For everyone who has come along the ride of Golden Days with me, thank you. Writing these stories has been a wonderful experience for me, and I hope you will enjoy this one. Thanks to Kwak's and many others'encouragement I have started my little AU story (pause for a moment for me to freak out a little), and here it is! The story begins on the day of Fred and Diana's wedding. Here's my 'what if': in the story of Anne and Gilbert, we know those unrealised feelings of Anne's are bubbling under the surface. My thought is that had the circumstances been tweaked, if she could have been forced to be honest, maybe we could have sorted this out a whole year earlier! And that's something I am quite curious about...


One More Day with You

Chapter 1

A man sat in a train carriage, feigning sleep on the long journey from Charlottetown to Bright River. Unwilling to engage anyone in conversation, unwilling to look into anyone's eyes. Needing the solitude, the darkness behind his eyelids to lull him into numbness. The click of the tracks vibrated through his body as he swayed from side to side, and he welcomed the movement. Rocking him to and fro, carrying him ever forward with a determination he could not manage on his own.

One more day. He could do this for one more day.

His thoughts ran, inevitably and resolutely as the track in front of him to the wedding at the end of the line. He would stand up there; he would be the best man. He would make a speech. He would smile and pose for the photographer. He would answer questions about his plans, tell college stories and laugh at the ribald jokes that inevitably follow a wedding. Then he would leave this town- leave the whispers, the insinuations and gossip, leave the place his fledgeling dreams were born.

One more day.

As the train began to slow down, he took a deep breath. It was for the sake of his future that he would keep going. There was too much to do to pine, too many good reasons to keep moving on. Too much life that needed living- or so he tried to tell himself. The hollow pain that had become a part of his life more than a year ago had dulled slightly; he could survive that.

The train chugged and lurched into the small station, and for a moment clawing panic filled his chest. Hollow pain was one thing, but this blind terror that was threatening to choke him was not something he could cope with. He set his jaw as he stood up from his seat, and with practice assumed a stoic face as he grabbed his bag from the storage rack. Ignoring the slight shake in his hands, Gilbert Blythe stepped off the train and straight into his mother's arms.

Cora Blythe laughed and cried as she held him. She pulled back to look at his face, and he tried to smile at her.

"Gilbert, oh how I've missed my little boy!" she exclaimed beaming, wiping her eyes. "It's been so long since I've had you home-" She stopped abruptly to look at him closely. "Gilbert, what on earth have you been doing to yourself? Are you eating? Have you been sick?" she asked, worried.

Gilbert pulled himself from her arms to hug his father. "I'm fine, mama. Just busy with school. The boarding house just can't cook as well as you," he said lightly.

John Blythe took the bag from his son and ushered his family towards the carriage.

"We've only got a few hours until you're needed at the Wrights, so best keep moving," John said easily. "Son, what on earth made you decide to arrive at the last minute? You could have spent a bit more time here."

"I'm working, Dad. I was working up till yesterday," he replied logically.

It was the truth, however it had been an easy choice to make as well. He didn't really want to be here for longer than he had to. His insides squirmed with guilt as he looked at his parents, the two people who had always supported him, no matter how far from home it took him. He'd make it up to them one day.

Gilbert settled into the seat next to his mother, looking out at the small town he had grown up in. Avonlea had changed little, although he kept his eyes resolutely away from the woods that surrounded the place. Without the woods he could pretend that she'd never been there- that he hadn't.

In his old home, he turned to meet ghosts of himself everywhere. Happy, contented ghosts that seemed more substantial and real that he was himself right now. Gilbert looked out his old bedroom window, seeing nothing but the fields he had grown up with. Places he had run, read and dreamed, had learned and grown and- his thoughts stalled, as the inevitability of his return sank in. He'd wasted years chasing a dream. He dropped to his bed, spiritlessly lying back on the old bedspread his mother had made. He'd paid for his folly over and over again for fourteen long months. And instead of the debt being settled, he began to fear it was one that would eventually consume him.

He sat up after a few minutes and pulled the suit from his bag. He rubbed his hands over his face and sighed. His mother had food prepared for him, had coaxed him to eat, and fussed over his appearance. He had excused himself to put his things away, needing the solitude to gather his resolve. Bile rose in his throat as he thought of the wedding- his best friend, marrying hers. The two of them walking up the aisle before the true bride and groom, like some hideous burlesque played out in front of an audience. All the gossip, all the supposition- poor Blythe, couldn't even get the girl. What an irony, what a fitting end to his ludicrous fantasies.

Just one more day… he thought, with gritted teeth. Surely he could survive just one more day. And then- no more.

His parents had wondered, had written to him of the rumours they had heard recently. He hadn't answered them, they hadn't pressed. He spoke instead of his university life and schoolwork, of the lengths his professors had gone to secure introductions for their star pupil. His mother and father responded with pride, and he was glad to let them know that the scholarships he was aiming for were well within his ability to grasp. He hadn't told them about the letter yet.

Looking at his watch, he stood to his feet slowly. The day would move swiftly, that would help.

It was shortly before noon when he knocked on the Wright front door. He was met at the door by Fred's mother, who engulfed him in a hug as smothering as his own mother's. She fussed and clucked over him as well, and he was only rescued when her son entered the room needing help with his cuffs.

Fred was red and sheepish, looking proud and only slightly rattled. Gilbert gave him a hearty slap on the back, teasing him about cold feet. He found it easier in the face of Fred's discomfort to keep his own composure, and the two old friends sat down to visit for a time. When the clock was nearing one, Fred jumped up. His family were dressed and busy running around packing heavily laden wagons, and he grabbed Gilbert.

"Got an errand to run first," he muttered. "Come on, this way we don't have to travel with everyone else."

The two of them went out to Fred's new wagon and Gilbert looked at his friend curiously. He hadn't seemed too nervous earlier, but once they were off he was driving faster that Gilbert had ever seen him do.

"What's the rush?" he shouted over the wind, holding onto his hat.

"No rush. Just want to check that something was done." Fred yelled back, a grin on his face.

Ten minutes later, Fred pulled up in front of Abraham Fletcher's old house, the house he would welcome his bride home to come nightfall. Three years of working towards their dream, three years to now be able to give Diana the home she wanted. Gilbert swallowed suddenly at the look on Fred's face as he unlocked the front door. Stepping inside, everything was perfectly clean and ready. Logs lay ready to be lit on the fire, and Mrs Wright had laid brand new dish towels out over the little hooks in the kitchen. Gilbert looked around seeing his best friend's dream and tried to smile. He moved to the vase of flowers in the centre of the table, arranged with a practised hand and containing beautiful flowers from nearby meadows.

"Your handiwork I presume?" Gilbert said lightly.

"No, that was Anne." Gilbert looked at him sharply, but Fred didn't appear to notice. "I wanted something nice- I mean, something beautiful to welcome her home with," he said, flushing. "Anne volunteered to fix them up this morning for me- and she was supposed to ah- do another for the- um- I'll just go check she did that one." Fred ran up the stairs, with Gilbert following slowly, looking through his childhood friend's new home. It was neat and well set out; he could see the two of them living here comfortably. Remembering his cramped, cold boarding house, he sighed. Education certainly had its price.

He unthinkingly followed Fred into the main bedroom and pulled up short. There were beautiful blooms everywhere in the dim room, and Gilbert found himself flushing as he abruptly turned and walked out of there. Fred had a guilty-looking grin on his face and followed him down the stairs.

"Wasn't sure the romantic thing was really me, so I thought I'd get some help. She did a good job." He said with a grin. Gilbert nodded; thankfully Fred wasn't in a talkative mood either. He was, however, sitting so far forward on his seat Gilbert thought a good bump on the road would send him flying over the horse. Gilbert was silent as they neared Orchard Slope, looking at familiar paths littered with the memories of a lifetime ago. The image of the overblown red roses in the bedroom made him breathe deeply. He knew how Anne had struggled with losing her friend to Fred, how she had fought his inclusion in her life. Now she was helping his dreams to come true. Gilbert sighed, trying to rid himself of the image of Anne hunting for flowers in the fields, scattering them in the quiet of the bedroom. He didn't need this. Not today.

Eight more hours. He could do eight hours.

Diana's parents welcomed them to the house, and The Wrights arrived within minutes. Gilbert stepped to one side of the pandemonium, looking around fearfully, expecting to see her at any minute. He wanted to be prepared. Wanted to appear calm and unconcerned, as impossible as that felt right now. Relatives rushed in and out, he and Fred were utilised to bring food in from the waiting wagons. It was set to be a big old fashioned wedding, one he would have enjoyed at any other time. As guests continued to arrive, he practised his nonchalant look, giving airy answers to impertinent questions. Trying to deflect the attention of every gossiping old crone in Avonlea.

A short time later, he and Fred were summoned by the minister. Fred's face was brick red at this point, and he was sent to stand in place. Gilbert was told to collect Diana's bridesmaid, no one appearing to notice the whitening of his face as he went to do so. He walked up the wide staircase, and then she came out of a doorway at the end of the hall.

For over a year he had seen her face turning from him, seen the same pain and fear cover the face that lived in his memory. Seen her across crowded rooms on the arm of another, a chasm away from him. Nothing left to remind them both of the relationship they had once shared, the connection he had mistakenly put his faith in. A year had passed while he had burned with jealousy and a rage at himself that never seemed to diminish, consuming him from the inside.

And now she was standing in the dim hallway with her face turned from him again, adjusting her skirt and her flowers. With a resolve that took every last ounce of strength that he possessed, he walked up the stairs towards her. At the last step he froze.

She was beautiful. With flowers in her hair and her lacy white dress, she could have been a bride herself. Gilbert swallowed again and set his jaw sternly, determined to get through this without betraying himself.

Anne lifted her eyes to meet his for the first time in months, and he saw the shock- saw the hesitation, and then saw something else, something much warmer come over her face. He swallowed and instinctively reached for her hand. He saw Anne draw a shaky breath, and then she smiled at him tentatively as she took it. He felt something prickle behind his eyes and tried to smile back.

Gilbert turned the two of them to walk down the stairs wordlessly, and in the little hallway between the stairs and the parlour he felt her fingers gently squeeze into his arm. Time seemed to stand still for a moment as they waited for the parlour doors to open. He stood there with Anne's hand on his arm, forcing himself to breathe. How he missed her- missed her laughter, the sparkle in her eye. He missed the way she would touch him lightly, tease him and drag him around by the hand when she got excited about something. He missed her prattle, the way she would put her nose in the air when she was putting him in his place. How desperately he missed her presence. In that moment of stillness, even his heartbeat seemed to slow, giving him time to take it in.

He wasn't over her. He doubted he ever would be, now. But if losing her was inevitable, if all the time he had left with her in this world was right now; he would take it against the heartbreak to come. He still had this day.

One more day with you.