Yes I know this has been a ridiculously long time coming, but forgive me! I had some serious writers block and wasn't really sure where I was going with it. Now I think I have a better idea! So here's chapter 5!
Slowly her eyes fluttered open, her bristly black lashes startling against pale skin. A moment of panic seized her before she recognized her room. Her tired eyes focused on the tiny body curled beside her on the bed. A rare maternal smile graced her face as she softly stroked her daughter's cheek. The little girl yawned widely and her big green eyes opened to meet her mother's.
"Hullo," Amy yawned again and snuggled into her mother's embrace.
"Hello baby," Scarlett's eyes left her daughter's face and landed on the bedside clock. "You have to get up, its time for supper."
"Tired," Amy mumbled.
"I know, but you have to eat," A sudden rumbling in her stomach added that Amy wasn't the only one in need of sustenance. She smiled and climbed off the large bed.
Amy sat up and yawned yet again before reaching out for her mother. "Carry," She demanded.
Scarlett smiled slightly and nodded. "Alright, but you have to get dressed first," She looked down at herself with a start, realizing she was also somehow in her nightdress. "Hmm, so do I it appears," She reached out a hand to her toddler child and held her off the bed. She went to the door and called softly for Mammy. A few moments later the lumbering old servant appeared, watching Scarlett with sympathetic eyes. Scarlett refused the sympathy and snapped at the old woman to help her dress. She pushed all thoughts of Stu out of her mind. If she thought of it, it would drive her mad.
As soon as she was dressed, Scarlett met her family in the dining room. Carreen wasn't there, but that was to be expected. Scarlett assumed she was at Fairhill, sharing her grief with the Tarletons. Again, Scarlett pushed such thoughts from her mind. She smiled as cheerily as she could at her family before taking her seat.
"Scarlett, dear, how are you?" Ellen asked gently, touching her eldest daughter's hand softly.
Scarlett forced a smile. "I'm alright Mother," she replied. "You needn't worry."
"Now...Katie, I...wanted to tell you..." Gerald paused and tried to gather his thoughts. Conversations of this sort were not his forte.
"It's alright Pa," Scarlett patted his hand. "I know what you're trying to say. But I'm fine, really." Her smile remained in place, but she didn't meet anyone's eyes.
Suellen glared at her. She had been sympathetic when Scarlett came home, looking as if she'd had her heart ripped out, but now she was showing her true colors. She hadn't loved Stu when she married him, and apparently she hadn't loved him when he died. Why Scarlett was the favored daughter she would never understand.
Scarlett was well aware of the looks she was receiving from her sister, but decided to ignore them rather than start a fight. She smiled across the table at her little daughter and was pleased to note that for once Prissy seemed able to take care of the rather stubborn child.
Ellen reached for her daughter's hand and squeezed it gently. "You will be alright," She said firmly. "You're very strong my dear."
Scarlett smiled at her mother. "Thank you Mother," she replied quietly. No matter what happened to the rest of the world, Ellen would be able to soften the pain with just a few words in her gentle voice.
"Yes, nothing ever bothers Scarlett for long," Suellen said cattily. "She'll probably be looking for another husband soon enough."
"Suellen!" Ellen rebuked; startled to hear such animosity from one of her children. "How unkind of you. Your sisters have suffered a great loss."
Suellen glared blackly at her elder sister but managed to mutter an insincere apology.
"I'm not so very hungry Mother," Scarlett said suddenly, a lump forming in her throat. "I'll be in my room. Goodnight Mother, Pa. Sue," The last was said with venom as she pushed her chair back from the table. She swept up to her bedroom with as much dignity as she could muster, then dropped the façade and threw herself on the bed, great sobs racking her small body.
The days bled together after that. There was no excitement at Tara. No parties, no dancing, not even any hospital work to end the monotony. Her mother was so busy Scarlett found herself alone with Amy or visiting Fairhill most days. Weeks passed, and soon Scarlett could not even visit Carreen anymore.
November came soon enough, and with it came Melanie Wilkes. Her gentle presence and soft hands were a soothing balm in the last uncomfortable days of Scarlett's confinement. And by the 16th, there were three new additions to the O'Hara/Tarleton family. Carreen's redheaded son Brenton James and Scarlett's tiny blue-eyed, black-haired boy Stuart Matthew were born not fifteen minutes apart, November 16th, 1863.
The next two weeks were spent in hushed silence for both plantations. The loss of either child would kill the mother, and everyone knew it. After the third week, things began to slowly relax around the homes. Scarlett, who had had yet another scandalously easy birth, was up and about mere hours after having her child.
Carreen, on the other hand, was still confined to her bedroom on doctor's orders. Though not ill, she didn't seem to be regaining her strength as she ought. The doctor they'd been forced to seek out from Jonesboro assured them that she would probably recover if her will to live was strong.
It was those words that caused Ellen O'Hara sleepless nights and shared worry with Beatrice Tarleton. For Carreen's will had never been strong in anything but her love for Brent.
However, Scarlett paid little heed to her sister's health. Her world was caught up in the tiny baby residing across the hall, and the little girl that petulantly demanded her attention at every waking moment. And what enjoyment she could not get from Amy and Matthew, she found in Melanie's company. She had within her a store of information about the goings-on of Atlanta, for of course everyone confided in Melanie Wilkes; and she in turn told Scarlett everything she knew, desperately trying to keep her dear friend's spirit up...just in case.
Christmas came and brought furloughs with it, many of the remaining County boys heading home to their families - Ashley included. Scarlett wondered idly what she would feel upon seeing Ashley again, but Scarlett had never been one for abstract thought, and recent events had taught her not to dwell on the 'what ifs' of life. You could never tell when life would come out of nowhere and destroy everything you had built.
The holidays passed with good cheer and happy remembrances - everyone tacitly ignoring the missing members of their circle. The youngest Tarletons were praised sky-high, everyone was sure that Amy would be as beautiful as her mother, and the boys were prophesized as the next Presidents of the Confederacy - or at least the best horsemen in the County. Scarlett smiled at the attention and cried herself to sleep every night, but she always returned to Twelve Oaks - the center of the celebration - with all the charm and cheer she possessed. She would always love her boys, her childhood beaux and lifelong friends. She would never feel the same as she had for Ashley, but…they were still a part of her. They had seen her change through her entire life, and the Fontaine boys had never loved her. Somehow, that made it easier to talk to them now, when so many things had changed.
Then, they were gone again and life had soon returned to its normal pace. Scarlett was restless but had no outlet for her energy. Shortly after the New Year letters from Aunt Pittypat began arriving, begging their return to Atlanta. She was lonely and frightened, and Melanie set her mind to returning - until it was revealed that she was, well, in the family way. The County people would hear nothing of her leaving for Atlanta after that - even Scarlett was perfectly happy leaving Melanie in the country. But Melanie would not be pacified until someone had promised to keep dear Aunt Pitty company - and it was only natural that it be Scarlett to fill the position.
In just a few weeks Scarlett had made her return to Atlanta, only to find she was in a place so different from the one she had left that it was almost unrecognizable. Hundreds of people from the conquered cities had fled to Atlanta, filling each house to the breaking point. Wounded soldiers could no longer be held in the hospital, and had spread so that there more 'hospitals' then there were doctors.
Aunt Pitty's house was occupied by half a dozen others, and had Scarlett not brought her children with her, she would surely have been forced to share her room with one of the refugees. As it was Prissy sleeping in their room, forced to make herself a pallet on the floor beside the baby's cradle.
The hustle and bustle of the city was distracting, and as it had done almost two years earlier, the excitement pushed all thoughts of pain out of Scarlett's mind. She wasn't one to dwell on unhappy thoughts when she could avoid them, and Atlanta was filled with any number of diversions. Of course, she could only really attend the things that were so disgusting or boring she thought she'd go mad from it. She could work in the hospital and tear bandages with the old ladies, but she was barred from the dances and parties - which as the weeks passed were becoming less and less frequent. Scarlett - along with the rest of the city - was very rapidly realizing that Atlanta was no longer a safe place to be. The refugees were beginning to move farther south, taking many Atlanta residents with them.
One of the few citizens who did not seem keen on leaving the city was the ever roguish Rhett Butler. He in fact seemed to get a perverse joy from seeing the city fall.
Scarlett had found herself in his company more often than not in the last days of summer, and not entirely certain of why. He called on her often, knowing somehow whenever she was to be found away from the hospital - which Scarlett often thought of as her personal hell. She tried to be kind to the soldiers, truly she did, but she was not a nurse at heart and couldn't bear the sights or smells of the sickroom. Rhett also knew this, and mocked her often for her misery.
It had occurred to Scarlett that Rhett might love her, but she generally dismissed the idea. Rhett was an enigma, but he was frankly too mean for her to imagine he loved her. She rather believed he found her an amusing joke, a fact that infuriated her on the rare occasions she allowed herself to think it. She hated being the object of ridicule - especially Rhett's. He had a distinct ability to make her feel a fool whenever he was in her presence…and he seemed to gain no end of entertainment from the game.
Scarlett wished she could so easily entertain herself in the city that had, for her, quickly lost its sparkle. She found herself longing for Tara, for the letters from her mother which were becoming increasingly rare. When Aunt Pittypat decided to join the refugees heading south, Scarlett's mind was made up. She would leave too – but she was headed north, to Tara.