Consequences of Racing
the rejection of her story had not been bad enough, she had been forced to
confess the fact to Gilbert Blythe before anyone else. Not that she minded
telling Gilbert about it, in the long run. But he had practically bullied her
into doing so. Not that she had minded that either. A pestering Gilbert was
akin to a Gilbert who cared deep down. And sharing something so personal with
him was as close as she had been of late to caring as well. Of course, lately
they'd both been so inundated with work, studying their lessons, and completing
and their final exams that there hadn't been time for much of anything.
rejection had been a rather bitter sting, but it was just one more reason to
work harder in the future. Perhaps she might actually ask Gilbert for his
opinion on it when Diana was done with the manuscript. Then again, she wasn't
too sure Gilbert would properly appreciate the flowing, utterly romantic prose
and subject matter. She dismissed the idea of showing it to him as one of those
flighty thoughts that came so easily when riding through Avonlea on a beautiful
when she hit the town, needing to navigate around people. Then she parked her
bicycle outside the general store and headed in. Though she'd been in town just
the day before on her way home from the last school day before summer, she'd
woken that morning to find that they were dangerously low on sugar. She was
certain yesterday's anticipation of the registered mail and story publication
possibility had driven such trifles as sugar straight out of her mind. But now
that she was older and more responsible, she wanted to be sure to replenish
their store of it before even Marilla noticed. What use was it to stay at Green
Gables if she was not allowed to take care of Marilla in every capacity
was nearly deserted, with the exception of Miss Harris, of course, and none
other than Gilbert Blythe. Anne was taken aback by her surprise at seeing him
of all the people who could have been there. But then she settled down and gave
him a look-over: white dress shirt, grey-blue pinstripe vest and trousers, and
a matching spitfire cap. He was paying for his items at the counter. And though
Miss Harris had him in a discussion, he still turned his head and nodded hello to
Anne. She smiled brightly and nodded back.
selecting a plump bundle of sugar, she headed to the counter as well. This gave
her a chance to glance at Gilbert's purchases, though she had little curiosity about
the matter. It was simply where her gaze fell when she looked down, not wanting
to stare at either person while they were in their own discussion. She noticed
a bottle of cough syrup and a package of new handkerchiefs, along with a
notebook, a bag of flour, and a bundle of string. Anne's eyebrows arched
briefly at the sight.
for Gilbert to finish his transaction, expecting him to linger for her
afterwards while she paid for her sugar. Instead he gave her another smile and
nod and started out of the store. As she plunked the money for the sugar down
on the counter, she turned towards him. "Gil," she called, just as he put a
hand on the door to leave. He turned to look at her and she quickly fought for
something to say. "Give your father my best. I hope he feels better."
He paused a
moment, then replied calmly, "He's quite well, actually. But thank you." Then
he left quickly before Anne could say anything more.
funny," Anne said quietly to herself, taking her change and tucking the bag of
sugar under her arm as she adjusted her hat.
smiled, shaking her head a bit. "He was coughing just before you came in.
Quieted as soon as he saw you," she told Anne. Leaning forward, she whispered
over the counter even though they were alone in the store. "He said something
about falling off his bicycle into the stream yesterday. I think he must have
caught cold from it."
nodded, sounding thoughtful and concerned. Then, the thought struck her. "Oh!"
Just the previous day, she had challenged him to a race to the bridge. She'd
won, of course, after taking a shortcut. There had been no talk about not being
able to use one, and she'd enjoyed coming in first around him, as always. It
felt good, as though nothing had changed even as they were older. Two teachers,
two friends, laughing and playing in a way they never would have in their
childhood, though they'd both secretly wanted to. But Gilbert had taken a
tumble into the stream, busting his bicycle and getting drenched. "Ohhh dear,"
Anne said, bolting from the store.
down the road to see Gilbert stuffing items into his saddlebag and slipping the
rains off the post. She grabbed her bike and walked it down to him. "Gilbert!"
she called to get his attention again. And, again, he turned and looked back at
her with a smile. Slightly breathless, she slowed, walking with her bicycle on
one side and Gilbert on the other as he led his horse on. "Too good to wait and
hold a door for a girl, are you?" she teased.
and shook his head. "Sorry," he said, the 'o' sound elongated from his accent.
Whether he wanted to say more, Anne couldn't tell. But he didn't follow it with
some comment about Anne and her romantic ideals.
over at him, seeing him suck his lips into his mouth and close his eyes. His
nostrils twitched slightly, and she could tell precisely why. She smiled and
shook her head, knowing he couldn't see her. "I could let you go on without at
least saying a proper good morning. But I don't mean to keep you if you're in a
his eyes immediately and shook his head, mouth still closed tightly. His nose
twitched, eyes watered, and he started biting his lip.
along slowly, enjoying the quiet of the Avonlea morning. Gilbert said nothing
in the way of conversation, trying very hard to look as though everything were
perfectly all right. Looking over at the horse, she broke the silence. "So I
take it your bicycle is worse for the fun yesterday and has not yet been
silent, though his relatively calm expression was starting to fall, showing his
anxiety and weakness. Shaking his head, he tried to make it look as though he
were concerned for the sake of his bicycle. Having spent nearly every weekday
evening with him, studying their lessons, she had learned the subtleties of his
gentle expressions and he wasn't fooling her this time. If anything, the
silence worried her. She would have been happy to hear him sneeze if it meant
hearing his voice as well. Typically, however, the stubborn man did not seem to
want to give in to his ailment, though he must have known she knew.
Gilbert bit his lip and held his breath. His nostrils fought valiantly, and he
let out a quiet, uncertain squeak without meaning to when he was forced to let
his breath out. His desperation was growing, and whatever he had caught from
the tumble into the stream was certainly too strong for even Gilbert Blythe to
resist for long.
said softly, humor behind her voice. "If you need to sneeze, you needn't hold
back on my account. That's not healthy, you know."
knowing as much. It seemed that whether his willpower allowed it or not, a
sneeze was going to happen. Quickly he raised his arm and ducked his head down,
burying his nose in the crook of his arm. "Cheufff!
hahh... Hah-CHUFF!" He lifted his head, sniffling. But that only sent him off
coughing. They were moist, hard coughs that sent a shiver down Anne's spine.
whispered, when he'd quieted. "You sound awful."
sniffling a little more. He pulled his cap off and rubbed the back of his hand
against his forehead before putting it back on again. "I know," he agreed,
nodding. "Sorry." He cleared his throat but did not speak again. There wasn't
much to say. It was clear he was sick, and Anne knew it without him having to
have picked up things in town for you while I was here, if you'd come around
Green Gables this morning," Anne said. "You shouldn't be out of bed with a
cough like that."
to know you were going to town again today," Gilbert replied. "You were just
here yesterday, after all." He coughed hard, then added quickly, "But I do
appreciate the offer. If I'd known, I would have asked."
have? Truly?" she asked with a light laugh.
and then shook his head a moment later with a laugh of his own. "No, probably...
probably not," he stumbled over the words as his breath caught.
He paused a
few seconds in his steps, pulling a handkerchief from the inner pocket of his
vest. It was crumpled from use but suitable enough to rub his nose with. He
held it in place for a few moments, breathing heavily into it. Anne caught his
eye, looking on in sympathy. Now that he wasn't trying to hide it, he didn't
seem to mind so much. But that wasn't to say he wanted her watching. She looked
away, giving him a bit of privacy. "hah..."
he breathed out. "hahhh-CHUHH!
hehhSChhhh! Huh..." The handkerchief hovered in front of his face. His eyes
were closed, his mouth open. Gil obviously felt another coming on and wanted to
wait for it no matter how silly he looked to Anne. "huhhh..." he breathed out hard, trying to urge the sneeze on. "heh-CHEFFF!" He sneezed strongly into
the handkerchief, falling forward and breaking his stride again. "Sorry," he
muttered, almost automatically.
certainly wouldn't do to have him walking all the way back home with a cold in
his head like this. It was bad enough he'd been up and out of bed this morning
in the first place. Quickly Anne stowed the sugar in the bag on the back of the
bicycle. With her free hand she reached up and gently brushed fingers against
Gilbert's temple. It was damp and warm, even as her fingers touched a rich
brown curl of his hair. And, from the look of him, Gilbert needed to sneeze
that he might stumble again to his embarrassment or harm, or at the least
startle the horse, she bent her arm and hooked it around Gilbert's. He nearly
stumbled a bit in his paces at the touch, but when he looked into her
reassuring eyes and Anne knew he understood. Kindred Spirits always understood
this sort of thing. He leaned on her a bit, tightening his grip on his
handkerchief as he held it to his face. A soft, hesitant breath further warned
of sneezes. "hehh..."
right, Gil," Anne assured him in the merest whisper. She squeezed his arm and
felt him shiver, so she squeezed it harder.
tightened up and pitched forward with several more rich, heavy sneezes, muffled
considerably in his handkerchief. "heh-EHHShhff!
Heh-CHUFF! Huh-Chufffff!" Gilbert rubbed hard at his nose, and then tucked
the handkerchief away, as it was beginning to seem too used to be of any good. He
looked down at the ground with a light sniffle. "Very sorry," he said quickly,
sounding quite apologetic indeed.
and felt him lean into her a little where their arms were linked. Now that he
was through sneezing for the moment, their pace picked up a bit. But at this
rate, it would take all day to reach home. She didn't mind quite so much, apart
from risking an earful from Marilla when the woman realized they were out of
sugar. But Anne knew it wouldn't do for Gilbert to be up and exerting himself
like this. And though she was glad for his politeness, it seemed pointless for
him to apologize after every single sneeze. "You've got a terrible cold and I'd
imagine a light fever as well. And as it's half my fault you landed in the
water yesterday, I'm going to see you home right now, Gilbert Blythe." He looked
up at her, communicating his thanks silently through his eyes. And, again, his
lack of a verbal response worried her that things were worse off than they
his arm, leaned her bicycle against herself, and reached up to the horse's
saddlebags to retrieve one of the thick handkerchiefs he'd just purchased. She
forced it into Gilbert's hand and closed his fingers around it. Then she wiped
her hand over his forehead to cool it a bit. He closed his eyes momentarily,
smiling at the kind touch. There was something maddeningly romantic about the
idea of being a nurse and tending to patients' needs. Or perhaps it was the
fact that this particular patient was Gilbert that made it suddenly seem so
Shirley," he said, cracking a smile. "It seems like you might have a calling in
the medical field." A few harsh coughs followed these words of his. Then he
sniffled, sounding in need of blowing his nose but feeling far too proper to do
that in front of Anne.
comment, she shook her head with a light laugh. "No, I'll leave that to your
capable hands, Gil. Though I'd expect a future doctor to take better care of
shrugged, forced to agree whole-heartedly with this. He gave his nose a bit of
a blow into the fresh handkerchief as she looked on approvingly. She patted his
upper arm tenderly. "All right now. Up on the horse and I shall follow along behind
on my bicycle. I will see that you go straight home to bed if I do nothing else
this day. Apart from buying the sugar, that is, which can't be helped as it's
Gilbert smiled yet again before mounting his horse, though it looked as though
he didn't really feel well enough to smile so much as he was. She got upon her
bicycle, intending to keep a good distance so as not to spook the horse. But she
did not want to be too far behind so that she could still keep a close eye on
Gilbert. For a moment, she thought back again to their races and almost felt
compelled to pass him. But she had to admit, as they rode down the red dirt
road towards the Blythe farm, that sometimes it wasn't so bad taking a back
seat to Gilbert so long as she was with him in some capacity. Perhaps if they
hadn't been so competitive and at each others' throats as children they might
be more than the friends they were now. But Anne loved the races too much to
wish that part of their past away, and she was quite certain Gilbert felt
similarly. She simply wished she'd refrained from this last one which would rob
Gilbert of a few days of health.