Chapter 17

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“Kate!” I yell when I see her blonde hair weaving through the crowd at Logan International Airport the next day. I wave my arms to draw her attention as she squeezes her way through an opening in the crowd. When she breaks through, I open my arms to hug her but she drops her bags, puts her hands on her hips, and glares at me.

I’ll be fine staying behind. I’m just going to catch up on my reading and work on essays?” She says, reiterating what I had told her before when she found out I didn’t plan on going home for Thanksgiving break. She must have already talked to Elliot.

“I didn’t plan it,” I say defensively. “Christian was leaving and he saw me alone and he booked me a ticket. I didn’t ask him too, it just kind of happened.”

She looks at me indignantly for a moment, but eventually the stern look on her face melts away and she pulls me into a hug.

“I’ve missed you,” She says, not pulling away from me. I grip her tightly, feeling at ease for the first time since I found out the truth about Christian and Mrs. Lincoln.

“Come on,” She says, grabbing the handle to her suitcase. “You’re going to tell me everything on the way home.”

“Here are your keys,” I tell her when we get to her car in the parking garage.

“Ugh, I’ve been flying all day. The last thing I want to do is drive.”

I nod and climb into the driver’s seat and drive out of the garage. When we’ve paid the parking fee, we pull onto the road back to Cambridge and Kate immediately starts her line of questioning.

“What is going on between you and Christian? Elliot said you two act like a couple but swear up and down that you’re not dating.”

“We’re friends, Kate.”

“But you like him right? You want to be more than that?”

I frown, knowing Christian is waiting for this exact answer.

“I don’t know… I think so, but I just… ugh, I don’t know.”

“Does he like you?” She asks.

“Yes.”

“Does he turn you on?”

“Kate!” I say shocked, although I don’t know why this shocks me. It is Kate after all.

“Come on, Ana!” Kate whines. “I’m just trying to help you avoid this same mistake again, remember the Carter fiasco?”

I glare at her and then turn to look at the road as I give her my answer.

“Yes,” I finally acquiesce and she squeals with giddy delight.

“Ana and Christian sitting in a tree,” Kate sings softly, dancing in the front seat of the car. I roll my eyes.

“You and Elliot are perfect for one another. You’re both really annoying,” I tell her, and she smiles back at me as we head into Cambridge.

When we get home, I help Kate unpack before we head down to Annenberg for dinner. I’m just about to devour my cheese and broccoli soup when Kate continues her interview from the car ride home.

“So what did you do in Seattle anyway?”

“A lot. Christian’s parents took us to a Seahawks game and out to dinner on the first Sunday night and on Monday Mr. Grey took Christian, Elliot, and I out on his boat. I went shopping with Mrs. Grey on Wednesday… Oh and I uh, I had to borrow some clothes from you. I went to your house and grabbed some stuff, it’s all in your closet.”

“What clothes?”

“A white blouse, black pencil skirt, and a pair of black shoes.” I say, and she nods.

“I have a presentation this week so that might help me out. What else did you do?”

“Uh, we had dinner on Thanksgiving and we went to Mia’s ballet recital on Friday.”

“What’s Grace like?” She asks, and I realize that even though she and Elliot have been dating for a couple months now, she’s never actually met Mrs. Grey.

“She’s really nice,” I tell her. “You can tell she cares about her kids a lot. She was very warm and welcoming to me. In fact, she wants to have lunch when she comes to visit Christian.”

“And Mr. Grey?” Kate continues. I frown and she creases her brow with worry.

“I think he’s a little more… guarded,” I say carefully.

“What do you mean?” Kate asks. She never lets me get away with the easy response. I sigh and decide to tell her outright.

“He thinks I’m into Christian for his trust fund.”

“Why?” Kate asks disgustedly.

“Because I don’t come from money and I go to an expensive school.”

“He sounds like a snob,” Kate says, but I shrug.

“How was the bahamas?” I ask, and she launches into a detailed story of her week in paradise until Jose plops down beside me.

“Hey, Jose!” I say cheerfully, taking a large spoonful of soup.

“So you do remember my name?” He asks. He sounds almost hurt.

“Of course I do,” I say.

“Well, you never talk to me anymore. Last I saw you, you were with that Grey guy at Halloween. I heard he beat up a kid that night.”

I roll my eyes. “I’m sorry I haven’t called, it’s been a pretty hectic few weeks. Where’s… what was her name? Hannah?”

“Heather,” He corrects me, “And she didn’t last long. I’m on to Julia, this girl in my Complex Function Theory class. She’s fine, and one day I will make her mine.”

Kate snorts into her diet coke and tries to hide her laughter into a napkin while she dabs her face clean. I pat Jose on the back with encouragement but wish I could openly snicker like Kate. Oh, Jose.

We invite Jose back to our dorm to watch a movie and while Kate rushes to the third floor to grab a DVD, Jose and I head to the common lounge on the first floor of Grays, where there is a giant flatscreen TV mounted on the wall and several comfortable couches. Jose flops across one of the oversized couches just as Kate emerges with The Princess Bride and a few blankets. I lay on the couch with Jose, my head on the opposite armrest, and pull a blanket over me while Kate puts the movie on. We’re only about 15 minutes in when a loud noise from the entrance hall distracts us. I turn and see Christian walking through the door with Ros and he doesn’t seem to be very happy.

“We need something in person,” He says sternly. “A face to face, even if we can just get it over Skype. Please tell me you can at least set that up?”

“I think so,” Ros says but then corrects herself when she sees Christian’s hard gaze. “I’ll take care of it, Christian.”

He nods and turns to walk but the stairs to his dorm but the noise from the movie catches his attention and he pauses when he notices me on the couch and then walks over to the TV lounge.

“Anastasia?” He says, his eyes darting to Jose laying across from me. He doesn’t look pleased by our seating arrangement.

“Hi, Christian!” Kate says happily, obviously trying to be nicer to him now that she knows we may become a couple soon. “Won’t you join us?”

“I have work to attend to, thank-you Katherine,” He says formally. “Anastasia, may I speak to you privately for a moment?”

“Uh, sure,” I say, throwing the blanket off of me and pushing myself up off the couch. I follow him back into the entrance hall where Ros is waiting impatiently.

“Here are my keys, Ros. I’ll be there in five minutes, start without me,” Christian says, handing Ros the keys to his room. She rolls her eyes but takes the keys and disappears up the staircase. Christian leads me into a hallway off the right side of the entrance hall that leads to a pair of bathrooms and he corners me.

“What are you doing?” He demands.

“Watching a movie?” I respond, confused by his urgent tone.

“I mean with that Rodriguez kid. What are you doing cuddling with him on the couch?”

“Jose is my friend, and I wasn’t cuddling with him, I was sharing a couch with him while we watched a movie together.”

“You know he wants into your panties, don’t you?” He says, continuing his too demanding tone.

“Uh, no,” I say.

“Don’t be so naive, Ana. He’s trying to seduce you.”

“Christian, what are you talking abou-” I begin but I’m cut off as his hands race into my hair and pull me to him in a hard, possessing kiss that leaves my lips feeling swollen and my knees weak. I’m melting into him and have to remember to steady myself when he releases me.

“Say yes,” He says, breathless.

“Christian… I need time. I’ve barely…”

“Then, just… stay with me tonight,” He pleads, cutting me off again.

“Christian…”

“Please, Anastasia.”

“Hey, Ana do you want me to paus- oh sorry!” Kate says, dashing away in embarrassment.

“Kate!” I call after her.

“Anastasia,” Christian says, still waiting for an answer.

“Not tonight,” I tell him rushing after after Kate. He calls after me but I ignore him and re-enter the TV room to Kate’s smug smile. She sees Christian walk past to the stairs and calls after him with a smugly satisfied tone.

“Have a good night, Christian!”

I glare at her.

“What?” She asks innocently.

“You know what,” I say. She shrugs and picks up the remote to hit play.

“You two will make such beautiful babies,” She says, and I shake my head as I turn to watch the movie.

The first day back to classes starts what feels like a marathon of papers, reading assignments, and endless study sessions as the entire student body prepares for finals. During dead week and finals week, the library is open 24 hours a day, so I’m working extra shifts. The bad news is, studying with the constant interruption of students asking for resources or needing to checkout books is extremely difficult. The good news is, when it’s slow, I really do have time to think about Christian and what I want. Thankfully, he seems to finally have taken my request for time seriously as he’s been avoiding me for several days. At least, I hope that’s what he’s doing.

While I work the long shifts in the library, thousands of dreams and scenarios of what our relationship would be like run through my mind, some of them good, some of them bad. In the end, I decide I have too many questions to figure this out for myself. I’m going to have to talk to him. So on the Monday of finals week, I make a clear list of everything I need to know in order for me to make a decision.

Our Brit Lit final is on Wednesday and since I finish the test before Christian, I wait outside the building for him. Fall has faded too quickly into winter and as I stare at the door to the English building, I shiver against the cold December breeze. Fortunately, I’m only waiting five minutes or so before Christian comes out of the building, his eyes focused on his Blackberry.

“Christian!” I call, hurrying up to him.

“Anastasia?” He asks. “What are you doing?”

“I wanted to talk to you,” I tell him and as I speak, his whole body freezes.

“You’ve decided?” He asks with trepidation.

“No, but I need to ask you some things before I can. Do you want to get coffee or something?”

He looks anxiously down at his phone and then out ahead of us as if he’s expecting to see someone who is waiting for him.

“I have an appointment with Ros that I can’t miss,” He says regretfully. “Really, Anastasia, we have a video conference call that I have to be there for.”

“Oh, well…” I hesitate. “Okay, I’ll just see you later then.”

“Let me take you to dinner tonight?” He asks.

“Sure,” I tell him. “Text me when and where and I’ll meet you there.”

“I’ll pick you up,” He suggests.

“I’d rather drive myself,” I tell him.

He looks like he wants to argue but, I think in the interest of saving time, he nods, reaches out, and traces the line of my cheek with his thumb before he turns and hurries off down the path. I watch after him, so anxious to speak with him I worry waiting until tonight will feel like an eternity.

I open the door to our dorm and Kate looks up from the book on her lap. Her entire bed is covered in loose papers, books, and several spiral bound notebooks filled with partially highlighted text. She’s wearing her oversized “journalist” glasses so I know she’s deep into study mode.

“Hey, Ana,” She says halfheartedly still staring intently down at her book.

“Hey,” I say, plopping down at my desk and digging through my bag for something to study that will hopefully make the time go by faster.

“What’s wrong?” She asks, picking up on the forlorn tone in my voice.

“Nothing. I wanted to go to coffee with Christian after our final but he’s busy.”

“You hate coffee,” Kate says.

“That’s not the point, Kate.”

“Well, finals are a busy time. You can’t really blame him. Maybe you can go tomorrow or at the end of the week when finals are over.”

“He’s taking me to dinner tonight to make up for it,” I tell her.

“Like a date?” She asks, excitedly.

“Uh… no, not really. Oh, can I borrow your car?”

“Sure,” She says, looking down at her books once again. I wonder if she’s too busy to dig too deeply into my plans with Christian tonight. It’s not like her to let something like this go so easily. About an hour later, Christian texts me that he’s made reservations under the name Grey at Oleana for 7 o’clock so at 6 pm I start digging through my drawers trying to find something to wear.

“Kate, do you have a dress I can borrow?” I ask.

“Yeah, take what you need,” She says, gesturing to her closet but not looking up.

I cross the room to her closet and search through the clothes until I find a fairly long, well fitted plum dress. I grab the pair of nude pumps I borrowed for Halloween and disappear into the bathroom to change. Heading back into the room, I dig through my purse to find the mascara and lip gloss that Kate gave to me earlier in the year. I bend over her dresser to look in the mirror while I apply the makeup and Kate finally breaks.

“Anastasia,” She says with exasperation, “Sit down.”

I glance at her gratefully as she disappears into the bathroom and returns with her makeup case that’s so big, it looks like the tackle box Ray takes fishing. Carefully and methodically she does my hair and applies makeup to my face with different brushes and sponges until she’s satisfied, and when I look at the finished product, I’m more than pleased. Kate is an artist.

“Thank you so much!” I say gratefully as I hurry and gather my things. Unfortunately the extra time Kate took to do my hair and make-up has made me late. I grab her car keys and rush out to the Mercedes in the parking lot.

I get to the restaurant in record time, meaning I’m only five minutes late. I walk through the doors and give the maitre d’ Christian’s name. He nods with recognition and tells me to follow after him. I’m lead to a dimly lit, secluded part of the restaurant and I wonder if Christian planned it this way. I remember him taking me out of town the last time we had a serious talk like this. I’m surprised though, when I’m seated at a small table with a single candle flickering soft light over the place settings laid neatly over the crisp white table cloth, that Christian isn’t there.

“My party hasn’t arrived yet?” I ask.

“No, Miss. You are the first to arrive,” The host says. He pulls the chair out for me and asks what I would like to drink. I ask him for a sparkling water and when he departs, I look in the direction of the door wondering where Christian could be. I think back to the list of personality traits I put together at the beginning of the year and though it wasn’t specifically added, it was very much observed that Christian Grey is punctual.

The waiter brings me my water and asks if I would like to look at the menu. I tell him I’ll wait for the rest of my party, and he nods and disappears again. Twenty minutes later, Christian still hasn’t arrived so I look down at my phone. No missed calls, no text messages. Where is he?

Another twenty minutes pass and I still haven’t heard anything. I re-read the text message he sent me earlier just to confirm I had the right place and the right time and everything adds up…

Oh no, he’s going to stand me up.

It’s not long before the host is pressing me to either give up the table or order food and I’m about to leave an astounding 57 minutes after I arrived when finally Christian appears. He’s on the phone when he sits down but at least his presence makes the waiter disappear.

“I don’t give a fuck what you think you can or cannot do Ros, get me the fucking meeting. We can’t lose this deal!” He nearly shouts, and when his tirade is over he practically slams his Blackberry down on the table.

“I’m sorry I’m late.” He says, his tone still slightly harsh. “You look beautiful, Anastasia.”

Great, what a perfect way to start this evening off, I’m pissed because he’s late and he’s in a bad mood over something he’s doing with Ros.

“Let’s just order,” I say, agitated, picking up the menu the waiter insisted I take nearly half an hour ago. He too picks up the menu and when the waiter comes back, I order the lemon chicken and Christian gets the halibut.

“How did your finals go?” I ask as the waiter sets our plate in front of us.

“Fine. I didn’t have much trouble with British Literature and I think I have you to think for that,” He says.

“It was a fairly easy final,” I say. “I guess we won’t have any classes together anymore.”

“I suppose not,” He says and I do hear a twinge of regret in his voice.

“Have you signed up for you classes next semester?” I ask.

“Yes,”

“What are you taking?”

“Is this really what you wanted to talk to me about, Anastasia?” He asks and I frown, wondering why he’s being so pushy.

“No, but…” I hesitate. “I do like just talking to you Christian.”

“Prerequisites,” He says, answering my previous question and I know he’s not going to be up for much chit chat tonight. I need to get to the point but suddenly, I’m wishing I could have ordered a glass of wine to give me courage.

“What can I tell you that I haven’t already, Anastasia?” Christian asks, starting the conversation for me. “I can’t change the past. It has nothing to do with you or us. It’s just something I used to do and now I don’t.”

“How did it start?” I ask. He sighs.

“When I was fifteen, I was out of control. I’ve told you this. My mom didn’t know what to do with me, I was getting expelled from school for drinking and fighting, I wouldn’t listen to a single thing either of my parents said. When I got expelled again, I had to stay home for a while until my mom could find a new school that would take me. She didn’t want me sitting around the house acting like I was on vacation so she called Elena and asked if she had any work around the house I could do. She did and so the next day, I went over to move some river rock she was having installed around her pool. It was hot, sweaty work, and I was miserable, but when Elena brought me something cold to drink, instead of acting grateful, I gave her my typical smart-ass attitude and she hit me, hard, across the face. I was shocked by the contact but even more so when she immediately grabbed me and kissed me. Everything in my body, all the pent up frustration came alive and when she let me go, she slapped me again, and it felt really good. She told me to come back the next day and she’d have something else for me to do. Three weeks later, my first contract was signed.”

“And you like it? The hitting, I mean.”

Liked, Anastasia. Past tense. I had planned on moving on in the spring when my contract was over anyway.”

“Moved onto what? A normal relationship?”

“No. I’d never envisioned a normal relationship until I met you.”

“So you would have become someone else’s submissive or you would have become a dominant?”

“A dominant.”

“To who?”

“Elena,” He says plainly and my stomach twinges.

“And she would just do that?” I ask.

“Yes, Elena has experience on both sides. She likes playing the Domme better but to keep our agreement, she was more than willing to play the submissive.”

“So what do you want now?”

“I want you, Anastasia. I’ve told you this.”

“But do you still want to be a Dom?”

“Yes,”

My throat goes dry as I realize he’s confirming my fears. What if he wants to do it to you?

“You want me to be your submissive?” I ask, my voice barely audible.

“Not if you don’t want to,” He says evenly.

“But you want me to?”

“Part of me… yes,” He says after a brief pause. “I’m attracted to this lifestyle, Ana. I find it pleasurable and it was always what I had envisioned for myself if the time ever came when I left Elena.”

I feel a stinging in my throat as the weight of his words hit me. This isn’t going to work and it wasn’t until this moment that I realize how much I really wanted it to. I must have known, deep down, it would come to this. The pain I feel with this realization tells me how desperate I am to be with him and had I known the true depth of my feeling before, I wouldn’t have hesitated to give him an answer. My indecisiveness was a defense mechanism and I’ve just broken the the dam, allowing the pain to flood through.

“What is it, Anastasia?” He asks, concerned.

“This isn’t going to work,” I croak. His face shifts from concern to fear.

“What do you mean?” He asks, his voice strained.

“I mean, we want different things. You’re caught up in this lifestyle that I want nothing to do with Christian and my expectations of you, of what I would want our relationship to be, are unrealistic.”

“Anastasia,” He says, quickly, his voice betraying the calm reserve he’s trying to project. “I’m out. I’ve left it behind. It’s you I want, anyway I can have you. It won’t be like that.”

I glance up at him, desperate to believe the things he’s saying, but Elena’s words from Carrick’s office ring in my ears.

I bet you fuck her once and end up crawling back to me on your hands and knees begging for this.

“For how long?” I ask.

“What?”

“For how long will you be okay giving it all up? You say you’re fine with it now but what about in a week, or a month, or even a year, Christian?”

“Anastasia, you’re over complicating this. This isn’t about any of that shit. This is about us. I want you, only you. Sure, I’ve been interested in that lifestyle in the past, but you’re not. I accept that. Please, Anastasia.”

He stops but only because he seems to be at a loss for words.

“I don’t know, Christian…” I say, worried how easily my resolve seems to be wavering. I’m in this too deep already. If we slept together and he realized this wasn’t what he wanted, it would break me. But, despite that knowledge, despite the empty feeling that is already threatening to consume me just based on this realization, I want nothing more than to concede, tell him I’m his, and beg him to take me home with him.

“What can I do?” He asks. “What do you need me to do to prove to you that it’s all over? That it’s only you now?”

“I don’t know,” I admit. “Look, I won’t say anything now. Maybe I’m rushing this.”

“Anastasia, tell me what to do,” He begs.

“Time,” I say. “Give me time.”

It’s at this moment the waiter places the check on the table and I’ve been prepared for this moment since I stepped through the doors. I snatch the bill, put my debit card inside and hand it back to the waiter before he can walk away.

“What are you doing?” Christian asks, taken aback by how quickly the transaction takes place, and the desperation in his voice begins to burn away with anger.

“I’m paying,” I tell him. “I don’t want your father thinking I’m only interested in you for your money.”

“You think I give a fuck what my father thinks?” He growls.

“Maybe, maybe not,” I say. “But I do.”

Christian’s hands shoot up into his hair in frustration as the waiter sets the leather book back on the table. I sign the receipt and Christian gets up to pull my chair out for me.

“Thank-you,” I say, and he nods and takes my hand, pulling me out of the restaurant.

“Where are you parked?” He asks, and I point to Kate’s car on the curb.

“When will you know?” He says, the pain in his voice evident again as I begin digging through my purse for my keys.

“Soon, I hope,” I tell him, and he looks like he’s going to say something but is distracted when his phone rings. I see the conflict of whether or not to answer it rush across his face and after several seconds hesitation he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the Blackberry.

“Fuck,” He hisses looking down at the number. “Don’t leave yet, please.”

I nod and he steps away from me to answer the phone.

“Ros?” He practically barks into the mouthpiece and whatever she says must be good news because for the first time tonight, he relaxes and something close to excitement crosses his face. “Really? Excellent. In person? When? No, don’t delay, I’ll be there. We need to get this cemented before anything else can get fucked up.”

He hangs up the phone without any kind of salutation and rounds on me.

“What are you doing for the holiday?” He asks.

“Going home to Vegas,” I say and he frowns but nods once.

“And this is what you want? Time?”

“Please,” I tell him.

“No interference from me at all?” He clarifies.

“No, I need to make this decision on my own,” I say, and his face falls. I stare back at him as his eyes focus on my mouth.

“I want to kiss you,” He tells me. I bite my lip in hesitation and then lean in and kiss him softly on the lips.

“Good-bye, Christian.”

“Anastasia…” He pleads. “Don’t say good-bye.”

My head falls for a moment as I turn around and walk back to the car. When I pull away from the curb, he’s still standing there, watching me leave.

The next day, I have my last final in Poetic Prose Composition and make my way back to Grays where Kate and I have a packing party planned for the night. We both dig through our drawers and closets for anything we may need for the long, three week vacation. For once, Kate is ecstatic about not going on some exotic vacation for break. She’s tickled pink with the idea of getting three weeks to spend with Elliot, minus the few days she plans to fly to Vegas to spend New Years with me.

“I really like him, Ana,” She says as she folds the fancy new lingerie she’s purchased and places it gently into her bag. “I really think this is it. I’ve never felt this way before.”

“I’m happy for you, Kate. I think Elliot is great.”

She smiles and happily chats about Elliot and the things she wants to do with him when she gets home. She’s meeting his parents tomorrow night and she’s got a big dinner planned to introduce him to her’s the following week. Listening to her blissful happiness, like nothing else in the world matters, sends a stab of pain through me as I realize that it’s exactly what I want with Christian. Last night didn’t go the way that I hoped, but does it matter if this is truly, deeply and irrevocably what I want?

As if in response to my silent question, the email on my computer, which is sitting on the desk behind me, pings, and I turn to see Christian’s name in the “From” section.

From: Christian Grey

Subject: My Final Plea

Date: December 20th 2007

To: Anastasia Steele

Anastasia, Don’t overthink things. You and me, that’s all that matters.

x Christian

I don’t know if it’s the email or listening to Kate gush about Elliot, but in that moment, it’s clear. He’s right. The past doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is what Christian and I could have in the future and if I’m too scared to try because of what might happen, I’ll never know what could have happened. I want to be with Christian, plain and simple. What am I doing? All this waiting and hesitation… he’s right. Nothing else matters, and in that moment, I have my answer.

Yes.

“I’ll be right back, Kate,” I say as she sits down at her desk to check her Facebook. She nods as I rush out of the room and begin pounding furiously on Christian’s door, liberated by my decision. He doesn’t answer so I knock again. Again, nothing. Where is he? It’s too late for dinner.

There’s no light on under his door so I suppose he’s probably out. Maybe with Ros? He did say something about “in person” on the phone last night.

I walk, disappointed, back to my room, ready to begin my time with him now that I’ve allowed myself to accept that’s what I truly want.

“What’s wrong?” Kate asks when I come back in the room, obviously seeing the disappointment in my face.

“I need to talk to Christian but he’s not there. I think he’s with his friend Ros,” I tell her.

“Oh,” She says and then turns to her computer to begin typing. “She’s online, do you want me to ask her if she’s with him?”

“Yeah!” I say, new excitement bubbling within me. I cross the room and stand behind her as she clicks the message button on Ros’s Facebook page.

Hey, is Christian with you? Ana is looking for him.

Three bubbles appear in the message window as Ros types her reply.

Sorry, he’s gone home to Seattle already 😦

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