Sunday, 26 August 2012
Kevin told us he had picked a few spots around campus as possible locations for our shoot and we should just follow his lead. Gray and I walked a few steps behind him, Charles right next to us.
“Anna, I thought I told you to call me Christian.” Gray opened the conversation.
“You did, yes.” And out of sheer rebellion I had decided against it.
“Have I offended you somehow?” He asked, looking genuinely puzzled.
“Why do you say that?” I tried to look puzzled as well. I truly deserved an Oscar for my performance in “The Gray affair”.
“You seemed very tense during our interview on Saturday, almost hostile” he explained.
“Funny you should say that.” I mumbled.
“Is it the tabloids? Or do you have something against publishers in general?” he asked.
“I really don’t feel any hostility towards you, Mr. Gray. I am sorry if I gave you that impression. Ah, look, Kevin is putting down his equipment” I hurriedly changed the subject. “This must be our first location.”
Kevin took a few pictures of Gray alone and then some pictures of him and Charles under a pretty looking cherry tree. Gray seemed very familiar with the procedure and posed almost absent-mindedly, like it was something he had to do a lot.
Soon enough Kevin was satisfied and packed up his things again. “The next location should be the library” he announced, mentioning us to follow him.
“You seem very much at home in front of a camera.” I said to Gray when we were trailing behind Kevin.
“I used to work as a model in university to pay the bills.” He didn’t seem to mind sharing that information with me, even though I hadn’t seen it on any official CVs.
“No kidding.” I didn’t know what to say to that. Did he expect admiration? Curiosity? I decided to just stay quiet for the rest of the walk.
I had to wait outside the library with Charles because he wasn’t allowed inside. He took it with dignity and sat calmly at my feet until Gray and Kevin returned ten minutes later.
“I think our last stop should be the campus coffee shop.” Kevin suggested. Gray was fine with it so we strolled there, Charles taking regular bathroom breaks on the way. Gray and I stayed silent the entire time.
Early on Thursday morning I got a call from “Mr. Gray’s office”. I assumed it was one of the blondes. “Mr. Gray will be in a meeting until 3pm but if that’s convenient he will wait for you in front of the dean’s office at 4pm. Ms Montgomery informed me that you can provide a photographer?” If I had stood in front of her the cool voice would have given me frost bite.
“Yes, we have someone who does the pictures for the student paper” I confirmed. I was amazed that Gray had accepted our photographer. I had expected him to bring his own and fly in a makeup crew.
“Excellent. Of course Mr. Gray will have to approve any pictures before publishing” She had already told Katie that but I assumed she wanted to make sure no information got “lost” again.
“Certainly.” Was he afraid I might pick an unflattering one on purpose, like his tabloid editors?
The blonde further instructed me not to take up too much of Mr Gray’s precious time. After I hung up I sank back into the pillows and slept for another hour. Then I got up to study some more and pick up some groceries for me and Katie. She was still contagious so she couldn’t leave the apartment. I suspected that even if the doctor had allowed her to she wouldn’t have gone out anyway. She would have been mortified if anyone saw her with the rash. Her hair clashed with the spots and made them seem even brighter.
I met Gray at 4:01 pm in front of the dean’s office. He was wearing a beautiful blue cashmere sweater and gray slacks. The sweater was the colour of his eyes and accentuated his light tan. He really knew how to dress well.
I on the other hand was wearing jeans and a simple t-shirt. I didn’t see why I should dress up for him.
“Mr. Gray, how nice to meet you again.” I treated him to a smile equally as menacing as the ones he had given me on Saturday afternoon. I looked down. Next to him sat a huge handsome dog. This time my smile was genuine.
“This must be Charles.” I reached out my hand to the Great Dane. I didn’t even have to bend over to do that, he was almost as big as a pony. Charles took a few seconds to inspect me and gave my hand a gracious lick, signalling approval.
“I thought I would bring him since you showed such an interest last time we met. Perhaps we can do that portrait of the two of us together that you suggested.” I wasn’t sure if he was being genuine or ironic, his face was completely impassive.
“I am sure we can arrange that.” I put on a poker face as well.
A few seconds later our photographer Kevin arrived, flustered and red in the face. He was in his second semester and did most of the photo work for the student newspaper. His major crush on Katie had made it easy for her to convince him to do this, even though the finals were right around the corner.
“Mr. Gray, this is Kevin, our photographer. Kevin, this is Christian Gray” I introduced the two. “Should we get started?” I smiled at Kevin encouragingly.
The next day I had to work. I worked as a waitress in a small diner near campus. It was a nice place where you could get good, unpretentious food and a decent cup of coffee. I didn’t even have to wear one of those impossible uniforms, jeans, sneakers, and a black t-shirt was acceptable. The owners were Mr and Mrs Blake, an elderly couple who treated me like the grandchild they never had. I had walked in there in freshman year, overwhelmed by money troubles and the newness of everything. After the sympathetic Mrs. Blake had listened to my story they offered me a job to help me out. It was a good place to work and it almost felt like a second home after three years. My mother lived in Colorado and worked as a vet. My stepfather was a carpenter. Together they didn’t make much. I went to WSU on a scholarship but there were still living expenses to be covered and my mum couldn’t really afford to support me. Thanks to Katie’s parents and the Blakes I could get by. After my shift was over Mrs Blake insisted I take home some leftover pie for Katie and me. Like a real grandma she always worried we didn’t eat enough. Usually, not eating enough wasn’t the problem but Mr Blake used to be a baker and made the pies himself so I was happy to eat as much pie as she wanted me to.
The next two days went by as usual. I did two more shifts at the diner and tried to study as much as possible. Katie got better, the rash slowly beginning to fade. On Wednesday afternoon I was in my room with my biochemistry book when Katie knocked on my door, an excited expression on her face.
“Christian Gray’s assistant just called, he wants to do a photo shoot.”
I rolled my eyes. “Does he have too much time? Or maybe he just loves it so much when somebody takes his picture.” My attention went back to the book on my lap.
“No no, he will be in town on business and thought it might be a good idea to complement the article with a few pictures of him on campus, you know, in the library and such. Reliving the good old times” she explained. “Isn’t that wonderful? He said he’d read a few of my articles and was very impressed so he thought he could help me out and maybe even give another interview. Isn’t he sweet?” Katie seemed oblivious to the fact that I was trying to concentrate.
I frowned. Gray was a very busy man indeed, almost too busy for an interview so why all of a sudden had he enough time for a photo shoot? He must have had a number of portraits done by professionals. Katie could have picked any one of those. There were even pictures of him visiting the campus, handing over large checks to the dean. What was going on?
“Look, Katie, I am happy for you Gray’s giving you this opportunity but I will stay as far away from him as possible. He didn’t seem to like me much either.”`I made a show of turning a page and reading the first paragraph, my eyes positively glued to the page.
“About that...” Katie looked frightened.
“Katie, what did you do?” I had a feeling I wouldn’t like what came next.
“I am still sick!” Katie sniffed. “The doctor said I should stay at home for at least another three days. So I told Mr Gray’s assistant I would find a photographer and you would be there instead of me to organize the whole thing” she mumbled.
I was stunned but it didn’t take me long to go from stunned to furious.
“Bloody hell, Katie! I told you I didn’t like the guy, he didn’t like me and I am sure he would not appreciate seeing me again. Besides, I have to study; I don’t have time to do the photo shoot or babysit Mr Gray” I yelled.
“Anna, please. His assistant said Mr. Gray doesn’t like to work with people he doesn’t know and you’re the only person he’s met. In fact, she said he asked about you and if you could be there.” Katie said with a small voice.
“He did?” I was confused. But then I remembered the way he looked at me when I stepped out of the elevator. Like he was seeing something strange and oddly fascinating. It had made me curious.
“Okay, I’ll do it. But you owe me.” I grumpily agreed.
“I’m sure you’ll remind me the next time somebody has to clean the bathroom or do the dishes.” Katie was beaming, almost dancing out of the room.
“I was thinking of something more in the lines of buying me a small island or letting me borrow your car the next time I want to go home to my mother’s.” I shouted after her. Katie guarded the Corvette like a mother lion her cub and only let me drive it in emergency situations. Or when she was trying to bribe me.
“Small island it is” Katie plastered a bright smile on her face. “Any particular location? Caribbean perhaps?”
“Let me get back to you on that.” I tried to concentrate on my bio chemistry book again but Gray’s face kept creeping into my thoughts, looking grim.