I brush the dust off my hat and watch as she climbs back into the rickety old wagon. It is impossible for me to believe it and the horse I came by had lasted this far. They would last her until she got to Tara, but not much longer than that. I believed that or I would not be doing this. It is only after she is seated on the platform again, reigns in her hand that I place the hat back on my head.
Leaving a woman alone with a woman recovering from childbirth, a newborn babe, and a useless Negro in the back of her wagon with Yankee soldiers wandering the area went against everything I believed in. I could not let her see the doubt in my eyes, though, or it would be my undoing. All she had to do was ask, really ask me to go the rest of the way with her and I would. She has not stopped to realize that a bit of sincerity on her part would go a long way with me. That is all I have ever wanted from her, sincerity and honesty.
"Scarlett," I say, now doubting my decision to go my own way. I have an opportunity to be her hero, her white knight, and to have her indebted to me. So why am I leaving? Why am I crazy enough to risk my life for a cause I am not even sure I believe in? "Why indeed," I mutter under my breath.
"If you're apologizing, Rhett Butler, it's too late." My proclamation had put her in a state like I had not seen in her before. For a moment I thought she was going to admit she loved me. What a fool I was for thinking those words would ever roll off her tongue directed toward me. It was never going to happen, which was really more a pity for her than for me.
I had a long walk ahead of me and the night was not getting any younger. It would not be difficult for me to charm my way into someone's wagon if anyone were to pass me on my way to Atlanta. "I'm not apologizing, Scarlett. I have to do what I feel is right." I am not certain fighting in a war our side is destined to lose was right, but I learned long ago to listen to what the little voice in my head said.
"Leaving the four of us out here at this time of night when God only knows who could be out here is far from being right."
I glanced at the sky's horizon, even from this distance it was clear Atlanta was burning. Should I tell her she would have been no safer in Atlanta? Wordlessly, I turn from her, set on starting on my walk back to civilization.
"You're really going to leave?"
I stop, but do not turn toward her. I fear I willl see the sincerity in her eyes I was looking for earlier. "I don't play games, Scarlett."
"Oh Rhett, you're a fool you know that?"
"You've mentioned that on more than one occasion, Scarlett, but I appreciate, as always, you reminding me of your opinion."
"Rhett," she called to my retreating back. "Rhett."
"Good bye, Scarlett," I say. This may very well be the last time I see her. I do the one thing I know I should not; I look at her once more. I glance over my shoulder so that I can take this moment with me to my death bed if that is what leaving her results in happening to me. She had seen better days, but still looks beautiful and full of life. I believe the picture of her sitting on the wagon, gazing at me as if I have committed the ultimate betrayal will haunt me for the rest of my days.