Word count: 98,000
The first boy I ever loved did not exist. I was ten years old when I readAnne of Green Gables and met Gilbert Blythe. Kind, handsome and funny, he loved Anne no matter how much trouble she caused. While some girls fantasized over teen movie stars and boy bands, I wished for a Gilbert to show up at school and call me “carrots,” even though my hair was plain old brown.
The other kids teased me for stenciling his name on my school notebooks, but my teacher assured my parents my obsession was only a childhood infatuation. I would outgrow it.
When I met the first man I truly loved, I wasn’t a child, but that didn’t stop me from falling for another piece of fiction.
It began withJane Eyre. My favorite book since I first read it at 16, I still return to the novel on cold, grey days when I need a little romance in my life. One lifeless February afternoon, I was alone at the bookshop, so I left off dusting shelves and wandered into our used section to read. I loved this tiny corner of the store, the darkness, the vanilla tea scent of old paper, and the floor-to-ceiling shelves crammed with familiar titles: To Kill a Mockingbird, Middlemarch, Cold Sassy Tree, Pride and Prejudice. I stroked each of their cracked spines in turn like beloved pets, but there was only one book I wanted. I found Jane Eyre squeezed in the back corner of a high shelf—precisely where I’d last left it—and began to read.