It was with much less enthusiasm than usual that Anne, once she was back at Green Gables, filled Marilla in on the moments of her life at Redmond that had not made its way into her letters and submitted to Davy's joyful exclamations and Dora's much more sober greeting. She was glad to see Marilla and the twins again, of course, but her mind was with Diana, not a mile away, now, and she wanted to see her friend.
Marilla, of course, knew Anne well enough to realize this. “You'll want to visit Diana, then.”
Anne rose hastily. “Yes, if you don't mind—”
“We min—” Davy began, but was silenced by Marilla's sharp look.
“Go on, then.” Unexpectedly, Marilla smiled. “I didn't expect you until later, really, I thought you'd go over to the Barrys' first.”
“I'm going now, Marilla,” Anne said. Then, softer, “I thought you'd be worried if I didn't come home first.”
Marilla would have been, but she wouldn't admit this to a single living soul. Instead, she shooed Anne out the door with admonishments to be back before nightfall.
Anne made her way through Lover's Lane, but despite her earlier eagerness to see Diana, she found herself dragging her feet, now. How could she talk to Diana, now, and act as if everything was alright? Or worse, cry about it with her? Diana and Anne had shared many things together, but this was new, completely, utterly, new, and she was afraid she wouldn't know how to comfort her friend through this. (Letters were different. Letters weren't the same as talking to Diana face to face.) And there was, too, the nagging guilt about the fact that she'd disparaged Fred, in private, so many times. If she hadn't—
But no. Anne did not entertain delusions of her own grandeur of that magnitude. She knew that whatever thoughts she had about Fred Wright didn't result in the breaking of Diana's engagement.
“You're being silly,” she told herself aloud. “It's Diana. Nothing has changed.” But there was a leaden dread in her heart even as she made her way to Orchard Slope and knocked on the door.
Mrs. Barry let her in. Her smile was strained, but when she saw Anne, it transformed (for once) into something more real. “Come in, Anne. Diana is in her bedroom, I think. Do you want me to call her.”
“I'll go myself, if you don't mind.” Anne rather suspected Mrs. Barry would mind. Maybe Diana wouldn't want to see Anne, maybe Mrs. Barry needed to talk to her and see whether it was alright that Anne was there.
But, wonder of wonders she only nodded.
Anne made her hasty way upstairs, and knocked on Diana's door.
“Come in, Mother!” Diana called from inside the room.
For a moment, Anne almost turned and fled. But she gathered up her courage (it was only Diana, why was she so scared) and stepped inside.
Diana was seated on her window-seat. There was a book in her hand, and she appeared to be reading. And, Anne realized, she didn't look terribly worn down or ill with grief, or any of the other pictures her wild imaginings had painted. She was thinner than usual, and her cheeks had lost some of their usual colour, but other than that, she appeared hearty and hale, and not wasting away of a broken heart.
She turned, and: “Anne!”
The moment Diana got up, all of Anne's earlier inhibitions disappeared. She flew into Diana's arms even as Diana dropped her book in her haste to get to Anne.
They embraced, and stood with their arms around each other and their heads on each other's shoulders for some time, and many a tear was shed, a fact which neither of the girls would later bother to deny.
At length, they broke apart (though much sniffling and clinging took place before either Anne or Diana could bear to let go off the other).
She did not, Anne realized, know what to say. This was a very rare occurrence, and an even rarer occurrence when she was with Diana, but the fact was, she didn't know what to say to Diana. 'I'm so sorry' seemed inadequate (and, in the privacy of her own mind, Anne thought it sounded too much like what one would say at a funeral). To brush the issue away entirely would make her seem as if she didn't care. There had never been a question of seeming between Anne and Diana after the first days of their friendship, so it was a strange feeling to be so uncertain.
Diana, however, had not so such qualms. “I know you're dying to ask me about Fred, Anne, but really, there's nothing more to say than what I wrote to you.”
“What you wrote to me was Dearest Anne, I don't think I'm in love with Fred any more. We're not getting married. That's—there must be more, Diana.”
Diana smiled, an odd half-smile. “That was it, really. We didn't love each other any more, so we decided to call off the wedding. And he didn't mind, and I didn't mind, and that's that.”
“Oh.” Billy Andrews and Charlie Sloane notwithstanding, Anne was not yet disillusioned with the idea of love, an ideal of grand adventure and fierce passion. And so this prosaic (or so it seemed to her) approach to marriage left her speechless. “And that was...it?”
“That was it.”
“But—” Here Anne stopped. 'You don't seem very heartbroken,' she had been about to say, but, mercifully, she had caught herself in time.
Diana, however, knew Anne too well, and besides, Anne's expressive face spoke all too well even though she'd managed to bite her tongue. “I was—upset at first, but it's been weeks. I don't think I mind now.”
Anne didn't know what to say to this, but, mercifully, Diana continued to speak. “No-one will leave it alone, though, and I can't step out of the house for the gossip that's following me. It's terribly annoying when everyone thinks Fred and I quarrelled.”
“You didn't quarrel?” For Anne, in the secret corners of her mind, had been imagining a dramatic parting involving bitter words, and had been afraid and heartbroken for Diana. That it had not happened came as a pleasant shock.
“No. It was really not horrible at all. But people talk so much about it.” Here Diana did shudder.
“I'll do something to make them gossip about me. I'll—” Anne threw around for an adequately shocking idea. “I'll dye my hair again. I'll dye it pink this time, and I won't shave any of it off, either. And I'll get drunk again.”
Diana laughed. “Oh, Anne, you don't need to. I was getting a bit lonely, that's all, but now that you're here I'm fine. I don't really care what anyone says.”
“Well, I'll do it if I have to,” Anne said loyally. Then, softer, “I missed you too, Diana.”
Diana had missed Anne even more than she'd let on, even before the engagement was broken. She reached out and hugged Anne again, and the two of them stayed that way for a long time.
I know you're worried about me, still, because of the engagement, but please don't be.
I haven't told you this, but I was the one who broke the engagement. Fred was very good about it, terribly disappointed but he knew that we weren't in love any more. Or at least that I didn't love him any more.
(Sometimes I wonder if I ever did.) I couldn't bear to be married forever to someone I don't love (some of your hopeless romanticness has crept up on me, Anne), so it's rather better to break it off now, I think.
You're going to ask me how one can fall out of love, but the simple truth is, I just did. One day, he wasn't the most important thing to me. That was it. (The most important thing, I realized, was you. I woke up, and realized that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life with Fred if that means that we wouldn't be as close as we were, and that was it. The fact is, I love you more than I lo—
[Letter breaks off here]
Diana's wedding had been set for June, and the day dawned bright and clear. It would have been the perfect day for a wedding, said wagging tongues, in hushed whispers as though the parties they were talking of were dead. What a shame. And they made such a pretty couple too, well-suited for each other.
Diana, however, was blessedly unaware of the gossip; Anne had spirited her away for a long romp across the fields and woods, ending with a late picnic lunch at Hester Gray's garden.
The narcissi of spring were long gone, but golden sunflowers had sprung up in their place, thousands of wide yellow faces all reaching to the sky. The fields on the side of the garden near the Carmody road were green-gold with crops ripe for harvest and swaying heavily in the light breeze. Behind them was the woods through which they had been ambling, the rich green foliage a sharp contrast to the blue sky where nary a cloud drifted. The brook beside which they had picnicked with Priscilla and Jane bubbled in the background, near enough to hear but not to see.
They hadn't talked much, as they walked (or, at least, talked much less then usual), content to walk side-by-side and allow their hands to brush each others', and later to devour the massive amounts of food in the picnic basket.
But now Diana broke the silence. “Anne,” she said. “You've been wonderful to me this summer, and I daresay I would have run away from frustration if you hadn't been here. I just want to say thank you.”
“I'm being purely selfish, Diana dearest. You're still my 'bosom friend', as we used to say, and I'm not going to ever tire of you or stop wanting to spend all my time you. I swear on it.” Anne added the last sentence laughingly, but her grey eyes were wide and serious, and Diana found herself smiling.
There was nothing, in that moment, for the two of them except each other, there in Hester Gray's garden, and it seemed perfectly natural for their hands to clasp without either of them really noticing.
You know I've tried to stop 'seeing' Roy, as they call it, because you know how utterly uninterested in him I've grown (which is not the poor boy's fault; I think that I'm just not cut out for marriage). But he just won't leave it be, and he wanted me to meet his family the other day.
I had to tell him no, Diana, and it was a wretched moment. I hated myself for leading him on, only I hadn't really been leading him on. He just didn't get that I don't want to marry him any more.
I suppose it's my fault, because I tried to let him down gently, first, and quite possibly my attempts went over his head. He took it quite gracefully when I finally explained outright, but—
Diana, I am a terrible human being. He'd already invited his family down, and it was simply awful having to tell him that I didn't think we'd work out. And yet—yet he was gracious about it, as gracious as he could be, possibly.
And I'm glad. I'm glad I'm not marrying him, and I'm glad I'm completely fancy-free, I'm glad that I'll probably be an old maid for the rest of my life. Old maidenhood isn't too bad, after all—you just have to look at Marilla to see that!
In happier news, Phil...
Janet and Anne laughed together over Anne's mimicry of Samuel, and that, Anne thought, would be enough to set the matter at rest. And yet—
And yet, that night, Anne's mind kept coming back to the proposal. Not to poor Samuel, but to the matter of a proposal itself.
She dreamt of romance, still, but her encounters with the opposite sex were all so mundane and utterly devoid of passion that she couldn't possibly imagine spending her life with any man. She tried, sometimes, to imagine marriage, but she couldn't get further than a house (a house which she'd lovingly created down to the smallest detail) and her and Diana still romping through the wilds that would, of course, be nearby. Her future husband, though, she could never think of as anything but a shadowy figure who didn't talk to her or even look at her. Not even Roy Gardner's face could make the idea of a husband more palatable.
Old maidenhood, Anne decided, had hitherto unexplored charms, and she wouldn't mind dying a spinster after all.
“I won't ever get married,” she told Robby Burns, “Unless someone sweeps me off my feet, which isn't at all likely. I'd rather not go through the bother. And that's that.”
Robby peered solemnly back at her, and Anne rather thought he agreed.
It's selfish wanting you back in Avonlea, and so I shan't want you back here.
(I do, though. I want you back here so, so much, so much that it's quite silly. But I also want you to be happy at Patty's Place with your cats and your friends and Aunt Jimsy.)
I'll tell you all the Avonlea gossip in a bit, but first, you should know that after you get your BA and spend a month or two in Avonlea, I'm going to whisk you off on a trip somewhere. I know you'll take a teaching post somewhere, but before that, you and I are going to tramp all over Canada and we're going to have a wonderful holiday...
Diana met Anne at the railway station, and the embrace Anne stepped into was like coming home twice over. Oh, how she'd missed Avonlea. And how she'd missed Diana.
They clung to each other for a long time (Anne didn't count, but it felt like a second and half-an-hour both), but, eventually, they had to break apart.
“Anne Shirley, BA,” Diana laughed, holding Anne at arm's length and looking her up and down. “I feel like you should look different, but you don't.”
Anne felt a pleasant kind of shiver go down her spine at Diana's gaze. She didn't reply to Diana; she didn't have to.
Diana added, more seriously. “Congratulations, Anne. I'm going to to be the first to say that in person to you.” She kissed Anne's cheeks, and Anne felt spots of heat rise where Diana's lips had touched her skin.
“Thank you, Diana, but I'm glad to be back. I'm glad to be home, with you.”
She entwined her hand with Diana's, and they set off down the White Way of Delight on the cart Diana had brought up.
Do you know, the longer I spend at Redmond, the more I miss you? It's very strange, but that's how it is.
We'll be graduating in a little more than a month, now. Exams are around the corner, and we're all studying like crazy—Patty's Place would look, to an outsider, like something of a madhouse. I'm glad I've earned (will earn—there's one more hurdle yet, I mustn't forget) my BA, but it's been a wonderful few years and I'll be heartbroken to see Stella and Phil and Priscilla go. We'll never be like we were before, Di, and I can't tell you how much that makes me want to just lie down and sob.
I have you, though. You're my dearest, best friend, and you've been there for me since forever. It feels like we'll never part, dearest, and I hope that's always going to be so. I want to spend my life with you, and without you I don't know what I'd be.
But enough maudlinity! Yesterday, I was telling Aunt Jimsy about how I'd miss Patty's Place after we're gone, but I also told her I miss Green Gables, still. It's silly, I know, but I do.
And then she asked me if that was because I had a sweetheart waiting back home, a sweetheart for whom I'd rejected Roy. A sweetheart, Diana! As if.
I have Marilla and Mrs. Lynde and the twins, of course, and you, deare— [The next letters may be 'st', but they are illegible and the word trails off here.]
[Letter balled up and tossed away]
The stroll they took down Lover's Lane was reminiscent of the old times, when they were twelve-year-olds and still so very young, unable to imagine the heartaches and despair (and joy, too, unimaginable) that they were to face.
Then, though, as now, they strolled arm-in-arm, although they shared a companionable silence now that would not have been possible if they were younger, brimming as they had been with words that couldn't be restrained.
Now, though, it was with reluctance that Anne spoke, and broke the silence. “Diana, where on earth are we going?”
“We aren't going anywhere, just down Lover's Lane. Maybe we'll go to Orchard Slope—I made a new raspberry jam that is absolutely delicious, you must try it before we go off on our great trip next week.”
An old memory floated to the forefront of Anne's mind, and she couldn't help but laugh.
Diana raised an eyebrow. “What on earth are you laughing about, Anne?”
“The raspberry—the raspberry cordial, getting drunk on that.” It hadn't been funny at the time, of course, but, looking back, Anne found the memory absolutely delightful.
Diana, after a moment, joined her in her laughter.
Anne looked at her, and her eyes were bright and her face was flushed and she was absolutely, utterly, beautiful, and in that moment, Anne wanted nothing more than to kiss her.
And so she did. She didn't allow herself to think; she leaned forward, and placed her lips upon Diana's. It was slow, and gentle, and chaste, but it was also, unmistakably, the kiss of a lover, with passion and tenderness behind it. And so, for the first time in her life, Anne Shirley kissed Diana Barry. (And Diana Barry kissed Anne Shirley back.)
“Diana, dearest,” Anne said tenderly, once they broke the kiss, “Do you want us to—if you'd want to, of course, only if you want to—would you be willing, dearest, to renew our oath to never be parted?” The kiss should have settled all doubt, but somehow it didn't. What if she—
But no. Diana's eyes were alight with joy. “Yes, yes, of course.”
The conversation that came after that was long, and deep, a meeting of minds. They had held back nothing but this one thing from each other before, but this one thing was enough to bring forth a torrent of conversation. There were plans to be made, hopes to be spoken, castles of dreams to be spun.
Then they walked home together in the dusk...along winding paths fringed with the sweetest flowers that ever bloomed, and over haunted meadows where winds of hope and memory blew.
—Anne of the Island, L. M. Montgomery