The Pines, June 18th, 1886
Does my handwriting look any different? I think my J's have got a little loopier ~ and I clean forgot to cross my T's! Let me do that now. How satisfying to have that crossed.
I am sitting at our table, our very own table! There's the prettiest square of sunlight shining on the maple-wood. I forgot to put my new tablecloth down, when I worked so hard on it, too. White work embroidery, two hundred hours all told. Will I ever have the stamina for such a piece again!
Now I feel a different kind of weary. If I wanted I could go straight back to bed, when before I'd feel so cross trying to get on and get done so Mama wouldn't lecture me about staying up all hours ~ and keeping her up with my mischief. But there's no one to hear me now. And no one to hear my Fred, thank goodness. What a sound he makes. Not just one, there's a whole farmyard inside him! Who would have thought such a quiet, sensible boy could make such almighty eruptions? Not that he's a boy anymore...
Oh, Journalette, I am finally a woman and a wife! I never knew I could feel so woozy and weak while having such kinks all through me. Strange to say, I understand Anne more than I ever did. The way she would describe the queer little aches she got when she smelled a certain flower or saw a particular sunset. A thrill I could understand. A glowy sort of happiness, certainly. But a queer little ache? Well, now I know. And wouldn't I have loved to have gotten one from a walk down Lovers Lane ~ no wonder she likes to linger outdoors so much!
I can hear Fred. I can hear my Frederick Jehoshaphat Wright splitting the wood in great fell swoops. Bang Bang Bang! Chop Chop Chop! He's coming through backdoor now ~ he's right, we really must add a porch to the back of the house. He's tumbling the wood by the grate of our fire without stacking it first. Now he's looking over. I can feel his eyes on me. I don't even think he's going to wash off at the pump!
Journalette, I may have to finish this later...
The Pines, June 19th, 1886
Now I do hurt. No more queer little aches, I really am sore all over! I love the feel of my body, so soft and hollowy from forgetting to eat. Sometimes I feel like I'm the one who's getting eaten, while Fred just seems to get bigger and bigger...
He wants to know what I'm writing. I'm about to tell my first wifely falsehood. He's coming ~
The Pines, June 22nd, 1886
Sorry, I haven't written in you for a while. It's true, wives just don't have the time that spinsters do. Whatever did I do before? I can't remember the girl I used to be. It's because of that I want to write in you now. I want to keep a proper account of my wedding while it's fresh in my mind. Fred is gone to the livestock sales in Kensington. He wants a good boar, maybe two or three sows to keep by that stand of oaks in the west field. There are so many oaks around here! I wonder at them naming this place the way they did. It does smell piney though. Oh, I can't wait for Anne to visit.
But not yet. Not yet. Not yet!
She made the dearest bridesmaid. I was worried her lacy cap sleeves would be too tight. I was sure I had the measurements wrong. She really is a tiny thing. You'd expect someone so thin to look as though they would snap. But as much as Anne loves pine trees, she really is the willowy type. You can bend her and twist her in all directions and Anne Shirley will never break.
I wasn't so confident about Gilbert. He used to have this nice layer of boyishness about his build. Now he's gone all lean and spare. I got such a surprise when I saw him, and Gilbert Blythe should have been the last thing on my mind as I was heading down the stairs on Papa's arm. My husband's body is so comfortable and strong. I love the way his hips dip inward and then smooth down to his long, broad thighs. There's the softest downy hair all over his legs, it's like floating your palm across a bed of wheat. He smells like the land too, I never noticed that before. An honest smell of soil and toil. It so nice to lay next to him and tease the soft hair under his arm into butterflies.
Oh dear, I was supposed to be writing of the wedding! Well, I was just sure I would faint. Thank goodness Anne talked me out of my nonsense and threatened to dunk me in the well. After spending two hours on my hair I wasn't about to have one inch if it mussed up ~ though it was certainly mussed up later. And that's what I really want to write about. I'll come to the ceremony by and bye. But the night. The night. The night!
We set off for The Pines in our brand new horse and buggy. It has smart green leather bench seat and a little awning that folds up and down. Fred was so proud of it, and the sturdy black mare in the harness. He let me have the naming of her, but I gave that honour to Minnie-May seeing as she's so set on a pony of her own. Would you believe she wanted to call our horse Gilbert? Of course, she had to settle for Gilbertina, but I told Fred we'd call her Tina. Now I think of it, that was probably my first wifely falsehood. How easy they are told. When I would always sniff at the way Charlotte, Myra and Nettie would sit around the sewing circle and gab about their men.
"Of course, I'd never tell Milton that!"
"No need for Billy to find out!"
"Robert has no idea what I really think!"
And I would stitch away thinking: I will always tell my Fred the absolute truth, I shall never stoop so low, Fred and I love each other.
Now I see they have a point. There's no need for Fred to know everything I'm thinking. I hardly need to know all about him either. The way he looked over the auction brochure in bed last night, sighing over Saddlebacks and Gloucester Old Spots. Then he looked at me with that same greedy look in his eye!
When we arrived at our dear little home Fred had the idea of carrying me over the threshold. I told him don't you dare! I've sat on his lap any number of times but I would always take a little weight off him and bear it myself, which got terribly uncomfortable. I think he thought I was nervous, but really I just felt crampy.
Once we were inside we weren't quite sure what to do. He started bringing in the bags and I started making tea. The Gillis girls and Carrie Sloane came by earlier and set up a few things for us, including a decanter of red-current wine. I can't even look at the stuff and when Fred asked if I wanted a taste, I said no with more keenness than I meant. He went redder than the wine and disappeared upstairs. So I went on making the tea ~ I don't have the slightest idea why, only that I thought that's what a wife should do ~ and sat at our table waiting for Fred to come down again. I waited and waited and finally when the tea had stewed I went up to look for him. And there he was, Journalette, decked out in a long white nightshirt, lying on top of the covers fast asleep! So I undressed as quickly as I could and put on my nightgown and leaped in next to him. It was only seven o'clock! The sun was still above the oak trees!
I don't know what I felt then. I suppose there was more relief than I care to admit. For all Anne tried to soothe my worries with that scandilous book of poems, it didn't help one bit. It's all very well to giggle about cleaving flesh and bridegrooms with your bosom friend. But when you are in bed with that bridegroom and he is about to cleave your own self ~ well, the thought of it scared me. My mind began turning to those awful stories other wives had told me. About a bride in White Sands whose husband tried to couple with her through her nightgown! And another who got such a shock at the sight of her naked husband that she threw hot tea all over it and ran home to her mother! Fortunately, my tea had gone quite cold. Not that Fred needed cooling off, he was snoring quietly beside me with this real contented look on his face. So I just settled down next him (how strange it felt to have something big and bulky in bed with me instead a ragdoll) and drifted off to sleep.
I woke up some time later and saw straight away what that tea spiller meant. Because something enormous ~ really it was like another arm ~ was poking up under Fred's nightshirt. I looked over at his face in the moonlight and he was looking right at me.
"Please don't be alarmed, Diana," he said, his voice all thick and strained like that night in the barn. "Happens all the time. Every morning, there it is."
"How long have you been awake, darling?" I asked him.
"I haven't really slept yet," he said. "Wasn't sure what you were expecting, so's I thought I'd leave it up to you."
To think we had both been lying there waiting for the other person to begin something! We didn't do anything, not then. Just talked about something and nothing until the sun came up. But in all that time there was something else that hadn't gone down even once.
The first time we tried didn't go so well. We were shaking so much it was like trying to thread a needle in the dark. The second time was strange. I didn't feel much more than when I put my finger in my ear. Soon after Fred said he wanted to stop for a bit, and when he rolled off me I remember thinking: was that it? Was this what all that swoony poetry and whisker rash and galloping hearts was supposed to end with? I had more satisfaction at button number two!
Fred must have thought the same because his long fingers went to the collar of my nightgown. I let him undo every one ~ and Journalette, there were thirty! Then he brought my hands to his nightshirt. I unbuttoned them too, only there were seven. We rucked it up over his head just as the sun beamed through our window and the birds sounded in the treetops. He was grinning and shivering, and more up than I thought possible of a body. Then it happened. Then I knew. Then I understood.
It puts me in mind of what Gilbert said when he made his speech at the wedding breakfast. He had to write it out, Journalette, can you imagine? Gilbert Blythe didn't think he was going to remember what he was going to say, after all the recitals and speeches he's made. Instead he had this little slip of paper in his hands, and even though his voice was as bright and brilliant as always, I couldn't help notice how his hands slightly trembled as he read it. It was filled with tales about him and Fred, and plenty of jokes about waiting. How Fred had the patience of Job himself for having to wait so long for me. But Gilbert didn't look at me then, he was looking over at Anne. Anne was looking straight up at him too, willing him to do well. I remember thinking that perhaps it wasn't right for them to stare at each other like that when Anne has a beau who sends her alpine flowers all the way from Switzerland.
"I want to toast you both," Gilbert said, "for holding onto to each other for all those years under the steely gaze of our upright mothers and fathers. As hard as it was, and I'm certain it was, I am also certain it will seem the matter of a moment compared with the lifetime you will share together. For weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
Thank you all for reading and for your hilarious comments. I hope to see you for the final installment!