About three months ago I set myself a challenge:
Write a love story without the words "I love you" in it, where the characters say what they want when they want so any misunderstandings can be kept to a minimum, and the usual obstacles between these two are quickly got out of the way.
Can it be done? Here is my attempt. It began as a short story (ha!) about an iceboat crossing and then I thought it might make a nice alternative ending to Anne of the Island. But I haven't got the knack for writing endings swiftly and economically the way Maud can. What should have taken ten thousand words turned into sixty. I hope you don't mind.
I was going to post it all in one go but FKAJ convinced me that was folly, so I shall post little bits over the course of July. Some summer reading for my Northern Hemisphere friends, and something for my Southern kin to curl up in front of the fire with.
The first lines come directly from chapter 36 in Anne of the Island. The stuff about iceboat crossings I got from the interwebs, including a letter written in the mid 1800s from a man describing the trip to someone who had no idea what they were. Very helpful! The quotes are from: John Greenleaf Whittier's poem, Maud Muller; Shakespeare's Twelfth Night; Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem, On Winter; and Henry van Dyke, respectively.
This has nothing to do with my story but did you know mayflowers are also known as Canadian lily-of-the-valley. All my years researching and I only just found this out now. Mind blown!
Thank you, Maud for letting me play in your world, and thanks as always to FKAJ, who has been my friend since Redmond Diary days and has kept me laughing ever since.
to all my readers who kept asking for more romance
CHANGE of HEART
Dorothy lingered behind a moment to squeeze Anne's hand and whisper impulsively:
"I know you and I are going to be chums. Oh, Roy has told me all about you. I'm the only one in the family he tells things to, poor boy–nobody could confide in Mamma and Aline, you know. What glorious times you girls must have here! Won't you let me come often and have a share in them?"
"Come as often as you like," Anne responded heartily, thankful that one of Roy's sisters was likeable. She would never like Aline, so much was certain; and Aline would never like her, though Mrs Gardner might be won. Altogether Anne sighed with relief when the ordeal was over.
Of all the sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"
quoted Priscilla tragically, lifting the cushion. "This cake is now what you might call a flat failure. And the cushion is likewise ruined. Never tell me that Friday isn't unlucky."
"People who send word they are coming on Saturday shouldn't come on a Friday," said Aunt Jamesina.
"I fancy it was Roy's mistake," said Phil. "That boy really can't be responsible for what he says when he talks to Anne. Where is Anne?"
Anne had gone upstairs. She felt oddly like crying. But she made herself laugh instead. The cats had been too awful! And Dorothy was a dear.
Dorothy Gardner made a visit to Patty's Place the very next day. Her roguish hazel eyes–as Anne described them–narrowing ever so slightly under the brim of her smart felt hat.
"My brother was supposed to come with me," she explained to Phil of her unchaperoned appearance, "but he was called away."
"Hmm," was Phil's tactful reply. She suspected Roy had not been called but rather summoned to his mother's residence to discuss the visit yesterday. Would Anne pass muster? The answer would be known soon enough. Anne was spending Christmas on the Island. All going well Royal Gardner would be going with her, and meeting Anne's people.
The girls had been shut inside that morning, comfortably lolling about. Dorothy's appearance provoked a sudden burst of cabin fever. Before Aunt Jamesina could make the tea, they announced a yen to go out.
Phil linked arms with Priss and Stella and drew them away from Anne, who was the last of the group to leave the house–and the most reluctant. Of course, she was pleased to see Dorothy. But to come so soon… Anne felt she needed at least a day, if not a week, to collect her thoughts about the Gardners' call. She could not make up her mind if it had been a success or not.
"I suppose you were hoping for Roy and not my own little self?" said Dorothy offering her arm.
"Not at all," Anne assured her, "I'm glad it's you who came."
The girls skipped off to a shabby café across the road from the Kingsport library. Dorothy was relieved to find it wasn't filled with globes and books and blackboards. This café was a well-known bolthole for the Redmond set.
"I never dared come in here before," she said, perching on a faded sofa by the fire. "I half-feared I would have to pass an exam before I was let in."
The girls thought this a terrific joke, and Anne laughed along too. They were wise old Seniors now, nothing intimidated them. She thought back to her first days as a wide-eyed Freshman just off the boat; how grateful she had been to have old friends from home by her side.
After many more jokes and mugs of hot chocolate and little cakes cuts into fifths, the clock over the fireplace chimed four and the waiter by the door, broom in hand, cleared his throat.
Dorothy handed him several coins, more than the cost of the afternoon tea.
"He's going to fetch me a cab. Mamma detests trams–there's no first-class carriage!"
The girls all laughed again, Anne a little less hearty this time. Royal never liked to travel by tram either, but he said that was because he liked to take his time walking Anne back to her little abode.
Roy did not make an appearance until the following week, when she met him on the South quad. He did not speak of the visit, except to say how sorry he was that he had given Anne the wrong instructions concerning the day his mother was due.
"It all went well, if you were wondering," Anne was drawn to say.
Royal had been walking apace, presently he halted, his eyes no longer the soft, yielding velvet Anne was used to, though still quite as handsome and dark.
"But of course it went well, there was never any doubt. And there is no doubt, is there Anne?" He bent closer to her as he said this, an adorable dent between his strong thick brows.
Before Anne could answer the bell tolled from the tower signalling chapel was about to begin. The men at Redmond took a separate entrance on the far side of the hall. Knowing this, Anne gave Roy what she hoped was an encouraging smile and hurried him along.
She lined up with her Senior cohort, anxious to forget the answer she had been so close to revealing. But others things are not so easy to forget. Tearing around the corner was one of those old friends from home. He skidded on one foot as he endeavoured to poke his shirt-tail in with one hand, while the other had a tie flying from it. He stopped very near her; Anne put her chin to her shoulder just to see how near he was. He must be planning on using the women's entrance, perhaps he hoped she would sneak him in. Anne had done it before, more than once, and she took an anticipatory breath. It lodged in her throat, when she saw her chum from English lit. take what looked like a crust of bread from his smiling mouth and grab him by the hand. Another girl, Anne did not recognise her, called out, "This way!" then taking the tie from his hand and throwing it over his neck, pulled him by the neat line of girls who giggled or grumbled in their wake.
Anne was one of the grumbling ones, but her grumble had nothing to do with him. Her concerns were of the sensible kind, concerning serious grown-up matters.
If Anne had any worries, Dorothy Gardner did her utmost to put them to rest. She proved to be something of a boon companion, and had braved the tram twice already to travel from the hushed grandeur of Cranborne to the snug delights of Patty's Place. She and Anne had got into the habit of finishing her visit with a stroll to the café by the library. Dorothy dawdling more often than not, hoping to miss the 3:10 tram and enjoy a second hot chocolate.
Once when she ordered chocolate cake Anne started to laugh. Before she knew it, she was telling Dorothy about the cake Priss had hidden under the cushion.
Dollops of froth spilled from her cup as Dorothy fell into giggles.
"That explains it," she cried. "Aline complained all the way home about how hungry she was. She swore she could smell cake and was most put out when it wasn't offered."
"I would have offered you more than cake if I knew you were coming that day," Anne said.
"But Roy said you were expecting us! Oh, you should have seen Mamma's face when she discovered the house you lived in was the smallest on the Avenue. Priss was saying Patty's Place is a lot like your home on the Island–what was it called again, it had a thrilling name?"
"No, nothing so dull. Oh I have it, Echo Lodge! Such a splendid sounding name, I never expected the Island to be so romantic. It's all farms and fishing fleets there, isn't it? At least, that's what Roy says."
Anne thought it best to correct the first of Dorothy's assumptions; if Roy saw her Island in such terms then surely that was her fault. She hardly ever spoke of home to Roy.
"Echo Lodge isn't my home, it's one of the oldest dwellings on P.E.I. A darling pile of honey coloured stone and drizzled all over with ivy. It belongs to my dear friend, Miss Lavendar–now Mrs Irving. She married," Anne added irrelevantly, for she was not thinking of the Irvings' wedding right then, but the old friend who drove her home after it.
Dorothy noted the change in Anne's expression–and its connection to marriage–and smiled. No matter what Mamma and Aline averred, Roy had found a real gem with this one. Sometimes Dorothy thought she was more excited by the match than he was.
The week before Redmond was due to break up for Christmas, Anne and Dorothy met again. This time the waiter brought them hot chocolate without asking, and the latest selection of cake.
"Christmas cake, how delicious!"
Anne wrinkled her nose. She was very particular about this sort of cake and told Dorothy so. "My Diana makes the best Christmas cake, and my Marilla the best plum pudding."
Dorothy pulled a face. "I can't bear plum pudding, the best thing about that is the custard, surely?"
"You haven't tasted Marilla's. It's delectably unctuous yet wonderfully light, with just the right hint of spice."
"Mmm," Dorothy leaned forward, her eyes glinting naughtily. "Perhaps I could press you for the recipe so I can show Cook how it is done?"
Anne was in a dilemma. The sharing of recipes was a very sacred affair in Avonlea. The prime reason Marilla's plum pudding was so delectable was that only Marilla could make it.
"I don't have the recipe. A kindred spirit would never ask–"
"Sorry Anne–kindred spirit?"
Anne looked as befuddled as Dorothy did. "But you must know what I mean. The sort of person you can be with and not even have to talk, who knows you and understands the deepest joys of your heart?"
"I don't know what that has to do with plum pudding. But if your Marilla wants to keep her secrets to herself…"
"I suppose I could ask her–when I see her again." Anne's expression lightened as she thought of this, she almost bounced in her chair. "Oh, I can't wait to go home."
"And will you be travelling alone?" said Dorothy innocently.
"Priss and Stella will be coming with me as far as Amherst. Priss has an aunt there."
"And no one else? Perhaps a handsome chap who happens to be head over heels in love with you?"
"You mean Roy?"
Dorothy's cake fork rattled on her plate.
"Do I mean Roy? Goodness Anne, from the way you ask anyone would think there was someone else in love with you, too. Of course, Roy. Now he's done the honourable thing and introduced you to Mamma, I would have thought the natural course of events would be for you to do the same. Don't you want him to see this sublime little Island of yours?"
"Roy? On the Island?" Anne bit back a laugh, but it was too late, Dorothy had seen it.
"What's so funny about that?"
"Nothing–nothing, I never thought…" Royal Gardner on the Island, it seemed as likely a fit as Rachel Lynde at a revival meeting. "I really haven't had a chance to ask him. I've barely seen him at all this month." Since her meeting with the Gardners, in fact.
"That's all Mamma's fault. She feels since Roy is…" Dorothy gave Anne a coy smile, "coming into his own, he should be kept abreast of the family business. Between his studies and the fluctuating markets the poor boy has been run off his feet. But it's all for you," she said reaching across the table to squeeze Anne's hand. "He thought as you and I got along so well, you might not miss him–Goodness, Anne don't look now, but there is a fellow over there who is doing a very poor job of not looking at you."
Anne shrugged. "I'm sure it's you he's looking at, dear. Seeing as my back is to him he would have to know me very well." Upon saying this she stiffened, and her chin went to her shoulder.
"Don't look," Dorothy hissed, "his eyes are on you right this moment. I wish it was me he was eyeing, I'm sorry to say he's something of a dish! I like a man with curls, though it wouldn't hurt him to see a barber. Oh my, he's coming over. Look natural Anne, for goodness sake."
Dorothy checked her reflection in the window by their table and patted at her hair. Anne knew who it was before she saw him. The scent of cedar from the chest his father made him always lingered on his clothes.
He paused by their table. Only Anne could tell he was in two minds about staying there.
"This is Gilbert Blythe," Anne said, not quite meeting his face, "he's an old friend–from home."
"One of your kindred spirits?" Dorothy stared at the hand he thrust at her. A gentleman never shook hands with a lady in Kingsport. "How do you do, Gilbert Blythe, won't you sit down?"
There was another pause before Gilbert took the only free chair next to Anne. His arm brushed over hers as he shifted in his seat, the tell-tale twitching of his legs hidden beneath the table.
"We were just speaking about that Island of yours," Dorothy continued, cupping her chin as she gazed at him. "Anne misses home dreadfully."
"You do?" Gilbert turned in his chair to face Anne squarely, his knees brushing her skirts this time.
"And you don't," said Dorothy. "Anne tells me she is going home alone this Christmas. I assumed as you are an old friend of hers, you would be going home too. So tell me," she was almost batting her eyelashes now, "what could it be that is keeping you here?"
"Nothing so interesting, I assure you–ah?"
"Miss Gardner. Dorothy Gardner," she answered smoothly, as the noticeably pale girl opposite her winced. "Look at me taking up all the conversation, Anne never had a chance to make proper introductions."
"Dorothy is Royal's sister, Gilbert."
Gilbert's leg resumed jiggling. When it became obvious neither were going to talk, Dorothy chimed in again.
"Roy's my big brother. We were speaking of him too. About his coming for Christmas to the–"
"Dorothy dear, is that your tram," Anne pointed out the window, "didn't you say you had to be home for a particular supper tonight?"
Dorothy looked to where Anne was looking and felt about for her purse. "The reverend Pike is coming. He marries all the best families," she explained, though whether this was for Anne's benefit or Gilbert's, Anne was not sure.
Gilbert's chair scraped back as he got to his feet. Dorothy gestured for him to sit. Just as he did so, Anne leapt up too.
"It's time I was going as well," she said.
Gilbert grabbed his coat. "I'm going your way."
Anne assumed they were in for a silent walk, and a heavy one at that. Her shoulders drooped at the thought of it. She didn't know whether to be astonished or relieved when Gilbert started in before the café door shut behind them.
"You come here a lot."
It was a statement of fact, not a question. Anne waited for him to say more.
"I meant to say hello many times but I hated to interrupt. The girl you were with–Miss Gardner–always had you in fits of laughter."
He did not add that the reason he couldn't bring himself to interrupt that laughter was because it stirred something inside him that had become unused to being stirred. Like a bright oar in still, dark water. There were days when the sound of that laughter was the only thing that kept him going.
"I like Dorothy very much. We only recently made acquaintance."
"Meet the family time, is it?"
Anne's eyes darted up. Gilbert was staring straight ahead. His lips were pulled into a wry half smile that brought out the dimple in his cheek.
"Her brother, Mr Gardner, he's coming with you to the Island."
So, he had caught that. Well, and why not. Gilbert Blythe was not a fool, whatever Stella might have said about him being a fool for her.
"That was all Dorothy's idea," Anne found herself conceding. "I've made no such plans. Besides," she went on when Gilbert remained silent, "there's no place to put him for a start. Mrs Lynde has the spare room and the parlour for her own. Davy is in Matthew's room and the rest are taken up by us womenfolk…"
Anne winced again, wondering if she wasn't over-egging the pudding just a bit. Gilbert knew all about the arrangements at Green Gables. He had known her since she was eleven. How different he was to the boy back then–and how annoyingly the same, as he pulled her to a jeweller's display and pressed his nose to the glass.
Anne was very conscious of how they must look peering into such a shop. Not even Roy had been so obvious, was Gilbert making fun of her?
"What am I looking at?"
All the expensive items had been removed for the night, only a few gee-gaws remained. Anne saw then what Gilbert must have been referring to and covered her nervousness with a laugh.
"Oh Gilbert, it's lovely," she said, of the enamel heart necklace set against a velvet box.
"Remind you of anything?" Gilbert said, his arm still tucked around hers.
Their breaths mingled on the glass leaving the sort of cloud that tempted younger fingers. And Anne was there, back to when she was eleven. All those Take Notices on the school porch–most of them featuring the name of the fellow beside her. She would have died a death had someone dared to carve her name with his, and was this close to scratching her schoolmaster's eyes out when he wrote both their names on the top of the board. What a horrid piece of work she was, she could practically smell the musk-sweet candy she had crushed with her copper-toed boot! It had to be that candy heart he was referring to. The first of many offerings she rejected, even to his own hand. Apparently, Gilbert Blythe did not see marriage possibilities when he looked into jewellery store windows. He saw farce.
The thought didn't cheer her as much as she assumed it would. While it irked Anne more she than she wanted to admit, the way Gilbert was always fawned over, she did think–very nearly hoped–there might be some nice girl he pictured wearing this dear little heart.
"I wouldn't have thought it Miss Stuart's style," said Anne, and drew away from the window. She withdrew her arm too, and adjusted the black tam that did not need adjusting.
Gilbert smiled that half smile again and rocked on his feet. "No, Christine's more the diamond sort. She's very fond of the one on her left hand, it vexes her no end that she can't wear it during rehearsals. Interferes with her fingering so the concert master says."
"You mean…" Anne licked her lips, all ready to blurt forth effusive congratulations. You never saw someone so prepared to look joyful–and so eager to get away.
"You hadn't heard? I thought perhaps Phil–but then it was very hush-hush. Christine didn't want it widely known until she had the approval of the entire Dawson clan. Very particular, these Dawsons. Andrew Dawson is the lucky man."
Dawson? Roy had introduced her to some Dawsons, hadn't he? Suddenly it mattered very much to Anne that she remember them.
"I'm sure I've heard that name before."
"Sure to," said Gilbert, grinning and pointing. "The name of this shop, for one."
Anne gazed up to the Dawson signboard, revealing her milky-white throat; her delicate jaw, a constellation of tiny moles, a pearl-drop bobbing from her cold pink ear...
"Shall we?" he said, the merest crack in his voice, and held out his arm.
She took it much more eagerly this time, her cheek brushing over his shoulder. The smell of cedar overtook her; memories of strolls down shady lanes. Picnics, sunburns, clambakes, arguments–Anne had missed these most of all.
Anne lingered in those memories all the long walk home. She didn't know what the man beside her was thinking, she scarcely remembered he was there. It was the Gilbert of her youth she stepped with now. There might as well have been red dirt beneath her boots instead of drifts of greying snow.
"Your folks must miss you," she said, when they reached the Patty's Place gate.
"For every break I stay away I think Mother gets a new kitten."
"Of course, you're kept very busy, the Cooper Prize and such."
Anne did not really believe what she said, it was the way Gilbert said 'stay away' that made her want to smooth things over. He had revealed more than he wanted to reveal, surely. She was very aware that the boy she walked home with was not the man who stood before her now.
"We've got cats. Three if you remember–"
"I didn't know you were so fond of cats."
Anne wanted to say there was so much he didn't know about her. But she did not, she could not. At that moment, she scarcely knew herself.
"Come in if you like, come see the cats–and the girls, I'm sure they'll all be dying to see you."
Gilbert looked over Anne's shoulder to the little house hunkering down as if ready to brace for more snow.
"I wish I could," he said at last. He sounded like he meant it. "There's this thing–with Christine–Saturday night and all…"
"Raincheck?" Anne said, her hand exactly where that heart pendant would be.
Gilbert turned and tipped his hat. "Raincheck."