I'd like to think there's a universe out there in which it doesn't take Gilbert almost dying to make Anne realize she loves him. That being said, this is an alternate ending to Anne of the Island. It is a little different—and in my opinion, more romantic—version. This time, Gilbert grabs the reigns of his own destiny. And it is with him that our story begins…
Chapter One: Now or Never
Gilbert Blythe sat in his small bedroom at Redmond College. The creamy beige curtains which framed the window were not drawn, yet the room was rather dim. A cover of cloud was beginning to stretch its fingers over the town of Kingsport, providing a gloom outside Gilbert's window that matched the way he was feeling within. Upon returning from his last final examination, he had stumbled home, dazed and unaware. He had silently entered his boarding house, cordially acknowledging the shouts of congratulations of those in the living room, and continued, unseeing, up to his room. He had then slumped onto his bed, and there he still lay, staring up at the ceiling. The ache that gnawed at his stomach was making him feel sick—not that he wasn't already sick anyway. The past term had seen a decline in Gilbert's health that even his slightest acquaintances couldn't help but notice. His complexion, once fair and rosy, had become pale and sallow. Large rings appeared around his eyes. His clothes fit more loosely around his body than ever before. He had participated in fewer clubs, frequently missed Lambs meetings and events, and kept largely to his room. Most people attributed his change in appearance to the effort he put into his studies. He was, after all, at the top of his class, so many assumed that the rigor of his last term of undergraduate study had been taking a toll on his body. He would be better once term was over, they figured. But this time, as he lay motionless for several hours, "studying" could serve as no excuse. Final exams were over. Tomorrow he would be receiving his B.A.
Gilbert sighed and turned over on his side, staring blankly at the desk opposite his bed. It was covered in books, diagrams, charts, and to-do lists. Scraps of paper littered the floor around a small wastebasket adjacent to a tall, stiff-backed wooden chair. No more studying, at least for now. All was said and done, and he was about to be a B.A. Several whoops and hollers echoed from downstairs as he heard the front door open and shut. Charlie must have just returned home. Surely he was heading out soon with the other seniors to celebrate. But Gilbert didn't feel like celebrating. He contemplated the incongruity of the situation. He had just completed the greatest achievement of his life thus far; he had finished college. He should be racing out with Charlie and all the other young men, to take the night that was theirs. They had earned it. Yet all Gilbert felt like doing was folding into himself, over and over, until he disappeared entirely from the face of the earth.
Echoes from a conversation earlier that day played over and over in his head. He had been sitting in the courtyard of Redmond with Charlie, as well as Frank Carlson and Clarence Taylor. Finals were over and Gilbert had never been more relieved. The four young men had just finished exchanging congratulatory slaps on the back, afterwards settling down on the lawn to enjoy the sunshine of a warm spring day. But just as the weather was destined to turn sour, so was Gilbert's mood.
He had just finished telling Charlie a joke he had overheard the day before, when Frank remarked to the group, clearly proud to be the one to furnish the latest gossip: "Did you hear that Roy Gardner is going to propose to Anne Shirley after Convocation tomorrow?"
All of a sudden, Gilbert couldn't breathe. The world grew fuzzy, and he felt as if he might faint. His ears were ringing as if an entire nest of mosquitoes were hovering around his head. Anne Shirley, engaged to Roy Gardner? The whole idea of it sounded so… wrong. Yes, they had been seeing each other regularly for the past year and a half, and yes, people had hinted at their inevitable engagement for months. Yes, he had believed as well as anyone that it would happen. But at the same time, he now realized, he hadn't believed it. He hadn't actually believed it was going to happen because, well, Anne didn't belong with Roy. That was one thing Gilbert knew for sure. Roy with his melancholy eyes, expensive clothes, and pretentious airs. Anne, with her sensitive soul, adventurous spirit, and unconventional beauty. The two just didn't go together; Gilbert was sure of that.
"Gilbert... Gil!" Charlie's voice echoed inside his head and forced Gilbert's mind back to the surface. "Are you alright? We seem to have lost you for a moment."
"Oh, sorry, I was just, thinking over my answer to a trigonometry question. I think I... got my answer wrong," Gilbert replied, stumbling to find an excuse for his reverie. "So... what's this about Roy Gardner and Anne Shirley? Are you sure he is planning on proposing or is that just the rumor mill talking?"
"Oh no," replied Frank importantly. "I heard it from Clyde Fellows, and he had it straight from Roy himself—and that's just as good."
Gilbert's heart sank. Clyde Fellows was well-known to be Roy's closest friend. He would never go spreading rumors about Roy that weren't true. Gilbert suddenly began to feel as if he might vomit. He also felt a certain hotness welling up behind his eyes. He needed to get out of there; he needed to be alone.
"Sorry, I... I've only just remembered... I promised to meet Christine after my final. I'll see you later this evening." Gilbert choked out the words. Then, without a second glance, he took off in the direction of home, oblivious to the whistles and lip smacks of his friends, who were clearly trying to tease him.
He knew everyone thought he was in love with Christine. That had been the general opinion for over a year. But Gilbert didn't mind. It kept them from realizing the true desires of his heart; for how could Gilbert still be in love with Anne Shirley when he was pining over Christine day and night?
How he arrived back at his boarding house, he did not know. But arrive he did, and as he continued to lay in his bed, reviewing Frank's announcement over and over again, hot tears began to stream down his cheeks. He felt so small—so helpless. He saw his future slipping away from him, even more-so than when Anne had rejected his proposals. He liked to think he was in control of his own fate, yet he realized now that he had never taken the time to imagine a future without Anne. He had always loved her, and still loved her, and he wanted desperately to believe that she loved him, too.
Maybe she did love him, and maybe she didn't; none of that mattered anymore. Roy would propose tomorrow, and Anne would accept him, and Gilbert's fate as a mere friend would be sealed for all eternity. He would forever be considered Anne's "old school chum." Whereas Roy… Roy would get to have her for his wife. Roy would get to watch her sleep, ever so peacefully. He would be the one to see her wake up, lift her long auburn lashes, and let out a yawn while stretching her soft, slender arms outwards, finally wiping the sleep from her eyes with her delicate fingers. He would get to take care of her when she was sick. He would watch the sparkles dancing in her eyes in times of joy, and hold her hand through loss and pain. He would get to father her children which, containing a mixture of his and Anne's features, would serve as a constant reminder that she had chosen him over Gilbert. Scenario after scenario ran through his mind—things that Gilbert had dreamed of his entire life, yet would never have. The thought of a life without Anne by his side terrified him to death.
Gilbert wanted nothing more than Anne's happiness. The problem was, Anne didn't look happy. He had thought she was—she certainly tried to make herself appear so, and that was why he had tried to let her go. But lately, as term began to draw to a close, he had begun to see through her ruse. She seemed to be tired of Roy, yet unwilling to admit it. Gilbert also couldn't help but notice that whenever he saw them together, Anne seemed distracted. He would often see Anne's gaze travel away from Roy, and to him. He wondered why this was; was she merely sorry for him, or was there another reason for her stare? There was something in the way she looked at Gilbert—some flicker that passed over her eyes... sometimes lingering, other times disappearing as quickly as it had come—that baffled him.
Yet he would never know the reason for her gaze; Roy would see to that tomorrow. And as these thoughts swirled through his head, threatening to suffocate him, Gilbert decided that it just couldn't be. He was meant to love Anne Shirley; he would love her all his life. Why would providence create such strong feelings in him, unless somehow she was meant to love him, too? She simply could not marry Roy Gardner, not when there was still that gaze. As long as there was that gaze, Gilbert would never be able to let her go. He realized in that moment that whether Anne accepted Roy or not, he needed—more than anything before—to know why she lowered those dainty red lashes for the slightest moment whenever his eyes locked with hers, while a faint hint of scarlet crept into her cheeks. And apart from it all, he needed Anne to know, one last time, that the way he looked at her had certainly never changed. If she chose Roy, so be it. But he needed her to know that she would always be his first and only choice.
As Gilbert thought about this, he felt a burning heat begin to course throughout his veins. He welcomed with open arms the determination that began to envelop his very being. It gave him focus; it gave him resolve. He had to know the reason for her stare—he had to! For how could she not love him, yet look at him that way? But if she accepted Roy's proposals tomorrow, then he would never have the right to ask. Yes, tomorrow might be too late, but he still had today.
In one swift movement he grabbed his coat—he had never taken off his shoes—and swept down the stairs. He paid no heed to the words of those in the living room as he opened the front door and took off down the street, not even bothering to close it. The ominous black clouds above him threatened rain, but he didn't care. It was now or never. He had to go—now. He had to know just what that gaze meant, and he also had to make it clear that there was still another choice. But this time, he decided, would be the last time. He would make his final case. And if Anne resisted, no matter how hard it hurt, he would let her go—or at least spend his whole life trying.
And off we go, as Gilbert takes matters into his own hands. I hope you will come along for the ride; it will be exciting to say the least.
I took the title from the song "Say Something" (by A Great Big World), which was the inspiration for this story. I was listening to the song and this idea just popped into my head. I can't believe what has bloomed up out of it. To me, the lyrics just seem like exactly what Gilbert would have said to Anne when she was on the point of becoming engaged to Roy, were he to speak from his heart. Maybe it's just me...
Katherine: Thanks for the comment! I too am a fan of the semicolon, and yes, I would like to write about Gilbert in med-school. I was actually working on a little something when the idea for this story pushed it onto the back burner for a bit.
Raindropcatcher: I guess we will just have to take it upon ourselves to fill in the blanks during Anne and Gilbert's engagement :)