Hello dear friends!
I can't believe it has been so long! Years!
But as it seems our love for GWTW never stops!
I recently had a very interesting meil-conversation with Magnolia 1717 which made me want to go back and read again this story which had always been one of my favorites. And I found in my laptop one more chapter, the last one which I hadn't published back then. I can't remember why. Anyway, this is it! I hope you enjoy!
As always, the necessary disclaimer! Unfortunately I own nothing! Rhett and Scarlett belong to Mrs Mitchel and her estate!
Here we go
Tomorrow is another day
This was supposed to be a fine peaceful morning at Tara, Scarlett vehemently mused.
But nothing was peaceful about it.
It had been roughly one hour since the moment she sneaked out of her bedroom leaving Rhett behind and everything was going wrong! Terribly wrong!
She just needed to keep some distance in order to think, because as it seemed her mind didn't work when he was around. She needed an inner sanctuary and her children's nursery was the obvious choice. Wrong choice as it proved to be.
Wade and Ella had already waken up and they were taking their breakfast. Scarlett should have known better and anticipate that they would start talking about their stepfather the moment they would lay eyes on her. Uncle Rhett said this, Daddy Rhett brought me that and so on and so forth. His presence in the room was so intense that it was as if he was in the room with them as well. His characteristic aroma of brandy and cigars filed the air from the night before when he came to the room to give the children their gifts and as it was an old ritual in their family to read them their goodnight story. Opened boxes and parcels and ribbons were all over the place. And they all yelled "Rhett" to Scarlett's ears.
Or was everything in her mind, because she couldn't stop thinking of him? Scarlett didn't like that possibility at all and she decided to leave it to think about it tomorrow.
After a short quarrel with Pansy who helped get dressed (corsets should be definitely on today, she decided) because she tightened her strings too hard and she couldn't breathe and after that because the strings were too loose and that didn't flatter her figure at all, and another quarrel with Prissy for the mess in which she found the room and a bit of scolding to her children for making so much noise playing with those things all the time (pointing out Rhett's gifts), - of course this last scolding was followed by many remorse and many I am sorry's and many kisses on her children's foreheads and cheeks which shocked Wade and Ella more than the scolding itself- she fled from the nursery to seek for some peace at the parlor.
She soon realized that her hopes were in vain as she saw Rhett sitting at the porch. Scarlett took a deep breath and approached her husband when she stopped dead in her tracks.
"Good Lord in Heaven!" Scarlett cursed under her breath, "Why are you torturing me? Do I have to pay, today, for all me sins?" she desperately wandered as she took in the scene in front of her.
Because in front of her, sitting casually at Tara's porch, there was Rhett and Ashley, talking or better whispering obviously mindful not to disturb the rest of the household which was still sleeping. For a stranger, who wasn't familiar with the complex web connecting, or better separating the two men there would be anything alarming in the picture. Two old friends, catching up and sharing old memories.
But Scarlett knew better. A lot better! She could see the malicious teasing in Rhett's eyes, under his well-known impenetrable mask. As for Ashley Wilkes, she could practically hear from where she was standing his heart pounding in his chest and she was sure that if he could, he would have already grabbed Melly and Beau and run as far from that man as possible.
Not that Scarlett could find it in her heart to feel sorry for Ashley Wilkes. After all these years of leading her, he deserved all the trouble he could get.
A mischievous smile formed on her lips as she realized that, unlike Ashley, she still had a chance to avoid the awkward situation and she decided to withdraw back to the nursery to wake up her children and re make a much more convenient entrance with them on her side.
She didn't have a chance to make a second step when she heard her husband's leering, too sweet voice. "Good morning, darling" he drawled as he came with large strides towards her, he put his arm possessively around her waist and he dragged her, without loosening his grip, to the veranda next to her former golden knight.
"Good morning Rhett, Ashley welcome," she barely managed to whisper and Ashley after greeting her as formally as possible he turned his attention back to Rhett.
"So this is your first visit to Tara?" he tried to stick to a safe, as he believed, topic of conversation.
Rhett's eyes gleamed and Scarlett could be sure she saw mirth in their depths, but she didn't trust her judgement much when it came to her husband.
"Yes, in fact I hadn't been in Clayton county, since that delightful afternoon at Twelve Oaks," he smiled benignly and so did Ashley while Scarlett prayed that the red clay of Tara would open and swallow her, putting her out of that misery!
But it turned out that not such extreme measures were necessary as she instantly heard an enthusiastic shriek and not long after that he saw Beau running towards his father followed by Melly. For the first time in history, Scarlett was grateful that Ashley had a wife and a son!
Soon the whole family was up and about, ready to welcome Ashley for his habitual Sunday visit, and Scarlett knew that there was no way to manage to extract Rhett from the children's company and isolate him in order to have that serious conversation that was in the front of her mind the whole morning: What was going to become of them and their marriage.
During breakfast she was sure that her husband's gaze hadn't leave her, not for a minute. It was an old game of them since the first days of their marriage, which Scarlett used to call "the cat in front of the mouse hold glance" when his gaze followed her constantly, always patiently waiting for something without revealing his inner thoughts and feelings. In retrospect, she had realized it was one of his subtle ways to show that he cared, that he was waiting for her to "meet him half way" before admitting that he loved her. Scarlett wished from the bottom of her heart that his feelings would be still the same, despite his declarations of the contrary, a year ago, and she was more than willing to meet him half way or wherever he might wanted her to meet him!
But she was determined to keep her pride for once and act as a proper lady. She sat as far from him as possible, her back straight as her mother had taught her, her chin up much like Gerald's whenever he was provoked, searching for the perfect opportunity to find out what she wanted.
It proved that she didn't need to try any hard, because Wade did the hard job for her. He stormed in the room, followed as always by Beau and Ella and fell in his arms with sincere worship. "Uncle Rhett!" he yelled, "Uncle Will said there is a fair at Rough and Ready next Sunday, can we all go?" he asked and breathlessly waited for his response. Scarlett remembered he had asked her the same thing a few days ago and she had declined. Obviously now her son was hoping for a more positive approach from his stepfather.
She was ready to crush her son's hopes once more when Rhett opened his mouth.
"Of course we can go, son, I must be in Atlanta on Monday for some business appointments but there is enough time for everything,"
Scarlett felt as if all the wind blew off her sails. It was obvious that she had nothing to fight for anymore. Everything was settled by him and he simply didn't care to inform her. His visit to Tara was a brief stop and he would go on with his life without throwing a second glance behind.
She suddenly didn't want to be in the same room with him. She hoped for a gracious exit which would go unnoticed by both her family and her husband, but judging by the staring looks she felt on her back as she stormed out towards the porch she knew she had failed miserably again.
If she hadn't run out so hastily she would have noticed Rhett's painful expression as well as Melly's discreet but considerate glance towards him, urging him to follow his wife and open up to her at last. If she had noticed all these she would be as much relived as Melly was, who as she saw Rhett nodding in agreement and sitting up to search for Scarlett, she sat up too and with a content smile on her face, sure that her beloved sister's in law future was in the best hands possible, gathered the children for another round of their favorite game, took Ashley's hand in hers and left Suellen and Will alone in the parlor to finish their breakfast.
Her steps led her to the oak tree beside Tara's river where she used to welcome her father home when she was a little girl. She would happily give every penny she had gathered all these years for just one more afternoon with Gerald. "What shall I do now Pa?" she wandered. Gerald's speech came in mind. "It doesn't matter who you are going to marry, as long as he is a Southern and thinks the same way as you and one day Tara will be yours…"
Scarlett gasped. Everything went wrong. Rhett was the only man, Southern or not, on the face of the earth that thought as her and she had lost him and Tara wasn't her home anymore. No matter how much she loved it wasn't hers. It was Suellen's home. The most weird thing was that it didn't matter anymore because it was in good hands, Will loved the land like an Irish and he was the best overseer Tara ever had. It was exactly like how she felt about Ashley the night Rhett left. She could let it go at last.
She forlornly realized she didn't have a home anymore. She already knew for a long time that the Peachtree Street didn't mean anything to her. She built it with the misguided notion to make everyone pea green with jealousy and even if it was the place she and Rhett had lived and Bonnie had been born, she was sure it had nothing to do with her family's future.
She wanted more than anything to leave all those disturbing thoughts for tomorrow but even she realized that she couldn't postpone it any longer. "What have I done?" she wandered once more and the worst part was the undeniable fact that there was no one else to accuse for the current mess she and her children were in but herself.
She suddenly heard footsteps approaching her last inner sanctuary and she felt gratitude for the always caring soothing presence of Melly who would ease her fears once more.
Then she felt embarrassed. There was no reason to upset her friend. Unlike her, Melly knew what her next steps were going to be. Ashley was impatiently waiting for her and their son to return to their home at Atlanta and peacefully continue their lives. Scarlett knew that her door would always open for her and her children. She loved her more than any of her sisters, Beau was the brother Wade never had and Ella had a fierce adoration for Melly's boy (and this time the feeling was mutual! An O Hara girl and a Wilkes boy! Who would have thought of that! Scarlett bemused and giggled. She sincerely wished from the bottom of her heart that things would go smoothly for those two). But she also realized that she couldn't keep hiding under Melly's skirts as she did since she married her brother Charles.
Melly and Tara helped her heal her wounds, now it was up to her to stand on her own feet and choose what it was best for her and her children with or without Rhett.
She prepared her most carefree dashing smile to console and disorient her friend. "I am sorry for all the fuse, Melly darling," she started to say as she turned towards the footsteps but she stopped dead in her tracks. Because it wasn't Melly that was approaching but her own husband.
She didn't know what to say now that she had found out that he intended to leave her behind again so she turned her back to him, trying desperately to avoid him for as long as she could. She knew that soon she would have to farewell him again, this time probably forever, since that was what he clearly wanted, and she didn't intent to force him to remain married with her if he didn't want to. She was done with such antics as bonding men with her against their will. She had done it with her two first husbands and Ashley and it didn't go well. She wasn't that woman any more, not that Rhett was the kind of man who would be lured by her Southern Belle's antics in the first place. They knew each other a lot better than that, but it didn't mean that it was going to hurt any less.
Rhett was already standing behind her, but she remained still. That however didn't stop him from coming even closer, wrapping his arms around her waist, hiding his face in her hair, in a beloved intimate gesture he hadn't performed since the first years of their marriage.
"So this is the place you had told me about, where you used to wait for Gerald to return home," she heard his slow drawl whispering in her ear. Her mind flooded with memories of their honeymoon in New Orleans, how blissed and content they were and how everything collapsed only a couple of years later.
"It's such a beautiful place, I can see now why you love this White Elephant so much" he chuckled.
"I wish you had seen it in its prime," Scarlett replied, her pride for her childhood home evident in her voice.
"I wish we had come here earlier," Rhett drawled and she felt her knees bending all over again. If only… she thought once more and she knew that if she wanted to keep any measure of control of the situation and avoid embarrassing herself once more with unrequited love declarations she had to keep things simple and turn the conversation towards a safer topic.
She made a step away from his arms. "Since you are going to Atlanta, I want to ask you a favor" she said with her impeccable business style.
Rhett's interest was picked and he gave her a sardonic smile. "Your faithful servant always at your disposal, my dear Miss O Hara" he bait her with a fake formal bow.
Miss O Hara… Scarlett thought and shivered. She realized it had been more that thirteen years since the last time she referred to herself as miss O Hara, but if she would be divorced by Rhett she couldn't be still Mrs. Butler, could she? Well, she huffed, that wasn't an entirely unpleasant notion about being a divorced woman and she refused to take his bait.
"I would like you to sale the Peachtree street mansion," she snapped, "unless of course you want to keep it, but I can't believe you suddenly changed your mind about our monstrous architectural horror!" She truly hoped that at least he would do this easy for her. She didn't have the strength to return in this house alone, the painful memories were still to raw and she was positive now that she and her children needed a fresh start, a new home, perhaps even in a new city and start a new life from scratch.
"I thought you loved that house" he asked.
"I used to, but too many bad things happened there and I can't," she felt her eyes watering again and she knew she had to stop.
"That's exactly how I feel about it too but I was afraid that you would never comply. I promise to take care of it as soon as possible," he smiled warmly and wrapped his arms around her waist once more. This time she didn't withdrew.
"Thank you," she whispered and after a while of awkward silence she asked, "Are you planning to stay at Atlanta for long?"
"Not too long, only a few days, there are urgent business matters that need attending in Charleston too. After that I don't know, I avoid making long term plans these days" and noticing that Scarlett's face was becoming sadder and sadder he supplemented, "Would you like to come with me, with the children of course."
Scarlett tried to read his face but, once more it was impossible, his well known impenetrable mask was back on. "Do you really mean it?" she asked with a trembling voice, hope warming her heart once more after too long.
"Of course," he said, "Mother would be very happy to see you, she was quite worried about you all this time,"
Scarlett was hearing him anymore. She was furious. Her notorious Irish temper, for which she was well known and which, she now realized was alarmingly missing all those months that Rhett was away, was flooding her once more.
And, Scarlett finally realized, it felt heavenly! It was as if she was alive again after too long. It was as if her eyes were finally opened after too long. Every word he spoke since he arrived at Tara, every move he made proved to her how he was really feeling. Yet, his pride wouldn't let him openly admit it like a normal human being. But she wasn't anywhere near submitting to his irrational wishes, just because he was the love of her life. She had her pride too and she needed him to admit his feelings in broad light, even if it was only going to be for once. They both needed the new life they were going to start to be free from secrets and misunderstandings or their new attempt was going to have the same miserable ending as the old one and she didn't want it to happen ever again.
Her eyes gleamed. She wanted to yell and shout to him and hit him with her fists. "You arrogant cad! You conceited varmint! You can go tell your mother that she is going to be even more worried about me, because I don't want to be anywhere near you if you are to start lying to me again as you always do!" she yelled and pushed him away.
"Come on, now, my pet!" he drawled. "Don't act so indignant. I am offering you what your heart desires, come with me and I promise you won't regret it!" he chuckled.
Now Scarlett was even more furious. She glared at him. "You have told me before that our marriage was going to be fun and I can assure you that I didn't enjoy it at all!" she snapped. "Why can't you ever talk to me like a proper gentleman?"
"I asked you to escort me to my mother's house and you started calling me names! I have to inform you that isn't regarded exactly as a ladylike behavior either. But I have long ago come to the conclusion that you are not a lady as I am not a gentleman, so I am not shocked by your shortcomings my darling." He smiled widely at her. "Yet I didn't expect it would be so difficult for a husband to persuade his wife to follow him for an unknown destination!"
"It wouldn't be that difficult if the husband hadn't left his wife for almost a year!" she snapped without thinking much about it.
Rhett gave her one of his half –smiles. "Point well taken I have to admit my dear. But you must remember I am not so easily abated. How could I persuade you, I wander," he grinned. "How about a more formal proposal? It used to have the desired effect on you!" his smile became wider and he fell on his knees. But Scarlett was furious and tried to escape his hold. Rhett's grasp became stronger.
"I am sorry Scarlett," he said suriously all of sudden. His impenetrable mask was gone . "You know I was never good at revealing my thoughts and feelings, you have every right to call me a coward that was all I had been all my life".
Scarlett put her finger on his lips to make him stop. She could see that he was suffering. Speaking of his feelings was never his strong suit and she really didn't want any more words. He had come back to her and asked her to give their life together another chance. Or, if they wanted to be sincere with themselves, to give their life together the first real chance. She didn't need anything else to follow him until the end of the world. She felt him shivering under her touch and she gave him a dashing smile. She was rewarded with a classic breath taking kiss.
"Let's go home darling," she said. And that wasn't nearly the end….