Usual disclaimers apply.
A/N: My first attempt at GWTW fanfic, and my first attempt at what, for me, constitutes a longish fic ie. more than a vignette. I've reached a point with this where, even though I know it could be better, I'm posting it because I'm fed up with fiddling with it. It also means I have to concentrate on the following chapters because hopefully someone out there will want to read them. (I blame my decision to post this on the glass of wine I had before lunch - something I never do, but work is making me crazy - and the resulting wonky head and inability to stop laughing at nothing! Lol.)
This takes place during Scarlett around the time of the birth of Cat. I've just tweaked things to suit, and, hey, why not. This chapter explores what she might have done during those several hours spent waiting for the doctor/midwife/blacksmith/etc to arrive. Just lie on a table doing nothing? Scarlett O'Hara? Never!
I hope you enjoy it.
Lightning flashed across the sky as Rosaleen Fitzpatrick peered worriedly out into the wild night. Halloween in Ireland was not the night to be having a baby. She was a practical woman, but the notion held by many that every ghost and ghoul that ever was would be wandering the earth this night, sent a shiver down her spine. Superstitious simpletons, the lot of them, she thought to herself, as she drew her shawl tighter around her shoulders and tried to shake off the feeling.
"Would you get me a pen and some writing paper, please Mrs Fitz," Scarlett's voice penetrated her troubled thoughts and she turned away from the darkness. "I need to write someone a letter."
"Of course," she replied softly.
Rosaleen moved away from the window and walked past the kitchen table where Scarlett was lying on a mattress to retrieve the items that had been requested. She hesitated for a moment in the doorway and turned to look back at Scarlett, as if contemplating refusing her, then thought better of it and hurried out of the room.
Her mistress had a bright-eyed, feverish look about her now that made Rosaleen desperately worried. Scarlett was still haemorrhaging, although not as heavily as she had been just after her water had broken. But Mrs Fitzpatrick had enough knowledge and experience of childbirth to know just how serious Scarlett's condition was.
The contractions weren't any closer together than they had been an hour ago, and if she continued losing blood the way she was she surely wouldn't survive this ordeal.
Dear Lord, what was taking Colum so long to get back with the doctor? Scarlett might bleed to death before they ever arrived. And what of the poor babe? Oh, she couldn't bear to think of it!
She found what she was looking for in the bureau in the small sitting room off the kitchen and, taking a deep breath to calm her jangled nerves, turned and made her way back to Scarlett.
"Who are you going to write to, Mrs O?" she asked on her return, trying to arrange her face so as not to reveal the frightening thoughts that were running through her mind. She put the materials down and helped Scarlett to lie on her side.
"Oh, just a friend in America, Mrs Fitz," she replied, propping herself up on her left elbow and breathing heavily as she tried to get comfortable against the pillows supporting her.
"Hand me a clean towel please so I can wipe my hands. No-one will want to receive a letter with blood on it, now will they?" she said with a half smile, but her attempt to lighten the mood fell flat. Mrs Fitzpatrick could only stare in horror at her words before she reached into a drawer for a clean tea towel and handed it over to Scarlett.
When she had wiped her hands, she smoothed the paper against the thick recipe book the housekeeper had provided for her to press on, and set her mind to the task at hand.
Just a friend. Ha, she thought. If only it were that simple.
God, what a thing to have to write, she groaned to herself. With luck I'll make it through this and he'll never have to read it. Oh, Rhett I wish you were here. God knows we need you so right now.
She took a deep breath and began.
My dearest Rhett,
If you are reading this then-
No, I can't start a letter like that, because in spite of my current situation, or perhaps because of it, it makes me want to laugh! People, I suppose, all react differently when faced with their own mortality.
I am having a baby, Rhett, our baby, and I am not sure I will survive it. Yes, I was carrying our child when I left Charleston, although I was still unaware of it at the time. I only realised shortly after leaving Savannah for Ireland that I was expecting.
I am now in labour after a difficult pregnancy and nothing is as it should be. Hopefully the doctor will know what to do should he ever get here, but as things stand at the moment, I'm unsure how likely it is that I am going to make it through this. Hence I am writing you this letter.
You must believe that I had every intention of telling you about this child - how could I not when it was the surest way of getting you back. But I wanted you to want me for me, not because of a baby, so I chose not to tell you straight away. A decision you cannot imagine how deeply I regret.
I never dreamt for a moment that you'd actually go ahead and seek the divorce, let alone succeed in having it granted. Or remarry as quickly as you did. When I received your letter informing me of it - well, as you can probably imagine, I was beyond shocked.
I wanted to tell you about the baby, Rhett, you must know that I did, but I was so afraid you would come and take her from me that I couldn't bring myself to do so once I heard of your marriage. I know you'd never leave Anne for me. I think you know it too.
In all honesty, I am still surprised you married her. I never thought you'd marry anyone if you ever found yourself single once more - after all, you always maintained you weren't a marrying man - but you did and there is nothing I can do about that. She reminded me so of Melly, and I imagine you as well, that I suppose I can understand your reasoning. You did the honourable thing for once, and believe me when I tell you that the irony is not lost on me.
I often wonder, Rhett, does Anne make you happy? I truly hope she does.
Is she expecting as well? The thought of you being with someone else, of her carrying your baby, tears at my heart and so I try, and for the most part succeed in not thinking about it.
Mrs Fitzpatrick, my housekeeper and a woman who has been a good friend to me, is keeping me company as I pen this letter, although I haven't told her to whom it is that I write. The details of our delicate situation are not known to the people of my town. Once I discovered I was having a baby without a husband, I told everyone I was a widow. Which, strictly speaking, is not an untruth. I just neglected to mention I am also divorced.
If I'm rambling Rhett, it's because I'm afraid and writing helps me pass the time. I just hope this makes sense to you should you ever have to read it. I can only hope you won't.
I pray to God our baby survives this even if I don't, and I know you will be every bit the wonderful father that you were to Bonnie this time around as well.
Please tell our daughter - I can't believe it won't be a girl, but of course I may be proved wrong - the good things about our life together. I don't expect you to conceal the bad, Rhett, but she must know that I loved you with everything I had in me, even if I realised it only when it was too late for us. Please believe that.
I have loved her so very much these nine months we spent together. More than I ever thought I could love anyone. That's another irony, my finally realising what it is to love a child when it is too late. It makes me so sad, not only for myself, but for my other children as well. I can only hope that I will have the opportunity to make it up to Wade and Ella. Bonnie will never know.
Thank you for loving her as much as you did.
This baby's the only thing I've had to hold onto that's allowed me to live with the hurt of losing you, and I love her all the more for affording me that luxury.
I will ask my cousin Colum O'Hara to deliver this letter to you personally. It is not after all the sort of correspondence you would expect to find in your mail box. He is a priest and a good man, and someone in whom I have confided, in some detail, the story of our marriage.
Colum will offer you any support you may need. He has been my rock these last few months. What I would have done without him I cannot begin to imagine.
I believe you still care about me, Rhett, despite all that transpired between us. I just hope you forgive me for the way things have turned out between us and the part I played in the disaster that was our marriage. I pray that you have found happiness, and some peace, in your life with Anne. I dare say she makes you a better wife than I ever did.
Love our baby with everything you have in you. I know you will, just as I would have done had I had the chance. I hope you can believe that because it is the truth. I have no reason to lie to you now.
I hope this letter never sees the light of day, but I fear that will be unlikely. Please take care of yourself, my darling. I wish you the very best of everything in your life.
With all my love
Satisfied, Scarlett took the envelope that Rosaleen offered her and managed to scrawl down Eleanor Butler's Battery address. She felt so weak now she just hoped the postman would be able to make out her direction. Her penmanship, of which she had always been proud, had degenerated into a messy scrawl by the end of the letter and she could only hope its contents wasn't garbled nonsense as well.
Then she carefully folded the letter and slid in into the envelope with a sense of great relief. If necessary, Rhett would know how she felt, know how much she loved him and their baby.
She prayed it wouldn't be.
"Put that somewhere for me would you please, Mrs Fitz."
Rosaleen took the letter from her and put it down on the kitchen shelf as the door opened admitting Colum amidst a gust of wind and rain.
"Oh Colum, thank god," cried Mrs Fitz, rushing towards him and struggling to help remove his drenched coat.
"She's kept busy writing a letter, but she's becoming weaker by the minute," she whispered urgently. "The bleeding is less, but she needs to get this baby born now. Where in heaven's name is the doctor?"
He held her gaze for a moment, but said nothing. Then he patted her arm in what he hoped was a reassuring manner, trying to ease the lines of worry etched on her face, and turned to face his cousin. He smiled at her and took her small, cold hand in his, rubbing his thumb gently over the knuckles.
"Scarlett darling, the river's flooded the road to Trim," Colum told her quietly. "The doctor can't come."
Rosaleen's hand went to her mouth as she let out a quiet gasp. Scarlett's pale face lost the hope it had held at seeing her cousin return, fear now plainly evident in her eyes.
"Oh, Colum, but… " she trailed off meekly and lowered her lashes to hide the tears pricking her eyes.
"Don't you fret now, aroon. I've managed to find a midwife in Dunshaughlin. She'll be here any minute, her horse just wasn't as fast as mine. She knows everything there is to know about bringing babies. She'll do just as grand a job as any doctor could." He addressed Scarlett with an false enthusiasm he hoped would mask the alarm he had felt at the sight of the blood-soaked towels that were lying in the sink.
He squeezed her hand reassuringly. "She'll take good care of you."
Well, do I continue? I have a couple more chapters mostly done, so please tell me what you think. J