"The pain is Unbearable, Marilla," Anne Blythe lamented through cresting tears. She lay, curled up on her bed, staring blankly at the bright wall of her and Gilbert’s room in their little House of Dreams; it seemed so grey now. The dazzling joy of marriage had quickly faded into a dull glow over the last couple weeks.
Marilla Cuthbert sat next to Anne on the edge of the bed, stroking the long red tresses of the bereaved mother. "I know, dear," the elder woman replied calmly. Consolation was never Marilla’s strong suit, and she thought long about the right thing to say, “It will get better with time.”
“I don’t see how that’s possible. This hole in my heart will surely last for the rest of my days.” Anne clutched the front of her old nightgown in a weak attempt to hold her broken heart in her hands. The room was quiet for a few horrible moments before she spoke again, voice breaking. “I’m a failure, Marilla.”
“... Why, Anne, what do you mean?”
“What kind of wife am I if I can’t have a child strong enough to survive?” Her tone was cold and distant,as if she were a thousand miles away
Marilla caught her breath and was quick to set the young woman straight, “Now, Anne, what kind of talk is that. You’ve never been one to admit defeat so easily. There was nothing you could have done. All is not yet lost.”
“I should have been me,” snapped Anne bitterly.
Marilla glanced towards the open door and saw Gilbert Blythe, come to check on his wife, standing in the threshold. His brow was creased and his eyes downturned. Looking back to Anne, Marilla wasn’t sure if the girl was aware of her husband’s presence but regardless, the look in Gilbert’s eyes was enough to make Marilla’s heart ache with sympathy. The young Doctor Blythe looked so much like his father did at that age. History always seemed to repeat itself. Another check of the doorway showed a distinct lack of Gilbert. “Anne Blythe, how could you say something like that? If not anyone else, think of Gilbert! How would he get by without you?”
“He’d find a way. He’s handling all of this well enough.”
Marilla couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It had never occurred to her that Anne could be so obstinate, that she could turn on he whom she loves most. Marilla was affronted but remained calm.
“I know you don’t mean that, Anne. You should try to talk to him, it might do both of you some good.”
Anne remained silent and the room stood still. After a few, terrible moments, the two women were interrupted by a quiet clearing of a throat coming from the door.
“I’m sorry for interrupting, Mrs Doctor dear.”
“That’s alright, Susan. What is it?”
“Well, the Doctor says that if Miss Cuthbert is still planning to catch the four o’clock train, they should probably leave presently.”
“Yes, of course,” Marilla answered, “Tell him I’ll be ready in a moment”
Susan nodded and left to relay the message to Doctor Blythe. Once again, it was just Anne and Marilla in the once-joyful room.
“Must you leave, Marilla?” The former begged, “I dread being alone with Gilbert.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. You and Gilbert need to talk about what happened, or nothing will get better.” Marilla stood before finishing, “now, I’m sorry to leave you like this, Anne, but it’s time for me to go.”
“Of course, I understand.” Anne tried to form a weak smile, but it was as though her face had forgotten how. Instead, her expression resembled a pained grimace. “I imagine Green Gables is liable to fall apart if I were to keep you much longer. I can’t thank you enough, though, for your help these last few weeks. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
Marilla stooped to kiss Anne on the forehead. “Goodbye, Anne. Don’t forget to write often.”
Anne mouthed a farewell that never passed her lips as she watched the older woman walk out of the room and shut the door. And then Anne was alone.
As hours pass, Anne doesn’t move. She lays there, staring at the wall, a tray of the supper Susan made had since turned cold. At some point Anne had shut her eyes, but sleep still eluded her. Late in the evening, Anne heard the bedroom door open, then close, and could hear careful footsteps creep to the opposite side of the bed. She felt the bed depress as her husband laid down next to her. He was so close, and yet it felt as though a chasm had opened up between their two bodies, releasing a discomforting coldness into the room.
Out of the silence Gilbert whispered, voice strained, “Goodnight, Anne. I love you.”
Anne didn’t reply, but squeezed her eyes tight as silent tears began streaming down her face. And soon, she was asleep.
Anne woke fairly early, the faintest morning light shining through the lace curtains of her bedroom window, illuminating her pale face. She squinted at the offending brightness, but hearing Gilbert up and getting dressed behind her led her to close her eyes and pretend she was still fast asleep. She wasn’t quite ready to have that conversation yet. Gilbert was quiet in his movements, so Anne almost didn’t hear him approach her side of the bed.
He pressed a gentle kiss to her cheek and said in the same hushed tone he had spoken in the previous night, “I’m going to work, Anne-girl. I will see you when I return. I love you. I hope you feel a little better today.” Then he left her side and was gone.
Within the next hour Anne had managed to climb out of bed and wash up. She faced her vanity mirror and smoothed out the skirt of the simple grey dress she had slipped on. Leaning closer, she pinched her cheeks in an attempt to bring some colour back to the pallid skin. She had made up her mind that she was going to follow Marilla’s advice and try. She brought her hands to her damp red curls and made to style them, but instead, decided to leave them loose. Exiting the little bedroom, she walked down the cheerfully wallpapered hallway and down the creaky stairs. She wandered into the kitchen, where Susan was preparing breakfast.
“Oh hello, Mrs Doctor dear! It’s good to see you’re out of bed!”
“Yes. It was getting a little stuffy in that room. I think I need to go for a walk.” Anne turned to leave, but was stopped by the housekeeper grabbing her hand.
“Not before you have a bite of breakfast you don’t.” Susan sat Anne down at the kitchen’s small wooden table. “Now, what would you like, Mrs Doctor dear?”
“Nothing. I’m not hungry Susan.”
Susan stared the young woman down for a few moments before responding. “Nonsense. I know you didn’t eat your supper last night. You must be starving!”
“Fine,” Anne conceded, and reluctantly ate the light meal Susan had set in front of her.
When she had finished, she thanked Susan and slipped out the front door. Walking through the little garden she had worked on with Gilbert just over nine months ago, she was overcome with bittersweet memories that were feeling more bitter by the day. She walked to the shore, past Captain Jim’s lighthouse, and sat down on the dunes. She let herself burst into tears.
She wasn't sure how long she sat there, but as she stood to head home, she realized the sun was beginning to sink into the horizon.
The House of Dreams was eerily quiet when she got back. Susan had left a plate of dinner on the table for her, as well as a note saying she was heading into town to visit a friend. Anne ate in silence, and as she started up the stairs, she heard a strange noise coming from Gilbert’s office -- crying. She stopped, moving closer to the door to listen. He seemed to be talking on the telephone with someone, tears breaking up every few sentences, but his words were still hushed.
“ I don't know, Dad. How can I call myself a doctor if I can't even save my own child… It’s got to be my fault Joy was so frail, I know what happened with you and Mother. Now Anne hates me, and for good reason… I'm trying, Dad, I'm trying to be strong, but I already want to burst into tears, and then she looks at me as if she can't believe she made the mistake of marrying me… I-”
Anne’s heart began aching in her chest, she'd been such a fool. She turned the handle, and pushed the door open. Gilbert froze, hot tears still dripping down his cheeks.
“Dad, I have to go.” He hung up the phone, trying to quickly wipe his tears away. Anne’s eyes softened as she approached him, placing a hand on his cheek and turning his face towards hers. She pulled him into a tight embrace, and the two of them stood there for a few moments, crying in each other’s arms.
“I'm sorry I've been so selfish, Gilbert. I didn't know… I didn't think about how you must be feeling.”
“Shh,” Gilbert stroked her hair, “You don't need to apologize. I should have done more.”
“Gilbert, I think we both know that there's nothing either of us could have done to save her. I should have realized you were hurting as much as I was. Of course you we're just being noble old Gil, being strong for my sake.” Anne sighed, “I was resentful, when we should have been grieving together.”
Gilbert let out a shaky breath, “I was so scared I was going to lose you, Anne. It was real close. I'm just so relieved I still have my Anne-girl. Although, I thought you must hate me for not doing more.”
“Gilbert, you're my husband, I could never hate you. I was devastated, and I took it out on you, and I'm sorry for that. I just thought you were likely to hate me for what happened.”
“Oh, Anne-girl, I never even thought about blaming you.”
Anne pulled away slightly, enough to look her husband in the eye. “Gil, can we solemnly swear that we'll communicate with each other from now on, and take life's hurdles in stride? Let us be a team once more.”
“I swear it to you, Anne.” He kissed her cheek gently, but she brought his lips to hers in a tender kiss.
The husband and wife stayed there in each other’s company, talking about their fears and redefined hopes, shedding tears and smiles together. Until they grew tired, and went upstairs to sleep soundly in each other’s arms. For the first time in weeks, Anne felt the warm shimmer of her happy dream home return.