“Hey,” I hear Christian’s low voice. I stir awake as I feel his fingers brush the loose strands of hair out of my face. “It’s getting late. You need to eat something.”
“M’not hungry.” I mumble sleepily.
“Come on, Sleeping Beauty.”
I feel him sit up and climb off the bed. Slowly, I pry my eyes open and peer up at him. While I was sleeping, he took off his jacket and shoes, presumably to be more comfortable in the bed next to me, and now I’m marveling at the graceful curve of muscle I can see through the thin fabric of his t-shirt. Guilt roils through me as the nearly forgotten images from my erotic dream come back to me with vibrant clarity and I have to look away to hide my blush. Fortunately, as I am pulled further and further from the dregs of sleep and reality comes back to me, I remember Ray’s letter and the fear I felt at those words and my libido is extinguished.
I roll on my back and brush the backs of my hands across my eyes, trying to wipe the sleepiness away. There is residual moisture in my eyelashes and it’s made the skin around my eyes raw and tender.
“Are you okay?” Christian asks as I sit up and swing my legs over the side of the bed. I nod my head and look up at him as he slips on his jacket. As he begins putting his shoes back on, I feel a vibration in the bed and turn around to see where it’s coming from. My hand brushes under the blanket and finds hard plastic vibrating, which I assume must be Christian’s cell phone. I pull it out to hand to him but freeze as I see the screen.
Incoming Call: Mrs. Lincoln
He quickly snatches the phone out of my grasp, rejects the call and slips it into his jacket pocket. I glare up at him.
“I thought you told me you were out?” I ask him in an angry, accusing tone.
“I am,” He says with a kind of flat finality.
“Then why is she still calling you?”
He doesn’t answer as he finishes tying his shoes but before I can press him further, the door opens and Kate walks in.
“Ana, we’re goin-” She looks around the door and when she sees Christian standing over me as I lie in bed with one shoe still dangling from his hand, her eyes widen with panic and she throws her body against the door to close it and she stays there as if she’s trying to hold it shut.
“Kate?” I ask, confused but then understand her strange behavior when the doorknob jiggles and I hear Carter’s voice call through the door.
“Kate? Ana?” He says, continuing to jiggle the knob. “Hello?”
“Ana’s changing,” Kate calls back to him and then looks at me with her what are you doing expression.
“She’s my girlfriend, Kate. I think it’s okay. Anything I haven’t seen, I’ll probably see soon anyway,” Carter says laughing and Christian’s fists tighten and he moves to the door threateningly. I reach out and grab his jacket.
“Knock it off, and go into the bathroom!” I hiss. I know what this looks like and I really don’t want Carter jumping to that conclusion.
“Why? He’s not your father,” Christian says, irritably and a little too loudly. I flinch as there is a pause from the door and then Carter speaks again.
“Is that Grey’s voice?” He calls through the door, a hint of anger in his voice. Kate looks at me, silently asking me what she wants me to do but there is nothing to do and trying to hide Christian is making the situation look even more suspicious.
“Let him in,” I say to Kate and she raises an eyebrow at me as if to ask me if I’m sure. I nod and she stands up and turns around to open the door.
“Hey, Carter,” She says cautiously, “Sorry about that.”
“What’s going on in here?” He asks as he steps into the room. His eyes fall on Christian first, and then to me sitting in the heap of disheveled blankets on the bed.
“What the fuck?” He says angrily as he immediately jumps to the conclusion I knew he would.
“Carter, it’s not what you think. Nothing happened,” I say defensively. “I was upset and I took a nap. Christian just came to check on me.”
“Yeah?” Carter asks, and I can see that he’s fuming. His hands are shaking or twitching like he’s yearning to lunge at Christian. “He came to check on you? Probably took real good care of you, right?”
“Carter!” I snap back. “I already told you nothing happened.”
“And his clothes being off?” He fumes, looking at the shoe still in Christian’s hand. “That’s just another coincidence right?”
I’m about to explain but he lifts a hand to silence me and rounds on Christian.
“Get out, Grey,” He says coldly and Christian raises an eyebrow at him and then turns to look at me, and I nod in agreement with Carter. This will be easier if he leaves. Christian’s eyes harden but he turns and leaves the room at a leisurely pace. Kate looks back and forth between Carter and I before following him quickly out the door.
“Did you sleep with him?” Carter asks, quietly and I narrow my eyes.
“I’ve already told you, nothing happened.”
“Then why was he getting dressed?”
“He…” I hesitate. Oh no, was letting Christian lay next to me, letting him comfort me wrong? A betrayal? At the time, it felt so right…and I realize that, yes, that is what makes it wrong.
“When he came to check on me, I was crying,” I say in a low, guilty voice. “He was trying to comfort me and he laid next to me and held me until I fell asleep.”
Carter’s jaw tightens and he turns around, and he moves like an angry storm towards the door.
“Carter!” I call after him, almost pleading. He stops with his hand on the doorknob and glares back at me.
“What?” He snaps viciously.
“I’m sorry,” I say and for the second time today, I feel my eyes begin to sting with the threat of tears.
“Save it, Anastasia,” He says.
“Please don’t go,” I beg.
“No, I’m really fucking mad,” He says. “I need some space.” He opens the door and then he’s gone. I stare at the door for a couple of minutes, dumbfounded by what has happened, until Kate comes back in.
“Are you okay?” She asks, and I nod slowly, not really sure what I’m feeling right now. It’s been such an overwhelming day.
“Come on,” She says, and she takes my jacket off the hook by the door and tosses it to me. “We’re going out.”
“I don’t know, Kate…” I say hesitantly but she picks up her room keys, and stares at me expectantly. I roll my eyes and slip into my shoes and follow after her. We’re barely out in the hall when the door to Christian’s room opens and he looks at me with concern.
“What happened?” He asks, but I turn away from him and focus on Kate. She locks the door and we turn to walk down the hall but Christian reaches out and grabs my arm to stop me.
“Don’t Anastasia me,” I snap. “Don’t say anything to me until you’ve spoken to Mrs. Lincoln.” I storm down the hall, away from Christian, and Kate follows in my angry wake. I expect her to lead the way out to her car, but she grabs me by the hand and leads me around the back side of Gray’s.
We walk the couple blocks to Harvard Square and then she pulls me into a little frozen yogurt shop. We fill small cardboard tubs with yogurt and assorted toppings and pick a table by the window.
“This is delicious,” I say, scooping another bite of the honey frozen yogurt and blueberries and almonds. “Good idea, Kate.”
“Mmhm,” She agrees, finishing her own overly chocolate bite. When we’re finished with the yogurt she looks across the table at me.
“What’s going on, Ana?” She asks, and her voice is full of concern rather than accusation.
“Carter’s mad and I probably deserve it.” I say, and she purses her lips.
“You like Christian, don’t you?”
“I’m dating Carter,” I respond evasively, but she sees right through it.
“That’s not what I asked,” She says, and I frown and look down at my hands under the table, unable to keep eye contact with her as I confess.
“Yes,” I whisper.
“Then why are you trying to make it work with Carter?” Kate asks.
“I don’t think its right to break up with him when he’s done nothing wrong,” I tell her. “And it’s complicated with Christian right now…”
“It sounds like you’re being a coward,” Kate says plainly and I look up at her, surprised by her brashness.
“Breakups are hard,” She says, “But there’s no reason to be unhappy and not be with the person you want to be with just because you feel guilty. I understand you don’t want to hurt Carter, but you’re not being fair to him. He deserves to be with somebody who wants to be with him.”
I purse my lips as I truly think about her words and realize, I really am being unfair. My feelings for Christian are real, stronger than the ones I have for Carter, and it’s getting harder and harder everyday to keep our friendship strictly platonic, for my anyway.
“You’re right,” I say. I hear the vibration of her phone against the plastic seat of the booth but she ignores the call. The action reminds me of Christian earlier when I found his phone in my bed and of the confrontation we had in the hall.
“Kate,” I say hesitantly, interrupting her gathering discarding napkins on the table.
“Hmm?” She asks absentmindedly.
“I know you heard what I said to Christian in the hall. Could you not repeat what you heard to Elliot?”
“Why?” She asks, finally stopping what she’s doing.
“It’s just not something he wants his family to know about.”
She frowns.”If you don’t want me to, I won’t say anything, Ana, but you should know the only reason I’ve told Elliot anything at all is because he asks. His family is worried about him.”
“I know, it just… makes it worse,” I say. “Just, don’t say anything.”
“Okay,” She says, getting up from the table and tossing out our trash. I get up and follow after her and rest my head on her shoulder as we walk. She wraps one of her arms around me and I smile.
“I’m glad you’re my best friend, Kate.” I say.
“Me too.” She says, and then adds brightly, “Besties for life.”
“You’re so annoying.” I giggle and she pushes me away from her jokingly. When we get back to our room, the light under Christian’s door is off. I wonder if he’s gone to dinner or if he’s gone to talk to her. I hope it’s the latter.
The next morning, I decide to head down to Carter’s rowing practice. I’m going to ask him to coffee when it’s over and let him know that I don’t think it’s working out. I shiver slightly as I sit on the grass, the morning air is getting chillier the farther we get into October and now I wish I would have brought a heavier jacket. I sit and wait nearly ten minutes before the doors to the boathouse open and I watch as a group of guys push the boat down the dock and into the water. I search each of their faces and I see Christian, but not Carter.
When the boat is in the river, Christian stands and talks to the other guys. It looks as though he’s trying to rearrange their positions or something but I can’t tell because he’s facing away from me. He’s interrupted, however, when Carter comes running down the dock.
“Where the fuck have you been? Do you know what time it is?” Christian yells as Carter picks up a paddle and moves to get in the boat.
“Fuck off, Grey,” Carter says and he tries to shove his way past Christian to get into the boat but Christian grabs the front of his shirt to stop him.
“Excuse me?” He says coldly. Carter glares back at him, reflecting the disdain Christian’s eyes.
“Come on guys,” One of their rowing partners says diplomatically, “Let’s just get through practice. We all have classes to get to.”
“Take your hands off me,” Carter nearly growls, and Christian lets him go, but they both continue to glare at each other furiously. I worry for a moment that Carter is going to hit Christian and vice-versa.
“Come on, Reed. Get in the boat, man,” Another of Carter’s teammates pleads.
Carter looks Christian up and down once more and then turns to climb into the boat. Christian’s eyes flit to me sitting on the hillside, well within earshot, and then climbs into the back of the boat himself. They row out into the river and Christian spends the next forty-five minutes yelling at Carter, who is apparently doing whatever he can to disrupt their rhythm and timing as they row. They look disastrous in the water and when they finally paddle to shore, Christian looks livid.
“What the hell is your problem, Reed?” He demands angrily.
“You, Grey. You are my fucking problem and until you quit trying to fuck my girlfriend, there’s going to be a problem.”
Christian slams the oar in his hands into Reed’s chest and glares at him darkly.
“If you need to speak with me about things happening outside of Crew, you can do so at an appropriate time. This is not that time. If you’re going to be on this team, you come to practice ready to work. Otherwise, we don’t need you.”
“Fuck you, Grey,” Carter snaps and then looks around disdainfully at his teammates. “I don’t need this shit, find yourself a new meat wagon.”
He drops the oar with a loud clunk on to the dock and turns to leave. Christian watches him wearily as he storms up the hill towards me, but when Carter notices me sitting there, he simply looks away from me and trudges off in a different direction.
“Carter!” I call after him sympathetically but he ignores me and continues his angry march back to campus.
Later that day, I wait for Carter at Annenberg for lunch but he never shows up, even though I know this is the hour he has a break between classes. He’s also not waiting for me after my last class like he usually does. When I don’t see him at dinner that night, I’m beginning to think he’s going to call it off between us himself but around 7:30, I get a text from him asking me to meet him at our spot in Harvard Yard. I grab a jacket and let Kate know where I’m going. She wishes me luck and I walk uneasily from Grays Hall to Harvard Yard where I see Carter already waiting for me.
“Hey,” I say as I approach and he looks at me solemnly. Yep, this is definitely over.
“Hey,” He says back, and he reaches out and pulls me into a hug. The gesture seems weird as I was expecting him to tell me he wants to end things but the hug isn’t conciliatory, it’s sweet and caring, like a boyfriend.
“I’m sorry about this morning,” He says, “I didn’t know you were sitting there. If I’d have known, I wouldn’t have acted that way.”
“You shouldn’t have acted that way at all,” I scold him and he nods his head.
“I know, I just can’t stand to hear his voice or even look at him now,” He says darkly.
“Nothing happened between us, I’ve already told you that.”
“He shouldn’t have been there at all,” Carter says venomously.
“You’re right,” I agree. “You should have been.”
Carter looks at me confused.
“You knew I was upset, I told you what had happened and you just left.”
“I had to go to class,” He says defensively, and I shake my head.
“Class is only an hour long. Christian didn’t show up until after his class was over. He came to check on me because I wasn’t in British Literature, he didn’t even know what had happened. But you did, and you weren’t there.”
“He came to check on you because he wants to sleep with you,” Carter says darkly.
“Nothing happened!” I say exasperatedly for what feels like the millionth time.
“But he wants it to,” Carter says, and he looks at me, more serious now. “I don’t want you to see him anymore. I know you have a class together and whatever, but I don’t want you hanging out together. I don’t want you talking, or texting, or anything.”
“Carter, that’s ridiculous. You can’t tell me who I can be friends with.”
“I’m not going to compete with him. I’m not going to let him try and force us apart. He’s bad for you Anastasia, he’s bad for us, and I don’t want you to see him anymore.”
“I can’t do that, Carter. I’m not going to do that,” I reply firmly.
“Do you understand what I’m telling you, Anastasia? I can’t be with you if you are friends with Grey. I don’t trust him and as long as you hang around him, then I can’t trust you. So you have a choice to make, me or him.”
“You can’t trust me around him? So what happens next, Carter? What happens when another guy comes around and thinks I’m attractive? What if Jose suddenly decided he was interested in me, are you going to tell me I can’t be friends with him either?”
“Me or Grey, Anastasia?”
“Seriously?” I ask angrily. He stares back at me, reaffirming his question and I feel anger begin to bubble inside of me at his audacity.
“No. I don’t choose you, Carter,” I say angrily. “And not because of Christian or anyone else. It’s because of you. You’re selfish and overbearing and I’m not the kind of girl who will let you push me around and run my life for me. This is over, we’re over.”
As I grow angrier and angrier in my tirade, I see the determination in his eyes fade and panic begin to stretch across his face. Clearly, this wasn’t the answer he was looking for.
“Anastasia…” He pleads.
“Good-bye, Carter,” I snap, and I turn and storm back to Gray’s leaving Carter behind me.