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by Niki
Art by Joss


The Art of Carrot Cultivation

The air was ripe with the pleasant smell of petrichor, yet Anne could only breathe in the intoxication that was Gilbert Blythe.


Their lips met in unison, not an inch between them. 


Anne should've been cold from the rain. But instead, she felt as if she were on fire. A fire that ignited as soon as their lips touched, traveling all along her body, threatening to consume her entire being.  


Pressed so close to Gilbert, she could feel his heart beat to the same tune hers sang. She gripped the front of his shirt, her other hand moving to the back of his neck, savoring the feel of his curls.


Gilbert tightened his arm around her waist, stroking his thumb along her cheek. They were kissing with a passion so foreign to either of them, yet they learned their parts flawlessly. Slow and intense, they kissed languidly against the barn door, lost in the senses of one another.


The air was ripe with the pleasant smell of petrichor, yet Anne could only breathe in the intoxication that was Gilbert Blythe. She'd wondered once why the idea of two lips meeting had caused so many to lose their minds in the name of desire. Yet now, in the arms of the boy she knew was the one, Anne wondered why people didn't practice the art of kissing more frequently. Surely kisses needed to be celebrated for it brought upon so much delight. Anne's heart was full. Full of wonder, full of joy. Full of love for this boy. 


With a sigh, Gilbert finally pulled back, his thumb continuing to draw lazy circles on her cheek. He stared at her with a depth that Anne realized wasn't unknown to her. She'd seen it several times over the years. Seen the way his eyes darkened a tad, crinkles forming at the sides. Seen the way his eyebrows raised up slightly, furrowed at the beginning. With a start, Anne realized what his gaze meant. Heart eyes. Ruby had mentioned it, yet Anne had always experienced it. 




"Gilbert." She'd meant to say it in the same earnest way he'd said her name, yet she ended it with a slight giggle. Heady and confused, Anne couldn't understand what was happening.


Gilbert Blythe just kissed me. Gilbert Blythe just kissed me, and I kissed him back!


He returned her giggle with one of his own, and with visible relief, he rested his forehead against hers. "I can't believe this is actually happening."


"Neither can I," whispered Anne. "This doesn't feel real."


"Oh, but it is, my Anne. It is." He placed a soft kiss on her nose. "These emotions that course within me can't be replicated by my bland imagination. No, these feelings are real, and I welcome it."


Anne smiled, uncurling her hand around his shirt and reaching up to smooth away the curls resting against his forehead. "I must say, I have no doubt on the extent of my imagination but this? This is real."


Slowly, as if against his will, Gilbert let go of her, sliding his hand down to grip hers. "Now we can head inside," grinned Gilbert, tugging her into the comfort of the barn.


She trailed after, not daring to take her eyes off him. 


"It looks like it's going to rain the whole night," said Gilbert, giving her a sweet smile. "It might be a while."


"I don't mind. Do you?" She giggled once again. 


"I never mind spending time with you, Anne. In fact, I couldn't see better use of my time. It's all I've ever wanted."


She grinned at him widely, unable to contain her happiness. She didn't understand the comedic aspect of their situation, yet she felt like laughing without inhibition, her thoughts clouded by joy and relief. 


Straying further into the barn, she spotted a few bales of hay stacked against the wall that would make do for their respite. As she neared the haystacks, she heard Gilbert behind her.


"Wait!" he rushed forward, going to remove his vest.


Anne crinkled her eyebrows in confusion. "What are you..."


"There," said Gilbert, placing his vest across the stack and presenting his alternative seating arrangements for her. "This will be a lot more comfortable." He smoothed the jacket over the hay, beckoning Anne to sit.


However, if Gilbert expected her thanks, he'd undoubtedly have to wait for Anne's mind was...preoccupied. 


Free of the constraints of the vest, Anne could see that the white shirt Gilbert had worn underneath was soaked through, plastered to the planes of his body. Anne realized that somewhere along the way, amidst the preparations for the entrance exams and the farm work he often did, unbeknownst to her, Gilbert had transformed from a boy into a young man. Both in mind and body. And now it was her turn to unwillingly drag her gaze away from his form and face ahead, moving to sit down in a daze. 


"You know, when I read your note, I was taken by surprise," said Gilbert, sitting down beside her. "I could only dream that you'd reciproca--"


 "My note!" Anne interrupted, turning to face him. She'd lain back down, staring at the rafters above her but Gilbert's words had brought her back to reality. "You read it."


"I did. Bash's mother gave it to me as soon as I got back home." He looked down at her, marveling at the way her eyes widened at his words.


She stared at him, suddenly shy. "I meant every word I wrote," she said in earnest. 


 "I know now. When I first read it, I thought it was a cruel joke."


"That's preposterous! Why would you think that?" she said, exasperatedly, sitting up. "I'd never be so cruel to you, Gilbert!"


"Not intentionally, you wouldn't." He gave a rueful shake of his head. 


"What is that supposed to mean?" Anne narrowed her eyes. 


"Well, at the bonfire--"


"That doesn't count! You completely took me by surprise," said Anne, her voice rising with every word. "Plus, I was clearly inebriated. You can't hold that against me!"


"The way you reacted wasn't exactly positive." He shrugged. "I didn't know what to make of it."


"So, you assumed the worst?" fumed Anne. "I just needed time and some clarity...Why are you smiling, Gilbert Blythe? This is no laughing matter!"


But her words only caused Gilbert to grin wider. "You're awfully adorable when you're vexed."


Anne shot him an incredulous look, going back to her original position of rest. "I am not! That's ridiculous." 


"You are," said Gilbert, angling his body to lean over her. "When you get angry, your forehead wrinkles up right here." He ran his fingers across the middle of her forehead. "And your lips...they pucker up," he pressed his finger to the corner of her mouth, "right here."


Fighting back a smile, she questioned him, "Is that why you called me carrots all those years ago? To see me cross?"


"Well, that was part of the reason, yes. Though I still can't fathom why you were so insulted with the word."


"Carrots, Gilbert? Really?" In mock outrage, she held up a lock of her hair. 


He took hold of the hair, twirling it around his finger. "Yes. Carrots. They're one of the most resilient root vegetables, growing underground against all the odds." He raised his eyebrows. "They thrive in environments surrounded by other plants, able to withstand several adversities. They offer support to other companion vegetables, attracting wasps to get rid of pesky garden pests." His voice lowered. "They're strong. They're vibrant. They offer so much to the world." He let go of her hair, instead, running a gentle finger down her face. "Of course, you are my carrots, Anne."


Anne only stared at him in silence, letting out her breath in amazement. "You indeed are a poet in the disguise of a farm boy, Gil. Are you sure medicine is your calling?"


He smiled, leaning in ever so slightly closer to her. "I suppose I can practice my poetry on you?"


"I'd like that very much," said Anne, worried she may burst with the feelings of delight coursing through her. "Your note was a stellar example of your talents. Oh! Your letter! It''s destroyed now," she said in dismay. "Tell me you'll write me another one."


"Why write," he placed his hand along the curve of her waist, "when I can say it to you instead?"


"Spoken words are beautiful but written words...Oh, written words I hold close to my heart," said Anne, her voice growing quieter. 


He gave her a little squeeze. "Then, a letter is what you shall receive, my Anne."


"But, I want the exact same note, Gilbert." Anne raised her eyebrows playfully. "Word for word. As you may very well know, I have an impeccable memory."


"Hmm, that you do have. And what trouble it has caused me," He smiled down at her. "But I believe you need to jog my memory a bit." He leaned down, his lips settling at the corner of her mouth. "There's a certain redhead who has caused my mind to go disarray and my heart to lose its rhythm."


Moving her body closer to him, she reached up to cup his cheek, running her thumb across his jaw. She placed a gentle kiss on his cheek, going to do the same on the other. Next, she paid attention to his forehead, placing tiny kisses down his eyebrows, nose, and finally, she landed on his lips. 


This time when their lips met, familiarity followed suit. Gone was the hesitation and nervous energy, replaced with a fervent need to express their feelings through actions. It was as if within these four walls of confinement, they had been finally set free, enabling themselves to explore one another with no qualms. As if taking their academic competitiveness into their private moment, their lips fought together, each one desiring more of the other.


Anne found both her hands around Gilbert's neck, and she pressed further into him, a sense of urgency guiding her. She couldn't feel the hay biting through her dress, couldn't smell the barn odor, couldn't hear the rain picking up pace. All she could sense was Gilbert. Gilbert winding his arms around her waist, deepening the kiss. Gilbert trailing kisses across her jaw, slowly moving down her neck. Gilbert looking at her, his eyes twinkling with happiness and desire. And she would never tire of him.


He smiled, pushing aside a stray piece of hair that had fallen across her forehead. After all these years of staring at her, of wishing just once that she'd turn back to look at him, here they were in the arms of one another. He wondered if he was dreaming but then realized he wasn't very imaginative. He could never have imagined the way Anne's lips felt on his, how they fit together like a puzzle. He could never have imagined the way his heart would try to break free with happiness every time he neared Anne. He could never have imagined the feel of Anne's hair between his fingers as he drew her in closer for a deeper kiss. Could never have imagined her fingers running through his curls. No. This was real. This was true. 


Caught in the moment, oblivious to the thundering rain and howling wind, it was Belle's loud neigh that finally broke their reverie. 


"Neigh!" Belle whined, unaware of the wide-eyed couple staring at one another mere meters away.


"Belle!" Anne said breathlessly, startling a dazed Gilbert. Gently nudging Gilbert, she pushed herself up into a sitting position, running her hands through her hair. Gilbert cleared his throat, sliding his hands down his face as if trying to awake from a deep slumber. 


Peeking at him from the corner of her eye, Anne shot him a tiny smile. She was rewarded with an awe-struck look, splotches of red quickly marring his cheeks. Gilbert was blushing. Anne realized that while she loved every aspect of him, a flushed and embarrassed Gilbert that highlighted his boyish nature was her favorite.


Slowly, she stood up, dusting strands of hay from her skirts. "We should head back, Gil. Marilla must be looking for me."


Nodding, Gilbert stood as well, the twinkle in his eyes never disappearing. Anne stared at him. The boy she'd whacked with a slate. The boy she'd academically competed with. The man she had just kissed. The man who had stolen her heart.


She giggled at the sight before her. Clueless Gilbert with a headful of hay. She reached up to dust the hay off, marveling at his curls. While he did indeed have a splendid chin, his curls were a work of art. She'd often wondered how soft they were, and today she'd had a chance to find out. And indeed. They were soft. Soft and fluffy and wonderful.


As she continued contemplating the extent of his curls' softness, they headed outside again. It was still raining but had now reduced to a soft drizzle. The sun had winked its last light a few minutes prior, and the distant glow of the house acted as their guiding light as they slowly made their way over.


They held hands as they ambled along the path, occasionally glancing at each other with a smile. Anne's cheeks reddened as she thought about what had happened in the barn. She certainly wasn't ashamed, yet if word got around, especially to Mrs. Lynde, she wondered what would become of her. As it was, Belle wasn't one to gossip, and often kept to herself. Though Anne had no doubt that Mrs. Lynde, if given a chance, could even get a horse to speak a word or two.


Midway through, Anne stopped in her tracks. "Wait, Gilbert! A puddle!" Without hesitation, hiking up the folds of her skirt, she jumped into the center of it, creating a large splash. Letting out a loud giggle, she continued to find the small water bodies, her tinkling laugh, and splashes of water the only sound. 


Instead of joining in, Gilbert stared at her in appreciation. Carefree, wild, loving, passionate. This was Anne. His Anne. Mine.


He slowly walked beside her, appreciating her beauty as she sought puddle after puddle.


"Oh Gilbert, don't be a bore. Join in!" she said, beckoning him over.


He held up his hands in protest. "I'm fine, Anne!" He smiled. "The view is better from here, anyway."


Shooting him an impish grin, she kicked out suddenly, showering Gilbert with droplets of rainwater.


"That's not fair!" exclaimed Gilbert, wiping his face with his shirt sleeve with a smile. After a pause, he said, "You remind me of Pirate Anne here."


"Pirate Anne?" Satisfied with her puddle hunt, she joined Gilbert as they continued walking. 


"Yes. A very drunk Anne." He shot her a smirk. "Ahoy, Matey!" he said, impersonating a pirate, moving his fist up in the air.


Anne huffed. "Oh, not this again. I'll have you know that I've decided to block out that entire night." She held her head high. "I don't remember."


"Oh, really?" he said, raising his eyebrows. "What about that time you admitted to being a pirate. I'm...pirate? Yup, that's what you said." He teased. "Do you remember that?"


She rolled her eyes. "As you said, I was intoxicated." When he continued to smirk at her, she continued. "But, I do remember when you gave me all of ten seconds to decide on not only my future but to consider yours as well!" She was still sore about that night of the bonfire and needed to vent out her frustration. 


"Mine?" asked Gilbert in surprise.


"Well, of course! Your aspirations of becoming more than a country doctor? The Sorbonne is your dream school! I couldn't be so selfish as to steal those choices away from you, Gil." She let out a deep breath. "I don't want to be a burden or...or a choice that you regret making. I--"


"Anne!" said Gilbert. He stopped, turning to face her, all traces of playfulness gone. "You were never a choice for me! There was no choice. It always has been you." His voice rose in desperation. "The Sorbonne? Paris? Those can wait. Those are choices. But you? You're my destiny, and I was foolish to think even once that I could have anybody else in my heart." He took a deep breath, his eyes boring into hers. "You're not a burden, Anne. I will never regret you!"


Anne's heart soared at this proclamation. There was a small part of her that had fretted ever since she'd penned him her letter over the fact that Gilbert may come to resent her in time. Now, hearing the words spoken in truth, she breathed a sigh of relief. 


He took her hand in his, placing his other over it. "Anne Shirley-Cuthbert," he glanced up at her, "I love you. I have loved you, and I will continue to love you even after my last breath. I am as sure of it as I am sure that the sun will rise tomorrow."


Anne didn't know what to make of her emotions. Her brain was a muddle of thoughts, and the only thing keeping her from flying far away into blissful oblivion was Gilbert's firm grip on her hand, anchoring her to this beautiful reality. 


"Gilbert Blythe..." she breathed out, taking a step closer to him. "I love you." She looked at him, eyes bright with unshed tears. "I've loved you since that stupid spelling bee. Since you forgot to add that darned E." She sniffed. "I think I even loved you when I slammed that slate over your head!" She let out a small laugh, crying now. Gilbert smiled back, nodding his head in remembrance. "I've loved you since the time you offered to help me with keeping Green Gables. I've loved you since the time you left me to sail the vast oceans. I've loved you since the time you stood up for me in front of our classmates. Gil..." She tried to wipe away her falling tears, but Gilbert was quicker. He gently rubbed away her tears, watching her in rapt silence. "Gilbert, I've always loved you. I just...I just never acknowledged it. Every time I looked at you. Every time I heard you. I loved you. And that will never change. Oh, Gilbert!" She cupped his face with her free hand, running her thumb across his cheekbones. "I truly love you. I say that with absolute conviction because I've finally put a name to my feelings towards you. I say that because I finally know."


Shaking his head in amazement, Gilbert's eyes shone brightly. "You, Ms. Anne Shirley-Cuthbert, have stolen my heart, and it's yours to keep."


"Forever and a day?" said Anne.


"Forever and two days," answered Gilbert, drawing her closer to him.


"I love you, Gilbert."


"I love you, Anne."


And then they were kissing. A kiss so soft, so passionate, so heartfelt that it stood as a promise of a beautiful future together. A testament of their love.


With a soft sigh, Gilbert pulled back, his hand still gripping hers. "I don't think I've ever been happier."


She smiled, her tears still falling. "Not even when we tied for first place in the entrance exams?"


He shook his head, a small smile playing on his lips. "Not even then."


This time, as they continued to walk towards the house, Anne had her arm wrapped snugly around Gilbert's, resting her head on his shoulder. 


Arm in arm, they finally made it to the front porch steps, only to find a distraught Marilla waiting at the entrance. 


"Anne Shirley-Cuthbert! What is this behavior?"

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