CHAPTER XIX

Thursday 7th March, Patty's Place ~ hiding in my very own house

Oh Ady, I'm trapped! Or rather I have trapped myself. Only twenty minutes ago I was looking forward to an evening cosying up with my newly twenty year old self, as I curled up on the hearth rug with a hot flask pressed to my belly. The cramps are unusually strong this month. Aunty believes it is something to do with the fullness of the moon tonight.

"Take heart, dear," she told me, "all it means is that you are letting go of things you no longer need."

I can't help hoping it to be true. That tomorrow the pain will have gone and I will awake renewed, transformed into the Anne Shirley I always dreamed of being.

Miss Stacey once said that for better or worse my character would be formed by twenty, and I can't help wondering if it is for the worse. I ask you, Ady, what sort of grown up can win scholarships and accolades ~ from the sublime Dr Kent to the ridiculous Rollings Reliable ~ yet find herself cornered in her own bedroom? If only I could get to my flask, or to the kitchen to boil some fresh water and fill another one. Instead I am stuck in my little blue room feeling more than a little blue, while Jimsie and Gilbert take tea in the living room like the very best of chums.

Priss and Stella are long gone, off to the committee meeting with my apologies. Phil has since floated out of the door in the darlingest buttercup gown. Leaving Aunty and me to nestle by the fireside to swap nonsense, crumbly fudge and other things that are wonderfully bad for you. We had talked of a party, nothing too grand, but even that proved beyond me tonight. How Phil pouted. As if she hadn't a hundred other invitations to do a hundred other frivolous things! Do you know, Ady, I believe she likes to find things to pout over, it never fails to bring out her divine dimples. Not that she could be improved upon tonight. What an angel she looked in that cobwebby lace ~ and what a little devil dwells inside her.

I was glad enough to see them go. I would say it was looming exams, frozen mud and grey skies that makes me so ambivalent about my birthday. But I wonder if it isn't because I am thinking of Mother and Father. How they missed seeing their daughter grow, and missed growing old with each other. I once found it terribly romantic to think that Mother couldn't live without Father. But sometimes ~ oh, Ady I am sorry to admit it ~ but sometimes I wish she could have found a way, or the will, to live for me. I ache for her, and for Father. And no one, not Marilla or Jimsie or any girl, nor a thousand hot flasks, can soothe that particular pain on this particular day.

Do you know I believe I will say yes to Phil, after all. Once again she has suggested I go with her to Bolingbroke before returning to the Island for the summer. I always say no because I miss the Island too much to be away from her shores for even one extra day. But perhaps there was also a part of me that felt apprehensive about returning to the place where Miss Willis and Mr. Shirley met and married and made a family. She was already a mother by twenty. What other dreams were begun in that tiny house, where all they had in the world was what they found in each other?

What did Phil say this evening?

"Oh, hearts that have loved the good old way, have been out of fashion this many a day!"

It is the sort of love Diana and Fred have. A sweet love. A good love. An Island love. And I am grateful for that life and for having those darlings to return to. But I don't want to stay there forever. Not when there is so much more of this loveable old world to discover. I keep re-reading Dr Kent's remarks on my latest essay ~ you know the one I was in such a fever about for weeks, on the depiction of otherness in Canadian literature? Didn't I have such a lot to say about that. I have been other for most of my life.

Fresh and arresting, Miss Shirley. You have not only made a clear and balanced argument but have produced work of astonishing originality and maturity. I hope to have the pleasure of watching it develop, not only over the next two years, but into a very promising future.

How I skipped across the Quad upon reading that! Dr Kent is as delicious as he is daunting. But that was nothing to the queer thrill that went through me when I noticed the post script on the back of the last page: Anne, I would like to see you at your earliest convenience.

I had been constructing various misty manors in the warm glow of the fire, imagining the myriad glories Dr Kent had envisaged for me, when Gilbert arrived tonight. I recognised his knock immediately and begged Jamesina to answer the door and tell him I was out. Aunty, of course, liked that not one bit. But I wasn't so keen to hear her opinion just then and dashed up the stairs and waited.

What I didn't take into account, however, is that Jimsie is made from the same stuff as Stella Maynard. What did she do but invite Gilbert inside, and is now offering him a third cup of tea. My jasmine and rose petal tea which Priss had ordered from Eaton's especially for my birthday. While I lurk about my bedroom, unable to make a sound and vainly wishing for my flask. The cramps have become quite fearsome and are spreading to my lower back. Curse that Jamesina, curse that Gilbert, and especially curse my foolishly impulsive self.

Finally, Gilbert has gone. Now to give that Jimsie creature a piece of my mind!

Later...

What a strange and significant evening I've had. You'd think I would have learned by now that unpromising beginnings tend to yield the most astonishing ends. If only that were true of my writing ambitions. But perhaps my talents lie in other fields. Gilbert seems to think so.

I was barely down the stairs before Aunty thrust Gilbert's birthday present into my hands. Of course that is why he had come here, and of course I was rightfully shamed. It's only that things with Gilbert are ~ but I have already filled too many of your pages with how things are with Gilbert. I don't know what to do anymore. When I stay away I miss him madly, and when I see him I want to throw something cold in his face. Then I want to dry him off… then I want to tell him off… Oh, this is going nowhere. Just like me.

The present was such a strange shape, long and thin. My first thought was that he was playing a joke by giving me knitting needles. The last time I had seen him was in the Sophomore Common Room, where Charlie had remarked with indefatigable Sloanishness that the permanent ink stain on my index finger would ruin any future fancy work I would be expected to do! Aunty couldn't keep her eyes off the brown paper package. But I made her wait and spent far too long admiring Gilbert's card ~ which I will be fixing straight to my bedroom wall. Such a glorious depiction of a starry night sky. His inscription was a little more prosaic. Though I could tell he thought better of signing love, Gilbert and decided to squeeze a with before that tender reminder.

Then to the parcel. Ady, they were paint brushes. And not just paint brushes, the very best sable-haired brushes from Germany. I recognised their value immediately and was the very opposite of overjoyed. Because, of course, I have never taken a water-colour class in my life. I only allowed Gilbert his assumption because the words "life drawing class" refused to come out of my mouth. I explained to Aunty why I was so ruffled and do you know what she said? That I should have brought him to the class with me. Not as a fellow student but as a model.

"Fine figure of a man," she sighed. "I don't think I've spent an evening with a better example of masculine physique for... thirty years at least!"

Naturally the first thing I thought of then (and now) was Gilbert Blythe standing on that plinth in the middle of the room with nothing but a sheet about his hips. Though what I said was ~

"Aunt Jamesina! Masculine physiques don't interest me in the least."

"Which is why you lied to the poor boy about taking life drawing class," she said, popping another piece of fudge ~ my fudge ~ into her mouth.

"I didn't lie…" I began, but Aunty wouldn't let me finish.

"You did and you do. I expect such shenanigans from Phil, but not you, dear. Hiding up in your room like that. It's beneath you, Anne. Since when have you been so coy about sparing a suitor's feelings?"

"I'm not trying to spare Gilbert's feelings!"

"Well, that is a relief," she said drily, "because you are doing a very poor job of it."

I clutched at my flask and it suddenly occurred to me that Gilbert would have seen it, would have noticed it was hot, would have concluded that someone else had recently been in that room only moments before he arrived. Was it possible he had been sitting in the park watching the girls leave and expecting me to appear? When I awoke this morning the only thing I longed for was the moment I could tuck myself up again. Was that too much to ask on my birthday? Aunty thought it was. So did Phil. Now Gilbert, too.

I felt ugly, achey and the worst sort of awful, and it came forth in a flood of feeling that hasn't been equalled since the day I met Rachel Lynde. Though now I wonder if what I felt wasn't more akin to that infamous incident in Mr. Phillips' schoolhouse. All I wished was to be left alone for a while to dwell in my castle of dreams. Gilbert would pull me out of that world and look toward him instead.

"I never meant to hurt anyone," I cried, "I just wanted to be with myself! Not as scholar or Bluenose ~ or even Island girl! Just plain Anne Shirley!"

Jimsie reached over and took hold of my hand. I was glad she didn't try to hold the rest of me for I felt as wild as a bird trapped inside a room.

"There, there, dearie," she cooed. "I dare say Mr. Blythe is made of stern stuff, don't give his feelings another thought. You be as Anne-ish as you want, my girl. And I shall sit by your side, just as Jimsie as I can possibly be."

"Which Jimsie is that?" I sniffed.

"The one who ate all the fudge," she said.

...