The next morning, I’m rudely awaken by the sound of the door slamming shut. Kate moves across our dorm like a tornado as she strips her clothes off and tosses them callously around the room. I bolt upright and blink while my eyes attempt to adjust to the sunlight in the room. I’m still slightly confused by my abrupt awakening.
“Oh good, you’re awake,” Kate snaps. “The next time you see your boyfriend across the hall, you tell him that there is a 30 minute limit on the treadmill for a reason. I’ve been down there waiting for him to finish for an hour and a half and now, I’m going to be late.” She slams the bathroom door closed and I look at my alarm. It’s 07:30 and my first class isn’t until 10:00 today.
I groan and plop down back into my pillows, trying desperately to find sleep again, but it doesn’t come. Resigned, I roll out of bed and decide to take what’s left of my reading assignments down to breakfast with me. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Kate has earlier classes than I do, so I’m eating breakfast alone anyway.
08:00 AM doesn’t seem to be a popular time in the food hall as the normally packed dining room is only partially filled with bleary eyed students, some still in their pajamas. I take the bowl of oatmeal that I dished for myself and begin to stir in the brown sugar and dried cranberries I had sprinkled over the top of it. When I’m satisfied, I dunk my English Twinings Breakfast tea bag in my mug of hot water, swirl it around for a brief moment, and then scoop it out.
I pull out The Awakening and begin to read, but I’ve only made it two pages before I’m interrupted.
“The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude.” A now familiar voice says, and I look up to see a pair of bright gray eyes staring down at me. He smiles an enticing half smile down at me, clearly pleased with his ability to quote 19th Century American Classics.
“Kate Chopin is not British literature,” I say to him speculatively as he sits down next to me.
“Believe it or not, I actually had read a novel or two before signing up for that class, Anastasia,” he replies. He takes a drink of coffee, his eyes baring into me over the rim of his mug. There is an egg white and spinach omelet in front of him. This and an hour and a half on the treadmill, no wonder he looks so delicious.
“I just figured you signed up for that class because you preferred British literature,” I say, blushing under his gaze.
“Actually, I chose it because it’s not a genre I’m familiar with, barring a few key exceptions,” He says.
“The over inundation of Shakespeare in high school English courses, obviously. Also, Oscar Wilde, George Orwell, Joseph Conrad, and of course Harry Potter.”
“I wouldn’t picture you as a fan of The Boy who Lived.”
“My sister was really into it. I read it with her so she would have someone to talk about it with.”
“You have a sister?”
“Yes, Mia,” He says, and a small smile creeps across his lips as he says her name. It’s endearing.
Hm, another personality trait, Christian Grey is sentimental.
“And you have a brother…” I press him. The smile he has for Mia falters slightly as he continues, but there is still warmth in his normally cold grey eyes.
“And two parents if you’d believe it,” He says wryly, and I laugh to fill the brief moment of silence that exists before I continue my barrage of questions.
“And what do they do?” I ask.
“My mother is a pediatric surgeon and my father is a criminal defense attorney.”
So he comes from money. Although, I don’t know how I didn’t assume that from the Ralph Lauren pajama bottoms and the J Crew logo on his messenger bag. I think I remember from the phone conversation I overheard that his brother goes to Stanford. Two children in top tier schools, one being the crowning jewel of the Ivys. I imagine he comes from New York City and his mother is the top pediatric surgeon on the East Coast and his father represents all the big Wall Street names or Rupert Murdoch or something.
“What about you?” He asks, cutting into my fantasies. “Do you have any brother or sisters?”
“No, just me. Although, I always wanted siblings.”
“And what do your parents do?”
“Well, my father died when I was a baby. I have a step-dad, Ray, who practically raised me. He’s in the military. He’s being deployed again next week.” My voice chokes off a little as I think of the sacrifice my father is making for me. I swallow hard, trying to rid myself of the lump in my throat.
“And your mother?”
“Mom does all kinds of things.” I sigh. “Really she’s just a bored housewife who jumps from one enterprise to the next. Candle-making, party hosting, home staging… it changes so often I’m not sure what she’s into anymore.”
“Yes, I know the trouble caused by bored housewives,” He says dryly, but as he does, his face hardens and he sits up straighter, like he thinks he’s said something he shouldn’t. I hope he doesn’t think he’s offended me.
“I’m glad she’s finally married to someone who can keep her under control and make sure the bills get paid,” I say reassuringly.
“And when your step father is gone?” He asks. “What will she do then?”
“Oh, my mom and Ray have been divorced for years now,” I say. “Ray was husband number two and Mom is on husband number four, Bob.”
“And husband number three?”
“Is the reason why I was raised by Ray,” I say flatly, unwilling to go into the dark days of husband number three. “I’m glad, though. I was devastated when Ray and my mom got divorced. I need him in my life, you know? And he needs me. He’s my dad, and he always will be, no matter who my mom is married to.”
“I see,” He says. “And what about Bob?”
“Ana!” I hear a voice call behind me and I turn to see Jose coming towards me. He pulls up the chair next to me, scooting it rather close to my side, and he pulls me into a one armed hug.
“Hi, Jose,” I say, shifting uncomfortably, but he doesn’t let me go as he turns his focus to Christian.
“Jose Rodriguez,” He says. “I don’t think we’ve met.”
“Christian Grey,” He responds coolly, a little too coolly. I turn to look at him and the warmth in his eyes that has been present since we talked about his sister is gone. They’re back to the cold, hard steel gray and his mouth is set in a tight, thin line. I can feel Jose withdrawal from Christian’s glare, but he recovers and turns to look at me.
“Are you all set for the party on Saturday?” He asks.
“Yes. Kate has bought a new outfit. She’ll be on the prowl.”
Jose laughs and digs through his bag for a sharpie which he pulls out and removes the cap with his teeth. Once again, he takes my arm but instead of a phone number he scribbles an address on my palm.
“This is where you’ll want to go. We can meet up beforehand and go to dinner if you’d like.” He suggests.
“Aren’t you going to the game?”
“What game?” He asks.
“Harvard vs Princeton!” I say with false exasperation. “First football game of the season? Harvard! Harvard! Rah! Rah! Rah!”
“No,” Jose says. “I hadn’t planned on going to the game.”
“Elliot and I are going,” Christian interjects. “Perhaps you and Katherine would like to go with us? Then we can all go to the party together since Mr. Rodriguez was kind enough to provide you with the address.”
“Sorry, dude. The party is invitation only,” Jose says, the regret in his voice blatantly insincere.
“And Katherine and Anastasia were kind enough to extend an invitation last night,” Christian says coldly.
“Actually, I think Kate’s dad is flying in for the game,” I say quickly. “She’ll want to go with him, but we can all meet up afterwards and go together.” I hope the suggestion comes off as a neutral compromise, there is a tension building between Jose and Christian that is reaching alarming levels, though I don’t understand where it’s coming from.
“And miss the chance to meet Kate’s dad?” Jose says. “Tell you what, I’ll go to the game, for you, Ana.” He turns to look at Christian. “I’ll email you the address and maybe we’ll see you there.”
Christian scowls, but his answer is interrupted by his cell phone ringing. He looks down at the number, and his expression changes to something just off of frustration or agitation and he begins picking up his things.
“I’ll see you later tonight, Anastasia,” He says, and he answers the phone as he rushes away from the table.
“You have plans to meet him later?” Jose asks.
“Not exactly,” I admit. “We have a class together this afternoon and he lives across the hall from me.”
“I see,” He says. I look down at my watch and thankfully, it’s time for me to leave for class. I reach down for my bag and stuff my book back inside of it. Jose stands and I’m going to wave goodbye to him but he pulls me into a hug. Oh no…
“Have a good day, Ana,” He says.
“You too, Jose,” I say awkwardly, and I leave.
The day passes by so slowly I’m sure I’ve entered some kind of Star Trek like dimension where time has actually stopped. Truthfully, I just can’t stop counting down the hours until two o’clock when my Survey of British Literature class starts. I’m tapping the pads of my fingers on my desk, staring at the clock rather than my copy of “The Awakening” while Dr. Ladino talks about Chopin’s use of birds to symbolize the entrapment of Victorian women.
“Perhaps Miss Steele could give us an example of this?” The Professor asks, and I’m pulled roughly from my thoughts and immediately feel myself start to redden. Crap, are we still on the birds?
“Um… Professor?” I ask. Her eyes narrow and her lips form a tight frown.
“We were speaking, Miss Steele, of the importance of the sea and how Chopin uses it to symbolize freedom and escape. I was wondering if you’d share with the class what you thought about the first time Edna is able to successfully swim in the sea?”
“Oh, I uh…” I have to shake my head slightly to center myself. You can do this Steele. “In those terms, I suppose her finally being able to swim in the sea is her breaking free from the bonds the life of a Victorian woman gives her. She doesn’t enjoy being a mother, she doesn’t enjoy being married to her husband, she wants out. She feared the sea because, although she desired freedom, she feared what that freedom would mean. Personally, I think the sea represents emptiness, or solitude that comes from independence and her ability to put aside her fear and swim in the sea is representative of her overcoming the fear of being alone or having no one support her.”
“So you view this act as a sign of rebellion rather than liberation.”
“Yes. She says she wants to swim “where no woman has swum before”. It’s a rather rebellious mindset, don’t you think?”
Her eyes narrow again, but not in disdain. It’s as if she’s analyzing me, sizing me up. Her eyes glance up to the clock and she places her book on her desk.
“Well, it looks as if that’s all the time we have for today. Please read through the end of the novel by Tuesday and have your first drafts for theme analysis ready for review.”
I hastily throw my books into my bag and bolt for the door. I’m not sure why I’m in such a rush as I still have an hour before my class with Christian but being on the move seems to help with the anxiety.
I eat my lunch so fast that I don’t even really taste it. Kate looks at me, her fork held motionless in the air, as if I’ve grown two heads.
“Hungry?” She asks, a slight chuckle in her tone.
“I just really want to get to my next class,” I say through a mouthful of food. I reach out to take a drink of ice water as Kate smiles at me knowingly.
“Your next class or Christian?” She asks. “Perhaps you should stop by the health clinic on the way to class, Ana. You can’t always expect the guy to bring condoms now-a-days.”
I choke on the water at her words and spend the next few seconds coughing dramatically.
“Jeez, Ana.” Kate says, reaching over to pat me on the back. “It was a joke.”
“It’s not like that,” I say defensively, glaring at her.
“I know,” She replies. “You’ve made it this far without sex, I can’t imagine you’re just going to give it up to a guy you barely know your first week into college.”
I sigh and take another drink of water, more carefully this time.
“You should though,” Kate continues, as I set down the glass. “I mean, he’s like ridiculously hot, Ana. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
“I don’t just want…” I say, and pause as I realize I don’t know how to say what I feel. Kate furrows her brow at me in confusion and then her face lights up as realization dawns on her.
“What a minute…” She begins. “Are you telling me that Anastasia Steele, the girl who turned down at least eight different dates in high school, skipped her senior prom, and somehow managed to be the only girl in her senior class not to make it to the backseat of Corey Landry’s Camaro, suddenly wants a boyfriend?”
“Kate…” I start dismissively, but as she raises her eyebrows, the deep red blush in my cheeks gives me away.
“Oh my god, I never thought I’d see the day,” She says with overt satisfaction and she reaches down into her purse and pulls out a tube of mascara and lip gloss.
“Use these,” She says. “And just remember, don’t give anything away. If you want a serious relationship you have to show him that is what want, not just sex. Make him sweat a little.”
I give Kate a quick hug and then rush away towards the girl’s restroom. As I stare at my reflection in the mirror over the sinks, I wonder if I should have asked Kate to help me. I’ve never been any good with makeup so I suppose it’s good that she only sent me with away with the basics. I take a calming breath and pick up the mascara. When I’m finished, my lashes are full and dark and my lips are slick and taste like cotton candy. I tuck the tubes into my bag and dart out the door for Survey of British Literature.
Unlike Monday, I am the first person to arrive in class and I’m now presented with a conundrum I hadn’t considered before, will Christian sit by me? I remember he sat towards the back last time and so if I sit up front again, he might not, but if I sit close to where he sat in the last class, he might think I’m expecting something. I shake my head with dread, knowing I’m only having these concerns because of what Kate said. I ultimately decide to sit on the opposite side of the room, towards the back. As I take my seat, I bury my head in my arms, feeling like a coward because ultimately I know the reason I’m so concerned is because I know a guy like him couldn’t possibly feel about plain, book-worm me like I feel about him.
As I sit there growing steadily more and more insecure, I hear other students begin to enter the room. I ignore them mostly, satisfied that no one can see my face, but it’s only a few minutes before I hear a bag drop on the floor and Christian’s voice as he takes the seat next to me.
“Bad day?” He asks, and I’m relieved he has joined me and pleased that there seems to be actual concern in his voice. I sit upright, hoping the blush has faded from my cheeks.
“Not really,” I reply. “Just a long one. My morning was started rather early when Kate came barging into our room furious about someone very rudely going over the allowed time on the treadmill in the gym.”
“How very inconsiderate of them,” Christian says with wry amusement.
As the rest of the class files in we discuss the reading assignment until Dr. Collins enters and begins class. Half-way through the lecture, Christian and I have a full page of notes each. Just as Dr. Collins begins a discussion on social class, Christian reaches into his pocket and pulls out his cell phone. Out of the corner of my eye, I look over and see he’s texting. The name of the recipient at the top of the message is “Mrs. Lincoln” but I’m unable to see any of the actual message before he hits send.
Jeez Ana, stop trying to read his text messages, you stalker. I scold myself.
Dr. Collins must have noticed Christian’s phone too, as the second he slips his phone into his pocket, Dr. Collins asks for Christian’s input on the discussion.
“Dickens’ vision of social class is not rigid,” Christian says, in response to Dr. Collin’s question. “As many of his characters are regularly earning and losing fortunes, he dissects social class from wealth altogether and builds the idea as more of an achievable construct rather than a birthright. A character’s social standing may be either created or destroyed.”
“Interesting interpretation. Do you agree with Mr. Grey’s sentiments, Miss Steele?” Dr. Collins asks, his attention turning to me. My eyes shoot to Christian as I feel myself begin to blush and then back to the professor.
“Not exactly,” I say. I can feel Christian’s steely gaze on me but I refuse to back down, he may be some kind of up and coming business savant or something, but books are my thing.
“Do go on, Miss Steele,” Dr. Collins says.
“I believe that one of the basic questions Dickens explores with this text is ‘How does one judge the value of other human beings?’. Social class is an arbitrary standard, externally constructed but universally accepted. Unlike, Mr. Grey, I find Dickens does depict social standing as a rigid concept associated with education, which for 19th century England was directly tied to wealth. Dickens criticizes Social Class as a criteria by which we evaluate human value by creating characters in both low and high born classes with good and wicked intentions.”
“I see,” Dr. Collins says. “So if not social class, what criteria would one use to judge the worth of another?”
“I believe that Dickens ultimate point is that there is no external criteria or standard. Judgment of worth is made in your own conscious.”
Dr. Collins nods with a smile and then looks at the clock. “I’d like you all to consider how social construct plays a role in determining the value of the characters in Great Expectations and what part it plays in our own judgments. Explain your conclusions, reactions, thoughts in no less than six pages to turn in on Tuesday. Enjoy your weekend.”
There is a flurry of commotion as once again people swarm for the door. Christian follows closely behind me.
“I’m impressed,” He says as we leave the English Building and step into the bright sunlight in the courtyard. “It’s not often someone is able to prove me wrong.”
“I’ve read the book before,” I say, blushing. “Knowing how it ends and what happens to all the characters might give me a little more perspective…”
“Don’t make excuses, Anastasia,” He scolds me. “You’re smart and shrewd. Be proud of that, it’s what will set you apart from the others.”
I bite my lip to try and cover the satisfied smile that creeps across my face and as I do, Christian surprises me by reaching over and grasping my chin, freeing my lip from my teeth.
“I’d like more of your insights, Anastasia. Perhaps we could study together one night a week and you can show me whatever else I’m missing.”
I stare at him blankly for a moment before my elated smile returns. “Uh sure, when?” I ask, excitement apparent in my tone.
“Christian!” A female voice behind us says, and I whirl around to see a pretty, tall, red headed girl walking towards us, waving her arm. She’s looks very well put together, her jeans look like they might have a designer label stitched on the inside. She takes a long drag from a cigarette and exhales the smoke just far enough away that we don’t breathe it in as she approaches.
“Put that out,” Christian says disgustedly, and the girl rolls her eyes and flicks the cigarette to the sidewalk, which she grounds out with her brown leather boots.
“You’re so touchy, Christian,” She says, and she looks down at me, “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
“Anastasia, this is Rosaline Bailey. Ros, this is Anastasia Steele.”
“Pleasure,” She says, shaking my head with a wide smile. “She’s cute, Christian.”
I divert my eyes immediately as I feel myself blush and Christian shuffles uncomfortably.
“Yes, well, come Ros, we’ve got work to do,” He says and then turns back to me. “I’ll email you later, we can set up a time.”
I nod my head and Ros looks between the two of us and smiles again.
“It was nice to meet you, Anastasia,” She says, “I hope to see more of you.”
“It was nice to meet you, too,” I say still blushing from her earlier comment. Christian pushes her elbow to get her to move and I watch them walk away. As I walk back toward Grays, I feel like my stomach is doing backflips. He wants to see me, hang out with me, outside of class. Sure, it might only be for studying, but romance has to start somewhere… right?
When I get back to my dorm that afternoon, it’s empty. For the first time since Kate has arrived, I have the place to myself. I flop down on my bed and close my eyes. Really, I should be reading. My mountain of homework is still looming over me, but it’s nice to relax. With classes, homework, my work study, my concern for Ray, and the longing I feel for Mr. Mercurial across the hall, I feel like I’ve lived through the longest week of my life, and it’s only Thursday.
Just as I’m starting to drift off into a mindless sleep, my phone rings. I roll over and pull my cell phone out of my back pocket to ignore the call in favor of a nap, but it’s Ray .
“Dad!” I gasp as I answer the phone.
“Ana!” He gasps back, mocking my surprise.
“How was your drive home?” I ask.
“Lonely without you, kid,” He says. “How are your classes? Your first week at Harvard, I can’t hardly believe it.”
“It’s been good, I guess,” I laugh. “I have a lot of homework but I like my professors and I think my work study is going to be very useful.”
“Have you made any friends?”
“Well there is this new guy I met…” I hesitate. No, now is not the time for that. Luckily, I have a back up. “He was the first person I met actually. His name is Jose Rodriguez and I think we’re going to be really good friends really quickly.”
“Just friends?” He asks suggestively.
“Just friends, Dad.” I assure him. “Kate says I’m missing the “need a boyfriend” gene.”
“Well, I can’t say that I’m disappointed by that. You’ve got the right idea, Annie. Just focus on your studies, get good grades, and there will be no limit to what you will accomplish. All of the relationship stuff will happen when it happens. You can’t change fate’s plan.”
“I’ll remember that, Dad.” I say. We talk briefly about the physical he had that day and I tell him about the party I was invited to this weekend before he has to get off the phone for a very important Sounders game. I hang up the phone, set it on the dresser and head to my desk to start my homework. I open my computer to play some background music while I take notes on Great Expectations for my essay. An hour later, Kate walks in, weighed down with shopping bags and smiles at me.
“How was your day?” She asks.
“Productive. I think I’m actually going to finish my homework,” I say.
“Oh, good!” She beams. “So nothing to keep you busy this weekend!”
“Well it was due tomorrow so I wasn’t really concerned about that.”
“Speaking of this weekend,” She says conspiratorially, “When I was out shopping, I may have found the perfect outfit for you to wear to the party.”
“Kate…” I hesitate. “You know I can’t afford to buy clothes. Just the books for my classes nearly cleaned me out.”
“I know. That’s why I… bought the outfit for you.” She smiles and she grips tightly to a plastic, fuchsia bag.
“Kate, you really shouldn’t have,” I start but she silences me with a wave.
“Oh please, Ana, it’s really not a big deal. I just really couldn’t pass it up and if you wear this and let me make you up a little, you’ll pay me back in happiness.”
“Thank you, Kate,” I mutter, still unsure how okay I am with her buying me clothes. After I model the outfit, and Kate tells me exactly how she plans on doing my hair, I settle down to get a start on the homework I was assigned for next week, and while I read through the final chapters of The Awakening, I find myself refreshing my email every few minutes, desperate to hear from Christian Grey.