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i love you, ain't that the worst thing you've ever heard?

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She’s running out of the house before she’s even thought it through properly.

I’m in love with Gilbert Blythe.

It had hit her suddenly, the realization of the confusing feelings brewing inside of her ever since their dance together. Or the hug they had shared. Or the conversation about the take notice board. Or, if she was being honest, ever since she had met him. It had all come to a halt, the thought that she’s in love with him, has been in love with him for a while now, and that she needed to do something.

She was going to lose him.

Permission… To propose.

She almost stumbles in the path, almost stops and turns back to Green Gables because how could she do this to him? How could she do this to his future? What could Anne Shirley-Cuthbert offer him when he had Winifred Rose and Sorbonne instead? She couldn’t do this to him.

And yet.

What’s holding you back?

Just… One thing.

Gilbert had looked at her as if she was the answer to every problem he had ever faced and she had – once again – stuck her foot in it. Her drunken mind hadn’t been able to make sense of it. Of the implications of his words. Of what he could possibly mean when he looked at her like that. It was too much. Too many feelings. Too much of Gilbert Blythe. And then the girls had arrived and she hadn’t known what she was supposed to say to him and he had left. Gilbert Blythe was going to propose to someone else.

And Anne Shirley-Cuthbert was in love with him.

I suppose I’ll have my tragical romance after all.

She’s running faster now. She doesn’t know what he’ll say to her admission. If he’ll even accept it. But she has to try. It’s her last chance. If he doesn’t accept it, he’ll move to France with his beautiful Winifred Rose and she won’t ever see him again. But at least she’ll have tried. She can’t let him go off to France without making sure he knows how she feels about him. Without making sure she understands how he feels about her.

The path to the Blythe-Lacroix’s homestead feels a thousand times longer than normal. She’s huffing out breaths already, her legs starting to burn, but she can’t stop. She has to reach Gilbert. The words are already threatening to escape her, an ache in her chest telling her she needs to tell him. She needs him to know.

His house comes into view. Anne draws up short. Maybe she can’t actually do this. Perhaps it’s better that he end up with Miss Winifred Rose anyway. She seemed like a lovely woman at the fair. A much better fit for him than she could ever be. A freckled, red-headed orphan with barely anything to her name.

Her legs are moving again before she can stop herself. Gilbert’s eyes burning into her mind, the clear conscience that she’s in love with him shining through every other thought. She has to do this. She has to tell him.

Anne Shirley-Cuthbert was not a coward.

And Gilbert Blythe had looked at her as if he might love her too.

She climbs the stairs up to their porch. She stops in front of the door. She takes a breath. She knocks.

There’s a moment, a brief span of time where she stares at the wood and the door doesn’t open and she thinks she’s too late and he’s left and Gilbert Blythe will marry Winifred Rose and move to France and Anne Shirley-Cuthbert will spend the rest of her life imagining what could have been.

And then the door opens.

Gilbert is the one there.

She had thought that maybe it would be Bash that would open it. Or perhaps his mother. There were infinite possibilities where she didn’t have to face Gilbert at once. And yet.

He’s the one standing there, a frown between his eyebrows and his eyes staring at her as if he can see right down to her soul.

Anne wonders if he can see how she feels about him. She’s pretty sure it’s written clearly in her face. But then again, Gilbert had always seemed a little oblivious when it came to her and her feelings for him.

He’s staring at her as if he can’t quite figure her out. It’s a look she’s grown accustomed to coming from him.

“Anne?” he says, still propping the door open, apparently paralyzed just like she is. He doesn’t invite her in. His deep voice sends a shiver down her spine.

God, was she always this hopeless when it came to Gilbert Blythe?

“Hi,” Anne squeaks out. She closes her eyes forcefully. How embarrassing. Why was she always like this in front of him?

“What are you doing here?” he asks. Anne opens her eyes again.

He’s in a white shirt and suspenders. There’s no vest in sight this time. It brings a blush to her cheeks, Gilbert’s physique clearer than she’s ever seen it before. His hair is mussed up, as if he’s hasn’t had the time to get completely ready to leave the house yet. It makes her feel relieved at the same time she’s wondering what exactly she’s doing here.

“Anne?” he repeats and she snaps her eyes up to his.

She’s definitely blushing. It probably looks horrendous with her red hair.

“I have to tell you something,” she blurts out, words jumbling together. She doesn’t bother repeating. She doesn’t need she can, really.

Gilbert frowns even more, his hand leaving the door as he crosses his arms in front of his chest. His sleeves are pushed up, revealing his forearms. It’s a terrible time for her to notice that. She focuses on his face again. His eyes are warm, shiny, hopeful. It warms her from inside as well.

“Yeah?” he breathes out, his voice soft. “What’s going on?”

“I—” Anne starts, but then breaks off. The next words she needs to say get stuck in her throat. It feels impossible, all of a sudden. Gilbert Blythe is staring at her and he looks impossibly handsome and grown up and she’s just a girl what is she even doing here?

She gapes, mouth hanging open, and can’t muster up any other sounds.

“Did you forget what you wanted to say?” he asks and Anne blinks.

It’s an echo to months before. To a conversation (if it can even be called that) in the empty schoolhouse where they had stood closer together than ever before. Anne had tried to figure something out back then, as well. Had looked into his eyes searching for romance, but she hadn’t known exactly what to look for. Hadn’t realized that for the past three years Gilbert has looked at her in the exact same way. Hadn’t noticed that the sparkle in his hazel eyes and the warmth as he looked at her had been what Ruby had been talking about.

She had ruined everything back then. She won’t do that again.

“Have you proposed to Winifred?” comes out of her mouth in a rush. It’s a safe bet to avoid getting her feelings crushed and herself humiliated.

Gilbert is the one gaping now, his mouth falling open at her words as his eyes rove over her face, searching for something. Anne wishes he can find it.

“No,” he answers, in a tight, almost nonexistent voice.

She lets out a relieved breath. The butterflies in her stomach are flying so intensely she feels like she’s about to throw up.

“Oh.”

Gilbert’s eyes flicker between hers.

“Yeah.”

He seems to be waiting for something. Anne knows this is it. This is the moment she says it. She needs to tell him.

The words seem to be stuck within her, something holding them back.

She’s scared. So, so scared of what he’ll say. She’s probably gotten it all wrong. How could Gilbert Blythe ever have feelings for her? She’s Anne, just Anne. What could he have possibly seen in her?

“Anne?” Gilbert repeats, once again, and she realizes how beautiful her name sounds in his voice. So not plain, as she had ever thought. When he says it, her name sounds like music.

“I’m in love with you.”

Her eyes widen. Gilbert freezes. The five words that have escaped her mouth hang between them. Anne knows she can’t ever take them back. They mark a before and an after. There’s no going back in their friendship to the moment before Anne Shirley-Cuthbert had told Gilbert Blythe that she’s in love with him. This is it. She’s changed everything. It’s on him now.

Except, Gilbert doesn’t say anything. He stands there, staring at her looking completely gobsmacked, but no words come out of him.

It doesn’t take her long to realize she’s made a mistake.

Anne clears her throat, looking away from him. Her entire body is burning up and she wouldn’t doubt that all of her is red right now. She’s never felt this embarrassed before. She’s about to cry, but she can’t do it here. Not in front of him.

“Right,” she croaks out. “I’ll best be off, then.”

With a painful breath and her eyes burning with unshed tears, Anne turns around, ready to leave Gilbert Blythe behind forever.

A hand closes around her wrist before she can take a step.

“Wait,” his voice comes from behind her.

He sounds ruined.

Anne can’t turn around to face him.

But then he pulls on her wrist and whirls her around and she stumbles in surprise and she’s facing him and they’re standing too close to each other. Closer than they had been the day she had searched for romance in his eyes. Closer than they were when they danced together.  Closer than yesterday night when he had helped her get down from that log and she, in her drunken haze, had stepped closer to him than she had intended to.

Neither of them steps away this time.

His eyes, the shiny, hazel eyes she’s been so obsessed with for the past few weeks, months, years flicker between hers. They hold so much in them it hurts to look at. Anne can’t figure it all out. She can’t figure him out.

His hand lets go of her wrist and grabs her hand.

Anne holds her breath.

Gilbert inhales deeply.

His eyes flicker down.

She’s pretty sure he’s looking at her mouth.

Gilbert pulls on her hand at the same time he leans down and his lips land on hers. Her eyes widen for an instant, surprise taking over, but then she closes them, a sigh escaping her as she melts into him. His lips are soft over hers and Anne finds herself kissing him back. She doesn’t quite know what she’s supposed to do, but she still pushes herself up onto her tiptoes, chasing the feeling his kiss is giving her.

Anne suddenly understands every beautiful word she’s read in her romance novels about kisses. They still don’t seem like enough. She’s quite sure there is no word that could ever describe the feeling of kissing the boy with messy curls who she’s irrevocably in love with. Who may possibly have feelings for her as well. Not even any of the big, fancy ones she’s learned through all these years. The happiness and love she feels aren’t something she could ever explain. There are fireworks exploding inside of her chest. It’s indescribable.

It’s daytime and they’re standing on his porch where anyone could see them but she can’t bring herself to care. Gilbert Blythe is kissing her and it’s the stuff of dreams.

They separate, breaths coming out in pants. Anne takes a moment to open her eyes, too taken aback by what’s happened. When she does, though, she almost closes them again. Looking at Gilbert feels like it’s too much. His eyes are wide, his face elated, and he gazes at her with such wonder she feels something crack inside her chest. She can’t imagine she’s looking at him much differently.

“I’m in love with you too,” he breathes out, his voice so low she can only hear him because of their proximity.

It sounds like a promise.