September 18th, 1899

 

Dear Gilbert ,

 

Since you have been utterly, completely giving of your thoughts to me, I feel it only fair that I share one of my more terrifying honesties in return: I spent my whole childhood wishing for someone to miss me, to think about me when I was not there. To have that now, and to have that person be you, is beyond anything my wildest imagination could have created. I thought I knew what it would feel like to be in love, but I now realize how foolish that was. It’s nothing I could have conceptualized no matter how hard I tried, how many books I read, how many romantical poems I acted out. The idea of love pales in reality to what it feels like to be in love with you. Falling in love is because of you, not in addition to you. I don’t think I understood that until now. 

 

Upon receiving your letter, I fled the dining room and sat beneath the friendliest tree in the vicinity of my new home, with whom I had previously become acquainted. I read your letter among her particularly welcoming leaves and found myself conjuring you under her canopy, just as you have conjured me in Toronto. We could sit there together one day when you come to visit, and she could become our tree. We could see her through all of her seasons, and she would see us through all of ours. 

 

The mere idea that you would choose to take a two-day journey simply to see me gives me such a thrill, Gilbert, because I would do the same thing just to see you. To love and be loved as equals is something I never dared to hope for until I was already in the midst of it with you. On a completely related note: I have always wanted to travel to Paris. 


 

So write to Bash (do send him and Delly my love!), write to Matthew and Marilla, write a note to Rachel Lynde should it please you. I don’t believe I’m very good at pretending not to be scandalously in love with you, and I don’t intend to get much practice. Courting it is, then. 

 

I can say with great certainty that Matthew and Marilla will be surprised to hear that you are not engaged (come to think of it, most of Avonlea will be) but incredibly pleased to receive the news. They were the first people who knew I loved you, after Diana, and never even batted an eyelash. In my darkest moments, when I believed you to be indifferent to my feelings, their encouragement, understanding, and affection made it all seem somewhat bearable.

 

It is incredible to me that, despite my notorious lack of subtlety, we nearly missed each other altogether. The hope I felt at learning you were unattached because of an “unrequited love” is indescribable, and now, in these pieces of paper covered in your handwriting, I have tangible proof that this is real. I therefore feel I should warn you that I will be rereading this (and all of your letters) over and over again until I have it memorized, no mnemonic device necessary. Whichever words you choose will be pressed against the crevices of my memory like flowers between the pages of a book. 

 

Though I admit that I am achingly curious about the tiniest details over the years, a part of me is equally as curious about the mundanities of your new life. With that said, I will respond to your questions in the hope that I will be on the receiving end of answers to the same.  

 

The rules here are strict and we have been attempting to shirk them as inconspicuously as possible. To paint you a picture of our housemother, she has stern eyebrows, a steady voice, and a mouth that looks like it might crack clean in half if ever she were to venture a genuine smile. She was, as I’m sure you can imagine, not amused by the unladylike shriek Diana let out upon seeing your letter arrive here, nor do I imagine she has it in herself to be amused by anything at all. 

 

Her steely demeanor is offset by Lily, the housemaid, who is teaching all of us sign language in order to better communicate with her. Diana especially has taken to it quite well. Already, Lily has become the first person we turn to if anything goes amiss. The other day, after an invigorating walk in the rain, I skidded into the house in the muddiest of petticoats a few minutes before dinner. It was Lily’s quick thinking and mischievous assistance that kept me out of trouble and got me to the table in time to avoid Mrs. Blackmore’s ire. I can admit, knowing myself as I do, that it is likely even Lily won’t be able to keep me from the receiving end of a lecture the entire time I am living here. Nevertheless, she is shaping up to be a true kindred spirit. 

 

As for our old school chums, Josie has already engaged in loud arguments with several of the girls from other towns; Ruby is still incapable of reading a romantical poem without giggling; Tillie receives enough mail to keep the postal service in business until the turn of the century; Jane watches it all with her usual endeared exasperation and occasionally steps in to drop a cutting comment that takes everyone by surprise. Everything has changed but nothing has changed at all. I felt ever so grown up coming to college, being able to traverse Charlottetown unchaperoned, not having Matthew and Marilla to answer to. But the more I learn in this life, the more I realize how much I don’t know, and Queen’s is no exception. I feel as though the six of us are constantly flailing about between being children and adults, and I often find myself wondering if we will ever truly land on the grown-up side of things. One moment, Tillie will be taking suitors in the front parlor, the next moment Ruby will be doodling Moody’s name all over her essay and have to begin anew, same as she used to do in school. 

 

Classes have barely begun but are already truly enthralling. We venture through text in brand new ways, motivated more so by curiosity than by being right. When one of us stands up to recite, passion and enthusiasm are not only welcomed, but expected. (Even still, Diana has had to kick me underneath the desk a few times to pull me out of my head. Our classmates have wasted no time informing me that my daydreaming has worsened of late. I can’t imagine why that might be.)

 

We study in the parlor together or review our notes from class in each other’s rooms, and it feels strange without you there. I’m afraid the only person with whom I have to be competitive is myself and I miss the challenge of a battlefield—or perhaps I simply miss you. While being in constant competition with you certainly had its merits, I now look back on several of those occasions with some horror, recalling how harshly I behaved towards you when neither of us knew why. I finally realize how confused I was back then. Now that I know the truth of it all, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I will always, always prefer to be on your team. 

 

All of which is to say that we are settling in well. Diana is the most divine roommate one could ever ask for. Despite Mrs. Blackmore’s strict “lights out at ten” rule, we frequently stay awake talking well after. Each night, we take our blankets off of our beds to wrap around our shoulders, open up the window in our bedroom, and stare out into the endless sky while we talk, even though we can’t see the constellations as clearly as we can in Avonlea. It’s comforting to know that Matthew, Marilla, you are looking at the exact same stars. No matter how far away you are, we’re somehow still in the same place. 

 

I do hope this letter, as trite as some of it is, assists in curing the ills of homesickness. I can’t fathom the bravery that comes with going so far away from everything you’ve ever held dear, although I suppose you have some experience in that from your time at sea. You care so much about your studies and about medicine, and I do firmly believe that you will advance your field in the most enthralling ways; I will do my part by continuing to write to you (and often) to ensure that your spirits never waver despite the difficulties of being away. 

 

One final note: Between you and adventure, there is no need for a contest. I do believe I have the ability to manage the both of you. In fact, the next time you go on an adventure, perhaps I will come with you, and vice versa, and we can live our whole lives leaping from adventure to adventure until there’s nothing we haven’t seen and nowhere we haven’t been together. I want to learn the world through your eyes, Gilbert Blythe, and I hope you want to know it through mine as well. 

 

With love,

 

Anne

© 2020 by ANNE NATION