Rhett Butler had never in his life witnessed a girl with as much charm and vivaciousness as Scarlett O'Hara. Luckily enough, Frank Kennedy had insisted on Rhett joining him for the barbecue at the Wilkes' even though he would rather have been anywhere else. As he readied himself to make his presence known, he contemplated his next move. He could ridicule the poor girl for making her silly declaration of love to a man who was already engaged to be married. Or he could sympathize with her and try to smooth her ruffled feathers. In any other situation, the answer would have been simple – poke fun at the girl and have her at his mercy; but this was not just any situation. This was a girl of a rare breed; one who wasn't afraid to speak her mind unlike so many other girls. Rhett Butler had never imagined himself falling in love – and of course, he wasn't falling in love now but he was feeling different about this girl than all the other girls he had ever known. And he had known quite the number of girls in his day. But none could match the unparalleled way in which Miss O'Hara handled the particular situation that she now found herself in. He heard her hand make contact with Mr. Wilkes' face and he felt the heavy silence that fell between the two of them. Then he heard the door to the library open and abruptly click shut. It was quiet for a moment and then he heard the clash of a vase hitting the wall that he was currently staring at. In that moment, he knew how he was going to handle this situation.
"My, my, how familiar this scene is." He spoke from behind the couch as he rose to stand on his feet. "It's not the first time I've had china thrown in my direction." He saw her eyes blinking rapidly at the surprise of discovering another person in the room, but he continued and moved closer to her. "However, since you were not aware of my being here, I don't think your aim was intentional, which I can't say has previously been the case." He stood close to her now, within arm's reach, but didn't move closer in fear that Mr. Wilkes' face would not be the only one stinging this afternoon.
"Sir, you should have made known your presence."
"Ah, Miss – O'Hara, is it? Isn't that what I'm doing now? I didn't want to interrupt the intriguing conversation you were having with Mr. Wilkes." Her face flushed with embarrassment, he assumed at the confirmation that he had indeed heard the conversation between herself and Mr. Wilkes. He could see the battle raging in her eyes and knew she would claw his eyes out if society had permitted a lady to act in such a way. As it was though, he knew he was safe for the time being. "Oh, come now, don't be angry with me. Consider yourself lucky that you've run into me here. I'm adept at listening to those of whom suffer from great love quandaries. Come join me." He moved back to the couch he had just risen from and patted the seat next to him.
"Why should I trust you, Mr. Butler? I've heard of you and I know about your reputation and if you think I'm the sort of girl –"
"Oh now, let's not get ahead of ourselves. You don't know me. You've only heard about me and we both know those are two very different things, Miss O'Hara." He had cut her off abruptly and she didn't know what to do. He heard the swish of her skirts as she made her way over to the couch. He moved to one end.
"In honor of your reputation, and mine, we'll sit on opposite ends." He leaned back into the couch and stretched his long legs out, crossing them at the ankles. He saw her eye his long form and then sit on the other end of the couch, adjusting her skirts to sit more comfortably. The look in her eyes and the way her brow furrowed told him that she was unsure of the situation at hand and still fuming over the situation that had just occurred. She wasn't saying anything so he pushed on.
"Tell me, Miss O'Hara, what is the appeal of Mr. Wilkes?"
Her head snapped up and she glared at him.
"What a leading question! Who do you think you are to ask me about my feelings for Mr. Wilkes? I've never even heard of you until today and you think you can pry into my life like we've known each other for years?" She ranted on and on and Rhett couldn't help but notice how much more attractive she got with each angry syllable she spoke.
"Pardon me, but you did decide to sit down on this couch." He looked over at her and saw her face fall. She realized that he was right; she had decided to sit down on the couch. She stood up and crossed her arms in front of her chest, unknowingly lifting her bosom, much to his appreciation.
"Sir," she said, "you are no gentleman." She turned to walk away from him but he was up off the couch and standing in front of her before she had the chance to take two steps towards the door.
"Yes, Miss O'Hara, you are right about that. I am no gentleman. And that's exactly why you're still standing in this library."
"I'm still standing in this library because you won't get out of my way." She made a move to push him but he grabbed hold of her arm and she struggled to get loose.
"No, that's not the reason. You chose to sit on the couch and have a conversation with me. You could have walked out then and you didn't. See, you have given yourself away. You are curious and you want to talk with me. But for propriety's sake you feel the need to push me away and leave unsatisfied. Am I right?" Her struggling stopped and his grip loosened on her and he eventually dropped her arm, allowing her to make her final decision. He didn't know where this situation was headed. He knew he was right about her; she wanted to talk to him but he also knew that she was having an internal battle with herself and what society required of her. She glanced around the room and he saw her biting the inside of her cheek. He removed his pocket watch from his waistcoat and looked at the time. "The rest of the girls are still sleeping and probably will be for the next hour or so. See, this gives you plenty of time to talk with me and get back upstairs before the house comes back to life." She looked up at him then, her sparkling emerald eyes meeting his dark ones and his breath caught.
"Well, Mr. Butler," she seemed to say through gritted teeth, "since you are so sure of yourself, I suppose a conversation with you will be the only way to get out of this library." She turned around sharply and sat herself back on the couch, once again adjusting her skirts underneath her.
"I do hate that we have met under these strange circumstances, Miss O'Hara. It seems that you and I would have gotten along just fine otherwise, being as we are cut from the same cloth." As he talked, he moved himself to the other end of the couch, just as they were sitting before she decided to make a move to leave.
"I have nothing in common with you, Mr. Butler. You are vile and just awful for making me sit and talk with you when I'd rather just die!" She spat back at him. His chest rumbled with laughter.
"Please, call me Rhett. We have already discussed this, Scarlett. May I call you Scarlett?" he continued on without giving her time to answer his question. "Let's move on from this topic of whether you want to talk with me or not. We both know you do – no matter what you feel the need to say. I won't go around spewing your secrets to the town gossips. Go on, tell me what the appeal is of Mr. Wilkes." Her shoulders slumped and she leaned back into the couch, much like he was sitting and he grinned. She was getting comfortable and he could tell that this was something she desperately needed to talk with someone about. He pulled out a cigar and raised his eyebrows at her for approval. She waved her hand at him.
"Oh, I don't mind."
He lit the cigar and smoked while he waited for her to respond to his request. When she did speak, she was quiet and he had to strain to hear her.
"I suppose there really isn't any appeal anymore. I never truly understand anything he says but I just can't help myself. I've known him my whole life. He's the only boy I've ever truly cared for." She was looking down at her lap with confusion written on her face. She clearly didn't understand what she was feeling or how to handle the feelings.
"I understand that," was his only response as he looked at this child in front of him. She was very young, young enough to be his daughter, even. He felt an overwhelming need to protect her.
"When you are young and life does not go as you had planned it feels like the end of the world. Scarlett, you are so young. You have plenty of life ahead of you and it seems to me that Mr. Wilkes marrying this Miss Melanie is just the beginning of your life. Look at it this way: Mr. Wilkes is going to marry Miss Melanie. You can put him behind you and start your life now." They weren't looking at each other, rather, Rhett was staring at the fire place in front of them while Scarlett was still staring down at her lap.
"Yes, I – I suppose you're right." She clasped her hands together in her lap and sat up on the couch. She looked over at him. "Mr. Butler – Rhett – thank you. I am not sure I would have ever thought of it that way without someone telling me. And – as you can imagine – there isn't anyone I can talk to about this… situation."
"Well, Scarlett, consider your secrets safe with me." He winked at her and stood up from the couch. He offered her his arm.
"Shall I escort you to the door of the library?" They both knew it was improper for them to be alone talking in the library. She looked down at her hands once more and a small smile played upon her lips.
"Yes, thank you." She replied and he walked her to the door where she silently slipped out and walked away. He closed the door behind her, leaned against the cool wood, and let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding.
AN: Thanks so much for reading! This is my first story and I'm not sure if I'm going to take it any farther than this. I would like to, but we'll see! Let me know what you thought, good and bad!