AN: Let's be honest. Anne of Windy Poplars had a glaring lack of Gilbert. We didn't get the bits of romance we were hoping for, besides the promise of letters written with "exactly the right type of pen." So then… I am going to explore what their relationship was like as an engaged couple, but with a twist: What would have happened if Anne and Gilbert didn't spend their engagement apart, but instead she followed him to teach in Kingsport, rather than Summerside? What was their relationship like during that period, and more specifically, how do they deal with their increasing longing and desire for each other, when they're alone, away from Avonlea and left to make their own decisions? I'll be delving into this, and I'll also give insight into other aspects of Anne's life... for it is the things that make Anne, well—Anne, that make us love her, and make us want Gilbert to love her.
This story follows naturally after Say Something and Around the Bend (you can find them on my profile), and is the third in that series... although it can be read just fine on its own. If you have not read the other two stories, this first chapter should catch you up with key differences between my AU and Maud's canon (although I won't lie that a few plot twists will be spoiled, if you decide to read those first two stories later on). I hope you enjoy!
Rated T—for suggestive adult themes (as I mentioned, we're not in Avonlea anymore, folks).
Chapter 1: Good and Proper
"What a summer we've had, Gilbert! To think that this shall be our last evening walk together round flecked, gangly birch groves and little bits of misty wood. The sun which sets tonight seems to also set on this glorious chapter—the birth of our love."
"You make it sound like a sheer poem—nothing but loveliness throughout."
"N-o-o. Of course not. It certainly started as a right chaotic mess!"
"I do apologize for that," Gilbert grinned.
"I'm sure," Anne replied sarcastically as she brought her fingers absentmindedly to her lips, remembering the kiss Gilbert had lain upon them that last day of April—when he had told her, with far more than words, how he felt about her imminent engagement to Roy Gardner.
"I like to think that this summer has contained both the best and worst moments of my life. Oh Gil, when you were abed with the fever, and especially that one night before the turn, when I thought..." Anne paused here, with a glazed, far-off look in her eyes, remembering that dreadful moment when she had watched through the blur of her tears to see whether Gilbert's chest still rose and fell in turn; she remembered the morning after that longest of nights, when she had been afraid to look upon his face, lest she see that he had gone from it. Gilbert took Anne's hand into his own and squeezed it lightly, sensing the direction of her thoughts and reminding her that he was here, right next to her. Anne's eyes cleared and she looked over at him.
"Yet you agreed that you cannot wholly regret it," he reminded her.
Anne shook her head. "As I said, it brought us closer together."
Gilbert looked off into the distance as he, too, thought back to those dreadful weeks of pain; he remembered the confusion and doubt the fever had created, but also the way Anne had stayed tirelessly by his side despite the things he had said—the delusions he had believed. He remembered how she had sung to him, and cried into his side, and laid herself bare as she said the things she might never again get the chance to say. "Yes, it did," he agreed, as he pulled his gaze away from the horizon and turned to look upon Anne.
It had been nearly four months since he had asked her to be his wife, yet every time he looked upon her—saw the blush that tinged her cheeks when he gazed at her, or saw her dainty hand clasped within his own—he still could not believe that she was finally his.
"And the best moment?" he asked softly. Anne needed only a second to answer.
"When I realized you were going to live. When I kissed that miraculously wet forehead and knew it would not be the last time I would press my lips to it." She stopped mid-stride and leaned in, planting a kiss upon the very spot. Then she pulled lightly on his hand and they resumed their walk.
"And now we shall trade these dusty dirt roads for cobbled streets, and our towering spruces for sharp edges of steel and glass," said Gilbert in mock dreaminess.
"Even Redmond has its sightly little harbor, and an undiscovered natural haven or two, waiting for us to seek it out."
"And we shall, Anne-girl, when you join me a week from now." Anne smiled at this prospect. Gilbert was leaving for Redmond the next morning—this would give him a few days to settle into his new lodgings and prepare for the start of term on Monday. Anne would take another week to get her affairs in order, before making the trip to Kingsport herself.
"And to think, I should have been leaving for Summerside in a few days!" Anne exclaimed. Then, suddenly remembering something, she continued, "I received a very rude response the other day, to my declination. Did I mention it? Now then, I'm fully aware that it wasn't entirely good of me to go back on my promise to take the position. But I should have cried for the hurtful language within it! She—the board representative, I mean—called me a fool for passing up the prestigious opportunities that they could have afforded me, and told me she was glad my character has now been revealed, before it was too late. That isn't the worst of what she said but I'd rather not mention the rest now. It was sent by some woman with the last name of Pringle."
"Sounds pretentious," mused Gilbert.
"Well I'm all the more glad because of it. I'd much rather teach in the slums of Patterson Street, with desolate little ones who need me, than the fanciest of high schools where folk find it reasonable to address a stranger in such a way."
"I certainly think you'll have a way with the children round Patterson," said Gilbert admiringly. "The most desolate of all God's creatures are the ones that need love the most, don't you think? And you have just the right mix of kindness and discipline to give it to them."
By this time, Anne and Gilbert had reached Green Gables. They strolled slowly through the garden and around to the back door.
"I'm glad you're coming with me, Anne," Gilbert said, as he took her hands in his. "To think that I shall see you in a week's time, as opposed to three months... "
"It does seem a much better plan, doesn't it?" Anne laughed. "Indeed, Summerside would not have done at all. Now, shall you come in for a minute, or is this where I leave you?"
"Only for a minute, to bid farewell to Marilla and Mrs. Lynde."
Satisfied with this response—for she didn't wish to part from him just yet—and thinking it was very sweet of Gilbert to feel the need to bid farewell to the ladies of the house, Anne turned and reached for the door handle. Gilbert, however, grasped her hand and pulled her back.
"This may be the last moment I have you to myself," he suggested, as he drew her close to him. "So if you don't mind, I think I'll kiss you goodbye now, away from prying eyes and where I can do it good and proper."
"Good and proper?" Anne said with raised eyebrows and a face flushed with anticipation. She glanced sideways, relieved that they could not quite be seen from the lighted kitchen windows.
"Mmhmm," was all he replied. Apparently, when Gilbert said "good and proper," he meant it. He wrapped her up in his arms and kissed her intently. Anne brought her hands around his neck, grazing the short hairs on the back of his head with her fingertips. She felt Gilbert take a step forwards as he moved her with him, and pressed her gently up against the door.
Little did they know Mrs. Lynde was already reaching for the handle on the other side, empty laundry basket in tow, in order to remove the towels that were hanging out on the line.
… … …
"Recent events have brought me to realize that the two of you need a bit of an, education," said Mrs. Lynde, not five minutes later, in the living room of Green Gables.
"Sit down, Anne. You too, Gilbert… no, not there... in the armchair." Gilbert raised his eyebrows at Anne as he crossed over to the chair in question, which also happened to be the farthest piece of furniture in the room as compared to the sofa on which Anne was perched.
Anne folded her arms across her chest as she leaned into the seatback. She might have given Gilbert a playful look but she did not, so embarrassed she still was over practically falling into Mrs. Lynde, as the woman had opened the kitchen door only minutes before. She had been so wrapped up in Gilbert that she hadn't noticed the click of the handle being turned, and Mrs. Lynde had gotten a front row seat to what was otherwise supposed to be a very private moment.
"Oh good, Marilla, there you are. I hope I didn't alarm you when I barged into the study, but given the details I just related to you, and given that Gilbert is leaving tomorrow, you'll agree this is a matter of some urgency."
Marilla sighed as she leaned an elbow on the piano opposite Anne. She supposed there was some truth in Rachel's words. When Marilla had heard of Anne's plan to join Gilbert in Kingsport, of course she was a bit disappointed that she had turned down the job in Summerside. To think that Anne would pass up a prestigious position at a highly reputed high school, to work in a slum! But it attested to how much she loved the boy, and Marilla could not fault her for that. Their plan had been sound and well thought out. Anne could save money by boarding with Philippa Blake, and perhaps find another principalship a year from now, in a better part of town. Yet Marilla also wasn't sure she liked the idea of Anne being essentially alone with Gilbert in Kingsport, even if he was to be very busy with his studies. They would be off on their own, away from quiet old Avonlea, and together often. Marilla had limited experience with the passions of love but she had heard stories, and if anyone was known to give into passions, it was Anne. Yet she had raised the girl with strong moral values, and Gilbert was a level-headed lad, even if Anne might be considered a weakness of his. Nevertheless, perhaps a short discussion was in order—though she was happy to let Rachel do the talking.
"—I've often considered whether someone ought to have a good and proper conversation with Anne and Gilbert," Mrs. Lynde had been saying, "and now I see there is not a moment to be lost. Do you not agree, Marilla?" Marilla looked from Rachel's stern face to Anne's mortified one, and then to Gilbert, who was calm and collected.
"I suppose you may be right, Rachel. Though do cut with the dramatics and get to the point."
"Right then," Mrs. Lynde said, wiping her hands on her dress and beginning to pace around the room.
"You have a long engagement ahead of you… three years," Mrs. Lynde said gravely, as if this was new and shocking news. "Now I've never quite held with the ardor and passion you see among young people nowadays. In my day, we showed a little more restraint. A quiet sense of fondness and admiration goes a long way, and don't you forget it. That being said, I've always spoken to Marilla of a bond between the two of you, and now I realize things are more serious than I thought. I pity you—to be so attracted to each other is such a curse."
She looked grimly at Anne, who was blushing bright red and wishing she might become one with the couch cushions. To have to bear this talk—this talk!—from Mrs. Lynde was beyond humiliating. If only Mrs. Lynde had the decency to wait until Gilbert was out of the house, then it would have at least been bearable!… Anne looked over at Gilbert, who was staring at Mrs. Lynde somberly and nodding his agreement. Oh, the nerve of him… having a bit of fun at a time like this!
"And so it is only fitting that I talk to you about lust."
Anne gave a start at the word, and also at the frankness with which Mrs. Lynde had spoken it.
"Mrs. Lynde, I can assure you this is quite unnecess—"
"But I assure you it is necessary, Anne. Do an old woman a favor and let me have my say. Are you familiar with 1 Thessalonians?" Mrs. Lynde asked seriously. Anne and Gilbert both nodded quietly. "For this is the will of God… that ye should abstain from fornication," Mrs. Lynde emphasized this word, "that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor—"
"Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God,"* Gilbert finished for her. Anne looked at him and raised her eyebrows, surprised. "We were made to memorize that one in Sunday School," he said with a shrug.
"And for good reason!" Mrs. Lynde exclaimed. "Surely that was Mr. Allan's design. Mr. Bentley always selected the most irrelevant passages, not to mention the way he drawled on—"
"To the point, Rachel," Marilla interrupted from the piano.
"Yes, the point. Now the good Lord meant to keep us pure and holy, but after The Fall, the devil had his way and now we must bare the cross of desire. Our only hope is to give up our burden of longing to the Lord..." Anne rested her elbows on her knees and put her face in her hands as Mrs. Lynde drawled on. She then straightened up and threw Gilbert an apologetic look. He raised his eyebrows as if to say he was sharing in her discomfort, then grinned at her, before continuing to stare solemnly up at Mrs. Lynde.
"Now, this will likely be news to you, seeing as your engagement is still rather new. And certainly if you did understand what I am about to tell you, you would be more careful. And so I feel it is my duty to inform you that as the months go by, your longing for each other will only grow. It is best not to feed this desire. It is as a small sapling newly planted—give it a bit of water, and it will only grow, and want more, and more."
"Yet do not water it at all, and it will die," Gilbert countered plainly. Anne's eyes widened at his remark. She shook her head and shot him a pointed glare. He shrugged his shoulders innocently, although she could tell he was trying not to laugh. She had to admit, it was a very clever point, and the look that had entered into Mrs. Lynde's face as a result was quite amusing.
"Well then, ye-es," she said slowly. Mrs. Lynde did not possess the wits of Gilbert, and so her discomfort was clear as she regrouped her efforts. "Might I suggest more innocent displays, Gilbert. A bouquet of flowers, perhaps a small gift every now and then, or a small peck on the cheek…"
"I believe what Mrs. Lynde is trying to say," interjected Marilla, unable to bear her friend's antics any longer, "is that you must be wary. There are challenges ahead of you. You must consider what is proper and refrain from what is not, and pray that God might help you distinguish between the two."
"Precisely," agreed Mrs. Lynde. "I'll be honest in saying, Anne, that I think it would be better of you to go to Summerside. You would be away from Gilbert, which would make the job all-the-more easy."
"But she is not going to Summerside, Rachel, and so it is of unimportance," Marilla said frankly.
"Well she hasn't moved anywhere just yet..." Mrs. Lynde countered, turning to face Marilla. Gilbert used this opportunity to look over at Anne.
"I'm sorry," mouthed Anne, who was humiliated that Gilbert should have to endure such a display. Gilbert waved away her apology as if to say it was nothing. Then he winked at her and raised his eyebrows again. Anne rolled her eyes and glared at him. Next Gilbert licked his lips teasingly, and suddenly a reel of laughter bubbled from Anne's throat; she disguised it as a violent cough and thumped her fist against her chest.
"Is something the matter, Anne?" asked Mrs. Lynde in response to Anne's display.
"Oh, its... nothing," Anne gasped. "Just a little cough, perhaps I should get a sip of water..." she suggested, hoping for any excuse to leave the room.
"No need for you to get up... Marilla can fetch it," insisted Mrs. Lynde. Marilla was more than glad to oblige—Mrs. Lynde's lecture was positively painful and she, too, wanted no more part of it.
"Now then," Mrs. Lynde continued after Marilla had gone. "Both your purity and reputation are at stake here, Anne, and I simply mean to make you aware of the battle you are up against. It is best not to give in to your urges, for desire breeds desire, and the farther down the road you find yourselves, the more difficult it is to turn back."
Would this never end? It seemed the worst sort of torture—worse even than when Mr. Phillips had made her sit next to a certain someone for the entire afternoon, as punishment for arriving late after lunch. The memory caused her to look over at the boy in question—the situation they found themselves in now was certainly quite different from the one of years ago, although none-the-less awkward.
"There is something between the two of you—only Providence knows how it came to be—that makes me suspect it will be a battle fought all-the-harder, but it will also be all-the-more satisfying when, at long last, you are finally able to—"
"Thank you, Rachel. I believe your point has been made," interrupted Marilla, as she returned with a glass of water and crossed over to Anne. Anne, who was glad for any reason to divert her attention from the thick atmosphere in the room, immediately seized the water and started gulping it intently.
"Well then, I suppose that is all," Mrs. Lynde concluded. "I have had my say and will leave it to the two of you, and the good Lord, may he grant you restraint."
… … …
Mrs. Lynde's "good and proper" talk left Anne feeling positively mortified, and she insisted on accompanying Gilbert outside to bid farewell—she certainly couldn't part from him on that note. She stood with him at the gate, well-aware that Mrs. Lynde's keen eyes were staring at them from some window or other.
"Well that was… pleasant," said Gilbert.
"Oh Gil, I'm so sorry! I am most embarrassed… I could strangle Mrs. Lynde..."
"Now that seems a bit harsh, Anne," Gilbert joked, as he took her hand in his. "I didn't mind, it was amusing to say the least."
"Well if Mrs. Lynde is one thing, it's amusing," Anne said with a sigh. Gilbert laughed and nodded his agreement. Anne stood quietly for a moment, in contemplation.
"Gilbert?" she asked tentatively. "Do you think that Mrs. Lynde was right? Do you think that we aren't being careful enough?" He half expected her to drop her gaze to the ground, embarrassed, yet she looked right at him with those captivating gray-green eyes.
"Well… I don't think so," he said slowly, letting go of her hand and bringing his thumb to her chin. "Do you?"
Anne thought this over. "I'm not sure…" she said uneasily. "Mrs. Lynde certainly seemed to think so."
"And since when was she the embodiment of wisdom?"
"True," Anne agreed with a small laugh. "I suppose the problem is, I just don't know how to know."
"Hmmm," Gilbert said thoughtfully. "Well, do you feel ashamed, when I kiss you… the way I did tonight?"
"No-o," Anne replied. The thought of feeling ashamed seemed positively silly.
"I certainly don't," Gilbert replied, as he leaned in and gave her a soft peck on the lips.
"I suppose I just worry... about wanting more," Anne admitted. "She's right, about that part, you know." Gilbert did know. He knew it to his very core, every time he drew close to her. He knew it in the way his heart seemed to beat a little quicker and the hairs on his arm seemed to stand on end. "And eventually, more will be out of the question. But it's such an awful long time…"
"I know," he said quietly. "I suppose the best way to go about it is to take it day by day, and promise each other to be honest about it. You'll tell me if I ever make you uncomfortable, won't you, my love?"
"Well that's the trouble, isn't it? Sometimes I think you could never make me uncomfortable."
Gilbert smiled at this confession. He certainly used to make Anne feel very uncomfortable, in their Redmond days. He knew this was no longer the case, yet hearing Anne say it filled him with joy. Finally she was his; finally she loved him the way he had always dreamed she would. He brought his lips to hers once more.
"Gilbert…" Anne said as she pulled away a second later and stared right into his hazel eyes, "I should call you crazy, if you think Mrs. Lynde isn't watching us from the house."
"It doesn't bother me," Gilbert said. "But if it will save you another lecture when you return inside…"
"It will," she laughed.
"Then I'll save it for Redmond." He kissed her once more, yet this time on the hand. Then he bid her farewell and made his way back up the lane.
*Taken from 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, KJV
AN: Thank you so much for reading, and a special thanks to those of you who have followed me here from Say Something and Around the Bend. You have no idea what it means. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting so long, but here we are!
I'm here to have fun, but I'm also here to become a better writer. I'm not a fan of flames (who is?) but I love a bit of honest, well-meant feedback, so please give it! Also, most of my previous writing has been done in third person limited point of view (only one character's head at a time), although as you can see, I'm playing around with third person omniscient, which Maud uses, and which I find to be a bit more difficult. I'm not sure if I'll write the whole story this way, or if I'll end up finding a middle-ground between the two. Please let me know if anything seems unclear to you!
Last note, I promise: I update my stories *around* once a week. I'll try to update my profile if I ever find that it is taking a fair bit longer than that. Much love to you all and thanks for reading! -J