He knew where to find her, his pretty blonde. Well she'd been his pretty blonde once, or she could have been his pretty blonde. Now, yeah, it was probably going to be different. Not good. But he knew where she'd be and he was going to at least try.
She'd be working at that little diner just like she had been for a long time. She was one of the good people who did things the right way. She was working hard to put herself through veterinary school.
He pulled the bike up to the place, anxious to see her and to hold her. What he wanted most of all was to get her back to his cabin in the mountains. Pick her up in his arms and carry her to bed. But he was sure she wasn't going to allow that to happen. Not after he'd done what he'd done. She had to be hating on him big time by now. The truth was he didn't blame her. He kind of hated himself.
It had been a long time since he picked Merle up from jail, and the two of them took off for a "little weekend" in Vegas. That weekend turned into more than a month. A month spent working their way back to Georgia, hustling pool and dice all the way.
Yep, she'd be pissed. Way more than pissed.
She'd always given him his freedom. She hadn't tried to change him. As long as there were no other women involved she'd let him go off on his hunting trips and his bike runs. But this had been out of hand. He wondered if there was any way he could ever convince her to give him one more chance. Shit, he wouldn't blame her if she told him to go fuck himself and never looked back.
They'd never put a label on this thing they had going on between them. But he knew. Truth was she wanted things, things he didn't seem to be able to give her. She was sweet and smart and she had goals that she worked hard at. He was an outlaw. Him and his brother Merle, they ran with a rough bunch.
He didn't even want her getting involved in that mix. For the most part he managed to keep her away from the life he lived. She wasn't the kind to be a biker's old lady.
She was the kind of woman a man comes home to at night. The kind of woman a guy marries and has children with. That was the kind of woman she was, but he wasn't that kind of man.
The most he'd ever been able to give her were some good nights of fun and partying and lovemaking. That's what he wanted to get back with her now. It was all he was good for and all he had to give. But by now she'd probably worked him out of her system.
All he could really hope for was she wasn't done with her rebel side. That she was still liking her walk on the wrong side of life. Maybe he'd get lucky and she'd let him back in her bed. He could only hope. He smiled thinking about how it was with her. The girl looked all sweet and innocent, until he got her behind closed doors. There, alone with him she was a wild little thing. Always ready to play those night games.
Just the thought of being with her in that way sent a shiver right through him. He smiled, maybe it was the unusually cold weather.
He watched her through the frosted glass as she moved gracefully around the diner. The frost giving her a kind of angelic glow. She truly was breathtaking.
Yeah, she didn't need his kind of trouble in her life. But that didn't stop him from wanting her kind of sweetness.
He finished his cigarette, tossing it aside and taking in a deep breath. He dismounted the bike and walked in the diner. It was near closing time and it looked like Beth must have gone to the back. The other waitress, Rosita, was up front.
She didn't look up from her side work before she started to speak, "Hey, we're just closing up but I can get you some coffee and pie or... Daryl?!" She was close with Beth, and even though Beth never talked about being with him, Rosita knew.
"You have some nerve, you know that!" She hissed.
"Where is she?" He asked. He'd expected this type of reaction.
"Out back, taking out the trash. You should probably stay out there too and let the trash-man haul your worthless ass away!" She was talking but he was already out the door, heading around the side of the building where the cans were.
He couldn't help smiling at the sight of her, braided hair topped off with a little Christmas headband. She was working hard at lifting the heavy bag, unaware of his presence. He hurried up behind her, taking it from her hand and easily tossing it into the dumpster.
"Thank you so much mister, you..." That was as far as she got before she turned and saw him, "Daryl?"
She went white as a ghost, then quickly turned red with anger. She threw her hands up on his chest and pushed with all her might. He held his ground, in fact, he moved closer.
"Damn you, Daryl! Where the hell have you been? I thought you were dead!" She yelled but then she broke. She couldn't believe she was crying over his sorry ass. Neither could he.
"I know Baby, I picked up Merle from the pen. Went out ta Vegas. It was just s'posed ta be a weekend. We run into some guys he used ta hang with. Shit happened." It was a piss poor excuse at best. Not even really an excuse at all. They both knew that.
"Seriously? You made the choice to follow after him? After all the shit he put you through! He's going to get you killed!" She screamed through her tears.
"He's my blood, Beth. Can we not do this here Baby? Why don't ya come back ta my cabin after ya close up. We don't need us an audience." He hadn't missed Rosita peering at them through the slightly cracked back door.
"No! I've been through this with you too many times Daryl. You can't just come around, call me Baby and think I'll happily slip back into bed with you. I just can't, not again. No more."
Suddenly her voice quieted but the tears didn't stop.
"Before you left this time I...I thought I was pregnant. Did you know that? It turned out to be a false alarm. At first I was disappointed, but you stayed gone and then I was relieved. I used to think maybe I was the one for you. Maybe you'd settle down. I was so stupid."
She shook her head and he knew she was disgusted by him.
"I hoped you'd stay on at the garage, work your way up to lead mechanic. I believed in you. I knew you could do it. I thought we'd raise our baby together. God, I'm such an idiot." By then she was crying harder and he was feeling just like the big worthless asshole he knew he was.
"Daryl, I, I love you...no, make that past tense, I loved you. I just can't keep doing this to myself. I want a family and we both know you can't give me that. You won't give me that. So please just go before I make another mistake with you." She shoved him again and stormed back into the diner.
He felt hurt, defeated, and he didn't blame her. He knew exactly where the blame lie, squarely on his shoulders.
The craziest thing was he knew, deep down in his heart. He knew he loved her. He just couldn't risk bringing her into his world. His dangerous way of living. He'd been lucky to have had her at all. But he wasn't going to keep it up. She was right. He had to go. He cared too much to stay.
He'd never felt so down and he did what he did when he was down. He headed off to find Merle at one of the only places open on Christmas Eve, a biker bar on the outskirts of town. He arrived to find his brother doing what he did, hustling a game of pool. Trying to impress some of the women hanging around the joint. The kind of women hoping some asshole like Merle would make her his old lady.
"Little brother! How'd it go with your gal friend?" Merle slurred his words as, with his arm wrapped around some bottle blonde, his brother made his way over to where Daryl stood bellied up to the bar.
He'd never told his brother where he was headed when they got back to town, but Merle wasn't stupid. He'd figured out why his brother was so anxious to get back home. Only one thing makes a man that way, a woman.
Daryl did his best to ignore him, waving the bartender over and ordering a beer and a shot for himself.
He spent the next few hours doing what he'd come to do, getting lit. He wasn't talking to anyone, he was lost in his own thoughts. He even had a little hope. Maybe, just maybe Beth would change her mind. He knew she'd know where to find him, maybe she'd come around.
She didn't and at midnight the bar erupted in shouts of
"Merry Christmas," and shots began to be passed around.
Daryl wasn't a fan of Christmas in any given year, but this year he was feeling extra blue about it. As the others celebrated, his thoughts grew darker. Fuck them, let them yell and pretend they were happy and their lives were good. Daryl went outside to have a smoke.
It was snowing lightly and he could see his breath.
Suddenly he heard a voice behind him, "You're making a huge mistake, son." He turned to see an older man, hair gone white. The fellow had a cane and walked with a limp as he made his way over to where Daryl stood.
"I don't got any change old man," He half-snarled at the white haired man. He was in no mood for bullshit and he hoped the guy would just move along.
"I said you're making a huge mistake with Beth, son."
The man said it again.
Daryl felt the knife to his heart at the mention of her name. And just how did this strange old man know anything about him or Beth or what was going on between them?
"I'm here to show you the life you could have, the one you should have." The white-haired man leaned on a dark Cherrywood cane for support as he limped toward Daryl.
"Son, if you stay on this road you're on you'll end up a junkie. Maybe worse, dead or in jail. Didn't your brother just get out? Trust me son, he doesn't have too many more Christmases ahead of him." The old man spoke calmly as he delivered his dire warning.
Daryl looked at him with a harsh glare, wishing the old man would get the hint and buzz off. But he just kept coming closer. The lighting behind the bar illuminated the man in a way that was almost celestial. Like he was some kind of damn angel.
It was giving Daryl a cold hard case of the creeps. He wasn't digging the other-worldly vibe at all. He told himself it was just an illusion, caused by all the Jack Daniels he'd consumed.
"Ya ain't nuthin' but a crazy old man," He half-growled as he walked toward his bike.
"So, I see you're just as stubborn as they warned me you are. I guess we're going to have to do this the hard way, son." The old man sighed heavily and stopped to watch as Daryl slipped on a sheet of black ice; sending him to the asphalt where his head hit with a crack and Daryl's world went black.