The whole town knew of Matthew’s decline in health, each came to pay their respects or to just visit. It was driving Anne insane, she just wanted to spend time with him before...
She didn’t have time for false smiles for strangers, not when her whole world was falling apart.
She’d finally allowed herself to cry in her safe haven of The Barn. Of course the StoryHut would’ve equipped better to match the utter sorrow she felt but alas the dry hay surrounding her provided some opposition to her wet cheeks.
The sadness flowed through her veins and deadened her mind. It was a poison to her spirit, dulling her, killing off her other emotions until it was the only one that remained. It was as if a black mist had settled upon her and refused to shift, and no matter how bright the day was she would feel no sun and hear no bird song. For the world was lost to her and she knew of nothing that would bring it back into focus.
Until suddenly something did.
She heard a rustling below her, someone walking through the hay. Anne frowned, wondering who on earth would wander in here. Until she heard that dreaded voice she’s unfortunately memorised alike her own. Gilbert.
‘Anne? Are you in here?’
She quickly wiped her cheeks, trying to erase all signs of her previous breakdown and tried to regain her composure.
‘I’m up here.’ Anne called out, coughing immediately afterwards trying to remove the lump in her throat.
She saw his head pop up as he climbed the ladder than suddenly he was sat with her.
The silence caressed her skin like a cool summer breeze, smoothing her soul, taking away her jagged edges. Of course the same person who provided that comfort would be the one to take it away, because it’s Gilbert. When has he done anything proper.
‘I know this sounds like a horrible, stupid question and I know that if someone asked me this whilst my dad or Mary were passing I would’ve snapped at them but, I feel like I must ask, are you okay?’
The way he rambled reminded her fondly of the way she tried to comfort Gilbert in his own grief when his father passed, of course this version was delivered a lot better.
‘I’m not entirely sure how to answer that question.’
More silence. This time it felt like an itch on her skin, something clawing from the inside out trying to escape. A hidden sin desperately clutching for redemption.
‘When I was at the orphanage,’ she began. ‘Well, when I was placed out. I was with this family- The Hammond’s.’
From the corner of my eye I could see Gilbert listening as if my words were golden, perhaps some elixir he's been waiting all his days to hear.
‘I was with them for around two years? Anyway I wasn’t a um, a daughter. I was more, a servant? I’m not all too sure what I was but servant seems to be the word to match it best. I would work for them. Although sometimes, I would forget to do a job or I just hadn’t gotten round to it yet or.. they’d just be angry.’
Anne couldn’t quite meet Gilbert’s ever piercing eyes, unknowing if the emotion she felt was shame or fear for what she might see.
‘Anyway, I forgot to do something and Mrs Hammond was mad so when Mr Hammond returned home... he-he was mad too and he-he um, it doesn’t matter but whilst he was... he collapsed next to me. His face was so close to my own I could feel his breath on mine. His eyes were wide with pain and fear. Then suddenly I couldn’t feel his breath, I couldn’t see anything in his eyes he was just gone.’
This, Anne realised, was the first time she’s talked about it. She’d said some to Mary as she felt she could understand, her warmth encouraged her to open up. But of course, she’s gone too.
Anne continued, ‘Of course, Mrs Hammond returned me to the orphanage then. With Mr Hammond gone I was just another mouth to feed that they couldn’t afford but, I found out the cause of his death was a heart attack.’
When Anne looked up Gilbert was... well to describe his facial expression would be like describing a blank slate. Like he hasn’t lived at all, even his eyes which were usually so full of life were scarily empty. Anne took a deep breath, trying to get to her point.
‘That’s what Matthew is suffering from. The aftermath of a heart attack, that’s what the doctor said. That his heart was failing him. They both died of the same thing, and they are nothing alike. Nothing. The only similarity they both have in their lives is me and-‘
‘No.’ Gilbert suddenly boomed, ‘if this is going where I think it’s going Anne-‘
‘It’s the only thing about this that makes sense! It’s just plain logic!’ Once again her emotions turn jagged and her insides tight. She cried out to those in reach ‘Please, help me understand how this can’t be my fault! I don’t want it to be! But I can’t see any other way- I don’t- I don’t see how-‘
The emotions swallowed her whole as the realisation of what Matthew’s death would mean really hit her.
Gilbert then wrapped her in a warm swaddle of his chest and arms. She knew instantly that she’d never want to leave this cocoon of safety.
‘Now you listen to me Anne Shirley Cuthbert. That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard anyone say in my entire lifetime. You have brought so much life and happiness not only to Green Gables, but to the whole of Avonlea. Matthew adores you, and I know for sure that your presence has brought only light to both Matthew and Marilla’s life. Now I don’t know exactly what that monster in your past did to make you think you could ever bring pain a such a grand scale, but you have done so much good. Even without my medical experience, I can say for certain that you had absolutely nothing to do with Matthew’s health issues. None.
His words made the room warmer somehow, Anne’s future seeming a little less bleak. She let her body sag, her muscles become loose. He gave her the respect of an equal but cradled her like a cherished child. In that embrace she felt her worries loose their keen sting and her emotions raise its head from the dirt.
‘I’m sorry.’ Anne mumbled into the crook of his neck.
‘Don’t apologise Anne, and don’t ever think my affection is going to be limited to this moment only. I’m always here for you Anne. Always.’
And she allowed herself to believe him, as easy as it was to breathe she trusted him fully. Perhaps she always had, not with her mind but with her nature. After all, they always seemed to find their way back to each other.
She would allow herself to find comfort in Gilbert Blythe. Today, and all the days afterwards.