It was getting late at one of his regular political meetings. They were gathered for one charity or another; he wasn’t sure which since his wife Melanie was engrossed in so many. She truly set a fine example as a politician’s wife, and he was lucky to have her.
They were dressed in their finest for the night. He wore a blue pin striped suit and Melanie wore a beautiful, light colored blue gown. Her hair was done intricately and she wore the finest of jewelry which he himself had acquired for her over the years. Their children were asleep up on the upper floors, and the after party for the charity was taking place in their parlor.
The Wilkes had a fine, large house. There were plenty of guest rooms for inebriated guests, should they need it. Ashley had just visited the main bathroom of the first floor and found it occupied. In his haste to relieve himself, he thought to visit one of the guest rooms close by.
Ashley opened the door to a sight he wished he could unsee.
He discovered his sister-in-law Scarlett in a compromising position with someone that was not her husband. She and the stranger were tangled in a passionate embrace. When he opened the door, the bedroom flooded with light and Ashley saw that Scarlett’s dress was pulled down around her waist and her bosom lay bare. The stranger was still fully clothed and turned a blood shot gaze upon him. It was Rhett Butler, that damn scoundrel!
“By all means, don’t mind me,” Ashley hastily said and shut the door. He didn’t know what else to say. He cleared his throat and nearly ran from the door behind him before Scarlett could pursue him. He had no doubt she would.
He wasn’t disappointed when Scarlett came to him later in the same evening. He could never undo seeing her look so thoroughly debauched. She had looked heavenly with her rosy cheeks and beautiful, milky white skin. The gentle swell of her breasts was enticing. He felt his blood quicken at the thought, and had to look away in shame. He would never see her the same again.
What’s more, she was his sister-in-law, and now she had been unfaithful and broken sacred vows. Ashley was honor bound to inform his wife. He knew then with a heavy heart that it would crush his lovely wife to know her sister-in-law had cheated on and sinned against her brother.
What a mess the pair had made.
Ashley couldn’t look Scarlett in the eye when she caught up with him. She begged and pleaded with him not to tell anyone anything of what he had seen.
“I’ll end it right now, Ashley, I swear to God!” she vehemently swore. “Tonight!”
“I’m sure it’s none of my business,” Ashley quietly said to her.
It was a cryptic response to Scarlett’s pleas, and her confusion showed.
Anxious, she laid her hand upon his arm beseechingly. Ashley gently stepped out of her reach. She felt as though she’d been struck, and her hand fell by the wayside.
“But what has happened has happened, Scarlett, I won’t deny what I’ve seen,” he said to her. Scarlett’s face was panic stricken as fresh tears spilled down her cheeks.
“Oh, please don’t tell Charlie,” she pleaded with him again.
“As his brother-in-law, it would be a disservice to him if I did not,” Ashley pointed out. He and Melanie had both shared concern about Scarlett’s intentions towards Charlie. They bother wondered if she truly loved him, or if she was only in it for the money. The answer seemed only too clear now to him.
When Ashley still didn’t reply, Scarlett wept. “At least, let me be the one who tells him,” she asked of her brother-in-law. “If you ever had any love or kindness in your heart towards me, you’ll let me be the one to tell him,” she argued.
Ashley’s pale eyebrow rose skeptically. “And you would tell him right away?” he doubted her.
“I will tell him. I’ll find the right time,” she said, and sniffed loudly. He didn’t feel sorry for her.
“See that you do, Scarlett,” Ashley stiffly said. “It’s best to just deliver bad news like it’s a band-aid. Do it quickly, and do it fast. Then it will be over and you can go from there,” he helpfully remarked. He then left Scarlett to her poor conscious.
Later that evening after the guest dispersed, Ashley waited for Melanie to come to their bedroom. She’d been tending to the kitchen briefly before coming to bed.
When she entered the bedroom, Ashley’s rigid posture worried her further. He looked tightly wound like he might snap, and there was a tension to his shoulders. Melanie approached him and laid a hand across his back reassuringly, and Ashley turned to her.
“Take a seat, dear,” Ashley said to her. Melanie frowned with worry but did as she was bid. She sunk down onto their bed nearby.
“Is something the matter with the kids, Ash?”
Ashley sat down on the edge of the bed beside her. “No, I’m afraid it’s not that,” he said to her. He grabbed and held her hands in his reassuringly.
“It’s about Scarlett and Charlie,” Ashley said to her.
A nerve was struck in Melanie. She had known something was wrong last night. He was so grim and silent during the latter part of the party.
“What is it?” she asked, although she had a sneaking suspicion she knew already what he was going to say.
“Do you remember that Butler man from the after party?”
“The one who was smoking in my parlor,” Melanie asked off-handedly, highly offended at the man’s manners already. This was going to send her though the roof.
“I caught him and Scarlett in a compromising position,” he admitted.
“What?!” Melanie shrieked.
Even though she suspected something outrageous with Scarlett being unfaithful, she would never had thought her husband would be in the mix. She would also never suspect Scarlett of cheating with such an older man, and such a man!
“What happened??” she immediately inquired about details.
Ashley was hesitant to share the finer details. He painted a broad picture about walking in on them in a heated embrace. He told her how Scarlett pleaded to be the one to tell her husband about her indiscretion.
Melanie didn’t think she should have such a luxury. “What a liar she is!” Melanie fumed. “She’ll never tell him so long as she lives!” Melanie huffed. She knew Scarlett and had formed a grudging liking for the woman over the years. They had certainly been cut from different cloths but Melanie could appreciate the odd person or two who were rough around the edges.
She drew the line at someone deliberately causing her little brother pain, though! “How dare she!” thought Melanie, over and over again. She was incensed by this information. She burned with a desire to confront Scarlett right away. She wanted to demand that she make it right and break it off with that Butler man as soon as possible.
She and her brother could go to counseling. They could save their marriage still. She knew how much Charlie loved Scarlett and Wade. If he had a fighting chance of keeping them, she wanted her brother to have his best chance. He couldn’t fight for the woman he loved if her heart was already stolen away. He had to know.
Melanie fought with the thought of calling Charlie right away. Her fingers itched to reach for the phone and call him right then and there. She wanted to do a thousand things, but settled for laying in bed worrying late into the night.
Later the next day, she could endure no more thoughts on this matter alone.
Ashley was at his office and the children were in school. Melanie was left to her own devices and she decided to pay Scarlett a visit at her office. She knew she wouldn’t be turned away there.
She knew her way well to Scarlett’s office. Scarlett was a hard working woman and she often took the woman lunches. She would forget to eat if someone didn’t put food right under her nose. She worked at a competitive ad agency.
The receptionist greeted her easily after she rode the elevator up to Scarlett’s floor. The receptionist knew her and yet had no idea what a storm was brewing in the tiny woman.
She had no lunch bag this time, only her fists curled in calm fury by her sides. She was going to confront this woman, and now!
Scarlett was in her office, alone. She was staring at her computer intently when Melanie opened the glass door. Scarlett’s greeting died in her throat when she saw the look of contempt on Melanie’s usually serene face.
“I see Ashley has told you then?”
“You’re damned right he has!” Melanie exclaimed, surprising Scarlett with her cursing. Melanie flew across the room to stand in front of Scarlett’s desk imposingly. She did not take a seat, she was too hyped up. The adrenaline rushed through her veins.
“How could you, Scarlett?” she implored her friend of many years. Scarlett might not have been the sister-in-law of her choice, but she was what Charlie and the Lord had blessed her with. Now she seemed more like a pox, a curse on their house!
“I know, I know,” Scarlett said, and she had the decency to look ashamed of herself. “I should have just divorced him-“ she began, but Melanie cut her off.
“Divorce!? You’ve never even mentioned being unhappy,” Melanie protested. Scarlett hung her head. She gave Melanie a withering look. “As if I would mention my discontent to the man’s sister,” she said. Melanie felt hurt. She thought they were better friends than that.
“But this is your marriage, Scarlett. How could you take your vows so lightly?” she asked.
“I didn’t think!!” Scarlett burst out. Her volume was higher than necessary and people in the outer office area noticed. There was an obvious shuffling of papers and a few uncomfortable coughs. Scarlett turned red and snatched up her suit jacket from the chair behind her as she stood.
“Lets finish this conversation somewhere else,” she suggested.
Melanie reluctantly followed her through the outer office. They descended the elevator and exited the building. There was a café not far from the building, and Scarlett led the way there.
After they had ordered frappacinos, they settled in at a table to have a more civilized conversation.
“I didn’t meant to hurt anyone, it just kind of happened,” Scarlett weakly defended herself. “You don’t know what he’s like,” Scarlett said. Melanie heavily disapproved of the look on her face as she said that.
“Um, hello?!” Melanie waved her hand in front of Scarlett’s face, flashing her diamond wedding ring. Scarlett didn’t want to be reminded, but had the decency to look guiltily at Melanie.
“I know,” she quietly said. “But I feel something different for this man, something that makes me alive again,” Scarlett admitted.
“Don’t you love Charlie?” Melanie asked, her heart breaking for her brother.
“I do, Melanie, but it’s not the same,” she shared. “We haven’t really cared about or for each other in a while,” she admitted. It was true; Charlie seemed very consumed by his internet business and discussed Scarlett less and less over the years. It was no secret their marriage was one of convenience when Scarlett got pregnant out of wedlock shortly after they started seeing each other.
“Don’t you even want to try counseling?” she asked hopefully.
Scarlett stared at her loving sister-in-law. Although she knew Melanie wasn’t the most pleased having Scarlett as her sister in law, she had still been a kind and good friend throughout the years. It seemed inconceivable not to have this woman or her family in her life.
Scarlett thought for the thousandth time what would happen when Charlie found out. She knew that Wade would prefer to be with his father, and she selfishly thought she could go off and start a new life with Rhett without either of them. She did not see her son and ex-husband in her plan for the future. Every time she succumbed to Rhett’s charms, she could secretly see herself living some place alone with him and only him. She was in love, god damn the world if they thought it was improper.
“No, I don’t think so,” she told honestly told Melanie. “I don’t think it would help, I’m too far gone,” Scarlett sighed.
Melanie stared coolly across the table at the woman she now considered an enemy. “If that’s how you feel, I suppose there’s nothing I can say to change your mind, is there?” she calmly asked.
Scarlett tremulously shook her head. “I’m leaving him,” she told Melanie with an air of finality she did not feel.
“What about Wade?” Melanie protectively asked about her dear nephew. She would hate to lose him.
“We’ll let him choose who he wants to live with,” Scarlett automatically answered. She knew in her heart of hearts the boy would choose his father. They were more alike than she had ever been with her son.
“So that’s it? You’re just going to leave your husband and son and go off with this Butler man?” Melanie angrily asked.
Scarlett did not deign to respond to her. When Scarlett did not reply, Melanie grew angrier. “So what was the plan? Just when exactly were you going to share this information with Charlie? Never?! You didn’t think you were going to leave him. You thought you could have your cake and eat it, too, admit it,” Melanie pried.
“I don’t know what I thought,” Scarlett miserably admitted. She did think that she would get away with it. She did think it was okay as long as no one knew anything about it. So much for that.
“Either you tell him straight away, Scarlett, or by God, I will!” Melanie ominously threatened. With that, she turned on her heel and left Scarlett with her thoughts.
Scarlett trembled in Melanie’s wake because she knew Melanie would tell. She had not ever planned on revealing her indiscretions; now they were going to blow up her life.
Why didn’t she know better?
The cat was out of the bag.
She was left literally holding the bag.
Her life had been blown to pieces by her sordid affair with this man, and yet she desired him so much still. Scarlett was back at work a few days later and up to her same old tricks.
Rhett visited her at the office. They went to the copy room where there were no prying eyes and he kissed her lips raw. His moustache was delightfully scratchy and left her mouth feeling pleasantly abused when he pulled away finally.
“I have to leave him now,” she was saying to him.
“Name the time, my dear, and you can move into my place,” her lover tempted her. He was eager to have her all to himself.
“What about my son?”
“You can bring him, too, of course,” Rhett said without delay. He liked children, strange as she might find that fact. She didn’t like any children but her own. He gave her a reassuring squeeze and Scarlett melted back into his forbidden embrace.
Only it didn’t feel that way.
He felt right to her. She didn’t think she should be apart from him when she felt so alive again with him. He gave her something that Charlie never had; pure passion.
She knew she was making the only choice her heart could abide.
It was raining the day she decided to tell Charlie.
It was not even a week after the event happened that she sat him down one day. She sent Wade to stay the night at one of his friend’s houses for the evening.
She made Charlie an elaborate meal and served him wine in the evening. They retired to their parlor where the fire was lit and a grand piano was featured. There were wine red sitting couches in the room in front of the fire place and Scarlett steered them towards them.
“There’s no easy way to say this, I’m afraid,” she said to him. “So I’ll just say it.”
“There’s someone else. I don’t want to be with you anymore, and I think we should get a divorce,” she said.
“Is it someone I know?” he asked.
“You don’t know him, no, but you know of him,” she hesitantly revealed. Charlie and Rhett had made each other’s acquaintance at one of Ashley’s political meetings. She regretted the fact that Charlie would know the man who stole her away.
“Is that all you’re gonna say?!” Charlie impatiently demanded of her.
“No! I mean- it’s…. It’s Rhett Butler, from World Executives,” she finally answered.
Charlie swore and stood, throwing his wine glass into the fireplace with a crash.
“What the hell, Scarlett?! How long has this been going on?!” he demanded to know. His face and even the tips of his ears were becoming pink from his anger. There was a vein bulging near his hair line that throbbed with his fury.
“Not long… a few months,” she admitted. Charlie stomped up to her and yanked her to her feet from the couch. Scarlett’s wine glass fell to the floor forgotten and spilled. He gripped her upper arms punishingly hard and yelled in her face.
“How many times?!”
“Oh, Charlie, it’s not as though I kept count!”
She could have slapped him, such was the look of despair on his face.
Charlie turned away from her then. The look of defeat was in his shoulders with his back turned to her. “I see,” he softly mumbled, and then he turned and left the parlor. He didn’t so much as cast a glance over his shoulder in retreating.
Scarlett watched him go with a heavy heart.
Charlie should not have been left alone that night.
He could have called his best friend Wade Hampton or even his sister, but he didn’t. His humiliation was too great. His heart was broken and his pride shattered beyond repair. How could she do this to him?
Charlie felt strangely numb and far away from what was happening. He knew with a calm and dignified clarity that he was going to take his own life by the end of the night. He would never see the light of day again. If day was to rise and he was expected to go on as a single father whose marriage had failed, then the rest of the world could go on without him.
The thought of all their money was too much. The thought of calling lawyers and spending a fortune to become unattached from the harpy that broke his heart was too much. The thought of facing another living soul, knowing how the women would coddle him after his wife left him… it was too much. He couldn’t imagine moving on and loving another. He couldn’t imagine facing anyone with pity in their eyes at what had happened.
Charlie went into he and his wife’s shared walk in closet. He had many ties and scarves featured there. He selected a long, dark green scarf from his collection. There was a support beam in the main bedroom with its’ high and sloped ceiling. He fashioned a noose for himself and dragged one of their computer chairs into the middle of the room below the beam.
He didn’t leave a letter. He had no last words for anyone. He did not think about his son. He did not think about what people would say- only what he could not endure.
He hung himself, and it was Scarlett whom found him.
Scarlett was lucky that their son Wade was not at home.
Charlie was dangling from a rafter in their bedroom. How fitting that this was the place he would choose to end his life. Now his soul would forever haunt this room. Scarlett shook violently as she dialed 911. She managed to calmly report her husband’s suicide, then hung up the phone and let it drop from her hand as it dangled uselessly by her side.
Suddenly, she realized she was screaming almost hysterically. That horrible sound was coming from her. She stood motionless by the bed, afraid to approach Charlie. She didn’t move to touch him. She stifled her desperate cries with a hand against her mouth and sobbed as she looked at him.
His eyes were open and the veins around his eyes were red and purple, strained from his struggle. The computer chair was on it’s side under his lifeless feet. His hands hung limply by his sides. She chose not to disturb him as she waited for the police to arrive.
It was ruled a suicide, but Charlie’s family knew. Scarlett the Harlot had ruined their fine young son. Scarlett was left a bewildered widow and single mother in one fell swoop. Here she had been contemplating leaving Wade to Charlie and going off with Rhett, and now that would never be.
Rhett had chilled towards her ever since the incident. Scarlett needed him in a desperate way and that was not Rhett’s style. While his affair with Scarlett was no doubt passionate, Rhett was not lying when he told her he was not a marrying man. While he had invited her son and her to stay with him in the past, in light of her husband’s messy suicide his feelings had changed. He had no interest in replacing Charlie and being Scarlett’s husband. It could be argued that his conscious finally struck him, and he left Scarlett to her own misery and dismay.
Wade was still a young man, only just turned thirteen. It was not shared with him that his father’s death was a suicide. He was kept in the dark and told that his father suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage. It was a mystery to Wade why he was suddenly seeing less and less of the rest of his family after his father’s death.
Wade was very close to his father. He always related better to the mild man than his willful mother. He no longer played with Melanie’s children. His aunt Melanie no longer called the house. His mother said nothing about their lack of contact with the rest of the family.
For the first time in his life, his mother Scarlett was unsure of herself. She acted quieter than she ever had before. She was wane and pale and hardly ate. It seemed she drank more than anything. Wade grew worried about her in a way a thirteen year old boy shouldn’t have to worry.
Scarlett would continue to suffer from alcoholism for the rest of Wade’s adolescence. He could never explain the reason why, only that it was in connection to his father’s death. It really took a mental toll on the both of them. Over the years, Wade became more of the caretaker role and as a result, he grew up much too fast and isolated from the rest of their family.
It was just him and his mother, her on his shoulders. His load would never be light again.