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Gabriels redemption, p.54
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.54

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard  
Page 54

 

  He grimaced and said nothing.

  “I don’t mean to pry. But it’s something I wondered. I met your mother a few times, and she seemed to be close to her parents. So I wondered why you didn’t go and live with them. ”

  “My grandfather died before I was born. My grandmother became estranged with my mother over the circumstances surrounding my conception. When my mother died, my grandmother told social services they couldn’t take me. My adoptive mother contacted my father, but he disowned me. I would have ended up in foster care were it not for the Clarks. ” Gabriel’s expression was shuttered.

  “I’m so sorry. ” Kelly leaned forward in her chair. “You haven’t had it easy, have you?”

  “You knew my mother?” He swiftly changed the subject.

  “She was one of the secretaries in my father’s office. She was young and pretty, and whenever I went to visit my dad, she was always kind to me. I liked her very much. Around the time you were born or maybe shortly thereafter, my parents had a series of fights. And then everything calmed down. But a few years later, my mother left my father and moved in with my grandparents on Long Island. Six months later, my parents reconciled and she moved back to Manhattan. I’m speculating, of course, but I’m guessing the separation had something to do with you. One of the things I overheard my mother yelling about was ‘that child. ’ Of course, Audrey and I had no idea who she was talking about. We assumed they were fighting over one of us. ”

  Gabriel pressed his lips together. “How old were you when they separated?”

  “Um, let me see. ” Kelly looked up at the ceiling. “I’d say twenty-three? Thereabouts. ”

  “I would have been nine. That was when we left New York. ”

  “My mother probably gave Dad an ultimatum and that’s why your mother decided to leave. ”

  “Did you ever speak to your mother about any of this?”

  Kelly’s eyes widened in horror. “Absolutely not. My parents fought, but they never told us what their fights were about. I wouldn’t have had the nerve to ask Mother about it, even as an adult. ”

  “Can you tell me anything else about my mother?”

  Kelly regarded their place settings thoughtfully. “She was beautiful and very sweet. She was young and full of life. My mother was a bit of a social climber and she could be very difficult. I don’t know if you realize this, but the age difference between your parents would have been considerable. Dad was born in 1936. Your mother must have been twenty years younger. ”

  “I gathered that. What can you tell me about him?”

  “I loved Dad, but he worked a lot. I have happy memories of going for walks with him in the city and having pancakes with him on Saturday morning. He was a pretty good father, even if he wasn’t a very good husband. ”

  “But your mother loved him. ”

  “Of course. ” Kelly sounded offended. “He was handsome and charming. He had a great sense of humor and he was very accomplished. He just happened to be a philanderer. As surprising as it may sound, he adored my mother. ” At this, Kelly’s eyes watered. She was quiet for a moment as she fought to control her emotions.

  “I see this is upsetting for you, too. I’m sorry. ” Gabriel’s tone was gentle.

  Kelly waved a Kleenex in the air before drying her eyes.

  “It was a shock when we found out he’d had a mistress and that we had a brother. Audrey hasn’t quite gotten over it. ”

  “And you?”

  Kelly put on a brave face.

  “I try to practice what I tell my patients and their parents. You can’t control all of life’s circumstances, but you can control your reactions to them. I could stay angry at my father for cheating on my mother. And I could be angry with my mother for being so hard-hearted that she kept me apart from my only brother. Or I could choose to forgive them, and myself, and try to make things better. ”

  Her eyes fell to her hands, which were resting in her lap. “I always wanted a brother. I just didn’t expect him to be so young. ”

  “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. I’m sorry my mother and your father were . . . involved. ” Gabriel’s expression softened in sympathy.

  Her eyes met his. “Thank you, Gabriel. Don’t the strangest sort of miracles come out of the worst of circumstances? Here we sit, after all these years. Knowing Dad, as I did, I’m sure he must have cared for your mother. And you. He wouldn’t have watched you from afar or included you in his estate if he didn’t. ”

  “I’m not sure. ” Gabriel pushed his meal aside.

  “I can’t imagine him fighting with my mother over something he didn’t care about. And it was no secret in our family that he always wanted a son. But my mother didn’t want another child. ”

  Kelly’s head bent so she could stare at her dinner plate. She’d barely touched her food.

  “I wish you’d had more time with him. I know that in wishing that, Audrey and I would have had less time. ” She gave Gabriel a sad smile. “But I would have shared him. ”

  “And Audrey?”

  “Audrey. ” Kelly sighed. “Audrey sided with my mother. She sees you as a gold digger. ”

  “I didn’t want the money. ” Gabriel’s tone was harsh. “I only accepted it because I found myself and my adoptive family in dire circumstances. ”

  Kelly reached out to him across the table, placing her hand over his.

  “I don’t begrudge you a penny. ” She patted his hand before withdrawing. “Dad made a series of choices that had consequences for all of us. But he’s dead. Our mothers are dead. It’s time to forgive and move on. Certainly, Gabriel, you did nothing to hurt us. You could have sued the estate for more. You could have appeared at the reading of the will and embarrassed my mother. You could have called a press conference or spoken to a tabloid. But you didn’t. Your actions show that you are a man of character, and that was another reason why I wanted to meet you. I think God brought us together. ” She gazed at her brother cautiously.

  He blinked a little. “My wife tends to think like that. She sees Providence in everything. ”

  “I would agree with her. ” Kelly finished her wine. “Do you mind if I ask what prompted you to write to Michael?”

  “I don’t think it was Providence. Although perhaps it was. ” Gabriel toyed with his water glass. “I’m afraid my curiosity was practical more than anything else. Eventually my wife and I would like to have a family. I wanted to know more about my parents’ medical history. ”

  “That’s a problem easily solved. Dad died of a heart attack. He didn’t exercise, he was a workaholic, and he ate whatever he wanted. I’m not sure he was born with a tendency for high cholesterol, although it’s possible. Certainly, Audrey and I don’t have that problem. As for his parents, as far as I know, they died in old age of natural causes. Did you know about them?”

  “Not at all. Not even their names. ”

  Kelly’s expression saddened.

  “I’m sorry to hear that. We’re very proud of our grandparents. Grandfather was a professor, like you. He taught Romantic literature. ”

  “What was his name?”

  “Benjamin Spiegel. ”

  Gabriel sat bolt upright. “Benjamin Spiegel? Professor Benjamin Spiegel?”

  “Yes. You know of him?”

  “Of course. He was the leading American expert in German Romanticism. We read his work in graduate school. ” Gabriel rubbed at his chin. “He was my grandfather?”

  “Yes. ”

  “But he was . . . ” A look of realization came over Gabriel’s face.

  Kelly tilted her head, watching him closely. “Jewish, yes. ”

  Gabriel looked confused. “I had no idea our father was Jewish. It was never mentioned. ”

  “I can’t speak for your mother, of course, but there’s a long story behind Dad’s silence. He had a youthful falling out with his father and changed his last name to Davies, leaving his family and heritage behind. By the time he met and married my mother, in 1961, he presented himself as an agnostic. So Judaism wasn’t part of our household. ”

  Gabriel sat very still, his mind working.

  “Benjamin Spiegel,” he muttered. “I admire his writing very much. ”

  “He was a good man. He was a rabbi, you know, before he left Germany in the twenties. He was also a much-beloved professor at Columbia. There’s a building named for him, as well as a number of scholarships. When he died, our grandmother, Miriam, founded a charitable organization in his name here in New York. I’m on the board, along with several of our cousins. I’m sure they’d welcome your involvement, if you’re interested. ”

  “What does the organization do?”

  “We promote literacy and reading in the New York public school system and donate books and supplies to classrooms. We also fund a lecture series at Columbia and at his former temple. Jonathan and I always attend. ” She smiled. “We like to say that we’re part of the Presbyterian wing of Reform Judaism. ”

  Gabriel returned her smile. “I didn’t know I was German. Or Jewish. My mother’s family was English, I think. ”

  “Many people would be surprised at what they find in their family tree if they look back a generation or two. Which is why all this hatred between races and religions is so foolish. We’re all family, in one way or another. ”

  “I agree. ”

  Kelly smiled. “Since you’re a professor of literature, I think it would be fitting for you to deliver the lectures at Columbia one year. ”

  “That’s very kind of you to say, but I’m afraid I’m a Dante specialist. ”

  “Grandfather was interested in everything, judging from the books in his library. I’m sure Dante was there somewhere. ”

  Gabriel wiped his lips with his napkin. “Won’t it be an embarrassment to the family?”

  Kelly’s sapphire eyes grew momentarily fierce, rather like that of a lioness.

  “You are family. And if anyone dares to object, well . . . ” Her voice trailed off as if she were contemplating something particularly nasty. “Apart from Audrey, I think you’ll find everyone to be civil. ”

  “In that case, please tell the committee it would be an honor. ” He bowed his head slightly.

  “Excellent. I’ll mention you to the cousins. ”

  Kelly pushed her plate of food away and signaled to the waiter to remove it.

  “You’ve barely eaten. ” She looked with some distress at his full plate.

  “I’m afraid I’m not hungry. ” He indicated that the waiter take his meal, as well. Then he ordered coffee.

  “Have I upset you?” Kelly’s voice was low.

  Gabriel paused.

  “No. It’s just a lot to process. ” His expression shifted and his eyes grew alight. “The revelation that Professor Spiegel is my grandfather is a welcome surprise. ”

  Her mouth widened into a smile.

 
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