Hotel Ripley, August 15th
What an unholy mess. I did everything in my power to prevent this, you know that I did. And now –NOW– when I hadn't seen her for two months, and we are staying in separate hotels, and there are all sorts of family obligations to keep us apart, I am ambushed, swiftly and cruelly. How you must be laughing. Those aren't crickets in the porch eaves. It's you.
Well, I want you to leave, do you hear me Margaret Mallory? I hate you for being dead. I hate you for taking your life and not taking me with you. I want you to GO. I want with all that I am for you to go. And take this feeling with you!
Oh, Mags, how could this happen again?
White Sands Hotel, Saturday 15th August
Priscilla Reports #184
I know how it happened. We were talking about Anne and Gil, the way we have been every night. We would leave before dessert and meet up by the gelato cart for soft scoops in paper boats before commencing our nightly stroll. Into that stolen time of day when the sun and the clock are no longer on speaking terms; when children are wrangled homeward and lovers claim the shore. None of them ever look at us, or if they do we never receive their indulgent, knowing smiles. To them we are merely two chums at the sea side, missing our beaux, or wishing we had one to miss.
Inevitably we talk about Anne because one cannot be in that place without hearing her voice enthusing over riches we might never have seen. A creamy shell like a piece of moon, light on the water like a shattered sun. It wouldn't be long before our shoes were off and we'd wriggle our toes in the cool dark sand. And it was Gilbert we talked of then. Anne and Gilbert. Gilbert and Anne.
"Why she doesn't she love him?" I wondered for the hundredth time.
"She does love him," Stella replied, "which is why she said no. Gilbert should have said no, too, he should have held himself back."
Her tone was dispassionate, her words pitiless, as if feelings could be neatly tucked away like that locket around her neck. Zip zip zip, the sound as she passed it between her lips.
"Love's not like that," I argued. "It takes you over and fills you up till there's nothing left of who you used to be."
"That's not love," she argued back. "When you love someone, truly love them, their happiness is all."
"Then no one has ever loved," I declared. "At least I've never felt that way. And I could certainly never love someone who could so easily tame his heart."
"True," she said softly, and hugged at her knees. "We never expect our men to be tamed."
There was such a quiet between us. But I wasn't thinking about the desperate letters Nate wrote to me, or the hot looks Gilbert Blythe gave Anne when he thought no one was looking. I was thinking of the heat inside myself. How I longed to run into the sea; how unfair it was that I am made to wear that neck to ankle woollen thing whenever I bathe, whereas if I was a man –
Zip zip zip, Stella went again.
"Won't you tell me about her?" I said.
Her hand went to the locket and she rubbed her thumb upon the great silver face as though she was summoning the courage to speak. And I thought, Stella Maynard, you're not even half convinced of the brave things you say to everyone else.
"Miss Mallory?" she said, quickly. "Miss Mallory is. Miss Mallory was. Miss Mallory died last year. Miss Mallory is dead."
I expect she thought I would leave it there; that we would collect our shoes, dust off our skirts and return to our respective beds. Instead I repeated the question. Stella reached up, removed the locket, and opened it without letting herself look at the girl inside. Then she placed it in my hand and told me all about her. How she was a teacher at the neighbouring school, how they'd become friends over common enemies.
"What happened next?" I asked, as though she was recounting a fairy tale.
Stella never moved – she was still as still – yet I could feel her shift away from me.
"There is no next," she said. "There's never any next for people like me. There's only trying to forget, even as you hope you might one day get your chance again."
That was the moment. The one I realised I'd been waiting to hear for months. It wasn't when she said "people like me" it was when she said "again". She stared into me like that kestrel I love; one caught in a snare and looking to me for mercy. I refastened the locket around her neck and my face brushed against her cheek. She didn't shift away from me, she didn't push me back, she didn't start a quarrel. She simply said, "No."
But unlike her, I meant what I said. Love takes you over, it fills you up till there's nothing left of who you used to be. I kissed her as we sat on the sand with the sound of the crickets and the sound of the sea. There was no one else around us, just that bird in my hand. Then she flew away.
August 15th, Orchard Slope, Avonlea
Gilbert Blythe proposed to Anne. He proposed! Way back in April and Anne only told me now. Such a secret to keep from me, I don't even know why. Though I suppose I do. She imagines I'll tell Fred. But I wouldn't have, not if Anne told me expressly not to. I'm certain I wouldn't. I can keep secrets. I kept one from Anne. I never told anyone about the night Fred and I went to Bright River station to collect his Great Aunt Agnew who got the dates mixed and never turned up, and it rained, and the cartwheel broke, and then we nearly broke all the rules and all the buttons, and if it wasn't for Chester Ross coming into that barn looking for his stray calf I suspect I'd be broken too.
Poor Fred kept saying he was glad of the rain because he needed cooling off. And he did, Journalette. He was that red I thought he'd boil over! I said wasn't it lucky that someone discovered us in time? But I only half meant it. That was the half that got the littlest bit scared to see my Fred so unlike himself. I remember thinking after, if he acts like that on our honeymoon I'll feel like I married the wrong man. But then there's another part of me ~ oh, I can't begin to explain ~ but there's another part that kind of likes the idea of being married to two men.
Oh, I knew it would come out wrong if I tried to put it into words. It sounds so unwholesome to think of it that way. But I don't know another way to say it. And I can't ask Mama, and I can't ask Anne.
Poor darling. I seen for a while now that her happiness was only ever painted on. At first I thought she might be missing that Phil-girl. Then I wondered if her visit to the little yellow cottage might account for it. Of course, I never mentioned Gilbert because I already knew how that would go. But the longer he was away the more puzzling Anne got to be, and when you look at it like that it makes a sort of sense. But the idea seemed too big for my head and far too big to get out of my mouth, so I finally decided Anne must be writing another story. She's been awfully star-gazy this summer, and got so vexed trying to find some apple tree that grew by itself in the woods. Well I never saw it, never even heard of it. And guessed it more likely that Anne had imagined it to life, the way she thought Averil was real.
We were looking for that ghost tree again today and I wondered if maybe we would find it after all, because what happened next seemed impossible to believe.
She said, "Diana, I have been an abomnibble friend."
I was so taken aback I thought Anne was about to tell me she was set on wearing black to my wedding! Instead she told me Gilbert Blythe had spoken. I guessed then why she was glum, because she had her heart set on a romantic proposal and Gilbert must have asked for her hand in a letter. It was all so strange. All I could do was ask why.
"This happened in April," Anne said, "I didn't know how to tell you because I refused him."
Then she added of course as though it was obvious. But it wasn't obvious to me. Or to Green Gables I expect, or anyone else in Avonlea. And surely not to Gilbert. That's when the worst thing came out of my mouth, but it could have been horribler still. I am ashamed to say I felt like scolding her. I don't know why, except perhaps I do. And instead of saying something to Anne, I said, "Poor Gil."
Then we got the closest to crossness we ever had in all our years together.
She said, "I don't love him, Diana, and don't tell me I don't know what love is (as if I would!) because I know I love you."
All at once it was Gilbert Blythe I was cross with for making my darling so unhappy. She wrapped her little white arms around me and asked me why things have to change, and I had that satisfying click as everything fell into place. Because Anne is never going to want from Gilbert what I have with Fred. If Gilbert changed like Fred did, Anne would run a mile. That's why she'd rather live in a book. Because books don't ever change.
Echo Lodge, Grafton ~ Sunday, August 16th
Here's a peculiar thing, Ady. I no longer know where it is I ought to be.
The first summer before I left for Redmond I drank in every Island moonrise and every Island sunset. The second summer I was desperate to leave her shores. And now, now I don't know what I am supposed to want.
I feel so indecipherable, like a language I don't know how to read. I thought I would find relief once I unburdened my secret. Diana was so tender and gentle with me, and cried even more than I did. Not only for me; for a dream she has long been cherishing. But it's her dream not mine.
When we all walked back from the AVIS meeting last Thursday I wasn't wishing I had someone like Fred on my arm. I was wishing there was no Fred at all. I can't get used to sharing Diana. I thought I could, Ady, but this summer I've had to admit that I can't. I don't know why I never noticed before the way Fred is always hanging around. Lately he's been looking at me as though there's something he wants to get off his chest. What have I ever done to him? Fred Wright will spend the rest of his life with Diana, while I have to give her up and am expected to be in ecstasies over it!
I implored Diana to come back with me to Echo Lodge; back to days of old and picnics of gold, to blue bows and high teas and bell song. But of course, I was forgetting the quilting bee and the sewing circle and the centrepiece she is making for her wedding breakfast…
Every day I feel Diana unravelling another inch in order to be stitched into something else. Even when it's the two of us, she'll get this faraway look, as though she is remembering something I have never even seen and doesn't know how to describe it to me. It was always me who put our dreams into words. Now they are so different. Diana's dreams don't depend upon me anymore.
Oh Ady, how can the summer be ending already? When April seems like yesterday.
Hotel Ripley, White Sands – the early hours of August 16th
Mags, forgive me, won't you? Not only for what I wrote before. Forgive the fact that someone else has worked their way into my heart.
She came back. Priscilla came back to me. She went to the hotel and threw stones at my window like a prince in a story that Anne would write. I am sorry to tell you, Miss Mallory, but this time I never once thought it was you. I did think I would enjoy screaming blue murder at the louts who threatened to wake my cousins. Yet as soon as I saw Priscilla in the street below I can't say I was surprised.
I flew down to her in a trice, I didn't even care if I woke up Meg and Jean. All I cared about was how to open that heavy oak door. Naturally, I couldn't reach the latch, neither could I find a chair to get me to it. Then I heard another sound. A tap that came from the hideous reception room, the one with all the stag's heads and vermin under glass. I looked through the window and she was there, dear old Priss, motioning for me to push up the sash before scaling the sill with maddening ease.
"Don't you ever run away from me again!" she said.
Then I did something very foolish, Mags. I promised her I wouldn't.