Author's note: So as I was busy working on my hundred and two multi-chaptered stories and plan a thousand more, frustrated over the fact that I can't really share any of them with you yet as 1) even those already started only have a chapter or two ready, and often less than that, 2) I've promised myself I would not start posting anything other than one-shots (Let Anne Say being a sole exception, since it's like one-shot collection anyway), I've come to a decision:
I will post this one.
In a perfect world, with a perfect writing schedule, I would have had it all written already. You'd get seven long chapters, one per each day of our favourite couple's engagement. Alas, I'm neither as productive nor as patient as I'd like to be, and thus I've decided to split it into shorter chapters, going for scenes rather than whole days. I hope I'll find enough strength and motivation to continue and to do it soon - I've got it mostly planned, after all, so the chances are high.
Meanwhile, I hope you'll enjoy this first of many pieces.
God bless you, Kindred Spirits,
"And as for the waiting, that doesn't matter. We'll just be happy, waiting and working for each other—and dreaming. Oh, dreams will be very sweet now."
Gilbert drew her close to him and kissed her. Then they walked home together in the dusk, crowned king and queen in the bridal realm of love, along winding paths fringed with the sweetest flowers that ever bloomed, and over haunted meadows where winds of hope and memory blew.
- Lucy Maud Mongomery, "Anne of the Island"
Ever since she had been a little girl, Anne Shirley had often thought of what her first kiss would be like.
It had been little more than a dream at first, when she had felt too lonely and unloved to fully believe it might indeed happen to her one day; a colourful vision that had clashed so terribly with the cold and bleakness of the orphanage, with the hostility and despise of the homes she had lived in. Back then, she had not even given herself the right to carry her own name with her in those dreams, living them through her heroines, Princess Cordelia being her most natural choice.
After all, what was the chance that the homely, freckled, unwanted Anne could ever charm someone enough to willingly kiss her?
It had taken many years and the constant, almost stubborn support of Diana Barry for Anne to finally overcome the horrid and unjust image she had had of herself. Even then, however, her wish of this special caress always remained somewhat abstract, with poetry and music successfully blocking any trace of reality that tried to enter her thoughts in the process. She well remembered her girl friends' musings and comments on the appearance of the boys they knew: Ruby, swooning over one or other of her beaux, both at Queens and in her joyful Carmody circle; Diana, shyly pointing out how much the looks of her beloved Fred might gain if examined closely; even Stella and Priss, only half-jokingly admitting that if they were to have a kiss stolen from them, they could easily indicate which of the possible candidates they would have liked to see in that role the most.
And only Anne refused to give her man o' dreams any particular shape or face, beside fitting him into the well-worn, yet sufficiently vague description of the dark-eyed, mysterious knight, and feeling greatly vexed every time one of her chums suggested that under a favourable light and even more favourable circumstances, a certain pair of hazel eyes could be easily called both of those things.
And yet, as she stood in the midst of Hester Grey's garden now, held in the most loving embrace by no other but Gilbert Blythe himself, she could do little else but admit that she would willingly take the sparkling, teasing, tender hazels over any dark and misty gaze she might find along her way.
And he was, indeed, kissing her.
It was a strange sensation, for a lack of a better word. It was as abstract and incomprehensible as one might think, surprising in all its freshness and yet more astonishing still in how real and familiar it was. The same lips which she had watched for years, with one corner twitching up in a teasing smile or it all curved in an unwelcome grimace of vexation or pain... the same lips that had professed his love to her mere minutes ago... those lips were now pressed softly against her own, caressing her with an utmost gentleness and yet with an eagerness and longing of a decade of wait behind it.
Inexperienced as they both were, she could not imagine herself feeling more comfortable with him than she was right now.
"So many dreams I've had of this and yet they all pale in comparison with the real thing. With the real you," she heard him murmur as he had finally pulled away from her. "Anne, you can't know – you can't imagine how long I've been waiting for a chance to kiss you like this."
Anne met his gaze then and saw it was as dark as it had been in their most heated moments in the past, be it their fiery arguments over their Redmond assessments, discussed both in Avonlea and then Kingsport itself, or the rare moments of impatience, when Gilbert's walls had crumbled to reveal the yearning of the heart she had not been ready to accept. It was a look that had scared her then – a sign of change she had once feared so much, one she had tried to prevent with such despair.
But her fears were gone now; whether it was mostly because of her own change of heart, or the new flash of happiness that brightened Gilbert's eyes this time, she could not yet tell... But she knew for sure that she was equally glad to recognise both.
"Well, I suppose your confession sheds some light on that matter," she said with a small, shy smile and a blush that still had not gone from her cheeks. "The slate, was it?"
Gilbert chuckled lightly at her words and tightened his grasp, holding her even closer to him that he had before. She felt her skin warm up further at the little change, the sensation helped greatly by the feel of his chest rising under her hands that still rested on the pats of his grey suit. She had an odd feeling that it was not exactly wise to lower her eyes to its level, either, but it was too late to worry about that aspect of it now...
And besides, when, if not now, when was she to experience all that?
"I'm sorry if it's not exactly what you hoped it to be," she picked up again timidly with a small, slightly embarrassed laugh of her own. She glanced up at Gilbert and saw him look at her curiously. "The... The kiss. I obviously had no chance to work on that particular skill in advance, and since even my dreams of it are so much younger than yours..."
"For goodness' sake, Anne, stop that right now," he cut her off, easing his embrace a little by lifting one of his hands to her still parted lips. "I only just told you that it had exceeded all of my dreams. What more reassurance do you need from me, now?"
With his fingers still pressed gently against her mouth, Anne could hardly be expected to answer right away. Gilbert, however, clearly had no intention of silencing her in that particular way, and instead chose to brush said fingers over the corner of her lips, over the flushed, pinky cheeks, over the fine line of his beloved girl's jaw. Anne could not help but let out a sigh at this; her eyelids fluttering shut for the shortest of moments, only to open up again at the sound of the most quiet, yet certainly very satisfied hum on his part.
Once again she met his eye, recognising the old look of self-assurance she had once thought had been lost for good.
"You know, Gilbert, judging from your expression alone, I think you are enjoying this far too much," she pointed out softly, although the teasing twinkle of her eye was unmistakable.
Gilbert's smile turned roguish in response to her words and he leaned in towards her again, his lips hovering over hers in a proximity that had only occurred between them once before. His own eyes were sparkling with mischief, and suddenly, Anne could not call the sight anything but endearing.
He was endearing.
"Oh, but I think I've earned it."
Almost despite herself, she pulled away from him a little, her face falling at the renewed remembrance of the past longing and hurt. Gilbert noted the change in an instant and cupped her cheek with the same hand that had already been holding her waist, ready to stop her on the dangerous path he knew she'd been about to step on. And yet, before he even managed to open his mouth to speak about it, Anne changed her tactics abruptly and threw her arms around his neck, clinging onto him in a tight embrace he had no reason to expect two seconds earlier.
With her face buried in the crook of his neck and her soft hair tickling his ear, she said the only thing that came to her suddenly troubled mind.
"Oh, Gil, I do love you so!"
This she knew how to do. To show the true depths of her affection, not by words as much as it was by action; by this simple yet most meaningful gesture, one that she had not yet had the chance to make towards him, even though she had practised it so many times on those she loved. All of her feelings seemed to be locked in her clasp, radiating onto him even when he could not tell what she was saying by it.
It was an embrace of a daughter, a sister, a friend – now to become one of a woman betrothed, ready to give all of the love she had stored in her soul and to discover the new seams of it with the man she had chosen to do it with.
As positively surprised as Gilbert was by this sudden display, however, it was not it that caught his attention this time. After just a few moments he pulled away, just like Anne had done before; his eyes round with awe and elation that had overcome him so completely. An enormous grin blossomed on his face as he looked into those green-grey irises of which he had dreamt for so many years now, a grin that only widened when she looked at him, surprised, only to shift her gaze down at his own collar, blushing.
"It's the first time you've said it," he whispered, trembling with excitement he didn't even try do hide, while Anne gazed back at him, her own eyes widening as she comprehended his words. He leaned in again, resting his forehead against hers and closed his eyes, never ceasing to smile. "Can you please say it again?"
Before Anne managed to stammer anything out, Gilbert decided to surprise her even further, loosening his tight grip on her delicate frame and crouching suddenly before her. She could feel his arms wrap around her knees a moment later, and before she knew it, she was in the air, spun around to the sound of a most jubilant laughter, too shocked to even determine if the cry she'd heard in response really was her own reaction to it.
The sudden shriek only made Gilbert laugh more, and even when he eventually stopped spinning, the smile on his countenance was as sly and satisfied as it was loving. The feel of Anne's fingers buried into his shoulders thrilled him infinitely, and he could not willingly bring this moment to an end.
"Say it again," he repeated emphatically, rejoicing at this new closeness he could finally share with her. "Please, Anne."
"Gilbert Blythe, put me down!" was all she cared to say in response.
"I won't," he responded evenly, tightening his grip so she could at least feel a little more secure. "It's the day when my dreams come true; and since having you in my arms like this definitely is one of them, I'm going to keep it that way for as long as I can."
Anne found that she could hardly answer him with anything more than another flush of her cheeks. A smile returned to her own face as she gazed at the man who had so unexpectedly turned out to be so dear, and only the memories of their old days and shared mischief stopped her from bending down and kissing him fiercely without further delay.
"And what about my dreams?" she asked playfully instead, her hand slipping to the back of his neck and stroking his hair gently. "Are they of any meaning today?"
"Of course they are, silly. And I promise you we'll take care of them as soon as you're back on the ground safely."
It was Anne's turn to laugh at him then; with a little hesitation she moved her hands again, trusting Gilbert to hold her securely while she cupped his face between her slender fingers and brushed her thumbs against his cheeks. For long moments did they gaze at one another, so much that Anne began to wonder just how long exactly her fiancé could stay in this position unchanged.
Realising that she was by no mean willing to find out, she spoke to him at last.
"Well, I do fear that my dreams are scandalously similar to yours now, Mr Blythe," she admitted sweetly, well aware of – although still slightly surprised by – the effect her words were having on him. "And even though I have not spent a decade wanting to say those words to you, there was little else I wanted to do these past few weeks – and they did feel like years to me."
She saw his look darken as she bent down to whisper, "I do love you, Gil. I love you so much it hurts me, and it scares me and it absolutely thrills me – and to know that you still care for me too is the greatest and most undeserved gift that has ever been given to me."
She closed the distance between them then, knowing he would use the opportunity to oppose her had he only been given one, and not at all wanting to engage in such conversation right now. So she kissed him, sweetly and lingeringly, taking her time to learn her own way through this new, exciting field and trusting Gilbert to appreciate her endeavours rather than mock her for her inexperience in it. As she had hoped, his response was as eager as her try; his grip on her legs tightening once again as his lips caressed hers, his head raised up in a desperate urge not to risk parting with her ever again.
At some point Gilbert's claps loosened and he placed her down on her feet again, although Anne could not for the life of her determine when exactly that particular change of setting occurred. But that her arms slid around his neck instantly, instinctively, was a fact – that he deepened his kiss with the same haste was a fact, too.
Neither of them felt like coming home just yet.