Taylor stood beside the gaping mouth of the casket, willing her legs to remain still. Hours of shaking hands and accepting condolences had taken their toll, leaving her feeling frayed and her mouth drier than the desert that he’d been killed in.
‘They’re still out the door and down the street.’ A friend whispered in her ear. ‘I never knew Matt had so many friends.’
‘He was a soldier, Mel. Most of these people are just public wanting to do something to honor a fallen soldier. They don’t even know him, much less really care to. They’re just here for the show.’ Taylor sighed, turning to shake another hand.
The hand was strong, firm, and very familiar. She followed the hand to the arm and then up to the face. Her lips parted, but no sound emerged from her mouth.
‘I’m sorry for your loss, Ma’am.’ The heavy voice spoke as she met his eyes. HIS eyes…it couldn’t be. Her legs turned to jelly and she sank against the edge of the casket. No, this couldn’t be happening…it couldn’t be – be HIM.
Strong arms caught and supported to her as she felt the warmth of his breath, the brush of his mouth on her earlobe. His words were simple.
‘I’m alive, don’t worry.’
Taylor stared ahead in veiled horror, then turned to the casket and the poly-plastic reconstruction of what was once her husband’s face. It looked so real, so lifelike… Her mouth was suddenly so dry that she couldn’t even call out his name as she looked back and saw the man’s back disappear out the side door.