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A Lovely Plain

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Anne Shirley Cuthbert stands some ways away, her two braids falling down her shoulders, with a book in her hand. It’s not an unusual position to see her in, and Gilbert shouldn’t be surprised, but he didn’t expect her to be standing all alone in the woods with her nose stuck in a book.

He had stopped short down the road when he’d caught sight of her red hair gleaming in the green of the leaves. And he couldn’t bare her turning her nose up at him again, though he doubted that would happen, and wanted to savor the moment of just enjoying her presence.

From fifteen meters down the road.

Ah, well. He couldn’t help it. Most of the time odd things seemed to surround her. He knew he made a habit of furrowing his brow and frowning when something unusual happened, or smiling when something wonderful happened. Bash said he smiled a lot and Mary teased that his face got red, which was ridiculous; it did not.

Her face did though and he thoroughly enjoyed it.

Especially when he made it so.

He wanted to get closer to see the book she was reading and see if he had read it. If that was anywhere where Anne had him beat, excusing spelling, it was reading just about any book she could get her hands on. She had so many books, and quite a lot that, while the titles were familiar, Gilbert had not had a chance to read any of them. It was disappointing, because he very much wanted to hear her talk about those books. Any book. A dictionary would do fine, actually.

“Gilbert?”

He blinked down at green eyes. “Anne,” he said calmly.

“Yes,” she agreed, “I wanted to inquire upon your strange fascination with staring.” She raised an eyebrow up at him in a way that he’d seen Marilla do once or twice, several times actually; and he felt as if he were being admonished.

As much as he wished to admit to admiring her red hair, he could not, because he’d only just stopped because it’s brightness had caught his eye within the green and he had enough curiosity in his body to stop and look. And then stood there for five minutes.

“I wanted to see what book you were reading,” he said slowly and carefully, “But you looked so entranced in it, I didn’t want to interrupt.”

Her green eyes flickered down to it briefly before meeting his again. He felt his heart thump.

“Is it enjoyable? Tragical?”

She paused a moment and pursed her lips. “I suppose it’s tragical, although, I’m waiting for the most tragical part to occur. You see, there are multiple tragical parts, and I cannot describe one without describing the other. So, you see, as much as I’d enjoy relating my fine book to you, I don’t believe I can without spoiling the thing!” She laughed then, and then said to herself, “Like Gertrude!”

He wasn’t sure who Gertrude was, but Anne had continued anyway before he could ask the question.

“Though, I suppose you could say, that it isn’t tragical at all . Tragical things happen depending on one's perspective, but the book itself is not tragical. If anything, it’s romantical, in a way. I want the two characters to end up together, but then again, I most certainly do not!”

They’d begun to walk, albeit slowly, toward the school building.

“Why not?” he found himself asking.

“He’s so prideful!” Anne burst, “and… and arrogant! He assumes he can just insult Elizabeth and that, because he’s just so wonderfully amazing at everything, that she will automatically agree to marrying him! He insulted her, and has the… the audacity to, argh!”

She threw her hands up into the air and one of her books almost slides from under the leather belt used to wrap it all up. He reaches forward and slams his hand into the side to keep the book up there.

The both freeze like winter evenings do and Gilbert can feel his face beating red. He lets go almost as soon as she drags the books back down to her chest.

“Sorry,” the both say together.

Anne breaks their eye contact first, trudging on forward without him. He scrambles to catch up, desperate to continue the conversation if only so that he can understand more and more about her. Most of their conversations had gone badly or had at least been strange intimate moments of delightfully wonderful conversation that only lasted a few seconds. Their meeting hadn’t gone well, even if he’d kept her from being bullied further, he’d still insulted and grabbed her braids.

Oh. Oh no.

He scrambles to catch up faster. She’s still walking headstrong into the green, still headed to the schoolhouse that he knows is only a few minutes from where they are.

“So,” he continued, breathing heavily, “He insulted her?”

Anne looks at him quizzically but nods vigorously. She most certainly does not to anything by halves.

“Insulted her terribly . I felt offended myself, even, and had to put the book down for a whole hour I was seething so much! Of course, she does not help her own case at all, though I daresay he started the whole thing! He said such awful things about her, and was so mean upon their first meeting I would quite agree that being liked by him is quite disagreeable!” she exclaimed, huffing with both anger and excitement.

Both their faces were red, though now Gilbert was thinking it was for very different reasons. And he was beginning to feel dread pool up in his stomach. How was he any different than this man, written and immortalized from the mind of an author onto the page of a book? He’d insulted Anne when they’d first met. He’s pulled her braid. Called her ‘Carrots’.

He was right to get smacked with that slate. And now he was being told, indirectly from the source itself, that being liked by him would be terrible.

Oh no.

“Do you like the book?” he breathed, voice quiet as that horrible dread seemed to make its way up his spine.

She tapped her finger against her chin. “I do,” she finally admitted, “I do identify with with Elizabeth. I am not so beautiful myself, of course, but you know, we both have plain names.” She paused and then continued, “If only in the sense that both are names are quite common. Elizabeth is more excitable than Anne, but still plain. I think it’s lovely, but not quite beautiful as, of course, the likes of Cordelia or Loreley.”

“I think Anne is a lovely plain,” he blurted out.

She faltered in her step then and would have almost crashed if she had stopped short completely. She turned to face him a little, this whole time slightly ahead of him in her excitement, and now her face was as red as her hair.

“Oh,” was all she said.

He opened his mouth to say something, anything, but they were standing outside the school house and Diana and Ruby, frills and all, were running full speed, calling Anne’s name. Much like his brain was running full speed to say anything at all.

She glanced back at him once and then twice and then continued on by herself. Ruby was giving Anne a sharp look, but Diana was practically bouncing with something to say. Anne’s face was still furrowed in either confusion or anger, he couldn’t tell. Did he want to know?

Yes.

Definitely.

But he had a feeling he would not get the response he wanted. His shoulders fell and he did not smile more than half-heartedly the rest of the day, no matter how many people surrounded him with smiles and laughs.

He made sure not stop and stare if he saw her in the woods, no matter how enjoyable her hair appeared in the leaves. In the end, maybe that was for the best.

][][][

 

Several days have passed when he stands right on the edge of schoolhouse as she exits with Diana. She is, as always, as radiant as a daisy at dawn. She and Diana are followed by Ruby and Josie and then Jane and Tillie. The girls split and Diana and Anne begin their trek through the woods, bidding farewell to their friends as they walk through the green.

He leans halfheartedly against the schoolhouse, knees weak, and watches her bright mind disappear from view. He knows he was to return to the house to help Bash and Mary, but he desperately wants to follow and sweep Anne off her feet and return her home himself, leaving her feeling happy and giddy.

But he couldn’t, because she could not possibly like him. And it would not do well to sweep her off her feet without asking first. As much as getting slammed in the head with a writing slate can endear one person to another, Gilbert had no inclination on getting hit again. Not by Anne or her writing slate. Or anyone in particular.

He pulled himself from the schoolhouse, having waited several minutes longer, and began walking on his way home. He knew that their paths could cross, but he’d given Anne enough time to get a head start. And he didn’t want her to catch him staring in the woods again, because that would surely happen if he walked behind them and caught up. He knew he could stare for so long, but, well, a cute girl was a cute girl and Anne was a very, very cute girl.

He didn’t want to stare but she was just so pretty he couldn’t help it.

And maybe he could stop staring a little less and become her friend. They had had a truce, anyway, and she’d written to him and he to her. And he had gotten her a present. They had had an entire conversation about her book that morning. Not-friends did not have whole conversations specifically about books. Then again, not-friends also did not say they thought the others’ name was very lovely.

A lovely plain. What had he been thinking? How good could he claim to be good enough at words  and yet, not only not get out the proper feeling but to leaving her only saying “oh?”. Did that count as breathless? He wanted to surprise, to shock, to make someone so overwhelmed with feeling they could only laugh or smile or shake their head and crinkle their eyes.

And he did think Anne a lovely name. It might be “plain” but it was lovely. It was calm and reassuring. It was short, but sweet. He enjoyed the sound of it. And it fit her far better than anything else. He could’ve said that.

But no, apparently because his mouth did not want to.

Which was fine, that was fine, because Anne most definitely did not want to hear it from him anyway. And what would it even accomplish? She’d probably go back to ignoring him again and as fun as that was to poke at the first time, he hardly doubted he could bare it again.

He stalked up the road to the farm, his books becoming loose in his bag, and he desperately wished there was nothing that had to be done at all. But a fence needed repair and the hinges of the barn door were rusted terribly. The winter had been wet and cold, Bash had been miserable, and Gilbert had been left repairing the necessary any equipment that was further than a 100 meter radius from the house. Any further was too much to walk. Bash was left a shivering mess, so much so that he was completely useless, and thus had taken on repairing anything in side the house.

Mary found it quite amusing and Gilbert would too, did, if it weren’t for the fact that he was left doing everything himself as well.

The door to his home was shut tight and he tugged at it to open. A swath of warm air hit his face and he breathed out a sigh of relief. The sight of Mary and Bash greeted him pleasantly; the house was warm, something very delicious smelling was cooking, and the two were laughing at his kitchen table. They had moved in when Bash had added his name to the deed to the farm, staying in an extra room.

“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” Mary laughed, “You alright Gilbert?” She meant the question lightly, which was fair, but there was still worry in her eyes.

He must’ve looked tired, or perhaps his sour mood played on his face. He shook his head. “All is fine, just a little tired,” Gilbert said.

Mary’s face was one of disbelief. “It’s Anne isn’t it.”

If Gilbert had been drinking tea, he would have spit it out. Instead, he spoke, and his voice was a strangled mess, “What?!” he exclaimed, “that’s ridiculous!”

“It would be if that hadn’t been your reaction,” Mary laughed.

Bash, behind her, lifting a pot from the stove, snorted.

Gilbert decided to immediately change the subject. He jerked his chin at the pot in Bash’s hands, hoping to get the attention off himself. “What’s that?”

“Potato soup,” Bash said, “Now, I know it’s not winter, but something warm never hurts your body even when the weather outside makes it unbearable. I read it in a cookbook. It uses spices- garlic, thyme, parsley- and yet you only ever ate salt? I thought I’d cook something your taste buds can handle.”

“Well, I didn’t cook,” Gilbert explained. “I don’t know how. I mean, I can knead bread and stuff, but…” he sniffed the air and smiled, “Not something like that. Where’d you find a cookbook anyway?”

Bash sat the pot at the end of the table and wiped his hands on his apron. “In a box in the attic upstairs, just sitting with a whole lot of them! Very surprising,” he tutted and continued preparing the table for dinner. Mary gave him a large smile.

Gilbert blinked. “Oh,” he said, “those must be my mothers.”

And then the joyful mood dissipated.

Mary’s face grew still and Bash’s head whipped up from the cupboard.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t know-!”

“No, it’s fine,” Gilbert said, a little hallowly; he wasn’t upset, “I’m glad they’re being put to good use. Where are the others?”

Bash pointed upstairs and Gilbert was already walking forward. Just at the foot of the stairs, where the attic ladder was still open, was a wooden box filled to the brim with books. He kneeled down over it, not having ever realized that her books had been packed up away all this time. Perhaps his father had forgotten, or maybe he never had to strength to mention them when there were other more important things to be said.

He picked up the first book. Irish Lullabies and other Love Songs and then written beneath it in a smaller lettering, Gailearaí Éireannacha agus Amhráin Grá eile. He smiled down at it and thumbed through the pages. The pages had slightly yellowed and spotting had formed from rain or snow that had leaked through in the attic, but it looked marvelously in tact.

He put it down to the side; Anne would enjoy that book.

He froze.

Maybe he could lend Anne a few of the books. She’s enjoy some of these, and it was not like there was time for him to do much reading of them anyway. Not with all the studying Ms. Stacy was having him do.

There was a book by Hans Christian Andersen, a name that Gilbert was familiar with but not quite sure how. A book on The Interest of Flowers and Other Budding Plants: An Analysis of the Native Plants of Northern America. He put that down to the side with the Irish love song book, also for Anne. It wouldn’t hurt to lend them to her. Or even give them. While he was enamored by the idea of these old books, he knew they would only stay packed away in this box unread and unused.

Any cookbooks he saw he put to the side for Bash, neatly piling them up into a stack of four. He found a small pocket book of poetry, only several pages, annotated, that he thumbed through to admire the handwriting. He almost stuck it on the pile for Anne but decided against it and pocketed it.

He was left with four books for Bash, three cookbooks and one about music. He’d left Anne with the Irish song book, the fairytale book, the plants, a small book on sheet music for the mandolin, and the history of the various Canadian rivers and the Hudson Bay. A small pile for Mary of flowers and a traveling book. The rest were, still, quite interesting, but Gilbert took the box and packed it back up, sliding it against the wood floor to rest against the opposite wall. He closed the attic slowly and then scooped up all the books in his arms, hoping none would drop, and staggered down the stairs.

Both Mary and Bash looked up at him as he gently laid all the books out on the table. Mary jumped up to help, quickly sorting them so they could see all the titles. He organized all the piles, sliding them both to their new respective owners.

“Some for you and a pile for you,” he said.

Mary pointed to the books he’d lined up for Anne and conveniently didn’t say anything about. “And those?”

He hesitated only a brief second before he said, “Mine.”

She nodded slowly. “Ah, okay.”

He grabbed the pile and immediately went upstairs.

][][][

 

A week later and he still didn’t have a clue of how he was going to take those books to Anne. They wouldn’t fit in his school bag and he could barely carry them all the way, though he would if he had too. He could simply take them to Green Gables after school separately. That would help dissipate any gossip that would inevitably begin to spread and Gilbert was more than willing to keep that from happening. But he also wanted to be open about it too. He wanted to show the class he liked Anne, in a friend way.

And who didn’t want to share books?

He definitely did. Maybe he should read them first and then get her opinion on them, and then they could discuss? That would be a grand idea and then he could have an excuse to invite her over for tea.

He tossed one of the books on his bedside wash table lazily. It knocked over his pitcher of water, hitting it with a clang. He jumped up from his bed and rushed to catch it but the pitcher splintered right as it hit his hands on the ground.

“Gah!” he hissed, pulling away. The glass had shattered out along the floor and he was half kneeling in it, cradling his left hand. He could see the white pieces of glass mixed with the blood and hissed under his breath, eyes squeezed shut.

He heard footsteps running up the stairs and Mary appeared before him, brow furrowed with worry, swing the door open with a hurried bang.

“Oh dear,” she exclaimed, “What happened here? Are you alright?”

He stepped up slowly, still holding his left hand at the base of his wrist, and shook his head. “Accidentally knocked off the pitcher and tried to catch it. It shattered on the ground right when I got there,” he sighed, shaking his head still.

“Oh, oh that’s a lot of blood,” Mary said, stepping around the glass. “I’ll grab something to start cleaning it off, you should wash that hand and get all the glass out.”

He smiled at her, though it was pained, “I know, thank you Mary.”

She smiled knowingly at him, “Ain’t no reason to let that get infected.”

He nodded back at her and followed her out the door. He went down the stairs cradling his hand to wash in the small basin. It stung as the warm water ran over it, tugging at torn flesh and bits of glass. His brow furrowed as he cleaned it all out, picking at the white until all the glass and blood was gone and washed from his hand.

Underneath one of the cupboards was a small little kit he’d created to work with the Doctor. It was in hopes of working on some practice, either with himself like now, or Bash and Mary. He hoped to be prepared and use his knowledge of medicine to help if something went wrong. He’d had yet a chance to use it and was, while annoyed and in pain, almost delighted to open it up. He unwrapped a linen cloth around his hand and put pressure on it to relieve the pain. It worked for sometime and the blood didn’t leak through the linen wrap, but he sat there staring at his hand for some time before Mary descended down the stairs again.

“So what was that all about?” she asked, hands on her hips as she stood at the foot of the stairs.

He winced. “I just tossed a book and it hit the pitcher a little too hard, that’s all,” he said.

She nodded slowly, mouthing a small ‘ah’. “One of the books for Anne?”

He blinked. “I… yes?”

“It’s a yes or no question, Gilbert Blythe.”

He suddenly felt as if he were being admonished for something he hadn’t done yet. “Yes,” he said slowly, “One of the books for Anne. I got. Well. Alright. I don’t know if I should give them to her now and wait, or read them first and then give them over so we can talk about them.”

Mary said nothing.

Gilbert let out a breath, hand shaking as he lifted it to run through his hair. “I want to talk with her about them, but I’m also very anxious to give them that I just want to go and do it.”

“Do you want my opinion?” Mary asked.

Gilbert nodded solemnly.

“Just go and do it,” she said, shaking her head, smile on her face, “It’ll be easier for you both in the long run to just go and do it.”

His hand twitched and he bit his lip, looking down.

“Listen,” Mary said, sitting down across from him, “If all you gonna do is sit here and wonder how to do it, you’ll never muster about the ounce of courage it would take to actually go out and do it. Now, I’m not saying you’re not right to think things through, but you can bet half of doing something is the planning and the other half is the doing.”

He smiled up at her, nodding. “I think I understand.” He paused. “I’ll go now.”

She blanched, “That’s not quite what I meant.”

“Yes, well, I suppose I should just go and do it, yeah?”

She reached a hand out to stop him, resting it on his arm. “Wait a few days and heal, how about that?”

He looked down at his linen wrapped hand, opened his mouth to say something, and then lost whatever words he had been hoping to conjure up. He fell back in his chair and nodded.

“Fine.”

“Good, now. Do we have any Rosemary? That’ll help that cut heal right up.”

Gilbert found himself grinning. “Bash teaching you some Trinidadian Bush medicine?”

She winked. “More like I’m teaching him some good ole’ Canadian medicine.”

And then they were both laughing.

][][][

 

He had taken it upon himself to wrap the books up pleasantly in a small piece of embroidered cloth with a stick of lavender tucked within the knot. Purple would be a lovely color on Anne, of course, because purple that was a light color went lovely with her darkening hair. As did blue, but Gilbert could not find any blue flowers that were close enough to the house.

He left earlier in the morning, just after sunrise, hoping that he wouldn’t be too early and consider himself rude. He hadn’t sent word, but the Cuthberts were farmers too, and were up early to work. He hoped Anne would be there.

She would, of course, as she lived there.

The morning was still thick with dew and golden light. The grass glimmered on the side of the road and wildflowers that lined the worn dirt faded in and out of shadow and speckled sunlight. He felt his face growing red as he smiled, holding the wrapped books carefully in his arms. He didn’t want any damage to come to them and knew Anne would take good care of the books.

His hand had only taken a few days to heal and while the skim still pulled tight over the scabs whenever he made a fist he was in good working order. It had been his left hand, thankfully, and not his right. He could still write just fine at school even though he’d been left with several people hovering over him to see what was wrong. Anne had only once said she hoped he would get better and then Gilbert had, that night, made a salve from the rosemary to smother over his hand.

It would not do to carry those books with only one hand anyway. The sooner he had gotten better meant the sooner he could carry them to her.

He could imagine her smiling faintly and discussing the book avidly, large eyes looking up at him as she went on about how romantical lasts words were in books or how maybe a single sentence made her think of how lovely spring afternoons were when the sky was as blue as a sapphire or how wonderful the stars shined above their heads like snowflakes in the light of a candle. He could imagine, distinctly, the strange way she would huff if he teased her or the way she would pull at one of her thick red braids and smile about some strange word she’d read in a book that neither of them had heard of before.

And then she would spell it for him, several times, and tease how grander she was at spelling than he. He could already imagine the conversation. And since she was such fun to poke at about many things, he knew he could spend several hours only just standing on the porch at Green Gables, listening to Anne tease him right back.

He would not stay, of course, because Anne did not like him back and he had most certainly embarrassed himself when he told her her name was a lovely plain. And while he would not take the words back, for he could not anyhow, he would certainly do his best to leave the memory forgotten. Gilbert was only dropping the books off because they were, at best, friends-on-a-truce, and he knew she would enjoy them. The books would’ve gone unread in the box anyway and how could Gilbert waste such good books when there was a perfectly able girl only three kilometers away willing to read anything penned for another’s eyes?

Perhaps he could stay, if invited of course, to drink tea. He was more than willing to hear about the previous books she’d been reading before, with Elizabeth and the man she did not like. If anything he could, perhaps, use his careful knowledge of the books plot to reveal the nature of their relationship, or lack thereof, to discover more.

For science.

Scientific practices.

Of friendship?

Green Gables rose in the distance, beyond the tree line, and broke the lovely blue sky to reveal the shining glimmer of white and green. The sun had almost fully risen beyond the summer green and he hummed a hymn to himself as he paraded up the dirt path to the main house. Already Jerry, the French farmhand, was hard at work in one of the fields. He’d grown taller in the past year and gave Gilbert a strange stare as he past by the fence.

Gilbert nodded in acknowledgment, hands carrying the books and thus preoccupied, and Jerry gave him a stern nod back. Quite like Matthew Cuthbert, who rarely on occasion spoke at all, Jerry had picked up the older mans mannerisms the longer he’d continued to work there. As he approached the main house, past a lovely little tree that had lost all its petals in the early spring, a window opened up and he saw a red head peek through the opening.

He had barely shifted the books to wave, because he would most definitely wave at Anne, before her head had disappeared back into the void of the house. He paused only briefly before carrying on, stepping up the exact and cleanly swept steps of the house. He shifted the books carefully this time only finally being able to and rapped his knuckles across the door.

It opened with only 1, 2, 3 seconds of moments passing to Marilla Cuthbert. She was all angles and sharp eyes that stared down at him with a long angled nose. She smiled softly though when she recognized him and stepped to the side.

“Oh, Gilbert, well, what are you doing here so early in the morning?”

He stepped in and nodded his head in a greeting. “I have something for Anne,” he said, holding up the wrapped up books, “I only came so early as to hope to catch her before work for the day began.”

“Well, my, that’s quite a lovely thought,” said Marilla, closing the door slowly. She guided him to the small parlor room table. “Anne hasn’t eaten breakfast yet, would you like to stay?”

Dread crept up his stomach and he pushed it back down, thinking about maybe how Anne would not want him to stay at all and how quickly she’d retreated from the window. But he could hardly deny the invitation, especially if it were Marilla requesting it, and it would give him the opportunity to hear more about Anne’s book.

“Thank you, I would like that,” he said, putting the stack of wrapped up books on the table. It had all already been set up for Anne, and Marilla walked around the kitchen grabbing a plate and cutlery for Gilbert to join in.

“She’ll be surprised, that’s for sure, oh don’t worry about that! I’ve got it,” she exclaimed, waving her hand as he reached to help her grab a large sack.

He leaned back, now unsure of where he should be standing, and suddenly self conscious of himself.

“Now, tell me, how are Bash and Mary?” Marilla asked, her face smooth as she looked at him from across the table.

“They’re doing well,” he replied, “Thank you. I think Bash is mostly well adjusted, though I don’t believe Mary and I make it easy for him.”

“Oh, well, that’s quite lovely,” Marilla said, “I can’t imagine taking everything and moving to such a strange place, even with other people to help.”

“I wouldn’t mind,” admitted Gilbert, “I think it would be an adventure.”

She gave him a peculiar look, “You don’t say.”

Before Gilbert could speak there was a rush of footsteps down the stairs and Anne appeared in her usual dress, swinging around the last post.

“Anne,” Marilla said, straightening her self and smoothing out her own apron, “There you are. Gilbert has come and I’ve invited him to stay for breakfast.”

Anne’s almost grey eyes slid from Marilla to Gilbert and she looked surprised, as if she hadn’t seen him approaching from her window only some ten minutes before. Her eyes widened and her mouth let out a breathless “oh”. She mirrored Marilla, smoothing her dress, and her face became even.

“Good morning, Gilbert, I didn’t see you there,” Anne said with a nod, “How might you be on this glorious morning?”

Marilla’s squinting face barely registered as Gilbert practically beamed. “I’m doing well, thank you Anne.”

“Breakfast is ready,” Marilla said, and waved vaguely in the direction of the table.

Anne and Gilbert both moved rather stiffly, Gilbert attempting to pull out Anne’s chair when she grabbed it and yanked it out before he could reach; thus, he was left to walk around the table and make her wait anyway, and sat across from her as Marilla set the food out.

“Marilla,” Anne said, her tone of voice questioning, “where is your plate?”

And Gilbert, who had been practically staring at Anne since she’d stomped down the stairs, noticed that Marilla had only set up two seats. He had thought a third would appear, but Anne had distracted that possibility when she had descended down the stairs.

“Oh,” the woman said, “I’m not hungry right now. I figured I might as well go on a stroll. Check on Matthew. Eat up.” And then she left the kitchen with a sweep of her skirts.

Gilbert felt his face suddenly grow hot and Anne stared slightly agape in the direction of the door.

“I brought you something,” he blurted.

She turned her light eyes to look at him.

“Oh?” and then those light eyes flickered to the wrapped up books on the table. Curiously, he wondered how she did not notice them before when she was always so perceptive. He reached across and pulled the books toward him and the patted the top. “Just some things you might be interested in, see, and well I wasn’t sure what you’d like so I brought all the ones you might want to read.”

Her eyes shone as the implication set in and she leaned across the table rather unladylike, and laid her hand on the stack. “Books?”

He wanted to laugh but kept it down, smiling a little. “Yes?”

“Gilbert Blythe you are the apple in my eye!” she exclaimed, committing to reaching across the table to grab the whole stack. She pulled it across and untucked the small stick of lavender.

“Oh!” she said, “How beautiful! I do admire lavender so!” She laid the single piece gently on the table next to her plate and carefully unwrapped the books from the embroidered cloth. They looked different, now, on the table and the light and with Anne’s eyes staring down at them.

“Old books,” she whispered, “how lovely; for I admire old books almost as much as I admire new books. For how beautiful is it to imagine all the hands that have touched them and loved their stories and all the thoughts that dwelled upon such delicate words.”

His heart swelled then and he wanted to lean over and kiss her.

“There is nothing better than an old book,” she said, touching the cover of the Irish Lullabies book as if it would crumble. “It is as if reading the letters of the author, always there, in ink, for me to read. It will never fade, not if I think their words in my thoughts and return to them when I need to.”

“How romantic,” he said, slightly sorry that he interrupted her lovely thoughts. He could listen to them all day.

“How absolutely wonderful of you to do this,” she said, eyes shining, “Where did you get them?”

He blushed deeply. “Oh, well, they were my mothers, you see, and Bash had found a whole box filled with them.”

Her smile dropped from her face and her brow furrowed. “I cannot take your mothers books!”

“I want you too!” he said, almost desperate, and he leaned across the table, “I know I wouldn’t have read them. And I know you would care for them more than anyone!”

Her eyes flickered back to the books and she shuffled through them slowly. He held his breath as she did so, worried that any movement would keep her from her decision.

“Okay,” she said slowly, and then her eyes brightened. “But only if you let me give you something too!”

Before he could stop her, she’d hurled herself from the table and ran up the stairs, stomping up it much like she had down the thing, and disappeared. He sat and blinked before letting out a short relieved breath.

She descended down the stairs much more calmly than she did before, a single book in her hand. She held it up from him to see, beaming. He stood up, breakfast forgotten, and peered down at the cover.

‘Pride and Prejudice.’

“So we can talk about it,” she explained as he took it from her grasp. “I’ve already finished it, you see, and I could use your opinion. Diana and Ruby haven’t read it all yet and I need an informed scholars thoughts.”

He blinked. “Was this the book you had been reading?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed, touching the cover, “You’ll enjoy it, I’m sure.”

“And what you said about Elizabeth,” he asked slowly, “and the man?”

She giggled. “Oh, ignore that! It all turns out for the best! I became quite excited about them!”

“Oh, I see,” he whispered and then looked down at her. She stood right in front of him, braids almost as long as they used to be, tied up with pretty blue ribbon. He stared down at her and she up at him. Neither spoke, both of their smiles fading to only a lingering, passing thought. He found her eyes rather enjoyable to look at and would be alright doing just that for the foreseeable future.

“Gilbert?” she asked.

“Yes?” he found himself saying.

“Would you mind if…”

“Yes?”

She cleared her throat and then closed her eyes and kissed him on the lips.

And what a wonderful kiss it was.

][][][