Overheard

Part 1

A/N 1: I am deeply sorry to disappoint my HP readers but this is a Gone with the Wind fanfic. I promise that I work on HP pieces too.

A/N 2: GWTW belongs to Margaret Mitchell and her heirs. This piece is a fanfiction contribution to honor the great characters of her creation, not taking in account any of the sequels (I don't find Scarlett accurate and have not yet had the chance to look at the others). The story plays after Bonnie's death (early summer 1873 by my estimation) but before Melanie taking ill and dying (most likely middle of autumn 1873). I work with the book universe, so Wade Hampton and Ella Lorena are present and shall play a major role here.

I am not a native speaker of English. If there is a native GWTW fan willing to beta read this piece, please, let me know.

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Atlanta, late summer 1873

Ella Lorena Kennedy was waiting for her mother and brother Wade in front of the tailor's shop, watching the workers place the iron rails for horse-drawn trolleys called tramways in London and horsecars in New York as Uncle Rhett had once told her and Wade. She was actually supposed to wait inside of the shop but the small girl found the tailor's shop boring when the clothes made were not meant for her or her mother. Mother's dresses especially could be very exciting and Ella was looking forward to the time when she would be old enough to wear clothes like that. For the moment, mother wore black, black and black again and Ella found that boring too and was not particularly happy that her own clothes were now white or gray with black trimming.

All could have been so very different if only Bonnie hadn't jumped. But she had, died and was buried next to Ella's father at the Oakland cemetery and Ella and her mother had to wear all those terrible clothes. Even Ella's hat had black ribbons – and there she so very much longed for green or pink ones that she found much prettier!

It was Bonnie's fault that she couldn't have them. Bonnie had also made Uncle Rhett like her better than Ella and buy her so much nicer things! Ella was envious of her little sister, thinking that she was as good as Bonnie – perhaps only less brave. But she couldn't very well help it that she feared horses, could she? They were so huge and had so big teeth! But maybe if she would try and befriend one, Uncle Rhett would like her as he liked Bonnie and would come home more often? Ella missed her stepfather dreadfully and was willing to try anything to get him back home.

Yes, she decided finally, she would caress the horse that was bound in front of the neighbor store. She would prove to everyone that she was brave enough! Ella slowly walked towards the horse, her arm outstretched and her eyes wide with fear. Finally, she stood in front of the huge animal and tentatively petted it. The horse observed her calmly as if nothing could disturb it and Ella widely smiled. She had done it! She reached with her hand up once more to assure herself that it wasn't just an accident and touched the horse's nose. Again the horse just patiently looked at her and she happily clapped her hands just in front of the horse's nose.

It is hard to say if that low sound disturbed the horse. More probably, the animal reacted to the much louder sound of falling metal behind its back when one of the workers stumbled beneath the weight of a newly delivered rail. Be it as may, the horse whinned, tried to rear and his nose first hit shocked Ella's arm and then the horse bit her. Ella finally managed to jump back and with loud, heartbreaking cry ran back to the tailor's shop.

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Scarlett knew she wasn't the best of mothers, but she did care for her children no matter what Rhett ever had to say about her parenting skills. She had loved little Bonnie and deeply mourned her loss and she had really wanted the baby she had miscarried those two sad years ago. Now, Bonnie was dead too, the four-year-old little body buried close to Charles's and Frank's graves at Atlanta's Oakland cemetery to remind Scarlett even more of the many faults and misfortunes of her life. Her third husband was ruining himself in front of her eyes meanwhile and she absolutely didn't know what to do to stop him.

Doctor Mead's advice to give him another child to pull him out of his misery was all nice and good – but no matter how much Scarlett was willing to comply with that idea, Rhett clearly wasn't at all interested in such help from her side. The only effect of her bedroom's door being now invitingly open all nights long was – by the infrequent occasion of Rhett spending his night at home – Scarlett's ability to hear him coming home, more often than not supported by Pork's massive body and always drunken. She didn't need to see the once proud Rhett like that – the mere hearing was enough to nearly break her already crushed heart.

If she would think it might help, Scarlett was willing to apologize for all the rash words she had said to Rhett after Bonnie's death. But the few times her eyes met Rhett's blank dark gaze in the shadowed corridors of their monstrous house, the luxurious Swiss chalet that was supposed to make the whole Atlanta envious of her fortune!, made Scarlett understand that Rhett wasn't interested in her apologies any more than in her bed. As things stood, her husband wasn't probably interested in anyone's bed, not even Belle's, his apathy all consuming. But that didn't stop Scarlett to feel jealous of the brothel owner on occasion, especially when she spotted Watling in her store, eying Scarlett with unwanted compassion.

After Bonnie's death, Rhett stopped to care not only for his reputation and Scarlett, but he also seemed to forget about Wade and Ella, a fact that made the two children feel very uncomfortable. Once Mammy had left for Tara, their strict mother and kind-hearted but eternally busy Aunt Melanie were the only close people remaining in their lives. Grief-stricken Scarlett, dreadfully missing her two more beloved children, for once noticed their despair and decided to make one more effort to get closer with them.

Therefore, it was Scarlett who accompanied Wade and Ella to the town in the late August 1873 to get Wade new clothes for the upcoming school year and not their stepfather or one of the darkies belonging to the family as the people would have expected. It was hence also Scarlett who heard the despaired cry of Ella's when the horse the stupid girl had attempted to pet in front of the tailor's shop bit her and Scarlett again who as first saw the suddenly bloodied arm of her remaining daughter. Not thinking that she particularly cared for Frank's daughter until that moment, Scarlett felt her heart stopping at the sight and rushing to Ella, she found herself whispering comforting words of love and care to her girl.

Several members of the Old Guard that happened to wander around at that moment couldn't quite believe their eyes, seeing the proud Scarlett Butler kneeling in the dirt of the tailor's porch and tending to her injured, sniveling daughter. Even less of them were sure that they really saw the uncaring woman tenderly gathering Ella in her arms and carrying her in the direction of Doctor Meade's office, instead of first finding the owner of the horse and telling him off in front of everyone and asking for financial compensation as they had half-expected. No, this unknown Scarlett Butler only turned her head to see if Wade Hampton followed and continued to whisper to Ella that everything would be alright.

The scene shocked the present honorable inhabitants of Atlanta so much that they rather unhonorably forgot to offer the young mother help with carrying her injured child. But Scarlett might have declined their help anyway – for the first time ever really caring for the ginger-haired girl in her arms and not quite willing to be robbed of the sudden closeness to her child.

Truth be told, Scarlett didn't even see the people around her, neither the honorable Old Guard members, nor the new people of Atlanta – and she really didn't notice a red-haired someone on the opposite side of the street. Belle Watling on the other hand saw her and all the happening quite clearly and opted to tell the whiskey-intoxicated Rhett what had happened as soon as she would get back to her place - or Rhett would be sober enough to understand her.

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Doctor Meade's office occupied the front room of the first floor in the Meades' house, the windows of the office facing the hot and busy street. Thankfully, the adjoined waiting room, where Scarlett took seat with frightened, still slightly bleeding Ella on her lap and nervous Wade on her side several minutes after the tailor's shop incident, had two windows that led into the shadowed garden, ajar behind the long curtains so that the room remained comfortably cool and airy even in the summer heats.

Betsy, the Meade family's black maid Scarlett had known since she had moved to Atlanta during the war and who had once taken care of small Darcy and Phil Meades, let them in and announced that the doctor was having tea with his wife in the garden but she would summon him for Scarlett immediately, despite the doctor had a free afternoon that day.

While the elderly maid slowly walked to fetch the doctor, Scarlett leaned back in her chair and gritting her teeth together, she forced herself not to cry behind the woman to move faster. No shouts had ever worked with Mammy and Scarlett very much doubted that she would have more luck with Betsy faithfully working for the Meades since long before the war. No, one was to preferably remain on good terms with the old servants of the traditional families if they ruled the house with an iron fist as Mammy or Dilcey did.

When Scarlett pursed her lips together in a badly hidden frown and forced her suddenly rigid body deeper in the uncomfortable chair in an attempt to stay calm, her surprisingly stern expression unintentionally made her children believe that she was angry with them. Ella bit her own lips to stop her tears and Wade's eyes wandered all over the waiting room just not to meet his mother's surely mad gaze. The boy had teased his little sister over her fear of horses a couple of times and now thought that mother surely knew and blamed him.

The abruptly silenced room made Scarlett conscious of distant sounds of silverware and china clinking and a quiet conversation deep in the Meades' garden. Mrs. Meade was apparently listing names of helpers for one or another social function of one of the Old Guard's associations and judging by the occasional scratching sound that accompanied her soft words, she was simultaneously writing down the names or making notes. Scarlett recognized all the names despite the distance but she really started to listen only when Mrs. Meade mentioned Melanie.

"Melly Wilkes will certainly be a darling and shall appoint it with the Lady Harpists to play for us by the occasion," Mrs. Meade said satisfied and Scarlett thought to hear the quill being inked again.

Mrs. Meade was likely about to note Melanie's name when the doctor interrupted her. "Mrs. Meade, don't count on Miss Melanie attending any of the functions in the upcoming months."

"Why ever would Melly not attend, Doctor? She doesn't miss any of our little events, unless Ashley, Pittypat or Scarlett are ill. They are all alright, aren't they? Captain Butler is certainly broken by the loss of the little girl but Scarlett seems to have gotten over the death of that small darling rather fast." Scarlett frowned upon hearing these words but since Mrs. Meade didn't go on in that direction, she forced her annoyance aside.

She wanted to know what was wrong with Melly and Mrs. Meade was likely to pull the information out of her husband much faster than Scarlett could ever dream about, even if she would do the impossible and ask the doctor about a conversation she had overheard. Ellen would surely roll in her grave if her daughter crossed even that line. Thankfully, Mrs. Meade continued with her inquiry. "And Ashley and Pittypat are just how they always are – I spoke with them both at the concert on Saturday. India is thankfully visiting Honey, so Pittypat could join Melly for a change."

"And have you also noticed Miss Melanie's and Ashley's looks, Mrs. Meade? She looks positively happy and he very much ashamed these days and I sadly know only one reason why they would look like that."

"Doctor?" Mrs. Meade asked curiously and Scarlett couldn't help it but secretly thank the other woman for the question. She really wanted to know the answer herself.

"I think Miss Melanie is with child, Mrs. Meade," doctor Meade said, his voice suddenly sad. "And as much as it pains me, since I like the girl very much, the baby is likely to seriously harm if not kill her. But, Mrs. Meade, you are to keep this secret..."

Before the doctor could finish, old Betsy finally reached the elderly couple and asked the doctor to come to the house and see the injured little patient. The doctor excused himself by his wife and hurried to the house, giving Scarlett just a few moments to compose herself.

Ellen had taught her daughter that listening in on others' conversations was very rude and if one unintentionally happened to hear something not meant for his ears, he had to pretend that it had never occurred. But Scarlett's mother never mentioned how difficult this pretense might be when one had overheard something as serious as Scarlett just had. Good Lord, if it was true and Melly was with child what Scarlett was to do? Both old doctor Fontaine and doctor Meade were certain that another baby would kill Melanie – and Scarlett suddenly knew that she didn't want Melly to die. How could Ashley touch her if he knew what would happen? How could Ashley do it to her, Scarlett, when she didn't have anyone else in the world?

Before Scarlett could ponder more on the problem, the old doctor appeared in the room, interrupting her musings. "Scarlett," he greeted politely, no matter what he really thought about her and bowed to the girl on her lap, "and Ella Lorena. Betsy tells me that the ugly horse bit you. Will you come with me now so that I can have a look at the wound, my dear?"

The girl on Scarlett's lap nodded at the kind words of the old doctor and let Scarlett help her up while the doctor opened the door to his office. Commanding Wade to wait for them, Scarlett led her daughter behind doctor Meade.

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A/N: The construction of tram line in Atlanta in 1870s is mentioned here (remove the spaces):

http: // roadsidegeorgia . com / city / atlanta03 . html.

To find out more on 19th century Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery visit

http: // www . oaklandcemetery . com / history . html.

A gallery of photos of 19th century mourning clothes with a few pics of dresses for small girls like Ella (I thank to PrincessAlica for her helpful hint) is here:

http: // 19thcenturyartofmourning. com / 19th_century_mourning_clothing. htm.