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Gabe did not, after my initial morning at Shadow Grove, express any further interest in accompanying us to Merveille. Instead, he seemed suddenly to have developed an all-consuming passion for fishing. Through a classified ad in the Sunday paper, he bought himself a secondhand rowboat with an outboard motor and moored it in the rushes across the road from us. From then on, we hardly saw him. Every morning, he would disappear with a fuel can and his fishing gear immediately after breakfast and would reappear around dinnertime, sometimes bringing back a few bass, but, more often than not, empty-handed.
Once, Lisette surprised me by suggesting that he take me with him.
"Don't you think that it's time that you showed Nore some of the scenery along the river?" she asked him. "It's like a whole foreign world back there, so green and lovely. I'm sure she's never seen anything quite like it."
Gabe shot his mother a quick, dark glance and shook his head.
"Not yet," he said. "There's plenty of time for that. We've got all summer."
"Sometimes it's better not to put things off too long," said Lisette. "You never know what problems may arise if you do."
"I said, later," Gabe told her brusquely. "I'm just not ready yet."
He turned on his heel and stalked angrily out of the room.
That evening, he didn't come home until after dark. The rest of us had long since finished eating, and Josie and I were out in the kitchen in the process of loading the dishwasher. Gabe entered the room without a word of greeting, served himself from the soup pot on the back of thestove, and left again, still without speaking. A moment later, I heard the sound of his feet crashing hard upon the stairs and realized that he was taking his supper up to his room.
"Why is he acting this way?" I asked Josie, not attempting to conceal my hurt and bewilderment. "He seemed to like me well enough when I first got here. What have I done to make him so angry now?"
"You haven't done anything," said Josie. "Gabe gets like this when he's under a lot of pressure. He's got things on his mind, that's all."
"What sort of things?" I asked her, and then--as a possible explanation occurred to me--"Could it be that girl he used to go with, the one who gave him the herbs he uses in the anisette? He said that she lived in a cottage over by the river. Do you suppose he might be seeing her again?"
"No," Josie said with certainty. "Felicité is gone. She and Gabe broke up a long time ago."
"Maybe she's changed her mind and come back," I suggested. If that were the case, it would explain so many things--the long hours Gabe spent away from home each day, the often nonexistent catch after a whole day's fishing, his resistance to his mother's request that he take me with him on one of his excursions on the river.
"That's impossible," said Josie. "Felicité's dead."
"Dead!" For some reason, I reacted with as much shock to that statement as if I had known Gabe's former girlfriend personally. "When did that happen? Did Gabe just find out about it? No wonder he's been acting so distant and preoccupied."
"It didn't just happen. Gabe's known about it for years," Josie said. "He wasn't all that upset by it, even back when it happened. By then, the two of them had been broken up for ages."
"He wasn't upset by it!" I repeated incredulously. "But, Jo, he had to be! Maybe they weren't still going together, but to have somebody your own age, someone you'd once really cared about, die--"
"It happens all the time, Nore," Josie said calmly "Friends grow away from you, and they do die. That's why it's better not to get too attached to people. When you do, all that happens is that you end up sad."
Lying in bed that night, I thought back upon that statement and could hardly believe that the child had actually made it.