Robert stood beside the Wilsons, with an ashen look on his face. He only occasionally made eye contact with those who approached him, jumping in a way which suggested he was surprised to find himself here surrounded by these people. His pale grey eyes looked haunted and sunken, like he hadn't slept for days.
“Robert shouldn't be here,” Heather told her sister. “He doesn't look well. He has had such a shock.”
“Maybe you should talk to him, Heather,” Julie said.
“But what can I say to someone who just lost the love of their life?”
“Just be there,” Julie suggested. “That's all you can do.”
Heather hesitated another moment, then approached the receiving line. As she made her way through, she gave hugs and soft words of condolence, tears brimming in her eyes.
When she approached Robert she gave him a hesitant hug.
“What can I do, Robert?” she asked him, her heart sinking as she felt his body stiffen at her embrace. She kept her hands on his arms following the hug, wanting to somehow infuse some strength into him, but then she couldn't contain her emotions any longer. Her eyes seemed to erupt in tears and a sob threatened to burst from her throat.
Robert seemed to wake from his trance and offered Heather the same embrace. This time he held her tight, and she let all her grief pour from her, wetting his shoulder in the process.
“This just can't be real,” Heather cried. “After she finally found you....Her life was only just about to begin!” Heather regretted the words the moment they left her lips. Robert's eyes clouded over again, and he gave a solemn nod.
“She loved you so much, Robert. I hope you know that.”
“Yes, I know. I just wish....” Robert's voice choked up, but he fought through it. “I just wish we had more time together.”
Heather nodded in agreement and was about to say something, but abruptly stopped when she saw the hazy, tear-filled expression in Robert's face suddenly turn stone-cold as he focused on something over her shoulder. She quickly turned to see what was creating such a violent reaction in Robert and saw a tall man in a crisp blue suit entering the room.
“I can't believe he is showing his face here,” Robert snarled.
The man caught sight of Robert, and with a subtle smirk, tipped his fingers to his brow in a haughty salute. In an instant, Heather could almost feel the heat which flushed Robert's face.
“Who is that man?” she asked.
“That is Paul, although I wouldn't refer to him as any kind of man. He's a snake and a coward, the worst kind of man." Robert continued to watch the stranger across the room, his eyes hard as steel, unrelenting. "He's Carol Jean's ex- . . .”