I don't own GWTW, nor do I gain any profit of this. Wrote it in one day, please R&R. Just a one shot. Did some proof reading. That's all...
"You will not take my child away from me."
"She is my child too, Mrs. Butler, and I am taking her to visit my mother in Charleston."
She was about to retort heatedly that she didn't believe him, that he'd be with whores, but she knew it would be no good. If he decided to go, he'd go, with the pretense of visiting his mother, making her appear even more ridiculous than he had three nights before when he made her face all of Atlanta on her own, with the cowardly ash faced Ashley.
She turned her back to him and faced the window. With a very low tone that was a striking opposite to her state she articulated slowly –
"By all means, Captain Butler, than your entire family will come with you. You surely aren't going to deny your step children and wife the pleasure of acquaintance with your mother, are you? Being as respectable as you are on my expense these past two years?!"
He was shocked, both at her resolution to come with him and at the truth she uttered with little accusation in her voice. Her back was turned to him, he could not see the streaming tears that were pouring from her eyes. Her voice did not give her in. She was managing to hold herself with her back erect.
"Don't you have better things to do than act all wifely all of a sudden?" he sneered "Isn't your store or mills or Ashley in need of your presence?" He was doing his best to fend her off the whole travel being his escapade from her.
Slowly she turned to him, causing him to step backwards as he saw her tear stricken face -
"Damn the store, damn the mills, damn Ashley Wilkes and damn me for marrying you. As it is, I have and we are, married that is, and I shall be coming with you to Charleston if you take Bonnie."
His heart was aching at the sound of her words but he could not avoid the sense of panic as he realized that she was coming with him -
"Fine marriage we have, dear wife, don't we? Should I be asking my mother for two rooms on account of your snoring or should I tell her the truth? Should she be embarrassed on our account? And what do you plan to do about your businesses, I'm curious."
"I don't care a fig about my businesses, they can burn as far as I'm concerned" realizing it was indeed how she felt at the moment - "Don't try and tempt me to stay. As for your mother - you, the man who took me to the paths of courage versus reputation dare lecture me on propriety? What was it you said to me when we first danced, that I was still clinging to my mother's skirts? Your mother is well accustomed to scandals from you, I will be nothing more than another disappointment, or we could tell her of Belle, could we not?"
She paused and turned her back to him once again, her voice was almost silent when she said "As of today I will no longer feel guilty for asking you to leave this room and no - I will not feel guilty about our marriage either. You drove the mother of your child out of society, Rhett Butler, starting six years ago, sealing it three nights ago when you dressed me in that scarlet dress and left me to face Atlanta's false accusations, knowing fully well they are false, on my own. You wanted it to seem otherwise. No, I will not feel guilty any more - you left my bed for three days after using me, discarding me - your wife - like trash."
He was grasping the meaning of her words - she was sorry for driving him away, for their marriage. Another thought came rushing in - she rightfully saw him as he was - a vicious vindictive man. But she hadn't finished -
"Perhaps that's all I ever was to you - trash, a body to have. Never mind. I shall be ready within the hour and don't you dare try go without us. I swear on my mother's grave, I will come to Charleston to ruin you."
She left him in her room and he could see her turn to the nursery and call "Prissy - help me pack the children's cloths. We are all leaving in an hour, you too."
Fifteen minutes later he was still standing in her room, gazing at the window. Thoughts were racing in his head. The guilt hurt him like fire. It was true. He made it look as if she had done something he knew she did not do. The past three days had been a haze of alcohol and little moments of lucidity. He sat on the small chair grasping his head in his two hands to tired to move. She entered the room -
"Why are you still here? Don't you have packing to do?" her tone was calm and indifferent.
"Why are you coming with me, Scarlett, I can leave Bonnie and go."
His voice was weary.
"I shall come anyhow."
"I have had enough, Rhett. Believe it or not. I'm through swallowing whatever poison you throw at me. If you go, it will look as if I had done something I didn't do. My three children don't deserve that, even if you feel that I do. Melly doesn't deserve that either. Besides, I meant what I said, I don't care about the mill or the store. There is nothing to keep me here as far as I'm concerned"
She turned her back to him "You should pack. If you are set on going pack."
He had to give it to her, even when cornered she had more gumption and courage than any person he ever met.
"Will you please move from the vanity?" she was holding a cucumber and a small knife,
He did not know why he insisted on staying there.
"Suit yourself" she cut the cucumber holding it in the air, and lay on the chezlong with two pieces above her eyes.
She lay there for a few minutes, as he stared at her unbelieving the scene.
After a few minutes she rose and put the slices of cucumber on the vanity, he grabbed her arm not too forcefully yet firmly -
"What are you doing?"
"Nothing in particular, Rhett, my eyes are puffed and there is no need for all of Atlanta to sneer at me as we are going to the train station."
"It's not what I was asking you, and I dare say even you understood me. But why the tears?"
She looked at him from above and answered "Why ask? You obviously don't care."
With a stronger movement than he expected her to, she released herself, and piled a few dresses and some clothing on her bed ignoring him. To his amazement it took her a very short time to gather her belongings in a small trunk.
"There, all set to go. I'll make sure the children are dressed."
They made a miserable party in the train. Both parents trying to pretend towards the children that the travel had been a pleasant surprise, yet Scarlett was ignoring her husband completely. By sunset three children and their mother were sleeping in what seemed a puddle of gowns and limbs on the small bed in their private compartment. Rhett was sitting at the far side of the cabin gazing at the scene.
"What a mess" he thought. Observing his wife he could still see trails of her morning weeping, but what mostly struck him that at that dim light mother and daughter seemed so alike with vulnerability so evident. Before leaving the house he made a quick walk aiming to bump into Mrs. Merriwether as he indeed has. He shared their coming journey stating that he wanted to take Scarlett away for a while considering how worried he was on her account. Mrs. Merriwether raised a skeptical brow when he dropped that he felt ashamed for listening to Scarlett and not attending the party a few nights before, leaving her to muse on the man's words.
"How many families lay solely on their woman's shoulders? Scarlett is very much like you, Mrs. Merriwether, acts as if nothing can hurt her, protecting her family, and Ms. Melanie's like a lioness. Before we were married she even supported my mother with the money she sent her aunt. However, this time I think she'd been pushed too far and she agreed to let me take care of her for once. I admit that I too neglected her far too long, assuming she'd cope."
"Take her away, Captain Butler" she found herself saying "You shouldn't have listened to her the other night, you should have been there. It wouldn't be the first time she tried to protect you from society, poor Scarlett never knows how to fend for herself."
It wasn't much, but it was a start. Her words left him baffled, he never knew of Scarlett's conversation with the matron prior to their wedding.
She shrugged embarrassed "I tried to dissuade her from marrying you. Hasn't she told you? Apparently not, from the look of your eyes. She practically sent me to hell protecting your name. In reality she wasn't lying, but, well – she suffered the consequences from an outburst that was entirely my fault."
"I never knew" this time he was honest.
"As you said, she protects her beloved ones like a lioness. Why only this morning Mrs. Wilkes told me, well, I promised I wouldn't tell. Run along now Captain Butler. I can't say I agree with your wife's ways, but you ought to have come with her."
Midnight came and Scarlett rose from the hip consisting her kids with a sore back and hungry. She hadn't eaten since breakfast. Through the darkness she was trying to locate her reticule.
"Do you need something?" came his voice from the arm chair.
She stumbled backwards from fright and he caught her. "You nearly gave me a heart-attack" she whispered "I thought you'd be sleeping"
"What were you looking for?"
He chuckled, with hurt she added "I'm hungry and I wanted to see if I could get myself something to eat."
"I'm sorry, I meant no harm, it simply sounded funny, but I doubt it's advisable you'd look for it at this time of night."
She sighed leaving his arms she sat at the small bench beside the compartment wall.
She kept to her silence for long minutes. He suddenly rose and left the compartment leaving her to think if it was on her account.
She hadn't thought of the day's events until that point. She felt numb most of the time with a cold resolution to prevent him from leaving her this time again. What was she to do in Charleston? She hated that city with its coolness and reserved attitude. What was she to do with her husband? She had no idea. She told him more than she ever planned to say that day - she had even confessed her long felt remorse for her decision regarding their separate bedrooms, and cried to his face. With no manipulation she realized she had cornered him to her demands. A thought of Ashley Wilkes came to her mind and she felt disgusted at his memory, with his pale submissive demeanor at the party.
Rhett entered the compartment and handed her a paper bag with some biscuits and a cup of coffee.
"Thank you" she muttered slowly, surprised at the gesture.
"You needn't thank me." she could not see his face but she heard his voice. Was it regret?
She ate silently. She contemplated whether to offer him some. He hadn't eaten either, now she thought. With no words she handed him the paper bag and realizing her meaning he picked the second biscuit. He ate it fast realizing he was hungrier than he thought.
"Would you like some of the coffee?"
"It's not much, finish it."
She handed him the cup anyhow and leaned backwards to her seat once again.
"I hate Charleston" she suddenly said and a sound remotely resembling laughter escaped her "six years ago I went there, right after Wade was born. It was such a boring place."
"It was the same twenty three years ago when I left. Probably the same now as well." he answered quietly.
He was puzzled. Her entire behavior puzzled him. He did not foresee the possibility of her insisting on joining him, let alone with the children. Her tears, and most of all her words. He was still digesting them slowly.
He turned and noticed that she fell asleep once again, this time with an awkward posture. He left his armchair and nestled her in his arms, leaning her head to his chest.
In that position she woke near dawn feeling his warmness surrounding her. Sometime later he woke -
"You did not leave?"
"It's your thing. Not mine."
"Leaving. You leave. I never do."
"No. I don't" her tone was dry. Just like yesterday, yet she wasn't crying.
He drew her closer and inhaled her scent.
During the rest of the day the children were all excited about the big train and the several public spaces it contained such as the lounge and the cafeteria. They hardly conversed. But during the afternoon rest, as he sat himself next to her relinquishing the armchair she leaned to him reviving their morning intimacy for some time.
As they arrived she felt exhausted and a sense of nausea attacked her upon stepping out of the train, smelling the smoky air to be quickly enwrapped at her aunt's arms -
"Scarlett - what a lovely surprise! Mrs. Butler had given me the notice of your visit and I just had to come to see you. Now you must be Wade, and you Ella Lorena- and is that, yes that surely is your little one - Eugenie Victoria."
"We call her Bonnie Blue" peeped Wade
"And fine blue eyes she has, yours are brown and Ella, show me yours, dear - your mother's emerald eyes! How wonderful! All you lack are a pair of black ones like the Captain's and the set will be complete" kept the elderly woman chatting.
"That would be nice, a little pirate" another lady said "Dears, I am your grandmother. Darling do come and kiss your mother Rhett; and you must be Scarlett - so young!" her last words were articulated softly with evident amazement. She left her son's arms to hold her daughter-in-law as if holding a porcelain doll "I loved your mother dearly, I am so happy you are my daughter now."
Scarlett kissed the lady's cheek and embraced her speechlessly. "Children, give your great-aunt and your grandmother a kiss" she said firm enough to the children reminding them their manners to Rhett's dismay, but the children did not seem to mind, no, they were happy to hug the two ladies who seemed keen for their company.
At the white house in The Battery, and after a small supper, they were led to the large nursery and a room for the two of them. Prissy was to sleep with the children in their room. Scarlett did not bother her husband with a look when she thanked her mother in law. As the doors closed behind them she did not bother to give him a single glance and went out
of the room to come back with Prissy so as to help her undress behind the screen.
"Thank you Prissy, make sure you all go to sleep early, and don't forget the small lamp for Bonnie." he heard her say in a low tone."
Without a mere glance she climbed the bed and turned her back on him and drifted to sleep.
*** GWTW ***
"Ladies, I have brought a special lady today – Pauline's niece and my son's wife – Scarlett Butler."
The small group of ladies stood to greet her with affection she hadn't anticipated. None were holding sewing materials, and yet it was supposed to be a sewing circle, or that was what Mrs. Butler had told her they were going to attend.
Rhett's mother sat by a small apparatus and drew a long inhale from a tube attached to the apparatus – "Lovely" she sighed "Do you want some, Scarlett?"
"What is it?" she asked intrigued.
"Opium" answered her mother-in-law. Helena is a doctor's mother in law and she has her ways of getting us a portion for our weekly gatherings."
Scarlett swallowed hard surprised, but drew an immediate smile and refused the offer "No thank you my dear, I fear it will knock me down with this exhaustion I still feel."
"You are very wise, my dear. It's best not to give anyone reasons to suspect, as none of the men suspect." A young lady laughed.
Scarlett smiled at her and wondered what else was done in these gatherings. She found out that this circle included plenty of gossip, just like the ones she had attended back home, only here it was all shocking –
"Have you heard of Louisa's daughter?"
"No, how is she doing after the abortion? She really should be more careful with that quire boy of hers."
"Quire boy, my foot." Sneered the young lady with no malice.
"I dare say most of her friends have bedded him at one time or another."
"Well, he is so lovely, and there is no shame in finding some entertainment in the afternoon."
Rhett's mother noticed Scarlett's amazement "Dears, you are shocking my son's wife. She'd go thinking we all have lovers."
"Well, don't we?" laughed an elderly woman.
"I most certainly don't." answered Mrs. Butler with a smile.
"That's merely because you are sixty and it has been a rough winter."
Rhett's mother laughed merrily.
In the following gatherings she learned that the spoken abortion was not something rare. One of the ladies, in fact, would help in such matters, and prided herself in 'saving' Rosemary, Rhett's sister twice from an unwanted child.
Scarlett would keep smiling and quiet most of the time, sticking to the tea she'd be the only one to drink, or laughing politely.
One afternoon her mother in law asked her directly "Do you oppose abortions, Scarlett? I keep forgetting your mother was an earnest Catholic woman."
Scarlett shut her eyes for a second "I did not grow to be what my mother would have wanted of me, Mrs. Butler. I do not oppose it, in fact I considered it once, but Rhett was adamant against it, and I never regretted having Bonnie. The thing is…"
"You consulted Rhett?! Why that is pure silliness! He is a man, darling. They always oppose these matters. Darling, if you ever wish to rid yourself of an unwanted baby, never share it with a man. You can even come to me if you wish, I'll help you. Heaven knows I've done it a few times, between Rhett's brother and Rosemary. One was because my husband was bound to find out it wasn't his child I was bearing. You already have three, that's more than enough at your young age."
The small woman spoke candidly with no shame – "Darling, Rhett's father was a tyrant. I wouldn't be surprised if Rhett took some of his traits, despite my complete adoration of him. I married Ed when I was but sixteen and had Rhett the following year. His brother came soon enough after that, and the following time I found myself carrying I was willing to drown myself in the ocean had I been forced to bear another pregnancy to term and raise an additional child. You are still so very young, I gather Rhett did not see that when he opposed the matter, but you shouldn't ask him. It's not for him to know or decide."
The conversation couldn't have come sooner.
The elder woman took her hand "You are carrying now, aren't you? You seem so sad, and I wonder, has my son been forcing you?"
"No" Scarlett blushed to the roots of her head.
The elder lady's long glance gave away her doubt regarding the sincerity of the answer "Well, you know what to do once you decide what it is that you want, don't you?"
But Scarlett, in fact, was left with more questions than before. She had realized her state, bearing a constant nausea she couldn't fend with a careful diet, feeling dazed and unusual fatigue. Yet, the constant sight of her children's love to Rhett and his adoration towards them, especially Bonnie, left her wanting for something she couldn't name.
She kept the matter to herself for eight long weeks. The children had grown used to the place and its' many pleasures instantly. They were surrounded by a loving overindulging grand-mother and great-aunt. Despite their shared bed, they hardly spoke, except through and of the children and joined activities. She'd fall asleep instantly each evening, right after kissing the children goodnight, skipping her night routine. It was than when she heard Rhett's mother converse with him through the large windows of the study, sitting in the veranda one sunny morning.
"Your wife worries me, darling. Her aunt claims she'd never been so distraught, even when she was in mourning her first husband, recovering Wade's birth."
Rhett took his eyes off the paper he was reading - "I'll see what's wrong with her, perhaps invite a doctor."
"Perhaps you should converse with her first, son? Women do like to be heard, at times."
"Why do I detect some criticism, mother?"
"You needn't detect, I'll make it simple for you – you treat her the same way your father treated me when you were Bonnie's age, darling." Her voice was soft but persistent "Don't be mad at me, but over forty years after that time, I can tell you that being a young mother is no picnic, let alone of three children from three different husbands. I suspect your wife's load is heavier than mine ever was or ever will be."
"Has she spoken to you?"
"You know me too well, son" she sighed – "but no, she claims you never force her to anything, and she doesn't speak of anything regarding your marriage. Odd, considering you haven't taken the time of day to show her around town once, take her out or anything that would be expected."
"Scarlett is quite independent, mother."
"So you say, and she may have been so, but none of it appears these past two months. I have no idea what caused this between you two, and I won't ask you either, but your wife is a sad woman. Now, enough of that for the time being. How is your half-sister, Arabella these days, do you see her often?"
"Belle's fine. She runs a house of ill repute in Atlanta so I get to see her quite often. Shall I say you inquired on her health?" her husband's voice sounded sarcastic.
"Don't be silly, of course not. I'm not supposed to know of her, despite the fact that she ought to be 38 years old by now."
"Precisely." After a pause he added "Mother, if you hadn't, don't talk of Belle with Scarlett, she doesn't know we are siblings and I rather kept it this way."
"I wouldn't dream of it. Despite her fair skin, if I recall, no good will come out of your wife's knowing that her half-sister-in-law is a half black whore."
"You shouldn't use such words, mother."
"Why on earth not? This year I turned sixty, and your father has been dead for four glorious years now. After forty years of confinement to my tongue I say whatever I please, and you are no prude so don't act all coy. Your wife, on the other hand…"
"What about Scarlett?"
"You married a naïve child. She looks up to you darling. I hope you remember that."
Scarlett was left dumbstruck for hours. For no apparent reason she refused to see anyone the rest of the day, returned her food trays nearly untouched. It had all been a lie, or perhaps not. Rhett must have bedded half if not all the whores his half-sister was employing, even if not her.
He had done all in his power to cause her pain. That alone burned her heart even more than the thought of him bedding a mistress has eight weeks before.
In the evening she knocked on her mother-in-law's bedroom door –
"Come in" came the soft voice from inside.
She entered an ivory bedroom. Inhaling the lemon verbena scent she was so accustomed to she half smiled – "Mrs. Butler, will you help me?"
The woman looked at her worriedly "I fear you are at the end of the time for such methods, darling. I thought you wanted it."
"I did, only now…"
She took the young woman in her arms "Scarlett, you remind me so of myself, but if you had doubts – have it, or you'll regret it. It might be that pirate baby your aunt talked of on the day of your arrival. But if you insist, we'll go tomorrow morning and handle it."
She thought of it, and for the first time she realized that woman was right in her assertion. She did want the baby, it was to be hers, and hers alone.
"Scarlett, when the baby arrives I will be there for you, and after that I'll teach you how to avoid it in the first place. There are ways. You should never depend on a man's good will or self restraint."
The following morning Rhett's mother took him to town claiming she needed his help in a meeting. As they reached the docks, Rhett asked amused "Who are we meeting, mother, you were so secretive".
"I thought of introducing Arnold Shenner to you."
"The old lawyer? I knew him. Why would you need him?"
"I don't, and in fact he's been dead, for ten years now, but when you were five he was my lover for until after you left."
His face was grey as ash "What are you saying?"
"Nothing really. Has your wife done something like that to you? Because she sure will if you keep shutting her out of your heart, darling. I never loved Arnold, but he was comfort. Mothers shouldn't tell such things to their sons, but you hated your father so for his conduct with you and with myself. Are you better than him?"
"How did you know?"
"I don't. I am guessing, but if you came here and haven't left in two months for no apparent reason, you must be in desperate need of my help." She was smiling at him kindly "This is the most I can give you. You see me as a perfect lady. I am a lady, but never perfect. This will be my gift to you, the knowledge of what may be. Pain causes us do the most horrible things. Scarlett is in constant grief. She won't be able to endure it much longer and you'll lose her for good. Once I had a lover it was never the same. I still somewhat obeyed your father, but he no longer mattered. I know that men have other women, but it's different for women, there is so much emotion, and it takes years till one... Never mind, I'll let you figure this one on your own. Notwithstanding what I said, I believe your wife never bedded others. You know such things in my age. But you keep punishing her for something. What is it?"
"She never loved me mother."
"I see. Did she deceive you?"
"Darling, I love you. I think your wife shares that sentiment. It will be up to you to draw it out of her, and being sour and mean won't do it. Don't turn to be your father or worse, my love."
He had even found her letters from the store and Uncle Henry unopened in a pile besides her night dresser. She was kind to the children and polite with him and his family, but aloof, and this kind estranged person was scarier than the usual fierce woman they feared. He pressed on her accompanying him to errands and social gatherings. To his surprise she complied acting the perfect southern wife.
As he raised the issue of her health Scarlett was adamant about seeing a doctor -
"You will not have me checked by a doctor here. I am simply tired and strained and you of all people should know that. You may withhold the reasons from your mother for all I care and invent any excuse you wish. I'll even back you up" she concluded with half a smile.
Was it that she stood too fast when they were visiting the market? She'd never know, but she found herself in her husband's arms after losing conscience. On the carriage home he informed her that the doctor would be waiting in the house.
"I don't want a doctor."
"Well, you'll see him just the same. If I recall correctly you fainted when you were half starved to death after the war and when you were pregnant."
Her face remained bland -
"I will not let him check me, Rhett. I mean it. I'm fine."
He gave her a long hard look -
"Stop this nonsense, you are not well."
"You never had issues with doctors, why the sudden change? You hardly eat, you are tired, pale and now you fainted."
"I dislike the food."
"Nice try. Give it another one."
"Another try. I don't believe you."
"I don't care. The doctor will not touch me!" with that she left the carriage jumping awkwardly down at the threshold of his mother's house. She went straight to their room shutting the door. He found her there a while later.
"I spoke to the doctor. He thinks you may have a series of things pregnancy included. Is that possible, Scarlett?"
She was with her face to the pillow. she turned - "I wouldn't know Rhett, you tell me - is that possible?" Sarcasm dripped from her tone.
"Would you let him check you?"
"Because I don't want to, and I don't need to."
He was leaning against the door, his face twisted with frustration -
"When will you stop punishing me?"
"You? It's not about you!"
She gave him a pained look - "I don't want a doctor, and it's not about you. It is I who doesn't want a doctor, Rhett."
"You are suffering"
"When has it been any different? Besides, what do you care? You wanted me to suffer in Atlanta - would it have been any different? Praise the Lord I'm here, if I were in Atlanta all would have been sure that this baby's a bastard. That would have made you happy, wouldn't it?" Her laughter was crazed and her eyes were bright with unshed tears.
It was the first time in these two months that she raised her voice on him or the issue. He'd relented to raise the matter and almost surrendered to the deadliness of her demeanor in the past weeks.
"Let the whole town see the whore her husband abandoned with her bastard child. That was your plan? Well, if I'm pregnant it is nothing to you. I'm here only because I threatened you I'd come with or without you."
Her accusation made him lose his patience -
"How dare you?"
"I dare! That's what would have happened hadn't I come. Had I let you keep slapping me with your hatred and spite as I have these past two years. And yes, I've known I'm on the family way for four weeks now. I'll be fat and ugly in no time darling, just as you'd like me to."
Torn between a desire to yell at her, her last words caught him surprised -
"You never cease to amaze me - fat and ugly is what you are concerned of?"
"What do you think?! It was the reason I asked you to leave our bed in the first place, or have you forgotten. I'm already 20 inches wide, and not 18. Not that it matters any more. You really have it your way always, don't you? I hardly care even about that."
"You kicked me out of our bed because you want Ashley in your bed, Scarlett."
She was screaming now "I never wanted that dim-witted man in my bed. That's disgusting. I hate you. How can you say such a thing? Just because you associate with whores, doesn't mean all human being share your desires. The only…" She stopped abruptly realizing what she was about to say.
"I hate Ashley." she added straightening her eyes at him with a hard look "I loved him more than I loved myself for the longest time but I hate him now, and never, never did I want him in my bed. In fact - I never wanted anyone in my bed! For God's sake, it was ugly and painful both with Charles and Frank, what did you expect?"
"I didn't want you in my bed either. Not until…" she stuttered "Oh! It's indecent to talk of such things."
He grabbed her hand and gave her a pained look of his own "Until what?"
"Until you actually were there, well!" she was exasperated "Then Bonnie was born, and six weeks after that I asked you out. It's funny - I was still bleeding at the time, and I was horrified at the option of having another child becoming even wider than I already was. Then you took Belle to be your commonly known kept woman and began hating me, and here we are now, aren't we? I just wonder, how come your whores never get pregnant each year, or do you allow them to miscarry your children?"
He became pale - "Are you, that is… Have you..."
She laughed an unpleasant laughter - "No. Haven't you heard me? I knew I was pregnant four weeks ago. I could have, if I wanted to without you ever knowing. Your mother's circle has chit-chats that Atlanta's matrons would blush of, perhaps even Mamie Bart and your precious Belle. Not your mother though, don't get me wrong." She lied but felt compelled to do so, perhaps even for his sake "You should check it, really, you wouldn't believe me who amongst them aborted their bastard children. I've been shutting my mouth these two months realizing that if that means being a lady in your eyes, thank goodness I am not one. But I want this baby. It will be my little pirate baby."
She was shaking though it wasn't cold. The strain left her exhausted. He took her in his arms. During the passing weeks they had grown used to sharing the bed, waking each morning enfolded in each other's arms, but nothing more.
He was rocking her in his lap monotonously - "Dear God, what a mess I've made of things" he whispered.
At that she broke - a flood of tears was set free and her sobs were unstoppable, "Sh… honey, don't cry" he was whispering kissing the trail of tears gently "please don't cry. I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry". She was gazing at him surprised but he kissed her on her half parted lips, in the same manner. His forehead showing the strain a contrast to the softness of his lips, repeating his words "Don't cry, I'm so sorry". Sometime later he realized she was not crying any longer. She was in his arms answering his kisses with kisses of her own.
After a while they lay quiet, she was hugging him. She raised her head as she felt him move - "What now?"
He smiled – "Now you rest, and this afternoon we go to pick you some new dresses for this new condition to make you feel beautiful as you are. By now you should know that you're beautiful always. If you kiss me, I'll bring you a cucumber, as long as you let me watch."
She smiled, for the first time in ages a genuine smile –
"Rhett, I don't want to attend your mother's sewing circle anymore."
"She is so happy with you, she keeps saying you are naïve." He smiled.
"Why? I have no idea how you pulled it off."
"Your mother is sweet, I love her, but I can't be there. Your mother gives excuses for me each time, and I'm sick of it. I'm not a child. I don't need to apologize for knowing how many pennies are in a dollar, or how to plow and pick cotton. It's what kept food on my aunt's table these past few years." She saw his face harden and he drew backwards, but she did not stop her speech nor did she remind him that it kept food on his mother's table until his father died "And I don't need to apologize for not wanting to try opium."
She was pale but it was nothing in comparison to his shocked gaze – "You were offered that?"
"All of them take it, even my silly aunt. It loosens their tongue among other things."
"My sister and mother?"
"You shouldn't ask such things, but no, they don't either. Some excuse about allergies." She lied through her teeth this time.
"Why didn't you try it?"
"The first time was because I was feeling rather poorly, I think." She was confused - why hadn't she? She drank brandy from time to time, she stuttered "Than I saw what becomes of them once they do. Then I became aware of the baby" She was embarrassed "Don't tell your mother my reasons. Say I need to rest, say anything."
She closed her eyes "I should read my letters" she sighed "Melanie's I read, apparently your dear friend Dolly is backing Melly with her struggle to protect my name. Have you bribed her?"
"No, but I told her it was your idea my not coming to the party, so as not to upset me."
"When did you do that?"
"Before leaving, after you rightfully blamed me for tarnishing your reputation. I've always hated my father for what he had done to my mother, it seems I outdid him with you."
"Would you like me to do it for you? The letter?" He asked
"If you wish. I truly don't care." Her voice was tired and defeated.
He grabbed her hands - "Don't, you should care, you built it. Both businesses. Don't let my folly deprive you of that. We'll do it together." A smile came to his face -
"One thing Scarlett - you still are a poor liar - I have no idea why you are so adamant protecting my mother and sister, but if there had been opium in the room, both would be the first to take. But I'll take this secret to my grave. You really aren't fit for this city if you are such a poor liar. Hold this one as the first praise I had given you in a long time. Well overdue, but a start nevertheless."
"I don't wish to return" she whispered as the train kept its' constant paste at night.
He was holding her all along from behind -
"I won't leave your side for a minute."
"I'll miss your mother terribly. I wish my mother was more like her."
He snorted "You surely wouldn't have worried about hell and punishment from God had she been your mother"
"Is that so bad?"
"No, but you are perfect the way you are. And she is right. You are still young and naive. Only, don't learn too much from her. I'm not sure I can take it."
She realized he knew more than he should have known -
"I would never." she whispered
"I know. And I am so grateful for that."
"Will you return to our room?"
"If you'll have me. Only if you'll have me."
"I'll have you. I never did know how to undo it.." she whispered.
At that he took her in his arms - "I never should have left on the first place. It's my pride that had me acting. But don't worry, if it happens again, you only need inviting my mother, and she'll straighten us both.."
"Your son is adorable" mused Melanie peeking at the baby from above the bed where his mother held him.
"He is, isn't he?"
"I'm so glad you left for Charleston. It was rather clever and so considerate of your husband to take you."
"Yes, He told Mrs. Merriwether that he was worried you were too upset. Wasn't that the reason?"
Surprising herself and Rhett who had just come in she answered truthfully -
"Rhett did not take me on his own accord, I told him that if he wouldn't I'd hunt him down and ruin his life."
Melanie roared with laughter "What a lovely fib, I shall be sure to repeat it."
"It is odd how people never believe the truth, isn't it?" she was staring at her husband - "You did not believe me that nothing happened that day in the mill, when in fact it was true, and I believed you Belle was your mistress."
He almost choked, she smiled -
"Even I wouldn't think that you'd bed your half sister. And no, your mother hasn't told me, nor did I tell her of your constant refuge at her institution, but eavesdroppers get to learn the most interesting things."
After a while she turned serious - "What did you do there those three days, Rhett? Now that we ruled out being with her. Tell me that and I will ask nothing more."
"Drinking. Hiding in my room, I've always had one in her house. A private room to escape to. I couldn't face you. I was planning to run away with Bonnie for a while, to learn how to hate you for something I had done to you, but you ruined that with your resolution to come with me, and more than that with your words."
After a while he asked "Do I get an answer for a question too?"
"Depends what you ask. I think I should stop telling you everything." Her smile was radiant.
"What did you say to Mr. Merriwether when she tried to dissuade you from marrying me? She said you protected me."
She was embarrassed "It was so long ago, does it matter?"
"To me it does."
"That I'd marry you even if you had fought on the Yankee side. I think she was referring to me telling her that you served in the army. I'm sorry, I know you wanted me to keep that to myself but she infuriated me."
He looked at her - "I am not drunk now, so I might as well say it - I love you. I always have. I caused you more pain than I care to think of. I can't change the past, perhaps the future."
She wasn't looking at him, but rather at his son - "Look at him, Rhett. He is as handsome as you and he is completely mine!"
"Isn't he mine too?" he laughed remembering his words three years before.
"No. This one is only mine. However, if you'll have me, you could just have both of us."
"I thought you'd never ask."