They held on to each other as lovers often do, secluded from the world, marooned on their island of two.
He patted his pockets. There it was. Safe. He may not have Anne's flair for words, but he did have emotion. And emotion it was that he had poured out in his letter for Anne. He wondered who had written their message first. Or maybe they had written it at the same time, their hearts connected by a fervent need to proclaim their love. Whatever the case, Gilbert's mind was a flurry of panic as he ran to Green Gables at an alarming pace.
The weather certainly didn't match Gilbert's elated mood, but he cared not for it. As thunder rumbled in the background, it was almost loud enough to overshadow his thundering heartbeats. Almost, but not quite.
As he neared Green Gables, he slowed down. He was sure he would combust with the nerves wracking his body. He thought of the medical fact he had studied recently. That of the human body being made up of 70% water. He mentally scoffed, for it felt like his body was 100% electricity at that moment.
He finally made it through the gates and taking two steps at a time, he bounded up the path towards the house. He cared not for the treacherous ground beneath him, now a mixture of water and mud threatening to hurt him. He cared not for his treacherous heart, now beating at a rapid pace, threatening to give up on him.
That's when he heard the soft tinkle of Anne's voice just a little way off. Yes, it had started to rain, the drizzle now a storm. Yes, the thunder was loud, decibels rising each second. But if Gilbert could hear Anne's voice in the middle of the ocean as he raked coal on a steamship, he could certainly hear her amidst a rainstorm. He switched courses and ran towards the barn house as if his life depended on it. And maybe it did.
Before he could control his labored breathing, he caught sight of a frazzled Anne. She stood by the entrance of the barn, her hair barely held by her plait, glaring up at the sky above her.
Anne was, for the most part of the day, a nervous wreck. After her trip to Gilbert's house and the subsequent note she'd quickly penned to him, she'd spent the rest of the day vexing Marilla with her incessant questions.
"But Marilla, what if he doesn't read the note? Maybe a sudden gush of wind makes it fly outside, and then it's left crumpled near a bed of roses in the mud. Oh, how tragical would that be? I can almost picture it," she said, her voice growing quiet. "Lying there, trampled on, dirty, torn..."
"Anne Shirley Cuthbert! Pull yourself together, child. Gilbert will very well receive the note and read it. Give him time."
"But Marilla, what if the ink smudges? In my hurry, I'm sure I didn't leave it alone to dry long enough, and now the note may just be gibberish with ink smears!"
After a few more rounds of her questions, Marilla had banished Anne to the barn house. "A distraction is what you need, and the barn needs a good dusting down, Anne."
"But Marilla, what if--"
"No, ifs or buts. There are bunches of hay that need to be transferred to the second floor of the barn and baled. I don't want it to get wet because of the rain."
Now, Anne was paying heed to Marilla's instructions and was busy raking the dreadful hay. Her mind was a churning mess of thoughts and emotions, and this mundane task did anything but distract her from her worries. Throwing down her rake in frustration, Anne decided it was time to call it a day. Gilbert hadn't bothered to respond to her note, and she didn't want to spend another moment in futile anticipation.
The weather was certainly not in her favor, and she could hear the first drops of rain splatter on the ground outside. Concluding that she'd risk the rain in the hopes of reaching the house before it started to pour, she dashed out of the barn. Yet, she stopped short when the sky indeed opened up and rained down on her, drenching her within seconds
"Of all days!" Anne yelled out, her contempt directed at the clouds above. She was sure this was a personal insult, the sky making a mockery of her and her stupid heart.
It was then just as she was ready to add in her own tears to the rain, she glanced to the side to find Gilbert Blythe walking up the path towards her.
If disheveled had a persona, then it would belong to Gilbert at this moment. His cap sat an angle over his wet curls, almost hiding his expression. Yet even through the curtain of the fast-falling rain, Anne could see his eyes wide open, eyebrows up in wonder. His chest moved quickly, and if it was in tiredness or shock, Anne would soon find out.
"Gilbert?" her soft voice called out in disbelief. Was this boy, once her arch-enemy but now the star of her dreams, really here? Suddenly self-conscious, she tried to pat down her hair, forgetting her dirt-stained hands. "Are you all right?"
"Anne," he cleared his throat. "I...um, I have..." He let out a breath. "Here's...something for you."
He held out a piece of paper, and the blood rushed to Anne's face. She was sure her face had turned to a shade similar to her hair, and her heart beat in tandem to her rising breaths. A roaring sound filled her ears, but she was sure it wasn't the thunder in the background.
Wiping down her hands on her dress, she took hold of the paper. "Sure." Though the rain beat down hard on the pair, they paid no heed to it, instead focused on one another.
With trembling fingers, she opened up the letter to reveal Gilbert's flowing script.
Gilbert stared at her intently, drinking in her appearance. This was the fiery Anne that had caught his attention all those years ago in the woods. That young girl who, even in the clutches of the devil, had stood her ground. This was the young lady who'd written to him as he sailed a lonely journey in the middle of the ocean, acting as his lifeline when he roamed the tropicals. This was the woman who'd been rendered drunk by moonshine, citing tales of plunder as she coaxed fire to dance around her. This was the woman he'd fallen in love with. Little did he know that instead of him slaying dragons, Anne had gone and slain his heart right from the start.
Anne could barely see the letters on the page, for her eyes were filled to the brim with tears, and her hands would not stop shaking. She could hardly believe what was in front of her. Before she realized it, her tears and the rain mingled, turning the page into a river of ink.
"Gilbert, I-" She stared at him, the rain now falling down at a steady pace. Yet Anne was certainly not steady. Her world had lost balance, and she was falling. Falling so frightfully, so beautifully, so pleasantly, that she knew, instead, that she was flying.
"It always has been, and always will be you...Anne." Slowly, he grasped both her hands, almost as if in reverence. "My Anne with an E."
Anne kept replaying the letter in her head. Fond object of my affection and desire. Keeper of the key to my heart. If Gilbert hadn't personally come and delivered his letter, Anne would never have believed him to be the author. The message went above and beyond her wildest imaginations, and her childish fantasies of romance were rendered obsolete with just these few lines.
"I...This is the most beautiful letter I've ever received." She held back a sob.
"Yet," whispered Gilbert. "I wrote it last night and meant to give it to you this morning." A small smile played on his lips. "But it seems like you beat me to it."
Anne shook her head in amazement. His letter, with words strung together so eloquently, so thoughtfully that it bared his heart out on a piece of parchment, dwarfed her own hastily scribed note.
He held her hands up to his lips, gingerly kissing it, hesitant, unsure. "I have to ask, Anne. Is it true? Do you truly have feelings for me?"
Anne clutched his hands tighter. For all her words and theatrics, Gilbert had left her speechless, stealing her breath away for the second time in a matter of days. Once at the bonfire and now. She wondered how long it would take for him to leave her mute with his beautiful words. All she could do was nod her agreement before pulling him in for a hug.
As the rain now poured down on the young couple, they stood in silence, hardly daring to breathe. Years of stares and yearning, of hidden looks and suppressed feelings, had built up to this moment, and neither of them wanted to let go of the other.
They held on to each other as lovers often do, secluded from the world, marooned on their island of two.
"It's raining, Gilbert," Anne said, her voice muffled by his shoulder. Her arms were wound tightly around his waist, mimicking the way ivy often wound its way along a trellis.
"Is it?" whispered Gilbert, his voice tickling her ear. He held on to her tighter. "I didn't notice."
Pulling free with a laugh, Anne motioned towards the barn. "We can take cover there."
The pair ran, their steps seeming lighter and free.
And as the couple sought shelter, a certain set of keen eyes followed suit. Marilla watched them from the kitchen window, a small smile playing on her lips. To the naked eye, the two were almost invisible what with the setting sun and steady rain, yet to a mother's eye, they were very visible indeed. With a soft sigh, Marilla returned to baking her plum puffs, distant memories of another Cuthbert girl and Blythe boy her only company.
Just as they reached the entrance, Gilbert took hold of Anne's hand and turned her to face him. Before she could utter a word, he pulled her closer, their faces mere inches away. Anne could see small droplets of water gathered on his eyelashes. Could see a droplet slide down the curve of his cheekbones. Could see his lips part open in wonder.
She slowly took a step back but didn't let go of him. He followed her, intently staring, almost as if he were counting her freckles. Before she knew it, her back hit the barn door.
The rough wood of the door scratched her back, but Anne could hardly feel it. Not when she could feel his chest rise to meet hers whenever he took a breath in. Not when she could feel his warmth envelope her like a hot summer's day despite the freezing wind. Not when she could feel her wildest dreams come true.
Gilbert cocked his head to the side. "I'm going to kiss you now, Anne." He came closer, his breath hot on her lips. His eyes roamed her face, his intense gaze never wavering.
Anne kept silent. Instead, she placed her hand on his chest, feeling his strong heartbeats. One. Two. Her hand curled around his shirt, drawing him nearer to her. Three.