The next morning, Christian and I have to go to brunch at his parents’ house, and while I’m sitting in the living room helping Mia go over a paper she’s written for her English class, I find myself continually glancing nervously up at the clock. Christian has promised to have me to the airport by noon which means that I’ll land in Boston somewhere around 8:30 EST, but it’s already 10:30 and our meal isn’t even ready yet.The next morning, Christian and I have to go to brunch at his parents’ house, and while I’m sitting in the living room helping Mia go over a paper she’s written for her English class, I find myself continually glancing nervously up at the clock. Christian has promised to have me to the airport by noon, which means that I’ll land in Boston somewhere around 8:30 EST, but it’s already 10:30 and our meal isn’t even ready yet.
“I don’t get semicolons,” Mia pouts as I mark yet another one out of her paper with a red pen.
“Don’t use them,” I tell her. “They’re superfluous and if you can’t use a period or a comma where you want to place your semicolon, then you need to rewrite your sentence. Keep it simple.”
“An English major who doesn’t like semicolons?” Christian interrupts. “How will people know you went to college?”
“I just talk about any J.D. Salinger book that isn’t Catcher in the Rye,” I reply offhandedly. “Are your parents ready for us?” He nods, so I tell Mia to email me her paper and I’ll send the edited version back to her by the end of tonight. She agrees and quickly pulls up her email on her laptop while Christian helps me to my feet.
We head into the kitchen to grab the dishes from the cabinet so we can set the table, and the lack of complaining as we pull plates and glasses from the cabinets makes me realize that we’re missing someone.
“Where’s Elliot?” I ask Christian while I pile forks and knives onto the plates in his hands.
“I don’t know,” He shrugs. “Mom, where’s Elliot?”
Grace turns around from the kitchen sink, frowns, and then looks down at her watch. “That’s weird, he should be here by now. Mia, will you call your brother?”
She nods and pulls her phone out of her back pocket, but only seconds after she’s lifted the phone to her ear, she pulls it away again.
“He sent me to voicemail,” She says.
“Well, he’s probably driving then,” Grace says, but Christian doesn’t look so sure. He takes his own phone out of his pocket and dials Elliot’s number, but when he too gets his voicemail, Christian leaves a message.
“Hey, we’re waiting on you and we don’t have all day. Hurry up,” He says before quickly hanging up the phone. We take the dishes into the dining room and set the table while Grace and Carrick carry food in, but by the time we’ve all sat down, Elliot still hasn’t shown up.
“This is what happens when you let him move out of the house, Mom,” Christian says irritably, but Grace simply purses her lips and glances up at the clock on the wall.
“We’ll wait a few more minutes…” She says. “In the meantime, we can catch up with each other. That’s what brunch is for.”
“How’s Harvard, Ana?” Carrick asks.
“Good,” I smile back at him. “I’ve got a heavy course load this semester, but it’s all interesting so far. I’ve been given a lot more responsibility and control in my work study at the library, we’re moving forward in publishing my book, and, even though Christian thinks our rowing team isn’t up to par, I read this morning that our football team destroyed Holy Cross last night, so it looks like we’re going to have a pretty good season.”
“That’s good, we’ll need it if we’re going to compete with Yale this year.”
“Yeah,” I nod, and then bite my lip. I hadn’t decided yet if I was going to ask him this, but seeing the look of Harvard pride reflected on his face right now makes me think that I should. “I was actually going to talk to you… Dad’s weekend is October 22nd-24th and Bob came last year, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to be able to make it this year. I was wondering if maybe you wanted to come? We’re playing Princeton, it should be a good game.”
“You want me to come spend Dad’s weekend with you?” He asks, and I nod hesitantly.
“I mean, if you can. I know it’s a long trip, and you’re busy, and you’re not really my dad but…”
“Anastasia,” Carrick interrupts me. “I’d absolutely love to come and spend dad’s weekend with you.”
I smile at him, feeling my cheeks heat with embarrassed gratitude, until Christian squeezes my hand under the table.
“So I take it that means you’re not coming home that weekend?” He asks.
“Nope,” I shake my head. “But you can come to Cambridge if you want.”
“Like hell he can,” Carrick argues. “It’s dad’s weekend. He’s not a dad.”
“But he could be…” Grace interjects, and immediately, Christian’s face sours. “I’m just saying,” She continues. “We’re almost through September. Ana’s going to graduate in less than nine months…”
“Not gonna happen, Mom,” Christian cuts her off. “We agreed over the summer that Mia is going to be the one to give you grandchildren and since she can’t date at least until she’s graduated from Juilliard, you’re in for a wait.”
“So this wouldn’t be a good time to tell you I’m pregnant?” Mia asks, and suddenly the room goes quiet and we all turned shocked looks on Christian’s little sister. “I’m kidding.” She says, putting her hands up in the air in front of her. “God, can’t anyone in this family take a joke?”
“Not when they’re not funny,” Carrick says. Mia rolls her eyes and it looks as though Christian is about to tell her just how unfunny he finds teen pregnancy to be, but luckily for Mia, he’s distracted by his phone vibrating on the table.
“Elliot’s not coming,” Christian says after picking up his phone and reading his text.
“What do you mean he’s not coming?” Mia asks. “He’s never missed a free meal before.”
“I don’t know. It just says, ‘I’m not going to make it. I’ll talk to you later’.”
I frown as I look over at the screen on Christian’s phone and read Elliot’s text. Immediately, I wonder if it’s because of Kate since she’s cut herself off a lot this week too. In fact, I don’t think she ever responded to the text I sent her yesterday apologizing for not letting her know when I got to Seattle. The thought makes me want to call and check on her, and I briefly consider excusing myself to do just that, but Carrick begins passing around the dishes full of food for us to begin, so I decide I’ll call her on the way to the airport. It’s already almost 11 and I can’t afford to waste anymore time.
Instead, I turn my focus to Grace’s meal, but it’s hard to shake the empty feeling hovering over us because of Elliot’s absence. Everyone seems to notice, even Mia, who tries to cover her chagrin by pushing her potatoes around her plate. There’s no way to shake the feeling that something is missing, but Grace makes the best of the situation by keeping up constant chatter and encouraging conversation between Carrick and Christian.
“I was thinking after brunch we could go out on the boat,” Carrick suggests. “We haven’t been fishing since Hawaii and the salmon are running right now.”
“I’d love to, Dad,” Christian says regretfully. “But I have to take Ana to the airport. I promised I’d have her on the plane by noon.”
“Oh,” Carrick replies, clearly disappointed.
“You should go,” I chime in. “It’s not like you’re going to miss anything if you don’t watch me get on the plane, and Taylor can drive Luke and I to the airport.”
“You’re sure?” Christian asks, and I nod.
“Of course I’m sure.”
“Okay,” He agrees, and then turns to nod to his father. I send a quick text to Taylor and Luke, and once breakfast is over, Christian takes me upstairs to his old bedroom so that we can say goodbye to each other without his family hovering over us.
“I’m going to miss you,” He says, taking me into his arms and holding me tightly into his chest.
“Me too. A weekend really isn’t long enough.”
“No, it isn’t,” He replies. “You’ll be back next weekend?”
“I promise,” I agree, and he lets out a heavy sigh before leaning down and capturing my lips with his. I kiss him back, reaching up to tangle my fingers in the roots of his already messy hair, and he reaches down for my behind. I moan slightly when he squeezes me and then pulls me into him so that I can feel his rapidly growing erection against my stomach.
“A quickie?” He asks, a slightly challenging look behind the glint in his deep, gray eyes.
I bite down on my lip. “Okay, but we have to be quiet. I think your mom is in her bedroom on the other side of the wall.”
“We’ll tell her we’re making babies,” He jokes, and when I giggle, he grabs me by the waist to toss me on his bed, then leaps after me.
Just over twenty minutes later, Taylor and Luke arrive, and while they move my bags from Christian’s car to the Mercedes SUV, I say a quick good-bye to Grace, Carrick, and Mia.
“Have a safe flight and call us sometimes, please. We miss you too,” Grace says as she pulls me into a tight hug.
“I will,” I promise.
“See you next week, kiddo,” Carrick says, giving me a hug as well.
“You too,” I reply. I lean over to kiss Mia on the cheek before I take Christian’s hand and walk with him out to the car where Luke and Taylor are waiting.
“Call me when you get home,” He says sadly.
“I will. Have fun with your dad.”
He nods and kisses me once more. His hands grip tightly to my arms, and I wonder for a minute if he’s going to refuse to let me go, but eventually, he does and he helps me into the back of the car, shuts me inside, and then stands in the driveway as we pull away and turn onto the street.
By the time we land back in Boston, it’s already dark, and when I see the headlights waiting for us on the tarmac, I feel a wave of relief. Kate didn’t answer the phone when I called her just before we took off, and I’ve been worried she was going to forget to pick us up the entire flight. As we get close enough to see the car though, I realize that I don’t recognize it. I peer through the windshield, wondering if perhaps Kate has called a driving service, but then I recognize the person behind the wheel. It’s Carter Reed.
“Carter?” I ask as the passenger’s side window rolls down.
“Hi, Ana. Kate asked me to come pick you up. I hope that’s okay.”
“Is she sick?” I ask, but when his face falters, I feel a deep, foreboding feeling in the pit of my stomach. “It’s fine.” I tell him. “Just give us a second to grab our bags. Could you pop the trunk?”
“Sure,” He replies, and after I’ve helped Luke load everything up, I climb into the front seat and buckle myself in while Carter pulls away from the jet and towards the on-ramp to the freeway.
“Private jet, huh?” He asks. “Not too shabby. I’ve got to admit, I was a little nervous about driving right onto the tarmac, but you drop Grey’s name and you can get anywhere. I wonder where else that works?”
“Hmm,” I hum, disinterestedly. “What’s going on with Kate?”
He frowns again. “I don’t really know, honestly. She called me at like, 2 o’clock in the morning on Friday really freaked out and asked if I could come stay with her until you got back. I said I would but I haven’t really seen much of her all weekend. She’s been locked in her room. She hasn’t even come out to eat.”
“At all?” I ask, shocked, and he shakes his head.
“Nope. The only words I’ve heard from her all weekend are, ‘Will you go pick up Anastasia from the airport at 8:30′. Honestly, if you guys didn’t have NFL Sunday Ticket, I’d be kind of pissed.”
“Well, thank you for coming to get me,” I say sheepishly.
“Oh, no. That’s not what I meant. I’m happy to pick you up, it’s just… I mean, your house is kind of quiet, you know? I’ve spent most of the weekend just doing homework and watching Netflix. It would have been nice if Kate had hung out with me or something.”
“I’m sorry,” I say regretfully. “Thank you for staying with her though. I was worried about leaving her alone. She’s never been good at that since, well, you know what happened a few years ago…”
“I remember,” He says, nodding solemnly.
As we pull onto the freeway, my phone begins buzzing to life with all of the things I’ve missed since we left Seattle, and while I expect the notification on my phone to be a text or a voicemail from Christian, it isn’t. It’s a Google alert.
Google Alert: Christian Grey
TMZ, September 19th 2010: Trouble in Paradise? Anastasia Steele, girlfriend of Seattle billionaire Christian Grey, was photographed boarding Mr. Grey’s private jet alone this afternoon without the handsome mogul even making an appearance to see her off. Sources close to the couple say they’ve been running cold for quite some time now and are definitely headed for a split […]
“Ugh,” I groan, and then toss my phone into the backseat where Luke is sitting. “Will you please disable that Google alert? I think I’ve read enough about what the media has to say about Christian.”
“Okay, Grandma,” He laughs, and when I turn around and give him an indignant look he brings my phone close to his face and scrunches his features together while adopting his best old lady voice. “Now let’s see here, how do I work this newfangled Google contraption?”
“You’re so annoying, Luke,” I laugh, and he smiles at me as he hands me back my phone. Once the laughter dies down though, my mind drifts back to Kate. The closer we get to the house, the more the apprehension inside of me begins to grow. Something is wrong and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to finally get answers as to what’s going on when I get home, but with the nervous fear I’m feeling right now, I’m not sure I want to know.
When we pull up into the alley behind the house, I can see Kate moving around in the kitchen, so I quickly thank Carter for a ride again, then bolt out of the car and through the sliding glass door. She jumps a little when I step into the kitchen, which seems odd as she should have been able to see us pull up through the window, but as I look at her deeply sunken and horribly puffy eyes, I wonder if she’s really aware of anything. She looks dazed.
“Hi, Kate,” I greet her nervously. She turns towards me and tries to smile, but her bottom lip begins to quiver and, in seconds, she breaks down in tears. I cross the floor, hurrying to wrap her in a hug, but the instant I have her in my arms, she almost collapses and I have to hold her weight.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, panicked, but she can’t answer me through her broken breathing. We stand there for what feels like a long time while Luke brings in the bags from the car and then awkwardly disappears into the living room. Before long, she becomes too heavy for me to hold anymore, so I slowly lower us onto the floor and I gently rock her back and forth, running my fingers comfortingly through her hair while I wait for the tears to subside. They don’t, though. Not even an hour later.
Luke eventually heads back to his apartment, locking the house down before leaving the two of us alone, and while I wonder if I’m about to spend the night on the kitchen floor trying to console my clearly devastated best friend, the kitchen phone starts to ring.
“Hold on a second, babe,” I say, as I untangle myself from her and hurry to pick it up. I assume it’s Christian, wondering why I haven’t called him since I landed, but it isn’t.
“Kate, it’s Elliot,” I tell her, but she looks over at me, tears still streaming down her face, and shakes her head.
“I’m-I’m-I’m n-ot here,” She sobs, but as I give her a questioning look, she peels herself off the floor and runs from the kitchen.
“Hey, Elliot,” I answer hesitantly.
“Ana?” He croaks back.
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“Can I talk to Kate, please?” He asks, ignoring my question, and I swallow.
“She’s uh… She’s not here right now,” I reply, flinching as even I’m not convinced by my lie.
“Please, Ana,” He begs, and I think I actually hear tears in his voice. “Please, give her the phone. I have to talk to her, please. Please don’t let her shut me out.”
“I-I,” My eyes begin to water and I can feel the sting of impending tears in the back of my throat as I stand there wanting to give him what he’s asking for but knowing I can’t. When I speak again, my voice is barely a whisper. “I can’t, Elliot.”
The phone goes dead without another word and as I place it back on the receiver, I swallow hard to force back the tears. When I’m sure I’m not going to break down crying, I head up the stairs to Kate’s room, opening the door without knocking.
“Why did I just lie to Elliot, Kate?” I ask.
“Because I did it for you for two years,” She replies through her tears.
“What’s going on?”
She looks up at me, taking several deep breaths as she tries to compose herself enough so that she can speak clearly. “We broke up,” She says at last. “It’s over between us. Done. Finished.”
“What?” I breathe. “What happened?”
Her hand shoots up to her mouth as she starts to sob again and I quickly close the bedroom door behind me and move to the bed so that I can hold her once more.
“He didn’t propose,” She says. “I thought he would p-ropose by the end of the summer but he d-d-didn’t. We’ve been together for three years, I’m graduating soon, we bought that house together… I thought he was going to propose.”
“So?” I press her. “You broke up with him just because he didn’t propose to you?”
She shakes her head. “When he didn’t, I didn’t understand why. So, over your birthday weekend, when Christian put us in that hotel, I asked him when he was going to ask me to marry him and he told me that he wasn’t. He doesn’t want to get married- to anyone. He thinks that marriage over complicates things and since he doesn’t want kids, he doesn’t see the point. He doesn’t want kids, Ana. I want to get married, but I think I could have let that go as long as it meant I could be with him forever and that we could have a family. But he’s adamant that he doesn’t want that, and I won’t give up kids. If I know that he’s never going to make me a mom, I can’t waste any more of my life on a relationship that is never going to make me feel fulfilled.”
She starts crying again but all I can do is stare blankly back at her. I don’t know how to respond to that. Clearly, she’s devastated and Elliot is too, and I want them to be together because I know they love each other, but this is a real reason to break up. If Elliot isn’t willing to give her a life that will make her happy, then even staying together now is just postponing the inevitable. They want different things, they aren’t compatible.
“Maybe…” I hesitate, as I once again have to fight off tears. “Maybe he’ll change his mind.”
“And if he doesn’t? If I stay with him for five, ten more years, and he never gives me a child, then what? I’ll resent him, but… it’ll be my fault. He’s made what he wants very clear and this hurts now, but it’ll hurt worse if we don’t cut our losses before we get any deeper into this.”
“How did you… I mean, you’ve been together for three years. You’ve never talked about this before?”
She shakes her head. “No. I don’t know… I didn’t want to bring it up when we were first dating because we lived on opposite sides of the country. I thought I’d scare him off. Then he moved here and it still felt new for a long time because we hadn’t been in the same city before and I guess I just never ended up asking. He’s so dedicated to his family, with everything he did for Christian, I just assumed… But that should have been a clue, I guess. He already has his family.”
“I’m so sorry, Kate,” I tell her, and she sniffs and nods.
“It’s okay, it’s for the best. I’m still in love with him and I think I’m always going to love him. I don’t hate him. I want him to be happy and, once the pain stops, I hope that we’ll be friends. I can’t imagine my life without him. Besides you, he’s… he’s my best friend.”
“I know,” I nod and she devolves into tears again.
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore, can you please go?” She sobs.
“Are you sure? I could sleep in here, we don’t have to talk…” I offer, but she shakes her head.
“No, I want to be alone.”
“Okay,” I say, sadly. “I love you, Katie.”
“I love you too, Ana,” She says. I lean over and kiss her hair and then slowly back out of the room, closing the door behind me. Once I’m alone in the hallway, her sobbing grows louder as I imagine she starts to fall apart in her bed. The sound feels as though it’s ripping my heart in two because I know exactly what this feels like. I remember, very vividly, after Christian and I broke up not being able to move, or to speak, or to do anything by cry until it hurt so badly I would throw up. The pain of losing someone you truly love is devastating and knowing that my best friend is going through that right now, destroys me.
I shamble back to my room, not knowing if I want to close my door to try and block out the sound of Kate crying or leave it open so that I at least know when it stops. Ultimately, I decide to close it because I still haven’t called Christian. I have to finish my paper tonight and I know that I have a lot of work to do still, but now that I’ve spoken to Kate, I have a million questions bounding around in my head. Christian and I have talked about our future before, about marriage and about kids, but now… I’m not as certain that we’re on the same page as I was before. He’s told me that he wants to marry me someday, but he’s never actually proposed. He’s never even gotten close or dropped any hints that he’s even thinking about it. He asked me to move in with him a week after we started dating and now we’ve been together for four months, an eternity on the Christian Grey timeline, and… nothing. Even today at brunch, Grace made a comment about us having kids and he immediately rebuffed her. Does that mean he never wants them, or that he just doesn’t want them now?
I launch myself across the room and begin digging through the bags Luke has left in my room for my phone, and once I have it, I dial Christian’s number.
“There you are, I was starting to worry,” He answers almost immediately. “Why didn’t you call me when you landed?”
“Do you want to get married?” I blurt out, completely ignoring his question.
“No, not now. But, you know… someday.”
“What are you… Of course I want to marry you. I’ve been desperate to marry you since I was nineteen years old.” He replies, and while I feel the relief crash over me as I hear his reassurances, some of my earlier worries creep back into my mind, and that comfort wanes slightly.
“Then why haven’t you asked me?” I ask him, and he pauses before answering.
“I was going to. In Hawaii, I was going to. I have the ring, I had the perfect moment, there with you, on the beach… but then you said you wouldn’t stay. You said you wanted to go back to school and I don’t want to spend our entire engagement living on opposite ends of the country from one another. I want to experience it with you. Besides, the more I’ve thought about that night when I almost proposed, the more I’m glad I didn’t.”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“I… I want to ask your dad for permission to marry you,” He says. “And, I can’t do that until he gets back from Iraq.”
“Yeah, I do,” He reaffirms.
I let out a long sigh of relief. “Okay, so we’re going to get married someday. But… what about kids? You said to your mom this morning that you weren’t going to have kids…”
“That’s because if she had her way, I would have impregnated you this afternoon,” He says, dryly. “Wait… you did take your birth control today, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” I say, rolling my eyes at the slight edge of panic in his voice. “But you do want kids?”
“If I’m being completely honest, I don’t know. I never really thought about having children before you and now, when I do think about it… I- I just don’t know. But, if you want to be a mother, Anastasia… I will give you children. I’d like it if we would wait a few years so that we can be married and just enjoy each other and I can be selfish with you, but there isn’t anything in the world I wouldn’t give you, and that includes children.”
“I love you, Christian,” I tell him, feeling my heart swell to the point of bursting as he yet again demonstrates the depth of his love and devotion for me.
“What brought all this on?” He asks, and I have to take a breath before I answer.
“Kate and Elliot broke up,” I tell him.
“What?” He asks.
“Elliot told Kate he wasn’t ever going to marry her or have kids with her and she broke up with him.”
“Sometime this weekend, I guess. I don’t know, she’s a mess. It’s kind of hard to talk to her right now. Elliot called and she had me turn him away but, he sounded devastated.”
“I need go over there,” He says quickly.
“Yeah, I think you do,” I agree.
“Finish your homework, Anastasia. I’ll talk to you in the morning.”
“I will,” I assure him. “I love you, Christian.”
“I love you, too. Bye.”
I hang up the phone and take a deep breath, thankful on the one hand that I have someone who loves me so entirely the way Christian does, and then heartbroken on the other as I think about what Kate has lost. So many things are going to change now. It’s always been easy having my best friend dating my boyfriend’s brother. She’s always been there for family gatherings and on holidays. She’s always been right by my side, by Christian’s side, when we’ve gone through hard times. Now, she’s just going to be… absent. She won’t be at the table on Thanksgiving, she won’t open Christmas presents with us, we’ll never spend another Father’s Day together. When we graduate, she’ll leave with her family, and I’ll leave with mine. Those two will never coincide again.
I take a deep breath as I try to push away the sadness ingrained in that thought, and then move across the room to pick up my backpack so that I can continue work on my paper. I set up on my desk, and start reading, thankful that at least the clacking noise of my nails on the keyboard is loud enough to drown out Kate’s strangled sobs still echoing down the hallway.