“That’s all for today class, have chapters 13-20 read by Tuesday,” Dr. Collins says.
I close my copy of Frankenstein and place it into my bag. Once the other people from my table have scooted their way past me and I’m able to push my chair back, I join the throng of students milling their way towards the door. Two guys, who sit in the back of the class, are laughing and when I turn to investigate the noise I see one of them push the other. My first reaction is to intervene, or call the attention of someone who can, but once I realize the confrontation is nothing more than meaningless play, I roll my eyes and continue forward. However, just as I’m about to make it through the doorway, one of the guys in the rough-house match falls into me and I’m pushed into the person next to me.
“Hey!” I complain.
“Sorry,” He says indifferently, not even bothering to look back at me as he smiles wickedly and launches himself at his friend.
I scowl after him and then turn to apologize and thank the person who caught me and who is still holding me upright by my upper arms.
“I’m sor-” I start, but freeze when I see Christian looking down at me, his eyes hard and cold. He drops his hands and looks away from me disinterested.
It’s been a month to the day since I last actually spoke to Christian. It’s actually been several days, maybe a week, since I’ve even thought about him. He’s become so good at ignoring me, or avoiding me rather, that I haven’t even seen him in the last few weeks, other than in this class and during class he sits on the other side of the room and ignores me completely. The first few weeks were rough as it felt childish and… mean, for him to just pretend I didn’t exist, but as the weeks went on and his weird behavior became normal, I found myself paying less and less attention to him
“Uh… thanks,” I say awkwardly. “For not letting me fall, I mean.”
He takes a deep breath in what I guess is irritation or impatience with me speaking to him and steps aside to let me pass through the door. I shake my head incredulously as I walk forward and stride out of the building and towards my dorm.
As I’m walking, I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket but before I pull it out to read the text, I hear Christian speak behind me.
“Hi,” He says quietly, and at first I think he’s speaking to me but a quick glance over my shoulder tells me he’s just answered his own phone. “I can’t fly home this weekend. I have a test on European Market Fluctuations on Monday. Here? Uh, yeah… I could do one night, I suppose. Saturday? No, you’re right, whatever you want. Yes, I will make Sunday work. No, you know that I’m happy to do whatever you need. Yes, I’ll see you this weekend. Bye.”
When he stops speaking I focus very hard on keeping my eyes forward so he doesn’t suspect I was listening to him. As usual though, he stops at the main intersection of walkways in the quad where, today, Ros is already waiting for him.
“Hi, Ana!” She says brightly as I walk past but I don’t stop. I know it may come off as rude, but I also know that if I stop, I’ll have to face Christian again and quite frankly the confrontation we had after class is enough for today.
When I’m back in my dorm, Kate isn’t there which is odd because her classes end earlier than mine do on Thursdays. Usually, we both come back here to do homework until dinner.
Taking advantage of a rare moment alone, I open all the windows and plop down on the bed, letting the too-warm-for-mid-october air breeze over me. It is then that I remember the text I got walking back from class and pull out my phone, maybe it was Kate telling me she’d be back late.
Hey, what’s up?
I smile as I see it’s not from Kate, but from Carter.
Just got out of class, what are you up to?
It takes only seconds for a response to come back through.
Thinking about you. I had a lot of fun last weekend. I’d like to see you more 🙂
Last weekend, Carter and I, along with Kate, Jose, and a group of his friends, spent the afternoon exploring downtown Cambridge. It was a great time, and Carter had been so great. When we went to lunch, he held my hand and told me the next time we should do something, just the two of us. I feel my teeth sink into my bottom lip as I try to reign in the outrageous smile that crosses my face at the memory and it’s good that I do as in that moment, Kate comes in. She’s clearly been out for a run as she’s dressed in gray jogging pants and a baby blue t-shirt, her hair is pulled back in a tight ponytail and her ipod is fastened to the band around her arm.
“What?” She asks, her face breaking into a smile as she sees the ridiculous overly-pleased look on my face.
“Nothing.” I say coyly as I look back at my phone to type a reply to Carter.
“Carter again?” She asks smugly. I know that the fact she introduced me to a guy I actually like and who seems to be well on the way to becoming my boyfriend gives her an immeasurable sense of satisfaction.
“As a matter of fact, it is.” I say and she nods.
“Just don’t let him plan away your whole weekend if you’re going to go out with him,” Kate says. “We’ve got to go shopping downtown. Halloween is only a couple weeks away and if we don’t start thinking about costumes now, all the good stuff is going to be cleaned out.”
“Isn’t Elliot coming this weekend?” I ask, Christian’s phone conversation on the way back from class coming back to me in a rush. .
“No… he’s coming next weekend. Why?”
“I thought…” I begin, and then realize on my own that he couldn’t have been talking to Elliot. Why would Elliot fly all the way here for just one day? I quickly think of another answer to the question and blurt out the words a little too quickly for the transition to be natural.
“I thought he would because it’s been over a month since his last visit.”
She looks at me suspiciously and then shrugs. “He had some stuff to take care of and apparently Christian has to study for a test or something so he’s not coming til Halloween.”
I nod as she pulls out her homework and settles down at her desk. He did say something about a test, maybe it was Elliot on the phone. But no, it couldn’t be because someone is still coming this weekend and now something seems off to me. If Elliot isn’t coming to visit Christian this weekend, who is?
I suppose it could be his parents, he did say something about not being able to fly home… but if his parents were coming, wouldn’t Elliot have said something to Kate? I mean all we’ve heard for the past week or so is how desperate Mrs. Grey is to meet her, which aligns well with what Elliot told me in the diner the last time he was here. But who else would fly from Seattle to Boston for one day? Unless it’s… Mrs. Lincoln? She does live in Seattle and in my experience, every time his phone rings it’s her…
I shake my head. What’s wrong with me? A) Why do I care and B) I need to stop finding ways in my head to make this Christian/Mrs. Lincoln thing weird. I can’t blame this on her… He didn’t like me, he’s moved on and I’m moving on.
I’m distracted by my phone buzzing again and I reach down to read the text from Carter.
Can I take you out tomorrow night?
I beam to myself, knowing Kate can’t see me with her back turned to me at her desk and type a quick response.
I’d really like that.
Yes, I’m definitely moving on.
Then, it’s a date! Meet you at Grays at 6?
I set my phone slowly down on the bed and look at the back of Kate’s head.
“Kate,” I say casually. “You didn’t plan on going shopping tomorrow night, did you?”
“I don’t know, maybe,” She responds, not looking up from her homework. “Either tomorrow night or Saturday, why?”
“Because I have date tomorrow night, so I won’t be available,” I say, unable to stop my smile. Kate turns around, her mouth open and face bright with jubilation.
I nod my head.
“Ahh!” She squeals and launches herself across the room at me. I laugh as she practically tackles me in my bed and wraps her whole body around me, hugging me tightly.
“Just think,” she says, “If you do get married, it will be because of me.” She squeals and the joy in her voice is almost funny.
“Slow down, Kate,” I laugh. “It’s a first date.”
“But you like him, right?” She asks, sitting up and looking more serious now.
“Yeah, I think so,” I say. “He’s funny and smart and we had a good time together last week when we all went out together.”
“I’m happy for you,” She says with a smile and I smile back as my phone buzzes again. Carter asks if I want to meet him in the morning and watch his rowing practice and I tell him I’d love to. Kate agrees to go with me and the next morning we wake up early and head down to Newell Boathouse before breakfast.
We lay a quilt down over the grassy hill that slopes down to the river and we talk together until we hear the doors to the boathouse open and we can see the long rowing boat slide down the cement ramp. A group of 8 guys push the boat off the dock and into the river. They carefully climb into the boat and push off into the water with their oars.
“You know they’re supposed to be really good,” Kate says to me quietly as we watch them dip their oars in the the water and slowly move to the middle of the river. “I’ve heard they might be olympic contenders.”
“Really?” I ask, impressed. I squint at the boat, trying to decipher which one is Carter and see him in sitting in the middle. He looks over and waves at me and I smile and wave back.
“Reed, pay attention!” The guy sitting in the back screams at him and I look over and see the yeller is Christian. Crap. I now remember seeing rowing practice on his schedule. Why didn’t I remember that? I don’t know if I’m prepared to deal with him this morning. Christian turns around to glare at us while Carter turns his attention back to what he’s doing and I smile at him hoping to diffuse the situation. He looks at me for a moment and then glances back and forth between Carter and I before turning his attention back to rowing.
“I forgot Christian rowed crew,” Kate says, with her brow furrowed. “What’s his problem?”
“Me, probably,” I say as the boat gets into position and they begin the strenuous strokes to move the boat upstream. While they practice, I notice Christian barking orders and yelling at different members of the team, especially Carter. After about an hour, they pull the boat back to the dock and head into the boathouse to clean up. Carter is one of the first people to come out and he waves as he runs up to me.
“Hey, Ana,” He says, wrapping me in a hug and kissing my hair. “Thanks for coming out.”
“Yeah,” I say, “It was fun to watch. Besides, from what I hear we could be watching future olympic contenders.”
He laughs. “Don’t get ahead of yourself. We’re just hoping to win our meet next weekend.”
“I think you guys were awesome,” I say. “I was surprised by how smooth the boat moves, almost like it’s gliding. How do you keep it from rocking on the water?”
“Oh that’s the job of the guys in the front and in the back. I’m a power rower, the steam engine.” He laughs.
“Ok,” Kate says looking down at her phone. “I’ve got to get to class.” She steps forwards and hugs him. “You did great, Carter. I’ll see you tonight?”
“Yeah,” He says. “Have a great day, Kate.”
“I will. Bye, Ana. I’ll see you at lunch.”
With that, she turns around and rushes up the hill towards campus. I reach down to pick up the blanket folded on the ground at my feet.
“I’ve just got to go drop this off and then do you want to go get breakfast in Annenberg?” I ask.
“Sure,” Carter replies and he looks down at the ground. “Did I bring my bag out of the locker room?’
“I didn’t see…” I begin but stop when I look over his shoulder and see Christian storming up the lawn towards us. Carter turns just in time for Christian to shove a backpack, roughly into his chest.
“If you can’t learn to keep time, Reed, we’ll find someone who can,” He says coldly. He glares down at me and then continues to walk angrily up the hill in Kate’s wake. What’s his problem?
“That’s my captain,” Carter explains, “Lovely fellow.”
“Yeah, I know,” I say, staring after Christian. “He lives across the hall from me and he’s not my biggest fan either.”
“Well, should we drop that off so we can get something to eat?” Carter asks.
“Sure,” I agree and we walk off towards Grays hall.
That night, Kate helps me get ready for my date with Carter. I borrow a little black dress from her that has classic lines but is still a little sexy. Carter picks me up at seven and drives me to a restaurant just off campus in his cobalt blue Mazda 6. I wonder, as my fingers caress the fine leather upholstery, if everyone I know drives a nice car. This car isn’t nearly as nice as Kate’s Mercedes, but it’s new. I’ve never owned a new car in my life. In fact, I’ve never even owned a car at all.
When we get to the restaurant, we sit at a candlelit table and as we glance over the menus, there is an almost awkward silence. The waitress takes our order and Carter launches into a long diatribe about himself: high school, rowing, his friends back home, all the things he hopes to accomplish in his time here at Harvard, and his plans for the future. I don’t get a word in all night and by the time the check comes, I’m really struggling to pay attention to what he’s saying. I don’t understand. I’ve been out with him in a group before and he was so good at conversation then. Is he just nervous because this is the first time we’ve been alone together or because we’re on a date?
When he’s paid the check, we walk out of the restaurant and back to his car. I’m wondering what else he has planned for the night, hoping it’s more exciting that dinner was, but he just steers the car back to campus. Is that it?
I try not to look disappointed or ungrateful as he opens my door for me when we’re parked in the parking lot closest to the dorms. I mean, he did buy me dinner. He takes me by the hand and walks me back to Grays hall, stopping at the main doors.
“I had fun tonight,” He says, and I have to stop myself from raising a disbelieving eyebrow at him.
“Yeah…” I say, trying to hide my disappointment. “Thanks for dinner.”
“Anytime,” He says, and he leans forward, closing his eyes. He’s going to kiss me. This is it, put up or shut up. I close my eyes and meet him the rest of the way. He lips push softly into mine, almost too softly. The kiss feels a little mushy even and it lasts only a second or two. He pulls away, brushing his thumb lightly over my cheek in an affectionate gesture. I force myself to smile back at him, feeling very confused about the kiss. It wasn’t good. That was our first kiss and it wasn’t good. This whole night has been, well very bland and I’m left bereft. I wanted so much for this date to go well… were my expectations too high?
“Good-night, baby,” He says sweetly, and I smile back at him, hoping my discontent doesn’t show in my expression because I really do like this guy. I want this to work.
“I’ll see you later,” He tells me as he makes his way down the stairs towards the yard. I wave at him as he leaves and then turn to walk into the building. My movements seem almost mechanical as I try and work through the lackluster date in my head. Where did it go wrong?
When I get back in the room, I can hear Kate in the shower so I take off my shoes and sit on my bed, pulling my laptop out to check my email. After a few minutes, I hear the shower turn off so I prepare myself to face the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.
“Oh, you’re back,” Kate says with a tone of surprise when she comes out of the bathroom. She looks at me puzzled for a minute, clearly addled as she wasn’t expecting me home, probably for hours. She walks across the room to sit on the bed across from me and towels her hair dry as she waits expectantly for me to speak.
“How was your date?” She asks impatiently when I don’t immediately say something.
“It was fine,” I tell her. “He took me to dinner and then brought be home.”
“That’s it?” She asks, wrinkling her brow as if she’s confused by the very notion that a date could include nothing more than just dinner.
“That’s it. He walked me back here and…” I trail off, not really feeling the need to tell her about the kiss-that-missed. Kate, however, is having none of my reticence.
“And… did he kiss you?” She presses. I shrug.
“How was your night?” I ask, using my patented diversion tactic to change the subject.
“Fine, just homework mostly. Elliot called around eight and we talked for a little bit. But, we’re talking about you now. Why don’t you want to tell me about your date? You were so excited about it this morning. Did something happen?”
“No…” I hesitate, slightly surprised that my diversion didn’t work because it always works. “It was just kind of… blah. I don’t know, I was kind of bored to tell you the truth. We went to dinner and talked about his rowing and how he’s trying to get into some secret society here on campus. He didn’t even really ask anything about me and the kiss… I just, didn’t feel anything. There was no spark, no fire. It felt like kissing my brother or something.”
“Dump him,” Kate says immediately.
“Kate!” I admonish mildly. “I’m not going to dump him, he didn’t do anything wrong.”
“You can’t force passion, Ana. If it’s not there, cut your losses now before it gets anymore serious. Trust me, you don’t want to invest months of time and emotion into a relationship that isn’t going to work. It’ll just be that much harder on you in the end. Relationships can’t survive without some kind of spark. What is going to keep the relationship together when you fight if there isn’t something good to work it out for?”
She’s right, I suppose. But does every relationship have to be based on carnal attraction? I mean, Carter is a good guy, I don’t want to give up on him just because we had one bad kiss. I mean, sure, when I’ve pictured what my relationship would be like with my first boyfriend, I always thought it would be the irrational, head-over-heels, can’t-live-without-you kind of love but maybe that doesn’t happen right away. Maybe that’s something that comes with getting to know someone.
“I don’t know, Kate.” I say uneasily.
“Do what you feel is best, Ana, but I’m telling you, if you don’t feel a deep, guttural passion in the beginning, it’s only downhill from here.”
“We’ll see,” I say finally. “I’ll give it a couple weeks to know for sure.”
Kate shrugs and heads back into the bathroom to dry her hair. I change out of the dress I borrowed and into a pair of pajama shorts and tank top and crawl into bed with my copy of Frankenstein. When Kate comes back out, hair now completely dry from her blow dryer, she too crawls into bed.
“Good-night, Kate,” I say, turning out the lights.
“Night, Ana,” She replies and I roll over, feeling my head sink deeply into the pillows and letting all of the stress and tension of the day go as I drift into an easy sleep.
I don’t know how long I’m asleep before I am abruptly awaken by a loud bumping sound outside of my dorm. I sit upright and listen. It sounds as if someone is fumbling their way up the hallway, and not very gracefully. I listen hard to the voices coming up the hall, trying to make out what they’re saying through the walls.
“You can’t tell her,” I hear a very drunken voice mumble.
“No, Christian, I’m not going to tell her. Stand up, I can’t carry you. Come on, we’re almost there.”
Christian? I throw back the covers and walk across the room to the door, opening it slowly to look out into the hall. Christian has his arm slung over Ros who is struggling to both hold him up and haul him down the hallway. I can tell by the droop in his eyes and the lack of coordination in his movements that he’s clearly drunk.
“I’m not allowed,” He continues to slur, emphasizing the word “allowed”. “If she finds out, I’ll be in trouble.”
“I’m not going to tell anyone, Christian,” Ros says. “Where are your keys?”
Ros tries to hold Christian upright and dig in the pockets of his jacket for the keys to his room. I can see that she’s struggling so I open the door all the way and step out in the hallway to help her. I grab Christian’s other arm and drape it over me, taking as much of his weight as I can manage.
“Thanks,” Ros says gratefully as she can now turn her body to more easily look for his keys. Christian rolls his head over to me and as he does I can smell the very strong scent of liquor on his breath.
“Anastasia,” He says, elongating the syllables of my name.
“Yes, Christian.” I respond, just as Ros is able to fish the keys out of the pocket closest to me.
“Here you go, Christian.” She says as she opens his door and we slowly maneuver him inside. We walk him over to the bed, where we let him collapse onto the mattress.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to get him here,” Ros admits. “I was in bed when he called. He was all the way across town.”
“Where do you live?” I ask.
“Stoughton,” She replies.
“That’s a long walk,” I say, remembering that Stoughton Hall is one of the farthest dorms from here.
“I know, I wish he would have picked a different night to do this. I have an early appointment and should be sleeping, not taking care of his drunk ass.”
“I can get him into bed if you want,” I offer and she smiles gratefully at me.
“Really? Oh thank you, Ana. I owe you, huge.”
She gives me a quick hug and rushes out the door, leaving me alone with Christian, who may or may not be unconscious. I reach out to pull his jacket off, and as I grab him he stirs awake and pulls away from me. He rolls onto his side and stares at me with alarm.
“I’m not going to touch you, Christian.” I say, remembering his fear of being touched. “I’m just going to take your jacket.”
“Anastasia?” He asks, as if he’s not quite sure it’s me.
“Yes, Christian. Come on, work with me to get into bed.”
“You’re trying to take off my clothes,” He says wryly. “Is that what you want, Anastasia? To take my clothes off?”
“Right now, Christian, yes. I want to get you out of this jacket and your shoes so you can get into bed.”
He smiles wickedly at me and reaches out to grab me by the arm. When his fingers wrap themselves around my forearm, he pulls me swiftly and gently onto the bed next to him and rolls over slightly so that he’s partially on top of me.
“Oh, Ana.” He practically moans. “I wish you knew the things I want to do to you. The things I could do to you. The things I could make you feel.”
“Let me up, Christian,” I demand trying to worm my way out from underneath him. He looks down at me more sternly.
“She won’t always be in charge, you know. One day I’ll be in charge. Would you like that, Ana? Would you like it if I told you what to do? If I made you mine?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Christian. Let me up,” I say firmly.
“Mmm, Ana. Let’s just fuck. Right now…” He says, inching his face closer to mine. “I can do things to you Carter Reed could only dream of doing. Let me prove that to you. Let me make you come, Anastasia.”
“Christian!” I exclaim, pushing hard against him and successfully getting to my feet. He turns around to face me, a longing in his eyes.
“Anastasia, please,” He says. “I want you, need you. I don’t care what she says. I don’t care what she does.”
“What who does, Christian?”
“Ana…” He mumbles and I can see I’m losing him again. His eyes close and his head droops but he doesn’t seem to be having any trouble breathing so I grab hold of his jacket and am finally able to get it off of him. I turn around and hang the jacket on the hook by the door and then return to remove his shoes. He falls back on the bed and I’m able to push him so that he’s laying on his side correctly on the bed. Once I stuff a pillow under his side so I’m sure he won’t roll off and will stay laying on his side, I find a glass and head into the bathroom to fill it with water from the sink. I also find some tylenol in a basket on a shelf and bring the bottle and the glass of water and set them both on the nightstand next to his bed.
“Goodnight, Christian,” I say when I’m sure he has everything he needs, then turn out the light and close his door behind me.
“What’s going on?” Kate asks. She’s sitting up in bed, the lamp on the table next to her turned on.
“Christian came home drunk. His friend Ros brought him home but she lives across the yard so I told her I’d get him sorted out if she wanted to head back.”
“Hmmm…” Kate says disapprovingly.
“What?” I snap at her, not appreciating the judgemental look in her eyes. She’s been in that same state plenty of times and I always take care of her. Christian doesn’t have a roommate, why shouldn’t I help?
“No, it’s not you,” She says quickly. “It’s just, Elliot said Christian used to have a problem with alcohol when he was in high school but that all go sorted out when he was about 15. I guess it didn’t, he must have just gotten better at hiding it.”
“Well, it’s really none of our business.” I say, crawling back into my bed and reaching over to turn the lights off.
“I guess,” Kate says, though I can tell by her tone she thinks it’s very much her business, or at least something she should tell Elliot. I don’t say anything to her though, my mind is racing with the words Christian said to me.
Let me make you come, Anastasia
A shiver runs up my spine as my mind very clearly pictures his lips forming the words. I can feel a deep ache in the pit of my stomach that brings up some strange but welcome heat deep inside of me. Just those words stir me more than the kiss or any other physical touch I’ve ever shared with Carter. I close my eyes and dream of all the things Christian said he wanted to do to me and realize, I want them too.