Somebody's Darling
by Halrloprillalar

Scarlett dragged the dead man into the yard. How much easier it was to do murder than to clean up afterwards, she thought. He was heavy and she had to stop more than once to get her breath. At the arbour, she dropped his feet and stood a moment, swaying. Then she began to dig.

The shovel was awkward and leaning on her lame foot was agony. At last she dropped to her knees in the hot sun and clawed at the earth with her hands until she had a hole just deep enough to take the body.

Melanie's chemise was still wadded around the ruined face and Scarlett left it there. It was too bloody to clean and she didn't want to see that horror again.

Only Scarlett felt no horror, just endless fatigue and a fierce joy. That's one less Yankee in the world, she thought as she heaped dirt over him. One less thieving Yankee and now we'll eat.

She pulled vines down over the grave and limped back to the house. She cleaned herself as best she could, but her nails were rimmed black and there was dirt all down her dress.

No one, not even Mammy, said anything about it.

Somehow Scarlett got through the day. It was a relief to take herself to bed, yams in her belly and whisky in her head. But sleep would not come. Her back and arms ached from digging. And in the silence, in the dark, she heard the shot ring over and over, saw the grinning face marred and bleeding.

She had no guilt, but part of her could not quite believe that she had done it, done murder, that things should come to this. As surely as her hands grew cracked and callused, something inside of her was hardening too.

If only she could sleep! Then these thoughts would melt away from her and for a few hours, she could put off her cares. Scarlett tossed in the heat until she thought she would scream. Then she rose.

She needed no light to walk the halls of Tara. On bare feet, she crept along until she came to Melanie's room. Scarlett stopped for a moment, wondering why she had come. But there was no one else to go to and there might be some relief in company.

Quietly, Scarlett opened the door. "Who is it?" Melanie said and Scarlett heard the bed creak.

"It's Scarlett. I--" And what was she to say? "I came to see if you were well."

"Just wakeful," Melanie said. "Come stay with me a while."

Scarlett sat on the bed. She was glad to find Melanie awake, was glad for her voice in the darkness. But for Melanie herself, Scarlett hardly knew what she felt. She hated Melly still, for her longsuffering, for her prissy ways, and most of all for Ashley. But they were bound together now, linked by the man lying cold and dead across the yard.

"Lie down, dear." Melanie reached out and pulled Scarlett down to rest her head on the pillow. "You must be tired."

"I'm always tired," Scarlett said and immediately wished that she had held her tongue. To show weakness in front of Melly! But although Scarlett could not put words to the thought, that was why she had come. There was a strength and courage in Melanie that not even Scarlett possessed, the strength Scarlett had come home to find in Ellen. She lay quiet and let Melanie stroke her hair.

"You were so brave today, Scarlett," Melanie whispered. "You've been so brave always."

"Hush." Scarlett turned her head away.

"No soldier could have done better." Melanie put her arm around Scarlett's waist and her head on Scarlett's shoulder. "You are our captain."

"A fine thing to call me," Scarlett said. "I'll never catch a husband if that gets about." I shouldn't have said that, she thought. Melly will think of Charles.

But Melanie giggled softly and then Scarlett giggled too and soon the bed was shaking with their silent laughter. Melanie's arm drew tighter around Scarlett and Scarlett suddenly thought of Ashley. Had Melly lain in bed with him, head pillowed on his shoulder, arms about him in the dark? Did they laugh together like friends?

Then Scarlett thought of the Yankee, dead with Scarlett's bullet through his face. Was Ashley lying in an unmarked grave tonight? Or torn and bloody on the field of battle, one dead man among many? No! Ashley was not dead, must not be dead. Scarlett couldn't bear it.

She slid her arm under Melanie and hugged her close, as though that would keep Ashley safe. Ashley had touched Melanie, had been with her before he rode away. Had Melanie shied from him? Or had she shivered beneath him?

"What would I do without you, dear sister?" Melanie said and kissed Scarlett. Scarlett could still feel Ashley's kiss on her lips, his body against hers. When Melanie's chaste mouth touched Scarlett's, Scarlett pressed close, only half-knowing what she did, parted her lips and kissed Melanie as she would a lover.

Scarlett's head was spinning and her skin pricked as she held Melanie in her arms. Melly's soft mouth worked against hers, Melly's hand found Scarlett's hair and for a moment, Scarlett did not even know where she was, only that a great warmth was growing inside of her.

Then Melanie drew back. Her hand still touched Scarlett's arm, but lightly, shakily. "You are not yourself," she said and it was the thin, patient voice that always made Scarlett grind her teeth and dig her nails into her palms. "Are you ill?"

"No," Scarlett said. She was ashamed, confused. She had been weak and acted foolishly. "I'll go to bed and leave you to rest." Melanie did not protest. She squeezed Scarlett's arm but Scarlett pulled away.

In her own bed, Scarlett lay on her back, feeling the ache in her muscles, the pain in her blistered foot. Sleep would not come tonight. But Tara was safe. And Ashley would come back. She closed her eyes and breathed the humid air and thought about Ashley until dawn.


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