On his way back from the shower block, Daryl caught sight of Beth dressed in a blue puffy dress, clearly too small for her and covered in glitter.
Last week on a run Glenn had started stuffing little girl sized costumes into the last remaining backpack.
‘Beth asked for them’ he’d said as he worked through the rack, clearly looking for specifics.
Daryl had rolled his eyes and continued on his hunt for disposable razors and food, any kind of food, while Glenn loudly checked them off his list. Daryl hadn’t thought much more about it, they’d had too much going on with all these new people to feed but suddenly there Beth was in front of him, wearing a shiny blue dress as few sizes too small.
‘Do I look like Cinderella?’ she asked as he approached. She smiled but there was a hint of embarrassment on her face as well.
‘Ya look ridiculous’
He couldn’t help but tease, it was easier than to try and understand the innate goodness in her. This was a girl living in an abandoned prison, her whole world torn apart and yet she was squeezed into a polyester princess dress to make the kids smile. She was still trying to give them a childhood and he couldn’t understand that, because even before the world went to shit, nobody had done that for him. That’s what made her special.
It had taken him a while to notice the change in her. She’d tried to kill herself, a half-assed attempt but still, the intent was there. Somehow she’d bounced back. At first he thought she was in denial, some kind of coping mechanism, but the longer they’d been on that road together he realised that this act, well maybe it wasn’t an act, and it wasn’t just for her benefit. Her presence somehow settled everyone, reminded them that life could go on. She’d lost the end of her own teenage years and after that initial breakdown she’d come back strong in her own way, a way they all needed.
‘Don’t worry, I was just about ta take it off’ she claimed as she began to lift the layers of tulle over her head, ‘the girls were playin’ dress ups and begged me to join in’
‘I’m stuck’ she cried, awkwardly trapped beneath the elastic of the skirt that didn’t stretch quite far enough over her shoulders.
‘hold up’ he said, crossing the space between them.
She threw her arms up and lowered herself down, perched on the end of her bed and gave a nervous giggle.
He took the taffeta and tulle and pulled, surprised at how much the costume resisted leaving her small frame. He tugged again and felt the dress lift up over her head, bringing the lemon tank top she wore underneath with it.
‘oh’ he said quietly and quickly moved his hands to pull her top back down just as she did. Their hands collided and he all but jumped backwards
‘m sorry’ he muttered.
She let out another nervous giggle ‘thanks for rescuing me’ she said, her eyes smiling at him.
He just nodded and walked away, he couldn’t help it. He’d thought a lot of things about Beth Greene this past year but he’d never seen her exposed like this, never really considered that she was a woman. His hands felt like they were burning where they had brushed hers, the image of her creamy white skin covered by that flimsy white lace was burned into his mind now.
Hours later he stood in the tower looking out over the prison. His job was to watch for any outside threat, to keep his people safe. Tonight though there was nothing moving outside the gates and the full moon lit up the yard surrounding him. He’d watched his people move around all evening.
Those who’d never done watch up here seemed unaware they were under constant surveillance. Normally he looked away, not wanting to invade their imagined privacy, but tonight he couldn’t. He watched as a flash of a blonde pony tail stole across the yard and met up with Zach, that new kid. They didn’t waste a moment of their time together, within moments Beth’s arms were around Zach’s neck, his hands on her hips as they kissed and Daryl felt an undeniable pang of jealousy. He was envious that he wasn’t nineteen, that he didn’t have someone to run to and kiss and forget the world with, jealous he couldn’t run his hands along the milky white flesh he’d glimpsed only a few hours ago. And it felt wrong, because this was sweet optimistic Beth Greene and she was everything innocent and wholesome, the kind of girl that read fairytales and sang to babies and yet he found himself wishing it was him moving up against her as they leaned against a wall. She was a fairytale princess and he was no prince charming.