As Gabriel departed, Richard was left to ponder that he had not really thought things through. Somehow he had ended up causing (or at best failing to prevent) a situation of enmity between father and daughter. And now here he was in a situation that, while he could accept it with equanimity, was obviously highly embarrassing for Gabriel. She was alone with him in a somewhat brief nightgown, she a girl with such a sheltered upbringing whose life had always been marked by modesty and chastity.
To add to her mortification, she had not only been spoken to and admonished as if she were a child by her father, which would have been bad enough, but then called a name no father at all should insult a daughter with. If anyone was the absolute antithesis of a whore, it was Gabriel Robinstein.
He understood, too, that embracing her had probably been a mistake. This, too, was for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, to hug her as if she were a child who needed comforting was, in retrospect, demeaning. Secondly, it had embarrassed her by causing her strap to slip, which for a woman as shy as her was a big deal indeed. And thirdly, and most of all, because (he was forced to admit) feeling her body under the thin material of the nightgown had felt good indeed , more than a little arousing.
He had, he reminded himself, to keep his mind on the job. Remain detached. Just as, when writing, he had to stay aloft from his characters, not become so emotionally involved that he could not bear to have them suffer, so with this pretended relationship he had to remember she was not his, and never could be. He was playing a role, and had no right to think of her as his to look after in real life.
He went over to the door behind which she had retreated to dress.
He had noticed that she had been fighting a battle, as her father had left. A battle between crying and laughing. Now, as he fancied he heard a sound that might have been either come from behind the door, he wondered which emotion had won the battle.
"Gabi, I'm sorry for what just happened," he said. "I didn't think you might feel awkward, just being in your nightgown. It's just... like, I mix in different circles. less refined ones. I should have kept my distance. Let me know when you feel ready to come out, and we can talk."