“I've had this dream before,” Gilbert thought intermittently throughout that entire day.
Anne, sitting next to him, telling him she loved him while he played with her hair, which was too bright to be real in all this sunlight.
When Gilbert had this dream, sometimes he woke up just before she was about to kiss him, or they would be walking up a flight of stairs and when they reached the top she was gone, or sometimes the dream changed and they were back in high school, studying in the library and Ruby had just gotten up and they were both waiting for her to get back and they kept saying “Where's Ruby?” “She'll be back in a minute.” Sometimes Roy entered the dream and kept trying to get Anne to leave, and Anne always made up excuses that made no sense outside of the dreamworld, like “No, you have to do the paperwork first.” Dreams were weird.
But he always woke up, usually just when it was getting good.
It was strange: he knew objectively this was really happening. Anne really loved him and he had not only gotten a second chance with her but possibly even a second chance at life. It was just all so happy and so surreal that the day felt hazy and blurred around the edges and he kept expecting to wake up.
In some ways, it was exactly what he had always imagined – but better. And in other ways it was really different. For example, in his visions of himself and Anne spending an entire day making googly eyes at each other, he never felt so nervous. He was so nervous, in fact, that some of these symptoms might actually be something for which he should get a prescription. Because seriously, this was crazy. Slight nausea, sweaty hands, his heart kept doing this fwoopy thing whenever Anne smiled at him, which was often.
And his brain kept saying stupid stuff like “Kiss her now.”
Hold your horses, there, buddy. She's talking. She's in the middle of a sentence. That would be rude.
She's perfect. Kiss her.
That's a compelling argument, but -
Do it now!!! Kiss her now, you LUMP. She loves you and she's beautiful!
Obviously, he wanted to kiss her. It wasn't just this eager go-getter part of his head that wanted that. But he wanted the moment to be right. A first kiss with Anne Shirley wasn't something to be taken lightly.
Unfortunately, he had hundreds of opportunities for what would have been the perfect moment to kiss Anne that day, and he missed every single one.
“Did you know it's been almost two years to the day since we met?” she asked him. They were sitting on the grass, knees touching.
“Really?” He wanted to say something teasing about how she'd been keeping track but he couldn't seem to stop smiling like a dope long enough to think of something.
“Yeah, really,” said Anne.
“We've come a long way since then.”
She smiled. (Fwoop fwoop). “I can't believe I wasted a whole year of my life not being your friend. And then the whole next year of my life not realizing I was in love with you.”
“She says at the ripe old age of nineteen, filled with regret.”
“Okay, yes. But you know what I mean. I was stubborn and ridiculous.”
“If you weren't so stubborn and ridiculous, I don't think I would be as in love with you as I am.” He touched the end of one of her braids.
Anne made a small squeaking noise, between a laugh and a whimper.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing.” Her expression had turned dreamy.
“What is it?” Gilbert picked up Anne's braid and tickled under her nose. “Tell meeee.”
Giggling, she turned her head and pushed his hand away. “Never.”
“But you looooove me.”
She shook her head at him, as if to say I can't believe you are the dumb idiot I am going to kiss on the mouth right now. Or... maybe that was just the subtext Gilbert wanted to see. “Fine. I got chills down my spine. That's all.” She shrugged, looking very pink in the cheeks, but she couldn't stop smiling. He could relate. He waited for her to continue, because this sounded more important than she was letting on. “It's just really nice to hear that you're - in love with me" her voice dropped reverently, "- and feel all..." He could see her struggling to find the words, that little frowning crease forming in between her eyebrows as her eyes focused intently on something he couldn't see. “I don't know,” she gave up, looking at him helplessly. “This is just – how it's supposed to feel. I guess.”
It would have been a beautiful moment for a kiss. But Gilbert was so distracted by how pretty she looked when she was blushing, he forgot.
Now they were lying on the grass, staring at the sky, hands close together but not touching – Gilbert estimated that the longest hair on his knuckle was about the shortest knuckle-hair away from her index finger and the proximity was even more exhilarating than usual.
“I love you,” he said again, because it was so good to finally be allowed to say it as much as he wanted.
“I love you, too,” she said. She moved her hand the merest fraction of an inch, and tentatively, he wrapped his hand around hers. After a moment of absolute stillness, Anne's head rolled over to rest on his shoulder.
This would have been a perfect moment to kiss her, but Gilbert missed the cue because his brain was humming showtunes.
They were walking – aimlessly, because they had no place to be, but saying goodbye was out of the question until they absolutely had to. And walking was a good excuse to keep holding hands.
“So we should do something tomorrow,” Anne said.
He looked sideways at her. “We should.”
“I just don't want to not see you tomorrow,” she said quickly. “We should get coffee. Or something.”
“Huh.” Gilbert said. “Are you asking me on a date, Shirley?”
“Yes,” she said. “I'm asking you on a date. So?”
“Yes. I will go on this date with you.” He stepped in front of her to stop her from walking any further, and he clasped her hands to his chest as he declared dramatically, “I will go on a thousand dates with you. Each date more magnificent than the last.”
“Okay, then,” she said, laughing. “We're going on a date.”
She looked so excited about it, and he was feeling dazed by the fact that this was his reality now. He was still holding her hands and she was looking up at him and it would have been a fantastic moment for a first kiss. He even thought maybe Anne's head was cocked a little to the side and her eyelashes seemed a little fluttery and his head was moving forward without him telling it to do so, and then his mind went blank and he panicked.
“I'm going to swing around that lamp post like in Singin' in the Rain,” Gilbert announced, pointing.
“Gilbert Blythe, you just got out of the hospital.”
“I'm going to do it.”
“You are not.”
They were saying goodnight outside her door. Gilbert was wondering if it would be really desperate and pathetic to text her as soon as he got back to his dorm. Or maybe on the walk back? Then again, he was already thinking about texting her and she hadn't even gone inside yet so what was the use of quibbling over how much more stupidly in love he could be?
“Are you going to do that old movie thing when you close the door?” he asked.
“What old movie thing?”
“That thing girls in black and white movies do when they've just said goodnight to a guy they really like.”
“Oh!” Anne said, her eyes lighting up. “That thing where they close the door really slowly and then they lean against it looking all starry-eyed?”
“Yes! Like this. Hold on.” Gilbert opened her door and stepped inside.
“...Hi, Gilbert?” It was Phil.
“Oh, hey Phil. Just showing Anne how to close a door.”
“Sorry, Phil, we'll just be a minute,” Anne called to her roommate.
Gilbert demonstrated the dreamy door-leaning.
“That's... good, but it's more like this.”
They went back and forth for a few minutes, opening and closing the door, leaning against it, sighing with varying levels of drama and intensity.
“I have no idea what you two are doing but it needs to stop right now,” Phil said, and Anne closed the door, leaving herself and Gilbert out in the hall once more.
“That moment usually comes right after a goodnight kiss,” Anne said, rather slyly, Gilbert thought.
“Does it?” His heart did the fwoopy thing again. That was a hint if ever he heard one. Anne wanted to be kissed. This was it. It was go time. What was the last thing he had eaten? He didn't want Anne's memory of their first kiss to be tainted with awkward sensory details about his dinner. He should have packed breath mints in his backpack. It's always good to be prepared for kissing the love of your life.
“Wait, you've got something in your eye,” he said. Anne looked startled, and he put his hands up to her face, tilting it gently upward.
“Is it an eyelash?” Anne asked, blinking her eyes.
“No – oh – never mind. It's just a bunch of hearts. Because you loooove me.”
Anne only stared in confusion before she huffed. “Ha ha.”
Gilbert's hands stayed at her face, brushing a thumb over her temple. This was definitely the smoothest thing he had done in a long time, maybe in his entire life.
This was the moment. This was obviously the moment.
But when he looked into Anne's eyes, she looked as freaked out and unready as he felt. He let his hands drop down and their fingertips touched. There was no rush, he told himself.
“I'll see you tomorrow,” he promised.
“Okay,” she said, her voice soft.
“I love you,” they both said, at the same time, because each of them wanted to be the one to say it first. And they laughed, not because it was funny. Just because they were happy.
He kissed the back of Anne's hand and he thought he heard her breath catch in her throat.
There was time.