Gabriels redemption, p.41
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.41
 

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard  
Page 41

 

  Chapter Thirty-nine

  May 2010

  St. James the Apostle Cemetery

  West Roxbury, Massachusetts

  Gabriel stood in front of the stone angels, their twin forms positioned like sentries on either side of the memorial. The angels were made of marble, their skin white and perfect. They faced him, wings spread wide, with a name etched on the marker that sat between them.

  The monument reminded him of the memorials in Santa Croce, in Florence. The likeness was intentional, since this monument was crafted after his own design.

  As he regarded the angels, he thought back to his time in Italy, of his volunteer work with the Franciscans. Of his experience next to St. Francis’s crypt. Of his separation from Julianne.

  If only he could wait until July first, there would be the possibility of reunion. But Gabriel wasn’t sure that she’d forgive him. He wasn’t sure anyone would forgive him, but he had to try.

  He reached into his pocket and retrieved his cell phone, dialing a number from the contact list.

  “Gabriel?”

  He took a deep breath. “Paulina. I need to see you. ”

  “What’s wrong?”

  He turned his back on the monument, somehow unable to speak to her while staring at the name that was carved in stone.

  “I just need to see you for an hour, to talk. Can we meet tomorrow?”

  “I’m in Minnesota. What’s this about?”

  “I’ll fly to Minneapolis tonight. Can we meet?” He was insistent, his voice tense and thin.

  She sighed heavily. “Fine. Let’s meet at a Caribou Coffee tomorrow morning. I’ll email the address. ”

  She paused, and Gabriel could hear her fidgeting in the background.

  “You’ve never flown across country to talk to me. ”

  He clenched his teeth. “No, I haven’t. ”

  “Our last conversation wasn’t exactly pleasant. You left me outside your building, crying. ”

  “Paulina. ” His tone was slightly pleading.

  “Then you cut off all contact. ”

  Gabriel began to pace, the phone pressed tightly to his ear.

  “I did. And then what happened?”

  She was quiet for a moment.

  “I went home. ”

  He stopped pacing.

  “You should have gone home years ago, and I should have encouraged you to do it. ”

  Silence reverberated between them.

  “Paulina?”

  “This is going to hurt, isn’t it?”

  “I don’t know,” he confessed. “We’ll talk tomorrow. ”

  He ended the call and hung his head before returning to the grave of their child.

  Paulina was nervous. She’d been utterly humiliated during her confrontation with Gabriel in the lobby of the Manulife Building. Acutely aware of her dependence on prescription sleep aids and alcohol, along with her dependence on her trust fund, she did what she’d sworn she would never do. She went home.

  She found a job. She moved into a modest but nice apartment. Even more incredibly, she met someone. Someone kind and loving, who wanted her and only her. Someone who would never look at another woman for the length of their relationship, and possibly, beyond.

  Now Gabriel wanted to talk, in person.

  Paulina loved Gabriel. But she also feared him. He’d been elusive and unattainable, even when she was pregnant and they’d lived together. There was always a part of him that he would never let her touch. She knew it. She accepted it. But she never liked it and she always felt his distance hanging over her, like a dark cloud that might pour rain at any moment.

  In the aftermath of their final confrontation, she realized he would never love her. She’d thought that Gabriel was simply incapable of love. But when she heard him speak about Julianne, it became clear that he was capable of loving someone and being faithful. How tragic that the woman he was capable of loving was someone other than her.

  Once she accepted it, a degree of freedom accompanied the inevitable pain and longing. She was no longer a slave trying to win her master’s affection. She was no longer someone with limited aspirations, putting her future on hold in order to keep herself available for him.

  As she entered the Caribou Coffee shop, she felt strong for the first time in years. It would be difficult to see him but she’d made so much progress in other areas of her life, surely she could make progress in her relationship with him.

  She found him sitting at a table for two in the back of the shop, his long fingers wrapped around a coffee mug. He was wearing a jacket and a button-down shirt but no tie. His trousers were clean and pressed and his hair was tidy. He was wearing his glasses, which surprised her, since he only wore them while reading.

  When he saw her, he stood.

  “Can I buy you a coffee?” He offered her a restrained smile.

  “Yes, please. ” She smiled in return but felt awkward. In the past he’d usually greeted her with a kiss, but now he maintained a polite, proper distance.

  “Still taking your coffee with skim milk and sweetener?”

  “That’s right. ”

  He moved to the counter as she took the chair opposite his.

  As he waited for Paulina’s order to be filled, Gabriel scratched his chin. She looked different. She still moved like a ballerina, her spine straight and her limbs controlled. But her appearance had changed.

  Her long blond hair was pulled into a low ponytail, her beautiful features free of cosmetics. She looked fresh and young, and much of the hardness that was evident in her expression the last time he’d seen her was gone.

  Her clothes were different, too. She’d always dressed well, with a preference for skirts and high heels fashioned by the latest designer. But today, she was clad in a long-sleeved blue top that was casual and plain, and she wore dark jeans with sandals. It had been years since Gabriel had seen her in casual clothes. He wondered what it meant.

  He placed the drink in front of her and took his seat, his hands moving once again to wrap around his coffee mug. He focused on the black liquid, trying to figure out what to say.

  “You look tired. ” Her blue eyes fixed on him with concern.

  Gabriel avoided her gaze, turning to look out the window. He wasn’t particularly interested in the Minneapolis scenery. He simply didn’t know how to begin.

  “We were friends once. ” She sipped her coffee and followed the path of his eyes, watching the cars that drove past. “You look as if you could use a friend. ”

  He turned his head, his eyes starkly blue behind the black frames of his glasses. “I’ve come to ask for your forgiveness. ”

  Her eyes widened and she placed her mug down on the table quickly, so as not to spill it.

  “What?”

  He swallowed loudly. “I never treated you the way a friend or a lover should be treated. I was callous and selfish. ” He sat back in his chair and looked out the window again. “I don’t expect you to forgive me. But I wanted to see you and say that I’m sorry. ”

  Paulina tried unsuccessfully to pry her focus from his face and his clenched jaw, but she couldn’t. She was almost shaking, she was so surprised.

  He watched the traffic pass and waited, waiting for her to say something. But she didn’t. At last, he met her gaze.

  Her mouth was open, her eyes wide. Then she closed her mouth.

  “We were involved for years, Gabriel, and you never once said you were sorry. Why now?”

  He didn’t answer, just leveled his eyes, the muscle in his jaw the only movement in his face.

  “It’s because of her, isn’t it?”

  Gabriel said nothing. Facing Paulina was difficult enough. He couldn’t speak of what Julianne meant to him—of how much she’d changed him, and of how much he feared the possibility that she wouldn’t forgive him when he returned to her.

  He accepted Paulina’s censure without argument. In his current s
tate, he craved punishment and disapproval, for he was all too conscious of his own sin.

  She watched his reaction, the emotions that moved across his face. He was in evident distress, something she’d not seen for some time.

  “I moved home,” she volunteered, quietly. “I enrolled in a treatment program and I’m going to meetings. I’ve even been seeing a counselor. ”

  She looked at him carefully. “But you knew that, didn’t you? I’ve been sending reports to Carson’s secretary. ”

  “I knew, yes. ”

  “She changed you. ”

  “Sorry?”

  “She’s changed you. She’s—tamed you. ”

  “This isn’t about her. ”

  “Oh, yes, it is. How long have we known each other? How long were we sleeping together? Never once did you ask me to forgive you for anything. Not even for—”

  He interrupted her quickly. “I should have. I tried to make up for things with money. By taking care of you. ”

  Gabriel winced, even as he said the words. He was familiar, all too familiar, with the type of man who would act in such a way so as to cover up his sexual indiscretions.

  Paulina picked up her coffee mug once again. “Yes, you should have. But I was a fool to settle for what we were. I couldn’t see my way out of it. But now I can. And I swear to God, Gabriel, I’m not going back. ”

  She pressed her lips together, as if she were trying not to say any more. Then, unexpectedly, she continued.

  “All these years, I was worried that my parents would slam the door in my face. I made sure that the taxi waited in the driveway while I rang the doorbell. ” She looked down at the table. “I didn’t make it that far. I was trying to navigate through the snow in my high heels when the front door opened and my mother came outside. She was still in her slippers. ” Paulina’s voice caught and her eyes welled up with tears. “She ran to me, Gabriel. She ran to me and wrapped her arms around me. I realized before I even entered the house that I could have come home years ago and she would have greeted me exactly the same way. ”

  “The prodigal daughter,” Gabriel murmured.

  “Yes. ”

  “Then you can understand my desire for forgiveness. ”

  She regarded him, his eyes, his expression. There was nothing about him that seemed insincere.

  “Yes,” she said slowly. “I’m just wondering why you’re asking for this now. ”

  He retreated back into his chair, his hands clutching his mug.

  “You were my friend,” he whispered. “And look at how I treated you. ”

  Paulina wiped at her eyes.

  Gabriel leaned forward.

  “And there’s Maia. ”

  An involuntary cry escaped Paulina’s lips.

  She was like him, in this respect. The mention of their child’s name caused immediate anguish. When the name was used without warning, the pain was especially sharp.

  “I can’t talk about her. ” Paulina closed her eyes.

  “She’s happy now. ”

  “You know I don’t believe that. When you’re dead, you’re dead. You go to sleep and never wake up. ”

  “I know that isn’t true. ”

  At Gabriel’s tone, Paulina’s eyes snapped open. There was something in his eyes. Something he was trying to hide, but that he clung to with more conviction than she’d ever seen him manifest before.

 
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