Chapter 39

Scarlett stared for a long time at Will and then with a quiet sigh, she laid the tips of her fingers on Will's arm and said, "Will, I do understand everything you are telling me. And maybe I will try what you say. But I want to tell you one thing. Its... it's something I've never told anyone - even Suellen. And.. and I want you to listen to me - like a brother, do you understand-"

Will looked steadily at Scarlett and Scarlett felt from his gaze that he already knew what she was going to say.

"All my life, Mother trained me to be a great lady just like how she was. But there were moments when she never actually understood that I was different from her. I'd like to think that whenever she saw the real me, she only saw it with reproach and saw it as something to be corrected.. But Mother was always such a sweet and gentle person." Scarlett paused a moment and continued. "Anyway, all I knew since childhood was if I could only do certain things, then, I'd reach this place where I would feel loved and safe. I thought that way. I don't know why I did. I don't understand that. But that is the way its always been. Mother wanted me to be a belle and I was, she wanted me to smile and walk sedately and dance and I did. And I won the approval of every County Swain, my Pa, my Mother.. And I lived on this. But you know the one person I was aiming to get approval out of?"

Scarlett gave a nervous yet bitter laugh. "It was Ashley. Ashley Wilkes. I suppose it could be interpreted as something else but there it is. I wanted Ashley Wilkes to approve of me. Because he was such a gentleman - the best gentleman there ever was in Clayton County and any praise from him.. from the highest and the best...would satisfy me and set me up for life."

"Scarlett-" began Will, with a faint smile.

"Believe it or not, Will.. Melanie could understand. No one else did.. not even Rhett. Rhett thought I was in love with Ashley. But I wasn't. I only wanted Ashley's approval. I wanted him to tell me that I was gentle and kind and sensitive and delicate-"

"Couldn't you have known that on your own?"

"But I'm not those things" said Scarlett in sudden tears.

"How do you know?"

Scarlett snapped in anger and blew her nose in a handkerchief. She felt so angry that she couldn't even speak.

"When you kicked Jonas Wilkerson out of Tara, I thought you were showing your sensitive side. You cared that much about Tara-"

Scarlett shook her head and to her frustration, she felt tears slipping down again.

"Scarlett, perhaps you did head after Ashley Wilkes and perhaps whatever compliments he could give you were worth that much.. but can't you see it like this - By chasing after your ideal, you have learnt how to run a business, how to sow and pick cotton, how to deliver a baby and manage a large house- you've learnt these things by chasing your moon- And now you don't have the moon, but you have these skills.. and you can put them to good use, can't you?"

Scarlett stared at Will, and her cheeks grew pink and warm with gratitude and embarrassment. She tightly clutched Will's arm, the only sign that his words were making good common sense.

"Now the question is, can you?"

"Can I what?"

"Can you stop running after anyone's approval and do something really useful with all the things you've learned?"

Scarlett smiled and blew her nose again. "I can try. But I am afraid."

"Why?"

"I see now that I may have trampled all over Rhett's heart in that rush to reach that safe place- Oh Will, somehow I have this dreadful feeling that Rhett is going to be mean and nasty about all my past sins-"

"Let him be mean and nasty, if he must. But you do what you have to do!"