I will be posting chapters of 1500 words per day as I participate in Camp Nanowrimo for the month of April: Come back and check out the latest chapter in this Gothic/ Romance between two of literatures most fiery, proud and complicated characters.
I completed Camp Nanowrimo in APril and completed the 50,000 word story in 30 days. I will be posting as I edit the story, with Nanowrimo there is no time for editing, and after I had a few detox days, I am editing and posting now! ENJOY and REVIEW!
"Miss Scarlett? Miss Scarlett?" The warmth of the heavy hand on her shoulder broke Scarlett from her daydream, "Yes?"
Mammy's eyes were tight with concern, "What's wrong with you?"
Scarlett's wet eyes looked at her, as she wiped the stray tear, "Nothing, I was just thinking."
"About who?" Mammy wondered what had Scarlett so shaken and quiet the last few days.
"Pa", Scarlett sighed, "Remember when Pa prepared the the pig for the spit, and start drinking on New Years' morning?"
Mammy smiled, "Lawdy, he used to get so loud with those boys out there, while dat pig was roasting."
Scarlett giggled a little, "Tara will never be the same."
"Miss Scarlett, why don't you go for a ride, get out of the house for a little while, just put on a coat."
Scarlett considered this, and then nodded, "I think I will."
As Scarlett marched across the yard with her crop, and her blue riding habit, Will left the men roasting the pig as Scarlett caught his eye. He followed her into the stables with Wade trailing him.
"Scarlett, you going for a ride, it's gettin' late?"
"Just down by the river, I'll be back before dark, Will."
Wade popped his head in the stable, as Scarlett saddled the horse, "Be careful, we saw some huge dogs running around by Twelve Oaks."
"I'm not going to Twelve Oaks, " Scarlett snapped, "Dogs? I'm not worried about a few dogs."
Will lead the mare out in the yard, "The kids were scared, they said they were big as ponies."
Scarlett smirked, "I suppose it was Ella."
Wade spoke up, "No, it was me and the Jackie Fontaine, we were hunting."
"Alright, if it will make you two feel better, I'll keep my eye out. I just need some air."
Will nodded and patted Wade on his shoulder as the say the blue figure against the gray sky, dash down the driveway of Tara. Scarlett meandered around the properties and on to the trail that lead to the Flint River. She passed the orchard, the trees dry and brittle in the winter air, and slowed as the horse came to a stop in the circle of trees. There were rotten apples that crunched under the mare's feet. The circle of trees seemed like long fingers closing in on Scarlett, as her heart started to beat faster, she yelled out, "Hello? Are you there?"
The mare stepped cautiously at the high pitch yell of Scarlett's voice. The wind ruffled the plume in her hat, and her scarf fringe waved tickling her cheek, making Scarlett jump, "I heard you the other day. Say my name again!"
The orchard was silent, except from the heavy footfalls of the mare and a rustle of the leaves. She waited for the voice she had heard during her nap, the other day. Scarlett felt a chill up her spine as another sound pricked her ears. It was footsteps behind her, as she turned the mare around, the sloughing, black face of a dog stood nearly a yard from her boot hooked in the side saddle. Gooseflesh spread up her arms, as she gave the horse a kick and took off toward the River.
It was true, the dog was as large as a pony, and the face was ebony with two beady reddish eyes looking up at her. As she reached the River, she could see the two brutes running through the orchard and following her. Their paws were large and cumbersome flopping as their clumsy gait brought them closer to her and her mare. Scarlett muttered, "Damn," and urged the mare along the River toward the Tarleton's place.
As she approached the driveway of the neighboring property, she noticed the dogs had disappeared. As she placed her gloved hands on her mare's neck and stroked the horse's mane, Scarlett took a deep breath, "That was silly, to let Wade get me so scared of those dogs."
Scarlett clucked her reins and headed back towards Tara, and went the long way around the Tarleton's property admiring how Mrs. Beatrice had rebuilt a sizeable house and stables now that she had started breeding her horses again. The smoke was billowing from the smokehouse, no doubt preparing for their own New Years' feast the next day.
Scarlett smiled, wishing this awful year 1873, would be over in a few hours. She had hoped with the new year, maybe Rhett would stop being so hateful and contact her. Scarlett had showed up at Tara with Wade and Ella in tow the day after Melanie's funeral, and the last two months had been filled with sadness for the deaths of Bonnie and Melanie and anxiety, praying Rhett wouldn't send divorce papers.
Scarlett had planned to leave the children at Tara and track Rhett down, but Mammy had warned, "That man as hard headed as you is, give him some time, he'll be back."
So, Scarlett had listened to Mammy, and stayed at Tara through the holidays, but with no sign from Rhett. She had filled her days with putting her two sense into how Tara was run, spending time alone to grieve for Melanie and Bonnie, and then the dreams started again. The last few weeks, Scarlett had spent the evenings up in her room waiting for daylight to sleep, and would often take off to the orchard to nap in the side house.
But Mammy had noticed, Scarlett had returned from her afternoon ride wide eyed and nervous, and refused to be alone, asking Mammy to sit by her bed, until she fell asleep. Mammy shook her head, thinking even as a child, Scarlett had never made this request.
Scarlett's mind had wondered often, as it did often now, and she found herself on the other side of the Tartleton's place and further away from Tara, then she wanted to be. The Old Sutton place's ruined columns started to darken in late afternoon of the gloomy day. The small overseerer's house sat on the edge of the property untouched in the dark red brick and the white shudders glowed in the winter's sky. Scarlett could see smoke coming from the chimney, and found it starnge that any body would be there.
The Mrs. Sutton's had lost her husband and son in the war, and Mrs. Sutton and moved with her youngest daughter to Alabama with relatives months before Sherman had burned down the main house. The yankee overseer had saved his tiny house from the yankees where he lived until they found him dead in his bed a few weeks after the war was over. He had been a rotound man, and Dr. Fontaine said it was a case of drunkenness and overeating food he had stole from his neighbors. Still, nobody had lived in the little house for years, and now it seemed someone was there.
Scarlett returned to the road and headed back towards Tara, knowing the darkness of the winter's night was coming earlier and earlier since Christmas. As she turned towards the road, a fierce bark, sent chills down Scarlett's back, as the lumbering dog, opened and closed its toothy mouth in a bark which got louder with each step. The mare stomped her feet and pulled her bit to turn away from the brute of a dog, and dashed up the hill towards the Sutton place as Scarlett wobbled side saddle and the reins slided through her hands. As the mare reached the top of the hill near the ruins of the house, the twelve doric columns stood like soldiers, dirty and sooty, with the iron balcony still attached to the sentinels around the empty house.
Scarlett felt the cold yellowing grass under her face, as her chest hit the ground, knocking the wind from her. As she reached to sit up, the first vision in her sight was the mare taking off into the backwoods behind the Sutton place. The black hulking figure, now joined with another lumbered clumsily up the hill towards her, as she fought to stand and catch her breath..
Scarlett scrambled to her feet and grabbed a thick ragged branch from the fallen oak tree. Her boots echoed in her chest as she rushed up the surviving, stone porch steps of the plantation. Scarlett stood five feet above the hill and wielded the branch against the two angry brutes, but her defensive actions caused them to snap and lunge at her boots. Scarlett wished she had her gun, and then glimpsing the smoke from the overseer's house, she started to yell, for help.
It was a tall, muscular man that emerged from the house, in workman clothes, but for a second, she thought it was Rhett. His swarthy skin, and muscular form, but his hair was wild and curly as it blew in the wind, and he stalked over to the scene, and yelled, at her.
"What in the hell are you doing to my dogs!"
Scarlett's face, red and angry, fell as did the heavy oak branch, "Your dogs?"
"Come, here, ladies, Minerva! Clara!", his voice was commanding and strict.
The two dogs, crawled down the steps and sat obediantly at their Master's feet. He coddled the biggest one behind her ear and patted the thinner one on her back, "Get on with you both, let me help this woman who upset you."
Scarlett's eyes cut daggers at this fool man, "Upset them? They tried to attack you me!"
The man offered his hand, as Scarlett's boots clicked on each stone step, "Well, you were trespassing."
"Trespassing? They spooked my horse, my mare she ran off, and dropped me here."
"Well, did you try to hit her, too?"
"No, I was just riding-"
"You were riding your horse on private property and my dogs did their job."
"You are a fool," Scarlett straightened her hat and jerked her hand away, "They were in "my" orchard earlier, and scared my son and the Fontaine children, yesterday."
"Your orchard? Perhaps they were eating all the rotten apples laying around there. And did the children get bitten?"
"No, they ran home, scared half to death, said your dogs were as big as ponies!"
"They are big," smirked the man, "But them, I'm big, too."
Scarlett glared, "Could you kindly get my mare out of your woods?"
The man laughed, "It would be my pleasure to help a trespasser." Yet he didn't move a foot, but walked back to the house.
Scarlett followed behind him, and called, "Sir, sir, you aren't going to help me?"
"No, I'm not your servant. Go get your horse, you have no business riding, if you can't keep track of it."
Scarlett stopped in her tracks and burst into tears, real tears were streaming down her cheeks, and the man stopped and turned to look at the slight figure of the woman as she sobbed and cried, "I need your help, please, sir."
"Ah, madam, that is what I would love to hear, the word please."
The man took her arm and walked her to the warmth of the tiny house, seeing the dogs curled up next to the fire, the tears ceased and anxiety started, "Can they go outside?"
"This is their home and you are a guest, I think not. Sit, I'll get you some hot tea."
It was the first time Scarlett heard the accent in the man's voice, and she smiled.
The man stared at her, "You find something funny?"
"The way you talk, you remind me of my father."
"So, your father was Welsh?"
"Oh, no Irish."
"Quite a difference, but not much, Mrs?"
Scarlett reached her hand out, "Mrs. Butler."
His hand was calloused, but strong and warm through her kid gloves, "Mr. Heathcliff."
Scarlett sat at the table, and took in the tiny one room house. The table was set for dinner, for two, and their was a lovely bread filled with raisins in the middle of the table with a candle in the middle with the letter "H" carved in it.
"Is your wife here?"Scarlett asked gesturing at the table.
"No, she's dead." His voice was icy as he poured a steaming cup of tea.
Scarlett sat quietly as he placed the sugar bowl and cup next to her at the table. There wasn't much in the one room, a large cedar robe, a wooden bed, with a wool blanket, with two huge trunks, and a fireplace with a woven rug in the middle of the room. The table and chairs were mismatched with a dark wood table and round back maple chairs. A hearty fire burned in the fireplace under a single black pot. A green potbellied stove kept the kettle with tea warm.
Mr. Heathcliff cleared his throat, "I'll go get your mare, it's getting dark and late."
Scarlett nodded as she sipped the hot tea, and she noticed the muddy boots he wore, and the muddy footprints throughout the room, he had been working in the mud before she got there. 'It's too early for planting?' thought Scarlett, and she settled in to drink her tea, even though coffee would have been better, he was Welsh, and like the Irish and the English, she knew they liked their tea. The black tea reminded Scarlett when she was sick, and her Pa would warn, 'That tea will make the Irish in you strong, and you can get out of bed soon!'
The heavy door opened with ease in Heathcliff's strong hands, and he stated, wiping his hands, "Your mare is outside."
"Thank you, Mr. Heathcliff."
"No trouble, I just want to get back to my work."
"Are you going to cook?"
He laughed, "No."
Scarlett looked bewildered and eyed the table, not saying a word.
"Mrs. Butler, the table and bread are an old Welsh custom for the New Year. The setting is in case someone I know passes by, and the bread and the candle are for future luck."
Scarlett laughed and waved her hand, "Oh, it's superstition."
"No," Heathcliff stated firmly, and clenched his fists, "It's customs of my country." His face was dark and blank.
Scarlett nodded and went out to her mare, "Thank you again."
Heathcliff nodded and closed the door.
As Scarlett started on the road by the Tarleton's place again, she saw Mrs. Beatrice and waved her over, "Scarlett, it's late to be out."
Scarlett looked overhead, "I have a few more minutes of sunlight. You have a new neighbor?"
Beatrice pursed her lips together, "Yes, strangest man."
"Well, his dogs scared me half to death!"
"He's pretty scary, too." Mrs. Beatrice scawfed.
"Mr. Heathcliff seems like a very moody man, perhaps because his wife is dead."
"Mr. Heathcliff? I guess he told a pretty lady like you his name."
Scarlett blushed, "Not until after he bawled me out about scaring his dogs."
"Did he say when she died?"
"No, why?" Scarlett asked, leading for Beatrice to gossip.
"Well, I graze my horses on our property line, and I saw a fresh grave dug in the Sutton's cemetary."
Scarlett's blood went cold, thinking of his muddy boots and footprints, her eyes dilated.
"Scarlett, are you sick?"
"No, no. Oh, that poor man."
"You wouldn't say that if you knew what he paid for that plot of land with ruins on it and a one room house!"
Scarlett wanted to gossip more, but the light was fading, and she could see Mammy with a lantern standing on the porch, so she bid Beatrice good night, and dashed full speed up to Tara. Mammy saw the mare galloping full speed with her rider waving a free hand in the air, and she shook her head, if it wasn't for the blue riding habit and the flaring green feather, Mammy could have sworn it was Mr. Gerald arriving home.