Credit given to M. Mitchell and A. Ripley for all Gone with the Wind and Scarlett characters .
Sorry for the delay guys…..Here you go.
Rhett stood before his front door like an idiot. Should he knock or use his key? It was technically still his house, so he would be completely justified in unlocking the door and walking in. He could hear animated voices coming from inside. Scarlett's sisters and their families were already there. Why should he knock when they probably wouldn't even hear it? Wouldn't they think he looked ridiculous knocking on his own front door?
"Are you trying to will the door to open with your Jedi mind tricks ? Should I start calling you Yoda? Stupid, my brother is…. Scared of Scarlett, you are…." , said Rosie. She knocked on the door, saving Rhett from his deep convictions about using his house keys.
Piper, Suellen's eight year old daughter greeted them. She was covered in a sticky reside that Rhett hoped was cake or cookie batter. " Hiya, Uncle Rhett!" she said, "I was gonna ask you why you knocked on the door, but then I remembered that you don't live here no more." Rhett tousled her dirty blonde locks. He didn't live here no more…"from the mouths of babes", he thought.
"Hi munchkin. Yes, I don't live here right now. Actually" , he said to her in a whisper, "I'm in hiding. I'm a secret agent. Don't tell anybody." Piper smiled; her teeth were covered in metal braces. "Mama told Daddy that you don't live here with Auntie because she doesn't love you no more."
Rhett felt his stomach drop. Auntie doesn't love you no more.
His mother and sister swept by him. He prayed that they didn't hear Piper. He could not, in any way, deal with his mother, or his sister for that matter, taking him to task on the state of his marriage any more than they already did.
Rosie barreled through the dining room and into the kitchen. "Where is that prissy bitch anyway? Scarlett !? I'm here! Your favorite person is here!"
He and Scarlett always gave their staff off on Thanksgiving and Christmas. On those days, they were left to fend for themselves. Scarlett, Mammy, and her sisters would make dinner…or at least attempt to make dinner. Maggie would be in there helping too, while Rosie just got drunk on the cooking sherry and critiqued the whole operation. The kids would run up and down their grand staircase, screaming joyfully with Forest at their heels. The older ones would drape themselves over the furniture in the study, saying how bored they were while taking ridiculous selfies and sending them to random people. His mother and Scarlett's Aunt Pitty would be engrossed in the latest gossip while the men sat in the parlor smoking cigars and watching football. Then, they would all gather around the massive dining room table and give thanks for all they had been given and for each other. Dinner would last for hours and end with most of the family completely drunk and forced to spend the night. It was wonderful. This Thanksgiving however, would be very different.
"Rosalinda! You're here !" Rosalinda. Scarlett only ever called Rosie that when she was drunk or well on her way to it. She clung to Rosie as if she'd gone years without seeing her. "And you brought Julia!", she said as she reached out and grabbed Julia's hand.
Julia was Rosie's girlfriend. They had been together for years. They even lived together. Rosie had never officially come out. Not publicly at least. Ask her and she'd tell you that she's gay. But as far as an announcement to the entire world, she was mum on the issue of her sexuality. She was too scared. She knew her mother would not handle it well, so to the outside world , at least the part of the world that liked to ignore things that made them uncomfortable, Rosie and Julia were just best friends.
"Still as beautiful as I remember", Julia said as she kissed Scarlett's pink cheek. Scarlett puckered up her lips a little and gave a sexy wink.
Rhett cleared his throat in a way that announced his presence. Scarlett tore herself away from Rosie and Julia and walked toward Rhett and his mother. "Hello, Miss Eleanor. It's so good to see you. You too Rhett.", she said as she kissed them both on the cheek. Rhett noticed that when she kissed him, her lips never actually touched his face. Only her cheek was pressed against his. He could smell her familiar scent. The floral scent wafted over him leaving him in longing.
"Knock , knock !", Maggie said as she opened the front door. " Mags !", Scarlett screamed as she flew past Rhett and his mother and flung her arms around her other sister in law, wrapping her in a tight embrace. " Oh, I've missed you so much.", Maggie said with her voice muffled by Scarlett's wild curls. "And look at you ! You're positively glowing. ", she said while pulling back from Scarlett to get a better look.
Rhett noticed it too. She did seem happy…and relaxed. Did not having him in her life make her happy? Or maybe it was the ridiculous amount of money she was now getting as " support payments" that lit her face up like a Christmas tree?
He took notice of her appearance and mannerisms as she spoke. He had told himself that he wasn't going to do this , but her couldn't help himself. He had missed her so much that at times, he thought he was going crazy. He missed the way she would rub her cold feet on him before they went to bed at night, the way she only ate the cream out of an éclair and discarded the rest of the pastry, how she closed her eyes and swayed back and forth when she listened to Billy Joel songs. He missed her laugh, her touch, the dimples that came out when she smiled. He missed the way she stumbled around in the morning looking for her glasses, the way she cursed while trying to brush through the tangles in her hair, the way she would randomly crawl into his lap and ask to be held. He missed her. And here, before him stood that same exquisite woman. He refused to believe that he had lost her.
He saw that she had much less make up on than usual. You could even see some of her freckles – something that had once been unheard of. Her hair was pulled back in a loose hair tie that was no match for the endless ringlets and curly Qs. She wore simple skinny blue jeans with a light cornflower blue tunic top. Her pearl earrings and wedding set were her only jewelry….And she was wearing her glasses. Her adorable purple glasses. She was radiant. Relaxed, happy, and radiant.
"Well, I've been drinking since we got back from visiting my dad this morning", Scarlett said as she lifted her wine glass with a giggle. "And Suellen has been here since last night….so, I'm surprised that I'm not already three sheets to the wind. You know she's pregnant again? Number seven. So now, she's even a bigger bitch than usual"
Rhett felt a hand give her shoulder a hard squeeze. "Well, hello stranger", Brent said before slapping Rhett's back with a hug.
"Brent . How the hell are you, man ? I guess I have been a little MIA around here lately. Where's Will?"
Brent gestured to the parlor behind them." He's in there. But, I have to tell you before you go in that he's really pissed at you for not showing up at the hearing. Why would you not come? And are you really living with Belle Watling?"
Rhett ran his hand over his mustache and two day old stubble of a beard. He knew he was looking like Shit. His sister had told him as much on the ride over. "Hell no. And I told Scarlett that. She was just helping me out by picking up some stuff I needed that I wasn't able to get while the kids were there. But in typical Scarlett fashion, she didn't believe me. You should have heard the shit she screamed at me. This time she surprised me with a new threat to cut the brake lines in my car…. And she called Belle a fat, fucking cunt. I didn't know what she'd say … or do.. if I showed up, so I thought it best for me to stay home."
Brent mouth formed a grim line. " She needed you there, Rhett."
Rhett took a deep breath as he shook his head and casted his eyes downward. " I miss her so much, Brent." He gave Brent a pathetic smile. "You think we'll get through this?"
Brent gave a small shrug of uncertainty before leading Rhett to the parlor where the other men were watching the game. "I don't know, man. I really don't know. You really hurt her this time. From what I gather from Careen, and mind you – that's not a lot, she's been finding out more and more about those women. She came over last week and just cried. She was so upset that Careen and I insisted that she spend the night."
Rhett closed his eyes and felt the sting of tears in his eyes. He hated to think of her crying.
Brent cleared his throat as they entered the room. "Ladies and gentlemen", he announced to the gaggle of people before them, " I give you the infamous Rhett Butler!"
"Daddy", Bonnie said as she rose from her perch on the arm of the sofa next to where Beau was sitting and kissed his cheek. " Is it weird yet?"
"It's about to be." Rhett gave a nod of greeting to Ashley. "Where's your sister and brother?"
"Upstairs. Gerry's playing with Parker and Preston and you know how Cat hates being around a lot of people, so Mama said they could stay upstairs until dinner."
"They're up there alone?" , Rett questioned. "Preston is barely walking."
"No, Grand-père is up there too. Gerry and Cat are crazy about him."
"Not you , though?"
"No. I am too." She gave him a smile that was pure Scarlett.
Rhett frowned a little. More than ever it seemed as though time was slipping by. Bonnie was more woman than girl now.
"Don't worry, Daddy. I still love you more", she said as she folded into her father for a hug.
"Beau's very popular with your cousins, isn't he?"
As soon as Bonnie had vacated her perch on the arm of the sofa, Suellen's seventeen year old twins, Phoebe and Penelope had pounced upon him. The identical red-heads flirted openly with him – batting eyelashes and touching his arms and chest. No doubt they were tricks they learned from their mother and aunts.
Bonnie rolled her eyes. She appeared to be irritated and perhaps even a bit jealous. Rhett dismissed the thought from his head. One woman in his life obsessed with a Wilkes was enough, two would be unthinkable.
Rhett could hear Ella's sing -sound voice coming from the entry way. Somehow, he expected her voice to change. But it was still the same. The same voice that for years would call to her mother and stepfather from the entryway saying ," I'm home!". She had arrived with Taz; and with her came Frank and India and….Belle.
"Shit", Rhett thought. He prayed that Scarlett was buzzed enough to handle this. Not just one, but three people that were known to raise her blood pressure had arrived all at once. Bonnie heard her sister's voice and winked at her father. She brushed past him to greet her sister, and if she was honest- to see first hand all the crazy that was about to happen.
"My goodness Bonnie", India stated as the sixteen year old beauty walked toward her. " The older you get, the more you like your mother." India was already starting. The disgusting nature of true self was evident in that she chose to begin her vindictiveness with a teenager.
"Thank you for the compliment Miss India. My mother is totally gorgeous. Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Frank?"
Rhett stood back and beamed with pride at his daughter. She really was a carbon copy of Scarlett. His mini pet. He felt a light touch on his elbow and turned to face his stepson. He felt a sob of emotion rise in his throat. Wade was a man. Why hadn't he realized it before? The realization of this hit him all at once. The little boy, the one with the soft brown curls and pockets filled with rocks and power rangers had grown up.
Wade thrust his hand forward to his stepfather. " Rhett."
Under normal circumstances, Rhett would have chastised Wade for the brash way he had addressed him, but not today. He could see the anger flickering in Wade's eyes. He was , and always had been, a mama's boy. Of course he would seethe in anger at the man who had caused her so much pain.
"Hello, son." Rhett said; not failing to notice to flash of a disgust that swept across Wade's face. "It's good to see you."
Wade was as tall as him now. His gangly little-boy frame had morphed into that of an offense lineman. It shouldn't have surprised him. From the pictures Scarlett had shown him of Wade's father showed him to be a handsome and muscular man. The span of Wade's broad shoulders had to be twice of Rhett's. There was no doubt in Rhett's mind that given the chance, Wade could wipe the floor with him.
Wade's jaw was set in a tight line as he wrapped an arm around Aimee, bringing her close. " You remember Aimee, of course."
"Captain Butler", Aimee said as she moved to kiss Rhett's cheek.
Rhett smiled baring his white teeth. " How could I forget such a beauty?", he teased.
Wade curled his upper lip in the same way his mother did. "That I don't doubt, Rhett. It seems that you could never forget a beauty. After all, isn't that little character flaw what cost you my mother? "
Belle felt a sense of nervousness that she had never felt before. She'd been arrested three times on charges of prostitution and once for harboring an illegal alien. For one week she was held captive as the forced sex slave of the second general in command of a Cuban drug cartel. She'd been stabbed, shot at, and witnessed first-hand the murder of three people. Yet, never, in all those experiences, had she experienced the overwhelming feeling of dread as she did now.
She reasoned that she really had nothing to feel badly about. She wasn't living with Rhett and she certainly wasn't sleeping with him. The one time she acts in a manner of pure friendship and nothing else, and it's then when Scarlett finally catches them together. Belle was shocked at the amount of vitriol that Scarlett's petite little body contained. She couldn't help but smile a little every time she thought about those ugly curse words coming out of her perfectly pouty lips. Scarlett O'Hara continued to be a wonder to her. An invariably complex woman of hidden eccentricities. And that…..made her dangerous.
Looking over at Frank, Belle could see that he shared her apprehension. She'd be the first to admit that she didn't fully understand the level of connectedness she would have with the pillars of Atlanta's oldest families when Tazwell married Ella. The frequency in which she was thrown into situations with Ella's father, stepmother, and mother left her wishing she hadn't given up her daily cocaine habit years ago. Some blow would have made this so much easier, she reasoned.
"Ella, darling!" Scarlett said as she threw her arms around her oldest daughter and kissed her cheek. " Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Thank you for coming."
Belle just smiled like an idiot. Because she was an idiot. An idiot who was once again in thrown into a situation where she had to smile and give pleasantries to the woman who had taken away her heart's greatest desire: Rhett.
She'd never been in this house before. She'd never been through the front gates of the subdivision. She wasn't worthy. She was his dirty secret – that wasn't really a secret. He built this mansion for Scarlett. He wrapped her in furs and diamonds, made her his wife, wanted her to be the mother of his children, while Belle was hidden away, like some secret habit he liked to indulge in from time to time.
" Belle", Scarlett said with a mocking half-smile that deepened only one dimple. "Ya'll don't mind if I steal her away for a quick minute?" She linked her arm with Belle's and pulled her toward a closed set of doors ."I have to show you the dress I was thinking about wearing to the wedding. I think we should at least be on the same color scheme, don't you ?" , she said to Belle in a sickingly sweet honeyed tone.
Belle shot her son a look of pure terror that said : save me. He just smiled back at her. Newly-wed love had made him stupid. Just being in reaching distance of his pretty red-headed wife turned his mind to goo. Never mind that his mother was being led to her death.
Scarlett gestured for Belle to enter in the room first. The second Scarlett sauntered in, her face turned to stone and she shut and locked the door.
"You don't really want to discuss color schemes do you ?" , Belle said as she stated the obvious.
"I don't give a shit what you wear to the wedding. We both know that I'll look a thousand times better than you in whatever I wear anyway. Who is M.S. ?"
Belle furrowed her eyebrows together in confusion. " M.S.? "
Scarlett took a long, deep breath and glanced at the closed door. "Don't play dumb with me , Belle. Who is M.S. ?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Scarlett."
Before Belle even knew what was happening, she found herself laid out on the floor, clutching her face. Scarlett had slapped her straight across the face.
"Did you just hit me ?!"
"Who is M.S.", said Scarlett once again as she stood over her.
"You really are fucking crazy."
Belle staggered to her feet only to be knocked down once again by a blow to ger chest.
"WHO IS M.S. !"
She took it in stride the first time Scarlett hit her. She figured she deserved it for all the times she slept with the poor woman's husband. But once was all she would allow. After receiving a second blow from Scarlett, Belle was going to fight back. " So this is how you want to play?", Belle said as she gathered her bright red tresses into a hair tie. "Remember Scarlett, you were the one who hit me first."
Belle swung at Scarlett with everything she had in her. Her fist connected with Scarlett's jaw in a loud smack. Scarlett was knocked backwards and sent crashing into a large sculpture of a horse and rider. She clutched the side of her face as she fell to her knees. Her precious purple glasses were broken into two uneven pieces. One lens was cracked.
"You broke my glasses!", yelled Scarlett before throwing her whole weight into a sucker punch to Belle's stomach. The blow forced Belle's torso downward as she recovered from the blow. She curled her left arm across her middle and drove her right fist into Scarlett's knee cap. As she fell, Belle bent forward and grabbed a handful of Scarlett's hair and yanked as hard as she could.
Scarlett's piercing scream rang in her ears, disorienting Belle a bit, and was followed with a swift uppercut to her jaw. Belle instinctively covered her jaw, leaving her upper body vulnerable. Scarlett drew back her hand and back-handed Belle so hard that it left a ringing noise in her ears. Scarlett played on this vulnerability and jumped onto Belle's back. Belle tried to throw her off but Scarlett didn't budge. Instead she wrapped her legs around Belle tighter and started slapping her face repeatedly.
"Who." Slap "Is." Slap. "She?" Slap.
The weight of Scarlett coupled by the disorientation from the numerous slaps to her right temple, forced Belle to the ground. Belle didn't feel the force of the impact that her body made with the hard-wood floors. Scarlett's body had broken her fall. Belle heard her groaning as she rolled away from Belle.
As if driven by some unseen source of energy, Scarlett jumped to her feet and stood before Belle. She grabbed her iMac and held it in both her hand. Drawing it back, she gathered the momentum to strike Belle with this expensive piece of technology.
Belle watched closely as Scarlett moved toward her. Without her glasses, her vision was impaired. Belle took advantage of this and with all her might drove her foot into Scarlett's stomach as she came forward; the force of which was so intense that the weight of Scarlett's body broke the coffee table as she fell back on it.
Scarlett was gasping for air. She hadn't moved and was making gurgling noises. Oh fuck! I killed her! Belle thought for an instant.
Thankfully she was alive. Scarlett took her time getting up and moving. The last kick had knocked the wind out of her. She turned her head to the side a spat out some saliva mixed with blood. Belle felt her heart quicken a bit. She really had hurt her. She worried about what this would mean. What would Ella think of her mother in law now? What would Rhett think?
"Here, let me help you up." She said as she reached down to help Scarlett.
"Fuck you", said Scarlett as she coiled away. She moved onto all fours and got up on her own – one leg at a time. She ran a hand through her hair and adjusted her clothes. She tore off a cap of battled water and began gulping the cold liquid down.
Belle handed her a Kleenex ." You have a little blood- right there- " she indicated to the right corner of her mouth, "on your face." She was winded herself and fell back onto the plush sofa in the room. Scarlett followed suit and passed the water bottle to her. Belle could see Scarlett's bottom lip starting to swell and a faint purple that would most certainly become a bruise appear on her left cheek. It was official. She had just beat the shit out of Scarlett O'Hara. She imagined that there would have been deafening cheering coming from half the women in Atlanta if they had known what she had just done.
Interestingly, it seemed that there was a palatable lack of tension between them now. Two minutes ago they were beating the crap out of each other and now they were sitting next to each other and sharing a bottle of water.
" M.S. are the initials of the woman Rhett was with after Cat was born. I know the other four, including the two that went public, worked for you. That was easy to find out. The information on them was right there, as if he wanted me to find it. They were all little flings. Nothing serious. But this M.S. person was. I think they fell in love. Do you have any idea what this realization does to me ?"
"Yeah. I can imagine how terrible it must feel to have the man you love fall in love with someone else."
Scarlett looked at Belle with narrowed eyes. "Belle, I never signed up for infidelity. When I married him, I expected him to honor our vows. Especially after we had Cat. There was no 'agreement' between us like the two of you had. Hell, I didn't even know about you for years." She leaned back and covered her face with her hands. "Why does he keep doing this ?"
Belle just listened. She didn't know if Scarlett was asking her for her opinion or speaking hypothetically.
" This M.S. person", she continued, "she was hidden. It was very difficult to find her, but I did. He must have thought he deleted all the evidence of her, but he didn't delete the server. My hacker was able to infiltrate it in a couple of hours to reveal her. Some of those e mails were awful. She would disgustingly recount to him the way it felt when he screwed her, the way he looked, what he said. Makes me sick."
Scarlett tore at the tissue in her hands. "Please tell me the truth, Belle. Do you really not know who she is ?"
Belle shook her head no as she watched the purple spread across Scarlett's cheek. She suddenly felt the urge to put her arm around Scarlett; to comfort her in some way.
"They even talked about me, Belle. How they didn't want to hurt me. They went back and forth about telling me." Scarlett clutched her chest and took on a mocking tone as she said, "I hate to keep this from Scarlett , but it's for the best that she not know. Complete bullshit. Oh, and here's the best part". She turned to face Belle "The last time they communicated was two months ago. This thing between them is still going on. "
Belle leaned back into the sofa and took a deep breath. She was sure that Rhett would have told her about it if he was cheating on Scarlett. She knew about all the other woman because he had told her about them right after they happened. She knew what he was doing the whole time. She couldn't help but feel jealous that Rhett was sleeping with these girls. They were much younger and thinner than Belle was. The only reason she hadn't fired them on the spot was that she felt a sense of satisfaction in the knowledge that Rhett was being unfaithful to Scarlett with numerous women. But she really didn't know any M.S., or about any romantic trysts Rhett had since his reconciliation with his wife. As far as she knew, Rhett was one hundred percent faithful to Scarlett.
" Did you talk to Rhett about this ?" , she asked.
Scarlett gave her a look that that said, you must be joking if you think I did that. She balled up her tissue and threw it to the ground. She reached down and picked up the two broken halves of her glasses. "These were my favorite glasses. You're buying me another pair."
Belle walked toward the desk and ripped a piece of tape from the dispenser. She took the halves of Scarlett's glasses and wrapped the tape across the broken sections, tapping them together. "Here", she said placing them on Scarlett's face. "Good as new."
They both laughed at the absurdity of it all.
" Just think. One day we'll be able to tell our grandkids about the time their grandmas got into a fist fight. We'll be the coolest grandma's ever", said Scarlett.
Tiny clicking noises could be heard coming from the doorknob. It opened to reveal Scarlett's middle daughter.
"What did we say about picking the locks?", said Scarlett. She was still wearing her lopsided glasses with one frame cracked in the middle.
"What the hell happened in here ? Did you two have a fight?", Bonnie said as she surveyed the damage in the office.
"We both wanted to wear the same dress for the wedding. What can I say?" , answered Belle.
Scarlett laughed at that. "She obviously won.", she said as she pointed towards Belle.
Bonnie's eyes widened. She was beginning to think she didn't know her mother at all. She could be funny and she got into fist-fights? Who was this woman?!
"Dad's about to wig the fuck out."
"Language.", Scarlett reprimanded her in a monotone voice that told Belle that this was a frequent admonishment for Bonnie.
"There's some British guy named Richard here and , um…, let's say that it's not going well. You better get out there before somebody dies."
" Richard!", Scarlett said as she walked toward the gaggle of men coagulating near her front door. She kissed both his cheeks and hugged the little boy who hid behind hid behind his legs.
"Gerry!", she called over her shoulder. "Luke's here!"
Gerry bounded around the Corinthian column separating the parlor from the foyer clad in his paw -patrol costume from Halloween, a pink tutu, and a dinosaur mask. Rhett did a double take at his son's choice of clothes.
He gave Rhett a quick, " Hi Daddy", before leading his friend to his playroom.
"I came baring gifts.", Richard said as he handed Scarlett a chilled bottle of Chardonnay. She smiled and thanked him. She could see that Rhett was seething in jealously. The thought thrilled her and sent little shocks of electricity down her spine, turning her on a little. A wicked thought crossed her mind.
Rhett or Richard ? Decisions , decisions ….
The sneer on Rhett's face was barely concealed as he spoke. "She hates Chardonnay. She says it tastes like butter." And she had – on more than one occasion. If he wanted to make sure she didn't overindulge in wine during dinner, he opened the Chardonnay. If he wanted her to throw herself at him, tearing his clothes off and acting like a seductive temptress, he open the Bordeaux. He remembered the time when they hadn't even made it from the table to the bedroom. They had made love right there on top of the varnished wood. He smiled as he thought of that night and the morning after. He remembered how during breakfast Mammy had loudly voiced her displeasure in her daughter's wanton behavior the previous night.
" Do you know that Fitz came to me this morning that she found ass prints on the table?! Ass prints! We eat on that table, little girl !"
"Oh, but I love this one." She pulled him from his revelry with her voice .The vineyard is right here in Atlanta and we were given a tour. I fell madly in love with it.", Scarlett answered as she surveyed the bottle in her hands.
"We?", Rhett questioned. He knew the answer. He just wanted to hear her say it.
"Richard and me", she answered.
The anger stewing inside Rhett had become so intense that a red hue was starting to spread up his neck. It gave Scarlett a high like none other.
"Come and meet my family", she said to Richard as she walked arm in arm with him away from Rhett.
"It's ready ! Time to eat!", Rosemary yelled in a shrill tone that sounded like it came from a fishmonger's wife.
"Everyone just sit wherever you want", announced Scarlett as everyone moved around the table.
The table was covered with every food imaginable. Roasted and friend turkey, ham, duck, mashed potatoes, honeyed yams and sweet potatoes. Collard greens, corn, three types of stuffing, buttered rolls, gravy, and a small plate of sliced cranberries made specifically for Uncle Peter. Thanksgiving and Christmas were the only two times in the year that the massive table proved to be useful. Otherwise it was simply a surface collecting dust.
Scarlett sat on the far end of the table with Wade directly across from her on the other end. Rhett sat between Bonnie and Careen and was opposite Richard who was flanked by Beau and Phillipe .
Scarlett raised her voice above the din of chatter. "Thank you all for coming. This Thanksgiving is a first for many reasons. This is our first year without Mammy and with my new son-in-law and my future daughter-in-law. And I can't forget our three continental guests that are here. Phillipe, Luke, and Richard, thank you so much for joining us. We all have so much to be thankful for. More than I could ever say without crying. So, to spare you and myself the horror of my ugly cry face, I have asked Wade to say the blessing this year."
As all the heads at the table bowed while Wade thanked God for all that He had blessed them with this year, Rhett lifted his eyes to look at Scarlett. Her eyes met his immediately. There were tears in them. Rhett felt his chest start to tighten. She was trying so hard to put on a brave face, for him, for herself, for her family, for the kids, but inside she was broken. He had done this. He had broken her. She gave him a weak smile that almost overtook him. More than anything, he wanted to tell her that he loved her. That he had always only loved her. That he was lost without her. That she was the center of his whole world. He was filled with so much emotion that he didn't notice the tears that were filling his own eyes until he blinked and the teardrops fell onto the plate before him.
The dishes of food were passed around, the wine was flowing, and pleasant, mingling conversating could be heard along the table. All seemed okay – normal even. That was, until it wasn't.
"Scarlett, does Cat need to wear the headphones during Thanksgiving dinner?", Rhett asked. He hated how singled out she always was. She would never be treated like a normal kid if Scarlett kept allowing her eccentric behaviors to continue. Scarlett smacked her lips together as she took a sip of her wine. "If it makes her feel more comfortable, then yes."
Rhett shook his head in defeat. An action he knew drove Scarlett crazy. " What?", she said without raising her voice. " I take it you think I should make her take them off. That this is just more of my indulgent behavior?"
Rhett moved around the food on his plate like a small child being chastised by his mother. "I'm not saying anything , Scarlett. You do what you want. You obviously know best." He emphasized the last sentence to goad her irritation further.
"I do know best", she said through her clenched teeth.
" Most assuredly, my pet. I also assume that your superior parenting skills are what drove you to allow our son to dress like a girl today?"
Bonnie tried to lighten the tension brewing between her parents by asking Richard questions about England. She knew the slim chances she had at this working, but she had to try. Her parents were like two animals fighting to the death when they got into arguments. It was only over when one of them drew blood.
"A girl, Rhett ? How?" Scarlett put down her fork and gave him a challenging look. Raised eyebrow, pursed lips, narrowed eyes.
"He's wearing a damn tutu, Scarlett. A pink tutu", Rhett said while trying to maintain his composure.
" So only girls can wear tutus and the color pink? I wasn't aware that the words 'vagina required' ' were printed on the clothing tag, Rhett. But perhaps you know something I don't. Might this because you secretly have your own pink tutu ?"
Richard couldn't help but laugh. Rhett's machismo was typical American male.
" Was something I said funny?", Rhett snapped at him.
"Ignore him, Richard. He's in a perpetual dick-comparing contest with any man that he feels intimidated by", Scarlett said as she dismissively waved her hand. Her Aunt Pitty gave an uncharacteristically loud laugh at that comment.
" You should be in a perfect position to judge between them. Wouldn't you, my pet?"
"Lemme judge them, Scarlett dear. I bet neither one can beat Peter's black mamba.", Pitty blurted out as she held out her hands to indicate the length of her husband's penis.
Scarlett fluttered her eyes in an eye-roll. " Is this your way of insinuating that I'm screwing Richard? Because it's really none of your business if I am. And I'm not your fucking pet. If I were, I'd have scratched your eyes out long ago. "
Careen kicked at Sue's leg under the table. "Is she drunk?"', she mouthed as she nodded toward where their aunt was seated. Sue shook her head no and leaned in towards her sister. "No, she was losing her shit with the soap opera cast of people here, so I gave her a little something to calm down."
"What did you give her", Careen whispered back.
" Only one Percocet"
Careen slapped the table with both hands and covered her face.
"What? She's calm, isn't she?", said Suellen.
"And telling us all about Uncle Peter's shlong !", Careen said while gesturing to her long suffering uncle.
"He can't hear you. He turned off his hearing aid a long time ago. Watch." Suellen turned to her uncle and tapped the tines of her fork against his plate to get his attention. " Uncle Peter, what do you say that after dinner we grab a couple of baseball bats and go about breaking the windows of all the cars outside?"
Peter smiled and nodded his head.
"Then when can shave Scarlett's head and kick the shit out of her. Sound good?"
"Absolutely", Peter said as he placed his forkful of canned cranberries into his mouth.
"Ya like Nascar, Frank?", Will asked while piling massive amounts of food on his fork. He knew that his wife hated when he did this, but she was too involved in her conversation with her sister to notice.
I like to get a little of everything in one bite, was his reason.
Frank shook his head. " Never been too into racing. I like baseball, though. I'm all about those Braves."
Will harbored no ill will against Frank. He had no burning desire to kill the man. If Will was a deeply introspective person he would have wondered what this said about the state of his marriage.
More than the fact that Frank and Sue were once engaged, Will knew that his wife still loved the man. He had known it for years. He had to give it to her for trying to make a good show of it. She avoided eye-contact with Frank and steered clear of his direction. She and Will made love constantly. Their six girls were proof of that. But her eyes couldn't lie. Frank was, and would always be, her first choice, Will was the consolation prize.
Yet, little did Suellen know that she was a consolation prize as well. Will's first choice was Careen.
Will wagged his knife at Frank. "You wanna' know a real good sport that's en'taing as all get up? Wrestling. Monday Night Raw."
"Brent" Ashley called across the table, "Is it just me or does Scarlett's face looked bruised on one side?" Brent tried to move to an angle that gave him a better view. " I can't really tell from here. It looks to me like that make-up crap that women to use to make their faces look skinner."
"Contouring", Suellen's fifteen year old daughter Poppy added.
"What she said", Brent concluded.
Frank swallowed the greasy slab of ham that was in his mouth and surveyed his ex-wife's face. Even all these years and the hell that she had put him through, he couldn't deny how beautiful she was. During their sole year of marriage, when people saw them together, the men would slap Frank on the back and tell him how jealous they were of him.
"You get to go to bed with that ?! You are one lucky son-of-a -bitch!"
They didn't know that he had only been intimate with his wife once -the one time that created Ella. She wouldn't allow him to touch her throughout their entire marriage. Not even a kiss on the cheek or a touch of the hand. NOTHING. Once, and only once had she almost relented. She was eight days past her due date with Ella and was miserable. He had come home from work that day to find her waddling along the hallway of their home.
"Frank, I need to have this baby. I can't take this another day. I've walked, ate spicy food, taken castor oil…. Everything. The only thing left is sex. Frank, I need you to do me a big favor and have sex with me. "
Frank stood there in silence. Did she just ask him for sex?
"It has the best chance for pushing me into active labor. But I think it's more the orgasm during sex that does the trick , so I need you to get it right. Can we do this …like , now? "
"Um… sure. Let me just take a quick shower."
Frank ran into their bathroom and jumped into the shower. He scrubbed furiously at his skin, scouring away the dirt and grime that covered him from the store. He couldn't believe his good fortune. She had even asked him to make her come. He was just drying off when Scarlett came into the bathroom and told him that her water had just broken and his services were no longer needed.
He wasn't even allowed in the delivery room when she gave birth to their daughter. Melanie and Mammy were the ones who stood by her side, helping her push.
He may not have been familiar with her body, but he knew her face well. He remembered how he would watch her while she slept, memorizing her features as she dreamt. She had woken once and caught him staring at her from the doorway to her room. After that, she began locking the door. It was for naught though. He already had her features carved into his brain.
" That's most definitely a bruise. And her eye looks like it might be a little swollen. Do you think she fell or something?"
"Possible. You know she has been sick lately. She was rushed to hospital not too long ago", Brent informed them.
Carreen nudged Brent with her knee. Scarlett did not want the world to know about her medical issues. Especially not India or Frank.
"Or maybe someone hit her", said Ashley. His eyes narrowed at Rhett. "You know, I've seen bruises on her face before."
The three men all turned to stare at Scarlett. She was still talking to Rhett with great animation. Their body language and sarcastic smiles indicated that their conversation had turned ugly. Pitty had noticed them and waved like a maniac to them.
India poured more wine into her glass. "Why don't you go ask her if someone hit her, Frank? Get a little closer, maybe. I mean, since you've been undressing her with your eyes since we got here, this might give you a reason to soak more of her in."
Frank reeled back in his chair. " I have not, India. I barely even looked at her from the moment we walked in the door."
"Need some more material for the spank bank, do ya Frank ?", laughed Will as he made a rude hand gesture.
India turned toward her husband. Her features were turned into an ugly scowl. "You are such a liar. That women has all you fools tangled up in her web. This is all part of her own sick little game. Poor Scarlett gets hurt and all the boys just rush to her aid. She's the most conniving whore I've ever seen. Don't you realize that she's had sex with almost half the men at this table?"
"Oh, I didn't have sex with her. She only ever let me feel her tits.", Brent said as he bit into a roll.
Rhett's mother cleared her throat and glared at the men sitting near her. Seriously. Their conversation was totally inappropriate. Even if she did agree with some of India's retort on her daughter -in-law, the dining room table was no place for it.
"Hey Mags, what did they say?" Rosie , never one to be left out, asked. Maggie shrugged her shoulders. She was across from Eleanor and only heard bits and pieces of the conversation. She knew they were talking about Scarlett and Rhett. It was the elephant in the room. Everyone had an opinion on the fate of the Butler marriage. Maggie didn't want to get involved. Whatever was going on between Scarlett and Rhett , she wanted no part of. She had her own fair share of marital problems to deal with.
Ella noticed the faint blush of purple on her mother's face and called over to her brother. "Wade. Does mom have a bruise on her face?"
Wade narrowed his chocolate brown eyes in his mother's direction.
"She does !" He took a few deep breaths. Wade, who like Bonnie and Gerry shared their mother's porcelain complexion, began turning a deep shade of red. " The mother-fucker hit her! I know he did!" Wade's right hand closed around the handle of his knife. "I'm going to kill him. I'm going to fucking kill him."
"Wade, calm down", Aimee said , trying to placate him. She had placed her hand over his clenched fist. " You don't know what happened. Do not jump to conclusions."
"Jump to conclusions ?! Aimee, he's physically hurt her before ! I was there ! I SAW it !"
"I hit her", Belle said in a calm voice to the foursome seated near her. They all sat in silence. Ella and Wade's mouths were open and identically aghast.
"What? You hit her ? When ?", asked her son.
Wade turned to stare shockingly into Belle's face.
"We had a little disagreement earlier and it got a little out of hand."
Ella, with her fork frozen in midair asked, " You and my mom got into a fight? Like a real fist fight ?"
Taz threw his napkin onto his plate and covered his eyes in mortification. He knew there was bad blood between his mother-in-law and his mother. He had no idea it was this bad.
"She got in a few good licks in there too, now ", Belle said as she moved her hair away from her face to show the swelling along her jaw.
Rosie looked at Julia and shook her head. She knew this would happen. There was no way that a gathering of this many people with this many prejudices toward one another would turn out to be present. The tension all along the table was palatable. She decided that it would be up to her to take control. She clanged her knife against the crystal of her water glass.
"Everyone", she announced in a loud voice, "I would like to announce that I have asked Julia to marry me and that she has said yes."
The table erupted in cheers and joyous excitement. The tension immediately abated. Both Rosie and Julia were engulfed with hugs and kisses of congratulations. A loud pop of a champagne cork was heard. Champagne flutes arrived and were filled with ice cold Veuve Clicquot.
Scarlett rose her glass in the air. " Here's to the happy couple. Rosie and Julia, we love you both and are so excited for your happily ever after! Congratulations! " Everyone, including the kids seated at the kids table – who rose plastic cups filled with the tiniest possible sample of champagne, rose their glasses in the toast. Rosie pulled Julia into her arms and gave her a kiss. Julia had tears streaming down her face as she held on to Rosie's face with both hands and said," I love you."
"Aunt Roe, can I be a bridesmaid?", Bonnie yelled down the length of the table.
"Me too!", Ella said just as loudly as he sister.
"Me too!", added Maggie.
"Don't get any ideas over there, Mags. I'm the best woman !", said Scarlett with a smile as she walked over to Rosie and gave her a giant hug and a kiss.
"In more ways than one, sister." She answered as she rose her glass in Scarlett's direction and took a sip of wine. Scarlett puckered her lips and blew her a kiss. The celebratory mood seemed to have saved the day.
Except for the one black cloud at the table. Rhett's mother was the only one without elation. Instead, she looked as if she were going to be sick.
"Is this some sort of joke, Rosemary?", she asked her daughter.
"What do you mean , mama?"
"You're not really marrying Julia. This is a joke, right? You're not really one of those….. those lesbians." She whispered the word lesbian as if it was some horrible disease.
"God doesn't make mistakes", Cat quipped from the kids' table. She had confiscated the champagne that was given to her brother and younger cousins. She thought it quite inappropriate to give small children alcohol and, to protect them from this parental oversight, consumed everyone's sweet tasting champagne on top of her own. The result left her a little light headed and giggly.
Rosie looked as though the wind had been taken out of her sails. She felt instant deflation. She flopped back against the fabric backing of the dining room chair in disappointment. Julia grabbed her hand and gave it a little squeeze. It gave Rosie all the strength she needed to say what she had to say. What she had been bottling up for a long time.
"Mom, I'm gay. Julia and I have been living together, as LOVERS, for years. I'm totally in love with this woman and I want to marry her. I want to spend the rest of my life with her and only her", said Rosie. She brought Julia's hand up to her mouth and kissed it.
Pitty dabbed at her eyes. "That was beautiful. I never knew lesbian love was so beautiful."
Careen kicked at Suellen's legs with force. "Don't you ever give her opioids again."
Eleanor waved her hand in dismissal at the situation. "You just haven't found the right man yet, darling. If you would take my advice and lose a little weight and start acting like a lady…."
"Oh Eleanor, shut up." Scarlett's voice rang clear as a bell. "Can't you see they're happy and in love? Would it kill you to be happy for your daughter and not keep trying to change her into something she isn't?"
This was it. The showdown that had been years in the making. The gauntlet had been dropped. Mother in law against Daughter- in -law.
" This is all your fault, Scarlett", Eleanor spat.
Scarlett shook her head in disbelief. " It's my fault that Rosie had the courage to come out and publicly announce her love for Julia? Then, thank you, Eleanor. I accept the compliment."
"No. It's you and your horrific treatment of my son. You made a normal relationship between a woman and man seem so terrible to her that she'd rather be with a woman."
"Mama, really", Rhett interjected.
Scarlett stood and grabbed on to the end of the table so tightly that her knuckles turned white. "What are you talking about? My horrific treatment of HIM! Your son has been unfaithful to me throughout our ENTIRE marriage!"
"And you were totally innocent the whole time, Scarlett? I find that hard to believe." Eleanor belted back.
"Eleanor, if you want to know the one woman who has treated your son horribly, I suggest you take a good look in the mirror. You are the one who caused his warped view of marriage. Your love for your children, for ALL of them, comes with conditions. They never know where they stand with you. You love them when it's convenient for you and ignore them when they don't act according to your wishes. You love Rhett only after his father dies – AFTER you abandoned him to a life on the streets; you love Rosie only if she conforms to your wishes and denies who she is as a person, and you don't even consider Ross at all. You are sick and narcissistic and you alone are responsible for the damage done to Rhett, not me."
The people at the table sat in silence, swinging their heads from side to side as if they were watching a tennis match. Scarlett = 1 Eleanor = 0
Eleanor rose from her seat and pointed a scrawny finger at her daughter-in-law. "Don't you dare lecture me on my relationship with my children. You think you are mother of the year? I've never seen a worse mother. My grandchildren run wild. They're almost feral ! One thinks he's girl, one is allowed to live in her own fantasy land, one runs off and gets married, one couldn't wait to get away from you and moved up north, and that one" she said as she pointed at Bonnie " is well on her way to ending up just like you."
"Why does everyone say that as if it's a bad thing?", Bonnie questioned Beau in a whisper.
"My children are amazing, Eleanor. Not perfect. Amazing. I'm constantly amazed at who they are and who they are growing to be. I'm proud that Wade went away to college and found an amazing woman to marry. I'm proud that Ella's heart is so big that she couldn't live one more second without marrying the man she fell in love with. Gerry is five and so what if he likes the color pink and plays with dolls? I'm proud that he's sweet and compassionate. And if one day he comes to me and tells me that he's transgendered, I'd still be proud of him. I'm extremely proud that Bonnie is like me. I happen to think that is a good thing in many ways. And Cat", she swallowed down her tears as she looked over at her special little girl. "I'm overwhelmed with pride to be Cat's mother. And I can't tell you how happy I am that Cat lives in what you call "a fantasy world" instead of in a reality filled with ignorant people like you. This the last time you come into my house and insult me and my children. The very last. Get your shit and get out of my house."
Eleanor looked at Rhett. She wanted him to stand up to Scarlett and tell her that this was his house too. That she couldn't just throw his mother out of his house. Instead, he announced that he would be leaving as well. "Let's go mother. I've lost my appetite for everything at this table."
"You're sure you don't want me to stay and help you with the dishes?" Phillipe asked before retiring to bed.
Scarlett closed her eyes and shook her head. "No, We've got it. Thanks anyway."
Phillipe peered around the wall separating the dining room from the kitchen. Richard was up to his elbows in soap suds.
"Et cet homme? Est-ce sage, Katie?"
"He speaks French fluently, you know. And yes, I will be fine."
He gave her a kiss on top of her head and said softly, "Bonne nuit, mon petit."
"Good night, dad."
Phillipe froze. She had just called him dad. His heart began beating so quickly he thought he might be having a heart attack. Did she say it on accident? He didn't care - she still said it. He didn't want to ruin it; to call it to her attention and embarrass her even. Instead, he walked up the stairs with a big smile on his face and a warm feeling in his heart.
Dad. His daughter had called him dad.
Scarlett walked into the kitchen and stood next to Richard as he towel dried her dishes. Her good china was not dishwasher safe and required hand washing. She politely declined everyone's suggestion of helping her clean up. She just wanted to be left alone. Only her father and Richard refused to allow her to dismiss them. Though she protested initially, she was glad they were there. They didn't talk to her much. They only asked her simple questions related to the location of a particular server or glass of crystal. Who knew that cleaning her kitchen would be so relaxing.
"I'm sorry your first American holiday was ruined." She handed Richard a crystal wine glass.
"Don't apologize. It was very memorable", he said while tucking the towel into the hollow of the glass. He meant to sound jovial, but she didn't laugh. He tried to steer the conversation into safer waters.
"Phillipe said he was your father"
She reached into the soapy water to gather up various pieces of cutlery. "He's my biological father, yes."
" You look just like him. And Frank, he is?"
"My first husband and Ella's father."
"And your oldest son's father?"
"And Rhett is …"
" My current estranged husband and the father of my other four children."
Richard counted in his head. Four? The one that looked like her, the one that looked like him, and Gerry. That was three. Four?
She seemed to sense his thoughts. " Our son R.J. died soon after his birth."
Richard took the forks from her hand and dried them. They were real silver; heavy and engraved with the letter B.
"That's some family tree", he said.
Scarlett wanted to change the subject. She didn't want to go through the complex matrix of how she was related to everyone sitting at the dining room table earlier in the day. She didn't want to think about what had transpired at all.
"You know, we never opened the wine you brought. The kids are happily playing upstairs. Want to join me in a glass or two? I have Young Frankenstein on Blue Ray", she said teasingly.
Richard smiled and said that he'd love to. They finished the dishes and put them away. Scarlett grabbed two glasses that were drying in the dry rack and a cork screw. "Grab the bottle. We can watch it in the media room upstairs."
Richard was reluctant to comment on the grandeur of Scarlett's home. To be honest, the obvious display of their wealth made him a bit uncomfortable. Walking through the home made it clear. Scarlett wasn't just rich, she was outrageously rich. American rich. He wondered how much money she and Rhett really had, it had to be millions. She had mentioned to him a couple of things about her marriage and the current situation she and her husband were in. He had heard her say that there was no legal documentation that protected their assets prior to the marriage . If they divorced, she would walk away with more money than he had ever imagined.
The media room looked like a mini movie theater complete with plush leather seats and little lights that ran along the floor. There were professionally framed movie posters along the walls and a full bar and snack area against the back wall. Completing the ambiance of the room were red, velvet curtains that hung alongside the massive screen.
Richard looked over at Scarlett as she struggled with the projection remote. She pulled out a pair of broken and mangled glasses and put them on her face. She looked at Richard and they both laughed.
"Something tells me that you don't spend much time in here.", he said as he walked over to where she was standing and tried to help her decipher the buttons and cords.
"No, I do. It's just that I usually have a member of my…..never mind." He knew she was about to say her staff. The woman had staff.
Richard took her hand in his. "Don't be ashamed of your wealth, Scarlett. You should be proud of all you've accomplished."
"What have I accomplished, Richard? Lots of money? Fancy cars? Expensive jewelry? What does any of that even matter? You heard my mother in law today. I'm a failure where it counts. My husband would rather be with other woman than me and my kids run wild. "
He ran the back of his fingers against her cheek. She winced a little. Even his feather-light touches alerted her to the tenderness of the bruise that had formed on her cheek. " Don't ever say that, Scarlett. You are amazing." His eyes went to her lips as he whispered, " so very amazing."
Their faces were almost touching, they were so close. She lowered her eyes to his lips and slowly lifted them to meet his eyes. She could see that he was beginning to breathe faster; taking in large amounts of air in as he looked at her. His flushed cheeks and nervous pulse told her all she needed to know. He wanted her.
"Kiss me, Richard", she whispered. "Please."
His kiss was soft at first. Gentle in a way that Rhett's never were. Rhett's kisses were savage. He didn't just kiss her , he devoured her. Richard's kisses were slower and sensual. His mouth slowly drank hers in with languid movements of his tongue against hers. As their kiss grew frantic, she knew she had two options: take him to her bed or stop. Begrudgingly, she stopped kissing him and laid her head against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and said, " I've been wanting to do that for a very long time."
"Me too", she answered. She was being completely honest. She wanted him to kiss her. She welcomed it and enjoyed it. She even wanted more. She closed her eyes as she realized for the first time how much danger her marriage was really in.