It was raining heavily and the sky was dark although it was only noon. It was miserable weather which reflected Beth’s mood. It was the kind of day that needed to be grey and horrible because that’s what she felt inside. She’d felt bad enough at the house, as she’d fought with her sister, and her dark mood only worsened as she continued to drive out of town, tears streaming down her face with no idea where she was headed. She knew only that she had to get away for a while. She had to place some physical space between herself and Maggie. They’d had fights before, it was a mandatory part of being sisters, and especially Maggie’s sister, but it had never been like this. Her selfish to the core sister had really shown her true colors this time. She wanted to sell the farm. Their farm. Sure, neither of them lived there anymore but it felt, in some way, like it was the last remaining link to their family. They were all that was left, the two Greene girls. Beth wanted to come back home to that farm every summer for the rest of her life. She wanted to have kids someday and take them there, to rock them in the same cane chair on the porch where he parents rocked her. Fresh tears rolled down her cheeks as she thought about that, nursing a baby on that worn out chair while her parents smiled down from heaven.
She tried to shake the thoughts from her mind and in doing so took stock of her surroundings. She sighed when she realized exactly where she’d headed, the same place she’d always gone when life got too hard and she needed someone to listen, Daryl Dixon.
‘Bad habits die hard’ she murmured to herself.
She’d always known Daryl Dixon, the way you know everyone in a small town. You recognize them, you know who their friends are but you don’t actually know a darn thing about them. She knew he existed, she knew he wore dark jeans and a leather vest, he lived in the woods with his brother and Daddy, in a shack they called a cabin. None of them had ever done a day’s honest work in their life. Everyone knew that, everyone knew him. It wasn’t until she was sixteen they officially met though.
It was Maggie’s 22nd Birthday and Shawn had organised fake IDs for both of them. It didn’t sit right with Beth, she had no intention of drinking and wasn’t really interested in breaking the law either but finally her siblings convinced her they should have at least one night out together before Maggie finished college and moved to God-only-knows-where. So she’d gone, she decided to play the part of designated driver so she didn’t have to worry about her wasted siblings getting home. She sat in the bar, quickly forgotten by Maggie and her college friends and Shawn desperately trying to pursue them. She watched her brother stagger over to band, trying to put in a request. She watched her sister line up another round of shots and shrank further back into the booth she’d been hiding in. She finished her soda and decided to head to the bar for another when she tripped over someone’s foot and fell to the floor, breaking her ankle in the process. Before she even had time to register what had happened he was on the floor next to her.
‘I’m sorry’ he mumbled.
She nodded and tried to stand up but winced.
‘Yer not ok are yer? He asked her. She shook her head. In one quick move he scooped her into his arms, bridal style and headed for the door.
‘Where are you takin’ me?’ she asked.
‘Hospital, my trucks just there’ he said nodding to a rusty old utility vehicle.
‘Maggie, my sister, she’s…’
‘drunk’ he cut her off. ‘Can hardly stand straight let alone drive. And yer brother headed out the backdoor with some girl’
‘How do you know?’
‘Just do. Here’ he placed her in the seat and drove quickly to the hospital. She expected him to leave her there, after the staff came out and helped her transfer to a wheelchair but to her surprise he stayed. He didn’t talk much, hardly at all but he sat with her until they took her up to the ward. At that point she conceded ‘I’d better call my Daddy’ he nodded.
‘I’ll go back for yer brother ‘n sister, make sure they get home safe’ he said and left as though it was nothing, as though he had all the time in the world to look after the irresponsible Greene kids.
The next time she saw him was almost six months later. She’d expected to catch sight of him in and around town before then and it hadn’t happened. She was leaving the grocery store with her father when she caught sight of him across the street.
‘I believe we owe you quite the thank you’ Hershel had said before inviting Daryl to the farm for dinner. Of course he’d declined, he didn’t do wholesome family dinners and Beth couldn’t help but feel disappointment. That disappointment lingered far longer than it should have and she brooded for the remainder of the weekend. She had a crush and it made her blush just thinking about it. She didn’t have much time to think about it though because soon after that her Momma got sick. Real sick, with cancer. Their neighbor Jimmy started hanging around, helping Hershel at the farm so he could devote himself to his wife and Beth sort of just ended up with him, out of convenience more than anything else. Her Momma fought back but the cancer was stronger than her frail body and she passed away the day after Christmas.
The night her Momma died Beth didn’t know what to do. She ran to her car and started to drive. She wanted to be far, far away from anything that even remotely reminded her of her mother. She headed to the outskirts of town and up the dirt road that lead to a falling down cabin. She pulled up and noticed him sitting on the front step, cigarette in hand and a bottle of something in the other. He stood up and walked over to her.
‘Beth, what’re yer doin’ here?’ he asked.
She climbed out of the car and threw herself against him.
‘My Momma’ she said. She didn’t need to say another word. The whole town knew Annette Greene was sick and poor Hershel was going to lose his beloved second wife.
‘I got ya’ he said loosely wrapping one arm around her. Eventually she calmed down enough to come and sit with him. He didn’t want her in the house so they sat on his front step. He talked about losing his own mother and how much it affected him.
‘I aint ever eaten peach cobbler since she died’ he said quietly, ‘I just couldn’t after that.’
She nodded. ‘How did you go on though?’
He shrugged. ‘Didn’t have a choice. Neither do yer, different but still, yer just gonna have to get used to it.’
‘Where’s your family?’ she finally asked, they’d sat there for hours now and she hadn’t seen any other Dixons.
‘drunk or high somewhere’ he answered.
‘Both of them?’
He nodded. ‘Happy Holidays’
‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t a… you’ve got yer own…stuff, don’t need me’
He shook his head ‘I’m glad yer here. Better than just driving ‘til ya hit somethin’ or drinking yerself stupid’
He looked at her again, puffy eyes and tear stain cheeks and still she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
‘Why did ya come here?’ he asked.
She looked down ‘I just wanted to be somewhere far away from it all and yer face flashed through my mind and I thought how you were so kind to me after I broke my ankle… I just sorta headed here without really thinking it through’.
He nodded, ‘yer welcome anytime Beth.’
To her surprise, he turned up at Annette’s funeral. She didn’t notice him until they were lowering her into the ground. Beth held herself together through the service and the burial but as they piled into Hershel’s car to head to the wake, she saw the groundsmen covering her mother’s coffin and something inside of her broke. She kicked off her black high heels and ran barefoot to the patch of earth they had left her Momma in.
‘Nooo’ she cried, it came from deep inside her, the place she could feel breaking. Before anyone else could reach her, there was Daryl, on the ground behind her, his arms wrapped around her.
‘’s’ok Beth, I got yer’ he whispered ‘’s’ok’ over and over as he rocked her in his arms and she collapsed against him.
Shawn came over and approached them.
‘Come on Beth, we need you to pull it together, everyone’s headed back to the house, people want to see us.’
She looked up at her brother but couldn’t speak.
Daryl nodded at him ‘I think she might need a little time. I’ll bring her up once she’s finished here’
Shawn nodded and headed back to the car, leaving Beth to sob in Daryl’s arms.
Eventually her breathing evened and she pulled herself from his grasp.
‘Yer like some kind of guardian angel Daryl Dixon, showin’ up when I need yer’
He cringed ‘aint nobody ever called me an angel before’ he said gently.
The grounds crew had continued to work throughout Beth’s meltdown and by now her mother’s grave was a mound of dirt.
‘Anything else you want to say to her?’ he asked softly.
She knelt to the ground and pressed her lips against the dirt, kissing it gently and whispering ‘I love you.’
He guided her back to his car then dropped her at the farm.
‘Come in with me?’ she asked but he declined.
‘Nobody wants a Dixon there’ he said matter of factly and drove off.
For the few weeks that followed Beth hardly left the house. Maggie was staying with them to help out in the initial aftershock, her new boyfriend Glenn had flown in too. Shawn spent most of his time anywhere but there. He often came home drunk or stoned and everyone looked the other way. Eventually Hershel went back to work and she went back for her final semester of high school.
That first day back was overwhelming. People that never spoke to her before suddenly wanted to hold her hand, hug her, offer condolences. Jimmy became completely overbearing. By fourth period English Beth was exhausted and frustrated. She walked into the room and Mrs. Link’s well intended ‘How are you holding up?’ set her over the edge. Beth turned out of the classroom and headed to the car park, Jimmy trailing after her.
‘Just leave me the fuck alone’ she called to him without stopping and hopped into her car. She knew exactly where she was headed this time. She was already on the right side of town and within minutes she was at the Dixon cabin. She recognized Daryl’s old truck and another beat up one next to it. She sat there in a car for a moment, contemplating what to do next, did she want to face another Dixon? Before she could make up her mind Daryl appeared at her door.
‘Y’alright?’ he asked tapping on the glass.
Beth nodded. She wasn’t in tears, she was too angry to cry.
She was pissed and she wanted to vent. She needed to talk to someone who wouldn’t treat her like some dumb kid. Daryl hovered awkwardly at the door.
‘Kinda cold out here’ he said finally ‘can I jump in?’
Beth nodded as he came around to the passenger seat.
‘Whose in there?’ she asked nodding towards the house.
‘Want to go somewhere?’ she asked.
He shrugged ‘y’alright to drive?’
‘Keep drivin’ straight then’ he said.
The dirt road continued but Beth had never been further than the Dixon’s home.
‘Jus’ follow it a minute’ he said.
She did until it ran out in what seemed like the middle of nowhere
‘Know where we are?’ he asked.
She shook her head. They had to be almost twenty minutes out of town now and in another minute she saw it, an old wooden barn. It hadn’t been used in years and she’d only been out here once before, when she was ten and heard it was haunted.
‘Oh’ she said.
‘Better than my driveway’
They sat there in silence for a moment before she turned up the radio but they were too far for service.
She sighed and looked at Daryl.
‘I thought, I thought I wanted to vent but now it seems kinda stupid’
He shrugged ‘I’ll listen’
She shook her head. ‘No I know it’s stupid, I know people were just bein’ kind’.
A tight smile crossed his lips.
‘Get a lot of kids wanna ask if yer ok?’
She nodded. ‘Teachers too’
The silence resumed for a moment.
‘This one girl, Mary, her sister died last year an’ I invited her to prayer group so we could pray for her….. no wonder she hates me’
Beth blushed, ‘I used to help lead it. I don’t go anymore though.’
The silence washed over them again and Beth looked over at Daryl, trying to read him but she couldn’t. His eyes were fixed straight ahead, his expression almost blank.
‘How old are you?’ she asked suddenly.
He shrugged ‘It matter?’
She shook her head ‘Nah, I just realized I hardly know you’
He nodded but didn’t answer, didn’t comment. Suddenly she felt guilty, she’d literally fallen into his life and then invited herself to stay in it. It suddenly struck her was wildly inappropriate and selfish. The only thing he’d really spoken to her about was his mother otherwise he just listened and let her talk. She knew all the rumours about him but they didn’t seem to match this almost gentlemen that held her when she cried and didn’t mind when she turned up angry, unannounced.
‘I’m eighteen next week’ she said to break the silence.
‘Old enough to vote’ he replied, still staring ahead.
‘Supposed to be an adult when you’re eighteen but I don’t feel like one’
‘Whats it meant to feel like?’ He asked.
She shrugged ‘I dunno, like you know what you want from life and who you are…. Not stuck at school with no idea what you wanna do next week let alone next year’.
‘Guess I’m not much’ve an adult either then’ Daryl replied but there was something light-hearted about his response.
Beth sighed then tried again ‘So Mr. Dixon, how old are you?’
He turned to look at her ‘Thirty next year’.
‘So you’re like eleven years older than me?’ she said slowly and before he could answer she smiled sweetly ‘same as my parents’.
‘Mine too’ he said quietly.
Beth blushed ‘I don’t think my Momma used to skip school to turn up and whine to my Dad’ she said.
‘Ya haven’t whined so much. I think ya just needed to be somewhere else’. That’s all he said but he was right, he was exactly right.
‘Sometimes I just wanna scream’ she said.
‘Then do it. Nobody can hear ya out here’ he replied as he opened his door. He walked around to the driver side and opened the door for her.
‘Go on then’ he said.
She giggled ‘well now I feel silly’.
‘Aint silly, c’mon’
Beth breathed in the cool winter air and took several steps away before closing her eyes and opening her mouth. She screamed, she howled. It felt good to let it out and just as she took a breath to go again, she heard the deeper scream of Daryl a few steps away. She walked back over and took his hand in hers before screaming again into the distance.
They spent the afternoon there, sometimes silent, sometimes talking about nothing at all. It was exactly what she needed, space from the rest of the world.
‘Can I have your number?’ she asked him as they pulled up back to his cabin.
‘What for?’ he asked in return.
She blushed a little ‘So I can call you rather than just turn up on your doorstep’
He shook his head ‘I like the surprise.’
‘You didn’t want me here today though’ she pressed.
‘Yer so we went somewhere else. Y’know where I am if y’need me’ he said getting out of the car.