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Gabriels redemption, p.55
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.55

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard  
Page 55

 

  “I’d like to introduce you to Aunt Sarah, Dad’s youngest sister. She can tell you all about her parents and your aunts and uncles. She’s a wonderful lady. Very bright. ” Kelly regarded him for a moment. “Did your mother ever explain why she called you Gabriel?”

  “No. My middle name is Owen, after our father. ”

  Kelly’s blue eyes sparkled. “His birth name was Othniel. Be grateful he rid himself of it before you were born. ”

  “Does my name have any significance to you?” Gabriel waited with anticipation for her answer.

  “I’m afraid not. Except that when Audrey was a teenager and my parents bought her a dog for her birthday, she wanted to call him Gabriel. Dad threw a fit and said no. ” Kelly looked off into space. “I’d forgotten about that until this very minute. My parents had a fight about that, too. ” She made eye contact with Gabriel again. “In the end, she called the dog Godfrey, which was a very silly name for a Pomeranian. But Pomeranians are a silly breed, I think. Jonathan and I always had Labradors. ”

  Gabriel was silent, not knowing what to say.

  After a moment, he spoke.

  “His name isn’t on my birth certificate. And I wasn’t granted his surname, obviously. ”

  Kelly appeared uncomfortable. “I’m afraid I already knew that. When my mother and sister decided to contest the will, that was one of the pieces of evidence they cited. But Dad had signed an affidavit before he died, affirming that he was your father and stating that he persuaded your mother not to name him on your birth certificate. I don’t know what kinds of promises Dad gave to your mother. But he must have felt guilty over what he did. Eventually. ”

  “Humph,” said Gabriel.

  “In fact, I think he must have felt something more than guilt. ” She picked up her large handbag and went through it. “Here. ” She placed an old photograph on the table, next to Gabriel’s empty coffee cup.

  The picture was of him and his mother. He looked to be about five years old.

  “I don’t remember this picture. Where did you find it?” He peered at it closely.

  “Dad kept a box of things on his dresser. When my mother died, it came to me. I was looking at it the other night and I noticed there was a place where the fabric on the inside of the box had been ripped. Inside the hole, I found the picture. He must have been hiding it from my mother. ”

  “I don’t know what to do with this. ” Gabriel gestured to the picture.

  “Keep it, of course. I have some other things for you, too. ”

  “I couldn’t. ”

  “Do you read German?”

  “Yes. ”

  “Good. ” She laughed, the sound soft and musical. “I understand a little German because Dad used to speak it now and then, but I don’t read it. So Grandfather’s books are of no use to me. And I won’t wear Dad’s cuff links. So you see, you’d be doing me a favor by taking them off my hands. In fact, given the size of our apartment and the amount of things in it, it would be a mitzvah. ”

  “A mitzvah,” he mumbled, as the waiter served their coffee.

  “I’ve been very rude, Gabriel, doing most of the talking and not asking about yourself or your wife. I hope I’ll be able to meet her. ”

  “I’d like that. ” Gabriel finally cracked a smile. “Her name is Julianne. She’s a graduate student at Harvard. ”

  “She has a lovely name. How long have you been married?”

  “Since January. ”

  “Ah, newlyweds. Do you have a picture?”

  Gabriel wiped his hands with his napkin before pulling out his iPhone. He quickly scrolled to a recent photograph of Julia sitting behind his desk at their house in Cambridge. Unthinkingly, he stroked the curve of her cheek with his thumb as he gazed at the photo.

  He handed the phone to his sister.

  “You must love her very much. ” Kelly had been watching him intently.

  “I do. ”

  “She looks young. ”

  Gabriel barely suppressed a frown. “She’s younger than me, yes. ”

  Kelly chuckled. “At my age, everyone looks young. ”

  She was about to return the phone when she stopped. She peered closely at the photo. Then she tapped at the screen to enlarge it.

  “What’s that on your desk?” She held the phone out to Gabriel, pointing to a small, black object.

  “That’s a train engine. I’ve had it since I was a boy. Julia thought it would make a fine paperweight. ”

  Kelly stared at the photo again.

  Gabriel frowned. “What is it?”

  “It looks familiar. ”

  “Familiar?”

  She lifted her head to look at him.

  “Dad had one, from when he was a child. He kept the engine, one car, and a caboose on his dresser. Then one day, the engine disappeared. When Audrey asked him about it he said that it got broken. We thought at the time it was a feeble excuse. The engine was made of iron. Where did you say you got it from?”

  “I don’t remember. I’ve always had it. ”

  “Interesting,” she breathed.

  “Why?”

  “The train was his favorite toy when he was a child. I think his initials were scratched into the bottom of the engine. ” She gave Gabriel a significant look. “When you get home, you should check. I’d be interested in knowing. ”

  “Would it make a difference?”

  “If it’s the one I’m thinking of, then he must have given it to you. Since it meant so much to him, I think you must have meant a lot to him, too. ” She returned his phone to him.

  “I can’t believe that. ”

  She toyed with her coffee cup, swirling her spoon in the brown liquid before placing it on the saucer. “But you see, I knew him. I knew him for years. He was a complicated man, a driven man, but he wasn’t cruel. He found himself caught between your mother and you, and my mother and us. I’m not saying he made the right choice. If he’d been stronger or my mother had been more forgiving, he could have had all his children living in the same city. The whole thing reminds me a little of the story of Hagar and Ishmael from the Bible. I can’t help but suspect my mother played the part of Sarah. Even though her name was Nancy. I want to believe that he loved you. That he cared about you and that’s why he kept tabs on you and included you in his will. ”

  “I can’t believe that. ” Gabriel’s tone was cold.

  “But it’s possible, brother. He wasn’t a monster. And, ‘There are more things in Heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ’”

  “Hamlet,” said Gabriel, begrudgingly.

  “I like to think our grandfather would be proud of both of us. You went to Harvard. I went to Vassar. ” She smiled. “Is your wife—is Julianne religious?”

  Gabriel tucked the photograph Kelly had given him in the inner pocket of his suit jacket.

  “Yes. She’s Catholic and her faith means something to her. Certainly, she tries to live it. ”

  “And you?”

  “I converted to Catholicism prior to our marriage. I believe, if that’s what you’re asking. ”

  “I don’t think we have a Catholic on the foundation’s board. You’ll be the first. ” Kelly signaled to the waiter to bring the check. “Wait till the cousins learn that there’s now a Catholic wing of Reform Judaism. ”

  “It was a mistake. ” Gabriel huffed into his cell phone, as he connected with Julia’s voice mail. “I shouldn’t have come without you.

  “Julianne, I wish you wouldn’t switch off your phone. It’s the best way for me to get hold of you. It’s after midnight and I’ve just gotten into my hotel room after having dinner with Kelly.

  “Sorry I couldn’t call you earlier. Our conversation went longer than expected. She’s very nice. You were right, as usual. Funny how you’re almost always right. [exhaling slowly]

  “The portrait Kelly painted of our father is very different from the one I remember. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the man she adored hit my mother. [sigh]

  “I wish you were here. By the end of dinner I was beginning to doubt my memories. To doubt myself.

  “I need you to do something for me. Can you look at the train engine on my desk and see if there is anything scratched into the bottom of it? It’s important.

  “I’m going to have to extend my visit. There’s an aunt Kelly wants to introduce me to on Friday. This means I won’t be leaving until Saturday. I’m sorry about that but I think it’s best to tie up all the loose ends before I come home.

  Call me when you get this message, no matter what time it is. ” [another pause] “Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra. I love you. ”

  Gabriel tossed his cell phone on the large, empty bed.

  He was still processing his conversation with his sister. Much of what she’d said surprised him. It was clear that her relationship with her father was loving and good. In this respect, as in others, it appeared that he and Kelly had two very different fathers.

  It had been a relief to have some of his questions answered, even if the answers led to more questions. Certainly, the news about his grandfather was good. A warm feeling spread in his chest at the thought.

  At least I have one blood relative I can be proud of, in addition to my sister.

  How he wished he could have come home to a sleeping Julianne and tell her what had happened. How he wished he could crawl into her arms and erase the day. He’d made a colossal error when he determined to do things alone. And now, as usual, he was forced to live with the consequences.

  Cursing himself, he strode to the shower, hoping that the hot water would clear his head. Then he was going to finish reading his mother’s diary, to see if he could discover the truth about his parents’ relationship.

  Chapter Fifty-eight

  December 5, 2011

  Washington, D. C.

  Natalie Lundy stared at the photograph in shock.

  She heard a strange buzzing sound as her world suddenly came to a halt. She looked at the black-and-white picture—at the man and the young blond woman holding one another and smiling for the camera. At the large diamond solitaire glittering on the woman’s finger. At the announcement of the union of two powerful political families.

  Natalie’s stomach rebelled. She heaved over the wastepaper basket, emptying herself of that morning’s breakfast. Shakily, she wiped her mouth and stumbled to the bathroom.

  She drank a cup of water as her mind worked. She’d just lost everything. She’d heard the rumors, of course. But she also knew that Simon was only with Senator Hudson’s daughter for political reasons. Or so he’d said the last time he’d been in her bed, at the end of August.

  She’d done what he told her to do. She’d worked for his father and kept her mouth shut. She’d emailed or called Simon on occasion, but his responses had become fewer and fewer until they ceased altogether, sometime in November.

  He’d been playing her. He’d been playing her for years. Always panting after someone else while satisfying himself with her body.

 
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