Gilbert Blythe is a freshman and at his first ever party.
It really is an ego boost, being invited to a party thrown by a junior who is easily top fifteen in the most popular people in school. He knows he got in mostly because the best friend of the host saw him at a game once and thought he was cute, but he still can’t help but feel cool amongst the older kids, chatting in circles on the floor and dancing by the stereo and making out in corners. He feels a small sense of pride, even if his senses are a little overwhelmed by the smell of booze and weed, and even if he doesn’t really know anyone here and can’t bring himself to move from the bowl of chips someone set out.
“Gilbert!” A voice slurs into his ear and, suddenly, May, a sophomore he knows from Environmental Awareness Club, is all but stumbling into him, grabbing onto his shoulder either in greeting or for support, he can’t really tell. “What are you doing here?”
“May! Hi!” Her breath smells like beer and vodka, and her top is riding halfway up her stomach. “I got invited, I guess. How are you?”
“Me?” She giggles and attempts a hair flip. “I’m great. Now, you. You look so…”
“Sober.” She looks very seriously at him, eyes narrowed. She puts the red plastic cup in her hand to her lips and takes a long sip, but doesn’t stop studying him. “That’s no good.”
His stomach lurches. It’s not that he has a problem with drinking--if he did, this party probably wouldn’t be the best place for him to be hanging around at. It’s just that he’s never really done it before, save the few sips of beer his dad lets him have every now and then at family parties.
“Do I?” He tries his best to seem chill, despite the fact that he is kind of freaking out.
“Oh yeah.” She takes his wrist and, with a surprisingly strong tug, drags him over to a bathroom off of the kitchen. Inside, three girls he recognizes from the halls are pouring blue liquid into shot glasses. “We keep the booze in here so no one can steal it without paying.” She explains. “You, however, are on the house tonight. Just because you look a little pathetic and I feel bad.” She giggles and nudges one of the three girls, who just smoothly threw back one of the shots she was serving herself earlier. “Was that bitchy?”
“It was kind of bitchy.” The girl nods her head, laughing.
May shrugs and takes two shot glasses from off the counter, filling them up with the same blue liquid into them. “Now, personally, I’m a tequila girl, but vodka is so much easier to get, y’know?” She gives him a look that translates into “ Am I right? ”, and he can only give a flustered noise that kind of sounds like agreement back.
She picks up the glasses and hands one to him. “Okay, ready?”
Gilbert nods slowly, staring down into the vodka with wide eyes. Holy crap, this is happening.
“To… Hm, Muriel. What should we drink to?” May turns to the girl from before, who thinks about it for a moment before replying.
“To Teddy Philips ass!”
May gives a dreamy sigh. “To Teddy Philips ass!” She repeats, hitting her glass against Gilbert’s and throwing back her shot.
If you choke on this shot I will literally kill you. He thinks to himself as he copies her, putting the glass to his lips and drinking it all in one fell swoop.
It burns as it goes down his throat, and doesn’t taste too good, but, all in all, it’s not really as bad as he imagined. Still, it’s not exactly the best taste in the world and he has to force himself not to cough.
“Wait, I want to do one with him!” Muriel bumps May to the side and repeats the process, filling two shot glasses and handing him one.
In the end, Gilbert finds out two things. One--he is an incredible lightweight, and three shots is enough to have him slurring his speech and hugging everyone he even slightly recognizes at the party. Two--making out with Muriel for fifteen minutes on the couch in the den and having the best friend of the host, the one who thinks you’re cute, walk in is a sure-fire way to never get invited to one of these parties again.
The Friday after Gilbert tries to bring tissues to help Anne’s cold, tries to apologize for being mean to her, tries to make her see that he basically saved her life, and decides he’s done with trying to be friends with Anne is also his hockey team’s bonding night. This tradition is basically just sitting in the captain’s basement, watching Fight Club, eating four large pizzas, and drinking cheap beer.
Gilbert has been in a bad mood for the past three days, which sucks because he has really been looking forward to spending some quality time with his bros. He’s in such a bad mood that he can’t really help but rant on and on about every little thing that’s bothering him all night, which means one of his teammates are usually like, “ Oh, man, that sucks, you deserve a drink” , which he always drinks because he’s too distracted by the whole ranting thing.
Long story short, that’s how he ended up drinking five beers in a matter of an hour. And when Gilbert is drunk, he talks even more.
“I just don’t get it!” He buries his face in his hands. “I was kind-of, sort-of mean to her once and now she just decided her sole purpose in life is to hate me! ”
“Yeah, man.” One of his teammates agrees half-heartedly. Gilbert can tell they’re all becoming tired of his complaining, but he can’t bring himself to stop.
“Even after I keep her from...from …” He shakes his head, unable to remember the word he wants to use.
“Drowning?” Fred offers.
“Yeah! Drowning, that’s it! I save her from drowning and she can’t see past the fact that I flirted really badly with her and teased her about her hair!”
“Dude,” Johnson, their goalie who always seems to be on an entirely different level from the rest of them, stops him. “To be fair, it’s kinda your fault.”
Gilbert’s slightly caught off guard. Johnson tone isn’t malicious, more like he’s just stating the facts, but he still can’t help but feel a little attacked. “ Okay, but I apologized--”
“You were still mean.” Johnson shrugs. “I mean, your entrance into the story was supposed to be big and dramatic, and you were meant to think she was cute, but her hair is something that she has hated since the beginning of her narrative, y’know? You can’t mess with that. It’s an easy way to become the antagonist.”
Gilbert feels defeated. The alcohol makes his mind foggy and he can’t really understand anything Johnson’s saying. Not that he ever can. “I just thought she was cute.”
“I know, man.” Johnson pats him on the back. “Just give it a year and a half or so. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the fans would go crazy if you didn’t end up together in the end.”
“You’re so weird, Johnson.” Fred snorts as Gilbert dwells on the idea that maybe this is kind of his fault, too.
“So, Anne Shirley.” He has to speak loudly over the pounding music. Who knew accounting students liked Fetty Wap so much? “I just realized something.”
“And what’s that?” She gives him that look, the one that’s like oh-Gilbert-Blythe-what-is-it-now-you-hooligan, and Gilbert’s sure the warm feeling in the pit of his stomach is from the two shots he just took with Phil.
“I have never drank with you before.” He holds his hands out in shock. “What is that?”
“I don’t really drink.” She raises her eyebrows at him, and he doesn’t know why it didn’t occur to him earlier that, even an hour into this party, she’s completely sober.
“I know. But I’m supposed to be your friend. ”
“Like, your best friend. ”
“Next to Diana, yes.”
“Like, you would die without me.”
“Okay, take it easy.” She rolls her eyes, outlined in swirled eyeliner and gold eyeshadow. Gilbert doesn’t want to be that guy but it really brings out her eyes. Not that he noticed.
“All I’m saying is, we need to take a shot together, like, right now.”
“Yeah. Or maybe two. Doctors orders.”
“Gilbert, you’re drunk.”
“And you’re not. ” He gives her his own look, the c’mon-Shirley one, and reaches for the two shot glasses he just coincidentally left on the coffee table next to them, along with the bottle of Fireball him and Phil have been sharing all night. He waves them around in offering. “You down?”
She gives it a moment before rolling her eyes again and sitting up with a sigh. “Okay, fine. But only one.”
“We’ll see how I feel.”
Happy with himself, he fills the shot glasses a little higher than he probably should and hands one to Anne. “To our beautiful friendship.” He raises his glasses to hers.
“To our beautiful friendship.” She repeats and tips her head back, throwing back the shot, and suddenly Gilbert feels very dizzy.
It’s not that he never thought she was pretty. Of course he did, his very first encounter with her was basically him pestering her because he thought she was pretty. But he never really thought anything of that. Yeah, sure, Anne is pretty, but, first and foremost, she’s smart and funny and thoughtful and his friend. For whatever reason, now, as she gulps down the whiskey and giggles when she’s done, putting the back of her hand to her mouth to keep herself from coughing, in the low lighting of whoevers house this is, she’s never been more--God, he doesn’t even know, hot. And beautiful. All at once. And, suddenly, it all comes rushing onto Gilbert--his best friend, Anne Shirley, is a genius and can always make him happy and can tell exactly what he’s thinking and is the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen in his life and holy crap.
“Gil!” Her mouth hangs open as if she were appalled. “You didn’t even drink yours!”
He looks down to his hand, still gripping onto the shot glass. It’s a wonder he didn’t drop it. “Oh, yeah.” He manages to stammer, shaking his head in hope of clearing any stupid, dumb thoughts. “I got distracted, I guess.”
“Are you okay?” The humor falls from her face and is replaced with concern. She reaches to touch his knee and he feels kind of sick. “Do you need to throw up? You’ve had a lot more to drink than me.”
“No, no, I’m fine.” He forces himself to smile. “I don’t really know what happened. I’m fine.”
“Okay, well,” She nods at his drink. “You’re gonna need to finish that, and I’m not gonna let you do it alone. Pour me another?”
He does so, and he forgets to come up with something clever to toast to. He downs his drink as soon as he can, probably seeming a little too eager.
“Whoa, slow down, cowboy.” She laughs, clutching his arm, and he is literally going to die.
“Just got excited!” His excuse is half-assed, but she’s a lightweight like him and won’t notice. She starts to laugh again before she sees Stella across the room and gets up to see her, leaving Gilbert alone.
Oh my God, He thinks. I’m in love with Anne.
His stomach lurches and he just makes it to the bathroom in time to throw up into the toilet.
When Christine texted him earlier, inviting him over to her dorm to celebrate them taking a particularly nasty test they were both stressing about, she hadn’t mentioned that there’d be wine.
Not that he was complaining.
This has become more common between the two of them--now that Christine is nineteen, she can finally buy drinks of her own, which usually means for Gilbert, too. Not that they get drunk every night--they want to be doctors, they don’t have time for heavy drinking all the time--but they sure do get drunk sometimes.
Christine, as it turns out, is a philosophical drunk. She’ll state a fact of life like, “We’re just expected to eat the mac and cheese they serve us in the dining hall,” and then end it with, “Y’know?” Gilbert will reply with, “I know!” and the cycle will continue. The beginning of this night wasn’t any different, except, as it goes on, Gilbert gets tired and he starts feeling very sad around 11:30.
It’s during a brief beat of silence when he says, “I miss Ruby.”
Christine nods sadly. “I know.”
“She was one of my best friends.”
“And now she’s gone.”
“I know. It sucks.”
“It sucks.” He feels a little bit like the wind was knocked out of him. “I miss Anne.”
Christine doesn’t reply to that one. He wonders if he hit a nerve.
“I mean, she’s… She was--”
“Gil,” She stops him, putting her hand on his forearm. “I… We’ve been on a few dates now. More than a few. Six, to be exact.”
He can only nod in response.
“I’m just… I’m all in, Gilbert. I really am. I haven’t wanted to say anything because it was new and then it wasn’t but then all that stuff with Ruby happened, but I can’t not anymore. I’m all in, but I don’t think you are.”
His mouth is dry. “You don’t?”
She shakes her head. “Are you?”
He stares down at his shoes, propped against her desk across the room, before starting and meeting her eye. “I don--”
The desperate look in her eyes makes him stop. He wants to defend himself, wants to reassure her that he wants to make this work, but he can tell she knows he’s full of shit.
“Do you still love her, Gilbert?”
They face each other for a moment before he nods. “Yes.”
She turns her gaze away from him and Gilbert suddenly feels like a jerk, even though he knows she’s not mad, even though he knows she doesn’t blame him, that it’s not his fault. She’s still hurt and Gilbert still feels like an ass.
“I think I should go to bed.” She mumbles and he takes that as his cue to leave. He gets to his feet and slips his shoes on, not bothering to tie his laces. He’s about to escape silently out the door when he feels a hand on his arm and suddenly he’s hugging Christine.
“You need to make it work, y’know.” She whispers into his shoulder, and even though she doesn’t explicitly say what “it” is, he gets exactly what she’s talking about.
“I know.” He squeezes his eyes shut. They stand like that for a beat, and then Christine pulls away. With a final squeeze to the hand, Gilbert slips out the door and heads back to his own dorm.
On the way back, he can’t help but walk past Anne’s window. She’s on the third floor, so it’s not like he can see her, but he still stops right below it, staring up. The lights are off, so she must be asleep. He stands there, staring up at the blinds blocking any real view of the room he might be able to catch.
“I’m gonna make it work, Anne.” He whispers.
“Hey, man, what the fuck, get lost.” A voice from one of the windows nearby shoos, and Gilbert suddenly realizes how creepy he must seem right now. Startled, he starts rushing away towards his own room.
It’s rather difficult, as it turns out, slipping away from a group of wasted guys all there with the intentions of making sure you have a good time. Gilbert has tried many, many times. First it was by suggesting they all sing karaoke--then they remember Fred is an amazing singer and will embarrass all of them and make them all feel kind of insecure about themselves. Then he started talk about hiring a stripper--but that failed when Charlie reminded everyone he’s gay. As it turns out, the best way to distract a bunch of drunk guys is by ordering one hundred hot wings and letting them go crazy.
Finally having a moment of peace, Gilbert sneaks outside, pulling his phone out and calling number one on speed dial.
“Hello?” The guys have jokingly introduced him to many girls throughout the night, but this is the only voice he’s been wanting to hear all night.
“Carrots!” He leans up against the brick wall of the dive bar. “What’s up?”
“What do you mean, ‘What’s up’? You’re supposed to be enjoying your bachelor party, what’s up with you ?” He can tell she’s smiling, even if he can’t see her face.
“I’m having a great time.” He insists.
“You’re drunk off your ass.”
“So what if I am, hm?” He laughs. “I just miss’d ya.”
“I missed you, too.”
They sit in a comfortable silence for a while before she breaks it. “This time next week, we’ll be married.”
There’s another beat. He talks first this time. “I love you, future Mrs. Anne Blythe.”
“Go back to your party.”
“I love you too, dummy.”
When she says that, it still makes his stomach go warm, just as it did all those years ago, on a bench outside only a couple days after his bike accident. As if he still didn’t know that she, Anne Shirley, of Green Gables, loves him.
The thing is, of course he knows it. He has for a long time.