Happy that at least Anne had eaten, Marilla made her way out to the barn. "How is she?" Matthew asked as she approached.

"She's had a bit of lunch, so that's a start."

"And what has she to say?"

"Still hasn't said a word."

Matthew stared at her. A silent Anne was beyond his ken. "Nothing?" he said. "Not at all?"

"I know," Marilla shook her head. "It's beyond imagining isn't it."

"Want me to go up?"

"Would you? You always had a way with her."

On his way back to the house, Matthew thought back to that first day when Marilla told him to stay out of it, that raising Anne would be her job. Thankfully it hadn't worked out quite like that. He never thought of himself as father material, but Anne brought out his latent skills. Tapping on the bedroom door he was shocked that Anne wasn't there. Scratching his head he thought maybe she's gone to the privy? But he found her soon enough, curled up in Marilla's bed. "Anne," he softly called sitting down in the chair. "You wake?"

Anne turned her big grey eyes to him, and he watched as they brimmed with tears. "Oh Anne," he said walking over to her and sitting on the bed. "What's the matter? Can't you tell me?" Anne shook her head. Even if she had the words to speak, she had no idea what to say.

She felt like such a fool.

Eventually Anne knew she had to get up thinking, can't stay in bed for the rest of my life. Marilla has enough on her plate without spending her days nursing me. She washed up at the basin and found an old dress in her wardrobe. It was a bit tight under her arms, but she had taken all her other dresses with her when she left home. Marilla was surprised when she heard Anne's familiar tread down the stairs, but wisely decided not to make too much of a fuss. Instead, she placed a cup of coffee in front of Anne when she took her place at the table. "Good morning," she said brightly. "Did you sleep well?" Anne raised her eyebrows but was otherwise silent. Unfamiliar with having to make conversation, since after all Anne had been filling those silences for the last few years, Marilla made a point of chatting about her plans for the day. It wasn't easy because the elephant in the room loomed large. Eventually though her powers of conversation ground to a halt and they sat in an uneasy silence sipping their drinks. "Well, Anne, you can help me with the housework now you're up," Marilla announced, handing her a broom. Anne wasn't surprised, there was no room for slackers at Green Gables regardless of their marital status.

It was nice to have something to do actually. Something that required little thought, something that might take her mind off things.

Gilbert knew he'd never seen such a wondrous sight as Anne striding down the aisle towards him on Matthew's arm. At least he assumed she was on Matthew's arm, he only had eyes for her. They'd waited a long time for this day and to finally be there together to finally be joined by holy vows it was all he could imagine and hope for. Their wedding day may have been wonderful, but he knew everyone had such high hopes for their life together. Hell, he had such high hopes. No one could say they'd rushed into it. They'd known each other for literally years. In all the ways but one and that was the one he'd longed for, for so long and which apparently Anne had not. He lay in his bed wondering where it had all gone wrong. What had he done, what mistake had he made? He thought back through their relationship. It had started off rockily of course, but eventually they'd overcome that stumbling block.

All those years apart; him at medical school, Anne working. Staying apart until this very day until they could be together alone at last with no impediments. No chaperones, husband and wife. He'd been gentle, he'd been patient; or so he thought. In his memory each moment they'd been together yawed out as he considered where he'd gone wrong. As far as he knew he'd done nothing wrong. Nothing that he thought he'd change. She seemed willing. He'd never do anything to hurt her, he loved her, oh God how he loved her. She was his everything.

Now he couldn't sleep, he couldn't eat. All he wanted was to speak with her, explain himself, hear her explanation if she had one, to hold her, to kiss her, to whisper sweet nothings in her ear. To tell her it would be all right that there was no rush that they could wait until, until she was ready. But Marilla had sent him away and he had to honour her wishes. If Anne wanted to be there, to be away from him for whatever reason, there was nothing he could do.

Marilla sat bolt upright woken suddenly by screams that rent the night. Fumbling around for the light, for herself as much as anything she found Anne eyes and mouth wide open. Screaming in pure fright. "Anne?" Marilla called gently, then more urgently shaking Anne awake, "Anne!" Anne flinched and hurled herself out of the bed cowering and whimpering in the corner. Obviously petrified, by what Marilla had no idea. Marilla crouched down beside her realizing that she could do little to help but hoping she did not catch her death on the chilly floor. There was a knock on the door. "Is she aright?"

"Nightmare," she stated simply. "Can't do much for her." Marilla climbed back onto the bed, Anne may not have cared, but her bottom was getting cold.

"Don't seem right? Can I help?"

"Sit with me, I guess. She won't let me touch her."

"What do ya think she's scared a'?"

Marilla shook her head gazing at her traumatized daughter, "I don't know Matthew. I just don't know."

"You still think Gilbert's fine?"

"Bash said they hadn't got far," she blushed. It was strange to think of their girl committing adult acts. Matthew made a noncommittal sound. "What was it you said the other day? Marilla asked suddenly. "About her time before. What can we piece together?"

"Don't even like to think of it," Matthew said quietly.

"No, of course not. But you know it might be the key. Have a think and we'll discuss it in the morning. Meanwhile you go back to bed. There's nothing you can do here."

It was traumatising for those two gentle people to cast their mind back to what little snippets Anne had dropped over the years. Marilla took the first step, "that first morning," her eyes filled with tears. "Anne said she was sorry she wouldn't have the opportunity to be a child. There I was set on sending her back, back to a life of servitude. How could I do it Matthew? I don't recognize that woman. How could I be so unfeeling?"

"Hush sister, you didn't go through with it, don't beat yourself up. 'Part from anything it don't get us nowhere."

"Quite so. Quite so," said Marilla. "This is going to be hard enough as is."

It was a harrowing process. Anne had dropped hints since they'd met her, but they'd never dwelt upon them. Initially Marilla was going to write it down, but Matthew cautioned her. "Don't want her to think we've been adding things up. She prolly thinks she's guilty 'nuff already."


"I dunno, when Mother fell ill, I thought it was my fault. I was always gettin' in trouble for stuff, figured that had to be my fault as well. Anne might feel the same way. As if her upbringing was her responsibility.

Stray memories surfaced as bit by bit they pieced together Anne's traumatic start: "and remember her imaginary friend Katie Maurice in the only unbroken window. Obviously, that man was a brute and a drunk." The litany of abuse was long and varied and many were the tears they shed. At times they were unable to continue because it was all just so distressing. This gentle couple may not have been the most demonstratively warm but the thought of brutalising any child, much less their beloved Anne, was anathema.

Anne sat at her old desk, barely fitting her long legs under it. She paused, pen above paper and then without thinking started to write. Her voice may have stopped for now, but it appeared she still had plenty to say. The words flowed from her without thought. She wrote her hopes, her fears, her childish memories, imaginings. In the corners she doodled. When she had finished, when all her words had tumbled out, she felt lighter as she regarded the mess before her. There were spots where the ink had blotched, scrawls, things crossed out. Ungrammatical, she'd started sentences in one tense and ended them in another. But it felt like a true representation of her mind's whirl. Afterwards she folded it up and put it under her mattress hidden from prying eyes, not quite ready to destroy it.

The outside world beckoned. She put her shoes on and walked down the stairs past Marilla and stood in the doorway breathing in the air of the warm Green Gable yard deeply. Then without a backward glance she walked out into the world.

It had been a few days. That was unlike Anne, to stay sequestered inside for long. In fact, she couldn't remember the last time she'd done it. There was that time she'd fallen off the ridgepole and had broken her ankle. Marilla had been kind but that had been a long summer. But now she wandered around her beloved Green Gables seeing it with fresh eyes. She had been so keen to move on with her life that she had barely paid it any mind for weeks. But how could she treat it so blithely? She stopped at that word, thinking:

Gilbert. Oh Gilbert, how could I treat you so blithely too? Poor boy. He'll find someone else, someone better. Did we actually get married? Well, he can annul it, I suppose. He deserves to be happy. He deserves a normal wife, a wife who can, can do that. Who can be with him as wives should? She still had no idea what to expect in the marriage bed. If only, she sighed. If only there was someone who could explain it to her. Rachel? no. An emphatic no. Rachel had her uses but the thought … and Marilla was no use. She'd never lain with a man. Strange to think wasn't it. Imagine, well that was her future now of course. And Marilla had had a satisfactory life after all. It wasn't too awful not to have had children, to have had some degree of independence that a married woman could not.

A sob rose unbidden. What was wrong? She was reconciled, wasn't she? This was just the way it would be from now on. No point in crying about it. A mist of tears obstructed her sight as the situation overcame her and she found herself enveloped in Matthew's strong arms too upset to really wonder how that had happened.

Back at the Blythe place Gilbert and Bash were conversing. Well Bash was doing most of the talking, "what you get up to with Anne then, Gilbert-boyo? I'm betting your technique could do with some tweaking."

Gilbert blinked up at his old friend, "I, that is I…"

"Thought as much. You take it slow?"

"We've been waiting years, Bash."

Bash rolled his eyes, "I don't mean that sorta slow boyo. I mean that night what you do, tell me."