Word Count: 2,431
Summary: A pair of mother of pearl earrings sets Anne off on a rather dotty quest to get her ears pierced. Diana offers support and skepticism in equal measure, Marilla tsk-tsks, Matthew awkwardly says "well now" a lot, and Gilbert Blythe absolutely, completely, without a doubt hasn't the slightest bit of charm whatsoever. Really.
Author's Note: I have no idea about lots of things, and the frequency with which women got their ears pierced in the Edwardian era is one of them. Er, roll with it? This is in response to firthgal's prompt 'Earlobe, Anne/Gil.' :)
"... Mother passed them down to Marilla, and -- well now, I s'pose they'll go to you next." Matthew watches as a look of rapture positively blooms upon Anne's face. He rubs his neck awkwardly, caught between apprehension and delight.
"Oh, Matthew!" Anne breathes. "A pair of mother of pearl earrings of my very own! It's almost more than I could dare to imagine -- almost, but not quite, because last Tuesday morning as I walked to school I found myself thinking of how exciting it would be if you and Marilla were to discover you were the heirs of an old, rich, mysterious long-lost relative who bequeathed her fortune to you with her very last breath. (I liked to make it a her, I hope you don't mind -- it's only that adventures give me much more of a thrill if women have something to do in them. Not that women aren't busy in real life -- Marilla never does quite stop, does she? -- but in truly good adventure stories it always seems like men get to have much more fun, while women wait around to be rescued -- not that it wouldn't be very hard work to rescue someone, for I'm sure it would be.) Anyhow, you and Marilla inherited vast sums of money from dear Aunt Imelda -- I don't suppose you have any aunts named Imelda?"
"Well now," Matthew says, "I don't rightly know," even though he does and there aren't any Aunt Imeldas. When Anne goes off on one of her rambles like this, it seems a real shame to slow her down.
"All right. Well, I'll imagine you do, just for now. Anyhow, dear old Aunt Imelda left you the richest folks in Avonlea -- on all of PEI, in fact! Of course, you never flaunted it, as the Pyes surely would, and you still wouldn't acquiesce to my pleas for a whole wardrobe of dresses with puffed sleeves, even if we could afford closets and closets of them now. You wanted me to keep a good head on my shoulders. Well, mostly Marilla did. But then you both dubbed me heir to your entire fortune, and the word got out, and I had suitors from all around the world -- this was a few years from now, of course, when I was old enough to think about marriage, although honestly, Matthew, I do think about it quite a bit now, but that can't be helped; spring is so romantic, don't you think? -- and they positively lined up outside Green Gables asking for my hand, but I didn't want to be loved for my fortune alone, so I lost my heart to the humble stable boy instead. (By then, we'd have a different stable boy, Matthew. Not that there's anything wrong with Jerry Boute. Well, not anything much.) Of course, the poor stable boy thought the whole thing was hopeless, because I was so rich and important. He was pining for me quite miserably. Oh, Matthew, can you think of anything lovelier than to be pined for? Sometimes I think it's my dearest dream. Other than jet black hair, that is."
"Well now," Matthew says, "I'm not sure about that."
"Of course, all the suitors in the world couldn't be as wonderful as that pair of earrings," Anne finishes with a happy sigh. "Oh, to think that I might inherit something, just as if I was a daughter myself. It really does make it seem like I'm yours."
"'Course you're ours," Matthew says in a surer, quicker voice than he's accustomed to hearing.
"Oh," Anne says, looking suddenly stricken, "but I don't have pierced ears."
"Well," Matthew says, "that's no bother, I expect. Isn't it something that young ladies do sooner or later?" Really, he hasn't got a clue. The very idea of paying attention to ladies' ears fills him with a distinct terror.
"Don't think I don't hear chattering where I ought to hear a good deal of nice, silent studying," Marilla says, breezing into the room. "Good Lord, Matthew, if you keep letting her run on like that, one day she may never stop. What manner of nonsense was she spouting this time?"
"Nothing, Marilla," Matthew says. He and Anne exchange small, conspiratorial smiles.
"Fiddlesticks," Marilla says extra-Marillaishly, when Anne broaches the subject of the earrings. "There's no sense in a girl of thirteen having pierced ears."
"Well, I know that," Anne admits reluctantly. Then her eyes take on that peculiar, inconvenient vibrancy, the kind that Marilla's learned to be downright wary of. It's impractically difficult to refuse the child anything when her eyes get like that. "But don't you think it's possible, Marilla, that one might have too much sense? That's almost as bad as not having any, don't you think?"
"No, I do not think," Marilla answers crisply. "The last thing you need, Anne Shirley, is a pair of valuable earrings. They'd get lost or worst."
"Oh, Marilla," Anne says, quite poignantly despairing. "Do you have so little faith in me?"
"I'd say just the opposite," Marilla replies, quite unmoved. "I have a great deal of faith in your ability to make trouble."
Anne lets out a long, weary sigh. Marilla ignores it.
"Might I at least have a look at them?"
Marilla supposes too much harm can't come of that. She retrieves them from her jewelry box and holds them in the palm of her hand so that Anne can see. It's a funny sight. Her hands are good, well-worked hands, and she's never been the featherbrained sort who'll lament a callous or line. Still, looking at the earrings brings back a slight, girlish feeling that Marilla never quite knew how to trust.
"Oh," Anne says, in a tiny little voice.
"They are pretty, aren't they," Marilla admits.
When she looks over at Anne, it's to discover that the child's eyes are bright with tears.
"For heaven's sake, child!"
"Oh, I can't help it, Marilla," Anne proclaims, one tear dancing down her nose. "They're so very lovely, and to see you holding them like that, and to know that one day I might inherit something so very beautiful from you--"
"Well, you are the closest thing to family we've got to pass ‘em down to, I suppose," Marilla says stiffly.
"The closest thing to family." Anne repeats it reverently, even though Marilla regrets the phrase a little as soon as it's left her mouth, for it doesn't quite seem to say enough. "I swear it, Marilla, sometimes this life is such a blessing that I just know I'm dreaming. One morning I will wake up, and I'll still be in that orphanage, with nothing but Katie Maurice to keep me company in the windows--"
"Oh, come now," Marilla says, trying to sound impatient. "If this were a dream, Anne Shirley, I reckon you'd have put much less geometry in it. Not to mention far fewer chores."
"Good point," Anne agrees. "Oh, Marilla. You make even sense seem wonderful sometimes."
"Why, thank you," Marilla says dryly.
"Oh, Anne," Diana says, her eyes like dinner plates. "It sounds so frightful and dangerous!"
"I know, Diana," Anne replies grimly. "But there are some things that turn even the greatest pain into a mere trifle, when one stops to consider the importance of the sacrifice."
"I dunno, Anne," Diana says, "don't you think Marilla will be awfully mad?"
"I suspect she will be, at first," Anne replies. "But eventually she'll have no choice but to recognize it as a gesture of love and honor."
"I don't think I can do it," Diana tells her. "I'll lend you my sewing needle, but I'm sure I'll faint if I even try."
"Really, Diana," Anne says sternly. "Did Isabella faint when she had to sever Lorenzo's head from his body and place it in her pot of basil? Did Procne faint when she had to slay her own son and feed him to Tereus in order to avenge poor Philomela?"
"Well, no," Diana admits, "but I don't think this is quite like that, Anne."
"It is," Anne insists, "a little."
Diana bites her lip.
"If you're not going to do it, then we'll have to find someone who will," Anne informs Diana in a whisper while Miss Stacy chastises Moody Spurgeon for tugging on Ruby Gillis' hair, again. "I don't think that any of the other girls will be able to stomach it either."
"What about Gilbert Blythe?" Diana suggests, going giddy at the thought. "Everyone knows he means to be a doctor when he grows up! He won't have any trouble with a bit of blood at all."
"Absolutely not," Anne says at once.
"Oh, but Anne--"
"No, Diana! This is a profound and spiritual ritual. I won't have him there making a mockery of it."
"I think it's a good idea," Diana says stubbornly.
Anne contemplates Gilbert. He's got his eyes fixed down on his workbook as he scribbles away, but his mouth is curving in a little smile at Moody's current predicament. Some friend. Still--
"His hand does look very steady," Anne allows reluctantly.
"Ladies," Miss Stacy says, leaving Moody to look very relieved, "I'm sure that if you're discussing a matter of excitement, the whole class would be thrilled to hear about it."
"It's nothing, Miss Stacy," Anne says with as much dignity as she can muster, while Diana works at choking her giggles back. "Nothing at all."
Gil looks back at her, the hint of a smile still at his lips. She looks down at her desk with utmost focus, and feels suddenly, disconcertingly aware of her earlobes.
Anne comes up next to Gil while they're all outdoors during lunchtime. The last thing she wants is to be anywhere near such a terrible fiend, but she wants to be seen talking to him even less. She grabs at his sleeve and pulls him behind a tree, so that no one will witness this horrible but necessary covenant.
"Well, hello to you, too," he says, laughing.
"I need a favor," she says, careful not to look at him.
"Sure," he agrees.
"You don't even know what it is," she points out, flustered.
He shrugs. "Anything to help out a friend."
"I am not your friend."
"I might not be yours," Gil replies serenely, "but you're mine."
Oh, for heaven's sake! "You, Gilbert Blythe, are the most--"
"What about this favor?" Gil reminds her, smirking a little.
She forces herself to choke down all the lambasting she yearns to do. "You're going to be a doctor."
"Well," she says, "I have a surgical procedure for you."
She sneaks a glance at him. He's frowning.
"I'm not a doctor yet," he points out. "I don't even know how to--"
"Do you want to help me or don't you?" Anne interrupts.
Gil considers her for a few searingly quiet moments. She can hear her classmates laughing and screeching only a few feet away. She feels a thousand miles from them. The world has gone strange: it's as if it's only got her and Gil in it. She does wish he wouldn't smile like that. She fiercely hates the corners of his lips.
"I would love to help you, Anne Shirley," he says at last.
They meet in the wood at twilight, because Anne decides that it seems quite appropriately reverent for such an important ceremony. Diana brings her sewing needle -- Anne supposes they could have used her own, but she likes to think the pain will be a little sweeter if it's given by an object so often held by her bosom friend -- and they stand there listening to woodland sounds and waiting for Gilbert. (Anne won't be surprised if he doesn't show up at all.)
He does. Diana gets a bit silly at the sight of him, as she always does. Anne rolls her eyes.
"You're sure you want your ears pierced?" Gilbert asks. "I'm not sure the Cuthberts will--"
"I didn't invite you along so you could give your opinion on the matter," Anne says. "Perform the service you agreed to, sir, or kindly leave the premises."
"All right," Gil agrees, a little uneasily. He accepts the needle from Diana, who assures him that it's clean, and then he makes his way over to Anne.
He brushes her hair back. Her skin is set tingling where his fingertips meet her neck. His hands are warm -- far warmer than anyone's should be on a cool evening like this, she thinks dizzily. She stares firmly forward, so she can't see him; there's only the impression of him, the vague knowledge of him, tall and so very there on her left side. He takes her earlobe lightly between his thumb and pointer finger. The touch is feather light, a morning sigh, a breeze, a dandelion wish. With his other hand he holds the needle steady, and brings it in until she feels a tiny, hinting pinprick of cold.
"Ready?" he says softly. His thumb twitches, just barely, behind her earlobe.
"Mr. Blythe," Anne informs him as regally as she can from the ground, staring up into his blurry face, "I don't believe I require your services any longer."
"Second thoughts?" he asks, with his loathsome lips curving upward again. She wishes his face would never come into focus.
"I simply don't see what the point is in wearing such a fine pair of earrings," she answers archly, "when the only companions I have are foolish school children who certainly won't even begin to appreciate them."
Gil chuckles. Anne closes her eyes and pretends she's fainted again. It strikes her, somehow, as the easiest solution.
"I think perhaps it's for the best that the plan fell through," Anne says as she and Diana walk home arm in arm. "Marilla really would have been furious. And I suppose I probably would have lost one of the earrings some way or another. It's best to wait until I'm grown up enough to have somewhere splendid to wear them."
"You fainted right into his arms, Anne," Diana reports happily. "And he caught you like it was easy as anything. It was the most romantic thing I've ever--"
Anne stabs Diana in the arm with her sewing needle. Lightly. Just enough to get the point across.
"Eep!" Diana squeaks.
"You were saying, Diana?" Anne says warningly.
"Oh, nothing," Diana grumbles, and they continue on home in much-cherished silence.