Anne could have written epic poetry about the full moon illuminating the sky. It’s a cool night, enough that she can sit in the front of Miss Stacy’s house and admire the stars without feeling cold. She had not expected the day to turn out the way it did. Not after the fight with Diana. But she wasn’t going to think about that. Her friends had rallied together to fight against injustice, Josie had come with them and they didn’t hate her anymore. Things were good.
Anne takes a deep breath, enjoying the fresh air and clearing her mind. The door opens behind her.
Somehow, she knows exactly who it is before she even hears his voice.
“You sure pulled that off,” Gilbert says, sitting next to her.
Anne looks up at him. “We did,” she corrects him, unable to stop a smile from coming to her lips, because it’s the truth. None of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for him. He was the reason everyone had joined along. He breathes out a laugh, but she wouldn’t let him breeze past this as if it had been nothing. “What in the world did you say to our class to make them change their minds about me?”
Gilbert smiles bashfully, looking at her. It was a good thing it was dark. This way she couldn’t be distracted by thoughts of eyes and romance. This way they were Anne and Gilbert, classmates and family friends, and no disruptive musings of destiny and crushes would intrude in their conversation.
“I reminded them that you always find a way to make things right,” he tells her, a laugh in his words.
Anne scoffs. The irony, really, that he’d be the one to say that. “Our historical precedent would suggest otherwise,” she reminds him, looking away. She catches him shaking his head from the corner of her eye, but it’s good-natured. They’re not fighting. It’s kind of odd, when she thinks about it. “Speaking of which, shouldn’t we be arguing about something right now?”
“Probably,” Gilbert agrees, nodding, but he’s smiling as well. “You wanna start?”
“I can’t think of anything,” Anne muses, a little taken aback. There used to always be something. Not even the memory of the fair can make her angry right now. She’s feeling good, and a lot of it is because of him. Gilbert had stuck to her side throughout the entire ordeal. He had stood up on that stage and ripped those men’s suggestions in front of the entire town with a smile on his face. The only thing she can feel towards him right now is gratefulness.
“Me neither,” he says and she glances at him, finding him staring at her. She looks back up at the stars and they chuckle, laughing together.
Anne can’t remember if they’ve ever done that before. Laugh while having a pleasant conversation under the stars with no yelling or rude, thoughtless words. It’s good, better than the fighting she’s so used to.
Scary, too. But that thought doesn’t manage to lessen her smile.
“After all these years,” he starts, and she turns to him again. She can’t help but study his profile. How had it taken her this long to realize how handsome he was? She feels like she can’t take her eyes away from his chin. “Who knew we’d make such a good T-E-A-M?”
He looks at her as well. The reference to their long ago competition and jokes about spelling brings warmth to her cheeks. Now, even in the dark, Anne manages to get lost in his eyes. They’re sitting close together. Closer than she had realized. Closer than ever before, probably. At least the closest they’ve been since she had understood the confusing feelings she’d get whenever he was near her. She’s also incredibly aware of the fact that they’re alone and that no one has realized they’re not inside yet.
Gilbert adjusts, turning more fully to her, and it knocks her breath away. He’s handsome. Too handsome. And he’s staring at her as well, seemingly also unable to tear his eyes away from her face. It feels like a moment straight out of a romance novel. Her eyes flit down to his lips and snap back up to his eyes before she can have the time to come up with any improper thoughts. His eyes flit over her face. He seems like he’s about to move closer to her.
Anne feels like he’s going to kiss her. It’s crazy, and yet she wants it to happen.
Except, no, she can’t.
This is wrong.
“Winifred,” she blurts out, to remind herself and him, “is a lucky gal.” Gilbert takes a breath and she doesn’t think she’s imagining the way he moves away from her a little. Anne tells herself she shouldn’t feel sad about it. This is the right thing to do. He’s courting someone else, after all. “Thank you for today and everything. I should get back.”
She gets up without waiting for his reply. She doesn’t really want to hear it. It’d hurt too much to have to listen to Gilbert talk about her. She’d rather spare herself the humiliation.
She’s almost at the door when his voice reaches her again.
“Wait. Anne,” he calls, and she does. Of course she does. It was getting harder to ignore him and his requests every day. Almost impossible, really. She finds herself turning to him when he calls more and more often.
She does so now as well, even though she knows she shouldn’t. Gilbert is standing on the lower step, hands wringing together in front of his body.
“Yes?” she asks in a cool voice, pretending she hadn’t noticed the moment they had just had. Pretending she doesn’t remember the blonde, graceful woman hanging off his arm a few days ago. Pretending her heart isn’t crushed, like her chest doesn’t hurt when she looks at him, like she doesn’t wish that it had been her there with him, only her dancing with him and having his eyes on her.
“I’m not with Winifred,” he says, then, words coming out so fast she almost tells herself she got it wrong.
But she didn’t. Gilbert steps up to the porch, crosses the distance between them and stares at her with his eyes that she can somehow see in the moonlight. His eyes that she can somehow tell are full of something that she’s seen before when talking about the take notice board and when holding hands during the dance practice and when being greeted by her friends after the newspaper’s scandal just yesterday.
“What?” she breathes out, her throat tight and unable to come up with anything else.
“She’s just a friend,” he says, sounding more certain this time. “I know it looked different at the fair but there’s nothing actually going on between us. I don’t…” he stops, clearing his throat, and Anne wants to yell at him to continue, to keep going and clarify this whole situation, to stop doing this to her because it hurts. But she doesn’t. She just waits until his eyes find hers again. “I don’t have those kind of feelings. Not for her.”
Anne’s quite aware that he might be saying that he might have feelings for someone else but she’s used to jumping to conclusions too fast and she doesn’t want to do it this time. She can’t screw this up. She waits.
“I—” he starts again, shuffling his feet. The motion brings him closer to her. “I’m sorry I made you think there was something between me and her.”
“Gilbert, you don’t have to explain yourself to me,” she says, shaking her head.
He shakes his head even more vehemently than she does.
“But I want to,” he tells her earnestly.
It knocks her breath away again.
Don’t read into it, Anne. Don’t do it. You’ll only hurt yourself more. Don’t do it.
He takes a step closer to her and grabs her hand. Anne’s eyes widen, shivers running through her skin from the spark she feels at his touch. It’s like they’re back to the school house, sharing secret smiles and laughs in a dance as if none of their classmates were around.
Anne looks up at him. His eyes are wide as well, shining with emotion in a way that she can’t deny anymore. This could ruin everything, but there has to be a reason for Gilbert to be telling her this, to be holding her hand like this, right? She can’t be making it all up, no matter how fertile her imagination has always been. This has to be real.
“Anne, you have to know—” he starts to say again, before she cuts him off.
In a burst of courage she didn’t know she had, Anne stands on her tiptoes and presses her mouth to his. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, but Gilbert’s lips are soft under hers and he lets out a surprised breath that hits her face in a warm puff of air and Anne can’t convince herself this was a mistake. He doesn’t let go of her hand or push her away as she had thought he would. Instead, his hold on her hand tightens and he pulls on it, making her take a step forward and, in a very Anne-fashion, stumble onto him.
Their lips disconnect and he lets go of her hand to grab her waist so she doesn’t fall. There’s almost no space between them now. She can see every detail of his face in the dim lighting, even the faint freckles scattered over the top of his nose and cheekbones. Anne thinks that, if it had been daytime, she’d be able to catch all the different specks of color in his irises. As it is, she can only see the hazel they make up and that stares back at her, so many emotions hiding under them she can’t tell what Gilbert’s thinking.
His hands don’t let go of her waist.
He’s panting, a bit of color to his cheeks. Anne feels out of breath as well, even though the kiss had probably only lasted a few seconds. It had felt a lot longer than that. She looks down at his lips. They look puffier than before. God, had she done that? She wants to crawl under a rock and hide until the end of time. Gilbert isn’t saying anything. Maybe she had reached the wrong conclusion and had just ruined everything between them. This had possibly been the last nice conversation they had ever had and it was all because Anne had been reckless and stupid and flighty, as usual.
“I’m sorry,” she blurts out, looking back up into his eyes. She still doesn’t have the strength to step back from him, though. His hands on her waist seem to be burning right through her dress. It’s incredibly distracting.
She’s grateful for the lack of lighting so that Gilbert can’t see just how well her skin matches her hair right about now.
His eyes are roving over her face. Anne waits with a held breath, certain he’s about to yell at her for ruining everything. She tells herself she can take it. Looking into his eyes gets too intense, too much going on in their depths, so she directs her gaze to his right cheekbone. Looking further down than that would only cause her distractions right now and she can’t afford that.
“No,” is what Gilbert says, finally, shaking his head. Anne snaps her eyes back to his, scared of what this means, scared that their friendship is over, scared that she’s just—
He kisses her again. She can’t help but let out a sound of surprise as one of his hands leaves her waist to cup her cheek and tilt her head up as his lips descend on hers, but then she closes her eyes, melting into him. Her own hands come up to his shoulders and she pushes herself onto her tiptoes again. The kiss lasts longer than a few seconds this time.
Gilbert kisses her like he’s desperate, his mouth pressed to hers with a lot more intensity than before. Anne does her best to match him, but she’s pretty sure she’s botching it all up. Suddenly, she understands all the fuss about kissing she’s read in her books and heard from the other girls. There’s so much feeling in it, she doesn’t think she can face what all of it means. Gilbert’s mouth on hers feels like a miracle and Anne doesn’t want to ever stop kissing him.
When they part again, she can finally understand the look he has when he looks at her. It’s pure adoration.
Anne’s smiling. She doesn’t think she can ever stop. He is too. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.
“You are certainly something else, Anne Shirley-Cuthbert,” Gilbert breathes out, and there’s a raspiness in his voice that sends a shiver down her spine.
“Thanks,” she says, simply, because she doesn’t think she can say anything else right now.
He chuckles, apparently finding it funny that she’s incapable of rational thinking. Anne steps away from him to clear her head, her hands falling from his shoulders, and his from her waist. He grabs her hand before she can do anything else, though. His eyes search hers with earnest. She smiles at him again. With a relieved breath, he smiles back at her.
“Should we get back inside?” Gilbert asks, a little hesitant.
Anne nods, biting her lower lip. His eyes follow the gesture. She feels herself blush even more.
“They must be wondering where we are,” she says, clearing her throat. He nods in agreement and they head for the door.
Gilbert only lets go of her hand when they open the door. As they walk into he house, Anne really wishes her friends won’t look at her too closely. She’s pretty sure what just happened is written clearly on her face and that they’ll all figure it out.
When Gilbert smiles at her, though, a secret, fond smile, she can’t really bring herself to worry about it much.