The pain tore at her, twisting and gnawing at her body. It seared and skewered her. How could any one survive this sort of torture? How could she? The tearing ratcheted deeper and deeper. Something was coming undone. Lightness was being pressed up against the heaviness.
Should she call out someone's name? The one she wanted wouldn't come. He didn't care. But Melly did. Melly loved her. Melly would save her.
"Melly," she cried, faint and ethereal. "Melly."
Her plea echoed in the vastness of her mind. It echoed in the empty room. The pain pinched down harder. It dug into her bones and unscrewed her soul from her limbs. A painless rip as the fatal rupture was made. All became light and air.
Scarlett's eyes snapped open. She bolted up, amazed at how weightless she felt. She raised her hand. It floated as dry leaves on the wind. Her wondering gaze wandered all around the room, fetid from illness. Dirty towels and dark containers lined the dressers and walls. The medicinal detritus reminded her of the war hospital, a home for the barely living and already dead.
Fresh air! Oh how she craved it. She threw off the covers and rose. Her feet glided across the floor. An eerie silence coated the house. The soft scratch-scratch of her dried heels against the planked wood was the only sound. She reached the window but before drawing back the curtains, happened to look behind her.
And that's when she saw it. Her body.
She blinked and was swept back to the bed, staring directly down at her face. Dark lashes, pale skin and pointed chin. Purple shadows blotted the under of her eyes. A white film overlaid her lips. Her mind rocked. Her vision swelled.
Dead? She couldn't be dead! Where was Doctor Meade? Where was Mammy? Melly? Rhett? Where was her husband as her body decayed?
Another noise snaked into her ears. A low moan that curled her toes. She followed the serpentine sound. It distracted her from everything, even her own mortality. She slipped out into the hall and the cry carried her to Rhett's door. What she saw shocked her more than the sight of her corpse.
In the shadows of his room, Rhett bawled on the floor. But he was not alone. Melanie, meek Melly, cradled his contorted face and soothed his sobs. His hands clawed into her skirts. Her hands caressed his shoulders.
Scarlett didn't know if she should feel outraged or insane. What would the old cats say about this embrace? Would they turn on their favored child? Would they shun her as they had shunned Scarlett?
Jealousy, possessiveness, drove her into the room. Her wild approach went unnoticed. Powerless she peered at them in angry bewilderment, unable to do anything but seethe and stare. Yet as the words rushing out of Rhett's mouth at last took shape, her expression changed.
"And I didn't know about this baby till the other day—when she fell. She didn't know where I was to write to me and tell me—but she wouldn't have written me if she had known. I tell you—I tell you I'd have come straight home—if I'd only known—whether she wanted me home or not…"
On and on her husband's confessions came, drunken and crazy babblings, barely comprehensible. She'd never heard Rhett's voice so thick with honesty. She'd never seen him so bare. He would have been less exposed if he had been discovered naked. And just as she always felt when seeing him nude, part of her was repulsed by the vulnerability and part of her enticed by it.
Her gaze clouded with the warring emotions, lightning and thunder clashing together in a green sky. Weakness made her uncomfortable; pity disgusted her. But as Rhett continued to reveal his soul, something shifted inside her, something more elemental than mere annoyances. Unawares she drifted closer to his crumpled body and knelt beside him. Suddenly she longed to touch him. His cracked lips were so near. What would it be to kiss him without him knowing? She leaned in as Rhett's mouth stilled.
"There! There!" Melanie crooned, interrupting the attempt. Scarlett glared up at her. Fatigue bleached the heart-shaped face, just as embarrassment colored it. "Hush, now. I understand."
"No you don't!" exclaimed Scarlett. "How can you? You shouldn't even be here!"
Rhett's own violent cry drowned out her soundless shout. He raised his head and threw off Melanie's hands. Electricity jolted through Scarlett at the passion in Rhett's bloodshot eyes, the ferocity in his gruff voice. Why had she never seen him like this? Why had he never shown her? But immediately she knew he had—once—in that nightmare of a night. That nightmare that had somehow, for the briefest of moments, flashed into a dream. That nightmare that would now end as it had began, with her alone and in the dark.
The inexplicable brightness pummeling out from her core and speeding through her phantom limbs abruptly halted. All of a sudden she felt the chill of death on her skin. She looked down at her translucent hands. Did she even have skin? From far away she heard Rhett talking, his words wilting against the coldness of her consciousness.
"Do you know why I did it? I was mad, crazy with jealousy. She never cared for me and I thought I could make her care. But she never cared. She doesn't love me. She never has. She loves—"
His words boomed in her ears and she jumped up.
"No!" she yelled. "No!"
She shot her wide-eyes back and forth between the two—Melanie's luminous, strained face and Rhett's deranged, sodden one. And with a shattering force she knew. The truth slammed into her and knocked her back down onto her knees.
"You," she whispered, opening her palms to him. "I love you."
But Rhett couldn't hear her. Her hands fell limp against the carpet. Would he even believe her if he could? What she wouldn't give for the chance to make him believe!
Rhett sighed, his voice tumbling back into a mumble and his head dropping back into Melanie's lap. As if her husband had sensed her unheard question, he finished his ramble by asking, "You wouldn't believe me, would you?"
"No, I wouldn't believe you," Melanie replied, beginning to stroke his hair again. "She's going to get well. There, Captain Butler! Don't cry! She's going to get well."
The conviction in Melly's assurance drenched Scarlett in despair. Horrified she again looked down at her hands. These vapory fingers were not hers! These ghostly arms could not be the arms of the vivacious, youthful Scarlett O'Hara. No! This couldn't be happening. This couldn't be real. This wasn't how it was supposed to end. This wasn't how she was supposed to end. She was supposed to get well. Melly had just said she was supposed to get well!
A new heaviness started to constrict her, wrapping around her chest with metallic strength. It drained her of the little life left in her soul. Her body began to vanish in the air as mist into water. Desperate she lunged at Rhett. She must try to reach him. The steely cord kept tugging at her, yanking her away from life, from love, from him, but she resisted. The cord tightened. In one last effort, she pushed herself forward and with parted lips and eyes closed kissed his wet cheek.
The moment her mouth brushed against his skin she experienced a new, but familiar kind of pain. It was the feverish ache that spiraled all over her body. It ripped at her as it spun. Leaving her nauseated and on fire. Was she in hell? Would this be her only reality? Dead and still unable to see the baby she had died for? Unable to ever again see its father?
"Rhett!" she screamed over and over. "Rhett!"
Time did not matter here. Nothing did. Only pain. The coil ground into her belly but it was her heart that truly hurt. No matter how loudly she called for him, no matter how many times, he would not come. He was lost to her. She was lost.
And then out of the inferno, a cool, calloused hand touched her forehead.
"Shhh, Scarlett," Rhett said. "I'm here."
Struggling she opened her eyes. His face was unshaven and his eyes were rimmed in red. But despite his dishevelment, there was something unmistakably serene about his expression.
"Good evening, Mrs. Butler," he drawled, a subtle slur to his accent. "You called for me?"
His hand still lingered on her brow and he circled his thumb over her skin. Instinctively she reached up and weakly grabbed his wrist. His rapid pulse thrummed against her warm clasp. And closing her eyes again, she exhaled.
Disclaimer-I don't own anything to do with GWTW. If I did then maybe I wouldn't be addicted. Then again, maybe I would. Owners of vineyards can still be drunks. Right?
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