Anne Shirley-Cuthbert’s hair is the most beautiful shade of red I’ve ever seen.
Anne’s first thought was that this was unnecessarily cruel of him to say. He more than anyone should understand what a sore subject her hair was. This must be a continuation of their game. Her next thought was that he just changed the rules. Gone were the backhanded compliments. There was nothing overtly mean about what he had posted, one might even say it was… nice. Anne knew better. Clearly Gilbert had decided to up the ante on their subtle digs, and she would meet him beat for beat.
Diana came upon her trying to come up with the most embarrassing, blatant compliment she could pay to the object of her current ire. An amused smirk was playing at the corners of Diana’s beautiful lips, and Anne had the sudden urge to hide what she was writing under her hand, like it was shameful. Which it most certainly wasn’t.
“And what are you up to?” Anne flushed at Diana’s tone and tried to remind herself that she did not have anything to be ashamed of.
“I’m just writing a new notice,” she said, trying her best to sound indifferent.
Diana pursed her lips and she regarded Anne, hand still covering the scrap of paper, blush still prominent on her face. “Just a new notice?’ She repeated.
Anne blanched. “Don't look at me like that Diana, this is simply the same game with different rules.”
“And these rules are?”
Anne opened her mouth, intent on listing them, but nothing came to mind, so she settled on, “I am determined to one up him on these ridiculous and frankly false compliments.”
Anne narrowed her eyes at her best friend, feeling distinctly annoyed at all her questions. “ Obviously , I mean, my hair? Beautiful ?” Anne scoffed. “It’s obviously a joke. Like that other post he made about me having 'passionate eyes'? A clear reference to when I was glaring at him last class.”
Diana hummed, thoughtfully, drawing a chair back so she could sit right in front of Anne, and look her in the eyes. “Have you ever considered that he might actually mean all these things?”
Anne rolled her eyes, waving away the idea with a hand like she thought it wasn’t even worth considering. "Don't be absurd Diana. We've been insulting each other for weeks now."
"Yes,” Diana mused. “I'm sure Gilbert took great offense to you saying he had, what was it? 'A luxurious head of hair'?"
"I was mocking his inability to use a comb!"
Diana raised a knowing brow. "So you don't think his hair is luxurious?"
Anne gaped. "I- what?” She shook her head violently to clear it. “I simply cannot believe my own bosom friend is turning on me in such a manner."
To take her mind off of Diana’s (wrong) opinions on her relationship with Gilbert Blythe, she wrote to Cole, taking careful pains to write as little about the ordeal as possible, opting to tell him of Matthew’s giant radish. When she received his reply, she breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, an interaction that would be completely devoid of any mentions of romance.
While your story of Matthew and his soon to be prized radish did amuse me, I must confess to being far more interested in this aforementioned “war” between you and our dear Mr. Blythe. It sounds as though things are getting rather heated back in Avonlea. I've discussed it with Aunt Josephine and she wanted me to say this:
"Are you quite certain this isn't some kind of belligerent flirting, my dear? Don't make that face, dear girl, I know what I'm talking about, and it would seem that you and this boy are rather taken with each other."
That was dictated word for word, so try not to be too upset with me for writing it down. I'm only the messenger after all.
Best of luck in your… war.
Your Favorite Friend and Dearest Companion,
It was as if all of her friends were on a mission to vex her. If it hadn't been a letter from Cole, who really was one of her most treasured friends, she might have crumpled up the paper and thrown it in the fire in a fit of temper.
It was in a complete fit of madness that she went to Jerry. Technically, she didn't even go to him, he just happened to be there when she exploded. He had been attending to his chores on the farm, and Anne had been sitting on the fence, trying, and failing, to concentrate on her reading.
She shifted. Sighed. Shifted again. Growled and shut her book. Reopened her book. Shut it again.
"Stop that," Jerry said, staring at her in annoyance. "Or at least do it somewhere else. Somewhere I don't have to hear it."
Anne only grumbled, shifting again in a vain attempt to get comfortable. Then, as if a sudden idea had occurred to her, she sat up and studied Jerry intently. He fidgeted under her gaze, staring back at her in discomfort and confusion.
“Jerry,” she said, slowly. “You’re a boy.”
Jerry looked back at the gate, like he was considering the distance between him and an exit, then to her. “Uh, yes?”
Anne narrowed her eyes at him, then sighed. “You’ll have to do.”
If Jerry had looked confused before, he was completely lost now. And maybe a little afraid of where this conversation was going. “Do for what?”
“I need advice,” Anne hesitated, looking like she was in physical pain as she forced the words out. “About a boy.”
Jerry’s face contorted in horror. “No.”
Anne nodded somberly. “I’m afraid so.”
“No,” Jerry corrected, backing away with his hands out, in a gesture of surrender. “I mean, ‘no you cannot ask me these things’.”
Anne stomped her foot petulantly. “But Jerry, you’re the only one I have left to ask.”
“Why can’t you ask Dian- uh- Miss Barry?” He flushed at his slip, but Anne was too worked up to notice. “Or Miss Cuthbert? Or anyone but me?”
“Because everyone else I’ve consulted has been completely mistaken, and I need an opinion from someone who isn’t as close to the situation.” Anne folded her arms, looking seriously at the farmhand like she was discussing a matter of life and death. “Now will you please help me?”
Jerry looked a bit like he would rather die than have this conversation, but he laid down his hoe and came to sit with her at the fence. “Fine,” he sighed.
“Well, there is this boy,” Anne bit her lip, face flaming as she pried the words from behind her lips. “And we’re… well… we’re friends. Sort of.”
“This isn’t about me, is it?” Jerry interrupted, sounding very scared.
Anne jumped away from him so quickly she almost fell off the fence. “What? No! Of course not!”
His shoulders slumped in relief. “Good.”
Anne glared at him. “Why would you ever even consider the mere-” she cut herself off, and took a deep breath. “Nevermind. It doesn’t matter. I’m discussing a classmate of mine.”
Jerry’s face lit with understanding. “Is this about your crush on Gilbert Blythe?”
Her mouth dropped open. “How would you know anything about that? Not-” she said, catching herself “-that I have a crush on Gilbert Blythe. But how on earth did you ever come to that conclusion?”
Jerry shrugged. “Diana mentioned it.” Then he stiffened, as if he realized what he just said. “Er- that is, I overheard Diana mention it… once. When she was here. To see you.”
Anne frowned. “Why else would she be here?” The she took in Jerry’s stricken expression and softened. “Oh, sorry. I just meant that she’s my bosom friend, my kindred spirit. So she comes to see me all the time. I didn’t mean to imply that she wouldn’t come see you.”
“Right,” Jerry said, faintly, though he didn’t look as upset. “That is- uh- what I was worried about.”
Anne let out a great sigh. “So, what should I do?”
Jerry blinked. “About Diana?”
“No,” Anne exclaimed, crossing her arms. “About… the Gilbert Blythe situation?”
“Uh,” Jerry said, uncertainly. “If you like him, perhaps you ought to… tell him?”
Anne scoffed. “I already told you, I do not like Gilbert Blythe. My problem is that everyone around me seems to be under the impression that I do.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Jerry asked.
“Well,” Anne floundered, moving her hands around, like she was trying to capture the right words in the air in front of her. “I just… I don’t like it.”
“Eloquent.” Jerry deadpanned and Anne scowled.
“I see you’re putting your literacy to good use.”
“ Merci, " Jerry replied, easily. "Are we finished now?"
"I," Anne sighed. "I don't feel as if we've resolved anything."
"Should have talked to Miss Cuthbert for that." Jerry said, without a trace of sympathy as he slid off the fence and went to retrieve his hoe.
The notes kept coming, though as time wore on, they were becoming less and less mocking, until Anne found herself contemplating some of Gilbert’s finer qualities in a more serious light. She found that one of the highlights of her day was writing and receiving those little notices.
Anne Shirley-Cuthbert is the most creative person I have ever met. Her essay on bees was both entertaining and informative.
Gilbert Blythe is such a compassionate, caring individual. He is always willing to help out with Delphine and even comes to help Matthew and Marilla when they need an extra pair of hands.
Anne Shirley-Cuthbert has an inspiring enthusiasm for life.
Gilbert Blythe is a wonderful listener and one of the easiest people to talk to I have ever encountered.
Anne Shirley-Cuthbert is the prettiest girl in school.
That last one brought her up short. For every compliment he had given her, each sounding more honest than the last, this was one she had a hard time believing. He must have gone back to teasing her, and she felt hurt that he would chose to go about it this way. It was worse than when he had falsely complimented her hair. This time, he had seen her deepest, darkest insecurity and brought it into the unforgiving light, and it made her heart pang to see it.
But when the rest of the class saw it, they didn’t laugh, as she feared they would. It appeared no one even really cared, and the ones who did were the especially nosy ones. Josie Pye, in particular, seemed to have developed an affinity for looking first at Gilbert, then at Anne, and snorting, or rolling her eyes before returning to her work.
And Gilbert himself wasn’t looking at her like he thought he had pulled an amusing prank. Rather, there was an earnestness in his expression whenever he caught her eye that warmed Anne from the inside out. The look in his eyes made her believe that, maybe, just maybe, he was telling the truth in that note.
And if he was, well, two could play at that game.
Gilbert Blythe has the most beautiful eyes.
Anne Shirley-Cuthbert has the kind of smile I would do anything to see.
Gilbert Blythe has the most fascinating stories of his adventures. I could listen to him all day.
Anne Shirley-Cuthbert is the most intelligent person I know.
Gilbert Blythe is most fascinating person I know.
With these new notes came a new openness with Gilbert Anne had never experienced. It was like a new door had opened for them, and they were getting even closer with each day that passed. They sat together during study groups, Anne started bringing her lunch over to where he sat so they could eat together, they spent hours talking off in a corner by themselves whenever their families had dinners.
And it wasn’t the only thing that changed. Anne began catching Gilbert looking at her during class. Before, that might have made her blush and look away as quickly as she could, but now, her lips would stretch into a secret kind of smile, one she slowly came to understand, she only showed him, and he would grin back at her. Miss Stacy started having to berate them for not paying attention, though she was probably more lenient on them than she would have been with anyone else. They were her two best students.
Gilbert touched her now, too. Just little things, really. If she handed him something, a book, or paper, or tool, he would linger whenever their fingers brushed, just for a moment. He was quicker to nudge her jokingly, or tap on her wrist when he wanted her attention when they studied. He walked closer to her, and his hand would always find the small of her back.
Every once in a while, he would brush his hand up against hers when they walked, or when they were sitting side by side, knees pressed together like he wanted to hold her hand.
Anne didn’t know what to make of it, though everyone else around her seemed to have their own opinions. She walked in on Marilla and Bash having a serious discussion one day, and when they mentioned her name, and Gilbert’s in quick succession, it brought her up short.
“We’ve got to keep a closer eye on them, mark my words,” Marilla was saying. Anne ducked behind the doorway before either of them could spot her.
Bash chuckled. “You know, when I agreed to come to Avonlea, I never thought I would end up Blythe’s chaperone. Suppose it makes sense. He’s been gone on that girl for years. Used to talk about her all the time. Still does, come to think of it.”
“Which is precisely why we need to watch them,” Marilla said, sternly. “Lord knows they’re of an age now where we ought to be concerned.”
“Concerned?” Bash echoed, amused. “You make it sound like they’ll get up to no good the second we leave them unsupervised.”
Marilla huffed. “That’s exactly what I am saying. I was young once, Sebastian, believe it or not, and I know the kind of nonsense young people get up to when left to their own devices.”
“Gilbert’s a good one, Marilla, you know that. And Anne’s an intelligent young lady herself,” Bash said,clearly trying to sound reassuring. “I’m sure we can trust them to make their own decisions.”
“They aren’t children anymore, the way they act holds more weight now than it ever has, and the whole of the island is already talking about how… how intimately acquainted they’ve become.” Anne’s face burned at the implication, and she was starting to believe that this was not a conversation she ought to be privy to. “Has he spoken to you about his, well, his intentions with Anne?”
“Ah,” there was silence for a long time as Bash and Marilla moved things about in the kitchen. Bash cleared his throat, awkwardly. “I think that’s a question you ought to be asking him.”
Marilla sighed again, a wearier sound than before. “I’ll ask you this then. Do you believe her heart would be safe with him?”
Bash was quiet for a moment, muling over his answer until Anne wasn’t sure he was going to answer, she wasn’t sure if she wanted an answer. “Yes,” he said, softly. “I believe it would be.”
“Thank you,” Marilla said, sounding at ease for the first time in the course of the conversation.
Anne tried her best not to dwell on the conversation she had overheard, but it was rather difficult to think of anything else. The implications of it, that Gilbert might be interested in her, that Marilla was so concerned about it, she was enlisting chaperones. It was a dizzying idea, the kind of idea that, once it settled in her brain, kept circling back to the forefront of her thoughts. It made her short of breath to think of, and her heart beat off its normal rhythm until Anne was sure she was getting ill from thinking of it. An illness of the heart was an awful thing to come down with.
She could hardly look at Gilbert the day after she heard Bash and Marilla talking, and she was terrified Bash might have mentioned something to him because he had a skittish look about him. She might have asked him how he was if she weren’t so mortified.
And then Diana came running up to her, cheeks pink, breath coming in pants as she gripped Anne’s shoulders.
“Diana!” She exclaimed, startled. “What-”
“Gilbert posted on the board for you,” Diana said, frantically, sounding rather out of breath.
“That’s not so unusual.” Anne said, frowning. “Why-”
“No,” Diana clutched Anne’s hands between her own, as if imparting the importance of what she was saying. “You don’t understand. Come see.”
Feeling more than a little lost, Anne allowed Diana to drag her to the front of the school, where the silly Take Notice board sat. And nearly choked when she saw, in large, messy letters.
Gilbert Blythe would like to ask Anne Shirley-Cuthbert to tea.
Anne stood there, staring at the note in disbelief, reading and re-reading it like she might have misunderstood the meaning behind it before.
“Well?” Diana’s impatient voice broke across her spiralling thoughts. “Are you going after him, or not?”
Anne didn’t consciously make the decision to move before she found herself running full tilt down the road. Her lungs burned with the effort as she sprinted down the uneven path. She would run all the way to his house if that’s what it took to catch him. Thankfully, it didn’t have to come to that because she saw his shape walking slowly a little ways ahead of her.
“Gilbert!” She called, waving her arms to get his attention.
He turned around, and she could see the surprise on his face as she skidded to a stop in front of him. “Anne?”
For a moment, Anne couldn’t speak. She could only stand there, looking at him, as she recovered from the fastest sprint she had ever run.
“You posted for me,” Anne said, at last, still trying to catch her breath.
Gilbert flushed and scratched at the back of his head as he tried to meet her gaze. “Ah, yes, I did do that.”
"I thought you weren't a 'take notice' kind of guy?"
Gilbert smiled. "I told you I'd make an exception."
"So you actually want to- to…" Anne trailed off, at an uncharacteristic loss for words.
"Take you to tea, like I said. Yes."
Anne raised a brow and the coy, knowing voice she used was not one she recognised. "Just tea?"
"Well, no," Gilbert admitted, sidling closer to her, a soft smile playing at his lips. "Not just tea."
"What else could you possibly want, Mr. Blythe?"
Gilberts eyes crinkled as he looked down at her, and there was a fondness in his eyes that stole her breath all over again. “For now, I’d settle for your answer.”
“Yes,” Anne breathed, feeling a bit weak in the knees as a laugh escaped her. “Yes, I’d love to go to tea with you.”
“Good,” Gilbert sounded equal parts relieved and giddy. “Great! That’s- that’s great.”
“Yes,” Anne agreed, feeling distinctly happy. “Great.”
Gilbert reached out and took her hand, tangling their fingers together, his smile never once leaving his face. “May I walk you home?”
“It would be my absolute pleasure.” Anne replied.
And hand in hand, they took the long way back to Green Gables.
Josie Pye would like to formally petition that everyone stop using the Take Notice Board immediately. Listed below are the signatures of everyone in the class who agrees with the request.
Miss Muriel Stacey