By day three, my reading assignments are out of control. I’ve calculated that I have almost six hundred pages to read by Friday and it’s Wednesday. I leave my last class desperately wishing that I hadn’t accepted the work study at the library, despite knowing how necessary to my survival it is. I have no idea how I’m going to get all of this reading done in time if I’m going to work tonight. Ultimately, I decide week one is going to start with my very first college all-nighter. I need to remember to try and develop a taste for coffee. I’m getting the feeling that I’m going to need to drastically up my caffeine intake.
When I get to my dorm, I stand outside the door fiddling with my keys, something I know is useless as I can hear Kate inside. Secretly, I’m hoping he will come out, just so I can look at him, but there are no lights or shadows coming from under the door so I figure he probably isn’t even there. I sigh with disappointment and push my own door open.
Kate is laying on her bed in a tiny pair of jean shorts and a white tank top, her blonde hair piled on top of her head accented by a blue bandana. The windows are open and the room is flooded with warm autumn sunlight, but Kate is frowning down at her macbook.
“Hi, Ana,” She greets me, her face brightening a little as she looks up at me. “How were your classes?”
“Fine, I’m already drowning in reading,” I admit. “How about you?”
“Good, I was working on some assignments but I decided Facebook stalking this guy I sat next to in Broadcasting Journalism was a much more dire situation.”
I laugh. “What did you find out?”
She frowns again. “That he has a girlfriend and she’s cute.”
“Too bad, Kate,” I lament, although really only for her benefit. So this guy didn’t work out, she’ll be on to the next one by the weekend. I love Katherine Kavanaugh, but her intelligence and outrageously good looks, which have had boys chasing her since she was thirteen, have driven the romance out of her.
“Plenty of fish in the sea,” She says, proving my point. “Have you looked up your boyfriend across the hall?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say, trying to sound disinterested, though I’m suddenly dying to launch myself across the room for my laptop to do just that. Why didn’t I think of this before?
“What was his name again?” Kate asks as she begins typing furiously on the keyboard. I move across the room and plop down next to her on the bed, giving up the ruse of disinterest.
“Christian Grey,” I tell her.
She types “Christian Gray” into the search bar and hits enter. A list of people come up though none of them are the Adonis that lives across the hall from us.
“Is it Grey with an A or Grey with an E?” She asks and I shrug.
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen it written down,” I tell her. She goes back to the top and types “Christian Grey” into the search bar and, once again, we scroll through a list of names whose pictures are unfamiliar. She tries both versions of his surname with “Christien”, “Christion”, “Chris” and even just “C” but we find nothing. Desperate for results she types in the email address, Christian.Grey@Harvard.edu, and still nothing comes up.
“Who doesn’t have a Facebook?” Kate complains when she finally gives up.
“I don’t know,” I say, with equal frustration. “Even I have one.”
“Yeah, that you use about as often as I wear overalls,” Kate says, rolling her eyes. I laugh and get up to pick up my backpack to leave.
“Where are you going?” she asks. “Just because we didn’t find him on Facebook doesn’t mean that we won’t find him online. I’m ready to go full 007 on this.”
“I can’t, Kate. I have to get to the library. I start my work study today.”
“I’ll text you then,” She says with determination. “I’m going to find out about this guy because any 18-19 year old without a Facebook in this day in age, is probably a serial killer.”
“Okay, Nancy Drew,” I laugh. “Let me know what you find.”
Two hours into my work study I’ve been given a very useful tour through the library and have been shown how to work the systems so I can help people find what they need and help them check out books. I’m actually really excited now. This work study may take up a lot of time, but it’s going to be very useful. I bet, by the end of the semester, I know this place like the back of my hand.
After my initial training, the library aide leaves me at the counter alone, and luckily we’re extremely slow because it gives me the opportunity to catch up on my reading for Survey of British Literature. I’m in the middle of Pip and Joe’s manhunt with the police when my phone vibrates. I pick it up and see a text from Kate.
This is going to be hard. No Myspace either and there are like a million Christian Greys/Grays out there.
Another vibration and another text
Seriously, every city has their own. Even Seattle has a Christian Grey who was adopted by some rich family. He was expelled from like three high schools though and since your Christian is at Harvard, I think it’s safe to say it’s not the right one 😦
I text her back.
Yeah, I don’t have that kind of luck. lol
I set the phone down but it immediately buzzes again. Jeez Kate, I’m at work!
I almost went across the hall to just demand who he was, and by almost, I mean I did. But he wasn’t there. Don’t worry Ana, Kate Kavanagh is on the case!
Of course you are Kate, and that is why both love you and hate you. I smile down at the screen but decide not to text her back.
About half an hour later, my new boss brings me a cart full of books that need to be re-shelved. I push the heavy cart into the elevator and make my way up the floors, all the while creating my own dream scenario of the past of Christian Grey. I’ve painted him as a brooding yet poetic soul, who happens to have a weakness for brunette bookworms, when I’m interrupted by someone.
“Excuse me, do you work here?” A guy, who I’ve never seen before, asks.
“Yes, can I help you?” I answer, my years of working in customer service kicking in.
“Yeah, it’s just that, there is a guy over there talking on his cell phone and, I hate to say anything, but it’s distracting my study group.”
“I’ll remind him phones are not allowed in the library,” I answer kindly, although my stomach rolls and pitches at the thought of telling someone off for breaking the rules. I’ve never been one for confrontation, but it’s my job now.
The student smiles at me and disappears into the rows of books. I place two more books on the shelf and then abandon my cart to find the “phone user”. It doesn’t take me long as the offender is talking loud enough that he can be heard by his neighbors, but when I see who it is, I throw myself back into the line of bookshelves, hoping desperately I wasn’t seen.
Of course its Christian. Who else would it be?
I try and steel myself to approach him, but I can hear his conversation from my hiding place and suddenly unraveling the mystery that is Christian Grey becomes more important than creating a better study environment for the third floor of the library.
“This all just seems like a giant waste of time, Elena,” He says. “The market is prime now, I need to be out there taking advantage of it. Just because the idiots that have tricked society into calling them business tycoons don’t know how to take financial advantage of a recession doesn’t mean that I should be exiled to college for four years.”
Hmm, so he doesn’t even want to be here. I frown as he pauses, presumably while the Elena person on the phone speaks.
“I know, I know, but just because my parents have been successful doesn’t mean they’re right,” He pauses and then laughs. “Oh I’ve found ways to vent my frustrations. Rowing Crew starts on Monday and there is a gym not too far from my dorm.” His voice lowers and I have to strain my ears to hear what he says next. “I’m sure I’ve got to stay in peak physical form for what you have planned for me on your first visit.”
My heart falls. Well, it sounds like he has a girlfriend. I shake my head defiantly. Maybe she’s just a running partner. They work out together. People do that right? The excuse sounds weak, even in my own head, but I cling to it.
“This weekend?” Christian asks dejectedly. He pauses and then continues. “No, Elena, of course I want to see you. I need to see you, but this weekend is the first football game of the season and Elliot was flying out from Stanford to visit. He’s my brother, my parents would be upset if I told him not to come and they’d want a reason…”
Another pause and then he speaks in a long angry tirade, intermittently interrupted by silence as the other person on the phone argues back.
“Yes, Elena, I know the agreement, but what do you want me to do? I can’t help it if my family… I’m sorry. No, I can’t. What am I going to say? Jesus Christ, Elena, you know my mother better than that. It’s just not going to fucking work. No, fuck, I’m sorry. Please, Elena. Next, weekend. I’ll clear my schedule for the whole weekend, I promise. Yes, I understand. Look, I can see Ros coming to meet me. Can I call you back this evening? Yes, I will. Good-bye.”
I peek through the book shelves and see him set his phone down on the table. His hands rush through his hair in frustration and I hear him hiss the word “fuck” under his breath again.
I’ve heard him curse. I think about the formality trait I added to my list on Monday and the “fucks” I heard him say seem weirdly contrasting to the “Miss Steele’s” I got on the walk back to the dorm. Another personality trait, Christian Grey has a temper.
I walk the long way back to my cart of books so that he can’t see me. As I continue with my work, I think about the phone conversation I overheard. He promised to clear a whole weekend for this Elena person. That doesn’t seem like a running partner. So he definitely has a girlfriend then.
I begin to slam books down on the shelf, a little harder than I should, in frustration.
“Anastasia?” The smooth velvet voice of Christian Grey says behind me.
I turn to face him, hoping the look I’ve carefully constructed on my face is one of surprise and not nausea.
“Christian,” I greet him, a little too brightly as I try to overcompensate for the guilt I feel for having listened to his phone conversation.
“What are you doing?” He asks, eyeing the book in my hand speculatively. “I didn’t think economics in pre-cold war Russia would peak your interests.”
“I’m very worldly,” I say as I put the book back on the shelf. “But I’m actually just re-shelving these. I, uh, work here.”
“Really?” He asks as he places the book in his hands back on the shelf. “I guess we’ll be spending more time together than we would have as neighbors then.”
“Are you studying?” I ask stupidly, feeling my cheeks turn pink at the prospect of spending more time with Christian.
“Yes,” He says. “I have a study group that meets here every Wednesday.”
“Well, I’ll be here,” I say, failing miserably at nonchalance. He smiles at me and an unfamiliar warm feeling of desire courses through me. His teeth are so perfect and those lips…
“How long will you be here, Anastasia?” He asks.
He frowns. “Wait for me. You shouldn’t be walking back alone after dark.”
“It’s not that far…”
“Wait,” He commands and he reaches over and picks up one of the books off my cart. With a last fierce look with his steel gray eyes, he turns and disappears into the rows of shelves. I take a deep calming breath and shake my head, trying to dispel whatever hold he has over me. As quickly as possible, I empty my cart of the remaining books and push it back to the elevators.
My boss leaves around seven so I spend the next two hours at the front counter, reading and helping students check out books. I’ve actually finished my Brit Lit reading assignment and have started on “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin for another class when I’m interrupted.
“Are you ready?”
I look up and Christian is looking down at me. He’s wearing a black leather jacket over his white t shirt and suddenly he’s gone from ivy league dream boat to wrong side of the tracks bad boy. I swallow hard and clench my thighs together involuntarily. Look away, Steele. I look up at the clock for a distraction and realize it’s 9:15.
“Yes,” I say. “Um, let me just.. hold on.” I disappear into the back room where the grad student who holds the librarian internship is busy typing away on a computer.
“I’m heading out, is there anything else you need from me?” I ask. He doesn’t look up from his computer as he speaks.
“No, I’ll do a sweep through and lock up. I’m almost done here. Have a good night.”
“You too,” I say, and I softly close the door and walk back to where Christian is waiting.
“All set,” I say as I throw my books into my backpack. He waits patiently as I shutdown my computer and walk around the counter to meet him. When we get to the doors, he holds them open for me and motions me through.
“Thank you,” I say and I walk out into the night air. It’s chillier than I expected and I shiver slightly as we walk down the path to the Old Yard.
“Didn’t you bring a jacket?” He asks, looking down at me disapprovingly.
“No, it was warm when I left,” I reply.
He shakes his head and stops. His messenger bag, drops to the ground and he shrugs out of the leather jacket he’s wearing and hands it to me. Part of me wants to refuse as it really isn’t that far back to the dorms, but a bigger part of me really wants to be enveloped in the warm jacket that undoubtedly smells of him.
“Thank you,” I say, as I slip the jacket on. I was right, it smells heavenly, like some spicy scented body wash and a musky masculine scent that can’t possibly come from a bottle.
“You’re welcome,” He says as he slings his messenger bag back over his shoulder and we continue on.
“Do you have plans for the weekend?” I ask, although I already know the answer because I’m an eavesdropper and borderline stalker.
“My brother Elliot is flying in from California for the Princeton game.”
“Are you from California?” I ask.
“No, Elliot attends Stanford University. He studies Engineering there.”
“Oh, and your girlfriend?” I blurt out. Oh no. Shit! Did I just say that? I turn wildly to see his expression but it’s one of amusement.
“No girlfriend,” He chuckles. Relief floods over me, or is it overwhelming joy? So the Elena on the phone isn’t his girlfriend. A friend maybe, or a distant acquaintance that he has absolutely no romantic interest in whatsoever.
“What about you?” He asks.
“No, I don’t have a girlfriend either.” I say, and he laughs.
“I meant, what are your plans for the weekend?”
“Oh, there’s supposedly some start of term house party that Kate and I are going to.”
His eyes narrow. “A party? Off campus?”
“You should be careful. Parties like that can be very dangerous for young impressionable girls.”
“I like to think of them as fun,” I say sourly. Why does he think I’m impressionable? He barely knows me.
“Too much fun can lead to trouble,” He warns me as he ushers me into our building.
“You know this from experience?” I challenge him back. He smiles at me wickedly and I blush. We’re quiet for the rest of the walk to our rooms. My door is open again, so I can’t pretend to fiddle with my keys while he unlocks his own door.
“Goodnight, Christian,” I say.
“Goodnight, Anastasia,” He responds.
I turn into my room and find Kate still laying on her stomach on her bed, only now she’s dressed in a cute pajama shorts and cami set, typing on her computer and pouring over a text book. When she sees me she jumps up and shuts the door behind me.
“Oh my god,” She says. “What happened?”
“Nothing, he was studying at the library and we walked home together.”
“Is that his jacket?” She asks excitedly.
“Oh, crap. Yes.” I take it off and move to the door to return it, but Kate pulls me back.
“Ana, he obviously wants you to keep it. He probably left it with you so he has an excuse to see you again.”
“I doubt it,” I say, but I decide that if he wants it back, he can come get it. It’s really too nice and smells too good to surrender it willingly.
“So what else did you find out?” She asks, moving back to her computer, ready to launch back into her investigation. Her text book falls to the floor, completely forgotten.
“Um…” I stammer. “He’s not from California.”
Kate’s face falls, “That’s it? What did you two even talk about?”
“Well, I don’t think he wants me to go to the party this weekend,” I say, and Kate squeals.
“That’s probably because he doesn’t want you meeting any other guys! Did you invite him?”
I shake my head and once again, Kate bounds out of the bed but this time she doesn’t come at me. Instead she throws open the door and storms across the hallway. I gape at her through the empty doorway as she knocks on Christian’s door.
When he opens it, my breathing stops. He’s on the phone, but all he’s wearing is a pair of dark gray pajama pants with a white polo player logo beneath the waistband and they are hanging tantalizingly off his hips. He’s not wearing a shirt and he looks… oh he looks. Damn, he must work out a lot. He’s the Statue of David, muscles carved, sculpted perfectly to form this beautiful man. Even Kate takes a sharp intake of breath and is momentarily distracted.
“One moment, Elena,” Christian says, and he presses the microphone of his blackberry to his chest. “Can I help you Miss Kavanagh?”
“Uh, I… um… I-Ana-uh, party,” She stammers. She shakes her head and tries again, though only does fractionally better. “There’s a party Saturday and I uh- Ana and um… Do you want to…”
“I’m sorry, Katherine. I have company coming this weekend,” He says and he closes the door. She stares at the door for a second and then turns back to me, bewilderment on her face.
“Oh my- did you?” She continues to stammer as she points back to Christian’s room.
“Uh huh,” I reply, because it’s all I can manage. She turns and shuts the door.
“I need to lay down,” She says.
Kate climbs into bed while I take a seat at the desk, trying to shake off the trance of Christian Grey and get some more reading done. I open my laptop to take notes on The Awakening and about 20 minutes in, my email pings.
From: Christian Grey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: September 5th 2007
To: Anastasia Steele (email@example.com)
I’m sure my brother would love to attend a party this weekend.