Here it is, my last chapter of "A Little Romance : Anne and Gilbert". This chapter more than any other earns its PG rating and it is unashamedly 'mushy' and heavy on the romance. If you like that sort of thing then read on, if you don't then this is your forewarning.
Thanks to all you good folk who've been leaving me story comments throughout these past 2 months. I cannot write unless people are reading and commenting as I go since I can never summon up the discipline to write otherwise. So thank you to those who've left comments, without you this story would never have seen the light of day. I'm a little sad to be finishing up but excited too that it's done-at approximately 46,000 words it's the longest story I've ever written. Thanks again to everyone and I hope you enjoy the ending of my story.
"And your homework assignments for the weekend are as follows...," Anne Shirley began in a serious foreboding tone as she strode up the aisle between the desks of the Avonlea schoolhouse with an open book in her hand, the expectant face of every student turned upwards and focussed on her. Anne paused in the center of the room, swinging around to survey her classroomful of students before breaking out into a smile. "Your homework assignment for the weekend is to go and have fun and return here Monday morning bright and early and ready to learn," she ended, pedestalling the book beneath one upturned hand and snapping it shut as the children broke out into a chorus of cheers over their reprieve. Anne grinned. "Class dismissed!" she shouted over the deafening din.
A mad scramble ensued as the children, ages 7 to 15, hastily gathered up their belongings and stampeded for the door. It's not that most of them didn't enjoy school but a beautiful Autumn weekend lay before them without the prospect of homework and the children almost fell over each other in their excitement. Anne Shirley watched indulgently as her classroom cleared on this Friday afternoon, a smile of satisfaction on her face. The new school term had started several weeks ago, and with it the rush of fulfilment she got from teaching. Weather-wise they were enjoying an usually warm late Autumn, an Indian summer, and in her heart Anne could not deny her students one last carefree weekend before the harsh winter weather curtailed their outdoor activities until spring.
The classroom efficiently emptied, Anne headed to her desk at the front of the room. She straightened some of the books and papers on its surface and then moved to the blackboard, erasing the day's lessons in broad sweeping strokes. She was dressed in a simple dark navy skirt that flaired slightly at the bottom, and a crisp white linen blouse tucked in tightly at her trim waist and with deep frill-edged cuffs circling snuggly around each wrist. A small watch broach was pinned on the left side of her chest. Her ruddy auburn hair was loosely pulled back into a smooth knot just above the nape of her neck, and altogether the effect was cool and capable, yet feminine too.
Anne looked over her shoulder at the voice, spotting Hannah Hunt standing timidly at the threshold of the schoolhouse door. Anne smiled, placing the blackboard brush back on its ledge before turning, swiping her hands together to remove the chalk dust. "Mrs. Hunt! Please do come inside," she invited, taking a welcoming step or two in the woman's direction.
Hannah Hunt entered the schoolhouse and approached Anne Shirley, somewhat of a sheepish expression on her face. "Henry and I came to walk Lizzy home from school and I just thought I'd stop in to ask how Lizzy is doing," she explained as she drew nearer. "If she was getting along alright," she clarified, hoping she didn't come across as too meddlesome or over-protective.
Anne smiled. Little seven-year-old Lizzy Miller had started her first year of school and Anne was thrilled with the opportunity to teach the young girl and the opportunity to connect with the family Gilbert had worked so hard to unite. "Lizzy is doing very well, Mrs. Hunt," Anne replied reassuringly. "Her school work is progressing nicely and she's made quite a few friends," Anne informed her with a smile.
"Oh, I'm glad to hear it Miss Shirley," Hannah exhaled in relief. "I was a little worried about her, you know, with all the changes in her life," Hannah Hunt indirectly referred to the death of Lizzy's mother and Lizzy and her brother Henry's move into town under the guardianship of Hannah Hunt and her husband Silus. Hannah didn't have children of her own and she was not ashamed to admit that with the sudden care of two youngsters combined with her own inexperience it was easy to question herself and her capabilities. It was her dear wish to do right by the children and make their difficult life transition as easy as possible for them.
Sensing what Hannah Hunt really needed to hear, Anne dropped her voice a key, changing from a professional tone to a more informal one, and elaborated, "Whatever you're doing Mrs. Hunt, keep it up. Lizzy has adjusted superbly to her new home and environment and I'm sure Henry has too."
A small smile broke out on Hannah Hunt's face, like a sunrise when it just peeks over the horizon. "Thank you for saying so, Miss Shirley," she said, her kind eyes glowing with deep appreciation. "I won't keep you any longer. Good day to you," she said.
"Good day," Anne replied. "And please feel free to come and see me again. I'm always here if you want to talk about Lizzy, or...or anything," Anne amended, reaching out in friendship to the older woman.
Hannah Hunt smiled again, the corners of her eyes crinkling with pleasure. "Thank you, Miss Shirley. I just might do that," she said, cementing her acceptance, before she nodded her farewell and turned from the room.
Following Hannah Hunt to the door a moment later, Anne stepped out onto the front stoop of the schoolhouse and looked down onto the schoolyard below. Several children were milling about, playing afterschool games with each other.
"Lizzy! Henry!" Mrs. Hunt called from the center of the yard. Immediately Lizzy and Henry Miller broke from their game and ran to the woman, one on each side of her. Anne watched as Hannah smiled at the children and spoke to them a moment and then she saw each child reach a hand up to take one of Mrs. Hunt's hands. The trio set off on their way home and Anne watched Lizzy raise an animated face to the woman next to her, rapidly mouthing words that Anne suspected were a description of her schoolday as Mrs. Hunt looked down on the child's upturned face with an expression of love and tolerance. Anne watched the departing trio for a moment, her soft expression mirroring the tenderness she felt in her heart. She was so glad Lizzy and Henry had a home, a good home, with loving people to take care of them, and that they hadn't had to leave Avonlea for an orphanage. And then she thought of how it had all come about, of who had earned the lion's share of credit for the happy outcome and her heart softened even more as she thought of him, her face and eyes lost in dreaminess.
"Another school week come to an end, Miss Shirley?"
The teasing voice jolted Anne from her thoughts as she turned towards its source. Gilbert Blythe stood below her, just off to the side, his arms crossed as he leaned casually against the side of the schoolhouse building, grinning at her.
"Oh Gil, I didn't see you there!" Anne exclaimed lightly, blushing at the sight of him. It was a good thing he couldn't read her thoughts, Anne mused, for she'd just been thinking about him, remembrance of those warm and tender thoughts heightening the blush on her face. "I'll just go get my sweater," she said quickly, ducking back inside the schoolhouse to get the garment as well as to take a moment to compose herself a little. Gilbert usually walked her home from school, it had become their daily routine ever since semester had started. Their friendship had been reclaimed after Gilbert's peace offering, but for Anne there was now an added depth to their relationship as well. Gilbert's present had opened her eyes...to a lot of things, but in particular to what lay inside her own heart. But no words had been spoken between them and so Anne played at the imitation of friendship and the hiding of true feelings-unbeknownst to her she played at it as well as Gilbert did, only it was harder for Anne as she was less practised at it.
Anne stepped back out onto the stoop and swung her powder-blue sweater onto her shoulders, lacing an arm through each sleeve. Then she turned, pulling the schoolhouse door tightly closed behind her. Gilbert had moved to the bottom of the stoop stairs, a hand on the railing as he waited for her.
"You'll never guess what Harold Pye said in class today," Anne began in easy conversation as she used both hands to draw up the front of her skirts and began her descent down the stairs.
"What?" Gilbert obligingly enquired.
"It was very funny, he...ahhhhh!" Anne cried out in alarm as she lost her balance on the stairs and pitched forward. Suddenly a pair of strong arms reached out and encircled her, lifting her an inch or two off the stairs as they halted her fall. Anne swallowed hard and met Gilbert's eyes, his face just mere inches from her own. Gilbert returned her gaze and held her steady in his arms a second or two, and then he slowly lowered her safely to the ground.
"Your skirt got caught," Gilbert said, his arms still around her as he explained the fall.
"What?" Anne asked, blinking stupidly up at him. How could she think when Gilbert's arms were around her? When his touch was setting off jolts and fireworks inside her?
"Your skirt. It's caught," Gilbert repeated.
"Oh," Anne said. Then "oh!" when realization dawned and she pulled back out of Gilbert's arms, turning her head to see the hem of her skirt, wedged in a crack at the back of one of the steps. The step held her skirt up and away from her, exposing a good deal of Anne's legs below her knees. "Oh!" Anne exclaimed, her eyes widening in mortification at the unintended exhibition as she began yanking unsuccessfully on the fabric.
"Hold still," Gilbert commanded, as he bent to gently tug her hem at the spot it was wedged into the stair. Anne stilled her movements, her hands fisted into the folds of her skirt, waiting in patient humiliation for Gilbert to free her.
"There," Gilbert said when he'd accomplished the task, the fabric swinging back into its rightful place. Anne stood with her head bowed, two bright pink spotches of colour staining her cheeks. How is it she always got herself into these embarrassing predicaments? she wondered. And why was Gilbert always around to witness them?
Gilbert had been careful to avert his eyes from the unintentional display of Anne's legs when they'd been thus exposed but even so he sensed Anne's embarrassment over the incident. "Anne, it could have happend to anyone," he said, trying to ease her discomfort.
Anne peered up under her lashes at him and cocked a brow. "Anyone?" she asked, delivering a shake to the material of her skirt.
Gilbert smiled. "Well, any woman," he acknowledged the differences in their anatomical attire.
"No, things like this only happen to me," Anne corrected on a sigh, then she raised her head proudly and met his Gilbert's eyes boldly, as if to defy the very fates that heaped continual humiliation upon her. "I do thank you for your assistance, Mr. Blythe," she said with great formality and a haughty air, her pride once again rescuing her from an unfortunate comical incident.
Gilbert grinned back at Anne. Oh how much he loved her! Her and her contradictions. She was embarrassed over the silly incident but she was too proud to let herself be embarrassed. "You're welcome, Miss Shirley," Gilbert rejoined with equal formality. "Now do tell me about Harold Pye's comments today in class," he suggested, smoothly diverting the conversation back on track. "And why don't you have any books to carry home?" he asked, since it was his primary job to carry her books for her and today she bore him none.
Anne laughed. "I gave the children the weekend off without homework and I decided their teacher deserved the same!" she informed him in a conspiratorial voice. "And as for Harold Pye...," Anne laughed as she began her story again, falling into an easy step beside Gilbert as they made their way towards Green Gables.
After a long while the conversation dimmed and the pair strolled leisurely towards their destination in silence, just enjoying the late afternoon Autumn day, perhaps one of the last fine days of the season. Anne couldn't help but remember that soon it would be Autumn in earnest, the leaves were already turning bright oranges and reds, and soon they would tumble to the ground, leaving the trees barren and cold. Then the snow would come, and soon after that it would be Christmas, and then Gil would leave. He would go back to medical school when term started in the new year. Anne grew melancholy at the idea. She knew it was Gilbert's dearest dream and for that she was happy but oh, how she would miss him! And not just because she'd grown accustomed to having him around. No, it had taken a long time but Anne could finally admit the truth to herself. She would miss him...because she loved him. Ever since the day he'd given her the nutcracker. No, that wasn't true. That was only the day she realized she loved him. How much sooner it was when she fell in love with him she didn't know, it had come on so gradually. But she didn't know what to do with her newfound knowledge. She'd refused Gilbert's proposal in the spring-was it almost six months ago already-and he had never mentioned it again, neither of them had. Anne didn't know what she was supposed to do, or even if there was any hope. Gilbert would go away and he would meet other people, other girls, and he would forget the girl from Avonlea who'd been his chum this past sweet summer. Anne's heart ached at the mere possibility, and she grew even more introspective and quiet.
The pair continued their trek home, the shadows growing longer as the day grew older. Suddenly Anne became aware they were approaching 'the spot'-the unavoidable place along the tree-lined lane to Green Gables where Gilbert had proposed to her all those months ago. It really was a beautiful little spot, sheltered and secluded, the meandering trail weaving in and around large maple trees. In the past when they'd come upon the spot together Anne had always sped up, hurrying past the location with all its attendant memories. But today she didn't. Today Anne found herself slowing down as she grew closer, until she finally stopped altogether.
It took Gilbert a few more steps to realize Anne had stopped walking. He turned back her way with a questioning look on his face.
Anne turned scarlet, her eyes downcast. What was she doing anyway? She'd acted on impulse, that's what, and now Gilbert wanted to know what she was doing. Well, it would be better wouldn't it? It would be better to know if there was any hope than to not know, wouldn't it? Bravely Anne raised her head and met Gilbert's eyes.
"This is 'the spot' Gilbert," she said by way of explanation.
"The spot?" Gilbert repeated.
"The spot where you proposed to me." There. She'd said it. Something that had been unspoken between them for a long time.
"I know it's the spot, Anne," Gilbert replied quietly, wondering what all this was about.
"I was...I was...," Anne hesitated, stammering over the words but then pushed on. "I was very confused that day, Gilbert," she explained in a rush. "Your proposal, it frightened me. I didn't want anything to change."
"Anne, I know that," Gilbert's voice was gentle, understanding, as he stood before her. If she thought to explain her refusal to him now he could spare her the difficulty. He had learned so much about Anne over the summer. He had learned about her difficult early years and that her childhood had only began when she came to Avonlea and that she was in no hurry to change anything about her life as it was right now. He understood that and he could spare her trying to explain it to him. "Anne, you don't need to explain...," he began.
"I would give a different answer now," Anne interrupted.
"What?" Gilbert blinked, startled.
"I would give a different answer now," Anne repeated breathlessly, her heart slamming wildly against her ribs at her own gumption. She couldn't very well propose to Gilbert, such things just were not done. So she did what she could, and that was to let him know another proposal would not be unwelcome, that although she'd been confused that day last spring she wasn't confused anymore. For all intents and purposes it was a proposal and Anne waited with baited breath for Gilbert's response.
Gilbert experienced a moment of shock. Of all the things Anne could have said to him this was something he had not expected. Once over his initial shock, Gilbert's eyes softened tenderly on Anne. How sweet and vulnerable she looked standing there just now. But he knew her better than she did herself, or so he thought, and even though part of his heart rejoiced at her words in his mind he thought it was too soon. "Come along Anne, I'll take you home," he spoke the words with great gentleness and turned slightly away to resume their walk.
So, he was refusing her, Anne thought in desolation. A proposal and a refusal. Was this all just a repeat of that miserable spring day six months ago? she wondered. "Have I ruined it all then, Gilbert?" Anne asked tortuously. She'd messed everything up. First by refusing him all those months ago and now for trying to revive what Gilbert obviously had no wish to revive.
At Anne's question Gilbert stopped in his tracks and turned back to her. "No Anne," he told her in that same gentle voice. "You haven't ruined anything. But you need time. You're not ready," he said carefully, trying to explain.
Ready? Anne's brow knotted at the word. Not ready...to love? Was there a timetable for such a thing? she wondered, unaware that if she'd asked, Gilbert might have told her yes there was...three years. That was his plan. To wait three years for her. To give her plenty of time to finish up her childhood years, so to speak. Until the time when he thought she'd be ready for him.
At Anne's puzzled look, Gilbert continued. "The things that happened in your childhood, before you came to Avonlea. You need time to sort them out. You need time to...," he started, but Anne was already shaking her head and again she interrupted him.
"But Gilbert, you helped me so much already with those things! Don't you know that?" she asked, incredulous and eager. Didn't he know how much he'd helped? What he'd done for Lizzy and Henry, his coming to her in the storm, his gift of the nutcracker, his patience to listen to her childhood stories...all of these things had already helped, had already helped to heal those old wounds.
Gilbert smiled tenderly down on Anne's eager face. "Then I'm glad of it, Anne," he said, and he was. Glad that she'd been able to deal with the troubles in her heart but that didn't mean she was ready for the ones in his, that she was ready for him.
Seeing that her protestations had not swayed him, Anne asked, "But why, Gil?" trying to understand his refusal. Unless...unless it was because he didn't love her. But he must have loved her once-enough to propose to her. Was there nothing left of that love?
Gilbert rubbed his forehead, trying to think of a way to explain it. How could he enter an engagement with the woman he loved and yet continue on as they were? Continue on as Anne undoubtedly would expect them to. She didn't know any differently. She didn't know about the deep desires within his own heart. It had been hard enough restraining himself when he'd been her friend, how could he hope to do it as her betrothed? He remembered that day in the barn after the storm. He'd almost kissed her then. It had been so difficult to pull back, and there had been no engagement between them then. If he'd been engaged to her he probably would have kissed her and he doubted she was ready for that. Besides, he had his plan. His three-year plan. He only had to explain it to her so she would understand. "I told you once I was a passionate man, Anne," he began, his voice low as he gazed at her intently, hoping his words would register some meaning for her.
Anne remembered the conversation that day in the schoolhouse. He'd said they were alike, both passionate, she because of her temper and he because of...well, because of whatever it was he was passionate about. Anne didn't understand the connection to their current conversation. If he didn't love her she wished he would just say so, not couch his response with answers she didn't understand. "And what does that have to do with any of this?" she asked, her voice tinged with frustration.
"It has everything to do with this!" Gilbert ground out, growing frustrated himself. At Anne's blank look, he blurted out his confession, "It's you, Anne! You're my passion!" Some measure of control that had long been held in check broke inside Gilbert and he reached his two hands out to the sides of Anne's waist and pulled her to him. Anne's eyes were wide in surprise, startled by both his announcement and by the sudden physical contact, but Gilbert didn't pause. In one smooth motion he lowered his head and captured Anne's lips with his. At the back of his mind was the rationale that he only meant to show her. If she would not understand, then he would show her his meaning. But once his mouth touched her soft lips, his rationale was lost and so was he.
At first Anne was merely startled. Startled that Gilbert had pulled her close to him like that, that he was kissing her, his mouth firmly fixed on her own as he pressed her spine back. She caught the material of his shirt into her fists, more as a means to steady herself than anything else. But it wasn't long before startlement gave way to other sensations. Where Gilbert's touch had always set off jolts inside her, his kiss was something different. Anne felt a warmth slowly spread throughout her body, radiating from her core out to every finger, every toe. It was like liquid fire, like molten lava in her veins, and she was melting under its heat, her limbs going pliant and languid. All thoughts were soon driven from her mind and she knew and felt only this, only Gilbert. Gilbert raised his head and Anne, her eyes still closed and her face upturned to his, exhaled a breathless "Gil" but Gilbert only tilted his head the other way and brought his lips once again to hers in an even deeper kiss. He brought his hands up from Anne's waist and encircled her back, pulling her tightly to him as his mouth slanted across hers. Anne unfisted her hands from the folds of Gilbert's shirt and opened her palms against his chest. Of their own accord her hands began to travel upwards, to some unknown destination...maybe, maybe to go around his neck...but they only got halfway there when Anne suddenly found herself turned loose. She stumbled backwards at the suddenness of it, her back meeting a wide tree trunk, which gave her fortuitous support since her legs didn't seem to want to hold her up anymore. The kiss had left her breathless and undone. Gilbert had turned his back to her, his legs braced apart. He had one hand on his hip and the other he ran shakily through his hair. The quick rise and fall of his shoulders from the great gulps of air he took indicated he too was left undone by their kiss.
"Anne...Anne, I'm sorry," Gilbert choked out the apology, his back to Anne. "I had no right...," he rebuked himself. What had he just done? He'd lost control, that's what. "Anne, I'm sorry," he said again, as he waited for the recriminations he so richly deserved. At the continued silence behind him, Gilbert pleaded, "Anne, say something!" Even her recriminations would be better than the silence.
But as she leaned with her back against the tree, her hands griping the rough bark on either side of her as she held herself up over knees that had suddenly turned to jelly, Anne was thinking thoughts other than recriminations. So this is what Gilbert meant by his passions, she realized. Her mind worked the information, navigating the sudden new territory of their relationship and what moving beyond friendship would mean.
"Would you...," Anne hesitated over the question, then boldly pushed on, "Would you want to do that very often?" she asked, referring to the kiss as she did some fact-finding research for this sudden new development.
Gilbert's jaw dropped and he turned to look at Anne, stunned by her question. What did she mean by asking such a thing? Where were the recriminations for his ungentlemanly behaviour? And why was she standing so awkwardly against that tree?
Anne met Gilbert's eyes. "Would you want to do that very often?" she repeated.
Gilbert drew a deep breath. She had asked a question, he would tell her the answer. "Yes, Anne," he said, his voice dark and thick. "Very often, I'm afraid." There. The truth. She could no longer be in any doubt about the long-denied desires within his heart.
Anne dropped her eyes from his. "Well, Gilbert," she began, churning his answer over in her mind. "Well, I suppose that would be alright," she said, amenable to the new terms.
Gilbert gaped at her, stunned by the turn of events, feeling a flicker of hope kindled inside him. He had not expected this. But now his mind and heart lept at the possibility. "Anne, come away from the tree," he implored. How could he talk to her properly when she was splayed so awkwardly there?
"I can't Gilbert. My legs don't seem to want to hold me up," Anne confessed.
Gilbert studied her a moment. It was true. Anne was reclined back against the tree, using her hands on each side to support herself. Gilbert's brow wrinkled as he considered the matter, a distant possibility coming to him. "Did I...did I do that?" he asked, incredulous.
Anne met his eyes and delivered a slow nod.
Immediately Gilbert took a few lengthy strides and stood before her, a grin of sheer delight on his face as he stared down at her and placed his hands on either side of her waist, offering his own support in addition to the tree's. Anne moved one hand from the bark and laid it along his arm, feeling him jolt underneath her touch. Ah, so she wasn't the only one who felt those peculiar jolts-he felt them too.
"Gilbert, what is this thing between us?" she asked in wonderment, staring at her hand on his arm.
"I don't know Anne. I've never felt it with anyone but you," Gilbert replied in a low, husky voice.
Their eyes met, and then Gilbert's gaze travelled to Anne's mouth. Slowly his head came down and he lightly brushed her lips with his own. Anne dropped her head back against the tree as they kissed. How different this kiss was from the other one. It was featherlight, just the merest of touches, so gentle and tender, but it shook Anne just as deeply as the one before, maybe more. Gilbert raised his head just a smidge to tilt it the other way, and then he kissed her again, just as softly, just as tenderly, his lips skimming lightly over hers. Anne pushed herself away from the tree, deciding she'd rather lean into Gilbert than into a tree. Gilbert immediately drew his arms in tightly behind her waist and pulled her close, providing more than enough support for her wobbly knees. Anne tried again and this time her arms made their way up around his neck. Gilbert's lips left hers and he trailed kisses along her face, stopping when he reached her ear. And then he just held her, his face nuzzled to the side of hers, and Anne marvelled that she felt so safe and warm and loved. Not knowing what exactly to do, Anne imitated what Gilbert had done and she turned her head to press small quick kisses along the slightly-coarse surface of his jaw. Gilbert made a small sound, like a moan, and he turned his head to capture her lips, stilling her quick kisses with a long, slow leisurely one of his own, raising his head after a moment to tilt the kiss in the other direction. When the kiss was over, Anne slumped against him, curling her shoulders into him as she turned her head sideways against his chest, her head resting just below the hollow of his neck. It was a moment after that that she suddenly blinked in awareness. For all their recent physical displays of affection nothing had been determined yet, nothing had been settled, she realized.
"Gilbert," she began. "Are we...are we, you know, engaged?" she asked hesitantly, feeling the rumble of his laughter before she heard it. Startled, she turned her head to look up at him.
"Anne Shirley, any girl I've spent the past ten minutes kissing...well, let's just say we'd better be engaged!" Gilbert grinned down at her.
"Oh!" Anne smiled. It wasn't exactly poetry or a very romantic way of confirming their engagement but Anne was inordinately pleased nonetheless, not only that the matter was settled, but that Gilbert's answer meant he hadn't been kissing any other girls either.
Gilbert stared down on the smile on Anne's face and something tugged in his heart. The words. Anne had always loved the words. He was no poet, and he didn't have any flowery words to offer her, only what was in his heart.
"Anne, I love you," he said, his voice sincere.
"I love you too, Gil," Anne whispered back to him.
"Anne, it'll be three years before I graduate from medical school. Even then there won't be any diamond sunbursts or marble halls," he cautioned.
"I don't want sunbursts or marble halls. I just want you." At Gilbert's smile Anne stretched up and put her arms around his neck and kissed him. When she pulled back she had a mischievous smile on her face.
"Are you sure you want me, Gil? I have some faults you know," she informed him teasingly.
"Oh?" Gilbert raised a brow in mock skepticism.
"I have an unlucky history with water," Anne said, reminding him of all the times he'd had to rescue her from ponds, mud creeks, thunderstorms. Gilbert threw back his head and laughed.
"I think I can manage that okay," he reassured her.
"And I always seem to lose my hats. I can never keep one more than a couple of weeks."
Gilbert smiled tolerantly. "When I become a doctor I'll buy you all the hats you want."
"And my hair. It's red you know," Anne relayed that bit of news with eyes wide in mock horror.
Gilbert laughed. Like he hadn't noticed that. Then he grew serious. "Your hair is beautiful," he told her on a delicious whisper that sent shocks up and down her spine.
"And I talk too much. People are always telling me that," Anne warned him with a teasing smile.
Gilbert smiled down at her. "Talk all you like. I don't mind."
Suddenly the teasing smile vanished from Anne's face and she inhaled sharply at Gilbert's words, her gaze momentarily frozen on his face as she remembered those words from another day, a day many years ago. Anne's face crumpled at the memory and she burst into tears, burying her face in Gilbert's chest.
"Anne! Anne! What did I say?" Gilbert implored in alarm, confused by the sudden turn of events. Not knowing what he had done wrong, only that for some strange unfathomable reason he had made her cry, he pleaded an apology. "Anne, I'm sorry!"
Anne shook her head into his chest. How could she tell him? About the words he'd said. 'Talk all you like. I don't mind'. Anne thought about the only other person to say those words to her, exactly those words. Matthew. All those years ago. It had been her homecoming then. The first time in her life she'd been accepted for herself, just as she was. Was that what this was too? A homecoming? A homecoming with Gilbert? Suddenly it felt very much like that, like maybe even Matthew had had a hand in it, like he was sending her his blessing. She would tell Gilbert about it someday, Anne decided. Not now, but someday. For now she sniffled her tears and tried to compose herself. "I'm alright, Gilbert," she said, allaying his worries as she grabbed a bunch of material from his shirt and began wiping her tears, while Gilbert stared down at the action and blinked. Was she drying her tears on his shirt? "Oh, I'm sorry," Anne apologized, just then realizing her actions as she let go and tried to smooth out the wrinkles she'd made. Gilbert smiled tenderly down at her; he hadn't minded her small gesture of intimacy at all, in fact quite the opposite.
"I'm a sentimental old fool and I talk too much," Anne told him, drawing a steadying breath and then looking up at him to show him her regained composure.
Gilbert brushed the pad of a thumb under each of Anne's eyes, wiping away the remaining tears. "I don't think you're a sentimental old fool. I think you're a caring, loving person with a good heart. And I'm not worried about you talking too much."
"No, because I have something no one else has," Gilbert replied smugly.
"Oh? What's that?" Anne eyed him warily.
Gilbert lowered his head and dropped his voice low to breathe the answer to her on a whisper. "I have a way to shut you up." Then he proceeded to do just that, covering her mouth with his own.
Oh yes, Anne thought, there was no way she could talk when he was kissing her. But then, why would she want to? When after a moment Gilbert raised his head a smidge, Anne waited, her eyes closed and her face upturned, for what she knew would come. A brief second later her intuition proved itself accurate and Gilbert's lips settled back on hers. Anne smiled beneath his kiss. He'd tilted his head the other way again, like he did every time he'd kissed her. A handful of kisses and already she knew him, Anne thought, revelling in the familiarity of his kiss. And then she didn't think anymore, only felt.
Anne and Gil stood along the path to Green Gables for quite a while, their hearts pressed close together as they kissed, and talked, and hugged, and held on to each other.
Two hearts pressed close together. Where they belonged.