Disclaimer: I do not own nor am I affiliated with any Gone with the Wind enterprises. I love the book though.
A/N: I started this story a while ago. Reviews would be appreciated. For those of you coming from the group.
Thank you so much.
I hope you enjoy. Its not finished but this is kind of like act one.
Four years now,she thought. Scarlett smiled wryly at herself in the mirror as she dragged a brush through her dark hair, it seemed much longer. Four years ago today, the final stroke that had sent her world crashing down around her had happened. Four years ago today Melanie had died. Four years ago today Rhett had left her. Her lips twitched once more as she remembered her resolve to find a way to get Rhett back. All the schemes she had concocted, all the plans she worked out... she'd been such a child. Just as he'd said, nothing more than a little girl who'd never grown up. But she wasn't a child anymore.
She placed the brush gently on the dresser reaching for pins to put the dark tresses atop her head. Years ago the Great Scarlett O'Hara would never have been occupied with something so tedious as doing her own hair. There would have been a maid to do such a thing but in the last years the task had become part of routine. She actually enjoyed it, determining how her hair looked, after all it was her hair.
Not that there was money at Tara for maids, no the once grand plantation now existed and nothing more. She could make it great again, she certainly had enough money, even though she had never touched so much as cent of the money Rhett sent her, she was still a wealthy woman. But her family didn't want to use her money to fix Tara, they wanted to use their money - collectively theirs. Money that Scarlett earned while working with them was used for Tara, as was all the money Will and Sue-Ellen earned but money she'd earned in Atlanta on her own was considered charity by Will and he would not accept it.
She sighed, turning away from the mirror once her hair was securely fastened. She didn't need to look, she knew she looked well. As well as she always looked these days, true compared to the beauty she'd once been some could say she was washed out but those would only be people who didn't know Scarlett. For anyone and everyone who knew Scarlett these days came away with the feeling that she'd never been lovelier. So what if her eyes didn't glimmer as before, they were now filled with an intense warmth that radiated to others, so what if her smile didn't come as easily anymore, when it did it was sincere and true as opposed to flirtatious and devious, perhaps her dresses weren't as filled out as before nor her hair as springy nor her cheeks as pink but her genuine and candid manner was refreshing and her honest attitude about things rare.
Scarlett O'Hara had grown into herself, she made her opinions known in a gentle but firm way not causing a scene and certainly not offending or being unkind to anyone but definitely speaking her mind. She had a dignified and personable air about her that surprised many who had not seen her in awhile. She had a serenity about her that didn't allow for much of the hot headedness that had been a trademark of her youth. A way of diffusing tense situation with a single tinkling laugh that amazed and amused many. She could still wrap any man around her finger but she never really did, in fact, the only remnant of the Clayton County Belle she'd once been was her light feet. She was an angel on the dance floor and no one could deny it.
As she opened the door to head downstairs, she cast a glance around the somewhat dark room. How she wished she could just lie in bed and cry. She just wanted to cry. Whenever she thought of Mellie she wanted to cry - she'd never told her, not once how much she'd loved her. Till this day she simply wished beyond reason and hope that Mellie had known. That somehow Melanie and understood how important she was in Scarlett's life. For this reason only had Scarlett said yes when Ashley had come to her and asked if they could hold the annual remembrance ceremony at Tara this year instead of at Atlanta. She'd said yes when what she'd felt was NO, but she couldn't deny him, or not him, but her. So what if all of Atlanta's "Old Guard" would be attending and in fact were probably down there at this instant. So what if she hadn't seen them in over 3 years, it didn't matter - Mellie was more important. And she could do this - she'd faced more than a group of staunch old women who hated her in her life, this was nothing, she could do this... she had to do this. Taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders she closed her bedroom with shaking hands and hoped no one would notice how much The Great Scarlett O'Hara wanted these staunch old women to approve of her. She needed them to approve of her because she needed to belong. After years of seeking to be her own person and tearing at social standards and expectation Scarlett simply wanted the comfort of belonging. She'd thought she'd always belong to Tara but she didn't anymore. Tara was Sue-Ellen's home now not Scarlett's. She had developed a somewhat steady relationship with her sister but it still hurt to know that it was Sue-Ellen who was considered Mistress of Tara and not her. She would have fled the moment she realized this if she'd had anywhere to flee to. But she didn't, Atlanta hated her, Savannah bored her, and Charleston.... well most likely than not Rhett was in Charleston and she couldn't go there, not with...
"Auntie Scarlett, momma tolded me to come tell you that your gonna be'd late, cause there gonna start soon-ned"
Every thought fled from Scarlett's head at the sight of her youngest and favorite niece. At four, Lainie idolized her Aunt and in return Scarlett could find no wrong in the child. She gave to Lainie all the love she'd held from Bonnie and by doing so had managed to create much stronger bond with her other two children. Both Wade and Ella now adored and were adored in return by there mother.
"Come here munchkin" she said with a wide grin.
Lainie happily complied, her blonde curls bouncing with every step she took, her dark eyes shining with adoration as she stared up at her Aunt. In her eyes there was not a person in the world as beautiful as her Auntie Scarlett.
"So I'm gonna be late, am I?" Scarlett asked playfully as she scooped the child into her arms.
Lainie's head bobbed up and down as she said "yep, you's got to come now"
"Well what if I don't and I just kidnap you and we go play outside."
The little girls brow lowered in concentration then she said softly "Momma would be mad."
Scarlett nodded gravely "yes she. I suppose we shouldn't then"
"Yes, sup-po-sed we 'ouldn't"
Scarlett smiled as she lowered the little girl to the floor, her smile widening when Lainie clung to her hand.
"we shall go together munchkin and you may sit by me. But be very still, mind you. This is an important event and you must behave."
"oh I will Auntie Scarlett, I will"
"Alright then, lets go"
Holding the little girls hand gave Scarlett courage, she was not alone, she could face them.
" ...she was never faithful you know... "
" ...he left her I'm sure of it... "
" ...always a flirt you realize... "
" ...stole poor Frank Kennedy... "
" ...shameful really... "
"...what would her mother say... "
Scarlett's teeth were pressed together so tightly she feared they'd crack. Her fists clenched so tightly her knuckles were white but still the smile stayed plastered on her face - brittle and hard but it was there. The ceremony had barely ended when the "Old Guard" resumed their gossip. It was obvious that although they had all greatly admired Melanie, their purpose in coming here had been largely to see Scarlett. She walked around the room, her head held high, greeting those who had come. But as she moved on from one group to another she heard there comments, their whispers. She knew that all of Atlanta had noticed her infrequent visits to the Peachtree House, how always Rhett conveniently showed up for a few days before she left, how they made sure to attend one ball and one show together each time, how they never touched, never spoke, hardly even looked at each other during these trips.
After Rhett had declared that there marriage was over, she hadn't seen or heard from him in over a year. Then a telegram had arrived at Tara asking if she could please join him at the Peachtree House for a fortnight of keeping up appearances. She had, they had, then they'd each went their separate ways. From that time on, he'd send a telegram once in a while asking her to join him. There was no pattern to his requests, 10 months or 10 weeks could separate the meetings but each time she went and each time he asked her for a divorce. And every time Scarlett denied him, she had a very good reason for staying married to Rhett, not a reason she'd share with him but a very good one nonetheless.
"Are you alright, Scarlett? You look a bit pale" Sue-Ellen asked softly as she neared her sister, then added harshly. "Not that I blame you. You'd think these people would have something better to do then go around minding other people's business."
Scarlett sighed glad to be in the kitchen away from the probing stares and sharp tongues of the living room and parlor.
"I'm fine, just a little tired. The children are well?." she asked.
Sue-Ellen nodded moving away to the counter "yes, last time I checked they were playing quietly."
"It was a good idea to keep them out of the ceremony. It was a bit long. I feel slightly guilty though, I had promised Lainie she could sit with me."
"She'll get over it. Anyway you wouldn't want Atlanta's most prominent Ladies to see..."
"One of you two should really be out there you know" Will said as he hobbled into the kitchen. "People are starting to get vicious."
"Vicious about what?" Scarlett questioned
"You" He said simply
She sighed and opened her mouth to say she'd go but Sue-Ellen stopped her. "I'll go" she said firmly "You stay here and check on the kids in about ten minutes"
Scarlett nodded "thanks Sue, I appreciate it."
"The service was nice don't ya think?" Will asked softly a moment or so after Sue-Ellen left the kitchen.
"Yes, very lovely."
There was another pause then Scarlett said softly, "I think I'll go get the kids and take them out for a walk. They're probably getting restless."
"All right Scarlett." he said watching her intently.
She knew he was worried but she could do nothing to reassure him. She couldn't tell him she was fine because she wasn't, couldn't tell him it would be ok because she wasn't sure it would be. She sighed, she'd rather walk barefoot through a valley of glass then have to go back to that parlor and make small talk with woman who couldn't even wait till she'd completely turned away before starting their gossip.
As she reached the door she heard a soft giggle and couldn't help the smile that touched her lips. On the other side of that door lay the only five things in this world that had the ability to make her forget all her problems.
A chorus of "Auntie Scarlett" was heard as well as little footsteps and the rustling of petticoats as Sue-Ellen's daughters stood to greet her. She was assaulted by soft arms and sweet kisses as they pressed around her and exclaimed about this and that and how they'd missed there walk this morning.
"We wanted to go on our walk this morning but Mommy said no."
"We was not happy." Sue-Ellen's six year old twins stated with a pout one after the other. Identical in every way but that Victoria, called Vicky, had wavy hair that was just slightly a shade darker than her sisters. While Rebecca's, called Becky, hair was straight and nearly blonde. The girls had latched on to each of Scarlett's hands and were leading her to a chair near the window. Lainie was already there and when Scarlett sat down she clamored onto her lap. Marie, Sue-Ellen's eldest, sat at her feet. At the age of eight she hadn't run and attacked her aunt although she 'd wanted to. She hadn't, she needed to set an example. Scarlett cuddled Lainie while listened to the twins, but she allowed her eyes to roam the room until they landed on the last occupant. She smiled when their eyes met and was rewarded with a glittering grin.
"Yes, baby" she said transferring her gaze to Becky
"Can we go on our walk now?"
"Oh yes Auntie Scarlett...puh-lease?..." her sister added from the other side of the chair.
"Yeah, it'll be fun. We could go in the back and play games." Marie added from the floor, enthusiasm coloring her voice.
Lainie just looked up at her with those trusting adoring eyes that said whatever she wanted just fine.
"You know that sounds like a great idea." the kids smiled and Lainie jumped off her lap.
"You guys go outside and I'll be there in a minute. Stop by the kitchen and tell your father where we'll be, ok." The girls nodded and bounded out of the room and down the stairs, trailing giggles and whispers all the way down.
In the now quiet nursery Scarlett's eyes once again landed on the quiet child sitting on the carpet with towers and towers of blocks around him. A sweet smile tugged at her lips as she took him. His eyes locked with hers and he stood quickly and ran to give his mother a hug.
Scarlett took him in her arms and held him close, wishing she never had to let go. This was her miracle child, her blessing, the one thing that had redeemed her from the edge of despair. This little boy was her salvation. She'd lost everything in the space of just a few months, she had just recovered from her fall when Bonnie had had her accident. She hadn't even assimilated her precious baby girls' death when Melanie too had left, then Rhett. Barely coherent after nearly drowning in grief she'd traveled to Tara only to find Mammy also on death's door. Less then two weeks after her arrival Mammy too had died. Her world had been chipped away piece by piece, then one day laying on her bed perfectly still hoping beyond hope that death would come to her too, she'd felt it. Just a flutter, really but it'd been there. Counting back the days she'd realized it had been months since her last flux, she realized that her normally flat stomach was a bit round. But it couldn't be, she'd told herself, it was impossible, she'd lost the baby. The doctor's had said so. Days later she'd felt it again, that flutter, and had roused herself from the stupor she'd descended into to go see a doctor, who had promptly assured her that she was indeed with child. She'd explained how impossible that was, how it couldn't be, he'd just smiled and said that stranger things happened.
And Just like that four months later her little boy had been born. Gerald Rhett Butler, Gerry, to friends and family alike, was three and half years old. He had dark hair and eyes and coloring and an intelligence that astounded his elders. He was his father's son, had his father's smile and charm, and of course temper. In this however he was not indulged. Scarlett had for the first time ever taken an interest in this child. His temper tantrums were indulged by everyone but his mother, she would let him scream until he was blue and then when he tired out she'd ask him if he was ready to listen to her now. She would brook no interference with how she raised her son, no one but her was to punish him but when she did punish him no one was to comment. Same went for when she spoiled him, no one was to comment. He was truly and wholly hers, she'd reared him, taught him his manners and etiquette; his math and ABC's, he was hers and only hers.
She felt not an ounce of guilt for not sharing him with Rhett. Every time she saw him she told him she loved him and he would always tell her it was too bad for her. All he had to do was say it back and she'd tell him but he couldn't have his son if her didn't want her. Anyway she consoled herself, he didn't want another child, he said so often, he said he enjoyed his freedom, his "peace". She wouldn't disturb his "peace", he was happy with it and he deserved to be happy.
Gerry's little body squirmed against hers as he pulled back and gave another dazzlingly smile, "I waited tills you were all mine to give you a hugs."
Scarlett smiled and placed a kiss on his little nose, "I wondered when you were going to come hug me. What happened? why were you all by yourself over there?"
Gerry's brow furrowed as he glanced back to his towers, "Becky was being a pains. I was buildin a castles and a castles has to have a prince and princess. Cause I'm the only boy I'm da prince. But d'there was four girls. So we drew str-wars and Vicky wonned. Becky gotts mad and said sinced they were twins they could both be princess but Vicky didn't want to be share and she won so I told her no and she gotts mad and kicked my tower and then Marie yelled and said she was gonna tell so I just told them all I was gonna play by myself and none of them could play with..." he was paused here for second to take a breath then added quietly, a little apprehensively, "not even Lainie."
He knew his mother hated it when he was mean to Lainie, she hated it when he was mean to any of his cousins but Lainie was special.
"Well, Gerry, it sounds to me like you handled that as best you could. Although, you didn't have to yell at them."
"Momma I didn't...."
"Gerry, I know you did...didn't you?"
He looked down at his knees which rested on her lap.
"Didn't you?" she prodded gently.
He nodded still looking down.
She lifted his little chin and smiled at him. "Its ok Gerry, we all lose our tempers sometimes. I yell sometimes, too but its important to say sorry after, so people know your not still mad. And your not still made are you baby?" she added after a moment.
He shook his head vigorously "no mamma, I'm nots mad anymores."
Smiling she stood lifting him with her, "Good lets go outside and play some games."
No it couldn't be, Sue-Ellen thought as she nearly shoved someone aside to get to the window. He wouldn't, would he? Oh, of course he would! The man had no shame. Yes, as she neared the window, she was sure. Rhett Butler was calmly leaning against a tree in her yard smoking a cigar. Obviously no one had seen him yet or would have spread throughout the house like wild fire. Oh dear, she had to tell Scarlett, had to tell her to keep Gerry inside or better yet in the nursery.
Hurriedly she rushed to the kitchen. Bursting through the door she found it empty but for Will seated at the table with some coffee.
"Where's Scarlett?" she exclaimed in agitation.
Will stood quickly, alertness displayed on his features, "Marie was just in here to tell me that Scarlett was taking them out back to play, why?"
"Oh god no!" she said and turn to rush out again but Will grabbed her by the forearm.
"She can't go outside Will...He's outside! Rhett is outside!!!"
"WHAT!! Rhett Butler???" he questioned in shocked.
"Yes, Will. Rhett Butler, Now let me go, I have to tell her, I have to stop her from taking Gerry out there."
Instead of letting her go Will tightened his grip.
"No Sue-Ellen. You will not get involved with this..."
"Will, Gerry's out there. She doesn't want him to know about Gerry..."
"Something I've always disagreed with. A man has a right to know about his children. That boy is Rhett's legitimate heir and he should know it. Scarlett's being selfish about this and we both know it. Now fate or god or whatever has made a move to show Rhett his son and bring them together; and by god you will NOT interfere, do you hear me Sue-Ellen you WILL NOT INTERFERE."
Their eyes clashed and she saw in his clear determination. He was right of course. In a round-a-bout way, Rhett and Scarlett were about to run into each and she shouldn't stop it, it wasn't her business.
She acknowledged his decree with a nod and he released her.
So this was Tara, a small smile touched his lips. Funny how after all they'd been through, he'd never seen her beloved Tara. He could still see remnants of the greatness it had once been but at the moment the house looked a bit decrepit and the worked land was the size of an average farm. No wonder she came within days of his calling, his Scarlett...no...not "his"...Scarlett would hate a place like this. A place so drab and lifeless. It really was no surprise she came promptly to him, at least in Atlanta there was activity, life, and color. Secretly he'd always hoped she'd take too long in answering his summons and he'd be forced to come get her but that had never happened. She' d come swiftly to him and seeing her look at him with large, sad eyes made him want to take her in arms and hold her forever.
But no. He'd told her the truth when he'd said he was too tired to go on with this. Scarlett drained him, he was forever chasing her and she was forever eluding him. She loves you now, a little voice said inside him. And he shook his head to dispel it. She loves what she can't have, he reasoned. She was a child. Crying and pouting over a toy she couldn't have then tossing it aside once she had it. Rhett Butler was no one's toy. He would not allow Scarlett to keep playing him for a fool. If she thought whispered I love you 's and tear filled eyes were going to get to him, she had another thing coming. He prepared himself well before he met Scarlett in Atlanta, hardening his heart to her. Making sure he remembered every rebuff she made towards Wade and Ella, every time she turned away from his precious Bonnie, every time she sighed for another man while in his arms. By the time he saw her, he had practically convinced himself that she was the coldest, most selfish person to walk the earth. Of course the moment he laid eyes on her all such thoughts left his brain.
He sighed as he threw the stub of his cigar to the ground and crushed it with his foot. Jesus look at him just standing here daydreaming about her. He was here for Mrs. Wilkes and nothing more. He always attended the memorial and wasn't going to stop just because it was being held at his wife's residence. No one had seen him yet, he'd made sure of it. If they saw him , he'd have to go talk to Scarlett and he hadn't prepared for that. So now that the ceremony was over and everyone was inside would be a perfect time to make his escape as quietly as he had made his entrance. He rounded a corner and stopped dead at the vision before him.
It was Scarlett. She was standing walking around a circle of sitting children patting each one on the head. She seemed to be saying something suddenly she tapped a head and made a dash around the circle, swiftly sliding into the spot the little girl had vacated. The girl proceeded to do the same thing and when another stood to run after her Scarlett grabbed her into a hug and started tinkling her. He could hear the laughter and felt his lips turn upward as all the children got up to run and Scarlett, completely oblivious to the long light colored skirt that swirled at her legs, began chasing them. She'd grab at one and then the other, laughing and twirling suddenly they joined hands and started going round and round singing a song. Then they collapsed to the ground and another tickling match ensued. The laughter was so sweet and innocent that he couldn't help but take a step towards them. They looked to be having so much fun.
Laughing Scarlett laid back on the ground and proclaimed loud enough that Rhett could hear, "I'm getting to old for this!" Protestations and more laughter followed this remark, as the smallest of the girls went to her and laid down also "Your the most beautifullest person in the whole wided world, Auntie. You'll never be old." Scarlett laughed and turned to tickle her niece.
Rhett couldn't help but agree with the little girl. No matter how much time went by or whatever happened. Scarlett never seemed to age in his eyes. She might as well still be sixteen, because whenever he looked at her that what he saw - the sixteen year old Belle of Clayton County. Maybe that's the problem, a little voice inside him said, she isn't sixteen anymore, she isn't a child anymore. But he ignored the voice and stopped a few feet away from them. He watched as she told them to go inside and get a snack but to stay out of the parlor and to be very quiet. They agreed and headed off promising to bring her back something. It was then that Rhett noticed the little boy that was with them. I thought Sue-Ellen only had girls, he thought bemused by the way the boy took the lead and told them to hush, oh well.
Scarlett sighed as she stood, dusting off her dress. It was wrinkled and dirty now but it didn't matter. She'd had fun. Of course she'd have to change before facing the Old Guard again but it didn't matter. That just gave her another excuse to avoid the parlor, thank god. She sat down at the base of a tree to wait for the kids. Closing her eyes she leaned her head back and felt the warmth of the sun's ray's. It felt heavenly. It was so calm out today, the wind was just right, the temperature was just right, everything was just right. Perfect, just like Mellie deserved.
A shadow fell across her face and she smiled, saying, "That was fast, what snack did you bring me? I hope its yummy."
"'Yummy' I see you've expanded your vocabulary since I've last seen you, Scarlett." Rhett replied sardonically.
Scarlett's eyes flew open and she jumped up, "Oh my god Rhett! what are you doing here? I mean your... this is Tara....and you don't usually...Oh god... Rhett."
"Its a pleasure to see you too my dear wife."
He took a step towards her and she jumped back
"You shouldn't be here, Rhett. You need to leave."
"Why shouldn't I be here? Your here, and you are my wife. A situation you refuse to remedy."
Scarlett began walking towards the house again. Her expression shuttered, her gaze anywhere but on him. For his part Rhett couldn't take his eyes off of her, there was something different. He couldn't pinpoint it exactly but there was definitely something different about his wife's demeanor.
"You need to leave now." She said still walking away.
He reached out and grabbed her forearm, "Don't walk away from me when we're talking Scarlett. Why do I need to leave now."
As if the divine powers of above had deemed that they would
personally answer his question the children ran back outside holding
cookies. As usual Gerry was in the lead.
In a moment of hysteria Scarlett considered that maybe Rhett wouldn't
recognize him, maybe he wouldn't realize that Gerry was theirs. But
when she saw her baby run up to her she knew it was impossible, only if
Rhett had been blind could he have missed Gerry's resemblance to him.
She felt his hand go limp then drop from her arm, heard his sharp
intake of breath, and knew even without looking that his face held a
look of shock and disbelief.
He suspected but couldn't acknowledge it. In that moment he refused
to accept it as truth.
But those divine powers were going to make sure he understood. As
Gerry reached where they were standing, he handed Scarlett a cookie
saying loudly in his jovial manner, "here you go Mommy. I gots this
just for you."
Then he turned his brilliant dark eyes on Rhett and said "Who are
Silence was his answer. Neither Scarlett nor Rhett answered the boy's query. Both just stared at each other, saying absolutely nothing.
"Momma, whose that?" he said after a few moments, putting the outheld cookie away from her.
Scarlett glanced at the girls who were quietly continuing a game a few feet away. Then she looked up at met Rhett's gaze.
There was fury in them. Nothing short of that. They were ignited with a blaze of dark fire that crackled and blistered with rage. His eyes were accusing her, they were judging her.
At this thought her own anger began to sizzle. Who hell the does he think he is!?! She thought, He left me! He wants to the divorce me! Her eyes burned and she lifted her chin, daring him to say something, anything.
"Mo-o-o-o-mma" Gerry said in a sing-song voice, patience was not one of his virtues.
"Darling" she said glaring directly into Rhett's eyes. "This is a guest, he's here for the ceremony. Please introduce yourself to him."
Gerry stepped forward immediately, outstretching the tiny hand that didn't hold the cookie, "Gerald Rhett Butler, Sir. Pleased to meet you."
Rhett didn't respond immediately his eyes still boring into Scarlett. Gerald, beginning to sense the tense atmosphere that surrounded the adults, added hesitantly "Sir?"
It was this quiet Sir that got Rhett's attention. He hunkered down on one knee and took Gerry's little hand in his.
The boy smiled and said "You can call me Gerry if you like. That's ok right mom? its ok if he calls me Gerry."
Scarlett smiled at her son. "Its fine honey. Why don't you go play with the girls for a little bit while I talk to our guest. Then we'll all go in together, ok?
"your cookie..." he said handing it to her again.
"you can have it baby." she said soothingly.
He nodded, "Ok. Bye Sir, it was nice to meet you." he said biting into it as he ran off, his mischievous eyes dancing.
Scarlett and Rhett watched him run off. By silent mutual agreement they walked a few feet away from the children. Both not knowing what was going to happen between them but understanding that it would likely involve yelling.
"my son" Rhett said softly in a wondrous voice.
His face became hard. "How the hell could you Scarlett? How could you keep him from me?"
She didn't answer him. They just faced each other. She could play indignant, the role wouldn't be too far fetched. After all he was trying to divorce her. She could find a way to blame it on him, to make it all his fault. To look like the victim in it all. It would be acceptable but it wouldn't be the truth and looking into his dark eyes she knew he'd never accept anything but the truth. He deserved it too, above and beyond everything else he did deserve the truth.
So she took a deep breath and in a cold, dispassionate voice stated, "I was in pain, Rhett, suffering in a way I never wanted to suffer again. I'd believed those dark days in my life were past and would never return but in those days I was surrounded by darkness, immersed in it. When I learned I was carrying Gerry I was elated, he was the only bright spot in my life." here she paused and looked down. When she looked back up her eyes were shining with unshed tears and a determination that said she'd never let him see one fall. "I knew you'd love him. I knew losing Bonnie had nearly killed you and that a new baby would ease your pain. I didn't want to do that. I wanted you to suffer just as I was. I wanted you to be consumed with hurt, like me. I wanted you to...to pay for making me suffer. I wanted..." tears began to drip from her eyes but her gaze never wavered "I wanted you...to...to I wanted you to want me... not him. I knew that you'd take me back with Gerry but I didn't want it like that.... I wanted you to want me." she finished in a whisper.
"Scarlett you had no right to keep him from me." Rhett's voice was surprisingly calm faced with what she'd just confessed to him.
"I know... I know that... I just... I didn't care... I don't care Rhett. He's mine... do you understand Rhett?... He's mine." Hysteria was beginning to taint her voice, and tears continued to fall but still her gaze didn't waver. She continued in timorous voice, "Do you understand Rhett? Just as Bonnie was yours, Gerry is mine. He's mine! and... and I won't let you take him from me Rhett... you can't have him, he's mine!! I love him. He's my baby and... and you'll have to... to kill me before I give you my baby, Rhett... you'll have kill me."
The tears still fell, in torrents now. Rhett reached out and with a tender hand wiped her cheek. In a firm voice that was surprisingly gentle he said, "I won't take him from you Scarlett, I promise you, I will not take him. You have my word."
It was that gentleness, combined with his reassuring words that undid Scarlett. Sobs racked her body and she began tremble. She willed her self to stop but to no avail. Image after image of Melly, Bonnie, Mammy, even her parents flashed through her mind.
"So many people... god I've lost so many people, not Gerry too."
She whispered unconsciously. Tears blinded her and she buried her face in her hands.
"Oh Scarlett... Scarlett... please... I just told you I won't take the boy. You won't lose him. I promise. Please honey don't cry."
The tears continued and he feared she was going to make herself sick. He took her into his arms, marveling at the familiar feeling; at how she fit perfectly in his arms.
"I know, I know darling" he murmured in a comforting tone "you've lost a lot of people; more than anyone should ever have to lose in a lifetime. But You won't lose the boy, Scarlett, I won't take him."
She sobbed in his arms, welcoming the strength and support he offered. She needed that strength, those arms around her, that voice murmuring words of comfort. It had been so long since any one had held her while she cried.
She pulled away, turning from him to dry her tears, "I'm sorry" she said softly. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I.... I lost it there for a minute."
Rhett smiled wryly, "Seeing me was a shock. You really thought I'd never find out?"
"I didn't think you'd ever come here."
"Well, I'm here now."
She nodded, taking a deep breath and clearing away the last remnants of tears, "Yeah, you're here now."
They were both silent. Then Scarlett said, softly "so now what do we do?"
Their eyes met for a moment before Rhett looked away and released a
ragged sigh, he ran a frustrated hand through his hair before turning
to meet her eyes again.
They were watchful, her eyes, and a bit fearful. And for just a
moment he wanted to hold her again and tell her that everything was
going to be alright.
But he couldn't do that, he wouldn't do that. She'd kept his
child from him. Everything was not okay. She had to pay for that,
right? For causing him to miss the first three years of his sons
`I was in pain' those words spoken in such agony swirled through him
as he stared into her green eyes. Well that was no excuse... right?
'I've lost so many...' the words echoed in his head. Dammit, he
thought, it doesn't matter. We've all lost people, we've all...
No, not like her. The voice in his head said. And that one tiny seed
of tenderness for Scarlett that was buried underneath everything
else, fought its way out.
Shaking his head, he pushed it back under. This was not the time.
Taking a deep breath, he came to a decision and said firmly, "You
realize I'm not just going to disappear right? Now that I know about
him I want a role in his life."
Scarlett tilted her head a little and asked, "what kind of role?"
"The role that is rightfully mine, that of his father's."
Her eyes flashed and she said heatedly, "His father...." but Scarlett
never finished her sentence. Because in that moment they were
assaulted by her nieces and son. Lainie went to her immediately, the
twins circled her, Marie stood holding Gerry's hand and all talked at
the same time.
"He started it..."
"It wasn`t us..."
"its no big deal..."
Scarlett stared at them a moment, letting their voices run over her.
They'd been fighting, she could tell and they were attempting to
justify why to her.
All at the same time.
Shaking her head and smiling slightly she said softly, "Hey,
hey...guys please one at a time."
When this had no effect, she let the smile die and raised her voice
slightly, not much at all, just a note but the effect was
instantaneous. "Stop. One At A Time." she said deliberately.
Immediately ,they were quiet and looked up at her.
She transferred her gaze to the oldest and said softly, "Marie you go
first, what happened."
She sighed dramatically and rolled her eyes, a gesture she usually
accompanied with the phrase I'm too old for this. However, this time
she just brought up Gerry's hand in a gesture of impatience, "this
one came over and proclaimed that he'd met a stranger, the twins
asked him what kind, he said a pirate in suit, the twins said there
was no such thing, Becky told him that pirates had peg-legs and eye
patches and beards and lived on ships, then Vicky added and I quote
'yeah dummy', Gerry told them to shut up and that they were stupid and
didn't know anything about anything, Becky pushed him and told him to
shut up, Lainie told them to stop, Vicky pushed Lainie, I told them
to cut it out, Gerry shoved Vicky, Becky went to push him, I stopped
her, he told them he had too met a pirate, that it was his game and
he could name them anything he wanted, they started pushing again and
Lainie started running over here to tell you. That's it, the whole
story. You know Aunt Scarlett, this is what happens when you leave a
bunch of little kids alone."
"We're not little kids." Vicky retorted instantly, glaring at her
Marie smiled sweetly, and said very calmly, "You could've fooled me."
"That's not hard." Becky snapped at her.
"Shut up. BABY." she said viciously
"That Is Enough." Scarlett's voice wasn't loud but it was harsh. It
commanded attention and the kids stopped to look at her. The look in
her eyes made them all look down. She was angry. She looked at each
one individually. Then focusing her gaze on Marie she began.
"I happen to agree with Vicky, Marie, They are not babies." She said
slowly, in a hard voice. "None of you are babies." She said with
When none of them looked up she added, "Look at me."
They did. Something they'd each learned long ago. When Auntie
Scarlett was angry, always do exactly as she says.
"Let me begin by saying that I will not tolerate this name calling
that seems to have become a habit with you all. Terms like dummy,
stupid, idiot, shut up, and so on are NOT to come out of you're
She waited until they all nodded before continuing.
"Good. Now, if I recall correctly, Gerry naming strangers is a game
that we all came up with, therefore it is not YOUR game, it is OUR
game, you don't own it. Understand."
Again she waited until he nodded. Then continued, looking at the
"It is a game girls, not a science, it uses imagination. Something
that each of us has in different amounts. If Gerry imagines the
stranger to be a pirate in a suit that is his business. You can't
tell him he's wrong because he doesn't have the same imagination as
either of you. Understand."
"I didn't do anything, Aunt Scarlett." She quickly defended herself,
"Exactly, Marie. I didn't leave them alone. I left them with you. As
the oldest its you're responsibility to watch over them. You could
have stopped this but you didn't. You didn't do anything. Next time
you could try being the peacemaker in the group. ok."
"And finally..." she said encompassing them all in her gaze, "...none of you has the right to lay a hand on each other. I will not tolerate
violence, the next time anyone of you lays a hand on the other, I
don't care what the reason is, I will paddle you. Understood."
"Good..." She smiled slightly now and they all visibly relaxed.
"Now you all owe each other apologies."
They were silent. Not looking at each other or her.
"I want to hear it, guys. Come on." She coaxed the smile more visible
Softly, barely audible they all murmured, "I'm sorry"
"Wonderful..." she said, allowing the smile to bloom on her
face. "now that that's over, how about we go inside and play castle."
Their faces lit up.
Amazing, Rhett thought, his smirk twitching a little in an effort to
fight off his laughter.
"really, Auntie, you'll play with us for real?" Lainie asked with
"Yes but only for a little while, I have to change and make a
presence in the parlor."
"ok, that's fine, a little while is fine." Becky said smiling.
"Okay, go inside quietly and get your costumes out. I'll be there in
They nodded smiling miles wide, trailing comments as they went.
"oh Auntie..." Lainie said gleefully and gave her a quick hug as she
rushed off after the others.
She looked at them as they ran off and smiled softly to herself. They
were something that bunch. So attached to each other they didn't even
realize it. They were wonderful all of them and she couldn't wait to
get up there. She continued to smile after them and almost took a
step forward, then looked quickly up at Rhett, she'd forgotten he was
He bowed gallantly and laughed, she felt a shiver of apprehension,
the one she always felt when she heard that laugh. "I commend you, my
dear, you're performance was top-notch. I'd say you've gotten better
over the last few years."
"I don't know what you're talking about Rhett." she said her voice
tight with anger at his snide tone. "but I don't have the time nor
inclination to find out."
She began to walk towards the house, "It was nice seeing again, Mr.
Butler. I appreciate your coming to the ceremony. I'm sure you can
find your way out."
She only got a few steps before she felt his hand on her forearm, he
yanked her to a stop and pulled her towards him.
"Let me go Rhett. Or I swear to you I'll scream so bloody loud
they'll hear me in Atlanta."
He smiled at her, "No, my dear, you won't, because that would cause a
ruckus, people would rush out here and we'd be caught in a situation
that I'm sure neither one of us wants to be in."
"I don't care. Let me go."
"We are not finished with our discussion."
"I don't care. Let me go." she said again pulling on her arm.
"No." He said and began walking back to the tree. Dragging her with
"Stop it Rhett.... Let me go....now.... your hurting me...."
On those words he released her and said in cordial voice laced with a
"Tell me, my dear, how is it you've managed to improve your manner
with children so drastically."
"None of your goddamned business." she replied turning away.
Grabbing her again, he said still smiling, "tisk, tisk, Scarlett. What
kind of language is that for a lady?" he paused and allowed his
twinkling dark eyes to meet her flaming green ones. "...because you have
reverted to playing the role of a lady, have you not? And as I said
earlier, you most certainly have improved over the years. I commend
you once again."
Taking a deep breath, she said through clenched teeth, "Thank you.
Now if you could let me go, I need to get back to the children."
"And how are Wade and Ella." he said kindly, with actual interest.
His grip however did not falter.
"They are well. Inside, you know how Atlanta's matriarchs simply
adore my children." she said still struggling.
"not Gerry" he said gently, not loosening his hold.
"they don't know about Gerry." she said tightly, pulling harder and
glaring at him.
"would you like to keep it that way?" he asked smoothly.
She froze when she heard that tone. That wasn't a good
tone. That was the tone that told you he was going away for awhile
and taking your daughter with him. That was tone that caused tears,
the tone that cause blackness to enfold you.
Oh god. she thought.
"What do you mean?" she asked hesitantly. Suddenly afraid of what he
He released her finally, but she found no joy in it. He only did it
because he knew that now she would not run.
He took a deep breath, knowing that the choice he was about to give
her was really no choice at all, knowing that she'd hate him for it,
but it was the only thing he could think of, it wasn't like
wanted to do it.
He'd made up his mind: he would have his son.
Unfortunately, in a single instant of weakness he'd just promised
Scarlett he wouldn't take the boy from her.
So that left only one option: he'd have them both.
It was the only way, she would hate it, but then again so would he....
Living with Scarlett again.... he'd hate it? ..... of course.
It wasn't like he wanted this.
"Rhett, what do you mean by that?" She asked again, her voice a
little stronger but still tremulous.
"You wouldn't want the old hens to find out about Gerry, would you?
Especially say if I weren't to, how do you say...ummmmm....
acknowledge that he were mine."
"what?" she said her eyes growing wide, as she took a step back.
"After all, there is a great number of dark haired, dark eyed men out
there in the world and it is common knowledge that you and I haven't
exactly shared a marital bed in awhile. Some confusion as to the
child's origin could arise."
"bu....but he looks just like you... I mean..."
"Yes, but looks can be such undependable things. I mean, you can get a blonde haired, blue eyed child from two dark parents because one had such a parent or grandparent. And that confusion would cause people to talk and who knows what might get back to the boy. Such dreadful things they call children born out of wedlock, you know."
For just an instant he felt bad, taking in her large, shocked eyes,
the paleness of her skin and the slim hand at the base of her throat,
he felt bad. But he promptly squelched the feeling.
Scarlett O'Hara didn't deserve sympathy --at least not from him.
He watched as she looked down, obviously trying to compose herself.
She said nothing for a moment. Then she looked up and simultaneously
delivered a hard slap across his face, "Bastard." she hissed at him
with the venom of cobra.
He was silent a moment, then said, "yes, Scarlett, I believe that is
one of the terms used."
Her other hand came up but he grabbed it, "no, that's alright my dear,
one slap a day is my limit."
"I'll kill you, you bloody piece of trash. I'll rip your heart..."
"Ahhhh, but that would leave poor Gerry motherless while you rot away
in some jail. No, my dear," he said shaking his head. "I have a much
better solution to avoiding this little problem."
He waited a moment to make sure she was listening.
"Perhaps it is time for you to come home, my darling wife."
She pulled her hand away roughly and said angrily, "what the hell are
you talking about?"
"Come to Atlanta, for good. Bring Wade and Ella.... and Gerry. Tell
Gerry I'm his father and we'll all live happily ever after."
She met his eyes with a steely gaze, that emanated hatred. At the moment
Rhett actually believed that she'd rip his heart out if she could.
"No." she said simply after a moment.
"Very well, then, I'm sure Mrs. Merriweather would love to know about how
you've attempted to load your lovers child on me." he said as he began walking towards the house.
"Rhett you can't." she said after a moment.
He paused in his stride, and said without turning, "oh but I can my
dear. I most certainly can."
"it'll ruin his life." she said softly, as much to herself as to him.
"probably, yes." he turned towards her adding "and you wouldn't want
that for your baby, would you?"
"This is wrong Rhett." she said softly, hoping to reason with him. "You can't do this to me, to Gerry.... to Wade and Ella. For god sakes, they like it here, this is their home..."
"Atlanta is their home. And this is about as wrong as you keeping him
from me for almost four years."
He was silent, then added, "That's the deal Scarlett. What do you
say? Would you like to come home with me, my dear wife?"
What else, could she do? They'd believe Rhett, that was sure. And
there wasn't a person in this world who would defend her but more
importantly there wasn't a way in this world for her to defend or
protect her child from this.
She sighed, a deep sigh, in which she was recognizing her defeat.
Meeting his gaze with a steady one of her own. She said, firmly, "I
hope you burn in hell for this Rhett Butler."
He smirked, "Is that a yes, Mrs. Butler."
She nodded, and said coldly, ending in a mocking tone, "Yes, I'll go
to Atlanta with you, I'll go home, Rhett."
He nodded, looking at her with suddenly serious eyes. "wonderful. I'll expect you to be packed by seven o' clock tonight. Bring only the necessities we can send for the rest later."
With that he turned and continued his way back to the house. Leaving Scarlett wondering just what the hell she'd done.
As if in a trance she found her way back into the kitchen, where an anxious Sue-Ellen pounced on her.
"oh Scarlett, what happened? did he see him? I saw him but it was too late you were already out there. I couldn't stop it. Oh honey what happened? you look pale. Scarlett...."
Her sister's words rushed over Scarlett, she heard them but they didn't register. She just walked over and sat down at the table, 'what have I done' was the only thought running in her head.
"Scarlett..." Sue-Ellen said again as she sat across from her at the table. When she didn't respond, she exchanged a worried glance with Will.
"Scarlett, look at me. What happened? say something honey, anything." Again Sue-Ellen's queries were met with silence and an empty gaze.
"You're scaring me, Scarlett. What happened?" Sue-Ellen's tone was harsh with worry and it seemed to get through to Scarlett this time.
She started a little and refocused her gaze on her sister.
"Will you help me pack, Sue?" she said numbly
"Help you pack? what in gods-night-gown are you talking about Scarlett? Will, get her a glass of water with a lot of sugar in it will you, she looks like she's gonna pass out any minute now."
Will moved to do his wife's bidding and a moment later placed a glass of cold sugar water in front of Scarlett.
"Here, drink a little of this and tell what's this about packing."
Scarlett took a few sips of the water and then took a deep breath marveling at how quickly sugar boosted one's system.
"I'm moving back to Atlanta with Rhett" she said softly as she placed the glass down.
"what?" Sue-Ellen said incredulously
"I'm moving back with him Sue and I'm taking the children with me." she said a bit stronger this time.
"But... Scarlett you can't... I mean... tha...that's just.... Its just ridiculous. You can't go back to him. You just can't... I mean...no....you just can't. Okay. You can't."
"I have to. I have no choice. I have to go back with him."
"You most certainly do not. So he knows about Gerry. So what. You don't have to go to him.
"yes Sue, I do. I have to.
"why?...why? do you have to?"
"Because.... we fought....and... and he won. Rhett always wins. He won. He wants Gerry and he'll have him. If I try and stop him, Gerry will be the one to suffer. And.... and he knows... he knows I'll do anything to keep Gerry from suffering. He knows that Gerry's my weakness and because of that he wins. He always wins."
Sue-Ellen was shaking her head, "no Scarlett, you can't go back. I mean... my god... he almost killed you last time. And the children. This is the only home Gerry's ever known. Ella loves it here, so does Wade; this is their home. And what about my girls uh? You're their living, breathing goddess, I mean Lainie.... she absolutely adores you, Scarlett. You can't leave, you just can't."
Tears filled her eyes and in turn Scarlett's filled too. It had taken them a lifetime but the two were now truly sisters. And being separated hurt.
"I have to." Scarlett said as the tears spilled. "For Gerry..." she looked down a moment. Then said looking at her sister, "and for me too, Sue-Ellen. As much as I wish it weren't true, as much as I deny it or try to lie to myself about it - I love him. I love him so much and maybe... maybe now we could... I don't know start over... be a family. I want to give my kids that Sue, I want to give them a family."
"I just don't want you hurt again Scarlett. When you first came here... There were a few weeks there when I thought I'd loose you too.... and I... I just don't ever want to see you hurting like that again. I don't want to loose my sister."
Scarlett sniffled, "you won't. Not ever Sue. But you have to understand... I have to do this. I have to give 'us' this one last chance. One last chance at 'happily ever after' as he puts it. One last chance at a family. If it doesn't work out... well then at least I tried... at least I gave it shot. But if I don't go, Sue, I never know if.... I'll never know if it... could have been."
Sue-Ellen took a deep breath and went around the table to give Scarlett a hug, "Then go ahead, Scarlett, one more chance. Go ahead and find out." She gave her another squeeze before pulling back and saying, "and of course I'll help you pack."
Two hours, a game of castle, and a warm bath later, found a freshly changed Scarlett standing in the parlor smiling through clenched teeth once again, as she mingled with the guests.
Every once in a while she'd glanced at the entrance to the parlor expecting to see Rhett standing there smirking at her but it didn't happen. In fact she hadn't seen him once since there conversation outside.
Slowly she moved towards the exit but was forced to stop or else go directly through the Old Guard as they were standing right in front of the door. She couldn't go through them, if she did she'd have to stop and talk, she'd have to smile and put with the shake of their heads and the condescending superiority in their voices that said she was doomed to hell and they'd done everything they could to save her. She couldn't stand there among them and put up with it again, she'd done it all morning and had just managed to contain her temper, to do it now when her emotions were so close to the surface would be disastrous.
She was going to move when she heard them, the things they were saying about her. Silently she listened, hating herself because the urge to defend herself was equaled by the urge to beg for forgiveness. Because as cruel as they were being in bringing those things up, there wasn't a thing they said that wasn't true.
"Its disgraceful really, the things Scarlett O'Hara has done in her life." Mrs. Mead said shaking her head.
"Her mother was a saint you know, there was no one more ladylike then Ellen O'Hara. Why she'd die all over again if she knew the antics of her first born." Mrs. Merriweather said firmly.
"I believe she's rolling in her grave as we speak. After all, a daughter of hers
'separated' from her husband. I mean no one believed in the sanctity of matrimony more then Ellen." Mrs. Elsing added.
"Its just as well that she died before seeing all of this. The way she stole her sister's beau like that." Mrs. Bonnell said in a hushed tone.
They all nodded.
"And the gall she has, attending Dear Melly's memorial every year after that scandal she had with Ashley Wilkes." Mrs. Merriweather said disapprovingly.
"She really has no shame." Mrs. Mead said gravely.
They all nodded and moved away as a group.
Scarlett sighed, no matter what she did with the rest of her life it would never make up for the things she'd already done. It didn't matter that most of those had been done out of necessity or that some were misunderstanding, those woman would never understand. They hated her, for what she wasn't sure but they did and they'd Never forgive her.
They'd never let her forget that in every way she'd shamed her mother.
Ellen O'Hara had been the epitome of a Lady and her eldest daughter's life would have caused her horror.
Tears threatened at the thought of her mother, they always did. Pushing them away she made her way to the study.
At least in their she'd be able to find some solitude. In another hour this hell
would be over and....
...and she be able to start another one.
'Be packed by seven o' clock tonight.' Rhett's words echoed in her head. That gave her about four hours.
Fours hours and she hadn't even told the children yet.
Opening the door the study she started when she found Wade sitting at her desk.
"Hey, hun what are you doing in here?"
He raised his head and smiled at her. It still amazed her, this rush of tenderness that filled her when Wade smiled.
She loved all her children. Ella was her sweetheart, Gerry her baby but Wade... Wade was special. Wade knew her, he'd seen her at her worst, seen her when she was lost, seen her when she'd struggled to live, when she'd struggled to die; He'd seen her as a child and as weird as it sounded he'd seen her grow up. There was a bond between them she didn't share with her other children.
"Just reading mom," he said. "I was getting restless out there."
She nodded and went to sit on the sofa, motioning for him to sit next to her; which he did.
"Me too." she said.
"How did things go today." she asked him after a moment.
"Mom...." he said ducking his head a little.
"what?" she said with a smile her green eyes twinkling.
"My son goes horseback riding with a girl....alone....ALL morning. I have a right to know how it went."
"It went fine. We're going again next week." he said smiling
Her smiled died, they weren't going again next week because next week Wade wouldn't be here.
"What is it Mom?" He said softly putting the book down, he was always very attuned to his mother's moods. At fourteen he was still a very tender and considerate boy. He had his father's gentle looks and kind manner but thanks to his mother there was an underlying passion that found its outlet in sports and riding making him quite the man around school.
"I have news for you Wade." She said gently knowing that he'd do exactly as she wanted and hating the fact that she was relocating him yet again. It was good here, he loved his school, his friends, his horses, his aunt and uncle and cousins; he loved it all. This was a good life for them. He worked with Will around Tara and rode his horse every day. He was happy. And in Scarlett's eyes Wade was long overdue for some happiness in his childhood.
"Bad news?" He said gently but quite calmly. If he became upset his mother would become upset. He hated that. He feared it. Not as he had as a young child when he'd feared her wrath, no now he feared her sadness, he feared her tears. He hated to see her cry, had sworn to himself long ago that he would do everything necessary to never make her cry.
Scarlett took a deep breath saying, while reaching for his hand, "I'm afraid you'll think so."
Wade nodded, held her hand then taking a moment to prepare himself asked, "What is it?"
"Rhett is here." Scarlett said firmly.
He blinked a moment, as the words registered in his head, "What?" He said a bit angrily, as he pulled his hands from hers, this he had not expected.
Scarlett nodded and continued, "And he saw Gerry and... an.. and we're going back to Atlanta with him."
"What!" he said now in full blown shock and showing a bit of that passion inherited from his mother.
Scarlett nodded, willing herself to be strong, there was no other way. Wade would understand. "I know its sudden but..."
Wade jumped up from the seat, "Sudden!!! Mom... this is... this is.... No, I can't.... WE can't go."
"Honey..." she began in a soothing tone.
"Wade are you in here." Ella's sweet voice cut Scarlett off. The little girl came in a second later and lit up at the sight of her mother.
"mommy..." she brightly
Taking a deep breath she forced her gaze from Wade and to Ella smiling widely as she said, "Hello princess.... come here."
Ella went willingly.
Scarlett held her close.
"I haven't' seen you too much today mommy. I missed you." she said snuggling.
"I missed you more darling" Scarlett said caressing her hair. While keeping one eye on her son who still stood looking furious.
"Mom the ladies out there think I'm just the prettiest thing." Ella said smiling.
"You are just the prettiest thing."
"Thank you mommy, I appreciate that."
"Well..." Scarlett said smiling as she pulled back a bit to look into her daughters face, "aren't we using big words today."
Ella smiled, "I'm a big girl mommy, I'm ten. Practically a women."
Scarlett smiled, "A women." she said with emphasis.
Ella nodded, smiling she glanced at Wade.
Wade was not smiling.
"what's wrong?" she asked her brother, the smile dieing a little.
"I'll let mom tell you, I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise." he said angrily and moved towards the door.
"Wade please..." Scarlett called out.
But the boy didn't listen. He opened the door and proceeded to run directly in Rhett's chest.
Rhett had asked a very serious and a bit rude Sue-Ellen where Scarlett was and she'd suggested the study. So he had cautiously approached the office without being detected only to be bumped into as he opened the door.
Looking down he was met with honey brown eyes that flashed with something akin to hatred.
His mind registered but by then the boy was across the room as if he couldn't get away fast enough.
Trying to get his bearing quickly his eyes swung to Scarlett, seated on the sofa... and then to the girl in her arms.
"Uncle Rhett?" a sweet voice asked in wonder.
He stepped into the room fully and felt a smile light his face.
She said again excitedly, jumping off her mothers lap and running towards him.
He lifted her into his arms and held her close. He loved this little girl. She was his. For as long as he lived Wade and Ella would be, in a way, his. He loved them as his own and had missed them dearly.
"oh Uncle Rhett, you came to see us. I knew you would!" She said as she pulled to look into his face.
He felt tears sting the back of his eyes as he gazed into her trusting eyes, her words revealed so much. She'd waited for him, 'I should have come' he thought to himself.
"Of course I came." He said to her.
"But this can't be Ella." He said as he placed her on the ground.
"It is me Uncle Rhett." She said looking up with clear eyes.
"But the Ella I know is a girl and this..." he said holding out his hand, "this is a little lady." When she took it he twirled her so that her skirts billowed out a little. "A very pretty little lady."
She dimpled at him, in a way so reminiscent of her mother that Rhett had to look at the woman.
It was then he realized that although Ella was delighted at his presence she was indeed the only one.
"Are you going to stay with us Uncle Rhett." she tugged on his sleeve. "You should stay with us. Its nice here. You could play with me and Gerry." Her eyes widened and she looked at her mother, "oh mommy is Gerry still a secret?" she said worriedly.
Scarlett shook her head, "no honey Gerry's not a secret anymore. Rhett met him earlier."
Ella nodded, obviously relieved. "Well, Uncle Rhett, will you? Will you stay with us?"
Taking a deep breath Rhett hunkered down to her level.
"Actually, sweetie, you and your mommy and brothers are going to come home with me. To Atlanta. You remember Atlanta right? Where we all used to live. Together. Before Gerry. You remember right, sweetie?" Rhett would have continued on and on because he could see by the fact that her smile faded that once he stopped talking she'd say she didn't want to go.
He was, however, interrupted by a harsh voice, that sounded nothing like the little boy he'd know three years ago.
"She remembers." Wade said shortly shooting daggers through Rhett.
Standing Rhett nodded and went to Wade with an outstretched hand. "Its good to see you Wade Hamilton."
Wade glanced at the hand, then at Rhett. Glaring fully into his eyes. For a moment it seemed as if he wasn't going to take the hand. But then he did. Demonstrating to Rhett just how much a man he was becoming.
He didn't say anything though, just continued to glare at Rhett with eyes that were increasingly menacing.
"Well..." Scarlett said as she stood. "Why don't you tell your Uncle Rhett what you've been up to Ella." She said trying to ease the tension. She motioned for Rhett to sit, which he did, then she too resumed her seat. Wade remained standing, with his eyes fixed unflinchingly on Rhett and Ella moved to do her mother's bidding, albeit subdued because she now realized that her Uncle Rhett hadn't come to see them but to take them.
To take them away.
Nothing good ever happened in Atlanta.
"So... Ella, what wonderful things have you been doing since I last saw you." Rhett said smiling at her. He too sensed the tension.
"I....I..." she looked down, obviously struggling with what to say, "I don't want to go to Atlanta." she said finally in a barely audible voice.
Rhett took a deep breath and prayed to some divine power that she wouldn't cry because the sight of her tears just might be enough to make him, 'you know what just forget about it.'
"Why not, honey?" he asked gently.
"Atlanta... that's...its...bad...its..." tears filled her eyes and spilled over, "...Bonnie." she whispered.
Rhett heard a sharp intake of breath and felt his heart stop.
His precious Bonnie.
He didn't think about her much. Forced himself not to. Thoughts of his precious princess could bring him to his knees in pain.
"Oh Ella..." he said as he took her in his arms. It was instinctive, he didn't work it out in his head he just saw that she was hurting and wanted to comfort.
"She won't be there, will she?" Ella said softly as she pulled back.
Rhett just stared into her eyes. He was speechless, he couldn't say anything.
Just thinking her name hurt, it was like a flaming arrow in his heart. He couldn't voice any comfort this little girl because he felt none. Nothing could ever comfort him for the loss of his darling.
"No darling," a gentle voice said. He started, at the echo of his thought and looked up to see Scarlett, her eyes, full of tears, on her daughter.
"We talked about that remember darling, How Bonnie wen..." she stopped and took a shaky breath "how Bonnie went to live with the angels." Her tears spilled and at the sight of her mother's tears Ella's fell faster. She left Rhett's lap and went to her mother's arms.
Scarlett held her close.
"I wish she hadn't mommy. Marie and the twins and Lainie they're all fun bu...but no one is as fun as Bonnie. I miss her." Ella said tearfully as she pulled away.
"I miss her too." Scarlett said softly.
"bu...But...she's happy up there honey. She...she's playing all the time, smiling all the time, laughing all the time..."
"riding all the time." Ella added a bit more joyfully. "Bonnie loves to ride."
Not noticing the pain in her mother's eyes as she said that, she continued, "Mr. Butler went with her, you said, right mommy. So she's riding him up there with the angels."
"Ye...yes." the tears overflowed and Scarlett covered her face.
"oh mommy no, don't..." Ella said worriedly, trying to pear into her mother's covered face. "please, she's happy remember?...mommy?"
"I'm sorry honey... I just I miss her, that's all." taking a deep breath Scarlett willed herself to be strong. She couldn't worry her children.
"Why don't you and I go to the kitchen to get something cool to drink?"
Ella nodded, "okay." She headed for the door.
"Would you like something Rhett? Wade?"
"No thank you." Rhett said in an unusually subdued tone
"No, thanks." Wade answered. His eyes on Rhett.
Scarlett nodded and waited for him to look at her. When he did she gave a warning look and left the room.
Absolute silence weighed heavy in the room. The seconds ticked by and neither of them said anything.
Rhett could feel intense feelings of dislike....he couldn't label it hate.... emanating from Wade for him. Could feel the young boy wishing him away.
Taking a mental deep breath he turned and said to the still standing Wade, "So tell me Wade what have you been up to lately." He tried to make his voice sound casual and kind but was having a difficult keeping his emotions in check after Ella's reminder of Bonnie. He knew he sounded tense and the question forced.
Wade said nothing, after a few moments he moved to sit directly in front of Rhett.
He stared at him. His eyes hard. And Rhett wondered where the little boy he'd helped raise was. This was a young man. A young man who was very upset.
Firmly, with absolute sureness and a calm of knowing exactly what you wanted, Wade spoke softly, "I once thought you were my father." He began, shocking Rhett.
That wasn't what he'd expected to hear.
"When I knew better I wished you were." He continued, quietly.
"Today..." he said with emphasis. "I know even better. I know that you aren't worthy of being my father... or Ella's or Gerry's."
He paused as if to make sure Rhett was getting all of this.
Then continued, "I don't know what you've said, what you've done to force her to go back there but I really don't care."
"I really don't care, because, at the first sign that you're hurting her, at the first sign that there could be tears in her eyes I'll pack us all up and bring us back...."
Rhett opened his mouth to speak but Wade cut him off.
"And before you tell me that I can't do that, let me tell you that to Gerry I am always right. ALWAYS. and Ella knows better then to defy me. They'll do as I tell them to, and mom won't leave us. So I can and I will. Do you understand?"
Rhett nodded, meeting the boy's gaze steadily with a deep-felt compassion in the depths of his eyes, a compassion that he felt deep in his heart. The boy was undertaking the job of 'man of family' something no boy should ever have to do. "I understand, I understand that you've got this all wrong Wade, I didn't..."
"This is MY family, Mr. Butler. MINE. You've lost your place here. I won't let you hurt them."
"I wouldn't hurt them, Wade."
Wade cocked his head to the side a little, and said conversationally, in a way that sent chills through Rhett, "When mom first came here, Ella was convinced that you'd come after her. All through mom's illness and then the pregnancy and every thing in between. She was absolutely sure you'd come. She'd sit on the steps of the front door every day waiting for you, so she could be the one to give you the surprise."
He stopped here and Rhett understood that the surprise would have been Gerry.
"She cried herself to sleep for weeks after Gerry was born, because I... I made her understand that you weren't coming. She cried because you didn't love her, because you'd only loved Bonnie, because you wouldn't come; she cried because mom cried."
Rhett was silent. What could he say? That he was sorry. He was but that didn't change anything. 'I should have come' he thought once again.
"I won't let you do that again. You broke her little heart... And I was the one that had to pick up the pieces. I won't let you do that again." He repeated.
"I never meant to do that. I never meant to... to hurt Ella, to disappoint you. YOU, you must understand, must know that I didn't just love Bonnie."
He looked down a moment, showing for the first time that he really was just fourteen.
Looking up he said, "I thought I did. At first. But..." He shook his and Rhett saw the sheen of tears in his eyes. Those tears gave him hope, there was still a chance, he might be able to make it work. That little boy was in there somewhere.
"When you love someone you don't... you do that to them...I mean...geez...what you did to mom... you almost killed her." he said on a burst of sorrow. "If it hadn't been for Gerry..." he continued but was interrupted by the opening door.
Ella walked in holding a drink. Scarlett walked in holding Gerry.
"Wade!" Gerry said and leaped from Scarlett's arms, luckily Wade had already stood and caught the boy mid-air.
To Rhett it seemed like something that had been a million time before.
Ella walked over to him and smiled, "May I sit on your lap, Uncle Rhett." She said sweetly.
"Of course darling." He said pulling her into his arms. She was petite for her age.
"hey that's my name." Gerry said, from Wade's arms.
"its my name too." He said softly looking at the boy, his son.
"isn't that neat, mom, he has the same name as me. he's our Uncle?" he asked as an after thought.
Scarlett took a deep breath. And at that moment Rhett understood that she meant to tell him, now, that she meant to inform their son that he was his father right then. With that thought, came an unexplainable feeling of panic that seemed to spiral through him, fighting it away he told himself their was no reason for it.
The boy was three, everything would be fine.
But something deep inside him, an instinct that had kept him alive during all his exploits, told him that if Gerry were told now, he'd lose him forever. Maybe it was the reminder of Bonnie or the conversation with Wade, hell maybe it was the aftereffects of learning he had a son but Rhett felt very odd.
As if things were occurring in slow motion around him. He wasn't sure of anything but one thing - that if Gerry were told now all would be lost.
Before Scarlett could speak he answered the boy, "Yes I am your Uncle, Gerry."
"Oh wow, I've never had an uncle. what do uncles do?" he said wiggling out of Wade's arms and walking towards where Rhett sat holding Ella.
Rhett looking at him seriously, "oh we a lot of fun things. You see my only job as your uncle to spoil you rotten. I love to spoil, don't I Ella."
"yes, that's true Gerry. He loves to spoil" she said softly obviously confused tat Rhett hadn't told Gerry he was his father.
Gerry smiled, "you know Mr. Uncle there's something I really, really want and if yours job is to spoil me than you's gots to get it for me."
"Look at that Ella he has a job for me already." Rhett said smiling at the little girl who gave a rather wane smile in return. He silently prayed she wouldn't say anything. Then he looked at his son who was looking at him with expectant dark eyes.
"Alright what is it?" he said
"A pony." the boy said reverently.
Unbidden an image of Bonnie in her blue riding habit flashed through his mind, a cold fear seeped through him. To give Gerry a pony...
"Absolutely NOT. Gerald." Scarlett said a bit angrily.
He turned scowling, "mom, I'm asking my uncle if he'll get it for me not you."
"I don't care if you're asking your uncle, god, or the virgin Mary. You CANNOT have a pony. That's that.
"NO. maybe later, when you're older but not now Gerry. If you're...uncle..." she hesitated over the word, "gets you a pony I wouldn't let you ride it, so it'd be useless to you, do you understand."
"But moooommmmm.... why..?
"Because I said so, that's why." Scarlett said firmly not backing down much to Rhett's relief
Gerry pouted, "But that's not fair, Wade has horse and Ella has pony..." he whined.
"Don't worry Ger, if mom says you can have it later you can, mom wouldn't lie" Ella said gently in an attempt to soothe her brother.
He shook his, obviously on the verge of a tantrum, "no, no, no, I want it NOW." He stamped his little foot. "NOW. I'm big boy."
"Well your not acting like it." Wade said firmly. Then shaking his sadly added in a disappointed tone, "Here I thought you were little man, but all you are is a big baby."
"I am not..."
"I don't hang out with big baby's you know." Wade continued as if he hadn't spoken. "Only with little men. Little men who know how behave themselves and not kick and scream when they don't get what they want right away."
"I'm not a big ba..."
"I was going to let any little men I found come to the fields with me tomorrow but I don't think I'm going to find any, do you mom?" He said looking at his mother.
Scarlett remained silent in careful consideration, avoiding the eyes her youngest, eyes that had become hopeful. "Oh I don't know Wade maybe you should just take Ella."
"no, no mom I'm a little man!" He said hopping up and down in front of her, the pony forgotten.
"Are you?" she said querulously
"Oh yes, mom, I am. Look, see, I'm a little man." He said as he forced a serious 'grown-up' expression onto his little face.
Scarlett and Wade smiled, Ella giggled, and Rhett...
Rhett just watched.
"Oh well then Wade, I guess you've a little man right here."
Wade nodded, " I guess your right mom, Gerry do you wanna come to the fields with me tomorrow?" He asked
"Of course!!!" He said jumping up and down.
"you hear that Mr. Uncle I'm going to the fields tomorrow!" he said turning to Rhett.
Rhett smiled, "you can call me Uncle Rhett." he said softly. Then added "Do you like to visit places Gerry?"
He nodded vigorously, "abso-lu-te-ly... that means yes. Marie tolded me."
"True, absolutely does mean yes. Gerry how would like to visit me?"
"You?" he seemed to think it over. "Where do you w'live?" he asked
"Atlanta. Its a very big city." he added when he saw the boy had no clue where that was.
"Could mommy and everyone else come."
"Well, your mommy and Wade and Ella but I think that you cousins would rather stay here."
"Nu-uh, they'd wanna come too."
"Yeah, well...except maybe Will... well then though Aunt Sue might not wanna come which meanes that the twin wouldn't come, they go no wheres withouted Aunt Sue, but Lainie..."
"Lainie's too little to be with out her mother, honey." Scarlett said softly. Why on earth she was allowing Rhett to trick her baby was something she wasn't really sure of at the moment but would examine later, she told herself.
He nodded solemnly, "Marie would I guess but she's kinda bossy.... So I guess you's right Mr.... I mean Uncle Sir they'd wanna stay here." The little boy lowered his brow in great thought. "Is your house big, for mommy and Wade and Ella and me."
Rhett nodded as solemnly as his son, "yes it is. You could each have your own room its so big.
"But I still couldn't have a pony?" he asked his bottom lip protruding.
Rhett smiled shaking his head, "No, not until your mom says its ok. But..." he added when he saw his son about to decline the entire offer. "If your mom lets you, I'll take you riding with me, on my horse."
Gerry's eyes lit up, "Really!!! on a big horse?"
Rhett nodded, losing himself in the boy's shining eyes, "yeah really, on a big horse."
Gerry turned to Scarlett a huge smile on his face, "Mommy coulds we visist with Uncle Rhett at his house."
Scarlett looked at her son. Rhett's son. And sighed, glancing at Rhett she found him smirking at her and had the sudden desire to tell Gerry no.
Taking a deep breath however she resisted it, "That sounds like fun." she said through clenched teeth.
"Yippee!!" he said hopping up and down. "We're goin to Atlita..." he said joyfully.
"Atlanta." Scarlett corrected, her voice reverberating with impending doom, "We're going to Atlanta."
Every part of her body ached. From her head to feet and everything in between. Gerry lay sprawled against her, his head on her chest, his legs covering her thighs --effectively pinning her left side to the window. Ella's head lay against her right arm, Rhett sat across from her to the right and Wade sat next to him and across from her.
Wade, who hadn't said a word since they'd left the study. He'd packed his things and helped pack that of the younger children. Then silently left the house without saying goodbye to anyone. He shed no tears, gave no hugs, promised no letters. He was angry and that anger blinded him. He'd met her eyes just before he'd left the house, she'd been standing in the foyer, he at the door, she'd called out to him intent on telling him to say his goodbye's the eyes that had met hers though stopped the words in her throat.
She'd seen those eyes before. Years ago she'd seen them often. Seen them in the mirror. Never in him.
They were hooded and radiated unwavering anger.
She knew --at the moment-- he was unreachable.
She knew --he'd inherited that from her. She met that gaze, acknowledged it, and gave the slightest nod. Telling him she knew.
She had let him be.
He was angry, at Rhett but at her too. He'd expected more from her, he'd expected her to fight Rhett, to make it clear he had no place in their life.
He didn't know, couldn't know about the love, the chance, the happily ever after. In his mind she'd given up without a fight, and that was inexcusable.
He hadn't said a word the whole way there.
Even now as they neared the house, as they traveled across the streets he'd grown up on he refused to look her way. Refused to acknowledge anyone in the carriage.
Ella, on the other hand, had cried.
Ella had clung to her aunt and said goodbye to everyone from the foreman to her pony. At one point she'd looked at Rhett with such sorrowful eyes that he'd promised to bring her back in a few months.
It was again another impulse he'd wished he'd contained.
That was two in the space of one afternoon.
He, who had come to plan everything. In moments of abandon had made two promises --Scarlett could keep her son and Ella could come for a visit.
Running a hand over his face he resolved that he would use this coach ride to regain control of himself. He needed to be cold in his dealings with Scarlett. Even with his dealing with Wade and Ella. There was too much at stake here.
He told himself, he would never mistreat Scarlett and certainly not Ella or Wade but he had to keep in mind that the purpose of this endeavor was Gerry.
Ella already knew him, as far as he could tell the petite nine year old loved him.
Wade may be too far gone for him to ever renew their relationship but he knew the boy well enough to know that simply because of the past the boy would always be respectful to him --even when he was being insulting.
It was Gerry he had to work on. Gerry he had to win. He would gain his son's trust... affection. He would form a bond.
He had too.
The thought still sent ripples of shock through him...
...And ignited currents of anger towards Scarlett.
He could understand why she'd done. Hell, he might have done the same thing.
But whoever said anger was rational?
He could see she was exhausted. Could tell she was fighting to stay awake. Felt the urge to help her --to lift Gerry's weight off her, to support Ella himself, to caress away the frown between her brows...
But he wouldn't.
He'd been strong enough to walk away...
...strong enough to meet her tears with ice...
...strong enough to make her hate him...
...he could do this.
There would be no divorce now, not ever. But that didn't mean there would be love. Didn't mean their relationship would live. It only meant they'd live a lie, a sham.
There were many marriages that were simply shams.
True at one point it had seemed theirs would be different...
...he'd hoped it would be...
...had prayed it would be...
.But it wasn't.
So, they would keep up appearances... stay married...
They'd live together...
He'd be faithful --and demand the same...
They'd raise their son...
And that was all.
Truthfully what more could he ask for?
Three months later as he sat across the breakfast table staring at the impassive face of his wife Rhett knew the answer.
Scarlett's demeanor was driving him mad.
The night they'd arrived Scarlett had put the children to bed --sleeping with Gerry in the nursery-- Bonnie's nursery.
They hadn't spoken then. She'd avoided his gaze. He'd understood.
The next day she'd had the rooms properly prepared and to Rhett's amazement had --over breakfast-- laid out an extensive and well thought out schedule and list of rules for the children.
He knew then --she had changed.
He also knew --she hadn't slept.
Word spread quickly that Scarlett had returned --with a child.
One, Rhett Butler, claimed as his own.
Consequently visitors poured into the house. Of course no one spoke of it. Not outright anyway, just vague references and telling eye motions.
Everyone from his mother to Atlanta's Old Guard wanted to meet the boy.
Eleanor embraced the boy tightly, smoothing his hair and kissing his cheek. She scolded Rhett about lying to his child and fretted over Scarlett and the kids extensively.
She stayed a fortnight and Gerry learned to love her, every night she went to Rhett and asked him to tell his son who he was --every night Rhett refused.
Scarlett spent the entire time with Eleanor, avoiding him. Rhett didn't confront her. He understood.
When his mother left, he thought he saw tears in Scarlett's eyes but they vanished so quickly he knew he must've imagined them.
Upon arrival in Atlanta, Wade and Ella were immediately enrolled in the most prominent school. And as promised every morning Rhett took Gerry out to the park on his horse.
Ella avoided the nursery at all costs --opting for a downstairs bedroom. Rhett had questioned her on it, she'd remained silent and steadfast in her decision. She didn't smile often, didn't laugh as much as he wished she would. But was agreeable and kind, if not warm with him. He made a habit of surprising her with things --hats, dolls, stockings,-- and she clearly did adore him... it was just Atlanta she hated.
Wade was... distant. Cold and remote were the only words he could think of to describe his step sons' behavior. He never spoke to Rhett unless directly addressed and then in monosyllabic answers if possible. His smiles were rarer than Ella's and only directed towards the children --even Scarlett seemed to be getting the cold shoulder from him.
Scarlett smiled all day and cried herself to sleep at night. He could hear her. He didn't ask her about it, though. He understood.
It was amazing, really. Her control. Her lady act, as he referred to it. It was perfect. She'd never played the role so well. She was courteous and kind, accommodating and soft-spoken. She selected the menu for every meal, ordered material for curtains, was ever watchful of the staff, made sure everything was stocked, and always had a smile on her face.
A smile that never reached her eyes.
To the outsider looking in, it appeared the Butler household had finally found peace.
Even the Old Guard stated that Scarlett seemed to finally have grown up. That she was beginning to resemble her mother. Mrs. Merriweather, on one of her now routine visits, had laid a gentle hand on Scarlett's shoulder and said kindly, "Your mother would be proud."
It was the stamp of approval.
Slowly Atlanta turned its focus away from the Butler family. For the first time in decades Rhett and Scarlett blended in. They were able to move about without scandal, able to meet with others without suspicion --they were society-- good, decent society.
Three months,Rhett thought staring at her as she ate a cocktail of fruit. Three months and not a cross word, not an angry glance, no anger at all... no heat... no passion. Nothing.
They discussed the children, his mother, Tara, Sue-Ellen, Sue-Ellen's children, and the weather.
That was it.
He could broach another subject, nothing stopped him.
Nothing except the coldness in her emerald eyes. It was like she'd turned herself off. Like nothing reached her.
He knew, though, that inside, under the ice --there was fire.
With Scarlett there would always be fire.
The truth was he didn't want to fight with her, didn't want to make her cry, didn't want to feel like his heart was shattering again.
Which was undoubtedly the outcome of any of their heated conversations.
The days had melted into one anther, Gerry had come to love him, Ella obeyed him, Wade ignored him.
He had put up with it. He understood.
Today though, he had to bring up a new subject. He didn't know what the reaction would be, good he assumed. But with Scarlett you never knew.
He'd waited for the children to be excused.
It was time.
"I thought we'd leave for Tara in a day or so." he said as casually as he could.
She paused, fork mid-way to her mouth, "I'm sorry?" she questioned, her eyebrows slightly raised, her tone less than cordial.
It was the first hint of emotion he'd seen since they'd arrived in Atlanta.
"I promised Ella I'd take her back in a few months remember." He said cautiously, watching her.
She nodded, putting the fork down. "I didn't think you meant it."
"I never lie." He said.
She actually smirked and he grinned, "To Ella." he finished.
She nodded, all traces of humor vanishing, "No, I don't think it's a good idea."
"The children get out of school in a week. I think this would be a good time for the trip. We could spend half the summer there and the other - "
"We're not going." she said coldly and resumed her meal. Signaling she was finished with the discussion.
Rhett stared at her for a full minute. Did she really think that was the end of conversation?
"Scarlett - " he started.
"My answer is final Rhett." she cut him off standing. He watched her go. Too shocked to do anything else.
This was just too much. Even in the past when she'd been nothing but a spoiled child she'd discussed things with him. For her to simply to get up and leave. To state something and not even bother with his response was unprecedented.
Fury filled him with such suddenness it nearly choked him.
He had understood her anger --his treatment of her left a lot to be desired.
He had understood her resentment --he had threatened her.
He had understood her coldness --she didn't want to be here.
All in all, his patience with her was complete, it had been long.
Standing swiftly, his eyes glowing with rage, he acknowledged silently --he was done understanding-- it was time for action.
Oh god. she thought as she opened the door to her bedroom with shaking hands. It wasn't going to last much longer, she could feel it. The truce was just about over. He wouldn't take much more. This might just have been the last straw.
But she didn't know how else to react, what else to do. Had been unprepared, she should have remembered, should have realized that he wouldn't lie to Ella, that he'd keep his promise.
Shakily she went and sat on the bed. It had been a difficult couple of months. Her first night back she'd lain in bed holding her son as image after image of her life in this house had assaulted her.
She wanted to cry, to scream, to fight, to make him pay --how dare he stride into her life and change everything? How dare he threaten her? How dare he bring her here! Of all places...
Here....where the emptiness had swallowed her....
She didn't have to take it, Rhett Butler could go to hell, she'd thought, she didn't have to stay. He had no right to force her.
She shouldn't stay, had told her self she couldn't stay, this house was... death.
Anger had bristled in her, giving her strength and resolution --she'd leave. Then Gerry had snuggled closer to her, burying his dark head under her chin-- and the anger had melted away. Reality smothering it.
True he had no right.
True, technically, she could leave.
But she wouldn't. Because, like she'd told Sue-Ellen, he'd won.
He had the ace card. He had it because she'd given it to him, he had power over her because she allowed it. And she did so because she loved him. Not with the impetuous frenzy that had filled her adoration of Ashley but with a steady rhythm that was just as powerful because of it's maturity.
It wasn't his threat that had cause her to return here, it was the feeling that they she owed it to herself to end this --one way or another.
But she couldn't let him hurt her, not like before. She had to be strong --for the children.
So holding her son closer she'd come up with a battle plan.
He couldn't fight that. Couldn't argue with that. The cold would numb them. Would keep them safe.
She'd treat him indifferently and she knew in turn he'd treat her the same.
That was their way --their problem-- they met anger with anger, jealousy with jealousy, sarcasm with sarcasm, yelling with yelling.
She knew-- he would meet her coldness with coldness-- and they would be safe.
That had been three months ago and she'd been right. He hadn't approached her, had stood by and accepted her frigidness.
...it was over.
Burying her face in her hands, she wanted to cry. Who was she kidding. They could never be safe from each other, not for long anyway and definitely not in this house.
From the first moment she'd set foot in this house she'd known --nothing good would come of their stay here. There was too much inside these walls, too much pain.
It was dark.
That had been her first thought. The walls, the carpet, the atmosphere.
It was dark.
Gerry had commented on it that night and she'd hushed him. Didn't want to talk about it, didn't want to remember.
The children were settled in a routine. Going to Atlanta now would just be upsetting.
Scarlett cringed as she remembered their brief exchange at the table --she'd done it wrong. It was just that doing it once had been hard enough --leaving her sister, her nieces, her Lainie; leaving all the light and freshness and purity that was Tara, a place that offered no judgment on her, where she could be herself, a place that had her father in every field and her mother in every room, for Atlanta....
--doing it once had been enough. Twice would hurt too much. If she had to do it again, she might not be able to.
She might not have a choice.
Standing she went to the window, she had to get ready for a meeting, which one she wasn't sure --some society she'd joined-- she'd joined a lot of societies and attended a lot of teas' and participated in a lot of charities in the past three months. More than she'd thought possible.
She had the approval finally. The society she had striven to shed, the one she had felt suffocated in, the one she had shamed and rejected for another was now her own once again.
It was fitting, she supposed, after all she'd been born into it. She might as well die in it. And it was easy. She knew now, how it was done. The coldness made it easy, turn off your thoughts, your passions and being a lady was a piece of cake.
She knew now, its what her mother had done - and there had been no one more lady-like than Ellen O'Hara.
She was like her mother now.
The Old Guard told her so.
As a child, during prayer, she'd looked at her mother and promised herself to one day be just like her - as soon as she had everything she wanted.
During that dreadful time after the war, she'd promised herself she'd be like her mother if she could just get money. If she could feed everyone and make things like they used to be she'd be like her mother.
Then after that she'd promised herself as soon as she had a lot of money she'd be like her mother.
It had taken her longer than she'd expected but she'd finally done it - she was like her mother.
Only this didn't bring with it the joy she'd thought it would.
It wasn't what she'd thought it'd be. It was too easy. All her life she'd looked at the ideal lady and had thought it was too hard to do, impossible for her to do.
And now it was too easy.
It felt wrong.
It felt like her mother wouldn't approve...
Like Mammy wouldn't approve...
Moaning quietly, she willed these thoughts away. She had to focus on the issue at hand.
How to get out of a trip back to Tara....
She knew something was wrong the moment she sent her foot on the last step of the staircase of that had almost taken her baby.
The house was still quiet, it was always quiet, Gerry preferred to play outside and Wade and Ella hardly dared to breathe in the house, but there was an air of activity.
She ignored it though and headed to the dining room for supper. (A/N: I'm not sure if its supper or dinner - regardless its the last meal of the day)
The children were already sitting at the table and her sense of dread mounted. She shouldn't have taken those pills, shouldn't have slept so late. She should have been at the door waiting for the children as usual.
But she'd been so tired and the thoughts wouldn't stop. So she'd take sedatives - for a nap.
"Oh mom isn't it wonderful." Ella exclaimed as she left her chair to hug her mother.
"mommy...." Gerry said barreling towards her as if he too had been away at school instead of just in the yard or kitchen.
Wade followed more slowly. She hugged the younger children and sent them back to their seats before facing him. He usually gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, something painfully reminiscent of his younger years.
Today though he studied her a moment before reaching towards her and wrapping her in his arms. She sighed, "you ok, darling?"
He tightened his grip, "are you?" he whispered back.
Yep, definitely, this was bad.
"Shouldn't I be?" she asked as she pulled away and looked into his face. His eyes were darker than they should be, they were only dark when he was upset.
They'd been dark for three months.
"I just figured - " but he was cut off.
"Wonderful, you've decided to join us my dear. Please take a seat." Rhett proclaimed as he entered from behind them. He stood now holding the chair out for her.
Sighing, she squeezed Wade's arm and gave him what she hoped was a reassuring smile.
"You didn't have to wait for me, Rhett. I could have taken something in my chamber." Scarlett said cordially, taking her seat between Gerry and Rhett.
"Where would the fun be in that right guys?" he said happily looking to Ella and Gerry. Both nodded, grinning widely.
He'd told them they were going to Tara.
She knew it. He hadn't said it yet but she knew it. He'd gone over her head and promised the children a summer trip to Tara.
"We have a surprise for you mommy." Ella said sweetly.
She met her daughter's gaze and forced a smile to her lips, "oh really." she murmured.
The bastard was laughing! Chuckling!
Using her daughter as a weapon.
Her eyes burned emerald fire when she met his, "something amusing you, Captain Butler?"
"I'm just imagining your delight over this surprise is all my dear."
"You'll likes it mommy." Gerry chirped his eyes glowing.
Scarlett looked at him an angry retort on her lips but that's as far as it made it. It wasn't her baby's fault. It was the monster's sitting next to her --Bastard--
She sighed, "I suppose I will darling." she said quietly.
Ella took a deep breath her smile wide, eyes glittering, "Uncle Rhett's gonna take us on a trip..."
"...for thes wholes summers..." Gerry continued.
"and you know where mom?" Ella asked but before Scarlett could answer she continued, "you'll never guess..."
"Char-ton!!" Gerry exclaimed, suddenly, not able to contain it anymore. He had no idea what the big deal was but Ella and his Uncle were very excited.
"Charleston, Gerry, not Charton." Ella corrected, a little put out at not being able to deliver the whole news.
Scarlett was silent.
"Well, mom, what do you think? Isn't' it great. Uncle Rhett is gonna take me shopping and to see the sights and we're gonna stay with his mom and she's gonna teach me to embroider and its gonna be so great mom." Ella said happily.
"Yes I'm sure." she said numbly her eyes shifting from her children to meet Rhett's. They were amused, his eyes, and dark --a little too dark, making her think that maybe amusement wasn't the only thing he was feeling.
"We'll spend some time in Charleston then I think we'll head to Savannah to visit your Grandfather." he told her, his voice serious.
"My grandfather?" she questioned. Feeling as though this was some sort of dream. What would she do in Charleston? Why would she visit her grandfather? The man hated her, she hated the man. This was ridiculous and the children were grinning ear to ear.
"Yes my dear. Your Grandfather. The man has a right to meet his great-grandchildren and I have some business to take care of in the city. It should work out just fine."
"Charleston and Savannah." she repeated. Her voice a bit firmer. Confirming
He quirked an eyebrow, a challenge, "were you expecting something else, my pet?"
The tone goaded her.
The words goaded her.
...she was nobody's 'pet'... and certainly not Rhett Butler's, not anymore.
He hadn't referred to her as such since the day Melly had died.
Her eyes flashed with fury.
His with triumph.
....He'd broken the ice... he'd reached the fire.
Now he only hoped he'd be able to handle what burned beneath without being scalded.
It would be an interesting summer.