Robert takes a deep breath, shifting uncomfortably on his feet. He lays white roses on the stone grave, inhaling sharply before slowly letting it out. The stone reads:
Christine Marie White
Beloved daughter, mother, and sister
Robert still can’t believe Rebecca actually put Chrissie’s headstone here, and this is what’s all that’s left of her. He would think considering all that Emmerdale had done to them and the heartache it brought them the last thing she would want is her dad and sister buried here. But Robert figures since Rebecca won’t be visiting the village in the near future, it didn’t matter anyway.
Robert’s heart clenches when he thinks of Seb and how he let him go. He knew how painful it was going to be for Rebecca to stay where her whole family died, so Robert chose to let Seb go. Rebecca moved to Australia with Seb, and she promised to let Robert visit occasionally and Skype him often. It wasn’t perfect, both Robert and Rebecca had done so many things wrong, but this time, it felt like maybe they were doing something right for a change.
Robert’s mind goes back to the gravestone in front of him, all that’s left of his ex-wife, a woman who came to Emmerdale with him and he repeatedly cheated on her and used her. Yeah, she was no innocent party, look what she did to Andy, he thinks.
Robert sighs. Why did he keep doing this? Try to justify his actions when it came to Chissie lately. It was the guilt. He had so much when it came to her. He may not have had the all consuming, soulmate, can’t-live-without-you kind of love like he has with Aaron, but he did love her once. And to die by your own son’s hand, who Robert felt like he pushed over the edge. The guilt continued to eat at him with each passing day.
“I can’t believe we are here,” Robert whispers to the rock in front of him, as if it’s going to talk back.
“Lucky in prison,” Robert scoffed, “now that I can believe,” he says.
Robert’s eyes soften in remorse. “I’m sorry…”
Chrissie always did want to believe the best in Lachlan, what parent didn’t want to believe the best in their child? But that was always her biggest fault. She couldn’t see what was right in front of her, and it ended up killing her in the end.
“Rebecca's doing well in Australia, Seb too.” Robert clears his throat. “ Sorry she won’t be around to visit much, so you’ll just have to make do with my ugly mug.” Robert laughed awkwardly before becoming serious once more.
“Look...I know that nothing can change the past. Everything that happened between us. What I did to you when we were married. And to your family after. I just want to say...” Robert’s voice cracks, eyes filling with tears, “I’m so sorry, Chrissie.”
Robert hears a tree branch break. He turns his head around quickly.
It’s Aaron off in the distance watching him. Robert wipes at his eyes. “What are you doing here?” He asks.
Aaron holds up his hands in defense. “I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to interrupt. I just happen to be visiting someone else and saw you here, and I didn’t want to disturb you...you okay?” Aaron asks kindly, face full of concern.
Robert smiles at his husband. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
Aaron helps him up.
Aaron smiles. “Yeah, it had been awhile. I like to make sure I visit, have beer, fill him in on the latest.”
Robert nods his head in understanding. He starts brushing the dirt and grass off his butt when Aaron reaches out and gently touches his arm.
“You get everything straightened out?”
Robert thinks about burying it, just saying everything’s good, however since Aaron and him got back together they’ve made an effort to be more open and honest with each other.
“I was there the day she died...moments before she passed. She was so brave but also so scared. All the while still loving and comforting Lachlan...I can’t imagine what that must of been like for her. I just have all this guilt, Aaron. For the things I’ve done, and I thought coming here would help.” Robert shrugs, helplessly, as if he’s not sure what else to say.
“Did it?” Aaron asks.
“I dunno...I guess. Maybe a little.”
“I feel guilty, too.” Aaron admits. “We all have things we feel guilty about or wish we would have done different Robert, even Chrissie. But at the end of the day, as long as we’re sorry and learn from them, that’s what matters.”
Robert smiles, giving Aaron a hug. “When did you get so smart?” He asks.
Aaron pulls back, not letting go of Robert. “When? What do you mean when? I’ve always been this smart!”
Robert laughs, taking Aaron’s hand in his. “Let’s go home.”
”I think next time I’ll bring her yellow roses instead of white,” Robert mutters as they make their way back to the Mill.
“Huh?” Aaron asks.
“Yellow. It was Chrissie’s favorite color.” Robert continues to walk, lost in thought. “She won’t be getting many visitors.” Robert shrugs. “I could fill her in on the latest, keep her in the loop about Seb and Rebecca.”
“I think that sounds real nice, Robert.”
Robert smiles, the uneasiness sliping away, and forever grateful for Aaron’s understanding and kindness.
Aaron frowns, looking back at Robert confused. “For what?” He asks.
“For understanding,” he admits.
”Robert, if you haven’t noticed I still visit Jackson’s grave and have a beer with him! Of course I understand. She used to be important to you... still is.” Aaron frowns again. “Who do you think I am?”
“The best...” Robert confesses, not caring he’s being overly sentimental.
Aaron starts shaking his head, smile on his face. “Come here, ya big softy” he says, before pulling him in for a kiss.