I can only apologise for how long this chapter has taken me to put up! Whilst I may not be able to update as regularly as I'd like, I promise I haven't abandoned this story.
I have taken some phrases, etc from the novel, so if it seems familiar, that is why!
Disclaimer – I do not own anything
Scarlett ran down the garden path and onto the street. Sure enough, she had heard a horse.
"Stop, oh please! Over here!" The rider barely slowed his horse.
"The Yankees are coming ma'am! You'd best get moving" he shouted on his way past her. Scarlett felt her heart beat in fear. The Yankees! She raced into the house.
"Prissy! Start packing the trunk, we're going home." she shouted, seeing the girl standing idly in the doorway.
"Melanie?" she called, taking the stairs two at a time. Bursting into her sister-in-law's room, she saw Melanie's hands fisted in the sheets and her face twisted in pain. Scarlett gaped at her in horror. The baby couldn't be coming now, it just couldn't!
"The…the Yankees are coming" she stammered, pointing aimlessly at the window.
"Oh Scarlett. You'd be home with your mother now if it weren't for me wouldn't you?" Melanie said weakly.
"Don't be silly Melly. The pains, when did they start?" Scarlett asked, wishing that this was a bad dream.
"Just before dawn" Scarlett's heart sank.
"I'll send Prissy for Dr Meade and come and sit with you."
"No, Scarlett, not yet. Dr Meade is so busy at the hospital, I couldn't have him sit here and wait when it could be hours yet" Melanie replied, her brow creasing with pain.
"Fine" Scarlett said, taking a seat next to the bed, "But you must tell me when to send for him."
It was midday. Scarlett sat next to Melanie waving a fan over her, to no avail. There was no respite from the heat and Scarlett could feel sweat soaking through her dress and saturating her hair. Melanie moaned weakly, her eyes half shut.
"Melly? Shall I call for the doctor? It can't be long now surely…" Scarlett trailed off, her mind wandering once again to Tara and her mother. If only Ellen were here now, she'd know exactly what to do, Scarlett thought. When she was in labour with Wade, her mother had been a saintly presence, guiding her through the pain, softly stroking her hair and murmuring words of encouragement. Poor Melly only had her and Prissy. The heat was unbearable and the Yankees were so close now. A new rush of fear jolted Scarlett to her feet.
"I'll go send Prissy for the doctor now. Don't… don't worry Melly. Everything will be ok." She forced a smile at her sister-in-law before hurrying back down the stairs.
"Prissy? Prissy come here!" she called, sweeping into the drawing room.
"What is it Miss Scarlett?"
"You need to fetch Doctor Meade, now." Scarlett said.
"But Miss Scarlett, I is scared of dem Yankees, I don't want to leave this house!" Prissy wailed, from her place next to Wade.
Frowning in annoyance, Scarlett made a quick decision. "Fine then, I'll go, but you have to go sit with Miss Melly. And don't you go upsetting her anyhow!" she said, grabbing her bonnet from and tying it on.
He wasn't at the hospital. There was a boy there, however, who told her that the doctor was down at the railway tracks.
"But he's mighty busy Ma'am!" he called as Scarlett hurried out, barely paying attention to him.
However, once she arrived, her heart sank as she realised that they boy had not been exaggerating. She took a deep breath and carefully picked her way through row after row of wounded men, trying desperately to ignore the hands gripping her skirt and the pleas for water or help. Eventually she found Doctor Meade.
"Doctor Meade, oh Doctor Meade, it's Melanie, she's having her baby and you have to come help!" she cried.
"Help?!" the doctor looked up from the man he was treating. "I can't help you, Scarlett, All these men need my help. I can't leave them."
"But.." Scarlett stammered
"You'll do fine, it's not difficult, bringing a baby into this world" he said gently, and with that, turned back to the man.
Scarlett stood there, frozen to the spot for a moment. He wasn't going to help. There was no one, except her and Prissy. Defeated, Scarlett made her way back to the house. Hanging up her bonnet, she trudged wearily up the stairs. They were just going to have to manage she thought grimly, re-entering Melly's room.
Several hours later, the baby, a boy, had been born and darkness had descended upon Atlanta.
Scarlett was pacing anxiously in the parlour. Surely he would come. She knew he was in town, she had heard from one of the doctors at the hospital that he had been drinking at the Girl of the Period saloon, just last week. He must come, she thought desperately, if not for her, but for Wade. Besides, what sort of man would leave two helpless women, a useless darkie and a two small children, one of which was his son, trapped in a town that was about to be invaded by Yankees. Rhett Butler might be a varmint, but surely not even he could ignore her desperate cry for help.
Then, she heard hoof beats on the street outside. Rushing to the door, she flung it open and saw Rhett striding down the path, followed by Prissy.
"Lovely weather we're having Mrs Hamilton!" he said, grinning. Scarlett could only stand there and gape at him. The Yankees would be here any minute and he was joking about the weather?! Before she could reply, there was a loud blast and Scarlett cried out in fear. Oh couldn't this wretched day just end!
"Oh Rhett, the Yankees!" she cried. He pulled her into his arms and Scarlett leant her head against his chest, glad to have someone to be strong for her.
"That's not the Yankees Scarlett, that's our men blowing up the last of the supplies so the Yankees won't get them. Don't worry." He said soothingly, but Scarlett pulled away in dismay.
"Don't worry? How can I not worry? Melly's just had her baby and she's so weak and I'm scared and everybody's gone and I need to get out of here. I want my mother" she sobbed. "Please Rhett, I need to leave"
"And where do you want to go?"
"Home. To Tara." She said
"Tara?" Rhett said incredulously. "Don't you know there's been fighting all day at Jonesboro? Going to Tara would be suicidal!"
"I will go home, I will, I will." Scarlett sobbed, beating her fists against Rhett's hard chest. "I want my mother and don't you dare try and stop me!"
"Shh, darling, shh." He wrapped his arms around her and Scarlett thought she felt his lips brush the top of her head. "It's alright, you shall go home."
Then he pulled back and took a handkerchief out of his pocket.
"Now, blow you nose like a good girl" he said patiently, as he did when talking to Wade. Scarlett obediently blew her nose and then wiped away her tears.
He looked at her expectantly, as though she he was waiting for her to tell him what to do. Scarlett just stared up at him. Eventually he sighed.
"I've got a cart and horse outside. There won't be much room for anything besides us, but you better have Prissy put a mattress in the bottom of it so Mrs Wilkes will be more comfortable." Scarlett nodded.
"Is Mrs Wilkes upstairs?"
"Yes, come on, I'll show you." She mumbled and started up the stairs, showing Rhett to Melanie's room before going off in search of Prissy and instructing her to put Wade's mattress in the cart.
Grabbing the lamp off the table, she hurried to Melanie's room.
"Melly, Captain Butler's going to take us to Tara" she said, gathering up Melanie's baby in one arm.
"Can you put your arms round my neck Mrs Wilkes?" Rhett said. Melanie tried, but fell down weakly again on her pillow. Scarlett watched as Rhett gently picked her up and tried not to jostle her too much.
"Come on, we haven't got all night" Scarlett muttered and Rhett followed her out of the room and down the stairs. When they got to the hall, Rhett went to lay Melanie in the cart and Scarlett hurried to the parlour.
"Wade! Come here" she cried. The little boy who had been ignored for most of the day scampered from his place on the settee to his mother and clung awkwardly to her skirts, trying to block out the loud explosions.
"Come on Wade, be a little man" Scarlett said, his fear doing nothing to help her own.
Scarlett hurried them through the door and down the path.
She awkwardly laid the baby next to Melanie in the cart and crouched down next to Wade, taking hold of his hands.
"You have to be a big boy Wade and look after Auntie Melly for me. Would you do that?" Scarlett said, forcing her voice to sound as calm as possible.
The little boy nodded.
"Scarlett, is everyone set?" Rhett asked.
"Daddy!" Wade cried and letting go of Scarlett's skirts, throwing himself into Rhett's arms.
"Wade!" Scarlett watched as Rhett hugged the boy close to him, feeling guilty again.
"Momma said that I have to look after Auntie Melly" Wade said.
"You sure do!" Rhett replied. "You have to be very brave." he said, setting his son in the wagon next to Melanie before climbing up onto the bench and holding his hand out to help Scarlett in.
"Oh wait!" Scarlett said, "I forgot to lock the door" she heard Rhett chuckle and grab her arm.
"What are you laughing at?"
"You. Locking the Yankees out!" Then he whipped the horse and they trotted off down the road. For a few moments they rode in silence before a thought suddenly struck Scarlett.
"Rhett?" Scarlett whispered.
"Mmm?" he didn't take his eyes off the street.
"Do you think Prissy and Melly heard what Wade called you?" she glanced nervously back where Prissy had her head buried in her arms, trying to block out the noise and Melly was clutching her baby close to her, grimacing in pain as the cart jolted over the cobbles.
"No, I don't think so"
"What on earth were you thinking telling him you're his father?" Scarlett hissed, her voice hidden from the others by the rickety cart.
"Funnily enough Scarlett, I don't like the idea of my son being brought up as someone else's. I'm his father and I'll be damned if he grows up thinking that I'm no more than just a family friend" he said bitterly. Scarlett was just about to reply with a scathing remark when there was a loud shout from the corner of the street.
"Look! There's a horse. Get him lads!" Scarlett cried out in fear as the men made a grab at the horse. The next few moments were a blur for Scarlett. She recalled Rhett punching and kicking at the men and a shot being fired before the cart jolted forwards down a side road. Scarlett grabbed Rhett's arm in a death grip as she glanced behind her, noting thankfully that everyone in the cart was alright.
Eventually, they reached the outskirts of the city and joined a crowd of soldiers who were wearily trudging along. Scarlett frowned slightly. Most of them had no shoes and their clothes were ripped and dirty. Somewhere, out there her friends had died. Some of her friends were still fighting. Her mind turned to Ashley, who had been captured and was probably starving and cold and suddenly she felt an overwhelming anger towards the man who sat next to her in his fine clothes and shoes, with not a scratch on his body. She glared up at him, hoping to convey her hatred, all the while knowing that the safe escape of her family depended on him.
However, she was surprised to see him looking, pensive? Strangely, she felt her heart go out to him.
"Oh Rhett, I'm so glad you're not in the army. Now you can be proud that you knew better than all of them." she said. He sighed.
"I'm not so proud." Scarlett waited for him to elaborate but he didn't. His eyes never left the road and Scarlett got the impression that he was thinking hard about something.
At Rough and Ready Rhett pulled the horse to a stop.
"Are you still sure you want to do this crazy thing Scarlett?" he asked.
"Oh Rhett I just know we can get through." She replied. Rhett climbed off the bench.
"Not we my dear, you." Scarlett's eyes widened.
"What do you mean?"
"I'm going to join the army, my dear." Scarlett let out a breath.
"Oh I could kill you for scaring me so."
"I assure you, I'm not joking." Scarlett gaped at him. Indeed, he looked as serious as she'd ever seen him.
"But…but…why?" she stuttered
"Perhaps because there's still some southern quixotism that lingers in me, perhaps" he broke off and raked his hand through his hair. "Perhaps I'm ashamed" he said quietly.
"You should die of shame leaving me here alone and helpless!" Scarlett cried out. Rhett laughed.
"You? Helpless? God help the Yankees if they capture you my dear! Now, come down here, I want to say goodbye." He beckoned to her.
"No." Scarlett said obstinately, thinking childishly, that if he couldn't say goodbye then he couldn't leave. However, Rhett had other plans. He grabbed her round the waist and pulled her off the bench and away from the cart.
"Oh Rhett, you can't leave me, you can't" Scarlett sobbed. "I'll never forgive you!"
"Let me explain, please" he said as they came to a stop a few meters away from the cart.
"Scarlett, look at me" Rhett said, lifting Scarlett's chin up when she refused to meet his eyes.
"I have to do this. Not for the cause, not for me, but for Wade."
"Yes. I don't want him to be ashamed of me. Oh, I'll come out of this war better off than most. I'll have enough money to last a lifetime, but money can't buy me the respect of my son. At the end of the day, I'm an able bodied man between the ages of 16 and 60. One day, he'll ask me what I did for the cause, for the south and I want to be able to look him in the eye and tell him that I did my part" he gripped her shoulders.
"Do you understand?"
Scarlett stared at him.
"You're not very well going to be able to tell Wade what you did if you're lying dead on a battlefield, are you?" she cried.
"But do you understand?" he shook her.
She understood, but she still couldn't comprehend the fact that he was actually leaving them –her. After all, hadn't Wade said that he loved her? She nodded.
"Yes, I understand" she replied. His hands relaxed their grip on her shoulders and slid down her arms, wrapping them around her waist and pulling her close to him.
"Rhett, please don't leave me" Scarlett cried. "I need you" she whispered. She didn't realise the truth of what she said until the words had left her lips, because of course she needed him, after weeks of convincing herself that she hated him, that she never wanted to see him again, she finally admitted that she had been fooling herself.
He was looking at her in that way again, as if he was searching for something in her eyes.
"Dear God" he whispered. "Scarlett…" he leaned down and brushed her forehead with his lips. "I don't expect you to forgive me" he mumbled. "Lord knows I'll never forgive myself for this foolish thing, but in spite of it all, this whole silly world falling to pieces around us, I love you, Scarlett." Scarlett's heart was pounding so loudly that she was sure Rhett could hear it. Was he admitting that he loved her? His lips were warm on her forehead. "I love you" he whispered again.
"I know" she whispered back. She felt him pull back and look at her.
"You know?" His voice slightly incredulous. Scarlett blushed.
"I don't care what you mean" his voice was husky. "Kiss me Scarlett" it was not a request, but a demand. His mouth crashed down on hers before she even had a chance to breath. She struggled against him for a second, frightened by his intensity.
"Rhett, don't it's not -" she mumbled.
"Not what, not proper?" his lips trailed down her neck. "You're sending a solider to his death with beautiful memories, Scarlett. Just kiss me."
And so she did. Her arms wrapped round his neck and melted into him as his lips moved over hers, slowly and languidly, as though he had all night ahead of him.
"Sweet" he murmured. Scarlett felt her knees buckle under her and she would have collapsed if not for Rhett's strong grasp around her, bending her back as he pressed kisses down her neck and down to the top of her breasts. She gasped as his moustache tickled her skin and goose bumps erupted under his touch.
Then, the spell was broken as they heard a cry.
"Momma, Wade scared" Scarlett wrenched herself away from Rhett's arms, breathing heavily.
"Mother's coming" she called, her voice sounded unnaturally shrill and shaky.
"I'll say my goodbyes then" Rhett said, running a hand through his hair and striding over to the cart. Scarlett trailed behind him, dazed and confused.
"How is Mrs Wilkes?" he asked Prissy.
"She done fainted way back yonder sir"
"Probably just as well, she couldn't have stood the pain if she were conscious" he said.
Then he scooped a sleepy and frightened Wade up in his arms and carried him a few feet away from the carriage. Scarlett could tell that he was saying something to the little boy, but she didn't know what and at that moment, she didn't care. All she knew was that he was leaving her. After placing Wade back in the cart, he walked back over to her and stood in front of her.
"Scarlett." He took her hand and kissed it. "Take care, darling." Then, he put his hat on his head, threw his jacket over his shoulder and walked off. Scarlett couldn't breathe. He was truly leaving.
"Rhett?" she called after him. He stopped and turned around.
"If you die…" her voice cracked on the word. Cursing herself inwardly, she swallowed and began again. "If you die I'll hate you forever."
Rhett grinned, his white teeth gleaming in the eerie darkness. It wasn't quite the declaration of love he was hoping for, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.
So this is the end of part one of the story :)
Reviews are always very much appreciated! And sorry once again for the long wait!