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Strangely Are Our Souls Constructed

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Diana had never seen Anne look so tired as she did that morning she arrived at school.  Her poor friend's eyes were red and bloodshot, heavy, dark circles marring her paler than normal cheeks.  Her freckles stood out in sharper focus on her exhausted face.

 

"Oh Anne! You look a dreadful fright, what on earth is the matter?" Diana asked, rushing to her friend's side with all the grace and drama required for such a display.

 

"Charlie Sloane," Anne grit out, looking murderous.  "Charlie Sloane is the matter."

 

Diana's eyes widened in concern, "Charlie?  What's he done now?"

 

"Well," Anne chewed on her lip, glaring at the blackboard as if Charlie Sloane himself were standing in front of it. "Ever since dance practice, he's asked to walk me home at least twice a week."

 

Diana cocked her head. "But you've walked home every day with me."

 

Anne's expression softened as she finally turned to meet Diana's gaze. "And you have been the most beautiful excuse, Diana, I truly cannot thank you enough."

 

"Whatever for?" Diana asked, sounding amused.

 

"Existing." Anne declared, emphatically.  "I've been telling him I can't possibly walk home with him because I cannot miss a single moment with my bosom friend before the cruel hand of fate wrenches us apart."

 

"What did Charlie say to that?"

 

"He said he didn't see why I had to be so dramatic about things, and has been showing up at Green Gables so he might walk me to school instead."  Anne slumped further into her seat. "I've been waking up earlier and earlier every morning to avoid him, and he's even getting wise to that.  I didn't even get a chance to eat breakfast this morning."

 

Diana frowned. "Is that why you've been coming so early? I thought-" she broke off, glancing at the desk where Gilbert was still reading before class started.

 

Anne's brow furrowed.  "You thought what?"

 

Her bosom friend hesitated. "Well, if I'm being honest, I guess, after that dance, I assumed you were coming early to school to talk to Gilbert."

 

"Gilbert?" Anne sputtered, then paled, eyes darted to make sure the boy in question hadn't heard her.  At a lower pitch, she asked, indignantly, "what would Gilbert Blythe have to do with any of this?"

 

"Well," Diana hedged, biting her lip delicately as she thought through her words carefully. "It's just… the two of you danced together the other week, and, I don't know, it looked like you were enjoying it-"

 

"I cannot think of a single thing I have ever enjoyed less than dancing with- with that boy." Anne interrupted, though she didn't look angry so much as panicked to Diana's eye.  Diana was an expert in Anne Shirley-Cuthbert's many moods, so it was a well-trained eye, indeed.

 

"And, of course," Diana said, slyly now. "There was the way you were looking at him."

 

Anne's mouth dropped open and moved soundlessly for several seconds. "I was not looking at him in any particular way.  I can't even begin to imagine what you mean."

 

"But you usually have such a wonderful imagination, Anne." Diana said, voice sweet and innocent, though the wicked look on her face gave her away.

 

"Not even my imagination is good enough for that ." Anne grumbled, looking away from her.

 

Diana gave her a moment to stew before speaking again, "You know, if you made a post for Gilbert, Charlie might leave you alone."

 

Anne went rigid in her seat. "Diana!" She cried, looking scandalized.

 

"What?" Diana asked. "It's a perfectly reasonable suggestion.  If Charlie were under the impression that you were interested in someone else, he might move on."

 

"It is not at all a reasonable suggestion," Anne whispered fiercely. "It's the craziest suggestion I have ever heard.  Not to mention, it's the quickest way to complete and total humiliation I have ever come across."

 

Diana stared at her in bemusement. "Everyone in our class is using the Take Notice board.  What on earth is so humiliating about it?"

 

Anne cast her a forlorn look, "Oh my dear, darling Diana, it's different for you.  You are beautiful and accomplished. Anyone would count themselves blessed beyond measure if you were to post about them.  I, on the other hand, am the wretched, ugly orphan who talks too much. Even Charlie, who claims to like me, doesn't enjoy my more theatrical proclivities.  No one wants a post from me." 

 

"Anne" Diana chastised. "You are lovely, and lively, and intelligent.  Anyone would be lucky to get a notice from you."

 

Anne smiled sadly. "You are kind to say so, Diana.  But it's the truth. And besides, there's no one I would want to take notice of anyway."

 

Diana looked at Anne for a moment, sensing the untruth in the way her friend flushed slightly, and the way her eyes darted to the future Doctor Blythe for just a second. "It was just an idea," Diana said, finally, facing forward as Miss Stacy entered the room.

 

---------------

 

Just an idea indeed. 

 

Anne might have believed her dearest friend, too, if she hadn't come in the very next day to find:

 

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe had eyes only for each other at dance practice last week.

 

Anne could feel the tips of her ears go red as she stared at the horrible little note, stuck very obviously right in the middle of the board.  And it was written in Diana's neat, flourishing hand.

 

There had never been a time, not once in all of her years of friendship with Diana, that Anne could say she had ever been truly angry with her friend.  They were kindred spirits after all. No one understood Anne the way Diana did. Which was probably why this hurt so very, very much.

 

Tears stinging her eyes, she moved to rip the stupid note off the board and throw it into the stream.  Diana was in front of her before she could.

 

"You are the last person I want to see right now," Anne snapped, a sick feeling of betrayal roiling in her gut.

 

"Wait," Diana begged, reaching for Anne's arm. "Please just let me explain."

 

"Get out of my way," she said, trying to shake off Diana's grip.

 

"Please, wait, I can explain, I promise I can."

 

Anne took a deep breath, and sighed, the fight going out of her. "Fine."

 

"Not here," Diana said, leading her around to the back of the school house, though it was much too early for anyone else to have arrived yet.

 

For a moment, they just stared at each other.  Then Diana broke.

 

"Oh Anne, I'm so sorry, it was a stupid thing to do. I just… I overheard Charlie talking to the boys at lunch and he was saying such awful things about you.  About how he would need to train you out of your melodrama and how it wouldn't be becoming of a wife to be as well read as you are and oh, I just wanted to hit him!"  Diana didn't even take a breathe as she continued, though the pit in Anne's stomach was lessening with every word. "It was a stupid thing to do, I realize that now, but I just had to do something.  I couldn't stand the idea of you dealing with that for a day longer. We can take it down before anyone sees. We'll figure out another way. Oh Anne, please don't hate me. I couldn't stand it if you hated me."

 

Diana stared at her with such open, beseeching eyes that Anne couldn't contain the laugh that bubbled up out of her, all her previous anger and betrayal melting away as quickly as it had come.

 

"Dear, sweet Diana," Anne said, fondly, kissing both her cheeks for emphasis.  "I never should have doubted you."

 

Diana flushed. "So, you don't hate me?"

 

"I could never hate you," Anne vowed, as serious as though she were making a wedding vow. Then she looked down, a little bashful. "Besides, there… well, there might be something to your idea."

 

"Really?"  Diana's smile was tentative, but no less bright for it.

 

"Perhaps Charlie will leave me alone if he's given to believe that my affections lie… elsewhere."  Anne's face turned completely red at the admission and she got the impression that Diana made no comment about it only to avoid more conflict with her best friend.

 

"Are you sure?"  Diana pressed, looking nervous.  "We could just take it down, now.  No one would ever need know it was there."

 

Anne nodded, though her face was pensive.  "I'm sure but," she tilted her head, considering.  "Perhaps I can improve upon it."

 

And so, when Anne's fellow classmates were arriving, Diana's notice had indeed been taken down.  In its place was a small paper, written just as neatly, but with far less flourish.

 

Anne Shirley-Cuthbert enjoyed dancing with Gilbert Blythe, even though he is such an abominable dancer, he ruined the set twice.

 

Try as she might, she hadn't been able to resist peeking at Gilbert's reaction as he came in.  To her utter relief, or maybe disappointment, he didn't appear to have checked the board. For if he had, surely there would have been some kind of reaction.

 

Instead, he offered her his customary smile and "Good morning", looked at Diana strangely- not doubt wondering why she was there so early-, only to recover quickly and give the same greeting.  Then he took his usual seat and opened his book. If he had seen the notice, he wasn't letting on.

 

It made sense, Anne reasoned, trying to talk herself out of a panic.  Hadn't he said he wasn't a "Take Notice kind of guy"? What reason would he have for reading the board?  She had resolved to try to put the whole thing out of her mind, and focus on school when a tall shadow fell over her desk.  Anne’s heart skittered, and nearly stopped as she tried to gather up the courage to look up.

 

“Oh,” she said flatly when she did.  “Good morning Charlie.” 

 

Charlie Sloane was standing over her desk, looking equal parts awkward and unsure.  "Did you write that notice?"

 

"What notice?" Anne asked, though her voice was unnaturally high.

 

Charlie frowned down at her. "The one about you and Gilbert."

 

Anne would have been blind to not see the way Gilbert's head snapped up at that.  She flushed even more. "I have to go." She announced, and, with as much dignity as she could muster, walked out of the school house.

 

"But class is starting soon." Charlie called after her, sounding confused.

 

Miss Stacy would have to forgive her for being late, Anne thought as she made a beeline for the closest tree to hide behind.  Miss Stacy might even have to forgive her for missing school altogether today. And maybe tomorrow. And maybe for the next month until all of this blew over.

 

This had been such a wretchedly misguided plan from the start.  She had no idea why she had let Diana talk her into it. No, she decided as she stopped walking, and turned back to look at the school, at that dumb Take Notice board where she could still clearly make out the shape of her own note, right in the middle there.  She did have an idea why she had let Diana talk her into posting for Gilbert. And it had nothing to do with Charlie Sloane.

 

Maybe there was a part of her- a very, very small part, tiny, miniscule, almost not even there at all- that wanted Gilbert Blythe to take notice of her.  She groaned at the thought, slumping to the ground, and wishing very much that the ground would just open up and swallow her whole.

 

She was very close to standing up again, and hiding from her problems for the rest of the day, when the door to the school house swung open.

 

From her vantage point, she watched in horrified anticipation as Gilbert came out and paused at the Take Notice board.  He stood there for a while, a strange expression on his face, though Anne was relieved to see that he didn't look unhappy.

 

And then he saw her.  Anne nearly did start running back home to Green Gables when he instantly started toward her, like a man on a mission.

 

"Aren't you coming back in?”  He called when he got close enough.  “Miss Stacy's wondering where you are."

 

"Is Charlie gone?"  Anne asked, tone dry.

 

Gilbert's eyebrows shot up in understanding as he came to a stop right at her knees. "He should be."

 

She nodded. "Alright then."

 

Gilbert's hand was in front of her face before she could move to stand.  She hesitated, looking at his hand as though it might bite her before shaking her head and taking it.  She tried to ignore how warm his skin against hers, how firm his grip was. And most of all, she tried to ignore the way it immediately brought memories of the last time he had taken her hand.

 

He pulled her up so swiftly she lost her balance and pitched forward, ending up far closer to him than she intended.  For a breathless heartbeat, she was caught, her eyes locked on his, her hand still holding his, their chests so close she could feel him breathing.

 

She blinked and drew away, coughing awkwardly. "We better head in."


"Right," Gilbert said, shaking his head like he was trying to clear it.  Anne let out a breath, glad to have avoided what would doubtless have been a very awkward conversation. Then he said,  "You posted about me." and Anne's whole face contorted in discontent and embarrassment.

 

Taking a steadying breath she schooled her voice into something she hoped sounded apathetic. "Yes, I did do that."

 

"It was funny."

 

Anne's head snapped up to look at him.  "What was that?"

 

Gilbert had a smile on his face that tugged at her heart and Anne made a note to berate it later.  "That stuff you said about me being a bad dancer? I thought it was funny."

 

In spite of herself, her embarrassment and self consciousness, Anne found herself smiling back and she wondered when she started doing that.  Since when did Gilbert Blythe have power over her smile? 

 

"Well you are," Anne said, teasingly. "You should have seen the way Mrs. Lynde's son looked at you every time you went the wrong way and ruined our set.  I've never seen a man so frustrated."

 

Gilbert laughed.  "I'll admit, I wasn't really paying attention to Mrs. Lynde's son." Something about the confession sent Anne's stomach fluttering.  She elected to ignore it. "I didn't think anyone noticed how poorly I danced."

 

"I did," Anne said, and disliked the way it felt like some kind of intimate confession. "Why do you think I so publicly teased you about it?"

 

Gilbert smiled, a large smile so bright it was completely disarming.  "Maybe I'll need to return the favor."

 

Anne raised a brow and said with more boldness than she knew she possessed. "I thought you weren't the type to 'take notice'."

 

"Perhaps I'll make an exception." He said, and then, with a final nod, he opened the door to the school, leaving Anne on the threshold, blinking after him.

 

She resolutely ignored Diana's impish grin as she took her seat, and tried not to think about Gilbert making a post about her.

 

-------------------

 

Anne Shirley-Cuthbert is the second smartest person in our class.

-G.B.

 

Anne could hardly believe the words on the board the next morning.  The utter gall of that boy.  Second smartest.  She could guess who he thought would take first place.  And here she thought they had cleared the air yesterday.  Obviously not, if he thought to insult her so publicly.  

 

She stomped into the classroom that day already intent to remind herself of every single reason Gilbert Blythe was completely infuriating when he caught her eye as she came in.

 

And winked at her.

 

Anne's mouth fell open in outrage.  How dare he! He knew what he was doing, too, judging by the pleased look on his face.  Second smartest. Ha.

 

Two people could play at this game.

 

------------------

 

The next day, another note was posted to the board, and Anne could tell Gilbert had, in fact, checked it before coming in because he was smiling like someone had just told him a very good joke.

 

Gilbert Blythe is working incredibly hard on his studies as a doctor, as is evident by his atrocious penmanship.

 

Anne avoided the girls' suspicious glances all day, electing instead to throw herself into her studies with even more vigour than normal.  She nearly dragged Diana out of her seat in her haste to leave the school room as quickly as possible after they had been released.

 

But when another note cropped up on the Take Notice board the next day, Anne could no longer hide from her friends.

 

Anne Shirley-Cuthbert does a fantastic job interrupting me every chance she gets.

 

"What is going on with you and Gilbert Blythe?"  Josie asked, hands on hips as she towered over Anne, who was still sitting at her desk.  Lunch had been called, and this time, Anne wasn't as quick to hide. Thankfully all the boys were so rowdy as they left the room, none of them were likely to overhear.

 

Anne groaned, and noticed, to her chagrin, that all the other girls were listening with rapt attention.  “Why is everyone so concerned about what happens between me and Gilbert Blythe all of a sudden?”

 

“Maybe since the two of you have posted for each other more in the past three days than the rest of the class has in the last week?”  Josie offered, cocking a brow at Anne like she saw right through her. Which was ridiculous because there was nothing to see. Anne was reasonably sure about that.

 

“It’s just a joke between friends,” Anne said, and was pleased to hear that her voice came out sounding perfectly sure and confident.

 

“Right,” Josie said, though she didn’t sound like she believed her one bit.  “Just try to be sensitive about Ruby’s feelings, won’t you?”

 

Anne frowned.  “I thought Ruby and Moody-”

 

“We are!” Ruby blurted.  At Josie’s chastising look she sat back down. “I mean, I wasn’t listening.”

 

“Regardless of Ruby’s new beau,” Josie drawled like Ruby hadn’t spoken. “You still shouldn’t be running around with Gilbert right after Ruby’s only just gotten over him.  It’s bad manners.”

 

“It’s a joke, Josie.” Anne said, firmly.  “I’m not running around with anyone.”

 

Josie, thankfully, appeared satisfied with her answer, and left her alone.  Anne was just about to gather her things up for lunch when a tiny hand gripped her wrist.

 

“I really don’t mind,” Ruby whispered.  “I can hardly fault you for having good taste.  And besides, I know you’ve liked him forever, too.”

 

Anne choked.  “I do not -”

 

“It’s alright, Anne,” Ruby soothed, moving to join the rest of the girls. “You have my blessing.”

 

Anne could only stare after her friend stupidly.  What was that ?

 

As with many events in her life, Anne put it aside, and hoped to never think of it again.

 

---------------------------------------------

 

A week later, Anne had posted a new note that she was particularly proud of.  Bash had invited the Cuthberts over to the Blythe-Lacoix residence for dinner and Gilbert had volunteered to practice his hand at cooking for them.  Anne, Matthew, and Marilla had arrived to find a house that smelled distinctly of smoke, and a mortified Gilbert. The evening might have left her hungry, but it also had given her ample inspiration for another note. 

 

After all, Gilbert had not let up on his teasing yet, and Anne would not admit defeat.  It was a matter of honor. It didn’t matter if Diana didn’t believe her when she said that.  It had nothing at all to do with her enjoying the attention. It was definitely all about honor.  And maybe she was having fun with it. Maybe. It was possible.

 

Gilbert Blythe attempted to cook for the Cuthbert family yesterday and he very nearly succeeded.

 

Still, it was annoying that the girls in her class glanced at her like she was up to something.  Josie seemed content to let things be after their last conversation, but that didn’t stop Jane and Tilly and the rest from whispering and giggling behind their hands.  It was starting to grate on her nerves.

 

What was worse, Gilbert was completely good humored about the whole thing, irritatingly so.  Anne threw her apple at the back of his head once, in full view of most of the class. He merely, laughed, ate the apple, and posted a new note the next day.

 

Anne Shirley-Cuthbert very kindly shared her apple with me.

 

Obviously, she could hardly let that stand.  She didn't even bother waiting to post her reply.

 

Gilbert Blythe gives fantastic grammar advice while still remaining unbearably condescending. I am gratified to hear he enjoyed my apple; it was the least of what he deserved.

 

To which Gilbert replied:

 

Anne Shirley-Cuthbert is the most talented person I know when it comes to making a scene out of absolutely nothing.

 

It was a strange feeling, Anne decided, to be both annoyed and impressed with someone.  Because, at that point, the rules of engagement were fairly obvious. Gilbert was teasing her, and she was giving it right back.  If Anne were honest with herself, she might have admitted it was fun, having someone to spar with, to challenge her in every aspect of her life.

 

Though, on the other hand, did he have to be so smug about it? These days, it seemed as though Gilbert always had a small, overly pleased smile on his face when she looked at him.

 

So she made a point to glare at him whenever she noticed.

 

But glaring meant looking at him, however, and more than once, she caught herself staring.  Had his hair always so shiny and soft looking? It wasn't something she thought about out of a genuine interest in his hair and how it looked.  No, she merely wondered if, perhaps, his hair hadn't been living up to its full potential since he clearly never brushed it.

 

If Anne were in a charitable mood, she might have conceded that a household with a baby is hardly an environment that encouraged good personal grooming habits.  She could still picture Marilla's frazzled face after spending one day alone with Delphine, it was hardly surprising that Gilbert might let silly things like hair brushing fall to the wayside.

 

She hardly knew what possessed her to write the next note, but she couldn’t find it in herself to regret posting it.

 

Gilbert Blythe has a luxurious head of hair on the extremely rare occasions he actually bothers to brush it.

 

Gilbert didn’t post for a few days after that, and part of Anne worried she had done something to offend him.  But when he kept talking to her, acting like everything was normal, she figured that if she had offended him, she hadn’t done a very thorough job of it.

 

She needn’t have worried at all for not too long after, a new note appeared on the board.

 

Anne Shirley-Cuthbert has the loveliest eyes when she's glaring holes through my head.

 

She didn’t know if she ought to laugh, be annoyed, or give in to the strange wave of relief she felt upon seeing the note in his near illegible scrawl.

 

-----------------------------

 

“Make sure you have at least three other students take a look at your essay before you start revising it.”  Miss Stacy called as her pupils excitedly moved to pair off.

 

A paper appeared on her desk, and she looked up to see Gilbert smiling down at her.  "Want to switch?" He asked.

 

Anne found herself nodding. "Sure, have a seat."

 

He pulled a chair up to her desk, and Anne tried to ignore the way their knees pressed together.  She wondered how it was she could be so affected by his proximity when their was an entire desk between them, and then immediately pushed the thought out of her mind and ducked her head down to read his essay.

 

It was fairly quick work.  Gilbert wasn't tied for the top spot with her for nothing.  She found herself complimenting his writing more often than she found anything to critique.  By the time she looked up, Gilbert was already finished and was watching her, a soft smile on his face.

 

"All done?' He asked, and Anne nodded, letting him reach for his paper.  "Thanks." Then he pushed her paper back. "I don't really have any notes for you.  It was good. Really good. Not that I'm surprised."

 

Anne found herself smiling without quite understanding why. "Thanks," she said, softly.  "Uh, yours was really good, too."

 

He grinned. "Thanks."

 

Their eyes caught and Anne couldn't help but admire how his eyes looked this close, more green than brown, and rimmed with dark lashes.  Then she blinked.

 

"Uh, we should probably find two other people to read these."  She gestured awkwardly at their papers.

 

Gilbert nodded, though there was a strange expression on his face that Anne couldn't even begin to decipher.  "Right. Well, I'll see you around, Anne. Thanks again for taking a look at it."

 

He smiled at her as he left, and Anne's lips stretched into one of her own without her permission.

 

Anne’s smile faded as she watched Gilbert walk away.  What had she been doing? Why was it so easy to forget herself around him?  She suddenly had a powerful need to expel all of the nervous energy that had possessed her.

 

And she knew exactly how to do it.

 

-------------------------------

 

Gilbert Blythe's terrible penmanship makes his essays almost bearable to read.

 

His response is almost immediate:

Anne Shirley-Cuthbert needs to stop commenting on my handwriting.

 

And since his response was so prompt, Anne made a point of answering in kind.  It was only good manners, after all.

 

Gilbert Blythe should make any complaints about me legible enough to read if he expects me to take them under consideration.

 

Anne heard Gilbert’s bark of laughter all the way from inside the schoolhouse. The other girls looked startled but Anne was trying her best to fight off a grin.  It was at this point the rest of the class began completely ignoring their antics, except when they rolled their eyes about it, which suited Anne just fine.

 

Just so long as she didn’t have to see Diana’s exasperated expression whenever she caught her working on another note.

 

-------------------------------------

 

Anne Shirley-Cuthbert was thoughtful enough to invite the Blythe-Lacroix household to dinner after the guilt of nearly setting me on fire settled in.

 

Despite the lies Gilbert posted, it was always Anne’s intention to invite Gilbert and Bash over for dinner. (At the direction of Marilla, of course. She wouldn’t just invite him over without just cause.) It’s hardly her fault that he made her knock a candle onto his lap. Besides, his claim of “almost being set on fire” was a bit dramatic even for Anne's taste.  She had hit the candle rather violently when Gilbert startled her, and the flame had extinguished before ever coming near him. Though he wasn’t unscathed from the hot wax splattering his shirt.  Anne, to later dismay, hadn’t realised this until after she had thrown her tea in his lap.

 

Miraculously, she had been so caught up in writing that the tea had been much cooler than she expected.  Still, a lap full of lukewarm tea couldn't have been the most pleasant way to spend an evening. At least Bash had found some amusement in the situation.

Nonetheless, Anne couldn’t let such accusations stand.

 

Gilbert Blythe is smart enough to know better than to sneak up on me with the malicious intent to spook me while I’m writing.


Anne Shirley-Cuthbert's stories are so incredibly immersive that she failed to notice me calling her name multiple times before the alleged "malicious spook" occurred.


Anne Shirley-Cuthbert is flattered Gilbert Blythe thinks so well of her stories, since he went to so much trouble to read one of them the other day.


Anne Shirley-Cuthbert really ought to be less stingy with her writing.  Gilbert Blythe thinks she’s incredibly talented. And if it takes stealing her papers for him to read it, he’s more than willing to do so.


Gilbert Blythe is too nice for his own good.  It makes him a terrible liar.