Actions

Work Header

Possibilities of a pen

Chapter Text

-Excuse me, can I have a look at your pen, mister?

Gilbert raised his eyes from his notebook in surprise. It was the day of Queens exams. He had just finished them, having set up to participate in a school in Charlottetown rather than with his schoolmates in Avonlea. He didn’t feel particularly like one of their circle anymore. Now he sat over a cup of coffee and a little something for a quick lunch in his favourite place in the town. No, not the teashop he frequented with Winnie. That was too...feminine...girlish really for lone him. It was the coffee place he sat with Anne once before he set off on a steamer. He was steering his thoughts resolutely from wondering why would this be his favourite spot and focused rather on his notes and on a dinner at Winnie’s the coming evening. Now he looked up addressed by a short plump man in haggard clothes and coal stained hands. Gilbert looked back down at his own hand, holding a pen he only now realised was not his but Anne’s. He never noticed it when he took it from his pocket half an hour earlier. He must have forgotten to give it back to her the previous day at Mrs Stacy. He looked back up at the man.

- I am sorry, I don’t understand.

- Your pen, mister. It looks very much like one belonging to my little sister. I should know since I gave it to her once.

Gilbert’s thoughts run in his head in circles. Surely Anne never mentioned a brother?

- Who is your sister ... uhm.. sir?

- Oh, my little pretty sister, with her coppery wavy hair matching her fiery temper. With her smiling blue eyes and kindest heart ever. With her graceful dances with the wind among the trees. - the man smiled wistfully - How we would laugh cracking jokes at dinner time, hauling hay in the harvest, baking pies...decorating pie after pie...

-You cannot decorate a pie - interjected Gilbert, grabbing the first thought of a confused mess in his head that formed when he was listening.

He felt strange fluttering in his stomach hearing the man’s description of that unknown sister. It seemed so fitting to the owner of the pen he was holding. And, apart from the pie bit, seemed to mirror his own emotions as well.

- Why ever not? You can and we would. Decorate them splendidly with leaves and flowers and tiny bugs and letters...

Gilbert’s mind shot back to a certain cake at the recent fair.

- You speak in the past tense of her. What happened to your sister? Has she...gone?

- I lost her. My past caught up with me, all my mistakes, and I lost her. - Gilbert gasped upon this but the man did not hear it - I lost my precious sister-in-spirit, the only true gold nugget of Avonlea.

- Avonlea? - Gilbert managed.

- Why? You know it ?

- This is where I am from but I don’t know you. Is your sister’s name Anne by any chance? - seeing the answer in the man’s gaze he continued - it is indeed her pen. She borrowed it to me only yesterday. Shall I pass her any message from you, sir?

- No, please, don’t even mention me - the man flinched - she would be distressed, I...we did not part on friendly terms...I better hurry back to the docks - he turned and left the cafe.

Gilbert shut his notebook with decision and stuck the pen back in his pocket. He was no more confused and knew what to do. Better not let his mistakes make him loose a... somebody...not a sister. He left the cafe and rushed towards the train station.

Chapter Text

Gilbert sat on a morning train to Charlottetown looking through the window and furrowing his brows in thought. He played absentmindedly with the ring in his pocket from time to time. At some point, while reaching to his pocket again, he grabbed suddenly something much bigger than a ring. Surprised, he pulled it out and gave the object his full attention for a change. A pen. The pen. Anne’s pen - he recognised - that she borrowed him the day before yesterday. Exams! He registered. He hoped she did not miss the pen much and hoped she carried a spare or a pencil. How could he have forgotten and risk her results in such a silly way. Anyway, no crying over spilt milk now. He looked more carefully at the pen in his hand. Suddenly he noticed a small catch at the side. He pulled and voila! - a roll of paper unrolled with a Mendeelev’ elements table (oh this was cute but tricky if she used this pen at the actual exam and got caught). He saw now a few other similar catches smartly concealed along the side of the pen. Smiling to himself he pulled them one by one. They revealed a small pen knife, a needle, small scissors, a hook (whatever for?), a straw loop (for blowing...bubbles?), a tiny saw, skeleton key (what the heck? Anne surely...), spoon, pincers and another blade. Wow! And to think that this thing could even write. Gilbert grinned to himself...it was somehow so Anne-ish (well, but for the skeleton key)...full of potential smart little tool. He noticed now the end of pen was a small button. He pressed it and a small flag erupted at the end.

‘Pen of possibilities’ was written on it in a minuscule script.

All at once the possibilities he did not think about or discarded as improbable before erupted in his mind and he grinned even wider. He should though first give the pen to its owner and perhaps learn the story of how it came about she had such a marvel in her possession.

Chapter Text

Gilbert has just finished his little note to Winnie. He was asking her for a short meeting the day after tomorrow in the afternoon. He figured it would be as good a time as any to ask his Question, still leaving him a couple of days to work on the phrasing. He reread what he has written carefully. No rules of propriety broken for sure. No ‘e’s missing either. He straightened the note one last time with his fingers before putting it into the envelope when he noticed something strange. He used black ink. And sure enough all the words he scribbled were black as coal. But for the last three. ‘With love, Gilbert’. For some strange reason they glowed in bright red.
Gilbert looked into his ink bottle. Black as ever. He dipped the pen in it and on a scrap of paper tried a few words.

Gilbert. House. Train. Carrots. Red...

All turned out the blackest ever. As expected. He frowned and transferred his attention to the pen itself.

A pen like any other apparently. A bit on the fanciful side, he couldn’t afford such himself...

Wait!

What?

It was Anne’s pen. The one she borrowed him the day before the exams when he discovered he had misplaced his own. He wondered briefly why he never questioned how she could have afforded it. Maybe it was a gift of a wealthy friend like Aunt Jo? Still, the pen looked normal. Really strange...

Suddenly all his thoughts of Winnie were casted aside as his curiosity took the better of him. He quickly left the house and walked swiftly towards Green Gables. He must of course return the pen. And perhaps ask Anne casually why it behaves so unexpectedly. He hoped after the disaster of the ruin party she would still find it in herself to satisfy his curiosity.

...

Soon enough he stood on the porch of Green Gables and knocked timidly at the door. As luck would have it it was Anne who answered the door, sparing him the awkwardness of explaining to Marilla his sudden visit (truly it was a good few weeks since he last visited the place apart from the unfortunate event of the cufflinks).

-Yes? What can I do for you? - asked Anne.

Gilbert hold the pen towards her as some kind of peace offering.

- Your pen - he said - I apologise, I forgot to give it back to you before. And quite frankly I was using it all this time without noticing it is yours. I must be quite distracted these days. - he saw Anne winced at his words - I am sorry for keeping it so long. I hope you did not run into much inconvenience because of me?

- Not too much. Thank you - Anne recovered quickly and took the pen from him. - Well, have a good day - she added and moved to close the door.

- Uhm, wait!

Anne turned back politely.

-Yes?

-I need to ask you something. I simply cannot not to.

He saw a flick of anger in her eyes.

- Any other decision you wish me to take for you? - she asked cooly.

- No... - he was flustered - it is about the pen.

Anne relaxed and grinned.

- Oh yes, that special pen of mine. What about it?

- Where do you have it from?

- A former friend of mine gifted it to me...

‘As I was thinking’ Gilbert thought to himself.

- A wealthy one I assume?

- Oh, yes, wealthy of...experiences...Anyway. Anything else bothers you about my pen? - she seemed almost to be waiting for his next question.

-Yes, actually...see, I was using it to write a letter and I noticed something weird...I used black ink by the way...and all writing was black when suddenly...

-A few came out red? - she asked innocently and seeing his stunned expression giggled - told you it is a special pen. Wait, I will show you.

She left him on a porch and disappeared to the house. She resurfaced in a couple of minutes carrying a bottle of black ink, scraps of paper and a big book. She placed her haul at the steps, sat beside it and motioned for him to join her. He gingerly sat next to her (no moonlight this time - he thought - nor moonshine). She put the book on her knees as a kind of write board, took a piece of paper and the pen from her pinafore pocket.

- Look carefully - she said.

She dipped the pen in the ink and wrote ‘I live at Green Gables’. Black. ‘Gilbert Blythe can’t contain his curiosity right now’. Black. She glanced at him and grinned. ‘The Earth is flat as a plank’. Red! ‘Ruby likes banjo music a lot’. Black. ‘What Billy said about Josie at the fair was an absolute truth’. Glaring red! ‘Our printing press disappeared into thin air’. Red again.

-Do you begin to see why it is a very special pen?

-Amazing! It can’t stand...lies?

Anne smiled and wrote down something he could not see on another scrap of paper. She folded it and handed it to him standing up.

-So you see, this is what my pen of possibilities can do. Thank you for returning it, I would be very sorry to loose it forever. Now excuse me, I have chores to attend to. Good day to you, Gilbert.

She turned and went into the house closing the door firmly behind her.

Gilbert, still amazed, went slowly along the barn and through the gate towards the path into the woods. Only when he reached the shelter of the trees he gathered enough courage to unfold the paper she gave him.

‘My special pen never gets it wrong, Gilbert. Love, Anne’.

All in black.

Chapter Text

Gilbert was pacing back and forth in dr Ward’s antechamber. He waited for Winnie to finish her duties for the day so he could ask her out. He nervously checked and rechecked his pocket for the ring. Upon seventh check something else fell out from his pocket and with a chunk landed on the floor and rolled away to the corner. At the same time he heard a creaking sound. Before he had a chance to turn around and investigate a small shrill voice (surely not Winnie’s and even less so dr Ward’s) said ‘Is this yours sir?’

He spun around and saw a small girl maybe ten years old wearing a greyish pink dress and solemn expression, holding out a thin long object to him. She stood just next to the big oak wardrobe that contained the outdoor clothes of the staff and was now - curiously enough - wide open. ‘That could explain at least the creaking’ he thought. He turned his attention to the object in the girl’s hand. A pen. This must be what fell from his pocket and the girl picked up. The silence seemed uncomfortable.

- No, it is not mine, it’s Anne’s - he said recognising the pen as the one he borrowed two days before and never remembered to return.

- Which Anne? - she inquired pocketing the pen.

- Anne Shirley - he said.

- As in Anne Shirley-Cuthbert? - she confirmed - okay, I will give it to her.

- Wait, who are you? - asked Gilbert bewildered.

- Minnie-May Barry - she reached out her hand - and you will be?

- Gilbert Blythe - he shook her hand - to what do I owe the pleasure? - he chuckled at his easy fall into her elaborate elegant style of conversation - I mean...how come you are here? You are Diana’s sister right?

She grinned and gestured towards the wardrobe.

- The wardrobe. It connects to the closet in Diana’s room.

He simply stared at her with wide eyes.

- See... - she sighed at his obvious density - I crawl into her closet when I am sad. Or angry. Or want to be alone. Or cry. Or-want-to-hear-what-Di-is-up-to... - she delivered the last pice real quick - anyway, at some point there there comes a strange feeling to me...like I was a lioness...or a tigeress...I feel so brave I could roar...and if at that moment I leave the closet, I end up here. Frightfully nice people wait for dr Ward who don’t mind chatting at all. Or I end up at the manse - now that is boring. Or in San Francisco. An awfully nice lady lives there and she has splendid cookies in a jar that she keeps just for me. Then if I wanna go back... - she gestured towards the wardrobe.

Gilbert was speechless for a moment. Minnie-May’s brain though knew not what a pause is.

- I do not find your chin particularly splendid - she delivered conversationally.

Gilbert nearly choked. He suddenly realised his future could wait one more day while he couldn’t resist Minnie-May. This was turning interesting to say the least.

-Would you like some ice-cream? - he suggested and she brightened.

Soon they were walking amiably along the main street, holding a cone each.

-So what was that about the chin? - he asked lightly.

- Anne said so. But I don’t think so, I think it is silly. Do you?

Gilbert frankly didn’t know what to answer to this so he decided to dig deeper instead.

- Anne said so?

- Oh, yes. Like week ago maybe? It was when she said that you are like a hero from a novel. Funny - she giggled - you are then almost like the closet.

Now Gilbert was really at a loss what to say. Or how to keep a straight face even. He decided a change of tactics was indicated.

- Minnie-May, do your parents know you are in Charlottetown? Won’t they miss you? Shouldn’t we better go back to the wardrobe?

She looked at him like he was a complete idiot.

- You seriously think you want to emerge from Diana’s closet in her bedroom?

He was struck dead by this last pointing remark.

- Yeah, maybe not. Care to join me then on a train back?

-Do you mind if I pull funny faces at the people on the way?

- Not much but why would you?

-Oh, I want some fun before I will have to be all ladylike like Diana.

- I see. Let’s go then. I can escort you then to your house. Never fear, we can say we met on the road when you were walking, no mention of the wardrobe - he smiled mischievously. (‘Did I just suggested a lie to a ten year old?’)

- Could we go by Green Gables? I can give Anne her pen.

- Can’t you wait till she visits Diana?

- Oh! - she exclaimed seeming surprised at him - it may never happen. They quarrelled so frightfully the day of the demonstration. Diana never stops sobbing. And Ralph Andrews says Jane says Josie Pye says Anne also had such red eyes for some time. You know what? You are a poor object for a crush if you didn’t know it.

Gilbert had quite enough to ponder for half a ride back. Just as the train slowed down to their stop, he said: Minnie-May? Don’t ever become all ladylike. World would sorely miss your current self.

Chapter Text

It was a week since the exams. Anne was waiting for the results eagerly. Yet apart from that the summer holidays proved unexpectedly uneventful. She regained her bosom friend of course for which she was ever so grateful. The two of them enjoyed sunny afternoons together at the shore of the lake or in the meadows of Green Gables. Yet the shadow of recent happenings seemed to still dim their time together. Diana refrained from mentioning Jerry or Paris at all, she even gave the barn a wide berth every time she passed it on her way to Anne. Anne, despite Diana’s constant persuasion, refrained to do anything with her newly discovered love towards ‘that dumb boy’. Even though no gossip of a forecasted engagement reached them from never tiring Mrs Lynde, Anne decided in her turn to give a wide berth to Blythe-Lacroix farm, regardless how much she missed Bash and Dellie.Truly the life of grown up women must be infinitely tiresome - thought Anne.

Today Anne was sitting dejectedly on her porch alone as Diana had to go to White Sands to visit her cousins. She was debating whether she was in a mood to go and look up another of her school chums, like Ruby or even Josie when she spotted Gilbert - of all the people - approaching her house looking rather apprehensive. It was too late for her to hide, so she stood up politely and quickly tucked all her emotions to the back of her mind so as to appear as calm and detached as possible in the circumstances. As she expected, the conversation proved a bit strained.

- Good afternoon, Anne.

- Oh, good afternoon. Gilbert. - she was not in the mood to help it go any smoother, she was simply not.

- I wanted to apologise - he said while her breath caught and she doubled her efforts at appearing calm - for keeping your pen so long - he offered the offending object in his extended hand.

- Oh... - she was frankly surprised at the topic - well, thank you I guess. I hope it was useful to you. I mean it must have been seeing you kept it over a week.

- Yes, well I apologise again.

She finally moved and took the pen from him, careful not to come in any contact with his palm. The queer silence ensued. ‘Why is he still here and staring at me again at that?’

- So...ehm...how is your silver platter? - she offered and silently scolded herself for asking dumb questions.

- Still waiting, thank you very much for asking - answered Gilbert, somehow vexed.

- Oh partial to cold suppers then? - she muttered before checking herself.

- Pardon?

- Forget it. If this is all... - she trailed off.

- Yes, I am sorry. I..ehm...need to go, a lot to do on a farm and all.

- Goodbye then, and I wish you all happiness, as I’ve already said before.

She turned and promptly fled from the porch to the house, shutting the door behind herself without checking whether the unexpected visitor left or not. She leaned back on the inside of the door and played the whole situation again in her mind. Ok, she should be fine even with her stupid platter remark. If fine it could be called.

Now...good to have the pen back. While at the topic...Gilbert didn’t know of her pen special little trick that was built into it. Surely no harm in checking it out...or was it dreadfully inquisitive? Oh, anyway...

Anne fetched some paper from the cupboard. She knew that if you held this pen just so and tapped the paper just so...it will reveal the last word written with it. And with each consecutive tap last but that... and last but that... and so on. She eagerly tried it out.

tap!

Gilbert

(no surprise in that?)

tap!

Forever.

tap!

Yours.

tap! tap! tap!

Thing. Only. The.

tap! tap! tap!

Truly. Are. You.

(well...what was she expecting? stew recipe?)

Let’s try just one more and enough of this foolishness. It really is an unhealthy impolite curiosity.

tap!

Square.

She stared. And stared harder pondering furiously. ‘What the hel...icoid!’ - she exclaimed.

‘Oh, maybe tomorrow would not be such a bad day to finally visit Dellie’ - she decided in the end.

Chapter Text

Gilbert have been wandering the streets of Charlottetown for over two hours now. Damn, he embarked the train in the morning so sure of his decision, with a crisp shirt and a crisp mind. Now he was back in square one. It seemed his mind knew no peace and decided to give him a storm of his life juggling him up and down all the time. Perhaps he should find some freaking daisy and let the fate decide ‘propose, not propose, propose...’. But here he was in the middle of dusty Charlottetown main street, with not so much as grass blade in sight let alone a daisy. Besides, he was a solid rational man, not some crazy schoolgirl. ‘Are you sure like sure?’- Bash’s voice in his head was of no help. ‘Go where your passions lead you’ - another voice said. Surely, medical research was his dream passion but then...was Sorbonne with Winnie his real dream? Was there anything in Anne’s accusation of treating a prospective wife as a new field or...a camel? Could he do this to Winnie? Or himself? He felt suffocating in the heat of the town (how is Paris compared to this? - a treacherous cell in his brain asked), his farmer upbringing was probably rearing its head as he missed space and fresh air (I won’t be a country doctor, thank you very much - another cell argued). Gilbert looked desperately around and saw the town hall. Complete with the tower - possibly the highest object in the whole town. Would they admit visitors to the tower? Damn again, he could bribe the porter.

A quarter of an hour later, with a quarter dollar* less in his pocket, he was standing at the topmost stair of the tower, looking out at Charlottetown and beyond through the window**. He could just see, far beyond the last houses, a faint glimmer of the sea, docks littered with ships. To the left, if he could just crane enough, he saw a stretch of field and tracks and a billow of smoke of the train puffing its way back to Bright River. Gilbert pushed the window open and leaned out for an even wider view, for a good intake of fresh breath. And then, with half his torso sticking out of the tower window, he felt something slipping from his pocket and falling down. His hand was too slow to reach the object and he could only watch as - turning around and catching sun rays - Anne’s pen rushed to the ground and rolled off on the pavement below him. Before he had a chance to move, a small child, dressed in rags, rushed from the other side of the square, stooped, grabbed the pen and disappeared in one of the small side alleys.

Gilbert slowly descended the stairs. He was angry. At himself. He had forgotten about this stupid pen and now he not only risked damaging it by the fall but also lost it forever by letting it be stolen (finders are keepers - a treacherous cell again). There was no way he would find the child in the maze of back alleys of the town. He knew Anne had named the pen ‘pen of possibilities’. She used it for her creative works. Will she be mad? - sure. Will she be perhaps superstitious enough to believe her writing possibilities diminished without it? No more princesses Cordelias, no more manifestos?

He was now distracted beyond the point where he could rule his mind to go back to the previous burning problem. He had to clear up first this new mess he created. Therefore he dragged slowly in the direction of the station.

Just as the train jerked forward from the station, Gilbert felt rather than saw, as his eyes were fixed at some obscure spot outside the window, somebody dropping down in a vacant seat opposite him with a polite ‘may I?’. He was however made to transfer his gaze to his new fellow passenger when the said person clapped him cheerily on the shoulder. ‘Hi Gilbert, long time no see’.

What he saw puzzled him momentarily (tall young man, exquisitely dressed from shining shoes to fancy cap) until recognition crept in and he made a small smile.

- Oh, Cole. Indeed long time. - he braced himself for a longer polite conversation.

- How are you? I heard from Diana you have a new sweetheart in Charlottetown and things are likely to progress? - Cole smirked and purposefully forgot to mention Diana also believed Gilbert to be rather uncomfortably unsure in his feelings. Cole decided he would love to discomfort him just a bit more - not from cruelty but rather kindness of a kind.

- Oh, yeah. Everyone seems to believe so. Mostly everyone.

- And you don’t? - Cole asked innocently.

- Let us say I am still holding off my decision in this respect for the time being. And how is your art career going?

- Splendid, my friend. Clay classes are fun. And precision in my fingers came back enough to allow me to sketch some small pieces again.

- This is what you carry in your folder? - Gilbert motioned to the object on Cole’s knees deciding the subject of art could probably carry them seamlessly to Bright River.

- Yeah, care to see?

Some small pieces turned out to something like a hundred so indeed they were mostly at their destination when Gilbert reached for the final few. Charlottetown town hall rattled him a bit but a couple of seaside landscapes allowed him to regain calm. One of the lasts was a crayon portrait of a young woman dressed in pale green and lace, her auburn hair in an elaborate up-do. He hold his breath a second too long upon recognising Anne for Cole to miss it.
- Oh, sorry, forgot about this one - he smirked - I did it some time early spring when we were...dressing up - Cole brushed it off easily.

- Your talent certainly shows - was all Gilbert cared to say.

They were soon disembarking the train, all awkwardness forgotten for a moment until they stood side by side on the platform.

- Are you heading home? Your folks here? - Gilbert asked.

- No way - Cole smiled - I am heading to Green Gables for a short visit - he just couldn’t resist the temptation so he added - I like to check upon Anne in person from time to time...you know we have an understanding of marriage given certain conditions are met?

‘Conditions’ thought Gilbert gritting his teeth. And Anne had a nerve to accuse him of camels...or whatever. Keeping a neutral expression though he managed to add politely ‘I need to speak to Anne as well so we are going in the same direction. Can I give you a lift?’

...

Anne was quite astonished seeing them both on her front porch when she answered the door. She was more than happy to see Cole but restrained herself for now from embracing him. She also restrained herself from thinking how she would like to greet Gilbert were she free to do so. As things stood she was certainly not. She decided to see first why they both decided to visit so suddenly and together at that.

Cole and Gilbert looked from one to the other and Cole politely nodded giving Gilbert space to talk to Anne first. Gilbert shifted uneasily on his feet.

- Ehm...Anne. There is something I need to apologise to for.

She looked expectant. And maybe a bit hopeful - but why would she?

- I borrowed your pen the other day. And forgot to return it. - he waded forward - And today while in Charlottetown I climbed the town hall tower - Cole silently chuckled at his side - and leaned through the window...and...your pen...I was still having it in my pocket you know...fell out. And dropped to the ground and was taken away by a small beggar kid. So yes. I lost it. I am terribly sorry.

Anne was shocked. Mainly at the subject of the confession. Yet before the reality of her new loss could dawn on her, Cole gave a gentle cough. They both turned to him.

He was standing there with a bright grin on his face and an unmistakeable object in his hand. He handed the pen to Anne with a mock bow.

- Pen of possibilities to my impossibly beautiful friend.

Anne laughed and finally decided to hug Cole tightly. They spun around in giggles of joy.

- How come you have it? You don’t look like a ragged child to me? - she glanced briefly at Gilbert’s furrowed expression.

- Oh, see, I simply saw it in the window of our favourite pawnshop. I recognised it immediately. And knew we couldn’t leave it there, could we? What would mr Dunlop say?

They laughed so hard now they had to sit on the steps. Gilbert did not feel fit to laugh though. Yes, he was relieved the pen reappeared. Yes, somehow the mess was cleared (although not really by him). But he somehow felt his feelings were all of a sudden in a new mess. Damn damn damn.

Chapter Text

Gilbert was sitting in a train to Charlottetown with his notebook open on his knees. He was thinking again on the wording of his proposal. He just couldn’t make it right. He had just remembered his father had once mentioned putting things in writing may help. Hence the notebook. He reached into his pocket for a pen and pulled out one he had forgotten he still had. Anne’s. Anyway, she was not likely to need it soon with school holidays upon them, was she? He could use it then one more time. He put its tip to an empty page and started.

My most divinely beautiful friend. As we stand under breathtakingly fragrant blossoms of this ancient lime tree I cannot contain my love for you anymore lest my heart explodes into a herd of sky-blue butterflies quite matching your exquisite dress. Your eyes sparkling with a million small diamonds speak of...

Crap. Was this really his style? He crossed it over and tried again.

Winifred, my fairest lady. My love for you exceeds everything ever written before. Nor the medieval tales of knightly romance, nor adventures in the wild moorlands of misty Scotland, nor hot tropical feelings of native tribes in equatorial Africa can equal what my humble heart feels for you. Will you consider it in your honest disposition...

It just went from bad to worse. One more...

Winnifred, even as your most humble servant I cannot stop in dreaming of a most scrumptious...

No, no, no! Just what was going on with him? He sighed in exasperation thus gaining the attention of an older fat man in a long black coat sitting next to him (why would he need a coat on such a warm day? thought Gilbert briefly).

-Anything wrong, young man? - inquired the man glancing unashamedly at Gilbert’s notes.

-I cannot seem to hit upon right wording. In fact it comes out completely different to what I usually say...almost like...

-Someone else was writing instead? - the man said.

-Yeah...

- Is this you pen if I may ask? - said the man.

Gilbert gasped at his incisiveness.

-No, I borrowed it. How did you guess?

-You may not have experienced it before - smiled the man - it does not happen so often, but sometimes things get infused...kind of soaked in...the thoughts or feelings of their owner or user, provided said person is of strong enough personality and spirit. It is then hard to bend them to will of another user. Looking at your writing I would say it may be the case here - he chuckled - this certainly does not look like your style.

- Oh... - Gilbert felt at a loss for words, this was quite unexpected.

- Care for the pencil? - the man said handing him one.

- Yeah, thank you.

Gilbert started again, grabbing the pencil tightly in his fingers.

For the last three months, ever since I first laid eyes on your enchantingly graceful frame, I felt as the earth under my very feet transformed into golden-rimmed pink cloud...

What? This time Gilbert almost cried out loud in annoyance. The man looked at him again and then at his notebook. He frowned and then laughed.

- Oh, sorry! I forgot, I recently lent this pencil to a certain young lady taking the exam. Seems she has a strong personality as well. Unless your now penless friend is also a red-head? Let me give you another pencil, I always carry a bunch. Being an exam supervisor I often find young people badly in need of one. You can keep it. - He touched his cap and left as the train just arrived in Charlottetown.

Chapter Text

-I am certain. Sure.

Gilbert reiterated to Bash and bade him goodbye, ready to head off to Charlottetown. Just before leaving he made a small detour to Delphine’s basket and stooped to kiss her head. And at that precise moment he felt a sharp jab to the right side of his stomach.

-Ouch! - he cried getting Bash’es full smirking attention.

Standing up he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pen. It was the one he borrowed from Anne two days before. Now it seems the annoying tool has just pricked him painfully. Suddenly he felt a sensation that caused him to drop the pen in astonishment and grab his stomach with the other hand as well while his eyes widened in surprise. The stabbing pain transformed into a very weird feeling he had never experienced before but had heard described many times by other people. Something at once hot and cold, fizzling and jiggling, reminding him rather of an experiment of pouring vinegar onto baking powder.

-Oh I SEE - Bash’es eyes also widened but in understanding and he grinned - serves you right for carrying sharp objects in your pockets. Lucky you it is the stomach...

-Ehm..yeah. I will just...drop this pen in my room before going.

Gilbert reached his room and closed the door behind himself. Then he leaned heavily over the desk. The strange pain had subsided. But he just knew without looking what the pen had caused.

Ugh... how he hated this whole soulmark concept. Why it couldn’t at least be simple? Like a name of your prospective soulmate would appear on a designated, same for everybody place like arm or hand. Best at a specific point in time like at birth as a kind of birthmark or maybe at 15th birthday or last Christmas before graduation or whatever. But the world was as it was, not as he would imagine it. And as it was the soulmark would appear when you pricked yourself. In exact particular spot the fate designed for you. So you never knew if and when it would appear. Some people had it easy. Like half of the girls with all their sewing and knitting assignments got it early on a wrist or finger. Some had it hard. Like Moody for example...he used a whole box of his mother pins last year in some kind of acupuncture frenzy and nothing. Nothing until half a year later he stomped barefooted on a chestnut. Some, he supposed, never got it at all. Fate was a mean spirit.

No, he wasn’t a soulmark kind of guy. Why would he need some predestined love match when he was perfectly capable of managing his affairs himself and decide without a divine help if he met a right person or no. Well, hopefully he was - he reflected honestly, thinking back to Winnie.

Not that the soulmarks were such a great help really - was his next reflection. True, they showed you you had a soulmate somewhere. But besides that they were more of a clue you tried to figure out, with high chance of getting it wrong. Finding a person with a picture with a meaning complementing your mark, really! Again, some had it easy. Billy for example got half a girl, right half. Shouldn’t be hard to recognise the left part. Some had it hard. Like that patient of dr Ward, 80 year old bachelor who claimed he never knew what to do with the soulmark shaped as Kali goddess. Some were ambiguous - his dad used to believe his horse matched Marilla’s carousel quite well but then his mum had a saddle one. So perhaps it wasn’t even one to one thing but rather kind of an indication if two people would do well together?

Anyway. He wasn’t a soulmark guy.

Still, a peak wouldn’t hurt?

...

A quarter of an hour later Gilbert entered the kitchen, glanced at the clock and sat heavily in a chair.

-Not going out anymore, Blythe? - Bash inquired.

-I’ve missed the train, haven’t I?

-So is this what I think it is?

-Yep.

-And?

-Skull and bones - Gilbert said with resignation.

-Oh, this is fantastic! - chuckled Bash - your soulmate will be basically the death of you.

-Very funny. Thank you very much.

-Well, certainly looks like something doctorlike. Maybe it’s mr Bones? - Bash saw that perhaps this particular line of black humour was not attuned to Gilbert’s current mood - what does Winnie have? Has she one?

- Oh yes, a duck on her hand.

- It shouldn’t be hard to make out - Bash grinned - provided it looks a bit like a dodo?

- Not really. Anyway, I am not a soulmark believer myself to be honest.

- Then it is good you got it on your lower abdomen, you can hide it easily. Provided you don’t invite girls for a naked swim in a lake...

Gilbert simply glared at this. Silence ensued.

-What about Anne? - Bash’es eyes hold a suspicious glint.

-Why would I know?

-Why not? I know. She told me the day she got one. She joked that with her hatred of sewing she had thought she would never get one but then a walk through raspberry bushes did the trick.

-So what is it? - Gilbert was interested despite his declared indifference to the subject.

-Find out yourself. Do you good. - was all Sebastian was willing to add. But he thought to himself that he certainly could make a connection to a caravel.

Chapter Text

Protect my little sister forever - said mr Dunlop.

...

It felt her sadness and her tears. It felt her anger and her hatred. It felt her joy and her happiness. It felt her confusion and her exasperation. Recently it has been sadness and tears and confusion for the most part. It was getting worried.

...

Then the world rattled and the connection weakened. But it promised to keep the mission. It had to protect her.

...

It heard the words and understood their link to her sadness. ‘Marry me, Winifred’. It felt fury. It knew the time has come for an action. It coiled and uncoiled. And then as a frustrated spring it unfolded. Something crashed and the world went suddenly blazingly white.

...

Gilbert’s world went suddenly black.

...

Winnie’s world went suddenly red.

...

Late in the evening the teashop owner was tidying up the debris after the strange accident of the afternoon. She swept the remains of the golden pen into the bin together with cracked pottery and stained tablecloths. Small gold ring with a green stone she pocketed.

Chapter Text

They were sitting at their usual table in the tea shop, just as during their first afternoon out. Pretty much everything was the same. The street outside was just as busy and crowded. The teapot had the same pattern as before. Gilbert was as flustered and unsure as the first time (perhaps her coaching talents were not so high then?). The only obvious difference was the flower in the vase. Crocus before, tiger lily now. How fitting - Winnie thought - like metaphorical brackets of their relationship - youth on one and wealth on the other side. Quite fitting one would think, yet...She stopped musing as her attention was caught by Gilbert fidgeting and nervously searching his pockets.

First he took a folded handkerchief out, hesitated and put it back. Then it was a piece of rope. And some change. He moved to the other pocket seemingly annoyed. A nail (positively dangerous - Winnie thought). A pencil. A pen.

- Oh, no - Gilbert looked even more flustered now - I forgot to give Anne her pen back before school finished. He put the pen on the table so Winnie had a chance to admire the dainty thing while he continued his search.

A handful of...

- Marigold seeds - he grinned shamefacedly.

Another pocket. A penknife. Three scraps of paper. A pebble.

- If this is your Sunday suit - Winnie smiled - I wonder about your every day clothes... (what happened to the sermon talk - Winnie thought to herself once more). Gilbert only intensified his search. Still a few pockets to go.

A sugar cube. Another piece of paper. Match.

(I don’t know how we girls survive without a pocket in our dresses - wondered Winnie)

Some more change. Clothes peg (bachelor menage - thought Winnie). A button. A ribbon (now this is weird...Dellie’s?). An extra pencil.

-Gilbert - Winnie said tentatively.

He stopped his search to look at her.

- Judging by your pockets content I think you need to organise your life a bit more before marrying and heading off to Paris - she said (to hell with weather talk - she thought).

She saw he was stunned. But not much else, to her relief. No deeper hurt.

- Oh, yes, I know of my father ideas, I rather pride myself on knowing him rather well. Anyway, I don’t think either of us is ready for a serious life-long commitment to each other. As nice as I find you I still want some more fun with mr Bones for one.

- Uhm...right - Gilbert agreed, still in shock at her boldness probably.

- So why don’t we reconnect a year or two from now and catch up and in the meantime let us part as friends and free individuals?

- Uhm..okay I guess. So... this is goodbye for now?

- Yes, goodbye then. Oh, and Gilbert, I am sure you will find an independent way to further your education. - Winnie smiled and left him still sitting next to his pocket collection.

..

Gilbert supposed he should feel dumped and rejected. For some reason he didn’t. Even in the tiniest part heartbroken.

It was a week later while doing laundry that he finally found the ring. It had slipped into the hole in the lining of his pocket. For some - he thought - it might be but for him such lack of sewing upkeep wasn’t a good enough reason to marry. He still had time. So maybe it was all for the best?