Home > Gabriel's Promise (Gabriel's Inferno #4)(5)

Gabriel's Promise (Gabriel's Inferno #4)(5)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

   “Taking a well-earned nap. Clare is supposed to be napping as well, but she isn’t settling. I said I’d walk her around and see if she’d nod off.” Richard spoke in low, soothing tones while rubbing gentle circles on the infant’s back.

   “I can take her.” Gabriel held out his arms.

   “Oh, no. I’m eager to have as much time with my new granddaughter as possible. We’ll keep you company.” Richard stepped nimbly around the many metal pieces and went to stand by the window. “How’s it going?”

   Gabriel gestured vaguely at the detritus on the carpet. “I’m wrestling a baby swing.”

   Richard chuckled. “I’ve done that before. And put together bicycles and impossible-to-assemble toys on Christmas Eve. My advice is to ignore your instinct to figure it out yourself and follow the instructions.”

   “I have a PhD from Harvard. Surely I can figure out how to put together a baby swing.”

   “I have a PhD from Yale.” Richard’s gray eyes sparkled. “And I know enough to read the instructions.”

   Gabriel smiled wryly. “Well, I can’t have a Yalie outdo me.” He stuck his head into the large box and retrieved a booklet of directions. He adjusted his glasses. “These are in Chinese, Spanish, Italian, and German.”

   “I put together one of those swings when Grace and I brought Scott home from the hospital. I’d been up all night and put the legs on backward. I couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t balance until Grace fixed it.”

   Gabriel snickered and peered more closely at the booklet. “The Italian directions don’t make any sense. They must have hired a first-year student to translate them. I shall have to write a letter to the company.”

   Richard regarded his son with barely disguised amusement. “Perhaps you should assemble it first.” He cleared his throat. “Scott’s delivery was relatively easy compared to Clare’s. Julia looked pale when I left her a few minutes ago.”

   Gabriel lowered the instructions. “I’ll go check on her.”

   “Rachel was in there with her plumping pillows and drawing the blinds. But you should probably look in on her soon.”

   Gabriel rubbed his eyes behind his glasses. “The delivery did not go as expected.”

   Richard bowed his head so he could see Clare’s face. Her eyes were closed. He slowed his movements, still rocking back and forth. “Julia will need care and lots of support. Are you on leave or—”

   “Ah. Here’s the English part.” Gabriel hid his face as he pored over the instructions. “Yes, I’m on paternity leave.”

   Richard lifted his head. “Julia is supposed to resume her coursework next September, correct? And you’ll be teaching?”

   Gabriel bristled. “That’s what I do.”

   Given the email he’d received that morning, it was extremely unlikely, if not impossible, that he’d be teaching at Boston University the following year. But he hadn’t disclosed that fact to anyone, including Julianne.

   He crouched down and began rearranging the pieces to the swing according to the printed instructions. “We’re glad you and Rachel were able to stay. We intend to have Clare baptized this week at our parish. We’re going to ask Rachel to be the godmother.”

   “I’m sure she will be delighted. And I’m glad we will be able to attend the baptism.” Richard appeared disquieted at his son’s transparent attempt at deflection. “How are you coping with everything?”

   “I’m fine.” Gabriel sounded impatient. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

   “Fatherhood is a great responsibility.” Richard’s tone was gentle.

   Gabriel sat back on his heels, his focus on the carpet. “Yes.” He blew out a breath. “How did you know how to be a father?”

   “I didn’t always. I made mistakes. But Grace was an incredible mother. She seemed to have the right instincts for parenting. I was fortunate to have excellent parents, as well. They died before you came to us, but they created a home that was loving and caring. I tried to do that with you children.”

   “You succeeded.” Gabriel picked up one of the metal legs and turned it over in his hand.

   Richard continued. “Parenting is a commitment. You promise to love your children, no matter what. You promise to keep them safe. You promise to provide for them, to teach them, and to guide them. And with God’s grace, a lot of patience, and hard work, you keep your promises.”

   Gabriel hummed as he placed the metal leg on the carpet. He reached for the swing’s motor.

   Richard adjusted Clare so that she was sleeping on her back in his arms. “Are you worried about being a father?”

   Gabriel shrugged.

   “You chose Julia to be your wife. She’s a lovely young woman and the perfect partner for you. You and she will figure things out. And I will be there for you and your family. I’m blessed every day by you children, and by Scott and Tammy’s son, and now by Clare. How fortunate I am to be a young grandfather and able to enjoy my grandchildren.”

   Gabriel put the motor down and began fitting two of the larger metal pieces together. Richard settled himself in the large leather club chair that sat in the corner, still holding a sleeping Clare.

   Gabriel’s gaze lifted to his daughter and the sight of his father’s hand wrapped protectively around her.

   Richard still wore his wedding ring. Gabriel was tempted, sorely tempted, to tell Richard that he’d dreamt of Grace while he was in the hospital. But three years after her death, Richard still wore the marks of his sorrow, in the lines that had deepened on his face and the white hairs that had multiplied on his head. Gabriel would keep Grace’s apparition to himself.

   He connected the feet of the swing to the two upright pieces that would form the legs. “During the delivery, something went wrong. They sent me out of the room. They handed me Clare but wouldn’t let me see Julianne. I thought she was dead.”

   “Son.” Richard’s voice broke.

   Gabriel reached into his toolbox and retrieved a screwdriver. He began tightening the screws in the legs. “How do you manage?”

   Richard touched Clare’s head gently, so as not to wake her. “That’s an apt description. I manage. But my life will never be the same.

   “There’s freedom in acceptance. I realize everything has changed and I’ve tried to adjust my outlook accordingly. But I still grieve her. I grieve the loss of her and what might have been. And as time goes by and the grief fades but doesn’t quite disappear, I’ve learned not to fight it. I lost the love of my life, and I will always feel her loss.

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