Title: The Other One We Make Characters: Katherine Brooke, Anne Shirley Notes: I've put most of the notes at the end, but there are just a few things I want to mention here. Written for the mini-games as part of @Briannakin's Pride Challenge. Thank you, @Briannakin, for coming up with this amazing challenge! Thank you also to @Findswoman for organizing WIP Month which gave me the motivation to actually finish this. My color and meaning was Red - Life. I was so excited to get it because it's absolutely perfect for Katherine. I only hope I've done justice to her and to the prompt! The title and the opening quote are taken from The Hard Way by Mary Chapin Carpenter. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy! ***** The Other One We Make ***** "We've got two lives, one we're given And the other one we make." ***** They laughed at me again today. "Fire! Fire!" Pointing and staring at the hateful red apron. I wanted to scream and hit them and run away. I ignored them and took my seat. I knew it was no use complaining to Aunt Gertrude again. Last time she told me I should shut up and stop bothering her and be thankful I had clothes. I threw myself across the bed and looked up at my picture. They laughed at me for that, too. One day all the other girls were whispering about which boys they liked best and talking about the husbands they'd like to have, and one felt sorry for me and asked me which boy I'd pick. "None," I said. "Oh, Katherine!" she said. "Surely there's at least one boy you find handsome. You must marry someday, you know, or you'll be an old maid." "I don't want to marry," I said. "I don't think boys are handsome." They all giggled at that. "I don't," I repeated stubbornly. "I won't marry, I'll go and explore the world." "Old maid, old maid," they chanted, and laughed. I set my jaw and made myself forget their laughter. I'd meant it though. I didn't think boys were handsome, I didn't want to marry, and I did want to see the world. I stared at my picture, imagining I was drinking from the cool spring under the palms and following the camels across the desert. I didn't belong here. Maybe I would there. ***** I frowned at my reflection, considering the stylish velvet hat with its brim pulled low over my forehead. "You're sure it's not too much?" I asked. "It's absolutely perfect, dear Katherine," Anne said. She stepped up beside me and threw her arm around my shoulders, her bright red hair a contrast to the rich dark red of the hat. "Thank you," I said impulsively. "For what?" Anne asked, turning from the mirror to face me directly. "For the hat," I said. "For your friendship." I swallowed past the lump in my throat and laughed. "Goodness, I sound so horribly sentimental! But I am grateful. You've helped me live." "Oh, Katherine," Anne said, and her voice was gentle. "You've always known how to live, I think. You just needed someone to remind you." "No," I said, and leaned into my friend's embrace. "I needed someone to teach me." All my life I'd felt so alone and different. My views on men and marriage had never changed. When girls in my classes whispered forbidden words about desire and chattered about how attractive one or another of our male classmates was I didn't understand what they meant. I'd heard rumors of women who loved other women, and for a time I'd wondered if I was one of them. But the thought of being with a woman in that way didn't interest me either. What interested me was travel. What I desired was to escape my life here and roam around the world. And I ached for simple companionship, someone I could confide in and laugh with, someone who didn't think it silly that I wanted to leave the Island, someone who might even love me a little. But the few men who approached me only wanted a lover or a wife and all the women seemed interested in was marriage and children and domesticity. As the years passed I concluded it was my own shortcomings and terrible failure in all aspects of life that explained why I couldn't seem to like and be like other people. I finally finished my studies and took the assistant principalship in Summerside, determined to pay back Uncle Henry and Aunt Gertrude for every cent I'd cost them. I grew more bored and lonely and bitter. I still dreamed about the camels and the spring in the desert, the world that lay out there beyond my room and my schoolhouse, but I began to lose hope that I'd ever see it. And then Anne arrived. And somehow she - brilliant, friendly Anne full of life and romantic dreams - decided I was worth befriending. At first I pushed her away but she persisted. And when I finally gave in and let myself trust her, I felt that a whole new world had opened up to me. She wasn't like anyone I'd ever met. True, she was engaged and madly in love with her Gilbert, and her dearest wish was to settle down and raise a family. But she had an imagination and she knew how to listen and she understood me in a way no one ever had. When I confessed that I didn't want marriage or a lover, that I wanted to travel and see the world, she didn't laugh or think it unusual. She encouraged my dreams, and she was so certain in her belief that I could pursue them and live the life I wanted to live that I started believing it too. I looked into the mirror again and tilted my head to view the hat from another angle. With Anne's arm still around my shoulders I smiled at our reflection. ***** I paused in the narrow cobblestone street to take a closer look at a display of bright silk shawls embroidered with colorful flowers. I let my hand slide over the soft fabric, admiring the exquisite needlework, until one shawl in particular caught my eye. It was a beautiful scarlet, trimmed with fringe in the same glorious red and flowers in shades of pink and yellow and orange. The elderly woman selling the shawls smiled and nodded as I held up the red one. Together, with my meager Spanish and gestures and smiles, we negotiated a price and I handed over my money. I thanked her and carefully tucked the heavy silk under my arm, preparing to go on my way, but she held up one finger. She removed a rose, red as my new shawl, from a box on the ground next to her and handed it to me. I reached for more coins but she shook her head and smiled again. "Preciosa," she said. "Gracias," I said, and I reached for her hand. "Gracias, señora." Later, with my new red shawl wrapped around me and the rose tucked behind my ear, I thought again of the woman's kindness, just one among dozens of kindnesses I had encountered in my travels so far. People could be interesting after all, these strangers I passed in foreign streets with their own lives and stories and languages. I had begun to truly understand that all of us, everywhere, were making our own journeys through the world in our own ways, and I couldn't wait to share my thoughts with Anne in my next letter. But for now, I revelled in being here, standing on the Spanish shore with Africa somewhere across the water and beyond that India, the Silk Road, the Orient. I might never find the desert spring from my childhood picture. But I would find strange, wonderful, new places filled with sights I couldn't yet imagine. My body tingled with the possibilities. The breeze blowing off the Mediterranean grew cooler as the sun sank below the horizon, casting gorgeous hues of red and orange across the sky and making the water shimmer like fire. Overcome with joy, I threw back my head and I laughed. ***** Spoiler: Notes Up until a couple of years ago I'd never heard about asexuality in humans. I don't even remember where I first saw it, but I came across an article or a blog post or something, and when I started reading something clicked. It was kind of comforting to realize this was me and there were other people out there like me. As soon as I saw this challenge and the first person POV I knew I wanted to write an asexual character, and I knew that character was Katherine Brooke. Anne of Windy Poplars has always been my least favorite of L.M. Montgomery's Anne books but I loved Katherine from the first time I read it. I knew her. She was a kindred spirit, as Anne would say. She's a minor character who only appears in this book, and only in about three chapters and a handful of other mentions, but I identify so strongly with her. She didn't want romance or kids or all those things we're automatically supposed to want, she just wanted to travel. I even had a picture like hers (mine was a Mediterranean villa with palm trees and water) and I used to watch the Weather Channel's international forecast and look at all the city names and just daydream about seeing them. So Katherine has always been close to my heart. The red apron and the kids yelling "Fire", the red velvet hat, Katherine paying back her aunt and uncle for raising her, her friendship with Anne, and her picture are all from the book. She also says in the book that she doesn't want marriage or a lover. I just took those elements and ran with them. The final section is my headcanon that Katherine did indeed get to travel and "know, not just believe, that the world is round", as she puts it. Her shawl is a flamenco shawl. This part of the fic is set in southern Spain because I feel like that would be a realistic destination for a single woman just starting to venture into the world in the late 1800s/early 1900s, Andalusia is the kind of word that makes me shiver because it just sounds like magic and I think she'd feel the same way, and I had a 'beach moment' of my own watching the sun set on a deserted beach in Malaga, which was one of the most beautiful and profound moments of my life. I'm also a sucker for beaches and sunsets in general. I think that's everything. Thank you again to @Briannakin for hosting this challenge, and if you've made it this far, thank you so much for reading!