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The Tower Room

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Gilbert would be coming home for Christmas. Anne was thrilled, and Miss Katherine Brooke commented on her frivolity in the faculty meeting on the day he was due to arrive.

"Yes, Miss Brooke, I'm being totally and utterly frivolous today. We will end the meeting as soon as we've talked about Miss Hortense Pringle. She's not completing her work again. How many of you are having the same problem?"

Two other teachers raised their hands and Miss Brooke added hers, somewhat reluctantly, a moment or so later. "Thank you all. I'll undertake to speak to her and her family before the new semester. Merry Christmas."

The others trooped out while Anne stayed behind to speak to the janitor. He was the one who understood the mysteries of the oil burner and the generator, and she listened attentively to his plans to make certain the pipes didn't freeze over the six week break. Just as she was ready to depart for Windy Poplars to get her bag packed, Gilbert called the office.

"Anne, the train will make it through to Summerside about two hours late, but we've been told it will end there. The ice has blocked one of the bridges farther on and it will be at least a day, more likely two before we can get to the ferry for PEI."

"Come to Windy Poplars. You have the address? Tell it to the taxi driver with Spooks Lane, not the real address, and he'll bring you right there."

"Thank you, Anne, tell Aunt Chatty and Aunt Kate that I don't smoke and will happily sleep on the sofa to be out of the wind."

Anne hesitated and finally said, "I'll see you in a few hours, Gilbert. We can talk then."

"Yes, I should go. I'm not the only person wanting to use the public phone. In a few hours, then."

***
Gilbert knocked stamping his feet to keep warm. Anne opened the door to him and ushered him inside. The house was still.

"I didn't have the heart to tell you on the phone. A cousin of the Aunts has died, and they went to the funeral and reading of the will. They'll be back in two days. They gave Rebecca Dew the time off, since I was leaving for the Island today."

Gilbert smiled. "So you'll be packing me off to the local hotel after I've had a sandwich?"

Anne shook her head. "I called every hotel or respectable lodging house in the town. Yours was not the first train to be delayed by the iced over bridge. Some hotels are already at three to a room or letting people stay on the lobby sofas."

"Anne, you're the school principal, your reputation…"

"I am not leaving you to sleep on a floor. I'm sure even the sofas have already gone. We've food enough for a couple of days. There's enough wood for the cook stove, certainly. I can put you into the guest bedroom and leave a note for Rebecca Dew and the Aunts. It might be chilly at first, but I could heat a brick to warm it… or…"

"Anne?"

"I have a stove in my tower room. The bed is vast." She was looking toward her feet and blushing, an uncommon thing for Anne. "I know it sounds like I'm not a respectable woman, and maybe I'm not." She looked up at him and continued, "I want you beside me tonight. I want to know that you won't be cold, and that I'm not alone in the house. And… you are my fiancé."

"Yes, I am. I'm also a man, and while I try to keep to the correct side of decorum, having your red hair fanned against the pillow, feeling your warmth beside me? I'm not certain I can trust myself."

"I'm not entirely certain I can trust myself, either."

Gilbert looked surprised.

"You're a handsome man, Gilbert Blythe, and you're my most beloved kindred spirit. I… still want you beside me tonight."

He kissed her softly. "It would be churlish of me to say no."

***
The supper was scratch, bacon and eggs and fried potatoes with onions. Anne put on oats to soak so they could have them for breakfast. There was some ham, cheese and bread in the pantry for grilled sandwiches, if they weren't able to get a train the next day. Each of them had called home and assured their loved ones that they were safe and would be home as soon as possible. That they were alone together was left discreetly unmentioned.

They read to each other in the front room. Gilbert had brought a copy of The Invisible Man, and Anne was delighted to have a new book by H. G. Wells to spark her imagination. The night drew in close, and the chill of the house quickly became overwhelming. Anne went to the kitchen and banked the fire there; retrieving the brick she'd left to heat after supper.

Gilbert grabbed his bag and an arm load of small hardwood logs and followed her up the stairs to her tower room.

Anne tucked the brick into the foot of the bed and took her nightgown back down the stairs as she went to make her nightly ablutions. She came back to find that Gilbert had lit the stove and the warmth of it was beginning to make a dent against the cold. He took out his pajamas and made the same trek she had; when he returned Anne was already under the covers.

Gilbert climbed the steps to the bed and said, "You weren't joking about those. I couldn't imagine a bed so high." He handed her the book and said, "I believe the next chapter was yours to read."

After another chapter from each of them, Gilbert got out of bed and banked the fire in the stove. Anne blew out the lamp and for the first time they lay together in the darkness of night. They'd fallen asleep, Anne's head on Gilbert's shoulder on a train or his head in her lap at a picnic in the woods, but this felt more important.

Anne shivered and sank deeper into the bed, turning on her side to face Gilbert. He slithered down a little deeper, too, and wrapped an arm around her, pulling her head to his shoulder.

A deep sigh of contentment came from Anne, and Gilbert looked down at the top of her red head. She felt the movement and gazed up at him, her gray eyes wide. He leaned down slowly, giving her time to pull away, but she met his lips with hers and melted into him.

"Oh, Anne."

"I know, dearest."

They were silent, twined together, warm and snug in her tower room.

Gilbert stroked her face. "I want to make love to you, but…"

"We've promises to keep to our families and our faith."

"Yes."

There was another silence. "Can we stay like this, though, warm and contented together?"

Gilbert brushed his lips against her forehead. "Of course we can, Carrots."