Gabriels redemption, p.5
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.5

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
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Page 5


  “He said that?” Rachel sat up in her chair, her voice raised.

  “Not in so many words. ”

  “What’s wrong with him? I would have thrown something at his head. ”

  Julia grinned wryly. “I thought about it, but I didn’t want to have to clean up the blood. ”

  Rachel laughed.

  “Why does he think your paper is terrible?”

  “He thinks I’m wrong. He said he was trying to help. ”

  “Sounds like Gabriel is trying to control your paper like he tries to control everything else. I thought he was in therapy for that. ”

  Julia was quiet for a moment.

  “I don’t want him to lie to me just to spare my feelings. If the paper needs work, I need to know that. ”

  “He should know how to help you without saying your paper is terrible. ”

  Julia exhaled in frustration. “Exactly. He says he wants to start a family with me. Then he turns around and acts like a condescending ass. ”

  Rachel lifted her hand and gestured for her friend to stop. “Wait a minute. He wants to have kids?”

  Julia squirmed. “Yes. ”

  “Jules, that’s huge! I’m so happy for you. When are you going to start trying?”

  “Not for a while. We agreed to wait until I graduate. ”

  “That’s a long time. ” Rachel’s voice grew quiet.

  “It would be too difficult to work on a PhD and have a baby. ”

  Rachel nodded. She fidgeted with the hem of her T-shirt.

  “We’d like to have a baby. ”

  Julia moved so that she could see her friend better. “What, now?”

  “Maybe. ”

  “How did you know you were ready?”

  Rachel smiled. “I don’t, really. I’ve always wanted kids, and Aaron feels the same way. We’ve been talking about it since high school. I love Aaron. I would be happy to live with him, just the two of us. But when I envision the future, I see kids. I want us to have someone who will come home for Christmas. If I learned anything from losing my mother, it’s that life is uncertain. I don’t want to wait to start a family and then lose my chance. ”

  Julia felt tears threatening, but she blinked them back. “You have yearly mammograms, right?”

  “Yes, and I’ve had genetic testing. I don’t have the breast cancer gene, but I don’t think Mom had it, either. Even if she did, by the time they would have realized it, it was too late. ”

  “I’m so sorry. ”

  Rachel sighed and looked out the window. “I don’t like talking about it, but it weighs on me. What happens if we have kids, and I get cancer? It’s always in the back of my mind. ”

  She turned to face her friend. “Having kids is one way to rid Gabriel of his condescending attitude. ”

  “Why’s that?”

  “He won’t be condescending when the baby empties a dirty diaper on him. He’ll be shouting your name, begging for help. ”

  Julia laughed. But all too soon, she grew sober.

  “I just want him to think that my ideas are important. They’re just as important as his. ”

  “Of course they are. Tell him that. ”

  “I will. But right now, I’m not speaking to him. ”

  Rachel ran her hand over the armrest, back and forth.

  “He’s come a long way. To see him married and talking about starting a family—it’s remarkable. Mom told me that when they first brought Gabriel home, he used to hide food in his room. No matter what they said or did, he pocketed something at every meal. ”

  “Was he hungry?”

  “He was afraid of being hungry. He didn’t trust that Mom and Dad would feed him. So he was building up a reserve for when they stopped. He didn’t unpack his bags, either. Not until after they adopted him. He kept expecting them to send him away. ”

  “I didn’t know that. ” Julia’s heart felt heavy.

  Rachel offered her a sympathetic look. “He’s my brother and I love him. But he speaks without thinking. His issue with your paper is probably that you didn’t write it the way he would have. ”

  “I’m not going to write things his way. I have my own ideas. ”

  “My advice is to talk to him. Of course, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to let him sweat a little. Make him sleep on the couch. ”

  “Unfortunately, I’ll probably be the one on the couch. ” Julia pointed to the sofa that stood against the opposite wall.

  To say that dinner was awkward would be an understatement.

  Julia and Gabriel sat side by side. They even held hands during grace. But there was only painful, detached politeness—no warm glances, no whispered words of affection, no fleeting touches under the table.

  Gabriel’s spine was ramrod straight, his demeanor cool. Julia was quiet and remote.

  Richard, Aaron, and Rachel kept the conversation fluid while the Emersons barely spoke. After dinner, Julia declined dessert and excused herself to work on her lecture.

  Gabriel’s eyes followed her as she left the table, a muscle jumping in his jaw. But he didn’t stop her. He simply watched her walk away.

  When Rachel went to the kitchen to make coffee, Aaron decided that he’d had enough. He leaned across the table.

  “Man, suck it up and tell her you’re sorry. ”

  Gabriel lifted his eyebrows.

  “Why are you assuming that I’m at fault?”

  “Because you’re the one with a dic—” Aaron caught his father-in-law’s eye and began coughing. “Um, statistically speaking, eighty percent of fights are the guy’s fault. Just apologize and get it over with. I don’t want to have to sit through another meal like that. It’s so cold in here, I’m going to have to go outside to warm up. ”

  “I think I have to side with Aaron. Not that you’re asking. ” Richard chuckled to himself.

  Gabriel looked between the two men with something akin to disgust.

  “I tried talking to her. That’s how our argument started. She locked herself in the bathroom and told me to get lost. ”

  Richard and Aaron exchanged a knowing look.

  “You’re in trouble. ” Aaron whistled. “You’d better talk to her before bed or you’re looking at couch time. ”

  He shook his head before moving to the kitchen to join his wife.

  Richard tapped the stem of his wine glass thoughtfully.

  “Et tu, Brute?” Gabriel scowled.

  “I didn’t say anything. ” Richard looked at his son kindly. “I’ve been trying to stay out of it. ”

  “Thank you. ”

  “But there’s a reason why old married couples tell the young ones not to let the sun go down on their anger. Dealing with problems when they’re small will make both of your lives easier. ”

  “I can’t exactly have a conversation through a locked door. ”

  “Of course you can. You wooed her once; woo her again. ”

  Gabriel wore an incredulous expression. “You’re telling me to woo my wife?”

  “I’m telling you to let go of your ego, apologize, and then listen to her. I wasn’t always the man you see before you. You can learn from my mistakes. ”

  “You and Mom had the perfect marriage. ”

  Richard laughed.

  “Our marriage was far from perfect. But we made a pact early on that we would keep the imperfection out of sight and hearing of you children. Children get anxious when their parents argue. In my experience, couples fight over money, sex, and a lack of respect or attention. ”

  Gabriel began to protest, but Richard lifted a hand. “I’m not asking what your disagreement was about. That’s between you and your wife. It’s obvious that Julia’s feelings have been hurt. She was very withdrawn over dinner, the way she used to be before she began seeing you. ”

  “I’m not the one who shut down rational communication. ” Gabriel sounded imperious.

  “Listen to yourself. ” Richard’s tone turned scol
ding. “Julia isn’t irrational. She’s hurt. When someone hurts you, it’s rational to withdraw. Especially considering her history. ”

  Gabriel grimaced. “I didn’t mean to hurt her. ”

  “I’m sure that’s true. But I’m also confident that you don’t fight fairly. Learning how to argue with a spouse is an art, not a science. It took your mother and me a long time to figure it out. But once we did, we rarely argued. And when we did, it wasn’t ugly or hurtful. If you can argue with Julia while still convincing her that you love her and that she’s important to you, your conflicts will be easier to manage. ” Richard finished his wine and placed the glass on the table.

  “Take it from someone who was married a while and who brought up a daughter. When a woman withdraws and is cold, it’s because she’s protecting herself. My advice is to be gentle with your wife and coax her out of that locked room. Or prepare to spend a lot of lonely nights on the couch. ”

  It was after midnight by the time Julia closed her laptop. She knew everyone had gone to bed. She’d heard their footsteps in the hall.

  She crept to the door of the study and opened it. Light shone from underneath the closed door to the master bedroom. No doubt Gabriel was awake, reading.

  She contemplated going to him. But the distance to his bed seemed interminable.

  She grabbed the bottle of bubble bath she’d spirited away from their bathroom after dinner. She’d take another hot bath in the guest bathroom and try to forget her troubles.

  A half hour later, Julia reentered the study, shutting the door behind her. She felt refreshed but only marginally more relaxed. Since Gabriel seemed determined to keep his distance, she’d sleep on the couch.

  As she lay under the old wool blanket they’d first shared so many years ago in the orchard, she thought of their home back in Cambridge. She thought of their first few months of marriage and how happy they’d been.

  She wanted to be a Dante specialist. It was a long road that would require sacrifice, hard work, and humility. She didn’t want to be the kind of person who thought herself above criticism. She knew that her writing needed improvement.

  But when Gabriel said she was going to make a fool out of herself, the pain was excruciating. She needed him to encourage her, to cheer her on. She didn’t need him belittling her. Her belief in herself was shaky enough.

  Why can’t he see that I need his support?

  As her sadness swelled, she wondered why he hadn’t come to her.

  No doubt he’d spent the evening with his family, smoking a cigar on the porch and talking about old times. She wondered what kind of explanation he’d given to Rachel about their conflict. She wondered why she was lying alone in the dark, close to tears, and he seemed perfectly content to leave her to it.

  Just then, she heard a door open down the hall. She heard Gabriel’s quick, determined steps. They stopped outside her door.

  She sat up, holding her breath. A muted light shone from the hallway, entering the study through the crack beneath the door.

  O gods of fighting newlyweds, please make him knock on my door.

  She heard what sounded like a pained sigh and a thump that could have been a hand resting against the door. Then she saw a shadow pass across the light as the footsteps retreated.

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