Rhett and Bonnie have been gone for a month now and Scarlett felt as confused as every as to what had happened. How had they shared a night like that and Rhett could just leave?
The day after it took place Scarlett was completely embarrassed. She was embarrassed for the obvious reason of the power that overtook her and how chaotic the night had been. Embarrassed because of what she had done to lead Rhett to act like that. Oh how foolish she was to have hugged Ashley like that, especially to have gotten caught over something that had meant nothing other than friendship to her. There was no feelings that rushed through her when Ashley held her, nothing like the fire that she felt on her skin as Rhett gripped her that same night.
Then she was embarrassed because she had enjoyed that night, though she could barely admit it to herself, let alone ever to Rhett. He'd turned her world upside down, and then left her more confused than when he left Rough and Ready. And left her to work through the confusion on her own.
Maybe it was the night cap they had shared before that made her feel the way that she did. But that didn't make any sense. She had drank with Rhett and spent the night with him before. No, this was something different. She felt as if something had changed within her and she just needed to see him, to look into those dark pools behind his eyes and feel his touch once again.
Scarlett tried to distract herself. Thinking about Rhett would do her no good when he wasn't around, and nothing was going to change until he came back. She threw herself into the store, spending hours going over books and snapping at her employees. It seemed as though she was the only one who knew how to do anything properly. She was constantly just reminding the workers to dust, restock, and change prices. Once she came in late and realized they had even forgotten to change the sign to open! Thinking of the money lost just pushed her over the edge and she had a sharper tongue than usual all day.
The employees had heard the rumors, and knew of her husbands absence from the house. It further proved the fact to the misogynistic society that women needed their husbands to keep them sane.
Scarlett would often leave the store before lunch. She grew bored of doing the same thing over and over again and would finally give up even trying to create tasks for herself, which caused her mind to fall back to the one thing she had been trying to avoid thinking of.
After she left she would go home to have lunch with her children, who she desperately wished to spend more time with. She would often bite her tongue at some silly question posed by Ella that she longed to give a nasty response to. Or with Wade, she wished to shake him sometimes for his quietness and timidness around her. She knew she had often been harsh with the boy, but she had also saved him numerous times from the yankees and kept him safe at Tara during the end of the brutal war.
Scarlett didn't do either of these things and would force a smile towards her kids, but continuing to hope that her favorite child would come home soon and with her the husband that she'd come to realize she missed.
After lunch Scarlett would venture out to her mills. Her reasons for going had shifted so drastically in month. It was as if a veil had been lifted from her face, and although she loved seeing Ashley, her heart no longer leapt at the sight of him. She now came to the mill to seek a task to distract her mind once more. She would give polite conversation to Ashley, but would quickly end the conversation to scan the books and change the foolish mistakes that he had made.
In the beginning it had shocked her how little business sense Ashley held, but now she was used to looking for his mistakes and fixing them. A faint annoyance had started to build, and subconsciously the pedestal Ashley was on began to lower. As soon as the books were fixed Scarlett would leave, not feeling any need to hang around like she once had before.
Some days Scarlett couldn't bring herself to go to work, and she would sleep in and slowly get ready. On these days, though Scarlett couldn't figure out how, Melanie would appear. Melanie's kind heart, and maybe a little help from Mammy, let her know that Scarlett needed her. Scarlett would feel annoyed by Melanie's presence, scowling over the fact that she hadn't gone to work because she wanted to be alone. Though there was also the piece of her that was relieved when Melly would knock at the door. Her kind eyes and smile helped to pull Scarlett from her slump, even if it was just for a little bit.
It had been a long month, and the not knowing when Rhett would return made it that harder to bear. Day to day life became harder without him around. Every night she didn't think she'd be able to wake up and do it again. Somehow she did, although it was the hardest thing that she had ever done. Going on living life without him was harder than the days she would go without eating at Tara, harder than hearing Gerald talk about Ellen as if she was still alive, even hard than bringing all three of her children into the world.
She had been drinking more heavily as time went on. Her night cap had turned into caps. She hoped the more that she drank the less she would remember his face, but it always worked out the opposite. As the warmth and fuzzyness passed through her it seemed like the need for him grew. Enveloping her in such pain she could almost cry out his name.
She couldn't understand when this had happened. When did it become Rhett whose affection she craved, and Ashley become the one she regarded as merely a friend? Perhaps it was always there, but Rhett's passion for her the night of the birthday party finally pushed Ashley from her mind, this time for good.
Melanie began bringing Scarlett on housecalls with her. And Scarlett even began to appreciate them. The gossip and endless chatter helped to keep her mind off her own life's predicament. She began to look forward to these event, for they helped to ease the pain in her heart, even for such a short time.
One day Melly brought Scarlett to Maybelle's for a sewing circle and it was a larger crowd than usual. It seemed like everyone had been able to make it and the home was much louder than other times she had come.
Everything was going smoothly, and despite many of the women not talking to Scarlett directly, Melanie kept Scarlett in the conversation. It didn't take very long for her to loosen up and enjoy the time.
As they had been working diligently for quite sometime, Melanie got up to go get some refreshments and asked for Scarlett's help. It had become strangely quiet while they were out of the room, though neither girl thought very much of it. It wasn't until they started walking back and the whispers started to become audible.
"I heard Rhett took Bonnie and left her for good."
"Serves him right, did you here what she did to him when she was off 'working' at the mill?"
"She was always beneath him, good for Rhett finally getting some sense and getting out of there."
"But thanks to him now we're stuck with her."
"Maybe she'll finally go back to Tara and this town can be rid of her once and for all."
Tears began to prick at Scarlett's eyes as she stood in the hallway. Melanie gave her one glance and marched forward without any hesitation. "How dare you. All of you. Feeding into the rumors going around, is there really nothing better going on in your lives than to pick on a poor girl who's missing her husband and daughter? No I am not saying that because they deserted her, because they did not do that. Rhett loves Scarlett, and if it weren't for her work in Atlanta she would've gone with him. Rhett needed to bring little Bonnie to see his mother who has not had the opportunity we have in getting to know her. Instead of bringing her down, you should be proud of Scarlett's selflessness in seeing that Bonnie deserved to have that relationship with her Grandmother. Now we will be leaving." Melanie, quickly going pink with the attention having all been on her, though not regretting one sentence of what she said, grabbed Scarlett's arm and pulled her out of the hallway and out the door. It wasn't until they were halfway down the street when Melly stopped and looked at her. Scarlett had brought her emotions back in and tucked them away so that her face was solid as stone. Melanie just nodded at her and the continued walking back to Scarlett's, for Pork was not expecting to return to pick them up for at least a couple more hours.
Scarlett not only couldn't physically speak to Melanie, but she also didn't know what to say. She didn't tell her any of those things, not that any of them were true, but she also didn't know where Melly had come up with it all. Maybe this is what she had actually believed? Whatever the case, Scarlett wasn't going to push it. She was just finally thankful for having Melanie at her side and she realized how much she had taken for granted. Melanie had always been at her side, Scarlett's mind was just too clouded with images of Ashley to actually see it.
Once they were at her door, Melanie was about to turn and walk to her own house when Scarlett reached out and hugged her. She didn't know what she was doing until Melly was already in her arms. Thats when she started to cry. The sobs came over her so harshly she didn't know if she could ever stop. After a couple moments Melly pulled away, but kept one arm around Scarlett, and brought her inside. She got her ready for bed and got her settled under the covers. Though she was still crying, Scarlett's eyes began to get heavier and heavier and soon she had drifted off to sleep.
Melly pushed herself up and quietly exited the bedroom. Once downstairs she was confronted by Mammy.
"Miss Melly, how is the dear child?"
"She's finally asleep, and I hope she will sleep through the entire night. I hope for her to prolong remembering what had happened for as long as she can."
"Alright, I's make sure that nobody disturbs her, thank yous for being such a good friend to her."
Melly quickly realized that Mammy already knew. She had always known that the word of mouth ran fast, especially through the servants, but she didn't see how quickly until now. She thanked her and was quickly on her way. Melanie herself was exhausted. She was not used to confrontation like that, and it had taken the energy from her. As she walked back to her own home a couple of tears pricked at her eyes. She was so sad that her friendships had come to this, but she wasn't going to let them say those things about poor Scarlett. She knew what she had said about the reason Captain Butler left wasn't true, but she also knew that the women of Atlanta didn't need to know that and it was only between Scarlett and Rhett and nobody else.
Once home Melly looked at Beau and became very thankful for her simple life, wishing so much for her peace and happiness to spread and to find Scarlett up on the hill.
It wasn't long that it took for the women of the sewing circle to filter in and out seeking out Melanie to apologize for their earlier words. She told all of them that of course she would eventually forgive them, though not giving them a smile and they felt left out from the usual warmth brought on by Melanie's home, but it would take time for they had hurt her sister. She would quickly usher them out as soon as they had arrived.
That night Melanie quickly fell asleep after the draining day she had just endured.
Thank you all for reading, I'm sorry if this had been a boring chapter but I wanted to get out where Scarlett's emotions were before I bring Rhett back. Please comment, I love to hear feedback