A rather long-ish time ago, I wrote The Teacher in the Glen, my first story on this site. I promised an update on it, but I also disappeared down the RoI rabbit hole (where I seem to have taken up temporary residence). However, a week ago, finding myself in bed with rather a lot of time on my hands and desiring a break from WWI-writing, I noodled around with the idea of Anne and Joy a few years later, and how the family might look at that point, given that the eldest is adopted. So I tried, and came up with this - which, I confess, is nothing like what I expected it to be.
Should you read this update from the TTITG-universe, I only ask that you not try too hard to do the math. We're roughly four or five years in to Anne and Gilbert's marriage, making Joy eleven. But because I can't fathom leaving out any of Anne's children, all children up through Nan and Di (by my estimate, two years old) are present and accounted for, with a certain Shirley on his way in a few months. So no Rilla yet, but I think that this way, we're pretty much on schedule again (although I do apologize to this version of Anne, because I do believe she has yet to go a year without giving birth).
So here we are, a little more than two years after completion, with an update which I cheerfully dedicate to all of you who were sad to see the original end. May you all be well and happy, wherever you are.
Dear Mrs. Blythe,
This note is to inform you that your daughter, Joyce Constance Blythe, was sent home early from school today for violently attacking a fellow student. Be assured that this most unladylike behavior, unbefitting of the child whose parents are pillars of the community, was duly punished. I leave it to your discretion how the child should further be disciplined at home.
M. W. Pleasant
Teacher, Glen St. Mary School
Anne stared at the short note Joy had brought home from school. It had been barely half past noon, when Joy had flown in the door and directly up the stairs to her room, leaving a trail of sobs in her wake.
Oh, dear. Anne, occupied with two-year-old twins, left the pair to their own devices under Susan's careful eye, and followed the eleven-year-old upstairs. Said eleven-year-old had decided to throw herself face-down on her bed, the covers soaking up her copious tears.
Anne settled herself down beside the prostrate form, whose effusive sobs had quieted down to hiccups, and began the slow and steady task of coaxing a story out of her eldest. Stroking the chestnut head buried in the coverlet, she waited until Joy's breathing had calmed before beginning her inquisition.
"There, now. What's happened to you, darling?"
"Teacher sent me home."
"Ye-es, I couldn't help but notice that you're a bit early; and overjoyed as I am to have your company, I can't help but inquire after the reason."
The answer came in the form of a mumble into the coverlet.
Anne bent closer. "Afraid I didn't quite catch that, darling."
In response, a tear-sodden and crumpled note was stuffed into her hand. Giving it a cursory glance, Anne sighed. "Would you care to elaborate on Mr. Pleasant's note, Joy?"
"I hit someone."
"And whom did you hit?"
A twelve-year-old boy, with sandy hair and a roguish twinkle in his eye, came to mind.
"And why did you hit him?"
Dear God, this was like pulling teeth. "Joy?"
"He said you weren't my Mama."
A white-hot fury blazed through Anne, the only outward evidence of which was that her hand stilled on Joy's back. "And then you hit him?"
"No. I said you were too my real Mama, but then he said my real Mama was dead, and that I was halfway to being orphaned. And then I hit him."
"Joy, you know Papa and I have tried to teach you that hitting people generally doesn't solve anything."
Joy turned her head to look at her. "I didn't even hit him, really. I just pushed him. It wasn't my fault he fell over into a mud puddle."
The boy, thought Anne, deserved to have landed in worse than a mud puddle. But she wasn't going to tell Joy that. "And what did Mr. Pleasant do to the pair of you?"
"He sent Jeremy home to change his clothes and caned me."
In all her years teaching, Anne had whipped a student exactly once. She had hated herself afterwards for it, and never laid a finger on a student again. The injustice of the instigator merely being sent home for some dry clothes, while Joy had been whipped, made her blood boil.
"Well, Joy," she said, "there's one thing I'd like to make quite clear, after the no-hitting-other-people rule. Can you sit up, please?"
Joy struggled to a sitting position, and Anne looked her in the eye, making every word clear. "You are my daughter, Joyce, just as much as Nan or Di, and are my child just as much as Jem, Walter, and whoever will be making their first appearance next spring. The fact that I met you when you were six years old, rather than the day you were born, has no bearing on that. I love you, from the top of your chestnut head to your at times rather grimy toes, and there is nothing in this world or the next that can change that."
Joy threw her arms around her. "I love you too, Mama."
"Glad we've sorted that out," Anne kissed the top of her head. "Now, I can hear one of the twins squalling from here, so I need to go look in on them, as well as come up with a suitably scathing reply for the wrongly named Mr. Pleasant."
She stood, and seeming to remember the note in her hand, stopped. "And because Mr. Pleasant leaves further disciplinary measures to my discretion, I suggest reading a book and then coming downstairs later this afternoon to bake cookies with Susan."
Joy cocked her head. "I think Mr. Pleasant wants you to whip me some more. Or at the very least send me to bed without supper."
"Yes, darling, but Mr. Pleasant's just shown himself to be a very poor judge of character. If he thought I would add on to his already dubious discipline, he ought to think again."
Four o'clock that afternoon saw Anne sailing into the yard of her old school. Children between the ages of six and sixteen made their way to the road to walk home, some of the older ones stopping to greet their former teacher as they passed her. Any other day, Anne would have delightedly asked them how their studies were going, or whether they were planning on taking the Queen's entrance exam, but today's mission had her marching straight into the school and up the stairs - no daily quote on the blackboard now, she noticed - to give three sharp raps on the door to Mr. Pleasant's classroom.
The door was answered by a middle-aged man with a sour expression and a receding hairline.
"Yes?" The man oozed irritation.
"Mr. Pleasant, I presume?" Anne stepped into the classroom, the orderly rows of desks taking her back to her own teaching days.
"Mrs. Blythe," the teacher gave a smile that looked more like a reaction to a gastric upset. "Somehow, I've been expecting you. You're here to discuss Joyce, I take it?"
"Not quite," she turned to face him, "I've actually come here to discuss you, Mr. Pleasant."
The look he gave her was one of polite bemusement. "Me, Mrs. Blythe?"
Anne pinned him with a gimlet glare. "What kind of a teacher, Mr. Pleasant, teaches his students that there is no punishment for bullies? What kind of a teacher punishes the victim? What kind of a teacher whips an eleven-year-old girl who's just been mortally insulted?"
"Well, I -"
"I'm not sure how you're going to come up with a defense, Mr. Pleasant. You see, my husband and I strive to teach our children - all of them - that hitting people is wrong. How -"
Mr. Pleasant adopted a most unpleasantly supercilious expression. "Obviously, you have failed, Mrs. Blythe. Joyce's violent behavior this morning was most unbecoming, and certainly not in line with any instruction she may have received at home."
"What I was going to say before I was interrupted, was how am I to expect a child to understand that hitting is wrong, when those around her consider it to be a perfectly adequate punishment? How does hitting children show them that hitting people is wrong?"
Having delivered her first point, Anne then moved on to her second. "Now, Mr. Pleasant, I suppose you're aware as to why Joy 'violently attacked', as you so eloquently put it, Jeremy Wells?"
Mr. Pleasant sniffed. "I suppose he did something that wasn't quite to her liking."
"That's a very mild way of putting it," Anne's eyes glittered green. "What Jeremy Wells told Joy was that I am not her mother, and that she is halfway to being an orphan. I'm not entirely certain you're aware of what being an orphan is like, Mr. Pleasant, or I'm sure you would have felt the need to intervene. Had you felt anything at all of the kind, you would certainly have known the feeling of being unwanted, looked down upon, perpetually cold and hungry, and as though the rest of the world didn't believe you were a person with real feelings. That, Mr. Pleasant, is what being an orphan feels like, and that is why it is such a grave insult, especially to one who lost her mother. Pushing a classmate into a mud puddle is nothing compared to a mortal insult."
Mr. Pleasant looked dumbfounded.
"And my third point, Mr. Pleasant - and rest assured that once I have made it, I will be on my way - is that I am Joy's mother, plain and simple. When I married Doctor Blythe, I also legally adopted Joy; meaning that she is my child and I am her mother, and I could not love her more if I had given birth to her myself. I hope you will remind anyone who dares suggest otherwise of that."
Smiling serenely, Anne put out her hand for him to shake. "That will be all, Mr. Pleasant," she said grandly, "although I would also ask that you look again in your class roster, where you will find, I think, that my daughter's name is Joyce Charlotte, rather than Constance. Good day."
And with that, she was out the door, leaving a thoroughly dressed-down Mr. Pleasant in her wake, and feeling quite satisfied about it, too.
"Well, Anne, that does beat all," Gilbert chuckled when she told him of the day's events that night. "Although I do feel a bit for Mr. Pleasant. Within his first month here, he's already felt the force of your anger, which is rather like being attacked by a hurricane."
Anne gave a light hum of laughter. "And if anyone's ever felt the full force of it, it's you, Gil."
"And I had a lump on my head to prove it. You didn't attack him with a slate, did you?"
"Certainly not," Anne regarded her husband archly, "I told him we had a strict anti-violence rule, and how would it have looked if I'd reached for a slate after that? Besides, he seems to think we're people of some standing in the community, and I'd hate for it to get out that the doctor's wife is stark mad."
Gilbert snorted. "Our younger selves would easily have passed as mad here. How times change."
"Yes, but I think they would have approved of us now - or rather, your younger self would. Mine would still be appropriately horrified that I gave in and married you."
"Speaking of which, do you think Joy and Jeremy Wells…?"
"Heavens, no," Anne frowned at him. "He insulted her most frightfully today, and I don't think she'll ever forgive him."
"In other words, wait five years."
Gilbert gave her a teasing grin. "Like mother, like daughter."
"Speaking of which, I need to go up to check on the children," Anne stood, pulling her wrapper tighter, emphasizing the bump underneath. "And to think that by next spring, we'll have another one."
Upstairs, Anne looked in on the boys, both of them dead to the world; the twins, who had somehow managed to tangle themselves up in the bedclothes; and Joy, who lay peacefully curled up, the moonlight passing through the window and illuminating her table full of drawings - leaves, ladybugs, the occasional cat caught mid-stretch. Someday, thought Anne, reaching out to smooth a wayward chestnut curl, Joy Blythe might become known for her illustrations and sketches. But until that day came, she would be her little Joy of Ingleside.
Anne smiled, bent down, and pressed a light kiss to her daughter's brow. Then, stopping in the doorway to look back on her, she whispered "God's in his Heaven, all's right with the world."*
*Anne of Green Gables, quoting Robert Browning
If anything, this one-shot is proof that it is never too late to come back to a story. TTITG was my first story here (and my first fanfic!), so I cherish it deeply, and writing this update had the very comfortable feeling of coming home (although the amount of reading of my own work I had to do to keep everything straight... I don't know about you, but I have a strange aversion to reading my work once it's been published). But I may come back to it once again once Rilla comes along, because I for one would love to see how she and Joy get along.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to the lovely DrinkThemIn, who encouraged me to write an update, oh, roughly a year ago. The same goes for our constantly rotating cast of Anne-girls. You're lovely and supportive, everything this wildly amateurish writer could hope for in companions on this site.