“The richest, most elusive, most enigmatic bachelor in Washington State just gave you his cell phone number.” (This is where I’m going to pretend the third chapter begins because the real beginning is totally inane and includes a reference to Carl Bernstein that is just hopelessly silly.)
Kate and Ana are having a token girly phone conversation about Christian and trying to plan his photo shoot the next day. Ana starts to consider the fact that Christian might like her. She hugs herself and rocks from side to side with glee – another of those things that sound borderline okay on paper, but when you actually do it, look absolutely ridiculous.
Unfortunately, the usual photographer they use for the school newspaper is at home for the weekend. How inconvenient. Where are they going to get another photographer from at such short notice? Oh, right. Jose/Jacob. Of course. I don’t expect all of my fiction to be gripping, mysterious and full of unexpected twists but really, this is just so obvious.
The guy with the possessive arm from the previous chapter asks Ana out for a drink after work. She says he’s ‘cute in a wholesome all-American boy-next-door kind of way, but he’s no literary hero’. God, seriously? You’re twenty-two and you haven’t worked out that there is no such thing as a literary hero who’s going to come along and sweep you off your feet?
Also, the fact that you’re holding out for one of these men doesn’t lead me to think that you’ve analysed your literature much at all. All of the most famous literary heroes are… well, not very nice. Mr Rochester of Jane Eyre was a pretty cold guy, and conveniently forgot to tell Jane that he was hiding his mad wife in the attic. Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice was pretty rude and didn’t think highly of women. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights was obsessed with revenge and getting his own way. Even Angel Clare from her beloved Tess of the D’Urbervilles subjected Tess to psychological abuse when he discovered she wasn’t a pure and virginal goddess.
Basically, what we can deduce from this, is that Ana’s ideal 'literary hero' love interest is cold, rude, self-obsessed and abusive, with a low opinion of women in general and a crazy lady hiding in his (metaphorical) attic. *FORESHADOWING CLAXON*
Anyway, Ana calls Jose and asks him to do the photo shoot with Christian. He has a bit of a whinge about it, and Kate takes over, ‘tossing her red-blonde hair over her shoulder’, which, to me, is a little bit like saying she tossed her ‘black-white’ hair over her shoulder. Hair can't be red and blonde at the same time.
Kate talks Jose round, and now Ana has to call Christian. She completely goes to pieces on the phone, but manages to secure an appointment with him the next morning. Christian smiles in a ‘sphinx-like’ fashion, which just makes me think of the bald cat that Rachel gets in Friends, which she has to wear oven gloves to carry around. Is smiling like a bald cat attractive? Also, how can she tell he's smiling like a sphinx when she's talking to him over the phone?
Ana laments the fact that she sounds all breathy, ‘like a child, not a grown woman who can vote and drink legally in the State of Washington’. Could have fooled me.
That night Ana dreams about ‘gray eyes, coveralls, long legs, long fingers and dark, dark unexplored places’. I know what you’re thinking: Voldemort in dungarees, right?
They arrive at the hotel the next day and Christian walks in with his hair still wet from his morning shower, and grey flannel pants. Of course, Ana dissolves into a pool of hormonal jelly at his feet.
Kate shakes Christian’s hand and Ana is in awe of the way she is so cool around him. She puts it down to the fact that Kate's family has money and she has grown up sure of her place in the world. Of course, only rich people are allowed to have the confidence and the adequate social skills required to conduct a professional interview.
After the photo shoot, Christian asks Ana to walk with him. As someone who sold him a textbook Murderer Kit just the day before, if I were Ana, I’d be a little wary about going anywhere alone with this guy, but Ana’s common sense seems to be just as limited as her understanding of classic literature. He asks her to go for coffee with him. Ana agrees, obviously, but Kate is not pleased. She probably doesn’t think it’s wise to let her best friend, who has the emotional capacity of a (particularly horny) cricket bat, go on a date with this intense egomaniac who wears flannel pants. I’m with Kate on that one.
When Ana and Christian leave the hotel, he reaches out and holds her hand. “No one has ever held my hand,” says Ana. Twenty-two years old, people, and apparently every guy she encounters falls headlong in love with her. But we’re supposed to believe she’s never held anyone’s hand. Also let's try to bear in mind that this is the third time they're meeting and, with the exception of Christian's interview soliloquies, they've barely said ten sentences to one another.
“Try to be cool, Ana”, her subconscious implores her. Your subconscious can’t implore you to do anything. It’s a subconscious, you are not aware of it. Writing 101.
Ana doesn’t like coffee, so Christian goes to get her a cup of tea, and brings it back to the ‘small, round, birch-veneer table’. We don't get a fleshed-out and believable relationship with Ana's mother to read about, but my God, E. L. James is going to describe the heck out of every piece of furniture she sees.
Ana tells Christian that she finds him intimidating. “You should be intimidated by me,” says the guy who spent his Saturday buying rope, masking tape and cable ties. It is monumentally stupid that Ana Steele is not running for the hills right now. Christian comments that she seems very self-contained. “Me, self-contained? No Way.” Again, that's a verbatim quote from the book, misplaced capital letter and all. If I had bought the paperback version I’d have set it on fire by now.
“I’m used to getting my own way, Anastasia,” Christian continues. This is not hot. It’s not attractive. If I was having coffee with a guy and he started spouting all this, he wouldn’t be getting a minute more of my time. “It’s like he’s trying to warn me off,” muses Ana. Ya think?!
Christian starts quizzing Ana on her family to get to know her better. When prompted to describe her step-dad, Ray, Ana says that he’s ‘taciturn’. Nobody uses this word in real life. Only in weird fanfiction.
Ana questions Christian about his parents – he had an affluent upbringing, but he’s adopted. This is much more interesting than talking about how he always gets his own way, and if I were Ana I’d be asking what that was like, but she just starts talking about how she’d like to go to England one day. “It’s the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy. I’d like to see the places that inspired those people to write such wonderful books.” Unfortunately, England was also the place that inspired E. L. James to write this atrocity, so I’m afraid it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.