“We’re here!” my mother chirps excitedly from the front seat of our rental car. My father pulls along the road that runs behind the dormitories on campus where several other cars are parked and are being unloaded by students and their parents. They all look ecstatic to be here. I on the other hand stare morosely out the window at the building that will feel like a prison for as long as I’m forced to stay here.
“What do you think, son?” my dad asks, looking proudly out at his alma mater.
“It’s fine,” I tell him.
“Fine?” my mom asks, turning around to look at me. “Can we up the enthusiasm a little, please??
I roll my eyes and step out onto the sidewalk. I can hear my parents talking about me inside the car, but I ignore them. They know I’m not happy to be here and I’m not going to pretend for their benefit.
My mom gets out of the car and accompanies me through the registration tables while my dad drives off to find a parking space. It feels ridiculous standing in line waiting for my name to be called for my welcome packet and room keys with my mother. The least they could have done was drop me off a few blocks away and let me get set up with a little dignity, but I’m sure they’re worried I would bolt.
When my name is called, I get my schedule and housing assignment and walk with my parents towards the dormitories. They leave me for a minute to visit the mail room to pick up the boxes of things we’ve had shipped from the house and a few stores in Seattle while I find my dorm room. When I reach the third floor of Grays Hall, there is a tacky paper sign with Christian Grey scrawled across it in loopy, girlish handwriting along with several doodles of stars and smiley faces. I roll my eyes, tear it down, and unlock the door.
The room is a decent size, especially since they’ve done as I have requested and removed the second bed that should be in here. I remember the fight my dad had to put up over the summer to ensure I didn’t have a roommate. It was the one of the only concession my parents gave to me. I told them that the only way I’d even consider coming was if I had a room to myself, trust fund be damned. There was no way I was ending up cooped up in this room with some wide-eyed Harvard Hopeful all year. Thankfully, my therapist told my parents having personal space would help ease me into school, and of course Elena was encouraging too, though for very different reasons.
“This is nice,” my mother says coming in the room behind me with a huge box in her hands. “It’s much bigger than what Elliot had his freshman year.”
“I would have killed to be in Grays when I was here, Son,” my dad adds, also carrying a heavy looking package. “But I was a Straus man.”
“It’s not too late, you know,” I say, turning around to face them as they set the boxes down. “I still have 24 hours to unenroll before you lose any of my tuition money.”
“Christian, I’ve had just about enough out of you,” my dad says sternly. “Now, we’re not having this argument again. You’re going to get a college education and we aren’t going to hear another word about it.”
“You’re going to love it here,” my mom promises. “Now, we have just enough time to get some shopping done before we’ll need to get dinner.”
I sigh, realizing fighting them is not only pointless but is ultimately just keeping them here longer, so I pick up my keys and follow them out of the room. When I’ve locked the door behind me I turn and glance over at the names on the door across the hall from me. Katherine Kavanagh. I know Alec Kavanagh is a big name in the media world back home. I wonder if this girl is any relation? I’ve never heard of anyone named Steele before, so I worry very little about who my other neighbor might be.
My mom drags me through department store after department store picking out bed linens, curtains, area rugs, school supplies… the works. Thankfully, after a long trip through the third store, even my Dad has grown tired of shopping and he’s only too eager to agree with me that we’ve gotten plenty of things to fill my dorm. We drop the things off in my room before heading out for dinner and since I’m not going to see them before their flight the next morning due to my first meeting for Crew, my mother chooses the exterior of my new dormitory for her tearful goodbye.
“Call me after your first day,” she sniffs. “And then every day after that. Don’t forget your appointments with Dr. Fisch or that your brother will be coming this weekend to watch the football game. You’ll need to get tickets.”
“I know, Mom,” I tell her.
“If you need anything at all, you let us know. Aunt Elena wanted me to tell you that if you’re feeling down or homesick or anything at all and you just need to talk, you can call her anytime. We’re all here to support you.”
“Thanks,” I reply, knowing I’ll be talking to Elena often while I’m here, but never because I’m feeling homesick.
“Have a good term, Son,” my dad says, clapping a hand on my shoulder. I give him a tight smile as my mom throws her arms around me.
“Mom, please,” I moan.
“Come on, Grace,” my Dad says, gently peeling my mother off of me. “Let’s let him get settled in.”
“Okay,” my mom says through her tears. “Do not forget to call me.”
“I won’t,” I lie, but she smiles before turning around and walking around the famous Old Yard with my father towards their rental car. I sigh as I watch them walk away, my last hope of getting out of college, however weak it may have been, leaving with them. My phone buzzes in my pocket and I look down and see a calendar reminder. Fuck, I’m supposed to call Elena in five minutes. I make a mental note as I sprint back upstairs to memorize my new schedule. I really don’t want to find out what would happen if I was late calling her, or worse, forgot all together.
I wake the next morning in a cold sweat, panting heavily as the screams from my nightmares slowly sink back into the darkness of my memory. It takes me a moment to orient myself to my unfamiliar surroundings. Right, I’m in my dorm.
I pull back my blankets, walk to the bathroom, and pound back a glass of water from the sink. I wonder if anyone can hear me scream through the walls here. My family is so attuned to the noise, they wake instantly and one of them is usually able to pull me out of my nightmares before I wake on my own. There is no one here to wake me.
I glare at my reflection in the mirror before returning to my bedroom and glancing down at the time on my phone. Thankfully, it’s only five minutes before my alarm was set to go off anyway, so rather than try to get back to sleep, I make my bed and change into a pair of sweats and a t-shirt and make my way for the gym. When I’ve passed the seven mile mark on the treadmill, I head back up to my room, take a quick shower, and then stop at Annenberg dining hall for breakfast before I have to be at Newell Boathouse for my first rowing meeting.
As I sit through some of the older students telling us about the proud tradition of rowing crew here at Harvard and how honored we should be to have been selected for the team, I get a text from Ros telling me she’s here and nearly unpacked. I reply, asking her to meet me at the library in half an hour, and once we’re released, I head quickly back to my dorm to pick up my laptop. When I reach my room, I get a quick peak at a leggy blonde in the room across from me. She gives me a quick, interested look, which I ignore, just before she closes her door.
Fortunately, her fascination, just as the many females before her, will be gone in only a few days’ time and she’ll think of me as nothing more than the asshole who lives across the hall. As I step out the door on my way out and let the bag with my laptop slump to the floor while I fish out my keys, I notice a different girl standing a few feet down the hallway stop in her tracks and gape at me. My jaw tenses with irritation.
Sorry sweet heart, but you’re not interested in what’s behind this face. Believe me.
“Hello?” I say, raising an eyebrow at her when she doesn’t stop staring after a few seconds. She flushes with embarrassment and as I look at her, really look at her, I can’t help but notice she’s actually… attractive. Very attractive. Her long chestnut colored hair swirls around her rosy pale face like a cloud. Her wide, clear blue eyes stare innocently up at me and, for the briefest moment, her perfect white teeth sink into her full bottom lip and it stirs something inside of me. She’s slim, with long limbs, narrow hips, and great tits.
“Hi,” she squeaks as she tries to regain her composure. “I’m Ana. I uh… live across the hall.”
Ana? My eyes shift to her door and I read the name tag taped a few feet above the knob. “Anastasia?” I clarify.
“Uh… yes. But I… um… prefer Ana,” she stammers, and I feel my brow furrow. I abhor nicknames. Why would someone so attractive want to be called something as ordinary as Ana? She fidgets uncomfortably as I stare back at her, waiting for her to leave, and the shift in her breasts as she moves does not go unnoticed. Hmm… I’ve always had a thing for brunettes… What the fuck am I doing? Stop checking her out, Grey.
“You don’t have a name tag,” she points out, probably trying to get me to introduce myself, but getting friendly with my neighbors, especially neighbors as attractive as she is, was not a part of my plan this year.
“No, I don’t,” I say, keeping my voice unfriendly while I lock my door. I reach down and pick up my bag.
“Anastasia,” I say, giving her a curt nod as I turn to leave. I want to turn around and get a view of her ass, but I can feel her eyes on me as I make my way through the hallway crowded with students moving into their rooms.
Just as well. I think to myself. It’s not like I could have done anything with her anyway.