“So, how were your first classes?” My mother asks. I’m walking through campus to meet Kate for lunch, holding the phone to my ear with my shoulder as I search through my bag for my student id.
“They were good,” I say. “It’s a lot different, a lot more in depth than I’m used to but that’s good. I’ve read a few of the books on the reading list already so maybe I’ll get something new out of them this time.”
“I’m very proud of you, Ana. I can’t believe what you’ve achieved. I mean… Harvard! It makes me feel good, like I’ve done something right.”
“Thanks, mom,” I say, thankful she isn’t here to say these things. Touching moments like these always lead to tears. I think about Ray’s departure and have to change the subject.
“Hot,” She says. “That’s about the only thing I can say. Bob and I are actually thinking about moving… maybe Savannah, Georgia. I’ve wanted to be back down south ever since we left Texas and Bob has some business contacts out there. Plus, we wouldn’t be too far from you and we’d get out of this damn desert.”
“Hey, that sounds great, Mom! I’d love to have you be only a couple hours flight away. I’ve missed you so much since my graduation. I need a visit.” I frown as the dining hall building looms over me. “Hey, I’m coming up on the food hall, Mom. Can I call you back later?”
“Sure, Ana. Have a wonderful day, sweetheart. Call me tonight and tell me everything.”
“I will. Love you mom,” I say.
“Love you too, baby girl,” she says. I hang up the phone and tuck it into the pocket of my jeans.
There is a crowd of people coming out of the food hall and I have to wait at the door for a few minutes for the hoard to disperse. Kate is already waiting for me when I finally get into the dining room.
“How are your classes going?” I ask as I sit down and dig into my salad.
“Fantastic!” She chirps. “I’m really going to like it here, I think. It looks like my Public Relations writing class is going to be hard, but we don’t pay $40,000 a semester for easy.”
I nod, grimacing at the thought of $40,000 a semester. “I know what you mean. I think my Eighteenth Century Poetry class is going to kill me.”
“What do you have for the rest of the day?” She asks.
“Just Survey of British Literature,” I say, taking a drink of juice. I’m starving and I know it’s because I skipped breakfast this morning. I’m going to have to wake up earlier tomorrow so I can get down here before my Modern Drama Seminar.
“I’ve got Organizational Communication and it looks like it’s going to be a waste of time,” Kate says, wrinkling her nose. She picks up her diet coke but something catches her eye and her face breaks into a smile.
“Jose!” she calls and she waves her arm. I turn and see him walking across the dining room towards us. He sits down next to me and his body goes limp in his chair.
“Rough day?” I ask and he rolls his head to the side to look at me.
“I barely got any sleep last night, I was so nervous. Now my brain is crammed full of Advanced Multivariable Calculus and I think it’s going to explode.” I grimace at him.
“You’re amazing Jose. I didn’t make it passed Algebra 2 in high school.”
“Yeah, but I can’t write a paper to save my life. Numbers are easy, do you know how many stupid grammar rules there are? It’s ridiculous.”
“Yeah but at least the space shuttle doesn’t explode or a building doesn’t collapse if someone uses there, their or they’re incorrectly.”
“I don’t know,” Jose argues. “No, don’t pull that lever over there. They’re not actually qualified to land the shuttle. Their knowledge of physics is not adequate to pilot this thing…”
Kate and I both laugh as Jose picks up his fork and begins eating.
“Oh, I wanted to tell you guys,” He says through a mouthful of food. “My roommate’s older brother is having some big party at his house this weekend. Do you guys want to go?”
“Um, yes!” Kate squeals, suddenly beaming with excitement. She grills Jose for information and then rounds on me to discuss what we’re going to wear. I figure my best bet is to just let her dress me for the evening. I could argue but I’d just be wasting my time. Kate always seems to win in the end.
“I’ve got to head out,” I say as I look down at my watch. “My Brit Lit class starts in 10 minutes.”
Kate groans as she realizes this means she also has to leave for class. We walk together until we are forced to part paths as she heads off for the communications building and I part for the English department.
When I enter the classroom for Survey of British Literature, I’m surprised at how small the room is. Just an ordinary classroom. For such a low level English class, I expected a lecture hall. Perhaps specialized literature classes aren’t in high demand from the Harvard crowd.
Most of the students have already arrived and the class is rather full so I have to pick a seat near the front of the room, something I’m not entirely comfortable with. I’ll have to remember to get here earlier on Wednesday.
“Good afternoon, class,” A man in a plaid jacket with leather patches on the elbows says as he enters. He’s an older man, short and squat with a crazy comb over that flies away from his head erratically as if he’s been rubbing a balloon over it. I want to laugh at his eccentricity but there’s something about his disheveled appearance that endears me to him.
The students around me murmur half hearted greetings in response as he walks to the front of the classroom and hands me a stack of papers. It’s a syllabus. I take one off the top and pass the stack to the person next to me as the professor begins to take attendance. My name is always near the end so I take a minute to read over the syllabus.
The class is being taught by Dr. Walter Collins and the reading list is… predictable. I sigh as I see I’ve read most of the books listed and turn my attention back to the class, looking to each person whose name is called.
Allison Dillard has fiery red hair twisted into tight, wild curls.
Charles Fischbach is skinny, pale and in serious need of a new acne treatment.
I’ve had Michael Garrett in two other classes so far this morning.
“Christian Grey?” Dr. Collins calls and I turn and gape. The boy who responds is the beautiful, brooding, mysterious guy who lives across the hall from me. He’s absolutely heart-achingly gorgeous in a white button down shirt, a charcoal gray V-neck pullover and tight, dark wash jeans. My gaze locks with his and I realize he’s staring at me. I feel the blush come again as I divert my eyes, but every time I sneak glances sideways at him, I see that he hasn’t looked away. What’s wrong with him, doesn’t he know it’s rude to stare? And why is he staring at me anyway?
“Anastasia Steele?” Dr. Collins recites.
“Here,” I squeak, my voice breaking with my embarrassment at Christian’s gaze. Oh, Christian! I know his name now. Christian Grey. I smile at this small victory as I try to turn my attention to the lecture.
The first novel we’re reading is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Dr. Collins outlines his objectives with the novel, stating we’ll be analyzing the socio-political aspects of Dickens and what real world impact he had on British culture and politics in the late 1800s. While he sets up the parameters for our analysis, I mentally begin outlining the paper the syllabus tells me is due at the end of the unit.
I’ve worked out most of it by the time class ends and when Dr. Collins releases us for the day, I stand, feeling satisfied by my preparation. Having this focus will make reading the novel again a little less dull. I follow the flow of students leaving the classroom, we’re all stuck at the door as too many people try to squeeze out. I approach the door and Christian is next to me, in front of me. He turns, looks down at me and steps aside gesturing his arm out in front of him.
“After you, Miss Steele,” He says.
“Thank-you,” I reply. I eye him speculatively, trying to figure him out. So far the personality traits I have are cold, impersonal, stares inappropriately and… gentlemanly? It’s a strange combination. Perhaps he comes from an East-Coast, wealthy, WASP family and his manners are so deeply ingrained in him, his actions were more habit than conscious decision.
I contemplate this as I make my way back to Gray hall and as I do, I notice he’s walking beside me. Not purposefully, surely, we are heading for the same destination, but oddly his pace keeps up with mine. I decide, rather bravely I think, to attempt conversation.
“So you’re an English major?” I ask.
“No,” He replies shortly. He’s holding a blackberry in his hand, texting I think. What college freshman has a blackberry? Aren’t those for like, businessmen and older people who have convinced themselves they can’t work iPhones?
“So… what are you studying then?” I ask, wondering if attempting to keep up the conversation is a waste of time.
“Economics and Politics,” He responds.
“Why are you in a literature survey class then?”
“I thought it would break up the monotony,” He says, finally putting his blackberry in his pocket. His action draws my attention to his jeans and I bite my lip at the thoughts his action inspires. What am I doing? Get ahold of yourself Steele!
His eyes darken with some unknown emotion as he looks at me and I have to look away from him. It’s like he can read my thoughts and the idea of that is… humiliating, to say the least.
“So, you’re studying English then, Anastasia?” he asks.
“Ana,” I correct him automatically. “And yes.”
“What do you plan on doing with that?” His tone is almost disapproving and immediately I find myself playing defense.
“I don’t know Christian, you can do a lot of things with an English degree.”
“Teaching, Publishing… maybe I’ll end up as some megalomaniac CEO in a big city someday.”
He gives me a wry smile and I giggle at his reaction. Something about his smile makes me melt, or maybe it’s just his beautiful face.
“What are you going to do with an Economics and Politics degree?” I ask, attempting the same disapproving tone. We’ve reached our dorm and he opens the door for me, once again motioning me inside.
“I’m going to rule the world, Miss Steele,” He says, his smile broadening. I roll my eyes and once again, his gaze darkens. What is with him? I feel like he’s shifting through moods so fast I’m going to get whiplash.
“So how do you like your roommate?” I ask, reaching for something to talk about as we walk through the entrance hall towards the stairs.
“Roommate?” He asks raising an eyebrow at me.
“You don’t have a roommate?”
“No, Anastasia. I don’t do roommates.”
“Why do you always call me Anastasia?” I ask, slightly irritated. I’ve corrected him twice now.
“Because that’s your name,” He says.
“But I prefer to be called Ana.”
“Is that so?” He’s pulled out his phone again and I frown. Isn’t it still considered rude to be on your phone when you’re having a conversation with someone. I add another personality trait to my list, Christian Grey is rude. We walk down the hall towards our rooms and as we get closer, I realize that most of the doors in the hallway are open, including mine. Kate is playing music and Christian and I are surrounded by Justin Timberlake singing about bringing Sexy Back.
“Does she plan on doing that often?” Christian asks, his beautiful face wrinkling with his distaste.
“You’re not very nice,” I say without thinking. I freeze as I realize that I actually said the words aloud and turn to look at Christian who, surprisingly, is looking down at me with an amused expression on his face.
“No, Miss Steele. I am not.”
From Anastasia to Miss Steele. Another trait, Christian Grey is very formal.
“Ana! You’re ba-” Kate exclaims as she passes the open door. She stops and her mouth pops open slightly as she sees who I’m talking to.
“Hi, Kate,” I say. Christian’s phone rings and he looks down at the number and frowns.
“Anastasia,” He nods.
I wave after him stupidly and when his door closes, I exhale in relief. Why am I so intimidated by him? Oh right, his beauty, his formal attitude, the way his eyes harden when he glares at me… the reasons are endless.
“Get in here!” Kate yells and she reaches out to pull me in the room. She slams the door behind us and rounds on me with a desperate ferocity I’ve never seen. Oh here it comes, the Katherine Kavanagh inquisition.
“So?” She demands.
“So what?” I ask.
“Tell me everything. What is he like? Are you into him? Is he into you? What’s his name?”
“Christian Grey,” I say, responding to the easiest question first.
“Ana, come on! Don’t hold back, give me details!”
“I don’t know, Kate. He’s kind of… intimidating. Actually, he’s kind of a jerk.” I admit.
“Figures,” Kate sighs and she walks across the room to turn down the stereo and take out her books. I frown as I stare at her. Do I think he’s a jerk? I did add rude to my list, and he did seem to pay as little attention to me as possible on our walk back to the dorm. But his smile… I feel butterflies as I think of his smile and I have to turn away from Kate so she doesn’t see me grinning like an idiot. No, he may be… blunt, distracted even, but he wasn’t a jerk.
I think about Kate’s questions more seriously now that I don’t have to respond out loud. Is he into you? Doubtful. Are you into him? Absolutely. I can see that now. I like him. I want to get to know him. We have a class together and we live across the hall from one another. I can do this.
I sit down at my own desk and pull out my homework, focusing less on the reading and more on my plan to befriend the elusive Christian Grey.