Of all the people Gilbert Blythe expects to find in front of his house, Anne Shirley is not one of them. She’s also quiet, and more contained than he’s used to seeing her. Gil lifts a hand from his book in a weak wave, then forces himself to look back down. She’s probably just passing by.
“Gilbert?” he hears her ask. What is that tone in her voice?
He glances back up. “Hi, Anne,” he said, trying to keep his voice even. As though he hasn’t imagined this conversation, her coming to talk to him, twelve different ways. As though he hasn’t wished with all his heart that one day she might look at him without rolling her eyes and/or gagging.
“Could I talk to you for a minute?” She sounds almost timid. Can that be right? Bright, confident Anne Shirley…nervous?
“Yeah, sure.” He could gesture her onto the porch, but he’s worried that’ll make it feel like they’re having this conversation on his turf. So he drops his book on the chair (without even marking his place, that’s how confused he is) and walks out into the lane where she’s standing. He tries to sound casual when he asks, “What’s up?”
He can’t stop looking at her, but her eyes don’t stay on his for more than a few moments at a time. It’s one of the millions of things he’s noticed about Anne. Often, when she’s talking to a friend, she glances all around. Not because she’s not listening; from what he can tell, she’s a great listener. But it’s almost like she can’t tear her eyes off the world for too long. But when a friend really needs her, like that time Diana did badly on a Biology quiz, Anne’s attention never wavers.
“I—well, Diana told me—you gave up the tutoring position at Avonlea High. For—well, for me? I wanted to thank you.”
Gil is stunned for a second. His brain can’t quite process that Anne is talking to him, willingly, but never in a million years did he consider that to be worth her coming to thank him. It was such a no brainer. He has a car, White Sands High is really only twenty minutes from his house, and Anne just lost Matthew. She and Marilla need each other. They need to be close to each other right now. So he called and asked, and it was easy as that.
“It really wasn’t a big deal. You need to be close to home more than I do.”
“I just… That’s true, but you don’t know what it means to me.” Her eyes are fixed on him now, and he’s working very hard not to completely freak out. His brain hasn’t quite figured it out yet, but he can feel that they’re on the edge of something important.
He also feels a little uncomfortable. He didn’t do it to be thanked, by Anne or anyone, and he doesn’t want to say the wrong thing. Again.
“If it makes your life easier and makes you happy, I’m happy,” he says, then blushes. Is that too much? He’s tried to hide his massive crush on Anne for a while, and he thinks he’s done an okay job. Everyone is noticing how Charlie looks at her, not how he does. Maybe because they don’t spend enough time together. But kind of all they have to do is read his blog and make the not-so-difficult leap that his (bad) poetry is about her.
His heart almost stops when he realizes she’s blushing a bit too. It’s harder to tell because of her dark skin, but she is, and she glances at the ground.
“I also wanted to… apologize, I guess.”
He’s so surprised he just blinks at her for like, five seconds. “What? Why do you need to apologize to me?”
“Because you apologized, and I just threw it back in your face.”
The car ride. Gil had been sad that she hadn’t forgiven him, but ultimately he’d chalked it up to his own damn fault. He’d screwed up too badly in the beginning.
“Like, you still have a lot to learn, but you’re trying, and that’s important.”
Gil feels the grin grow on his face without even meaning to smile. “Does this mean you’ve forgiven me?”
“Yes,” she says simply, returning his grin with a smile that looks much more like Anne, and holding out her hand for a shake.
He shakes it, resisting the urge to hold it for too long and really giving himself away. Besides, he’s too happy about this to let his crush get in the way.
“What are you smiling about?”
“I have this really great feeling that we’re going to be the best of friends.”
“Speak for yourself, I’m taken,” she says teasingly, and that’s how he knows that this is going to work.
“I know, I know, you swore an oath of eternal friendship or something.”
She looks surprised, but she’s still smiling. “You watch my videos?”
For another minute, Gil worries he’s given himself away again, but he brushes it off. “Come on, Anne, the whole school watches your videos. They’re really good, and Avonlea is full of busybodies.”
She laughs, really laughs, at something he said. His stomach feels like it’s about to burst. Is it possible to have a friend-crush on someone? While you also have an actual crush on them? Because this feels as good as a first kiss with someone he really likes—not that he’s had a ton of those. But he’s been living with this feeling, this desperate feeling that he and Anne were meant to be… something. Maybe not dating, but friends. He’ll figure out the dating part later. Right now, there’s Anne.
“I should have known you’d be nosy enough to keep up.”
“Hey! I’m not nosy, I just like being well-informed.”
“Yeah, and Rachel Lynde just likes to keep on top of things for our own good.”
That makes him laugh, and he realizes he’s not nervous anymore, and neither is she.
“Do you wanna come in?” Considering how awkward he felt five minutes ago, it’s almost weird how inviting her to hang out feels like the most natural thing. “Watch a movie? Cup of tea?”
She smiles and glances over her shoulder. “I should be getting home."
His heart sinks. As much as he tries to hide it, she must see it in his face. "Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to stay, but I told Marilla I’d help out around the house today. I didn’t even plan on coming here in the first place, I was just going to take a quick walk, but kind of ended up here, and Marilla is going to wonder where I am, and I don’t want her to worry if I’m gone too long—Sorry, I’m rambling.”
She was, but Gil didn’t mind at all.
“Just, Diana told me what you did, and I guess I wouldn’t have been able to focus on anything until I said thanks.”
“You’re very welcome.” He’s disappointed that they can’t start friendshipping right away, but he’s struck with a sudden idea. “Hey, let me give you a ride home.” They can at least talk in the car.
She gives him a look. “Gilbert, I live like a ten minute walk from here. It’ll actually take you longer to drive me because Avonlea roads are insane.”
“True, true.” His disappointment lasts for less than a millisecond when he has another idea. “Then I’ll walk you!”
“Gilbert, I am not a nineteenth century lady in need of an escort.”
“Can’t I just want to hang out with my newest, bestest friend?”
She rolls her eyes, and he never thought he’d be happy to be on the receiving end of those, and says, “Fine. Come along, Pond.”
He laughs and follows. “Who’s your favorite Doctor?”
“Ten, obviously. The only correct answer is Ten. If your answer isn’t Ten, we might have to rethink this.”
“Ugh, you’re such a hipster.”
Between arguing over Doctor Who and what the exact definition of a hipster is, the walk goes by in a flash. They end up standing by the gate at Green Gables talking about how excited they are about the Doctor’s new companion who was just announced, something they finally managed to agree on, when Anne’s phone buzzes. When she checks it, she starts.
“Holy crap, we’ve been out here forever!”
“Well, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
She grins at him. Maybe one day he’ll be used to that, but it is not today. “Okay, well I’ve got to go.”
Before she does, he grabs her phone and plugs his number in. “Fine, but text me. I need to introduce you to Buffy.”
“And I need to introduce you to Gilmore Girls. And a million other things.” She doesn’t hesitate for more than a second before throwing her arms around him and hugging him like they’ve been friends for much longer than an hour.
“Bye, Gil,” she says, then she runs in the house, calling out to Marilla as the door swings shut.
Gilbert stands there staring after her until his phone buzzes with an unknown number.
Free tomorrow? I’ll trade you two episodes for two episodes.
He grins again. His face is starting to hurt with all the smiling he’s doing. Perfect, he can show her Welcome to the Hellmouth and The Harvest, if that doesn’t have her hooked he’s not sure what will.
Sounds good. Your house or mine?
He adds her number to his phone and turns to walk back home, texting Anne the whole way.
Maybe one day, he’d try for something different than friendship. Not more, just different. Because being friends with Anne is enough. No, it’s more than enough.