This One Shot takes place during Anne of Windy Willows (Poplars). I wondered if the time Anne and Gilbert spent away from each other wasn't purely for practical reasons, but as a precaution, and what might happen when they do reunite.

It is early spring, and Gilbert and Anne have returned to the Avonlea for Easter. Marilla has a bad turn and Rachel must support her while Anne drives them in search of the doctor. Unable to find him they seek out Gilbert, who stabilises Marilla before taking her to the surgery. Mrs Blythe insists Anne and Rachel remain at the Blythe's for the rest of the night.

With love and gratitude to L.M. Montgomery for her amazing characters and stories ~ everything is hers, only this idea is mine.

An Uninvited Guest

"I suppose I should settle Anne in."

Mrs Blythe leaned forward in her chair by the kitchen hearth. The burnished brass of the clock above it glowed in the small flame of a hastily made fire, its face announcing the new day was just two hours old. She stifled a yawn and made to rise, when she felt a familiar hand press upon her shoulder.

"I'll do it, Mother. It is my room after all."

She smiled up at him fondly, recalling the many times in his boyhood when he staunchly declared the ownership of his room, usually upon her objection to all the beetles, birds eggs, firecrackers and bones he kept in there. Preserving days caused the most ructions, she remembered, when she discovered half her jars were missing. These days his collection of wonders were contained within heavy tomes and scholarly articles, but the resulting chaos was the same.

"Mind you explain that to Anne, Gilbert. You've not been here a week, yet the books and papers in there –"

"I think half those books are from Anne herself," he mused, turning to help himself to a second cup of coffee.

"But piled up so – upon every flat surface."

His mother allowed herself rueful sigh as she nestled into her chair. If their other honoured guest, Mrs Rachel Lynde, had opportunity to spy the state of that room, Mrs Blythe would feel the dereliction of duty keenly – and be made to feel it.

Happily that good woman allowed herself to be guided directly to the spare room, where Anne had just delivered her warm milk laced with the tiniest dram John Blythe was partial to when the barometer read just so.

"I don't normally hold with such notions, medicinal or not," said Mrs Rachel, taking in half the cup's contents in a grateful swallow. "But that Marilla! To scare us like that! And now I am to be sleeping in a strange bed! No offence to Sarah Blythe, or to you Anne, but I shall be restless all night. It will be quite impossible to share the room. Not that you don't deserve it, what with you driving us all over the Island to raise the doctor like that."

Anne lowered her head to show gratitude for the compliment, which happily hid a wry smile. The cup was emptied with a vigorous gulp before Mrs Lynde pressed it into Anne's hands as though presenting evidence that might acquit one of any deed.

"I can rightly say, Anne Shirley, I am not myself tonight."


Anne could easily comprehend how Mrs Lynde felt. At first, Gilbert's mother's insistence that she and Rachel stay at the Blythe's came as welcome relief. But now, the thought of sleeping under the same roof as her son – in his very bed – brought to the fore that feeling that troubled and excited her. The feeling that took up more and more of the pages in the letters she wrote him; that lingered between them as their Island rambles, taking them further and further from the path. The certainty of being Gilbert's wife should have created a sense of calm in her, and yet there it was, that indefinable agitation. And worse still, it seemed Gilbert was also falling under its power.

She slipped into the kitchen and took up her cup of tea, as Gilbert made busy with the fire. The feeling between them conspicuous as an uninvited guest.

"I'm sorry I can't offer you a more comfortable room," said Mrs Blythe. "I am rather surprised that Rachel could not spare a corner of her great big bed for one so slight as yourself."

She might have added her equal surprise that the guest presently snoring in the spare room should think it proper for Anne to spend the night in the only alternative. But approval had evidently been granted, to protest now would be false propriety.

Anne, though extremely weary, detected a mother's misapprehension and tried to ease her mind.

"You needn't worry for my sake, Mrs Blythe," she smiled. "I'm afraid you would find my room in a similar state. In fact, I may safely say I shall have no more luck than you at keeping the tide of books at bay, when Gilbert and I are married."

"I wouldn't let Marilla hear you say such a thing," Mrs Blythe replied with a twinkling eye.

"Oh, there's no hiding from Marilla. I have exasperated her from the moment I arrived at Green Gables. Yet no one has ever wanted more for me. To think, without Marilla I might never have known such a glorious world of language and philosophy and yes, even geometry. Who would have thought such different people were destined to become such kindred spirits?"

It was plain Marilla Cuthbert didn't share Sarah's misgivings about the purpose, or even the fitness, of women who studied as hard as their men. Her heart was made easy however, upon witnessing the respect Anne and Gilbert clearly had for each other. Kindred spirits indeed! Though the Blythe's own marriage had been seasoned with hopes and joys in their many years together, in the small dark hours, why in mornings just like this, Sarah Blythe had cause to admit there might be a place in John's heart that she would never know. And while she might miss her son when he married – yes, even as her jars now lay in pristine rows in the cellar – there was much comfort to take in the certainty that Gilbert would never know this feeling.

Gilbert finished the coffee in his cup as he watched his mother and his girl in this affectionate exchange. To see Anne here in this kitchen made his heart swell. Glancing at her with a lover's eyes he noticed the tendrils of her red hair snaking loosely around the nape of her neck, come loose in those fretful hours earlier that night. She had pounded on his door, cheek white with fear and eyes wide with need, calling for his help. How glad Gilbert had been to give her that help. Yet, here he stood like a lovestruck youth, imagining his hand now sweeping that loose strand of hair over her shoulder and kissing each place it had touched. Though tired to his bones he was glad of the hour; the faded firelight, the lengthening blinks from his mother's eyes, obscuring a man that dwelt not on the anxieties of the hours that had passed, but of those in the near future when he would lead Anne to his own bed.

"Now, if one of you would be so kind as to light the way to my room," Anne spoke as though she had heard his own thoughts, "or else I shall have to curl up on this bench, with a scourer for a pillow and a dishcloth for a quilt!"

Anne's mouth was merry, but her grey eyes told of a tiredness that overwhelms once one's worst fears have been quelled.

Gilbert brought their cups to the basin and motioned for her to follow him.

"I'll show Anne the way, Mother, unless you are coming up too?"

"No son, I'll wait for your father now. It's always a long night when the chestnut mare is foaling. I'm sure I'd like to be here for him when he returns from the stables."

"Then goodnight." Gilbert placed a boyish kiss upon his mother's head.

"Goodnight Mrs Blythe, and thank you again." said Anne. "I'll make my way at dawn, so let us make our farewells now. I'll not be responsible for rousing you out of your comfortable bed a second time."

Anne slipped her arm self consciously around Gilbert's, and he led her up the stairs.


"Mother said you could borrow one of her nightgowns if that would make you more comfortable, Anne."

Comfort? At this moment Anne could not bring to mind any possibility of comfort. Everything seemed to press in and prod at her. She longed to remove every article of clothing, but lacked the will to pit her trembling fingers against those tiny pearl buttons. How delicious the thought of laying back like a Titian goddess and be slowly and deliberately undressed. Exhaustion was clearly taking its toll, yet her thudding chest seemed to preclude any chance of sleep.

"Tell your mother thank you," Anne said, lightly, "but it's not necessary. I shall be up again in so few hours, I believe I could fall asleep in the boots I'm standing in."

"Let me help you off with those, at least."

For one diverting moment Anne wondered what Gilbert would help her off with at most! But if he noticed the meaning in his words he would not show her. She sat tentatively on the edge of his high narrow bed as he knelt at her feet, unlacing her shoes in a concentrated manner. Unshod now, she tucked up her stockinged feet and attended to her hair. The twisted auburn knot at her crown was decidedly diminished, with lengths slipping past her shoulders and curling down her back. She bit back a coquettish remark about how disheveled she must look, and loosened her hair in a luxuriant fall.

The result had more of an effect upon her beloved than any teasing comment could have. Gilbert could not have torn his gaze away should a thousand Marillas have need of him. Too soon he remembered how a little red braid had caused him to act without thinking, and reluctantly diverted his eyes to the ceiling. How many hours had he spent laying in bed watching his dreams play out above him?

"Before you go, Gilbert, could I trouble you for a ribbon or a small piece of rag?"

He looked down to find Anne had combed through her hair with her fingers, and was braiding it into a thick, coppery rope.

Gilbert went to his dresser and opened a narrow drawer that sat with its match on either side of a mahogany mirror. Anne observed him, at first bemused, then touched, then with growing embarrassment, as she realised he was unwinding a length of silken cord from around her love letters. There they were, sitting in their intended's hands with the authoress boldly sitting upon his bed. That he had sat in this room and read what she had written; that he had lain in this bed with her words in his head. She had of course meant every word, but that did not mean she wished to be reminded of them at this precise moment – with her hair undone and Mrs Rachel Lynde in the room next door!

"I think, Miss Shirley, the ribbon that can contain these letters should be equal to the task of holding back that hair."

Gilbert opened her hand and coiled the cord into it. Anne's eyes, however, were drawn to the uppermost letter. She remembered that one particularly. It was not the most recent, yet it sat at the top of the pile as though it was regularly perused. It recalled a vivid dream that ignited the heat in their correspondence to such degrees, they felt sure they should combust were they to share another long, idle Avonlea summer. It was decided Gilbert would accept the job on the railway during their vacation, after all.

He followed her glance to that letter and quickly guessed at her thoughts. So now she knew how often he returned to that letter, when the months without her stretched out interminably. Gilbert could only hide the resulting flush upon his cheek by turning his back to Anne, and hastily stashing them all in his drawer – but the wrong one. As a youth this drawer housed the kinds of cards that various Wright, Pye and Andrews lads had passed around, hooted at, or quietly pocketed. The two cards remaining had been kept as a sentimental remembrance. A postcard of a white marble nymph with shapely limbs and a perfect nose. The other a rudely painted daguerrotype of a luscious redhead. He pressed his letters on top of them. So much desire had burned in this little room, and now the source of it sat upon his bed. Though he had not thought of returning to the surgery tonight, the little cot set up in the doctor's office seemed the only proper refuge now. There would be no respite if he stayed here tossing and turning in the back parlour, with a wicker bedspread when he wanted a wife.

"If there's nothing else," Gilbert said quietly, as the girl tied back her hair, "I think I'll return to the surgery and check on Miss Cuthbert's recovery."

Anne knew Gilbert well enough to leave him to his patient. It made no odds that Dr Spencer and a trained nurse were to hand for dear Marilla. She knew he would go, and was oddly relieved. Sleep suddenly seemed possible. She pulled the covers up around her and nestled into the pillow.

"Goodnight, Gilbert. And please tell Marilla I'll be by your side just as soon as I can."

Oh, that she would, thought Gilbert, as he crept to the door. "You mean by her side, of course."

He have her a wink, but Anne had already entered the threshold of sleep.


Anne stared at the ceiling. She had been expelled from the realm of dreams for some time and now lay in its antechamber, stuck between worlds. She threw back her bedclothes in frustration, but couldn't escape the feeling of confinement within her. Going to sleep fully clothed had been foolishly shortsighted, her skirts twisted about her legs, and the stays at her waist bit into her uncomfortably. She would have to remove those articles if she was to achieve any rest before dawn. Wearily she rose and released the tiny buttons on the lace at her shoulder. In the dimly lit room she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror on the dresser, and watched with a detached fascination at the hands that removed her blouse. In her own room the mirror was an old friend. Before she'd come to Green Gables her reflection had been her only friend. But here in this room, it was as though a stranger was looking back.

She turned her focus to her clothing, unfastening buckles and undoing more buttons. Her skirts dropped to the floor and her petticoats with them. Next she discarded the stays at her waist, and stepping out from the pool of fabric found herself at the window. Under it Gilbert had positioned his desk which was piled high with books and papers. A fine checked curtain stretched across the stacks and bulged as though someone crouched behind them.

Again, Anne had that queer sense of not being alone and threw the curtains back. Outside the night was yet unconquered. Its cool shadows conjuring gooseflesh on her bare arms. She shivered, rubbing her hands upon her skin, suddenly aware that she stood in her undergarments at Gilbert Blythe's window, for all the Island to see. At least she could be sure that the sharpest pair of eyes to reside in P.E.I were shut fast within the Blythe's spare room. And as Anne pulled the curtains closed again, the metallic scrape of the rings upon the brass pole remonstrated her just as sharply.

She undressed quickly now, slipping her drawers down in order to remove her stockings. The floorboards felt silken beneath her feet as she floated about the room in a gauzy chemise that slipped from her shoulders and drifted past her thighs. Harvesting the strewn items of clothing, she fancied herself a dryad, and lay her attire like an garland around the brass nob at the foot of the bed. She looked at the bed, its rumpled counterpane and sheets so inviting, as though it were a scented bed of blooms she might dive into. And duly did, but the sensation did not invoke the sense of decadence Anne expected. She would have to attend to the bedclothes now. While Mrs Blythe may have cause to wonder at this wife-to-be, she was not Marilla Cuthbert's girl for nothing.

Kneeling upon the bed she threw the sheet before her like a benediction – or rather a prayer, for that was what she would need if she would get the sheet to land as evenly and smoothly as the practiced hands of Marilla. The effect Anne achieved was a wrinkled mass that covered the last third of the bed. She stretched toward it awkwardly, when a small but insistent tapping sound caused her to shift her weight and she fell to the floor. Her knees and wrist smarted, but all Anne felt was mortified. She crouched behind the bed in her fragile lace shift and peeked up to see Gilbert's face appearing in the doorway.

"Anne!" he whispered urgently, "Anne, are you well? I came to deliver a message from Dr Spencer's when I heard a terrific wallop. Anne? Did you... did you drop something?"

"In a way," was her small reply.

"What's happened? Why don't you stand up?"

Gilbert could make no sense of the scene, and thought it wise to close the door behind him.

"You'd do well not to inquire any further, I think. Though I could make use of your lamp."

"Anne, you're hurt."

It was impossible to know whether it was the doctor or the lover who rushed to her side. All at once his hands were upon her person, holding and moving her firmly but gently. Assessing the damage he came to the only conclusion possible of one Anne Shirley.

"Did you fall out of bed?"

"So you see."

"Not as well as I wish, I confess."

The lantern had been thrust under the bed, spreading low gold light upon her. The shadows pooled where her slip fell away, as insubstantial as cloud. She stayed his hand which remained upon her knee tracing soft circles with his thumb.



"The message... from Dr Spencer?"

"The message from Dr Spencer?" His eyes were blank, his pupils all but obscuring their colour. "Oh yes, the message... I thought I told you?"

"I fear you may may taken a fall greater than my own, Gilbert Blythe," Anne responded. "I am half in suspense, half fright. Tell me, what news from the doctor?"

Gilbert grasped the hand that rested upon his. "The message is from Marilla herself. She insisted you rest yourself today. I was going to write a note at my desk and leave it for you. I thought you'd be asleep."

"Lay abed while Marilla's ill? I'd like to see myself!" Anne dropped his hand and hitched up the gauzy strap at her shoulder.

"She's worried for you. As am I. I'd no idea you'd been nursing her since Friday. When you missed our last ramble I thought it was... for another reason entirely."

He cleared his throat to continue, but Anne would speak. Her voice threatening to break beyond a whisper.

"She won't say it outright but I know her, Gilbert. Marilla would want me there."

"What use will you be half crazed with exhaustion?"

Anne was indignant. He was using the very words so often come from her own lips!

"And if I capitulate can I suppose such arguments will work upon you, Doctor Blythe?"

He could make no answer, having been interrupted – fortuitously or not – by another latecomer hissing behind the door.

"Anne, Anne are you there? Anne, I am worried to death. I heard a loud thump, like a body fallen dead to the floor! Anne, answer me or I shall have to enter!"

A cold sinking feeling shook them both. Gilbert instinctively dimmed the lamp and hunkered down behind the bed. It would be scandalous to be so discovered, humiliating for Anne and despicable to Marilla. Yet, as his heart beat in time to Anne's feet running to the door, his hazel eyes could not conceal the irrepressible desire to laugh.

Anne tried to wipe any hint of impropriety from her face. She would be flushed she knew, and could only hope the lady did not carry a lamp. Her breath calm, the handle was turned and the door opened a crack. It was immediately filled with the whole of Mrs Lynde in Mrs Blythe's fine lawn nightgown.

"Rachel, please," Anne whispered in the softest tones she could muster, even as she feared that the beating in her chest would overpower her voice. "We don't want to disturb our hosts any further. There was a tiny accident. I'm quite fine."

Anne felt herself being peered at in an unconvinced manner.

"But you took such a time to come to the door."

"I'm in rather a state of undress as you see."

The bare arm that casually barred the way was not proof enough for such a thorough woman, who used her fair-sized form to wedge the door open further and scrutinise Anne.

"My goodness, Anne Shirley! One can't suppose there wasn't another nightgown to be spared for you. You'll catch your death traipsing about in next to nothing. It'll be you lying by Marilla next, and that's what."

Rachel could not know how those words rankled! Was there no one in her acquaintance who did not think her a feeble waif?

"I'm perfectly comfortable, Mrs Lynde. Though if I do not return to bed soon I'm afraid your predictions may prove to be right. I am fearfully tired, as you must be yourself. "

"Sleeping in a scrap of lace in a strange bed..." Rachel paused, as if remembering something. "I could have sworn I heard a voice..."

At this Anne lost hold of the door and Rachel Lynde pressed her advantage. She stood beyond the threshold, scanning the room when her eyes hit upon something that, even to a woman of her experience, was utterly inexplicable.

"And what would that be, that bulging shape behind those drapes at the window?"

Anne looked where Rachel looked, and winced. There was nothing for it, she must either expose this shameful laxity or expose herself. May Gilbert's mother forgive me, she thought, as she strode toward the window.

"Be prepared for a fearful secret, Rachel, one that Mrs Blythe would dread your ever knowing."

The curtain was folded back to reveal the state of Gilbert's desk. The resulting gasp could not have been matched had an actual murderer been concealed within.

"Voices, dead bodies..." Anne quickly returned to where Mrs Lynde stood aghast, determined not to let her intrude one inch further. "You may be in need of the doctor, yourself. But if it would ease your mind you are welcome to come in with me." At this Anne stepped back and perched upon the bed, grabbing the feather pillow and plumping it in her lap. "It's a narrow bed to be sure, why I fell out of it myself just now, but knowing your astounding forbearance we shall endeavour to make the best of it."

Mrs Rachel tore her eyes from the sight at the window and sized up the small iron bed.

"No, no, Anne, we must not think about ourselves at this time, but gather what strength we can for Marilla." She retreated to the corridor lit by the rooms downstairs. If Sarah Blythe were still awake a troubled soul might avail themselves of another milky concoction. Anne would have to do without her bodily comfort, but Rachel hoped her parting words might provide some for the poor girl. "For what do they say, Anne, but 'a good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book' ."


The door was shut. Anne flung her body on the bed and the pillow over her face. To stifle sobs or laughter Gilbert could not be sure. He knelt by her side and lifted the corner of the pillow. Anne clamped it tightly against her.

"Funny girl," he whispered, "I think it's me who should be blindfolded."

Anne sat upright. "Be my guest!" she hissed, and flung the pillow at his tousled head. Gilbert dodged it easily, pelting it away to the floor, inducing Anne to grab the sheet at the end of the bed and toss it over his crouching form. His playful chuckle incensed her further, and she fell upon the bed again, turning her back to him.

When Gilbert emerged from underneath the cover he was surprised to see Anne looking so quiet and still. The palest hint of sun peeked through the open curtains and painted apricot light on her skin. It was as though the cold marble maiden in his dresser drawer had been breathed into and brought to life. Her hair coiled back to reveal the luminous skin he was so intimate with; silken behind her ear, velvet at her nape, creamy at her shoulder. But the rest of her body existed only in dreams until this moment. She seemed to him the image of that goddess now, and he on his knees in awe of her. The dawn light crested upon her rounded hip then tapered down her thigh. He felt that irresistible urge to press himself against her; shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, knee to knee, like Parcival with his beloved Blanche Fleur. But it was not within Gilbert Blythe to remain so chaste, nor enough to move alongside her. He longed to move inside Anne; to touch with his own self the fire within her.

"I'm not cross really," Anne's voice was husky from lack of sleep, "at least not with you. It's only that I am beginning to believe that if you do marry me, you really will be married to calamity."

She shrugged onto her back and exhaled deeply. Gilbert scooped up the pillow beside him and plumped it up in his hands.

"I knew that the moment you broke that slate on my head. Fortunately for me it was a pillow this time," he teased, tossing it back to her.

Anne tucked the pillow behind her head without a glance in his direction. "Will you ever let me forget that ridiculous day?" she murmured, half to him, half to herself.

Gilbert grinned. Any other girl would be buttoned up to the chin by now, cowering under the counterpane with Mrs Rachel Lynde! How could he explain that he loved her, not despite the trouble she got into, but for the wonderful ways she got herself out.

"Why should you want to forget the day I fell in love with you?"

"It was hardly Cupid's arrow."

He was not smiling now. She had levelled him, however unwittingly, as only Anne could. Hitting upon fears of his own: that Anne could never truly reconcile her romantic dreams with their prosaic reality. He picked up the sheet from the floor and slowly stood up. It was a simple action but she was compelled to turn and look at him now. She noticed for the first time that his tie and collar were gone and his shirt neck was open. It reminded Anne of the boy he used to be, yet he seemed even more a man. His masculine presence looming over her.

"You still want that, don't you, Anne, to be the goddess of some fool's idolatry? To be loved like like those books you would have me read, to be loved like this?"

He billowed the sheet and it flew out high above her then slowly fell like the softest zephyr, fluttering along her body in a delicious caress, dissipating all thoughts of propriety.

Anne tingled with a thousand blisses, her skin electric, her insides pulsing. That feeling of sweet agitation was rising in her, she actually felt her body rise. To arc from the point where the sheet touched down and drew up the hem of her slip in a flickering gust that whispered around her hips. Is this how he thought she wanted to be loved? To be wooed and never won? As though a kiss at her feet could compare with a kiss on her lips. Oh, to meet him as lips meet lips; to kiss with her entire body!



"Could I trouble you for something else?"

"Your blanket, yes," he said absently. "I suppose I only made you cold." He stooped down to pick it up from the floor when Anne caught his arm and guided his hand to her heart.

"Do I feel cold to you?"

Her breast jutted into the soft skin of his palm. Gilbert still, silent, waiting, as though any movement might end this moment. When he began to believe that it wouldn't, that this was no mistake, he edged to the side of the bed and sat at her side. Anne would not loosen his hand upon her, but squeezed it slowly. He had never felt her body like this, with the merest scrap of fabric between them. Her breast felt firm, ripe and warm, and Gilbert Blythe understood as never before why lips would want to follow where hands had been. Anne released him and he slid his hand between her breasts. He felt each beat of her heart, and felt his body answer each beat. The sheet was at her waist now and he could make out the tips of her breasts blooming darkly through the lace of her chemise.

Anne flushed deeply as she looked up at his face. She swallowed hard as she tried to summon the words that sat hot and unspoken in her throat, and slid her hand down his arm where it rested on his thigh.

"Remember the bonfire at Abner Sloane's? When you pressed against me so close and I felt... I felt such heat and bliss... I confess there's been a hollow ache within me ever since. As though you'd taken something from me that night."

"Taken something from you?"

"I know it's nonsensical, but sometimes, Gilbert, it's all I can think of to get it back."

"It's not nonsensical, I understand better than you know."

Anne's eyes deepened, as if to hold all the questions that pressed within her. "And did you feel it... in our walks together? It felt like Lover's Lane was not the only place we were heading, and I can't help wondering if..."

She could not say this to him and mention Marilla's illness in the same breath. But then it was not just Marilla, but a thousand other reasons to keep them always apart. If they found themselves together now in such a quiet golden hour, might they not grasp their chance?

"We could keep this sheet between us, Gilbert. Just lay together for a blissful while."

He brought one hand to her face and traced his thumb along her jaw, while his other hand trailed a finger down her breast bone and along the sheer edge of her ribs. Bones so fine, rising and falling so fast, and beyond them the soft hollow of her abdomen and the soft heat emanating from under the sheet that covered her. He pulled it up to her chin in a decisive action.

"Anne," it was uttered like a prayer, "you say these things... you say these things to me when you know that we can't, that I won't. I think you depend that I won't."

She moved to speak and he put his finger to her lips. "You're going to accuse me of thinking wrongly of you, but I could say the same. You think I am a man who could lie beside you and let the flimsiest of barriers come between us? That I could hold you and enjoy you so much and no further? Anne, I am already overwrought." His voice cracked and he felt stretched as thin as the covering upon her. "I couldn't hide it. I would be naked – or as near as makes no difference."

He took his finger away expecting fire to emerge. But none came. The room brightened with the clean light of morning as Jerry Buote's boy whistled in the yard below. The demands of a new day were already upon them and reason enough to convince Anne he was right. But Gilbert would not hide behind such excuses.

"If I lay with you, Anne, if you press your body into mine, we will start something I wouldn't want to stop, that you wouldn't want me to stop."

She was pale against her pillow, the tiny smile she gave him just as lacking in life. Gilbert would have preferred those spirited reproofs that had him ducking for cover, but she offered nothing more.

"Did you want your blanket?"

He laid it over her, but it was a hollow imitation of the first time he did so. She buried herself deeply within it, as though she wished herself anywhere but where she was.

"I'll come and wake you at midday, Anne, and take you to Marilla."

There was still no reply. And when he returned at the appointed hour, the bed was neatly made and she was gone. The hours that flew the night before, crawled by that day with wretched dullness. Gilbert's head and heart in monotonous debate until he retired for the night to bed. Her bed now; it could never be otherwise. He drew his pillow to his face and breathed deeply that she might have left a trace of herself behind for him.


Anne too nuzzled into the pillow in her little white room at Green Gables. Marilla would be home tomorrow, and downstairs she heard the familiar sounds that came of furious kneading as Rachel prepared the bread for the following morning. She had ordered the peculiarly quiet girl to bed, and Anne consented readily, longing for the time and peace she needed to know her own heart. For it seemed mysterious to her, with a secret path within.

That Gilbert had known this of Anne before she knew it herself left her speechless. There were no words, then or now, to convey how this felt. But she must say something.

And as Gilbert raised the pillow he found she had left him more than a trace, though hardly more. It was a hidden treasure, the most audacious gift. Her white gossamer chemise folded into the smallest square, tied with the silken cord, and placed where his pillow had been. He untied it slowly, savouring the sensation as the silk was unknotted and released. It unfurled in his hands and bloomed in his room, like a letter, like a secret, like a promise.