The spring sunshine seemed especially warm as Diana Barry wandered the path through the woods back to the farmhouse and read the invitation again, though she’d already read it so many times since it had arrived in that afternoon’s post that she had it memorized.
Miss Anne Shirley requests
The pleasure of your company
At afternoon tea
Green Gables Farm
Saturday, the seventh of May
It wasn’t that she hadn’t visited Green Gables on countless occasions, but this felt different. Marilla Cuthbert, Anne’s guardian, intimidated Diana to no end. But Marilla was going to be gone for the afternoon, leaving Anne to tend the house. Anne had spoken of nothing else for days at recess. And now this invitation had arrived.
For a moment she was afraid her mother would turn her down. But the Barrys had been friends with the Cuthberts since the beginning of time, so even though her mother muttered something about how she wished Marilla Cuthbert would spend more time on the Ladies’ Aid and less time making currant wine, eventually Helen Barry relented.
Later that night, Diana lay in her bed, watching the moonbeams play across the quilt, and daydreamed. She rarely let herself think about it, but Anne Shirley fascinated Diana. When she had first heard her mother gossiping with Mrs. Lynde about how the Cuthberts had adopted a girl instead of a boy, her interest had been piqued. She had hoped for a friend with whom she could share her secrets and play with at recess, someone to help her be less bothered by the likes of Josie Pye. In her heart of hearts, maybe she had hoped for more. What she got was Anne Shirley, and Anne, with her flame-red hair and freckles and endless flights of fancy, was all that and so very much more. They were the best of friends. Bosom friends. Kindred spirits, Anne said. And maybe, with this invitation to tea at Green Gables… Maybe they could even be all that Diana wanted, in her heart of hearts, for them to be. With that happy thought in mind, she turned over and allowed herself to drift off to sleep.
The day of the tea party dawned clear and promised to be sultry. While her mother fussed over her like a chickabiddy, Diana carefully brushed her dark hair ( raven tresses , Anne had called it) and put on her Sunday best. It was a new blue dress and hat with ribbons and she knew the puffed sleeves were the very height of fashion.
“There, now you look perfect,” Helen Barry said, brushing her hands down the back of Diana’s dress one final time. “Be sure you mind your manners, now.”
“Yes, Mama,” Diana responded, and managed not to run until a glance over her shoulder told her that her mother had turned back to her chores and was no longer watching. Then she bolted across the field and down the White Way of Delight toward Green Gables.
The day was unseasonably warm, and by the time Diana knocked on the front door of Green Gables and was admitted, she was perspiring more than a lady should, and her heart pounded with more than just exertion as Anne chattered about the dishes, the fruitcake, and all that was involved in keeping house.
“The raspberry cordial is freshly made, Miss Barry,” Anne said grandly. “Do help yourself.”
Diana picked up the pitcher and poured, grateful that Anne was too absorbed in her housekeeping to notice how her hands shook as she took the tumbler and sipped, then drank deeply of the ruby-colored liquid. It was deliciously fruity, with a slightly sour, tangy aftertaste. Before she knew it, the tumbler was empty. Anne was sitting across from her now. The sun was shining on that gorgeous red hair and Anne was still talking.
“You must be thirsty after your walk. Have some more cordial,” she offered, refilling the tumbler.
The second glass went down even faster than the first, but things were beginning to feel strange. Her vision blurred and the room began to spin. She slurred something that might have been “I love you,” but she wasn’t sure.
“Just lie down, Diana. I’m here, I’ll take care of you.” Anne’s voice sounded further and further away as her vision smeared.
The room felt hot as a sudden wave of nausea started in her stomach. Oh, lord. She couldn’t be sick, not in front of Anne, beautiful Anne whom she loved with all her heart. “I gotta go home...don’ feel so good…” she mumbled.
Somehow she must have gotten home, because her next memory was of being back in her bed, the room spinning as her head pounded. From downstairs, she could hear her parents talking, her mother railing loudly against Marilla Cuthbert, her currant wine, and her “heathen orphan.” Over and over, Diana had tried to explain that it hadn’t been currant wine, it had been raspberry cordial. But the words wouldn’t form, and when they did form, they somehow got lost between her head and her tongue. It wasn’t currant wine, only raspberry cordial. Only raspberry cordial had never made Diana so sick.
It was three whole days before Diana was well enough to get out of bed again. By that time her mother’s rage at Anne Shirley had cooled, but her resolve refused to loosen. No daughter of hers would have anything to do with that heathen orphan and her wine-making guardians, Helen Barry inisted.
The months without Anne stretched painfully. Fine spring days became the heat of summer, the trees blazed with autumn, and still Helen Barry would not allow her daughter contact with Anne. Diana still caught herself daydreaming about that red hair and wild imagination on long school days, but she kept her word to her mother and didn’t try to make contact with her friend.
On a winter’s night, however, when her mother had gone with friends for the evening, leaving Minnie May with a terrible cough and high fever and Mary Jo the nanny fluttering uselessly about, Diana had had enough. In such a terrible situation, Anne would know what to do. Anne always knew what to do.
Her instincts proved correct. Once Anne had saved Minnie Mae’s life, Helen Barry changed her mind about the heathen orphan. As winter melted into spring, Diana dared to dream.