It was the night before New Year’s Eve, eighteen hundred sixty-six. Scarlett lay in bed waiting for Rhett to return home for the evening. He and some other men had gone out for an evening of cards. It drove her mad when he went to Belle’s, even when it was with respectable men from Atlanta. They had gotten into a heated argument before he left, which ended when Rhett left announcing that if he indulged too much he’d just stay at Belle’s. This was met with her throwing her hairbrush at the closed door, the first object that she came across.
Perhaps he was joking to see if it would bother her, she thought of that now. But at the time those words had set her into a rage. The fact that she was in a marriage with someone who could tell her truthfully where he was going escaped her at the time as well. She had seethed for part of the night; she couldn’t believe he’d carry on with his mistress in front of her friends. But a snifter of brandy had calmed her down enough to realize that even Rhett wouldn’t do that. She was determined to stay awake to see what time he decided to come home.
Tonight had been the first time since he’d been home that they’d had an argument, a real argument. Scarlett believed that she and Rhett would always argue, sometimes she believed they started arguments with one another just to argue. But tonight’s argument was a real argument; she had tried not to get upset with him for wanting to go out. Surely he had the right to go out and play cards, her father did it all the time and she couldn’t recall her mother and father arguing over these things. She heard him laugh at her when she threw the brush at the door when he had left the room, and that just steamed her even more at the time. No one could get under her skin like Rhett could, and sometimes she sensed he did it just for that reason – because he could.
Later as she sat in bed sipping her brandy she wondered why she wasn’t more like her mother. Where had she failed? Her mind wandered to the child she lost and if it had been a boy. Had she somehow inherited whatever it was that prevented her mother from giving her father an heir? Thinking of the child she lost that brought on the nightmares, it was the reason that she had started drinking a brandy before bed when she was home alone. The brandy seemed to stave them off – for a little longer than without it at any rate. She set the glass on her nightstand and picked up the book of sonnets Ashley had given her for a wedding gift, sleep overcame her unfortunately rather quickly.
Rhett enjoyed this type of holiday gathering, men getting together for cards and drinks. If he made a little money out of the evening as well, all the better. He knew Scarlett wasn’t pleased about his going to Belle’s, but if he didn’t go he felt that would raise more suspicions than going would. He knew the rumors about his relationship with Belle, and what better way to start putting those rumors to rest than for the men of Atlanta to see Belle treat him as a customer. When he walked through the doors of her saloon, he realized that he hadn’t been to see her since he’d married Scarlett.
Between his sudden marriage, the honeymoon, his dealings with his ship, settling in a new house, and then Scarlett’s miscarriage he hadn’t had much time to be social. And with Belle he could never just come in for a drink and leave if he wanted to visit her, he had to plan on staying for a while. Contrary to what most believed, their relationship wasn’t purely physical, though there had always been that. But there were times that they used one another as a sounding board for their problems, ideas, or tantrums. Neither took offense to what the other said and things said were left within the room they spoke, never falling on another’s ears.
Rhett was one of the first to leave this night, much to the amusement of some of the men – men who never thought they’d see Rhett married let alone willingly leave a game of cards when there were still willing participants. His excuse was quite simply that his bride of little more than six months who he had been away from for about half that time was at home waiting for him. A discreet glance in Ashley’s direction found Ashley not smiling with the rest of the gentlemen at the suggestion that Scarlett was at home waiting for Rhett. Neither did Belle for that matter, but the comment was more for Ashley’s benefit than Belle’s.
Rhett had never thought of himself as a jealous man, but then again he never saw himself in the role of husband either. His comment at the Meade’s party about wanting to see Scarlett in her chemise was not something he saw himself saying ordinarily, but the fact he knew it was Ashley refilling Scarlett’s drink had caused him to react. Three months ago it wasn’t important to him, hell a month ago it wasn’t important to him, what anyone thought of his relationship with Scarlett.
Now, however, it was very important to him for Ashley to know that he was Scarlett’s husband, not Ashley. He wondered if Ashley knew Rhett had left, but somehow he doubted it. Scarlett might embarrass herself by having an affair, but he didn’t think she’d embarrass herself by admitting her new husband had left her – even to the man she wanted to have the affair with. In fact, Scarlett being married might be encouraging to Ashley; he would be fool enough to believe that Scarlett could just settle for an affair. For some women that might be true, but when it came to Scarlett Rhett didn’t believe that was true.
He returned home, attempting to be quiet as he ascended the stairs to their room. He got ready for bed, a slight smirk on his face when he noticed Scarlett had fallen asleep reading. His brow furrowed slightly as he removed his cravat and suit jacket noticing the empty brandy snifter bedside, he knew she imbibed every now and then but he was beginning to wonder how common an occurrence it was. He went to her side of the bed to adjust the covers around her, removing the book from her stomach and glanced sharply at it as he set in on the nightstand. “What the hell is this?” he bellowed, knowing he was going to startle her but he really didn’t care.
Scarlett woke with a start; she looked at Rhett genuinely confused as she stretched. “God’s nightgown, Rhett, you scared the daylights out of me.” She looked at the clock, and then at him. “I see you made it home at a decent hour.”
“Yes, I did. I came home thinking you might still be awake, but instead I find you in our bed with your lover’s book. I should have burned this the day he gave it to you.”
“What in the world are you going on about, Rhett? It’s just a book.”
“I don’t notice you sleeping with anything I’ve ever given you. Is this what you fell asleep to while I was gone? Reading Shakespeare wishing Ashley was here with you? Do you still think that when I’m sleeping next to you?”
“Don’t be crude, Rhett. I was trying to wait up for you and so I chose to read for a while. There’s no crime in that the last time I checked, and yes it happened to be the book that Ashley gave to me. Did you ever stop to realize that his parents were like a second set of parents to me, Rhett? And that that book was Ashley’s mother’s book, and he chose to give it to me. I take that back – he chose to give it to us, you and me, for our wedding gift.”
“Yes, I remember quite well the day he gave it to you, Scarlett. I came home to find you two in what could be construed as a very compromising position. Why is it, I wonder, if the gift was from both he and Melanie he came by himself to give it to you during the day when more than likely I would not be at home?”
“How dare you suggest that Ashley came here for any reason other than to give me the book. You of all people should talk, Rhett Butler. Should we put the shoe on your foot? Tell me that you’ve been faithful to me.”
“Me?” He laughed sardonically. “Scarlett, the way I’d be unfaithful to you is rather ironic. I don’t need to seek physical pleasures elsewhere you do just fine in that department. I’m no saint, Scarlett, I’ve never claimed to be one and I’ve certainly never hidden from you what I truly am. But, my dear, there’s a large difference between you and me. I don’t lust after another man’s wife, and if I ever were to cheat on you I can assure you that not you or anyone else would even suspect it.”
“You’re drunk, Rhett. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for why you’re behaving this way. When you’ve slept it off why don’t you try coming back and apologizing to me. Until then, I suggest you find somewhere else to sleep for the night.”
“You suggest I what?”
“You heard me.”
“Ah well, there’s where you’re mistaken, Mrs. Butler. You see, this is my home and whatever is in it belongs to me, including you. So if I want to sleep in this bed, any other bed, or the damned roof that’s for me to decide, not you. I don’t tell you what to do, though I certainly could, and I certainly won’t be told what to do by my wife. It’s bad enough I have to deal with mentally being made cuckold, I will not have you telling me where to sleep.”
“I belong to you? You couldn’t be more wrong, and you certainly didn’t marry me to own me – you can’t try and tell me now you did. ” Scarlett pulled the down comforter around her chest as she sat up in bed as she rolled her eyes. “I’ve never been unfaithful to you, Rhett.”
“I imagine only because Ashley was too much the gentleman to actually step foot in this house alone while I was traveling. He’s no fool, which unfortunately I cannot say the same about you.” He jerked the comforter away from her. “I did not tell you to cover up.” He leered at her, his eyes reflecting clearly his foul mood. “As far as owning you, the marriage vows you took Scarlett indicate differently. Maybe you should visit your priest and review them, or better yet talk to Mrs. Wilkes about the duties of being a wife.”
“I’ll start acting the role of wife when you start acting the role of gentleman. We both know that will never happen, so don’t count on me changing my spots either, Rhett.”
Rhett extended his hand placing it at her throat. “You know, I could put myself out of my misery quite easily, Scarlett.” She watched her eyes and he saw something he never thought he’d see in Scarlett’s eyes – fear.
“Yes, you should be scared of me, my pet. You’d be surprised what these hands have done in the last twenty years. A pillow over your face and no one would be the wiser; I think I could play the part of devastated widower quite well. Certainly better than the act you put on as Charles’ widow. But sadly, I think you’d come back to haunt me and I’d rather not have to deal with that. At least with you alive I can get away from you when I need to.”
Scarlett swallowed hard; she was trying to be brave. She had never seen Rhett like this, never dreamed this side of him existed despite the rumors she’d heard about him. “I should never have married you. You’re a cad and you don’t know the first thing about making a woman happy.”
“Then divorce me. If you think there’s someone out there in Atlanta or anywhere else for that matter who can treat you as well as I treat you despite the fact you’re in love with another man you go find him and I wish you nothing but happiness and good fortune. I’ll give you a divorce and then you can be free to search out someone who is able to make you happy, Scarlett.”
“Divorce you? I would never.”
“Why, because of your beloved church? When was the last time you were actually at mass, Scarlett? When was the last time you went to confession? When was the last time you prayed the rosary? When was the last time you coveted another woman’s husband? Such a fine example of a good Catholic you are, no wonder I prefer not to claim any religion as mine. I don’t like being a hypocrite.”
“How dare you!”
“How dare I what? Call you out for what you really are?” Rhett pushed Scarlett down as she started to get out of bed. “Sit down, Scarlett. I’m not done with you yet.”
“Rhett, just go away and leave me alone. Go sleep it off. You’re drunk.”
Rhett stepped away from the bed slightly and finished undressing, stopping only once when Scarlett started to get off the bed again. “Move again, Scarlett, and so help me I’ll tie you to the bed. And don’t think I wouldn’t do it either.” She apparently took him seriously because she didn’t move again.
“If you think I’m going to let you make love to me after everything you’ve just said to me you’re not right in the head.”
“I don’t think, Scarlett, I know. Though I don’t know that I would quantify what we do as making love, there is no love in our relationship.” He moved to the bed, lying on top of her he entered her quickly with no semblance of foreplay or that her pleasure was even a factor to him at that moment.
Scarlett tried to push him off of her, but he was too big and he was inside of her so quickly she couldn’t even hit him in the one place she knew would put a stop to what he was doing. She moved her hand to claw at his face with a hiss, “stop it, Rhett. You’re hurting me.”
She looked into his eyes as he took hold of her hands placing them in the strong hold of one of his hands and she knew that he didn’t even hear her. Wherever he was he wasn’t cognizant that she was there. For the first time since their first night together, she did nothing to meet him or to try and heighten his pleasure. She bit her lip to hold back the tears that she felt coming. She knew there were women out there that had to endure this type of behavior from their husbands but in the over six months they’d been together Rhett had never given any indication he could do this. She would not give him the satisfaction of seeing her cry, if she had to go into her closet and do it after he was done she would.
Everything Rhett had been feeling – his frustrations, his anger, his hurt and even his love for this woman came out at that moment. He knew Scarlett would never understand, but something came over him and he wanted – no needed – to make her understand that she was indeed his. That as long as he had breath in his body, he would never give her the chance to belong to Ashley Wilkes or anyone else. He held her wrists securely in his hand as he lowered his mouth over a breast and bit gently, not hard enough to hurt her. When he removed his mouth, he exploded within her when he saw that he had marked her. He remained within her, his hand still clutching her wrists. He glared into her eyes, his own eyes clouded and severe.
“You’re mine, Scarlett O’Hara. And don’t ever question again what I do or don’t have the right to do as your husband.” He circled the love bite on her breast with his finger. “I wonder what your precious Ashley would think if he knew I’d left my mark on you. Lord knows my seed being within you growing into a child didn’t make any difference to you. Had I not walked through the front door that day, you would have more than willingly spread your legs for him.”
She held back a retort unable to speak not knowing if her tears would give way, never having felt so violated in her life. She’d take the Yankees going through her mother’s sewing basket again over what he had just done. She glared at him, finding the ability to speak finally. “Would you kindly get off of me, Rhett?” Her tone was bitter and sarcastic; obviously she didn’t think he was capable of being kind at the moment.
“As you wish, my pet.” He rolled to her side, one hand behind his head as he placed his head back on the pillow. He took hold of her when she started to move. “Where in the hell are you going?”
“Anywhere but here, I don’t want to sleep with you after what you just did to me.”
“Wrong, Scarlett, you’re not going anywhere. This is our bed remember? You are the one who demanded I sleep in here when I came back. Well damn it, I’m ready to go to sleep.”
“You can’t possibly believe I’d want to be anywhere near you after that?”
“After what? I’m just a cad remember who doesn’t know how to treat you kindly. Why should I act any differently since that’s what you expect from me anyway? Or did you grow accustomed to sex being about making love and my giving you pleasure?”
“To be honest, yes.”
“Then stop bringing another man into our bed, Scarlett. I know he’s never been here physically. But damn it, mentally I want him out of your head when you set foot through those doors. And if I catch that damned book or anything else that man’s given you in this room again, I’ll burn it.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I am quite serious and I will do it. Don’t test me on this, Scarlett.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” she retorted sharply.
An apology was on the tip of his tongue; he hated what he had done. Never had he forced himself on a woman, his first night with Scarlett was questionable but he had at least taken the time to please her. Tonight had been entirely different. It was as if he was no better than an animal, and that bothered him. The thought that he caused her any pain at all wasn’t something he liked to think about, but he knew he more than likely had. But he refused to apologize, how the hell was he supposed to be a man if he kept kowtowing to her and her infatuation with Ashley. Let her be mad at him, he’d make it up to her the next time he made love to her. Instead he helped rearrange her nightgown so that it covered her thighs and drifted off to sleep.
Scarlett laid in bed wide-awake for a while after Rhett fell asleep. She wanted to move, but Rhett was holding her down with his leg draped over both of hers. Whether or not it was intentional, she didn’t know but she knew that if she moved he’d wake up and the last thing she wanted was his getting upset with her again.
She was trying to figure out exactly what it was that had caused him to get so upset to begin with. He was drunk; she knew that was part of the problem. But what was so wrong with reading a book? She had no idea and her head hurt from thinking about it. She eventually found sleep, though it was difficult with the pressure of Rhett’s leg on her. Normally she liked it when he slept so close to her, she felt safe as if nothing could harm her. As if by his being close to her like this her dreams couldn’t get through him to her. She woke with a start in the morning having to get up to use the facilities, but Rhett wouldn’t move.
“Oh dear Lord, Rhett. Move I have to get up.”
She slapped his hand away when he draped it over a breast.
“Rhett, I need to get out of bed. Stop handling me and wake up.” Finally he moved, though she still didn’t think he was conscious. She went to her washbasin and got sick, that had been the fifth time this week she’d been sick when she woke up to the smell of ham frying from below. She wiped her head with a washcloth cursing slightly; though she was grateful Rhett had apparently slept through this. She couldn’t be pregnant again so soon. Rhett had only been home for about three weeks, but at the rate he was going to make up for the three months they’d been apart she wouldn’t be surprised to find out she was having triplets. She thought about returning to the bed but sat in her chair instead.
Think – she had to think about what to do. Could she stay with him after what he had done? Would she even have known the difference if she was married to someone else? Is that how Ashley treated Melanie? She couldn’t imagine that and shook the image from her mind quickly. But if she were pregnant, Rhett would never let her go. Unless she didn’t tell him, of course. She’d go to the train station this afternoon and see about getting a ticket to Jonesboro and send a telegram to Suellen asking Will to pick her up at the station there. A few days at Tara would do her good, seeing the red dirt of Tara always did.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com