Pre-Author's Note: Sorry this took so long. I blame homework (as usual). And soccer conditioning. I'm not in shape at all. Sigh. Anyway, this isn't quite as good as I wanted, due to a rather annoying case of writer's block. This is the second to last part, and I kept thinking about what I wanted to happen in the last part, and... Oh, whatever. So this is it. Enjoy.

XIX

Gilbert raised his head from a respectfully bent position after the long-awaited conclusion to Mrs. Lynde's interminable grace. She and Marilla were seated at opposite ends of the table, lengthened so much by the addition of extra leaves that Marilla was almost situated under the doorframe to the kitchen. Dora sat to Gilbert's left, next to Mrs. Lynde; Diana and Fred were to his right. Anne sat directly across from him, an awkward location not only for the reason that it meant they *had* to look at each other sometimes, a situation which they currently preferred to avoid, but also because, due to the narrowness of the table, his long legs brushed against hers each time he so much as shifted in his chair. David, sitting to Anne's left, noted all of this with much amusement-it would only bolster his cause. Davy sat next to him, as promised, though he was also positioned smack dab under the unblinking scrutiny of Marilla, as his table manners still weren't quite up to par. Roy, occupying the chair to Anne's right, was sardonically reflecting on the irony of the situation. He had come here to win Anne back-now he was forced to observe all the minutiae of her and Gilbert's blooming courtship. If she looked at him one more time with those goo-goo eyes Roy swore he would scream.

"Gilbert, will you pass the kiss-ahem-custard?" David asked. Gilbert narrowed his eyes as he picked up the aforementioned dish and handed it to David. Clearly he was just going to have to sit and suffer all through the meal while David made fun of him and Anne.

Anne tried, to no avail, to evade Gilbert's gaze. It wasn't just that it was uncomfortable, but more like she was on the edge of something-something wonderful and perfect. She didn't want to spoil it by experiencing it all too soon, or, far worse, by jinxing it. She just wanted to get herself through this meal, and then... But she refused to reflect on it yet.

"So, Anne, how was Jane's banquet last night?" Marilla inquired. "I never got a chance to ask you about it."

Anne stared down at her food, not really seeing it. "Oh, it was lovely," Anne replied detachedly. "Everything went smoothly, no problems."

"Except with your toast," David interjected with a grin.

"You made a toast?" Mrs. Lynde raised her eyebrows.

"Oh, um, kind of, except I made a blunder of it..." Anne began, embarrassed.

Marilla raised her arms in exasperation. "For goodness sakes, Anne, what kind of scrape did you get into this time?"

"No, no, it was fine, I just couldn't remember Mr. Inglis' first name..." she replied, blushing embarrassedly.

"You couldn't remember his name!" Mrs. Lynde repeated, shocked. "That's terrible, Anne, how-"

"Well, fine, what is it?" Anne interrupted, temper flashing a bit.

"It's-it's definitely, no that's not right, oh yes, it's, um," Mrs. Lynde stammered, reddening.

"Geoffrey," David supplied, "a fact which Gilbert so delicately provided without anyone suspecting a thing. Actually," he added mischievously, "no one else could figure out why Anne was stumbling in her toast. How did you know what her dilemma was, Gil?" He smiled sweetly at his friend.

Gilbert perceived that everyone at the table, save Anne, was peering at him curiously. He shrugged and tried to brush it off. "I don't know."

Diana caught David's eye, saw him nod ever so slightly, and thus spoke. "Come on, Gilbert, really, how did you know what to do? I couldn't even tell she was having any sort of crisis."

"It wasn't a *crisis*," Anne protested, but everyone ignored her and stared steadily at Gilbert, awaiting a response.

He shrugged again. "It was just, I don't know, obvious I guess. Her eyes kept flickering to him, then she would try not to look at him, or something. It wasn't a big deal, really," he concluded hurriedly, carefully avoiding Anne's eyes.

Anne opened her mouth as if to say something, but then closed it again as if in the throes of some inner controversy. Finally she spoke in an unnaturally quiet tone. "Yes it was."

David raised his eyebrows. Wow, he hadn't expected this.

Gilbert raised his head and met Anne's steady gaze. For a moment a current of electricity seemed to spark between them. Gilbert wished fervently that he and Anne were alone so he could, well... But with all these people surrounding him he could do nothing but shrug and go red in the face.

Anne continued, flustered. "I mean, you made *yourself* look like an idiot when I was the real fool. And I hadn't even been..." her voice trailed off.

"Hadn't even been...?" David encouraged. Gilbert shot him a killer look.

Fortunately for Anne and Gilbert, Marilla broke the discomfiture with a loud rap on Davy's knuckles. "Davy Keith, how many times have I told you not to do that?"

Davy, index finger globbed with strawberry jam and raised midway to his mouth, looked down at the table guiltily. "Sorry, Marilla," he muttered, lowering his hand.

David struggled to maintain his preternaturally solemn expression. How many times had he done that when he was a kid?

Roy heaved a sigh and glanced down at his pocket watch. How much more of this was he going to have to endure? He looked from Anne to Gilbert one last time and decided he'd had enough. Abruptly, he stood up, making a show of staring at his watch in disbelief. "Goodness, is it already three o'clock?" he exclaimed, in such a stiff and forced tone of surprise that David almost snorted with laughter. The man was a terrible actor. It was obvious he just wanted an excuse to leave.

"I promised someone that I'd meet them in Charlottetown tonight and the train leaves at 3:30. I give all my apologies, Miss Cuthbert, Mrs. Lynde, everything's wonderful, but I really must be going," Roy continued.

Anne likewise saw through Roy's poorly constructed façade. "Really? You can't stay?" she asked, feeling guilty though she knew she wasn't at fault.

"No, I'm sorry," he replied, looking anything *but* sorry. His eyes flickered toward Gilbert one last time, then he got up to leave the table.

Anne glanced helplessly at Gilbert, and saw him nod ever so slightly. She rose to follow Roy to the front door, rushing to reach it first.

She blocked him from leaving. "Listen, Roy, I'm really sorry..." she began in a low voice.

"Don't be," he responded, a little bitterly. "You love him, it's obvious. In fact, you've always loved him, haven't you?"

Anne hung her head and didn't respond.

So I was just the complication in their relationship, he thought in disgust. Just the guy who made her realize what she was missing. But all he said aloud was, "Good-bye, Anne."

**********

By the time Anne had reoccupied her seat at the table, the atmosphere in the room seemed changed. Davy and David kept shooting each other significant looks, while Marilla observed warily. Anne allowed herself one small smile at Gilbert, to reassure him, which of course David perceptively intercepted.

"Why so happy, Anne? You seem almost, I don't know, *blythe*," he stated, pretending to scrutinize her with great care.

Diana and Fred giggled inaudibly.

Suddenly there was a loud clatter, followed by another, and then a continuing noise as if something was rolling on the floor. Sure enough...

"Oh no, my prize marbles! They must have slipped out of my pocket!" Davy exclaimed in rather overdone distress.

"Oh, that's terrible!" David cried, right on cue. "If they roll around on this floor too much they'll get scratched and ruined! This isn't a good surface for marbles!"

"When'd you become a marble expert?" Gilbert muttered drily.

"How did they fall out of your pocket, Davy?" Mrs. Lynde asked. "Do you have a hole?"

"I must," Davy replied, eyes wide.

"Davy, can you see where your marbles are right now? It's very important that they don't roll around anymore," David explained seriously.

Anne rolled her eyes.

Davy peered under the table. "I think there's one under your chair, Anne, and, yes, there's one right by you, too, Gilbert."

"Well, goodness, we better go under the table right now and retrieve them," Gilbert said sarcastically.

Anne smiled at him wryly as they both got down off their chairs onto their knees. Gilbert read her eyes and knew what they were both thinking. Hmmm, a setup?

"What's taking so long under there?" David asked loudly as they each picked up the marbles.

Anne raised her arm as if to smack him in the leg and looked at Gilbert pleadingly. But Gilbert shook his head and pointed to David's shoes, both of which were coming untied. Anne recognized his plan almost immediately and nodded her head vigorously in agreement.

Gilbert slid back up to his chair. "I'm picking mine up very carefully so I don't scratch it," Anne's voice came from under the table as she finished tying David's laces together.

David frowned at Gilbert, who widened his eyes and shook his head in a mock show of innocence. Anne stood up and handed the marble to Davy triumphantly. "Here, I think it survived the experience," she said, trying to hide the sarcasm in her tone.

Then... "David, can you get up and grab the cookie platter in the kitchen?" Anne asked, ignoring Marilla's strange look. "You're closest."

"Sure," David responded naively, though a bit wary of the triumphant glances Anne and Gilbert were throwing at each other. Had they done something to the cookies?

He pushed his chair out and stood up. As he attempted to take a step toward the kitchen, though, his laces caught on each other and he fell forward, flat on his face.

"Touché," Gilbert said, snickering.

Post-Author's Note: Right. So David got his comeuppance...I couldn't let he and Davy take *all* of Anne and Gilbert's thunder, could I? Anyway, so the next part (part 20) will be the last. I know what I want to happen (obviously) so hopefully it won't take too long to write. As always, please review.