A/N: Thanks to your enthusiasm, I've decided to continue this story!This felt like a never-ending chapter while I was writing it. It certainly is a whopper compared to my other fanfic chapters (nearly 5,000 words!) because I usually like to keep my fanfic chapters short. Anywho, this is really a Gilbert-centric chapter as compared to an Anne/Gilbert chapter. I really, really enjoyed getting into Gilbert's head during this chapter, and I hope you guys enjoy reading it. As always, please review! Oh, and it's also 3 AM, so please excuse any errors you see, because although I've edited the chapter, it's late and I've probably missed a lot.
Also, I want to give a quick shout out to the anonymous reviewer LamesandJily! If your name is a reference to the totally awesome Lily and James, then you are amazing. If not, then I still totally love your name.
II. Gilbert Blythe, half-past fifteen, was—to put it in commonplace terms—bored. It was a relatively warm summer day, and the young lad was simply itching to go outside. Earlier in the day, he'd offered to help his father out in the fields, but his father had turned down the younger Blythe's offer, for George Fletcher had loaned out Pacifique Boute for the day.
Gilbert had then wandered down the main road to the Sloane homestead, where he found Charlie. The goggle-eyed boy rejected Gilbert's invitation with an apology, stating that he was "busy." Gilbert knew better, however; their friendship had become somewhat strained as of late, and Gilbert strongly suspected that it had something to do with a redhead known as Anne Shirley.
The increase in coolness on Charlie's part had begun over a year ago, when the mayflowers had begun blooming in the spring. Gilbert—who had always been more receptive of the feelings and likes or dislikes of others—noticed the glimmer in Anne's eyes as Mr. Phillips presented Prissy Andrews with a bouquet of mayflowers. The brown-haired boy had yet to find himself in Anne's good graces, which was why he found himself picking mayflowers in the field behind Mr. Silas Sloane's farm.
He presented his flowers to Anne the next morning, but was not received as favorably as the master had been received by Prissy Andrews. Anne rejected his offer of friendship with scorn, and for weeks afterwards the mayflowers lay wilting in Gilbert's room, another reminder that Anne Shirley hated his very existence.
Charlie had, of course, found out about the mayflowers—for a boy who wasn't the least bit perceptive, he knew most of what went on in Anne's life—and a frost had entered there relationship. A jolly chap like Gilbert tried to ignore it, to fix their friendship by ignoring it. Anne was, after all, only a girl, and Gilbert and Charlie had been cronies since age four.
But as the year wore on Charlie's behavior remained unchanged, and Gilbert was left to puzzle over it on his own. He came to the conclusion that if their roles had been reversed—if Charlie had presented Anne with flowers, knowing Gilbert's feelings for her—Gilbert, too, would be upset. Still, he wouldn't be so petty as to hold Charlie in contempt.
He ambled down to the MacPherson place, but Mrs. Spurgeon MacPherson sadly informed him that Moody was in Charlottetown for the day with his father. Gilbert nodded and left, but his mood was soured. Yet he decided to walk a bit down to the Wright farm. Fred Wright was Gilbert's age, but he was above Gilbert in school—the Wright boy's father hadn't the misfortune to receive an illness that needed to be treated in Alberta—and the two of them had only begun to speak this year. Still, Fred was an amiable lad who was easy to converse with and Gilbert found that he enjoyed the little time they had spent together.
"Sorry, Gil," Fred informed him once Gilbert had reached the Wright farm, "I've got chores to do all day. Maybe to-morrow we can ask Mr. Harmon Andrews if he'll let us borrow his dory—he's swell like that."
Gilbert nodded and said good-day, but Fred had instilled an idea that would not leave his head. Mr. Andrews had often told the Avonlea children that if they wanted to row out on Barry's Pond, they were always welcome to use his dory. Since the Blythes were not in possession of a dory, rowing out on the river hadn't even crossed Gilbert's mind. Now that Fred had planted the seed in his head, the idea simply would not leave his mind.
It was a short walk to the Andrews place from the Wright farm, one which Gilbert enjoyed immensely. Although it was warm outside, the road leading to their house was lined by a canopy of Elm trees that provided solace from the warm weather. Gilbert whistled contentedly as ambled down the gravel road, only stopping when he reached his destination.
Mrs. Harmon Andrews answered the door swiftly after Gilbert's knock echoed throughout the house. "Gilbert Blythe!" the older lady exclaimed upon seeing the young boy. "Are you here to see Jane?"
As her daughter grew older, Mrs. Harmon Andrews had developed quite an eye for the young boys in Avonlea. To her, each one was a potential suitor, someone who could one day become her son-in-law. Gilbert Blythe, although he was still young, was turning into quite the handsome lad, with his jolly hazel eyes and mop of dark hair. Although he was destined to become a farmer like his father—and Mrs. Harmon Andrews had always envisioned a more exciting life for Jane than she had—Gilbert would be a more than satisfactory match for her young daughter.
"Well, no," began Gilbert. He hadn't come to see Jane—all he really wanted was to borrow Mr. Andrews' dory—but now that he was there, he felt it was only polite to say hello to his school chum. "I wanted to ask a favor of Mr. Andrews, but it would be nice to say 'hello' to Jane, as well."
"I'm sorry, dear," Mrs. Andrews told him regretfully, although she had known all along that Jane wasn't home, "Jane is up at Orchard Slope with Ruby Gillis and Anne Shirley. Perhaps some other time you could stop by and say hello?"
"Oh—er, of course." Gilbert had been thrown off by the mention of Anne—for a moment he'd forgotten that she was quite chummy with Jane. "Is Mr. Andrews in?"
Mrs. Harmon Andrews responded in the affirmative before allowing Gilbert to step into the parlor, and then left to go fetch her husband. It wasn't long before Harmon Andrews walked in, tanned and sweating from outdoor work, and greeted Gilbert with a smile.
"Gil Blythe! My wife said you had a favor to ask of me?"
"Yes, sir," responded Gilbert, ever the gentleman—but if you asked a certain redhead, she would argue otherwise. "Fred Wright told me that you might let us borrow your dory to row out on Barry's Pond. Fred's not with me now, but I was hoping you might let me have it anyhow."
"I would be happy to," answered Mr. Andrews.
Together, the older—and much taller, although Gilbert's height was increasing steadily every day, much to the chagrin of his mother—man and the younger boy hauled the large dory from the Andrews' shed. After walking a short distance, they came to a landing on Barry's Pond and easily set the wooden pile on the ground. Mr. Andrews then proceeded to place the oars into the dory.
"I suppose you can do the rest on your own?" Jane's father clapped a warming hand on the young boy's shoulder.
"Yes, sir," answered Gilbert as a grateful smile spread across his lips. "Thank you."
With one last smile, Mr. Andrews departed, leaving Gilbert to fend for himself. The fifteen-year-old was not unused to rowing on the pond—he had, in fact, spent most of the summer of 1877 on Barry's Pond, until his father decided to sell their dory to earn some extra money. Because of this, Gilbert easily navigated Mr. Andrews' dory onto to the water, rowing expertly.
His back faced the sun, and even though Gilbert was dressed in considerably light summer clothing—including a white hat that his mother had insisted on buying him—he soon began to sweat. He soon decided that it would be best if he stopped rowing for a moment, and glanced behind him to see how far away from the land he really was. But instead of the green grass of the Island catching his eye, a young girl with damp red hair, clinging desperately to the pillar of the bridge.
Gilbert noticed Anne before she caught sight of him; he could make out her wide, frightened eyes as she struggled to maintain her grasp on the large, wooden pillar. A vast majority of blood had drained from the anxious girl's face, leaving her pale as a ghost—causing her auburn hair to stand out against her pale face and white frock.
It wasn't long before Anne did notice Gilbert, however, and her panicked eyes quickly became scornful.
"Anne Shirley!" Gilbert exclaimed in amazement. "How on earth did you get there?"
Anne's eyes hardened, but Gilbert did not notice. He was intent on getting the damsel freed from her perch and pulled close to the pillar to do so. He extended his hand, and Anne—though not gratefully—quickly accepted his proffered limb. The dory wobbled a bit as Anne's weight shifted onto it, but Gilbert's grip on Anne's cold hand was enough to maintain the pair's balance.
Anne, unsuccessfully trying to remain dignified, took her spot in the dory with her head held high. When Gilbert returned to his perch once more and took up his oars, he asked, "What has happened, Anne?"
Anne did not look up at him, but—as he had obviously just rescued her from a dire situation—answered him. "We were playing Elaine," she told him frigidly, "and I had to drift down to Camelot in the barge—I mean the flat. The flat began to leak and I climbed out on the pile. The girls went for help." A pause—and then, "Will you be kind enough to row me to the landing?"
Gilbert nodded and obliged his schoolmate, turning the dory around and heading back toward the landing whence he came. When they reached the shore, Anne did not wait for his assistance—which Gilbert would have easily given—and instead chose to spring from the skiff without a word.
"I'm very much obliged to you," she said finally, but the tone of her voice indicated the exact opposite. Gilbert opened his mouth to respond, but the little ninny had already begun to turn away. He would have none of it.
Gilbert had just saved her life after years of repeated snubs! Now was as good a time as any to mend their broken relationship, if only Anne would listen! And so, without truly thinking the matter over—and without taking Anne's impressive obstinacy into consideration—Gilbert laid a detaining hand on Anne's cold arm.
"Anne," he said hurriedly, "look here."
Anne's grey eyes widened at his touch, staring down at the large hand encompassing her arm with amazement. Slowly, her eyes began to travel from his hand, up his arm, before finally settling on Gilbert's face.
"Can't we be good friends?" Gilbert asked eagerly. "I'm awfully sorry I made fun of your hair that time. I didn't mean to vex you and I only meant it for a joke. Besides, it's so long ago. I think your hair is awfully pretty now…honest, I do. Let's be friends."
A long silence followed, during which Gilbert's eyes never left Anne's face. In her silence he counted the seven freckles that adorned her shapely nose, before allowing his eyes to take in Anne's expression. For a moment her face softened—the fifteen-year-old began to soar on the "wings of anticipation" as Anne would say—and underneath Gilbert's steady, keen gaze a blush formed beneath Anne's freckles.
But just as quickly as the kind expression had appeared, it vanished. Anne's face began to harden and her grey eyes quickly turned cold. In the years to come, Gilbert would question whether or not he had imagined the blush.
"No." Her voice was cold, unfeeling, and it caused Gilbert's whole body to turn numb. "I shall never be friends with you, Gilbert Blythe; and I don't want to be!"
Something had changed within Gilbert upon witnessing Anne's expression and hearing her cruel tone. For the first time, he felt a genuine, stinging pain from the finality of Anne's words. No longer could he hope for a comradeship to spring between them. Any imaginings of he and the redhead being friends—laughing as they reviewed schoolwork, or walking together underneath the birch trees—vanished, and would remain dormant for years to come.
"All right! I'll never ask you to be friends again, Anne Shirley." Gilbert quickly hopped back into the dory, which until then had been lying forgotten on the shore. He was acutely aware of the heat that flooded his cheeks, threatening to reveal his true feelings, but he could only hope that Anne would not notice. "And I don't care, either!"
Gilbert pulled away from the landing with swift, defiant strokes, putting all the anger that consumed his mind into the rowing. He could feel his muscles straining from the pressure of the water, but the adrenaline from his encounter with Anne was still pumping through his veins as her angry refusal echoed throughout his mind. He rowed for what seemed like hours, until his arms ached and he finally had to pull onto the shore. By the time he had reached the Andrews farm, he had made up his mind. The iron had entered Anne's soul when he had called her carrots, and the iron entered Gilbert's when she refused his friendship.
Summer passed and faded prettily into fall, causing Avonlea to become enveloped in the warm hues of autumn. It was a season which Gilbert adored under normal circumstances—but these were not normal circumstances, as the red and orange leaves bitterly reminded him of Anne Shirley.
School began again, bringing Gilbert's school chums with it. He enjoyed the company of Moody and Fred immensely, and even Charlie came around, noticing the indifference with which Gilbert regarded Anne.
One evening, mid-September, Gilbert sat in the parlor of the Blythe homestead, looking over his schoolwork. He'd been vying for top marks in school for years, but this year he was determined to beat Anne Shirley in nearly every subject. John Blythe sat in his usual wooden chair, smoking his pipe and reading the newspaper as his son studied diligently.
There was a gentle knock at the door, but neither Mr. Blythe nor his son moved, for they both knew that visitors most often came for Mrs. Blythe, and that she would answer the door before either man could move from their perches. A familiar voice flooded the parlor, and Gilbert's attention was immediately drawn away from his schoolwork. Footsteps resounded from the kitchen, growing louder as his mother and the visitor walked towards the parlor. Gilbert immediately sat up and brushed the wrinkles out of his old shirt.
"Gilbert," his mother called upon entering the room with their guest, "Miss Stacy wants to talk to you about school, if you don't mind."
"Of course not!" exclaimed the studious young man, a little too enthusiastically. He'd heard whispers of a Queen's study group being organized, but had never thought it possible that he should join.
Miss Stacy sat down on the sofa, followed by Mrs. Blythe. "I hope I'm not intruding," she began, smiling kindly at the Blythes. "I was just over at the Cuthbert's and thought I'd take the opportunity to stop by."
Gilbert was too busy trying to ignore the pang in his chest at the thought of Anne to respond to his teacher.
"I assure you you're not," replied Mrs. Blythe. "I'm sorry to say we've already eaten supper, though."
Miss Stacy waved off the matter without a thought. "I can't stay long. I simply wanted to discuss some school matters with Gilbert."
"What about?" asked the aforementioned pupil. His thoughts were filled with Queen's Academy, but ever since that dreadful day on the pond, he'd learn not to hope for things.
"I've decided to organize a special class for students who intend to take the entrance examinations for Queen's Academy, and I was wondering if you—" she inclined her head towards Mr. and Mrs. Blythe, "—would permit Gilbert to join this study group? Gilbert is excellent pupil—he's tied at the top of his class—and I feel he would excel at Queen's, given the opportunity, of course."
"How wonderful!" exclaimed Mrs. Blythe, whose eyes began to shine with proud tears as she glanced at her son. "What do you think, Gilbert?"
The young Blythe boy was hesitant to answer. He'd heard that studying at Queen's could be expensive, and although it was his dream, he wasn't willing to sacrifice his family's well-being to further his own career. "I—I think it's brilliant," he answered finally.
"The Queen's class will meet after school every day to study for an hour," elaborated Miss Stacy. "I'm delighted that you'll be joining us. Thank you for allowing me in on such short notice, Mrs. Blythe."
Miss Stacy rose to leave the room with Gilbert's mother, but Gilbert's inquiry stopped her momentarily. "Miss Stacy," he began, "who else is in the Queen's class?"
"So far I've spoken to Anne Shirley and Jane Andrews, who were both eager to participate. I've a few more pupils in mind, but I have yet to speak to their families."
"Thank you, Miss Stacy," Gilbert said in earnest. "I won't let you down."
Miss Stacy smiled. "I've no doubt you won't."
Miss Stacy said her goodbyes and was led out of the room by Mrs. Blythe, their skirts swishing after them. Gilbert was delighted at the prospect of joining the Queen's class along with his friends—with the exception of Anne Shirley, although he could not deny the thrill that went down his spine at the thought of attending the Academy with her—but was still unsure about the monetary aspect of it all.
"Father, wouldn't sending me to Queen's be a burden?"
Mr. Blythe, who had remained quiet on the issue during Miss Stacy's visit, presently took his pipe from his mouth and looked at his son perplexedly. "What do you mean, Gil?"
Gilbert bit his lip and pointed his hazel gaze towards the floor. "Well…some of my chums have siblings that have been put through Queen's, and they all say that it costs quite a lot of money."
"Don't you want to go?"
"Yes!" exclaimed Gilbert eagerly. "Of course I do. Only I don't think it would be worth it if my education were to put you and mother in a tight spot, money-wise."
"Gil, if going to Queen's is something you really want to do, we'll support you. You needn't worry about the money. Just study as hard as you can, and we'll worry about the rest."
Gilbert nodded his head, and following his father's advice turned back to his schoolwork.
"And Gil?" Gilbert's head swiveled back towards his father, who was staring back at him intently. "We're very proud of you. Don't forget that."
In the weeks that followed, the Queen's class was organized, consisting only of the most advanced pupils Avonlea had to offer. Gilbert sat in a row with Charlie and Moody, while Anne, Ruby, Jane, and Josie sat opposite to the boys. More than ever, Gilbert was determined to top the class, not only to best Anne, but to prove to his parents that their expense wasn't for naught. He studied in the morning, worked diligently during class, and then studied even more at home. Deep in his heart, he held a high ambition: to place first on the entrance exams. The whole Island would be competing against him, and although he wasn't acquainted with most of his foes, he felt that his only real rival was Anne.
There were fleeting moments in class when he would feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, indicated that someone's eyes were upon him. Gilbert would look behind him, only to find Anne Shirley's grey eyes fixed upon him. In these rare moments when she was caught staring, a blush would rise on her cheeks and she would turn back to her schoolwork with haste, embarrassed underneath Gilbert's indifferent stare.
As much as he tried to ignore the redhead's presence, Gilbert simply could not ignore the jolt that he felt in his very core every time one of these occurrences happened, and in order to quell these obviously unrequited feelings, he would turn his attention to another girl, although he held no real desire to joke or laugh with any of them.
On one such instance, he gave Julia Bell a book about flora which he found to be particularly dull; Julia accepted the book with a keen enthusiasm and promptly asked Gilbert to walk home with her, which he pretended to do pleasantly. He often asked to walk Ruby Gillis home after prayer-meetings. She was a pretty, flighty girl who dreamed of dozens of beaux, but Gilbert found that he was entertained by her air-brained fancies, whereas he was rather bored by Josie or Julia's dull chatter. Still, his heart would thump more loudly and beat more quickly whenever Anne Shirley brushed past him without a glance or whenever he could hear her laughter from behind him.
Before Gilbert realized it, the orange and red leaves had fallen daintily to the ground, and snow blanketed the chilly horizon. The days passed pleasantly, Christmas came and went, and soon the leaves were returning, flowers were blooming, and birds were chirping. It wasn't long before the scholars were released from their prison and the summer heat began beating down on the red roads of Prince Edward Island.
Gilbert made a point to stay away from Barry's Pond or any of the haunts that Anne usually frequented; he wasn't apt to run into her. Although many say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, Gilbert believed the opposite was true for him. If he did not see Anne, it was simply easier for his feelings to remain dormant.
Most of his days were spent outside with Moody, Charlie, or Fred; all in all, it was a pleasant summer, thankfully passing without a major catastrophe or event. Only a few times did Gilbert run into his redheaded nemesis: once at Ruby Gillis's birthday party, once at the Sunday school picnic—Gilbert was proud to say that he and Moody beat Anne in the three-legged race this year—and once at the missionary concert, where neither he nor Anne were performing.
When school resumed—Miss Stacy's last year at the helm of Avonlea school—Gilbert once again flung himself into his studies and into the all-consuming competition to have top marks between he and Anne. It truly was a test of wit and will, as neither was willing to back down from the rivalry, nor were they willing to acknowledge each other's presence. And in the end, both Gilbert and Anne came out on top for Miss Stacy's mock entrance exams. For a moment, Gilbert thought to congratulate Anne, but quickly stopped himself before he could even turn and look at her.
As the school year wore on, Gilbert began to grow tired of his endless routine of studying. He longed to go outside and ramble through the woods, but would never forgive himself for it if he were to fail the entrance exams. Much like his indecision as to congratulate Anne or not, Gilbert found he often had internal struggle to either study meticulously or lose himself in his fancies. Always, the more rational side won, and Gilbert's nose was perpetually stuck in his schoolbooks.
Like the previous year, autumn turned to winter, winter blossomed into spring, and before Gilbert realized, June—and the entrance exams—were upon him. Now seventeen, Gilbert had grown into an intelligent and handsome young man, ready to grab hold of his future. He felt that he could bear placing low on the entrance exams, if only Anne were to place above him. Yet he didn't dare show his admiration for his peer, as she still remained uncaring towards him, rarely noticing and never acknowledging Gilbert.
The exams were to be held at the Academy in Charlottetown, and Gilbert was to board with Moody and Charlie for the five days during which the examinations were to be held. Basic maths exams were held on Monday, and both of Gilbert's roommates were going mad over them. Moody muttered the multiplication table in his sleep, and Charlie began sweating profusely whenever anyone mentioned a number. Gilbert, for his part, tried to remain calm and composed, but was equally as anxious on the inside.
History exams were held the next day, and Moody nearly died of hysterics. He felt as though he met his Waterloo in history, but memorization had always been a strong point for Gilbert and he breezed through his exams without batting an eyelash.
Wednesday brought the English exams with it, and although Gilbert had always had a particular trouble with grammar and sentence structure, he felt confident that the studying he had subjected himself to all year ultimately paid off.
Algebra and geometry were held on Thursday and Friday, respectively, and before the scholars knew it they were heading back to Avonlea. All their hard work had finally reached a crescendo, and now all they could do was wait. A few times in Charlottetown, Gilbert passed Anne, but if any spark of recognition entered her eyes he did not notice, for he was far too busy trying not to notice to see. To an unknowing passerby, Gilbert and Anne seemed to be nothing more than scholars from different sides of the Island.
The week passed and Gilbert began to worry incessantly. What if he were to fail? What if Charlie were to pass instead of him? What if his parent's pride was for naught? He had felt confident during the exams, but as the week wore on he began to remember tiny mistakes he made during certain equations, sums he messed up, or sentence fragments he forgot to correct.
"Don't be silly, Gilbert," Josie told him, trying to be reassuring. It was not, however, in a Pye's nature to be either kind or reassuring, and her guarantees only caused Gilbert to worry more. "There's no doubt in the world that you'll beat the whole Island. Ned Wright has bet money that you'll beat Anne Shirley for first."
When a fortnight passed, Gilbert and Charlie began haunting the post office, resolutely waiting for the pass list to be delivered. Once or twice he ran into Anne, her face as white as ghost, and wondered why she should be so scared. She was most likely to place at the top, he thought.
Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, the pass list was released. Charlie grabbed it first, scanning the long list quickly. "Gilbert—Gil!" he exclaimed jubilantly. "We've passed! Oh, Mother's going to be so happy. No Sloane has ever gone to Queen's, you know."
Gilbert nodded his head and congratulated his friend, but was more anxious to see where on the list he placed. Upon obtaining the list, however, his eyes widened considerably. There, on the paper, was his name, emblazoned next to the number one. And, right above his name, was Anne Shirley's. They had both tied for first place!
As he left the post office—his steps containing a bounce that had not been there previously—Gilbert ran into Diana Barry. "'Lo, Diana!" he called out, causing the raven haired girl to turn in surprise. "Have you seen the pass list?"
"Not yet," answered Diana. "I've actually come here to fetch it for Anne. She's so frightened that she vowed to stay away from the post office. I'm to tell her if she failed or not."
"Anne had no reason to be worried," responded Gilbert, his voice growing soft. It was the first time he had spoken Anne's name aloud since that fateful day by Barry's Pond. "She placed first—first among the whole Island. Here's the list."
Diana grabbed the list from Gilbert's hand and glanced at the top, where both his and Anne's names resided. "Goodness, that's amazing! And you too, Gil. Congratulations! May I have this?"
Gilbert nodded. "Of course."
Diana breathed out a 'thank you' and ran off without another word, presumably to tell Anne of her achievement. Gilbert shook his head and smiled to himself and he watched her black hair disappear across the horizon, and then turned towards the main road to tell his parents of his own achievement. He finally had something to be proud of—and, for the first time, had something he shared with Anne.
Reviews are better than Lily and James!
(does anyone else notice the similarities between Lily and James and Anne and Gilbert? Just me? Okay.)