The Not-So-Secret Engagement
by Excel Aunt

Anne Shirley lifted her eyes and met Gilbert's. She could feel herself blush pink, turning a shade that clashed violently with her hair. She was silently accepting his proposal. Usually, she was never at a loss for words. Even if her own thoughts were caught up in a puzzle, she could quote a comforting line of poetry or recite a verse from the Bible. Silence followed by eyes only for Gilbert was the loudest "Yes" she could ever give him.

Gilbert Blythe, her one-time nemesis, her one-time academic rival, had become her heart's desire and no other man would do! She thought all those things he used to be as he asked her to be his. Her resolve to let it happen, to not turn away, or speak, or do anything to break his speech strengthened. Anne felt too swept away on a tide of emotion to do anything.

Gilbert stared back at her, not quite sure he believed her silent response. Talking was not necessary. In fact, an onslaught of words would have been a hindrance. There's a certain amount of woodiness in words. Yet, he heard her voice resound in his heart as if she were speaking, assuring him with tenderness. "Yes, Gilbert, I'll marry you!"

"Anne," Gilbert blushed feeling a little self-conscious. He had his answer and it was "Yes!" He broke eye contact, and then, he flat out lost control of his own joy. He ran his fingers down the side of her face to her chin. The words were exchanged to clear away the cobwebs left by misunderstanding. Roy. Christine. Their assumptions for the other had been foolish gossip.

Then Anne kissed him. Her passionate temperament took over and acting before she could think, she grabbed Gilbert's coat lapels and pull him so close their noses touched, and their lips brushed each other's. He lingered long enough Anne could feel the stubble on Gilbert's chin. Her hand went to his face, lightly feeling his determined jaw.

Gilbert half expected, half hoped for her kiss. It was a bliss as he had never felt before because it was Anne Shirley kissing him. And unlike his friends, Fred, Charlie or Moody, he didn't care that the girl started it. He actually relished in the fact Anne had. It was a lovely payback for years of patience.

"I haven't had a jolt like that since the slate," Gilbert said as that moment ended.

Anne just laughed and laughed, giddy to be free of so much angst. "Oh, how my feelings get the best of me! Or maybe it's just you!"

Gilbert stole another kiss from her, but then suggested perhaps they should return to Avonlea, for he feared that more of Anne's kisses would make him reckless. Anne agreed that they probably should not be alone with their passions so affected.

"I feel like, I've caught up to my happily-ever-after now. And I'm so sorry I couldn't see it sooner, but I just knew when I heard you were dying that I was in love with you. It hit me like a ton of bricks and squashed me quite flat. Gil, I can't live without you in my life," she confessed. "Not another second."

"I should have figured out I had to almost die to successfully woo you," Gilbert teased.

"And we shall never talk about my stubbornness again," Anne said. "But let's not tell anyone just yet that we're engaged. Let the folks wonder. We should have a secret delight, even if it lasts only a few days."

They meant to kept their romance hidden short term, but they were so not so taken with the idea to actually achieve privacy.

People began to talk.

The old wives and widows of Avonlea knew something had changed between Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, but their former classmates were not so quick to jump to that conclusion. They had seen this strange intimacy between them before and were not impressed that much had changed at all. Charlie Sloane pointed out Anne's fickleness and Josie Pye said since Gilbert got a second chance on life, he wasn't going to wait for Anne, nor should he have to.

But others pointed out these facts.

First, Anne and Gilbert were spending a considerable amount of time together in the evenings. Second, they would walk around Avonlea, to see old haunts, but they were only looking at each other. Third, Anne would lean on Gilbert and Gilbert would swing his arm over Anne's shoulders in a very protective way. That was a new posture for them. Anne would have never allowed Gilbert with such a privilege before.

Anne's neighbors at Orchard Slope even noticed their comings and goings. Young Minnie May Barry reported to her mother and visiting sister that she saw Gilbert kiss Anne on her cheek during a luxuriously bright full moon.

Lastly, God forbid you try to talk to them because you were left with the most overwhelming sensation that you had interrupted something very, very important.

The Saturday Ladies' Aid meeting could not stay on track with its agenda no matter how many times Mrs. Barry banged the gavel. All discussion digressed into, "Are Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe engaged?"

Marilla did her best to convey information, even she did not know for sure.

"A couple days ago they took the train into Charlottetown. Gilbert agreed to escort Anne safely there and back, which is something he would have done regardless of this question we have."

Marilla realized that the rest of the room had stopped their chit-chat to hear what she had to say. She hesitated, deciding that she'd stick to the facts as much as she knew them to be.

"I knew Anne had shopping to do before leaving for her new teaching post, but I would have thought she could have done it in Carmody. And then she didn't even come back with any packages," Marilla shrugged off her confusion. "All I can tell you, since the day I took Anne in from the orphanage, she's talked non-stopped about anything and everything. But all this time she's spending with Gilbert; she has nothing to say. It's so unlike her."

Marilla's audience agreed that Anne's silence was off-putting and uncharacteristic. Mrs. Lynde, who regarded herself as a better expert on human behavior than Miss Cuthbert, had an answer at the ready.

"Marilla Cuthbert, I've told you time and again that there is a jeweler in Charlottetown when there is none to be had in Carmody or White Sands or anywhere else close-by. That is, from what I can see, the only reason for both of them to go together on such a long trip. Otherwise, Anne would have asked you or me to go with her, if she were just shopping for her wardrobe as you suspect."

With a slightly vexed tone, Marilla replied: "Gilbert Blythe cannot afford to buy an engagement ring. Not if he's going to pay room, board, and tuition for medical school."

Mrs. Lynde was not distracted by such logic.

"Well! The way Anne blushes whenever you say Gilbert is just scandalous. As soon as you say his name she turns redder than a pickled beet and tries to escape with some excuse. They're in love for sure. I think everyone agrees."

The room was washed with the banter that Mrs. Lynde relished; she had won the debate and she grew smug in her seat.

"Engaged is another matter, but I suppose we'll find out soon enough," Marilla said soberly.

Davy Keith passed the time while working the potato field wondering about girls: He was especially curious about how to kiss one. He'd kissed his twin sister Dora a million times, but he had done so because she was his sister, and had been told, "kiss and make-up". It was not because she was a girl; although, there was something very exciting about kissing a pretty girl who was not your sister. Davy had a bet with Milty Boulter on who'd be first to do that.

He wondered if there were a right way or a wrong way about it. He didn't want to do nothing foolish and make her laugh. And he dare not ask Marilla about how it was done as it would probably shock her terribly and earn him some sort of punishment involving a missed meal.

He reasonably thought he'd need a man's advice about the matter, but no men lived at Green Gables other than himself. Therefore, Davy decided to ask Gilbert Blythe for instructions. He liked Gilbert because Anne always returned home so happy after their walks, and sometimes, she would give Davy her dessert that Marilla had set back.

Davy understood the mechanics of what to do. All it was was putting his lips on hers, but how do you get her to stay still so it could be done? That was a puzzle to him because he knew from his own twin she could hit you back to avoid being kissed.

So Davy was in the potato field working but keeping a sharp eye out for Gilbert Blythe. When Davy saw Gilbert coming through the woods to Green Gables, he was too slow to get to him first. Anne had to have been expecting him. She ran up from the house to the gate into Gilbert's arms quick as anything.

"Gil! Oh, I long to see you at the close of each day. I shall never rest properly unless I have your embrace first."

Davy watched about fifty feet off from the gate as Gilbert held Anne in a tight hug. They were hugging for a really, really long time. That made sense because huggin' had to come before kissin'. It was the only way to get her to stay still.

He then heard Gilbert whisper something to Anne. He didn't catch exactly what it was, but it was something to do with a small box he was handing to her.

"Dad just brought it home from Charlottetown all repaired." Anne showed him what it looked like on her hand. "Grandma's ring has never looked better."

"I am so happy your parents inherited it. It's such a pretty ring."

"It's the hand that flatters it."

Gilbert then kissed her, executing the exact actions Davy thought appropriate for a kiss, but then Gilbert did some things that had never crossed his mind. They were kissing with open mouths. Davy felt sick watching them like that and decided he'd cut his losses and get out of his bet with Milty.

The next day was a Sunday and Gilbert Blythe and his parents watched Davy drive up to the steps of the church with all the Green Gables ladies. Anne beckoned him to her side with a tilt of her chin. His parents went inside to the Blythe pew while Gilbert answered Anne's summons. Davy had helped Dora, Marilla and Mrs. Lynde out of the buggy and Gilbert stepped in to help Anne down.

Gilbert said in a very pleased voice, "You're wearing it." And he gently indicated her gloved finger. Davy watched with interest, almost understanding what was happening between Anne and Gilbert.

"Anne, are you wearing a ring?" Davy asked with unfiltered curiosity. "Is that what Gilbert was giving you yesterday?"

"Shh, not now Davy," Anne replied.

Protesting, Davy gave Anne a questioning look. "You're not going to skip church so you can kiss Gilbert some more?"

"Davy!" Anne said, a little horrified.

"I wasn't spying, I was right there, neither of you saw me."

Anne's eyes went wide at the thought of Davy witnessing their exchange of such intimacies. How much did he see? Gilbert wasn't embarrassed, he defended himself just fine.

"It's perfectly wonderful to kiss the girl you love. There's no wrong in that."

Davy puffed out his chest a little bit and said to Gilbert in a most serious tone. "But just stick to kissing, until you're married, or something… terrible might happen."

Gilbert shrugged off his embarrassment understanding why Davy was putting up such an effort.

"Davy, I'm sorry," Gilbert hoped his quiet response would dampen Davy's excitement. "Anne and I do plan to marry. In fact, other than my parents, you're the first to really know. Is that alright with you? Since you are the only man at Green Gables, I should have asked you about it."

Davy had never been asked his opinion on such a matter in his life and had to think about it carefully. "You make Anne happy, so, I guess it's fine with me. But you really should keep your tongue in your mouth when you kiss her. Milty Boulter agrees with me. He about threw up when I told him."

Davy walked off leaving Anne and Gilbert there, torn between hysterics and horror.

"Well, if Milty Boulter knows," Anne said, "I think the time has come to tell the others."

Gilbert walked into the church first. The Blythe pew was at the front. Gilbert's grandmother, who had been one of the founders of the congregation, was a highly religious woman and wanted to be as close to the preaching as possible. As deaths and births occurred, to take away and add to the Blythe family, their famously upfront pew remained. The only change was the occupants.

Anne entered the church and she removed her gloves. Josie Pye noticed how Anne needed a few deep breaths before continuing to her spot in the Cuthbert pew. But Anne lingered and did not sit down. She and Marilla spoke quietly, with Marilla's hand over her ward's, and Josie saw Marilla smile at Anne very lovingly and Anne brushing a happy tear from her eye.

There was barely any time for Anne to sit down, but in an instant, Anne moved to the front of the church to Gilbert's pew. He stood and greeted her with a peck on her cheek, to which the majority of the congregation silently shouted their approval, and Anne took her spot at Gilbert's side.