Mr. Gisborne had not planned a lot for us to do that first afternoon we were at the Falls. He figured we would be tired (actually, it was mostly the adults who were tired), so our instructions for the mid-afternoon hours were to stay in our rooms until four o’clock, when we would all assemble in the lobby and walk over to Goat Island for our first good look at the river and the waterfalls. Then we’d go to dinner at the Top of the Falls Restaurant.
Gil’s room, we learned, was right next door. He was staying with his mother—not the dream of most adolescents on a school trip, but I, of course, knew the reason: He needed her. Also, I’m sure the school would not want to put the responsibility for Gil’s condition on any other adult—and certainly not on another student. Schools know very well how to spell lawsuit.
I was happy to see that there was a (locked) door connecting our room to Gil’s. Hesitating a little, I knocked lightly on it, and Mrs. Bysshe opened the lock from her side.
She smiled when she saw who it was. “Well,” she said, “this is perfect. Gil will be so happy.”
“Can I see him?”
“Oh, he’s lying down for a little while, Vickie. I’ll let you know when he’s up and about, though … is that all right?”
She pulled the door softly shut. I turned toward Harriet, who was staring at my back, and shrugged.
I went to my backpack and pulled out a map of the Falls area.
“We might as well look at what we can do,” I said.
“Before Blue Boyle hurls us over the Falls?” Harriet was joking. And she wasn’t.
“That is not going to happen,” I said with false certainty. Actually, I had been kind of thinking the same thing myself. “I bet he doesn’t even know we’re here,” I offered.
“Would you bet your life on it?”
I didn’t see any need for an answer.
“Let’s just look at the map,” I said after a moment or two. I unfolded it on the coffee table in front of our little couch. I pointed to where our hotel was.
“I can read a map, Vickie,” said Harriet. I could tell she was in no mood for me to be playing travel agent.
“I know. I’m just … I don’t know.”
Harriet, I think, could tell that she’d hurt my feelings. She sighed deeply, then said, “All right, Miss Tour Guide,” she said, “let’s take a look.” But she was smiling.
We looked at the trail around Goat Island and the location where, tomorrow, we would ride The Maid of the Mist, a tourist boat that would take us right up to the edge of Horseshoe Falls. We’d also planned to see Cave of the Winds (a cave right at the foot of American Falls), and the site where Table Rock used to be before much of it toppled into the Falls in 1850. A man washing his carriage on the rock barely escaped with his life.[i]
There would be lots of walking and hurrying about tomorrow. I wondered how much of it Gil would actually be able to do.
“I hope Gil will feel like doing most of this,” Harriet said. And her words reminded me of why I loved her.