My apologies, you may have noticed this earlier today but I wasn't happy with it so I took it down. Here is the updated, better version. Enjoy.

Around 60 years later

"I've been thinking," Anne remarked as they watched Jem's youngest grandchild, Annabel clumsily tumbling around the lawn.

"Mm?" replied Gilbert easing his achy hips against the back of the rocking chair. His once brown hair had long since turned grey whilst Anne's despised, fiery red had faded to snowy white.

"I'm feeling rather nostalgic, it's made me reflect upon the sacrifices our families made to get us our educations."

"Not dredging that up again, are you?" laughed Gilbert kindly. He glanced across at her and got caught up in the pulse of her carotid as vivid as ever against her now frail neck. Funny how even after all this time that little beat caught him out, he took a quick breath.

Oblivious to his discomposure, Anne replied, "I know it's silly isn't it. Such a long time ago," she reached out her hand to clasp his. "Sometimes I still find myself talking to dear old Marilla even after all this time. She had such wisdom as did Matthew too, of course.

"She did at that, Anne-girl. They shaped you more than I think they'd ever admit," Gilbert recovered sufficiently enough to respond.

"We shaped each other."

"At least Marilla got to meet all the children," Gilbert said.

"I wish Rilla had more time with her, she barely knew her namesake."

"And probably resents the name as much as anything," Gilbert said with a smile.

Anne replied, "Marilla was pretty upset with me for saddling her with it, said I should have chosen another name."

"I was pleased we used it. I suspect knowing Marilla she was too, not that she ever said. She had her ways, your mother."

Anne smiled in fond remembrance, "she did at that. Took me a while to work her out but once I did, I could see how big her heart was. How much she loved me. I suppose my younger self would have preferred more demonstrative attention, but it was there all the same. She poured her affection into every plum puff, every pot of jam…"

"Every tumbler of currant wine."

"Oh stop," said Anne laughing. "That was the worst scrape I got myself into."

"Have you heard from Diana lately? How's Fred these days?"

"We had a long chat on the phone the other day. Fred's getting older, as we all are."

The back door banged open, and Faith walked out balancing a tea tray before her. Setting it down on the table she sat down while she waited for the tea to brew. It was only afterwards that she felt she should have noticed something about the way Anne looked. Annabel stopped practicing her cartwheels and ran over for a cookie and a glass of milk. "Did you see me Grandma?"

"I did darling, you're very clever."

"Can you do one?"

"I cannot," Anne replied with a smile wondering how many grandmothers were prone to tumbling around the lawn.

"Did you do them when you were little?"

"No, I didn't have much spare time for playing when I was your age."

"Why?" Annabel was perplexed, what else would a child be doing at her age?

"I had to mind younger children."

Annabel stopped chewing and looked at her great-grandmother quizzically mouth agape, "were they your younger sisters and brothers?"

"No darling," Anne said sadly, rather wishing Annabel would lose interest. It had always been her way not to divulge too much but not to lie either. If a child asked about her childhood, she told them with as little emotion as possible. Later Gilbert would be there to hold her, a fact she took great comfort in. Once it had been Marilla's task but since their wedding day and Marilla's subsequent death some years later that role had passed to Gilbert. The knowledge that he would be there later gave her the confidence to speak evenly to the little girl now.

"Come and sit on my lap," she asked Annabel. "Not every little girl gets as lovely a childhood as you, darling," she said stroking a stray wisp of hair out of the girl's eyes. "You're one of the lucky ones whereas I was not. At least not until I turned eleven when Aunt Marilla adopted me. She let me have the childhood I had always missed out on."

"Oh," said Annabel unable to take her granny's information in at that stage. She took another couple of cookies from the plate and skipped away. At bedtime there would be questions directed at her mother, but for now there was a tree that needed climbing. Faith looked at Anne and mouthed, "sorry."

"There's no need to apologise," Anne replied. "It is what it is."

Weary after a delicious dinner and subsequent boisterous evening, Gilbert escorted his wife to bed. Anne fell asleep immediately, but Gilbert watched her for a little while. Her radiant red hair had faded and maybe she sported a few wrinkles here and there, but she was still the same stunningly beautiful woman he'd married in the Green Gables orchard all those years ago. Thanking his lucky stars he had been lucky enough to live with her all these years, and in the full expectation of many more to come, he reached out to gently caress her mesmerising carotid and felt it beat under his fingers. Anne stirred, so rather than wake her he withdrew his hand and settled down to sleep himself.

As dawn's golden light suffused the room Gilbert looked across the pillows. There was something different, wrong, an absence of movement. It took a while for him to notice but as he watched, waiting, barely breathing he finally saw. For the first time since the fateful day when he'd first noticed it, Anne's relentless carotid that had beaten steadily for decades, was still.

Gilbert thought he knew death by now. He'd helped plenty of patients cross to the other side, sitting patiently by their bedsides easing their passage whilst helping their loved ones to come to terms with it. The grief he felt when Joy passed surpassed anything he'd experienced to that point. He never even had the few hours of bliss that Anne enjoyed, knowing full well that the baby would not survive. The guilt he felt never completely passed; what good were his years at medical school if he could not even save his own baby? Walter's death hit them both hard, made worse because there was no closure. Smartly dressed in his uniform he'd bade them farewell one day and never returned; his body blasted to bits in some foreign field.

Yes, Gilbert thought he understood grief. But even these experiences were as nothing compared to the pain of losing Anne. He had loved her since he was thirteen, since that fateful day he'd whispered 'carrots,' in her ear and received a much-deserved slate across his temple in reply. Rather than putting him off, Anne's violent response caused him to fall in love with her. A girl with such passion deserved nothing less. They'd laughed, teased, cajoled and competed with each other ever since. Life with Anne was never boring as together they had brought up six wonderful children.

Some were sad when their last child fled the nest but Anne, wonderful Anne, had flung herself into grandmotherhood with as much delight and determination as any other pursuit. When Gilbert finally retired, they'd grown even closer expecting to age next to each other for a good many years yet. Enjoying the rest they'd promised themselves during those hard years when they worked at building their life and family together.

He hated to admit it, even to himself, but now that Gilbert thought of the empty years that stretched out before him, he was angry. They were supposed to be enjoying a life together for a good many years, but she had left before he was ready. He was unable to express himself; and naturally they took his silence for grief.

Only Rosemary Meredith seemed to understand. She had lost John some years prior. "I was so cross," she said to him over a cup of tea one afternoon. "It just seemed so unfair of him to leave me all on my own." The relief Gilbert felt at her words was palpable. He'd been putting on an act for everyone else for days, but to have Rosemary say it out loud like that unleashed the grief he'd been holding in. It was not a good feeling, not a comfortable feeling. He and Anne had barely quarrelled over the long years together. Anne had not agreed with his decision to treat Dick Moore but other than that they had worked together as a pair for decades, but now Gilbert wanted nothing more than to scream at Anne for deserting him so. Rosemary watched his face redden and the tears spill silently down his face. "I know how you feel," she said. Just knowing that he was not alone brought him some peace, though the anger took a long while to abate and the grief even longer.

There was some discussion about where to lay Anne to rest. Green Gables was mooted so that she might be reunited with her beloved parents. She'd always been so thankful for Matthew and Marilla who had granted her happiness where no one had done before. But in the end, they opted for the little over harbour graveyard next to her darling Joyce. She may have known her for scant hours, but the love was never forgotten. It brought grief-stricken Gilbert some peace to know that they would be reunited after all this time. "I always felt there was a certain sadness in her eyes after we lost Joy," he told Jem a few days after she passed.

Anne's extended family and friends stood in a semi-circle around her open grave under a bright blue sky. Way up high gulls rode the currents and called out mournfully across the harbour. Wind whipped Gilbert's white hair as he listened to the minister with half an ear. His mind cast out thinking how much she loved the view across the bay and up into the sky beyond. He remembered how she'd stood in the damp graveyard when they'd buried Matthew all those years ago, watery diamonds cascading down her veil and felt pleased they'd chosen this wide-open spot instead. Anne belonged by the seaside with the waves crashing nearby, this felt right when little else made sense in Gilbert's world.