Apologies for the long delay in posting. Life got in the way . And I had real trouble getting these two to behave. Gilbert, straight forward, logical (gorgeous) Gilbert I wrote pretty much straight way. Anne, not really being honest with herself, romantic, more-stubborn-than-a-brick-wall Anne was much harder. I wrote her part 10 times - that's not 10 updates to a draft, that's 10 very different reactions,until she was somewhat happy. I feel like I understand Gilbert's frustrations better, this girl just isn't straight forward!, but maybe that's why we love her so much. Anyway I finally got to a reaction that feels right for her. As always, thanks to LMM for her wonderful characters, and to you for reading.
John Blythe stood at the doorway of the barn, looking at over the fields, appreciating the red and orange hues as the sun rose to greet the day. He had spent the night tending a cow through a difficult birth, his hard work and patience now being reflected in the young calf standing behind him, happily suckling his mother. He loved these early mornings when all around was peace and quiet and he had the world to himself. He stood there, tracing the sun's path as it lit the day, it's beams turning the dew drops on the grass into sparkling crystals. All the riches in the world couldn't replace this, he thought.
Given the early hour he was surprised to see a figure walking down the road. Could that be Gilbert? He hadn't seen him walk with a spring in his step like that for some time, though the fingers that continually reached up and rake through his hair was more characteristic of Gilbert when he was somewhat distracted. He watched him as Gilbert made his way down the road and through the front gate, completely in a world of his own, and would have walked right past the barn had not John called out, somewhat nonchalantly, "Morning Gil."
Gilbert jumped, surprised to see someone there, then looked a little sheepish at being caught coming in so late, "Morning Dad, you're up and about early"
"Never went to bed," he replied indicating with his head where the cow stood with her calf.
Gilbert walked over and for a moment they stood watching the calf suckle, the two of them silently sharing that joy that comes with any new birth.
"I was thinking," said John "our two life paths aren't that dissimilar. I'm birthing calves, you'll be helping birth babies soon enough."
Gil nodded, "True" he said, a thoughtful look on his face.
"You're having a late one," his father observed, "wedding go okay?"
Gilbert smiled, "It was wonderful Dad, Fred and Diana both had a lovely day"
"Good, good". John didn't ask any more, he knew from experience that Gilbert would give him more details when he wanted, and from his survey of Gil's appearance he had a fairly good idea how the evening had turned out.
"What time are you heading back to Kingsport?" he asked instead. Although disappointed, Gilbert's parents understood that Gilbert needed to work throughout the summer to fund the next year of his studies, and were proud that he didn't shirk this responsibility for even a day.
"Tonight's train, need to leave here around noon. The last ferry connects with the sleeper train. I have a late shift Friday so it works out well."
"Well, you better go see if you can catch a few hours sleep, your mother will want to make the most of her morning with you."
"Doubt I'll sleep now" said Gilbert, yawning despite his comment.
"Best go get cleaned up anyway, wouldn't be good for you mother to see what you look like after a night of kissing Anne Shirley." John Blythe had the knack of delivering a comment without a hint of the humour he felt, so you never really knew what he was thinking.
Gilbert, too shocked to deny it stuttered "H-How did you..."
John laughed, a jolly boyish laugh and patted Gilbert on his back good naturedly.
"I'm not just a farmer, you know. I remember what it was like to be your age and I know what it's like to be in love with your best friend, besides," he continued "you came down that lane as if you were walking on air, your hair is messed up, your collar is crocked, your lips have a bruised tinge, and, if I'm not mistaken, that's Anne's red hair on your shoulder!"
Gilbert smirked "You should have been a doctor, with your power of observation!" There was no point denying it, he'd been caught fair and square.
"Told you the job's not that dissimilar," his father replied jovially, paused then asked, suddenly serious, "It was just a kiss wasn't it?"
"No!," Gilbert answered quickly, then clarified, "Yes, all we did was kiss but it wasn't just a kiss it was like my whole soul came through my lips as sunlight drinketh dew*."
John smiled, if Gilbert was quoting Tennyson, it had been a good night, "Does this mean you'll have some news for us soon?"
Gil looked down and shock his head slightly.
"Dad, you know there is nothing more I'd like in the world than to tell you I was going to marry
Anne, but honestly, despite the last few hours, I'm not sure its what she wants, at least not yet."
Gilbert paused, then looked up at his father who managed to school his face, having raised his eyebrows slightly at 'hours', Gilbert continued slowly, "She's been through so much in her life. She told me some of her life before Green Gables. It wasn't..." he paused again, searching for the right word, when he found it, he spat it out with some distaste at the way she'd been treated "...christian."
John wasn't surprised. When Anne had first arrived he and his wife Sarah had wondered at her background. No one was under any illusion that it had been easy. The fact that she'd grown in such good grace as well as been able to go to college was something the more generous souls in the village viewed with admiration at her fortitude and achievement, and a smidge of pride that Avonlea had helped give her the opportunity for better chance in life.
"Her happiness is everything to me." Gilbert continued "I just want to focus on that, without pressuring her for anything more. I'm under no illusion that tonight changes anything, I'm satisfied with the friendship we're able to share."
John nodded, proud of the man Gilbert had become. Anyone could see how he felt about the girl, it was common knowledge she had disappointed him, and yet he was putting her needs first, rather than pushing his own agenda. Although John doubted that friendship alone would be the end for these two, it was a good start and could be for the base for something more.
"In my experience things work out as they are meant to in their own time," was all was going to say, but then added, "besides if she enjoyed the kiss, she's not totally decided against you. I take it, given how late you're coming back, she didn't find it objectionable?"
If it was possible, Gilbert's grin widened , looking out over the fields all he could see were Anne's eyes as he started into them to kiss her hand good night.
John smiled and said no more, he hoped this was a sign that her feelings were changing, he'd like to see the boy happily settled.
"Well, go get changed then before your mother comes and starts asking questions"
Gilbert smiled, touched his dad on his shoulder, then turned and and went into the house, bounding up the stairs two at a time. When he got to his room he carefully took off his jacket, laid it on the bed, and collected every red hair he found on it. Opening his bedside draw he pulled out some tissue paper he knew was in there, wrapped the hair in it and placed it in the pocketbook, the one he carried in his right breast pocket. This way, he'd always carry a piece of her with him, a talisman against future heart break. Years later, Anne would find the carefully wrapped hair next to the last letter she was to send him in a few weeks at the end of the summer, a letter she still blushed to read. Adding a few more locks of her hair, now a faded red and silver, to what she found, she had it made into a fob for his watch chain as an anniversary gift. For now, however, he didn't know where the future would take him, but for the first time since that evening in Patty's Place where she had refused his proposal , he had hope. He grabbed a sheet of paper and began writing a note to Anne with his Kingsport address for the summer, looking forward already to their summer's correspondence.
Anne sipped her ginger tea and breathed a sigh of relief. When all's said and done she was glad to be out of Avonlea and settled in at 'Wayside', her temporary home. When her friend from Queen's days, Esther, had asked her several months ago if she'd be a substitute teacher for her during the July and August - Esther having had a recent illness and Valley Road having a summer term, Anne hadn't been sure. Of course, the money would always be welcomed, but two months away from her beloved Green Gables seemed a heavy price, yet now she was glad she'd made the decision. She felt a stranger in Avonlea, half of her former pupils were grown up and she felt awfully old seeing them in the places she and her chums used to fill**, and with Diana married and on her honeymoon, Avonlea seemed very lonely.
The three days following Diana's wedding had been a whirlwind of activity as she got ready for her move to Valley Road. Amidst all the busy-ness, however, there had been an undercurrent of dis-ease, something just wasn't right. Anne sat on her bed, her ginger tea carefully placed on the coaster of the table beside her, her portable writing desk balanced on her knee as she tried to make sense of the strange happenings of the last three days.
There was the conversation with Diana the day after her wedding, when Diana seemed to be bursting to tell Anne something. It wasn't usual to see a bride so soon after her wedding, but Anne had received two letters that day, one from Aunt Jimsie confirming that she was taking the cats and going to visit her daughter for the second half of the summer, and that Anne's friend, Diana would be welcome to stay at Patty's Place if they wanted to honeymoon in Kingsport. Both Diana and Fred had been excited and appreciative both of the opportunity for a break, the chance to see Kingsport, and that Anne had arranged for Davy to cover the farm while they were away. But that seemed secondary to the excitement that was bursting inside Diana. No doubt, Anne reasoned she was desperate to tell Anne about married life and was unable with Fred lurking about, who was also suspiciously looking like 'the cat got the cream'. Anne supposed all new grooms were like that but surely Gil-... whoever she married's sense of humour would save them from that?
Then there was Mrs Lynde's obsession with apple tarts. It was common knowledge that Mrs Lynde always took the prize for all categories of baking every year at the Charlottetown Fair, except for apple turnovers, which went to Mrs Blythe. Mrs Lynde was obsessed with having a clean sweep this year and had been trying various recipes every since the first apples were picked in an attempt to discover Mrs Blythe's secret and improve upon it. In the days following Diana's wedding she'd been fixated on a new combination of apple, sugar and cinnamon. It wasn't enough that she'd waylay anyone who walked past her kitchen to taste a spoonful of the mixture (often with the spoon being inserted into said victim's mouth before they were asked), but she seemed to think Anne had had more of Mrs Blythe's recipe than anyone else and had an annoying habit of forcing a spoon in her mouth and asking, 'does this have the Blythe flavour'?. A comment that always made Anne blush and splutter. Marilla, thankfully, put it down to the spoon being inserted with more haste than decorum. When Mrs Lynde did it at the same time John Blythe happened to have dropped by pick (to pick up a pattern his wife Sarah had asked Marillia for), and he fell into helpless fits of laughter as if he knew a joke no one else did, Anne was beyond perplexed.
Mrs Blythe too seemed to be more attentive than usual, making a special effort after church to speak with Anne and invite her over for tea or supper before she went back to Redmond. Anne was grateful she didn't have time before heading to Valley Road. As fond as she was of Gilbert's parents, an afternoon alone in their company was not needed when she was trying to ascertain her reaction to that evening.
And there was the note from Gilbert himself, left at the post office, that Davy brought together with the letter from Aunt Jimsie. Anne hadn't known what she expected after that night, but it wasn't a note telling her he'd be away for the summer, giving her his address and asking her to write. And it certainly wasn't a letter signed 'your chum, Gilbert'. She was well aware that she'd asked him to kiss her 'as a friend' but was 'your chum' really the appropriate way a man you'd spent an evening kissing signed off a letter?
All this and Anne hadn't even begun to consider how she felt about the kiss. Technically it achieved all she hoped. She could see now that a kiss in the right circumstances could be wonderful and no longer doubted that she wanted a future filled with the right sort of kisses. She hadn't expected it to go on for so long, and certainly hadn't expected herself to have become a lost in Gilbert as she did. But what did that mean? Was that what kisses were about? Would she feel that way when she met the right man and kissed him? If this was the kiss of a friend, what would it be like when it was more? Anne was beginning to think she already knew the answer to that.
Unspoken, was the awakening realisation that she had found the right man, that she only wanted to kiss him and didn't want him to kiss someone else. If nothing else, her jealously, as she now saw it, at at thinking he was engaged to Christine, said as much. She finally understood what everyone had been telling her that the bond she shared with Gilbert was more than friendship, but what happens now? Anne was concerned that she may have found out too late. However, maybe, just maybe, if she tried very hard they would be able to maintain a friendship? Surely that was better than not having him in her life at all?
Anne picked up her pen. She wished she had someone to turn to for advice, but the one person she usually took perplexing questions to was Gilbert, and that was hardly appropriate. She mused that Phil may have some answers and pondered writing to her, but in the meantime it was three days since she's received Gilbert's letter and politeness alone demanded that she now respond to it. But how do you write to a friend after a kiss like that?
Anne looked again at Gil's brief note and decided that if breezy updates were the tone he wanted to set, she'd follow suit. She wouldn't write that it had been the most romantic episode of her existence, or that time ceased to have any meaning and it felt like it filled a hunger she didn't know she had. Anne would do the polite thing and write a letter back just as breezy as the one she'd received. After all, a lot had happened, since they'd seen each other There was the ride from the station with Mrs Amelia Skinner**, whose story would amuse Gilbert no end, as well as that very peculiar incident with Nancy MacPherson - nee Spencer - on the train to Valley Road.
If Gilbert thought it was strange, she would never have known. His response a few days latter took the same chummy tone and it continued to do so all summer, with letters being exchanged every few days. Anne gave up trying to reconcile that night in the woods with the chatty, friendly letters she looked forward to receiving, perhaps they were just good friends. Friends do exchange letters regularly, she reasoned to herself more than once that summer, and it most definitely did not, as Janet suggested teasingly, account for the increase in the price of stamps!
*Fatima by Tennyson
** Anne of the Island (which you know, because of course you've read it. You haven't? Do so this instant! :))