I used to sit out on the balcony, the mellow June sun assembling on my face, watching the sky. I don’t know what I was watching for, or what I expected to see, but I watched and waited all the same. I had this feeling, this whisper of an idea that rubbed itself over me. Sometimes the whispers pressed so hard I thought I couldn’t breathe. Prince Edward Island. Do it.
I’d stare at the purple blossoms on the trees, winding bits of strawberry blonde hair round my fingers, and close my eyes. I’d close my eyes and imagine desperate courage, dwindling terror, aeroplane food, kisses with strange boys. I’d imagine tingling fingers and trembling lips and then I’d get up, my heart heavy and light simultaneously, and go inside. I’d pull on my work t-shirt, the one splattered with Colonel Sanders imagery and sigh. Before I left for the 901 bus I’d read a passage from Anne Of Green Gables and then tuck the book into my bag.
"We have agreed to call the spring down by the log bridge the Dryad’s Bubble. Isn’t that a perfectly elegant name? I read a story once about a spring called that. A dryad is a sort of grown-up fairy I think.'
As I rode the bus to work, I’d lean my face against the glass, feeling the vibrations as we rumbled along. I wondered about Anne, about Diana, about Marilla, about Mrs Rachel Lynde, about dear Matthew and his kind, tender heart. I felt tears form in my eyes as clouds drifted across the sky. I wondered if I would ever get the chance to leave my suburban life, my suburban job, my suburban Australia. Would I ever really find myself in the place that Anne was created? The place L.M Montgomery lived and wrote and dreamed and cried? It seemed unlikely. Frankly, it seemed impossible. I pulled the book out and stroked its spine.
There were days that were long and hard, days where my heart seemed to fall out of my chest, where my boyfriend didn’t return my calls and the ache I felt in my bones seemed to take over completely. Sometimes my boyfriend, Louis, would come over, and he’d look at me like he didn’t understand my words and I’d look back, wondering if we even spoke the same language. Then he’d fall asleep and I’d pick up Anne and read, tears slipping down my nose and onto the pages. I’d fall asleep with the book in my hands and when I woke up, Louis would be gone. One night, I found him out in the lounge room, pocketing hundreds of dollars from my mother’s wallet. When I questioned him, he told me about a best friend over in England, how she had hung herself and Louis had been the one to find her. Then he cried, and showed me a bruise on his arm. He said his father had given him that bruise. I believed him and we drank warm tea and held each other in the slinky darkness.
I used to pretend that my reflection was another little girl. I called her Katie Maurice and we were very intimate. I used to talk to her by the hour, especially on Sunday, and tell her everything. Katie was the comfort and consolation of my life.
When Louis ignored me, when he went to parties and drank until he passed out, I would talk to Anne. I would describe my day to her. I would explain about the fat man with the salt and pepper moustache and the woman with hairy arms. How they ordered two buckets of chicken and sat in the corner of the restaurant, wiping their mouths on the shirtsleeves. I’d describe the area manager, how he came in to explain the new ‘krusher’ machines and I’d sigh, looking at my reflection, longing to see Anne gazing back. Her fire coloured hair twisted into plaits.
‘You do know Anne’s dead,’ my dad once said. ‘I mean, even if she was real, she’d definitely be dead by now.’ He rubbed his hands on an oil rag and stared at me.
I responded whimsically. ‘She’s not dead. She comes alive every time I open the book.’
He laughed at me. ‘Touché,’ he smiled, and turned away. I watched him walk up the stairs to the house and pondered his statement. I thought about how Anne would imagine her death, describing it to her bosom buddy, Diana.
'I was buried under those poplar-trees in the graveyard and you planted a rose-bush by my grave and watered it with your tears; and you never, ever forgot the friend of your youth who sacrificed her life for you.'
I knew that Anne would never die. I knew she was always with me, that she understood me better than anyone else ever could. I went inside and sat in front of the counter. I logged into my bank account. I stared at the figures and then I picked up the phone. My heart throbbed and fluttered, broke open a little, climbing into my throat. I made odd noises, crossed my fingers, breathed deeply. The lady on the other end of the phone informed me that there was nothing on the Island, that I’d be better off going to Vancouver. When I mentioned Anne, she made a strange squeak and said Yes, that was a good movie, wasn’t it. I swallowed, confirmed my credit card details, and hung up. The days at KFC flung themselves over my shoulder slowly. I chucked fries into hot oil and smiled at finger licking strangers.
When my boyfriend, Louis, broke up with me, I cried a lot. I lay in bed and looked up at the ceiling. I counted the lines on my hands. I called him and begged him to take me back. I told him I didn’t care about the lies, the money he stole, the bruises and scratches he inflicted on himself. I told him I would be better but he just cried, said he was dealing with a lot, that he didn’t love me. I asked him why he had slept with me two days earlier and he responded with ‘I was horny.’ My stomach threw itself into a shape that resembled an elephant. I decided, then and there, that I would never get over him. He was my one true love.