To the top of the story pile, one last time. Can it really be true? And here we have it:

Chapter 12: Another Redo, Another Bend


Gilbert had come to realize many things as he had lain in his bed, still and helpless, during those painful hours of fever. Yet what he had realized most of all was what a privilege it was just to be alive. It had been nearly three weeks since he had overcome the worst of his illness, and he had ventured outside the house a handful of times since then, although he still savored the luxury of it. What a treat to breathe in the summer air, feeling his chest rise as it filled his lungs! And how colorful everything looked! He could distinguish every leaf on every tree, and count the petals of the sunflowers which grew along the path. And what beautiful, resilient things sunflowers were! Growing ever-taller than the blooms around them, stretching out their wide faces, seeking all that was light and good in the world. They reminded him of Anne, delicate yet hardy—an embodiment of sunshine itself, wherever they happened to be. He would gather a bouquet of them right this minute and bring them with him to Green Gables. He pulled out a pocket knife and worked away at three of the thick stalks, before bundling them in his arms and continuing on his way.

Indeed, anything that might make Anne smile was well worth his time. The fever had also taught Gilbert just how much Anne Shirley was a part of his very being. He would never have recovered without her by his side, singing to him, and whispering sweet words of love and comfort and belonging; that he knew for sure. She had kept his heart beating—she had been broken and tortured herself, and yet she had stopped at nothing to make sure each breath which left his lungs was followed by another. The knowledge that Anne loved him so wholly and completely and unconditionally was almost more than his heart could bear.

Gilbert felt giddy as a schoolboy as he opened the gate to Green Gables and walked up the garden path. He never reached the porch steps, however, for he was distracted by a flash of red underneath the old sycamore tree on the west side of the house. He looked over to see Anne, perched upon the wooden swing which hung from the its eaves, and facing in the opposite direction. She was not rocking back and forth; rather, she seemed to be engrossed in a book. Gilbert couldn't help but think that she was a perfect vision of summer, in a blue and white checkered sundress, with her hair running in two neat braids down her back.

He crept around the side of the house and tiptoed lightly up behind her, trying not to make a sound. Then, setting the sunflowers carefully upon the ground, he reached forward and grabbed both of the swing's ropes in his hands, tugging suddenly upon them. As was expected, Anne gave a tiny shriek as she steadied herself, and her book fell to the ground.

"Good morning, sunshine," Gilbert greeted, as he leaned around the side of the swing and planted a kiss on her cheek.

"Goodness, Gilbert, you scared me half to death!" she exclaimed, although not without a smile. Gilbert only raised his eyebrows at her.

"As someone who has personal experience with 'half to death', I'm going to have to say that you're exaggerating slightly," he declared with a wink.

"Only you would continue to make jokes about that, Gilbert," Anne scolded, with a roll of her eyes. "It's really rather morbid."

"I'm here, aren't I? And shouldn't I be the judge of that?" Gilbert countered with a smirk. Anne merely stared at him. "Anyway… I brought you something." Gilbert leaned down and scooped the flowers up off of the floor.

Anne stood from the swing and turned around to face him. Her eyes lit up as she beheld the bouquet. "Oh Gilbert, they're stunning! I've always felt sunflowers to be the happiest of all God's blossoms, don't you think?" she reckoned, as she took them into her arms and fingered a few of their golden petals. "Thank you, Gil," she added. Gilbert nodded his welcome.

"Oh, I wanted to ask you something," Anne said, after gathering the flowers to her face and smelling them. "Alice Penhallow's wedding is on Saturday. I wonder if you're feeling well enough to join me?"

It took Gilbert a moment to recall who Alice Penhallow even was. But then, he surmised, it didn't actually matter who she was—he would love to attend any party with Anne… but he also did not want to impose. "But I haven't been invited—" he started.

"You'll be my escort, of course," Anne said simply.

Gilbert wasn't completely familiar with wedding etiquette, but he supposed Anne knew more about it than he did. "Ah, a prestigious position. Well then, I accept."

"Wonderful," Anne said with a smile.

"I could hardly pass up an evening with you, especially with less than two weeks before I'm off to Kingsport, and you shortly after to Summerside," Gilbert added. He saw an awkward look pass over Anne's features, although it quickly disappeared.

"Oh, yes…" was all she replied.

"When did you say your term started?"

"Er… I didn't say," Anne said, dropping her gaze to the ground.

"When is it, then?" asked Gilbert, wondering why she wasn't being more forward with him.

"Well I… I'd have to check. A week after your own term starts, I think?"

Gilbert felt it rather odd that Anne did not know the exact date in which classes at Summerside would commence. "And have you settled where you'll be living?"

"I haven't gotten to that part yet," she admitted. Anne was definitely acting strange. She seemed not the slightest bit excited nor interested in her upcoming move to Summerside. In the end, Gilbert attributed this to their inevitable separation. Indeed, it had occupied his mind greatly over the past couple of weeks; the whole situation felt rather cruel. He had come so close to losing Anne, as he waged war with the fever. But he had come through it—they were on the other side, yet he must be parted with her nonetheless. Gilbert wanted nothing more than to be able to see Anne everyday. Yet nothing was to be done; they could not marry now, and Anne needed to work.

Gilbert decided it would be best to drop the subject, and Anne suggested they enter the house, so that she might find a vase for the flowers. As they passed by the kitchen, Gilbert discerned Davy's voice from within, all tenor and no bass. He appeared to be talking to Marilla; Gilbert could not make out the words, but he seemed very concerned about something.

"What's all the fuss about?" Gilbert inquired, as he and Anne made their way to the living room.

"Oh, Davy's all up in arms about the matter of a kite," Anne sighed. Gilbert eyed her quizzically, imploring her to continue. "Well, as you know—or maybe you don't, since you haven't been well enough to attend church—the end of summer picnic is the weekend after next. And the boys have concocted this grand plan to have a kite-flying competition. Well, the problem is that Davy has no kite. And neither Mrs. Lynde, Marilla, nor I know anything about making one up."

Gilbert smiled; such a competition sounded exactly like something he might have thought up when he was Davy's age. He had certainly spent many hours flying kites with Charlie, Fred, Moody, and the other boys, and they were always bickering over who was the better flyer. Gilbert had even learned a few modest tricks, although he hadn't practiced them in years.

"That sounds like quite the problem," he said seriously, although a small smile began to creep onto his face.

"Indeed," agreed Anne, "he's been talking of nothing else."

"You know, I find it rather amusing…" Gilbert remarked, his voice somewhat arrogant.


"You've not been able to find a solution to Davy's kite-making woes?"

"No-o," she replied slowly, realizing he was toying with her somehow, and eying him cautiously.

"Well, the answer to Davy's dilemma is, quite literally, staring you in the face." Anne cocked her head at him, trying to make sense of his train of thought.

"I'm rather offended, really," Gilbert stated, folding his arms in mock disappointment. "Did it not occur to you, Anne, that perhaps I may know how to make up a kite?"

Anne's eyes narrowed for a moment, before widening into saucers. "Oh!" she exclaimed. "No, I didn't!"

"Indeed," Gilbert remarked smugly. "That stings, Anne."

"Oh, come off it, Gil!"

He smiled at her mischievously—little did he know, that was the very smile that would always drive her wild. "Well… what say we take him to town tomorrow and buy the materials? And then we'll bring them back here and I'll help him build it."

This plan was soon after proposed to a very ecstatic Davy, who agreed enthusiastically. And so the next morning, Gilbert found himself helping the boy browse through fabrics at Lawson's store, while Anne thumbed through spools of ribbon.

"Those printed patterns are too expensive, Davy. How about just plain red?" Gilbert suggested. He saw Davy furrow his brow, and prepared himself for a struggle.

"But plain red is boring. Milty Boulder says his mother stitched stars onto his… silver and gold stars!" Davy exclaimed, waving his arms in the air dramatically.

"Do I look like the type of person that can sew stars onto kites?" Gilbert asked rhetorically. "And also, Davy, I'll believe that when I see it."

"Indeed, you can't put much stock in what Milty says," Anne said sweetly, as she ran a stretch of thick blue ribbon around her thumb.

"Now, it will be a nice, sensible kite for you, Davy," Gilbert insisted. "I'll tell you what… the striped patterns are not much more costly than the plain fabric. Why don't you choose one of those?" Davy looked into Gilbert's stern face and, apparently seeing Gilbert wasn't about to change his mind, decided that stripes was as good a compromise as he could hope for. And so a red and blue striped fabric was selected, along with matching blue ribbon for the tail. They then searched out a roll of string and some long wooden rods, made their purchase, and exited the shop.

"Don't you want to stop at the post office, Anne?" Davy chirped, as they made their way back down the street. Gilbert glanced over at Anne and saw her eyes widen slightly at Davy's innocent question.

"I don't believe so, Davy," she said simply, although Gilbert detected a hint of unease in her voice. Davy was not to be thus silenced.

"Are you sure? You've made such a point of going there every day. I've seen you leave first thing every morning. What are you expecting, Anne? I want to know." If Anne hadn't looked flustered before, she most certainly did now.

"It's nothing, Davy," she said pointedly, apparently trying to end the subject.

"If you say so," Davy muttered in defeat.

"I didn't know you've been visiting the post office every morning," Gilbert remarked out loud, although more to himself than to Anne. He wasn't sure why it bothered him—there was no reason for Anne to inform him of everything she did.

"Ah, well… yes," Anne hesitated, "I didn't think to mention it… it's nothing, really. I'm just waiting for a letter from a friend." Anne was staring very intently at the ground, as if she might trip were she to lift her gaze. If she had looked up, she would have seen Gilbert raise an eyebrow.

"A friend?" he asked.

"Oh, yes… Phil, if you really want to know." Anne continued to stare at the ground.

"Ah," was all Gilbert replied, for Anne clearly did not wish to discuss the matter further. He spoke of it no more, although he was very intrigued—Anne wasn't known to keep secrets from him.

Gilbert spent the rest of the morning hours at Green Gables, helping Davy build the kite. He taught him how to cut the rods and fasten them together, before showing him how to measure the fabric to fit. Then he, himself, did the stitching. Anne watched him handle the needle, apparently surprised at this hidden talent of his; he flashed her a smug look as he worked. Shortly after dinner, the kite was ready. Gilbert then spent the next hour in the garden, teaching Davy how to fly it.

It felt good to be out in the afternoon air again, doing something productive. And judging by the adoring look in Anne's eyes, it meant a lot to her that he was helping Davy. Gilbert had no siblings, and so he had never quite had an experience like this before, besides the day he taught Dora to dance, and that had been quite different. He decided he would have liked having a younger brother very much.

As he left Green Gables that evening, he felt a certain sense of satisfaction in a day well spent. Yet occupying his thoughts still more was the memory of Anne's behavior as they had walked by the post office that morning. She had been aloof—evasive. She was up to something, and he wondered what she might be keeping from him, and why.

… … …

A few days later, Gilbert stood in front of the mirror in the washroom, brushing his hands over the thick locks on top of his head in an attempt to settle down a rather persistent curl that insisted on sticking straight up from the rest. He pumped a bit of water onto his fingers and ran them through his hair, hoping to wrestle it down that way.

Seeing that the stubborn lock could not be reconciled with, he waved a hand through the air in defeat, before leaning into the sink and splashing a bit of water on his face. As he dabbed at it with a towel, he took in his appearance. In the weeks since the fever, his face seemed to have returned to its usual color, although his cheeks still looked rather thin. His eyes still wore a tired expression, and he pressed his thumbs to their corners, as if this would somehow remedy the situation. The white dress shirt he wore was far too baggy. He tucked it into his trousers as tightly as he could and smoothed his vest over the top. Next he slipped into a gray pinstriped suit jacket; it fit loosely in the shoulders, but it was the smallest one he had.

Alice Penhallow's wedding was tonight, and he was determined to look as well as possible. Although the wedding was in East Grafton, there were bound to be some Avonlea residents there, and he would rather not give the wedding guests much to gossip about, if he could help it. Deciding there wasn't much more to be done about his worn features, he made his way down the stairs and, after giving his mother a kiss on the cheek and saddling up the horse and buggy, set off to pick up Anne.

As he finally knocked on the door of Green Gables, he rocked back and forth on his heels in anticipation, fully aware that Anne would be dressed up and looking as radiant as ever. He was eager to lay his eyes upon her, and he felt a slight fluttering in his stomach. It had been over two years since he had escorted Anne to an event, besides Phil's wedding. And all of the other times, they had been nothing more than chums.

Gilbert heard muffled footsteps behind the door, which was promptly opened by Davy.

"Hello, Davy," Gilbert said, while glancing behind him for a glimpse of Anne.

"Hello, Gilbert!" Davy replied animatedly, before turning around and bellowing at the top of his lungs: "ANNE! Gilbert is here!"

"Alright, Davy!" came Anne's sweet, distant voice from upstairs.

"He's here to pick you up!" he yelled back.

"Yes, just a minute now, Davy dear," Gilbert heard her respond in a slightly strained voice.

"You'd better come on in, Gilbert, she's getting ready," Davy insisted, in a tone that implied he thought this a rather alien and unnecessary task. "She never used to get ready before, yet now she always does. What do women mean when they say 'getting ready,' Gilbert? I want to know."

Gilbert laughed as Davy let him into the house. "To be honest, Davy, I'm just as clueless about it as you... but the one thing I've learned is that it's best not to ask them about it." Gilbert gave him a wink, as Davy thought this over a moment.

"You're probably right about that," he agreed. "Alright then, I'm off to the garden, to practice flying my kite. I'm getting better, Gilbert. You would be very proud of me."

"I am proud of you, Davy," Gilbert insisted, as he tousled Davy's hair. Davy shirked away, before looking up at Gilbert admiringly. He then bid him farewell and skipped out of the house.

Gilbert was left alone in the living room, where he waited patiently for Anne to emerge. His ears perked up when he heard her bedroom door open and close, and he turned his gaze expectantly to the upstairs landing. As she appeared at the top of the stairs, Gilbert quite literally forgot how to breathe. He stared at her in awe. There she was, her hair brought completely up on top of her head while a few golden-red strands framed her face. And she was wearing—could it be? Yes, it could. Falling elegantly from her shoulders was an inky purple gown, of a light, flowing fabric. It swished elegantly around her body as she slowly descended the stairs, and it seemed to almost twinkle as the light from the windows struck it.

When she wore that very dress three years before, Gilbert had been struck with the impulse to leap up the stairs and sweep her off of her feet; yet this time, he found himself rendered immobile, entranced by the very sight of her. As Anne descended the last step, she brushed a loose curl from her face, before giggling rather girlishly at the stunned look on his face.

"I said I'd wear it for you sometime," she said simply. So she had, and Gilbert remembered with painful clarity the hopeless feeling that had filled him then; he had feared he would not live to see this day.

"Uh-huh," was all he managed to reply. Anne giggled again. Then she leaned in and kissed him; placing her hands delicately around his neck. Surely this was a dream come to life.

"Alright then, shall we get going?" Anne proposed, after drawing back and adjusting an earing.

"Hmm?" Gilbert replied faintly. "Oh, yes." He then took her hand and led her out of the house.

Anne talked very animatedly throughout the entire ride to East Grafton. Gilbert, having finally regained his wits, engaged her gladly. Anne seemed extremely happy today—even more so than usual. But, he supposed, why shouldn't she be? Hadn't she once told him that few things made her happier than weddings?

The ceremony was held outside, on the wide lawn in front of the Penhallows' house. Once it was through, the chairs were taken around to the back, where a dozen tables had been set up under the shade of several overhanging maple trees. Lanterns had been hung from their boughs, while the tables were decorated with ivy, along with orange and purple blossoms. Anne commented to Gilbert that surely the wood nymphs which lived in the leafy recesses of the maples had come down and decorated the place themselves.

Gilbert was pleased to see that Fred and Diana were also at the wedding. Diana and Anne found each other after the ceremony and embraced enthusiastically, before going to find seats for the four of them; meanwhile, Gilbert joined Fred at the refreshment table.

"We're so pleased to see you doing well, Gilbert," said Fred, as he ladled two glasses of lemonade. "We had thought, well… never mind." His plump cheeks immediately colored with embarrassment.

"It certainly is nice to be out and about again," replied Gilbert, brushing aside Fred's last comment, although more for his friend's sake than his own.

"It's a shame you'll be leaving so soon for Redmond," Fred remarked, stepping aside and allowing Gilbert a turn at the lemonade bowl. "I would have liked to have you around Avonlea again. How long is your medical course?"

"Three years," Gilbert replied. "It's a long time, I know."

"Diana and I were engaged for three years," Fred stated flatly. "They'll be the longest three years of your life," he added with a grimace.

"Thanks for the encouragement," Gilbert replied sarcastically. "At least you were able to see her often."

"Yes, that's true," Fred mused, as he glanced over at Diana. "That's really too bad you'll be apart…. although," he added as an afterthought, "it will make some things easier."

"What?" Gilbert asked, unsure what Fred was getting at.

"Oh, you know..." Fred said pointedly, as he leaned back against the table and placed a hand briefly on Gilbert's shoulder. "As you said, three years is a long time…" He raised his eyebrows here, and Gilbert finally discerned his friend's meaning. He then glanced over at Anne; his spine began to tingle as he beheld her beauty, and the way her dress fell elegantly down her back... he blushed uncomfortably as he thought about what he might do to that dress, if only they were married. It was something he had thought about increasingly often, no matter how hard he tried to push those desires away.

"I'm sure you'll be fine," Fred assured him, sensing the direction of Gilbert's contemplation. "Just prepare yourself, because it won't get any easier."

"Indeed," thought Gilbert, as he mulled over Fred's words. Of course Fred was right in implying that his longing for Anne would only grow stronger—Gilbert had realized this himself, during the first few months of their engagement. Yet the fever had wiped such thoughts temporarily from his mind. Such struggles had seemed trivial, when the future in and of itself had been so unsure. Now that the fever was behind him, Gilbert was left once again to contemplate the struggle Fred had alluded to. He did have to disagree with his friend, however, on the notion that spending those three years apart might be better for both of them.

The wedding breakfast passed jovially, and Gilbert had never been more proud to have Anne on his arm. Although he engaged readily in conversation with the other guests, his eyes were nearly always fixed on her—she had succeeded this night in captivating his very soul; he could think of nothing else. He treasured every second, knowing that in just over a week, he would be parted from her. He reveled in the music of her laughter and the feel of her hand upon his, along with the sweet fragrance which emanated from her hair, and the sight of that deep purple dress draped daintily around her slender form.

As they shared a dance under the light of the lanterns, Gilbert was overcome with a familiar desire—the very same desire he felt when he had danced with her in that very dress, three years before. Yet this time was different; this time, he could do something about it. And he would do something about it. As the dance ended, Gilbert grabbed hold of Anne's hand and gently led her away from the twinkling lights, and toward the edge of the garden.

"What are we doing, Gilbert?" Anne asked, as she allowed him to lead her through a hedge of hydrangeas and into the night.

"I'm stealing you away," Gilbert replied plainly. "You promised, remember?" He looked back at her and grinned, only to have his breath catch in his throat once again, as he saw the way the moonlight fell upon her face, painting it a soft, delicate white. Yet this was not the place. He led her still further, over a footbridge and through a wooded area of aspens turned gradually to spruces, until they found themselves in a little clearing where the trees had thinned. Gilbert led her around the clearing until he found a place for them to sit.

"If you'll remember, Anne, I said I wanted you to myself," Gilbert reminded her, as he made himself comfortable on a particularly grassy patch of earth, leaning his back on a fallen log behind him. "If we're living my dream, I want to get it just right." He took off his suit jacket and, heedless of the damage it might cause it, laid it on the ground next to him, creating a place for Anne to sit. Anne settled down next to him and, much to his pleasure, turned slightly sideways, leaning her knees inwards so they rested against his legs, while she lay her head on his shoulder.

"There we have it," Gilbert said with satisfaction, as he brought Anne's hand onto his lap.

"And is it everything you imagined it to be?" Anne asked, as she nestled further into him. The heat of her was electrifying, and Gilbert was consumed by warmth and desire both, although he resisted the urge to act upon it.

"It's better," he declared, as he began to stroke her fingers with his thumb. They sat that way a while; the moon cast a sort of celestial glow over the ground below. The only sound was of faintly rustling leaves above them, and of Anne's soft breathing against his neck.

"What a summer we have had, don't you think, Gilbert?" Anne remarked quietly. Gilbert thought back to that last day of April, when he had made up his mind to try, one last time, to fight for Anne. How much had happened since then! It felt like so long ago.

"Would you change it, if you could?" she asked next. "The fever, I mean."

Gilbert was a bit surprised by her question, and he took a moment to think it over. He had gone through the worst hell of his life during his bout with the fever, yet he now realized, he would go through it again in a heartbeat. Somehow, through it all, their love had deepened—they had been laid bare before each other and it had bonded them in a way words simply could not describe. Gilbert had never thought he could treasure Anne's love any more than he already did, but after he had nearly been taken from the world—and Anne herself—he had realized even further how precious she was to him.

"No," Gilbert said firmly. "I wouldn't change it. It brought me closer to you." He squeezed her hand as he said it. Anne sat up a little and placed her chin on Gilbert's shoulder, looking up at him for a moment with her gray eyes; the moonlight reflected in them, causing them to glimmer like the stars themselves.

"Then neither would I," she said, before bringing her face upwards and kissing him briefly. Gilbert brought his arm around her and tightened her body next to his own. He wanted so badly to turn that simple kiss into something more… "What happens next... in your dream?" Anne asked him. Gilbert found himself gazing at her long red lashes, and those freckles he loved so.

"Well," he said, a bit embarrassed at the thought that they could not possibly do everything he had dreamed of just now, "you kissed me a bit more strongly than that." Anne laughed, as she straightened herself up and leaned in again, this time placing the hand that was not held by his on the side of his face, as she kissed him deeply. Gilbert closed his eyes at her touch. He ran a hand up and down her back; he could feel the soft knobs of her spine through her dress, along with the way the airy fabric gave way to the smooth skin of her neck. He leaned in and kissed her there, and she let out a strained sigh. He drew back and gazed at her.

"And then?" she breathed.

"Well, I laid you down on the grass…" he pressed her shoulder lightly, preparing to lower her down. He could see a look of excitement mixed with—was it fear?—cross over her face. She resisted just slightly.

"Don't worry, Anne, you can trust me," Gilbert whispered quietly in her ear. "Trust me." And so Anne allowed him to push her gently down to the ground. He lay next to her and propped himself up on one elbow. He gently brushed away a few red curls which had fallen over her face with his fingertips. And then he leaned in and kissed her, first softly, then a little more fiercely, although no more forcefully than he could handle, without succombing to the need for more. He couldn't lose control now, not when Anne had trusted him so—not when they had those three long years ahead of them. He ran his hand over her shoulder—how easy it would be to brush aside her sleeve and feel the bare skin under it! Yet he knew he could not, and so he didn't. Instead, he felt around for her hand and laced his fingers into hers, in order to keep them from wandering. And he kissed her for a long while, until he could stand the temptation no longer, and withdrew.

… … …

Gilbert took the long way home to Avonlea, knowing he would have to say goodbye to Anne when they arrived, and wishing he didn't have to. He was very tired—it had been a long night for him, and he was not back to his old strength. Yet he was very much aware of how little time they had left to spend together, before he left for Kingsport. He tried not to think about it, and therefore it was all he could think about.

It was nearly midnight by the time he steared the buggy down the lane to Green Gables. The house was dark and quiet, and he stopped a little way down the lane, so as not to wake those inside with the clicking of hooves and clattering of wheels. He helped Anne to the ground and they walked hand in hand the rest of the way to the house.

As he leaned in to kiss her goodnight, she looked up at him shyly.

"I have something to show you," she said. "Wait here, I'll only be a minute." Then she tiptoed quietly into the house. A minute later she returned, bearing an oil lamp and a piece of paper. She seemed rather nervous as she set the lamp down on the porch railing and pressed the paper into his hand.

"Read it," she said simply. Gilbert unfolded it slowly, at a loss as to what might be written there. He brought it under the lamplight and discerned it to be a letter from Phil. He leaned in closer and read:

"Hallow's End

"Patterson Street, Kingsport, Nova Scotia

"Tuesday, August 22nd

"Dearest Anne,

"I was overjoyed upon receiving your letter this morning. I rushed right down to the church, where Jonas was preparing his sermon, to tell him the news! Indeed, we finally managed to raise enough money to finish the renovations to the schoolhouse, but have not found a solitary soul wanting to apply for the position, despite the board's offering of an extra ten dollars a month as incentive. I would be overjoyed to recommend you to them! You can live right here with us at the manse, if you like. Jo says he won't mind a bit.

"I must admit, although I was beside myself with pleasure upon reading of your proposal, I can't say I'm surprised. Three years is an awfully long time to spend away from Gilbert, and I never thought you'd be able to handle it. Well, this alternative will just suit everyone perfectly, won't it? And I am sure you will adore the children—they may be poor as a church mice, and indeed, many of them are desolate little foundlings, but they sure are dears. Write me back straightaway and I will get it all settled.

"Love as always,

"Philippa Blake

Gilbert was quite literally speechless as he finished reading the letter and looked down into Anne's face. He opened his mouth to speak, but he did not know what to say. He could hardly comprehend the meaning of Phil's message, nor process the myriad of emotions it had inspired. Anne—come with him to Kingsport? It seemed too good to be true.

"So... what do you think?" Anne asked timidly. She looked very nervous, and she subconsciously traced a pattern across the floor with her toe.

"Well I... I..." Gilbert stammered. "They've opened a school?" was all he could manage to ask.

"Yes," replied Anne. "Phil had mentioned in a letter about a month ago that they were raising money within the church, to do some renovations to the old schoolhouse. It was in disrepair—both the church and the school are on Patterson Street in the slums, you know—and it wasn't even in use; many of the children simply stayed home, or walked well over a mile to the school on Miller Street. Well, she had mentioned that although they were on the point of finishing the renovations, they were having trouble finding someone to fill the position. Many of the children are orphans, Gil, just like me. And my heart breaks for them."

"I see," Gilbert said slowly, still trying to process the enormity of the decision Anne was considering, and what it would mean for their future. Anne seemed to mistake his silence for disapproval, because she quickly continued on.

"I wasn't even considering the job at first, but after everything with the fever… I almost lost you, Gil! And I've only just got you back. And I can't bear the thought of spending the next three years away from you. I just can't. And I reasoned… well, there are children everywhere, Gilbert. There are just as many children in Kingsport as there are in Summerside, or anywhere else in the world. So why would I choose to work somewhere so far away, when there are children right next to Redmond that desperately need a teacher?"

Anne wore a very serious look, and Gilbert could see how desperately she wanted him to agree to her plan. Attempting to keep his hands steady, Gilbert folded up the letter and put it on the railing, next to the lamp.

"Anne," he said softly, "I think it's a wonderful idea. But do you realize what you are giving up, to come to Kingsport with me? I can't let you do that." Anne shook her head fiercely before taking his hands in hers.

"I'll admit, the principalship at Summerside would be a much more… reputable… job. But I'll still be doing something useful. Those children come from very hard lives, and I can be a light for them."

"And the pay…" Gilbert started, but Anne interrupted him.

"Well sure, the pay is not nearly as much, but I'll save money by boarding with Phil. I thought of finding a position at a high school or a ladies' college, but of course it's too late in the summer to apply. But I'm sure something will open up next year. And in the meantime I can work with Phil."

"In the slums..."

"Yes, Gilbert, in the slums—with children that are not so very different from what I once was." Gilbert could see the fire burning behind Anne's determined eyes.

"And you… you would do that for me?" he asked, although he did not know why, for he knew very well what her response would be. In truth, he was incredibly excited by Anne's idea, and his heart beat wildly at the notion that she might come to Kingsport with him. But the position in Summerside was a lot for her to give up, and Patterson Street was a sad, dreary place.

"Of course I would, Gilbert. I've decided to spend my life with you, remember?" Anne declared, briefly flashing the pearl circlet on her finger. "And I want to start now. You have no idea how stubborn I can be, when I put my mind to something."

Gilbert stepped closer to Anne and brought her fingers to his lips. "I think I have a fairly good idea," he smiled, before kissing them. The more he thought about Anne's plan, the more it agreed with him. Yes, she would be giving up her principalship, but at least it was only for one year. She could find a similar job in Kingsport next fall, and in the meantime, maybe she was right about the Patterson Street school—if anyone could give those kids the love and education they deserved, it was Anne.

"Alright then, Anne," Gilbert assented, and the moment the words left his mouth, a feeling of ecstasy spread through him. He wouldn't be separated from Anne, after all! He would get to see her nearly every day.

"You mean it?" Anne gasped. "You'll agree?" She held her breath, waiting for him to speak again.

"I'd be a fool not to," he replied, and his face told the rest. Anne gave out a squeal of delight and wrapped her arms around him. She seemed to practically shake with joy. Gilbert lifted her up and spun her around, laughing as he did so. Then he held her tightly to him, thinking that tonight, surely, must have been one long, beautiful dream.

"Now I know what you were being so secretive about, this past week," he remarked, after he released her.

"I'm sorry about that, Gil," Anne replied shyly. "I would have told you, only Phil's letter about the search for a schoolteacher came more than a month ago, and I didn't know if the position was still open… I didn't want to get your hopes up, nor mine."

"That's understandable, I suppose," Gilbert admitted. "Well, Anne-girl, it seems we have come to yet another bend in our road… I'm glad we're rounding it together."

"As am I," agreed Anne. She stood up on the tips of her toes and kissed him.

"You know, telling me this, so late at night... it's rather cruel, do you know that?" he stated. Anne cocked her head at him. "Well," he continued, "how do you expect me to go home and sleep with this on my mind?"

Anne laughed as she nabbed him lightly in the ribs. "Well then, since you are not to sleep tonight, I can't see what good going home now will do you. Suppose we sit here a little while before you go?"

"Seems logical to me."

And so Gilbert settled himself on the porch steps, while Anne nuzzled up next to him in the way she had before. And there they chatted, of a future full of each other, until dawn's first light began to tinge the sky.

The End

I cannot believe this tale has drawn to a close! Thank you a million times for all the love and support for this story. Please believe me when I say it really kept me going! And the fact that you have made it through both stories is the best compliment I could hope for... for no one reads over 100,000 words on accident. Thank you for giving me a bit of your time. I'd love to hear what you think, now that all is said and done. I've moved on past this story but I still love to read your reviews!

And to answer your question, YES, there is a sequel in progress! It is called Heart's Desire; you can find it on my profile, or on the forum. Much love as always,

Jenn :)