So, having got slightly stuck on Six Months Later, and worried that I am boring myself as much as my readers, I have taken a little break and written something different. (Chapter 26 of Six Months is coming along and will hopefully be posted in the not too distant future! And I will finish that story too!) "One Night" really is going to be maximum 5 chapters – so much shorter –possibly even only 2 or 3 chapters long.
Looking over the Rhett and Scarlett relationship, there are so many moments when if only something had happened, they might have had their happy ever after. This short story explores what might have happened if Scarlett had awoken just as Rhett was leaving her bedroom after THAT NIGHT.
I have rated it T, as there is maturish content (but nothing too graphic). If people think this should be rated M let me know and I will change it. After this chapter, the content will definitely be T.
Reviews as always are welcome – good and bad. I mean that genuinely.
Apologies for not coming up with a better title. I am pretty rubbish at thinking of decent titles for my stories!
He could only have been asleep for an hour before he awoke. The room was pitch black – as dark as the hair that lay carelessly across his shoulders – and for a moment he was disorientated. Once upon a time, seemingly in another lifetime, he had claimed this room as his own, or theirs, just as he would have claimed the bed that he now lay on as theirs. But now, it was most definitely hers. As it had been for the last two years.
He opened his eyes, taking a moment to adjust to the darkness and when he could finally decipher objects, helped by the full moon in the sky that was casting hazy illumination through the slits in the portieres, he looked across at the sleeping beauty that was lying naked next to him. She had fallen asleep with her body curled towards him and her hand lay possessively across his own hip. Gone was the Delilah of a couple of hours before and in her place, was a young woman, his almost-child bride, looking peaceful and content.
He studied her face for a few minutes and for a moment he kidded himself that the corners of her mouth were slightly upturned – as though in a slight smile. But as he searched harder, he could no longer be certain that she was smiling and if she was, it must have been because she was mocking him.
What the hell had happened last night? What had finally made him snap? Was it because she had finally succeeded in making him the laughing stock of Atlanta? Was it having to watch her in such close proximity to the man she really loved, knowing that if both she and that man were free, she would marry him in an instant? How he had hated that blonde weakling tonight! Hated how that man could barely even look at him, the cuckolded husband, and how that man could scarcely look at his raven haired, green-eyed temptress, the woman he seemed unable to let go of, even though she once again belonged in law to another man – just as she had done so, intermittently, through the last ten years. In another lifetime, he might have been tempted to call him out, challenge him to a duel, or perhaps he might have committed cold blooded murder. But he couldn't make Miss Melly a widow and the pathetic, spineless creature wasn't worth swinging from the neck for.
He had been walking back from the bank when he had bumped into Archie. "Captain Butler, I feel it is my duty to tell you something," the ex-convict had stuttered, gleefully and with malice dancing in his eyes. He had listened to Archie's story – or at least he had pretended to – but as soon as he had heard the words "Mr Wilkes" and "Mrs Butler" he had known what the content of the story would contain and anger had risen inside him. At that point in the day, however, he had had the self-control to say nothing other than to thank Archie for his troubles and move on home.
When he had reached the mansion he had built for his bride, he casually walked past the servants, temporarily silencing their gossiping tongues, up to her lair and found her cowering under sheets and a coverlet. What a white-livered little bitch she was. "Get up," he had demanded, immune to her protestations of innocence. She was going to her lover's birthday party, even if he had to drag her kicking and screaming. He wasn't going to let her ruin the future of his beloved daughter merely because she didn't have the courage to face the music. She pleaded with him, desperately, and for the first time, he had seen real fear and trepidation in her eyes. "You will go, if I have to drag you by the neck," he had shouted.
He had picked out a jade-green watered-silk gown, cut low and with a ridiculous bustle on the back for her to wear - a gown that no self-respecting lady of Atlanta would deem appropriate to wear. Then he had laced her, wishing momentarily that he was tightening the stays around her neck rather than around her torso.
They had ridden in silence to Ivy Street, her hands shaking, his fists balled tightly, and on arriving, had walked up the path to the porch. Together. He remembered how tightly she had clutched his arm, as if she was gaining her strength through him. He had somehow managed to swallow his anger for a couple of hours and had smiled, through clenched teeth, as the various ladies and gentlemen of Atlanta had greeted him and cast his wife a simmering look of contempt. He had never known Scarlett to cling so closely to him or stay by his side all night. There was none of her flirtatious coquette that would normally be present. She barely said a word – even to Miss Melly. He had done all the talking whilst she had only managed to force a vague, lifeless smile from time to time. She had needed him – he knew that. And if it hadn't been for their darling daughter, he would have forced her to face the hungry lions alone and would have revelled in it.
And then, when he had finally had enough of the charade, of the sickly punch that Miss Melly had served, of seeing the full evidence of Miss Melly's blind adoration towards her sister-in-law, he had told his wife they were leaving and, after escorting her out of the little house, had put her in their carriage and sent her home alone, whilst he had walked the mile or so to Belle's – for once not giving a damn who saw him. He had wanted to get drunk, mindlessly drunk so as to obliterate the memory of her, to purge the sight of her in her whorish dress and her scent and those intoxicating eyes that, God help him, he could never help but be bewitched by. And Belle had welcomed him and his distress with open arms and had soothed his furrowed brow as he had railed against the unfairness of his joke of a marriage. She had listened to him choke out his frustration, listened to him rage against his wife's and Wilkes's ignoble behaviour, whilst he drank shot after shot of whisky before she finally pried the bottle and the glass away from him. "Are you on a death wish?" she had asked him. "No, but I wish death," he had replied and from the murderous look on his face when he had relayed the adulterous tale, the whore couldn't quite work out whether he wanted to kill the wife or her lover or both.
After a while, when it became clear to the kind-hearted illiterate that he was not interested in sharing her bed that night, she urged him to go home.
"I'm going to divorce her," he had pronounced, when he had settled into a calmer mien.
"You can't, darlin'", she had responded. "You have your child to think about and besides, I've never heard of someone divorcing someone they still love."
He had looked at her, she who knew him better than anyone, she who he knew would have died for him, who had loved him for years in the same way that he wanted his wife to love him. "You're too wise, sweetheart," he had finally said, as he kissed her on her forehead.
As he had walked towards the door, the town's scarlet woman cried out after him, "She doesn't deserve you as a husband."
"I wasn't cut out to be a husband," he had retorted, defeated, disillusioned, in limbo.
He had walked back to the monstrous architectural horror that he called hell and she called a home and as he began his ascent up the stairs, the door to the dining room – the store of the Butler liquor – lay temptingly open. Just one more drink, he thought. One more. And then he would go upstairs and lie in a bed next to the bed of his beautiful daughter. At least she has given me something, he thought briefly, before the image of her storming into their bedroom – when it had been their bedroom – threatening to abort his secretly longed for child – came flooding back. Bitch he muttered. She is a first class bitch. He ran his hands through his thick, black hair, feeling utterly impotent. God I hate her, he had said unconvincingly.
He had only been sitting in the dining room for a few minutes before she made her entrance, resplendent in the colour of a wrapper that bore her name. It was obvious she had not expected to see him and it amused him that he had caught her out. "Pray join me, Mrs Butler," he had mocked and then seeing her waver, his anger was stoked once again. There would be no cool indifference tonight. "Come here, damn you," he had shouted. For once, he was going to be in control and he didn't care that there was fear in her demeanour. Good, he thought as he licked his lips malevolently. I've been afraid of you for the last ten years.
He had forced her to sit and listen to his drunken ramblings before his accusations got too much even for her. "You are jealous of something you can't understand. Good night," she had announced but he wasn't through with her yet. He wanted to smash her, hurt her, humble her but God, he wanted her to love him, too.
When she rose from her seat, tossing her ebony tresses in defiance, he let her go and she walked out of the dining room and towards the staircase. But then, for the first time since the night he had abandoned her at Rough and Ready, he slipped. She looked so tauntingly beautiful and she was his wife and he could have her if he really wanted her. He had never before used power on a woman – he had never needed to – they had all willingly fallen into his bed or been paid to. He saw her clothed figure, her wrapper drawn tightly across her body, outlining her curves, her tumbled hair resting past her shoulders that, in a bygone age, he had loved to brush a hundred strokes each night. If he couldn't have her heart, he would claim what was rightfully his and have her body. He wanted her, his wife.
Suddenly, he was beside her. "This is one night when there are only going to be two in my bed," he had said before he forcefully pulled her head towards him, his mouth hovering above hers. She looked frightened. But he didn't care. He pushed his lips to hers and forced her to open them and then he tasted her. He had forgotten what that was like and her taste bolted him into further action. "I want you," he had muttered to himself over and over again, as she tried to force him off her. He swept her off her feet and started up the flight of stairs, crushing her to his chest. He didn't care if he hurt her, he didn't care if she would hate him after tonight. He would have her in his bed, even if she fought him every step of the way. He heard her cry out and then he heard her elicit a muffled moan of terror and hurt before he placed her on the landing and forced his mouth over hers again.
And then, suddenly, her body went limp and instead of pushing him away, she was dragging him closer. He felt her arms go tighter round his neck and when he bent down to kiss her again, her lips were already parted, as though she was waiting, willing. His hands went over her breasts and he tried to undo the clasp at the top of her wrapper before he impatiently tore at it, ripping the fabric and scattering threads and small mother of pearl eyes over the plush crimson floor. He picked her up again and stumbled towards her bedroom door, the room that he had been banished from when she had decided she didn't want any more children and didn't want him sharing her bed, because his coarse ardour was too much for her sensibilities. He opened it with one hand, whilst his other hand was working down over her body, and then he pushed the door wider and entered her sanctuary, before he kicked the door close again.
They were alone, in the privacy of the garish décor. The velvet surround would keep their secrets tonight, he thought, before he placed her against a wall. He stopped kissing her for a moment and allowed his eyes to rake her. He hadn't dared look at her in that way for years, scared that she might read him, scared of what the sight of the contours of her body, her luminous flesh might do to him.
He felt her trembling and he thought he saw her eyes fill with tears. For a moment, he wondered if he had hurt her, physically but then she started helping him remove the heavy wrapper, that hung around her shoulders and trapped her arms and under which was her nightdress. And then she pulled his face to hers again, and kissed him hungrily and just as feverishly as he was kissing her. "God, I want you," he muttered again and again before finally, because he could no longer hold in those three words that he had resolved he would never say until he was sure she would say them back, he whispered into her hair, "I love you." He wanted to shout his love for her out loud but he wasn't prepared to do that. Not yet anyway.
He looked again at her form, shielded by her simple nightdress and as he pressed against her, he suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to touch her flesh – and not through a cotton shield. She had rarely been naked in their love making before – despite sharing his bed for over a year, she had seldom allowed him to remove her nightdress. He had learnt that he could only successfully coerce her to remove all her dress when she had had one too many glasses of champagne or wine. But tonight, he didn't care. It had been so long since he had touched her, let alone seen her unclad, that as the memory of her nakedness coursed through his veins he began to undo the buttons on the front of the gown. When she didn't resist, he lifted it over her head, and she was suddenly standing there, defenceless, quivering, nude. She focussed her green eyes on him, those taunting, emerald eyes of a vixen that had manipulated men all her life. That had manipulated him for nearly ten years. "You too," she had whispered with a subtle nod as he brought his mouth back down on hers. Her hands went to his shirt and started their descent down his body, unbuttoning him, ridding his own chest of any clothing. He pressed hard against her, her body still trapped against the velvet wall, her breasts rubbing against him, and then he released her temporarily and removed the rest of his clothes before he felt her wetness and carried her to the bed, her bruised lips rarely parted from his own.
He had used her body over and over again, not caring if her soft moans were of pleasure or pain until finally, in the earlier hours of the morning, they had both fallen asleep, limbs entwined, sheets tangled, hair mussed.
When he awoke an hour later, he felt panicked. He listened to her soft, regular breathing and determined that she would not be awake for hours.
What had he said? He couldn't quite remember. His head hurt but as his hazy memory became clearer, he remembered telling her he loved her. Not once or twice but repeatedly during the night. In between telling her how much he wanted her, in between kissing her and taking his own pleasure from her. Oh dear God, what the hell had he done?
Had she heard any of his declarations? He was pretty sure he had said them too quietly for her to hear. Had he hurt her? Had she wanted him in her bed last night? Damn, damn, damn. Why couldn't he have just laughed off Archie's tale, as he had the numerous other whisperings that had reached his ears? Why had that particular rumour struck him as truer than any of the others? Why had it goddamn hurt so much?
He looked at her once more, her mouth still slightly upturned and then he gently removed her encroaching hand from his hip and sidled carefully away from her body – away from temptation and further hedonism. If he lay here much longer, he would want to kiss her again, touch her again, wake her up, take her again. He had to get away from her.
He moved the coverlet off his naked body, swung his legs around and got out of the bed. He needed to get out of here, just in case she woke up. Because if she woke up and he was still here she would laugh triumphantly in his face. Hadn't she always wanted him to tell her that he loved her so that she had that over him, so that she held the power in their increasingly warped and dangerous relationship?
He walked quickly over towards the door, where his clothes – intermixed with hers – were strewn all over the floor, and he got down on his hands and knees and blindly felt for his trousers and then his shirt and his undergarments. He pulled his trousers on quickly and as he buttoned them up, another fear flooded through him. Had he forced himself on her? True, he had definitely forced her to kiss him but…had he…God, he should be ashamed of himself. Why had he acted like that? Why? He should have stayed at Belle's last night, let her placate him, used her. But he had wanted his wife. His wife. Scarlett. The love of his life. The only woman he had ever loved.
He put his shirt on and found his fingers trembling. He had to get out. He had to think about what to do – away from here. He would go to Belle's. He could tell her what had happened and she could counsel him. Good old Belle. She was as smart as any woman he had known and constant too.
Suddenly, he had a strong sense that he was being watched. He turned and looked back at the bed. He hadn't been wrong. She was looking at him, her body curled, facing him, in the same position he had left her, her cat's eyes gleaming in the dark. "Rhett," she whispered sleepily. "What are you doing?"
Let me know what you think! I wonder if trying to write two stories actually helps with writer's block. I am hoping it does!