Janet got out of the limo quickly, anticipating the baby making strange with the stiff, cold woman. Much to both Robbie and Janet’s surprise however, the little child looked into those blue eyes and gave a delighted squeal burying her head in Robbie’s neck and her chubby little arms into her dark, thick hair. When Robbie tried to give her back the two year old crunched up her face and hung on tighter. Janet’s eyes twinkled at the look of bewilderment that came across Roberta’s face. Her hand rose to cover a nervous grin then touched her forehead in thought, “Listen, may be you’d better hold on to her just for a little while. This is not the place for a scene,” she suggested.
Robbie’s eyes narrowed. Janet stared back innocently. “Stay right beside me!” Robbie ordered and Janet nodded, obligingly placing her hand around the tall woman’s elbow. They looked at each other at the touch. The wind blew their hair gently about their coat collars. Leaves rustled over head. Then they walked over to join Alexandria and Elizabeth by the grave.
The reporter captured the knot of Williams. Roberta, now holding the third generation, was clearly the head of the family. Alexandria and Elizabeth played their roles and the little wife held onto Roberta’s strong arm for support as she watched the coffin of her husband being placed on the grave supports. The picture appeared on page two.
At the end of the internment service, each of the family members stepped forward and dropped a red rose tied with a black ribbon on the checker flag that covered the coffin. Robbie gave her rose to the baby first then took it and dropped it by the red helmet. The child’s serious blue eyes followed it with intense interest. The last to place her rose was Janet. She leaned down and placed her rose on the coffin. “Thanks,” she whispered and then straightened, tears welling in her eyes as she made her way back to Roberta’s side.
Robbie instinctively wrapped her long arm around the grieving woman and wondered what her self-centered brother had ever done in his life for which he should be thanked. The family moved off. Robbie with her one arm supported the beautiful child: the other wrapped around the upset mother. Alexandria and Elizabeth followed, Alexandria a little surprised at being up-staged by her powerful daughter taking the lead.
At the limo, Robbie turned to meet her sister’s eye. Elizabeth gave the smallest of nods, following her mother into the vehicle, this time sitting beside her. Janet got in next and waited to take her child. To her surprise, Roberta held on to the little girl and easily slipped in beside her.
The conversation on the way to the hotel consisted of Janet telling bedtime stories to Rebecca who sat comfortably in Robbie’s lap and played sleepily with her gold chain. The little girl watched her mother’s face intently as the woman wove simple but beautiful fairy tales. The three Williams sat in wonder, watching the gold headed woman radiating love for her child as she told her stories.
When the child had fallen asleep in Robbie’s arms, she whispered to Janet, “Are you staying at the same hotel?”
“No, no, I plan to drive back home tonight,” explained the widow.
“Where is your car?” Robbie demanded.
“Back at the funeral home,” responded Janet as the limo pulled up to the hotel, “I can get a taxi from here.”
Alexandria made a noise somewhere between a squeal and a snort. “My dear, there is the reception. We have four hundred guests waiting to pay their respects. Do behave! Roberta!?”
Robbie trained her eyes on Janet who looked like she was about to rebel. “You will come with me and trust me to see that things are done right. Don’t worry, I will not expose you to any of Alexandria’s friends.” Janet’s face dropped the scowl and almost smiled.
“Roberta!” protested her mother.
Robbie ignored Alexandria and turned to her sister. “Sorry Sis, you will have to run shotgun while I babysit.”
Elizabeth nodded but said nothing. It was obvious that as far as Beth was concerned Roberta’s word was law.
They all trooped out, Roberta keeping the heir apparent in her arms. It was important that the press see a united Williams’ front. They walked a gauntlet of reporters in the lobby. Robbie wrapped a protective arm around Janet and covered the baby’s face by folding up her collar as they bee-lined for the waiting elevator.
On the top floor, they were ushered by the manager into a private suite where they took off their coats and straightened their make-up. Janet used the time to play with Rebecca on the floor after she had washed and changed her. Then they went to greet their guests in an adjoining hall.
The evening was a blur to Janet who was emotionally drained. Robbie steered her around and when she saw that her eyes were no longer focused she ushered her back into the bedroom and left her to sleep with Rebecca.
Several hours later, Robbie returned to find mother and daughter asleep still, Rebecca safely under the covers with her mom’s protective arm over her and Janet on top of the covers wearing only her slip. Her strawberry blond hair washed across the pillow.
For a minute, Robbie leaned against the door jamb and enjoyed the view. She was a beautiful woman, Robbie concluded – photogenic features; wonder if she can act? She pushed herself off and walked over to the bed. “Janet. Janet. Hey!” Robbie called resorting to giving the petite woman’s bare shoulder a shake. The skin was warm and silky soft under Robbie’s hand. Robbie pulled her hand away.
“Huh? Oh! What time is it?” the blond asked, clearly not fully awake.
“Time to go,” responded Robbie. “I’ll get you a coffee while you are dressing.” She turned and left. Janet got up and busied herself getting washed and dressed and seeing to Rebecca.
Robbie returned some time later with a coffee, a glass of milk and some cookies on a tray. “Here, the limo is downstairs. It will take us over to where your car is parked. Then I’ll drive home with you,” organized Robbie.
Really, I’m okay,” stated Janet hurriedly, “I can manage from here.”
“Feed the kid,” was Robbie’s only response as she again left the room.
When she returned, she had changed to jeans and a suede jacket over a brushed cotton shirt and was carrying an overnight bag. Janet was just getting Rebecca into her coat. “This isn’t necessary,” Janet complained.
“Yes, it is. You are tired and emotional and you plan to drive some five hundred miles through the night with the only Williams’ heir,” Robbie stated bluntly.
“Damn the Williams!” snapped Janet her temper rising at this woman’s clear intention to meddle in her life.
“Too late, they already are,” responded Robbie calmly. “I will drive and you can take care of…”
“Rebecca,” supplied Janet sharply.
“Rebecca,” repeated Robbie looking at the child as she registered her name. Then she reached into her coat pocket and pulled out her cellular phone. “Rowe, we are leaving the hotel now. I’ll be gone two days maybe more.” The phone clicked off.