A/N: Hello all! I'm sorry for the wait! I went on vacation, and then had school, and just yesterday I was in the ER with my LO who has pneumonia. It's been a hectic few weeks, but I'm back. Thanks for waiting! Enjoy!
Chapter Five: The Other Mrs. Butler
Scarlett paced back and forth across the room, anxious at the idea of finally meeting Rhett's mother when for the entirety of her marriage, that had never seemed to be a priority. She hadn't purchased any gowns in the time that Rhett had been gone. As she'd stayed at Tara there hadn't really been a need. The urgency of Rhett's letter hadn't allowed time for shopping either, so Scarlett had only her old dresses to choose from. She wanted to make a good impression. A knock on the door startled her from her contemplation, and a maid entered.
The two stood in silence as the girl helped lace up her corset and put on her dress. She left quietly, leaving Scarlett alone to look at her reflection for a moment. "I don't know why I care what I look like. She hasn't shown an interest in me before, now she's dying and wants to meet me."
With final gaze at herself, Scarlett turned around and made her way outside her room. Rhett was waiting for her. "You're not wearing something new, Scarlett? I believe I saw that dress on you before."
"I didn't have time to pick out a new dress Rhett, you're letter was urgent. I can go shopping now if you'd like?" She knew he was baiting her, and she wouldn't let him win.
"That'll do just fine. I'd hate for mother to die while you're fussing over which gaudy gown you'll buy next."
Scarlett scowled. "If you're going to be mean Rhett, I'd just as soon rather leave."
Rhett's face fell for a moment. "I apologize, Scarlett. Please, come this way." He gestured down the hall to a closed door. "She's awake, waiting for you."
Scarlett followed him down the hallway and went into the room behind him as he opened the door. She caught her first glimpse of her mother-in-law, a frail looking woman sitting up against a mound of pillows on her bed. The lady held out her hand, and Rhett walked over and took it, smiling down at her.
"Mother, Scarlett's come to meet you."
A small smile flashed across the pale face, and she looked around her son and directly at Scarlett. "Oh, good. I'm so glad you're here. Come sit by me."
Scarlett smiled and walked over toward her, standing directly beside Rhett. "Mrs. Butler, I'm so glad we finally have the chance to meet." She grinned down at the woman, trying to remember a bit of the charm she'd stopped using almost a year ago. There wasn't need for it at Tara, not anymore at least.
"Leave us, Rhett. Go entertain yourself. We'll be fine, just us."
Rhett looked back and forth between the two women, debating with himself on what course of action to take, but eventually his mother won. With another smile at her, Rhett offered a small bow. "As you wish, mother. Scarlett, find me when you're done."
Scarlett flashed him a glance, her green eyes coolly staring up at him, and then nodded. "Of course."
When Rhett had left, his mother made an effort to sit up a little straighter in her bed, but gave up. Scarlett's heart twinged a little as she took in the sight of her mother-in-law. She knew the doctors were right in assuming she was not long for the world, if her days of nursing had taught her anything, she knew the look someone had about them when they'd accepted their impending fate. "Relax, Mrs. Butler, don't worry about sitting up on my account."
"I'm glad you're here, Scarlett. Rhett's been a bear around the house since he got here. I know it's because he misses you."
Scarlett wasn't so sure about that. If it were anyone else she probably would have commented, but she bit the inside of her cheek, instead, before replying. "I'm sure it's just because he's worried for you."
"I'm dying, Scarlett. It's rather depressing to talk about it, but there it is."
"You'll get better, Mrs. Butler. You're young still."
"I haven't been young in a long time, but you're nice to say it, just the same."
Scarlett glanced around the room. Unsure of what to say. Thankfully, Rhett's mother had no such dilemma, as she continued on. "I don't want him to see me die, Scarlett. He's seen enough of that lately, and you too." She didn't say Bonnie's name, but her meaning was clear.
"He loved Bonnie a great deal, as he does you, so you must try not to die, Mrs. Butler." Scarlett was surprised at the conviction of her words. She'd never thought she'd be having a conversation like this with Rhett's mother, but she knew that Rhett didn't handle death well.
"You must take him home with you, Scarlett. I know he won't want to go, but you must take him. Don't let him stay in Charleston and watch me die." The woman pleaded, clutching Scarlett's hand.
Scarlett wasn't sure she could make Rhett leave the house with her, let alone leave Charleston and return back to Atlanta. Still, she couldn't tell Mrs. Butler that. "I'll try, I will."
"Today? I wish I could spend more time with you, but will you try today?"
"Yes, I'll try."
Mrs. Butler seemed content with her answer, and visibly relaxed back against the pillows behind her. "I get tired easily these days. Will you forgive me while I take a little rest? And come see me later?"
"Yes, of course." Scarlett patted her mother-in-law's hand and then quietly left the woman to her sleep. She exhaled a deep breath when she left the room. Rhett wasn't hard to find as he was sitting in a chair reading a paper when she walked downstairs. He looked up and she saw just how tired he looked.
"She's already convinced of the happy state of our union?"
Scarlett sat down in a chair opposite of him. "She didn't really mention us, Rhett. She's worried about you."
Rhett's forehead creased and his eyebrows pulled closer together. "Me? She's the one unable to leave her bed."
Scarlett stood back up, pacing a moment, and pulling her bottom lip in between her teeth as she did so. Finally, she turned around, seeing that Rhett's full attention was on her and he looked more concerned. "Rhett, she knows that she'd dying, she wants me to take you back home. Away from all of this. She doesn't want you here, if it's to be the end."
"My mother doesn't know me as well as I thought if she thinks I'd leave her now."
"She thinks I can convince you."
"Did you encourage that belief?"
"I told her I'd try."
"Well, consider this your failed effort. I won't leave her. If you'll at least tay a few days so she can see you again, and meet Ella and Wade, I'd appreciate it."
Scarlett sighed. "I'll stay as long as you'd like, Rhett, only I wish we could talk about some things if I do."
Rhett stood up from his chair, facing Scarlett, who now had to arch her neck up to see him. "I'll try Scarlett, but not today. Make yourself at home, I'm going to go sit with her."
Scarlett watched as he walked up the stairs and disappeared. She could already see her time in Charleston would be a hard one, but she couldn't see if it would be worth it or not. As she stared at the empty staircase she asked herself what she wanted. She hadn't really considered what would happen when she showed up in Charleston. She'd wanted Rhett back from the moment he'd left. Yet she'd found a quiet peace at Tara that she already missed. She didn't have any longer to consider it as Wade and Ella appeared at the top of the stairs and hurried down towards her when they saw her.