Chapter 2

August, 1891

The hotel was grand. Far removed from the simple boarding house Gilbert was staying at. Bright, electric lights bounced off the silver and white wallpaper making the foyer glisten like the inside of a fresh pearl. To the left people sat talking on sofas large ferns and palms proudly placed amongst the crowd, an elevator door opened and closed between the common area and a sweeping staircase on the right.

"I will admit that an elevator is just as thrilling as it looks." Anne had snuck up beside him. "Mr. Ford is seated already." she gave him her arm "Shall we?"

There had been a time when Gilbert would have crawled over hot stones to have the privilege of escorting Anne into a room. Whenever the chance arose, his body would be a fit of nerves and excitement.

He caught himself trying to steal a glance at her, a worn habit from years gone by. She would always hold her head high, chin pointed up, proudly surveying the room as they entered, never paying attention to Gilbert. This time he was surprised to find her stealing a glance at him. Her cheeks blossomed in a blush, a meek smile on her lips, having been caught in the act. Gilbert wondered if she was nervous.

The time spent between their chance meeting that afternoon and now had not played too much on Gilbert's mind. The minute he left Eatons Gilbert made up his mind to not think much of tonight. His presence was only out of politeness. After all they had barely spoken since his pathetic proposal. He had tried in vain to rescue any sort of fragments that remained of their friendship at the time but she had none of it. Gilbert was the one who would continue to visit Patty's Place trying to be the friend she wanted. His heart still stinging from the rejection coupled with the subsequent knowledge Anne was spending time with a man that filled out her every romantic ideal. Anne made little effort in return. She never went out of her way to mend the bridge of friendship that he had apparently ruined. He even tried sending an enamel heart one Christmas which was met with a simple thank you note. And even his congratulatory flowers she wore to the graduation ceremony were met with refusal when he asked her to dance at the reception after.

The foyers opulence dimmed upon entering the dinning room. Amherst had it's grand dinning halls, as did Kingsport, but neither matched this. The electric lights buzzed amongst the busy chatter of the seated gusts. At the far end was a stage where a piano player was tapping away a lazy tune.

Owen stood to shake his hand revealing his elegant attire. Gilbert suddenly felt very underdressed.

It was only when Gilbert sat down did he let his eye wander over Anne. He admitted that age had not been unkind, Anne was still as iridescent as ever. She glowed like she had stolen all the electric light from each globe in the room. The thick velvet dress had been replaced for a gold gossamer gown showing off her slender arms and porcelain skin. Her chin was resting atop of her hand as she gazed about the room. One of her usual mannerisms he'd seen time and time again.

Owen quizzed Gilbert about what food he might like, then with a wave a waiter appeared taking their orders.

"Anne tells me you are a doctor based in Amherst. What brings you to Toronto?"

"I arrived in Toronto three days ago for a medical conference. A routine affair really. It finished this afternoon actually. I'll return on Friday leaving tomorrow wide open,to see something other than conference halls and Eatons I hope." Gilbert replied.

The conversation moved to the Island and Owen's link. Owen explained his great grandmother came from Four Winds a port town to the East. Her old home is in now his possession having recently purchased it from the church. Gilbert surprised him by admitting he knew the house from visits to the area after medical school. His uncle Dave was the doctor at Glen St Mary a position he almost took over himself but he could not sway his wife to move to the Island.

"It is a merry town. The house would be good for me to hide away in, maybe try writing something myself," Owen said wistfully. "If you ever care to holiday there I will happily rent you the house. Are you married?"

Gilbert nodded with a smile. "Yes, I am. It's why I was at Eatons actually. I was buying my wife a belated wedding anniversary gift."

"How is Christine?" Anne had been quite, listening to the mens conversation. The last few days involved non stop talking that she was happy to sit and listen. But she was eager to know about Gilbert's life. It was the first time Gilbert had spoken to Anne about his wife. She had her heard snippets from Diana through letters, from Phil also. They did not move in the same social circles through university, leaving her opinion of Christine vague. In Diana's letters Gilbert sounded content.

"She is well and in good spirits," Gilbert said. "I have not asked how your husband is? Is he in Toronto also?"

Anne shook her head, "No, he is in the West Indies. Roy left two months before I sailed here. He sounds well in his letters, occupied with the business as usual."

"Sailed? I thought you would have settled in Kingsport, not the West Indies," Gilbert asked confused.

"I sailed from London. We settled there after our marriage. At least for now." Anne looked perplexed. "I thought you would have known that?"

Gilbert shrugged his shoulders, "Sorry, I have not kept up." By the look on her face he wondered if she was upset he had not kept up with her. He rarely wrote to anyone from Avonlea days or even the old circle they shared at Kingsport. "I don't get back to Avonlea much and Mother's arthritis has affected her hands. She can't write too much anymore and dad has never been much for correspondence. He will talk on the t'phone if I call, but mostly about the farm."

"I admit that I have not been back to Avonlea for some time either," sighed Anne. "But I am travelling there in two days, to surprise Marilla, before I sail back. "

They began to talk of Avonlea, Anne filling him in with the bits of gossip she has collected. Old stories and familiar jokes were retold. The old fluidity of their former friendship seeped back through the cracks.

As they talked Gilbert noticed a demureness about Anne. There was a lack of loudness in her words. She would hide a laugh behind her hand. He wondered if this smallness was driven by the presence of Mr. Ford.

As the dessert plates were collected the piano player was accompanied by a larger band.

"I hate to interrupt," Owen said. "but I am going to excuse myself before this place becomes too busy. You watch Gilbert, this floor will begin to fill up with most of Toronto." He stood up, stretching his hand out to Gilbert. "It was lovey to meet you." Gilbert went to stand up too, "No, you do not have to leave because I am going. Stay and talk to Anne."

Anne rose, "It is late, I should go."

"Tomorrow is your day off remember. You should go to the beach before leaving Toronto. Take Gilbert, if he is free. I have to be at the office, otherwise I would love to take you both. I promise it is not as busy as this place, unless it's hot, then it very well could be."

The three walked out of the dinning hall. Gilbert stood to the side as Owen said goodbye to Anne, exchanging business formalities. As he walked away, Anne turned to Gilbert, "What do you say? Care for a trip to Toronto's beaches tomorrow?"