“Call me in the morning, Elliot. We’ll get breakfast,” I hear Kate say as I bury my face into my pillow sobbing uncontrollably. She closes the door and crawls into bed next to me, rubbing her fingers through my hair.
“What happened, Ana?” She asks softly, but between the horrible shallow and broken breathing and the cries of despair, I can’t answer her.
“Did he hurt you?” She asks, more serious now.
I shake my head and she wraps her arm around me, lying next to me in silence while I cry myself to sleep.
I wake up in the morning to the sound of Kate’s ringtone. The bed shifts as she turns over to reach for her phone on the nightstand and I realized she slept next to me all night.
“Hi, Elliot,” She says quietly, and I feel her get out of bed and rush to the bathroom. When the door closes, I turn onto my back and stare up at the ceiling.
My face feels really tight from the tears drying on my cheeks and I feel flushed. I brace myself for the tears to return, but the more I think about last night, the less I want to cry and the more I want to go across the hall and hit him as hard as I can.
How dare he talk to me like that! How dare he take me home, invite me into his room, kiss me and practically feel me up, and then just reject me like that! How dare he treat me the way he did, yell at me the way he did, when all I was trying to do was help! I lay there, fuming, when Kate sticks her head out the bathroom door.
“Hey do you want to go get breakfast downtown?” She asks softly.
“With Christian’s brother?” I snap, the disgusted tone in my voice really unwarranted as none of this is Elliot’s fault.
She nods her head and I’m going to tell her no, but I decide otherwise. I do want to go get breakfast, I haven’t eaten since lunch yesterday and I’m hungry. I’m not going to let Christian Grey dictate the things I do or make my decisions for me.
“Yes, I would like to get breakfast,” I say, sitting upright and stomping over to my dresser to pull out clean clothes. Kate closes the door to the bathroom to finish her conversation while I run my fingers through my hair and throw on a t-shirt and a well-worn in pair of jeans.
Kate looks much more put together coming out of the bathroom, her blonde hair in a ponytail and a subtle layer of makeup on her face. She pulls out a pair of jeans and a racer back tank top and she’s ready to go. We leave the room and as we do I glare at the door across the hall, almost willing him to come out so I can give him a piece of my mind, but the door stays closed and Kate and I make it out of the building and to her car without a Christian Grey spotting.
She drives through town to a restaurant I’ve never seen called The Friendly Toast. We walk inside the retro themed dinner and find Elliot already sitting at a table near the back. Kate smiles broadly as he waves to us.
“Hey, Elliot!” She says brightly as she takes a seat in the booth next to him.
“Hi, baby,” He says, kissing her on the hair. “How was your night?”
Kate looks worriedly at me and then give Elliot a tight smile. He turns to face me, grinning broadly.
“Hi Ana,” He says.
“Hi,” I reply as I reach out for the menus, but before my fingers touch the laminated paper, I freeze and stare back at him, perplexed.
“What did you just call me?” I ask, and he looks at me guiltily, probably worried he’s offended me.
“Uh… Ana? I’m sorry, do you prefer Anastasia?” He asks.
“No, I prefer Ana, it’s just that… your brother always calls me Anastasia even though I’ve asked him to call me Ana at least three times. I figured your parents just raised you to be really formal or something.”
To my surprise, Elliot laughs. “Oh no, Christian is just really annoying about stuff like that.”
And that’s when it hits me. I’m sitting across the table from Christian’s brother. His warm, friendly, outgoing, completely opposite from the closed off, tight lipped person I kissed the night before brother, who surely has answers to all of the questions that have been burning inside of me since I ran into Christian the first day we met.
“What do you mean?” I press him, trying to hide my eagerness.
“Christian has always been difficult. He came from a really bad family situation and it messed him up pretty bad. When my mom and dad got him, they tried to reverse all that damage that was done to him as a small child, but he was never really able to get over it.”
“Wait, Christian’s not your real brother?” I ask and then blush as I realize what I just said might come off as rude. “I mean uh, biologically speaking.”
“No, we’re all adopted. My mom can’t have kids. She got me when I was about two, Christian when he was four, and Mia was only just a few months old.”
“So if he wasn’t adopted until he was four, what happened to his biological mother?” I ask.
“She died of an overdose. She was a prostitute and a crack addict and just overall terrible person. When they found Christian he was starving and showing signs of neglect and physical abuse. He still, to this day, won’t let people touch him.”
When Elliot finishes I hear Christian’s words ring in my ear. I don’t like to be touched. I think about the way he grabbed my wrist to prevent me from touching him. It wasn’t about me. He doesn’t let anyone touch him. That doesn’t explain the rejection from the kiss though. That was all about me and with that thought, the anger from this morning courses through me again as I remember how it felt when he practically launched himself across the room to get away from me. I snatch up the menu and begin angrily scanning through it, barely comprehending what I’m reading.
“So when are you coming home next?” Elliot asks, turning his attention back to Kate. There is a soft affection in his voice that would normally warm my heart but right now, I find it irritating. Christian pursuing me was the first time anyone has ever showed preference for me over Kate, or at least I thought it was. Clearly, he wasn’t interested at all and Elliot’s obvious affection for Kate is really driving that home.
“I don’t know,” Kate says regretfully. “My family is going to the bahamas on vacation for Thanksgiving. Christmas maybe?”
“Would it make me seem desperate if I asked you to dinner one of the nights I come and visit Christian?”
“No, of course not!” She beams. “When will you come back?”
“I don’t know. My mom is really big on keeping the family close, especially with Christian because he’s always so ready to seclude himself, so I’ll probably be here fairly often. One weekend a month or so. Getting Christian to come home or even come to Stanford for a weekend is pointless, so I’ll be the one doing the leg work.”
“Monthly cross country plane trips?” Kate asks, wrinkling her nose. “That doesn’t sound fun at all.”
“It looks like it may be worth it,” He says, and I look up to see him brush Kate’s hair behind her ear, the way Christian did to me right before he kissed me. Kate’s smile is dazzling and I wonder if Elliot is about to kiss her. Kate has never been one to hold back on the PDA and I don’t think I can handle that right now.
“Christian’s flying back to Seattle at the end of the month,” I say, hoping to distract him. “Won’t you see him then?”
Elliot turns to me, looking confused.
“I haven’t heard that… and I’m sure I would have. Are you sure?” He asks.
“Yeah, it was on his schedule.” Kate affirms, clearly remembering reading it from the excel sheet.
“I’m sure my mom would have said something…” He hesitates but before we can say anything else, the waitress comes to take our order. Kate orders pancakes and eggs, Elliot goes for the country fried steak, but as I look down at the pictures of food on the menu, I think the only thing I can manage is a bowl of fruit. The waitress takes our menus and I reach out to take a drink of water. Just then, we hear the bell over the door jingle and we turn to see Christian in the doorway, scanning the restaurant.
Shit! Elliot didn’t say he invited Christian! Then, I feel stupid for not anticipating this. Of course Elliot invited his brother to breakfast the morning he was leaving town. Christian is probably the one taking him to the airport. I feel myself go red as my emotions bubble up to my face and I don’t know if I want to cry or storm across the restaurant and punch him in the face.
“Christian!” Elliot calls, waving his arm to attract his attention, but when Christian sees Kate and I, his eyes widen and he hesitates for a moment before turning around leaving the restaurant.
“Jesus, hold on.” Elliot says irritably, climbing out of the booth and running across the restaurant after his brother.
“Perfect,” I say and I reach out for my water and slam it down.
“Is he mad at you, or you mad at him?” Kate asks.
“Both, I think.”
“Are you okay, Ana?” Kate asks again, her voice is concerned and she strokes the back of my hand trying to comfort me. “You can talk to me.”
The bell jingles again and Elliot comes back into the restaurant, shaking his head in frustration.
“So, Christian’s not coming to breakfast,” He says, irritated.
“Good,” I snap back.
“What happened last night?” He asks me. “I’ve never seen him act like this.”
I really hadn’t planned on saying anything. I mean, it isn’t Elliot’s fault or problem, but I’m all befuddled after Christian’s unexpected entrance and perfectly predictable departure, so I launch into the story.
“…and when the phone rang a third time, I answered it. I thought maybe something was wrong. I didn’t know who Mrs. Lincoln was, she could have been a member of your family. What if your mom or dad or sister was hurt? I mean, I don’t even know what was wrong. She just told me to have Christian call her back.”
“Why is Mrs. Lincoln calling Christian?” Elliot asks. “I mean, it’s not like he can do any chores from Cambridge.”
“Chores?” I ask, but at that moment the waitress comes up and puts plates in front of us. After we assure her we have everything we need, she leaves and I look expectantly at Elliot.
“He like, cleans her pool and fixes shit around her house.” He says as he digs into his breakfast. “Mrs. Lincoln is my mom’s best friend and my mom sends him over there all the time because she’s pretty much the only one who can put Christian in his place when he gets into his moods.”
“Oh,” I say, “But if she’s just your mom’s friend, why would he get mad that I answered the phone?”
“You’re looking for another reason besides the fact that my brother is like, clinically insane?” Elliot asks, and then laughs at his own joke. I wonder if this is all a little heavy for what is really his first date with Kate. Oh no, this is his first date with Kate. Should I have stayed home?
“Don’t worry about it, Ana.” Elliot says, wrongly reading the guilty expression on my face. “He is probably just worried she’s going to tell my mom that he has a girlfriend. He’s always been weirdly private, even with us, and if my mom thought Christian had a girlfriend, she’d probably fly out here to take you to lunch and ask when you wanted to start planning the wedding.”
“I’m not his girlfriend,” I say sourly, stabbing at my fruit.
“No, you can do much better,” Kate says firmly, and she gives Elliot a look that says stop talking about Christian.
Despite both Kate and I’s protest, Elliot pays for breakfast and I wait awkwardly in the car while they share a long, passionate kiss outside the restaurant. Just before we received the check, Elliot got a text from Christian saying he’d pick him up from his hotel in an hour to take him to the airport. I think Kate wants to take him, but she probably doesn’t want me to have to wait with her at the airport. Normally, I would let her know that I didn’t mind but I do have a lot of homework I have to catch up on today and really all I want to do is get in my pajamas, put some break up songs on my iPod, and forget this weekend ever happened. Elliot waves goodbye to me through the car windshield as Kate walks back to the car, and despite how horrible I feel today, I can’t help but smile and wave back. Elliot really is a great guy and I’m happy Kate found him. I hope she sticks with this one.
Kate climbs into the car and looks after Elliot sadly. His hotel is just across the street from the restaurant and when he goes through the door and we can’t see him anymore, Kate sighs and drives away.
“I think I really like him,” She says as we pull back into the parking lot closest to Grays. “I think he might even be relationship material.”
“I like him too, Kate.” I assure her with a smile.
We both spend the day in bed catching up on homework. Kate urges me to go to dinner with her around six but I just don’t feel up to it. By the time the sun goes down I’m exhausted, not having slept well the night before, so I decide to call it a night and turn off my lamp to go to bed.
The next day passes by in a daze and for the first time since I’ve been to Harvard, I feel as though I’m just going through the motions of the day: attend class, work at the library, do homework. Fortunately, I don’t see Christian at all that day, but I know that I will tomorrow. There is no avoiding it. Even without the study session that we scheduled for tomorrow night, I’ll still see him in class that afternoon.
But maybe that’s not a bad thing… Maybe avoiding him is the wrong approach to this whole situation. We live across the hall from one another, we’re going to run into each other eventually. Maybe the best thing to do is just confront him, give him a piece of my mind, get everything in the open, and move past it. So he’s not going to be my boyfriend, does that mean we can’t at least be civil to one another?
I spend Tuesday morning rehearsing what I’m going to say to him but I know that saying it in my mind and saying it under the penetrating gaze of his hard, gray eyes will be another thing entirely. But by the time Survey of British Literature rolls around, I’ve resolved to settle the issues between us.
When I get to class, I sit in the same seat I sat in last week, where Christian sat next to me, in an attempt to make it clear that I’m not intimidated by him or willing to let him dictate my actions. I pull out Great Expectations and the paper I’ve written on social constructs, and wait for class to start. When Christian does get to class, he sits on the opposite side of the room from me, staring down at his own paper on his desk, refusing to even look at me. The entire class is spent like a cold war, each of us refusing to make eye contact first. When Dr. Collins releases us, Christian is the first person out of his seat and out the door. He successfully avoids the now standard bottle neck of students that forms at the door and by the time I make it out of the building, he’s so far ahead of me he’s nearly out of earshot.
“Christian!” I yell angrily as I march quickly up the walk, trying desperately to outpace him. Begrudgingly, he stops and turns to wait for me, an impatient look on his face.
“What?” He snaps when I catch up to him.
“What you mean, what?” I say with equal contempt. “You don’t think you owe me an apology for Saturday?”
“I owe you an apology?” He asks, flabbergasted, as if what I’ve said is the most absurd thing he’s ever heard. “You violate my privacy, get involved in my personal affairs, talk to my family about my personal life without my consent and you expect an apology from me?”
“I was looking out for you, I thought there might have been an emergency! And, I’m sorry that Elliot hooked up with my best friend and was talking to me about you, but maybe if you were more open with your family you wouldn’t have to worry about what people say to them. The way you treated me that night was unacceptable and if you’re not going to apologize, the least you can do is give me an explanation.”
“The explanation is that we can’t be friends,” He says shortly.
“Friends?” I scoff. “We can’t be friends?”
“No, Anastasia, we can’t. Look, I think you’re a good person. Smart, witty, beau—but I can’t see you anymore. I’m not good for you and I just…” He hesitates as his phone rings.
“Mrs. Lincoln?” I ask angrily as he pulls his phone out of his pocket.
“I have to take this,” He says, turning away from me.
“Yeah, I bet you do,” I snap, and my tone is so full of venom it even surprises me.
“Good-bye, Anastasia,” He says and he turns towards the library, bringing the phone to his ear as he walks away.
I stare after him seething. He doesn’t want to be friends? Fine with me. I storm angrily to my dorm, stomping up the stairs.
“What’s wrong?” Kate asks when I slam the door closed.
“Nothing,” I lie, “I’m fine.”
Unfortunately, Kate knows me better than that and she shuts her book and sits on the edge of her bed, staring at me expectantly.
“I yelled at Christian after class today and it didn’t go the way I had planned.”
“What happened?” She asks.
“He told me we can’t be friends.”
“What do you mean?”
“He said, ‘I’m not good for you, and we can’t be friends’.” I quote him.
“And that’s it? No apology, no explanation?”
“Nope,” I say sourly, pulling books out of my bag in harsh, angry movements.
“He kissed you though… He invited you into his room and he kissed you.”
“I know. Believe me, I know.”
“This whole thing is very strange. I mean, okay… I talked to Elliot today and he said Christian has never had a girlfriend, ever. His family thought he was gay and… maybe he is. Maybe he’s confused or something.”
“That makes me feel great… ‘Oh, I wonder if I’m gay, I better kiss Ana. Yep, definitely gay’.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Kate says trying to backtrack. “And maybe that’s not it. Elliot says Christian has been fighting with their parents since he graduated last spring. Apparently, he really doesn’t want to be here at all but they told him if he didn’t go to college, they would cut him off. So maybe he’s just made up his mind to be unhappy here and you were getting in the way of that. You were giving him a reason to want to be here and it freaked him out.”
“Well if he’s so damn unhappy here, maybe he should just leave. Some of us had to work excruciatingly hard to get here. Some of us weren’t handed an ivy league education on a platter,” I say bitterly. Kate just stares at me, giving me the chance to vent if I need to but to be honest, I’m exhausted. This whole ordeal is just too much to handle and quite frankly, I’m ready to move on. Christian has been an unwelcome distraction from what I’m here to do anyway and that is build a life for myself where I can be free to do whatever I want and to take care of my family.
“Whatever,” I say, picking up a book and plopping down on my bed to begin my reading assignments for the night. “Let’s just forget about it. I don’t want to think or talk about Christian Grey anymore.”
“Good,” Kate says. “More frogs to kiss, more chocolates to try.”
I nod in agreement but really, I think this whole thing has put me off from dating for a while. Ray had it right. Focus on my studies, the relationship stuff will happen when it happens.
“Oh, that reminds me,” Kate says. “One of the guys in my journalism class invited us to a bonfire Sunday night. Should be a fun way to relax, and you could invite Jose. What do you think?”
“Sure,” I say, though I immediately wish I would have been less committal. The last party I attended with Kate, didn’t go so well.
“Good, I’ll let him know.”
I spend the rest of the week burying myself in my studies, doing everything I can to forget and move on from the Christian ordeal. Unfortunately, I see him everywhere. I find I’m running into him in the halls of Grays much more often than I ever did before, I pass him in the quad between classes, and whenever I’m at work, he’s there. In Survey of British Literature on Thursday, I repeatedly get the feeling I’m being watched and sure enough, when I glance over at Christian, I see him staring at me. He’s like a ghost, a haunting figure that I can’t talk to or interact with, but is a constant presence around me. Or a stalker.
But on Friday night, as Kate and I head out to dinner, Christian comes out of his room with a full duffle bag over his shoulder. He looks apprehensive as he glances over to us standing across the hallway from him, but then he disappears down the hall and that’s the last time I see him all weekend. I don’t see his light come on under his door that night or on Saturday and I don’t see him in the dining hall, which is odd considering I couldn’t shake him during the week. On Saturday afternoon, I even spend most of the day in the common area downstairs studying and doing homework, but I never see him come in or out of the building. I almost wonder if he had a bag with him because he went home for the weekend, but then I remember Elliot saying that getting Christian to come home was nearly impossible and on Sunday morning, Elliot tells Kate that he’s been trying to get a hold of him all weekend but his phone keeps going to voicemail.
“No, I haven’t seen him,” Kate says into her phone and I look at her, perplexed as she listens to whatever Elliot is saying on the other end.
“Well, it’s not as if we’re really on speaking terms right now. I guess the last time we saw him was when he was leaving his room Friday night. He had a bag with him, maybe he just got out of town for the weekend. Yeah, if I see him, I’ll text you.” She promises as she says good-bye, she shrugs as she hangs up the phone. Part of me wonders if I should be concerned, if I should be doing something, but a nasty voice in the back of my head reminds me that that is something a friend would do and he doesn’t want to be friends. In the end, despite my unkind thoughts, I decide that if I don’t see him by Monday night, I’ll talk to someone.
That night, Kate, Jose and I head down to a sandy spot on the banks of the Charles River. There is a huge bonfire surrounded by 4 or 5 students drinking vodka out of plastic water bottles. At first I was a little hesitant to join Kate here tonight. I’m never really comfortable in intimate settings with people I don’t know but everyone is nice and welcoming and the warmth from the fire and the vodka makes me relax and let my guard down..
There is a guy named Logan who plays guitar for us and Jose has everyone laughing when he tells a story about how the parents of his high school girlfriend had parental controls on her phone that allowed them to view every text message she got, including pictures.
“Needless to say, we had some awkward dinners after that.” He says to a chorus of laughter. He winks at me and I smile, glad to see him enjoying the attention. Jose is an entertainer and he’s in his element. Kate spends a good deal of time trying to get me to talk to a guy named, Carter who is studying pre-law and comes from a wealthy family from Georgia. I tell him about my mother’s idea of moving to Savannah and he promises me a personal guided tour on my first trip. When we leave that night, he asks me if I want to get coffee or something on campus and I can barely take the look of smug satisfaction on Kate’s face as I write my number on a scrap piece of paper he fished out of his backpack.
When it starts getting a little too late, we head back to the dorms and Kate and I wave goodbye to Jose as we walk through the door to Grays. We’re laughing together, retelling our favorite stories of the night, but stop when we hear the melancholy tones coming from the piano in the grand foyer. We look to see who is playing and I feel a flash of relief when I realize it’s Christian. I guess I had been more worried than I let myself realize, and I’m glad to see he’s okay.
I’m no longer angry with him, no longer saddened by what happened last week, but it feels uncomfortable being around him now because deep down, I feel there is something between us that is unfinished. Besides, without the red haze of anger obscuring my view every time I look at him, for the first time in over a week I can truly appreciate how beautiful he is again. I glance over to him and as he sits in the dark room, flooded with moonlight from the oversized window, I can see that he looks… sad. I can’t be sure, because the room is so dark, but I think I see a red mark covering most of the left side of his face, like he’s been in a fight or something. What has he been doing? Maybe he isn’t okay after all, did he get into trouble over the weekend?
“Come on,” Kate says sourly, interrupting my thoughts and motioning for me to follow her as she storms towards the stairs, purposely refusing to look at Christian.
She stops at the bottom stair and turns to look at me, imploring me to join her with her eyes, so I nod and walk towards her. She continues up the stairs but before I reach the first step the music from the piano stops.
“Ana,” Christian whispers, and I can hear a desperate pain in his voice. The surprise of him calling my name, not just my name, but ‘Ana’, makes me pause. He’s never called me Ana, never. After all this time, everything that we’ve said, or haven’t said, everything that has happened, now he’s speaking to me?
I wait for him to continue but he says nothing. I know he knows that I’m still standing here, I know he knows I’m waiting for him to speak, but he doesn’t say anything more. We stand in silence, facing away from each other, on opposite ends of the room for a moment, and then the music starts again. I take a breath, reach out for the railing and continue up the stairs after Kate, leaving Christian alone with his music in the dark room below.