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Dawn

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It had been a stormy few weeks, too many storms: arguments with Gilbert, Leslie in distress over her marriage, even Cap'n Jim had put out the first mate. The relentless winds whistled around the point bringing grey clouds. Snow was beautiful, but sleet and driving rains were not. There had been so much cold, so much damp, and those whistling, piercing winds.

Finally, there was quiet bringing with it a clear sky and softer air.

Gilbert had been called to town for a fever last night and hadn't come home yet. In these still moments as the dawn broke, Anne stole out of her house of dreams and wandered down the creek. The bed was frozen still. The full thaw was only just beginning, but she could feel the burgeoning buds on sleeping branches, almost hear the sap beginning to rise in the pines. Their susurration soothed her as the sky turned that startling green it held in the moments just before the sun fully rose. One last star shone clearly at the horizon.

She knew how nature felt, finally quickening with new life. Anne strode over stones and down the path winding by the tiny creek. She'd follow it on until, in the silence of morning, she heard the whicker and clop of Gilbert's horse, Katie, and the slow rhythm of the cart's wheels coming back from the town.

Five long years ago, there'd been another fever, another morning like this and joy had come after a night of sorrows and fear. The long walks she and Gilbert had taken as he regained his strength were their second courtship, their final unfolding of the bloom of their love.

Three years ago, they had faced their final year apart, Gilbert serving his residency becoming the physician he was meant to be. So often, Anne noticed, it was not until the soul healed that the body was free to regain its strength. Gilbert, she believed, ministered as much to his patients' minds and souls as to their bodies, and he'd learned how through long nights at a busy hospital far from her.

One year ago, Joy had come in the morning only to be taken from them by the time night fell.

Today, in this still, silvery hour a new joy grew within her. And not too many months down the road, she would sweat and cry to give it birth.

***
As an English major, even one who held a teaching degree and intended to continue as a teacher, the Dean at Redmond had looked at her askance when she asked to take an advanced human biology class. Anne Shirley certainly wasn't the first woman to do so. Redmond turned out some fine doctors who, as women, had chosen to specialize in women's problems.

The Dean had questioned her. Usually, the girls who asked to take this course were frivolous, only there because some sorority had dared them to ask or because they had an unhealthy interest in the seamier side of human nature. Had it been Philippa Gordon who sat in front of her, for instance, the Dean of Women would have sent her roundly away, no matter how good a brain Miss Gordon possessed.

But Anne Shirley was a different matter. She admitted frankly she was requesting to take the class out of curiosity. She wanted to improve as a writer and understanding people, their biology as well as their dreams, was something to be pursued and treasured. Anne was a farm girl. While she wasn't taken to see the cows covered, she thought she was fully aware of what happened.

That was what finally decided the Dean. She signed the paperwork. "Miss Shirley, there is a caveat. If you disgrace me by fainting when the dissections are done, you will not be permitted to return to class."

Anne drew herself up, becoming the "Queen Anne" Phil sometimes teased her about, and said, "I won't fail either of us."

***

In her time as a principal, in her time as a doctor's wife, there were moments when she was so glad she'd taken the class. It had truly let her know all she was capable of doing. It had informed her stories. It had prepared her for her wedding night, kept her from fearing it, as a few of her friends had.

The warmth she always felt when he was around had built slowly through his touches, the difference between the gentleness of Gilbert her fiancé, and the controlled fire of Gilbert her husband, her lover, was a revelation to Anne. Her childhood dreams of ecstasy were nothing to the truth of Gilbert bringing her to a peak, entering her body, sharing himself fully with her. The long lazy days and nights of their first month together were held, perfect, in her memory. She knew they would stay perfect, not fading like a pressed flower, but vivid as a tulip bursting with the newness of the season.

In the whispered conversations after they made love, they cemented themselves to each other, their vows before God manifest in their trust.

She turned back toward her home. When Gilbert returned, she'd hold him close. If he'd lost his battle against death, he would take comfort from her. If he'd won, they would celebrate. Later, over a simple breakfast, she would tell him her suspicions.

Anne feared to lose this child too -- there was a woman in Avonlea who had never been able to bring forth a live child from any of her pregnancies -- but the love in which their son or daughter was conceived, deeper now with the shared loss of tiny Joy, gave her hope for the future.

At last, she heard the cart. Katie was coming along at a brisk pace. It was good news, then. Fever had stolen so many this winter; maybe spring was truly on its way.

"Anne-girl."

Her eyes shining, Anne walked into her husband's arms. Later, there would be time to tell him, of her hopes, of her fears, and always, always of her love.