Author's note: The decision has been made. I am, at last, sharing this story with you.

Has it been an easy one? Certainly not. It took hours of pondering whether the time was right at all or was I getting ahead of myself again. It took the same amount of time of trying to come up with the proper name for it, as the so-called 'working-title' did not work so well after all. And then it took lots and lots of my whining, with me once again wondering when on earth should I post this story and if I should do it in the nearest future at all.

But, audaces fortuna iuvat - and following that particular proverb, I have decided to give it a try. There is more than one chapter written in advance; hopefully, that will mean I'll manage to update this story regularly, at the beginning at least. If only you want me to.

Now stay safe and be blessed, my dear Kindred Spirits,
With love, annewithagee

Chapter 1
A Love Letter

Rusty purred longingly, trying to get his young Mistress's attention. Anne smiled gently at the sound and reached out to caress the determined feline and yet, her sight remained fixed on the book she held in her other hand,

It was clear that even Rusty didn't have enough charm to make her abandon Lord Tennyson's fine work.

"Really, Anne, I never imagined you'd be one to spoil a cat," Stella scolded her gently. "You used to barely tolerate these animals, and even then you only approved of the clean, well-mannered ones. And here you are, letting the least mannered cat of all lie on Miss Patty's lovely sofa and encouraging his stay!"

Anne barely looked up at her.

"We let the Sarah-cat and Thomas sleep on the finest of our cushions, darling," she protested softly. "It wouldn't be fair to treat Rusty differently. And his manners have improved immensely since we took him in, don't you think?"

"Well, there wasn't much to improve to start with." Stella grimaced. "He had no manners at all – he could only go up from there."

"I say the important part is that he decided to improve at all. I know what it's like to be judged for the improper behaviour when there has been no one to teach you anything about it in the first place. I can only marvel at my own initial indifference and lack of understanding towards this unlucky fellow."

"Oh, enough of this cat talk!" Phil interrupted impatiently then. "You better tell us about this book you're reading, Queen Anne. You look as if you've been wanting to laugh for the past quarter and I am dying to find out why. I'd love to borrow that volume later, too; I could certainly use a good laugh right now."

"You could always use a good laugh, Phil, no matter what your mood currently is," Anne retorted cleverly. "And don't make it sound as if you had any reasons to feel miserable."

"Tease all you like, Anne, it won't change a thing. I may be the one getting married next month, but that certainly doesn't make me any less nervous, no matter how happy I am. I keep having these awful nightmares about Jo changing his mind and leaving me, or about my family suddenly deciding to oppose to the marriage and consequently ruining everything I have hoped for – right when I finally started to believe that I could pass for a respectable wife, even for a minister."

"Dearest Phil, you know theses nightmares have nothing to do with your future," Anne protested gently, suppressing a laugh caused by both Philippa's words and the sight of Stella, mercilessly rolling her eyes at them. "You know Jonas loves you too much to ever give up on you, and even if your family decided to interfere with your happiness in any way – which I am sure they will not – you would not pay it much mind anyway."

Phil sighed deeply as she sunk on the closest chair. "You are perfectly right, Queen Anne, as you usually are. You know, sometimes I wish I had your wisdom; but then I realise that Jo might not want me so much if I were and I immediately regret making any silly wishes. Anyway, you have not answered my question about your reading: what is it?"

Anne allowed herself a small chuckle this time.

"Something you would not find very amusing, I'm afraid," she explained softly, her eyes returning to the pages in question. "I've been skimming through Lancelot and Elaine, stopping only when I came across the parts dearest to me."

"And that's what made you glow so much?" Stella joined the conversation once more. "Why, Anne, I've always known you had a rather queer taste in literature, but I would never assume you'd find such tragic poem comical."

"It's not so much the poem itself as the memory it brings. I remember discussing it at school in Avonlea, weeping and sighing over poor Elaine's fate with my friends. I was the most emotional, of course, but the girls were not far behind me."

Stella nodded with a little more understanding. "I can see how that's amusing now, although I'd still expect a smile rather than a laughter as a natural reaction to it."

"That's because you haven't heard the best part yet!" Anne responded with a sly smile and began recounting their unfortunate attempt to enact the aforementioned poem on the bright waters of Barry's Pond. By the time Anne came to the infamous scene of the leaking boat, all three had been shaking with laughter, tears of joy glimmering in more than one pair of eyes.

"Really, Anne!" Phil exclaimed in what was supposed to be a stern tone but couldn't be due to the cheerful trembling of her voice. "We have lived here together for nearly three years, have known each other for four and for all this time you have not thought it appropriate to treat us with a story like this! Why, I am sure you would have spared me at least one miserable night if you had."

"She hath kept the good wine until now," Stella answered, trying as she might to sound as serious and composed as the paraphrase required, and failing spectacularly. "I am only surprised she didn't wait for Priss to come back – the poor girl will be devastated when she learns how much fun she has missed."

"There is no need to worry about that," Anne hastened to explain. "Priscilla had known the whole story long before we even arrived to Redmond and I can assure you that her reaction was every bit as fierce as yours."

Stella pressed her hand against her chest and sighed with emphasis. "Oh, now I see! Priss gets to know everything in advance while we have to beg! Now, Anne, I am positively wounded!"

"And you two are getting off topic again!" Phil intervened again, this time throwing her arms high in the air for a better effect. "Truly, how you can focus on such nonsense when the great finale is still ahead of us is beyond me."

"You were the one who started it!" Anne contradicted her with another short laugh.

"I beg your pardon, but my comment was fully justified and in some ways it still referred directly to the story you had told. But enough of this! How did you get off that bridge, Anne?"

The auburn-haired girl chuckled again, a little nervously this time, as she lowered her eyes and fixed them on the text once more.

"That is the part in which my pride suffers most," she said quietly, forcing a light, careless tone that suddenly felt so inappropriate. "You see, I didn't really mind climbing that pole – of course, it was uncomfortable and comical, and very different from the romantic scene I had envisioned; but at least there was no one there to see me. And all I needed to do was to hold onto that pole until Mr Barry came to help me out in my distress. He would laugh, of course, but I couldn't care much for it – he had been an eye-witness to my antics too many times already. Unfortunately, my rescue came from a different party entirely."

Anne expected her friends to interrupt her with more witty remarks; however, they made none.

"There was..." she picked up hesitantly. "There was a boy in our class, who went rowing on Barry's Pond that day. He saw me and came closer, offering to take me to the shore in his flat."

"How romantic," Stella mused teasingly at that.

"Oh, hardly!" Anne protested vigorously, as if she had been fourteen again, listening to Diana's most ridiculous comments. "I have never thought of my classmates in terms of romance, but it wouldn't have been half so bad – half so humiliating – had it been any other boy than the one that came. Dear me, how I hated him then! I had been angry with him before, but it was nothing compared to what I felt on that moment under the bridge."

"And is there any chance we might know the poor chivalrous knight?" Phil asked, wriggling her eyebrows meaningfully. "Could it be Charles and his big, bulging eyes?"

Anne's own big eyes widened in surprise at her friend's abrupt assumption.

"No, not at all!" she denied firmly. "I have never hated Charlie, although I have never been particularly fond of him, either. In fact, I think I've always cared too little for him to hold any such strong feelings towards him."

"Poor Charlie," Stella remarked with an absolute lack of sympathy. "But if not him, then who?"

"The same boy I had ignored for the three years prior and continued to do so for another two, both at school and at Queen's – and whom, I believe, you have got to know quite well during our stay here."

Stella was close to choking on her astonishment. "You mean..."

"Gilbert Blythe, yes," Anne admitted with a small smile. "And I truly wished it had been anyone but him back then."

"Not so fast, my dear," Phil exclaimed now. "I know you and Gilbert have not always been friends – it's certainly hard to call you friends now – but you can't tell me you used to hate him!"

"Oh, but I did! Or at least, I wholeheartedly believed so."

"The same Gilbert who is always so kind and considerate, no matter how little he likes the company he's in?"

"No, the one who had pulled my braid and called me 'Carrots' on our very first day of school." Anne countered cleverly, her smile widening at the sight of shock that had reflected on her friend's faces almost immediately. "Well, I suppose you didn't expect to hear that about him."

"And that's why you weren't friends for so long?" Stella asked with disbelief.

Anne nodded, regaining some of her temporarily lost composure. "We were sworn enemies at the time – at least I was. Gilbert tried to apologise and make things right, but my eleven year old self wouldn't hear of it; and then I suppose I kept thinking of him in that way because my rise and sense of dignity demanded it. Not to mention, I've always had that bit of a competitive strike, and since Gilbert soon turned out to be the only real rival, beating him in class became another matter of honour to me."

"And you didn't make your peace that day by the pond?" Phil asked again.

"No," Anne responded, with a little bit of melancholy – sentiment – embarrassment ringing in her voice. "It was the last time my pettiness made itself known and consequently robbed us both of two years of friendship. He went furious – as furious as someone of Gilbert's personality can be, anyway – snapped and walked away. He had been a rival before, but he had never seemed to care much about it… But after that encounter he became just as ruthless as I had been from the start."

"In that case, I suppose your fiery arguments here at Redmond were not even half as bad as we all thought," Phil muttered under her breath. "It must have been nothing compared to what you two had done at school."

Anne smiled more sincerely now. "Oh, you should have seen us then. Poor Miss Stacy barely managed to answer our overly grown hunger for knowledge, not to mention that we must have been a terrible distraction from other students, who undoubtedly needed her attention much more than we did. In the end she would just give us more to read, if only to make us stay quiet for a moment at least."

It was Phil's turn to nod. "You two really have a history."

"That we do," Anne agreed a little wistfully. She brightened up the next moment, however. "But, as one of my dearest friends often says, enough of this! The story was meant to cheer you up, not to make us go down some cold, hostile memory lane. We still have a whole afternoon ahead of us, and I'm not going to waste it in any way. We only have a few short days before we leave Patty's Place for good, and I am determined to make the most of it – and you don't even try to talk yourselves out of it!"

"And what would you have us do, Queen Anne?" Stella asked a little sceptically, for which she received a frown from Phil. Seeing the exchange, Anne could hardly do more than laugh wholeheartedly at them.

"I have no idea, my dearest Kindred Spirits!" she cried out with eagerness that didn't match her words nor the atmosphere from mere moments earlier and yet, her voice resonated with sincerity that could not have been denied. "We can dance and we can sing, or we can leave the house and set off on a journey, if only it doesn't take us too far away from this most beloved place. I once said that I had two homes – Green Gables and Patty's Place – and I can't tell you how happy I am that my feelings towards that matter have not changed at all. It is reassuring to know that one can truly love more than just one place so much."

"I suppose it must be so, or no one would ever find happiness after they married – save for the people who stayed in their own houses and those who never loved their homes in the first place," Stella concluded.

Anne nodded in agreement with her words. "It is very true, but let's not forget those who must leave their homes for reasons other than marriage. Oh, Phil, please don't give me that look, even if I have deserved it. I know you are still angry with me for what happened yesterday, but I promise you, it has nothing to do with what I meant."

"What did you mean, then?" Phil asked calmly, refraining from a more blatant comment that was springing to her lips.

"I meant us. Four college girls, thrown into a new life, away from their families, their neighbours, away from the people and places they care for so much. It could have been such miserable four years, full of stress and loneliness, with homesickness threatening to take over us any minute – and instead they were four years of great friendships, and three of them have been spent here. I'm not sure if I could have born to go through the many challenges Redmond had in store, had it not been for the sense of safety this place has given me."

"Oh, and here I thought it was our unconditional love and support that had pushed you through!" Stella exclaimed, her hand once again flying to her chest in a dramatic gesture. "Now, you have really hurt my feelings, Anne. Excruciatingly!"

Anne laughed wholeheartedly at her friend's words, basking in the joy this wonderful comradeship could give.

"Tease all you like -" she said with confidence. "you will not succeed in ruining my good spirits. The day is just too lovely for any sort of pettiness; you can say whatever you want and I won't take offence. I'm in a forgiving mood – I feel you that if the worst of my enemies came to visit me today, I could not hold grudge against them."

"Poor Gilbert!" Phil cried out then. "If only he had known that day would come, he might have waited for it, instead of trying to make peace with you over some pond only minutes after he had so unnecessarily rescued you!"

Anne did not find the comment worthy of her answer and decided to resort to violence instead. In one swift motion she grabbed the nearest cushion and threw it at Phil, hitting her right in her smiling face; the latter squeaked in shock but caught the missile in perfect reflex and threw it back at her aggressor without hesitation.

That was the setting in which Priscilla found them in.

"I leave you alone for an hour and you turn into children we used to teach!" she exclaimed in the tone of a perplexed matron, as if she had been at least a decade older than her frivolous friends. "Truly, Anne, what would the board of Avonlea school think if they saw what their favourite schoolmarm does when left unsupervised?"

"I have never been their favourite, so how would I know?" Anne answered her question laughingly, catching the cushion that had once again flown in her direction; however, she refrained from tossing it back. Priscilla raised her gaze to the ceiling, most probably asking the Good Lord to give her patience necessary for dealing with the force her companions undoubtedly were.

"They should take away your B. A.s for behaving like this," she muttered under her breath as she shrugged off her coat and took off her hat. "I'm not surprised to see Anne or Phil act like that, but you, Stella? Why, I believed you to be the sensible one at least."

"Don't lump me together with them," Stella opposed. "These two won't listen to anyone and certainly not me."

"They better do listen to me, though, because I have some great news that should interest them. I've been to the post office and there was at least half a dozen letters addressed to us."

"And I bet half of those are for Phil," Anne commented teasingly, standing up and approaching Priscilla, ready to take some of the many packages the other girl had brought with her. "Let me take these, Priss, as I'm sure none of those letters are for me. After all, I never receive any letters on Monday."

"How can you be so sure?" Priscilla asked suggestively. "What if I told you that it's your turn to receive Phil's usual, ridiculous share?"

Anne shook her head vigorously. "Impossible! The only letters I am waiting for are the ones from Green Gables and those always arrive on Wednesday, and sum up the whole previous week, together with Mrs Lynde's great commentary on the minister's latest sermon."

"Maybe, but it doesn't change the fact that one of these letters really has you name written on it – and the handwriting does look to me as if it was Mrs Lynde's, indeed."

"It can't be," Anne repeated; but the treacherous smile was beginning to blossom on her joyful countenance and not a minute passed before she had whipped the envelope from Priscilla's hand and pressed in to her chest, barely deigning the item with a glance.

"This truly is the most wonderful of days!" she said excitedly. "Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, you bring this! Dear Priss, you really are a herald of good news!"

And with that she ran towards the sofa and sank on it once more, impatient to learn the contents of the letter that had already gladdened her so much.

"My, my, Anne!" Phil remarked with a dry smile and a slight rise of her eyebrows. "Judging from your excitement, one could think it is a love letter you are holding; if I didn't know any better, I would swear it was Roy Gardner who had written to you again."

"Oh, but it as a love letter, and it's the most beautiful one – better than any suitor could ever send!" Anne protested firmly, glancing from over the letter with her bright eyes. "No one has ever loved me more dearly than those who lived at Green Gables and I doubt anyone ever could. Green Gables letters always are the most affectionate ones; even if sometimes I am the only one who can feel and see it hidden between the lines."

"Even if those lines are written by Mrs Rachel Lynde?" Priss asked.

Anne nodded eagerly.

"Even if," she confirmed resolutely. "Mrs Lynde is a dear soul and a true Kindred Spirit, even if our first encounter seemed to prove the opposite; besides, it never is just Mrs Lynde that writes, although she addresses the envelopes to spare Marilla the trouble. Oh, I can't wait to read about all the scrapes Davy has got himself in since the last time! I did not expect this letter to come for the next two days and now I can't imagine delaying it for another minute!"

The three friends gifted her with the same bemused look before chuckling cheerfully.

"Well, in that case I suggest you go to your room at once, Miss Anne," Phil advised with feign seriousness. "Otherwise you'll just keep talking to us and we'll never get to learn what this precious letters is really about."

"I am not going anywhere." Anne protested for the last time. "I will sit here for the whole time and share all of the best parts with you immediately. Oh, what a feast this is going to be!"