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anne

                                                           

'Сause you are loved
You are loved more than you know


 

There’s something about being sixteen that makes things different, Anne thinks. Everyone seems the same and mostly everyone looks the same, but they act differently. For instance, three years ago when she arrived in Avonlea, no one seemed impressed by a simple reading in class. Even the most beautiful poetry was read in the most mundane voice and more than half of the class didn’t care at all what it was about.  

To be fair, Mr. Phillips didn’t provide any encouragement for the students to do so. But even then, at least some of the people — mostly her — had tried to make the subject interesting in some way.

But now, at sixteen, Anne notices how things have changed. Tillie Boulter, whose reading has improved drastically, is reciting the poetry Miss Stacy assigned for them early this week in such a lovely way, Anne couldn’t be prouder. 

Of course, poetry reading isn’t the biggest change their new age has brought to them, but it is a great example of how the nature of their relationships have changed. As Tillie reads, her eyes keep moving to one of the Pauls, who seems to be under a spell with her voice. He isn’t even looking at the book in front of him, he just can’t move his eyes away from her.

Later, when lunchtime comes and the girls walk towards the door to grab their milks from the stream, Charlie makes sure he is already next to the door, opening it for them and making several of the girls blush, enchanted by his chivalry.

The Take Notice Board is still active, and even if Anne’s name has been on there just once because of Charlie, he seems to have moved on to Jane Andrews, who is more accepting of a possible courtship than Anne ever was.

“Remember my first day when you told me we didn’t talk to the boys because they were ridiculous?” Anne asks Diana as they sit by themselves, watching Jane and Charlie talk under the nearest tree. “I miss those days.”

Diana laughs. “Don’t say that. They are nicer than they were.”

“I know, but you have to acknowledge how disturbing it is to see that.” She points to the couple in front of them and cringes. 

“You say that, but you’ll be different when it’s with you.”

Anne doubts that. One thing she’s glad of is how little her nature has changed these past years.

When they resume class, Miss Stacy returns to the readings; Anne is more than ready to get lost in the written words when she notices whose turn it is to read out loud. When Gilbert stands up with his book in hand and starts reciting, Anne does her best to focus on the book in front of her instead of him.

Nature not only changed her classmates’ relations, but physically they are also different. Gilbert got taller and the farm work has made him a bit fitter than some of the boys. And his voice… Even seeing him everyday, she can’t get used to how deep his voice is now. Well, all of the boys’ voices are, for that matter.

Anne is not paying more attention than she should to Gilbert Blythe, of course.

Her eyes move to him eventually, and Anne feels she should be mad his reading is almost impeccable, since Gilbert is the one to beat and the Queen’s exam is just around the corner. However, at that moment, she can’t help but enjoy how the words form in his mouth.

Gilbert isn’t quite as passionate as she is when he’s reading, she notices. He’s more restricted in his movements and his voice is steadier than hers, but she can feel the emotion nonetheless. Not that there is much emotion to feel, Anne thinks, returning her gaze to her own book.

Anne feels a little disappointed when, by the end of the class, she’s not one of the chosen ones to read the remaining poems Miss Stacy assigned them. She’s sure she’d have done a much better job than Paul, who put no emotion whatsoever into the beautiful words in front of him.

“Well done everybody,” Miss Stacy says, closing her book. “It’s a little earlier than usual, but I think it’s best if we stop here for today. For those who won’t be taking part in the Queen’s study group, you may go. The rest, we’ll resume in five minutes.”

The upcoming weeks of preparing for the Queen’s test are aggravating, to say the least. As if it isn’t hard enough to have her mornings of normal class and her late afternoons helping at Green Gables, now the mid-afternoon spent on school as well for the Queen’s preparatory classes are making Anne exhausted.

Of course she loves every bit of it. Learning wasn’t something she got to do when she was in the orphanage, and since Miss Stacy became their new teacher, it has been a pleasure to learn the many things she’s taught. From the mathematical equations and science theories to the sorrowful poetry written by the poets she admires with all her heart.

The problem is that with school for most of the day and afternoons working at the farm, she has spent less and less time with her bosom friend, Diana. It still doesn’t sit right that Diana’s parents hadn’t let her continue her education along with the rest of the class, thinking it would be a better idea to send her off to Paris so she can go to finishing school and become a proper lady. Anne knows Diana has a better and more prosperous future than being someone’s wife.

She shares her thoughts with Diana as Anne walks her out of the school.

“I tried, Anne,” she says, sad eyes landing on her friend, “but Mother insists on it. She says I should be thankful she’s letting me graduate with you all before sending me to Paris and she’s probably right.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Anne says, rolling her eyes. “You should be coming to Queens with the rest of us. Learning won’t make you less of a lady. I don’t think you can be more of a lady than what you are now.”

“I wish I could spend the next few years with you and not alone at Paris.” Diana holds Anne’s hands and smiles sadly. “Promise me you will write every day and won’t forget about me.”

“Of course I won’t. And we still have a few months before you leave, so I vow we shall spend as much time as we can together.” They stop just at the entrance of the woods. Anne hugs Diana. “Will Jerry walk you home today?”

Anne can’t help but smile when Diana’s face becomes a light shade of red as she nods. It is a little weird seeing two people she cares for deeply having feelings for each other. Anne couldn’t be more happy for them, but sometimes it makes her feel like she is being left out of something in her friendship with Diana.

“Yes, he should be waiting for me.” Diana hugs Anne one more time before turning around. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Anne.”

The Queen’s class goes by without any major events, as it usually does, and soon enough Anne is the one walking home. It’s not the same, walking without Diana— everything seems much too quiet. She likes the sound of the wind through the trees and the birds chirping,  like nature is saying hello to her and telling all of its secrets, but it still feels wrong without her bosom friend to share it with her.

“Dear nature, as much as I enjoy listening to you on this beautiful day, I fear it saddens me more now that I’m alone,” she starts, before picking one of her books and opening  it to a well known favorite of hers. “So I hope you don’t mind me sharing a story with you today.”

She starts reading the poem out loud, and it doesn’t take long for her to forget about her sorrows and get wrapped up in the tragic story of it all. Anne loves her life in Avonlea and the people who care so much about her, but she can’t help but wish for more. She wants a life of adventure and romance just like her books promised her. Marilla would roll her eyes and tell her to be more practical, but how can someone wish for a practical life when there is so much more scope for the imagination?

“He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there, but the landlord’s black eyed daughter, Bess, the landlord’s daughter, plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair,” she finishes out loud, tears in her eyes. “Oh, dear trees, have you ever heard something as romantic as this?”

“I haven’t, no,” a voice comes from behind her, making Anne jump, frightened, before turning around.

“Gilbert,” she says, surprised. 

“I didn’t mean to startle you.” He approaches her, hands inside his pockets. “I only meant to make my presence noticed.”

She nods, her heart still beating fast in her chest. “Yes, you did just that. Are you coming this way as well?”

“Yes, Mr. Barry asked me to come over after school to talk about some business regarding the apple exportation to England.” Diana had mentioned her father was talking more and more about Gilbert and Bash’s crop at the farm and how excited he was to help them since Mary’s death, but she had forgotten all about it.

“I was hoping I could join you,” he suggests, eyes not leaving her face. “If you don’t mind.”

She shakes her head, resuming her walk, holding tight to her books. Now that her mind isn’t occupied with the romantic words on the page, she fears her mouth will let some of those words escape in Gilbert’s presence.

Not that she has any sort of feelings towards Gilbert or any boy, she thinks, rolling her eyes. But she is easily carried away by the stories she reads and usually finds a way for all of those feelings to exist in any object of her affection.

The silence is killing her, but surprisingly not one single subject comes to mind to settle her mind at ease. At least none of that would lead her to talk over her head.

“I’m so glad we had a little sun today,” Gilbert says, breaking the silence as if it wasn’t bothering him as much as it was Anne. “Bash was preoccupied with little Delphine catching a cold.”

“Is he taking her out with all this wind we’ve had for the past few days?”

“No, she mostly stays inside with the fire burning, but you know Bash doesn’t care much for any weather that’s not summer.”

Anne laughs, feeling more comfortable in his presence now.

“One of these days I’ll pay a visit to Delly, if you don’t mind,” Anne sighs. “With the Queens extra classes and helping Marilla and Matthew around the farm now that Jerry has a bad cold, it leaves me little to no time to enjoy myself and my loved ones.”

“You seemed to be quite enjoying yourself just now.”

Anne feels her face become warmer. “When one has such a good book to rely on, that leaves for such scope of the imagination.”

“What were you reading?” 

“A poem by Alfred Noyes.” She smiles, looking at the books in her hands. “I’ve read it many times before, but it’s still one of my favorites.”

“What’s it about?” he asks, curious.

“You don’t seem the type of person interested in reading romantic poems,” she points out, finding his sudden interest in her books weird.

Gilbert shrugs, eyeing her. “I wouldn’t refuse a good read.” She doesn’t respond to that, which is interpreted by Gilbert as an invitation to grab her books from her arms.

“What are you do—”

“The Highwayman, by Alfred Noyes,” he reads, eyebrows raising up with curiosity. “The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty—”

“You’re not going to read it right now, are you?”

“You won’t tell me what it is about, so I might read and find out, don’t you think?” 

She doesn’t say anything for a moment, looking at him half annoyed. How dare he take her books out of her arms without permission and tease her like that? And, to top it off, look like he is enjoying his actions at her expense. That boy has a way to make her cross and she doesn’t care for it, but she’d be dead to let him read her favorite poem all the way to Diana’s house.

“It’s about a highwayman who falls in love with the landlord’s daughter and is betrayed by the ostler. So, in order to save him from an ambush, she sacrifices herself with a musket to her heart. He seeks revenge for his lover’s death but dies instead.” She sighs deeply, still in awe of the romantic act of it all. “In the final stanza, their ghosts meet again.”

She looks at Gilbert, expecting him to feel as touched as she, but finds a frown on his face instead. 

“They die,” he simply says. “I’d consider it tragic, rather than romantic.”

“Well, it’s a tragic romantic poem,” she fires back. “Two lovers kept apart who die trying to save the other or avenging them. How can you not see that?”

“I guess I don’t see dying as a romantic act,” he says, looking at the book in hands. “I could say it’s a noble gesture of her, to save him from an ambush, but he was alone after that. Pain is not romantic.”

“She did that because she loved him.” Anne crosses her arms. It’s easy for him to get under her skin and he knows it, but that doesn’t make her any less irritated with him. With a groan, she turns his way. “Can I please have my books back?”

“I don’t mind carrying them for you.”

“I didn’t ask you to carry them, you took them away from me.”

“I was rude,” he admits. She nods, expecting the return. “Let me make it up to you by carrying your books.”

“Why are you so irritating?”

“C’mon, Anne, I’m just teasing you.” She glances at him. “We’re friends now, aren’t we?”

Friends. 

That is an odd word to describe her relationship with Gilbert Blythe. Friend never sounded right when it concerned him. Diana is her bosom friend, Billy Andrews is her sworn enemy, Jerry is considered a brother at this point and Ruby Gillis is an actual friend of hers. She knows exactly what her feelings towards all these people are and why all those words fit, but not Gilbert.

He was, at first, a stranger defending her from Billy. Then, he was an acquaintance, a forbidden acquaintance dictated by the girls, and soon enough, her sworn rival. The last one was the one who stuck the most, as Gilbert was the one she had to beat to become first in the class and prove to everyone she was more than just an orphan. 

But even afterwards, when they’d grown up and actually started listening to one another and the rivalry ceased (well, mostly), there was still no label to describe him. They would occasionally study together for the Queens preparatory class, they spoke amicably whenever one came over the other’s their house, and they even sometimes enjoyed each other’s company, but it never felt like it did with anyone else she was sure about her feelings for.

Friend isn’t a word she’d refer to Gilbert with, but there isn’t a better one, so it has to be it.

They come to the tree where Anne and Diana say their goodbyes and part ways to their own homes. Anne stops and turns to Gilbert.

“This is where we go our separate ways.” She reaches for her books. “I imagine you know your way to Diana’s house.”

“I do.” He doesn’t make any effort to hand her belongings back. “But I figure I’d walk you home.”

Anne frowns. “I thought Diana’s father was expecting you. It’s extremely rude to keep him waiting, especially on my account.”

“She told me earlier that her father was in Carmody for the day and I shouldn’t come right away in case he was not home.”

“You don’t have to walk me home,” she says. “It’s out of your way.”

“I’d like to,” he says, hiding a smile. “It’s practical, for I’d be actually doing something to pass the time instead of just waiting. Plus,” he adds, “I’d be at rest knowing you got home safely in case any ghosts tormented you,” he teases.

Anne can’t help but smile at that. She continues on the path to Green Gables, with Gilbert beside her.

They stay in silence for a while, walking side by side. This time, she doesn’t mind just listening to nature anymore. The company is nice and the sound of the trees makes her think back to one of the adventures her dear Cordelia used to have, meeting with the forest fairy queen looking for adventures. If she wanted to, Anne could think of a new adventure for her right now just so her mind could be busy until she got home.

But the need isn’t quite there. The reality, as weird or unusual as it is, doesn’t bother her anymore, so the sounds of the leaves are just fine for her.

“Can I ask you something?” Gilbert looks at her, a little apprehensive.

“You just did.” Anne holds back a smile. “But you can ask something else.”

“Who is Cordelia?” That takes her by surprise. Was she thinking out loud again? He seems to notice the confusion on her face. “It’s written in the book.”

“Oh.” That is a relief, she thinks. “That’s the name I wanted to be called back at the orphanage.”

“Why?”

She hesitates for a second, considering what to tell him. She has no trouble sharing her experiences at the orphanage with other people, or what she did to cope with it, but a small part of her is afraid to be made fun of by him. That thought seems ridiculous, she realizes. Gilbert is not the type of person to do that, even to his sworn rival. Or whatever they are now. But it bothers her a bit to think it might make him see her in a different light.

“Well, at the orphanage I wasn’t the most…liked person and, therefore, I didn’t have any friends,” she starts, and Gilbert’s expression shows nothing but interest in what she’s saying. “I would often use my imagination to believe I was someone else, living in some place entirely different and experiencing the most exciting adventures.” She smiles. “I can be very creative, you know.”

“Oh, I  wouldn’t be surprised,” he says with a smile.

“I could be a fairy queen who swore to protect all that’s beautiful in this world, or even a pirate, navigating through the harshest storms, fighting monsters and discovering the most unusual treasures in the great sea.” Her eyes move to the ground. “I was often Cordelia, a wise and solitary princess who lived the most exciting adventures and… had friends.”

Anne doesn’t dare look at him. She regrets saying all those things now; what must he think of her?

“I always thought it was a beautiful name and it held such a beautiful story behind it, so if I was named Cordelia, maybe her stories would become mine. I think of her less since I’ve come to Avonlea.”

His hand brushes hers.

It is almost unnoticeable, and she could say it was an accident if she wanted to, but his fingers keep touching hers as they walk slower to Green Gables. Anne doesn’t know what to make of it, she truly doesn’t. 

She also doesn’t want it to stop.

Gilbert stays silent and she is grateful for it. She is sure she wouldn’t have liked either a mocking or a pitying word to come out of his mouth, and he seems to be on the same page as her. But the contact, as small as it is, makes her feel less embarrassed by the words she had said. It’s ...comforting.

But it’s more than that too. Anne can feel her heart beating furiously against her chest at that moment. She can feel the pounding in her ears, and she wonders if Gilbert can hear the sound too. If he does, he doesn’t say or do anything to let her know and she prefers that way.

They stop near the entrance of Green Gables and stand still for a few moments. Marilla will be at the front of the house sweeping the leaves and waiting for her in a second, and Anne wouldn’t dare make Gilbert’s presence noticed by her. She should say her goodbyes at once and walk home.

But that moment of peace with him is also nice and Anne finds it hard to leave just yet. She turns to face him, moving her hands away from his, and misses the contact instantly. She can still feel the ghost of his touch, almost like it had burned her skin. Her eyes move to his face and notices  his are already on hers.

“Thank you for walking me home,” she says with a soft smile, reaching for her books he insisted on carrying. “It was...” she hesitates. Lovely? Irritating? Confusing? “…kind of you.”

“It was my pleasure.” His eyes are different now, she notices. Not as playful as earlier, but Anne can’t figure out what they mean.

She hears Marilla yelling something to Jerry and she should really turn around and get inside. But Anne finds it hard to tear her eyes away from Gilbert when he doesn’t make any effort to leave.

Marilla’s voice sounds closer and Anne knows she’ll be able to see her in a few moments, so she blinks harshly, taking a step back.

“I should really go inside now.”

Gilbert nods, taking his hand out of his pocket and stroking the edge of her hair. Anne feels her face burn, but doesn’t move.

“Yeah, well, I should go,” he gently tugs her braid with a smile on his lips. “See you around, Anne.”

His fingers leave her hair as he takes a couple of steps back, still looking at her before turning around and taking the path back to Diana’s house. For a few seconds, Anne continues to stare at where he stood, taking it all in.

She doesn’t know what had just happened. That is hardly the relationship she has with Gilbert and even Anne doesn’t have the imagination to ever think any of this would even happen. And it bothers her the most that she had enjoyed his company as well, considering her walk with Charlie Sloan was an utter disaster.

With a sigh, she comes to the conclusion that was too much of thinking and wondering for a day and walks back to the Green Gables gate.

It’s not until she reaches for her books at night that she realizes her poem book isn’t there.

***

Anne can’t help but smile when she opens her eyes that Saturday morning. Even without leaving her bed, she can feel how exciting this day is going to be. Saturday has come to be her favorite day of the week, solely because it is the only day she and Diana can spend together.

No Queen’s class. No lady training. No farm work.

Just Diana and Anne.

She starts getting ready for her day, glancing to the trunk by her bed, full of clothes for her big trip to Charlottetown. She couldn’t be more excited to attend Aunt Jo’s birthday party, already imagining an event just as grand as her Summer Soiree, and to see Cole again. She misses Cole with all her heart, and even though they keep up with their weekly correspondence, Anne can’t wait to actually talk to him in person.

Anne stops in front of the mirror, brushing her hair before starting to make her braids. Her hair has grown so much these past months, her red locks almost reaching her waist by now. Even though she still despise the color of her hair, Anne can’t help but smile at her reflection. Somehow time has become kinder to her figure. It is nothing compared to Diana’s beauty, but it is in fact an improvement.

“Anne!” she hears Marilla call from downstairs. She’d scold her if she knew about Anne’s vain thoughts regarding her appearance, so she quickly finishes braiding her hair before running downstairs.

“I’m here, I swear I wasn’t daydreaming this time. My hair grew so much it’s taking a while to finish my braid,” she says, joining Marilla and Matthew for breakfast. “Isn’t this morning divine?”

Marilla rolls her eyes, pouring coffee into her mug. “For Heaven’s sake, child, this is a normal morning just like every other day.”

“But it isn’t, Marilla,” she answers, smiling at Matthew. “It’s finally the perfect weather for Diana and I to walk around the lake of Shining Waters before we head out to Charlottetown for Aunt Jo’s birthday party.”

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible.”

“What? Why?” Anne looks at Marilla, heartbroken. “I haven’t been able to spend time with her ever since the Queen’s preparatory classes started. Saturdays are the only moments we can spend together.”

“Rachel just left with news. Bash is ill and unable to work on the farm for the day. It’s nothing serious,” she hurries to add, “but there is some business to finish at the farm and Gilbert can’t do it if there’s no one to watch over Delphine.”

Anne can see where this is going.

“Marilla, you know I’d love to take care of Delly, but Aunt Jo’s...”

“Heavens, Anne. It’s not like you haven’t been to a party before. Heaven’s knows Ms. Barry enjoys throwing them far too often,” she says, under her breath. “You’ll attend to the child and that’s final.”

As devastated as she is, Anne simply nods. She loves little Delphine with all her heart and she’ll do what she had promised Mary: she’ll be there for her child, but it still pains her so to not be able to attend her party.

Breakfast doesn’t take so long, so soon enough Anne is on her way to Gilbert’s house. She had already stopped at the Barrys’ to let Diana know their day wouldn’t be possible anymore and to send her deepest apologies to Aunt Jo.

As soon as she arrives at Gilbert’s farm, she stops for a moment. They haven’t talked to each other since he had walked her home almost a week ago, mostly because she has been bluntly avoiding him. She wished Marilla didn’t have to stay at Green Gables to help Matthew with the harvest and instead could join her to avoid any kind of… whatever that was with Gilbert.

She can hear Gilbert’s voice as soon as she steps on his porch. Anne opens the door quietly, curiosity getting the upper hand, and she walks towards his kitchen trying to understand what he is saying to the baby.

It takes a lot for Anne not to laugh at the scene in front of her. Little Delphine is in her chair, looking as adorable as ever with the clothes Marilla made for her, but with her face and clothes covered in food as Gilbert, sitting in front of her, does his best to make her take a bite.

“C’mon, Delly,” pleads Gilbert, trying to keep  her hands from reaching for the spoon. “Just a little bite. Uncle Gilby knows how much you like apple puree.” 

This time, he manages to get the spoon in her mouth, but by then, Delphine has noticed Anne’s presence, so the big smile she gives her makes all her puree fall out of her mouth and onto her clothes.

Gilbert groans, leaning back in his chair with a smile. “Do you make as much of a mess with your father, young lady?”

“No, I think she saves the mess just for her Uncle Gilby,” Anne says, unable to hold back a laugh anymore.

He turns around, surprised by her presence in his kitchen, but still offers her a smile. “Anne.”

“Sorry for barging in unannounced,” she starts. “Marilla told me Bash was sick and someone should look after Delly so you could finish some of your work in the orchard today. So here I am.”

“Oh.” He looks back at Delphine, who’s entertaining herself by licking the remaining puree off of her hands, before sighing. “I don’t feed her often other than giving her the bottle so I’m a little out of my league here. She finds eating more enjoyable with Bash.”

“How’s he, by the way?”

“It’s just the flu, he’ll be fine soon enough, but he doesn’t want Delphine to catch it. So he quarantined himself in his room.” Gilbert rolls his eyes. “I’m sorry you have to miss your Saturday because of it.”

“That’s fine,” she says, reaching for Delphine. “I’ll change her and try to feed her again and later I’ll make a broth for Bash. Marilla said she’d stop by with some lunch later because she’s scared I’ll burn your house down.” She rolls her eyes.

“Has that ever happened?”

“Of course not,” she answers, outraged. “I’ve had some… incidents before that made Marilla question my decisions, but I assure you I’m quite capable of making responsible choices.”

He narrows his eyes at her.

“Didn’t you dye your hair green?”

“Yes.”

“And walk into a burning house?”

“Yes.”

“And use liniment in a cake instead of vanilla extract?”

She raises a brow, challenging. “What’s your point?”

Gilbert bites his lip. “Nothing.”

“You should go to work,” she says, “before I put liniment in your food.”

“I’m glad Marilla is bringing lunch then.” He stands up, cleaning his hands. Before he walks outside, he touches Anne’s arm gently. “Thank you, Anne. Really.”

“Of course.” She doesn’t look at him, trying not to focus on his touch. “Now go. I got it from here.”



Her many years of experience taking care of babies makes looking after Delphine much easier and, somehow, fun. One baby is much simpler than six, and Anne’s fondness for her is immeasurable. 

Anne takes advantage of Delphine’s nap to start making Bash’s broth, following one of Mary’s recipes. Even though it’s been months since she passed, Anne still felt a weight in her heart whenever she thinks of her, or how Delphine will never hear her mother’s laugh or see her smile. She looks at the sleeping baby and smiles. She looks like her mother.

It doesn’t take long for the food to be done and soon enough, Anne’s knocking on Bash’s door, holding a tray with his broth and a piece of bread. She walks in and Anne understands why Gilbert wasn’t that worried about his friend. Even though he has the appearance of a sick man — tired face, lying under multiple blankets and even a bit of sweat shining on his forehead — she can’t help but feel a little disappointed by what she sees.

Not that she wants him to be on his deathbed, but from what Marilla and Mrs. Lynde had said, Bash is on his way there. 

“Anne.” He seems to cheer up at her presence before coughing a little. “I apologize for my appearance. I’ve been a little under the weather these past few days.”

“You don’t look too bad,” she answers, walking closer to him. “Gilbert says…”

“Blythe thinks I’m being dramatic, but he won’t like it if my baby gets sick and refuses to sleep for three days straight.” He gives her a pointed look. “With winter around the corner, I’ll do anything to keep her as healthy as possible.”

“Speaking of health,” she interrupts, taking a step forward. “I made you a broth so you can feel better in no time. One of Mary’s recipes.” She hands him the tray. “I hope I did her justice this time.”

“I’m sure you did. Thank you, Anne.” He takes a sip and closes his eyes for a moment, a smile forming on his lips. “Mary sure did know how to cook, eh?” He sighs and opens his eyes, now full of sorrow.His wife's death still pains him and she can see how much he longs for her. 

“I miss her too,” she says, forcing a smile. It won’t do either of them any good if she starts crying. “If she were here, she’d kick you out to the orchards to help Gilbert.”

At that, he laughs.

“You’re right, and I’d have complied. That was one bossy lady. Delphine seems to be following in her footsteps.” His attention returns to her. “How’s my baby?”

“Sound asleep. I should go back and watch her in case she wakes up,” she says, glancing  at the door. “Finish your food and try to get more sleep. If you need anything, I’m just in the other room.”

“Thank you, Anne.” He touches her hand, appreciative. “Not many would do half of what you do for us and I want you to know how thankful I am for everything.”

She wants to say that that’s not true, that anyone would do what she’s doing, but Anne knows this is not the case. Even though it’s been two years since he moved to Avonlea, people still refuse to treat him like anyone else, either refusing service or sending cross looks whenever he attends the mass. No matter how many respectful families, like the Barrys and the Lyndes, are welcoming to him, people still cringe at his existence.

But Anne loves them like they are her family and, in a way, they are. Kindred spirits always are.

“That’s what family does.” She returns his smile, before leaving him alone again.

 

When Marilla shows up to serve them lunch, it’s just the two of them again in his kitchen. Delphine is outside with Marilla, as she had decided that fresh air was much needed for the baby. So when Anne and Gilbert sit across from one another to eat their lunch, a rather uncomfortable silence lingers between them.

Usually Anne wouldn’t have a problem finding a subject to discuss, but nothing comes to her mind. Being around Gilbert is confusing for some reason. Sometimes she’ll feel comfortable in ways she’s never been with anyone else, not even Diana. But other times, she’ll feel nervous, like there is some type of invisible barrier between them.

He seems to be feeling the same way she does, so Gilbert breaks the silence— just like he did when he walked her home. He asks about mundane things, like how she’s feeling with their final days at the Avonlea School approaching, and if she’s prepared for the upcoming test. Anne appreciates the effort and goes on about how she’ll miss Ms. Stacy dearly and Diana as well. She asks about his studies and how he likes his apprenticeship.

The tension doesn’t go fully away though, but it’s easier to ignore its existence. He still looks at her like he wants to say something bigger than his lips allow as she answers one of his questions. It’s disconcerting, to say the least, and makes it almost impossible to pull her eyes away from him. Marilla, however, does the trick by walking inside and announcing Delphine’s in need of a new nappy, and Gilbert goes back to the field to continue his work.

The afternoon passes by without any major events. It’s mostly her and Delphine spending time together, as Anne reads her a few pages of a book she finds in the living room, or tells her stories about a fierce dark skinned young girl who conquers the world with her braveness. 

When the baby finally nods off after a few hours of playing, she turns her attention to the leftovers from earlier and checks up on a sleepy Bash once more. As she closes his door silently, Anne lingers for a few seconds in the hallway, attention caught on the last door on the right. It’s barely opened, but she can see a bed and hear the sound of the wind, furiously whistling against the window.

She knows she shouldn’t be walking around Gilbert’s house, sneaking around private rooms that clearly are off limits. 

And yet.

Gilbert’s room is smaller than hers— that’s the first thing that crosses her mind. It doesn’t have much in it, either. A bed, a dresser, a nightstand and a single shelf that goes across the wall is all there is, but it still holds so much of him in it. She walks around slowly, looking around the room, taking it in. She sees his school books on his bed, his many medical books on the shelf and a picture of his family on top of his dresser. Her eyes rest on his nightstand, where a thin book sits by his bed, separate from all the rest. Her book.

She picks it up and notices a bookmark marking one of the pages. Anne smiles. He’s reading it, she thinks, satisfied with herself. A part of her feels like she should be mad he had stolen her book, but neither of them have mentioned it since it happened and by now she has just accepted the fact. A bigger part of her, though, feels differently to know he took the interest to read something she was so passionate about, even if the idea didn’t suit him in the first place.

A loud cry makes her jump. Delphine is awake, and Anne is in the last place she should be in this house. She carefully puts her book back in place and goes to check up on Delly.

“Hello,” Anne croons, looking at the baby  in her crib. “Are you hungry? Yes? I’ll grab a bottle for you, alright?”

Anne knows how much Delphine seems to listen to her voice, so she distracts Delly by talking about Aunt Josephine’s party as the bottle heats up, handing it to the baby after.

“Aunt Jo’s parties are the most magnificent event I’ve ever been to,” she continues, finishing up cleaning the dishes. “Not that I’ve been to parties other than hers, but I can’t imagine one better.”

Anne smiles, remembering the first one she had attended. Everything and everyone agreed so much with her in so many aspects. They were all kindred spirits and embraced not only her but Cole into their worlds so easily— it had been hard to believe there were so many people like them. She turns around to Delphine again.

“I wish you were a little older so I could bring you to one. The food is exquisite, the people are so kind and everything looks like it’s out of a storybook. The music, the poetry… the dancing.” She swirls slowly, pretending to be dancing with someone invisible. Delphine laughs, looking at Anne excitedly. “Oh, you must dance with me.”

Anne picks up the baby from her basket, holding her tiny hand with her fingers. “Now,” she starts, “the only dance partner I’ve had so far was Diana. Cole was supposed to teach me how to waltz today but that didn’t happen, so don’t laugh if it looks too silly, alright?”

She begins to move around the kitchen, swirling carefully and making Delphine laugh as she hums a melody she had heard at one of Aunt Jo’s parties. She doesn’t feel as sad anymore for having missed the party. It has been a while since she spent some time with her protegee, and making that baby happy is more than enough to make herself happy.

“Someday,” Anne says, moving a little slower, “I’ll have one of those parties as well. It won’t be as glamorous as these are in looks but the place will be filled with kindred spirits like you and I. By then I’ll have to learn how to dance so I can show you how it's done.”

“I think you’re doing just fine,” she hears a voice behind her say, and Anne feels herself blush. She turns around to see Gilbert leaning against the doorframe with a smile on his lips.

“How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough,” he answers, taking Delly from her arms. “I’m sorry you didn’t get to go to your party.”

“It’s alright, I’m sure there’ll be plenty others to go,” she answers. “Plus, spending the day with Delly is just as fun.”

“Still, you should’ve said something. I’m sure I could have had someone else watch her.”

“Well, what’s done is done. It really is fine— Delly and I had a great time today, didn’t we?” She smiles at the baby, who’s leaning on Gilbert’s shoulder, touching his chin. “She’ll probably sleep all night, her nap wasn’t long.”

“That’ll make two of us,” he says, rocking the baby slowly. “At least the orchards are ready for Mr. Barry on Monday.”

“I’m glad.” Anne nods, holding her hands together, not sure what to do. “I should probably go now.” She looks at him with a shy smile. “You don’t have to worry about Delphine, I already bathed and fed her, and there’s still some of Marilla’s food left and plenty of broth for Bash if he’s hungry.”

“Don’t you want to eat before you go?” He looks at her hopefully. Delphine is already fast asleep on Gilbert’s shoulder, and since Bash won’t leave his room, it’d be just him and her. Anne doesn’t know if that is a good idea. 

“I already ate,” she lies, taking a step back. “Besides, Marilla wouldn’t be thrilled if I arrived after dark.”

He nods. “You’re probably right. Thank you again, Anne.” Gilbert looks down at the sleepy baby on his shoulders and smiles, before looking back at her. “For everything.”

“No problem,” she says with a smile, and grabs her coat. “See you in church.”

***

She doesn’t see him in church the next day. Bash and Delphine are there and the man can’t stop singing his praises to Marilla about Anne’s broth as Matthew plays with the baby. 

Bash informs them he let Gilbert sleep this morning for all the work he had done on the farm the day before, as he spent the night catching up with his studies. She can’t help but feel a little disappointed by his absence, and since Diana isn’t there either, all there’s left to do is to pay attention to the mass.

But she can’t. Her mind keeps wandering off to Gilbert, and once again she overanalyzes their relationship and what it actually means. Anne’s imagination is, in her own opinion, her best trait and, yet, she wonders if it is also her worst enemy. What if she’s thinking too much about her interactions with Gilbert as if they meant something more than friendship? Their hands touching could’ve been an accident, but her immediate thought was him comforting her.

And the way Gilbert looked at her. She often wonders if it meant something more than a look, but what if it didn’t? Anne isso used to dwelling on her books and finding romance in the most simple things,even if everyone else didn’t see them. Maybe she is doing the same thing with Gilbert— looking for something that isn’t there.

Which, of course it isn’t. Cole told her Gilbert had a crush on her, but that didn’t sit right the moment it left his lips. And she doesn’t care about Gilbert’s feelings towards her, romantic or not. He is just someone she’s grown used to and that is why her mind keeps betraying her wishes and thinking about him.

Marilla would scold her if she knew what is in her mind during mass, so Anne tries to return her attention multiple times to what the minister is saying, but with little success. By the time it is over and Anne leaves the church with the Cuthberts and Bash, Marilla decides to speak her mind about her lack of words for the day.

“I’m just a little tired, that’s all,” Anne simply says, and it seems to be enough for Marilla as her attention goes to the baby. 

She looks at Matthew and he smiles ever so sweetly at her and touches his nose, knowing there is something more, but he wouldn’t press her on it. All that is left for Anne to do is smile back at him and try to ease her mind about all of it for once.

It surprisingly works. For the moment.

***

“Don’t you just love autumn, Belle?” Anne asks her dear horse as she grooms her. “The air is not as hard as winter and the sun isn’t quite as hot as in summer. I do miss the flowers and the green, though,” she explains, looking at the trees far away, “but it’s quite exhilarating to have a whole season matching my hair.”

Belle merely shifts her feet, so Anne continues.

“Of course, none of this goes through anyone else’s mind. Diana has beautiful midnight hair, as black as a raven, and Ruby’s golden locks are simply divine.” She sighs. “How I wish I was divinely beautiful, Belle, just like you.”

Belle neighs and Anne takes it as her agreeing with her. She finishes grooming the horse and is quite happy with herself, taking a moment to admire her work, and that’s all it takes for her mind to drift away.

Anne’s mind wanders back to her dear old friend, Princess Cordelia, and one of the many adventures she had in autumns like this. She’s glad she has Green Gables now and puts her things away, before locking Belle in the stable once more.

Grooming Belle was the last thing on her list for the day, so she walks back to Green Gables, ready to take a bath and get ready for supper. But something catches her eyes, right at the entrance of the farm. 

“Diana?” she murmurs to herself, stopping at the door, elated her friend had returned from Charlottetown. Diana seems to realize Anne has noticed her and starts running towards her. “Diana, what are you doing here? It’s going to be dark soon.”

“I have news!” She grabs Anne’s hand and pulls her inside, going straight to her bedroom. Once the door is closed, Diana looks at Anne with a smile. “I heard something the other day. Something about you.”

“Me?” She frowns. “I don’t think I did anything worth mentioning lately.”

“Oh, but you did. I heard Father talking to Mother about it this weekend. Gilbert mentioned to him that he walked you home before meeting him at my house last week.”

Anne can feel her cheeks grow hot. “So?”

“So?” Diana raises her brows, sitting next to her. “I know we haven’t been able to spend time together, but we do see each other at school everyday. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what? Gilbert and I walked together because it's the same road to our houses.”

“Father wasn’t expecting him so early, you know? He had just arrived home from Carmody.”

“Yes, Gilbert mentioned that. He walked me home so your father would have time to settle in before he could meet with Gilbert.” Diana shoots her an incredulous look. “What?”

“He likes you.”

Anne blinks, surprised. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Gilbert, he likes you!” she repeats, smiling. “He’s been smitten with you ever since you broke your slate over his head.”

“That’s nonsense, Diana,” Anne says, pacing around her room. “Not only that Gilbert Blythe likes me but the whole notion that I’m worth a boy having any sort of romantic feelings towards me.”

“Why would he walk you home, then?” she persists. “He could’ve easily gone home and come over my house later to talk to my father. Or he could’ve stayed at school studying until a proper time to come over.”

“It was practical this way,” she says, unconvincingly. Anne had pointed out to him that he was going out of his way by accompanying her to Green Gables. He hadn’t convinced her and she sure wasn’t doing a better job with Diana.

“He carried your books,” Diana continues. Anne doesn’t even want to know how she knew that. “I’ve never seen him do that to any other girl.”

“This conversation is ridiculous. Yes, if this had been any other girl, I’d agree with you he was showing an interest in her, but it happened to me.”

Diana frowns.

“So? You’re just as lovely as any of us.”

Anne smiles and grabs her bosom friend’s hand. “You are the kindest person alive, Diana, and I believe you believe I’m just as lovely as you are, but that’s because you love me. A boy would never feel that way.”

Diana sighs, squeezing Anne’s hands.

“Enough about this,” Anne says, sitting next to her friend. “Now, tell me all about Aunt Jo’s birthday party. I was heartbroken I couldn’t go.”

“Oh, it was marvelous. Father was beyond uncomfortable among her friends but I had a lovely time,” she starts. “I got to play the most beautiful symphony with Geraldine Bell and—”

Anne smiles as Diana continues her story, but her mind slowly drifts to Gilbert once more. Is Diana right? Did Gilbert deliberately walk her home just for the pleasure of her company?

The thought makes a little sense when she remembers his touch and their goodbyes. Anne couldn’t imagine any other boy doing the same, and even if she thinks anyone showing romantic intentions towards her is inconceivable, it still feels nice.

“Aunt Jo sent her regards, speaking of it,” Diana continues, bringing her back to the conversation. “But she insists you come to the Christmas Ball in Carmody with the rest of us. She made you an invitation and everything.” She hands her an envelope Anne didn’t even realize she was carrying.

Anne can’t believe it. A ball. She had never been to one and often imagined what it would be like to attend one, wearing a new beautiful dress with puffy sleeves, drinking punch and dancing the night away.

“Oh, Diana, you have made me the happiest girl in Avonlea.” She smiles at her friend, holding the envelope close to her. The smile slowly fades away. “I don’t think Marilla will allow me to go, though.”

“Not to worry. Mother said she would speak to Marilla in the morning and make sure you are safe. She even said she’ll ask if you can spend the night at my house, for it will be too late when we return from the city.”

Anne holds Diana’s hands, body filled with excitement. She knows it's a long ways off and convincing Marilla will be a hard task, but Anne can’t help imagining herself dancing all night long, wearing a beautiful puff sleeve dress in a room full of people looking their best. 

Oh, how much scope for the imagination that night held for her.

***

Months pass by, and finally the day Anne’s been waiting for arrives. It had taken a lot for Mrs. Barry to convince Marilla to let Anne attend Carmody’s ball with them, but after being worn down by Anne and Diana — not to mention Matthew — she finally complied and allowed her to go.

Marilla called it Anne’s reward for being tied first on the Queen’s exam, along with Gilbert Blythe.

Since then, all she has done is count the days  until the ball and make sure nothing will keep her from going, like what had happened with Aunt Jo’s birthday party. She makes sure all the farm work is taken care of and makes sure to stay out of any trouble so that Marilla won’t get cross with her.

“My, if this ball gets you to behave like this, maybe there should be more for you to attend,” jokes Marilla at one point. 

The day of the ball, however, Anne is anything but smiles. As much as being a woman now and being able to wear her hair up in fashionable ways is something she has waited for, one thing in particular has left her in the depths of despair.

“I hate this,” Anne complains for the tenth time as Diana helps her with her corset. “There’s nothing here to lift and shape.”

“You’re seventeen now, Anne, this is expected.” Diana finishes, looking at Anne’s reflection in the mirror with a smile. “I don’t like mine either, but we’re not little girls anymore. People will talk if we don’t wear it.”

“Ms. Stacy doesn’t and people think she’s respectable.”

“That’s not entirely true. I heard some of the ladies from the PMSC club talk about it earlier this week,” she whispers, so that only Anne can hear. “Even though Mrs. Lynde likes her now, they still talk about how improper it is for her to teach young minds without dressing properly. I don’t want people to talk about me over this, even if it looks bad.”

“You look outstanding with your corset and hair up, like a proper lady.” Anne fetches her dress and puts it on carefully. Diana is already dressed for the Carmody ball, wearing a beautiful pink gown with blue details all over it. Anne thinks she looks like a fairy princess and gladly tells her so.“I, however, feel like everyone stares at me whenever I enter a room, like I’m the laughing stock of Avonlea.”

“People look at you because you look lovely. Now,” she continues before Anne can contradict her once more, “sit so I can help you with your hair.”

Anne does as she’s told, sitting in silence  as Diana brushes her hair and gathers her red locks into a fancy updo Anne wouldn’t be able to do by herself. When she’s done, it takes a few seconds for Anne to take it all in.

She looks… grown. Cole was right, the braids make her look a lot younger. But seeing herself with her hair up and wearing her ballgown, she feels like she could actually be Princess Cordelia.

“I don’t think anyone will be looking at you like you’re the laughing stock of Avonlea,” Diana says over her shoulder, looking at Anne’s reflection in the mirror. The light blue dress fits her very well, and the white lace details give such delicate emphasis to her figure, Anne wonders if she isn’t actually dreaming of wearing such a nice dress. 

By the time they arrive at Carmody, it is clear the whole town is going to the celebration as well. Anne has never felt this excited before. Her first ball. She often read about balls in her books, how lovely the women looked and how enchanting the men seemed. The music, the food and the good company. It’s hard for her not to have the same expectations, and she feels like the protagonist of a book walking into the most magical moment of her life. 

She shares her thoughts with Diana as they enter the room, but the words die on her lips when she sees everything. It is better than anything she could’ve ever imagined. The room is full with Christmas decorations, a big oak tree set at the front of the room hung with the most beautiful ornaments she’d ever seen. The people are all laughing with one another, happiness filling the place quickly. 

“I’m positively certain this will spoil everyday life forever,” she says to Diana as her eyes roam the dance floor. She holds her dance card in her hand and can’t help but wish she was in the place of any of those people, moving gracefully to the violin notes. 

“Everything here looks so beautiful,” she agrees, taking Anne’s hand and pulling her closer to the dance floor. “Can you believe we have dance cards, Anne? I can’t wait for someone to ask us to dance.”

“You will have people forming lines to sign your dance card, I’m sure of it.” Anne opens hers, looking at the names of the songs and the empty spot reserved for the person she shall dance with. “I’m sure I won’t have the same luck, but I’d be the happiest girl in the world if you gave me the honor.”

Diana smiles at her friend, taking her dance card from her hands and writing her own name. “Well, then,” she starts, offering her hand, “will you give me the pleasure?”

“I believe I will,” Anne answers with a smile, taking her hand and walking to the dance floor for their dance.

The music is a bit fast, so Diana and Anne have fun spinning each other around across the dance floor as the other couples move back and forward in a more steady way. The girls don’t mind the looks and stares they receive, as they are having too much fun to care much.

When the next song begins, the pair decide to move slowly so they can look around the room more, taking note of who is there and who isn’t.

“I don’t believe Mrs. Lynde came,” Anne says after a while. “Marilla says she thinks these balls are for youngsters to practice courtship and not for married women to parade around in silly dresses.”

“I wonder if she’s ever come to one,” Diana says. “Look around— there aren’t as many young people here, it’s mostly married couples.”

Anne does as she’s told and notices Diana is right. Aside from them, she can spot a few people from her school and others she hasn't seen before, but the grown men and women prevail. It’s a pity, she thinks. Married couples have their fun whenever they wish, but people her age have to wait for permission to participate in celebrations such as this one.

“Look who’s here, Anne.” Diana turns slowly so that Anne can face the Christmas tree better. Gilbert Blythe is standing next to it, talking to Moody excitedly. Her eyes linger on him for a second. He looks older wearing a suit and much more dashing as well, she thinks. “I didn’t know he was coming.”

“Neither did I,” she answers, resuming their dance. 

“Should we go over and say hi?”

“No,” Anne says firmly, looking at her. “He’s talking to Moody and that’d be rude. Plus,” she adds, “we’d have to stop dancing and I’m having a marvelous time with you.”

Her eyes, though, betray her and move back to Gilbert, who seems to notice her presence. The words appear to die on his lips as he stares at her profoundly, making Anne blush slightly. It is the same look that he gave her when he was walking her home weeks ago, the one she couldn’t quite figure out what it meant. She can feel her knuckles burn once more where he had touched her, and her heart beats a little faster at the memory.

Anne knows it’s better to look away from him, but it isn’t easy. She doesn’t know if it’s curiosity to figure out what that means, or if it is something else, something she also can’t put her finger on.

Diana seems to notice the exchange of glances between them.

“He’s looking at you,” she simply says.

“He’s looking at us,” she tries, finally moving her eyes to face Diana. “We had noticed him and now he seemed to have noticed our presence.”

“What if he’s getting the courage to ask you to dance?” 

“Don’t be ridiculous, Diana.” She starts moving again, trying to get far away from his line of vision. “Even if he did want to dance with me, which he doesn’t, I would never trade a dance with you for one with him.”

“If you say so...” Diana smiles differently, but Anne lets it slide. Of all the things she wants to do right now, discussing or thinking about Gilbert Blythe is not one of them.

The evening passes quite smoothly after that. More people arrive and the dance floor is as busy as ever. As Anne had predicted, Diana’s dance card is almost filled up and she is now dancing with the third boy of the night. She had felt bad for leaving Anne alone for so long, but Anne did her best to make sure Diana knew she’d never feel alone in such a beautiful place as this.

Soon after Diana goes to the dance floor, Aunt Jo finds Anne moving to the sound of the violins as she watches her bosom friend dancing. They spend quite a while talking about the ball and the birthday party she had missed due to Anne’s having to look after Delphine.

But being as busy as she is, after a couple of songs, she leaves Anne by herself again to talk to some dear old friends of hers as well. Anne drifts off to the food table and grabs a cup of punch and looks back to the dance floor.

Diana is now dancing with no one other than Moody Spurgeon and it would be funny, how nervous he is to be holding Diana in his arms if it wasn’t so sweet. 

“Moody couldn’t stop talking about asking her to dance the whole week,” someone says besides her, and Anne doesn’t have to look to know who it is. “Now that he’s doing it, he looks like he’s about to faint.”

“I hope he doesn’t faint on top of her,” she answers with a frown. “That’d be terribly embarrassing.”

“Maybe he’ll feel better after their second dance.” Anne looks at Gilbert, surprised. One dance was something but two was a clear advance. “You didn’t know?”

“She’s been dancing all night, I didn’t have time to look at her dance card,” she says before taking a sip of her punch. 

“What about yours?” he asks, looking at the paper in her hand. “I haven’t seen you dance with anyone besides Diana.”

Anne feels her cheek redden. Of course he would bring that up to try to humiliate her for not having anyone ask her to dance. Well, not anyone; Charlie did ask but she refused him. Anne wanted to keep her dance card as a memory and she likes that Diana’s name is the only one written there.

“You’re the one to say.” She looks back at her friend, smiling politely at Moody. “You haven’t been dancing at all.” She hears him chuckle and she can’t help but feel more irritated. “I’ll let you know I’m perfectly happy watching Diana dance, if you’d be kind enough not to mock me.”

“I’m not mocking you.” He stands in front of her, blocking her view. “I’m wondering if you’d like to dance.” He offers a hand to her dance card. “With me.”

Anne freezes, the dance card suddenly feeling a lot heavier. Her eyes move to his and there it is again— that unreadable look.

She opens her mouth to say no, but she can’t. The word is on the tip of her tongue but no sound leaves her mouth and she wonders why that happens whenever he’s looking at her that way, how everything feels more confusing than it actually is. 

Anne tells herself it’s curiosity more than anything, to find out what it is behind those eyes. So she simply hands him her dance card and watches as he writes his name before returning it to her.

She looks at the paper. He wrote his name for the next three songs.

Before she can say anything, the music ends and, and as a new song starts, Gilbert offers his arm. Anne leaves her cup on the closest table and takes his arm, walking to the dance floor with him. She sees Diana looking at her with a smile on her lips and raised eyebrows, but Anne is too nervous to do anything other than try not to look like a fool that she doesn’t even respond.

The song starts and, to Anne’s dismay, a slow melody begins. The couples around them begin dancing, but she and Gilbert stay still, looking at each other. He looks almost as nervous as she does, Anne notices, as he rests one hand on her back, taking a step closer, while reaching for her hand with his other.

“Is that… alright?” he asks, uncertain. Anne nods, resting her hand on his shoulder before starting to move slowly. They barely move their place, taking small steps to the beat of the music, avoiding each other’s gaze.

It feels silly, Anne realizes, to dance with Gilbert and feel this way. Diana had been with numerous dance partners and never once had she looked this uncomfortable. Why should she? It was just a dance. Her eyes move to his face and she tries to ignore how her cheeks feel warmer.

“Why did only you come today?” she asks. 

“Bash didn’t feel like it was a good idea to bring Delphine to town with this weather,” he starts, “but it was more of not being sure how he’d be welcomed by everyone.”

“But Aunt Jo is here.” She frowns. “She’d never let anyone disrespect him or Delphine.”

“That’s what I told him, but there was no changing his mind.” Gilbert sighs. “I was going to stay with them, but he insisted that I come because—” His eyes move to her face and a small blush appears on his face. “He said I need to have a good time instead of being buried in books.”

Anne chuckles. “Mary would’ve loved to come tonight. Everything here is so beautiful.”

“Yeah,” he says looking at her. “Beautiful.”

They sway to the music in silence for a while, and it actually feels nice. Anne is beginning to feel more at ease with the situation, her nerves calming down faster. Dancing with Gilbert is a pleasurable activity, after all.

But that feeling… that feeling is still there. Hanging between them, as they waltz around the room. She can feel Gilbert’s fingers, stroking her back gently, and it shouldn’t feel nice, she shouldn’t even notice what he is doing, but she does. She notices how much closer they are now than when they started to dance, how they’re going a little slower than the other couples on the floor, and she notices his smell as well.

Not that it is a bad one— heavens, no. But she can’t put a finger on what it is exactly. It’s just comfortable and makes her feel like she is home. Being in his arms shouldn’t feel like home.

Slowly, her eyes move back to his face and she notices he moves away from hers, like he was caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to do. Anne doesn’t look away and soon enough his eyes lock on hers. Time seems to fade, just like every time their eyes meet, almost like a million words were being spoken just by that gesture, words that their lips never had the chance to, or knew how to say. His eyes are soft, the dark brown comforting, and it makes Anne remember what Ruby said all those weeks ago about how loving they were when she thought Anne spoke of her to him. Was that what this is?

The idea, if she is being honest, seems ridiculous, but she wonders still. The what ifs of it all is a nice thought and even a welcoming one, even if it is just in her mind. It is easy to lose herself in him even if it doesn’t seem appropriate for the time and place they are, but she doesn’t care. In her imagination, everyone else is gone and all that matters is the two of them.

It doesn’t take long for her to notice his eyes darting constantly to her lips and she finds herself doing the same. She knows what this means— she’s read countless books to understand the gesture, but it doesn’t sit right in her mind. Gilbert Blythe wants to kiss me, she thinks.

With the music dying and the sound of people clapping, Anne remembers she’s not alone with Gilbert, but in a room full of people. She takes a step back from him, still a little disconcerted, and claps along with everyone else. Suddenly, she feels the need for air and a moment away from him to gather her thoughts. When the music starts again, she looks back at Gilbert, but doesn’t move.

“I… my head is feeling a little light, I’ll just sit this one out,” she says, already walking past him.

“Wait, Anne.” He follows her, touching her arm. “Are you ill? Do you need me to—”

“I’m fine, I just need some air.” This time he doesn’t follow her as she walks out of the room to the patio, which appears to be empty. 

The fresh cold air is more than welcomed when she steps outside. Her back finds the wall and Anne breathes in and out for a few seconds, trying to gather her thoughts. Whatever had happened in there, she is not ready for it.

She is not even ready to admit what she feels for him, even though, by this point, it’s quite clear. 

The door opens a few moments later and Anne holds her breath, wishing it isn’t Gilbert to check up on her. Luckily, Diana is the one to step out and come rushing to her.

“Anne!” She holds  her friend’s hands, face covered in worry. “Are you ill? Gilbert said you weren’t feeling well, something about your head…”

“I just felt lightheaded, that’s all.” It isn’t exactly a lie, but Anne doesn’t want to explain it all to Diana now. “The air is helping.”

“Have you eaten anything?” Anne shakes her head. “Come inside, let's get you something to eat, you’ll catch your death if you stay in the cold. And after that, we can all talk about you dancing with Gilbert.”

“Really, I’m fine, Diana.” She smiles, trying to make her friend less worried. “And the dance… It was just that, a dance. Nothing like you and Moody Spurgeon.”

Diana rolls her eyes.

“Moody and I were just dancing, just like you and Gilbert.” Anne bites her lip. She doesn’t know what that was, but it was never just dancing. “And even if that wasn’t the case, you know my parents would never allow a courtship.”

“Didn’t stop you and Jerry from having one.” Diana blushes at the statement. “Plus, Moody was your first kiss. It’s only natural for your feelings to come back after that slow dance.”

Diana rolls her eyes. “Should we talk about your slow dancing and feelings as well?” Before Anne can answer, they hear a round of applause inside and Diana grabs Anne’s hand. “Come, the ball is almost over and mother will be looking for us.”

Once they return, Anne quickly looks around the room for Gilbert, but he is nowhere to be found. He must have gone home, she thinks, a little disappointed, but relieved.

It doesn’t take long for her and Diana to return to her house as well and tuck in her bed. Diana is fast asleep within minutes, but Anne has too much on her mind to do the same. She goes over the night for the eighth time, trying not to figure out the meaning of it — she had given up on that after the second attempt — but it had felt nice, and as much as she tries to push it aside, she can’t.

Anne wonders what it would feel like if he had kissed her. It’s a scandalous thought, she knows. They’re not courting and that was a very public place for such an affectionate gesture. But still.

She thinks she could find some answers in her books, but they are not always the most reliable source of information. They either write a simple and plain they kissed or write a page about the characters’ thoughts or feelings, but never actually describe it. There aren’t many people she can ask about it either. Matthew and Marilla failed years ago to answer that same question, and Diana, who she knows had kissed Jerry before, couldn’t quite find the words to tell her about it when it happened.

With a sigh, she closes her eyes again, determined to fall asleep this time. Maybe in her dreams she will find the answer to all of her questions.

***

The following week passes by and the only thing people seem to talk about is the ball. Anne had shared every detail  with Matthew and Marilla as soon as she arrived home the next day, still thrilled about all of it.

Marilla had rolled her eyes and called the whole thing frivolous, but a smile had crept across her face anyway, so Anne didn’t take the comment too seriously. Matthew had mostly reacted to her stories, making  an occasional comment about a thing or two, but had been satisfied to just listen to whatever she had to say.

One morning a week after the ball, as Anne is being taught one of Marilla’s recipes, she notices someone running towards the house.

“Is that… Mrs. Lynde?” she asks, putting the knife away. Marilla walks over and looks outside.

“My, something must’ve happened.” She turns to the oven, taking out her roast before turning it off. It doesn’t take long for the woman to arrive at Green Gables and come inside.

“Rachel.” Marilla looks at the door, surprised to see the woman looking so abashed. She cleans her hands on her apron. “Is everything alright?”

She takes a few seconds to gather some air before answering her friend. “Oh, Marilla, no. I’ve just heard something horrible and I must share it with you, otherwise my conscience wouldn’t be at peace.”

“Whatever is the matter?”

“The matter, Marilla,” she answers, looking straight at Anne, “is that your Anne has been… has been… Oh, I can’t even bring myself to say it out loud, the scandal!”

Marilla turns her attention to Anne, who’s as confused as her, before turning back to her friend. “My, Rachel, just say it at once!”

“Anne has been participating in some… improper relations with Gilbert Blythe!” She walks around the kitchen, eyes never leaving Anne’s.

She feels her stomach drop at Mrs. Lynde’s words. As much as she consciously knows her interactions with Gilbert were never improper — at most, they were borderline — she wonders how the woman knew about any of it.

“What?” Marilla turns to Anne in horror, and Anne can feel her face heat up quickly, not sure what to do.

“Yes, I’ve heard all about it from Mrs. Allan.” She walks around the kitchen, talking loudly as if they weren’t the only ones there. “The minister’s wife, Marilla. She told me about their walks in the woods and how they were parading their secret romance at the Carmody ball!”

“What?” Anne splutters. “There’s no secret anything, we are not in any romantic… anything!”

“Do you deny it, then?” Anne glances at Marilla, who looks both uncomfortable and annoyed with this conversation. “Do you deny Gilbert walked you home, or that you participated in that scandalous dance?”

“He walked me home once when he was going over at Diana’s and we did dance…” Mrs. Lynde smile is so big, Anne knows even if she made the most compelling argument, the woman is still so outraged with everything, she’d do her best to be right. “That’s hardly improper.”

“That’s just the start,” she continues. “It’s always innocent at first, harmless… But then there’s touching and before you know it, she gets pregnant out of wedlock!”

At that point, Marilla decides she has had enough.

“For Heaven’s sake, Rachel! You just came here talking about improper manners and finish by  saying it’s a harmless deal. Which one is it, then?”

“You don’t understand because you never married, Marilla, and hardly were in a courtship,” Mrs. Lynde says, and Anne can feel Marilla doing her best not to insult her friend right there. “But I raised ten children, I know how this works!”

“And I don’t recall ever meddling in your children’s behaviours.”

“I apologize for being concerned about the child’s well being, Marilla,” she answers, clearly offended, “but when the minister’s wife comes to you with such a subject, I ought to inform you of what people might be thinking of Anne.”

“People?” Anne opens her mouth, surprised. “Are people talking? Do they think I’m not respectable?”

When Mrs. Lynde finally looks at Anne and sees her concern, her expression softens. She lays a hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her.

“Now, now, child,” she says, giving her a sympathetic smile. “The people in Avonlea have known you for a long time now. I’m sure… most of them know you’d never put yourself in such a situation.”

Anne knows she is trying to make her feel better about the whole thing, but it does not work. All it does is to make Anne angry. Not only with Mrs. Lynde and the situation, but also with Gilbert. If she is to blame for anything that goes against social etiquette, so is he. 

“Excuse me,” she says, grabbing her coat, before storming from the house, ignoring Marilla’s and Mrs. Lynde’s protests and even Matthew’s confused look when she runs by him.

Anne is not sure where she is going, but she has no desire to stop until she gets there. All she knows is that she needs to be anywhere else, and be able to unleash her anger into the world without adding more problems to her current ones.

That isn’t something she needs in her life. Being an orphan, a redhead and, like Josie Pye enjoyed saying so much, trash , is one thing. She is already used to all of that and manages to live her life despite it. But there is a difference between having no parents and not being respectful.

All because of— 

“Hello, Anne.” She hears his voice a few feet away and it's enough to make her stop and turn to face him. They’re still in the middle of the woods and Gilbert seems to have just left the school property, since he’s standing there with a few books in his arms. “Are you on your way to talk to Ms. Stacy as well?”

“This is all your fault!” she says angrily, taking him by surprise. 

“What?”

“Why is it that men can get away with everything? No matter what men do, women are always the ones to blame!” She can see how confused he is, but at that moment she doesn’t care at all. “That’s why you did all those things, isn’t it? Because you knew it would all fall on me.”

“Anne.” He holds her shoulders, making her stop. “What are you talking about?”

“Mrs. Lynde just came by to warn Marilla about our improper interactions.” His brows shoot up. “Because apparently, Mrs. Allan saw us walk together and dance at the ball and she’s concerned about a secret courtship.”

“Oh,” he says, and that annoys Anne more than anything.

“Oh?” she repeats, outraged. “Is that all you have to say? Of course it is,” she scoffs. “Because for you this is nothing. You’re not the one people are talking about!”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” he exclaims, his turn to be frustrated. “We’re not courting or doing anything inappropriate. Diana was dancing all night and no one is talking about it.”

“She’s not me! Rules are awful for girls but they tend to be kinder to people like Diana,” she says, biting her lip. “You know that! People are not as kind with poor orphan girls like me.”

“Anne, stop.” He holds her shoulders again so that she can look at him. Anne hates how her anger is not as strong as it was when she arrived. Gilbert somehow has that power over her, to make her emotions different than what she wants them to be. “People in Avonlea would never think those things about you. Mrs. Lynde tends to exaggerate with these matters. But,” he quickly adds when she opens her mouth, “if you want, I will go and talk to her and Mrs. Allan and make everything clear.”

She hesitates but nods, looking into his eyes. 

Gilbert doesn’t move. He doesn’t even make the effort to take his hands off her shoulders, and Anne can’t help but notice he has the same look in his eyes as when they were dancing. She knows she should take a step back and break eye contact, but she can’t find it in her to shatter their bubble. She thinks about how bad it could be if she was to not move for a while.

As if he’s answering her question, Gilbert’s hands finally move down her arms, his fingers touching hers. She can’t help but feel her cheeks grow warmer at the feeling of his skin against hers. He takes a step closer, eyes never leaving hers, and Anne recognizes that feeling — it’s the same one from the ball, when they were dancing.  When she thought he was going to kiss her. 

Anne should take a step back, let go of his hand and go home. She should do just as she did in Carmody and flee the scene— but she doesn’t move. She has no desire to, not even when everything seems to be moving in slow motion and Gilbert leans in and captures her lips with his.

It takes her so much by surprise that she doesn’t dare make a move. Her body automatically stiffens and she can’t help but widen her eyes and stare at his closed ones.

The kiss lasts barely a second, and Anne is sure if Gilbert had waited a few more, she’d probably recover from the shock and kiss him back. But he doesn’t. He moves away quickly, stumbling back with his cheeks bright red and eyes wide open.

“Anne, I’m so sorry, I—“ he stutters, hands running over his hair. “I don’t know… I didn’t mean to be inappropriate, I just—”

“Why would you do that?” she whispers, avoiding his eyes. Anne slowly touches her lips with the tips of her fingers. “I don’t… I just told you about Mrs. Lynde and you… did that. Do you think this is funny?”

“No!” he exclaims, eyes pleading with hers. “I don’t know what came over me. We were… and next think I knew I was kissing you and…”

The way he says you stings her heart in such a way that even if she tried, she wouldn’t be able to hide how much he had just hurt her.

“Don’t be mistaken, Mr. Blythe,” she says, uttering his name as cold as she possibly can, “but even I have feelings and I’d appreciate it if you kept to yourself how unpleasant the— it was. Even if you did out of pity or whatever reason you had in mind.”

“That’s not what I meant, Anne.” She laughs dryly as she starts pacing. “That’s not why I did it.”

“Oh? Then why did you?” she asks, nervous. “Because a second ago you said—”

“Because I like you!” Anne stops pacing and looks at Gilbert, mouth open.

“What?” she says, her voice is almost like a whisper. Gilbert is looking at her with such intensity it is like he can see right through her. All her thoughts, all her feelings and desires. And it is uncomfortable,  like she is exposed to him in such improper ways.

And yet, she doesn’t want him to stop.

“I’ve liked you,” he repeats, voice steadier as he takes a step closer to her. “Ever since I met you, Anne. I’ve liked you ever since the moment you broke your slate over my head. But before the pieces hit the floor, I was in love with you.”

His hand touches her cheek gently, stroking it softly as he looks into her eyes. His hand is warm and calloused, from all the farm work, his touch burning her skin once more. But it isn’t even comparable to the words that had left his mouth just now. He’s been in love with her for all these years.

“I’m… I don’t—” she stutters, still so taken aback by that information. All that time they spent together, quarreling, talking, laughing... he was in love with her. When he had touched her hand for the first time and pretended it was no big deal, he knew. She wasn’t wrong when she thought there might be something more when they danced together, when the world seemed to disappear for a moment. Everything that Diana teased her about was true, but it is still hard for her to understand. “What?”

“Are you really that surprised?” 

“Of course I am!” Anne takes a step back. “This has to be a prank. It is, isn’t it?”

Gilbert frowns.“Of course it’s not a prank. Why would you even think that?”

“Because it’s you and me!” she says, exasperated, gesturing to herself like it’s explanation enough. “Look at me! I’m not— I’m terribly skinny and ugly, my face is covered in these horrid freckles, and my hair.” She grabs one of her braids and looks at it with sad eyes. “Mrs. Lynde says she knew a girl whose hair turned auburn by the time she was seventeen and that kept my hopes up but look at this! Still as red as fire.”

“Anne—”

“And even if beauty wasn’t in question, which of course it is, I’m still an orphan. Marilla and Matthew see me as their own and I see them as my family, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m still an ugly orphan. Who would want that?”

“Well, I—”

“But even if all of that were a moot point, there’s still the fact that I’m not… I’m not like the other girls. I’m stubborn, I have a horrible temper and I talk too much when I shouldn’t, and always get in trouble for it. They all come from good families and are well brought up. Look at Josie Pye! She may be wicked, but she still is a much better girl than I’ll ever be.”

“Anne, stop it!” Gilbert takes her hands in his, pulling her closer. “Stop doing that.”

“Doing what?” she questions. Everything she had just said was the absolute truth. She’s been hearing all that since she was in the orphanage and even here in Avonlea, a place she considered home. “Telling the truth? Because that’s what this is. That’s why this must be a joke. Who would ever fall in love with me, plain old Anne?”

“I would,” he assures her. “I am. And all of that you just said—  it’s not true at all. You, Anne Shirley, are the most beautiful girl in Avonlea. On Prince Edward’s Island, even. But you’re so much more than that. You’re smart and brave and you have the kindest heart I’ve ever known. And I am in love with you and your stubbornness, Anne. My Anne with an ‘E’.” 

The last line comes out as a whisper, like a promise. Anne thinks about all the romance stories she’s read in her life and how she had wished any of them would happen to her someday, but now that this is happening, she realizes she has no idea how to deal with it.

Hearing Gilbert call her his as he proclaims his love for her is too much. Not in a million years had she ever imagine this moment, and all she can feel is fear. The words of Mrs. Lynde are still on her mind and she can’t afford to take that lightly. She feels so much at that moment. Happiness, yes. Emotion, of course. But the fear stands out and it is the reason why she lets go of his hands.

“Marilla is expecting me home and it’s almost lunch,” she says, taking a step back. She watches his face drop with sadness and it breaks her heart to be the cause of that, but there is no other way. “I’m sorry.”

“Anne—” His voice breaks as he calls her name.

“Goodbye, Gilbert.”

She turns around and quickly returns to her way home, walking as fast as she can, hoping he won’t see the tears fall out of her eyes.

***

She doesn’t go home. Instead, Anne finds herself knocking on Diana’s door and asking their maid, Mary Jo, for her bosom friend. She realizes that’s a weird request, given Anne’s constant barging in, but Mary Jo goes to find Diana anyway.

Her tears had dried long ago, but she can feel her eyes are still a little swollen, and not even her imagination can think of something to make her feel better. Everything that happened moments ago is still too much for her and Anne can’t help but feel horrible for walking away, for being scared of the possibilities.

She doesn’t miss Diana’s concerned face when she meets her in the foyer and she can see how much she wants to ask what’s wrong, but all Diana does is grab her hand and pull her up the stairs to her room.

They lay on her bed, facing each other, but Anne’s mind is lost in Gilbert’s declaration. My Anne with an E, he had said, and the look in his eyes when he said those words was more than enough for her to know he meant it. Or at least he believed he did. 

“What made you realize you had feelings for Jerry?” she asks in a whisper, and it’s so sudden, Diana hesitates for a while.

“I don’t know what exactly,” she starts. “It was just a feeling that wouldn’t go away. Like when you’re anxious about something in the best way possible, you know? It’s hard to explain.” She gives her a sweet smile. “But you must’ve thought about it, right?”

“I never thought about it, actually.” She hugs Diana’s pillow.

“What do you mean?” Diana asks, frowning. “You’re always daydreaming about love in your books, and you’ve written so many stories about it.”

“Yes, but for everyone else.” She looks at her friend. “It’s nice to think about the feeling, write about it or even wish for it… but I don’t think I’ve ever actually considered it happening to me.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s scary,” she says. “And I know I always blame my looks and temper, but I’ve  seen so many couples who were so much worse than me that found each other, so now I wonder.”

“You should wonder, Anne. When I say you’re worth loving, I mean it. And it hurts me that you don’t see that.”

“Why would I? No one ever did before Avonlea, and now that I have Marilla, Matthew, you and…” Anne bites her lip, her mind whispering Gilbert. “It’s enough, and I was fine with it. But when someone you don’t expect says it… It’s scary.”

Diana glances over to Anne and puts her hand over hers. “Anne, what happened?”

She doesn’t answer for a moment, wanting to keep everything to herself. It would be so much better if all of it was just in her head, a product of her imagination. Things would be so much easier.

But life is never easy for Anne.

So she tells Diana, all of it. Everything from their walk home to the moment she found him in the woods and confronted him about it.

“Gilbert told me he loves me,” she finally confesses, eyes meeting Diana’s. “And then he kissed me.”

Anne doesn’t know what kind of reaction she was expecting from Diana at that moment, but she’s sure a smile across her face isn’t it. 

“Finally!” She squeezes Anne’s hand. “Anne, this is amazing.”

“What do you mean, ‘finally’?” She sits up straight. “You knew?”

Diana doesn’t even blink. “Of course I knew. Everyone knows.”

“What?”

“Anne, Gilbert is not subtle. At all. He looks at you all the time when you’re not looking, he spends more time with you than with anyone else, and you two gaze into each other’s eyes forever. He looks at you like you’re the sun.” 

Anne realizes Diana’s not wrong, and Gilbert’s words keep coming back to her mind. Slowly, it dawns on her what a fool she’s been all these years.

“If everyone knew, why has no one ever told me?”

“Besides the numerous times Cole and I mentioned it and you dismissed it as a joke?” Anne rolls her eyes. “Everyone knows how stubborn you are,” Diana says. “I guess we figured it was best to let you realize his feelings by yourself and hopefully figure it out on your own.”

“My own?!”

Diana gives her a stern look.

“Why do you think Mrs. Lynde thought that you two were courting? Or why do you think every time you spend time alone with him, you don’t act like yourself? Remember the ball?”

Anne avoids looking at Diana’s eyes. It isn’t like she hadn’t thought about that night over and over again. She knew she had some feelings for him, and the night they danced together was when it started to become clear. As much as she enjoyed the dance and the feeling of being so close to him, Anne was also so scared of the possibilities that she would rather have been outside in the cold than dealt with any of it.

No one had ever wanted her like that before, and she wasn’t sure what to do if he truly had. 

“You’re right,” she finally says, completely in awe. “I do have feelings for him.”

Diana hugs Anne tightly, making her smile. “This is great! Now you two can court properly and be happy. You already shared your first kiss, after all.”

The smile leaves Anne’s face immediately. “Yes, he kissed me. I had my first kiss.”

“Well.” Diana frowns. “Isn’t that a good thing?”

“He kissed me, Diana. I didn’t have my first kiss because I wanted to, he… he stole it from me.”

“I stole Jerry’s. He didn’t seem to mind.”

“But you two were in… something before you did that. And he was going to kiss your hand and asked permission to do so.” She stands up from Diana’s bed, temper already getting the best of her. 

“Anne, where are you going?”

“To give him a piece of my mind,” she says, putting on her boots and leaving Diana’s house.

She walks determinedly to Gilbert’s farm, her temper gaining the upper hand. How dare he like her for all this time? How dare he hold her hand and look at her the way he did? How dare Gilbert be in love with her and know everyone knew it and never mention it to her?

He kissed her, for Heaven’s sake. And then he stopped, not even giving her a chance to do something about it, and it is infuriating how he took the lead in all of that. How everything was on his terms and she had no say about any of it. If Gilbert had waited a few more seconds, maybe she’d have kissed him back. Maybe she’d have said something to him and things wouldn’t be so messy and infuriating as they are now.

Anne can see him from a distance. Gilbert is by himself — Bash is probably inside with Delphine — attending to the small vegetable garden. He looks the same as this morning, except he isn’t wearing his jacket and his sleeves are rolled up to his elbows.

Anne doesn’t stop. Every step closer to him, she can feel herself growing angrier with the boy in front of her. She can hear Diana’s voice in the back of her mind trying to reason with her, though, questioning why she is going to yell at him if she feels the same way he does, but reason has never been Anne’s strong suit, her temper always getting the worst out of her. 

He spots her a few seconds later, when she’s just a few feet away from him and he quickly stops what he’s doing, taking his gloves off and looking at her with worried eyes.

“Anne.” He stands up, surprised. “Is everything alright?”

“No, of course everything’s not alright,” she snaps.

“What happened?” he asks, concerned. “Did Matthew or Marilla…”

“You, you happened,” she pokes him angrily. “What is the matter with you?”

“Me? What—”

“For years you had feelings for me and never bothered to say anything! Diana said it was obvious, that everyone knew,” she continues, pacing furiously back and forth. “We walked home together multiple times, I spent the day in your house with you and Delly, we danced in front of all of Avonlea. The things people probably thought about it.”

Gilbert frowns. “I told you, nothing improper happened, I don’t think—”

“Oh, right,” she interrupts him with a stern look. “What don’t you think, Gilbert? That touching someone’s hand — someone you’re not courting, by the way — or writing your name three times in someone’s dance card or even declaring your love in such… such a way as you did is not improper?”

“I never told you before because I didn’t think you would reciprocate,” he starts, a little hesitant. Anne doesn’t say anything, so he continues. “I wanted to still be your friend, so that’s what I tried to do.”

“Tell me, how many of your friends’ houses did Mrs. Lynde barge into to inquire if it's true that a secret courtship is happening between us?” Gilbert opens his mouth but Anne is having none of it. “Just because I am an orphan doesn’t mean I don’t deserve the same respect as a proper lady.”

At that, Gilbert seems to react. “I never said I don’t respect you, Anne. You’re probably the person I respect the most.”

“You kissed me,” she almost shouts, stopping in front of him, eyes like fire. “You stole my kiss from me, my first one.”

“I apologized the moment it happened.” His eyes are regretful, but it still does nothing to cease the fire that roars inside of her. “I don’t want you to think that I did that because I don’t respect you. I do , but at that moment I thought…”

“You thought?” Anne cuts him off, furious. “How dare you steal something like that? You had no right to take something like that away from me. I shall be the one who decides who I want to give my kiss to, not you.”

“Anne, I’m sor— humpf” the words die on his lips as soon as Anne marches up to him, grabs his face with both her hands, and brings her lips to his. As surprising as it is, it doesn’t take long for Anne to feel Gilbert’s hands on her lower back, pulling her close.

They are in the middle of a field—  a public space where anyone passing by could see them. If Bash looked outside of Delphine’s bedroom, he’d see them. If Mrs. Lynde decided to visit, she’d see them — and good lord, there’d be hell to pay — but Anne doesn’t care at all.

Kissing Gilbert makes her understand why the descriptions in books were never thorough when kissing were involved. There aren’t enough words for her to fully explain what she feels when his lips are against hers. She  could say it is delicate and shy, like the first time he touched her hand. Or that it is firm and slow, the same as their first dance together. She could say the way his hands hold her makes her feel safe, and yet she still feels like she is about to explode. She could explain how thrilling this form of contact is and how she couldn’t possibly understand why it would ever be improper to kiss someone you like that way for the world to see.

But it isn’t the same as feeling it. Metaphors are necessary because, unless you have felt it yourself, you wouldn’t understand the complexity of a kiss. How can someone put into words how her lips burn with his touch? Or that her heart is beating so fast she is sure it will leave her chest at any moment?

No words fits perfectly to the immensity of a kiss.

When they break apart, Anne doesn’t dare open her eyes right away. Their faces are still close to one another; she can feel their noses touching and his warm breath on her chin. Her thumb strokes his face gently for a few seconds before moving away to his shoulders, but his hands never leave her back.

She opens her eyes and meets his. The surprised look on his face is almost funny, but she doesn’t feel the desire to laugh — at least not at that moment.

“Like I said,” she starts, still a little breathless. “I shall be the one deciding who I want to give my kiss to.”

“Yes,” he agrees, as a smile grows across his face. “You shall.”