I was horrified when I discovered that the most important people in my life had been lying to me for years.
I met Gabriel Patton two years ago at a work seminar. He was lecturing on the importance of the social worker in Family Court, and his passion for the law and for justice impressed me.
I went up to him after the lecture and thanked him and we started talking. We’ve been talking ever since, and Gabriel started hinting that we could make a lifetime of conversation — and a bit of kissing on the side — our goal.
I thought that since this was definitely a long-term relationship it was about time Gabriel met my parents. I’d been wanting to take Gabriel home for a long time, but he’d always ducked.
I thought it was because he was ten years older than me, and I told him that my dad is also older than my mom. My parents are lovely, kind, open-minded people and I knew they’d love Gabriel.
Finally, after a long struggle, Gabriel agreed to meet my parents. I was so happy. I immediately started planning a delicious intimate dinner for the four of us at my place.
The afternoon of the dinner, I dropped by my favorite deli to pick up pastrami for a starter when I caught a glimpse of my dad in a corner booth. He was talking to Gabriel!
How had they met? I wondered, and then I saw Gabriel shake his head with a sad expression, and my dad reach out a consoling hand and placing it on his shoulder. They didn’t look like they were meeting for the first time.
They looked very comfortable with each other, like old friends. I was dazed and confused. If they knew each other, why hadn’t they said so? Or maybe they didn’t realize their connection to me? Maybe that’s it!
I went home and buried myself in the kitchen, pushing the nagging worry about dad and Gabriel out of my mind. By eight o’clock, everything was ready, the table was set, and the candles were lit.
The doorbell rang and I hurried to answer it. It was mom and dad, and they brought a bottle of chilled white wine. Just minutes later, Gabriel arrived. I introduced him to mom and dad and watched carefully as Gabriel shook dad’s hand.
“Lovely to meet you, Lawrence,” Gabriel said. “I’ve heard so much about you from June.”
“Same here,” said Dad. “All good things! So June tells me you’re a lawyer?”
We sat down at the table and I started to serve the starters and the wine. Dad and Gabriel acted like they were meeting for the first time. I knew there was something going on, but what?
We were eating dessert when I finally snapped. “What’s going on?” I asked, interrupting Dad in the middle of his favorite fishing story
Going on?” asked mom, surprised. “Nothing honey, everything is fine.”
“I mean with Dad and Gabriel. I know you know each other. I saw you this afternoon at the deli,” I said. “So you can drop the act!”
Gabriel and Dad exchanged a look that spoke volumes. Then Gabriel said gently, “Yes, June, your father and I know each other very well.”
“But how? And why didn’t you tell me?” I cried angrily. “You lied!”
My father touched my hand gently. “June-bug,” he said. “Gabriel wanted to tell you everything a long time ago, as soon as he realized who you were, but I begged him not to.”
“You asked him to lie?” I gasped. “But why?”
“Listen June,” Gabriel said, “I spent seven years in prison…”
“IN PRISON?” I cried. “What kind of criminal are you? And you didn’t tell me!” I jumped up and turned to go, but my mom stopped me.
Please June,” mom said quietly. “Hear him out.”
“I was going to spend the rest of my life with a convict and you want me to hear him out?” I screamed.
“Yes, honey,” my mom said. “And believe me when I tell you I know how you feel.” Something in her voice and her expression made me sit down.
“I’m listening,” I told Gabriel and my father.
Gabriel and I met in prison,” my father said. “You were nine at the time, so we just told you I was going away on a business trip, but I spent those 18 months in jail.”
“Jail?” I gasped. “For what?”
Dad shook his head sadly. “For trusting the wrong people. My business partners set up a fraudulent corporation and set me up as the patsy. Gabriel was my cellmate and he saved my life and my sanity.
“You see, I was convicted to 10 years in prison, but Gabriel helped me figure out how to prove my innocence. He wrote the briefs that overthrew my conviction and sent me home to you.”
“We saved each other, Larry,” Gabriel said smiling. “But I never imagined I’d fall in love with your daughter.”
And why were you in prison, Gabriel?” I asked quietly.
“I was in my last year of law school, living with my aunt and my cousins. One of my cousins was in a gang. He hid his stash of drugs in my room, and my aunt backed him up, said it was mine.
“So I went to jail. I managed to finish my degree, and take the bar exam. I started representing my fellow inmates, and by the time I came out I was an experienced lawyer.”
I looked at the two men I loved most in the world and tears filled my eyes. “I hoped you’d like each other,” I said. “But this is even better — you love and trust each other!”
A year later we were married and dad had a dual role in the wedding: he not only gave the bride away, but he was also the groom’s best man.
What can we learn from this story?
Secrets will always come out when we least expect it. Gabriel and Harry thought they could keep their past a secret but ended up exposing it all.
We need to give people a chance to explain themselves before we judge them. June was so angry that she didn’t even want to listen to Gabriel, but then she forgave him.