It took so long to get to it. Hope I'm not boring anyone…
"Careen, dearest, could you see to it that this note reaches Rhett's brother?"
The two siblings parted with a long hug. They were there for two nights.
Rhett and I shall be staying in the Grand Hotel until after tomorrow. We will both be delighted if you join us to tea at five p.m. You shall find us at the lounge.
Katie Scarlet Butler
The man was gazing on the little piece of paper for the hundredth time. It was half past four but he could still get there, the hotel being only a few blocks from his whereabouts at the moment. It surprised him. He did not expect to hear from her again. With a light step so unfamiliar to his usual demeanor he started marching up the street.
At the entrance of the Grand Hotel he noticed the young woman with her companion laughing amiably with their backs to the door. He hesitated for a second, contemplating whether to flee or approach, but as if she felt his stare she slowly turned to the door. Realization and surprise was evident in her face. She paled.
The note was directed to his son, not to him.
Both exchanging looks from afar and her sudden distraction drew Rhett's attention to the aging man at the door.
He blinked, stood and approached his arms hanging at the sides of his body.
They were almost of the same hight with a dark skin -
"Son" the tone was not affectionate but the sadness in his eyes gave her a pause. She gathered herself straightening her forehead which seemed to stay wrinkled through that awkward moment. She thought of Melly and decided to follow the same manner she'd treat an uncalled stranger in the door foot of Tara-
"Mr. Butler, how kind and thoughtful it is of you to call on us. I am delighted you came."
"Mrs. Butler" he was aiming to kiss her hand politely but she gave his cheek a soft kiss, like the ones she'd give Uncle Henry and her father's brothers, and with little effort gathered her husband's waist with a hug that was mainly meant to draw him away from his father and sit him beside her.
Both men's eyes lit with amusement -
"Is your wife always this fearless? I can't imagine your sister, even your mother approaching you or me this way."
Rhett chuckled "If she were any less brave she wouldn't be married to a scoundrel like me, would she?"
The words that were meant as jest clouded the elder man's face, before any could rectify the situation he said
"She takes you for a gentleman, son. You surely know that."
She interfered, though her face crimson "Mr. Butler, you shouldn't flatter your son, or we'll never hear the end of it. Rhett is as noble as my father is. A strong truthful generous man with a passion for life. Gentle? I'm not sure. Yet, I'm no gentle lady either."
Both man looked at her with a smile -
"Are my ears hearing you correctly?" mocked Rhett.
"Oh, hush Rhett! Don't you dare try to embarrass me" she gave him a small tug with her elbow
"My son never took for gentle ladies, child, I now realize that it took him twenty years and a many travels to find his equal match. But you surely are jesting."
She looked at him contemplating whether to grasp the opportunity and sugar-coat reality. Truthfully she smiled a resigned smile -
"No sir. My mother was gentle, and if you came across my sister Careen she too. But I can't profess to be gentle. It's not in my nature."
"You should see the way she does business, you'd believe her" laughed Rhett "We're back from London and she managed most of the insurance issues of our fleet for us. A harder bargainer I have never seen."
"She's been helping you?"
"No Father, she's been working with me. And she's good at it."
The man stiffened - "Do you mean to tell me that you allow your wife to work like some common white-trash in a masculine job?"
Rhett drew back but before he could speak he heard his wife's coolest tone retort -
"If I were less vain, I'd say yes and blame it on my Irish side, as it is I'll say that I work by my husband's side, with his guidance at first to independence now, and I will not apologize for enjoying it more than a silly sewing circle that stitches ugly clothes and punishes the orphans with yet another blow by making them actually wear the ugly clothes our woman sew. You surely see no harm in my doing something that makes my brain actually come to use, don't you?"
Straightening his gaze to his son and ignoring her he spat "So she wears the pants?"
She stood - "No one will ever have doubts as to who wears the trousers in our household, that much credit you should give your son. Your son is man enough not to fear, but to take pride in my abilities. To encourage me to pursue whatever brings me interest and pleasure. How dare you judge him for that?"
Rhett's father's eyes narrowed "I heard you were strong-headed"
"From my aunts, I suppose." She laughed with a trace of bitterness "Well, it's a shame to waste an afternoon on us when you have this much information you can feed them to confirm their assessment of my father's lack of, what was it? Ah! Gentleness, was it not?"
She turned to Rhett "Forgive me my love for spoiling our afternoon here, I meant to invite your brother, apparently I should have been more specific with the Mr. Butler I sent the letter to."
Rhett's brow rose half amused at her ire than he noticed her distress -
"Scarlet, go to our quarters. You needn't vex yourself in your condition."
She blushed but she remained silent - "Go ahead, I shall be with you shorty".
As she left Rhett turned to his father -
"You haven't changed one bit, have you? Always a gentleman, always a primitive fool. Yes, I say primitive because in the Old Land women are ruling the land, walking proudly while managing businesses, even science research in France - but for you a wife should always be silent and helpless? If Scarlett had been that type of woman I wouldn't have given her the time of day, let alone marry her."
"You forgot our ways, son."
"No, I never forget, I chose a new path that you do not respect or appreciate. I have done many things I am not proud of since we last saw each other, years ago, but encouraging my wife to be happy is not one of them."
Before leaving he turned his head to the man who sired him "Think Father, is Rosemary happy? And if she is miserable, is that her fate? She's as smart as me and Robert, perhaps more, but with these ways you cling to, we'll never know, and she'll have to suffice with the shell of a life society condemns her for.
"Don't you dear bring your sister to it."
"Should I go for Mama? I didn't think so."
When he reached the room he found her in the midst of undressing preparing to rest. He took her from behind and stopped her nervous movement -
"Don't. I gave up twenty years ago when he disowned me. I dare say I was happy to see him, but it doesn't matter. He shall never love me for what or who I am, and one of the things that I am is a man who is proud of his wife for being a fine business-lady. Scarlett - Belle said it to me the night I returned, and I agree with her every word - you are a hell of a lady." a smile crept to his tone "and as long as you know that I wear the trousers -"
"Oh!" she cried at his tease, but then she turned and smiled -
"I believe I forgot. Won't you please remind me?"