The warm water soothed her red, swollen eyes, now that her tantrum was over and she lay under blankets and a warm brick tickled her chilled feet. Everything just flooded back to her Bonnie, Melanie and Rhett. While she sat in the muck, wet and cold, she realized how alone she was, and suddenly regretted sending Wade away. Her world felt smaller and smaller and she felt utterly abandoned.
Humiliation set in, and she felt herself blush to her hairline as Will opened the bedroom door poking his head in, " Scarlett, what is going here?"
Scarlett sighed, "My trap got stuck in the mud, I think I broke the wheel. Mr. Heathcliff helped me home, and I am worried about my trap."
"Scarlett, I'll go and get the trap with Pork when the rain lets up."
Will and Pork set out for the stables, as they saw the dark haired man, riding his horse down the road to Tara's porch, Pork shook his head, "That's him, Mr. Will."
Will waved him over and his horse came to a jolting gallop next to Will.
The dark man put his strong hand out to shake it, "How do you do, Mr. Butler."
Will chuckled, "I'm sorry, but I am not Mr. Butler. I'm Will Benteen, Mrs. Butler's brother in law."
Mr. Heathcliff nodded, "Excuse me, Mr. Benteen."
"Call me Will. Thank you, Scarlett could have been frozen to death out there. I'm glad she's not hurt."
Heathcliff chuckled, "Only her pride."
Will nodded, "I know Scarlett is something else, but she has had quite a difficult year, and when you have that much lost, the simplest problem seems huge."
Mr. Heathcliff nodded, "I can understand, but in my opinion, she was quite harsh with your servants."
Will nodded and smiled, "Don't worry about them, they are used to her rants."
Heathcliff nodded, "I understand that, too. That trap is a mere toy compared to the rough roads in this county. It would be best to sell it to someone in the city."
Will nodded, "Yes, but you saw how stubborn she is, Scarlett thought it would be a wonderful extra wagon, when she needs to ride around the county."
Mr. Heathcliff looked around and chuckled again, "Vanity, I guess. I returned to see if you or your servants need help with retrieving the "buggy"?"
Will nodded, "No, I figure we'll chop it up for firewood, now, but thank you for helping my sister in law, and I'm sorry if she was rude."
"It's not for you to apologize for her behavior, Will, good afternoon."
The days were cold, and wet with start and stop rain showers that turned to icy roads in the coming days of January. The house was tense and noisy with the four girls getting bored of playing in the nursery and games usually ended in fighting. Scarlett kept to her room, and kept an eye on Susie and Ella's behavior after what Wade had mentioned about Susie and her suspicions of Scarlett, as well as her knowledge of marital relations.
Mammy had noticed Scarlett's interests in Ella, and figured it was her guilt that she was the only one of her children still with her. But, Scarlett confided in Mammy, not wanting to upset Suellen, now that she was a few weeks away from having her fourth baby, hopefully a boy.
Scarlett was in the kitchen sipping her coffee while Mammy prepared the vegetable soup, when she brought up the conversation.
"Mammy, Wade told me something very upsetting before he left."
"What's that, my lamb?"
Scarlett lowered her voice, "He said that Susie told him about babies."
Mammy put down her knife and walked over closer to Scarlett, "What did she say?"
"Well, she told him that I was sick because I was going to have one, and they had seen cats in the barn, and she said married people do the same dance."
Mammy wanted to laugh, but she shook her head, "I tells you, I don kno' where that child gets all that from, but I guess she figure all ladies have babies."
"Well, I don't want her telling Ella things like that. My goodness, Susie is younger than Ella."
Mammy shook her head, "Well, her Pa can't talk to her, and Miss Suellen, I think she gonna have that baby sooner than later. You could tell her something about it?"
"No, she's Suellen and Will's child, they need to handle it, but I will talk to Ella."
Mammy nodded her head, and continued to prepare the soup.
Scarlett went to the parlor where Ella and Susie were sketching Ellen's lion clawed chairs with the cat sleeping in it. Susie's two younger sisters were rolling a ball back and forth on the oriental rug. The scene clenched Scarlett's heart, Rhett and her could have had a parlor filled with children like this, but it was her foolish devotion to Ashley that had prevented it.
"Ella, come upstairs with Mother."
Ella looked over at Susie and then her mother with wide eyes. Susie smirked as Ella put down her pad and pencil and followed her mother upstairs.
As they started up the stairs, Ella asked, "Are you going to show me the needlepoint, again?"
"I can if you would like."
Ella nodded, and ran up ahead of Scarlett to her bedroom.
Ella took her seat at Scarlett's vanity and started to smell the bottles of perfume. Scarlett sat on the edge of her bed, and watched Ella place one bottle down at a time in the correct places. Ella started to ramble about the different flowers each smelled like, and Scarlett allowed her to ramble until she took a breath.
Scarlett started directly, "Ella, has Susie been telling you things about me?"
Ella's hazel eyes grew large, and her rambling high pitched voice quieted, and Scarlett knew.
"Wade told me, honey."
"Mother, are you?" Ella's face was glowing in a beautiful smile, that made her face look less monkey like, she had Scarlett's smile that made her father's ugly features dwarf.
"No, Ella, I am not. And I don't want you to listen to Susie anymore. We are going home in a few weeks, and you can tell Susie for me, if she keeps talking like that I will have to tell her Pa."
Ella nodded, and her eyes cast down to her lap, where she played with her hands. Ella would never remembered her father, but her behavior was so much like his, any mention of assertiveness, caused her nerves. Scarlett looked at her irritated, and changed the subject, her first inclination was to yell at her to stop, but she didn't.
"Ella, would you like to help with the needlepoint, you can do the slant stitches on the hat for your Aunt's new baby."
Ella nodded as Scarlett dug through her basket and handed Ella the white bonnet, and the yellow thread, and sat next to her on the vanity bench watching her gently threading the needle. Ella's was a scatterbrain, but when she was given a task with her hands, Ella's concentration was determined to create something special. Once Ella was well into the needlepoint, Scarlett left her, and looked out the window at the sky, scattered with gray clouds, with a sliver of sunlight peeking through that would most likely melt the icy puddles on the roads, and Scarlett could go for a ride as early as tomorrow. It was a glimpse of red and black driving down the road that caught her eye. Scarlett had no idea that Will was bringing her trap back from the repair shop today. It was by sheer determination, and a huge check that Scarlett had demanded Will bring the buggy to get fixed, the repairs were a fraction of what the trap was worth.
Will had went to town to get the mail and telegrams from the post office, and she was waiting for news from Wade.
Scarlett left Ella and hurried down the stairs to meet the trap. Will was not in the trap,but Mr. Heathcliff was. Scarlett stopped on the edge of the porch, and stood speechless. Finally she folded her arms and blurted out, "Where's Will?"
"He's still in town, I offered to bring your toy home." Mr. Heathcliff smirked, and Scarlett knew he was making fun of her.
"Thank you, Mr. Heathcliff. You can put it in the stable, I'll have Pork unhitch your horse."
"Please, call me Heathcliff. I see Americans are not so formal, Mrs. Butler."
Scarlett nodded, but did not offer him to call her anything else except Mrs. Butler.
Pork called his nephew Joe who brought the trap around to the stables. Mr. Heathcliff came onto the porch and sat on a chair, while he waited for his horse. Scarlett took the chair across from her guest, and sighed.
"Well, I am glad I got my trap back, it is fairly new."
"They had to replace the wheel that was stuck and cracked, and fix the axle. Those wheels are very delicate, not meant for this muck. You better store it, it's more for city driving."
"I know, you said that." Scarlett waved off, not wanting to hear anymore about her poor choice.
Heathcliff looked at her face, and took in her gray calico dress, and asked, "Will mentioned you had a death in your family?"
Scarlett looked at him with slanted eyes, feeling the tears surface, "Several."
"I'm sorry for your lost, I've had a few myself."
Scarlett turned and looked at the man who's strong jaw and dark eyes suddenly softened, "It's been very difficult."
"I gather one of them was your husband?"
Scarlett's eyes had mirth in them, and smirked, "No, not him."
Heathcliff studied her face, and could see their was mixed feelings where her husband was concerned, "Oh, I see."
"No, Heathcliff, I didn't lose him to death, but through bitterness." Scarlett bit her lip, she couldn't believe how candid she was with this stranger, "I lost my daughter last summer and my best friend and sister in law this past autumn, as well as her baby."
She heard Heathcliff take in a deep breath, "Again, I'm sorry, no wonder you were so frantic the other day."
Scarlett blushed thinking of the tantrum she had displayed, and she said nothing as Joe brought the tan horse around the porch, but Heathcliff did not rise to leave. Scarlett began to feel the chill and folded her arms to conserve her body heat. Heathcliff shrugged off his jacket and offered it to Scarlett, and she shook her head.
"Take it, that cotton dress is going to cause you pneumonia out here."
Scarlett sheepishly took it, his irritated voice reminded her of her own, and she draped it over her shoulders, the wool smelled like earth and whisky. He had been outside a while, and drinking quite early in the day.
Heathcliff crossed his legs, "I have lost a dear friend some years ago, and it still hurts my heart."
Scarlett listened, and wondered if Melly's death would hurt her, too years from now. Scarlett sighed, "I'm sorry to hear that, but I wonder, too if I will feel this way years from now?"
"Did you love her?"
Scarlett's throat felt tight, "She was like a dear sister, and she was always there to protect me. I didn't realize how good she was to me until she was dead."
Heathcliff chuckled, "The woman that I loved, treated me terrible, but I loved her, and I guess I still do. I'm a fool in love, I guess you would not understand that?"
Scarlett had to know, "Was she your wife?"
Heathcliff's face went pale, "No, she would never had married me, she was too high bred for me."
Scarlett's face was confused, and her heart ache thinking back to Ashley and herself, "I was a fool, too."
"A fool? I don't think anybody would attempt to make a fool out of you, is it your husband attempted that?"
Scarlett shook her head, "No, he left me because I was a fool."
Heathcliff nodded, "I don't wish to pry, so please, tell me no more."
Scarlett shrugged off his jacket and handed it to him as he stood.
"We were merely discussing our trials, Mr. Heathcliff, I didn't take that you were prying."
Heathcliff smiled, "I'm glad, Mrs. Butler. I enjoyed our discussion, perhaps we can talk again."
Scarlett felt his dark eyes on her, so much like Rhett, and held out her hand, "Perhaps, the Benteen's will invite you to dinner one night, Will had wanted to welcome you to the county."
Heathcliff nodded, "I would enjoy that, until dinner, Mrs. Butler, take care."
Scarlett felt his rough hand in hers, and smiled.
Mammy opened the door with Scarlett's cloak, perhaps she had been listening. Scarlett lifted her hands, indicating she didn't need it, as she slipped in and the warm air from the house surrounded her. She found Ella still in her room, redoing the last few stitches on the bonnet that she had lost concentration. Scarlett inspected the bonnet and was impressed. The bonnet and bib would be a nice addition to the baby's layette. Suellen was in the doorway, and looking at Scarlett and Ella, "Scarlett, can I speak with you in the hallway."
Scarlett closed the door, "Yes, Sue?"
"I may be in bed, but Mammy keeps me informed about what goes on here."
"Yes?" Scarlett looked at Suellen's narrowed eyes, and wondered what she was ready to fight about.
"I saw that man from my window, who is he?"
"Mr. Heathcliff, Will asked him to bring my trap back from town."
"Did you have to sit and talk with him on the porch like he was your beau?"
"Suellen, calm yourself, it wasn't like that."
"Scarlett, I don't know what is going on with Rhett and you, but don't start courting beau like you are the belle of the county, again."
Scarlett opened her bedroom door, "I am doing no such thing, I can't help it, if someone comes by and talks to me."
Scarlett closed the bedroom door in her sister's face.