The last time Sandie Gillette saw the father of her two sons was a decade ago — just before he walked out the door.

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As news.com.au reports, Gillette and her partner, Russell Jenkin, were living near Melbourne in 2006. They shared two sons — Ethan, age 4, and Charlie, age 2. One afternoon in September, the couple had an argument, and Jenkin walked out the front door and drove away. Gillette told 7 News:

“He was watching the football and I went to the room to watch a movie with the boys. […] I heard the door closing and that was it.”

Jenkin had packed a bag when he left, but both the bag and his car were found abandoned about 25 miles away from their home. Gillette reported him missing, but despite the efforts of the police and public, Jenkin was never found.

As the years passed, Gillette moved on with her life and realized she would never see him again.

But then, on Jan. 27, she found him in the most unlikely place imaginable — the parking garage of a shopping mall more than 1,100 miles from their home.

Gillette was leaving the mall with their son, Ethan (now 15 years old), when she spotted Jenkin walking toward her on a footpath. He was a little grayer and a bit heavier, but it was undeniably the man who had left more than 10 years ago.

Gillette told news.com.au how strange it felt to see Jenkin walking toward her:

“We were very close and we kept watching each other walk past. And yeah, whether he was realizing that was us, just as he were realizing that was him, it was dumbfounding. We weren’t even a car length apart and we just bypassed each other staring.”

She added that she was so stunned that she didn’t know what to say to him. And so she said nothing:

“I don’t know if it is the awkwardness of the situation … He could have approached us too, but what do you say to someone who has been missing for over 10 years?”

The pair watched each other as Gillette got into her car and drove away. Though Ethan was doubtful when Gillette pointed out the stranger as his father, they went home and confirmed it by checking the photo on the missing persons page. Gillette told news.com.au:

“Once he checked the picture he realized it was him as well. He’s older, obviously, more heavy-set, but I’m positive it was him.”

Gillette had thought about what to say if she ever saw Jenkin again, but the shock of the moment robbed her of those words. As she told news.com.au, she’s tried to put aside the anger she once had:

“I think I have moved past all of it. There was a lot of emotion there, but I had to move past it. For my own well-being and that of my boys.”

However, she does wish she’d said something. And after thinking about it, she’s making a public appeal to Jenkin to come forward and let police (and their sons) know where he is and that he’s okay.

Gillette told news.com.au that while she has moved on, her sons still have a lot of questions about their father:

“There is always this not knowing — there is a gap there that needs to be filled in.”

She added that if Jenkin were to come forward, it could open the door to some kind of relationship with his sons:

“Me, personally, I don’t expect Russell would come back into the picture. But that doesn’t mean his sons can’t know him.”

It may seem strange that Gillette would be willing to let Jenkin back into their lives. However, a car accident a few years ago changed her outlook on her ex. After barely surviving the crash, she was forced to think about what would happen to her sons if she hadn’t made it.

As she told news.com.au, that’s why she’s making another effort to find him:

“Maybe that’s why I’m doing it. Because, God-forbid, but if something happens to me maybe he will show his face and be a parent.”

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