Chapter 06

Google Alert: Christian Grey

Seattle Times, April 6th 2010: Grey Donates to Children’s Charity. Local business magnate Christian Grey has made a significant donation to Seattle based charity, Coping Together, an organization founded by the CEO’s own parents Dr. Grace Trevelyan-Grey and Mr. Carrick Grey. The donation is the largest the organization has ever received. A spokesperson from GEH has said that Mr. Grey is proud to support […] hopes that his donation will bring more attention to the foundation’s cause.


I’m sorry I’m late,” I tell Luke as I hurry into the coffee shop Monday morning. “Kate broke down when we dropped Elliot off at the airport and then again when we got home. It’s been a rough morning.”

“That’s alright. Have a seat,” He says, and there is a serious kind of aloofness in his tone that surprises me. He gestures me towards a table where I see a woman sitting, who I don’t recognize. I give her a small smile as I settle down in the chair across from Luke but his somber expression has me too worried to greet her properly and introduce myself. I know when I’m being prepared for bad news, and whatever this is, it isn’t good.

“Ana, this is Samantha Prescott. She’s a new security guard here on campus. I wanted to introduce you to her because, I’m going to be leaving Harvard Security.”

“What? Leaving?” I cough as I choke on the drink of coffee I’ve just taken.

“I’ve been transferred,” Luke says. “It’s a promotion really. I’ll be much more involved in day to day security operation. I’ll have an office and I’m not going to have to stand around campus and yell at kids for littering all day anymore.”

“What do you mean transferred? Where are you going?”

“Across the country… I’m moving into corporate security on the west coast.”

“What? No. Why? I mean, what happened?” I stammer, trying to cling to at least one of the thoughts and arguments racing through my mind as I attempt to try and understand what he’s telling me. Only one thought seems important though, a plea, and so I grab hold of it and blurt it out without a second thought of recourse. “Don’t go! Stay! You can find a job here, there are businesses in Boston, maybe you could find something better. I could help you!”

“It’s not that easy, Ana…”

“I don’t want you to leave,” I tell him.

“Ana… you only have one more year of school left. We were going to get to this place eventually. I’ve got to do what’s best for my career and that’s taking this new job.”

“You’re one of my best friends,” I tell him sadly. “Elliot already left, what am I going to do without you, too?”

“Kick ass, like you do anyway,” He says with a smile. “You’ll be fine, Ana. I know you will. And Prescott over here is more than qualified to keep an eye on you in my absence. I even hear she likes those terrible black and white movies you’re so into.” He smiles at me, waiting for me to laugh at his joke, but I don’t. The last thing I feel like doing is laughing.

“You know what, I’m going to take a walk around campus and make sure everything looks okay,” Prescott says. “I’ll have my phone with me if you need me, Sawyer.”

“Alright,” Luke nods. She stands from her chair and holds her hand out for mine.

“It was nice to meet you, Miss Steele. Sawyer here has told me a lot about you and I hope that we can become friends,” She says.

“Sure,” I tell her, though my voice is an empty promise. I just don’t have the space in my brain to return her enthusiasm. I’m sure she’s a great person, but… she’s not Luke.

Prescott frowns for a moment and then walks away from the table and out the front door, and as I listen for the tinkling of the bell over the door to die down, Luke stares expectantly at me, waiting for me to speak again.

“When do you leave?” I ask.

“This afternoon,” He says, and I feel a harsh sting creep up into my throat. That soon? He’s not even going to give me a chance to say good-bye? To plan something amazing for us to do together, one last time? I can’t believe this is really happening.

“Is this my fault?” I ask. “Is it because I made you go to Vermont with me? If it is, I can talk to your boss. I can tell him…”

“Ana, I’m not being punished, really. This is a good thing.”

“Yeah, until a friendship reduced to text messages and sporadic phone calls gets too hard to maintain and we stop talking all together. How is that a good thing?”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” He says. “You’re my best friend, Ana. That’s not going to change just because I’m not here everyday. Trust me, I don’t want to leave either. I’m going to miss you and I’m going to worry about you. Prescott is fine and all, but now I know that you’re not afraid to do something as reckless as free climb a mountainside and I don’t know if she’s going to be able to break through your stubborn side and talk you down from your crazy. It feels… wrong, leaving you here alone.”

“So don’t go,” I plead again, but he shakes his head.

“Ana, I don’t have a choice,” He says. “Look, I promise I’m not going to disappear forever. You’re going to graduate soon, maybe we’ll end up in the same city after all… hell, you’re probably moving over the summer to take an internship, maybe we’ll be together sooner than you think.”

“Or I’ll never see you again…”

“I won’t let that happen,” He promises. I stare down at the latte he ordered for me, trying to sort through my emotional state as I attempt to process what’s happening. This is all so sudden, I was expecting to come in here and listen to him complain about his boss… I was going to apologize again for the trouble I got him in and then see if he wanted to come over and hang out with Kate and I tonight. I never expected that I was going to walk in here and potentially see him for the very last time.

“Hey,” He says, standing up from his seat and holding his arms open for me. I get up and hug myself closely to him, wishing I had more to offer him than I don’t want you to leave as a way to make him stay. “It’s going to be okay, Ana. Seriously, I really think I’ll be able to see you this summer, and if not, sometime soon.”

“Okay,” I reply sadly, knowing at this point that I have no other option but to accept defeat. He squeezes me tightly one last time before releasing me and pulling away.

“I’ve got a plane to catch, so I’ve got to go, but I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”

I nod, because I don’t have the words to express all the things I want to say to him, or that I want him to know before he leaves. There is a terrible pain creeping up inside of me as I feel the deep sense of abandonment that made the first few months after Christian and I broke up so unbearable, and I begin to wonder if the idea of love, the actuality of allowing yourself to care for someone, is worth the misery if no matter how much of yourself you put into the relationship, it always ends.

Stop it, Ana. Don’t go there again.

“See you later, Ana,” Luke says, reaching down to pick up his bag. “I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

“Bye,” I tell him, and he hugs me one last time and then moves forward out the door, leaving me standing in the middle of the crowded room, and yet feeling completely alone. Unfortunately, as much as I’d love nothing more than to go home and wallow in this re-burgeoning sense of depression, I have a class to get to and the one thing I have been able to maintain, no matter what I’ve had to go through over the last few years, is that I made a promise to Ray to put school before everything. So I pick up my own bag and follow in Luke’s wake out the door.

“Miss Steele?” A woman’s voice says behind me, and I turn around and see the woman Luke introduced to me standing a few feet away from the door behind me.

“Uh… Ana,” I correct her automatically. “I’m sorry, what was your name again?”

“Prescott, Ma’am,” She says.

“Right, well, thanks for taking the time to come and meet me. That was really nice of you. But… I’ve got to get to class so I’ll uh… see you around?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Okay,” I give her an awkward wave as I turn around and continue on towards the Barker Center. I’m not really sure how I feel about this new Prescott woman, she seems a little stiff. I mean, she called me ma’am. Did Luke really think he’d just be able to replace himself in my life, just like that? It’s ridiculous.

When I get home that night, Kate refuses to let me seclude myself in my room. I don’t think she wants to be alone, and since time with my best friend is probably good for me right now anyway, I decide to hang out with her downstairs. She makes my favorite dinner, puts on my favorite movie, and even pulls the emergency carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream out of the freezer, which we both throw down with absolutely no sense of shame. It actually does help, and I realize that, even with Luke MIA, it might not be as lonely as I anticipated. Now that Elliot’s back in Seattle, Kate’s lost her someone else too. It’s just the two of us again, and that could be really great. We haven’t had time, just the two of us, like this since before I started dating Christian, and I realize now that I’ve missed that.

After the movie is over, I tell Kate goodnight and then head up to my room. I decide to send a text to Luke before I get into bed since I know he should at least be in the city where he’s moving to now, even though I have no idea where that is…

Hey. Text me/call me when you get settled in. Where are you anyway? You never told me where you were moving.

I fall asleep that night still waiting for his response.

By the time Wednesday rolls around, I still haven’t heard from Luke, and although that feels troubling, it’s not nearly as daunting as what I have waiting for me that evening.

You mean you’re finally going to do something about all these letters?” Kate asks as I pull her into the kitchen with me and place a stack of envelopes in front of an empty chair for her.

Ever since the middle of last week, letters from the internships I applied to the weekend Luke stayed at the house with me have been trickling in. I know there is bound to be rejection waiting for me, so I thought it safest to open as many letters as I can at once, like ripping off a bandaid, rather than face that sobering pain on a daily basis. It’s been driving Kate insane because, despite her general lack of organization in every other aspect of her life, mail for some reason is a big deal to her, and the pile of letters collecting in the basket in the kitchen has been too much for her to handle.

“It’s crunch time,” I tell her. “Summer vacation is in five weeks. I have until Monday to pick and accept an internship offer.”

“Well, there’s gotta be something here…” Kate says, thumbing through her stack of envelopes. “How many did you apply to?”

“I don’t know… I just applied to everything I could find,” I tell her, and I pick up an envelope, tear it open, and fish out the letter. It’s from the Chicago Tribune.

Dear Miss Steele:

Congratulations! After our review of your application and impressive list of academic accolades, the Chicago Tribune is pleased to offer you an internship with our editorial writing division effective May 17th.

This is a non-paid academic internship for which you will be expected to provide 40 hours per week through August 6th. This internship is viewed by the Harvard English Department as an educational opportunity and therefore you will be awarded two (2) congruent free study credits through the University.

Please respond to this offer by no later than April 12th.

Again, congratulations and we look forward to the opportunity to work with you over the coming summer.

Sincerely,

Bennett Dohle

Human Resources Department

The Chicago Tribune

I frown down at the letter. I would love the opportunity to work as an editor for the Chicago Tribune, it was one of the internships I had been most excited about, but I just can’t do Chicago for three months on an unpaid internship. I mean, unless you come from a wealthy family who was willing to pay for absolutely everything in your life, who could? I sigh and set the letter aside.

“Ana!” Kate exclaims. “You’ve been accepted into the internship program at Random House!”

“Really?” I ask, looking up from the letter from Seattle Book Company. “That’s New York… what does it pay?”

“Congruent credit,” Kate says, and I let out of huff of frustration. I have dim memories of Ros and Christian talking about how great this recession was for starting their business a couple years ago, but it’s not doing me any favors now.

“Next,” I tell her, and she frowns, but picks up a second letter.

“What about that one?” She asks, nodding at the letting in my hands.

“Seattle Book Company, but it’s unpaid too,” I tell her.

“Hey, we could make that work,” Kate says. “You can live with me and we can carpool into the city together every morning.”

“It’s more than a place to live, Kate. I have bills that have to be paid, I have to buy food… and I’d like to shift some of the burden of my tuition off my Dad.”

“Christian already did that, remember? He paid for your tuition this year.”

“And I’m going to pay him back. I’m serious, Kate, I don’t want him paying for my school,” I tell her. She shrugs as if she finds that all very unimportant and then begins tearing into her letter.

By the time I’ve made it through all the letters in my stack, I have 3 rejections and 8 acceptances but zero offers for something that pays. I’m beginning to think the idea of a paid internship is a myth.

“Hey… I think this might be something,” Kate says, peaking at me over the top of the letter in her hands.

“Oh?”

“$15 an hour for 40+ hour weeks, paid housing, living stipend, AND congruent credit through the College of Letter Arts at Harvard University,” She reads.

“You’re kidding!” I exclaim excitedly as I throw the letter in my hand to the side. “Where?”

“It’s in Seattle,” She says nonchalantly, and her cavalier attitude has me immediately suspicious.

“Where, Kate?”

“Grey Enterprises Holdings,” She replies sheepishly. I roll my eyes and shake my head. “Ana, now think about it. He has a huge, successful company. And he’s considered one of the savviest businessmen in the entire world. There’s a lot of opportunity to learn working for him. A summer internship with him could open a lot of doors for you and you know he’ll give you a good recommendation at the end of the summer. Think of what that could do for you when you’re applying for jobs next year.”

“I don’t need to be anymore indebted to him than I already am, Kate,” I tell her.

“It’s not about what you owe him, Ana. You’re the only one keeping score. This is what the world is like. Unfortunately, it’s not about how good you are or how hard you work, it’s who know. I am the top of my class in the Broadcasting and Journalism Department at Harvard University and I’m editor of The Crimson, and I’m working for my father this summer. That’s the hard truth about the recession, the job you want doesn’t exist, except on this piece of paper. He’s giving you a lifeline, take it! This is what’s best for you. Don’t be ashamed to do what it takes to set yourself up for success.”

“I don’t know… I haven’t seen him in two years, Kate. I’ve only just started talking to him. How am I supposed to go from that to hanging around him everyday? And it won’t be just Christian, it’ll be Christian Grey, CEO and Sole Proprietor of GEH. I mean, he’ll be my boss. The boundaries have to be firm between us right now and I don’t know if I can maintain that and then be all, Yes, sir. No, sir. Right away, Mr. Grey, at work everyday. It’s just…weird.”

“It doesn’t have to be,” She says. “It’s work. You’re both professional. I’m sure he understands that whatever is happening between the two of you is completely separate from this internship. He owns the company, I can almost guarantee that he wants to keep all of this drama as far away from GEH as possible.”

“It would be nice to stay in Seattle over the summer…” I admit.

“See, now you’re talking!” Kate says excitedly. “We can road trip home together, spend weekends on Lake Washington with Elliot, go to training camp in Renton so you and Elliot can fangirl out over the Seahawks together… maybe we could even spend a weekend in Montesano!”

I bite down on my lip as I feel my resolve begin to waiver. It does all seem really tempting.

“What’s the job?” I ask, and she looks back down at the paper in her hands, scanning it for a minute, but ultimately looking back up at me frowning.

“It doesn’t say,” She says. “All it says is Executive Internship Opportunity.

“That sounds like a nice way of saying getting him coffee and picking up his dry cleaning.”

“He has a PA, Ana,” Kate says. “Call him up, ask him about it. I’m sure he’d be more than happy to give you all the details.”

“I’ll think about it,” I tell her as I get up from the table and gather all of the rejection letters to toss in the shredder.

“Alright…” She says, “But I think you should take it.”

“I know what you think, Kate,” I laugh. “Believe me, I always know what you think.”

By the next morning, Luke still hasn’t texted me back. I try calling him but it goes to voicemail after only three rings. With a sigh, I toss my phone onto the bed as I gather my things for my meeting with Dr. Ralston.

So much for not disappearing.

I put the phone in my pocket, throw my bag over my shoulder, and head downstairs to wait for Kate to be ready to leave for the gym. I’m just setting the tea kettle on the stove to boil and packing an orange and a granola bar to take to campus with me, when the phone on the wall rings. I look at it hesitantly for a moment, feeling nervous. This is it, put up or shut up. I told Elliot I was in, time to put my money where my mouth is.

I take a deep breath and cross the room to pick up the phone, but when I look at the caller ID, it isn’t Christian’s name I see splashed across the tiny blue screen on the front of the phone, it’s Elliot, and a I feel a little disappointed. Come to think of it, I don’t think Christian has called all week…

“Hey, Elliot. It’s kind of early for you isn’t it?” I ask when I answer the phone.

“Yeah, but Christian apparently always wakes up at this ungodly hour to work out and going on a run with him every morning is part of my keep him surrounded by family plan, so here I am!”

“Well, no one can say you aren’t dedicated. How is it going? Any breakthroughs?”

“Ana, you have no idea,” He says. “It’s like night and day. He took Mom out to lunch yesterday afternoon and talked to her, I mean, really talked to her, for like… hours. He even turned his cell phone off to make sure they weren’t interrupted by work and he NEVER does that. It went so well that he’s going over to our parents’ house for dinner tonight. Mom is going to let him see Mia.”

“Wow, that’s great! Has he decided whether or not he’s going to give therapy a try?” I ask.

“I was hoping you would be able to answer that…”

“Oh, I don’t know… He hasn’t called me all week,” I admit.

“Really? Well, I know mom gave him the name of someone she knows is good, but I don’t know if he’s done anything with it,” He replies.

“And what about… Elena?” I ask, hesitating for a second before I manage to say her name. I’m not really sure if I’m ready to hear news about her yet.

“I haven’t seen her,” He says. “I’ve been with him pretty much around the clock for the past three days and she hasn’t come up at all, but I don’t know how regularly he was in contact with her before. Trust me though, Ana, if I do see her or find out they’re still talking, I’ll put a stop to it. He may need therapy to work through the issues that has him so attached to her in the first place, but there is no therapy needed for me to physically remove her from his life.”

“No, just a scalpel,” I quip.

“Good thing my Mom’s a surgeon,” He replies, and the quick response makes me giggle. Elliot’s only been gone a few days but I already miss him. We’ve really needed some good laughs around here and that’s always something you can count on him for.

“I’m glad to here it’s going well,” I tell him as I hear Kate coming down the stairs. “Do you want to talk to your girlfriend?”

“I thought I already was!” He says. “Isn’t that why you’ve been living in my house for the last two years?”

“No, I’m here for Kate. I really have to thank you, Elliot. Ever since you left, the two of us have gotten really close.”

“I knew it,” He sighs. “I’m only gone three days and she’s already moved on to greener pastures.”

I laugh and wish him luck on his run before handing Kate the phone and hurrying over to the whistling kettle on the stove. I pour a cup of tea for the both of us and cut two slices of the banana bread I made a couple nights ago while Kate paces around the kitchen recounting every detail of the thirteen hours of her life that have occurred since she last spoke to Elliot. When she finally hangs up and finishes her breakfast, we head out for campus and make our way to the gym.

Heeding my own advice from Worcester mountain, I decide to add some resistance and weight training into my morning workout routine, which I feel is both a mistake and more necessary than I realized because, once my workout is finished and I’m showered and heading out for my meeting with Dr. Ralston, I can already feel how sore my muscles are. I wince slightly as I take the steps up to his office and subtly try and stretch out a little before reaching out and knocking gently on his door.

“Come in,” I hear him say through the door, and I step inside and take a seat across from him, politely declining the danishes he has to offer me this time. I swear it feels as though he’s trying to fatten me up.

“Well, I finished your novel this weekend,” He says. “I started again from the beginning and read it straight through.”

“And…” I begin cautiously. “What did you think?”

“I thought it was…” He pauses, frowning slightly, and I feel a deep pang of concern as my mind begins racing through the ending, trying to guess at what it is that he isn’t connecting with. But then his frown changes into a mischievous kind of smile and he looks up at me with a kind of twinkle in his eyes. “I thought it was wonderful,” He says.

“Really?”

“It was sheer perfection, Anastasia. Now that I’ve read it, I can’t imagine a better ending. I have to say, I was surprised though. I thought you were caught up in the idea of giving Isaiah a happy ending. I found the direction you chose was more bittersweet and a little inconclusive, rather than what I would think of as happy.

“Yeah… I think as I was writing it, I realized that this isn’t an ending for Isaiah. It’s a beginning,” I tell him. “He finally gets to close that chapter of his life, and he gets to move on. He’s not stuck anymore. That’s the point, I think. It’s not about his happily ever after, it’s about finally being in a place where he can look forward to tomorrow again.”

“Brilliant,” He says. “Truly, Anastasia, I can’t think of a comparison to make to how beautifully you’ve dealt with depression in this piece. It’s outstanding work. The subtlety of just using the ability to hope again as an ending… magnificent. I have a feeling this book will be held in the highest esteem for what you’ve accomplished here. You’re work is going to help people, Anastasia.”

“So you think it’s publishable?” I ask.

“No, I know it’s publishable. I’m seeing New York Times best seller lists, Oprah’s Book Club… this is going to be big.”

“So what do I do now?” I ask.

“Well, we’ll need to get you an intellectual property lawyer to help protect you and then we’ll find you an editor and an agent. I have some contacts through Random House that I’d be more than happy to set you up with if you’re interested.”

“Absolutely, thank you!” I tell him.

“Then I’ll get started immediately. I know you’re here on scholarship so I took the liberty of collecting a list of names of some people in the graduate program over in the law school. Each of them come highly recommended by their professors and they can help you navigate your way through the copyright process for little or no charge. Generally a professional editor is fairly expensive, but I do have an editing class beginning during the summer session, andm if you’d agree and you made sure to get all the legal ends wrapped up before the beginning of the term, I’d be happy to make your novel the class project.”

“Really? Thank-you, Dr. Ralston, I don’t know what to say.”

“Just don’t forget about me when you’re a bestselling author and I ask you to come lecture for me in the future,” He says with a wink.

“Of course, anything. Thank-you again.”

“Do you have a title in mind?” He asks, and I bite down on my lip as I try and decide how to respond. I haven’t fully committed to anything yet… but I always do seem to come back to the same idea…

“I was thinking, and this is just an idea, but maybe, Escaping Neverland?”

“Okay…” He says pensively. “What is it that draws you to that title?”

“He’s a lost boy,” I tell him. “Stuck. Never able to move forward until he finds his way back.”

“Interesting,” He says thoughtfully. “Escaping Neverland. Yes, I think I like it. So, here’s what we’ll do. Let me know once you’ve got the go ahead from your lawyer and I’ll make enough copies of the manuscript to pass out to my students. When you return for the fall semester, we’ll work on getting you an agent and hopefully a signed deal by the time you graduate.”

“That sounds really, really great. I’ll get on it, I promise,” I tell him. He reaches out to shake my hand and I get up from my chair, beaming and thanking him again, several times as I have a hard time being coherent through my elation. When I leave Dr. Ralston’s office, I look up and down the hallway and when I’m sure no one is going to catch me, I take just a second to do a quick happy dance, ignoring the still present soreness in my muscles.

Dr. Thomas Ralston thinks that my book is important. Just that alone is worth more to me than words can describe.

As I leave the English building for my shift at the library, I reach into my bag for my phone to call Luke. When he doesn’t answer, I frown and then type out a text instead.

I just left Dr. Ralston’s office. He liked the ending! He said he thinks my book is important and is definitely publishable. Can you believe it? I’m freaking out. Call me when you get a chance! I want to know how your move went!

When I get off work that night, Kate is finishing up some last minute corrections for the paper so, rather than wait for her, I decide I’ll just walk the mile home. Luke hasn’t responded to the text that I sent him over four hours ago and it’s starting to irritate me. If he wasn’t interested in trying to stay friends, why did he bother with that big show at the coffee shop before he left?

I roll my eyes and plug in my headphones as I start off towards the street that leads to my house, but for some reason, once I’m a few blocks off campus, I begin to get an uneasy feeling that someone is watching me. It causes an instantaneous reaction of panic because of my past experience with Kate’s stalker so, as quickly as I can, while still trying to remain inconspicuous, I reach down into my bag and begin fumbling around for the pepper spray Luke made me swear I would keep on me at all times.

When I find it, I grip tightly to the cold metal tube and then slowly turn around to look behind me. There is someone following me, watching me a little too closely for it not to be purposeful, but it isn’t a stranger. It’s the Prescott woman Luke introduced me to on Monday. I sigh with relief but then feel a small pang of annoyance. For how much Harvard’s Head of Security, or whatever his title is, doesn’t want his staff getting too close to students, you’d think they’d have less freedom for such specialized attention.

“Ana!” She says, smiling as she quickens her pace to catch up to me.

“Hi,” I reply warily. “It’s Prescott right? What are you doing?”

“Well, I saw you leaving campus alone and it’s getting kind of late… Sawyer told me that you’ve had some problems with unwanted attention in the past so I thought I’d see if you wanted me to walk you home?”

“That was my roommate actually, and I’m alright. I really don’t live far so… I’ll see you around.”

“Oh… well, okay. Here, take my card. I kind of promised I’d keep an extra close eye on you so, if you ever need anything or just need someone around for a while, give me a call.”

She hands out the card for me and I take it, thanking her as I slip it into my bag, and then leave her with one last awkward glance before I turn around and continue down the street to my house. When I get home, I drop my things off in my room before I head down to the kitchen, put on water to boil for Mac and Cheese, and then take my phone out to try Luke again.

So Prescott followed me home from school today which was weird. I thought your job was to protect girls on campus from crazy stalkers, not introduce us to them. Guess you’ll just have to come home…

I wait for a response but still… nothing.

Seriously? At this point, I’m going to have to leave the ball in his court. I’m not going to sit around texting him with only the hope that he’ll maybe respond, I’m not his girlfriend. If he wants to be friends, he’s going to have to put some effort into this too.

I set the phone down on the counter and stir the macaroni just as Kate comes in through the back door.

“Comfort food,” She sighs appreciatively, glancing into the pot as she sets her bag down on the kitchen table. “Today was so stressful. I wish everyone was as punctual with their deadlines as you are, Ana.”

“Not everyone has the editor of the paper two doors down and breathing down their necks every day,” I remind her with a laugh. She laughs too and then pulls two bowls down from the cupboard. We each take a serving from the pot and settle down at the kitchen table.

“Dr. Ralston liked the ending of my book,” I tell her. “He’s going to help me try and get it published. He even offered to have one of his summer classes edit my book for free as a class project.”

“That’s awesome! I told you it was really good, Ana. And to have the head of the English department at Harvard offering you personal help to get published? He must really like your work.” She smiles at me.

“Yeah, it’s incredible. He’s such an amazing writer himself, he’s accomplished so much… to have his support is just amazing,” I tell her. “Oh, he gave me a list of people over at the law school today to help me through the copyright process. He said they can do it for little to no charge.”

I hold the list out for her and she scans it for a moment and then her eyes widen.

“Ana, have you looked at this list?” She asks, through a mouthful of macaroni.

“No, why?”

“So you didn’t notice Astor Harrington is on here?”

“Really? He’s that much older than we are?”

“Well, he was junior when we were freshman, so he’s probably in his first year at Harvard Law.”

“A junior? Are you sure?”

“You went to his house, Ana. You know that freshman have to live in the dorms. And if that wasn’t enough to tip you off then the ungodly amount of alcohol at that party should have been. What did you think the alcohol fairy just dropped it all off as a gift for all the underage drinkers of the world?”

“No, but don’t act like you couldn’t get alcohol before you turned 21. Christian had alcohol all the time. There was champagne delivered to us in the hotel room we stayed in over Valentine’s Day and we were nineteen. I just assumed laws didn’t apply to rich people,” I shrug. I take a bite of my macaroni, waiting for her to respond, but she doesn’t. When I look back up at her, she’s looking at me in a weird kind of way that I can’t quite read.

“What?” I ask.

“Nothing,” She says quickly. “It’s just, it’s been almost two years and I’ve never heard you talk about when you and Christian were together and happy. You’re really doing better, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I am,” I tell her.

“Good. Elliot’s really grateful that you kind of stepped in to help with Christian. He told me this morning that ever since Christian talked to you, he’s really been motivated to try and work through this stuff. I even read a few days ago that he made a donation to Grace and Carrick’s foundation to try and break the ice with them.”

“Yeah, they’re apparently having dinner tonight as a family.”

“Have you spoken to Christian since Sunday?”

“No, he hasn’t called.”

“But you would answer the phone if he did?” She asks.

“Yeah, I think so. Elliot’s right and Christian needs a support system if he’s really going to try and get some help and I think I’m finally in a place where I can be a part of the team.”

“I’m glad. You know, it was kind of hard for me when you were shutting him out. I mean, I support you and I’ll always have your back, no matter what… but Christian did a lot for me our freshman year. He’s the reason I have Elliot, he took care of me, watched out for me, even fought off an armed crazy person for me… Not to mention, he deflowered my best friend which I had been waiting for for years!” She says in an over dramatic tone that cuts off into a laugh. I laugh too but before Kate can continue with her point, we’re interrupted by the phone ringing on the wall. Kate looks over her shoulder at the phone and then back at me.

“Do you want to get that?” She asks, sweetly. I roll my eyes and get up from the table, but again, when I look down at the caller ID, I see Elliot’s name, not Christian’s.

“It’s your boyfriend,” I say, handing the phone out for her. She frowns for a second but gets up from the table to take the receiver out of my hand.

“Why is he calling me on this phone?” She wonders aloud. “He’s so weird about the house phone… Hello? Hi. Eating dinner with Ana. Macaroni and Cheese. What are you doing? Yeah, how’d that go? Okay… What? In Seattle? What did you say?”

I look up at her when I hear her tone change from pleasant to worried in an instant. Dread courses through me as my mind immediately races through the worst case scenarios. Maybe Elena showed up today…

Kate walks out of the room to finish her conversation with Elliot so I gather up the dishes from the table and begin washing them in the sink. When I’ve cleaned up dinner and even gone the extra mile to make sure the kitchen and dining room are spotless, Kate still hasn’t come back down stairs to tell me about her conversation with Elliot, so I move into the living room and flip through the DVR for last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

Eventually Kate comes in and plops down onto the couch next to me, resting her head on my shoulder. I pause the TV and shift so that she has to sit up straight and look at me.

“We can go back to hating Christian now,” She mopes.

“What happened?” I ask, nervously.

“He offered Elliot a job.”

“What?”

“Apparently, his company is getting too big for the building they’re in now so he wants to build this giant skyscraper in Seattle and he owns a construction company so he has the resources, he just needs a head engineer.”

“Wait… isn’t that exactly what Elliot wants to do?” I ask, now feeling confused by her sulking.

“Yeah, but it’s going to keep him in Seattle. Do you know how long it’s going to take to complete this project? Months, a year even. Maybe more.”

“Oh… I’m sorry, Kate,” I tell her.

“Yeah…” She says, and then sighs. “Start the episode over. I need McDreamy in my life to make the pain go away.”

I laugh at her pout but do as she asks, and then wrap a blanket around the both of us as we cuddle into the couch and debate the merits of Dr. Shepard vs. Dr. Sloan.

The next day passes by in a flash as I spend most of the day at school and work, and then the evening trying to get a head start on my homework before the weekend starts. I found a lawyer through the law school today who was willing to help me with the copyright pro-bono, even though I offered to pay him what little I could. Apparently, experience is what’s most valuable to the students at Harvard law, which is perhaps why Dr. Ralston sent me there.

Kate has spent most of the night in her room talking on the phone to Elliot and, because her door is closed and she’s been in there for hours, I’ve done my best to stay as close to my stereo as possible and behind my own closed door.

I wish she would come out, though. I have to admit, I’m feeling a little lonely tonight. Luke still hasn’t called or even texted me back and I’ve just finished responding to a letter from Ray, which always leaves me feeling a little down. I look over at the clock and it’s a little too late to call Carter, who is literally the only other person I can think of to talk to, but as I sit there staring around my room, trying to find something to distract me, I get an idea. I’m not sure if it’s the best time for this, but there is something pressing I need to work out.

I pick up the phone and dial the number I still know by heart and then lie back onto my bed while I listen to the long drawn out ring.

“Grey,” Christian answers abruptly, and the sharpness of his tone takes me off guard.

“Hi,” I manage to breathe out in response.

“Ana?” He asks, and it’s only then, when I hear the immediate change in his tone, that I remember I’d changed my number the summer after we broke up to stop him from calling me, which worked until Elliot found out you could get cheaper internet by bundling in a home phone line. He didn’t know it was me.

“Yeah, how are you?” I ask.

“I’m fine, what’s wrong? What happened?” He replies, the unexpected irritation in his voice replaced with worry.

“Nothing’s happened,” I tell him. “I just… wanted to talk to you.”

“About?”

“I don’t know. What are you doing right now?”

“I’m working.”

“Working? Isn’t it like… eight o’clock your time?” I ask, looking over at the clock on my bedside table and then calculating the time difference in my head.

“Yeah, well… Elliot was over here for a while and, as much as he wants to sit around and talk all night, I still have a company to run. Not that I don’t want to talk to him…” He adds quickly. “I mean, I’m trying, Ana. I’m really trying.”

“I know,” I tell him. “I talked to Elliot and he told me that you took your Mom out to lunch this week and that you had dinner at your parents’ house last night. How did that go?”

“I got to see, Mia,” He says, and even by just the sound of his voice, I can tell that he’s smiling as he says the words. “She’s… so different. She’s grown up… and I missed it.”

“I’m sorry,” I tell him, feeling a lump grow in my throat as memories of Mia’s elated face each time she was able to wrap her arms around her brother flash through my mind. I know that as hard as this has been for Christian, it’s been just as hard for her. “Did you talk to your, Dad?” I ask.

“I tried, kind of… He wasn’t really very receptive to me being there and he was in his study for most of the night, even when I sat down to talk with Mom. Ana, I don’t know if I can just go back to the way things were with him. He doesn’t seem interested in trying to fix anything. It’s worse than I thought, he hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you, Christian.”

“You didn’t see the way he looked at me when I went over to the house last night. He’s not the same anymore. I don’t know what to do to make this up to him… I don’t know if I can.”

“Have you told him the truth about why you did it?” I ask.

“No,” He responds quickly. “I don’t think that’s the way to fix things with him.”

“I think that’s the only way to fix things with him, Christian. You can’t move forward if you’re still lying to him. If you’re going to really make this up to him, to your mom, to Elliot, and Mia… you’re going to have to own your mistakes. You’re dad is hurt by what happened, and you need to acknowledge that, validate his reasonings for feeling the way he does, and show him that you’re sorry. He loves you, your whole family loves you. I know, just from being around Elliot, how much they miss you and how much they want you around, but you need to show them that you’re prepared for the work. That you’re serious about mending what’s been broken between all of you.”

“You sound like Flynn,” He says quietly.

“Flynn?”

“Oh, uh… yeah. He’s this new psychiatrist I started seeing this week. My mom recommended him to me.”

“You’re in therapy?”

“Yeah, it’s really important to my mom and Elliot so, if it will help show them that I’m sorry and I want to fix this with them, then I’ll do it.”

“I’m proud of you,” I tell him. “I really think it’s important. I’m not going to say that I know anything about your personal life anymore, but when I heard you were having lunch with Elena Lincoln a few weeks ago…”

“I told you, Ana,” He interrupts me. “There’s nothing between us anymore, it’s not like that. She’s moved on, she has someone new. There’s absolutely nothing going on between us, I swear to you.”

“Nothing?” I ask, feeling a slight sting of irritation that is clear in my voice as I continue. “How’s the salon business going these days?”

“That’s just business, Ana.”

“No, that’s a way of her keeping herself in your life. All this time and you still don’t see that she’s just trying to control you, Christian. I mean listen to yourself, you immediately go into justifying your relationship with her. She knows exactly what to do and what to say to you to make you do whatever she wants.”

“She isn’t controlling me, Anastasia,” He says, and I can hear anger growing in his voice too. “I told you, it’s just business.”

“If it’s really just business then why…” I begin, but then stop myself as I realize that the road we’re heading down with this conversation is not a place I want to go right now. “Look,” I begin diplomatically. “I really don’t think we should talk about this right now. Not over the phone and not until we’ve worked through some of the other stuff. You know how I feel about her. I was serious. She’s a deal breaker for me, Christian. But I didn’t call to fight with you. I just wanted to see how you were doing.”

“You did?”

“Yeah. So, how are you doing? How was that uh… awards ceremony thing? Executive of the Year. You’re pretty important these days.”

“It’s all nonsense,” He says, irritably. “A giant waste of my time. As if I don’t have enough to do.”

“I don’t know, you’ve gotten a lot of recognition lately. Time Magazine’s Man of the Year, one of New York Times Most Important People Under 25… Star Magazine called you the World’s Most Eligible Bachelor.”

“That’s not a very credible source,” He scoffs. “I think it was that magazine who just ran an article saying I was gay last week.”

“The travesty,” I laugh. “Don’t worry… I’ll write a letter to the editor, set the record straight.”

He chuckles and then we sit in silence for a moment, which is surprisingly comfortable. Just hearing him breathing on the other end of the line seems to give me a sense of relief, though I don’t know exactly from what.

“Speaking of letters…” I say eventually. “I got yours this week.”

“Mine?”

“I didn’t apply for an internship at your company, Christian.”

“Real talent is scouted, Anastasia. A woman of your intelligence and perseverance shouldn’t have to apply for anything.”

“It’s a very generous offer. Is that standard practice or simply because I’ve met the prerequisite of having slept with the owner of the company?”

“I’m always looking for talented individuals, Anastasia, and I reward them accordingly. I’m not interested in hiring people who I don’t think will excel in their position, whether I’ve slept with them or not.”

“What is the position? Your letter was pretty vague.”

“I have an idea for an expansion that I think will be extremely profitable if it is implemented correctly and by the right people. I think you are exactly the right kind of people, Anastasia.”

“I’m tempted, really tempted. I mean, I’d be crazy not to be right? Apparently, paid internships are not really a thing anymore and I want to start taking on as much of the responsibility for my education as possible. Even if some megalomaniac CEO is secretly paying my tuition behind my back.”

“Yeah… Elliot told me you were upset about that. I’m sorry, I just wanted to help.”

“I didn’t ask for your help,” I tell him. “And I really would have preferred you didn’t.”

“It’s nothing, Anastasia. Really, it wasn’t even that much money.”

“No, it’s not nothing to me, Christian. It’s everything to me. It’s my education, it’s my future, it’s my Dad being in Iraq for four years. That’s his sacrifice, something he did for me, and you coming in waiving your money around, doesn’t bring him home, but it does make it pointless for him to be over there, and that makes me feel like shit.”

“I didn’t mean it like that, Anastasia. I just wanted to make things easier for you.”

“I know, and I can appreciate the thought behind the gesture… but I don’t want you paying for me to be here. Harvard is mine, completely separate from you. Through all of this heartbreak, that’s been a life preserver for me. I want to keep it mine… So, I have a counter offer for you.”

“A counter offer?”

“Well, since I’m not getting a paid internship anyway… you keep my salary, you keep the housing and living expenses as a way for me to start to pay off what you gave to the school, and I’ll come work at GEH this summer.”

“That’s some counter offer,” He says.

“Do you accept?”

“That’s not the way I operate, Anastasia. You’re selling yourself short, and you should never settle for less than what you deserve. How about, you keep $9.50 an hour with an option for performance bonuses, the housing and the living stipend, and I throw in 30% tuition reimbursement at the end of the summer,” He proposes.

“30% is over $13,000, Christian. That’s paying me more,” I argue.

“Well, apparently I’m not a very good negotiator, then. Maybe I should throw in a car?” He ponders allowed. “I’ll need to make sure you can get to work on time.”

“Christian!”

“And a clothing budget…” He continues.

“You keep my salary, no housing, no living stipend, no performance bonuses, no car, no clothing budget, no additional tuition reimbursement.”

“Housing and living stipend are non-negotiable, especially if I’m not going to be paying you.”

“I’ll live with Kate,” I argue.

“Non-negotiable,” He repeats.

“Fine, but only IF you keep it reasonable and you promise you’ll keep everything else to pay off the tuition I owe you, with interest.”

“No interest. 15% tuition reimbursement.”

I groan. “3% interest, no additional tuition reimbursement.”

“Anastasia…”

“That’s it, Christian. That’s my final offer.”

“Fine. Deal. I’ll have my PA send you the paperwork,” He says, then adds triumphantly. “Welcome to GEH, Miss Steele.”

Next Chapter