They were home again, without warning. The first intimation of their return was the sound of luggage being thumped on the front-hall floor and Bonnie's voice crying, "Mother!"
Scarlett hurried from her room at the top of the stair and saw her daughter stretching her short plump legs in an effort to climb the steps. A resigned striped kitten was clutched to her breast.
"Gran'ma gave him to me," she cried excitedly, holding the kitten out by the scruff.
Scarlett swept her up into her arms and kissed her, thankful that the child's presence spared her her first meeting alone with Rhett. Looking over Bonnie's head she saw him in the hall below paying the cab driver. He looked up, saw her and swept off his hat in a wide gesture, bowing as he did. When she met his dark eyes her heart leaped. No matter what he was, no matter what he had done, he was home and she was glad.
"Where's Mammy?" asked Bonnie, wriggling out of Scarlett's grasp and she reluctantly set the child on her feet.
It was going to be harder than she'd anticipated, greeting Rhett with just the right degree of casualness and, as for telling him about the new baby! She looked at his face as he came up the steps, that dark nonchalant face, so impervious, so blank. No, she'd wait to tell him. She couldn't tell him right away. And yet, such tiding as these belonged first to a husband, for a husband was always happy to hear them. But she did not think he would be happy about it.
She stood on the landing, wondering if he would kiss her. But he did not. He only said: "You are looking pale. Is there a rouge shortage?"
Not a word of missing her, even if he didn't mean it. And he might have at least kissed her in front of Mammy who, after bobbing a curtsy, was leading Bonnie away down the hall to the nursery. He stood beside her on the landing, his eyes appraising her carelessly.
"Can this wanness mean you've been missing me?" he questioned, and though his lips smiled, his eyes did not.
So that was going to be his attitude. He was going to be as hateful as ever. Suddenly the child she was carrying became a nauseating burden instead of something she'd gladly carried, and this man before her, standing carelessly with his wide Panama ha upon his hip, her bitterest foe, the cause of all her troubles. There was venom in her eyes as she answered, venom that was too unmistakable to be missed, and smile went from his face.
"If I'm pale it's your fault! Not because I've been missing you, you conceited thing, it's because-"
Scarlett stopped herself and turned to go upstairs. She didn't want to tell him this way. Perhaps she wouldn't tell him at all, and he'd go away and leave her alone, and she could have the baby all to herself. She smiled slightly at the thought, and the expression wasn't lost on Rhett.
"Pray go on Mrs. Butler," Scarlett glanced at him in annoyance, then ignored him and continued towards her room. Suddenly she stopped and turned to him.
"Go on your trip, go wherever you please, but if I'm not here when you come back, don't be surprised."
"Just where do you plan to be?"
"I don't know, possibly Tara. My children are going to live in a good environment, like the one I was raised in."
"I'm sure Wade might like that, but Ella likes the city. And Bonnie is just as much mine as yours, and will surely miss me."
Scarlett glared at him fiercely. "Ella will adjust, as will Bonnie. There will be a lot of excitement over the next few months, then entertainment in taking care of the bab- " Again she stopped herself.
Rhett looked over Scarlett, now that he thought about it, she was looking different; it was more than just being pale. Her face and mannerisms were softer somehow; she no longer looked quite so childish or quite so hard. His manner changed drastically and he gently pulled her hands away from where they had flown to cover her mouth. "What did you say Scarlett?"
"I…I'm…it's not important." Scarlett pulled her hands loose and looked away. She moved again towards her bedroom then stopped, turned and looked at Rhett. She smiled tentatively at him and started to open her mouth, but lost her courage and rushed off to her bedroom.
Rhett looked after her, worry and a carefully hidden eagerness in his eyes.
The next day Scarlett spent the afternoon with Bonnie, and even went so far as to go riding with her, the first time she'd been riding for pleasure in years-since the war started. They didn't go far, merely around the block, but somehow Scarlett felt as if she'd bonded with her daughter on the short ride. When they returned they headed straight for the nursery, where Scarlett joined Bonnie and Ella for their daily tea party. Somehow the ginger-haired girl wasn't as irritating to Scarlett as she usually was, and they trio found themselves enjoying the tea party immensely. Much to both Ella's and Scarlett's surprise, for Ella had never found her mother a very willing playmate, and Scarlett had never found that she enjoyed the presence of her two older children.
This surprising scenario was the one that Rhett found himself watching from the doorway. His wife and daughter laughing and drinking tea from absurdly small cups, while Ella munched on a cake and giggled without reason.
Bonnie was the first to notice her father, and surprisingly she frowned. The blue- eyed little girl walked up to him and pushed him back. "You can't come in Daddy. Girls only, no daddies."
Scarlett almost laughed at the expression on Rhett's face, but immediately felt bad. "Bonnie, baby. That's not nice."
Bonnie turned and pouted cutely. "But Daddy had tea with me and Gran'ma, I want to have tea with you and Ella."
Scarlett couldn't help herself. Rhett looked so hurt, and Bonnie was so adorable, that Scarlett couldn't help but start laughing. "You can have tea with her tomorrow Rhett, Bonnie's right, it's a girl's day." She stood and picked Bonnie up. "And later, we can go see Aunt Melly." Bonnie laughed and hugged her mother. "And Beau, and Uncle Ashley."
Rhett's face hardened and Scarlett laughed slightly. "It seems you've been rejected Mr. Butler." She turned and smiled brightly at Rhett before setting Bonnie down and returning to her seat. The little girl gave her father a Look, then settled into her own seat.
Rhett raised an eyebrow and nodded. "It seems I have. I suppose I'll just have to find entertainment elsewhere. Good day ladies." He bowed slightly and shut the door behind him.
Scarlett flinched at what she felt was implied, but refused to let herself think about it. Instead she turned her attention to her daughters, and finding out as much about them as possible.
Rhett paced angrily around Belle's office.
"I knew she missed Scarlett, but I never thought she'd turn me away."
Belle smiled. "Rhett, the child has been gone for three months, she wants to spend some time with her mother. It's natural, any normal girl would do the same, I'd be more concerned if she wasn't a little tired of you."
"But to push me away? To refuse to let me in when Scarlett was welcome? Good Lord, she even wants to visit Ashley Wilkes."
Belle looked incredulous. "Did she say him specifically?"
"Yes," he smiled grimly. "I wish I knew what charm he seems to hold for the women in my life."
Belle flinched slightly, but Rhett was far too upset to notice, or care. "Rhett, you're the child's father and she loves you. To her Mr. Wilkes is just Mrs. Wilkes' husband, and the boy's father."
"And Scarlett's my wife, but she thinks of him as a lot more than that."
Belle sighed. "Rhett, you knew about this long before you married her didn't you?"
Rhett stopped pacing and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Yes. I knew."
"Then don't come crying to me about it. You knew exactly what you were getting into, if you're gonna regret marrying her, I'll sympathize, if you're gonna complain about Mr. Wilkes, don't bother."
Rhett glanced at her. She was entirely serious. He grabbed his coat off the back of a chair and angrily stormed out.
Scarlett giggled childishly as she and her daughters reached the Wilkes' home. She knelt and looked in mock-gravity at her two daughters.
"Bonnie, Ella, this is a very serious occasion. We're going visiting; you must be on your best behavior. No silliness, no yelling. Remember...I'll be watching you..." She finished this in a creepy voice, then burst into giggles.
The door opened and Beau was assaulted by a giggling mass of blue velvet, Bonnie not being able to restrain herself from hugging him.
"Bonnie!" Scarlett reproved laughingly. "At least wait until we get inside to start hugging everything in sight."
Bonnie looked up at her mother and dutifully waddled inside before hugging Beau again. Scarlett merely laughed and took Ella's hand as they entered the house.
Melanie came out of the kitchen, smiling when she heard Scarlett's voice then beaming when she saw Bonnie. "Bonnie! You've come home!" Bonnie ran and hugged Melanie's leg.
"Aunt Melly, Aunt Melly! Daddy took me to Charleston…" She stumbled slightly over the large word "and Grandma gave me a kitten, and we had loads of fun. But I missed Mother, so Daddy brought me home."
Melanie laughed and picked up the youngest of Scarlett's children. "I'm glad you enjoyed it sweetheart."
"And Aunt Melly, I saw the ocean! Daddy took me out on a boat, it was fun, and I saw a dolphin!"
Melanie laughed. "Really? I've always wanted to see a dolphin. Was it pretty?"
Bonnie frowned. "I only saw it for a second, then Daddy made me come away. He said is was a bad dolphin."
Scarlett's eyebrows shot up; she hadn't heard this part. "Bad dolphin? Is that what he called them baby?"
Bonnie's face scrunched up as she tried to remember something that to her young mind had happened eons ago. "No…Daddy called them something else. I can't remember."
Bonnie's face lit up. "That's it! Daddy called them sharks! He said they were bad."
Scarlett laughed lightly. "He was entirely right precious, sharks are very bad."
Melanie smiled and suggested they go sit down. She quietly sent the maid to get some tea and cookies, and led them into the parlor.
Meanwhile Rhett had gone home, planning to spend the day in his room, with a brandy bottle for company. He was surprised when he found Dr. Meade waiting for him in the parlor.
The old doctor stood when Rhett entered and jumped right to the point. "I'll not waist time on pleasantries Mr. Butler, I'm worried about Scarlett."
That wasn't what Rhett was expecting, and in a second he had crossed the room. "What happened? Why?"
Dr. Meade frowned at him. "Her pregnancy isn't going well. She seems weak and she hasn't been eating properly, even Mammy has noticed it and told me about it. She isn't strong right now, and having you gone hasn't helped her condition any. She needs to relax, or she may lose the child. If she continues as she has been she might even die."
Rhett was still in slight shock that Scarlett was pregnant-the thought had occurred to him, but he'd shoved it away as being impossible-so when he heard she might die, it took him a moment to digest what had been said. "Scarlett's never been sick a day in her life."
"Well she is now. I've never been overly fond of either of you, but if you don't take care of her and this child, I'll have your head." With that the pompous doctor put on his hat and left the Butler house.
Rhett sank slowly into a chair, trying to make sense of what he'd been told. The words 'might die' echoed in his thoughts, blocking everything else out.
He was still sitting there when Scarlett came home several hours later, laughing gaily with Melanie trailing behind, the girls having gone upstairs to the nursery.
"Oh Melly, I've missed her so much." Scarlett said emotionally, not noticing that her husband occupied the chair facing the fireplace.
"I know you have darling. She's so sweet, and full of laughter. She obviously missed you too."
"Do you really think so Melly? I always get the feeling that she loves Rhett, and not me."
Melanie laughed softly. "Scarlett darling, there's room in her heart for both of you. Just because you love Bonnie doesn't mean you love Captain Butler any less does it?"
Scarlett sighed slightly and forced her voice into more cheerful tones. "Oh Melly, how you do run on. Why of course not. I just don't see him as much nowadays, since he's always off with Bonnie."
"Scarlett, darling, you must understand! Why, with Bonnie he only has a few years before she grows up and leaves, and he wants to treasure it. Just like he'll treasure the time with the new baby. What did he say when you told him?"
Scarlett frowned and her voice changed subtly. "I haven't. Not yet anyway."
"Scarle-" Melanie started to exclaim before Scarlett raised a hand silencing her.
"It just hasn't seemed to be the right time. We haven't had a chance to talk alone since he got back, someone's always around or we're always fighting."
"You'll find the opportunity soon Scarlett darling. But now I must be going home."
"Yes, I'll see you tomorrow Melly." The door opened and closed and Scarlett was alone- so she thought. She turned and moved towards her favorite chair, planning to sit and relax. You can imagine her surprise when she saw Rhett sitting there, looking at her with mild curiosity and amusement.
"You really should learn to check chairs and sofas before you have such conversations Scarlett," Rhett smiled, irritating her.
"Rhett! You! OH! Were you there the entire time? Why didn't you say anything?" Scarlett asked indignantly.
"As I've said before, eavesdroppers often learn very interesting things. Like the fact that they are going to be fathers."
Scarlett's anger ebbed and she felt suddenly guilty. "I was going to tell you Rhett, but I haven't had time since you got back, and I, well, I don't know why I didn't write to you about it but well, you were so nasty before and…"
Rhett smiled slightly. "It's all right. You needn't worry," he replied in his slow Charlestonian drawl. "Besides which my pet, it wasn't my eavesdropping this evening that informed me of your pregnancy."
Scarlett started. "It wasn't?" She asked incredulously. "How'd you know?"
"I had a visit from Dr. Meade this afternoon, he said he was worried about you. And that you might lose the baby if you weren't careful."
Scarlett's eyes narrowed. "The pompous old busybody. He's as bad as old lady Merriweather."
"For once I appreciate his pomposity. I don't care what you say about it, I'm putting you in bed, and you are going to eat a large dinner. Dr. Meade also said you hadn't been eating."
Scarlett dismissed the comment. "Fiddle-dee-dee. I've been eating plenty. Besides, isn't Mammy always saying that ladies eat 'lak a bird'?"
Rhett's face belied his light tone. "I thought we'd already agreed that you are not a lady my dear." His voice changed. "And you're going to eat every bite if I have to hand- feed you."
Scarlett pouted. "It's not my fault I don't have a big appetite lately. I'm just not hungry."
"Whether you're hungry or not you are going to eat, at least as long as I'm around."
She scowled at him. "You can't boss me! I'll do as I please!" She declared heatedly.
Rhett's eyes darkened as he looked into his wife's determined face. He knew she could be indescribably stubborn, especially if anyone tried to tell her to do the opposite. But she wasn't going to win this one. "I normally wouldn't care if you did starve yourself, you could stand to lose a few pounds," said almost teasingly "but as it is you could die if you don't take care of yourself, not to mention lose the baby."
Scarlett stamped her foot. "Now just what do you mean by that? I'm perfectly thin!"
Rhett laughed, which only made her madder.
"And as for losing the baby, what do you care? You'd probably rather I did!" Rhett stopped laughing and in an instant was on his feet and had a hold of her arm.
"Never say that Scarlett. Don't even think it." There was anger in his tone, and his action.
Scarlett looked up at Rhett's swarthy face, seeing only anger and none of the hurt that registered on his features. Her bottom lip quivered and her eyes filled with tears. She looked away, hating herself for showing weakness before him. Suddenly she felt tired, oh so very tired, she leaned heavily on Rhett as she felt the world start to slip away. She faintly heard him say her name, but he was fading, and answering would have taken so much effort…
When Scarlett next awoke she found herself in her darkened bedroom, lit only by a small lamp on her dresser, and she wondered absently how she'd gotten there.
For a moment she felt very alone, she could hear no sounds in the great house, and irrationally wondered if she was the only one in it. But no, there were always servants in the house. She heard footsteps along the hall and shrunk down amongst her blankets. The door opened and she heard a quietly whispered conversation. She could distinguish Melanie's voice, as well as that of Dr. Meade.
Scarlett drew up what little strength she had and feebly called out: "Melly?" the voices hushed and were replaced by the sounds of Melanie's skirt swishing as she approached Scarlett's bed and held up the lamp.
"Scarlett, are you awake honey?"
She could only nod and ask in a frighteningly weak voice what had happened.
Melanie glanced back at Dr. Meade who stood in the doorway. A silent conversation seemed to pass between them, after which Melanie set her mouth in a grim line before looking at Scarlett and forcing a smile. "You just fainted honey. That's all. Would you like some water?"
Scarlett nodded weakly and tried to sit up. "Wh-where's Rhett?" She asked, her voice quavering.
Melanie poured a glass from a pitcher on the dresser and gestured slightly toward a chair in the corner. "Right over there. He hasn't left once since you fainted."
Scarlett still struggled to sit up, and looking in the direction Melanie had pointed she could see Rhett's figure sleeping in the mohair chair she used at her dressing table. "Ho-how long have I been asleep Melly?" Scarlett was getting a little stronger, but her voice still trembled violently.
"Nearly two days honey. You gave everyone quite a scare. Here, drink." Melanie put the glass to Scarlett's dry lips.
When Scarlett had drank two glasses she aired a thought that had plagued her since she woke. "Melly?"
"Yes Scarlett darling?"
"The baby?" In the darkness Scarlett thought she saw Melanie flinch. "It's not-it didn't-?" Scarlett's voice rose with hysteria.
"No, no honey. Calm down Scarlett darling, no." Melanie took Scarlett's clammy hand in her own reassuring one.
Obediently Scarlett calmed. "Then what-then why-why did I faint?"
"You're just under a lot of stress honey. It just took a toll on you, and Dr. Meade says you'll need to stay in bed for a while, and try to just relax until the baby comes."
Thus soothed Scarlett leaned back. "But I need to take care of the store…" She said weakly, not really expecting to do so, but having to put in the argument.
She started in surprise when Rhett's voice answered from beside her, his waking and kneeling on the floor next to her bed having not been seen by her.
"Anything that needs to be taken care of at the store I'll do it. You need your rest." His voice was gentle, but firm. Scarlett only nodded weakly and asked what time it was.
"Just past midnight my pet. Now lie back down, you need to get some sleep." Rhett smiled at her, no revealing how much he had worried, or the fear that still chilled him when he thought about her weakness, or what Dr. Meade had said that evening, that if Scarlett didn't recover her strength quickly she would surely die.
Melanie tactfully departed, shutting the door behind her and showing Dr. Meade out.
Scarlett smiled weakly at him. "I am awfully tired." She allowed Rhett to tuck her back in to her bed, but when he started to take the lamp and retire to his own room she called out, "wait, please Rhett, don't go. I don't want to be alone."
He laughed softly. "Your wish is my command." He left the room but returned a minute later wearing his dressing gown, his pillow and a blanket tucked under his arm. He began to arrange them on the floor, and Scarlett leaned over the side of the bed.
"Rhett…you don't have to sleep on the floor if you don't want to." She said shyly.
He raised an eyebrow. "Is that so? Am I being invited into your bed?"
Scarlett blushed. "Well, it's just that the floor can't be very comfortable, and Melly said you'd been sleeping in that chair and well…I just thought it would be more comfortable." She finished lamely.
Rhett smiled slightly. "Thank you, but I think it would be better if I stayed on the floor."
Scarlett let out a small "oh" before settling quietly amongst her pillows.
"Do I detect disappointment?" In the dimness Scarlett couldn't see the eager light in his eyes, or the tension in his pose, and in her exhaustion didn't hear the hope in his voice.
She glanced at him and blushed again. "Oh, well, you see, I'd gotten used to you, and well, this is a rather large bed and it gets lonely, sleeping by myself." She replied softly.
Rhett nodded slowly. He stood, leaned over and lightly kissed Scarlett on the forehead. "Time to sleep my pet." He tucked Scarlett's blankets around her, saying lightly that they were 'all feathers and no substance' and, lying beside her on the bed pulled his own blanket around him.
Scarlett turned her head and smiled at him, before laying her head down and immediately falling into a deep sleep.
Rhett didn't sleep as easily, he'd forgotten the feeling of having Scarlett asleep beside him, it had once been one of his favorite things, to lie there in the bed while Scarlett snored -for she did snore, despite her denial- peacefully beside him. He eventually drifted off, thinking that perhaps their marriage hadn't been a mistake after all.
The next morning Scarlett woke to find herself alone, and she couldn't help but wonder if she'd dreamt the last night. The answer came a few minutes later, when the door was pushed open and Rhett entered, carrying a breakfast tray loaded down with food.
She smiled both at the sight of her husband and the sight of the meal- she was absolutely starving.
Rhett caught the expression and laughed. "If I were a little more conceited I'd think you were this happy to see me."
Scarlett giggled. "After not eating a bite for two whole days, you'd be hungry too."
"My pet, I fully know the feeling. But it would be nice if you'd at least pretend to be happy to see me."
She looked at him quizzically, then shrugged and smiled. "Oh but I am! I was afraid I'd dreamt last night. And I hate when dreams seem real like that."
"Ah, so my appearance is pleasant, in that it proves you were not delirious?" He smiled slightly.
"It helps," she laughed. "Of course Rhett, I'm always happy to see you. When you aren't being nasty." She added, her eyes dancing.
"Is that so?" He raised an eyebrow as he set the tray down on a nearby chair.
"Well naturally. You can be very enjoyable when you're being nice."
"The same can be said for you my pet, when you aren't thinking of money, or Ashley Wilkes."
Scarlett sat up angrily. "Why did you have to say that? Are you trying to spoil one of our few pleasant moments?"
"Not at all." Rhett replied blandly. "I was merely stating a fact."
"Well don't," She said shortly. "Besides, I don't think of Ashley hardly at all anymore." She pouted and leaned back against her pillows.
"Oh no? Why not?" Scarlett glanced at him and saw once again saw the strange look on his face.
"Well, I don't really know. I don't know why I even said anything." She mumbled, and squirming under Rhett's intense gaze, felt prodded into finishing. "I haven't felt the same about him for a while, I don't know why. It's just different. Like he's more of a brother." Scarlett hadn't put her feelings into words before that moment, and suddenly realized the truth in them. "It was the same before when Archie and India saw us at the mill. There wasn't anything wrong at all, and I didn't want there to be." This last was said in a tone of mild amazement.
Rhett almost visibly restrained himself, and sat on the edge of her bed. "Then what was going on?" His tone was curious, but something else lurked in it just beneath the surface, something that Scarlett couldn't analyze.
She sighed. "Oh, nothing! That's the irritating part. He started talking about the old days, and I started remembering all my old beaux and just everything about the County, everything I'd tried not to think about. I guess I was crying, I don't really remember, and he felt guilty, and tried to comfort me. That's all."
"Really? How ironic that you should be caught at that time then."
Scarlett sighed heavily. "It is. Vexing too, especially since I can't say anything. Melly won't listen to my explanation, and there's no one else who'd believe me."
Rhett glanced at her unhappy face and almost felt guilty for not having stayed with her to at least try and protect her. "I believe you." He said quietly.
Scarlett looked up at him incredulously. "You do? Why the sudden confidence?"
"Because my pet, you are a terrible liar." Rhett smiled mockingly at her then continued. "Because you have nothing to gain from telling me all this if it weren't true, and because I know you."
Scarlett tilted her head to the side and looked at him, something that had always been unreadable in his eyes suddenly became clear to her. "You always have known me…better than anyone. Charles, Frank, they never knew me and never wanted to. None of my old beaux did. They wanted a sweet simple-minded little creature, not me. But you wanted me, me for myself, didn't you?"
Rhett stared hard at her for a moment, as if trying to read her thoughts. Finally he sighed. "Yes, I wanted you."
Scarlett smiled slowly at him, making his heart contract painfully. "You have me now Rhett."
He stared into her eyes, no longer trying to read her thoughts, but her heart. "Do I?" He nearly whispered.
Scarlett opened her mouth to reply, but Rhett had found his answer in her eyes. His mouth found hers, and he took her in his arms.
Some weeks later, returning from the bank, Rhett found Scarlett in the parlor, looking pale as death, and staring into space.
"Scarlett? What's wrong?" He asked, concern obvious in his voice.
She slowly raised her eyes to his. "Ashley's dead." She whispered.
Rhett started. That wasn't what he'd been expecting. "What happened?" He asked gently.
"He was at the lumber mill. A team of horses got spooked and..." she shuddered violently. "I was there, I was talking to him, then he tried to stop them, and...and, I, I, oh Rhett!" She started sobbing uncontrollably. "It was so horrible! One minute we were talking, the next...the next he was dead!"
Rhett quietly took his wife in his arms, knowing she needed comforting. "It's all right."
Scarlett looked up at him tearfully. "Oh Rhett! It's all my fault! If it wasn't for me..."
"If it wasn't for you Melanie would have died during the war, Ashley would probably have starved, and Beau wouldn't have been born. If it wasn't for you my pet, they would have been worse off than they are. Their lives might have been more content, but they would all have been dead long before now."
"But I made them all miserable! I made Ashley come to Atlanta, and I made Melly alienate her friends, and I always snubbed her, and..."
Rhett shook his head slightly. "My pet, you didn't make Melanie do anything. She did what she wanted to do, and that was protect you from whatever gossip she could. Because she loves you."
"But I should have been nicer, now Ashley's dead, and it's my fault! He wouldn't have been there at all if I hadn't made him come to Atlanta, and Melly would still be on speaking terms with her family!" Scarlett sniffled.
"And she would be utterly miserable amongst the Yankees in New York."
"Still, I could have made them happier." Scarlett pouted.
"If you were someone else. Scarlett, if you are determined to blame yourself, I can't stop you." Scarlett glared at him and without another word went up to their room.
Once again Rhett was pacing in front of Scarlett's bedroom, waiting desperately for the sounds of a baby crying, or even Scarlett moaning. There hadn't been a sound from the room in over an hour, and he was almost ready to burst in there and demand to know what had happened.
Suddenly Scarlett screamed.
He was halfway to the door when it opened a second later, and Mammy rushed out. She stopped and looked at him for a moment. "Mist' Rhett, yo' needs ter cahm dahn. Effen Miz Scarlett sees yo' lak dis' she ain' gwine ter be ebbel ter sleep. An' she sho needs it, whut affer habbin' two babies in one day." She smiled slyly and hurried on down the stairs to issue orders to the other servants.
Rhett turned to the half-open door as Dr. Meade came out.
"You can go in now Captain Butler." He said, gesturing.
Rhett ran past him without a word and stared in wonder at the two tiny babies carefully wrapped in towels that Scarlett held weakly in her arms.
"It's twins Rhett." She said, smiling. "A boy and a girl…twins!"
"They're perfect." He whispered looking at their tiny faces.
"I know what I want to call them…" She looked hopefully at Rhett.
"Charles Gerald…and Melanie Eleanor…"
"That sounds perfect."
Scarlett's eyes closed slowly. "Perfect." she whispered. A moment later she was asleep, and Rhett picked up the tiny form of his youngest child, who would forever be known the rest of her life as Elaine Butler.
Two weeks after the birth of the twins Scarlett found herself running through the rainy streets of Atlanta, taking a well-known shortcut to the Wilkes' home.
Melanie was having her baby.
She was thoroughly soaked when she arrived, but she paused only a moment to remove her wrapper, before rushing up the stairs to Melanie's room.
Dr. Meade opened the door and said quickly. "Scarlett. She's been calling for you."
"But Dr. Meade, she's not…she won't…she will be alright won't she?"
"She's been calling for you." He replied, his voice flat.
Scarlett's eyes widened and she nodded. She bit her lower lip and followed him into the bedroom. She was shocked when she saw how pale and drawn Melanie looked. "Melly?" She called softly.
Melanie smiled when she saw Scarlett and gestured for Dr. Meade to leave. "Scarlett…" She called weakly.
"I'm here Melly."
"Yes Melly, what is it?"
"I'm going to die."
"No you aren't Melly! If you die, I'll, I'll never forgive you!"
"Scarlett darling, please don't be angry…"
"Don't be a goose Melly, you aren't going to die."
"When I'm gone…take care of my children...they'll be...all alone now…"
"Melly, you'll be here to take care of them, and love them. We need you Melly."
"Scarlett darling…you will take care of them won't you?"
"Of course I will. But they won't need it."
"Treat them…like you would your own children…"
"And…take care of...Wade...and Ella...they love you so..."
"I will Melly."
"Make sure...Beau doesn't...grieve..."
"Melanie Wilkes! Stop talking as if you're going to die!"
"I'm…so tired Scarlett…"
"Oh, I know Melly. It's awful…I thought I was going to die too!"
"No you didn't…"
"Oh didn't I? Melly, maybe, maybe you're just like me, maybe you're just so tired because you're going to have twins, like me."
Melanie looked at Scarlett and smiled blissfully. "Twins…I would love twins…"
"So whenever you feel tired, remember you have to keep trying, for the children."
"I'll…I'll try Scarlett…"
"Now Melly, you don't worry about a thing. I'll take care of you." She forced a smile and dipped a cloth in the bowl of cool water beside the bed.
"You're good to me Scarlett…"
"Yes Melly, you're lucky." Scarlett forced a cheerful laugh. "With me here, nothing bad will happen.."
Melanie smiled then sighed. "Scarlett, you should be home…resting."
"What! Melly don't be silly. I'm perfectly all right."
"You aren't well Scarlett…" Melanie weakly reached out and patted Scarlett's hand. "I'll be alright…"
Scarlett said nothing for a moment, she knew Melanie was right, she wasn't well, and if Rhett caught her over here when she should be in bed-after having run through the rain too!-she knew she'd be in trouble. But Melanie needed her. So Scarlett tossed her head carelessly and lied. "Oh fiddle-dee-dee Melly! Why, I'm healthy as a horse. And besides, what kind of godmother would I be if I wasn't here when your baby was born?"
"Scarlett, darling…you've always been a wonderful godmother…you've done more for me and Beau…than anyone else…ever. No one…would hold it against you for being in bed dearest…"
"Hush Melly. Save your strength." Scarlett gently wiped the perspiration from Melanie's brow, then sat on a chair beside the bed.
Melanie smiled and gently squeezed Scarlett's hand. "Thank you…dearest Scarlett…"
That night Melanie's first and only daughter was born. She was christened Scarlett Melanie Wilkes, Melanie insisting that Scarlett should be the baby's name, and Scarlett arguing that the girl should be named after her mother, they finally compromised.
When she first set eyes on her newborn daughter Melanie's face held a resemblance to a candle that had never before held a burning wick, and at that moment had suddenly been lit.
"My beautiful baby..." She whispered weakly.
Scarlett smiled despite her exhaustion. "She's lovely Melly."
"You'll...make sure she's taken care of?" Melanie asked, looking intently into Scarlett's eyes.
"Of course Melly. But you're all right now, you can take care of her."
Melanie nodded weakly. "But...if I should...you will take care of her darling?"
"Well I just said I would honey. But now, let me take her, you must be exhausted, and you both need your sleep." Scarlett stood and reached for the baby Melanie held in her arms.
Melanie shook her head weakly. "No..."
"What?" Scarlett looked at Melanie with surprise plain in her eyes.
"Let her...sleep here, with me...please Scarlett..." Melanie looked pleadingly at the baby.
Scarlett smiled wearily. "Of course Melly. I'll be right back honey, I just need to get a glass of water."
Melanie just nodded and smiled at her baby.
Quietly Scarlett exited Melanie's bedroom, and hurried to the parlor where Dr. Meade had sent Aunt Pitty Pat and-surprisingly-India.
But to Scarlett's surprise when she opened the parlor door, she found not only the two relatives, but Rhett was there as well. The group stood at her entrance, and only then did Scarlett glance at a mirror hung on the wall and notice her own unhealthy pallor. She bit her bottom lip and addressed the group.
"It's a girl." She stated quietly. "Melly said she's to be called Scarlett Melanie."
India stood regally. "And Melanie?"
Scarlett looked down. "Dr. Meade said...he said she's very weak...and..."
Pitty Pat burst into tears and wrung her hands. "You don't mean!"
Scarlett nodded. "He's not sure, but Melly...but Melly seems to...to..." She bit her lip fiercely, trying to quell the tears that were already falling. She felt her knees buckle and Rhett was beside her in an instant. He put an arm around her waist and tried to steady her.
"You need to rest. I'll take you home." He said softly.
Scarlett shook her head, but leaned against him, drawing strength from his strength. "I have to stay, for Melly."
"You're sick Scarlett. You're going home, and to bed." He replied firmly.
Again she shook her head. "Rhett, I won't leave, not until...until something has happened either way." She tried to free herself from his grasp but he refused to let go.
Just then Dr. Meade entered. "Scarlett?"
Her eyes snapped up. "Yes?" She asked tensely.
He smiled calmly. "It's all right. Miss Melly'll be fine."
Scarlett went suddenly weak. She felt Rhett supporting her, until she managed to get herself under control. "Really?" She whispered.
The old doctor looked quite pleased. "Yes indeed. She might take a while to recover, but she should live."
Scarlett nodded, suddenly feeling the entirety of her exhaustion. "Tell her I'll be back tomorrow, please Dr. Meade?"
Rhett shook his head. "Tell Miss Melly Scarlett will be back when she's regained her own strength, and convey our good wishes till then."
Dr. Meade nodded. "Indeed I will Mr. Butler."
The two men shook hands, then Rhett guided Scarlett outside, and into their carriage. Once inside he began.
"What did you think you were doing? You could have gotten yourself killed, you're weak, you almost passed out in there. You never even got warmed up did you?"
"No." Scarlett replied, her voice small.
"I didn't think so, you've probably caught pneumonia from it." Seeing Scarlett's stricken face his voice softened. "Scarlett, I just worry about you. After all, if you got sick and died, I'd have five children on my hands." His tone was amused and teasing now, where it had been angry and worried. "But I'll stop lecturing you. I'm sure you'll get enough of hat from Mammy when we get home."
Scarlett groaned and leaned back, so exhausted was she that she fell asleep, and the last sound she remembered was Rhett's laughter.
*after note* Melanie later moved to Aunt Pittypat's house, and where Beau and Scarlett Melanie-better known as Lanie-spent the rest of their childhood.
Rhett and Scarlett's daughter Elaine died at the age of thirteen, after falling from her horse at Tara-she was Scarlett's favorite.
When Wade was eighteen he went to West Point-followed two years later by Beau, then later by Charles.
Wade married a french girl he met on his Grand Tour.
Beau and Bonnie were married as soon as she turned seventeen.
Charles and Lanie married when they were eighteen.
Wade had one daughter, Jeanne, names after her mother, who died in childbirth.
Beau and Bonnie had two sons and a daughter, Ashley, Rhett, and Elaine.
Charles and Lanie had three children, twins, Marie and Annette, and Katie Scarlett.