If Anne had been asked a couple of weeks ago what aspects of her life still left her in the depths of despair, she might have responded that her book collection wasn’t as massive as she desired, or maybe it was those stubborn freckles of hers that still dotted every corner of her face— though Gilbert assured her time and time again that he adored them endlessly.
But now, as she stood aimlessly in the kitchen of Green Gables, she thought her once often used phrase depths of despair suddenly had no meaning at all, as it had been used to describe such childish inconveniences that she couldn’t fathom placing the emotion she currently held on that petty level.
Matthew Cuthbert had died on a cool, late spring evening. The world seemed to have paid homage to him, as it took on a quiet air that was so unlike spring, yet so much like Matthew.
It wasn’t a shock; he had been unwell throughout Anne’s entire last year at Queen’s, but his exhaustion took it’s height in the weeks before she would be granted her diploma. Marilla telegraphed urgently that it would be best for her to return as soon as possible.
In classic Anne fashion, she argued stubbornly with her professors to allow her to sit for exams early, so that she could take the fastest train out to Avonlea. Even her most stuck up professor begrudgingly complied once her face got as red as her hair and her eyes pointed like daggers.
Those last two weeks with him were glorious when she wasn’t thinking about their inevitable separation. She would read him everything from old essays she had written to Dickens. They would laugh, and just talk, how a father would to a daughter.
Matthew was the first person to accept her, he loved her with everything he had inside of him, and she would be forever grateful.
Anne would never tell Marilla this, as it somehow seemed blasphemous to even think it, but she almost felt they were lucky it happened the way it did. He went quietly— just in the way you’d expect him to— like he had fallen asleep.
Suddenly, Anne thought how strange it was that grief took form in so many different ways. Marilla barely slept at all since he died, taking up the preparations for his funeral to keep herself as busy as possible as if she had stopped moving, she herself would die. When Mary fell to sepsis, Bash had been so angry, so pleading, like one of his own limbs, had been torn away from him. Gilbert became distant when his father died, and he pulled away so desperately that he found himself on a boat in the middle of the sea.
Anne wondered what shape her own grief took from the observing eye, perhaps she was most like Aunt Jo. Her mentor had told her once that grief was the price of love, and Anne liked to believe that was true.
The funeral was to be held the next morning, and with all the girls back home, they— under the guidance of Rachel Lynde— were currently assisting Marilla with the food for the wake. Even though they were all chattering up a storm in the kitchen, Anne’s eyes wandered out the window, and her ears drowned out all sound. The stars were so clear that she could see them sparkle through the window, and the wind was light, but it made the trees dance smoothly.
Matthew loved nights like these.
As if she was being pulled by an invisible force, she made her way outside quietly. It was a beautiful night, she argued with herself, almost pleading for her to calm those anguished thoughts.Before she could turn back inside, a shadowy figure appeared slowly walking up past the gate. The closer the figure got the more she could discern its features; the gray cap covering brown curls gave away the identity of the figure.
How she wanted to run up to him, wrap her arms around him with such a force that would make him lose his footing, and pepper jubilant kisses across his cheeks. She hadn’t seen him in months, but the circumstances, oh— how she had forgotten for one brief, joyful moment, and his sudden presence with no warning left her so overwhelmed it became hard to breathe.
Gilbert noticed her strained gasps for air and came running up the steps onto the porch and beckoned her to sit down. “Anne, I’m so sorry I’m late; I wanted to come as soon as I got your letter.”
She looked up at him, and at the sight of his pitied gaze, she let her tears fall in a violent wave and set her head on his steady shoulder, and he wrapped her shaking form in his arms. They remained that way until Anne’s breathing became calm, and her tears weren’t so heavy. He opened his mouth every couple of seconds to speak but decided to take her lead, keeping silent until she spoke herself.
“Do you remember that talk we had that night at Blackmore, Gilbert?” She started, voice rough from the crying. “When we talked about lost loved ones taking their eternal place as stars?”
Gilbert nodded, he thought of Anne’s optimism and belief that night every time he felt mournful over his parents and Mary. She always knew the right set of words to make him feel more like himself, and he only hoped he could serve as a similar source of comfort to her.
“I wonder if Matthew has completed his journey yet,” she sighed, “and I only hope that he’s not so lonely, you wouldn’t think it, Gil, but Matthew gets very lonely.” She looked up at the sky and silently pointed at a particular star as if to say, that one right there.
“I’m sure thoughts of you kept him company the entire time, Anne.”
With the way she stopped her nervous picking at her fingernails, and her tears slowly increased once again, Gilbert was sure he had said something wrong and silently cursed himself for being so careless with her feelings. But when shining eyes and a watery smile graced him, relief flooded through his mind and he reached out to intertwine their hands.
“Thank you, Gilbert, for coming and just being here— I don’t think I could bury him tomorrow without you.” Her voice hitched at the end of the sentence. She hadn’t even had the time to think about the fact they would be burying him tomorrow, and now that it was upon her, she couldn’t bear the thought.
“Oh, Anne, I just— well, I just wish I could shut out all sorrow and pain from ever coming to you; someone like you deserves nothing short of pure happiness,” Gilbert confessed.
Anne squeezed his hand hard, and her eyes crinkled in another soft, but still watery, smile. “If you had come to me and told me those blessed words when I was in the asylum all those years ago, I would have loved nothing less. A world without pain and sorrow— how many times had I imagined such a world in my lonesome hiding place? When I was brought to Green Gables I thought: ‘this must be that fantastical world I had created,’ but that's not true, Gil.” She thought back to the conversation she had with Miss Stacey that summer before Queen’s. “Without pain and sorrow, how could we know happiness and joy? We must experience one to know the other.”
He stared into her eyes, which reflected the moon’s light against her gleaming tears, and thoughtfully considered her point of view. If they were in better spirits, he would have joked that it seemed her philosophy class really stuck with her, but really, he was amazed by her. The ability she had to look at every situation with such introspect that he couldn’t even muster on his best days.
She slipped her hand away from his, but only to brush it against his cheek with a feather-light touch. “I’m sure you would have been an excellent guard dog against despair,” she released a small chuckle at that, “but as long as I have you with me to trudge through it, I find myself in acceptance of it.”
“I’ll be with you, Anne, always.” She knew that it was true; he wasn’t the type to promise anything he couldn’t keep, or say anything he didn’t mean. She couldn’t help but look back to the young girl who meant well but knew almost nothing of the world; who tried her best to comfort a newly orphaned Gilbert all those years ago. How unknowingly cruel she had been, and how he comforted her now in a way that was entirely innate to him. At least she had learned her lesson and made up for her mistake when she grabbed onto him so desperately during Mary’s death, letting him pull her against him with agony as he cried into her shoulder.
Could he read her mind? She thought surely he could when he eased her head back down against him. She could feel the cool spot where she had been, slightly embarrassed that her tears from earlier had soaked his shirt.
“Can we just stay here for a little longer?” She asked quietly, as if unsure what his answer would be.
“We can stay for as long as you like.” He said.
Rachel Lynde peaked out of the window, and on a usual day she’d send someone out to keep an eye out on them or do it herself (Lord knows they needed a good talking to about their lack of propriety!), but for now, she’d let that wait for another day.
Anne was reading next to her window, trying to feel what little breeze was being offered. The summer had only just begun, but was already proving to be a particularly difficult one, and had everyone across Avonlea sweating buckets.
Though, perhaps it was providential that Anne had been by her window because she caught a glimpse of Gilbert waking up the path before Jerry could from his place in the barn. Since Matthew’s death, the farmhand had graduated into the position of the farmer, and he took that position reluctantly. Jerry had taken his mentor’s passing just as hard as Anne; she found him once crying in the barn loft and assured him that Matthew would be especially proud.
Jerry, however, still managed to get on her every nerve somehow, when they weren’t having a rare, tender sibling bonding moment.
Gilbert came to see Anne nearly every day since they both returned, and each time Jerry met him first at the gate and shared some embarrassing tidbit about her that she’d rather Gilbert not know, or at least she wanted to tell him herself.
Just last week, he had finally been made aware of her behavior when she was expecting his letter from Trinidad, and how she waited for the mailman every day for a month. It gave him so much teasing material to use against her, and it was completely unfair!
The chair scraped against the wooden floorboards as she bolted out of her room and down the stairs, ignoring Marilla’s cry: “Anne, please be careful and do not run in this house!”
Gilbert looked shocked by the speed at which Anne ran and how the door slammed loudly behind her as she skidded to him, nearly slipping on the gravel bellow her feet— landing only inches away from him.
“What a nice way to be greeted by a beautiful lady.” He laughed, and she resisted the urge to smack his arm at his teasing, but—well, he had paid her a compliment even if it was under that mischievous tone of his. At the sight of Jerry exiting the barn, she grabbed his arm and tugged him along with urgency.
“Not that I mind, but why are you so eager to escape Green Gables,” He asked, putting emphasis on escape as she genuinely seemed like she was on the run from some sort of trouble which, knowing Anne, wasn’t entirely out of the question.
Anne looked around sharply, almost as if to check if they were alone. “Jerry.” She hissed and pointed aggressively back towards the house.
“What about Jerry?” Gilbert question, eyebrows raised. “Here I thought you guys were good friends.” Before he could start believing the French boy had actually done something to offend her, the ever so protective beau he was, she rolled her eyes and explained.
“He’s always telling you…” she waved her arms around in frustration “stuff!”
This clearly confused him, his head tilted and eyes squinted slightly. “… stuff?” Anne shuffled her feet, she had hoped he would magically understand what she meant like he sometimes did, but alas, he could be quite dense.
She plopped down and let her back rest against a tree along their path, while he remained standing above her, looking down inquisitively. “He’s always telling you humiliating things that I’ve done!” She could sense he was about to defend her past self, so she raised her finger.
“It is embarrassing!” She maintained stubbornly. “Especially when it comes to things concerning you.”
“Why? If it’s about the jokes, Anne, I’ll stop, really I will.” He bent down to join her place on the ground, eyes apologetic.
“No!” She reached out to grab his hand, “no, you know I love a good laugh, and I try not to take myself so seriously.”
“I’ll stop encouraging it and try to change the subject if you’d like?” Gilbert reasoned, and his general goodness and attempts to maintain peace made her smile, her thumb rubbing small circles into his.
“It isn’t really that either. I don’t know what having a brother feels like, but I imagine it includes enduring incessant teasing, and for some bizarre reason, I am glad to see Jerry in that way.” It was true. She and Jerry had the type of relationship that she could only describe as familial, and it made her heart swell to know that over the years she had unconsciously built her own family. “I only feel embarrassed because it makes me feel like such a goose! When you and I talk about our past feelings, you always seem so cool and collected—meanwhile, I was so utterly blind, and really I’ve made a fool of myself over you so many times.”
“But you’ve got it all wrong!” He exclaimed, “I become the largest fool in Avonlea whenever it concerns you.”
She looked at him with disbelief, “you only want to make me feel better.” He had a tendency to do that.
“Listen here, Miss Shirley-Cuthbert, because I’m about to disclose some shocking secrets about myself that Jerry certainly doesn’t know— in fact, not even Mrs. Lynde would know.” He smirked, knowing that he caught her undivided attention.
“I’ve read ‘the Fisherman’ so many times since that first day we met that the page is extremely worn out compared to the rest; I threw the spelling competition because I wanted everyone to see how great you were; I thought about the way you said you missed me in Charlottetown every day on the steamer and talked about you to Bash constantly; I would have written a take notice for you— a thousand notices— if you hadn’t mentioned Ruby; After the dance practice I was completely overwhelmed with hopeless thoughts of marriage; I would have kissed you on Miss Stacey’s porch; I kept your pen longer on purpose, and I may have written haphazard poetry with it about the way you looked at the ruins after exams.”
He smiled at her gaping expression, his own was slightly red from the rambling confession and reached up to tug a stray strand of her deep red hair. “I’ve always been foolish when it came to you, Carrots, I’m just glad to know I’m in good company.”
Gilbert liked to put on an air of practicality and logic, but Anne knew that he had his own moments of romanticism just as she did, evident in his long-winded way of showing her that they were both a tad bit dramatic when it came to the other. His words were a balm to her worries; he would love her despite, or maybe because of, all the silly things she had done.
Her love for him, the usual ebb and flow, was so ignited by his speech that she desperately needed an outlet. She tilted her head upwards to face him and giggled at the way his crooked grin indicated he understood her clearly before he ducked down and placed his mouth on hers.
Over the last two years, they’d practiced the particular skill of kissing whenever they saw each other, but Anne knew she’d never get over that thrill, the pounding of her heart that echoed through her ears, the warmth of his lips (was this the best activity to partake in while it was scorching outside?), and the caress of his fingers on her cheek.
When she pulled back, she tried to decide whether she should mention his red, slightly swollen lips, or maybe his darkened eyes, but settled for: “If you’ve read it so many times, why don’t you recite “the Fisherman’ for me then?”
His laugh rang like a sweet song, before bellowing out the poem just as she had at thirteen years old, and she watched him with the same admiration he had at fifteen.
“So Fred is coming for a visit after all?” Anne asked Gilbert as they walked hand in hand along the structured rows of the Blythe-La Croix Orchard.
Delphine, now three, was running along ahead of them on strict instruction from her Uncle Gilbert to collect as many rocks as she could possibly find. The girl was growing with every coming day, not only in size but in mind. Anne insisted to Bash that Delly was already shaping up to be the perfect mixture of his own tricky humor and Mary’s wit and intelligence.
Bash and Elijah had gone to patch up a hole in Miss Stacey’s roof, and Hazel was too busy with chores around the house to keep a proper eye, so the couple offered to look after her.
‘I better find all my child’s limbs right where I left ‘em, Blythe!’ He had said in the sternest fatherly tone he could muster, then pointing directly at Anne, ‘Listen to her every word.’
“Yes— I got a letter from him last night,” Gilbert explained. “He’s very excited to see Avonlea, and you most of all; he honestly believes I made you all up.” It was true. A girl who wandered through forests like a fairy and created the most fantastical stories out of the most mundane parts of life couldn’t possibly be real, according to Fred.
Anne gasped. “Could you imagine that, Gil? A tale of two young lovers where one is revealed to be a mere phantom in a shocking twist near the end! How I’d love to read a tragical romance like that.” It would certainly be a feat to write, though gears were already turning in her head for the late-night writing she usually indulged in.
“I’m starting to feel terrible for your protagonists, Anne.” He laughed, “Just last week you wrote them stranded on a desert island with nothing to eat or drink. How cruel can you get?”
“As cruel as I need to be to keep my readers interested.” She lifted her chin and walked ahead of him, feigning a haughty demeanor.
“But I’m the only one reading them!” He pointed out humorously as he trailed behind her.
Anne stopped abruptly and turned her head back to face him. “And are you interested?” She asked with a twinkle in her eye.
Gilbert smiled. “Very.”
She tossed her hair and continued. “Well, then I’ve done my job.”
Anne had started writing short stories in her letters to send to him last year when he had detailed his excessive boredom for an entire page one particular week. At first, she was nervous— only the intimate storybook club had heard her written musings. And even then Ruby and Diana, while mystified by her language, never truly understood the deep meanings of her writing. But Gilbert knew her heart better than anyone, she knew for certain that he would be able to see her thoughts alive within her fictional creations.
Before he could press her into publishing her works as he had tried to many times prior, Anne glanced his way in a silent plea to drop it. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy his praise or the suggestion that other people might like her works, but the word ‘publish’ had such a serious and grownup tone that seemed to exceed the short stories she wrote for her friends, for Gilbert, and for herself.
“So, when will Fred be joining us then?” She asked quickly, diverting his attention. While she was using poor Fred to get out of the conversation, she also couldn’t contain her excitement to meet the infamous roommate. Gilbert knew all of Anne’s friends, they grew up together, but there was this world he was apart of that she couldn’t see, but wanted to so desperately.
“Next Thursday, and he’ll stay through the summer so we can travel to back Toronto together.” She felt her heart squeeze at the mention of him leaving again. Every time they were reunited, it was always tinged with the bittersweet realization that he would leave the Island, and her; the pain never seemed to ease with time. “It’ll be nice to have someone else helping on the farm this summer.”
“We’ll do our best to keep him entertained, then.” Anne reasoned, wanting to put Avonlea’s best foot forward. Though, how anyone could visit her home without immediately falling in love with it was beyond her, so she wasn’t concerned.
“Uncle Gilbert!” Delphine shouted, barreling towards them with her dress pulled up to double as a knapsack, and releasing the fabric once she reached them, resulting in dozens of rocks falling at their feet. “These are my best ones.”
Gilbert crouched down to inspect them seriously, laying his fingers against his chin in deep study. Delphine waited for his appraisal, smiling wide when he nodded and concluded, “these are definitely the greatest rocks in all of Prince Edward Island, Delly.”
He watched on as Anne grabbed the young girl’s hand and skipped along the Orchard rows, telling her about the magical creatures she believed to be hiding about. Seeing how well Anne was with Delly, how much she cared for her like a sister, how they laughed and played together, had started to give Gilbert a jolt of yearning.
He only realized late that night, gasping awake with the moon still gleaming down through his thin curtains, that the days' activities had been far too dangerous for his imagination.
Glimpses of red-headed, hazel-eyed children, running around with mischievous smiles and followed by an exasperated, slightly older Anne who grinned up at him, had haunted his dream state. A small, but cherished home with a warm hearth, a cat, or maybe a dog, but most importantly— their family.
The shock of it wasn’t the idea of having a family, certainly not having one with Anne. He had considered the subject quite often, and there were no misunderstandings between the two of them when it came down to who they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with.
After Ruby and Moody’s wedding, they had snuck away for a moment alone. She was so beautiful that night, gleaming with happiness for her friends, and for love. They shared wistful comments of their future, making quiet commitments to each other in a dark corner of the church garden; ultimately agreeing to revisit the subject of engagement for after she finished Queen’s.
What had terrified him was the sudden longing for a time he didn’t even know yet, a time they still needed to wait so long to know; he still had three more years to complete his medical course.
Would she really wait for him? ‘Of course, she would idiot, she loves you’ he admonished himself, not only for his ridiculous notion but also for entertaining these thoughts so late at night. He’d definitely be too tired in the morning to function properly, and Bash, ever so observant, would surely notice.
The wood floor was cool against his feet as he nervously paced around his room, his body gravitated unwillingly to the small velvet bag that held his mother’s ring. Many times over the last couple of years had he felt its weight in his pocket, rubbed its bright, green stone between his fingers, or stared at the way it reflected the sun’s light effervescently.
This time was different, though. It had a certain air of finality, but not the sort of dreadful nausea that he felt the last time he held this ring and decided to propose to a girl. The finality didn’t feel like a trap, but like a permanent etching into stone. Because Anne wasn’t just a girl, she was Anne.
Anne, who represented the Island that he could never truly leave behind, even when it hurt. Anne, who pushed him to be better, to work harder. Anne, who wouldn’t let him wallow and quit his dreams of being a doctor when it became too hard. Anne, who stood up to small-minded individuals because she always did what was right. Anne, who made him laugh until his sides hurt, cry from frustration and feeling, and every sort of thing in-between.
She was never a flight of fancy, he loved her without trying; it came as naturally as the sun would come up in only a mere couple of hours.
The conclusion was so simple; Gilbert was going to propose to Anne that summer.
Anne was in quite a scandalous situation.
She was pressed against the back barn wall of Green Gables as Gilbert eagerly kissed the nape of her neck, and she would have laughed at the way his curls tickled against her jawline, but, she admittedly was enjoying his ministrations, which left her thoughts too scattered to create some witty remark.
He pulled back slightly, his warm breath grazing the skin above her neckline, then letting his mouth return up to hers. Anne responded immediately, adding a soft pressure, and planted her hands firmly on his shoulder. His own hands were traveling from her waist, and up her spine carefully as if he were studying each and every vertebra (typical medical student, of course), and finally one dipped into her hair, ruining any sort of control in her updo, while the other grasped at her wrist.
How long had they been here? What had he even come here for? All rational thought seemed to escape her, well— almost.
She heard a slight rustle on the other side of the wall, and instead of pulling back and giving Gilbert a lady’s“oh, respected sir perhaps we should cease our scandalous rendezvous as it seems we are not the only ones occupying this barn now,” She pushed him away so harshly he tripped backward on his own feet and landed on the rocky ground.
He looked at her dumbfounded, uttering out “what was tha—“ and cutting himself short when he followed her line of sight to see Marilla at the door. He shot up quickly, and coughed uncomfortably, “so, yes— you smoke the bees, because um… it calms them down long enough to collect the honey… without... getting stung.”
“Ah. Very interesting Gilbert, thank you for the illuminating explanation.” Anne replied, with a stiff, businesslike nod.
Marilla twisted her face into a befuddled expression, wondering if the two would be trying so hard to pretend they hadn’t been doing what they so clearly had been doing if they could look in a mirror.
Gilbert shifted his feet, looking down as if examining a scuff on his boot before bolting towards the Blythe-La Croix homestead, calling out a quick and muddled: “byeannei’lltalktoyoulater.”
Anne looked utterly mortified at the gray-haired woman as she was ushered back to the house. “You really must help me with dinner now, but make sure you wash up first.” She ordered, watching with slight amusement as Anne moved up the stairs slowly, quieter than she’d been in years.
They made dinner in silence and then ate it in silence. Jerry looked back and forth between them anxiously, but chose not to comment for self-preservation; Anne could be scary.
Anne only mumbled a quiet goodnight and sulked up the stairs. Sometimes, when the girl was in moods like this, it was best to let her feel what she needed to feel, Marilla found, so she tried not to push too hard. Except, later, when the older woman was ready for bed herself and went to check on Anne, she heard muffled cries coming from the teenager's room. She hurried through the door, filled with worry.
“Anne, what’s wrong? Are you sick, or hurt?” She examined, sitting down on the bed next to the curled up shape that was shaking under the covers. Anne peaked out, and even in the dim lights of the room, Marilla could see the redness of her eyes that indicated she had been crying for a long time. Her brow was furrowed, and her mouth was curved in a frown.
“You must think me a terrible wench, and Gilbert to be a distrustful man.” She sobbed, and Marilla couldn’t help but chuckle at the absurd statement. Anne always had a way of leaping to the most drastic conclusion.
“I could never think that about either of you and you know it, ridiculous girl.” She sighed. “And believe it or not I had my fair share of trysts with my paramour when I was a little younger than you.”
“Really?” Anne questioned, it was difficult for her to believe Marilla always carried herself so properly, being reckless simply wasn’t in her skillset as it happened to be in Anne’s.
“Really. In fact, I recall a couple of times my own mother caught me, sometimes even Matthew.” She assured, fondly remembering a time when her little brother had accidentally come upon her and John in the barn and backed into a bunch of tools, which then crashed onto the ground ungracefully.
Finally, Anne laughed lightly at the shared image and settled her head on Marilla’s chest. “Anne, I only want you to be careful, and I trust you’re in good hands, but most of all I trust you. Just try and keep your affections less…public… as I am not quite sure Rachel would be as trusting.” She concluded with an uncharacteristic snort, and the two sat on Anne’s bed giggling away like two schoolgirls, ignoring the fact Jerry surely thought they were crazy in the next room over.
As if she only just registered Marilla’s past statement, Anne pulled back quickly, “wait, you said your paramour… would I happen to know this mystery man?” She asked with a coy smirk.
“Ah.” Marilla sighed, suddenly feeling slightly awkward about revealing her past love to her adopted daughter. “His name was John. John Blythe.”
Anne froze, mouth open comically. “G-Gilbert’s dad— John Blythe? Or no, perhaps a brother?” Marilla only shook her head. “A distant cousin?” Another shake of the head. She opened her mouth to offer up a third option but closed it shut.
Marilla was about to offer an apology, maybe that was a story best left secret, at least for now, when Anne piped up.
“I met him once,” Anne whispered softly. “He was quite ill at that point, and I really couldn’t see the resemblance in Gilbert at all. Before going to house I had resolved to hate Gilbert Blythe for all of eternity,” she chuckled there, oh, how she had failed, “but when I got there and saw Mr. Blythe, who was so kind to me even though I had hit his son violently over the head and only just a couple of minutes prior banged on his door multiple times… my heart unwilling softened towards Gilbert, then. I realized he understood more than I had previously thought.”
Warm tears started pooling in Anne’s eyes, “I only wonder if my heart had softened earlier— if I had given up my pride and my farcical idea of Gilbert, would I have been able to talk to him? to know him? He means so much to Gilbert…” she drifted off.
“If there’s anything I know about him, it’s that he would have loved you, Anne,” Marilla assured her, squeezing her hand lightly. “You share his adventurous spirit that’s for sure and certain.”
Anne sat quietly, prompting her to continue. “I hadn’t seen John in years, but from my memory of him, Gilbert really is the spitting image of him. Of course, you can see his mother in him in little places, though— his eyes, the color of his hair.. but he’s John through and through.”
“Why didn’t you marry him, Marilla?” Anne inquired thoughtfully, unsure of how she felt about it. Of course, she’d always wish happiness onto her dear mother, but if they had married, there would be no Gilbert. There would be an Anne, who would never get adopted into Green Gables, would never meet Diana, would never get to go to school, would never meet her other half.
“Michael died.” She choked on her words slightly. “I couldn’t leave and John wouldn’t stay.”
“Do you regret it?” Anne asked, and Marilla blinked back her tears, “not at all, because then I wouldn’t have gotten you.” She beamed.
What had happened between John and Marilla was simply not their destiny, and even if she had gone with him, she was sure her stubbornness and his carefree attitude would have clashed endlessly. She didn’t regret staying in the slightest, because what was written in the stars was the scrawny red-headed thirteen-year-old that was thrust unto her life without warning, for her to care for, raise and learn from.
Besides, Gilbert and Anne seemed to be rectifying the mistakes that she and John had made perfectly fine.
Diana was busying herself with a flower crown on the mossy floor of their secret hideout, as Anne paced back and forth muttering to herself every couple of seconds.
“What if he doesn’t like me?” Anne asked for the tenth time that hour, and Diana groaned. Fred was finally arriving that afternoon, and Gilbert had gone into Bright River to pick him up alone, much to Anne’s chagrin. She had practically begged him to take her with him, but he insisted on her coming to the house later as to not overwhelm the most likely exhausted traveler.
“Of course he will, Anne!” Continuing before Anne could open her mouth to speak again. “He and Gilbert are such great friends, and Gilbert loves you. I’m sure he talks about you all the time. ”
Anne sat down beside her best friend, letting out a nervous sigh. “But that’s just the problem isn’t it?” Diana looked confused. “He’s probably talked me up so much— way too fondly— that Fred will be disappointed in the real thing.”
“What does it matter what this Fred thinks anyways,” the raven-haired girl reasoned, “even if he did dislike you,” Anne’s eyes bulged in fear, “which he won’t, it’s not like Gilbert will be swayed one way or the other.”
“I just want him to like me.” Anne declared resolutely. “Gilbert has this fascinating life in the big city studying the latest medical advances with incredibly intelligent people, and I want to be able to keep up with him.”
This idea of ‘keeping up with him’ had been rearing its ugly head in her deepest thoughts for the past month. The future was so distant in many ways, yet coming up fast in so many others, that her anxieties about what Gilbert wanted for their life, and what she wanted for their life, were difficult to reel in.
Did he want a metropolitan life, like the one they could have in Toronto? Anne was sure she’d find the city divine; she hadn’t actually been to see it since Gilbert insisted on coming to the Island whenever he could, but would she truly belong there?
“If I could get Fred to like me, maybe I could show Gilbert that I can fit into that part of his life.”
Diana rolled her eyes. “If anyone needs to worry about keeping up it’s him, Anne. You have so much ahead of you; you’re going to teach in Summerside come fall! What did he say when you told him?”
Anne shoved her head into her hands and shook it wildly. “That’s just the other thing, Di— I may have neglected to tell him…” she drifted off, knowing Diana was about to judge her harshly, which was obvious in the shocked expression across her face “There’s so much uncertainty right now and you know me— I loathe uncertainty. I didn’t want to tell him just in case anything changed, and when Matthew died, I just— we just didn’t talk about it in certain terms.”
She had applied to many schools across the Island, and she had thought about applying to some near Gilbert but decided she still needed to be in fair proximity to Marilla, at least for now. Anne knew Gilbert would understand, and knew that he would encourage her to take the position happily, but would a part of him be disappointed that she wouldn’t be near him?
“Anne, you’re qualified, graduated top of our class, with a line of schools tumbling over each other to get you to teach. Gilbert knows that better than anyone. He could never be disappointed in you for following your passions.” Anne didn’t know what she’d do without Diana around, she thought as she sat down next to her and squeezed her hand appreciatively.
“Also, why isn’t Gilbert more concerned about what your friends think of him?” Diana laughed, “Let’s not forget my tirade against him on the train, and Jane’s still mad at him for telling her she had frosting on her cheek in front of that boy she fancied at the fair last spring.”
The two girls ducked their heads together and squealed at the memory; Jane had chased Gilbert out of the dancehall, yelling various offenses at him for a torturous number of minutes with no assistance from anyone— not even Moody or Charlie.
They stayed in their spot for another couple of hours; taking their boots and stockings off to dance along in the cool stream, chattering on about Minnie May’s recent crush on Tillie’s younger brother, and reenacting their old fantastical stories of grand knights and princesses.
It was almost like childhood again.
That was until Anne noticed the sun was disappearing along the horizon and a purple-hued twilight was upon them. She yelped loudly, scaring Diana, before scurrying out of the stream with her boots and stockings in her hands and running down the path.
“Anne!” Diana yelled after her, following in a similar fashion, “where are you going?”
“Gilbert said to come to his house at four o'clock, Diana!”
“Oh,” the girl blanched, “Anne, it must nearly be six…” the red-head groaned and sped up her pace.
And so the two girls stumbled awkwardly towards the Blythe-Lacroix home, muttering ‘ouch!’ every so often due to their shoeless state. Anne was always so forgetful, this Gilbert knew, but oh— Fred! He would surely think the worst of her now, she thought, as she nervously walked up to the front steps of the house slowly.
Gilbert opened the door, his smile suddenly faded for a brief moment, and was then replaced by a small sputtering laugh as he saw the disastrous state of her. He let the door open wider, to reveal a young man with light brown hair, and cheeks that rivaled the red of Anne’s own hair. But perhaps she wasn’t one to talk about anyone’s appearance, as her hair was tangled up with flowers sticking out of every which way, the hem of her dress was muddy, and she was dreadfully barefooted.
At least Diana wasn’t faring any better than she was, though she still managed to make the look seem more ‘woodland fairy’ than what Anne perceived on herself to be ‘swamp creature.’
“Anne, you’re looking positively radiant this evening.” He laughed and she puffed out her cheeks frustratingly, softening once she remembered how late she was.
“I am so, so sorry I’m late, really, Diana and I just got caught up in a whirlwind of childhood nostalgia and the next thing we knew we were galavanting across the forest in a spectacular— oh, oh my goodness I’m so sorry, I’ve neglected to introduce myself.” She extended her hand towards Fred. “I’m Anne.”
He took her hand in his and shook it heartily, “it’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Anne, I’ve heard so many great things about you” he said, glancing back at Gilbert and smirked teasingly, “which I’m now discovering are completely true and not Blythe’s exaggerations.”
She quirked her eyebrows at Gilbert, who shrugged, embarrassed, and beckoned the two girls inside. Fred peeked curiously behind Anne at the dark-haired girl who was in an equally disastrous state; he held out his hand and then paused,
“Miss… uh,” clearly unsure what to call her. Diana shook her head and offered her hand, “Diana is just fine.” They remained like that for an awkward number of seconds, and Gilbert looked back and forth between the two amused and then at Anne with a small laugh— really, more like a giggle.
Anne rolled her eyes in annoyance at his wordless suggestion and dragged her friend to the table to sit, signaling for the two men to join them. She was eager to get to know Fred as quickly as she could, even promising Gilbert the night before that she was determined for them to become fast friends.
‘So, Fred, you’re also studying medicine?” Diana asked, effectively beating Anne to the punch.
“Oh, no — I tried, I mean I really tried, but there are so many things to memorize, you never get any sleep, and don’t get me started on the Chemistry.” he shuddered, traumatized by the last medical course he took. “I’ll be much more suited to work on my Father’s farm after I finish my plain ol’ Bachelor’s degree.”
“He’s under-exaggerating the pain he went through with Chemistry by the way,” Gilbert joked, nudging his friend with his elbow, “I don’t think he came into our room for a week before exams, which is fine by me, because he snores.”
Fred went red in the face, glancing at Diana not-so-subtly, and retaliated by smacking Gilbert hard on the back, “and you talk in your sleep,” switching then to whiny impression “‘Anne— I miss you, An—’” stopping abruptly when Gilbert harshly cupped his hand over Fred’s mouth.
Bash walked into the kitchen then to wash his hands, and smiled, “I like this guy already.” Fred stood from his seat and crossed the room to shake Bash’s hand appreciatively, “thank you very much for letting me stay here this summer, sir.”
Taken aback by the honorific, Bash returned the handshake and laughed, “please don’t call me sir, Bash will do; you can stay as long as you like,” grinning at Gilbert, “if you keep teasin’ Blythe here.”
Fred nodded, that was certainly something he was happy to do.
“Anyways,” Fred laughed, sitting himself back down. “Gilbert says you want to be a teacher, Anne, that’s absolutely wonderful! Do you already have a posting?”
Anne still feeling that particular sore spot, kicked her feet bellow the table and looked down to her hands and Diana stared at her alarmed, “I haven’t gotten a posting yet, though I applied to a number of schools across the Island, and hoping to hear back soon.”
“Well, teaching is a very noble profession, and I can already tell you’d get along with any student body swimmingly.” He assured, and Anne felt like bursting at the praise and could nearly cry over the image of little pupils drinking in her every word, singing, reading, and learning.
“There is not one doubt in my mind Anne will be an excellent teacher— she’s the only reason my scores were as high as they were, what with our rivalry pushing me constantly.” Gilbert smiled, and Anne was only happy he remembered her petty rivalry so dearly.
“Well, I’m not going to enter into a bitter rivalry with my students, Gil, so perhaps that method is a bit outdated.” She chided with an amused half-smile and gleam in her eye.
“And you, Diana? What does your future hold?” His tone held something of interest, and Gilbert leaned across the table towards Anne, and held his hand against his face to cover it from Fred and Diana, and mouthed ‘a match?’
Diana, ignorant of what was going on only inches away from her, sighed, “I do love music— that’s what I studied at Queen’s, and I’ve written a few compositions, beyond that I’m not so sure what I’ll do next.” The girl really had no interest in extending her education further, and she loved living in Avonlea, so she didn’t mind drifting along and seeing what the universe had in store for her.
“I’m sure there's plenty of time to find out.” Fred smiled, which Diana returned shyly.
The group was joined later by the rest of the household for dinner— which was a lively affair. Delphine interrogated Fred almost frighteningly, claiming that his real name was certainly not Fred and the man was clearly lying, which said liar only encouraged sneakily. Bash and Gilbert argued over the name of their foreman on the steamer, and towards the end of the disagreement, they were all sure neither of them was right.
When dinner came to a lull, Anne and Diana bid the household farewell and skipped along the lane in the cool summer night arm in arm. “I just thought Fred was a gentleman, very kind, and he seems to be a great friend for Gilbert— what do you think dearest Diana?”
Diana pondered for a moment, quietly nodding, “I thought he was very agreeable.” Anne brushed off her dismissive behavior and they continued along the path before sending each other goodbye air kisses.
Anne hummed a bright little tune as she returned down to the path to Green Gables from Diana’s house with a new dress in tow. The Pye’s were to hold a party later that night— Josie had the idea a couple of weeks ago, and it didn’t take much to convince her mother. Mrs. Pye took any opportunity to show off her home, and her beautiful daughter to the rest of Avonlea society.
Tillie was over the moon about the idea of a party, wanting to monopolize the opportunity to introduce her new beau Peter, whom she had met in Carmody, to everybody. Moody and Ruby were especially amusing at parties because they always started the night out making every attempt to fit in with the older, married crowd, before Moody would say something completely humiliating and Ruby would drag him back to the schoolhouse group in mock shame, trying— and failing— to suppress her giggles. Jane would exclaim loudly how much he hated social events and would sulk in the corner, but she was an avid people watcher, and secretly enjoyed the theatrics of parties.
Anne, who thought the pinnacle of courting was to be escorted by one’s handsome suitor to an elegant affair such as this, had been dreaming about it in the weeks coming. While long-distance romance provided a tragical aspect for her daydreams and brought her the most beautifully written love letters, she had always felt his missing presence at Queen’s social functions.
She had sprinted to Diana’s house earlier that morning, desperately been wanting to try her newly made dress on for her friend’s— who had a much better eye for fashion than she did— blessing.
The dress was a green, frilly thing with white lace around the neckline. Diana insisted that Anne looked incredibly glamorous in the color, and Anne couldn’t help but agree. The fabric shaped against her elegantly and was striking against her ivory skin and bright red hair, which she had planned to adorn with white starflowers.
Her vivid plans were interrupted when she heard a loud yell of her name coming from her left. Gilbert was there, leaning against the fence, with his muddy farm clothes and floppy hat. Bash, Elijah, and Fred were up in the high ladders, tending to the apple trees.
She ran enthusiastically to meet him and jumped up on the first wood plank, giving him a chaste kiss, which earned them several whistles and jeers from the company behind them.
Gilbert turned around and waved them off, looking back to her once more and leaned in for another kiss, but was stopped by her finger against his lips, and he pouted.
“Later,” she giggled at his childish display, and he jokingly saluted her with an “aye, aye,” but was not-so-secretly excited about her promise of ‘later.’
“Is that the dress you’re going to wear tonight?” He asked, pointing at the basket between her arms with the green fabric poking out of it. Her smile was smug as she pushed the fabric deeper into the basket to hide it from his sight.
“Oh yes, I just got back from trying it on at Diana’s; she gives it her seal of approval.” Anne reported, “though, I’m looking forward to your verdict.” She concluded with a coquettish smile. He leaned closer over the fence once again, and she brought her eyes down to the sleeves rolled up past his forearms.
“I like you especially in green, Anne-girl, though I’m quite sure you could wear a burlap sack and it would look extremely becoming on you.” She scoffed at the comment, but the smile that crept on her face said otherwise, as he continued. “What are you up to until your gallant escort arrives for you this evening?”
“Well, I’m off to the woods to collect starflowers for my hair now, and you know I’ll probably get lost wandering around, so that’ll shave off a couple of hours.” She laughed lightly, but he was staring at her through thick lashes, the sun catching a handsome gold in his hazel eyes.
His mind was full of the image of Anne, in that dress, even he could only barely make out the design from its folded state in the basket, but the vision of the soft green bringing out the delicate tint of her skin and the white stars shining against the coils of her ruddy hair* had his breath catching in his throat. He coughed ungracefully and squeezed her hand before hopping off the fence.
“I have to get back to work, but I’ll be there to pick you up after dinner!” He called out, still facing her as he walked back; Anne didn’t have the time to warn him to look out before he backed right into an apple tree clumsily.
The other boys laughed at the way he brushed himself off and gestured he was alright to Anne, and he silently thanked his luck that she had already started on her way and didn’t hear his traitorous friends start teasing him for getting too ‘hot and bothered,’ as Bash put it.
Anne did, however, wonder why Gilbert had gotten so uncomfortable suddenly and scattered away from her like she was diseased. He had started the conversation perfectly content with taking a lazy minute from work to chat with her—even wanting to kiss her longer than they had— but something made him stare at her slacked-jawed and then leave stiffly.
She chalked it off as Gilbert being Gilbert, he could be awfully strange sometimes and continued on her way.
Anne had found an acceptable number of perfectly white starflowers, naming each one affectionately, as how could you use their beauty without properly christening them? And as promised, she had gotten herself quite lost amongst the glorious nature, but still made sure she wouldn’t repeat her mistake from a few days prior and rushed back to Green Gables in time to get herself ready.
Gilbert had proved himself to be a most excellent gentlemanly escort; he kissed her cheek sweetly when he arrived at Green Gables and whispered charming compliments in her ear to properly scandalize Mrs. Lynde; he held her hand gently to help her into the buggy; told her a side-splitting story about Fred’s clumsy fall off a ladder earlier, and held the door to the Pye residence open for her once they arrived. It suddenly made up for all the lonely dance halls she’d been in, all the times watching her friends and their dates from the sidelines.
The house was full of people— probably more people than was considered safe, but Anne thought how very exciting it was for so many conversations to be going on at once, in the dim, beautifully lighting, with the smell of sweet confections in the air.
“Would you happen to have any room on your dance-card for me, Anne-girl?” Gilbert asked with a lopsided grin once they were well within the middle of the action.
“It’s not that sort of party, Gil.”
“Ah— that’s alright— lucky for you anyways, I would have filled my name in every slot and you’d be terribly bored of my two left feet by the end of the night.”
She laughed and snuck her hand around his arm when she saw Josie, Tillie, Ruby, and Jane aggressively gesturing at her to come quickly from across the room. Unaware of whatever schemes they were plotting, she thought it best to keep Gilbert out of the loop— for now, at least, he could be a fantastic schemer when he wanted to be.
“You know, Mrs. Lynde told me earlier that you should never have to ask me for refreshments, and that I should just anticipate when you’re thirsty, and really, Gilbert, you’re just looking positively parched, so let me just go and… get that…for you.”
Before he could get a word in edgewise to protest, Anne disappeared into the crowd, leaving a very confused Gilbert, very alone.
Once she was a couple of feet away from the other girls they pulled her into their circle and looked at her seriously. Anne stared at them questioningly, shaking her head lightly in wait for an explanation.
Josie was the first to speak up: “are you seeing that?” She asked, nodding her head towards the opposite side of the room. Anne looked to see Diana and Fred, awfully close, as Diana had engaged him in a seemingly riveting story. He laughed heartily and placed his hand on her arm for a brief moment.
Anne did see, and Gilbert had been jokingly alluding to it for the past couple of days but she dismissed it as folly. But now she could see, Diana examined him with keen interest, and he looked back at her just as fondly.
“I must admit, they do make a good pair.” Josie conceded, and Ruby agreed, squealing, “when I ran into her yesterday and asked what she thought of him, she told me she found him quite cute!”
Anne straightened awkwardly, feeling considerably upset that her best friend had neglected once again to tell her of a romantic prospect— and hadn’t they only just met? All the times that Diana and her had described their dashing, prince-like ideal flashed in Anne’s mind and Fred wasn’t like that at all! He was short, and his cheeks were a splotchy red color at all times, and while he could crack a joke— sometimes he would stare blankly at Gilbert and Anne when they had gone too witty for his tastes. Diana was settling, and Anne would not stand for it.
She ignored her friend’s calls as she ducked and dodged all the partygoers to escape the now suffocating room and ran into the backyard. Gilbert, unsurprisingly, soon followed.
“Anne? Is everything alright?” He asked in that kind—too kind— tone.
“No,” Anne grumbled, knees folded up to her chest. He sat next to her in the grass, and mimicked her position, she would laugh if she hadn’t been so sullen. “Diana likes Fred, I think.”
“Oh,” he said, exaggerating the syllable, “and that’s a bad thing because…?” It was just like a man to not understand, Anne cursed silently.
“Gil, don’t take any offense to this— Fred is very lovely, and I so desperately want to be his friend— but he is not Diana’s romantic ideal at all! I just don’t want to see her settle down into something mundane— again, no offense to Fred.”
Gilbert laughed and nudged Anne on the shoulder, “and what about me? Do I fit into the romantic ideal?” She looked up at him slowly, suddenly meek under his impish question
“Well, I suppose not completely— you’d have to be more melancholy, and speak in romantic poetry,” she rubbed at a small stain on his shirt and giggled softly, “and be far more distinguished.”
“And would you wish for someone else; someone who fits that ideal?” He asked lowly, and she felt hot under his smoldering gaze.
“Then why should it bother you that Diana might deviate from your childhood ideals as well?” He always had to be right, she thought bitterly, “Fred is a great man, and I won’t deny that I’ve noticed his interest in Diana; you have nothing to worry about, Anne, he would treat her well.”
“I always thought that childhood would be over once Diana started courting— yes, I know I started before her, perhaps I am a hypocrite, but we’ve all always been good friends, so I thought it was different… I’m not used to change.” Things between her and Diana never changed once she and Gilbert began their relationship, and the three were able to have such great times together without anyone feeling left out— Anne thought she couldn’t say the same if it were the other way around.
“Things have to change, Anne, they’ll always change,” she groaned, unamused, “you and Diana will always be friends, kindred spirits, but you have to let her discover things on her own, and help her, she certainly helped us.” He smiled, even though the memory of her yelling passionately at him on the train still traumatized him.
She looked towards the window, into the house, and saw Diana playing a jovial tune on the Pye’s Piano, smiling widely at Fred, who clapped along to the beat and admired her. It may be that Byronic heroes were overrated anyways— words were beautiful and Gilbert tried his best to give her the poetry she so desired as best as he could, but the words wouldn’t matter if they were devoid of feeling. It was what he did, how he showed her with his tender touch, the way he gave her his undivided attention when she spoke even the most incoherent rambles, and the simple tokens he’d gift her just because they reminded him of her, that proved his love to her.
She stood up resolutely and brushed the grass off of her dress. “I symbolically give my blessing to Fred Wright,” she said, giving a comical curtsey towards the window where Fred stood.
Gilbert began humming the tune that could be heard trickling from the house, and she turned to face him with a quirked smile, giggling when he grabbed her hand to spin her around, sighing when he pulled her close to sway in a light dance.
“I know I said it earlier Anne, but you look beautiful tonight,” he swallowed, “I mean, really, really, beautiful.” She pulled away from his embrace to look at his face, to assure herself that he truly meant it. His gaze was better than what any mirror could tell her, it was that of love and attraction; she felt so wanted when she was with him. The crushing feeling that she was hiding something from him washed over her once again.
“I got a position to teach at Summerside.” She blurted unceremoniously, and he blinked at her a couple of times before grasping her hands harder and swinging her around in a wild waltz much in a way that reminded her of his schoolboy antics. Her laugh echoed through the peaceful yard and was purely contagious to him, his own laugh shaking within him and spilling out in short bursts at the way her heels kept getting trapped in the mud.
The sharp movements stopped, and his hands moved up and down her arms, in complete awe. “That’s incredible, Anne, I cannot even begin to describe how proud I am of you” finally, his hand came up to rest in her hair. “I just know you’re going to be a wonderful teacher.”
“You aren’t upset that I didn’t get a position closer to you?”
“Not at all— I would have loved that, don’t get me wrong, but really, I could never expect you to be so far away from Marilla during this time.” He assured, and she swelled at the fact she didn’t even have to explain herself to him; he understood. “Anne, I want to be able to take you on adventures, and for us to see so many new things together, but— and we don’t have to decide right now, I certainly do not want to force you to make any rash decisions, but I, myself have been thinking about it, so if you have any objections please don’t hesitate— “
“Gilbert, I cannot tell you if I have objections to something that might take you decades to tell me!” She cut him off, sure he was overthinking. Though, the way he was sweating and he swallowed thickly made her rethink with concern.
“I don’t have a particular desire to stay in Toronto after I finish my degree,” he started, stepping closer to her and hesitantly wrapping his arms around her waist. “I was hoping that I—we could settle somewhere on the Island. I would find a good town to start a practice, somewhere that has plenty of scope for the imagination for you.”
She was shocked, not expecting such a thing from him, “I want that too, Gilbert, and I wasn’t sure if you would want to move somewhere with more glamor or industrious and I would have done it for you— anything— for you, but there’s something about the Island that just screams Anne, don’t you think?”
“That is that exact thought process I had,” he smiled, before pausing, and then removing one hand from her waist and sinking it into his pocket, “Anne, there’s something I want to as—“
The porch door slammed open and an exasperated Ruby emerged from it, “Anne! You and Gilbert have been hiding for way too long, Moody has created an absolute disaster and I need you!”
Gilbert lowered his head and sighed, before taking Anne’s hand with a grin and stepping forward towards the door.
Gilbert Blythe was late.
Perfectly punctual Gilbert Blythe was supposed to have called on Anne for a stroll about Avonlea and a picnic for lunch (which she worked very hard on— excuse him!) an hour ago, but instead, Anne sat on the porch, longingly staring towards the direction of his house. He would always tease her for being late, asking what flowers caught her attention or what unique and stunning animal diverted her path, but this time she had the upper hand which she intended on milking for sympathy to the fullest.
Before she resolved to walk over there herself and give him a piece of her mind, she caught Fred speeding down the path towards the house. His usual beat-red face was turned up a thousand more degrees, and sweat dripped down his forehead.
“Practicing for the Olympics are we, Fred?” She laughed. Fred was becoming a great friend already— he was kind and good-humored, and she was starting to get used to the fact him and Diana seemed to like each other immensely, even going as far as telling Diana she believed he had taken notice of her, which sent her bosom friend into a fit of embarrassment.
“A-A…nne.” He heaved, struggling immensely. Anne pulled him along and sat him down on the porch, running inside to get him a drink of water which he silently thanked her for as he wheezed dramatically.
“Are you alright? Honestly, you look like you’ve sprinted a good couple of miles!” She admonished.
“That’s because I have,” Fred said lowly, still catching his breath. “Gilbert… he’s sick.” She stood up in shock, eyes frantically searching around as if already planning what she needed to bring Gilbert. Fred stood up despite his sore legs and followed her back inside; calling out after her multiple times— each time getting ignored by her.
“Anne!” He shouted, bringing her attention back to him. “He’s fine! Really, I’m so sorry to have alarmed you. It’s just a sore throat; I only ran because once he realized that he was unable to escort you around today, that dunderhead wouldn’t let up until I agreed to deliver the message.”
Anne stopped in her tracks, processing the information. She had been so scared for a moment— what would she do if Gilbert had been seriously ill? If something terrible happened to him? She shook her head to erase the images of a weak Matthew laying hopelessly in bed.
He was fine.
She did, however, continue on her warpath for supplies and anything she felt necessary for a sick Gilbert. Marilla was out for the day with Mrs. Lynde, so she wouldn’t be able to protest as Anne filled her bag with an arsenal of half their pantry.
Fred stared at her confused. “What are you doing? He’s okay, he says he’ll be alright to see you in at least a couple of days.”
She sharply turned her head to look at him, eyes lit aflame. “And why wouldn’t I take care of him?” She snapped.
Fred raised his hands in defense. “Please! Continue! We would be very grateful for your service.” Knowing that Gilbert would surely kill him for allowing her to come, even though he had been groaning out her name all morning.
“Just as I thought.” She nodded, collecting her makeshift nursing kit and swiftly exiting, only pausing for a brief moment to check Fred was walking behind her. “We don’t have all day, Mr. Wright!”
They walked in piercing silence all the way to the house. Anne held her head high with her eyes on the horizon, walking with a passionate purpose that took Fred aback. When Gilbert first told him about his girl, he believed the boy to be a lovestruck fool that nearly exaggerated every word he spoke about her, but looking at her fiery gaze and determined steps, he knew that Gilbert was holding himself back in his humble brags.
Though, while he could commend his friend’s pursuit of such a lady, Fred could only find himself thinking back to the calm and bright, kind and wonderful Miss Barry.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Anne bursting through the front door and Miss Hazel greeting the disorganized girl in shock, while Bash stood up from the table with a knowing grin.
“Ah, I was wonderin’ when you were gonna be gettin’ here, Anne” Bash joked, he had been fully aware that she’d never listen to Gilbert’s instructions to keep her at Green Gables.
“How is he?” She asked, giving no mind to his teasing. She was a woman on a mission.
“He’s fine.” Bash assured, “just refuses to eat anything like the toddler he is.”
She nodded and stood awkwardly for a moment. “Where is he?” The one-track-minded girl asked and Bash pointed up the stairs to his room. Anne started to make her way up quickly, fumbling up the steps.
Hazel looked at her son with surprise, to which he brushed her off: “they’ll be fine. ‘sides, he’s way too sick to be gettin’ into trouble.” Truthfully, he didn’t want to chaperone them, their googly eyes and general lack of awareness for those around them made it difficult to not run to the sickbed himself.
Plus, Gilbert was terrible to deal with when he was sick, Bash was happy to let Anne take over.
Anne wasted no time entering the room expeditiously, ignoring the way Gilbert shot up out of bed, giving himself whiplash.
“Anne!” He groaned, slightly irritated as she urged him to lay back down. “What are you doing in here?”
The sudden realization that she was in his room for the first time pounded against her like the unsteady beat in her chest that echoed through her ears. It was very much a Gilbert room, she thought as she focused her eyes on the decor. The corner with his desk was adorned with various medical journals and anatomical diagrams, and his bedside table fared no differently, with a stack of books piling high as his lantern. It was tidy, much more so than hers, but not boring without personality. She spotted a couple of trinkets from her; the small globe she had given him on his birthday; the pressed flowers she laid in her letters, and that picture she gifted him on their first Christmas.
She pulled the chair by the window to the side of his bed and sat down stubbornly. “What else was I to do, Gilbert!” She huffed, brushing her hand over his forehead. “Gil! You’re burning up! I mean it’s absolutely ridiculous that you expected me to just ignore you while you lay in bed suffering all by yoursel— ” he cut her off with a glare. “Okay, I’m sure Miss Hazel was doing an excellent job with nursing you, but… well— maybe I want to take care of you…” She drifted off slowly, worrying her bottom lip and nervous under his gaze.
“I just don’t want you to get sick.” He sighed, letting his eyes close in bliss as she smoothed his brow lightly. “But— I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish you were here all morning.”
She blushed at his admission and took in the state of him. He was still in his nightshirt, his hair was messy— which wasn’t completely out of the ordinary—but it was a kind of messy that wasn’t deliberate, and his voice was low from sleep and sickness. She wondered if this was what he looked like every morning— wondered what it would be like to wake up next to him.
“I like to think this will be good practice, you know… for when…” Why was this so difficult for her to say? Had she not revealed to him time and time again what her intentions were?
Something flashed in his eyes then, something like hope. “Good practice for..?” He echoed, prompting her to answer. He knew he wouldn’t do it here, not when the question would come out scratchy and awkward, not when he couldn’t kiss the yes off of her lips properly. But if she could just ease his anxieties, and state her dreams for them once more— he would surely be ready.
She shook her head lightly, mouth stuttering, “N-nevermind that,” Anne asserted, standing up from her chair. “Now that I’m here Mr. Blythe I’m afraid I must warn you, I am not the benevolent sort of nurse with a commiserate bedside manner. We’re gonna get some food in you, and then you’re going back to sleep.”
“No, please, it really hurts to swallow, Anne.” She giggled at his pathetic whine. “So what they say is true, then? Doctors really are the worst patients.” He rolled his eyes at her joke, before cringing in pain.
Anne put her hands on her hips, and suddenly Gilbert wished he took her previous comment about her lack of bedside manner seriously. She humphed triumphantly and exited his room yelling, “I’ll be back— do not move!”
Laughing at her persistence and headstrong ways, he sunk back into the pillow and closed his eyes. It was a marvel, a miracle, that she was here now taking care of him, even if the trade-off was a throbbing headache and pins and needles in his throat. Again, his mind drifted towards the domestics of it all, her soft hand upon his face, her being in his room and seeing him in this way that only a few people have witnessed.
He must have fallen back asleep because it only felt like seconds had passed when she returned with warm soup and bread; fortune must have been smiling upon him.
The desperate hunger he felt was able to supersede the want to avoid pain as just the smell caused an embarrassingly loud rumble in his stomach— which earned him a wholehearted laugh, the one where she would throw her head back a little, snort lightly, and cover her mouth with wide eyes.
Once she had him sitting up with the tray settled onto his lap, she plopped back down into the chair and stared at him while he ate, as if making sure he actually ate instead of pulling a trick on her.
“Is it alright?” She asked anxiously, “I really hope it’s alright— I mean, I didn’t want to feed you anything so completely dull, but of course, I also know that soup truly is the best medicine for any illness— well, probably not all... so I tried my best to follow Mary’s recipe but you know me, I can get so distracted while cooking, I’m sure I missed a couple of thin— “
“It’s delicious, Anne,” he interrupted her rambling, “really, just like Mary’s.” The small sniff she let out, and the way she turned around quickly to rub furiously at her eyes, indicated how much that meant to her. She turned back and beamed at him, gently pushing a curl out of his sweat-soaked face.
Gilbert leaned into her touch and looked at her with a firm resolution. “One day I’ll take care of you like this, Anne.” The genuine ardor of his promise almost surprised her, “you already take care of me, Gilbert.”
His dimpled smile appeared to smooth the previously pained expression, and she removed the finished tray from his lap, reaching over him to fluff his pillow; not seeing the way his face flushed at the way her chest briefly brushed against his cheek.
“Alright, which book do you want me to read,” he raised his eyebrows, “of course, I’m reading to you, Gil!” She argued, “now which one?”
He pointed at the thick tome at the top of his impressive stack, “I believe I marked where I left off.”
She flipped through the pages until she found the dog eared fold— which was absolute blasphemy on his part— and read out the convoluted text: “chronic obliterative appendicitis can not always be differentiated from the perforative form, and in intensity of pain—“**
The book was a complete bore, Anne thought, but Gilbert seemed to be interested, as it took longer for him to start drifting off than she had originally expected. His eyes fluttered shut, and his breathing became steady, and she thought he looked so young — so much like a child, then. She sat there for the rest of the afternoon, waiting until the sun had gone down and he had risen once again, before kissing his cheek and whispering a get well soon.
In the years he had known her, Gilbert had seen Anne in so many lights— whether they were bickering rivals, honest friends, or compassionate lovers — he had caught her in so many different ways, in so many different moments.
He had seen her in moonlight, which glowed against her milky skin, and created galaxies within her eyes; these moments were reserved for when he was feeling miserable, hopeless and downcast. He had seen her in the firelight, which made her hair look like embers and her lips especially kissable; the feeling would bubble in his stomach, threatening to pour over, and Anne would say that moments like these were when he was at his peak flirtation (she wouldn’t complain). Perhaps his favorite light to see her in though, was sunlight, much like the kind they were in right now. He could count the freckles on her face so clearly, and her eyes would turn almost as cerulean as the exotic seas he had once been acquainted with.
Anne had developed a six sense for his long glares it seemed because she peeled her eyes away from her book and looked down at his head in her lap. “You’re staring,” she said blank-faced.
He took the opportunity to finish his musings out loud: “moments like this Anne, I find myself falling in love with you over and over again.” She flushed deeply at his sudden confession; a cool breeze fluttered amongst the trees and soothed the burning against her cheeks, as she settled her book down slowly.
The illness had luckily only lasted a few days, and when he woke up feeling as good as new, he was eager to get out of the house for some fresh air— per his own order’s. Anne was happy to oblige and took him to one of her preferred secluded spots past the farm, and up through the hills. There was a strong oak that stood at a perch, looking down on Avonlea, which they used to rest as she read her copy of Wuthering Heights and he bugged her incessantly.
“Gilbert, there are times I strongly suspect that I love you,*** too.” She whispered with a smile as if there were thousands of people surrounding them and she was desperate for only him to hear.
It was becoming too much for him, the way she cradled his cheek softly, and the way she was looking down at him with every bit of love she held for him. If he didn’t speak now he thought that surely he never would. He released himself from her lap and stood up with determination.
She gave him a quizzical look, eyes squinted and nose wrinkled — he wanted to tell her how cute she looked but decided that wasn’t the most pressing issue.
“Anne,” he started, pacing around slowly, “I want you to know that I’ve been having these dreams.”
She chuckled, “is that all that’s got you worked up? Let me hear then, we’ll see if I can interpret them like a psychic.”
“They’re about you, Anne,” she cocked her head to the side, “They’re about waking up next to you, cooking dinner with you— even though I can’t cook to save my life,” he could hardly register her laugh through his own nerves ringing through him, “I dream about working with you— for you, creating a home with you and… our family.”
Her heart was pounding heavily in her ears now, still unsure of the direction of where this was going— not wanting to get her already high hopes to heights they shouldn’t reach— but was he really…?
His pacing halted and he looked down at her once again, “will you marry me, Anne?” The words stumbled out lightly, pleading, and she knew she had heard them before in her own dreams.
She braced her hands on her knees and pushed herself up to meet him, she wasn’t often speechless, but her reply was stuck in her throat, blocked by the heavy happiness that nearly spilled out in the form of tears.
“Yes,” she wept, unable to swallow back the thick emotion properly, allowing the dam in her eyes to break. His hand came up to her cheek and swept the tears away as they fell.
“Why are you crying; are you not happy?” He asked anxiously, undecided on whether he really wanted the answer.
“Of course, I’m happy, Gilbert— I’m so incandescently happy that I feel as though all of my best days have been handed to me in a most beloved gift— tears aren’t just for despair my dearest, foolish boy.”
He bit back his wide grin, but it still dimpled his cheeks and failed to hold in the relieved noise he made. There wasn’t any rational thought to tell him the way he swayed on his heels in triumph wasn’t entirely appropriate, but Anne didn’t seem to care and swung her arms around his neck, pulling him down in a consuming hug.
After a few minutes of reveling in each other’s touch, he gasped and pulled back. “How could I almost forget,” he muttered, before pulling out that all familiar black velvet back from his pocket. She had seen the ring during their first Christmas—but she wasn’t meant to wear it then— and now, seeing him remove it out of its confinements, and look to her with that silent question— she nodded vigorously, unable to contain her excitement.
It slipped onto her finger so perfectly, and gleamed against her skin, confirming to him that it was made to be worn by her. He thought of his mother and father then, how a similar exchange had taken place between them so many years before— had his mother smiled down at the ring and marveled about the way the sun shined against the gem aloud as Anne did? Had his father kissed the spot where the ring lay, as he did now?
“Anne, I still have three more years until I finish my medical course, and even then there will be no diamond sunbursts and marble halls.****” It pained him to make her wait so long, was it entirely fair?
Anne brought her arms around him once more and laughed. “Diamond sunbursts and marble halls are all well and good but they pale in comparison to you.” His relieved sigh was cut off by her sweet kiss, which he leaned into happily, and then she pulled him along down the hill, giggling at the way he tripped over his feet.
“Where are we going?” He asked cheerfully, not caring about the answer— as long as he was with her.
“I find that I have an exceeding amount of energy that I just need to let out!” She yelled back, lifting her skirts to run through the tall grass. She was certainly a sight to behold then; hair windswept out of her loose updo, smile wide and gleaming— and he barreled towards her, catching up quickly.
“Shall we see who has the most energy to expend, then?” He teased, and the two laughed all the way down the hill, appearing more like children than two newly engaged adults. But she supposed she liked it better that way, and by the way his eyes were lit with mirth and his voice was breathless from their frivolity— he did too.
“Can we ever be old, Gilbert?” She pondered when they reached the end of the hill, and he had fallen into the grass with his limbs spread out over dramatically. “it seems impossible!*****”
Wasn’t it odd how quickly news could spread in a small town, how words of eternal commitment and love shared between two lovers early one summer morning could be whispered through the general store; yelled in shock over at the butcher’s; cackled about the farms; gasped shockingly at over afternoon tea, to the point where every single soul in Avonlea had discussed and debated Anne Shirley-Cuthbert’s proposal to Gilbert Blythe by dinnertime?
Charlie Sloane had passed the two in a strange glow that morning on Lover’s Lane. They were giggling wildly, entirely too inappropriate for their age, he thought. But he maintained a gentlemanly hello and tipped his hat to the both of them, and when Anne lifted her small hand in a cordial manner, he caught the modest piece of jewelry sitting on her left ring finger.
Unless ladies fashions had changed drastically in the last year or so, that could only mean his old school pal had given it to her in the promise of marriage. While he was mildly disappointed that Anne had chosen Gilbert over him (he expressed his concern for her so graciously after dance practice, had he not?), he supposed she was too weird, too wordy for his tastes.
Oh, he had to tell his mother about this.
Once Mrs. Sloane knew, Anne and Gilbert no longer had any control over how the news was spread.
Jane overheard her mother and Mrs. Pye discussing it over tea with malicious intent. “What he sees in her I couldn’t possibly know— though, I suppose it isn’t completely a surprise as he’s always worshipped the ground she walks on.” A remark which Jane rolled her eyes at, before stomping out the door to call on Ruby.
Ruby screeched at the news, bursting into Moody’s library, successfully interrupting his Bible study. “Moody, get out here right now and come tell me I just heard Jane right! Anne and Gilbert are engaged!”
He peaked his head out of the door to greet Jane and then laughed with a smug grin, “I knew the very moment they met that they’d be a match.”
Ruby frowned, she had developed the wifely cross-stare quite thoroughly, “hush, no you didn’t. In fact, you encouraged his courtship with Winifred more than was necessary, you oaf.”
Said oaf withdrew himself slowly back into the small room, as Ruby excitedly told Jane about her plans for Anne’s trousseau, exclaiming that “a girl as pretty as Anne must have equally pretty things to wear; though I suppose she did ask for a couple of books that one time…”
When Ruby went to buy some fabric later that day for a new dress, she ran into Tillie and Josie and disclosed the news, to which Josie replied with an exasperated ‘finally’ and Tillie sighed romantically. The three girls shared their regrets over how they had banned Anne from talking to Gilbert in the beginning but joked about how they should have been more worried about him, as his stubbornness and lack of care for their childish ‘dibs’ rule made him want to talk to Anne way more than she had wanted to talk him.
From there it got to the Pauls, who then relayed it to Miss Stacey when they passed her on the way to the creek to fish. When the teacher saw Rachel Lynde along the way back, she asked if she had heard, believing that to be a silly question— it was Rachel, of course, she had heard— when she realized there was a first for everything.
Rachel Lynde did not know about the recent engagement. The usually all-knowing woman mumbled a quick goodbye and scurried off to find the nearest sentient life she could spout out the news to.
While the whole town was in raptures over the gossip, Gilbert had left Anne reluctantly at Green Gables, wishing he could just stay with her instead, but he had errands to run for Bash, and Anne had to attend to her own chores with Marilla.
“It’ll only be for a few hours, Gilbert. Just think — in three years you may well spend good money for more time away from me.”
The only people the two had revealed their news to willingly were their own households— and Diana. Bash had whooped and hollered, lifting Delphine up into his little victory dance, who giggled and cheered congratulations even though she didn’t quite understand the news. Fred patted Gilbert’s back and nearly begged to be the best man. Diana gave Anne an ear-splitting grin and squealed in a way she hadn’t done since they were fifteen. Marilla offered the two a tearful hug, and croaked out, ‘he would be so happy for you’ to Anne.
He sighed dreamily, thinking about seeing her tonight and whisking her away to yet another secluded spot of theirs; to kiss her fervently under the stars, to whisper how much he loved her, how much he couldn’t wait to call her his wife.
His thoughts were interrupted when he realized he was standing awkwardly outside of the general store and catching a few concerned eyes.
‘Had people always started at him this way?’ He thought as he perused the shelves of the store, suddenly feeling very self-conscious. With every movement he made it seemed like some Ladies’ Aid woman wasn’t far behind, and he wondered if there was something on his face, or perhaps he had unknowingly committed a crime and was wanted by the law.
At least that would be Anne’s first conclusion.
The unusual occurrence was suddenly explained by a curt whisper coming from behind him about his own engagement as he moved up to the cashier. Gilbert was never one to pay much mind to gossip, but he wasn’t ignorant of the way a certain uptight crowd always picked on Anne.
When they first started their relationship, she bore the brunt of the blame about the mystery behind his and Winifred’s abruptly ended courtship. Rumors that she had tricked him with vindictive falsehoods spread like wildfire, but Anne assured him she didn’t care in the slightest and begged him not to say anything.
After he finished paying, he turned around slowly and smiled at the herd of women staring at him. “Good afternoon.” He acknowledged with a tip of his cap and sauntered out of the store provokingly.
Later, when he came up the lane to meet Anne as she sat on the porch, folding up clean clothes from their drying line, he grinned at her cheekily and leaned against the wall. She looked at him expectedly, waiting for an explanation of his bizarre behavior.
“Have you heard any sort of interesting stories today, Annest of Annes?” He asked, amused by his own innocent act.
“No?” She cocked her head to the side. “Well, go on, if you heard something interesting please tell me now— I’m dying of boredom.” She rolled her eyes at his snort; he knew Anne found laundry to be a particularly unimaginative activity.
Gilbert then hummed lightly, rocking between his heels and toes, a roguish glint in his eye. “It seems that a certain Anne Shirley-Cuthbert is the talk of the town today, and it has nothing to do with revolutionary newspaper articles, unexpected town hall protests, or shocking haircuts.”
Anne smiled knowingly, before continuing his game, “Oh, perhaps I heard a whisper or two about that… someone mentioned she’s engaged to marry a circus clown— do you think she’ll become a trapeze artist and join him?”
The look of mock offense plastered on his face was only able to hold for a moment as he bit back a laugh.
“Are you suggesting my top-notch intelligence was wrong?” She pressed, leaning forward slightly.
“Indeed I am, because I heard from the source herself,” Anne giggled as he brought himself down to his knees, only inches away from her. “She told me that he was going to be a doctor, a really good-looking one at that.”
“Oh, I doubt she said that— I know Miss Shirley-Cuthbert very well and she definitely wouldn’t admit that out loud.”
He looked up, swallowing thickly, and even though his mouth still curved in that teasing grin, his eyes told her he was slightly nervous, as he said, “and what of the future Mrs. Blythe… do you know her very well?”
Anne reached to cup his cheek, and kissed him softly, satisfied when she pulled back that his eyes had forgotten his worried look. “I’ve only known her for a day, but I like to think we’re kindred spirits already.”
His forehead leaned against hers and he let out a breathy sigh. “Seriously though, Anne, everybody knows and now the rest of the summer will be filled with talk of the wedding from people I honestly don’t even want in attendance.”
She gasped softly, “Gilbert, are you suggesting we exclude some of our neighbors from our wedding?”
“Why should we extend an invitation to the people who have been so unkind to you?” He argued, “I want the whole day to be dedicated to our happiness, and how could that happen if some spiteful old cats****** were there making comments about what dress you’ll wear, or how we’ll say our vows—is it so bad to only invite the people who are actually important to us?”
Anne thought for a moment, she had imagined herself as a bride, imagined herself as Gilbert’s bride, but she never really thought about who would be there to witness it. When she squeezed her eyes shut to paint the scene, she couldn’t see anyone beyond her closest family and cohorts.
“Truthfully Gilbert— when I imagine what our wedding should be like it would be at dawn—a June dawn, with a glorious sunrise, and roses blooming in the gardens; and I would slip down and meet you in the orchard and we would go together to the heart of the beech woods,—and there, under the green arches that would be like a splendid cathedral, we would be married.******* So, perhaps the spiteful old cats— as you call them— wouldn’t be much of a requirement.”
Gilbert released a deep and ragged breath, the air suddenly feeling very thin like he had actually gone floating above the ground. He grasped at her hands to anchor himself, staring at where their fingers intertwined. As if she could sense his will to keep his tears from falling stagger, she settled her head in the crook of his neck and wrapped her arms tight around his torso. The light fluttering of his pulse against her cheek, the lingering smell of his soap, the warmth of his hands reaching up to tangle her hair; it was like home to her.
To have someone be vulnerable with you, and hold them in your arms with unhindered support — this is what it meant to love— Anne concluded.
“Is what I said really so awful it put you to tears? Would you rather we elope in the town hall with Billy Andrews as our witness? Then, at our reception, we’d eat carrots— don’t laugh Gil, I actually really despise the taste of carrots— and then Mr. Philips — yes, we invited him — would read our old letters out loud in that droning voice of his. Does that description suit your fancy more?”
He looked at her seriously. “I’d marry you anywhere, anyway.” She smacked his arm lightly and he chuckled. “Well, of course, the first choice sounds immensely more enjoyable.”
It was an overcast Sunday morning, and Anne felt herself just as gloomy as the deep gray clouds that were blanketing the sky.
There wasn’t a particular reason she was so forlorn; the day had already started poorly when she woke up with her braid half undone, which made her hair incredibly difficult to work with. Then, she burned the tip of her finger on the stove during breakfast, leaving a scalding blister. The dress she had been hoping to wear to church that morning unexpectedly had a hole she’d yet to mend, so she had to settle for one of her older outfits. Lastly, Mrs. Lynde had scolded her and Gilbert when they entered the church holding hands, ‘not in His house!’ she had cautioned harshly with a sharp-pointed finger towards the ceiling.
Even now, walking home with Gilbert, she hadn’t been very talkative, but he didn’t seem to notice as he went on about a new medical discovery that seemed to be all the rage across Europe.
“…and these different blood types — It’s incredible Anne! To think, every person has a particular blood composition, and why? Of course, I’ve been really enjoying the research work I do with Dr. Oak, and some of the village doctors are completely unaware of these things, and worst of all, don’t even seem to want to know. It’s like they’re just wasting away…” He had talked so animatedly about it, and she wanted to listen and be excited about his passions, but his last remark struck a chord in her.
She stopped on the path and looked at him with anger. “Wasting away, Gilbert? Is that how you see yourself?” The question seemed to confuse him, a frown formed on his face and his eyebrows furrowed.
“If you had been engaged to Winifred,” he opened his mouth to protest, but she continued on without giving him room to speak, “don’t— If you had married Winifred, you wouldn’t be here wasting away. You would be at one of the grandest universities with the most intellectual peers and professors, creating an impressive legacy with groundbreaking discoveries.” Her voice began to break, “and you’d come home to the most beautiful wife,” tears began to pour, “and forget all about simple, plain, and ordinary Anne.”
Just like her eyes refused to hold in her tears any longer, the clouds burst open and sent down the sharp, cool, rain down onto the unsuspecting pair. Her hair began to plaster against her face, and he could feel his curls do the same. His clothes began to stick heavily on his body, and he could tell by the way she grabbed at her sleeves that she was also developing a second skin through her dress. He moved to pull her hand and take her to a nearby tree, but she stomped her feet into the ground and planted herself.
Something squeezed against his heart, and her anger started to course through him.
“That’s not fair, Anne,” he snapped, wringing his hands together. “I have only ever loved you.”
“I know you love me, Gilbert, how could I not? But how can you look at that life you could have had, and not see how selfish I am for not letting you go, and you certainly talk like you regret it— letting me hold you back.”
She couldn’t give him all that he deserved, she knew that. While he might outwardly be content with his choice of her, inwardly, she was afraid he would resent her for the rest of his life. He would have given everything up for her because he was selfless and kind, but she was greedy, unable to give him up.
“Anne, I didn’t mean it like that at all,” she looked up into his eyes defiantly, “then what did you mean?”
Suddenly, he was transported back to that night after exams, where he wanted to wear his heart on his sleeve and let every little and big feeling he had towards her spill out into the open, but could only breathe out a vague statement: just one thing.
Seeing her tears mix into the rain that splatters onto her face, he realized how much his silence was hurting her. To her, his silence meant regret, it meant hesitation, and it meant blame.
The small scoff that escaped her mouth burned him, and she turned on her heel, only looking back to command him to not follow her, as she ran towards the opposite direction of Green Gables.
Anne stopped running when she was sure that he wouldn’t be behind her and slumped against the familiar graveyard of her Storybook Club. The sobs that ripped through her throat were unforgiving, and they tasted like the blood from her worried bottom lip. But what hurt her the most was the presence of his ring on her finger. It was a reminder that she had been headless, that he loved her and wanted to be with her, that she had thrown it all away for petty insecurity. Would she always put her foot in it with Gilbert? Were they destined to become bickering old crows who hated each other?
She laid her head against the remaining wood planks and tried to stop her imagination from running its wild course. She began to think about the next time she’d see him, how he’d probably ask for his ring back, and tell her it wasn’t meant to be. Josie had told her once that a man didn’t like a woman who argued with him viciously— perhaps Gilbert was just like any other man.
“Brain— stop it.” She scolded her own subconscious— they were not good friends at the moment.
“Anne?” A familiar voice asked behind her, clearly anxious and hesitant. “Gilbert!” She turned to look at him, his hands were awkwardly shoved into his pocket, and he was slouched slightly.
“I forget sometimes how well you know me, it was only a matter of time before you found me.” She said, trying to lighten the tension. He walked towards her cautiously, as if she were a frightened animal.
“Anne, I just wa—“ she stood up, “Gilbert, please, don’t say it.” He cleared his throat and tilted his head.
“Don’t say what?” He asked, clearly perplexed by her outburst. She rubbed the ring between her fingers and shifted her feet, unable to look him in the eye.
“I understand if it’s how you feel— if I had to deal with me, I’m sure I’d do the same, but please, Gil, please don’t say you can’t marry me anymore.”
He blinked and stared back at her completely bewildered, and she shut her eyes and prepared for the worst, but instead, a small sound slipped out of him, it wasn’t quite a laugh, though, she wasn’t so sure.
“How could you think that? Anne…” he sighed and stepped closer to hold— no, clutch— her hand. “I never want to make you feel like a second choice or something I regret. You are every single choice that I make every day; yes I have my ambitions, but they’d be meaningless if I didn’t have you to share them with, and I should never have said what I said. I just get so impatient, and—and jealous that I wonder if I can ever truly make a difference.”
She tugged on his hands lightly, “did you forget how I once said that you will be a wonderful doctor?” He looked away sheepishly, “You’re a student right now; you will get your turn and do such good in the world that people will come from all over to be treated by you, and you will never become one of these doctors who doesn’t attempt new things to keep people safe because ‘that’s not the old way.’” She said, mimicking the tone of the same old men he was deeply afraid of becoming.
“Anne, I fear that without you I have no conscience.” He chuckled, hiding how true it was behind his humor.
“But Gilbert, I had such a redheaded temper today and took it out on you mercilessly; how can you be so sure we won’t fight like this all the time for the next three years, or for our entire marriage…”
“We will.” He concluded earnestly, and she stared at him with wide horror; did he have so little faith in their ability to get along? “We will fight. I’ll say stupid things that get you worked up, and you’ll snap at me, and I’ll snap back, but we’ll always apologize and resolve to do better because we love each other.”
The tears in her eyes only pooled lightly at the edges, and shoved her head against his chest, letting the steady beat reaffirm her. “and you’re sure my temper won’t drive you away?”
“An Anne with no temper at all, who agrees with everything I say and echos my every thought is not an Anne I want to know.” He smiled, holding her close. “Will you promise that you’ll always tell me what upsets you?”
“I’m afraid I wouldn’t know how to keep it from you.”
August had flown past as quickly as the freight car she once rebelliously hopped on. There had been barefooted walks along the shore during deep orange sunsets, rambunctious family dinners, and sweet whispers in dark corners of Avonlea. Their looming separation was easy to cast off until it came down crashing down in the form of packing trunks and planning train rides.
Anne laid against the cool ground, feeling the contrast of his warmth against her arm as he laid beside her. They only had one night left— before he and Fred would take the noon train to Toronto, while she would leave for Summerside the day after, and they snuck off after dinner into the moonlit field of Green Gables. She was scared to speak, scared that once she opened her mouth she would ramble on about every insecurity and every fear she had, this night should only be spent in bliss, not anguish.
Their silence was content, but there was a pressure looming, something that settled on their chests like a heavy weight refusing to let up. She tried her best to inject something humorous into the air to relieve the tension.
“Diana told me that her and Fred are going to write to each other.” The two had flirted endlessly the entire summer, but had yet to reveal any sort of further intentions. Gilbert and Anne had tried their bests to avoid playing matchmaker, but it was exceedingly difficult for Anne not to intervene.
He laughed lowly, “I’ve heard about it nonstop from Fred, he’s been pestering me to let him read my letters to you to get ‘inspiration.’”
Her face wrinkled, “but I have your letters,” turning on her side to face him, “I know, that’s what I told him!” She quirked her brow, “his masterplan is for me to sneak into your room and steal them back.”
Anne snorted and pressed her face into his shoulder, and Gilbert instinctively reached to curl his fingers into her hair and pull her closer. They lulled into silence once more, and she suddenly felt like nothing would let that pressure up until they were three years older, three years wiser, and never to be apart again.
“I want our house to be a nice white color, and I don’t want it to be too big, nothing too old, but certainly not new,” he listened to her intently, “I want it to have a story, something that makes me feel like it was made to be a home for us.”
“Any other requests?” He asked, trying to align every fantasy he’s ever had of their home with hers. He’d made up so many versions over the years that they began to blend together, but he wasn’t fussy over the particulars, just as long as a certain red-head was a cohabitant of the home.
“Well, if I recall correctly, my own letters had a little more description for you to go off of,” she smiled, and looked up at him once again, tracing her finger along his jaw softly. “But since you’ve asked again so nicely I’ll let you in on some more secrets.”
She hummed lightly as if mentally checking over the list in her mind carefully. “A library with never-ending books; you’ll have your monotonous medical journals and I’ll have my George Eliot and Brontë collection. There would be a sensible kitchen, and just think about it, Gil, we’d never have to eat a meal we didn’t enjoy ever again,” his chuckle at that stopped her for a moment, and she considered if she was truly ready to say what she wanted to say, but grazed her ring finger once more and was certain.
“I had such a lonely childhood, Gilbert, no family, no siblings…” her voice was thick with emotion, and he swallowed back his own tears at the remembrance of the lonesome feelings he had as a child, he didn’t know the love of a brother, or a sister. “I wouldn’t ever want a child of mine to feel that way, and so I hope you wouldn’t mind, perhaps a decent-sized nursery?”
He leaned over her, then, and looked at her with a sort of determination that was so like him, and whispered hoarsely, “I want that too.” Her hand reached up to brush his cheek, right below his eye, and slid up into his curls, pulling him down slowly. His eyes searched hers frantically suddenly, and he choked out, “I can’t leave you— not now.”
The tears that swelled in her eyes refused to stay put and dribbled down her cheeks and pooled on her chin. “You have to, Gilbert.”
“And if I didn’t?” He said defiantly, she was sometimes shocked that people thought he was always the rational one in their relationship, they were equally as stubborn, which proved difficult in times like this.
“You wouldn’t finish medical school, you wouldn’t fulfill your dream, and Gilbert, you’re not the sort to sit on your hands and not follow where your passions lead you. I want you do be doing what you love.”
“I love you” he pleaded, and it twisted in her heart and coursed through her like lead.
“I love you too, so much.” She urged, like a promise. “This distance— it’s temporary, but you and I? We have our whole life ahead of us, and tell me honestly, Gilbert, can you picture yourself doing anything but healing people?” He shook his head silently; he couldn’t, wouldn’t be a farmer. “You can finish medical school for me, and for our family, but most importantly I want you to do it for yourself.”
He gave a bittersweet smile and finally leaned into her gravitational pull, and he pressed his lips against hers. The kiss was slow, and she could tell he was tired, but she knew better than to think it was lazy, he moved against her languidly, yet fervidly as hot tears dripped from his eyes onto her own soaked cheeks.
The atmosphere felt dense as their breathing mixed with one another once they pulled away, and he settled his head on her shoulder, and her arms wrapped around him. They remained that way until Marilla called out for her, with what felt like miles in between them.
He wouldn’t let her leave for a couple of minutes after that, silent in the way he planted his feet into the ground like the sowed crops among them, grasping at her arm desperately. Marilla called once again, and Anne pressed a lingering kiss to his cheek and ran back to the house. Bash chose to ignore her red eyes and followed a sulking Gilbert down the path.
The next morning would come without the same reluctance they carried, and she met him at the train station with Diana, and her sleepless expression was mirrored onto his own face, eyes still red, but outlined with dark circles, and his skin was as pale as it had ever been. The station was bustling, and Fred was still as bright-faced as ever, coughing awkwardly as he reached out to hand Diana a piece of paper with his address on it.
“You’re sure it won’t be a burden for you to write to me?” He asked, and Diana smiled shyly, before pressing a quick kiss to his cheek, which he rubbed in shock. “I’ll write to you as much as I can, Fred, and thank you for being such a lovely companion this summer.”
The trained whistled, steam pouring out onto the platform, and Fred waved at both girls, sending a wide grin to Diana before boarding the train, while Gilbert remained in place.
‘Gilbert, you’ll miss the train.” Anne tried to scold lightly, but it came out flat. He set his bag down and pulled her into a crushing hug.
“I’m coming back for you,” he whispered, and she wanted to laugh, ‘of course you are, you fool,’ but instead she choked out a sob, and tightened her arms around his torso. “I’m coming back—and we won’t be apart ever again—we’ll just be happy, dreaming, and working for each other********, we’ll say whatever’s on our minds, share everything with one another, and just be together. Let’s start being happy now, Anne-girl, I don’t want your last memory of me to be this pathetic.”
She laughed, pulling back to take in his refreshed disposition, and ruffled his hair lightly to make him smile. “Don’t forget that your promise to never be apart is sealed in stone,” she joked, lifting up her left hand, he chuckled and gave her a kiss that remained on her lips for hours to come, ignoring the scandalized bystanders.
“I’ll never forget.” He said, backing up slowly on the train steps when the conductor yelled out his final call. He didn’t need to say ‘I love you’ then, she knew it like she knew the sky was blue; she knew it like she knew Diana was her first, and best friend; she knew it like she knew that Marilla would always care for her and that Matthew was watching from above; she knew it like she knew her mother had red-hair like hers and both of her parents had loved each other just as much as they had loved her, and she knew it like she knew Gilbert Blythe would belong in her life just as she belonged in his.
Her heart felt like it was being pulled along with her as the train started moving out of the station, and she unconsciously followed its path, eyes locked on his as he remained on the divider. She followed until the platform ended and she could go no further, fists clenched together in resolution .
“I’ll be waiting, Gilbert Blythe!” She called out, voice countering the loud whistles of the train, and conversations from the station. His head peaked out from the railing, and he yelled back at her, his own voice clear in her ears.
“I’ll be holding you to that, Anne Shirley-Cuthbert!”
The years she would spend with him stretched out before her in a vast expanse of sunlit mornings, fire-lit poetry reading, heated debates over dinner, said debates turning into frustrating arguments and everything she never would have allowed for herself as a child. She grieved for lost time together, but Anne knew, that grief was the price of love, and accepted it with open arms.