My heart is pounding. The elevator arrives on the first floor, and I scramble out as soon as the doors slide open, stumbling once, but fortunately not sprawling on to the immaculate sandstone floor. I race for the wide glass doors, and I’m free in the bracing, cleansing, damp air of Seattle. Raising my face, I welcome the cool refreshing rain. I close my eyes and take a deep, purifying breath, trying to recover what’s left of my equilibrium.
No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why.
Is it his looks. His civility WealthPower I don’t understand my irrational reaction.
I breathe an enormous sigh of relief. What in heaven’s name was that all about. Leaning against one of the steel pillars of the building, I valiantly attempt to calm down and gather my thoughts. I shake my head. Holy crap – what was that. My heart steadies to its regular rhythm, and I can breathe normally again. I head for the car.
As I leave the city limits behind, I begin to feel foolish and embarrassed as I replay the interview in my mind. Surely, I’m over-reacting to something that’s imaginary. Okay, so he’s very attractive, confident, commanding, at ease with himself – but on the flip side, he’s arrogant, and for all his impeccable manners, he’s autocratic and cold. Well, on the surface.
An involuntary shiver runs down my spine. He may be arrogant, but then he has a right to be – he’s accomplished so much at such a young age. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, but why should he. Again, I’m irritated that Kate didn’t give me a brief biography.
While cruising along the I-5, my mind continues to wander. I’m truly perplexed as to what makes someone so driven to succeed. Some of his answers were so cryptic – as if he had a hidden agenda. And Kate’s questions – ugh! The adoption and asking him if he was gay! I shudder. I can’t believe I said that. Ground, swallow me up now! Every time I think of that question in the future, I will cringe with embarrassment. Damn Katherine Kavanagh!
I check the speedometer. I’m driving more cautiously than I would on any other occasion. And I know it’s the memory of two penetrating gray eyes gazing at me, and a stern voice telling me to drive carefully. Shaking my head, I realize that Grey’s more like a man double his age.
Forget it, Ana, I scold myself. I decide that all in all, it’s been a very interesting experience, but I shouldn’t dwell on it . Put it behind you. I never have to see him again. I’m immediately cheered by the thought. I switch on the MP3 player and turn the volume up loud, sit back, and listen to thumping indie rock music as I press down on the accelerator.
As I hit the 1-5, I realize I can drive as fast as I want.
We live in a small community of duplex apartments in Vancouver, Washington, close to the Vancouver campus of WSU. I’m lucky – Kate’s parents bought the place for her, and I pay peanuts for rent. It’s been home for four years now. As I pull up outside, I know Kate is going to want a blow-by-blow account, and she is tenacious. Well, at least she has the mini-disc. Hopefully I won’t have to elaborate much beyond what was said during the interview.
“Ana! You’re back.” Kate sits in our living area, surrounded by books. She’s clearly been studying for finals – though she’s still in her pink flannel pajamas decorated with cute little rabbits, the ones she reserves for the aftermath of breaking up with boyfriends, for assorted illnesses, and for general moody depression. She bounds up to me and hugs me hard.
“I was beginning to worry. I expected you back sooner.”
“Oh, I thought I made good time considering the interview ran over.” I wave the mini-disc recorder at her.
“Ana, thank you so much for doing this. I owe you, I know. How was it. What was he like?” Oh no – here we go, the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.
I struggle to answer her question. What can I say?
“I’m glad it’s over, and I don’t have to see him again. He was rather intimidating, you know.” I shrug. “He’s very focused, intense even – and young. Really young.”
Kate gazes innocently at me. I frown at her.
“Don’t you look so innocent. Why didn’t you give me a biography. He made me feel like such an idiot for skimping on basic research.” Kate clamps a hand to her mouth.
“Jeez, Ana, I’m sorry – I didn’t think.”
“Mostly he was courteous, formal, slightly stuffy – like he’s old before his time. He doesn’t talk like a man of twenty-something. How old is he anyway?”
“Twenty-seven. Jeez, Ana, I’m sorry. I should have briefed you, but I was in such a panic. Let me have the mini-disc, and I’ll start transcribing the interview.”
“You look better. Did you eat your soup?” I ask, keen to change the subject.
“Yes, and it was delicious as usual. I’m feeling much better.” She smiles at me in gratitude. I check my watch.
“I have to run. I can still make my shift at Clayton’s.”
“Ana, you’ll be exhausted.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll see you later.”
I’ve worked at Clayton’s since I started at WSU. It’s the largest independent hardware store in the Portland area, and over the four years I’ve worked here, I’ve come to know a little bit about most everything we sell – although ironically, I’m crap at any DIY. I leave all that to my dad. I’m much more of a curl-up-with-a-book-in-a-comfy-chair-by-the-fire kind of girl. I’m glad I can make my shift as it gives me something to focus on that isn’t Christian Grey. We’re busy – it’s the start of the summer season, and folks are redecorating their homes. Mrs. Clayton is pleased to see me.