This story is a sequel to Say Something.
AN: This story picks up right where Say Something leaves off, and as such is an AU. I am proud to announce (with a tear) that it is now complete! After a tumultuous end to their fourth year at Redmond, Anne and Gilbert are in love, engaged, and hoping to get as much of each other as they can before Gilbert begins medical school in the fall. Will the summer be as simple and sweet as they wish it to be?
And of course, a big thank you to L.M. Montgomery for creating such wonderful, beautifully developed characters. It is a great privilege to write them!
Around the Bend
Chapter 1: The Rumor Mill Works Overtime, and Gladly
Spring had begun its slow exit in Avonlea; summer was approaching, and its eminent return was felt by all. Delicate lilies turned their heads up to the sun, basking in its abundant rays, while berry thickets bore their growing burdens proudly, and the Lake of Shining Waters beckoned all who passed by to dip their toes into its cool depths. Children skipped along dirt roads, singing songs and kicking up dust, while bees buzzed happily among the flowers of even the tiniest gardens.
Yes, a change of season was in the air. Yet there was something else which buzzed through the atmosphere of Avonlea, carried by cool morning breezes and warm evening ones. It danced about the town, traveling faster than even the birds and bees—rumors. Like any other small town, Avonlea was a breeding ground for gossip. Even its most reserved inhabitants were not opposed to taking part in the spreading of a good tale, and the latest piece of news was certainly worth mentioning to two or three neighbors at the least. Since the story's first appearance less than two days before, it had spread to every corner of the town, and to every pair of ears within its limits. Each time the news was told, the conversation followed a similar tune.
"Did you hear that Anne Shirley is engaged to Gilbert Blythe?" the informant would say to the informed, with a degree of importance in being the source of a magnificent and long-awaited piece of information.
"Heavens, can you be serious? After all this time?" the informed would surely reply.
"Oh yes, it's as true as you live," the satisfied informant would then explain. This would almost certainly be followed with an "I told you it would happen eventually," or an "I knew all along they were a match."
And so the conversation would continue. As to how the news of Anne and Gilbert's engagement came to be so widespread, it started as many tales in Avonlea do, with one Mrs. Rachel Lynde.
Not thirty minutes after hearing it from Anne and Gilbert themselves, a much excited Rachel had made it her duty to enlighten all of her dear neighbors. She had first told Mrs. Bell, Mr. Mac Phearson, Mrs. Gillis, and Mrs. Harrison. Mrs. Harrison went straight home to tell Mr. Harrison, while Mr. Mac Phearson told Mr. Fletcher, along with Mr. Cotton, who immediately told Mrs. Cotton, who told Mrs. Boulter and Mrs. Shaw. By then, Mrs. Gillis had told Mrs. Sloane and Mrs. Andrews, and Mrs. Andrews then told Mrs. Barry and Mrs. Pye, who told Alice Lawson. Alice Lawson had told Mrs. Wright, and Mrs. Wright told Mrs. Donnell, who told Mrs. Clay. And after that, it would really be quite impossible to discern who told who, although we can probably depend that Mrs. Lynde told everyone else, at least until her legs and lungs failed her. And so came the day that the entire town of Avonlea grew abuzz with the news they had expected to hear years before.
"I knew all along she was courting that Roy fellow just to spite poor Gilbert," Mrs. Lynde said to Mrs. Bell as she leaned against her front porch railing, catching her breath after hustling from house to house. "Providence wouldn't have let it happen any other way. Why, the day she broke that blessed slate over his head, I said to Marilla, 'There's a match for you, and make no mistake!' You'll see now that I was right from the start."
"Well I wish she wouldn't have jilted him the first time… but that's water under the bridge now, I suppose, and I feel sorry I ever turned my nose up at her," said Mrs. Blythe to Mr. Blythe, while laying the table for supper. "She'll make him a wonderful, spirited wife. That keen mind of his will never grow dull with Anne around… I never could keep up with Gilbert's banter, but if there's one soul as can do it, it's Anne." She then proceeded to blow her nose into her handkerchief.
"Bless my soul, Anne finally came around to the fellow, did she?" Mr. Harrison had said to Mrs. Harrison between puffs of smoke, as he leaned back in his rocker with pipe in hand. "My, but she was always a stubborn one, that she was. That Gilbert better keep a firm grip on her, with two hands, if he knows what a good thing he's got."
"Do you mean to say that even hot-tempered, obstinate Anne is getting married before our Josie?" exclaimed Mrs. Pye to Mrs. Andrews during afternoon tea, with a shake of her head and roll of her eyes. "Why he waited around for her all this time is beyond me… she's put a spell on him, that's what. I've always said that girl was strange, and now here's the proof!"
"I'll bet they've been engaged for years, and simply kept it quiet till now," Mrs. Sloane said to Mrs. Harrison, while stuffing mail into various boxes in the post office. "I've heard she rejected our Charlie, and I never could see any reason why, except she must have already been engaged to Gilbert. Now I see I was right all along!"
And so the talk continued.
Perhaps the only person oblivious to the buzz of gossip was Anne herself. On this particular afternoon she sat, back against a tree in the orchard of Green Gables, legs stretched outwards and ankles crossed, lost in a book. Her hair was tied in a single braid down her back, and she fiddled unknowingly with the end of it, running her fingers over the neatly woven strands. It was a lazy day for Anne, yet she did not mind; it was a nice departure from the strain of her Redmond studies. Hardly more than a week had passed since she walked the platform to receive her degree, yet it felt far longer. Between final exams, romances both gained and lost, and moving back to Avonlea, Anne mind had hardly found a moment's rest. Because of this, she treasured these first few lazy days to no small degree.
Anne was so enraptured with her book that she did not notice the sound of approaching footsteps. Therefore, she was all-the-more startled when she felt two firm hands upon her shoulders.
"Enjoying Miss Bronte, I see," came Gilbert's voice in her ear. Anne gave a small start before placing her hands on top of Gilbert's and craning her neck up at him.
"Goodness, Gilbert! You seem to have quite a fondness for startling me," Anne said, as she closed the book she was reading. The words 'Jane Eyre,' gleamed up at them from the cover. "And yes, I was. You've actually chosen quite a climatic point to disturb me," she added severely, while unable to hide a smile, for it was quite a welcome disturbance.
Anne shifted slightly to face Gilbert better, and took a moment to take in his appearance. He was looking a bit healthier than he had at the end of term, when he had shown up on her doorstep with a sallow face and rings around his eyes, his clothes hanging loosely from his slumped shoulders. Countless hours of studying had taken their toll on his body, and since Anne now knew—with a twinge of guilt—that she was part of the reason he had nearly killed himself over his schoolwork, she felt it her personal duty to see to his full recovery. His cheeks and skin, although not as vibrant as they once were, had now regained some of their usual color. His eyes still appeared rather tired, but at least the dark rings around them were gone. As for his clothes, they were still quite baggy, but Anne supposed it would take him several weeks to reach his original size and stature. Oblivious to Anne's silent examinations, Gilbert plopped himself down on the grass next to her.
"Well, I'm terribly sorry to interrupt. I simply thought you might like to know that I've just been through town, where I overheard the strangest gossip. Everyone is talking about it," he said with a smug smile. "I don't suppose you'd like to hear it?" Anne abandoned her observations as she placed her book next to her and drew her knees up to her chest.
"Oh yes, and what might that be?" she said, feigning mild interest as she curled a blade of grass around her finger; in truth she was quite intrigued.
"Well," Gilbert said, a grin slowly spreading across his face. "They're only rumors, perhaps you may tell me whether or not they are true… but the word is, you've recently become a very fortunate woman."
Anne raised her eyebrows at him. "How ever so?"
"Well, the way I hear it, you're going to be married. But that isn't the half of it. The fellow is supposed to be second to none… good looking, intelligent, ambitious. Have you any idea who it is?" Gilbert's face was plastered with an impish grin. Anne sighed as she shook her head—no news, just Gilbert being his usual self.
"I haven't the slightest clue. There's no one in this town who fits that description," Anne said archly, as she gathered a pebble between her fingers and tossed it at his head. Gilbert shielded his face with his arm.
"Well," he said, unhindered by Anne's snub, "if you have no clue as to who it is, I've no idea why everyone else claims they knew all along…"
"Do they!" Anne exclaimed, her cool countenance breaking.
"Such is the hearsay," Gilbert replied simply. "And anyway," he added, leaning in to Anne and placing his face mere inches from hers, "I have my own ideas about who it is." Anne's heart began to beat quickly at the sheer closeness of him. She wasn't quite used to it yet; she wondered if she would ever grow used to it.
"Oh yes? And who might that be?" she asked, blushing slightly.
"Well, I happen to have also heard that you let Gilbert Blythe kiss you today, in the orchard of Green Gables."
Anne wrinkled her forehead. "But I haven't let you kiss me tod—" Her words were cut short as Gilbert pressed his lips into hers. Anne lost the will to counter his statements as she let his lips do as they pleased. The taste of Gilbert, while still new and exciting as ever, seemed to only grow sweeter with each kiss he chose to bestow.
"You were saying?" Gilbert said, as he pulled away and resumed his former position. Anne closed her eyes for a moment, as she returned from the distant cloud she had been sitting on.
"Fine," she conceded. "I'll confess. It's all true, every bit of it."
"I thought it might be." Gilbert smiled as he tugged Anne's golden-red braid, before laying back on the grass and bringing his arms up, placing his hands under his head. "You might also like to know, that I saw something while I was in town that will be of great interest to you."
"I'm sure you did…" said Anne sarcastically, preparing herself for more of Gilbert's mischief.
"You don't want to hear what I saw?"
"Alright then, have it your way. Pity if she hears of it from someone else…"
"Hears of what?" Anne asked, her curiosity piqued. Gilbert was too good at these games of his.
"Of us, being engaged," Gilbert said. His eyes were closed, giving him the appearance of being quite unconcerned with the matter. Anne rolled her eyes.
"Gilbert, you just made it clear that everyone already knows. Who on earth are you talking about?"
"Diana Wright of course," he replied, opening one eye in order to view the surprise that was certain to appear on Anne's face. "I saw her and Fred driving down the Newbridge road today, returning from Charlottetown." He grinned as Anne's eyes bulged and her mouth dropped open.
"Why… Diana! Oh, Gilbert, why ever didn't you say something! She wasn't supposed to return until tomorrow!" Anne exclaimed, giving him a small shove for keeping the news from her these five minutes. "I simply must go to her, immediately, or someone else shall surely tell her first!"
Gilbert chuckled at the degree to which his news had excited Anne. Before he knew it, she had sprung to her feet, hastily brushed off her dress, and begun making her way back to Green Gables. 'Jane Eyre' lay forgotten on the ground. Shaking his head, he bent down to retrieve her abandoned book, then turned and followed after her.
Thirty minutes later, a winded Anne Shirley hurried down the lane to the Wright homestead. The day was not altogether hot, yet beads of sweat glistened on her forehead by the time she had completed her two-mile journey. She wiped several loose strands of hair from her face as she discerned Diana, sitting in a wicker chair on the front porch with a tiny bundle in her lap.
"Anne!" Diana called, as she saw her approaching the porch steps.
"My dearest Diana, how wonderful to see you!" Anne cried, taking the steps two at a time and leaning down to embrace her friend. Anne thought it very refreshing to see Diana after many months apart, and delighted in the glow of happiness which read in her every feature.
"I'm ever so sorry we missed your return from Redmond," said Diana. "My Aunt Josephine—" Yet Anne was not thinking of Redmond just now; nor was she thinking of Aunt Josephine. Her attention had been captured by the plump, precious angel looking up at her from the blue folds under Diana's elbow.
"Never you mind your Aunt Josephine at a time like this! But my goodness, Diana, little Fred is simply delightful!" Anne looked down into Fred's sweet, dimply face. She could not help but notice how much he looked like his father. Yet somehow, despite being fat, freckled and scarlet, he was none-the-less wonderful than if he had been the handsomest baby alive. Anne offered him her little finger, and his tiny fist closed tightly around it. Diana was practically gleaming with pride. Anne decided that motherhood looked very good on Diana. Nevertheless, she could hardly believe her bosom friend of long ago was a mother in the first place!
The next quarter of an hour was spent admiring little Fred. Diana gushed and glowed, while Anne gawked and admired.
"Motherhood is the sweetest thing, Anne. I am confident you will love it, some day when you are a mother yourself."
"I am sure I will, Diana," said Anne with a laugh, while she wiggled the baby's tiny toes. "I have dreamt of being a mother for my entire life."
"And you will be such a wonderful one! You have such a way with children," Diana sighed, in a tone of admiration bordering on jealousy.
"Well if motherhood has made my bosom friend so supremely happy, then I am looking forward to it all the more!" Anne said with a smile. "As long as I don't have twins," she added. "I've had enough of twins to last a lifetime! Yet I've always said that twins seem to be my lot in life." Diana laughed in agreement. Between the various sets of Hammond twins, and Dora and Davy, Anne certainly was experienced on that subject.
All this talk of children led Anne's thoughts, naturally, to Gilbert. What would their children look like? Hopefully they would inherit his dark brown hair—Anne had always hated her own—yet she would be glad if they had her nose. And oh, what joy she would derive from seeing Gilbert's hazel eyes staring up at her, out of the face of a wee babe upon her lap! Anne found herself lost in thought, until thinking of Gilbert caused her to suddenly remember the reason for her visit.
"Oh, goodness me!" Anne said aloud, wondering how on earth it could have slipped her mind, so enraptured had she been with seeing Diana once again. "I've only just remembered… I came here to tell you the news."
"News?" Diana asked, looking at Anne through raised eyebrows.
"Yes," Anne stated, clearing her throat. "I wanted to be the first to tell you…"
Diana gazed at Anne expectantly; in her eyes, there was only one type of news which merited such an introduction. She had expected the summer to bring word of Anne's engagement; after all, she and Anne had talked of it often that past Christmas. Now Diana merely waited for her suspicions to be confirmed.
"I'm engaged," Anne declared, throwing up her hands as she said so and pausing to see Diana's reaction. Diana's eyes widened slightly, and she smiled as she clapped her hands together.
"So Roy proposed, then! Oh, Anne, I was desperately hoping he would. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure if you would see it through; Fred said you wouldn't, but of course I defended you, although it was hard to see how you really felt about him. But of course you were only being modest—"
"Diana, wait!" Anne cried, overwhelmed by her friend's sudden outburst. She also couldn't help but notice that Diana's excitement, while genuine, seemed forced in its degree. Diana grew silent in response to Anne's request.
"Hmm?" she inquired, wearing a rather confused look.
"Perhaps I should clarify. I am engaged… but not to Roy," Anne said slowly. She might have mentioned Gilbert's name then and there, but she couldn't resist the opportunity to hold her friend in suspense. Diana's mouth fell open. If she hadn't been shocked by Anne's initial declaration, she most certainly was shocked now.
"Wha… what? Not to Roy?"
"No, not to Roy."
"Well then… then… but you were courting… you said…" Diana stammered. She stared at Anne through wide eyes, flabbergasted. Anne couldn't help but smile at Diana's puzzlement.
"Whoever are you engaged to, Anne?" Diana demanded. Anne's smile widened and she let out a small, uncontrollable giggle. Diana realized that Anne was holding this vital piece of information from her on purpose. "For heaven's sake, Anne Shirley, tell me!"
"Well then…" Anne replied, deciding she had kept her poor friend on edge for long enough, "to Gilbert Blythe, if you must know."
Diana let out an ear-piercing shriek, nearly dropping baby Fred on the floor. She then clapped her hands over her mouth, eyes growing even wider than before.
"To… to Gilbert Blythe! Why, Anne, you sly minx! But you swore up and down you didn't care a thing for him! Are you in earnest?" Diana's face was puzzled; it all seemed too wonderful and strange to be true.
"I am, dearest Diana," Anne said, taking one of Diana's trembling hands into her own. "And take no more explanation beyond the fact that I was a stubborn, blind, unbearable goose, and have since seen the error of my ways." As Anne said this, she began to laugh. Diana couldn't help but notice the genuine glee that was written in every feature of Anne's face; it put a rosy tint in her cheeks and a glowing fire in her eyes that made her look remarkably beautiful. So it was true! The realization that Anne really was engaged to Gilbert caused Diana to shriek aloud once again.
"Oh, Anne! I am so happy for you, I could burst!" she said, before pulling Anne close to her and giving her a wet kiss on the cheek. Diana was completely giddy with excitement for her dear friend. Anne couldn't help but notice how different Diana's reaction was, upon hearing that Anne was engaged to Gilbert, and not Roy. Then again, Diana liked Gilbert much better than Roy. Furthermore, she had never been able to understand Anne's constant snubs to Gilbert throughout their long history.
Diana's exclamations of glee were interrupted by the front door flying open. A red-faced, distressed Fred Wright burst through it.
"Diana, are you alright? I heard screaming," he said, looking wildly from Anne to Diana. The two girls burst into fits of laughter. Half a minute passed before Diana was able to gather her wits about her.
"Nothing to worry, Fred dear, although Anne did just startle me half to death! Perhaps she will startle you half to death as well, when you hear her news." Diana turned to Anne and winked, then turned back to her husband.
"What's that?" asked Fred, scratching his head in confusion.
"Why, Anne here is engaged to Gilbert Blythe. What say you to that, darling?" Fred's jaw dropped, much the same as Diana's had done only five minutes before.
"Well, is that so?" Fred said, looking at Anne and letting out a low whistle. "Why, I never… I thought he gave that up when you jilted him the first time."
"Fred!" Diana exclaimed, shooting him a disapproving look.
"No offense meant, of course," Fred added apologetically while glancing once again at Anne.
"It's alright, Diana," Anne said, patting her on the arm. "Truly, it is. I've been a downright fool when it comes to Gilbert, and I might as well get used to people saying so." She flashed a smile at Fred, who gave a small shrug, as if he could not help but agree.
"Well then," Fred said awkwardly, clearing his throat. "If you ladies are alright, I think I'll just head back inside. Congratulations, Anne." With that he shuffled back through the door. Fred had never possessed a knack for entertaining Diana's house guests.
Once he had gone, Diana spoke again. "Tell me how it happened, Anne," she pleaded, while stroking little Fred's wispy curls with her fingertips. And so Anne told Diana the entire story from start to finish; Diana was a most willing and animated listener. She gasped in surprise as Anne told her of Gilbert's kiss, and anguish showed on her face during the awkward tale of Convocation. She buried her face in her hands when Anne spoke of Roy's proposal, she sighed when Anne recounted the Convocation dance, and she clenched the arms of her chair during the story of Roy and Gilbert's confrontation. When Anne finally arrived at Gilbert's proposal, Diana was an emotional mess. She claimed it was the sweetest proposal she had ever heard of, and promptly wiped her eyes on baby Fred's blanket.
"Oh Anne, you poor dear," Diana said, when Anne's tale was finally told out. "That is quite a story! It's a wonder you didn't fall ill from the stress of it all! And it must have been quite overwhelming to finally realize your love for Gilbert."
"Oh, but it was!" Anne replied, reflecting for a moment. "It felt rather like plunging into a pool of cold water. Every sense was magnified, and it was uncomfortable, and almost painful in its intensity. But after a short while, I embraced it, and grew relaxed and happy and free. And everything just felt… right." She let out a sigh, while gazing up at the sky. Diana took much pleasure from seeing the dreamy look on Anne's face.
"I love him so completely, Diana," Anne continued, holding her gaze towards the heavens. "Looking back, I can't even remember a day when I didn't love him."
Diana smiled and placed her hand on Anne's knee. "I think you've loved him from the very start," she said earnestly. "If I could only count the times I asked you if you cared for him! Yet you would always become so upset every time I raised the subject—that's how I knew you loved him. If you didn't, you wouldn't have cared half so much at my thinking you did." Anne saw the truth in Diana's statement and nodded in agreement. Looking back, Anne realized that Diana, too, had known all along of her feelings for Gilbert. It had all been so clear—to everyone but herself!
Both women sat silently for a moment, each reminiscing over intimate conversations of old. It was Diana who broke the silence first. "Do you remember the wild, dashing, wicked men we once dreamed of marrying?"
Anne gave a chuckle at the thought. She was all too familiar with the melancholy man which had inhabited the dreams of their youth. She had courted the very likes of him, after all, and found him to be not so very dreamy in the end.
"Oh yes, how could I forget!" she exclaimed. "When I first learned of your engagement to Fred, I was so disappointed in you for abandoning your tall, dark, mysterious hero of yore."
"Ah yes, Fred isn't quite any of those things, is he?" Diana said with a laugh. "I told you that one day you would understand, when your turn came," she added, with a shake of her head.
"What a stubborn goose I was!" cried Anne, as she buried her face into Diana's shoulder. "I clung to that ideal until it nearly drowned me! In the end, you spoke the truth, and I am forced to eat my words, without a spare bit of sugar to make them go down smoothly! Yet it pains me not to admit to you, dearest Diana, that I could never imagine myself marrying anyone but my dear curly-haired, sarcastic, mischievous Gilbert."
"Oh, to hear you say that at last!" Diana exclaimed. The two then proceeded to discuss all matters of love and life, with every air of their girlish camaraderie of olden days.
Anne's conversation with Diana left her heart feeling very full, for there is nothing quite like sharing life's greatest joys with a bosom friend. As Anne skipped back down the lane an hour later, she couldn't help but feel content. Her last weekend at Redmond had been the most stressful, emotional, and exciting one of her entire life, yet the dust had finally settled. She was finally around this rather sharp bend in the road, and waiting for her on the other side had been Gilbert, with both arms and heart open wide. She knew not where it would take her now, and neither did she care. As long as she had Gilbert to walk it with her, she would face it with a smile on her lips and a song in her heart.
AN: And off we go! Thank you for following me over here, you are all so wonderful. I hope to make your time worthwhile!