The Summer passed peacefully for Gabrielle, who took her life in her stride and managed to forget about her problems when they were not in her immediate surroundings. She brooded sometimes on Grannie's death, and would go several times a week to the basement flat in Cotton Way, but she focussed on enjoying her Summer of solitary calm; Gabrielle's heart truly beat with Time.

Dominick never referred again to the day when his father had aimed a blow at him, nor did he betray any remembrance of that hot tear that had once fallen on Gabrielle's neck, rolled down her spine and burned through her skin to her heart. In fact, the first time she visited the family after that day, he had turned his back on her and refused to speak for the whole of her time there.

He had scarcely acknowledged her existence, even as the purple bruise on his left cheekbone burned bright in his pale face. As Gabrielle glimpsed his eyes reflected in the lamp glass, she saw that they were hard and stony, she wondered if his heart was hard and stony too.

But Gabrielle didn't believe that. She knew it was his nature. She knew that in truth he was aching, aching for himself, aching for Liljana, for his dad, his whole family. But he didn't want to show that. He was proud, was Dominick, and he did not want her to remember that he had cried.

Gabrielle had been saving her money for months, and in early August treated herself to a family tree computer programme, spending the rest of the month logging the vast amounts of data on her huge rolls of creamy paper onto the programme, and then rolling her papers back up and stacking them in her closet. She and Grannie had spent many happy hours on the floor of her little room, those great sheets a blanket over the rough beige carpet.

Dianna did not bother her elder sister much in these hours. She spent the majority of her time at the Summer Palace, sitting primly in the six-hundred-year-old ivory pavilion in the shrub garden with her rich friends. Gabrielle often imagined them all in their expensive clothes, drinking tea from shiny porcelaine cups with gold-rimmed saucers, conversing in quiet and ladylike tones. She smiled to herself as she pictured it. Gabrielle was twelve, and Dianna was even younger. Due to her posh friends, it seemed that Dianna had missed out on her childhood. And in that respect, Gabrielle felt a touch of sympathy for her otherwise unsympathiseable younger sister. Maybe she should have sistered Dianna a little more. A memory sprang to mind.

She was sitting in the huge straightbacked armchair that had been in the Mountain family for generations. It felt very large and hard, and the leather pushed up on her rear end as if it were an ejector seat.

"Grannie! I'm a Mountain!" cried Gabrielle.

Her Grannie said something in reply as Gabrielle bounced up and down on the chair, then the lady crawled over on the floor and gathered Gabrielle up into her arms and showered her in kisses.

Gabrielle giggled as she wriggled out of Grannie's grip. Then she spotted her sister sitting cross-legged on the floor nearby, staring with wide, lonely eyes.

"Di! Come and try the Mountain chair with me!" cried Gabrielle, reaching out her hands.

Dianna stood and toddled over, but just then large hands swooped down and plucked her from her plight.

"Dianna is coming to bake cookies with Mother," said Michaela, directing a cold glare at her older daughter and taking Dianna out of the room.

Gabrielle felt a horrible sense of guilt. Firstly, even at such a young age, she had been too self-centred to recall Grannie's words to her. She could remember herself bouncing on the chair, but she could not remember Grannie's voice as she spoke those kind words.

Secondly, Dianna's eyes as she sat alone on the floor reminded Gabrielle of her own eyes. They were the same eyes, green and sparkling, full of character but lacking in real friendship. Suddenly Gabrielle recognised a weakness in her sister. Her sister had needed companionship, and Gabrielle had not given it. And now her sister had turned away from her, and Gabrielle was cold-shouldered.

But finally, Gabrielle felt one more pang of regret. Something in her mother's voice as she whisked Dianna away spelt jealousy to Gabrielle. Jealousy because while Gabrielle was played with and kissed and loved, Michaela's favourite daughter was left sitting alone. And although that was Michaela's fault for neglecting her first daughter as soon as her second was born, Gabrielle saw it and felt sorry for not noticing it before.

And then she dismissed the whole remembrance from her mind, a thought coming to her that perhaps if she continued pondering it might lead to Grannie neglecting her second granddaughter and so helping the rivalry between her and her own daughter, and it would not do to think such thoughts of Grannie, even in passing. It would damage Gabrielle's trust in all she knew and loved, and she saw this with a little fear, and so she did not dare challenge the possibility further.

The only other event that happened over the Summer other than what I have already related is one time when Gabrielle was taking a detour after her visit to Cotton Way.

It was late on a late Summer evening, and though the sun was still in evidence behind a large sycamore tree, the air was growing colder with rapidness.

Gabrielle was walking along when she shivered. It was only a small shiver, but for a second it disorientated her reactions. Then she stopped. Had she seen something, in the midst of that shiver? Or had it been that disorientation, that momentary confusion of senses?

No, she thought not. That meant that she had seen a flicker of a bright red head bobbing into view, and then out again.

Gabrielle pivoted on the pavement, her eyes sharpening in the effort to see that something that may or may not have caught her eye.

She did not see it again.

But it was an unthought supposition that Aleksandar had been lurking somewhere behind one of the buildings, perhaps watching her, perhaps hiding from her.

Gabrielle didn't know how such distrusting assumptions could hold her prey. She was sure she trusted Aleksandar, as she trusted all of Dominick's family, except perhaps his father. But she knew she had often recognised distrust in Aleks's own eyes. He didn't trust her. She knew it was just his nature. She didn't resent it.

But it unsteadied her own trust in him.

The End

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