Chapter Fourteen: Flashback

The aisle of the church was littered with flowers.

Lilies, roses and daisies of all colours flanked the pews and reached up to the big altar, framing the oaken casket in a sea of petals.

<> There was noone else there, and Robin stumbled forward as if on auto-pilot, taking step after step through the unreal world in which he had been since the accident. She seemed to be sleeping. Faint bruises coated by the mortician's expert touch littered her brow and cheek, and her thick brown hair was swept back from her face, held by a scarlet ribbon so that it cascaded over her shoulder. She wore a dress of red velvet and despite himself, Robin choked, faltering in his progress. He remembered that dress. She had worn it the night they had become engaged, flanked by family and friends at an impromptu celebration. That night, it had seemed that they could never be alone or lost again. Yet here he was, in Carrowville's big town church, with noone but the flowers for company.

Her engagement and wedding rings sparkled on her thin white fingers, a constant reminder of what he had lost. Sian lay there before him, but he knew only too well that his wife - the woman he had loved for so long - was gone forever.

"Gone with God." he whispered, a tremor in his voice as he reached down to touch the ice cold hands.

"Ashes to ashes, and all of that."


A voice startled him and he turned, meeting the tearful gaze of Helena, Sian's eldest sister.

"I thought I might find you here." She observed quietly, coming to join him. "When the hospital told me you'd discharged yourself, I knew where you'd come. You should take it easy, Robin. Noone expects you to be here...not considering."

"Where else do I belong?" Robin asked brokenly. "My world is in that coffin, Lena. Nothing else least of all. This is where I should be. Did you really think I wouldn't come to her funeral?"

"No, I knew you would come. We all did." Helena said gently. "I just don't know as you're up to it, that's all. You took one hell of a whack when that car went..."

"Don't." Robin shut his eyes, clamping his hands over his ears. "Don't make me remember it again. Don't, Lena. It's bad enough...just don't."

"I'm sorry." Helena bit her lip.

"Why are you here, anyhow?"

"We've all lost something precious, you know." Helena shrugged her shoulders. "Not just you. We all want to say goodbye. That's why Ma agreed to have her coffin here like this, before the funeral. She had so many friends, many people to remember her."

"I don't want to remember her." Robin whispered. "I want to take her home and...and have her wake up like this is all some crazy dream. Like it's not real...and she's not really dead."

"It don't matter how much you talk to her. This time she ain't never coming back to us." Helena's voice trembled slightly as she finished her sentence, and a dark look touched Robin's gaze.

"I know." He said quietly. "Sometimes God is one hell of an evil bastard."

"Robin!" Helena's eyes became big. "Not here, not now. We all need our faith right at the minute - she's in His hands now. We have to believe that. He has some other purpose for her - something we can't understand. We just have trust in that and learn to do without her. That's all."

"And what about the baby?" Robin asked hoarsely, tears in his eyes. "What about my damn baby, Lena? Does He have a special damn purpose for that as well?"

He clenched his fists, punching the edge of the coffin helplessly.

"He could at least have taken me too."

"You're not up to this." Helena linked her arm in his, leading him away from the altar. "Robin, you should sit down. You're acting unlike yourself - you're starting to scare me."

"You tell me how you'd act if it was Dennis in that coffin." Robin snapped. "Or one of your kids! Both my wife and my child are there." He gestured angrily at the floral-clad casket. "That was everything I had in the world. My daughter - whichever it is, I'm never going to meet them or play Dad or do any of those things. And Sian...we planned so many things, and we talked so much about growing old together. Now it can't happen. I'll grow old. She...she's already gone."

With that his anger broke down and the tears began to fall. Gently Helena ushered him onto the end of a pew, sitting down beside him.

"I know how you feel, I really do." She murmured. "Sian and I were always close, Rob - you know that. Oldest and youngest - it often happens that way. I thought the world of her and I'm lost without her. She brought sunshine wherever she went, and that's a fact. I want her back here, too. But it can't be. She loved you more than anyone...she would be the first one distraught to see you like this. She didn't want to leave you - but you have to let her go."

"I can't."

"She needs you to." Helena glanced across at the casket, then swallowed hard. "The last thing you can do for your wife and the baby is to let them go to Heaven at peace. And you're not alone with it. None of us blame you - you know that. You'll always have family with us, if you need us. We're all in this together."

Robin did not respond at first. Then, at length, he raised his head.

"I know who's to blame." He said darkly. "And I'll never forgive long as I live, I swear it. Here, in front of her and in front of God, too, if He's listening. If that bastard comes to her funeral, I swear I'll kill him. I swear..."

"No more swearing, and no more threats in God's house." Helena shook her head. "It was an accident, Rob. An accident."

"He was blind drunk!"

"It was an accident." Helena repeated. "And people are starting to arrive." She paused, then squeezed her brother-in-law's hand. "Sian always said you were strong." She murmured. "For her sake...prove it."
Prologue: Flashback: Carrowville, Arkansas
Chapter One: Memory
Chapter Two: Spies and Secrets
Chapter Three: Jack
Chapter Four: Flashback: The Hartlin Bar, Carrowville
Chapter Five: Margot's Plan
Chapter Six: Confidences
Chapter Seven:Flashback: The Wedding Reception
Chapter Eight: Fallout
Chapter Nine: Advice
Chapter Ten: A Friend In Need
Chapter Eleven: Logan
Chapter Twelve: Flashback: Sian's News
Chapter Thirteen: Ambush
Chapter Fourteen: Reconciliation
Chapter Fifteen: Flashback: Farewell
Chapter Sixteen: The Curse

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