The months flew past for Gabrielle, and soon it was spring. The sun was growing stronger and the days warmer. Gabrielle spent her springtime days outside, in the small enclosed garden in the mornings and in the graveyard where Grannie lay so peacefully in the evenings.
Everything seemed so much calmer in the spring. There was less of the grey desolation that the endless days of winter took joy in continuing for the sake of making her wretched.
Family affairs did not improve. Gabrielle's days became busier. Her grandfather often demanded her to wait upon him as he complained more than ever about his rheumatism. School also busied, and the homework broadened considerably as the exams deciding Gabrielle's next school lined up in the days with chilling erectness.
Gabrielle's respite seemed to fall with Dominick's family. Several times a month she would have a baking morning, when she remembered her grandmother's favourite recipes and made bread and cakes and biscuits to the hummed tune of her grandmother's favourite songs. Memories replayed themselves in her head as she baked, and as she felt encouraged as she packed her morning's work into a wicker basket weaved by Grannie in her youth, and strolled through the city to Cotton Way. There Gabrielle would enter one of the crumbling Victorian houses and go down the stairs into the basement flat where Dominick's family resided.
There were six of them in the flat. Dominick's mother, who had been born in Macedonia, and brought up in the heart of London, was a tall anxious woman who snapped at her children, but welcomed Gabrielle and her cooking as she would welcome a millionaire's legacy. Dominick's father was a thin grey man whose hands were permanently smeared in oil and dirt.
One such day in spring, Gabrielle arrived in the basement flat to an atmosphere of silence and dejection. Leaving the door open behind her, so as to leave herself an escape route if the atmosphere was too overpowering, she set Grannie's basket on the yellowish lino floor and peered around.
"Hello," she called, and her voice echoed on the dark walls of the windowless room.
"Hello," she said again, projecting her voice further. "Is anyone there?"
A whimper from somewhere in the shadows behind the small fridge answered her.
"Liljana?" said Gabrielle, approaching the fridge. A tiny girl no more than four crawled out of the darkness, and Gabrielle saw her smudged cheeks.
"Gabrielle," sighed the little girl as Gabrielle pulled her into her arms and rocked her to and fro like a baby.
"Liljana," said Gabrielle, "what's happened? Where is everyone?"
The girl lifted trusting grey eyes to the cracked ceiling. "Mummy lost a baby," she said softly.
Gabrielle gasped. "How horrible!" she cried at once.
"No," replied the little girl. "It's good. Dominick said that we couldn't possibly feed seven people and he'd have had to leave if Mummy hadn't lost the baby."
"But he couldn't leave!" cried Gabrielle in consternation. How could a family be happy at a miscarriage? "He's not even thirteen yet!"
"There are too many of us," stated the tiny girl. She hesitated, and Gabrielle wondered what was coming next. "Did you bring lemon cookies?"
Gabrielle smiled and shuffled towards the door where she retrieved her basket.
"Where are your family?" she asked.
"Mummy was feeling a bit faint, so Daddy took her to the hospital for a bit," said Liljana as she munched on her cookie. "Dominick has gone out to find a sleeping tonic for when she gets back. Danica is working and Aleksandar has gone somewhere. I don't know."
Gabrielle nodded with a frown, but just then the door swung a bit, and a boy of a little more than five foot walked in. Aleksandar was nearly eleven, much taller than Dominick, and his voice had already broken.
Gabrielle surveyed him with a smile. "Where have you been, leaving your little sister at home alone, Aleks?" she said.
The boy, who had stubbly red hair and was covered in freckles, mumbled something, and Gabrielle shrugged.
She stayed until late evening, when seventeen-year-old Danica returned from her job, and then bid the family goodbye with promises to return soon.
But as she walked home in the dusky evening she was worried. She had been trying to help the family with her baking. But they needed more than just good sweet food every couple of weeks. They needed cooperation, and a better living environment. She mused all the way home on the irresponsibility of Aleksandar, and the trust of Liljana; the happiness a family could feel for a tragic occurance.
But then she began to wonder how the family would manage if Dominick's mother did have another baby. Who would stay home and care for the baby? Who would work twice as hard to feed it? How could Dominick possibly survive on the streets alone? And that made her more appalled than the simple fact of their joy at the miscarriage.