This is my attempt at the Halloween prompt of 2018.

A Haunted Girl
by Excel Aunt

"Matthew?" Anne called for her guardian as she ran out of Green Gables. She was finally done putting up the dishes from an early supper. Matthew had promised Anne a nice Halloween walk alongside the woods, where they'd share stories of ghosts on their way.

Matthew shortened his gait so Anne could catch up, and offered his weathered, fatherly hand once she was in reach.

"I really, truly and especially appreciate the fact that you love Octobers just as much as I do!" Anne said as she took his hand. "And, I promise not to take any leaves inside with me, no matter how pretty they are. I know how Marilla hates that, but I do so adore how God changes the wood's dappled green canopy into a crimson carpet. Isn't crimson a marvelous word? It sounds sinful and decadent. Don't you think?"

Matthew pushed his eyebrows together in thought. He supposed the colorful woods might be as pretty as 'The Avenue'. But the word 'decadent' recalled Mrs. Lynde's complaints about Marilla's desserts. There was a better word to describe the wood. A moment later, he flashed a kindly gaze at his daughter.

"I believe deciduous is the right word for this place."

Anne tilted her chin up. She was an expert on words, whether or not she knew of her gift.

"Oh—that's right too, I suppose. But I'm trying to speak of the majesty of the season."

"And are you its princess?"

"I am! Princess Cordelia to be precise."

Anne scooped some of the forsaken foliage and showed him rusty red. "You see the variegation here? The bits of orange growing more and more crimson? It's like God dropped His paint and splashed the world in the process. It almost makes it alright to be a homely, red-headed girl."

Matthew shook his head when Anne disparaged herself. That was one ghost he wished her to exorcize. He had never encountered such a haunted girl.

"Anne, you mustn't say that you're homely anymore. Because you're not."

Anne stiffened and withdrew her hand from his, faltering from his correction and ready to protest ardently.

Yet ever undeterred, Matthew continued. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I think you're a very pretty little girl. Marilla does too, but she'll never say it as she thinks you're too vain already."

Anne pinked a bit to Matthew's flattery, she wasn't trying to fish for a compliment.

"So tell me, Anne, why do you think such things of yourself?"

"Well—no one wanted me," Anne admitted. She presented herself with a matter-of-fact, unattached air, but a small quiver in her delivery ruined that projection and Matthew saw her hurt. "I've watched Mr. Thomas and Mr. Hammond weed out the runts and cripples of the litters. They were skinny and ugly and therefore no good. I know how those animals felt, never having a chance. I know what it's like to not be wanted. A foundling I am. There's no denying that."

Matthew halted his progression to peer down upon his girl and Anne chose not to look directly back, instead, her eyes focused on the dusky sky where two of the brighter stars appeared in the mackerel heaven.

"I want you, Anne." Matthew's voice was raw and any bit of his shyness exorcized. "Anne Shirley, you're not a poor, homely, orphaned girl anymore. You're wanted in my home. At Green Gables. In Avonlea. On Prince Edward Island. Although I am sorry your past haunts you, I thank God He used it to bring you to us. And if beauty is contingent on being wanted, you're the prettiest girl this side of paradise."

Anne's peaked face and her gray eyes quivered to his little speech. She threw her arms around Matthew's waist and inhaled his tobacco scented lapels, trying to keep tears at bay.

"Believe it, it's true." Matthew finalized as he stroked the top of her head. "Worry no more."

She didn't know what to say, so she tried to accept the compliment which took a different sort of strength, a quieting one.

"Oh, Matthew," Anne recomposed herself but slipped her hand back into Matthew's larger one. "Here, I thought we were going to share ghost stories tonight. Instead, you soothed my soul."

"Anne," Matthew said as the darkness approached. "You told me something that frightens you. That is your ghost story."

"And because of you, Matthew." Anne cried freely. "I'll never be afraid of it again."