Gabrielle glared round her grimy college room. She could hear sparrows nesting in the sagging ceiling and cockroaches nesting under the damp carpet with eerie little crackles. Was there any way in which she could brighten up her room? Just a bit.
It was February, and the snow had set in up in Melif. Gabrielle trudged to lectures in snowshoes, and when she didn't feel like that, she huddled under the bedcovers and wished herself a warm radiator somewhere near.
Standing from her hard narrow iron-posted bed, Gabrielle shuffled to the desk, where she pulled out six skinny drawers and emptied their contents in the middle of the floor. Then she eyed the pile of rabble and jetsam.
Magnet from Iceland, courtesy of Hermann Dennison. Notebook from Ireland, picturing an ugly bearded leprechaun, courtesy of Alba O'Brian, who seemed to imagine herself as a close friend of Gabrielle's. Half-used packet of tissues from Hermann. Hairslides from Alba. An assortment of discarded CDs from Hermann and Alba. Shop vouchers from Hermann. Lightbulbs bought by Hermann. Batteries from Hermann. A biro...from Hermann. Hermann, Hermann, Hermann, Hermann HERMANN!
Gabrielle flung a handful of knickknacks across the room and heard the satisfying sound of cracking window glass.
Hermann! For goodness’ sake, why couldn’t he just go away? Why did he have to be there, always, just there? Why had she ever met him, while he taunted her in this way, leading her in and out of hope and despair, and then suddenly without warning announcing his alliance to a girl Gabrielle had never met before; and now that she had met that girl, Gabrielle was few paces short of wringing her slim slippery neck before it slipped from her grasp once again, and Hermann with it.
Gabrielle pressed her middle fingers to the flanks of her head and willed her imaginary headache to go away. Moreover, she willed her heartache to be gone. Hermann could just go away. She didn’t want him. She didn’t want anything to do with him.
The image of a very tall grey-eyed man with short brown hair flashed into her mind, and Gabrielle felt her eyes water alarmingly. Why did it have to be so complicated? Why couldn’t she just have stayed with Dominick for ever and ever? She had lost him. Could she ever find him again? Would he still love her?
Of course he would, she assured herself. Of course he would. Dominick…she knew with that simplicity of youthful romance that she and Dominick were meant to be together.
"Grannie," she sighed, "please help me." Then she decided against the appeal. Grannie was dead. A deep depression loomed over her like the boding menace of a thundercloud just waiting to deafen her eardrums with its mighty clap.
"Dominick," she whispered. Instead of Grannie. "Won't you come?"
But Dominick did not come. And he did not come the day after that, or the day after that. Because Dominick was elsewhere. He did not dear the desperate pleas of his erstwhile friend, because they were drowned out by the roaring of the thunder. Or perhaps he was distracted, and his ears did not register her cry. And so our poor Gabrielle was left alone to her tears, the rain of the storm, trying in vain to mask the thunder and drench the fire.