Trigger warning: trauma
Anne burst through the Green Gables door letting it bang behind her. Shocked Matthew and Marilla appeared moments later their dressing gowns still swishing in the breeze of being hastily put on. Anne silently sank to the floor as Marilla rushed over. "What, why? Is Gilbert here? Anne? Anne? Darling what's the matter?" Matthew peered out into the night, but Anne was alone. "No one else here," he whispered in Marilla's ear, she nodded in understanding.
Quickly appraising the situation Marilla asked Matthew to stoke the fire and put the kettle on. She helped Anne to her feet and lead her over to the parlour. The girl had yet to say a thing.
Marilla would do anything for her Anne always. Had been her fierce advocate from the very beginning, but truth be told it had been a big day and she had been sound asleep when Anne's noisy entrance had awoken her.
After all it's not every day your daughter gets married.
Matthew had walked her down the aisle his heart full to bursting while Marilla looked on fondly as Rachel sobbed beside her. "Don't mind me she said tearily I always cry at weddings." But Marilla wasn't crying she was happy beyond measure as her gorgeous girl strode proudly alongside Matthew her eyes firmly fixed upon her future husband. She reached out for Marilla's hand as she passed but after the briefest of squeezes she had walked on into her future as was right and proper.
The rest of the day passed in a blur Marilla sad at waving them goodbye. Remembering the waif that unexpectedly fetched upon her doorstep all those years ago.
First thing the next morning Gilbert was pounding on the front door, Bash at his heels. Matthew let him in and asked him to sit down. He felt sorry for the lad but completely out of his depth. "Gilbert's here," he told Marilla peeking his head around her bedroom door.
Unfolding herself from Anne Marilla straightened her hair and put her dressing gown on. Ideally, she'd have been up and dressed but the sun was barely over the horizon and after her disturbed night she'd slept in.
"Gilbert," she said fondly seeing the stricken boy at her kitchen table. "Anne's asleep upstairs."
"Is she? Is she…?"
"She's safe and sound. Burst in during the night. Slept in my bed with me."
Gilbert thought forlornly, should have been with me but managed to ask, "what did she say?"
"Well, she hasn't spoken yet. Seems, I don't know, almost catatonic. Didn't cry, didn't speak. Just huddled in my arms. Gilbert what happened?"
Gilbert thought he'd been through a lot in his short life, but it turned out trying to explain the consummation of his wedding vows to his new minted mother-in-law, a virgin to boot, was beyond his skill. Seeing him blush, Bash interjected. "I'll take over if you don't mind Miss Marilla." Marilla, realising she had strayed into unfamiliar territory without consideration nodded and said she'd go up to see to Anne.
"We didn't get a chance to talk Gilbert, what did happen?" All Bash knew was that Gilbert had pulled him out of bed early in the morning, but he had not had the chance to ask his brother the details.
Putting his head in his hands Gilbert sobbed, "I dunno," he closed his eyes, "My God she's even more beautiful than I imagined, Bash. We were just kissing, and I traced my hands… and then she was backing off. I mean I was confused Bash. We'd waited so long for that moment and she; she threw on some clothes and ran away. I lay back in bed and heard the door banging behind her. I didn't want to scare her Bash. I'd never, never… but…" he trailed off unable to continue.
Bash spoke quietly to Marilla when she descended. "I don't believe much happened at all Miss Marilla. I, um, I don't think they got too far." He glanced over his shoulder. "he's very confused, and worried."
"As are we all, Bash. I'm sorry for Gilbert, truly I am. But I must think of Anne right now. Hopefully with time we'll get her through this. Can you ask him to be patient for just a little bit longer?" Bash looked at her in shock. "I know, I know he's waited a long while. But if he truly loves her, he'll just have let her go at her own pace. You take him home and care for him there. We'll be in touch." Sadly, Bash led Gilbert out the door and together they slowly drove home without a word.
Marilla took up the coffee Matthew had made. "What do you think?" he said. "Do you think Gilbert?"
"No, no I don't think so." She sighed heavily, looking at her brother in concern.
"You don't think it comes from before?"
She looked at him askance.
"We know she saw some things she wasn't ready for before she came here. Things a little girl oughtna know about. Do you think that has something to do with it?"
Marilla looked at him thoughtfully. Matthew was a man of few words, but she was well aware that still waters ran deep. "'Member the situation when she started school. I wonder if…"
"Maybe, maybe so. Poor Anne," she reached out to clutch his hand and thanked him for the coffee then yawned widely.
"It's still early. If Anne's still asleep, why don't you join her," Matthew suggested.
Marilla nodded, "I might at that. I think we're in for a long day."
"Just so. You'll need your beauty sleep." Marilla grinned ruefully before draining the last of her coffee.
Anne was laying just where she had left her, sound asleep. Her red hair tumbled across the pillow. My darling girl thought Marilla. My poor darling girl. She divested herself of her dressing gown and climbed back into bed.
A chink of sunlight caught her eye much later. Squinting into it at first, she was confused but she soon recalled the events of that night and morning quickly enough. Anne was still curled up next to her, but at least her eyes were open; staring, fixed.
"Anne," Marilla said quietly, reaching out with her forefinger to move a strand of hair out of her eyes. "Anne, are you in there?" Anne was silent but her eyes flickered towards Marilla momentarily. "My darling girl," Marilla tried to take Anne into her arms but was rebuffed when Anne flinched her breaths coming short and fast. "Anne, it's me. It's Marilla. No harm can come to you here. You're safe with me at Green Gables. Remember Green Gables darling? You're safe here. No harm can come to you," she kept up this litany until Anne's eyes closed once more and soon her breathing slowed informing Marilla that she was once again sleeping.
"I'm worried about her," Marilla told Matthew over lunch. "She was frightened."
"Still?" Matthew asked. "Of what?"
"I'm not sure. She hasn't spoken. I wonder if we should call the doctor. I don't want to make a big deal of it. But I, oh I don't know. I'm out of my depth here, Matthew."
"Do you think Rachel…?"
"No, not Rachel. She'd tell her to buck up. That approach has never worked for Anne. Maybe Mrs Allen?" The minister Anne had never liked had retired a year or so earlier and had been replaced by a much younger and more sympathetic man. Anne had particularly warmed to his lovely, young wife. Matthew nodded, "yes that's a good idea. Do you want me to fetch her?"
"Not today. Maybe you could pop over and mention it to her. But I don't think Anne is ready to talk to anyone just yet. I can't even get a peep out of her." She hurried after Matthew as he went to saddle the horse. "Don't say a word to another soul, Matthew. And please ask Mrs Allen to be discreet." He nodded and kicked the horse on.
Marilla watched him ride off wishing in a way that she could have gone too, but knowing her place was by Anne's side. Smoothing her hair, she sighed and made her way back upstairs to check on her girl. Anne was still sleeping which Marilla deemed for the best. She returned to the kitchen and pulled out some flour and eggs.
Just as she cracked the second egg, she heard an unwelcome knock upon the door. Rolling her eyes, she went to answer it knowing who it had to be. Rachel would be up to dissect the wedding because this day could not get any better. Plastering a fake smile on her face she greeted Rachel warmly, saying, "I hope you don't mind if I don't ask you to stay too long Rachel. I'm pretty well exhausted, as I'm sure you can appreciate."
"Of course," Rachel said looking around the kitchen appraisingly. "Is anything the matter?" she asked.
"What makes you ask?" Marilla said.
"Nothing, nothing at all, but you're baking. I expected you'd have plenty of food left over from yesterday?"
"Well of course, but you know me. I just find it so soothing."
"I suppose so. Were you so riled up?"
"I guess I'm just not used to having so many people tramping through my parlour and over my lawn. I just wanted to lose myself in some baking today. And then I'll get on with the dishes," she added, following Rachel's gaze. In her anxiety over Anne, she had quite forgotten the mess the house was in.
"Were you happy with the way the day went?" Rachel asked as she moved a stray dish to make some room on the table.
"What? Oh yes, yes it went well, didn't it?" Acutely aware of Anne in the room above Marilla wasn't sure she could keep up her act. "What did you think?"
It was the perfect question because of course Rachel had opinions. From what everyone wore to the conversations afterwards. All Marilla had to do was make noises of affirmation now and then and refill the teapot. "… then he said…" Marilla thought she'd done pretty well, but worried that Anne might call out she interrupted Rachel mid-sentence, "yes that's all very interesting. Well, I must get on. So lovely of you to come up, Rachel. I'll see you in a day or two, I guess." To press her point, she fetched Rachel's coat and bundled her out the door, leaning back on it when it closed and sighing deeply.
Rachel was quite bemused, one moment she was about to launch into another anecdote and the next she found herself on the Green Gables veranda. Very rum, she thought. Marilla's kitchen was a mess and the lady herself seemed quite preoccupied. There was a story there and one day she hoped she'd get to the bottom of it. Shaking her head, she walked home wondering what the matter was at Green Gables. Thankfully none of her theories came close to the truth.
Seeing her kitchen through Rachel's eyes Marilla set to work tidying up. Making sure plenty of water was heating up for each batch of washing. Nothing worse than washing greasy dishes in cold water she thought as she rinsed the platters. In between loads she poked her head in on Anne who remained in the same position all morning.
Finally, Marilla looked around the kitchen, and in the parlour too. That all looks better she thought. And a good thing too, she didn't think her reddened hands could take another dip in hot water right now.
Making up a plate of leftovers she made her way back to Anne to see if she could entice her to eat. Anne was right where she'd left her. Marilla's tummy rumbled. "Well, if you won't, you won't mind if I do," she said. Reflecting how odd it was to have a silent Anne before her. She had been so bubbly before her wedding, perhaps a tad too exuberant, but who could tell with Anne? Marilla thought. She had always taken life at full pelt. Munching on a piece of pie Marilla regarded her daughter. It had been such a shock at first. She smiled when she remembered Rachel's warnings and her 'well we're not getting a girl.' But thank goodness they did. Marilla couldn't imagine life without Anne in it now.
While she'd been sad to watch the carriage carry Anne away yesterday afternoon, having her home did not bring Marilla any joy. Especially since she was in this terrible state. "Anne," she said softly. "Anne, what's the matter? Can you tell me?"
Despite evidence to the contrary Anne was aware of her surroundings. Yesterday, God was it only yesterday, seemed like a dream. She had been worried about the marital bed and had received only vague advice as to what to expect. Rachel had taken her to one side and spoke euphemistically about it leaving Anne more confused than ever. Marilla naturally was no help at all. Diana had told her it would be blissful, but refused to say more, apparently it was unladylike to go into more detail. All of which left Anne completely in the dark.
She tried to put her concerns to one side during the wedding vows and afterwards, but later when it was just the two of them alone at last her courage failed her. Instead of Gilbert's gentle words and soft touch arousing her they only served to cause her fright. Though she knew in her head that Gilbert would never hurt her, the instinct to flee was overwhelming. Stumbling away she flung a coat over her shoulders and ran barefoot to the only safe place she knew; Green Gables. There despite their misgivings she knew Matthew and Marilla would protect her against, against? She didn't even have words for her fear and that in its own way was more frightening than anything else. For the first time in what felt like a long time Anne sobbed and once she started did not seem able to stop.
Marilla looked up from her knitting. "Anne?" As distressing as they were, she believed tears were an improvement. Climbing onto the bed she gathered Anne into her arms feeling her body shudder with each sob. Marilla never did cope with outward displays of emotion and in some way, she was pleased that today words seemed superfluous. Instead, she held Anne gently and rubbed her back in what she hoped was a comforting manner.
Eventually, Anne's sobs slowed to the odd hiccup, and she nestled into Marilla's chest. She always smelt of a mix of cinnamon cookie and lavender oil, warm and comforting. "Hungry?" Marilla asked to which Anne almost imperceptibly nodded. "I'll be back in a jiffy."
While Marilla was gone Anne appraised her situation. The marriage was almost certainly off, not that she could blame Gilbert. It was obvious that she was to blame. It was a shame of course, after all that time waiting to get married in the first place. But she knew now that she was not the marrying type. She hoped she never had to face him, but surely Marilla would explain the situation on her behalf. There was always teaching again or maybe she could try her hand at writing.
It was the thought of never having children that nearly undid Anne. She had hoped that one day she would have proper kin. Not that Matthew and Marilla weren't everything to her, but well to have someone of her very own was a lifelong wish. Still, she'd manage as she was, independent. Her reverie was interrupted by Marilla bearing a tray with an assortment of goodies. "Lots left over from the … other day," she said neatly avoiding mention of the wedding. "Now sit yourself up darling and try to eat a little."
Strange, Anne thought, how food did help in situations like this. It wasn't until she started that she realised how hungry she had been. After all it had been quite some hours since she had last ingested a morsel, but she did not let her mind stray back. Safer to stay in the present, at her comforting home in the presence of Marilla.
When she had finished Marilla felt comfortable enough to broach the question. "Darling, what's the matter, can you tell me?" Anne shook her head. Words had always been her standby. If there was one thing Anne could always do it was talk, but now she felt empty as though all her words had been said and there were no more. Marilla bent over to kiss her on her forehead saying, "we'll always love you, know that."
Comforted by her words Anne lay back on the bed reflecting how strange it was to be here in Marilla's bed. By rights she should be back in her little gabled room, rather than taking Marilla's. But somehow, she couldn't face that place where she had been so happy, where all her girlhood hopes, and dreams had happened. This was the room that belonged to a spinster after all. When Marilla passed it would be her room too. Feeling sated yet somehow still exhausted Anne let her mind drift off, never straying too close to the night before.
* The Winter's Tale, William Shakespeare