Beth headed down the sidewalk to her favorite little coffee shop. It was tucked in the middle of an appliance store and hearing aid center. She’d just finished picking up Christmas cards for her daddy and homemade candy canes for her nephew and decided a hot drink would warm her up. Winter in her little corner of Georgia rarely saw snow but it definitely got cold! She pulled her beanie down over her blonde curls and her jacket closer around her.
A few feet ahead of her a man stood ringing a bell next to a telltale red kettle. He was wearing a red Santa hat and a black leather jacket. The contrast made Beth smile. His jeans were stained and one knee had a hole in it and she wondered if he could feel the cold coming in that ragged hole. Pulling out her wallet she dug for some change and walked towards the man.
Daryl saw the pretty little blonde coming his way and he suddenly felt self-conscious in the ridiculous Santa hat Carol had made him wear. Not that this girl would even give him a second look. But still.
“Good evening,” she said as she pushed some coins through the slot. His response was a nod. Before sticking her wallet back in her purse she pulled out two one dollar bills and held them out to him. “These are for you.” She didn’t expect the look of horror that she found on his face when she looked up at him.
“I don’ need yer money girl!” He sounded offended and he’d stopped ringing the bell and was just staring at her.
“Oh, I just thought, I’m so sorry.” She felt her cheeks heat up as she hastily stuffed the money and wallet back in her purse.
“I ain’t one of them homeless guys if that’s what yer thinking.” He didn’t mean for his voice to come out so gruff but he felt embarrassed that she’d pegged him for a bum.
“I shouldn’t have assumed, really I was just…” What was she doing? She knew not all the people who came out and collected money for the local shelters were actually living in them. And now she’d probably hurt this man’s feelings. She noticed then that he had brilliant blue eyes and lips that were pink with the cold.
“ ‘M helping a friend out. She was short on street Santa's an I owe her so..” Daryl watched her face break into a big smile and he thought she had to be the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen.
“Carol? Carol Peltier?” she asked excitedly and all he could do was nod. He was too caught up in her pink cheeks and sparkling blues eyes to actually form any coherent words. “I’m Beth, I volunteer at the shelter a couple mornings a week. I read to the children.” He was so taken he didn’t register that she was holding out her hand. To shake his. Because she was introducing herself. Feeling like a complete dumbass he took her small gloved hand in his.
“I’m Daryl.” Daryl. She smiled at him and watched as his lip curled up into his own crooked smile. It seemed to transform his whole face. “I uh, I was running late so I came in my work clothes. And the hat.” He pointed a finger up at the red Santa hat. She held out her leg showing off her own holey knee.
“I just thought you were a stylish dresser like me!” She giggled and it made him smile just a little bit bigger.
“Didn’ know holes was in style.” He cringed at his attempt to make a joke but she seemed amused by it and giggled some more. An elderly couple came up and Daryl watched as Beth moved away. He hoped she wasn’t leaving yet. But he had no idea why she’d stay. The couple put some change in the kettle and wished him a Merry Christmas then moved on. Beth was still standing there as they walked off down the sidewalk pulling their scarves and coats a little tighter around them. A cold wind had kicked up.
She didn’t want to walk away. Not yet. His blues eyes and crooked smile made her feel good. So she stepped back up next to the red kettle. The silence felt a little awkward and she wondered if he was hoping she’d leave now. Maybe she was bugging him. She'd give it one more try. If he wanted her to bring coffee then that meant she wasn't bothering him.
“I’m gonna go grab something hot to drink. That little coffee shop is one of my favorites. Can I get you something? Not because you can’t get it yourself, but I’m getting some…” Oh come on Beth, she said to herself. Get a grip.
“Don’t gotta do that,” he said shoving his hands into his pockets the bell all but forgotten.
“I know. But’s cold out here.” She was looking at him all hopeful the wind ruffling her curls. He found himself wondering if they were soft and if they smelled like vanilla. Fuck ya big perv… He cleared his throat and looked into her eyes.
“I like coffee, black with 2 sugars.” He shrugged his shoulders. It was damn cold out here and her with those holey jeans. Kinda tight holey jeans.
“Okay! Great. I’ll be right back Daryl.” Beth tried to contain her joy, she kind of felt like skipping and wouldn’t she look like a mature adult then? She’d probably scare him away. Giggling at the picture in her head of her dancing down the sidewalk and him running in the other direction she pushed open the shop door. She was greeted by the rich aroma of coffee, one of her favorite things next to chocolate.
“Beth! My favorite customer!” Aaron, the owner had become a friend. Beth was a frequent visitor. She came for the coffee and stayed for the company. If she didn’t already have a job at the library she would probably work here.
“Hi, Aaron. I need a black coffee, two sugars and a mocha with whip cream,” she said pulling out her wallet.
“Two coffees? And black? That’s not your usual.” Aaron was being nosy, Beth smiled as she explained.
“It’s for a friend, Daryl. He’s ringing the bell tonight.” She was well aware of the fact that her voice lowered and she didn’t look at Aaron because she knew she was blushing too. To his credit, Aaron didn't press any further. He took care of her order and even tossed in a couple of her favorite double chocolate brownies.
“Stay warm out there Beth! Your cheeks are pink! Must be pretty cold!” He winked and she hurried out the door before he could embarrass her even more.
Daryl kept looking towards the coffee shop that Beth had disappeared into. He told himself he was really looking forward to that hot cup of coffee and not the sweet blonde that was bringing it to him. She read books at the shelter. Now that he thought about it Carol had mentioned a new volunteer who was bringing books for the kids. She’d also mentioned that the volunteer was pretty and single. But Daryl hadn’t been interested in any kind of interaction with women in a long time. It was too much trouble and usually never amounted to anything. This would probably turn out the same way. Because that’s how Daryl's luck worked. He’s never met a girl quite like Beth though. The coffee shop door caught his eye as it opened and she came bustling out with two cups and a little white bag. He left his kettle, something he was not supposed to do, and took a cup and the bag so Beth could zip up her jacket.
“Thank you, Daryl.” She smiled. Once again he thought she had to be the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen up close.
“Think I'm supposed to be thankin’ you.” He held up the warm cup in her direction. “So thanks.” They walked back over towards the kettle. “Whas’ in the bag?”
“Oh! Brownies. The owner, he knows I like them as much as I like coffee so he gave us a couple. Do you like chocolate?” He did like chocolate, kind of had a sweet tooth. There was a low brick ledge right beside his post and he set his coffee down and perched next to it. She followed his example and sat too. He handed her the bag and she pulled out a very chocolatey brownie and handed it to him.
“This is some serious chocolate.” She watched as he took a bite and got chocolate in his beard. She reached into the bag for a napkin and without thinking leaned over and wiped his chin. He grabbed her wrist gently and smirked at her. It made her tummy do flip-flops.
“I can wipe my own face girl.” He was teasing, she could tell, but oh the voice and those eyes. If she could have one Christmas wish it would be that she’d get to see Daryl again after tonight.
“Sorry force of habit. I have a nephew, he’s kind of messy,” Beth said. “not that you're messy I just.. I’m just embarrassing myself all over the place tonight!” She laughed a little and bit into her brownie.
“ ‘S cute. Yer cheeks get all pink.” What the hell? Somebody snatched his body! Invaded it because this was not Daryl Dixon’s normal way of conversing with a female. Grunts and minimal vocabulary was more his style.
“Yeah, well your ears turn pink and I think that’s kinda cute!" Was he flirting with her? And was she flirting back? She took another bite of her brownie because suddenly she was at a loss for words.
“So ya like reading to kids?”
“So where do you work that requires holey jeans?”
They both started laughing. Beth with her pink cheeks and him with his pink ears and he wiped his mouth and looked at her.
“You first,” he said.
That next Tuesday Daryl showed up during story time at the shelter to repair a leaky pipe Carol had asked him about. It took five minutes. The rest of the time he lingered in the great room where a small circle of kids sat with all their attention on Beth as she read a story about a puppy who was looking for a home. She smiled and caught Daryl’s eye and he saw the faint blush on her cheeks.
On Wednesday he went back with some WD40 to oil a couple of squeaky doors. And see if Beth was busy, maybe he could buy her coffee. Carol just smiled at him and sighed.
“Daryl none of the doors here squeak. And story time isn’t until tomorrow morning. Come back around 10. Beth will be here then.” He felt his heart sink when she said 10 am.
“Can’t, gotta go pick up parts in Atlanta tomorrow morning.” There was no way he could get out of it. They were his parts and he needed to be there. Damn! Maybe this was getting out of control. He should probably just quit now while he was ahead. Beth was just being nice to him. He'd never have a chance with a girl like her.
“Well hurry up and get that taken care of. I need your help again. I have to train a new bell ringer and I want you to do it,” Carol said taking the WD40 from him and putting it in a cupboard under the sink.
“Ah hell no! I ain’t no good at that. You do it.” This Santa bell ringer stuff was a one time deal. That hat was hot and itchy and it got cold just standing around out there.
“It’s Beth. She asked if you could show her the ropes.” Well, why didn’t she say that in the first place? Wait, this meant Beth wanted to see him right? And he could buy her coffee and see her smile and damn that girl just made him feel good.
“Ok.” He stared at the ground while he said it because he just knew Carol was smiling.
“Toldja she was pretty.”
They met on the sidewalk out by the coffee shop. Beth had on a red puffy ski jacket and a Santa hat that matched his. They both laughed looking at one another.
“So you gonna show me how this is done?” Beth asked waving her gloved hand in the direction of the red kettle. She had gone to Carol and confessed that she liked Daryl and wanted to see him again. She made the other woman promise not to give her away.
“Ain’t much to it. Just gotta smile and say Merry Christmas when someone gives you some change.” Daryl moved in next to the kettle and Beth scooted right up beside him.
“You weren’t smiling much when I first saw you, Daryl.” Bumping his arm lightly she gave him that smile he was hoping for.
“Smiled at you didn’ I? Sides yer smile is better than mine. ‘S gonna get us all kinds a donations tonight.” His ears would be on fire if that was possible. And she’s just giggling. Reaching into the kettle he pulls out two bells and hands her one. Taking it she holds it out and shakes it.
“Is this how it’s done, Daryl?” She gives the bell a weak little shake and bites her lip when he covers her hand with his.
“Nah, ya gotta give it a firm shake back forth.” He does it with her then let's go and she gives the bell another shake. “Yer a natural!”
“I just have a good teacher!” Scratching his neck he shrugs and shakes his own bell. A woman and little girl are walking in their direction when the little girl runs ahead.
“Look mama! It Santa Claus and Missus Claus before they grew up!” She’s bouncing on her on her little-booted toes and smiling up at them. Her mama comes along and puts a hand on the little girl's shoulder.
“Well it sure is isn’t it Amy! Give them some change and let’s go meet your daddy,” she says winking at Beth and Daryl. As they head off down the sidewalk Daryl shakes his head.
“Ain’t no Santa Claus!” he grumbles. He looks over at Beth when she gasps.
“You aren’t? And here I was hoping to sit on your lap and tell you what I want for Christmas!” There’s a little gleam in her eye and those cheeks of hers are definitely pink. She’s flirting with him! This beautiful girl is flirting with him. Suddenly Christmas doesn't sound half bad and if Beth wants him to be her Santa Claus and sit on his lap. Well. This may turn out to be the best Christmas ever.