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The Secret of Distance

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“It was all I wanted for the longest time- to open my eyes and see you there. To stretch out my hand and touch the soft, yielding warmth of your skin. But now I have learned the secret of distance. Now I know being close to you was never about the proximity” - Lang Leav

~~*~~

There wasn’t much Anne could do except lay back on her unfamiliar bed at create constellations from the cracks in the ceiling. Her heart was so full in her chest that it weighed her down against her mattress, and she reveled in the feeling. Could a person die from so much happiness? Her mother’s book on the language of flowers laid against her breast right above her heart, and she swore its lingering traces of motherly love seeped into her skin like stale perfume in an empty bottle. 

 Diana’s quiet footsteps land in the doorway, but her beloved kindred spirit merely allowed Anne to exist in the quiet of the room. Anne’s happiness bled out of her like sun rays, and it was all Diana can do to keep looking at her.

Then, with the unexpected haste of a well cranked jack-in-the-box, Anne sat up in bed and gave Diana a stunned look.

“I want to hear the whole story,” Anne murmured, half-rushed, half dazed. “Whatever did you say to him?” 

Diana stepped into the room, admiring the cleanness of her bed across from Anne’s. She settled at the side of her best friend’s mattress and crinkled her eyebrows sheepishly.

“I might’ve read him the riot act after he told my father he wasn’t engaged,” Diana began. The guilt in her voice drained away and she grabbed Anne’s hand. “Dearest, he never received your letter. You should’ve seen his face when I told him there was one.” 

Anne’s jaw dropped. She stammered for words, “I...But I left it...How do you even miss a letter like that in broad daylight?” She blanched. Regret dripped into each of her words as she said, “Oh, I know exactly how. For instance, if a person where to, say,  tear up the letter before reading it and then throw it out her gable window…” Anne groaned. “What did it say!?” 

Diana, piecing together the rambles, grabbed Anne’s pen from her side table and handed it to her. 

“You can just ask him, you know.” 

Anne held the pen in her hand as if it were made of solid gold and jeweled with ancient crystals. For some reason the sight of it makes her remember him at her doorstep, chest heaving from running. His eyes had been filled with such overflowing devotion that Anne thought she’d drown the closer she grew to him, but there was no where else she wanted to be. The overwhelming feeling begins to fill her chest once more and she takes a deep breath.

“Are you scared of what he’ll say?” Diana questioned quietly. Shaking her head, Anne bit her lips and tried to remember the exact feeling of when Gilbert had kissed her.

“No, something tells me that anything he has to say will be such wonderful poetry.”

“Gilbert isn’t very poetic.” 

“On the contrary, dearest Diana, there is always something inherently poetic when a man reveals to you the contents of his heart.” 

Diana grabbed one of Anne’s pillows and stuffed it against her chest. For a moment, Anne wondered if it was insensitive, talking of love when Diana had ended her own romance with Jerry so abruptly. But then Diana smirked and plopped down unceremoniously on the bed.

“I see how it is! You kiss a boy once and suddenly you’re an expert?” she teased. A thrill went down Anne’s spine and she smothered a squeal with both hands over her face. 

Three times, Diana! We kissed three times! ” she shrieked, so lovesick that Diana couldn’t help but laugh. She couldn’t wait until they told Cole, and Aunt Jo, and-

“You kissed whom three times, Anne?!” 

Anne and Diana’s laughter ended abruptly on their lips when Josie Pye came into the room. She was followed by the other three girls, who waited on baited breath for Anne’s answer. Biting back a chuckle, Anne did her best to keep her face neutral. They all looked so silly! Ruby’s eyes were wider than Anne knew they could be, and Tilly was pressing her lips together to physically lock back all of her questions. 

Anne and Diana righted themselves on the bed, backs straight like the proper ladies they were. She spoke in the most neutral tone she could muster -  which was not very impressive, considering how happy she was to be confessing that she had kissed - “Gilbert.”

Their jaws dropped to the floor with a silent BANG, and Anne wondered if maybe one of them still liked Gilbert, after all. Her doubt only lasted a second, and suddenly the room  erupted in shouts of triumph and delight and confusion. They threw questions at her, all of which Anne tried to answer as best she could.

Gilbert Blythe!? Anne, you never said you liked him! When did you start-” 

“Earlier this year! Maybe always? Definitely always.” 

“Is he good at kissing?” 

“I don’t have much experience to base it off of, but it was incredibly perfect” 

“I thought he was engaged to-”

“I thought so too, but apparently he ended things with her to pursue his ‘unrequited love.’” 

“Unrequited love?” Diana cut in. “He really thought you didn’t return his feelings?” 

Anne shrugged.

“There were a lot of misunderstandings, I think. I still don’t know for sure how it all transpired.” 

There was a pause before Jane crossed her arms.

“Well, where is he?” 

A twinge of disappointment hit the back of Anne’s heart. This day had been so beautiful in ways that even she could not have imagined, but the entire summer could have been that way if she hadn’t been so…so foolish ! All they’d gotten was a few moments before he was swept away to Toronto. Her little twinge of disappointment was overshadowed by how proud she was, and how much she loved him, but it was present enough that her eyes fell to the floor. 

“He’s attending University of Toronto. Miss Stacey contacted a friend of hers, I think. He said it was imperative he arrive today. It’s quite a long train ride, so that’s where he is right now.” 

Anne couldn’t help but smile. How sweet he looked from the back of the carriage. She had half a mind that he would’ve given up college right then and there if she asked him to stay. As wonderful as it would have been to spend the afternoon in his arms, kissing and clearing up all the confusions, his future came first. Now that she was part of it, she didn’t feel so afraid to let him go off into that bright, expansive world.

“So I guess that means you’re courting him now,” Ruby said excitedly. 

Anne looked down at the pen in her hand, then at her group of friends. Was she? Anne wanted to court him, even if it was for a long time. Not to mention, he’d broken off his courtship for her. Anne’s stomach fell to the floor when a rush of affection overtook her. Gilbert Blythe had turned down a girl who was everything Anne had once wanted to be, and the Sorbonne, so that he could try again with her. 

“I...I suppose I am courting him, in a long distance sort of way,” Anne concluded carefully. “I’m adding that to my list of follow up questions. I want to know for sure.”

“We’re happy for you, Anne,” Diana said, placing her head on Anne’s shoulder. Resting her cheek on Diana’s new updo, Anne heaved a sigh of relief. What a gift days like today were, where Providence proved he had not left her behind. Wrapping her fingers around Diana’s, Anne brought their hands up to her lips. 

“Shocked, but happy,” Josie supplied in a Pye-ish voice. “But can we eat now? I came up to tell you lunch is ready?” 

The girls began to file down the hallway, their footsteps echoing against the tall walls of the house as they clambered down the stairs. Diana stood in the doorway once more, watching as Anne pressed a kiss to the pen in her hand and placed it on her bedside table. There’d be time for writing letters later. For now, Anne had her own future to step into once and for all.

~~*~~

During the moonlit peace of the evening was Anne’s favorite time to put her heart to paper. As she sat down at her new desk, she wondered if pen and paper had ever been put to better use.

Dear Gilbert, 

I look like my mother. I look so much like her, in fact, that for a brief moment I thought I was looking down at my own reflection. But the glorious name “Bertha” was scribed atop the portrait, and an equally lovely name was signed across the bottom, “Walter.” How those names fill me with such warmth to say on my lips. 

I do believe I’m leaving out an integral part of this story. Matthew and Marilla visited today. They had gone to see a woman I lived with as a child and brought with them a book on the language of flowers. (Expect some pressed blossoms in your near future, I have much I’d like to say to you!) The darling book had once belonged to my parents, and it was there my father sketched a portrait of my mother. 

I will be forever astonished at how a girl like me, who had such meager beginnings,  could come upon such a wonderful family! Not only Marilla and Matthew, but the kindred spirits I’ve collected along the way. (Of course, your name is written on that list and underlined twice.) Today has taught me an eternal appreciation for love, and I find myself overwhelmed by the intensity of it. I wonder if you know the feeling. 

As you’ll recall, I have several follow-up questions, but in exchange for your honest answers, I feel it’s only fair to offer you some explanations of my own. It’s just that I’m unsure where to begin. What do you already know? Hmm…The beginning is as good a place to start as any. 

Gilbert, you must understand that love is such a young concept to me. I have only been on the receiving side of love since shortly after arriving at Green Gables, before which, I’d never even observed it with my own eyes. I’ve had being loved by family mastered for quite some time, thanks to Marilla and Matthew, but allowing you to come into my heart was so much different.  Trying to translate what I’d read in books and compare it with what I truly felt was much harder than I anticipated. 

Oh, it wasn’t the loving part that was hard. Loving you is as easy and breathtaking as stargazing from my new window. But realizing it, letting it happen, allowing myself to believe that a person like you could care for me...that was where the difficulties arose. It wasn’t until everything was still and I was content that you hit me like a roll of thunder. I sat up in my bed and exclaimed, “I’m in love with Gilbert Blythe!” Gave Diana quite the scare. 

 I’m sorry it took so long for me to come to my senses. Part of me wonders what would have happened if I’d realized sooner. Nevertheless, I’m exceedingly grateful that you appeared at my doorstep today, as magnificent as ever, to take one last chance. 

You’re likely curious about the note I wrote you. To be honest, I cannot explain to you why you never received it. I left it right underneath the water jug on your kitchen table. I wonder where it is now. Thankfully, the contents of the letter were quite short and, in more ways than one, sweet. I’ve inserted a new copy inside this letter so that you can have what you were originally meant to have. 

There are more questions I have, but I think I’d rather hear what’s on your mind first. (Not that I can mail this until you write to me first with your return address.) There is one thing I will ask because, though I’m 99% certain I know the answer, I’d like to be entirely certain: are we courting? If you’re waiting to hear what I think on the matter first, I’d like to court you, even if it’s a four year process. Or longer. Truly, Gilbert, all I want is you. 

Oh - and how much does train fare cost from PEI to Toronto? I’d like to start saving as soon as possible to come see you. 

Alright, my love, I think I have sufficiently taken up an adequate amount of your time. Please know that I’m thinking of you during your first days of college, and I already miss you beyond words. 

Yours always, 

Anne 

(PS: Where in the world did you learn to kiss like that? No - don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.)