Book One

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Ana expected a lot of things from Harvard University, but getting caught up in a whirlwind romance with the incredibly sexy guy across the hall wasn’t one of them. Unfortunately, not everyone is thrilled with their love story and the closer Ana gets to Christian Grey, the harder she has to fight not to lose him.

Chapter 1

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Chapter 47

2-0-0

It’s difficult to pull myself together once I finally reach the ground level, but because I know Christian will be right behind me, I peel myself off the floor and bolt from the building the moment the elevator doors slide open.

Fifth Avenue is busy as people make their way out for a night on the town and it’s not easy to navigate through the sidewalk, especially in these ridiculous shoes. As I round the corner onto 34th Street, I try to remember what I know about New York in my mind to figure out where I’m going. I don’t want to go back to the hotel, that’s the first place Christian will think to look for me, but where else am I going to go?

Home. I want to go home. Penn Station isn’t far, a few blocks up and over onto 33rd. That’s my best bet, get on a train back to Boston and then switch over to a train back to Cambridge. It’ll take him long enough to follow me back that I can figure something out.

I look over my shoulder to see if Christian is behind me but I don’t see him through the crowd so, as quickly as I can, I push forward, winding my way through the tourists in the street until I see one of the only landmarks I’ve yet to visit in New York.

There isn’t time to enjoy the classic architecture of the station as I race away from the ticket counter just in time to make the very last train back to Boston. When I take my seat, I try and get a hold on my ragged breathing. I don’t want to fall apart on the train. I need to wait until I get home…

But the word home sends another shooting pain to my heart. The only place I have left to go is the house Christian bought. Fuck, what am I going to do? I didn’t re-enroll in housing for next year because I’d planned to live in the townhouse with Christian, Kate, and Elliot. Christian may not be living there next year, but can I really live in a house that he bought for me as a symbol of his love, of his devotion? And what am I going to do this summer? I can’t be alone with him. My heart won’t be able to take it. My world is shattering around me and as I try and grab hold of the fragments and piece together a plan, I can no longer hold back the tears.

Ignoring the looks of people around me as I begin to cry again, I reach into my bag and pull out my cell phone. I have twelve missed calls from Christian, but I clear out the notification and find my mom’s number.

“Hi, Ana,” She answers. “How is New York?”

“M-mom,” I sob.

“Ana?” She says, immediately concerned. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“We-just… I just… I just broke up with Christian.”

“Oh my god, what happened?”

“Mom,” I choke out again, unable to stop the tears. My call waiting tells me there is another call coming through but when I look down and see it’s Christian calling again, I ignore it. “Mom, I need your help. I need a way home.”

“Of course,” She tells me. “Of course. I’ll book you a flight now.”

“Thank you,” I tell her, and then continue to cry as I listen to her rap anxiously on the keyboard of her laptop.

“There isn’t a flight until tomorrow morning,” She tells me.

“That’s fine. I can go home and pack.”

“Is everything okay? He didn’t hurt you, did he?”

“No. I mean, not physically anyway,” I tell her as the call waiting beeps again.

“What happened?”

“I can’t… I can’t talk about it yet. I’m on a train, Mom. Can I call you when I get back to Boston?”

“Of course. Your flight is booked. I’m so sorry, Ana.”

“I call you back,” I say through my tears.

“I love you.”

“I love you too. Bye.”

I hang up the phone and sob into my hands, replaying the scene on top of the Empire State Building over and over again in my mind. This is all really starting to sink in, not just what he’s done but that I’ve left him. It’s over between the two of us. There won’t be any more playful banter, arguments, or loving exchanges. There won’t be any more Valentine’s Days spent in hotel rooms or syrup harvesting in the fall back in Vermont. He’ll never make love to me again…

I choke over my broken breathing as I realize that, worse, there won’t be any trips back to Seattle, no more holidays or vacations spent with the Greys. I’ve lost Christian and he’ll take Mia, Carrick, and Grace away with him. I’ll still have Elliot, that’s a gift Kate has given me, but the others… will I ever even talk to any of them again?

I spend the next hour or so spiraling in my despair as the train hurtles forward towards Boston. Christian calls me what feels like every three minutes or so but I reject his call each time. There is nothing left to say to him. I’ve heard enough of his lies to last me a lifetime. I clench my jaw as my phone rings again but when I look down, I see that it isn’t Christian, it’s Kate. I take a deep breath as I stare at her name on the screen of my phone. Did my Mom call her or did Christian?

“Hello?” I answer.

“Ana, where the hell are you? Christian just called and said you ran away from him in the middle of Manhattan and you aren’t answering his calls. He’s wandering around New York in a panic looking for you.”

“I’m on a train back to Boston,” I tell her, my voice quiet and too flat.

“You’re what? Why?”

“It’s over Kate. I ended it with Christian.”

She’s silent for a minute, probably struggling to register what I’ve just said. When she speaks again, she sounds confused.

“What do you mean you ended it?” She asks. “What- What happened?”

“He’s a liar,” I croak. “He’s a selfish liar who has no consideration for anyone but himself and I want nothing to do with him ever again.”

“What? Ana, what’s going on? What happened?”

“Kate, please… I can’t right now. I’m on my way back to Cambridge to pack and then I’m leaving for Savannah in the morning.”

“But I thought you- I- I, But you-” She stutters, unable to find the words to say as she struggles to understand what’s happening. I’m unsure if I should tell her at all. As much as I hate Christian in this moment, the things I know have the potential to ruin his relationship with his family forever. Carrick already isn’t speaking to him and all he knows is that Christian lied. If he found out Christian lied for money so that he could drop out of school and start his company against both his and Grace’s wishes… I don’t know how they’d come back from that. We certainly can’t.

“I’m coming to Savannah,” Kate says.

“Kate…” I argue, but she isn’t having any of it.

“I don’t understand, I talked to you a couple hours ago and everything was fine, better even. When I answered Christian’s call, I thought he was calling to tell me he’d asked you to marry him. I don’t know what happened between you two, but I know it has to be bad and you shouldn’t have to go through this alone. I’m your best friend, let me be there for you.”

“I can’t talk about it right now,” I say again, through a fresh wave of tears. “Please, just give me some time. I’ll call you when I get to Savannah, I promise.”

“You’re still living with me next year, right? I mean, you missed the housing deadline. What are you gonna do?”

“I don’t know, Kate. I mean, I think I have to but I really can’t think about this right now. Please, I’ll call you when I get to Savannah.”

“Okay,” She says, and I can hear the concern in her voice. “Just… know you don’t have to go through this alone. One phone call and I’m on a plane, okay?”

“Okay. Thank you, Kate.”

“I love you, Ana.”

“I love you, too,” I tell her, and then hang up the phone without saying goodbye. My phone rings again, but I ignore Christian’s call and stare miserably out the window, tears streaming down my face.

When I get to Boston, I have to wait almost an hour before the next train to Cambridge so it’s late by the time I make it to the new house. I flip on a light as I look around at the boxes piled high in the living room, boxes that were intended for Christian and I to unpack together. This house isn’t even familiar to me yet, but already, everything in it reminds me of Christian. I climb the stairs to the bedroom we would have shared, which is also filled with boxes and a bed that would have been ours, a bed he could have made love to me on every night until we graduated. But that future doesn’t exist, there is nothing left between us and so this bed is simply that. A frame, a box spring and a mattress that hold no significance whatsoever.

I start ripping through boxes and yanking out clothes. I’ve left my bag of toiletries in New York, so I’ll have to make a trip to the drug store once I get to Savannah, but I don’t care. The less I have to pack, the less time I have to spend in this house. While I pack, I call a cab to take me back to Boston. I’ll get a hotel room by the airport for the night. I really can’t stay here. I think I’ll have to find a way to make peace with it eventually since I really have no other housing option for next year, but for now, I need to get as far away as I can.

I close the zipper on the suitcase and begin rolling it down the hallway. Before I make it to the top of the stairs though, I hear the front door crash open.

“Anastasia?” Christian calls for me, his voice panicked. Fuck, how did he make it back here so fast?

I’m going to have to face him. There’s nowhere to hide from him and my cab will be here any minute. I’d hoped to have avoided the good-bye, I don’t know if my heart can take it, but I don’t have a choice now. I come around the first curve in the staircase just as I hear him begin up the stairs and he stops a few steps below me. He looks like he’s on the edge of insanity, but when he sees me standing in front of him, his expression changes into a look of relief.

“Ana, thank god,” He says, coming up the stairs and wrapping his arms around me. I cringe. It’s too much to feel him against me now, to smell him, to hear his heart beating furiously in his chest.

“Please, don’t,” I plead, pushing him away from me. He looks down, worried again.

“Ana, I’m sorry…” He says. “But we can get past this, just talk to me.”

“There is nothing past this, Christian. It’s over. The end,” I say, and maneuver around him to continue down the stairs.

“What do you mean over?” He asks, and his eyes fall on the suitcase I’m dragging behind me. “Where are you going?”

“My mom bought me a plane ticket to Savannah. I’m going to spend the summer at home,” I tell him, not even looking back at him as I continue on for the door.

“Ana, stop!” He says, and he reaches out and takes the handle of my suitcase out of my hands.

“Give it to me, Christian,” I tell him, and I’m surprised by the lack of inflection in my tone. I sound lifeless.

“No!” He says. “No, Ana, you can’t go. We have to talk about this. You have to let me make this right.”

“How are you going to make it right? You can’t un-lie to me. You can’t un-lie to the judge and take back everything you’ve done to your family. You can’t even give the money back, but that wouldn’t make it better either. We were over the moment you agreed to take her hush money. The moment you chose her. You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.”

“Ana, please. I-I, I’m sorry. I know it’s hard to see now but really, it was all for the best. It’s going to be better this way, trust me. Just, don’t leave. Stay here with me. Give me a chance to show you it’s for the best.”

“You’re wrong, Christian. You lied to me. You lied to everyone. I can’t trust you. How can I be in a relationship with someone I can’t trust? There’s no coming back from this. It’s over.”

“Will you stop saying it’s over?” He growls.

“It is, you need to accept that. I’m leaving you. This is done.”

“No!” He yells. “No, it can’t be done. I won’t let it be done. Ana, please, just give me a chance to show you… I can’t live without you.”

“Sure you can, you have your company now and apparently that is the most important thing in the world to you. I hope it makes you happy.”

“Anastasia!” Christian yells as I reach out for my suitcase. He grips me tightly by the arms and pulls me into him. His lips come down on mine and he begins to fumble with the zipper on the back of my dress.

“Christian, stop!” I yell, and I begin to struggle away from him.

“Let me make love to you,” He begs. “Let me remind you… it isn’t over. We’ll never be over.”

“You can’t fuck your way out of this, Christian. What makes you think I would ever let you touch me again? You can’t change my mind. There is no re-do button here.”

“Please don’t do this…”

“You did this! She’s been threatening to break us up for months and you let her. You let her win. You picked her. You lied for her. You sold your family for her. You committed a felony for her!”

“I didn’t do it for her, I did it for you,” He says quietly. “All I want to to give you the future you deserve, to give you the world. I can do that now. You’ll see, by the time you graduate, you’ll have everything you could ever want. Please, believe me Anastasia, I did this for you.”

“How dare you say that to me. You didn’t do it for me!” I snap, angry now at the insinuation. “You think you have to build some empire and make millions of dollars to give me the world? Why can’t you see it? I already had everything. I had it all because I had you. That was enough. But you took it away from me. You’ve destroyed everything. It’s gone now, and I’ll never get it back. You’re not the same person to me anymore. You’ve ruined us, and it can’t be fixed.”

“Please, Anastasia…” He begs.

“It’s too late,” I whisper. “I’m leaving and you have to let me go.”

He exhales sharply and his face crinkles as though he’s in excruciating pain, a feeling easy for me to recognize as I suffer from the same affliction. I reach over and grip tightly to the handle on my suitcase. I can see the lights of my cab waiting out front and so I turn to the door.

“You said you loved me. You said that nothing that was said or done in that courtroom could ever change that,” He says, and his desperate tone breaks me again. I feel as though my heart is being literally ripped from my chest.

“Sometimes love isn’t enough…” I sob. “I never thought you would be capable of betraying everyone who loves you for something as meaningless as money. I never thought you would hurt me this way.”

“Ana, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you. Please…” He moans, and he too looks as though he is on the edge of tears.

“I love you, Christian,” I tell him, because despite everything, that hasn’t changed, and I don’t think it ever will. It just doesn’t matter anymore. “I really hope you find success when you get back to Seattle. I hope you take the business world by storm and prove to the world you were right all along. I hope you get every single thing you’ve ever wanted and that someday, you realize that you didn’t need her to do it. That it was you all along. You’re incredible, Christian Grey. I know that. I just wish you did too.”

“Please don’t do this,” He begs again.

“Good-bye, Christian,” I say, my voice hoarse as I try and choke the words out through my tears. I open the door and step into the early summer night, leaving behind the only man I’ve ever loved. Leaving behind the man who broke my heart.

Outtakes

Book 2: A Broken Shade of Fifty

 

Chapter 03

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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.

Crap.

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.

“Until nine.”

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?”

“Yes.”

“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 (christian.grey@harvard.edu)

Subject: Party

Date: September 5th 2007

To: Anastasia Steele (anastasia.steele@harvard.edu)

I’m sure my brother would love to attend a party this weekend.

-Christian Grey


Next Chapter

Chapter 02

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“So, how were your first classes?” My mother asks. I’m walking through campus to meet Kate for lunch, holding the phone to my ear with my shoulder as I search through my bag for my student id.

“They were good,” I say. “It’s a lot different, a lot more in depth than I’m used to but that’s good. I’ve read a few of the books on the reading list already so maybe I’ll get something new out of them this time.”

“I’m very proud of you, Ana. I can’t believe what you’ve achieved. I mean… Harvard! It makes me feel good, like I’ve done something right.”

“Thanks, mom,” I say, thankful she isn’t here to say these things. Touching moments like these always lead to tears. I think about Ray’s departure and have to change the subject.

“How’s Vegas?”

“Hot,” She says. “That’s about the only thing I can say. Bob and I are actually thinking about moving… maybe Savannah, Georgia. I’ve wanted to be back down south ever since we left Texas and Bob has some business contacts out there. Plus, we wouldn’t be too far from you and we’d get out of this damn desert.”

“Hey, that sounds great, Mom! I’d love to have you be only a couple hours flight away. I’ve missed you so much since my graduation. I need a visit.” I frown as the dining hall building looms over me. “Hey, I’m coming up on the food hall, Mom. Can I call you back later?”

“Sure, Ana. Have a wonderful day, sweetheart. Call me tonight and tell me everything.”

“I will. Love you mom,” I say.

“Love you too, baby girl,” she says. I hang up the phone and tuck it into the pocket of my jeans.

There is a crowd of people coming out of the food hall and I have to wait at the door for a few minutes for the hoard to disperse. Kate is already waiting for me when I finally get into the dining room.

“How are your classes going?” I ask as I sit down and dig into my salad.

“Fantastic!” She chirps. “I’m really going to like it here, I think. It looks like my Public Relations writing class is going to be hard, but we don’t pay $40,000 a semester for easy.”

I nod, grimacing at the thought of $40,000 a semester. “I know what you mean. I think my Eighteenth Century Poetry class is going to kill me.”

“What do you have for the rest of the day?” She asks.

“Just Survey of British Literature,” I say, taking a drink of juice. I’m starving and I know it’s because I skipped breakfast this morning. I’m going to have to wake up earlier tomorrow so I can get down here before my Modern Drama Seminar.

“I’ve got Organizational Communication and it looks like it’s going to be a waste of time,” Kate says, wrinkling her nose. She picks up her diet coke but something catches her eye and her face breaks into a smile.

“Jose!” she calls and she waves her arm. I turn and see him walking across the dining room towards us. He sits down next to me and his body goes limp in his chair.

“Rough day?” I ask and he rolls his head to the side to look at me.

“I barely got any sleep last night, I was so nervous. Now my brain is crammed full of Advanced Multivariable Calculus and I think it’s going to explode.” I grimace at him.

“You’re amazing Jose. I didn’t make it passed Algebra 2 in high school.”

“Yeah, but I can’t write a paper to save my life. Numbers are easy, do you know how many stupid grammar rules there are? It’s ridiculous.”

I laugh.

“Yeah but at least the space shuttle doesn’t explode or a building doesn’t collapse if someone uses there, their or they’re incorrectly.”

“I don’t know,” Jose argues. “No, don’t pull that lever over there. They’re not actually qualified to land the shuttle. Their knowledge of physics is not adequate to pilot this thing…”

Kate and I both laugh as Jose picks up his fork and begins eating.

“Oh, I wanted to tell you guys,” He says through a mouthful of food. “My roommate’s older brother is having some big party at his house this weekend. Do you guys want to go?”

“Um, yes!” Kate squeals, suddenly beaming with excitement. She grills Jose for information and then rounds on me to discuss what we’re going to wear. I figure my best bet is to just let her dress me for the evening. I could argue but I’d just be wasting my time. Kate always seems to win in the end.

“I’ve got to head out,” I say as I look down at my watch. “My Brit Lit class starts in 10 minutes.”

Kate groans as she realizes this means she also has to leave for class. We walk together until we are forced to part paths as she heads off for the communications building and I part for the English department.

When I enter the classroom for Survey of British Literature, I’m surprised at how small the room is. Just an ordinary classroom. For such a low level English class, I expected a lecture hall. Perhaps specialized literature classes aren’t in high demand from the Harvard crowd.

Most of the students have already arrived and the class is rather full so I have to pick a seat near the front of the room, something I’m not entirely comfortable with. I’ll have to remember to get here earlier on Wednesday.

“Good afternoon, class,” A man in a plaid jacket with leather patches on the elbows says as he enters. He’s an older man, short and squat with a crazy comb over that flies away from his head erratically as if he’s been rubbing a balloon over it. I want to laugh at his eccentricity but there’s something about his disheveled appearance that endears me to him.

The students around me murmur half hearted greetings in response as he walks to the front of the classroom and hands me a stack of papers. It’s a syllabus. I take one off the top and pass the stack to the person next to me as the professor begins to take attendance. My name is always near the end so I take a minute to read over the syllabus.

The class is being taught by Dr. Walter Collins and the reading list is… predictable. I sigh as I see I’ve read most of the books listed and turn my attention back to the class, looking to each person whose name is called.

Allison Dillard has fiery red hair twisted into tight, wild curls.

Charles Fischbach is skinny, pale and in serious need of a new acne treatment.

I’ve had Michael Garrett in two other classes so far this morning.

“Christian Grey?” Dr. Collins calls and I turn and gape. The boy who responds is the beautiful, brooding, mysterious guy who lives across the hall from me. He’s absolutely heart-achingly gorgeous in a white button down shirt, a charcoal gray V-neck pullover and tight, dark wash jeans. My gaze locks with his and I realize he’s staring at me. I feel the blush come again as I divert my eyes, but every time I sneak glances sideways at him, I see that he hasn’t looked away. What’s wrong with him, doesn’t he know it’s rude to stare? And why is he staring at me anyway?

“Anastasia Steele?” Dr. Collins recites.

“Here,” I squeak, my voice breaking with my embarrassment at Christian’s gaze. Oh, Christian! I know his name now. Christian Grey. I smile at this small victory as I try to turn my attention to the lecture.

The first novel we’re reading is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Dr. Collins outlines his objectives with the novel, stating we’ll be analyzing the socio-political aspects of Dickens and what real world impact he had on British culture and politics in the late 1800s. While he sets up the parameters for our analysis, I mentally begin outlining the paper the syllabus tells me is due at the end of the unit.

I’ve worked out most of it by the time class ends and when Dr. Collins releases us for the day, I stand, feeling satisfied by my preparation. Having this focus will make reading the novel again a little less dull. I follow the flow of students leaving the classroom, we’re all stuck at the door as too many people try to squeeze out. I approach the door and Christian is next to me, in front of me. He turns, looks down at me and steps aside gesturing his arm out in front of him.

“After you, Miss Steele,” He says.

“Thank-you,” I reply. I eye him speculatively, trying to figure him out. So far the personality traits I have are cold, impersonal, stares inappropriately and… gentlemanly? It’s a strange combination. Perhaps he comes from an East-Coast, wealthy, WASP family and his manners are so deeply ingrained in him, his actions were more habit than conscious decision.

I contemplate this as I make my way back to Gray hall and as I do, I notice he’s walking beside me. Not purposefully, surely, we are heading for the same destination, but oddly his pace keeps up with mine. I decide, rather bravely I think, to attempt conversation.

“So you’re an English major?” I ask.

“No,” He replies shortly. He’s holding a blackberry in his hand, texting I think. What college freshman has a blackberry? Aren’t those for like, businessmen and older people who have convinced themselves they can’t work iPhones?

“So… what are you studying then?” I ask, wondering if attempting to keep up the conversation is a waste of time.

“Economics and Politics,” He responds.

“Why are you in a literature survey class then?”

“I thought it would break up the monotony,” He says, finally putting his blackberry in his pocket. His action draws my attention to his jeans and I bite my lip at the thoughts his action inspires. What am I doing? Get ahold of yourself Steele!

His eyes darken with some unknown emotion as he looks at me and I have to look away from him. It’s like he can read my thoughts and the idea of that is… humiliating, to say the least.

“So, you’re studying English then, Anastasia?” he asks.

“Ana,” I correct him automatically. “And yes.”

“What do you plan on doing with that?” His tone is almost disapproving and immediately I find myself playing defense.

“I don’t know Christian, you can do a lot of things with an English degree.”

“Such as?”

“Teaching, Publishing… maybe I’ll end up as some megalomaniac CEO in a big city someday.”

He gives me a wry smile and I giggle at his reaction. Something about his smile makes me melt, or maybe it’s just his beautiful face.

“What are you going to do with an Economics and Politics degree?” I ask, attempting the same disapproving tone. We’ve reached our dorm and he opens the door for me, once again motioning me inside.

“I’m going to rule the world, Miss Steele,” He says, his smile broadening. I roll my eyes and once again, his gaze darkens. What is with him? I feel like he’s shifting through moods so fast I’m going to get whiplash.

“So how do you like your roommate?” I ask, reaching for something to talk about as we walk through the entrance hall towards the stairs.

“Roommate?” He asks raising an eyebrow at me.

“You don’t have a roommate?”

“No, Anastasia. I don’t do roommates.”

“Why do you always call me Anastasia?” I ask, slightly irritated. I’ve corrected him twice now.

“Because that’s your name,” He says.

“But I prefer to be called Ana.”

“Is that so?” He’s pulled out his phone again and I frown. Isn’t it still considered rude to be on your phone when you’re having a conversation with someone. I add another personality trait to my list, Christian Grey is rude. We walk down the hall towards our rooms and as we get closer, I realize that most of the doors in the hallway are open, including mine. Kate is playing music and Christian and I are surrounded by Justin Timberlake singing about bringing Sexy Back.

“Does she plan on doing that often?” Christian asks, his beautiful face wrinkling with his distaste.

“You’re not very nice,” I say without thinking. I freeze as I realize that I actually said the words aloud and turn to look at Christian who, surprisingly, is looking down at me with an amused expression on his face.

“No, Miss Steele. I am not.”

From Anastasia to Miss Steele. Another trait, Christian Grey is very formal.

“Ana! You’re ba-” Kate exclaims as she passes the open door. She stops and her mouth pops open slightly as she sees who I’m talking to.

“Hi, Kate,” I say. Christian’s phone rings and he looks down at the number and frowns.

“Anastasia,” He nods.

I wave after him stupidly and when his door closes, I exhale in relief. Why am I so intimidated by him? Oh right, his beauty, his formal attitude, the way his eyes harden when he glares at me… the reasons are endless.

“Get in here!” Kate yells and she reaches out to pull me in the room. She slams the door behind us and rounds on me with a desperate ferocity I’ve never seen. Oh here it comes, the Katherine Kavanagh inquisition.

“So?” She demands.

“So what?” I ask.

“Tell me everything. What is he like? Are you into him? Is he into you? What’s his name?”

“Christian Grey,” I say, responding to the easiest question first.

“Ana, come on! Don’t hold back, give me details!”

“I don’t know, Kate. He’s kind of… intimidating. Actually, he’s kind of a jerk.” I admit.

“Figures,” Kate sighs and she walks across the room to turn down the stereo and take out her books. I frown as I stare at her. Do I think he’s a jerk? I did add rude to my list, and he did seem to pay as little attention to me as possible on our walk back to the dorm. But his smile… I feel butterflies as I think of his smile and I have to turn away from Kate so she doesn’t see me grinning like an idiot. No, he may be… blunt, distracted even, but he wasn’t a jerk.

I think about Kate’s questions more seriously now that I don’t have to respond out loud. Is he into you? Doubtful. Are you into him? Absolutely. I can see that now. I like him. I want to get to know him. We have a class together and we live across the hall from one another. I can do this.

I sit down at my own desk and pull out my homework, focusing less on the reading and more on my plan to befriend the elusive Christian Grey.

Next Chapter

 

Chapter 01

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“Do you have everything you need?” Ray asks uncertainty as he slams the trunk down.

“I hope so, Dad. It’s a four day trip back to Montesano if I forgot anything,” I say as I sling an overstuffed duffle bag over my shoulder.

“I’ve got two more weeks until I’m deployed. If you need anything before then, let me know and I’ll mail it to you.”

I feel a dry pain in the back of my throat at the reminder of Ray’s impending departure. He was so proud, so excited about my acceptance into an Ivy League school, he re-enlisted to help me pay for it. The military aid had been a helpful addition to the grants and scholarships I’d already received, but I wasn’t sure the payoff was worth the risk my father was taking.

“Are you sure you won’t stay the night?” I ask him, trying to prolong the time I have with him. “We could have dinner and you could look around the campus with me.”

“I’d love to, Ana, but it’s a long drive back. I’ve got to get on the road,” I nod and he pulls me into a tight hug. “I’m so proud of you, baby girl.” He says, and the dry pain in my throat intensifies as tears begin pouring out of my eyes. I know there are students milling all around us, but I can’t stop the torrent of emotion I feel.

“Oh, Ana. Don’t cry. Everything is going to be just fine, you’ll see,” Ray says reassuringly.

I bury my face into his coat as I cry, holding him close to me and inhaling his scent. I want to memorize it, to keep it with me, because I don’t know when I’m going to see him again.

“When does Kate get here?” He asks as he strokes his hand through my hair.

“Tomorrow,” I sniff. I take two deep calming breaths and try to reign in my tears. When I pull away, my dad looks down and cradles my cheek in his palm, wiping away the moisture in my eyes with his thumb.

“You’re going to be great, Ana. You are my life’s greatest accomplishment.”

“I love you, Dad,” I tell him.

“I love you too, Ana. Forever and for always,” He pulls me into a hug once more, kisses the top of my head, and then climbs back into the car. “Call me if you need anything, sweetheart. Anything at all.”

I wave and he drives away. There is a sense of crushing loneliness as I watch his car disappear around the corner. This is it. I’m not a child anymore. I’m an adult facing the world alone for the first time. I steel myself, trying to regain my I was accepted into an ivy league school kind of confidence. When I’m sure my tears are done, I turn to follow the mass of students for registration, but the very first step I take snags my toe on a crack in the uneven sidewalk and I’m sent sprawling to the ground. People look at me, confused, worried, and one girl snorts in laughter as she passes.

I. Am. Humiliated.

“Are you okay?” I hear someone ask over me. I look up and see a handsome boy with straight white teeth looking down at me. He reaches out his hand and helps me up.

“Sorry, gravity has never been my strong point,” I tell him. He laughs as he reaches down to pick up my duffle bag.

“Thank you,” I say as I take the bag from him. “I’m Ana.”

“Jose,” He says. “Jose Rodriguez.”

“Ana Steele,” I reply, and I smile back at him. His boyish grin is infectious.

“Do you want to go in together?” He asks.

“After you,” I respond. He looks down at me, shoves his arm through mine, and leads me forward.

We stand in line waiting to receive our welcome packets and I learn that Jose is from Sequim, Washington, only a couple hours away from me. His dad is also ex-army and he’s here studying mathematics on a scholarship.

“But photography is my real passion,” He says. He reaches into his bag, pulls out a brown leather portfolio, and hands it to me. I open it and see that it’s full of beautiful landscapes, the sun streaming through the wet canopy of the Olympic rain forest, the sun setting over the ocean…

“Wow, Jose. These are amazing!” I say, and he takes it from me, showing me some of his favorites. “You’re very talented.”

“So what do you do?” He asks.

“I read,” I reply with a shrug. “That’s what I’m studying. Literature.”

“Jose Rodriguez?” A woman calls, and he turns his head to look at her.

“Here!” he shouts back, waving his arm, and he turns back to look at me and frowns. I hand him back his portfolio, which he takes and shoves hastily into his bag, then he pulls out a sharpie and grabs my hand, scrawling a phone number on my forearm.

“Call me,” He says, and he heads to the registration table. I smile after him when I hear my name called from a table to my left.

“Anastasia Steele?” They say, and I also wave in acknowledgement.

The dark haired guy in hipster glasses and a gray beanie gives me the “Welcome to Harvard” speech. He hands me a campus map, a list of my classes, and my dorm assignments, and after thanking him, I follow the map to Grays Hall. The building is old, red brick, and centered in the middle of the main yard. I walk in and am immediately floored by the grandeur of my surroundings. I suppose requesting Katherine Kavanagh as a roommate does have its advantages.

I climb the stairs, hauling my bag with me. The hallways are long and narrow and I’m surprised by the number of rooms crammed on each floor. When I get to my door, #309, I pause and then feel a smile creep across my lips at the handmade signs that read Katherine Kavanagh and Anastasia Steele.

This feels like a truly important moment, standing in front of my dorm room at Harvard University for the very first time, and I take a moment to appreciate it as I reach down for the handle and push the door open. Our room is white, with hardwood floors, cream linen curtains, and two single beds, each pushed up against opposite walls. The advantages of arriving before your roommate? I get to pick which side of the room I want. I study each bed meticulously, considering how the sunlight would hit them in the morning, which side of the room feels draftier, and which seems to receive less noise from the window. The left side, I think. Definitely the left side.

I start unpacking, putting clothes in the dresser, making my bed, and setting up the used laptop my dad bought for me as a graduation gift on the desk closest to my bed. I don’t have much to make the room look homey but I’m sure Kate will fix that.

When I’m finished emptying my luggage, I grab the map and head out the door to explore the campus. The hallway is full of new freshmen arriving, filing into their own rooms with their own handmade signs. I notice, briefly, that there is no sign on the door across the hall, only the golden number 310, and I wonder if it’s going to be empty. That would be convenient. Less noise to distract from studying, although, with Kate as a roommate, I’m know that I’m going to have to get used to noise.

My first priority is to find each of my classes, which doesn’t take long as they’re all in the same building. Next, I head for the library and introduce myself to the main librarian as I will be working here this semester. Finally, I find the bookstore and the computer labs before I decide to head off for the food hall to sample the campus cuisine.

After dinner, I head back for Grays Hall and make my way to my room. It’s been a full day and I’m exhausted. The stairs seem like an impossible hike as I haul my tired body up them but, eventually, I make it and walk down the hall. I’m about to enter my room when I notice a light streaming through the crack under the door from the room across from me. So, there are people in there. Why don’t they have signs on their door? But as I stand there pondering the reasons, I realize this is a silly thing to be preoccupied over and shake my head as I push my way into my dorm.

The next morning, I wake to the sound of music coming through the wall next to my bed. It’s so loud, I can feel my bed vibrating. I’m definitely going to need to invest in some noise cancelling headphones. I grab my shower tote and head into the private bathroom I will share with Kate. In 30 minutes, I’m showered, dressed, and heading out for breakfast, then the bookstore.

My book list is fairly long and I frown as I look at the prices of the books I put in my hand basket. Thank god I secured my work-study in the library, I wouldn’t have made it through the semester without some kind of gainful income.

“Ana?” I hear someone say behind me, and I turn to see Jose.

“Hi, Jose!” I say, smiling at him.

“I waited desperately for your call last night.” He says, with an over exaggerated pout. “I was beginning to think I wasn’t as charming as I thought I was.”

“Sorry, I was unpacking. What dorm assignment did you get?” I ask.

“Hollis. You?”

“I’m in Grays,” I respond, and he whistles.

“Fancy digs, Steele,” He says, and I roll my eyes.

“My roommate demands only the best,” I tell him, and then we walk together for the register to pay for our books.

“Call me if you want a dinner date, Ana,” He says as he departs, and I tell him I will. I look down at my arm and am relieved to find that his number didn’t wash completely off in the shower this morning. I pull out my phone and add him into my contacts before I forget. I have a feeling Jose and I are going to be good friends.

There are more people moving into the dorms today so I have to slide my way against the wall to make it down the corridor to my room. As I approach, the door to the room across from me opens and a tall, bronzed hair guy comes out. My breath catches as I really get a look at him. He’s gorgeous. Like, movie star gorgeous. I know I should be embarrassed by the way I’m gaping at him, but I can’t look away.

“Hello?” He says when he notices me staring at him. His brow furrows as I blush deep scarlet.

“Hi,” I reply, my voice too high. “I’m, Ana. I uh… live across the hall.”

His eyes shift to the door and he stares at it puzzled for a second before his gaze comes back to me.

“Anastasia?” He asks.

“Uh… yeah. But, I… uh, prefer Ana,” I’m stammering like an idiot, what is wrong with me? He’s looking at me disapprovingly and as I silently chastise myself for being a total spaz, I realize that he hasn’t introduced himself.

“You don’t have a name tag,” I hint hesitantly.

“No, I don’t,” He says shortly, and he turns back to his door to lock it. He reaches down to pick up the messenger bag he’s set on the ground next to his feet and then turns to leave.

“Anastasia,” He says, nodding at me as he walks by, and I turn to look after him as he disappears through the crowd of people. Well he’s not very friendly, but damn is he beautiful. I sigh as I realize how far his looks put him out of my league. I tell myself he’s probably an asshole anyway, anyone that beautiful has no reason to be nice, and then, pushing my longing aside, I cross the hall to my own room. When the door is open, I’m attacked by an unexpected flurry of blonde hair and arms.

“Ana!” Kate cries as she wraps her arms around me.

“Hi, Kate!” I say, excitedly.

“I was hoping I would get here early enough this morning to surprise you. Have you been walking around the campus? Isn’t it beautiful?” she asks, releasing me.

I set my books on my desk and look at the progress Kate has made on our room. She’s replaced the ivory curtains with soft yellow sheers. The walls are covered in pastel colored art, which are mostly comprised of motivational sayings and abstract shapes. Her bedding is gray, white, and bright blue, and she’s laid out a long staple, extremely soft, white area rug across the floor.

“Looks good, Kate,” I say approvingly, and she beams at me.

“My mom and I kind of went crazy at Bed, Bath, and Beyond,” She says, laughing. I help her unpack the rest of her things and then we go down to dinner together. On the way down, I text Jose and ask him if he wants to join us, and he responds telling me he’ll meet us there.

Kate and I take helpings of grilled chicken and salad, then find a table in the crowded dining room. Jose joins us and in a matter of minutes he has Kate under his spell, too. We talk happily about our excitement for classes and the plans Kate has for our first couple nights out.

“Have you seen the guy across the hall?” She asks me.

“Just for a minute,” I reply, my blush returning.

“He’s so hot,” She continues. “I saw him coming in from the gym, he was all sweaty and delicious.” There is a dreamy look in her eyes and I’m sure she’s now lost in inappropriate fantasies.

“The guy across the hall might now be a good idea, Kate.” I tell her. “He’s going to be there for at least the whole semester. How are you going to avoid him when you eventually get tired of him?”

“Good point,” She frowns. “I guess I’ll just admire him from afar.”

I laugh, but know that, secretly, I plan to do the same. We finish dinner, say goodbye to Jose, and return to our room. It feels as though a nightly routine begins as Kate complains about how small the bathroom is while I settle into bed with a book. Classes start tomorrow and I’m starting to get nervous. I remind myself that everyone has to have a first day and that I’m not any further behind than anyone else here. It’s comforting, but only just…

Kate plops down in bed and pulls an eye mask down over her eyes. “Goodnight, Ana,” She says.

“Goodnight, Kate,” I reply, and I put my book on the bedside table, switch off the light, and snuggle into my pillow.

Next chapter