Here is the quote that started all this writing in the first place...
A Bed of Roses
"Do you know when and where I'd like to be married, if I could? It would be at dawn... with a glorious sunrise, and roses blooming in the gardens; and I would slip down and meet Gilbert and we would go together to the heart of the beech woods -and there, under the green arches that would be like a splendid cathedral, we would be married."
chapter three, the Land of Dreams Among; from Anne's House of Dreams
Anne stirred in the small hours of morning, a jolt shooting through her body so vigorously her first thought was that she had fallen out of bed. She stretched out her arms – yes, those were floorboards she felt underneath her fingers, but this was no hard floor she lay on – remembering now she was sleeping on a mattress in the spare room. There was nowhere to for her to fall, so how to account for this feeling inside her?
It felt like a wave pulling her into herself only to beat upon empty shores, where what she really wanted, she realised now, was to collide bodily with something. Or someone. The strangest, sweetest throb pulsed through her. She felt nothing so much as a beating heart with limbs. Limbs that pressed and slid over themselves, wanting something to press against; wanting to be held down, to be caught. There were inexplicable butterflies in her head. Not those freely flitting from flower to flower. But pinned wide, pressed down and possessed.
Oh, this wasn't her, this wasn't her at all. And yet, Anne knew, it was. There was a frustration there and an anger for wanting and for feeling this way. But she did. She did. Among all the things she knew of herself – and the few other things she suspected – it seemed there was a part of her that was made of this, that was made for this; that longed wholly and bodily, and that the longing felt like this. She squeezed her thighs against this pulse but denying it made it only more intense. It was unrelievedly exquisite and her fingers, thighs and hands weren't enough. She wasn't enough. It made her more exasperated in the face of all this devouring want.
Anne noticed a small circle of light slipping into the room and remembered that if Gilbert was not sleeping next to her – and he certainly was not – then he was still downstairs curled up on the window seat. She was standing before she realised she had moved, thinking only of getting to him. It was when she approached the door that she spied on the large iron hook where her guests might keep a hat, her bridal gown. Though only part of it, the stiff, structured undergarments were missing, with just the embroidered silk sheath upon the wooden hanger. To complete this surprise Anne noticed a small piece of paper had been pinned to the neck of her dress where the amethyst jewel had been. And on it in her husband's hand she read, uncomprehendingly: Marry Me.
Marry him? But she had, amongst all their dearest friends and family in the orchard of her old home. She had married him, she was his wife... Was she his wife? She still had not been loved by him the way a husband loves a wife. Was Gilbert telling her he couldn't wait, was Gilbert telling her now? Had he been here just minutes before loving her secretly in her sleep, to make her wake this way, to make her want this way? Though Anne hoped this to be true, she knew it was not. This feeling was not about what Gilbert did to her no matter how easy, how guiltless this answer made her feel. The unstoppable deluge rising inside her belonged only to Anne.
She dashed down the stairs to the sitting room and in the gloom she saw the copper bath, two sticky glasses, and the cinders of a dead fire. Nothing more, nothing welcoming. No Gilbert. It was as though someone had taken the cold water from last night's bath and poured it over her head. Unsure what to do Anne returned to her room, her footfalls the very opposite of what they had been only one minute before. She observed the light outside her door. It seemed a curious choice of Gilbert's, a heavy storm lantern not made for indoor use. But that did not begin to compare with the mystery of her wedding dress hung upon the hook, complete with a note as short on words as it was on reason.
Very well Gilbert Blythe, Anne thought to herself, if you want me to marry you in the middle of the night, I will marry you. But I need to find you first.
Anne lifted her nightgown over her head and slipped the ivory silk dress over herself. No corsets, no garter, no petticoats, just as she had promised him yesterday evening – just herself in a gossamer gown. She was wondering if she should unweave the thick, coppery braids that hung past her shoulders, when she felt something scratch at her foot. Anne lifted the hem and saw another little square of paper pinned to its edge. She stepped to the lamp light to make out its message which said in the same hand and just as obliquely: Follow the Roses.
A revelation of needle thin fineness pierced through Anne, stopping abruptly at her centre so that she almost doubled over with the impact. Were they butterflies she had imagined before or the fat, velvet petals of a thousand roses bursting open? Anne felt pummelled by feelings not altogether pleasant. She was weak, hot and anxious. She wanted to curl up like a flower-bud and find sleep again. But it was impossible, she would never find sleep. She had to find Gilbert.
Anne stood at the open door of their House of Dreams one hand clutching the heavy brass lantern, the other the hem of her dress, looking out into the night. It was that same indeterminate colour that she had seen through the gable window of her bedroom the night the Blakes had come. A sky where one couldn't tell whether night or morning that approached. She stood like the moon, like the sun, unable to decide which way to go. The sea seemed to speak to her, calling to her with a voice that promised neither pleasure nor safety, but mystery. While a pine-scented breeze pressed her back, her dress slipping about her in delicate flurries like the memories of yesterday.
It was now that Anne saw it on the little white gate. A rose. A deep pink rose tucked into the latch. It seemed all at once so familiar to her, as if she already held it in her hands and was breathing in its heady scent. Her feet were bare and her eyes were the colour of the the sky, Anne closed the door and followed the rose.
Soon her arms were full of them, the wild tangled flowers of an overgrown garden, tight, hothoused buds with gleaming stems, leafy sprays of succulent rosehips, and lotus-like blooms with golden centres. Taking the road they walked the evening before Anne neared the thickening undergrowth that hid the entrance to their secret pool. The sea called out to her, its fine mist licking her skin, and she held her light out over the shrubs and trees. The bright beam of her lantern painted a sun over the greenery but there was not another rose to be seen. The path of roses seemed to have ended and she stood there waiting, for Gilbert must make his appearance.
The lantern began to feel heavy in her hand, she lowered it to her side and peered into shadow. The sky was the colour of the sea in storm, yet all was quiet. Anne stood in its stillness feeling she was the only thing that moved. There was no wind. And there was no Gilbert. She wandered back over the road to the grove of birch trees. Their slender trunks in delicate dresses of white, cream and gold shining prettily under the lantern-light, and there in the crook of a branch like the buttonhole on a groom's lapel was one white rose.
She reached for the flower and as she took hold of it the needle fine feeling that drew achingly within her, ignited like a fuse. The lantern was left by the road side and she went with her feet touching down on green leaf and red earth into the woods. Anne walked a small meandering path, birch trees lining her way like bridesmaids, while the white glow of a rising sun covered her in a veil of light. There were no more roses to show the way. If Gilbert knew one thing it was that this sylvan maid could find her way through a forest without any guide but the one in her heart.
Anne spied a clearing surrounding a gigantic tree – was it a strange sort of willow that grew in its midst? So large it obscured the light for anything that might have grown below its tremendous spreading branches. The space seemed alive with electric currents of fragrant air; spicy, heady, musky, sweet. Anne felt as though she swam in it – wanting above all things to pull her dress over her head and dive in. It was then she discerned what the lengths that fell from the branches were made of. They were not whips of willow at all but roses! Roses in long, heavy garlands strung from the boughs of a giant beech tree. Framed by its two longest branches was a simple arch made of twists of hazel and carpeted below with the petals of what seemed like a thousand blooms.
Her own bouquet fell from her hands as she ran to the plush ropes of red, pink, apricot, yellow and white. So fragile they dropped their petals at the slightest touch, and so open, the smell of them was the very Garden of Eden. When she lifted one up she saw then what she supposed was Gilbert and an iridescent chill went through her body as she stepped toward him, only to find it was his wedding suit placed on a hanger that hung on a branch. She searched about the bordering birches as the sun reached its first beams to the sky. Where was he, her darling man, who was husband, and best friend, and lover? Who knew the circuits and rhythms of the body, and the cycles and the rhythms of their Island.
In the years to come they would sing many songs to their children, but for one would they tear their eyes away from their babies and look at each other.
For where is the boy who should be tending his sheep? He's under the haystack fast asleep...
Gilbert lay against the thick trunk of the beech tree whose ancient, gnarled roots held him like a child. He was a curly haired boy in his nightshirt, dreaming of his girl. She fell on her knees in front of him, her hand grazing lightly upon his brow, down his stubbly jaw, and over his sweet-lipped mouth. Gilbert stirred, and in the growing light Anne saw his eyes open, first with pupils blank and drowsy, before deepening as he recognised the woman waking him.
'Anne! I'm sorry, I must have fallen asl –'
Anne pressed her fingers against his words and Gilbert reached for her as though he half believed he was still in dreams. Their faces brushed against each other slowly, lips trembling as if too overwhelmed to kiss. The white silk of her dress writhed under his hands as they slid over her body, filling Anne with a desperate need to feel his bare skin. She yanked the nightshirt over his head with shaking hands, tossing it into a low hanging branch, and Gilbert was naked, hard and wanting her. Pulling from her the ivory slip – it was barely over her head before he began frantically kissing her breasts and kneading them roughly in his hands. She pushed her mouth against his. Her moans entered him and Gilbert felt them reverberate throughout his body, felt how much Anne wanted him. It filled him and fed him – he seemed to take strength from her. Instead of doubt he felt powerful, felt he could love her into the next dawn.
Kneeling with one leg between his own Anne began kissing and biting his cheek, his earlobe, his neck. She flicked her braid over her shoulder impatiently, to kiss and suck one nipple, now shifting her knee to lavish her mouth upon the other. She was soon astride him and became aware of how long and firm he was, pressed hard and upright between their bellies. They clung to each other, Anne clasping his back as Gilbert's fingers went up to the tiny curls at her nape where her hair divided into long, thick braids. Strands had come loose and whipped softly at her cheek like threads of gold. She seemed to him as though she was made of sunlight, and her face was pure happiness.
They stared into each other not just as eyes meet eyes, but heart meets heart. Gilbert saw it now, saw that look in Anne, and he knew she could see it in him. The hint of a grin – it was the sweetest, softest smile – appeared on his face. Anne drew herself up and kissed his eyelids, he closed them at the touch of her lips and the feel of her mouth was like a blessing. She began to move her body in shy, curious movements, and as she did Gilbert felt her, so warm, wet, and meltingly soft, rubbing over the length of him. She moved higher still, nuzzling into his tousled hair and shuddering when her nipples brushed over his lips, his breath like air upon a fire. Anne's eyes closed and Gilbert watched her, waiting to see what she meant to do.
She began to move downward, the downy heat of her body hovering above him. Gilbert wanted to be still, wanted to wait, but he could not resist, when he was so close, to lift his hips. Groaning softly as he touched her, driving his hands up her back such was the temptation to pull her onto him. He closed his eyes, breathing deeply – the words Anne and please in each silent exhalation. When he opened them again she was staring at him, that open, artless stare that went straight into him. The look that made him reach for her beautiful red hair all those years ago.
'Gilbert,' she said, simply.
'Anne,' was his answer.
She took her hand off his shoulder and guided him to her waist. His other hand followed and he cupped her hips, his thumbs grazing the smooth hollows where bone becomes belly. Anne slowly, carefully, drew herself down, her eyes never leaving his, and in the dawn light the green hues in them glowed like the first leaves of spring. There was a smile that played on her mouth and she pressed her lips together the way she always did when she gave someone her rapt attention. He entered her, sweetly, slowly, stopping momentarily, both drawing in their breath at the unexpected feeling of tightness and pressure, and the rather more expected one of excitement and joy.
He was inside her now and it felt to Anne as though somehow she was inside him too, holding his heart. She could feel it beat within her as surely as her own did for him. And his eyes, his lovely, loving hazel eyes, with the same look that he had the day she said yes to him. A beautiful mix of relief and enduring love.
Gilbert lifted himself from the leaf litter for a moment. Dried leaves and sticks bit into his skin but what was that compared with the paradise he found himself in. Anne was a paradise and never more than now. Naked in the dawn light, grey eyes shining, loving him completely. When she repositioned her knee it sent chills of pleasure through his body. Every part of Gilbert wanting to move, yet also wanting this moment when he touched inside her for the first time to last for as long as it possibly could. If Anne kept shifting her hips like that, however, it might not be that long.
'Anne, is it ...are you all right?'
Anne swallowed before she answered – Gilbert could feel her do so and swallowed hard himself.
'No, I... no, Gil, I'm not all right,' she said, quietly. He might have been frightened by her words if the sound of her voice didn't ring so clear and true. 'I'm... I don't know what I am... I never expected this to be so... for it to feel so...'
Anne hugged him close to her once more, pressing her thighs tightly to his sides. Gilbert had believed he could go no deeper but as she wrapped herself around him he knew how much further he might. Her lips were in his hair and she shivered violently, then pulled away and spoke again.
'I love you,' Anne whispered, as though she only now understood; that love is not something ones says but something one does. 'I love you,' she said again. 'I love you-I love you-I love you-I love you-' her voice broke, she fell against him and murmured against his cheek, 'I love you, Gilbert, I love you...'
Gilbert folded his arms round her, holding her as firmly as she held him inside her. He felt her heart beat wildly against his chest and suddenly wanted to cry.
'I love you,' it was Anne who cried now, 'I love you, I love you...'
He smoothed his hands along her back and felt her muscles quicken against him as she tried to catch her breath.
'I love you, I love you,' Anne looked at him once more. 'I love you, Gilbert Blythe.'
He held her in his arms, squeezing her tenderly. 'I know it,' he said, softly. 'Now let me love you.'
Gilbert gripped Anne tighter, one hand sliding under her bottom, the other steadying himself against one of the thicker tree roots that surrounded them. In one swift, strong movement he rocked up to his knees, carrying Anne in his arms. He meant to stay inside her, never wanting to be parted from her body for one second. Yet when he lay her down on the carpet of petals and slipped out of her he wasn't entirely sorry, for it would only give him the intense and miraculous pleasure of entering Anne again.
He balanced his body just inches from her, looking down at his wife. She was radiant in the rosy light of morning. And the way she looked up at him and waited, the way her chest rose and fell with anticipation, filled him with such a joyous desire Gilbert felt every part of him must surely burst. Anne smiled and closed her eyes as his adoring mouth rained little kisses over her face and neck. How was it that such a tiny gesture had ever been enough for him? For all those years, when the only parts of her body he had touched and seen were those that showed at the collar and the cuff of her dress. The memory of all that longing rushed through him as he placed the next kiss just under her ear, yet here was Anne shivering just as deeply now as she had the first day he had touched her that way.
Anne turned her head and breathed in the sweet scent of petals as Gilbert brushed his body over hers. His skin felt cool, but when she brought her hands to him he seemed to burn inside. She felt the muscles of his shoulders working hard to hold him just the barest distance from herself, and the strength of her husband's body caused her thighs to part wider and her breasts to rise up against him. Her nipples brushed softly upon his own. How wonderful that a woman's body was so much like a man's. But more than that how much more wonderful that it was not – Anne becoming very aware of the mass and power that had for those raw and beautiful minutes been living inside her.
Gilbert leaned on one arm, trailing his palm over her silken skin and lingering between her legs. She felt so plush against his fingers it was all he could think of to be inside her again, to be held in her close, hot loveliness. He watched as Anne began to writhe, the low moan she made telling him that she wanted to be touched more vigorously. He rubbed himself against her, wanting to slide into her as slowly and gently as she had enveloped him, his hands gripping hard at her waist so that he might control his movements.
Anne sighed with a divine longing when she felt him, arching her hips impatiently. When he heard her and saw her move like that Gilbert groaned, knowing what he was about to do. All thoughts of gentleness gave way as he pulled Anne to him urgently and pushed deeply inside her. With each movement vowing he would slow down and then as he withdrew against her unable to stop another thick, penetrating thrust. Anne, at first with her legs tightly around him felt them fall wider and wider apart, meeting each throb in her body with an even stronger one of his own. Gilbert's face, and his eyes – with a wild, unbound look she had never seen before – thrilled her inside, to see him so lost in his ecstasy for her.
She kissed him greedily and in their kisses were the sounds of pleasure so intense they sounded like pain. It did hurt and it was a gorgeous agony. There were no soft sighs now, no incandescence. This was not of air but of sea. It pounded against her and she rose –like a tide, like a wave – colliding with him again and again till Anne was breathless and speechless.
Words came now, not from Anne but from Gilbert. Calling as though trying to find his way back to her, his voice cracked and desperate as he called out her name –
'Oh, Anne! Anne! Anne! Anne! Anne...'
And then quieter, shyer, shivering into her sweat-sheened neck and murmuring the only thing he had ever known was true.
'I love you, Anne, I love you...'
'I love you, Gilbert,' she whispered shakily, and she felt him smile against her cheek.
He lay against her, shining with sweat. She felt the full weight of him pressing her into the ground and she revelled in it, never wanting his body to leave hers. His eyes opened and he looked at her, she was staring out at the leaves above them, the sunlight like little stars peeping through the foliage. He stroked her cheek and kissed her again, and then turned his face and watched with her the passage of the sun arcing over them through the tree. They were both so still that when Anne shifted her hip and stretched out her leg it seemed another day had passed. He took his weight off her and she was stirred from her reverie, looking at him with a beaming smile.
'Are you... are you...'
He seemed to have lost the power of speech, as though his mouth was made for nothing but adoring the body of his wife. If Anne needed to find the words to say to him how she felt, she need only have looked at Gilbert's flushed and dazed face.
'Blissfully happy...' she shifted her leg again, 'it's only that I have pins and needles in my foot again.'
It was not exactly the gracious declaration Anne had imagined she might say to her lover at such a moment, and her cheeks went as pink as the roses that drifted around them. Gilbert carefully rolled his body from hers with the tiniest of shivers and onto the carpet of petals. He realised she must have had them when they first made love by the trunk of the tree, and he smiled to himself.
'I'm sorry you found me asleep, Anne-girl,' he said, thinking of the things that had not gone quite so perfectly for him either.
Anne rolled onto her elbow and looked at him.
'I'm not. It was the most wonderful surprise. What you made here, for me, for us. I can't tell you what it means to me – at least not in words,' she added shyly. 'I am forever in awe at your singular ability for discovering trees! Was this what you were doing yesterday while I slept the day away?'
'And here are the hands to prove it,' he grinned, holding one out to show her. The colours of all those petals staining his fingers a vibrant pink. 'It wasn't exactly as I'd hoped. I wanted huge bouquets of them all around us, but the roses were so overly ripe they kept falling apart in my hands.'
Anne's face went even redder than his fingers, understanding all too well why those blooms yielded so utterly to his touch.
'But where – how – did you find them all?'
'I just walked behind you for a day or so. Didn't you know that flowers spring up with every step you make upon this earth?'
Gilbert's face was all seriousness, but his eyes glinted playfully and Anne knew she would not get her answer today.
Anne peeled a crimson petal from her elbow and gingerly stood up. She had been pressed so thoroughly into the red earth it wouldn't have surprised if she did begin to sprout leaves and roots. She walked about awkwardly for a moment, stomping her foot. There was a rush of wetness that surprised her and she quickly knelt by the foot of the hazel arch with a queer little look on her face.
Gilbert pulled himself up and knelt next to her.
'Pins and needles all gone?' he asked, and went to peel another yellow petal off her shoulder. 'You should see yourself, Anne Blythe, you look as though you'd got the strangest case of scarlet fever. Perhaps I should make a thorough study of you,' he grinned, suggestively.
Anne took his hand and placed it on her lap. She seemed still and small, and her eyes were wide.
'Gilbert, I think I'm bleeding –'
'Anne, no! I mean, it does happen... but can you – can you actually feel it?'
Anne shifted her knees apart and looked down, her thighs glistened strangely but there was no blood.
'You goose,' Gilbert said, he might have wished for a better response but the rush of relief made him careless, 'that's from me!'
Anne was now well enough acquainted with Gilbert's body to know exactly what part of himself he was referring to, but she had not expected it to make a reappearance this way and she said as much.
'I can still be made pregnant by you, can't I?' she continued.
She looked so open and vulnerable right at this moment Gilbert saw immediately how much the dream of motherhood meant to her, wondering if tonight there might be one less star in the sky.
'Well... it might not happen right away.' He had that look again, this solemn doctorly face and the eyes of an exasperating boy. 'Things like this can take an awful lot of practice... But don't worry, someone once told me we've got our whole lives to get it right.'
Anne pounced on him, he fell back easily and they lay there – her head at his shoulder, his chin by her head – and hearts pressed tight together. They looked up through the leaves of the grand old beech, illuminated with sunshine that painted them both in a fresh golden light. Anne wondered if the storm lantern was still alight by the roadside, and hoped against hope that some enquiring body wouldn't find it and then make an attempt to find them! She walked to the tree to retrieve their clothing, and as she shimmied her dress over her body the thought occurred that she still had no idea what it was that woke her so violently in the night.
How did you know I would come to you?' she asked Gilbert, as he tugged his grey trousers over his hips. He looked at his wife and felt that familiar wave of desire growing inside him again.
'I love the way that dress looks on you, Anne-girl, so light and lovely...'
He meant more than that. The feel of her lithe body – her exquisite pointed breasts, that unexpectedly curvy bottom under all that liquid silk – had melted him. His throat went dry at the mere memory of it.
She looked up at him as he ran his fingers up her waist and cupped her breasts, playing over them with the flat of his palm with the merest, sweetest touch that he knew – oh, how could he know this about her? – drove her especially frantic.
'How did you know?' she repeated breathlessly, her hands at his belt.
Gilbert touched her cheek, then took a braid in his hand and ran it lovingly down her long red hair.
'Because I know you, Anne. I always have.'
The flowers they left in this secret spot, but the hazel arch was returned to the House of Dreams. Anne and Gilbert worked upon it through their sacred month together – when they were not eating, laughing, exploring or practicing. Until one day... he took one end and she the other and they moved the unwieldy object up their stairs and into their bedroom. Where it became the brand new headboard for their big ol' bed.
Thank you so much for reading! This story has had over 300 000 views, I can't tell you how happy that makes me, but I'll try.
A heartfelt thanks to all my Anne Grrrrrls, to those of you who come back to this story again and again, or are discovering it for the first time. I love reading your comments. I feel so amazed that I have written something so many of you seem to love.