletariat. Why, Mrs James, your egregious little Fifty Shades of Grey did for women’s abuse what Pretty Woman did for prostitution! It made it hip! It made it glam! You capsized everything Germaine Greer (that Ozzie with the towering intellect – ever heard of her?) fought for.
But thirty years have passed.
When Anastasia first met Christian it was in a steel and glass temple. His desk was so large the Windsors could have sat at it comfortably for high tea.
She remembered his parthenon of gleaming teeth, his copper mane (and matching bush). She remembered the way he made her inner goddess fist pump the air….and of course she remembered the Room of Pain. The paddles, whips, riding crops and feathery bits…
She was reluctant to rendezvous with him after all these years. But he was his insistent self. He tracked her down to the council house she was happy to call home.
Besides she had to know. She had spent the last thirty years agonizing about why she had let him demean her so thoroughly. Was it his looks? His civility? His wealth? His power? Was it the seductive way he said ‘Laters’?
She remembered the first time he had surprised her in the hardware store where she worked. Her mouth had popped open and she couldn’t locate her brain or her voice. Her legs felt like Jello….
She remembered how his sculptured, sensual lips were always curled in amusement, or nipped into a pinch or her favourite – and probably his – when they were pressed in a hard line.
Oh the way his eyebrows semaphored up and down! The way his pants hung off his hips! The sound of him ripping the cover off a condom!
How many times did she hear that….(and we have to read it).
She had to do it.
She put on her support stockings – the one’s that made her varicose veins hardly noticeable. She squeezed into her Spanx. The exertion made her a little breathless.
After feeding Tibbles the cat, she put on her night-driving glasses and eased herself gingerly into her Peanut Butter Cruiser – as she fondly called her PT Woody. Since the hip-replacement she had to be careful not to make any sudden moves.
The city was like a strange creature infested with electric lights. Funny how she used to think it exciting and mysterious. Now it was the habitat of vagrants with the stench of defeat heavy in the air.
She stepped into the diamond glass building, but there was no glossy blonde secretary to show her to the elevator. Instead a sullen woman in a dusty cardigan and thick specs said ”Mr Steel has been waiting for you. In here.”
“In Here” was a cubby-hole next to the boiler room.
Anastasia looked around the grubby office. A fly-spotted ceiling fan lazily stirred the humidity.
Her entrails rumbled ominously. She popped a Tums into her mouth. These days her stomach bothered her.
“Ana! Ana my dear! You look as marvellous as the first time I met you!’
The man shuffling towards her looked like an insect that had spent the last twenty years in formaldehyde. The copper mane? Anchovies on a boiled egg. The parthenon of porcelain were now toast points.
He placed a kiss on her mouth. It felt like an empty glass.
“What happened…why….you were so….rich?”
“Oh there was a spot of bother with the stock exchange, some bogus charges of embezzlement….nothing serious…More importantly you’re here!
“I can still make your inner goddess do the merengue…you’ll see!”
The stethoscope of her imagination allowed him to show her into a small, less opulent “Room of Pain.” It was more of a ticket booth, if the truth be told. Grey tottered after her on his Zimmerframe, his neck craned forward like those hundred year old tortoises in the Seychelles do when you offer them a cabbage leaf.
“Gladys! Bring my oxygen will you?” He quavered. His voice was like a dry cork twisting against an old bottle.
While he planted wet-liver kisses on her Pancake makeup, he attempted to do battle with her Spanx. His arthritic hands, which once were so deft at tying her up in metaphorical – and literal knots – were impotent. Lycra 1. Grey 0.
Slowly, like espresso seeping through a sugar cube, the realization began to emerge: he was creepy then and he was creepy now.
It was the glitter of money and fast cars and expensive presents that had made it irresistible…that made it fodder for talk at restaurant tables…
She had to extricate herself. Eradicate the memory. Expunge it. Delete it.
Ecstasy must be paid for. Its inevitable price is that it always comes to an end. Good ecstasy and bad ecstasy. The Grey episode in her life, she now knew was bad ecstasy.
For too long sex had played its moonshine tune across the great divide between them.
It used to be said that America has passed from barbarism to decadence without ever becoming civilised.
It is my contention that readers of the SOG series yank readers from innocence to debauchery and thence deep perversion without ever knowing romance. The soul doesn’t have a chance.
As someone once said: Love doesn’t seek to dominate. It seeks to cultivate.