50 Shades of Confused

Ch. 1 Lost and Found


I awakened to the sound of my smartphone playing the morose refrain from Carmina Burana. There's nothing like an ominous medieval chant to get my miserable consciousness up and reluctantly functioning again. That's the sort of music that mirrors my mood these days. Also, I see that rain's pouring down on my balcony like a flimsy white curtain. Figures.

I haven't felt motivated since Ana was taken from me by that perverted, psycho madman. He's otherwise known as Jack Hyde. Who knows what's become of both parties since they disappeared from my world one year ago today? We've been searching for her ever since. They appear to have vanished.

"What is it, Jason?" The sound of my own defeated and irritated voice doesn't surprise me. It's become the norm for the past nine months. That is, after I gave up hope that we'd ever find my love alive.

"I think we've finally got a lead on where Ana's been this year. She's okay. Welch was even able to get a few pictures. They're together."

I nearly go into cardiac arrest at the information he's just given me. That's a lot of data to process just moments after I'd awakened from my recurrent nightmare.

But it gets my attention and fires my sluggish synapses like nothing else could possibly do. I sit up against my padded red headboard. I'm spinning from the emotional shock of what he's told me. For the first time in a year, I've come to my senses. There's a warmth in the core of my very being that started igniting again. There's no doubt that it's love and it's starting to bloom again. My heart's beating out a staccato rhythm like the drum beat from the song Radioactive. Maybe I've become irradiated just thinking about Anastasia again.

"Them, who's them?"

"Jack Hyde and Anastasia." Taylor's voice rasps out the dreaded names. My breathing nearly stops.

"Send me the photos first. Then give me their location. I'm going to confront them myself."

"Sir. I don't think that's a wise plan. It could be a trap. Hyde must know we're still looking for them."

"I don't give a flying fuck what he thinks. If she's with him, I want to know if it's voluntary."

I know I was an ass when Anastasia announced that I'd gotten her pregnant. Just the fact that I'd run out, gotten drunk and then confided in Elena about the whole mess gives me the deepest sense of shame I've ever felt. But I had no intention of walking away from her or us. I was simply in shock.

She obviously didn't understand my crazed response. No wonder she demanded millions of dollars from me and then just disappeared with her lunatic of an ex-boss. I drove her to it, I guess.

But I also know she detested Hyde. He was a lecherous creep to her at work. It doesn't add up. Never did.

Was I such a monster to Ana that she preferred his filthy paws on her body and in her life? I can't believe it. I have to hear the story from her own lips before I'll give in and let her go. I know in her heart and body that she truly loves me. We're bonded for life. There's another side to this story and I will uncover the truth.

I quickly retrieve my text message with the photos from Welch. They're a bit blurry but there's no doubt it's Ana I see walking next to Jack. She looks different though. For one, her face looks as though she's in a trance. I don't see any happiness there. Two, she's put on weight. A lot of weight. What the hell has that asshole done to my woman? Maybe he's stuffed her with psychedelic brownies.

On the other hand, Jack's also been transformed. He's wearing baggy pants, dark hipster eyeglass frames and has a full grown beard. The bastard's also got his arm around Anastasia's shoulders in a protective gesture. Why the hell is he shepherding my wife around as though she's a lost child?

My emotions run the gamut from the darkest despair to radiant hope and raging anger. But, if Ana's alive, why hasn't she even attempted to contact me? Maybe he's holding her prisoner. Making threats. Although, she doesn't look like she's shackled in any way. I run my hands through my hair repeatedly and then cover my face with my hands for a full minute before I read the text message Welch sent me.

"I found them wandering around the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego."

I call him immediately. "Did you discover where he's keeping her?"

"No sir. I just happened to notice her hair and the way she pulls it back into a ponytail. It was your wife, there's no doubt."

"I assume you followed them for a while."

"I did but then lost them in the teeming crowd that night. I saw them together for just a second. They melted into a post-game baseball revelry in a flash. The scene in that area's very active with nightlife."

"What was their interaction like? Did she seem to be involved with Hyde?"

"Hard to say. He was holding on to her. She didn't seem to object, if that's what you mean." Welch dropped his voice and gave a gruff embarrassed huff then.

For a moment, I'm so stunned that I cannot even speak. The warmth in my center has just turned stone cold. Anastasia left me to start a new life with that jerk? What if they're sleeping together? Please, no. If so, I'm such a major fuck up, I deserve to die.

Then I remember how Ana kicked Hyde in the balls at work when he made a play for her. She doesn't want him. I know that in my soul. Something bizarre must have happened to my woman. He's probably got her drugged and filled her head with lies.

"Find out where they live. What they do. I want you to scour that neighborhood for Jack and my wife."

"Yes, sir. I'll get a team of investigators on it, pronto."

"Spare no expense. At the least, I want to speak with her. Got it?"

"Sir…maybe Jason Taylor should talk with her first. You know, it could get very explosive with you there." He spoke with caution and restraint.

"Hell no. Ana's still my wife and I want to hear her story. Just get her alone and away from the psycho."

"We'll start with that East Village area of San Diego. Let's hope they're living nearby."

I sucked in a painful breath at the very idea that the love of my life is now spending time with my nemesis from childhood. I hope she remembers that he sabotaged my helicopter as well as my place of employment.

For just a second, I flash on a memory of Ana with my Echo Charlie balloon. For the first time in a year, my lips actually perk up into a smile. I'm starting to unthaw again, inside. What I wouldn't give to time travel right now.

The next call I make goes immediately to the voice mail of my private pilot. I'm going to go down to San Diego and find her myself. There's no way I'd be able to concentrate on flying a jet alone though. Not in my current convoluted state of distress over Anastasia. We're attracted to one another like magnets. I'll woo her back to me and we'll be a team again. I desperately need another chance with the only woman who really makes me whole. In all the right ways. We fit together perfectly. She's my life; always will be.

The first few days spent hanging out in the Gaslamp Quarter proved fruitless. I wore a disguise that consisted of an old brown felt fedora that I'd bought at a used clothing store and a pair of tan overalls. I also added a pair of horned rimmed glasses and some ancient converse tie ups. They smelled.

Welch contacted every Private Investigator he knew in the area. At least the good ones. His investigative team used face recognition software to check out their images on the internet but came up empty, at first. It's not like Jack or Ana were going to be using Facebook or Twitter, anyway.

Then, I got the genius idea of checking on the video images at banks. Taylor illegally tapped into several bank databases. We got lucky with a Credit Union account under the name of "Jake" Hyde. His assets were meager. The affiliated photo confirmed that he was our man. Obtaining his address after that connection proved easier than tempting a guard dog at a junk yard with a juicy steak.

He lived in a cheap loft just three blocks from the trolley station in that section of San Diego. Seedy wouldn't even begin to describe his 'hood.

We tracked him day and night for a 48 hour period. Ana was never seen with him those days. We figured she'd be hanging out in his loft or maybe was being held nearby. It seemed good old Jack actually had a job in the seaport area of town. It also turned out that he worked as a longshoreman on the docks doing back breaking labor. Our plan involved getting inside his loft when "Jake" was busy working to unload the container ships from China. They jammed the West coast ports these days.

What kind of low life existence was my angel living now? She'd had the best of everything with me. I couldn't fathom that she'd find her current situation preferable to all that we shared together. Maybe she detested me and everything I represented now. On the other hand, she could have been brain washed or even had some cognitive damage for all I knew. We were going to find out soon.

Jason knocked loudly on the sliding wooden panel that functioned as their front door, first. No one answered and we didn't expect they would. Ana probably knew I'd be looking for her, forever. Perhaps she was hiding inside. Taylor easily picked the lock on their loft. After a thorough but quick look around, we determined that no one was home. Where did that monster keep my wife?

However, the evidence clearly pointed to the presence of a woman in the loft. There were two toothbrushes hanging in their disgusting pit of a bathroom. Their white pedestal sink was chipped in several places and filthy with rust. The 1920's style of small, black and white octagonal ceramic floor tiles hadn't been cleaned in a while and hair stuck to it, especially near the area by the mirror. My Ana had so much hair.

I picked up a hairbrush. I knew it was Ana's the moment I smelled it. I held it to my nose and breathed her in. My love was really alive. It filled me with so much hope I was about to burst. My core was heating up again from her scent alone. Long dark hairs filled the bristles to the hilt. I took a sample and put it in my pocket. That was so unlike the woman I loved. She'd be the first to clean the hairs from her brush with a comb on a daily basis, when we were together.

My heart began to sink as we looked through their few personal items. A few old tee shirts and several baggy pairs of jeans hung in a small closet area. It seemed they shared a broken down queen sized mattress, since that was the only bed in the loft. I was sick at the idea of what Jack had probably been doing with her. Damn him.

Her clothes were several sizes larger than what she'd worn with me. At least she was eating and had a good appetite these days. I smelled her tee shirts with nothing but desire. She still had that alluring scent, thank goodness. But, seriously, to have put on fifty pounds seemed extreme. Maybe it was all part of her new life and a disguise. Perhaps it was a sign that she was miserable without me.

We took pictures of everything. All the documents we could find were carefully captured and then organized on our digital files by their location in the loft. From what we could tell, Ana didn't have a job. We still had no idea where the five million dollars was stashed. Where was she during the day, then?

I was the one who thought to look for her either in an old bookstore or at the library. The library wasn't her choice it seemed. Not a sign of her anywhere near the nineteenth century British novels. So Taylor, Welch and Sawyer staked out the nearest moldy old bookstore. It also sold vintage clothing. The place looked dark and had ancient incandescent bulbs hanging from the ceiling from wires, without any shades to protect them.

We hit pay dirt immediately. Taylor entered first, nodded at the clerk and looked carefully around. He found my woman reading quietly in an obscure corner at the back of the store. She was really alive and still interested in books. I took that as a good sign. Jack hadn't changed some of her most beloved hobbies. Jason took photos and sent them to me via text. He bought a book on military strategies.

Ana didn't ever bother looking around at the sound of the door opening. She seemed more than obsessed with her novel. She was sitting in the corner reading a very used book with a faded red cover and an overworked spine. The name of the novel was Tess of the D'Urberville's. Tears filled my eyes when I saw the title. It took all my strength to resist going into that bookstore and pulling her into my arms with a heartfelt kiss.

I waited outside in the SUV for a while and looked over the photos that were being sent to my smartphone on a regular basis by Jason. She still looked perfect to me with that gorgeous dark hair, light skin and that amazing face. I realized that she must have been thinking of me at least. It was too much of a coincidence that my girl was reading the same book I sent her as a gift a couple of years ago. It was just after we first met. Maybe she missed me and us. I couldn't resist her anymore.

I knew I had to approach her carefully though. I wore my typical disguise and greeted the mousey middle aged but clueless bookstore owner with a curt nod and cursory smile. He asked if he could help me with anything but I nodded no. I slowly but quietly made my way to Ana's corner. Along the way, I picked up a few old books and leafed through them indifferently. I'd buy a few just to make the owner happy.

The plan was to sit down near my girl and ask if we might speak. At least she could do me the courtesy of explaining herself. I wouldn't leave her alone until she told me to fuck off and meant it. Really meant it. I just had to know why she'd picked a life with Jack, over me.

We'd been so very much in love, once. She'd been pregnant with our child, once. The connection we'd had was more than profound. It was earthshaking. There was no evidence in the loft of any child though. Maybe Ana had miscarried. The possibility of another outcome sent a chill through me that I couldn't shake. I couldn't think about that anymore though since I was now on the most important mission of my life.

There was a second cane backed chair at the wobbly old card table where she read. I cleared my throat and started to sit down. She looked up at me briefly. There was a look of consternation and then fear on her face. She also seemed dazed and confused.

"Can we talk, Ana? I just want to know why you left. I promise." My voice sounded raspy. I was shaking life a leaf. If I didn't play my cards just right, she'd slip through my fingers again and I'd lose her forever. I put on my best game face and persisted with my goal.

"Excuse me? Who are you?" There was no look of recognition on her sweet face. In fact, her eyes looked dull and pained. They were still that marvelous shade of sky blue but the spark that I'd known and come to love was gone. My poor baby.

I thought she might have been mystified by my disguise so I slowly removed my glasses and the fedora. Then I smiled at her with all the love that I could muster displayed by my eyes, lips and expression.

She looked at me and gulped. "Get out of here or I'll scream, mister. I know who you are. You're very bad news. Leave me alone." Her words stung me to the core but they didn't match the look in her eyes.

I stood and backed up a few inches but just stared at her. Something was wrong with my Ana. Her posture, voice and facial expressions were different. Her mind was not the same. But I saw a glint of something familiar in her baby blues at last.

"I'm your husband and I love you. You love me. I just want to talk, baby." I was pleading and desperate by now. I wanted her back with everything in me. I became determined to make that happen. I didn't care that Jack had messed with her body and mind in a profound way. I'd hire the best psychotherapists and drug specialists in the country for rehab then find a top-notch female coach and trainer to get her in shape again.

"No. You are rotten." This Ana didn't sound like the bright and intelligent young woman I'd fallen in love with. She looked and talked like someone much older. This being who was still my wife was worn out and beaten down. Her edge was gone. I suspected more than drugs now.

"What's my name?" I nearly shouted out my question and felt the breath leave me as I did.

She didn't answer right away and seemed to have difficulty concentrating. It was with great effort that she finally came up with an answer. There was pain in her eyes too.

"Your name is…Christian. Christian T. Grey." Her voice was almost a whisper and she gave the answer as if she'd been coached.

"Good. That's a start. And you are Anastasia Grey. My wife." I put as much conviction in my statement as possible. Then I smiled again. My megawatt, dazzling smile. That always brought her around in the past. She couldn't resist my smile. I'd thought of holding out my hand to her but realized it might threaten her. I didn't want to unbalance her precarious psychological state.

"No…You ruined my life. I hate you." The words slipped easily from her lips but there was no power behind them. Ana's voice wasn't filled with conviction. In fact, it was flat and hard. She was going through the motions. That gave me some hope. Had she been hypnotized?

It felt as though I'd been punched in the gut to hear her words, nonetheless. I could hardly believe that our passionate love for one another had been so easily wiped from her memory. Somewhere, deep inside, she still loved me. I had to reach her, somehow and some way. We would connect, I told myself.

"Do you really hate me? Tell me why." I could hardly get the words out. Had my reaction to her pregnancy actually reduced her to this? Life as an addict and living with scum?

"You know why. And I don't want to speak of it." Her face looked like a mask now but I noticed that her lips were trembling again.

I snorted with disbelief. I needed to get a strong reaction from her before I'd ever give up.

"You mean our baby? What happened to it?"

"What baby? I never had a baby!" She made a dismissive sound as though spitting. But her lips were quivering much more noticeably. Ana also turned more pale than the white boards at schools. Her mouth and eyes were tightly pinched. She pushed away some dark hair near her face that blocked her vision. I was getting to her at last. I just needed a little more time.

"You remember, little blip, right?" My heart twisted with the memory of her pregnancy revelation. She'd been so overwrought at the very idea of telling me about our baby. She'd wanted our child so much. And, I'd been such a jerk about my reaction. Getting drunk and letting Elena make a pass at me, didn't help.

But that was because it was only innocent and lovely Ana that I wanted and needed in my life. All to myself. I was convinced that I'd be a terrible father, given the horrific abuse I'd endured as a child. How I wish we'd had that child now. Jack could have never intervened in our love then. That must have broken her. I'd love to know what Mr. Scumbag told her or did to her to end the pregnancy.

She stood then and quietly turned her back on me. Very slowly, my broken girl slumped her way toward the door. I followed her like a dog in heat. I had an impulse to grab my wife and force her into the SUV. I was sure she didn't have the will or power to resist. But I also didn't want to traumatize her any further.

I couldn't force this reconciliation on her. Not in her current dazed state. Using muscle wouldn't help. Not if she really hated me. I realized that in the few minutes we had left, I needed to find another way into her muddled brain. I felt desperate. Then I had an insight that took me all the way back to the beginning of our love affair.

"Can I buy you some tea? Some English breakfast tea with a muffin?" I asked very gently and with every ounce of restraint I could muster.

At that, she turned and gave me a brief nod of her head. I'd triggered something in that fogged up brain of hers. I was hoping the tea was the key to her memory and our future. At last I was getting somewhere.

AN: THANKS FOR READING! This story has been tweaked, expanded, enlarged and has now been published as Tear Tracks on Amazon. I've added a huge backstory on Ana and CG's relationship and what happened with her father. Check it out! JS Luxor