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Gabriels redemption, p.72
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.72

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard  
Page 72

 

  Given the fact that they’d had a gap in their correspondence, Paul didn’t feel comfortable interrogating her about the timing of her pregnancy. He certainly didn’t want to upset her, not only because he treasured their friendship but because he didn’t want Gabriel to withdraw his approval of his completed dissertation. Consequently, Paul simply sent her a congratulatory message and promised that he would send the baby a gift from Vermont.

  Having successfully completed and defended his dissertation, and having survived graduation from the University of Toronto in June, Paul moved into his new office on the campus of St. Michael’s College at the end of August.

  He was happy. He was going to live at home while he saved for a down payment on a house. He would help out on the farm when he could, but his father’s hired hands seemed to have everything running smoothly. And his father’s health had improved significantly.

  As he unpacked his books in his new office, he found his Dante and Beatrice action figures. Alas, the company that produced them had ignored his repeated requests for a Virgil action figure.

  (Once again, their official position was that Virgil was not worthy of action. )

  He was just positioning Dante and Beatrice on top of his desk when he heard a knock.

  “Come in,” he called over his shoulder, not turning around. “The door’s open. ”

  “Hi. ”

  Paul turned from Dante and Beatrice to see Allison standing in the doorway.

  In that instant, although he’d seen her a thousand times, although he’d known her for years, Paul was struck by how pretty she was—her hair, her face, her eyes. She was beautiful.

  “I thought you might be here. I wondered if you might need some help. ”

  “There isn’t much to do. I’m just arranging my books. ” He placed the empty box on the floor.

  Her face fell.

  “Oh. Well, I didn’t mean to bother you. I’ll let you get back to work. ”

  She turned to go, and Paul’s heart plummeted into his shoes.

  “Wait. ”

  He stood up and walked over to her, catching her hand in his.

  “It’s good to see you. ”

  She smiled up at him. “It’s good to be seen. ”

  “You were gone for two weeks. ”

  “My sister needed help with her kids. I only planned to be gone for a week, but you know how it is. ” She reached up and pushed some of his hair back from his forehead. “I missed you. I’ve been counting the days. ”

  “I missed you, too. A lot. ”

  They stared at one another for what seemed like an age before Paul found his words.

  “I was going to take a break anyway. How about I take you to American Flatbread for pizza?”

  “I’d like that. ”

  She moved to exit his office, but he tugged on her hand.

  She looked up at him questioningly.

  “Roses,” he whispered, stroking his work-roughened fingers over her knuckles.

  “What?”

  “Our first time together. Your skin smelled of roses. ”

  Two patches of pink appeared on her face.

  “I didn’t think you’d remember. ”

  He looked down at her intensely.

  “How could I forget? To this day, every time I smell roses I think of you. ”

  “I don’t wear roses anymore. I thought I grew out of them. ”

  He reached up to cup her face in his hand.

  She leaned into it and closed her eyes.

  “Would you wear roses again? For me?”

  She opened her eyes, searching his.

  “Only if you’re serious. ”

  “I am. ” He tried to show her with his expression that he was telling the truth.

  “Then yes. ”

  Allison moved into the gap between them and lightly pressed their lips together.

  With a gentle push, Paul closed the door to his office and pulled her into his arms.

  Chapter Eighty-two

  September 9, 2012

  Cambridge, Massachusetts

  A strangled moan emanated from the bathroom.

  Gabriel’s eyes snapped open. He was confused. For a moment, he didn’t know where he was.

  When he heard the moan again, he stumbled sleepily through the darkened bedroom.

  “Darling? Are you all right?”

  When he entered the bathroom, he found Julia almost doubled over, clutching the marble-topped vanity with white-knuckled hands. She was breathing deeply.

  “Do you want me to wake Rebecca?” Gabriel turned to go, readying himself to sprint down the hall.

  “No, call the hospital. ”

  “What should I tell them?”

  “Tell them I think I’m in labor. ”

  Immediately, he flew into a panic, hurriedly asking her questions, fumbling back into the bedroom to find his glasses and his cell phone, and hastily dialing the maternity ward of Mount Auburn Hospital.

  “Has your water broken?” he asked, after he successfully reached a nurse.

  “No. Your hardwood floors are safe. ”

  “Very funny, Julianne. Are you in active labor?”

  “I think so. The contractions are painful and regular. ” Julia tried to keep her breathing deep and relaxed, a technique she had practiced over and over again with her prenatal yoga teacher, who had promised success.

  (Julia was contemplating asking for her money back. )

  “How far apart are your contractions?”

  “Six minutes. ”

  She focused every ounce of her attention on her breathing and shut out the sound of his voice.

  (She loved him, it was true, but he wasn’t exactly helping. )

  “The nurse said I should bring you in right now. I have your bag and the bag you packed for the baby. Are you ready?” He tried to sound calm and began to rub her back through her loose-fitting T-shirt.

  “Yes. Let’s go. ”

  Julia straightened up and took a good look at her husband.

  “You can’t go like that. ”

  “Why not?” He combed his hair with his fingers, trying to make himself look like someone who’d had a full night’s sleep. Then he scratched at his stubbled face. “I don’t have time to shave. ”

  “Look at yourself. ”

  Gabriel gazed at his reflection in the mirror. To his shock and dismay, he was clad only in his underwear, a cheeky pair of boxer shorts that had the phrase Medievalists Do It in the Dark (Ages) printed all over them in phosphorescent lettering.

  “Damn it! Give me a minute. ”

  Julia waddled after him into the bedroom, chuckling. “Scott will be very pleased that his Christmas present is coming with us to the hospital. At least if there’s a power outage we’ll be able to find you. You’ll just have to drop your pants. ”

  “You are the soul of comedy, Mrs. Emerson. ”

  She giggled, finding his fashion faux pas slightly funnier than usual.

  During the past couple of weeks, she’d forgone the expensive lingerie he’d bought her at Agent Provocateur, arguing that the items weren’t warm enough. In response, Gabriel had declared that her maternity yoga pants and T-shirts “did a grave injustice to her sexiness” and suggested she rely on his body to warm her.

  She hugged a body pillow instead.

  “Those medieval boxer shorts do a grave injustice to your sexiness,” she goaded him, clutching at her protruding abdomen as she cackled with delight.

  He cast her a withering glance as he pulled on a pair of jeans and a shirt. Then he took her elbow and accompanied her down the hall. They paused just outside the nursery as another contraction seized her.

  Gabriel switched on the pink-and-white chandelier so he could see her face. “Is it very bad?”

  “Yes. ” She tried to distract herself by leaning against the doorpost and staring into the baby’s room.

  She would have been content to purchase all the furnishings for the nursery from Target, but Gabriel had insisted on Pottery Barn.

  (Parenthetically, it should be noted that Julia referred to Pottery Barn as Protestant Barn, for it featured fine furnishings that were WASP-ish in the extreme. Furnishings that she was enamored of but thought were too expensive. )

  Together, and with items generously given by their friends and family, they’d transformed one of the guest rooms into a tranquil space for a little girl. Julia chose sage green for the walls and a soft white for the woodwork and crown molding. A fanciful area rug that featured flowers in pink, yellow, and green pastels covered the oak floorboards.

  “This is my favorite room in the whole world,” she breathed, gazing at the classic Winnie the Pooh decals they had placed over the crib and changing table, in anticipation of wide and eager little eyes.

  “It’s waiting for her. ” Gabriel smiled. “It’s waiting for our little Spring Roll. ”

  When Julia’s contraction subsided, he took her hand and helped her down the stairs and into the Volvo, in which he’d already installed the baby’s car seat. He sent a text to Rebecca, explaining what was happening, and assured her he’d be in touch.

  A short while later, they arrived at the Bain Birthing Center at Mount Auburn Hospital. By the time they were settled in one of the birthing rooms, Gabriel had managed to conjure a calm exterior. He didn’t want Julia to see his anxiety or to feel the way his insides churned with unspoken fears.

  But she knew. She knew what he was afraid of, and she held his hand and told him that she and Spring Roll were going to be fine.

  They held hands during her internal exam, in which the obstetrician on call announced that Spring Roll was in a transverse position and that she hoped the baby would decide to turn when it was time for her to be born.

  Nurse Tracy quickly distracted a nervous Gabriel from demanding a complicated, illustrated explanation of transverse positions, teaching him to read the monitor so he could tell Julia when a contraction was peaking and when it was coming to an end.

  She was grateful for his distraction. But that didn’t stop him from Googling transverse positions and their attendant information on his iPhone.

  (It should be noted that at that point, Julia wished he’d left the damn thing at home. )

  Fortunately, the pain medication relaxed her enough to allow her to nap, and she drifted into semiconsciousness.

  “Julianne?”

  She opened her eyes to see her husband standing over her, a concerned expression on his face.

  She smiled at him weakly, and it almost broke his heart.

  “You were moaning. ”

  “I must have been dreaming. ”

  Julia reached out to him and he took her hand, bringing it up to his lips so he could kiss it.

  “My rings,” she whispered, pressing against his wedding band. “Did I lose them?”

  He stroked her naked finger. “You took them off months ago, remember? Your fingers were swelling and you were worried they’d get stuck. You started wearing them on the necklace I gave you a year ago, back in the orchard. ”

  She reached up to touch her neck. “I forgot. I put them in my jewelry box yesterday. ”

  “You had a premonition. Spring Roll is almost here. ”

  She closed her eyes. “I didn’t think anything would be more demanding than my program at Harvard. I was wrong. ”

  Gabriel’s heart clenched.

 
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