Geraldine was just over three months old when Rhett took his first extended trip from Tara. Scarlett wanted to go with him, but he didn't know if it was safe yet for her and the baby to travel. His travels hadn't taken him beyond Atlanta much and he had no idea what lay beyond. He assured her that his next trip he would take them both along. He was only going to be gone over night anyway. The trip to Marietta was about forty miles and though it would have been much easier to have Manigo drop him at the Jonesboro station, Rhett thought that Apollo could use the exercise. Leaving early in the morning, he arrived in Marietta in the afternoon and spent the day with the mill's manager, Nicholas Chandler.
Taking the gentleman up on his offer for a night's dinner and lodging, Rhett found himself spending the evening with the man. It was fine by him and he enjoyed getting to know the man on a more personal basis. He knew that the manager of his mills located further away from Atlanta needed to know that he was actively involved and was prone to visit at any time. As much as he didn't mind getting to know Mr. Chandler, Rhett knew he had to keep his business and personal life separate. And while they discussed things, Rhett was careful to keep details about him to himself. It was well after midnight by the time the two returned to the Chandler home, not realizing that the man's offer to put Rhett up for the night meant displacing his child from her bed. His offers to sleep on the couch or to get a room at a hotel were shot down, so Rhett contented himself with sleeping in the girl's bed.
He spent the following morning having breakfast with Nicholas's wife, Shanna, and their daughter, Florence, who Rhett couldn't help but notice with amusement couldn't take her eyes off him. The girl was about twelve and Rhett was quite sure would be a charming girl when she reached an age her parents deemed appropriate for her to have beaux. After breakfast he stopped at the mill to say good bye to Nicholas and then left for home.
Rhett had no intentions on stopping in Atlanta, but he realized that there was something he had to take care of that he had been putting off for too long. It was after dark when he arrived and he stopped in front of Belle's. He tethered Apollo to a hitching post and brushed off his trousers before entering the bar. He was in no mood to drink really, but decided to get one anyway before seeking Belle out. Taking his drink, he made his way upstairs intent on saying hello to Robert before speaking to Belle. He knocked and heard Belle's voice tell him to come in.
He opened the door with a slight smile, which quickly vanished when he saw that Robert was lying in bed with his pajamas on. Rhett couldn't help but notice the smile the boy offered him when he saw whom it was that had come to see him. The not so happy look that Belle displayed was also more than evident. Rhett cleared his throat slightly shifting his hat from one hand to the other as he addressed the boy. "Are you sick, son?"
"Just a cold, Uncle Rhett. But Mother insists I remain in bed for the rest of the night. We thought you were bringing me my soup." Robert was disappointed when his mother stood, knowing that she was going to be taking Rhett with her. He hadn't seen his uncle Rhett for a long time, though he had received a present for his birthday and Christmas last year. He knew his mother had been worried about him, but she didn't seem to realize that Robert missed him too. Jaclyn came in with his soup and told Belle she'd sit with Robert while they watched his mom and Rhett leave.
Rhett didn't have to see Belle's face to know how angry she was, he could tell by the way she walked. She opened the door to her room. "No, Belle, let's go to your office." He knew she was surprised, but the last thing he needed right now was anyone seeing him leave Belle's quarters.
Belle led Rhett down the stairs to her office wondering how he had the audacity to show his face after the many months he'd been gone. She knew he had gotten out of jail, but after that she had no idea where he had gone. He seemed almost to have disappeared without a trace, and that had worried her. He had to have known that, she realized. He looked good she also realized.
In fact, he looked better than she remembered. He was lean and fit and very tan, almost as if he'd been working out in the sun. She somehow never imagined Rhett working outside for very long, certainly not long enough to get as tan as he was. His clothes were still well made and there seemed to be an air of contentedness about him she had never before observed.
She poured him a drink, pouring herself a taller one and sat in her chair observing that he waited to sit until she had. "I don't even know what to say to you, Rhett. I attempted to see you while you were in jail here and they told me you weren't allowed visitors. And then you just disappeared. What has it been? Six or seven months?"
"I can understand you're upset with me, Belle, but I had my reasons. Things have changed in my life and I wanted to tell you in an appropriate way. Not sitting in some jail cell where anyone could overhear our conversation. And then when I got out of jail, well I have been busy trying to provide for my family." He looked from her to his glass realizing he had somehow managed to keep his left hand from her eyesight until now. He met her questioning look and continued. "I'm married, Belle. Married with a daughter actually."
Belle wanted to laugh thinking it was a joke, but she knew Rhett too well to know that he would never joke about marriage. "Which came first? The wife or the daughter?" She couldn't help but be bitter and feel extremely hurt.
"Belle, really. You know me better than that. I would never marry someone just because they were pregnant."
"No, of course not, you demonstrated that very well when I had Robert." She shot back even though she knew her situation with Robert was different. "So, I assume it's Scarlett? She finally managed to sink her claws so deep into you that you can't get them out. And she's given you a daughter on top of it. I suppose you make quite the picturesque family."
"Belle, if you're going to be angry with me for marrying the girl then I'm going to go. There's no need for you to be upset with me; you're the one who suggested it after all. As far as being a picturesque family goes, no I don't think we fall under that category. We live at her house with her two sisters, the six servants, and the overseer. I've spent the months since being out of jail working my tail off to get crops planted and bringing the house back to some form of livability. I've had help of course, one field hand, one overseer and Mr. Wilkes for a short time while he and his wife and son lived at Tara. It's not been a cakewalk, Belle, by any means. And I can guarantee you I wasn't of the mind to work a plantation for the rest of my life, but if that's what I have to do then so be it. I married her; it's my duty to provide for her sisters since her parents are both dead." He paused as he downed his drink, setting the empty glass on Belle's desk.
"If you're going to be nasty to me, Belle, I'm just going to go. I was trying to be somewhat considerate and choose the situation in which I told you. I've purposely made myself scarce in Atlanta these few months so that you wouldn't hear it through some other means."
"That's just like you, Rhett. Considerate to the end. So now that you have a wife and a child I guess that leaves Robert and me out in the cold."
"Belle, I'll still provide for the boy to the best of my abilities. But you must remember, Belle, I'm supporting him by choice. There is no proof he's mine over countless other men you bedded during that same time. The fact that he looks uncommonly like me as a young lad plays in your favor, but I'm guessing I'm not the only dark haired and dark eyed man that has sought out your services. So unless you'd rather have no help from me at all with him, I suggest you stop throwing that in my face right now. We had an agreement, and I expect you to honor that agreement most especially now that I'm married."
"Yes, I remember full well our agreement. I've never understood it, though. I've never understood why you won't claim him."
He stood, slamming his hand on the desk. "Damn it, Belle, I'm not having this discussion with you. I've told you why. It's bad enough he's going to have to contend with your occupation when he gets older. It would confuse him to no end to continue to see me visit you, and he would wonder why we weren't married. Or he would have hopes that we would one-day end up married. It's for the best, Belle. It's as simple as that. If you don't like it, well then I guess our agreement will come to an end and I won't give you another dime. It's for him, not for you, that I give you anything at all. I have my own family of over a dozen to feed and cloth now. And I certainly have nothing to bring me to Atlanta other than Robert."
Belle couldn't believe what she was hearing. It was true; she had no way of knowing for sure that Robert was Rhett's. But she never saw anyone else in that manner when Rhett was in town. When she found out she was pregnant, she had expressed her displeasure to Rhett. He had talked her out of attempting to rid herself of the pregnancy and she knew he was well aware of the fact that he was under no obligation to her.
He had seen to it that flattering dresses had been made for her when her condition began to show and had hired a servant to help Belle at the bar who was trained as a midwife. He was there when Robert was born, had remained by her side the entire time she was in labor. He had taken care of Robert and had promised to send him to the best schools when he reached the age. Belle couldn't help but realize as her son approached the age of five that he was indeed approaching that age and fast. He was right of course, if she sent him to a local school the children would tease him. "You do what you need to do, Rhett. I won't break our agreement. But it seems to me if you love the girl you'd tell her the truth."
"What truth? That I might have a son by you? That would go over real well, Belle, she's already suspicious enough of you. I don't think I need to be adding fuel to that fire. She'd never trust me to come to Atlanta alone if she knew that the possibility exists that Robert is mine. Perhaps one day I'll tell her, until then he's my ward to her as he is to everyone else." He looked at his pocket watch. "Speaking of which, I need to get myself home. I've been gone since yesterday; it's the first time since June I've been gone for more than a few hours. If it weren't for the competency of the overseer I hired I'd be more than a little worried as to the state of the place when I get home. I hope Robert is feeling better." He stood and left the room not allowing Belle to say anything further.
Belle closed the door to her office after Rhett left, pouring herself another drink. She looked out the small window her office provided and watched as he left. She knew she had planted the idea in Rhett's mind to marry the girl, but she honestly didn't think he'd do it. And now he sat before her a husband and a father, a daughter he had said. Belle mused to herself, wondering what her name was and whether or not he had been disappointed it was a girl. She didn't think so somehow. Rhett didn't strike her as the type to really care about heirs. She had seen him with Robert and a few other children enough to know that Rhett just liked children. After smoothing down her dress and calming herself, she went back upstairs to sit with Robert not knowing whether she should tell him Rhett was married. She decided against it, feeling that was something Rhett should tell the boy if he saw fit.
Rhett arrived at Tara well after dinner and was pleased to see that a dinner plate was waiting for him. He hadn't eaten since breakfast, and he realized he was quite famished. Will joined him at the table telling Rhett what had gone on the two days he was gone, which was little. Rhett genuinely liked Will, having found him to be an honest man who was a diligent worker. And so it was that Rhett found himself listening intently as Will described the contraption he had put together to catch rain water so that Big Sam and himself had the ability to rinse off from the fields before returning to the house. Rhett was impressed with the man's creativity and ambition.
Will had lived on a small plantation not nearly the size of Tara or the other Clayton County plantations, but Rhett knew where Will got his love of the land as well as his desire to work hard. He was not well read or book smart, but what he lacked in education he made up for with life experience. He saved Rhett and Tara money time and time again with his ability to fix things himself, usually finding his efforts rewarded by Rhett giving him extra time off. Rhett seemed to gather that Will enjoyed an extra day off over money.
On Will's time off and with lumber provided to him from Rhett's mills he worked on rebuilding one of the old servants' residences that wasn't burnt quite as badly as the others. He wasn't in too big of a hurry to finish it, but he did want to eventually have a little place to call his own. The O'Hara's and Rhett had been more than kind to him, but he couldn't help but feel a little odd living in the same house as two single girls. Mammy watched him closely, but he had especially felt it with Rhett being gone the past two days. And he realized that now that Scarlett had recovered fully and Geraldine was obviously thriving that business might take Rhett away from Tara more often now.
After Rhett and Will had finished talking, Rhett went upstairs stopping in the nursery before going to his room. Geraldine was sleeping so peacefully, Rhett could have sat and watched her sleep for hours just as he could her mother. He pulled the blanket around her and listened as she made the little cooing sounds babies make when they shift in their sleep. Rhett felt sure that she would be rolling over soon, she was getting over onto her side with more ease every day. He didn't know a whole lot about babies this tiny, but he knew that with rolling over came some form of mobility. And once that happened, look out.
He looked at the ornate crib that she lay sleeping in. It had been Mrs. O'Hara's and all six of the O'Hara children had lain in it at some point. How Mammy managed to save it from being taken from Yankees he had no idea, he never asked and he knew she would never offer the information freely. He kissed the top of Geraldine's head gently, feeling with his hand that the soft spot was growing smaller. He put out the lamp close to her crib knowing Scarlett had left it on for him and went to his room.
He laughed lightly when he opened the door to their room, it was apparent Scarlett had tried to wait up for him. She had fallen asleep while reading in the chair next to the bed he so often sat in during Scarlett's pregnancy or when she was nursing Geraldine. He removed and hung his jacket and cravat before walking towards her and moving to pick her up. He set her on the bed gently, offering her a smile when she stirred. "Good evening, Mrs. Butler. I didn't mean to disturb you. I just thought you might find your bed more comfortable than that old chair. Believe me, it's not as comfortable to sleep in as it might look."
"I didn't mean to fall asleep, but I guess I was tired." She smiled slightly; he looked tired she thought. She was glad Rhett had made it back, when he hadn't been home for dinner she had grown worried that something had happened to him or Apollo. "I'm surprised Manigo isn't here with your bath water, I told him to prepare it when he heard you come in." At that moment a knock on the door came. "Come in," Scarlett called out.
Rhett thanked Manigo for bringing in the bath water, pouring himself a brandy as Manigo left before undressing for his bath. As he got in the tub, he could tell that Scarlett had bathed earlier as the scents of vanilla and lilac still lingered. He had to chuckle at the ease in which Scarlett dealt with him bathing in their room now.
When he had first returned to Tara, she had tried to insist he bathe elsewhere. With the house full of people, including the Wilkes' he had no desire to bathe anywhere but in his quarters. She finally gave in, though taking her leave downstairs while he bathed. After about three weeks, she finally stopped leaving the room and had even a time or two helped him sponge off on days that he had particularly worked hard and had no desire to move any more than was necessary.
Now she didn't even think twice about him bathing in their room he noticed, as was evident in the fact that she asked him questions about his trip almost as casually as if they were sitting at the dinner table. She seemed pleased when Rhett mentioned the next time he planned on going to Marietta, both Scarlett and Geraldine would be accompanying him. Rhett was quite certain Scarlett would get along with Shanna, though he had to wonder what Florence would do if Rhett showed up with Scarlett. Rhett was well aware that the girl had quickly grown enamored with him and wondered if Scarlett would pick up on it as easily as he had.
Rhett finished his bath and after toweling off joined Scarlett in their bed. Though Scarlett still preferred to wear a nightdress to bed, Rhett had stopped wearing his pajamas as soon as it was acceptable for him and Scarlett to resume relations. He had tried to get her to do without a nightdress, but she was still too inhibited to do so.
He laid down next to her watching as she brushed out her hair. Rhett always found it amazing the things he had never once thought about being of interest to him were where Scarlett was concerned. He would never have pictured himself contented to lie in bed and watch a girl brush her hair, but he was. For some reason no matter what Scarlett did it pleased him just to be near her. He mentioned to Scarlett that someone would need to remain at the house this week as he was expecting a package. Knowing Scarlett's curiosity would be piqued, he was confident that she would remain around the house and not go visiting this week. One thing he knew about his wife, she loved surprises.
Scarlett was glad Rhett had made it home, she hadn't slept well the night before without him there. She would never admit it to him or anyone else, but she had grown rather accustomed to having Rhett next to her in bed at night these past five months. Prone to nightmares all of her life, she was plagued by them during the war and shortly afterward. Dreams of her and her family at Tara starving. Dreams of the Yankees coming back to take everything they had worked so hard to have. Dreams of them taking her baby and Rhett coming home not believing that she'd had one.
In all of her dreams something loomed in the background and it was almost more frightening to her than the dreams themselves because whatever it was it was unknown to her. At least she saw the villains in her dreams, but this unknown being was unsettling. With Rhett nearby, the dreams never came.
She was excited he mentioned her and Geraldine accompanying him on his next trip to Marietta. She would love to get away from Tara and out of Atlanta for a while, though leaving Suellen in charge of Tara scared her a little. Rhett hadn't talked about leaving Tara since his return in June, but Scarlett knew full well that he had no intentions of remaining at Tara indefinitely. Especially now that they had Geraldine. It saddened her to no end thinking of Suellen as mistress to Tara. Scarlett knew she had a lot to learn and big shoes to fill to even be half the mistress to Tara her mother was, but she knew she was much better than Suellen ever would be. Why if it had been up to Suellen, they would have starved to death.
Scarlett finished brushing her hair and went to lay next to Rhett, resting her head on his chest as he read to her from a book of poetry that just never sounded as good in her mind as they did when Rhett read them aloud to her. She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she failed to realize when he had stopped reading and was removing her nightdress. "What did you say?"
"I said there really is no reason for you to be wearing nightdresses when we're in bed together."
He shifted himself gently on the bed so that he could remove it the rest of the way before kissing her allowing his hands to gently caress her creamy white skin. He raised an eyebrow surprised at how responsive she was to his kiss. Her lips parted without hesitation and she was returning his kiss inviting him to kiss her more deeply.
"It wasn't quite the same sleeping without you last night." He whispered softly as he kissed her chin, along her jaw and to her ear gently tracing the lobe before kissing her shoulders and neck as his hands continued to caress. He chuckled lightly as she giggled in response to his tickling her.
"This is serious business, no laughing allowed." He felt her running her hands through his hair as he lowered his kisses to her breasts, stomach, and thighs where he remained for some time until he knew she had been satisfied. He rolled onto his back and brought her to him, holding her hips as he guided her to meet him allowing her to lie against him while he assisted her in making love to him. After they were both satisfied he kissed her, his hands lingering at her tiny waist, hips and buttocks not wanting her to move from him. "Thank you for such a nice welcome home, my pet."
Scarlett looked into his eyes, the confusion in hers easily readable. How was it he was able to make her feel so good, his kisses still left her breathless and longing for more? They had never before made love the way they just did and she knew that she should have said no or that she should tell him that they could never do that again, but something inside her told her that it was foolish.
He had said that what they do is of no one else's business and she had to wonder if he wasn't right. She'd be lying if she claimed it hadn't felt good, though she realized he hadn't asked her whether or not it felt good. He must just assume it does, which angered her slightly because that meant he was basing her on his past experiences with women like that Belle.
She wasn't like that type of girl. She bit her lip, realizing that he'd be a fool not to be able to tell she had enjoyed herself. Even she knew it was rather obvious. Her anger dissipating as she tapped his lip with her index finger lightly. She sat up, breathing in sharply as one of his hands moved from her hips to cup one of her breasts. "You, Mr. Butler, are a cad taking advantage of me. What did you do with my nightgown?"
"I'm a cad? What did I do now? You sat up presenting to me a part of your body I happen to be a bit partial to touching, being a nursing mother really does flatter you Scarlett." He played with one of the peaks causing some milk to drop onto his fingertip. His eyes never left hers as he brought his finger to his mouth and licked it with a slight smile. "No wonder Geraldine can't get enough, you taste good." He returned his hand to her breast. "No nightgowns tonight, Scarlett. Wear them around the house, wear them until you get into bed but damn it why do you need to wear one when we're in bed."
"What if Geraldine was to wake and need me during the night, Rhett? What if Mammy was to come in here and see?"
"I'm not suggesting you throw all of your nightgowns away, Scarlett. Obviously keep one by the bed for those instances when Geraldine needs you. And as far as Mammy goes, I doubt she would give it a second thought. We are married. We made a baby together, Scarlett. Obviously we had to take at least some of our clothes off to do that."
"Don't say things like that, Rhett. It's not right."
She sighed; she had no idea why she insisted on wearing a nightgown all the time. She attributed it to feeling safer, afraid if she took it off that Rhett would paw her. But obviously a nightgown wouldn't stop him anyway, and she had to admit she wasn't as put off by Rhett's advances as she originally pictured herself to be. When she had been pregnant she didn't really like him seeing her when she was so big. Though it still made her laugh thinking back to some of the times an innocent touch on her part had aroused him. He had claimed finding her desirable when she was pregnant, and she had no reason to doubt him. She had no doubt that if she had allowed him to, he would have demonstrated his desire of her fully. "I'll work on it, Rhett. I'm just not comfortable, but for tonight I'll leave it off." She moved over to her side of the bed, lying on her side as she faced him. She reached over to kiss him, something she didn't often do and smiled wickedly at the look of questioning he saw in his eyes. She rolled over onto her side, facing away from him. "Good night, skunk."
"I suppose if an insult like that is to be proceeded by a kiss I can live with it." He turned onto his side, placing his arm around her waist as he snuggled up behind her. "Good night, Scarlett."
The next week went by uneventfully. Rhett had sent Manigo to Atlanta to inquire about the shipments he was waiting for and was informed that they had been delayed and should be in the following week. Rhett was disappointed to say the least, but one more week wouldn't hurt anything. He just didn't know how willing Scarlett was going to be to stay at the house for another week. So for the second week as long as someone remained at the house, he was content. Though he had wanted Scarlett to be the one to receive the package. He knew she was curious, but he was adamant in revealing nothing to her.
It was late the following week when Rhett, Will and Big Sam were in the house for the midday meal when Suellen ran in from the front saying there were wagons coming to the house. Scarlett looked from Suellen to Rhett who didn't seem at all surprised with this announcement, especially since Manigo had ridden into town the day prior and learned that the shipment had indeed arrived. "Well, you best go see who's come to see us, Mrs. Butler. I'll be out in a few minutes."
Scarlett went outside with Suellen, Carreen and Mammy and watched as at least two dozen wagons were guided toward Tara. She didn't know what to make of it until the wagons got closer and she realized they contained furniture, many pieces of furniture. She watched in stunned amazement as the wagons stopped and the man apparently in charge ascended the porch steps and asked for her. After identifying herself as Mrs. Butler, the gentleman asked her to check the merchandise before it was unloaded.
The four women followed the man and proceeded to do as they were told, Scarlett glancing up at the porch once to catch Rhett watching her. She had no idea what to say to him, so she smiled and returned to the task at hand. New parlor furniture, dining room furniture, bedroom furnishings for their room. After the men started bringing the furniture in, Scarlett walked to Rhett's side. She looked at him with surprise and admiration in her eyes. "Mr. Butler, will you ever cease to amaze me? In my wildest dreams I could never have imagined such a gift." She placed her hand in his, knowing her words did little to express her gratitude.
"I told you I'd do my part to bring Tara back to what it once was, Scarlett. And I plan to live up to my word, especially since it appears we'll be living here for a while longer. I figured it was about time the furnishings were brought up to the level they once were. Soon, Scarlett, it will be as if the war never happened here at Tara if I have my way. I hope you didn't think I was content with clean walls and refinished floors."
He led her down the stairs, walking away from the house. "Your parents are dead, Scarlett. It's my duty to ensure the well being of your sisters and the staff here at Tara. And so I have contented myself to stay here until Suellen and Carreen have either married or have some place else to go. So, we may as well do what we can to make it livable again. Truthfully, Scarlett, this furniture is a gift from my mother. There will be more to follow. It's the furniture that was left at the plantation I grew up at, Dunmore Landing. If and when I ever return there I'll replace the furniture, but Mother figured this furniture might as well be put to use. Were you really surprised?"
"Surprised is an understatement, Rhett. You said a package. I don't know what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. You really are too kind and your mother too. I'll have to be sure and write to thank her for her generosity. I don't know about Suellen and Carreen being your responsibility, though. You didn't marry them. But it is kind of you to say that you intend on providing for them as well. Suellen I couldn't care less about, but Carreen I do. Suellen wouldn't have lifted a finger to help around here willingly."
"Well, it's not entirely her fault, Scarlett. She's not as strong as you are and I think she's jealous of you about that and quite a few other things. I may not be the greatest catch in the world as far as men go, but I think you've done a bit better than old Frank Kennedy in the husband department. And if Mammy notices that I'm sure Suellen does."
"Mammy? What does Mammy have to do with your ability as a husband?"
Rhett laughed as he placed his arm around Scarlett's waist. "Nothing. But I've gained Mammy's respect in how I've treated you and Geraldine. I don't know how exactly, but she addressed me by my Christian name for the first time the night Geraldine was born."
"No, you're right, Rhett, she does respect you. I'd say the title of master of Tara has successfully been transferred from Pa to you." Scarlett looked at him from the corner of her eye. Mammy had scolded Scarlett many times since Rhett's return for Scarlett's attitude towards him. Scarlett had put Mammy off telling her that it was none of her business, but Scarlett couldn't help but wonder now if she in fact wasn't being fair to Rhett.
Her thoughts turned to Ashley, and she realized oddly that it had been quite some time since she'd even thought of Ashley Wilkes. Not to mention the fact that even now when she did think of him it was with a fondness that was not what it once was. While Rhett was doing the honorable thing, he was letting Scarlett know that he hoped he wouldn't have to bear the burden of her sisters forever.
Ashley on the other hand would have just carried that burden silently with him forever, and Scarlett would never have known his displeasure. And Scarlett didn't want a husband who kept things from her, nor did she want a husband who was unhappy in his existence. Why even Rhett's comments about Belle in the past, while things she didn't care to hear she believed he was being honest when he spoke of her. Had it been Ashley, he probably would have denied knowing the woman.
Scarlett for once found herself wondering just which of the two was really the gentleman. The one who would lie and tell her what he thought she wanted to hear, or the one who would be honest with her and accept her anger knowing that she would learn to live with it and appreciate the fact he told the truth. She realized most ladies probably didn't think this way, that they would rather be lied to and make believe everything was all right. They would rather make believe that women like Belle Watling didn't exist and that their husbands never frequented establishments such as hers.
Mammy had tried to tell Scarlett shortly before Geraldine was born that Rhett loved her. Scarlett thought that Mammy had surely lost her mind, while she was sure Rhett was just as fond of her as Scarlett was of him she was quite sure that he did not love her. Scarlett didn't believe it possible for Rhett to love anyone, though she had to admit she never thought about it before.
Marrying her was entirely different from love; he could care about her and marry her. She didn't see a lack of love for her stopping Rhett from marrying her, nor did it bother her that that might have been the case. But then she thought back over the past six months and she couldn't help but wonder if Mammy had been right.
Rhett's actions seemed to display more than a fondness for her. He had been more than adequately attentive to her needs when she was pregnant. She couldn't help but notice the looks she got from everyone whenever Rhett talked about the baby's movements or when he went out of his way to do something for her that she was capable of doing. She knew that he had wanted to be in the room with her when Geraldine was delivered. She thought that was a stupid thing in all honesty that he hadn't been allowed. They made the baby together, obviously Rhett had seen her without her clothes on what was there to see that he hadn't seen already. He was quick to lend her a hand whenever she needed one, whether it be with Geraldine or anything else.
Even on the days he was out in the fields all day he'd make sure she was content with her book, her sewing or whatever she wanted in bed before he took his bath. And his handling of their daughter was amazing. She almost dreaded when Geraldine would start to walk. Somehow Scarlett knew whom it was going to be the little girl followed around Tara, which made Scarlett slightly sad.
It made her happy that a second generation of O'Hara girls would follow the master of Tara around once more. She knew that like herself Geraldine would think of her father as the be all and end all of the world until she grew old enough to realize that wasn't exactly so. For the first time, Scarlett realized what her mother must of felt knowing that Scarlett preferred her father.
Scarlett looked at Rhett realizing she had been quiet for quite some time, but he was busy watching the men bring the furniture in. She could tell that he wanted to supervise from a little closer than where he was now and she let him go.
She had a good hour at least before Geraldine would be hungry again, so she stood and watched the commotion careful to stay out of their way. Her thoughts turned once more inward as she thought of this generous thing Rhett and his mother had done. She walked towards Rhett, placing her hand on his arm. She looked up at him grateful that he sensed her mood and walked with her away from the men.
"Rhett. Have you ever been in love?" She looked up at him, her green eyes sincere and full of question.
Rhett realized Scarlett was in a contemplative mood and left her to her thoughts. He was busy paying attention to the men who were unloading the furniture anyway and was grateful when Scarlett had seemed to not mind his leaving her side to oversee things a little more closely. Some of this furniture had been his great-grandfather's, and he wanted it treated accordingly. Mammy, Manigo and Pork seemed to know exactly where everything needed to go.
When Scarlett approached him again he was startled slightly by the gentleness of her touch; it was almost a caress it was so gentle. He sensed her desire to speak with him and stepped away from the house with her once more though his attentions were still on the armoire of his great-grandfather's that they were presently unloading. Her question quickly brought his attention to her.
He looked into her eyes, wondering what it was she was searching for. Had she asked him if he loved her he didn't know if he would answer her honestly at this point, he didn't think he was ready to lay such sentiment in her hands. He wasn't so sure he was ready to have his feelings for her used against him. "Yes, I suppose I have once. Why do you ask?" The answer was honest enough; he just hadn't added the fact that she was the once he spoke of.
She shrugged slightly, not certain what to make of his answer. It was vague and she didn't know if she was ready to know who he had been in love with. But she also found herself a little jealous of the fact that he admitted he had once been in love. And couldn't help but wonder why if he loved her that he didn't marry her. "I was just curious. Did you treat her as well as you treat me?"
"I suppose I did. I don't know Scarlett, what are you getting at?"
"I'm just trying to figure out why she ever let you go."
Rhett looked at her for a moment; she seemed sincere in her statements. He had no idea what had brought on this conversation, but she was obviously thinking about something, and something pertaining to love. Could she be curious about her feelings for him, he wondered? Could she be afraid to admit she loved him for the same reason he was afraid to admit the same thing? Could she think that he'd use it against her, that it would somehow make her vulnerable?
To hell with it.
He was sick of pretending as though he didn't care for her.
"Maybe she hasn't." It was closer to the truth than he cared to have revealed. "Excuse me, Scarlett." He rushed over to the men who were struggling to get up the stairs with the armoire.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com