Rhett entered the house without knocking on the front door. It was his home after all. He had never in the past eighteen months seen the need to knock to gain entry into his own home. The fact that he had left Scarlett and they were separated as Katie called it was not lost on him but he would never knock to gain entrance into the home as long as they were married.
He turned to shut the door a smug grin creeping to his lips when he saw Katie was still outside on the front stoop. "Come in, Katie. Please."
Katie shook her head. Rhett knew she was nervous but then again she was not being overly discreet about that fact either.
"Please come in," he prompted once again. Rhett offered her his hand, which she took and made the final step over the threshold into his home, Scarlett's home. Rhett could not get over entirely thinking of the home as theirs.
"Thank you," Katie said almost shyly which made Rhett smile. Up until this point he had seen no behavior by her to indicate nervousness or shyness. In fact, despite her situation she had been quite bold and forthcoming until now. Was she that nervous and unsettled about meeting Scarlett? It made Rhett curious to know just what young Ella had written about her mother as an adult.
"I'll show you to the parlor and then we can take it from there. Wade and Ella are here somewhere, so should they come in here," he said escorting her to the parlor, "don't be surprised."
"I love children, so I should be fine."
"Yet you have none?"
"No, not yet."
Rhett sensed somehow it was not quite as simple as ‘not yet' and decided it was not his business. "I'll be back shortly then, please make yourself at home. There's a pull cord there if you would like lemonade or tea just tug on it and a servant will come," he said before departing the room.
The house was quiet, but it did not take Rhett long to find Scarlett on the veranda enjoying the view of their garden. "Mrs. Butler," he said swooping one arm to his waist in a gallant bow. "We have company if you are in the mood for some."
"Company?" She glanced at him from the book she held in her hands.
"Yes, we. A relative came into Atlanta. A relative of yours."
"Yes. I picked up the telegram when I was collecting the mail and thought I would save you the trouble of having to meet her train. It was a good thing, too, when she arrived she was quite ill. I doubt you would have wanted her at the house with the children." Rhett suspected Scarlett would not have given the children much thought but it sounded good and made it sound as though Rhett really had been thinking of Scarlett and her well being.
"Well, I would have made room for her of course, but," she set the book on her lap after marking her place and Rhett's brow rose slightly. He had never known Scarlett to read and was curious to know what she was reading now. Judging by the mark of her place she had actually been reading it.
"I know you would have, Scarlett, but I saved you the trouble."
Scarlett looked at him skeptically. She was not dumb, though Rhett liked to pretend sometimes he believed her to be. "And just who is this relative of mine you have come to the rescue of, Rhett?"
"Your cousin, I guess. I didn't subject her to an inquisition, Scarlett."
Scarlett slid her hand through Rhett's arm. "Of course you didn't, I'm just surprised is all. I didn't realize I had any relatives honestly. Eulalie and Pauline never married."
"I am guessing she is kin by way of your O'Hara side, Scarlett."
"Why do you think that?"
"Well, her last name being O'Casey was the most obvious clue."
"Yes, I suppose that would be pretty telling. And she's from where did you say?"
"Savannah I believe."
"That makes sense," Scarlett said more introspectively than anything and Rhett knew he had won this part of the battle.
He escorted Scarlett into the parlor. "Scarlett your cousin, Katie O'Casey."
Scarlett offered Katie a polite smile as she walked toward the girl. Rhett could not detect anything forced about it which puzzled him somewhat, unsure if this was a good sign or not. Scarlett rarely accepted things like this so easily.
Rhett shrugged as Katie cast him a sidelong glance. It was as if she was asking him the very question he was asking himself, which Scarlett was she going to come up against. Rhett hated to think of Scarlett giving the girl a hard time, but he knew how all of this might look to Scarlett. He could see how she might jump to conclusions, as if he would honestly bring someone he was involved with to their home. Scarlett was not always rational, though, and Rhett imagined he would soon find out what she thought.
"What brings you to Atlanta, Katie?" Scarlett asked.
"I, well," she stammered. She was not sure what she was supposed to say. "I needed to get a way for a spell."
"So you just took a train to Atlanta?"
"Well, yes," she said, glancing at Rhett. She could not believe she was standing here in front of Scarlett O'Hara. She was as pretty as Ella described in her journal, not beautiful or overly striking but a pretty woman. Now that she was here she had no idea what to say. "A telegram was sent."
"Yes, Rhett mentioned that. Were you wanting to stay here with me?"
"If it's not an imposition."
"Not at all. We have plenty of room. Don't we, Rhett?"
"Yes," Rhett said. Katie noticed he had not stepped further into the room at all. But Scarlett said they had plenty of room.
"It'll be nice to have a guest. I'll make sure Dari sets enough places for all of us. The children will love the company. Will you be home for dinner, Rhett?"
Katie caught sight of a smirk before Rhett hid it. He was so capable of masking his thoughts it was a little frightening. Ella had described him as being a loving man but believed Scarlett had made him build a wall around his heart. "Yes, I can be here."
"We could invite Ashley and Melanie, too," Scarlett said enthusiastically.
"Perhaps another night, Scarlett. Katie just arrived and she was under the weather to begin with."
"Of course, how silly of me, Katie," Scarlett said extending her hand to Katie. "Come, I'll show you to your room. You can rest some before dinner. You'll see to her luggage won't you, Rhett?"
"I don't have much. Really, I can do it," Katie volunteered.
"Nonsense," Rhett said, placing his hat on his hand. He seemed rather relieved to have something to do so Katie left it at that. "It would be my pleasure."
"Thank you, Rhett," Scarlett said and Katie thought she saw a sincere smile but could not be sure. From what Ella had written Scarlett was a master at disguising her true feelings. "You can rest and then we can catch up. I admit I've never met an O'Hara before."
"You haven't?" Katie asked, curiously. She had just assumed differently. When it got down to it, Katie knew nothing of her ancestors. Finding Ella's journal was the first thing Katie had ever seen about her past. She found being here fascinating, the idea of seeing Ella as a young girl before the words in the journal were ever put to paper.
"No, I'm afraid not. We traveled some before the war, but Pa was always so busy with Tara that visiting kin just never happened. Mother took us to Savannah to see her sisters, the Robillard's. Are you familiar with them?"
"No," Katie said with a frown. She hoped that was not odd, her not knowing Scarlett's mother's relatives.
"Well, it's no matter. Pa always said I was more O'Hara than Robillard anyway."
"Your father is gone then?"
Scarlett's eyes grew distant then, sad and Katie regretted the question. "Yes, he died in an accident, horrible really. He was a fine horsemen, but was upset."
Katie squeezed Scarlett's hand, suspecting the woman did not get much comfort in general so she was not sure how the gesture would be taken. "I'm sorry. He must have been a good man."
"He was a very good man and wise. But I'm sure his brothers, my uncles, are like that." Katie followed Scarlett up two flights of stairs. It was hard for her to imagine a house this size. They just did not exist in her time, at least none she would ever have reason to walk through like this. She was tempted to tell Scarlett that Tara still stood, that it was still there but she did not. "Anyway, I'll have this room made up for you. Will this do?"
"It's beautiful," Katie said as she crossed the threshold leading to the guest room. It was a little gaudy but it was beautifully and expensively designed. "I appreciate you taking me in like this. You don't even know me."
"Nonsense," Scarlett chirped cheerily. "You're family, that's what family does. Mother shipped me off to relatives in Macon after my first husband died."
"Charles Hamilton," Katie said.
"Yes, that's right. Are you married, Katie?"
"I am," Katie said, unable to stop the smile from coming to her face at the thought of Ryan.
"Where is your husband?"
"Out of town on business."
"Rhett travels often, too."
"Yes. Too much for my tastes."
"Have you ever told him that you feel that way?"
"No," Scarlett said, running a fingertip along the edge of an expensive looking crystal bud vase. "Why should I?"
"Well, maybe he doesn't realize. I mean," Katie stopped. She was certain she had been sent back here for a reason. Was it to meddle and try to get Rhett and Scarlett to reconcile? "Maybe he'd stay home if he knew."
"Knew what? That I missed him? Don't be silly, Katie."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com