Chapter 1: Prologue
The cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean were capped with grass so tall that it easily brushed against her knees as she raced toward the edge. She had lost track of the number of times she retreated to this peaceful oasis since she first arrived in Avonlea, but this time was different. Before now, it was about the view—the tranquility of the undisturbed land that transported her to an age well before her own: a time when one wasn’t ruled by technology or obligated to maintain a constant connection to the world around them. No, whenever she came here, she eagerly escaped the modern-day world. She was free to let her imagination roam, to dream of distant lands, of people who had long since left this realm, of time periods well out of her reach. She had always felt free here; however, this time, the trip to her private sanctuary didn’t bring her the peacefulness she sought. No. This time she felt a sense of urgency, a sudden desperation to get as close to the edge as humanly possible. The view of the ocean was perfect from even twenty yards back, but today, she needed to get closer, to watch the waves as they violently crashed against the rocks below.
She had always been fascinated by the way the ocean’s waves collapsed against the shore. She had witnessed its movements at high tide, when the water would swallow up the rocks below. She had also been there countless times during low tide, as the ocean seemed to stretch itself out as far as it could just to kiss the grains of sand that lined the shore.
She felt connected to this little spot from the moment she first laid eyes on it, and now, she felt just as much at home here as she was in her bedroom. This little patch of earth was where she fled to whenever she sought any sort of inspiration; whether it was to write, to dream, to craft a world entirely of her own choosing.
As the wind whipped around her, she stretched her arms out and closed her eyes. As much as she loved Avonlea, she had to admit that she needed to leave—but only for a little while. This quaint little town on Prince Edward Island had been her safe haven from the harsh realities she was forced to endure during the first eleven years of her existence, but lately, she had begun to feel restless. But not when she was here; never when she was here. This place would always feel like home, no matter how far she roamed. Here, on this small patch of earth at the edge of Avonlea, laid seven years of memories she wouldn’t take back for the world. Here, on this small cliff, she was free to let her imagination soar to the furthest corners of the earth. Here, she was free to be exactly who she was.
She slowly opened her eyes upon the realization that she wasn’t entirely sure who she was now. She had been so self-assured when she first arrived at Green Gables. Even at the tender age of eleven, she thought she knew who she was and what she wanted out of life, but the more she learned and the more she grew, the more confused she became about the world around her. She had chosen her course of study long before she ever decided which university to attend, but now that the time had come to actually begin her studies at Redmond, she wondered if she had made the right decision.
‘Oh,’ she mused as she tilted her head back and looked up at the crystal blue sky above her. ‘To be a bird. To have no responsibilities. To be able to take flight at a moment’s notice. To be able to see the world from a different point of view.’ She closed her eyes once more as a smile danced across her lips. She could practically envision it. Where would she go to first? Where would she end up?
Just as she was about to take flight, an annoyingly familiar sound brought her crashing back down to reality. Instead of opening her eyes, she knit her eyebrows together in concentration. She was almost there. She could almost feel her feet leave the earth, but the irritating sound behind her persisted. She sighed and unenthusiastically opened her eyes before she spun around and reached for her purse. She riffled through the contents of the bag for a moment before she finally pulled out her cell phone. Her frown slowly disappeared into a smile when she realized who had interrupted her fantasy. “Hi Di,” she greeted cheerfully.
“Anne Shirley Cuthbert, where are you,” Diana Barry huffed in mild annoyance as she stomped toward her car. “I came to Green Gables to pick you up, but Marilla said you already left.”
“Yeah, I,” Anne glanced at the space around her, “I went for a walk and…I guess I lost track of time.”
Diana cracked a smile as she slid into her car. At least she had thought to bring her phone with her this time. “Where are you now?”
Anne chewed on her bottom lip as she turned to face the ocean once more. “I’m at the cliff.”
Diana knit her eyebrows together as her smile faltered. “Is everything ok?”
“Yeah,” Anne nodded as her gaze fell to the grass. “I just needed…a minute, I guess.” ‘To say goodbye.’
“You really don’t want to go tonight, do you?”
“No. No, it’s not that,” she lied as she tucked a small section of her red hair behind her ear. “I just wanted to come out here one more time before I leave tomorrow.” She waited a beat. “I’m fine. Really.”
Four months ago, Anne could proudly proclaim that she had never once lied to her best friend. She had never once felt the need to until—well, until that night. While Marilla had always instilled in her that ‘honesty was the best policy’, she also taught Anne that sometimes it was ok to lie in order to protect someone from the truth. That’s all Anne was doing—protecting Diana. At least, that’s what she told herself every single day since that horrible night. She was surprised that Diana hadn’t caught on to the fact that she had been keeping something from her. Anne figured that since they were kindred spirits, Diana would easily be able to see through her facade, but she hadn’t.
And Anne hated it.
And she hated him for making her do it.
Ever since that awful night, it had become easier and easier for Anne to lie to Diana. Not about anything major—save from that first lie of omission. It was the little things, such as saying that she was fine when she really wasn’t. It wasn’t like she wanted to lie to Diana. It was just that she didn’t want to burden her best friend with the homesickness she already felt. Ever since the day they met, they fell in sync with one another; however, they couldn’t possibly be any more different. Diana came from a life full of privilege while Anne was bounced around countless foster homes and orphanages until she finally landed on Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert’s doorstep. Anne had been completely alone in the world, but by a stroke of luck (and a huge misunderstanding), there she was seven years later: about to attend Redmond University.
She knew she had been one of the lucky ones. When she first landed at Green Gables—what everyone in town affectionately called the Cuthbert’s farm—she knew it had to be too good to be true, and at first, it was. Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an elderly pair of siblings, wanted to foster a young boy, but instead, because of some sort of computer error that was never fully explained, they ended up with Anne. At first, Marilla balked at the idea of keeping her. She was fully prepared to take in a boy, but a girl was an entirely different undertaking. She had heard from her best friend, Rachel Lynde, that adopting a girl would only cause misery for them since orphan girls were wild, vengeful creatures. Thankfully for Anne though, Matthew felt differently. They bonded from the moment he first picked her up at the orphanage. Instead of pointing out the error while he was there, he decided to take Anne home and discuss the matter with Marilla. It took Marilla a little longer to come around to the idea of keeping Anne—nearly a month.
As Anne slung her bag over her shoulder, she remembered exactly how she felt when Marilla told her that she and Matthew wanted to legally adopt her. It was everything Anne had ever wanted.
She finally had a family.
She finally had a home.
Unfortunately, Anne knew she would have to leave that home in order to pursue a dream that she—at one time—believed would never come to fruition while she lived at the orphanage. She was headed off to Redmond. While she was anxious about what the future held for her, she lamented the fact that by this time tomorrow, she would have said goodbye to the only world she had ever found love in.
Her hectic schedule over the last several weeks managed to keep her mind off of her impending departure. While in high school, she and a group of friends organized a committee dedicated to raise money in order to make improvements to the community she so dearly loved. They called it the Avonlea Village Improvement Society. Even though Avonlea was technically a town now, Avonlea Village Improvement Society sounded so much more appealing than the Avonlea Town Improvement Society. Anne had spent the majority of the last three summers working on various projects and fundraising efforts for the group. As one of the founding members, she made it her mission to do enough work to make it easier on the next batch of officers, who had officially begun their duties three days ago.
That evening, the A.V.I.S was hosting a party in honor of all members who were headed off to university, and while Anne was flattered that they would have a party (partially) in her honor, she wasn’t exactly in the mood to celebrate. She was already homesick for Avonlea and Green Gables. She already missed Marilla, Matthew, and Diana. She didn’t want to celebrate her departure. She just wanted more time with those she was leaving behind.
Anne spotted Diana’s car as it flew down the dirt path that led to the cliff. Her eyes widened in horror as Diana skidded to a stop and dirt from the red earth underneath billowed up all around the red convertible. “And people think I’m crazy,” the redhead chuckled as she walked toward her best friend’s car.
Diana ran her fingers through her dark hair as she studied her best friend’s appearance. “Aren’t you going to change?”
Anne glanced down at the denim cut-off shorts and light blue tank top she wore. She pursed her lips as she looked up at her best friend. “I told you that I lost track of time.”
Diana smirked. “Well, lucky for you, I know my best friend like I know the back of my hand, so while I was at Green Gables, I went into your closet and picked out something.”
“My closet,” Anne wryly smiled. She knew that 90% of her closet was already packed up for her journey tomorrow. “You picked out something for me to wear from my closet.”
Diana stared at Anne for a long moment before she finally snickered. “Ok. Fine. So, it came from my closet.”
Anne shook her head as she opened the passenger side door and climbed into the car. “No matter how hard you try, Di, I’ll never look as refined as you. I will always be plain, old unromantic Anne Shirley Cuthbert.”
“Oh please,” Diana scoffed. “You couldn’t be plain if you tried, Anne. Besides, I feel like you could show up to the party in a potato sack and a few certain somebodies wouldn’t even notice.”
It was Anne’s turn to scoff. Not this again. “You’re ridiculous. You know that?”
“I know what I see,” Diana responded in a sing-song voice. “And what I’ve heard. Jane told me all about—“
“You’re wrong,” Anne interrupted with the same melody.
“We’ll see,” the brunette grinned before she tossed her hair over her shoulder. “You know, since we’re on the subject, I have to admit that I’m surprised nothing has happened between the two of you this summer. I mean, being the President and Vice-President of the AVIS led to some pretty late nights, not to mention that little incident at the lake…”
Anne gripped the door handle as Diana quickly spun the car around and peeled out of the dirt path. Once they were back on the main road, Anne slightly relaxed. “And that should tell you everything you need to know. Clearly, whatever you think is going on, isn’t actually going on. He’s a friend, Diana. Nothing more."
Diana wasn’t so easily swayed. “Sure, Anne. Whatever you say.”
As Diana sped back to her parents’ house in order to give Anne somewhere to change, she couldn’t help but to wonder why Anne’s relationship with a certain future doctor hadn’t progressed beyond the friendship they shared. It seemed to be obvious to everyone but Anne how he felt about her, but Diana had to admit that her best friend brought up a good point. If he had feelings for her, wouldn’t he have said something by now? Anne came to Avonlea seven years ago. Even though he was gone for one of them, he still had ample time and opportunity.
‘Who knows,’ Diana wondered as she turned down the driveway of her parents’ house. Maybe Anne was right. Perhaps, those countless stares meant nothing.
Maybe it was simply wishful thinking on her part.
Then again, maybe it wasn’t.
Chapter 2: The Shadow of Change
One amazing benefit of having an overactive imagination and the uncanny ability to talk anyone’s ears off was that Anne felt fairly comfortable in any environment she was thrown into. Being bounced around the foster system for the first eleven years of her life had prepared her for a lot of awkward encounters with many different types of people. For the most part, she managed to either find some common ground—in order to thwart any potential awkwardness—or she was simply able to let her imagination take her away. The latter always provided her with a means of escape whilst potential foster families scrutinized every fragment of her physical appearance—from the vibrancy of her hair color and the freckles that peppered her face all the way down to her shoelaceless shoes. She had always hated being judged so closely—as if everyone had the right to poke and prod her.
While she had learned several different ways to endure various social encounters, none of her expertly refined coping mechanisms could have possibly prepared her for the situation she found herself in now.
She had been to a number of parties where alcohol had been served before. When she lived with the Hammond’s, they had “parties” every Friday night, if you could even call them that. Mr. Hammond’s poker buddies would come over with their wives and they’d end up smoking and drinking until dawn. Sometimes a fight would break out for one reason or another. One time, Anne crept downstairs to figure out what the commotion was and had to immediately duck in order to avoid getting hit with a beer bottle that had been aimed straight for her head.
It was the last time she dared to leave the confines of the room she shared with three other girls unless explicitly told to.
Even after she moved in with Matthew and Marilla, Anne had attended parties where alcohol was served. While Avonlea was picturesque and seemed decades behind the times, teenagers were still teenagers. Several of her friends had older siblings who would often buy alcohol for everyone at a premium, of course. Anne never partook in any of it. She had been forced to witness the affects of alcoholism at a young age and even though she had been with the Cuthberts for seven years, there were just some memories that would haunt her forever. Even if she hadn’t had such a grim upbringing, she was certain drinking would have never appealed to her. She never had the urge to consume anything that would alter her state of mind. She could do that well enough on her own.
As she surveyed the group of nearly fifty of her peers, she supposed that nearly half of them were already too intoxicated to drive. Thankfully, one of the first things Anne did as the President of the AVIS was to introduce a ‘safe ride’ program for the youth of Avonlea. Of course, it wasn’t something they openly advertised to the adults in the community, but it had been her first—and probably most—successful program in the three-year history of the club.
She was grateful that they were all in a field behind Ruby Gillis’ house. Anne couldn’t imagine cramming that many people into anyone’s house, even the Barry’s sprawling manor. Even though they were out in the open air, Anne couldn’t help but to feel claustrophobic in the midst of the otherwise empty field. The bonfire that a number of her former classmates had gathered around became the only real source of light for the teenagers as the sun slowly dipped beneath the horizon.
As Anne watched her last sunset as a full-time resident of the town she so dearly loved, she sighed. This wasn’t at all how she wanted to spend her last night in Avonlea, but she promised Diana weeks ago that she would come. After taking a moment to mourn the fact that it would be nearly two months until she saw another Avonlea sunset, Anne turned to speak to her best friend. She frowned when she realized that not only had Diana disappeared, but that her best friend had made her way toward the makeshift bar outside of the Gillis barn.
The redhead sighed. This was her last night in town. She had hoped that she and Diana would exchange a few pleasantries with the others before escaping to their old clubhouse or the Barry’s barn and reminisce about the last seven years. As Diana took a sip of whatever insane concoction Billy Andrews had conceived, Anne realized that they would never again revert back to the days of their adolescence. Maybe it was ridiculous to think that they could, even for just one night. So much had changed over the last few months. Diana had changed. Gone was the meek raven-haired girl Anne first met at church her first Sunday on the island.
Diana had endured a difficult summer—one in which Anne partially blamed herself for. Ever since that horrible night in May, Diana had become more and more despondent. Before that night, Diana was just as opposed to drinking as Anne was. Anne had never seen her taken a sip of anything remotely alcoholic until that summer—well, aside from that unfortunate incident when they were thirteen. Now, it seemed as if Diana sought out alcohol as a means of escape, a way to endure the heartbreak she still felt.
Anne hated that they were about to be separated. It had been a difficult decision to choose Redmond over Queen’s, but now, as she watched Diana consume the contents of the red solo cup in her hands, Anne wished she could go back and change her mind. Yes, Diana would be attending Queen’s with several of their friends, but Anne knew that no one would look out for her—not the way she could. Everyone around her assumed that Diana had moved past Jerry’s sudden departure, but Anne knew otherwise. They never talked about it, but there were some things that didn’t require words to understand. Anne didn’t need Diana to come out and confess that she felt broken by her boyfriend’s—well, ex-boyfriend’s—sudden departure. Her actions more than made up for it. She, much like Anne, had thrown herself into her work with the AVIS that summer, but whenever she stopped moving for a second, Anne noticed the pain reflected in her best friend’s eyes. They had dated for over two years. For him to leave the way that he did—well, it wasn’t something that one could simply just ‘get over’. Diana always wore her heart on her sleeve. She had willingly and freely gave it to Jerry for safekeeping. He was the first boy she ever loved and Anne knew that no matter who she met or what path she followed, there would always be a little piece of her who would always love him.
And that was what scared Anne the most.
She knew that Diana was trying to fill in that hole in her heart with anything that would bring her relief—however temporary. Her current means of handling her heartache had been attending parties such as this one where she drank until she finally felt numb. Anne tried to intervene on numerous occasions. She desperately wanted Diana to open up about what happened, to get it all out in the open but her best friend refused. She insisted that everything was perfectly fine, but Anne knew otherwise. Three months later, Anne still wasn’t entirely sure what to do about it. Diana was spiraling—and she was about to leave the island.
Anne bit the inside of her cheek as Billy handed Diana another cup of whatever it was that he created. All she could do right now was to be the best friend she could possibly be under the circumstances. She’d keep a watchful eye on her friend and then—most likely within the hour—she’d be about fifty yards away from where she stood at that very moment, holding Diana’s hair back while her best friend expelled the contents of whatever was in that red cup.
“Having fun yet,” an unmistakable voice asked from behind her.
Anne crossed her arms over her chest as she instantly stiffened at the sound of his voice. She closed her eyes for a moment before she turned around to face him.
Before her stood the other reason why she was reluctant to go to the party in the first place. When she first arrived in Avonlea, they instantly became bitter rivals; at least, that’s how she perceived it. Once they entered high school, they became friends, but still maintained an unspoken academic rivalry that eventually led to them becoming the first co-valedictorians in Avonlea High School’s 100+ year history.
And now, they were friends. It was a simple fact that, for some reason, Anne had to constantly remind herself of whenever she caught him looking at her for just a second too long. Of course he would look at her when he was speaking to her. It was a sign of respect and nothing more. On the other hand, she had to hear from both Diana and Cole for years that there was something more to it. Perhaps the years of teasing had finally caught up to her? No. There was no way that Gilbert Blythe could possibly be interested in her as anything more than a friend. Then again, if that were true, why did she feel a little more self-conscious whenever he was around? Maybe it was because she hadn’t fully recovered from that little incident on the lake a month ago. “I’m having a blast. Can’t you tell?”
Gilbert smirked at the hint of sarcasm in her tone as he shoved his hands into his pockets. “I have to admit that I’m a little surprised to see you here. I figured you’d want to spend your last night at Green Gables with Matthew and Marilla.”
Anne sighed. “I wanted to, but they kicked me out.” When Gilbert raised his eyebrows in surprise, the redhead laughed. “Yeah, since this is supposed to be a party for the AVIS, they didn’t want me to miss it and regret not going later. Besides,” she glanced back in the direction of her best friend, “they aren’t the only ones I’m saying good-bye to.” She waited a beat before she turned back to face him. This wasn’t so bad. She wasn’t sure why she was so anxious to see him tonight. He was just Gilbert—her good friend, Gilbert Blythe. “What about you? Didn’t want to spend your last night in Avonlea with Bash and Mary?”
Gilbert shrugged. “They kicked me out of the house, too.” He scanned the area around him. “I thought the party was supposed to start at sundown.”
“It did.” Anne followed his line of vision to a small group of people who were all talking over one another in one massive conversation, if once could even call it that. Since no one seemed to understand what each other was saying because of the noise, the ‘conversation’ quickly escalated to a shouting match. “Makes me wonder what’s in the punch Billy made.”
The corner of Gilbert’s lips curled up into a mischievous smirk as he looked down at her. “I could always get you a cup so you could see for yourself.”
She looked at him for a long moment before she finally chuckled. “No thanks. I’m not that curious.” She ran her fingers through her semi-tangled waves before she gestured to drink table. “What about you? I’m perfectly willing to go get you a cup.”
He shook his head. “Nah. I don’t drink…and even if I did, I wouldn’t…” He cringed at the very thought of what Billy Andrews might have concocted. At the very least, he had most likely blended light and dark alcohol: an unfortunate combination all on its own. “I was surrounded by all of that when I was working with Bash. Most of the guys would go out every night and I just…I’ve never wanted to be like that.” He sighed as they continued to watch the antics of their former classmates. He never regretted leaving Avonlea in order to figure out what he wanted out of life after losing his father two years ago. How could he? He met his best friend and business partner because of it, but there were some memories of the nine months he spent working on cargo ships that he wished he could permanently erase from his mind.
Anne nodded as she continued to watch her fellow classmates. She could relate. “It’s hard to believe that this will be the last time everyone will be together, isn’t it? I mean…it’s kind of sad when you really think about it. We finally graduated and we’re all about to scatter across the country. No matter what happens after this, no matter what the future holds, tonight’s the end of an era, you know?” Of course, there were several memories she wished she didn’t have, but for the most part, it had been a good experience. She decided long ago that the bad was worth remembering, given all of the good it brought her. She had a wonderful group of friends now, some of which, she was grateful, would join her as this next chapter commenced. She definitely considered herself to be one of the lucky ones in that regard.
“Yeah…” He glanced back at her before his tone deepened ever so slightly. “It’s a chapter I definitely want to remember.”
Anne swallowed harshly underneath the scrutiny of his gaze. It was moments like these that seemed to completely unnerve her. The simple fact that she could feel his eyes on her made her heart race. How was it possible to know when someone was looking at you when you weren’t even looking back at them? It made no logical sense and was the strangest sensation she had ever experienced. It unsettled her and she hated the cold chill that always shot down her spine as a result.
Despite the fact that they were friends, Anne could feel herself growing more self-conscious whenever he was around. With her other friends, she felt comfortable enough to be her true self, to be unapologetically who she was, and while she knew Gilbert would never judge her for her eccentric tendencies, she still had become acutely aware of every action and every word she uttered in his presence. The phenomenon amplified when he came back from his sojourn into the real word. While they both had changed during his nine months away, Gilbert had grown a lot wiser and a little more somber. It didn’t take them very long to pick their friendship up from where they left off, but something between them had shifted. Anne initially thought it was because they now—unfortunately—understood one another on a much deeper level. He was the only other person she knew in Avonlea who had lost both of their parents. Granted, she lost hers when she was baby, while Gilbert (who also lost his mother before he ever knew her) lost his father only two years ago. While they never really discussed the loss of their biological parents, they knew exactly who to confide in if they ever felt the need to.
Anne wanted to ask Gilbert about his adventures. Perhaps if it had all happened a few years earlier, she would have, but with age came tact and Anne sensed from the moment she first saw him again that it was something he wanted to keep to himself. Over the last year, she heard a few anecdotes from Bash about their adventures in Trinidad, but Gilbert never added anything to the conversation or revealed anything on his own. While she was well aware of the fact that Gilbert didn’t drink, she didn’t realize until then that the reason why had more to do with what he experienced on the ship and not simply because he wanted to sustain a clear mind.
A loud crash about twenty feet from where they stood interrupted the introspective silence that had fallen over the pair. Anne’s eyes widened as one of the Paul’s—she never could remember which was which—shrieked in response to the half a dozen or so now broken bottles of alcohol that had tumbled out from underneath of the cardboard box in his hands. The other Paul, already three sheets to the wind, merely laughed at his friend’s misfortune. “Billy’s gonna kill you.”
Gilbert turned to Anne after he realized that neither one of them had been injured. “I know you’re having the time of your life watching everyone descend into the worst possible versions of themselves, but do you want to go…for a walk? Get away from the…excitement for a little bit?”
Over the last few months, Anne had become more aware of the dangers that involved being alone with Gilbert—in any capacity. Prom night and the incident at the lake were two prime examples of what could happen when left alone with the tousled haired brunette, but still, she had just about had enough ‘celebrating’ she could possibly stand for one night. She spun around as her gaze searched for her missing best friend. “I would, but…I need to find Diana.”
Gilbert took once glance around the open field in front of them before he gestured toward the campfire where the brunette stood. “She’s right there next to Fred. I know he’ll make sure that she’s…that nothing happens.”
Anne furrowed her eyebrows. She didn’t trust many of the people around her to actually keep an eye on her heartbroken best friend, but she did trust Fred Wright. At least, he hadn’t given her a reason not to trust him. Fred had transferred to their school two years ago. As an officer of the AVIS, Anne had gotten to know him through their weekly meetings and various fundraising activities. He and Diana, as secretary and treasurer (respectively), executed several of the group’s annual undertakings and had, as a result, become good friends. If Diana trusted him, Anne knew she could as well. As a particularly annoying techno song began to drown out her thoughts, she turned back to Gilbert and simply nodded.
She had to get away from the noise, if only for a moment.
The pair fell silent as they wandered away from the party that raged behind them. With every step they took, Anne felt her sanity slowly return and for that, she was grateful. However, now that she was able to actually think, she became acutely aware of the fact that she was alone with Gilbert Blythe, in the nearly pitch black field of the Gillis farm. ‘I’m going to kill Diana,’ Anne thought as she ran her fingers through her hair. In order to give her hands something to do, she pulled her hair back into a messy bun. She enjoyed summers in Avonlea, but the heat was almost too much to bear for her long, wavy hair. “So,” she began in an attempt to break the silence, “you and Charlie are going to be roommates?”
Gilbert nodded, despite the fact that he knew Anne couldn’t see him. “We are. He’s one of my best friends and honestly…I’d rather take my chances with someone I know than a complete stranger…at least for now.”
“I can understand that. For a while there, I thought I would have to gamble with the whole roommate thing, but thankfully Diana’s cousin, Priscilla, is going. Jane and Ruby promised one another two years ago that they’d room together if they both got in and with Diana going to Queen’s,” she could barely get the words out. She had spent six months preparing for her inevitable separation from her best friend, but now, on the eve of their departure, the loss finally hit Anne. She swallowed in order to keep her tears at bay. “If it wasn’t for Pris, I’m not sure what I’d do. I mean, I guess I should be used to goodbyes now, but…I’ve been here for so long that I’m not sure if I even know how to be on my own anymore.”
“You’re not going to be on your own,” he pointed out. “Even if Priscilla wasn’t going to be there. You’re not…you won’t be alone.”
Anne crossed her arms over her chest as they continued to walk. She knew that they were only exchanging pleasantries, but it felt nice. Most of their conversations over the last few weeks had been focused on the AVIS and avoiding certain events that had transpired over the last few months, but this—talking about Redmond—seemed natural, pleasant even. Had they finally gotten past that dance? “I know that you and Charlie and the others will be there…and I’m happy I’ll get to see Cole on a daily basis again, but it’s…it’s going to be so different.” She shook her head. “I don’t know. For the first time in my life, I’m leaving somewhere I don’t want to leave. I…I know I need to. Don’t get me wrong. I want to go. I know I need this experience, but why can’t I pack up Avonlea and take it with me?”
“We’re going to be four hours away, Anne. It’s far, but not impossible to visit.” He waited a beat as an idea came to him. “What if I make a deal with you?”
Anne furrowed her eyebrows. “What kind of deal?”
He stopped his pace and turned to face her. He could barely see one foot in front of him, but he didn’t need any light to remember the outline of her celestial features. “Whenever it gets to be too much, whenever you’re homesick, I’ll drive you back to Avonlea.”
Her eyes widened in shock. He would do that? He would really drop everything to take her home? Suddenly, the thought of leaving didn’t seem so final. Suddenly, it felt as if she was on the cusp of a brand new adventure. For the first time in three months, her heart fluttered at the possibility of moving to Kingsport. “Really?”
He nodded. “All you have to do is say the word.” It was the least he could do for the girl who had pushed him to be the best possible version of himself since the day they met. Because of her, he had learned so much about himself. She believed in him when he found it impossible to believe in himself. He realized a long time ago that he’d do anything to see her smile and if driving her to Green Gables was all he had to do, then it was more than worth the time it would take to get there.
She was beyond floored by the offer. Being without a vehicle herself, she knew visits home would entirely depend on the kindness of her friends. Knowing that there was one who was willing to take her home when the loneliness became too much felt like the greatest gift in the world. “Thank you, Gilbert. That’s very sweet of you.” She had to inwardly laugh at the irony. It wasn’t too long ago that she considered him to be anything but sweet. She couldn’t believe how far they had come in the last seven years.
As they resumed their walk, Gilbert glanced at her. “I know you feel like you’re leaving something behind, Anne, but look on the bright side. This is the start of something new…a whole new adventure. I know that Matthew and Marilla would want you to experience life and go everywhere you want to go to. You want to see the world, right?”
He paused. When he made out the faint outline of her nod in response, he smirked. “Well…start by going to Kingsport.”
Chapter 3: Greeting and Farewell
I'm incredibly sorry for any grammatical issues//disjointedness with this chapter. Every time I went to edit it, I ended up listening to a bunch of show tunes, so this chapter did not get the full attention I normally give when I edit.
As much as she wanted to travel the world and experience everything the world could possibly ever offer, when it came down to actually leaving the only real home she had ever known, Anne was more than petrified. Yes, she wanted to go to Redmond. She was more than prepared to start the next chapter of her life, but why couldn’t she take Matthew, Marilla, Green Gables, and the rest of Avonlea with her?
The fear of letting her adopted family down—co-mingled with the encouragement Gilbert had provided her the previous night—was what finally forced her to climb into the passenger seat of Moody’s car for the long ride to Kingsport.
Gilbert and Charlie led the small caravan of former Avonlea High students toward Redmond. When the Redmond-bound group of friends gathered together in order to work out the logistics on who would ride with whom, Anne jumped at the prospect of riding with Moody Spurgeon. They had both been involved with the community theatre in Avonlea and she knew that their entire ride would consist of belting out show tunes with the windows rolled down and the wind wiping through her hair. She knew she’d need the distraction. She was more than grateful that the energetic guy next to her decided to go to Redmond, as opposed to Queen’s with Diana and a small number of their former classmates. They had even agreed to take the same “Intro to Acting” class together. As they drove over the Confederation Bridge, Anne finally felt herself begin to relax. Gilbert was right, she mused as she tapped her feet along to the beat of the opening notes of “Cabaret”. She wasn’t going to be alone.
Before she knew it—and just as she finished crooning the first verse of “All That Jazz”—they reached the sprawling campus. The girls would be in the same dorm, which was located on the other side of campus from the boys. Anne figured that Gilbert and Charlie would turn toward the direction of the dorm, but she was pleasantly surprised when they followed Ruby and Jane to their dorm.
Parking was nightmare as all of the other first year students were in the midst of moving in. Still, by some small miracle, they were able to find a parking spot for all three vehicles. Moody helped Anne with her belongings while Gilbert and Charlie unloaded Jane’s vehicle, which was crammed with—perhaps—every outfit Ruby owned.
After they were finished unloading the vehicle, the group agreed to meet up for dinner after they got settled in. Anne offered to go with the guys in order to help them move in, but Gilbert insisted that they had it covered. She tried to reason with them, but they wouldn’t relent. She needed a distraction and knew that Cole would be there soon and Anne was aching to see him. Moody told her that by the time she finished unpacking, they’d be back to pick her up for dinner. Realizing that she was fighting a losing battle, she finally acquiesced. Maybe she’d feel better once everything was unpacked.
Still, the moment they left, Anne instantly felt overwhelmed. This was her greatest fear: being alone amidst hundreds of strangers. Pris wouldn’t arrive until tomorrow afternoon.
Anne was grateful that they had already discussed how they wanted their room to look. As she pulled out the contents of the first bag, Anne realized that Moody was right. It was the perfect distraction from the sudden burst of homesickness she felt. She stopped for a moment in order to send Marilla a text to let her know she arrived safely and promised she’d call within the next day or so. The redhead wanted to call that very moment, but feared that if she heard Matthew or Marilla’s voice, she’d take the first bus back home.
“You can do this,” she murmured as she unzipped another bag. She slowly inhaled. “You’ve been dreaming about this day for years. You can’t quit now…not just because you’re homesick.” She closed her eyes and tried to focus on the new world she found herself in. One wonderful thing about going to university was the fact that she would once again be in the same town as one of her best friends.
Cole Mackenzie left Avonlea midway through grade 9. After he became a victim of relentless bullying from the majority of the hockey team, he escaped to Charlottetown to live with some of his extended family. While there, he flourished. Charlottetown—and most of the world, it seemed—was far more progressive than Avonlea. As much as Anne loved her little town, the one thing she abhorred was how some of the residents remained so prejudicial about lifestyles they were not accustomed to. Cole was the first person Anne knew who had publicly come out as gay. As a result, students and parents alike bullied him relentlessly. In hindsight, leaving Avonlea was the best decision, especially since he spent the last three years at one of the most prestigious art schools in the country, but still, Anne missed him. She had been able to see him during the holidays and whenever she and Diana visited Diana’s great-aunt, but it just wasn’t the same.
It was shortly after Cole’s departure that Anne, Gilbert, Diana, and some of the others organized the AVIS, not only to beautify Avonlea, but to also create an open forum in order to discuss current social issues. In their three-year history, the AVIS managed to have several productive conversations about a number of social issues.
Of course, some citizens refused to attend the open forums and were seemingly stuck in their ways, but in the wake of Cole’s departure, several more residents of Avonlea came out in support of him or to openly admit their own sexual preference. It had been a much-needed step in the right direction, but Anne wanted Avonlea to become a place where one didn’t feel the need to “come out” at all. She fully believed that people should simply exist and love whomever they wanted.
The work she did with the AVIS, along with the influence of her English teacher, Muriel Stacy, inspired Anne to become an education major. She wanted to shape and mold young minds. She wanted to leave a positive impact on people. She wanted to inspire her students the way Miss Stacy inspired her. Of course, she loved theatre, and decided to also pursue a minor in it. After all, she needed a creative outlet for her overactive imagination.
Thankfully, being at the top of her class—well, tied for the top—offered her the chance to obtain several scholarships. It was one reason why she chose Redmond over Queen’s in the first place. Redmond was further away, but she received one scholarship that would cover the cost of her tuition for the four years she would be in attendance (as long as she remained in good academic standing). The scholarship she was offered at Queen’s only covered two years. She had also received a scholarship from the community of Avonlea, which covered the cost of her books. The third academic scholarship she received covered her room and board for the next two years.
As Anne tucked away the last of her belongings, she surveyed the room. It was only half decorated and felt twice as big as it would be once Pris arrived, but at least she was settled into the tiny room that would be her home for the next nine months. She was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to curl up in bed with a good book until she passed out, but the soft glow of her phone, which was perched at the edge of her desk, quickly reminded her that she already made plans for the evening—and knowing the group she was about to meet up with, sleep would evade her for several hours yet.
The seven Avonlea friends—Anne, Cole, Moody, Charlie, Gilbert, Ruby, and Jane—decided to wander around campus after a two hour-long dinner at a pizzeria at the edge of campus. They reminisced, filled Cole in on the recent happenings in Avonlea, and in return, Cole regaled them with stories of his own misadventures in Charlottetown. Some of the stories—including the calamity of his first date—Anne had never heard before. She knew that it had been nothing but disastrous, but Cole never offered up any of the details until now. Anne had always assumed that by ‘disastrous’ he meant that something horrific had disrupted the evening, but in reality, Cole’s date made several missteps that were more comedic than anything else.
As they walked by the library, Anne peered into one of the dimly lit windows. She wondered how many hours she’d spend there and if they would equate to—or even exceed—the amount of time she’d spend in her room (or anywhere else for that matter). As she stopped and stared at the three-story building, the others moved forward. None of them notice that she had lingered behind, save for one observant aspiring doctor.
“We’ve been here for about seven hours now,” he began as he followed Anne’s line of vision toward the library. “How do you feel?”
Before Anne resumed her pace, she turned to face him. “Still a little touch and go,” she admitted with a wry smile. “This helped. Tonight. Being with everyone. It almost feels like…”
“Like we never left?”
She nodded. “I can’t help but to wonder though…I mean…how often will we all be able to get together like this? We’re all in different programs. That means different course loads and different schedules. What if this is the only time we’ll all be together?”
“You can’t predict the future, Anne. No one can. It’s a big school, but you’re on the same floor with Jane and Ruby, and us guys all share a suite.”
“No,” he gently interjected, “There is no but. We’ll figure it out. Maybe we can work out something to where we can all have dinner together once a week. That way, we can catch up and not…drift away…from one another.”
Once a week seemed like so little compared to how often she used to be able to see everyone, but it was better than nothing and certainly better than how often she would get to see her family or Diana. She did share a few classes with Jane and she had that acting class with Moody, but aside from that, she didn’t share a class with anyone else. “Are you sure you’ll be able to stick to that,” she unexpectedly blurted out. She wasn’t entirely sure why when she brought up not being able to see anyone, she only thought about missing Gilbert’s presence. Perhaps it was because he had the most demanding course load of them all.
“I wouldn’t have suggested it if I didn’t think I could,” he offered in return.
Anne bit the inside of her cheek. She was relieved, but she wasn’t entirely sure why Gilbert’s presence—or lack thereof—would affect her so much. Maybe it was because out all of her friends at Redmond, she was the closest to him. It was a weird. Once upon a time, Anne never would have thought of him as a friend, let alone one of her best friends, but he was. They pushed one another to be better, to pursue their dreams and—Anne determined—that was what made their friendship so wonderful and so unique. What if she didn’t have that sort of friendship anymore? What would happen if she didn’t have that challenge in her life? Would she falter? Would she abandon her dreams because they seemed improbable?
“Speaking of our academic schedules,” he slowly continued, “I was hoping that you might be able to help me out with my English homework this semester.”
Anne furrowed her eyebrows. It was one of the few subjects she always surpassed Gilbert in, but still, he consistently received A’s in the subject while they were in high school. “Really?”
“Yea,” he nervously chuckled as they strolled past one of the academic buildings. “I want to make sure that my grades are the best they can be while I’m here so that when I apply to medical school, I can choose where to go instead of hoping to be accepted anywhere that would accept me.” He waited a beat. “If you’re too busy or don’t want to, I unders—“
“No, that’s fine,” Anne interrupted as she spun to face him for a brief moment before she looked back at the path in front of them. “I mean…I would feel horrible if I was the reason why you didn’t get accepted to medical school.”
Gilbert laughed. “Exactly.”
The pair fell into a comfortable silence as they edged closer to the girls’ dorm. Anne oddly felt comforted by the fact that even though they didn’t have any of the same classes, she would still be able to see her friend on at least a semi-regular basis. Maybe college wouldn’t be so bad, she half smiled as she glanced at the building that would be her home for the next several months.
Gilbert tried to remain as calm as he possibly could. He had hoped Anne would acquiesce to his request, but wasn’t entirely certain she would want to. He didn’t really need much help with his English class. He aced the subject in school. Anne always edged him out, but he managed to hold his own. He only wanted to insure that he would be able to spend some time with her away from the others, even if it was just in an academic setting. He wasn’t sure how she felt about him. Sometimes he believed that her feelings for him ran deeper than that of a friend. Other times, he was certain that she saw him as a friend and nothing more. He had lost track of the number of times he tried to ask her out in high school. He wasn’t sure why he wasn’t able to get the words out or why he was so hesitant to ask her about it now. Perhaps it was because he knew that no matter her response, everything would change. Either heaven would open up for him or hell would swallow him whole. Perhaps, he was too scared of the latter. Perhaps, he needed more time in order to secure his future, to show her that he was determined to become worthy of her. Maybe it was because he was too scared to breathe around her, let alone confess how he felt about her.
Maybe he didn’t need to have all the answers now, but as he wished Anne and the girls a good night, he knew that eventually something would have to give in.
“So a weekly study date, huh,” Cole smirked as he lounged on Priscilla’s bed. Anne couldn’t bear the thought of spending her first night in Kingsport alone, but she wasn’t about to ask Ruby and Jane if she could spend her first night in Kingsport on the floor of their room. When Cole realized that Anne was prolonging their farewell, he offered to hang out with her for a little while longer. Two hours later, they decided to make a night of it.
“It’s not a date,” Anne sighed as she opened her closet in order to grab an extra blanket for her friend. “You were part of our study group in school.”
“Yeah…back when you could barely tolerate being in the same room with him,” he chuckled. “You’ve neglected to tell me just how close you two have become.”
She poked her head out from the door in order to purposefully glare at him. “Because there’s nothing to tell. You know that he left town…”
“Yeah, he was gone for a year, right?”
“Nine months,” Anne corrected. Cole smirked in response, even though she couldn’t see him. He knew how long the class president had been gone. He just wanted to make sure Anne remembered. “And, I mean…we were friends before he left…I guess. I mean…we didn’t actively hate one another anymore.” She closed the door before she tossed the blanket toward Cole. “But after he came back…after everything with his dad…we just got over it and grew up.” She shook her head. They had never actually discussed the evolution of their friendship. It just happened. Perhaps it was because Marilla made it her mission to make sure Bash and Gilbert were taken care of. Perhaps it was the dozens of family dinners they had spent together over the last year that forced them to become friends. Anne wasn’t sure, but it didn’t matter now.
“Right,” Cole slowly replied.
Anne tilted her head to the side. “You’re worse than Diana.”
“We just know what we see and we aren’t afraid to tell you the truth.” He smirked. “You can tell me, Anne. I won’t tell him. Promise.”
“There’s nothing to tell,” she answered in a singsong voice as she sat across from him. “So, can we please talk about something else? Anything else.”
Cole thought about it for a minute. “Tell me what happened between you two at prom.”
Anne rolled her eyes before she groaned. This again?
“Because I know what I saw and what I saw was—“
“Nothing,” she interjected before she tossed a pillow at him. “We’re friends, ok?”
“So you two are just like you and me?”
“No,” she quickly answered. She furrowed her eyebrows. “It’s different. We’re kindred on an artistic level. You inspire me. I inspire you. He and I are…we push each other academically. That’s why we’re meeting up every week. He needs my help with his English class.” She wasn’t sure if she was trying to convince herself or Cole. She had to admit that it seemed like a flimsy excuse now that she thought about it. Gilbert had always done well in English. She hastily ran her fingers through her hair. No. She wouldn’t overthink this. “I can’t lose my competitive edge just because we aren’t taking any of the same classes.”
“Yeah, Anne, I wouldn’t worry about that.” When she arched an eyebrow at him, Cole’s grin widened. “Sixty years from now, you’ll be the reigning champ of Bingo at our retirement home.”
“You got that right,” she chuckled. “So? What about you?”
“What about me?”
“You and Stephen. I noticed that you didn’t mention him at all tonight…and you haven’t said much about him in the last few weeks.” She waited a beat. “Is everything ok?”
“We…broke up about a week ago.”
Anne furrowed her eyebrows. Why did it take him so long to tell her? “Why?”
Cole started to unfold the blanket in order to give himself something to do. “Why do most people our age break up? I went to Redmond. He went to an art school in Vancouver.”
Anne hugged her knees to her chest. “You didn’t want to go with him?”
Cole shook his head. “I mean…I applied. I got in, but…I wanted to be closer to home…to you guys. Besides, if it’s meant to be…” he let his statement hang in the air between them for a moment. “I don’t know. I don’t want to chase him across the country and have it end and…regret it.”
Anne let his words sink in. “Everyone seems to be breaking up right now.”
“Well, we’re making this huge transition. We’re not in high school anymore, Anne. We’re in college. I’d be surprised if anyone who dated in high school stayed together for the next four years.”
Anne furrowed her eyebrows. He made a good point. Wasn’t that what she had been contemplating all summer? Wasn’t that what she surmised after Jerry left? “Yeah.”
“How is Diana doing, by the way?”
“Not good,” Anne admitted. “I still can’t believe he just…left.”
“Do you know why?”
Anne looked down at her comforter.
The redhead sighed. “He and I had…a weird conversation about a week before prom. It was about Diana…and the future…his future. I don’t know exactly what happened. He wouldn’t say a lot, but…I think Mr. Barry said something to him…about not being able to provide for Diana…about how he knows that Jerry was the reason why Diana didn’t go to school in Paris.”
“Jesus.” Cole waited a beat. “So, that’s why he broke up with her and joined the military?”
It was the first time Anne confessed to anyone that she knew something about the breakup. She still hadn’t put all of the pieces together. The bulk of her summer had been spent distracting her heartbroken best friend, but she was determined to figure out the full story. “I’m not sure what else it could be. God. He loved her so much, Cole. I’ve never…he was in love with her even before I got to Green Gables. I…I know that has to be it.”
“Is it true? Is that why she didn’t go to Europe?”
Anne slowly nodded. “That and she wanted to go to school with her friends…well…” she shrugged, “some of them.”
“I hope she’ll be ok. I’m here and she’s at Queen’s and…I just want her to be ok.” She slowly looked up at him. “But you can’t tell anyone. Diana doesn’t know. No one does. I’ve been…carrying this around for three months.”
“Why haven’t you told her?”
“Jerry told me not to. He said it would be easier. He said he had made his mind up and that…it was for the best.” Anne leaned back against the wall behind her. “I mean…you said it yourself…it seems impossible that anyone would be able to make it work from high school to college. We’re all growing and changing so much that…it only makes sense for people to drift away from one another.”
He gave her a sympathetic smile. “Or closer.”
She returned his smile with one of her own. “One of the few things that’s making this transition bearable for me is the fact that you’re here. I’m so glad I get to go through the next four years with you.”
As the conversation shifted toward their academic aspirations, Anne became more relaxed in the room she first stepped foot in not six hours earlier. She missed her Green Gables and her family, but as she drifted off to sleep later that night, she realized that she was exactly where she was meant to be.
Chapter 4: The Delights of Anticipation
‘Crap, crap, crap,’ was the refrain that repeatedly ran through Anne’s mind as she raced toward the library. She had been running late all day, but had completely forgotten that she needed to stop by Phil’s room in order to grab a few things before she met up with Gilbert at the library.
By the time she raced into the building, she was nearly twenty minutes late. She immediately slowed her pace when she realized that one of the librarians was glaring at her. The very last thing she needed was to be banned from one of her favorite buildings on campus—not to mention her best resource for researching various projects she’d have over the next four years. She offered an apologetic smile to the scowling librarian before she made a beeline toward the back of the building.
She realized that she must have looked about as disheveled as she felt by the time she spotted him at their usual table, but there was no time to fix her appearance. Besides, it wasn’t as if he hadn’t seen her look far worse before. She cringed as her sharp memory betrayed her by instantly replaying some of her ‘greatest hits’ including her failed attempt at dying her hair black when she was thirteen. She tried to chase the memory away as she shifted her focus toward getting to the table without dropping everything in her arms.
When she accidentally knocked off a book at another table, she grimaced and immediately apologized to the annoyed student. When Anne turned back around, he looked up at her. She winced as she began to apologize. “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” she repeated as she finally reached her destination.
Gilbert stood up and reached for some of the items in her hands in an attempt to help her. As he sat the garment bag and hatbox on the table, he glanced back at her. “Anne, what is all of this?”
Anne didn’t immediately respond as she sat the gym bag, her book bag, and a shoebox down on the ground next to the table. She took a deep breath before she finally sighed and slumped into the chair across from Gilbert. “They’re all pieces of my costume for tonight. I’m sorry I’m late I just…I completely forgot that I needed to go by Phil’s room before our study session so I could pick all this stuff up.” As he sat back down in his seat, she leaned over and pulled out her laptop. “Have I apologized for being late yet,” she began before she looked over at him, “because I’m really—“
“You did and it’s not necessary.” He glanced at the items on the table before he realized just why she had to have a costume for that night. “I forgot it was Halloween.”
“I’m not sure how,” she chuckled before she dug through her bag once more in search of her copy of ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. “I mean, Diana and Fred should be here in an hour and the party starts at 8.”
Gilbert furrowed his eyebrows. “Party?”
Anne cut her eyes back to him as she stopped searching for the book. “Yeah. The theatre department is throwing a Halloween party tonight.” She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear before she looked back down at her bag. She knew the book had to be in there. “I know I told you about it.”
Gilbert thought about it for a moment as Anne continued her search. Had she? Granted, he had been a lot busier during the first few months of their collegiate careers than he figured he’d be, but surely he would have remembered a conversation about a party, right? “I…forgot,” he finally offered. As he watched Anne pull the book out and begin to thumb through the pages, Gilbert’s frown deepened. “I thought you hated going to parties.”
“No,” she shook her head as she continued to flips through the pages of Hemingway. “I hate going to a field and watching everyone drink themselves into oblivion. This is different.” She sat the book down on the table before she ran her fingers through her tangled hair. “This is a theatre department function, so there won’t be any alcohol involved and…there’s even a theme.”
“Musicals,” she answered matter-of-factly before she knit her eyebrows together. “I could have sworn we had an entire conversation about this.” She waited a beat before she finally shook her head. She wasn’t sure if Gilbert had just forgotten or if she had dreamt it. Either way, it was apparent that Gilbert had no idea what she was talking about. “Yeah…as soon as they announced it, Moody and I decided that it would be fun if we did Rocky Horror.” She reached for her bag one last time in order to grab a pen. “Um…yeah…so Moody decided to spread his creative wings and is going to strap on a pair of platform heels in order to be Dr. Frank N Furter. Diana is going to be Janet. Fred is going to be Brad. Charlie is going as Riff-Raff. Pris is going to be Magenta. And Cole is going as Eddie.”
Gilbert glanced at the hatbox. Without even thinking, he lifted the lid. Inside, sat a gold sequined hat. “And you’re going as…” he searched his memory for the character’s name, “Columbia, right?”
She smiled. “That’s right.” Her smile quickly faded as she watched him put the lid back on the box. “I could have sworn we talked about this. I mean…it’s part of the reason why Diana and Fred are coming this weekend.”
“Right. Right.” He tried to search his overworked brain for that misplaced memory, but still couldn’t recall any part of the conversation. “What’s going on with them, anyway?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean…they’re coming here this weekend…together…”
Anne leaned back in her seat. “Well, yeah, but they’re not together, together…I mean…Fred is one of your best friends and he’s staying with you guys and Diana’s staying with me and Pris. Them coming here together doesn’t...doesn’t have to mean that they’re…together.”
“Oh, yeah, I know. I was just…wondering. You talk to Diana more than I talk to Fred, so I wasn’t sure what—if anything—was going on between them.”
Anne pursed her lips as she her gaze fell to the table. “I think Diana’s still…processing everything with Jerry.”
“Have you heard from him, by the way?”
“No,” Anne answered a little too quickly. She took a deep breath before she calmly continued. “Why…why do you ask?”
“It’s just weird. You two were so close. Even if he wanted to…break up with Diana…he didn’t have to leave. I don’t know. It seems strange that he would leave Avonlea all together and not say anything to anyone about it.”
“Well, that’s Jerry,” Anne mumbled as she glanced out the window next to them. She was still beyond furious with him. Not just for leaving, but also the fact that she had—in fact—heard from him. She had heard from him several times over the last few months, but he had sworn her to secrecy over the whole thing. He joined the military, determined to prove Mr. Barry wrong and make something of himself. Anne, who had tried to remain as neutral as possible about the breakup, screamed at him on more than one occasion about what he did to the girl he left behind. She wasn’t sure why he didn’t want anyone to know where he was, and she hated that she was now an accomplice to it all. Couldn’t he see what his secret was doing to her? She was exhausted from keeping up the pretense for the last few months. She hated lying about it to Diana, and now, she was forced to lie to Gilbert about it. “You’re coming tonight, right?”
He tapped the back of his pen against the table three times before he finally shook his head. “I have to go to the lab when I leave here. Sarah and I have—“
Anne curiously tilted her head to the side. “Sarah?”
“My biology partner,” he clarified. “We have a project due tomorrow.”
“Who has a project due the day after Halloween?”
“My biology professor. Besides, it is a week night,” he pointed out. “We do have classes tomorrow.”
“Well,” she sighed, “If you get done early, come by Ridgefield Hall. That’s where it will be.”
“Anne, I completely forgot it was Halloween. I…don’t have a costume.”
Anne grinned. She knew he had been busy, but surely he didn’t forget that it was Halloween. “Sure you did,” she answered in a singsong voice. She ran her fingers through her tangled locks once more. “I think you’re just trying to get out of playing Rocky.”
Even though his eyebrows were furrowed, Gilbert smirked. “Isn’t that the guy who runs around in a gold speedo?”
Anne stifled a giggle as she nodded in response. Thinking that the conversation was over, she reached for her book. “So, it’s been awhile since I’ve read ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, but—“
“If you want me to parade around the theatre department in a gold speedo all night, I’ll do it.” He waited a beat before he raised an eyebrow. “Just say the word.”
Anne cut her eyes back to him. There was definitely a hint of a challenge in his tone, but there was something in his stare that Anne couldn’t quite figure out. Even though she couldn’t pinpoint it, her heart instinctively quickened its pace and she felt a blush creep up on her pale features. She nervously cleared her throat. She knew he was daring her, and while she always met his challenges with ones of her own, this time, everything inside of her demanded that she change the conversation.
She shifted her gaze back to the book in her hands. “I wouldn’t do that to anyone,” she answered as evenly as possible, her tone low. “Phil is dressing up as Dr. Scott, or else you could do that one.” She pursed her lips. “I love the idea of a woman playing Dr. Scott, anyway,” she smiled. When Gilbert didn’t respond, she looked up from her book once more. “Look, if you’re able to come, you don’t have to dress up as a character from Rocky Horror. You can put on a lab coat and…come as the future…you know…as Dr. Gilbert Blythe.”
He knew that she was attempting to change the subject, but still, his heart swelled at the confidence in her tone. She said it so matter-of-factly. She seemed so certain that he would become a doctor one day. Admittedly, he was only two months into his course of study, but Gilbert’s confidence in his ability to make that dream a reality had already wavered. It was a lot more work than he had anticipated and he had already missed out on several collegiate events with his friends. He had sacrificed numerous hours of sleep and cherished memories in the pursuit of his future career. He only hoped it’d all be worth it some day.
“I can’t believe you talked me into this,” Diana bemoaned as the small group walked into the auditorium at Ridgefield Hall. She groaned as she took her coat off. “I can’t believe came all the way from Charlottetown to go to a party in my underwear.”
Anne smiled at her best friend as Diana handed her the coat. “You’re in a slip, not just your underwear, and you look amazing.” After she hung up their coats, Anne looked down at her outfit. “Aside from the fact that I definitely can’t fill this out, how do I look?”
Diana took one look at Anne and rolled her eyes. “What are you talking about? You look incredible.”
“You really do,” Pris encouraged as she fluffed up her hair. “I’m so glad you made it this weekend, Diana.”
“Me too,” she grinned.
“I’ve missed you so much,” Anne practically squealed as she threw her arms around Diana’s neck for the fourth time since Diana arrived three hours earlier. “This weekend is going to go by too fast. I just know it.”
“Well,” Diana began as she smoothed out her slip, “Let’s make the most of it then.”
“I still don’t understand how Anne was able to talk all of us into this,” Fred chuckled as he looked down at his outfit.
“At least you’re in a robe,” Cole pointed out as he looked down at his own outfit. “Thank God the party is inside. Half of us would freeze to death.”
“You aren’t kidding,” Moody added as he took off his coat. “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
“Looking good, Spurgeon,” Phil smirked as she brought her unlit cigar to her lips. “If the fine folk of Avonlea could see you now…”
“Oh, I’m sure they will,” Charlie laughed. “Social media prevents anyone from getting away with anything these days.”
“Well,” Moody shrugged, “Hopefully we’ll win the group costume contest and I can make a lasting impression on the department.”
“Oh, I definitely think you’ll make a lasting impression,” Phil deadpanned as she watched Moody adjust his fishnet tights to insure the seams were perfectly aligned.
Nearly a hundred Redmond students showed up for the party. It was intimate enough for Anne to feel relaxed, yet lively enough for everyone to forget the lack of material in their costumes. There was a great mix of first year to fourth year students. Several members of the faculty showed up as well. Anne was grateful that her group were the only ones who decided to do Rocky Horror. She was in awe of the thought and detail put into the other costumes, though. She easily recognized costumes from Chicago, Cabaret, Spring Awakening, Hairspray, Cats, and Hamilton. There were even a few Fantine’s amongst the group.
A wonderful mix of showtunes reverberated throughout the theatre and Anne couldn’t help but to be thankful for the entire experience. This was what she wanted from college—at least socially. She felt like she could be herself, even though she was clad in someone else’s clothing and was pretending to be someone she couldn’t entirely understand. Still, as ‘Hot Patootie’ began to play over the speakers, she knew she had plenty of time to reflect on the evening’s festivities after they were over. Right now, she wanted to live in the moment and that meant finding Cole. As the opening notes rang out through the theatre, she searched him amongst the throng of students on the stage. The moment she finally spotted his leather jacket, she grinned and sprinted toward him, the taps on her shoes clicking the entire way.
When Charlie gestured to the approaching figure behind him, Cole spun around just in time to catch Anne as she jumped in his arms. “It’s our song,” she cooed as the first verse began to play.
“Tell me again why I decided to come here instead of going to school in Vancouver,” he laughed as she hopped out of his arms.
“For this exact moment,” she beamed before she spun under his arm. “How many times have we watched this movie?”
“Enough to know the choreography by heart,” he chuckled as he clasped her hands. “I’m not rolling around on the ground with you, by the way.”
Anne laughed as he spun her around. “Fair enough.”
Both of them sang along as they danced to the song. Several other students danced next to them, but Anne paid them no attention. It was in that moment, that Anne realized just how much she had missed Cole during their final years of high school. Having him around the last few months lessened the pain of not being near Diana. In fact, all of her friends from Avonlea had made the transition from Green Gables to Redmond so much easier than she ever could have imagined, not to mention the fact that most of them agreed to dress up and go to the party with her. She wished that Ruby and Jane were there, but knew that they had promised to go to Jane’s sister’s sorority party a month ago. Still, having everyone else there—even Diana and Fred—made for an enchanting evening. There was another missing, for certain, but Anne knew that he was working as hard as he could in order to achieve his dreams, and she could never fault him for that.
As the song ended, Anne clasped her hands together, elated that the song was on the mix for the party. As she spun around in search of Diana, she noticed someone clad in a white coat walking down the center aisle of the auditorium. The stage lights were the only ones turned on, so it took her a moment to recognize the figure. When she finally did, her smile widened. She wanted to go to him, to hug him, to thank him for making her night complete, but she forced herself to stay exactly where she was until he reached the front row.
As he neared the edge of the stage, she finally walked toward him, the taps of her shoes clicking with every step she took. She placed her hands on her hips as she looked down at him. “You made it.”
“Yeah, we…finished a little early.” Gilbert jogged up the stairs as he made his way onto the stage. “Besides, it’s Halloween.”
“Well, you just missed Cole and my’s big moment,” Anne informed him as she watched him tousle his hair. She tilted her head to the side. “Hmm…” she examined his appearance, “Fake blood, mussed hair, and is that a…” she leaned forward, “a fake mustache?” She grinned. “Dr. Frankenstein, I presume?”
Gilbert took a dramatic bow. “At your service.” When he stood back up he glanced around the room. “I didn’t want to jinx myself by dressing up as the future so…I figured I’d come dressed like how I’ve been feeling the last few weeks.”
“Ahh,” she nodded in approval. “Well, you look great. Ah, that is to say…your costume looks great.”
He looked down at himself before he took a moment to look over Anne’s costume. “Wow. You look…incredible.”
She smiled before she spun around. “Not bad for borrowing most of it from Phil, Pris, and the costume department, huh?”
“Not bad at all,” he smiled. “By the way, I did catch your dance with Cole.”
“And? What did you think?”
Gilbert thought about it for a moment. “It was good, don’t get me wrong. Very true to the show, but…I don’t know. I think I prefer the dance we shared at prom.”
Anne’s smile slowly faltered. Why did he have to bring that up? She wasn’t entirely sure what he was alluding to.
She knew exactly what he was talking about, but since she refused to acknowledge what happened, her only option was to play it safe. “Well, it’s easier to slow dance than to do an upbeat, professionally choreographed dance.” She waited a beat. “Right?”
Gilbert slowly nodded. He had become an expert on when to test the waters with Anne and when to pull back. She seemed so elated when he walked in. He wasn’t about to ruin her mood. “You’re right. Absolutely.”
“Gilbert,” Fred proclaimed as he and Charlie wandered over toward the pair. “You made it.”
“Yeah, I…Sarah and I got done early.”
“Oh? Why didn’t you bring her,” Charlie asked.
“She had other plans.”
“Wait,” Fred glanced at Charlie before he looked back at his best friend. “Who’s Sarah?”
Gilbert opened his mouth to respond, but Charlie was the one who answered. “Gilbert’s lab partner, or so he claims. They’ve been spending a lot of time together. I think something else is going on, but if there is, he’s not saying.”
“Does he ever,” Fred chuckled.
Anne spun around and left in search of someone—anyone—else. She had her own theories concerning Gilbert’s relationship with his mysterious lab partner, but definitely wasn’t going to entertain them that night. She wanted to have fun and not think about anyone’s love life—least of all Gilbert Blythe’s.
As if on cue, she felt her phone vibrate in her jacket pocket. She pulled the device out and immediately frowned at the notification. Of course. Of course her MIA, pseudo-brother would text her now. She frowned as she read his message. He was coming back to the island. He was going to be stationed there, but didn’t want Anne to say anything to anyone until he figured out how to let Diana know. Anne chewed on her bottom lip as she typed out a furious response to him. How dare he continue to do this to her? How was she expected to keep this big of a secret from her best friend, who just so happened to be visiting her that very weekend?
Anne nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She relaxed slightly when she realized it was Cole. “You ok,” he slowly asked.
Anne shook her head. She was incandescently happy not five minutes ago, but now, it felt as if the weight of the world were on her shoulders. She wasn’t sure what to do. How was she supposed to pretend that everything was fine when it seemed to be everything but?
“Want to talk about it?”
She shook her head again. No. She was having a wonderful time before Sarah came up and she got that text from Jerry. She wanted to chase that feeling of pure bliss. She wanted to enjoy the night with her friends instead of thinking about how complicated certain facets of her life had become.
The sign she so desperately wanted finally revealed itself as the opening notes of “Time Warp” began to play. She silently thanked whatever deity that heard her silent plea before she quickly grabbed Cole’s hand and made her way toward the rest of the Rocky Horror bunch. Their time had come and for the next three minutes, the stage was theirs for the taking.
All too soon, the party was over and the spell of the evening faded as the group hung back to help clean up the remnants of the best evening Anne had spent at Redmond thus far. Because of the collective group effort, they were able to get everything back in order in about half an hour.
After Diana and Anne slipped on their coats, the dark haired girl looped her arm through her best friend’s. “That was fantastic,” she beamed.
Anne smirked as she craned her neck in order to look at her best friend. Diana had planned to visit for weeks, but she originally wasn’t supposed to come until the next day. Anne had spent the last week begging her friend to come up one night sooner because she knew she’d enjoy the party. Diana was hesitant at first—especially after Anne revealed which character she wanted her to go as—but as the night wore on, Diana forgot all about it. She knew that Anne was going to pull out all of the stops this weekend in an attempt to get her to transfer to Redmond next fall, and at that moment, Diana had to admit that her best friend was succeeding.
“So,” she glanced at the others, “What’s the plan for tomorrow?”
“Well,” Anne began as they walked out of the building and into the frigid cold. She shivered as the frosty air hit her fishnet-clad legs. “I only have one class tomorrow…Intro to Acting with Moody. We’ve been running monologues all week. We did ours on Wednesday, but if you—“
“Actually,” she interrupted, “Fred and I were talking on the way down here and I want to explore campus for a little while…you know…without a biased person leading the way,” she nudged the girl next to her. “And I definitely want to go into town…”
Anne nodded. “Well, the hockey game is tomorrow and on Saturday, I figured we’d go to some of the shops off campus.”
Diana glanced at the others. “Is everyone going to the game tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Moody answered.
“I’m not,” Pris filled in. “I’m going home this weekend.” She shot Diana an apologetic look. “I hate I’m not going to be here, but that just means you’ll have to come back soon.” She wrapped an arm around the girl. “But at least you’ll have a bed to sleep in this weekend.”
“I’m not going either,” Gilbert informed the group. “I’ll be in the lab tomorrow night.”
“Oh, with Sarah,” Charlie teased with a chuckle.
Gilbert raised his eyebrows in confusion. “She is my lab partner.”
“You’ve spent more time with her than you have with me…and I’m your roommate.”
“Aww,” Moody chirped from behind them. “Sounds like someone’s getting jealous.”
Charlie threw him a look. “I’m not jealous,” he scoffed. “I just think Gilbert needs to come clean about what’s going on.”
Diana elbowed Anne during the exchange. When Anne looked at Diana, she noticed the quizzical look on her best friend’s face as if to ask ‘who’s Sarah?’ Anne merely shrugged in response. She knew about as much as Diana did, yet hated how uncomfortable she instantly felt whenever the mysterious girl’s name came up in conversation.
“You’re going to take some time out of your weekend to hang out with us though, right Gilbert,” Diana prodded.
Gilbert turned to look back at the girls. “Yeah. I’ll be there on Saturday. I just want to make sure that I’m prepared for mid-terms next week.”
“You’re probably ready to perform surgery with how much time you spend in the bio lab,” Moody noted. When Gilbert shot him a look, Moody backpedaled. “But I get it. I mean,” he gestured to the entire group, “We all get it. Your course load is a lot heavier than ours, especially this term.” He turned to Diana and Fred. “I can promise you both that tonight was just a small sampling of the fun we’ll have this weekend. Right Anne?”
The redhead nodded as she gripped Diana’s arm. “Absolutely. You’ll never want to leave.”
Chapter 5: Around the Bend
The rest of Anne’s first semester at Redmond flew by in a flash. Even though she missed her family more than words could possibly express, Anne found several productive ways to cope with their absence. She completely threw herself into her studies. When she wasn’t in class or at the library, she was involved with the campus theatre group or out with friends, some of whom were from Avonlea, others she had picked up over the last few months. As her social circle steadily grew, time marched by a little faster.
Despite their hectic schedules, she and Gilbert managed to met up every Thursday afternoon to discuss the various books assigned to him in his American Literature class. Even though they spent the majority of their time at the library studying, they’d often go out to dinner afterwards or Gilbert would walk Anne back to her dorm so they could catch one another up on their lives.
It was the highlight of their week.
By the time Christmas break came around, Anne was more than ready to visit Green Gables. She was quite proud of the fact that she had only given into her homesickness twice during the semester. As she pulled all-nighters studying for her finals, she dreamt of a beautiful carefree month in Avonlea. That was all the motivation she needed in order to buckle down and finish her first semester with a flourish.
Although she was proud of her final grades, she was even more proud of Gilbert, who received an A in his Literature class. She was elated when he told her the good news as he navigated the winding roads back towards Avonlea. She was definitely in the right major, she deduced as her gaze slowly drifted back toward the window. As she smiled softly at the snow-capped fields, she briefly wondered if she would be this happy when her future students exceled in her own class.
Gilbert, for his part, had been more than thrilled when Anne climbed into the passenger seat of his SUV, leaving Charlie and Moody to sit in the back. It didn’t make sense for Moody to waste gas driving his car back to Avonlea, so they decided to all ride back together since Gilbert had more than enough room for him and Anne to join he and Charlie. They weren’t even half way home before Gilbert heard snoring from the back seat.
Anne couldn’t help but giggle at the sound of Charlie’s boisterous snoring. “You had to deal with that all semester?”
Gilbert chuckled. “Yeah. Thankfully, God invented headphones, so I’ve been able to drown him out most nights.”
Anne shook her head. “I think I would kill Pris if she snored like that.” She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear as she turned back around to look at the road ahead. “One semester down,” she sighed. “It went by so fast.”
“Probably because you were going non-stop the whole time,” Gilbert chided.
“You’re one to talk,” she deadpanned. After a moment, she sighed. “I liked staying busy. I mean…it kept me from showing up at your dorm at one in the morning to beg you to take me back home.” She glanced at him. “I only caved in that one time.”
He smiled softly at the memory. He hated seeing her so distressed, but he had to admit that he loved being the one who could remedy her homesickness. “And we went.”
She nodded. “You drove me home.”
He cut his eyes to her for the briefest of moments before he turned his attention back to the road. “I meant what I said. Any time you need to go, I’ll be happy to take you.”
“Thank you…for doing that. It helped…a lot, actually…just know that you would…it felt like a piece of home was with me.” She swallowed. “Y-You know, with there b-being so many of us from Avonlea at Redmond and all.”
“I told you we wouldn’t all drift away from one another.” He lightly drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. He wanted to tell her how much he had looked forward to their study sessions and how he had hoped they could continue meeting up next semester, but was afraid of the repercussions. What if she detected that his feelings for her were more than platonic? What if she didn’t want to “tutor” him anymore? What if she realized that he could have aced that class without her help?
“You were right.” She snickered playfully. “How are you always right? It’s kind of annoying, you know that?”
“It’s a gift,” he wryly responded.
“Well, I hope you’re prepared to return the favor.”
He furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “Return the favor for what?”
“I helped you with American Lit this semester. I’m hoping you’ll help me with Chemistry next semester.”
So, she did want to continue their study sessions. “Absolutely,” he nodded as he tried his best to conceal the excitement in his tone. “I won’t be able to do Thursday afternoons next semester, though. I’ve got a biology class at 3:00 that day.”
“We’ll work it out,” she assured him. “Thank you.”
She shrugged. “For everything. For agreeing to help me with chemistry. For the coffee you brought me the morning of my history final. For…For driving me back to Avonlea at 1:00 in the morning just because I was homesick. It means…a lot to me, Gilbert. Having a friend like you there this semester…I honestly don’t know how I would have made it without you.”
Hearing her refer to him as a friend made his heart sink. He knew she didn’t mean it in any particular way. Once upon a time, he dreamt of her referring to him as a friend, but now, he wanted more. He didn’t want to just be her friend. He wanted to hold her hand. He wanted to express his feelings for her without fear of it destroying the very fabric of their relationship. He wanted to dream of a future with her at the center of it. He wanted to be a permanent fixture in her world, not just a childhood rival-turned college friend that she could easily discard five years from now.
He knew he couldn’t reveal his dejection. She would press his change in attitude, then he might be forced to admit something he was certain she wasn’t ready to hear yet. ‘No,’ he decided as the pair fell into silence, ‘I’ve waited eight years. I can wait a little longer.’
They had barely made the turn into the driveway at Green Gables before Anne flung open the door and jumped out of the still-moving vehicle.
Thankfully Gilbert, who knew Anne almost as well as he knew himself, quickly braked before the redhead’s feet hit the ground below. He watched in pure amazement as Anne sprinted toward a waiting Diana and her adopted parents. As he put the car in park, he wondered if she’d ever be that happy to see him.
The time and distance melted away with every step she took toward them. The months of homesickness, of trying to fill her time with anything and everything in order to curb the desire to run home, faded away the moment she saw their faces. For the next month, she would be theirs and theirs alone. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt so happy.
She was finally home.
Anne reached Matthew first and practically jumped into his arms as she threw her arms around his neck. Tears shone in her eyes as she reveled in the moment. For—perhaps—the first time in her life, she was completely speechless. Was this real? Was she actually home?
“We saw you turn down the lane,” Marilla told her as she wrapped her arms around Anne. “Diana just got here. We didn’t think you’d be here so soon.”
“We left a little earlier than planned,” Gilbert spoke up as he walked up behind Anne, her luggage in hand.
“Oh, I can take that,” Matthew told Gilbert as he gestured toward the luggage.
“I’ve got it, Matthew,” Anne responded as she pulled away from her best friend. “It’s really heavy and I don’t want your back to go out.”
“I can handle it,” Gilbert insisted. “Just tell me where it needs to go.”
“I’ll show you, Gilbert,” Marilla told him as she walked toward the front door. “Thank you so much for bringing her home.”
“Oh, it was no trouble,” he began nervously as he walked up the front steps. “We were all headed home, so it only made sense for all of us to ride together.”
As Marilla held the door open for him, she glanced back at Matthew. Even though Matthew wanted no part in guessing just what sort of relationship Anne had with Gilbert Blythe, he couldn’t help but to be glad that the younger man seemed to be looking out for her in Halifax. Even though Anne called them frequently, she also wrote Marilla and Matthew letters about all of her adventures.
Matthew couldn’t recall a single letter that didn’t mention the future doctor.
“I’m so glad you’re back,” Diana squealed as she hugged Anne once more. “We have so much to catch up on.”
“I’m afraid a month home won’t be long enough,” Anne answered.
“I can’t believe I haven’t seen you in almost two months.” Diana flipped the page of the magazine she was reading as she lounged across Anne’s bed. “What’s been going on? I mean, you haven’t told me anything other than the fact that you got straight A’s, which congratulations by the way.”
“Thanks.” Anne gave her a small smile as she unzipped her suitcase. “Well…Moody and I both got parts in a play next semester.”
Diana looked up from the magazine and stared at Anne for a few seconds before she slowly raised an eyebrow at her. “Congratulations,” she deadpanned.
Anne nervously chuckled. She knew that look. She had a feeling she knew what Diana was getting at, but she wasn’t about to let her get there so easily. “What?”
“Don’t ‘what’ me, Miss Anne,” Diana scoffed as she sat up. “You haven’t told me anything about…oh…say…you meeting anyone?”
Anne looked at her for a long moment before she finally shrugged and she pulled out a few sweaters from her bag. “I haven’t met anyone,” she told her best friend after a long pause before she turned toward her dresser and tucked the sweaters into a drawer. “Believe me, Diana, if I had, you’d be the first to know about it.”
“I don’t believe you,” Diana narrowed her eyes. “I know you don’t want to talk about it, but I feel like it’s time we finally talk about it.”
“Talk about what?” Anne had always considered Diana to be a kindred spirit. They often understood one another without having to say a word, but she had to admit that she was completely perplexed as to why Diana suddenly had that all-knowing look on her face.
“Let’s see: you helped him out with his literature homework all semester, he brings you home, even carried your luggage up to your room for you…Jane told me that sometimes you’ll go to dinner together…just the two of you. So, Anne, please tell me…are you and Gilbert finally—“
“No!” Anne couldn’t get the word out fast enough. Was this really happening? She thought that the rumors about her and Gilbert would go away the moment they left Avonlea, but instead, it seemed as if there were spies in Halifax, eager to report back to those who’d listen. Anne had let the opinions of others affect her friendship with Gilbert in the past. As much as she detested the thought of being the subject of petty gossip, she wasn’t going to let it ruin one of the best friendships she had. “Diana, come on.”
“Come on, nothing. It’s obvious to everyone how much he loves you. He drove three and a half hours from Halifax to Avonlea in the middle of the night because you were homesick. You’re a writer, Anne. You tell me. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is!”
Anne slammed her dresser shut before she squeezed her eyes shut. Had she noticed the way Gilbert looked at her sometimes? Yes. Had she also seen him go out on dates with other girls? Yes. Had he ever said a word to her that implied that his feelings for her were anything other than platonic? No. “He’s hardly my ideal,” Anne answered evenly as she opened her eyes once more and turned back toward her suitcase.
“I know you’re looking for someone tall, irresistibly handsome, proud, and melancholy,” Diana responded dramatically. She pursed her lips. “I mean…at the very least, you have to admit that he is handsome.”
Anne nodded. “Sure.”
“And he’s changed a lot since his dad passed.”
Anne nodded. It was only natural for someone to be affected by the loss of a family member. When Gilbert came back to Avonlea with Bash, he seemed like a completely different person. The innocence of his boyhood had been stripped away and what remained was someone who was a little more serious and seemed to have a mournful cloud hanging over his head most of the time. Even now, Anne could still detect the darkness that rested behind his hazel eyes.
“And he takes a lot of pride in his grades. Maybe even more so than you.” She waited a beat. “How tall is he again?”
“6’1,” Anne answered offhandedly as she pulled out a few scarves from her bag.
Diana smirked. “So…what’s the problem?”
Anne ran her fingers through her hair as she turned to face her best friend. She had been so preoccupied with unpacking and the memory of Gilbert’s grief-stricken gaze that she had completely zoned out of the conversation. “What?”
“It seems to me that Gilbert checks everything off on your list.”
“You’re forgetting the most important part, Diana.”
Diana furrowed her eyebrows. “What?”
Anne crossed her arms over her chest. “I don’t love him.”
“Don’t? Or won’t?”
Anne groaned. “Look, I know you’ve made it your mission, for whatever reason, to try to get us together, but I don’t see him in that way, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t see me in that way. I’ve known him for almost as long as I’ve known you. If it hasn’t happened by now, it won’t. He’s a good friend. That’s it. So, can we please just put an end to this, already?”
Diana knew when to push her and when to back off. She knew that she had been laying it on pretty thick over the last year, but she couldn’t help it. She knew they’d be perfect together, but maybe she needed to accept Anne’s word for it. If she didn’t love him—or could even conceive of the idea of being in love with him—then there was nothing more Diana could do. “I’m sorry,” she offered sincerely.
“It’s ok,” Anne assured her. “But since you mention it. What about you? Have you met anyone while I’ve been away that you haven’t told me about?”
“No,” Diana easily lied. She wasn’t sure why she was so apprehensive to tell Anne about everything that had transpired over the last two months. Maybe it was because she wasn’t entirely sure how she felt. Maybe it was because she wasn’t entirely sure how Anne would respond. Maybe it was because she strongly suspected that their entire lives were about to change and wanted—for just one sweet month—to enjoy their youth.
Chapter 6: A New Departure in Flavorings
When Gilbert first returned to Avonlea with Bash, Marilla made it her mission to keep a watchful eye on the two young men. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe that they were capable of surviving on their own. Quite the contrary: she had been so proud of Gilbert for heeding his father’s advice to explore the world (although she did wish he had finished school before doing so). Still, Marilla had always had a soft spot for the youngest Blythe, and now with John gone, he was the last surviving member of his family. Her past with John aside, Marilla wanted to make sure that Gilbert knew that there were people who loved him as one of their own. She hadn’t expected him to come back from his adventures with a roommate, but after one conversation, she could tell that the pair seemed more like brothers than acquaintances.
She invited Bash and Gilbert to Green Gables for Easter dinner that year. From that one invite stemmed an open invitation for the boys to join the Cuthbert’s for any and all holiday meals. Even now, with Gilbert and Anne off at Redmond, the Lacroix’s and Cuthbert’s shared at least one meal together a week, only now, Bash was accompanied by his wife, Mary, who insisted that they trade off who would host the meal every week.
Now, nearly two years later, the families were practically inseparable, especially around the holidays. The Cuthbert’s were set to host Christmas, as Mary hosted Thanksgiving two months earlier. Anne knew that the bonding of her family with Gilbert’s only added fuel to the fire as far as the rumors of Anne and Gilbert’s relationship was concerned, but she didn’t care. She loved Bash and Mary and was grateful that her adopted family had such close friends as neighbors. She knew Marilla always had her best friend, Rachel Lynde to lean on, but the Lynde’s always traveled during the holidays, visiting one child or another. This way—even if Anne was in Halifax—Matthew and Marilla wouldn’t be alone on any given holiday.
Anne tried to help in the preparations, of course, but her talents, unfortunately, were not in the kitchen. After one particularly horrifying incident involving the addition of sawdust to pudding, she was mercifully excused from helping to prepare any meals. She had always been better at housework and helping Matthew whenever she could with chores around the farm, but after that particular incident, she realized that cooking would always be the bane of her existence.
Despite that, Anne was excited to share the holidays with her neighbors. She missed the Lacroix’s almost as much as she missed her own family. She couldn’t wait to hear another tale from Bash about his travels around the world and Anne adored Mary. They were a perfect match in Anne’s eyes. There seemed to be a silent give and take between them. They seemed to always know what the other was thinking and the way they looked at one another made Anne absolutely envious. Would she ever meet someone like that? Would she ever feel that way about someone and have that someone feel the same way about her? As much of a romantic as she thought she was, she always marveled at how impossible it seemed to find real romantic love with someone. Still, Mary and Bash found it, and not that long after Bash first arrived in Avonlea. They only dated for a few months before he proposed. They married soon after, eager to make up for the years spent without one another.
And now, a little over a year after their wedding, Mary was expecting their first child.
As Anne marveled at how quickly things could change in such a short period of time, Marilla passed the bowl of mashed potatoes to the young man seated across from her. “So, Gilbert, how was your first semester?”
“It was good,” he nodded as he reached for the spoon. “Busy, but good.”
“You’re too modest,” Mary grinned as she placed some green beans on her plate. “He made straight A's,” she proudly told the Cuthbert’s. Admittedly, she was perplexed by the relationship Gilbert and Bash had when she first met them nearly two years ago, but considering the fact that neither of them had any close relatives, they created their own family. As Mary fell in love with Bash, she came to love Gilbert as if he were a member of the family. She placed a hand on her swollen stomach. “I can only hope this one will follow in your footsteps.”
“I’m sure she will,” Gilbert chuckled. “If you only give her half of the support you’ve both given me the last year, she’ll conquer the world.”
“What about you, Anne,” Bash asked the redhead who sat across from him. “How did you do?”
“All A's,” she smiled.
“I’m not surprised,” he nodded as he chuckled. “You two have been in competition with one another since the day I met you. Makes sense that it would continue in college.”
“Unintentionally,” Gilbert clarified. He recognized the fact that he and Anne had gone back and forth in their academics since Anne first came to Avonlea, but he wouldn’t consider it a rivalry, at least on his part. She pushed him to be better, to study harder, to push the bounds of his knowledge. He had hoped he had done the same for her. Now that they were in college, he hoped that it would become more evident that there never was an actual rivalry between them. “We don’t have any of the same classes.”
“Still,” Bash gave his friend a knowing look, “Old habits die hard.”
“It’s not so much a rivalry as…”
“…as we’re encouraging one another to make the best grades possible,” Anne finished for Gilbert. He gave her a grateful smile in return. So, he mused, she did consider their academic relationship to be a healthy one.
“I think that’s wonderful,” Marilla commented. “Have you met a lot of interesting people?”
Gilbert nodded. Even though he spent the bulk of his first few months in Halifax pouring over his books and practically locked up in the lab, he had met several fascinating people. “I miss Avonlea, but it’s nice to meet people from different places and backgrounds.”
Anne smirked as she pushed around the food on her plate. She knew Gilbert had spent most of the last few months in the bio lab with one particular person.
“So, it’s kind of like the steamer, then?”
“Sort of,” Gilbert began as she shifted his attention toward Bash. “Except we’re all on the same level…just trying to figure out what to do with our lives.”
Anne’s lips formed a thin line before she looked up at the pre-med student. “Yeah, but you already have all of that figured out. I mean…you’ve wanted to be a doctor for almost two years now. After you got caught up in what you missed while you were gone, you went ahead and took some general education classes…while you were still in high school.” She knew her jealousy was showing, but she didn’t care. She had bottled it up for months and knew she had to come to terms with it. She was jealous over the certainty he felt about his future, his commitment to discipline, his inability to accept ‘no’ as answer. She wished she had that kind of drive. As much as she enjoyed helping him the last semester, and even though she was fairly certain she wanted to be a teacher, there was so much more she wanted to do as well. With a longing to be more than that, how could she be certain that she was on the right path? Knowing that none of her doubts were his fault, her tone softened. “I mean…you’re about two steps ahead of the rest of us.”
Gilbert glanced at his plate before he looked back at Anne. “I…I don’t have…everything figured out.” ‘Not even remotely,’ he silently lamented as he looked into the eyes of the one woman who unknowingly held all of the answers to his own unexpressed doubts about the future.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “What don’t you have figured out?”
He held her gaze for a long moment before he turned toward the expectant faces around him. “For starters,” he managed to recover, “I’m…not sure what specialty I want to focus on. I might be a little bit ahead, but I still have a long way to go.” His gaze landed on Anne once more. “Besides, you know what you want to do too, and you’ll get there a lot quicker than I will.”
Anne bit the inside of her cheek as her gaze fell back to the food on her plate. Would that be enough? Would she feel fulfilled enough by teaching alone? It was true that she wanted to be a teacher ever since she first sat in Miss Stacy’s science class freshman year, but over the last several weeks, when she thought to the future, it seemed murky, at best. She wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted now.
Marilla noticed the sudden change in Anne’s demeanor. Perhaps it was the way she slowly sat her fork down or the fact that she allowed such a palpable silence to fall on the table. “Are you ok, Anne?”
“Hmm?” She looked up at Marilla’s expectant face. “Oh, yeah,” she nodded as she shifted her position in the chair. “I’m great.”
After dinner, Anne was in dire need of some fresh air, so she quickly excused herself while the others began to clean up. She didn’t want the lightheartedness of the evening vanish because she felt so uncertain about her fate. She needed a moment to herself in order to collect her thoughts; however, after sensing a complete shift in her mood, Gilbert also excused himself and followed her out of the house.
“Anne! Where are you going,” he called out as he jogged toward her. He knew that Christmas had always been Anne’s favorite holiday. She had always had a penchant for talking non-stop about anything and everything, but she was different around Christmas. She had a twinkle in her eye and a sense of wonderment that Gilbert found intoxicating. She didn’t care about the presents that awaited her under the tree or about the town’s annual Pantomime. She simply loved being around her friends and family. It was just one of the million (or so) things about her that he found so refreshing. She never took one second of time spent with her family for granted. The only people who could really understand and appreciate that were those who had experienced familial loss. It was one unfortunate thing they had in common with one another: they were both orphans. He was one of the lucky ones. He never had to go through the system. He never had to deal with terrible foster families and be shuffled around from orphanage to orphanage. He found Bash, and then Mary, and while he missed his biological family every day, he knew how fortunate he was to have found another family—filled with just as much love as the first.
“I just…needed some air,” she answered as she buttoned her coat. It was a lot colder outside than she had anticipated, and yet, the sting of the freezing air seemed to rejuvenate her.
“Was it something I said?”
She shook her head before she lowered her gaze and continued her trek toward the barn. It was dark outside, but Anne didn’t care. She knew the farm like the back of her hand and could easily navigate her way around in the dark.
“Then, what’s going on?”
“Nothing,” she lied.
Gilbert stopped walking as he reached out and lightly grabbed her elbow in an attempt to get her to halt her hurried footsteps. When Anne finally turned around to face him, he took a step closer to her. “I may not know you as well as Diana does, but I do know when you’re lying.” He gave her a half smile.
“Oh yeah?” Annoyance crept up in her tone. “How?”
“You can’t look someone in the eye and lie.” He shoved his hands into his jacket pockets. “I…uh…figured that out not long after I met you.”
Anne rocked back on her heels as her gaze slowly drifted back to the ground. Was that true? “I’m fine.”
“You see,” he smirked before he glanced at the house behind him. “Look, we can stand out here and argue about it all night or you can talk to me and we can go back inside and enjoy some of the butter tarts Mary made.”
Anne was silent for a long moment before she finally groaned. Maybe she needed to voice her concerns. Maybe saying it out loud would offer her clarity that the last few weeks failed to provide. “Fine,” she huffed before she spun around and stalked towards the barn.
Gilbert lagged a few steps behind her. When Anne opened one of the doors to the barn, he opened the other. She turned on the overhead light before she finally sat down at Matthew’s workbench. Gilbert leaned against it as he waited for Anne to speak.
She looked down at her hands for a long moment before she closed her eyes and sighed once more. “Lately, I’ve been…unsure about…what I want to do…about teaching.”
Gilbert frowned. “Ok,” he slowly began, “what are you unsure about?”
“If that’s what I really want to do. I haven’t taken a single class for it yet, but the thought of…I don’t…I mean…will it be enough for me? Will I feel fulfilled? Is it really where my passion lies or is there something else out there that might…might make me happier?”
“Do you think that’s what it is, or do you think that you’re just worried?”
Anne furrowed her eyebrows as she looked up at him. “What would I be worried about?”
Anne shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t know.” She sighed. “I…I thought I was ready for all of this. I thought that I was ready to go off to school, to get my degree and start my adult life, but now all I can think about is going back to high school because I’m not ready, Gil. I’m not ready to make all of these decisions. At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be ready.”
“It seems perfectly normal to me,” Gilbert offered. “We are at a point in our lives where we need to make some decisions, but Anne, not every decision is a permanent one. If you stick with education and realize a year from now, even two years from now, that you don’t want to pursue it anymore, you can change your mind. You don’t have to have everything figured out right now. It’s all a part of growing up. There’s still time.”
“I just…I hate not knowing. I hate not being able to be in control…or even not knowing my own mind. I’ve always known what I want, but now…after only one semester, I’m questioning everything.”
“Well, is there anything else you’re interested in?”
Anne sighed once again. There was something else, but it was ridiculous and something she wasn’t really planning on discussing with anyone, let alone with Gilbert Blythe. She figured she’d talk to Diana about it first, but Diana hadn’t been around as much as Anne had assumed she’d be. Diana typically spent a lot of time with her family around the holidays, but this year, it seemed as if Diana had become a ghost. She hadn’t seen her best friend since the day she came home for break and that was nearly two weeks ago.
Maybe they really were drifting apart?
Anne shuddered at the thought. Diana was her best friend. She couldn’t imagine her life without the raven-haired beauty in it. It was ridiculous. It was just a busy time in the year. Surely, they would see one another more after the New Year arrived.
“Anne,” Gilbert gently prodded.
Anne looked up at him. Was she actually about to confide in him about this? What if he laughed at her? She blinked a few times. No. He’d never laugh at her passions. “You can’t…tell anyone. Not Bash or Mary…or…anyone.”
“Because I haven’t told anyone yet, so if this gets out, then I’ll know who—“
“Anne…” Did he really have to say it? When she made no move to continue the conversation, he sighed. “You know I won’t say anything.”
She ran her fingers through her hair. “It’s ridiculous. I’m not sure if I could actually make a career out of it, but…I’ve been thinking about writing…creative writing.” God. It seemed ridiculous to even speak it into existence. When she was younger, she used to write stories every free second she had, but the last few years offered her little free time for it. Besides, writing fantastical stories when she was a child was something completely different from seriously pursuing it as a profession.
Despite the fact that he was shocked to hear that Anne had doubts about her chosen major, he wasn’t surprised to hear what it was that Anne found interest in. The girls used to write short stories all the time, several of which were published in the school newspaper. He had wondered if she had given that up when he came back to Avonlea, but never asked why. He knew that she had been incredibly protective of it. If she wanted to share that with him, then she would have. “Why don’t you take a class?”
She snickered. “Thanks for the brilliant idea, Gilbert,” she wryly responded. “I hadn’t thought about that.”
He shrugged. “You never know until you try. You could always double major. It would mean more work, but we both know that you’re more than capable of handling it.”
She nodded before she lowered her head and placed her palm against her forehead. “I’m sorry.” She knew she was taking her frustration out on him when he didn’t deserve it. “I know you’re just trying to help. I’ve actually been thinking about dropping chemistry in order to take a creative writing class…you know…just to see…” she gave him a small smile, “…and to put off chem for another semester.”
Gilbert couldn’t keep the look of disappointment off his face at the prospect of not having a reason to see Anne as frequently as he had been. Still, if this was something she was seriously considering, he wanted to be supportive. “Then do that,” he told her. “Chemistry can wait until next year.”
She looked over at him. “Are you just saying that to get out of tutoring me every week,” she chuckled. Maybe dropping chemistry and picking up creative writing would be more beneficial for both of them. Math classes had always given her trouble, and while chemistry was considered a science, there was a lot of math involved. Besides, if he didn’t have to tutor her, Gilbert would have more time to focus on his own class work.
He met her gaze with one of his own. He opened his mouth to make some light-hearted remark about her decision being mutually beneficial for both of them, but he didn’t. Instead, he slowly closed his mouth as he stared into her practically translucent gray eyes. Was she able to peer into the depths of his soul at that very moment? Was she unearthing the secret he had kept hidden from everyone for the last eight years? Of course, he knew that there were those who questioned how he felt about the fiery redhead that sat next to him, but he never once confirmed any of those suspicions. If he ever did, it would only be to her.
As the seconds ticked by, Anne grew uneasy under Gilbert’s stare. These moments were rare, but whenever he looked at her like that, her internal alarm would go off and Anne would feel an overwhelming desire to get as far away from him as humanly possible. She cleared her throat as she slowly got up from her seat. “Thank you,” she told him as she crossed her arms over her chest. “Seriously, Gilbert. Talking about it…getting it out in the open…helped. I…I think I will take that class.”
Gilbert diverted his gaze from her. “Yeah, uh…that’s what I’m here for.” He pushed himself off of the table as he followed her out of the barn. “I’m just surprised you haven’t talked to Diana about it yet.”
Anne bit the inside of her cheek. “Yeah, well, she’s been a little…preoccupied. I haven’t seen her at all since we got back.”
“Cut her some slack,” he smiled as he closed one of the barn doors. “They’re still in the honeymoon phase.”
Anne wrinkled her nose. “What?”
It took him a minute to realize that Anne had no clue what he was talking about. How was it possible that she didn’t know? He sighed as he closed his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I thought you already knew.”
“Knew what,” she nervously laughed. ‘Honeymoon phase?’
“Diana and Fred have been dating for the last few months.”
Anne’s eyes widened in pure shock. “What?”