AN: Hello readers! As I was taking a little break from my chapter stories, I thought it would be fun to explore a one-shot. We all know Gilbert was popular and well-liked while he was growing up. I wanted to explore the implications of that, particularly in reference to his time teaching in White Sands. There's a quote from Anne of Avonlea that's always intrigued me, and it is within that quote that our story takes place.
Note: Some words and phrases in this chapter are taken from Anne of Avonlea Chapter XIX: "Just A Happy Day."
… … …
"Gilbert had made up his mind, also, that his future must be worthy of its goddess. Even in quiet Avonlea there were temptations to be met and faced. White Sands youth were a rather 'fast' set, and Gilbert was popular wherever he went. But he meant to keep himself worthy of Anne's friendship and perhaps some distant day her love; and he watched over word and thought and deed as jealously as if her clear eyes were to pass in judgment on it." -L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea.
Grayed Lines and Grayish Eyes
It had been one of those weeks. On Monday, Sally Burton got not one but two bloody noses. There wasn't a swatch of gauze to be found in the medical cabinet and I had to offer her my own sweater to stem the flow. On Tuesday, Curtis Olberg told Missy Sanders that Santa Claus wasn't real, and on Wednesday I had to explain the situation to Missy's mother, who felt that it was somehow my fault, and expected an apology. On Thursday, I caught James Tillman and Benjamin Radcliffe smoking a cigarette out behind the schoolhouse, and then promptly had to deal with an irate Mrs. Tillman, who insisted her son would never do such a thing, and surely I had it in for her family on account of their refusal to donate to the school repair fund. On Friday, Marty Oliver somehow caught a squirrel and thought it would be a good idea to let it loose inside the classroom. After I trapped it in a corner, shooed it out of the room with a broom, and coaxed various quivering girls down from the tops of their desk seats, he told me with a solemn expression that he had done it on a dare. I had to give him the strap for it, and I stand by my decision, even though I know some people will disagree with my methods.
Needless to say, I breathed a distinct sigh of relief as I inserted the key into the lock of the schoolhouse door at the end of the week and heard it give a sharp click. I then made my way out towards the White Sands road. I didn't turn down Mr. Layne's way, where I board during the week and where I keep my horse and buggy. Instead, I ambled down the road towards Percy Davis' house, where I was to take supper before the social at the White Sands Hotel that night. The social was to be a grand affair put on by the Ladies' Aid, who were trying to raise money for some cause I couldn't remember.
I was only a little way down the block when I heard two pairs of quick feet behind me. Before I could turn around, two slender arms had looped themselves through mine, while their owners gave out a pair of girlish giggles. I looked from side to side; on my left was Hattie Norris, while on my right was Suzanne Baker.
"Hello, Hattie. Hello Suzanne," I greeted. I smiled at them pleasantly, although inwardly I let out a groan, as Suzanne tugged my arm a little closer to her side. There are many youth of around my age in White Sands, and I've gotten to know most all of them during my first year teaching in town, seeing as I only return to Avonlea on weekends. The girls here are certainly nice and well mannered, but they flirt in a way you wouldn't believe. Hattie may be more of the modest type, but Suzanne could give Josie Pye a run for her money. I don't think it's much to do with me; as far as I know, the girls in this town would bat their eyes at any moving thing, so long as the suspect was a he and not a she.
"Uck!" Suzanne said with an exaggerated grimace. Her cheeks had turned red, although from embarrassment or something else, I didn't know. "I've told you time and time again, Gil, only my mother calls me 'Suzanne.'"
I knew that very well to be the case, but I've always found it hard to resist the impulse to call her by her full name. It annoys her, and annoying girls is a habit I've never quite been able to kick.
"Very well," I conceded. "Hello, Susie."
"That's better," she said satisfactorily, as she gripped my arm a little tighter, while peering up at me through dusty blonde lashes. Susie is a rather plain looking girl, and sometimes I wonder if the overzealous flirting is just to make up for it. Now Hattie on the other hand is quite a pretty little thing, with dark hair falling in neat spirals past her shoulders, and rosy red cheeks, and bluish-gray eyes that seem to laugh at their corners. Although it might be noted that I, myself, have always thought greenish-gray eyes more becoming than bluish-gray ones—like Anne Shirley's eyes, for instance. Although I suppose green simply wouldn't compliment Hattie's hair the way it goes so well with Anne's.
"You're going to come to the social tonight, won't you, Gilbert?" asked Hattie sweetly. I turned to look at her; she bit her lip and dropped her eyes to her feet.
"Yes, I had planned on it," I responded, trying to muster up a tone of excitement. Usually on Fridays, I return to Avonlea in time for supper. Afterwards, I meet up with Anne and we take a walk around Barry's Pond, or relax on the grasses by the "Dryad's Bubble," as she calls it. Originally, I had thought a social would be a fun change of pace for a Friday evening, but as it happened I was worn out from a trying week, and a quiet evening with Anne sounded much more appealing.
The girls were still attached to both of my arms, and it seemed as if Susie was trying to melt right into me. I'll admit, it was quite flattering, having two girls batting their eyelashes at me. Yet I wasn't interested in them; I couldn't be. And so I stopped for a moment and leaned on a nearby fence railing as I pretended to pick a rock out of the bottom of my shoe. When I looked up, both girls were standing right in front of me, and Susie's hands were on her hips. She stepped forward and straightened my shirt collar without asking.
"There now," she said, as she finished with the collar and gave my shoulder a pat. "Hattie and I are heading to the hotel now. My mother is in charge of the decorations, you know," she declared importantly. "I don't suppose you'd like to join us?" She pursed her lips and looked at me through wide, hopeful eyes as she fingered the sleeve of her dress.
"No thanks, Susie. Percy is expecting me for supper," I responded, hoping I sounded at least slightly sorry. What I didn't tell her was that I wasn't keen on spending a couple of hours decorating the hall. I'd much rather pass the hours before the social at Percy's house—Percy is a swell chap and never dull. He is nineteen, just like I am, and he doesn't act out quite so much as the other White Sands youth do.
After several attempts to convince me to join them, Suzanne and Hattie went on their way, with Susie making a special show of pouting about it, while Hattie merely gave me a small grin and waved goodbye. I went over to Percy's house, as planned.
After supper, Percy and I made our way to our favorite stretch of shoreline, where we found several of the other White Sands boys. Ralph Sanders was tossing a football with Willie Tamford, while the rest of the boys were sitting on the dunes and sucking on the tall reeds of grass, while passing something between them.
"Heads up, Blythe!" shouted Willie, as he aimed the football in my direction. It went off to the right; I sprinted towards it and caught it neatly before tossing it back into Willie's waiting arms.
"Nice catch, as usual," he said satisfactorily, as he and Ralph jogged to catch up with Percy and I. We made our way over to the rest of the group, who shouted their greetings.
"Pass it over!" demanded Willie, as he plopped himself down on the sand and made a beckoning motion with his hand. "It" ended up being a bottle of gin, which Sam McNabb had gotten from his older brother, who was often known to supply the White Sands boys with such things. Willie took a giant swig and passed it to Percy, who looked at it hesitantly before taking a small sip, his brown eyes wincing as he did so, and handing it back.
"A little much for you to handle, eh Perce?" laughed Willie, as he tossed a fistful of sand into Percy's similarly colored hair. "You next, Blythe?" he asked, tossing the bottle my way. I caught it with one hand before giving it a sniff. The stiff, bitter smell reminded me of the iodine my mother uses to clean scratches and cuts. All the other boys were staring at me. I knew Willie wasn't actually expecting me to take a sip—they passed bottles around often but I'd never partaken before. I had never really been tempted in the past. But as I mentioned, it had been one of those weeks. I was tired and on edge and I knew liquor is supposed to help you relax. What was the harm in one sip, really? So I took a gulp—a big gulp… too big. Now, I'd tasted red currant wine before; Charlie and I had snuck into my mother's kitchen pantry once or twice and taken a few sips from the bottle on the top shelf—"kept only for medicinal purposes," she is apt to say. I'd also tried a bit of champagne at a wedding in Charlottetown. But champagne and red currant wine are nothing like gin, and so I wasn't prepared for the way it seared my mouth and throat. I held as straight a face as possible and tried as I might to keep my eyes from watering.
My guise seemed to work, because all of the other boys looked at me admiringly, apparently surprised that I only flinched a tiny bit. I passed the bottle over to Sam, who said, "that a boy, Blythe."
The moment I'd taken that swig, I wished I hadn't. The other times had been innocent fun, but I knew gin was nothing to take lightly. I had a neighbor in New Brunswick who used to get drunk on the stuff almost every night, and he was known to do some really terrible things. Not to mention, I'd seen Sam and some of the other boys get pretty out-of-sorts after spending too much time with a bottle. All the boys had never teased me much for refusing in the past; they liked me just the same, so I don't really know why I did it. In that moment, I felt I never knew myself.
The conversation on the dunes drifted towards the social, and which girls were the prettiest, and who they each wanted to "dance close" with, and whose card would likely fill first. Yet I wasn't thinking of Hattie Norris, with her shimmering chocolate colored curls, or Mabel Young, with her sea-green eyes contrasting starkly against her jet-black lashes, or any of the other White Sands beauties, for that matter. The only girl I was thinking of was Anne Shirley. I could see her in the back of my mind, those limpid gray eyes full of disappointment, her thin lips pressed together in a frown. What would she think of me, were I to admit to her what I had done?
I'll be honest in saying I try not to do anything that Anne might frown upon. She is, in my mind, the most moral and good person I know. I suppose what I've always liked about her is the way she sets herself apart from the drama and antics of the other Avonlea youth. Without fail, she is always completely and utterly true to herself, and she never compromises her ideals. I know that anyone who does not also hold true to such standards will never be worthy of her, and that's just what I've always dreamed of being—worthy. I imagined having to tell her about the gin, and I was filled with shame. When the bottle came back around, I politely declined it.
"Come now, Gil! You'll never know you've had any, if you don't take at least another swig or two," piped Sam. It was tempting—knowing that another sip might help erase the pain of a tiring week. Yet I simply could not.
"Not tonight, boys. It would compromise my dancing," I joked. This evoked a hearty guffaw from a few of the others.
"We wouldn't want that!" cried Percy. "Gilbert could land his name on every card in the room, if there were only enough dances."
"Here here!" echoed a few of the others. I felt my cheeks redden as I brushed aside their comments with a wave of my hand.
"All I'm saying is, he's not denying it," stated Willie, as he slapped me on the back. I felt the taste of gin on the back of my tongue, and was overcome with another wave of guilt.
Once the bottle had been emptied, the group of us set out for the hotel. Many of the others had grown rather rowdy—a product of the gin, I assumed. I raised my eyebrows at Percy who, like me, hadn't taken more than the one sip. He shrugged his shoulders and grinned back.
The social went much like a social is supposed to go. As I entered the hall and took in the elaborate decorations, Susie immediately appeared at my side, followed by Hattie and another girl, Beth Sanders.
"Aren't the decorations stunning, Gilbert? We really could have used your help, although we managed, as you can see."
"Indeed, they are stunning," interjected Percy, saving me the need to respond.
"Thank you, Percy," Susie replied congenially, although she turned a little away from him and a little more towards me. She pulled out her dance card and started pouring over it intently, although I knew she was simply fishing for me to ask her for a dance. I wasn't particularly keen on dancing with Susie, but I knew she wouldn't leave me alone until I did. I didn't want to give her the satisfaction of thinking I had singled her out, however, and so instead I asked the three girls if I might reserve a spot on each of their cards. This wasn't such a loss—I would have asked Hattie for a dance anyway.
I was tired and the social seemed to crawl by slowly. More than once, I found myself wondering what Anne was doing in that moment. Was she strolling down Lover's Lane alone, or had she found another companion in my absence? Or perhaps she had decided in favor of a quiet evening on the porch of Green Gables? This was the first Friday I had spent away from Anne in months, and I missed her sorely.
"Mabel is looking simply bully this evening, isn't she?" I heard Willie say to no one in particular, as I was leaned up against the wall with a few of the others, who were all sitting out a dance. I looked over at her; she was standing in a small circle of girls, next to Hattie. Her black hair had been brought up elegantly on top of her head, and two large pearl earrings dangled from her ears. Pearl earrings... I thought about how glamorous she would have looked, compared with the Avonlea girls.
"You're dead gone, Willie," Frank declared from next to him. "Now if only you'd do something about it…"
"Maybe he would have, only he was too busy with Susie last time, wasn't he?" grinned Sam, as he elbowed Willie sharply. "Did you not see him, Frank? Down by the harbor shore after the Spring Concert? I wasn't quite sure where Willie ended and Susie began..." Willie's cheeks went red, although he puffed out his chest proudly.
"Oh come now, Sam, I was just bored, and she's always desperate for attention, and one thing led to another…" The other boys laughed and whooped. I couldn't help but think of the difference between the youth in White Sands and the youth in Avonlea. Down by the harbor after the concert—my mother would have nipped any such idea in the bud. Not to mention draining an entire bottle of gin beforehand, or going off alone with a girl at night!
"Well, we all know Susie fancies Gilbert anyway," chimed Percy, while raising his eyebrows. I blushed, more out of embarrassment than flattery. I looked back up at the girls. Susie was deep in conversation with Beth and another girl I didn't know the name of. Hattie was talking with Mabel; the two girls glanced over at me and caught my eye, then immediately turned away. Mabel whispered something into Hattie's ear—Hattie turned red as a beet and giggled.
"Susie may not be the only one who fancies you, Gilbert," Percy added under his breath, so the other boys couldn't hear him. I flushed a bit as I thought this over. Hattie was a very pretty, sweet girl, and I'd always found her interesting to talk to, as opposed to the other White Sands girls. Yet there was no point in denying that my feelings lay elsewhere. When I look into my future, I don't see Hattie's starry bluish-gray eyes, but Anne's clear greenish-gray ones.
Yet despite the intensity of my feelings for Anne, somehow I liked knowing that perhaps Hattie fancied me. I thought more highly of her than the other girls, so I suppose it was nice to know that she thought highly of me, too.
As the social finally ended, I was thinking longingly of my bed in Avonlea, and I was eager to make my way to Mr. Layne's house to saddle up my horse. I did not, however, because upon exiting the hotel, Sam announced that his brother had come into possession of one of those new chain-driven bicycles. Such a thing had never been heard of in White Sands, and all of the boys were eager to take a ride on it. Someone suggested that we take it down near the harbor, and I accompanied them without a second thought; my warm bed lay forgotten in my intrigue. A large group of girls, who were also interested in the prospect of this new bicycle, followed us down to watch.
The most amusing part was that Sam, for all his talk, was clueless as to how to ride the contraption. Each of the boys took a turn on it. Ben Norris—Hattie's older brother—was the first to propel it ten whole strides before falling over. When my turn finally arrived, I surprised myself as much as anyone when I pedaled it for a solid two minutes without losing my balance. The others were all extremely impressed, although I wondered if my success wasn't more due to the fact that I hadn't been hitting the gin bottle like the rest of them.
As I got off the bike and handed it over to Percy, I was forced to endure the long-winded compliments of half a dozen girls—Susie among them, who had latched once again onto my arm. I peeled her off of me, much like a leech I found attached to my leg last time I went for a swim in Barry's Pond. Then I glanced around awkwardly and found Hattie gazing at me; she gave me a sympathetic grin. I grinned back, and she lowered her lashes and turned away. I began to wonder if perhaps Percy was right—maybe Hattie did fancy me.
As to the precise level of Hattie's interest, I was to find that out soon after. The night was growing late, and Frank and Sam were taking fourth and fifth attempts on the bicycle, while the other boys rooted them on wildly. The excitement of the new toy had worn off for me, and so I walked several yards down the hill, where I attempted to skip rocks in the calm water between the dock and the shore. I was just congratulating myself on a particularly good toss when I heard soft footsteps approaching.
"I've tried that once or twice, although I've always been lousy at it."
I turned around to see Hattie standing a few feet from me, fiddling with the white lace trim of her blue dress. She had let her hair down, and it fell in soft spirals around her shoulders.
"Ah, well..." I reasoned, "you've got to make sure the rock is smooth. Like this one, for example." I brandished a smooth black stone at her, then brought back my elbow and gave it a thrust. I counted eight tiny plops before all was silent.
"You've very good at that," Hattie complimented. Yet somehow her compliment didn't bother me the way Susie's always did. I found myself blushing and rubbing the back of my neck.
"Do you think you could teach me?" she asked shyly, while biting her lip in the way she always does. I briefly imagined Hattie, in her blue lacy dress and dainty white slippers, skipping rocks; I stifled a chuckle at the thought of it. Yet I also admired her for wanting to have a go at it—it wasn't lady-like to skip rocks, and I liked the tomboyish-ness of it. It reminded me of something Anne would do.
"Sure," I consented. "I've got a few more right here." I leaned down and picked up a stone as Hattie drew closer. "Alright well, it's all in the wrist. You want to place your thumb right here..." I modeled it for her. "And your forefinger comes around it like this."
I held out the rock and she took it; her skin was cold to the touch as she scooped it from my palm with her slender fingertips. Maybe it was it just me, but she seemed to linger against my skin a moment longer than necessary. She held out the stone with what she thought was the correct form. It wasn't.
"Yes, you've got your thumb in the right place, but you want to slide your finger up a bit," I critiqued. Hattie tried to correct this, but ended up sliding her finger the wrong way. "No, you want to set it right along the rock's edge. Here, I'll help you."
I grabbed her wrist lightly and brushed her finger into place. Her hand trembled a little; I looked down at her... if she was blushing, the darkness hid it. I was taken by surprise as my hand tingled where it touched hers. I hadn't expected it. Hattie was very pretty, yes. Her thick lashes rested daintily on her cheek whenever she lowered her gaze, and her smooth cheekbones were dusted with moonlight. And Hattie was more than pretty—she was fun to talk to as well, and a good deal smarter than she lets on. But nevertheless, I knew I couldn't possibly have feelings for her. My feelings lay miles away in Avonlea, with Anne—wherever she might be at the time.
Yet I also realized in that moment that Anne never lets me touch her at all. If it had been her grip I corrected, she would have shied away from my touch. Yet Hattie did not. As I looked down into Hattie's soft blue-gray eyes, her feelings for me were clear. Anne, on the other hand, has only ever looked at me in friendship. The feeling of standing so close with a girl—and one I admired at that—and seeing the admiration and longing in her eyes, was intriguing. The knowledge of Hattie's feelings was strangely gratifying.
"Erm, yes, great," I stuttered, tripping over my words as I tried to figure out what was going on inside my head.
"So now the real question is, how do I toss this darn thing?" Hattie asked. I raised my eyebrows at her and laughed, surprised at her word choice. Then again, the White Sands girls were known to use harder language than I was accustomed to in Avonlea.
"Alright well, it's all in the wrist," I explained, modeling the motion for her. "Bring your arm back like this, and you want to release it at the end of your arc..." I picked up a stone and whipped it against the water. Hattie watched it sail away, then took a deep breath and made a few practice swings.
"That looks great," I assured her. "Have at it, then."
Hattie took a deep breath and tossed the rock as best she could. It landed against the water with an ungraceful thud. I tried and failed to keep a straight face.
"Stop laughing at me!" she cried, as she elbowed me in the side. I caught her wrist with my hand and pushed it aside playfully, before presenting her with another rock.
"I'll stop laughing once you get one right," I smirked. Hattie groaned as she took the rock from me and made a second attempt to hurl it across the water. I found the sight of Hattie skipping rocks in her dress rather silly, but as I mentioned before, it was also quite becoming. None of the other White Sands girls would be caught dead doing such a thing. A few tries later, Hattie did get one right. She raised her arms above her head and gave a tiny shriek of success. I pretended to applaud her fiercely.
"Want another go?" I asked, holding up another rock.
"I think I'll quit while I'm ahead," she giggled. "I'm getting rather cold, actually. Fancy a short walk? It will get my blood flowing." Just then, a loud chorus of wild laughter emanated from the road. I heard the clink of more bottles.
"Whatever they're enjoying up there will get your blood flowing as well," I joked.
"I tried that gin once," Hattie admitted sheepishly. "Sam made me, back when we were..." she stopped here, apparently feeling she had said too much. It wasn't any use—I already knew about her brief history with Sam, as he often bragged about it to the rest of us. "Anyway, I hated it! I got so loopy and giggly and uncomfortable."
"It's not for me, either," I admitted, as my throat burned in remembrance of that regrettable swig. We turned now and walked along the dock. Hattie folded her arms across her chest, and the moonlight revealed tiny goosebumps on her skin. I wished I had a jacket to offer her, but I didn't.
"Do you mind?" she asked, before slipping her arm through mine and pressing her shoulder lightly into my side, as if this would somehow soften the cold night air.
I'll admit that it was oddly thrilling to have Hattie on my arm, even if I'd rather it were Anne. I wondered what Anne would think, if she saw me walking like this with Hattie. I'd always dreamed that someday Anne would be the one nestling into my side. I know she only sees me as a good chum, but even that is saying something—a little over a year ago, she still wasn't speaking to me. So even though she has never shown me any true affection, I cling to the hope that someday she will.
Yet Anne wasn't there by the harbor shore—Hattie was. She was warm and real and right there, and she sidled a little closer into me as she wrapped her free hand around my arm. Of course she did this all under the pretense of being cold, but I knew it was something more. Yet I didn't want to stop her. I liked having her there. Yes, maybe I dream of Anne one day, but I reasoned that it could be years before she actually comes to return my affections, so what was the harm in entertaining Hattie for a night?
It was getting late, and I offered to walk her home, seeing as her house was on the way to Mr. Layne's. We strolled along, slowly chatting of the dance... of Susie—who had picked a quarrel with Hattie that very evening over some matter she refused to disclose—and the rest of the White Sands youth. Hattie recounted a particularly awkward dance with Ben Radcliffe that had me in stitches, and I told her all about how I had tripped over Beth Sanders' foot at one point and gone flying into a table.
I stopped at the gate to her house; she loosened her grasp, and my arm suddenly felt very cold. Hattie was biting her lip again—Anne hardly ever bites her lip. She drew intricate patterns across the ground with the tip of her shoe, not yet reaching for the latch to the garden gate. I watched as she inched her fingers forward and took my hand in hers.
"Thank you for teaching me to skip rocks, Gilbert. That was very sweet of you."
My hand thrilled at her touch—it wasn't the first time a girl had taken my hand in hers, yet this was different. In my younger days, I had merely been playing along with silly, shallow girls such as Josie Pye and Ruby Gillis. Yet Hattie was of a different mold, and although she could never be Anne, for a moment I felt that perhaps I could have cared for her, under other circumstances.
"It was nothing," I said, shrugging my shoulders. I didn't withdraw my hand, and as a result I felt a mix of worry at what Anne might think were she watching us, and excitement at the prospect of a girl grasping my hand.
I looked down into Hattie's eyes—misty pools in the moonlight. Green-gray eyes speak of intensity and fire, while blue-gray ones speak of ice and mystery. Of course I prefer green to blue, but they're both very appealing. Hattie had an intense look on her face that I didn't quite recognize. I vaguely realized that those dark lashes were drawing closer, and suddenly my cheek felt very warm where Hattie had kissed it. I brought my fingers to it absentmindedly.
"Sorry," she immediately blurted out. "I don't know what got into me..." she looked down at the ground for a moment, embarrassed, before peering tentatively back up at me. A kiss on the cheek—this was all so exciting and flattering and new.
"No, it's.. fine..." I said stupidly, still overly conscious of the moist skin where her lips had pressed against it. Before I knew it, I had leaned down and kissed her in return, on the top of her head. I had never kissed a girl on the forehead before, leastways not in a romantic way.
Her lips broke into a smile and she continued to gaze up at me through wide eyes. "I wish you had come to White Sands sooner," Hattie breathed, although I barely heard her... I was distracted by a dark curl that brushed just slightly over her eyes. "You're so different than the other boys." She continued to hold her face mere inches from mine. She squeezed my hand ever so slightly. Was it just me, or was she waiting for something? I wondered if it could really be... could she possibly be waiting for that?
I'll admit, I'd shared a tiny peck or two in the past with a couple of the Avonlea girls, in the name of childhood experimentation. Yet I'd never really, properly kissed a girl. The opportunity presented itself now, and I was filled with curiosity. I knew the way the White Sands youth romanced—they were a much faster set than the Avonlea group. I had seen it myself. I also knew that Sam McNabb often bragged of kissing Hattie back when they had been going together. My entire body flushed at the opportunity… at knowing a pretty girl like her would let me kiss her, and probably for a long while, at that.
I wondered what it would feel like, to press my lips against hers. What did another person taste like? And was kissing really as wet as Willie and Ralph described it? I'd imagined kissing a girl—really, properly kissing a girl—many times before, but the girl I'd imagined had always been Anne. I thought about how it would be many years before I might have that chance, if it ever came at all. So why couldn't I kiss Hattie now, while Anne entertained no sentiments of the kind toward me?
Curiosity began to win out. Closing my eyes, I slowly brought my face towards her, bracing myself for the feel of her warm lips pressed against my own, and wondering what it would feel like. If only this were Anne, I found myself thinking. The idea of kissing Anne was intoxicating—far more than any bottle of gin could ever be, and I lost myself in it. As I drew closer, I opened my eyes again; our lips were a finger's-width apart. Those green-gray eyes stared intently back into mine, full of longing, except... wait, they weren't green-gray eyes at all. They were blue-gray ones; I had only imagined the green into them.
I thought of looking into green-gray eyes tomorrow—seeing them dance and sparkle as Anne recounted stories of her pupils and the goings-on of the past week. Would I ever again be able to meet their gaze with a clear conscience? Would I be eaten up with guilt, until I was forced to confess what I had done? And if I ever did kiss Anne, surely I would feel compelled to tell her of my past. I realized in that moment that I couldn't kiss Hattie—I just couldn't.
And so, suddenly, I pulled away. I stepped back and ran my fingers through my hair before shoving them in my pockets. Hattie looked at me, confused and hurt.
"Gee, I'm sorry, Hattie," I admitted truthfully, my voice thick with sorrow over wounding her so. "I care a lot for you... more than the other White Sands girls, but I can't." She nodded silently as she gave a small sniff. I took my hand out of my pocket and brushed her cheek for a moment with my thumb, as an apology. I couldn't handle the way she looked at me then.
"More than the other White Sands girls... but not more than all girls..." she whispered, her voice small. I was astounded by her perception.
"Well, yes," I admitted quietly, now turning my own gaze to the ground. "I'm sorry."
"Anne, is that her name?" Hattie asked softly. I looked up at her, taken aback. "She's the one you brought to the Spring Concert."
"Ye-es," I said slowly, not sure how she could have possibly known that Anne was the reason I couldn't kiss her tonight. "But how—"
"We girls notice these things," she said with a small, sad smile. "Your face told all, that night. " I wasn't sure what left me more astounded—Hattie's knowledge of my feelings for Anne, or the fact that she was so nonchalant about it. I was both impressed and thankful for her understanding.
"It's alright, Gilbert. I hope we can still be friends," she said. She tried to hide the disappointment in her voice but I still sensed it. I felt like such a fool in that moment. I didn't deserve Hattie's goodness after I had led her on so—had nearly kissed her… I knew she was heartbroken yet she was so strong about it.
"I also noticed," Hattie continued slowly, those blue-gray eyes glistening with unshed tears, "that she was looking at you in much the same way." I raised my eyebrows skeptically. "All I'm saying is, don't give up hope." And with that she gave me another kiss on the cheek, lightly opened the gate to the garden, and disappeared.
I was left immobile in the road, trying to contemplate what exactly had just happened to me, and trying to make sense of it.
The long buggy-ride back to Avonlea left me time to clarify my thoughts. The first thing I felt was awe at Hattie's character. I had been an idiot—I had flirted with her, and led her on, only to pull back when my lips were only a hair's length from hers. It had been very cruel of me, yet Hattie hadn't said a word to make me feel ashamed. The next thing I felt was relief. Though I was still intrigued by the prospect of a kiss, I was glad I had resisted. I knew that when I looked into Anne's eyes the next day, I would be able to meet her gaze confidently, as an equal. I thought of the events of the night—of the sip of gin I had taken, and the way I had come so close to kissing Hattie, and I knew I had to be more careful from then on. If Anne's love was indeed in my future, I was determined to be worthy of it. I decided right in that moment to guard my actions closely, so I would never have anything to hide.
And if any regret had lingered at the opportunity I had passed up outside of Hattie's front gate, it dissipated immediately, when I found Anne by the Dryad's Bubble the next evening. She greeted me with that familiar warm smile. She said my name and it was music to my ears. I looked down into her face and let out a satisfied sigh. It was true—bluish-gray eyes are lovely, but greenish-gray ones are lovelier.
AN: Thank you, thank you for reading! What a blast, writing Gil in the first person. I'd love to hear what you thought! I was operating under the premise that Gilbert has human struggles... if you were looking for "perfect," might I reference you to the ever boring Royal Gardner.
And now that this is through, I'm starting work on my continuation of Around the Bend. Expect it soon(ish!) Much love and thanks as always! -J