He was mopping the corridor in the ER when they brought her in. She had big bandages around her wrist and a cut over her eye and she was fighting mad. They had her all tied down and the doc and the nurse were telling her to just relax, they needed to care for her injuries, everything would be fine. The same bullshit he heard them tell a lot of people.
She was yelling, telling them to leave her alone, she didn't want to be there. She was red faced and furious as she screamed back that it was her life and it was her decision and she should be allowed to make it. Daryl just looked on shaking his head as he muttered to himself, "Yeah, good luck with that one girl."
It wasn't just her anger or her injuries he noticed, he was after all a perfectly healthy 17 year old male with more hormones than he knew what to do with. He saw that she was pretty and feisty and if they were both on the outside he'd like to take her for a ride on his dirt bike. Somewhere up in the mountains, somewhere they could be alone. Maybe do a little exploring.
He shook his head again, shit, like he'd have the balls to ask her, and if he did she'd probably laugh at him and tell him to go fuck himself, she had better things to do.
Even with her ranting and hollering she'd spotted him mopping the floor in his orange jumpsuit. She knew what it meant. He was like her, a prisoner in this place. Kind of a cute prisoner, but boys were a whole other kind of problem, just the kind of problem she didn't need.
She was angry and not just angry about one thing or angry at just one person, she was angry at the whole world. She was sure everyone and everything had purposely set their sights on making her miserable and denying her the right to her own choices. And now, as if she needed one more terrible thing to happen, she woke up in this awful prison they called a hospital.
All she'd wanted to do was end it all, why wasn't she allowed to do that? Why had Maggie and her Daddy and the doctor interfered? She was 17 years old, she'd be eighteen in just a few months. She was old enough to make her own decisions. She would, just as soon as she hit 18. They'd see. She'd walk out of this hospital and out of their lives forever.
He had two months of youth detention left. His brother Merle told him to consider it a lucky break and to do what they told him to do, keep his head on straight and don't fuck up. He supposed he was pretty lucky. He got busted, no way of denying what he and his buddies were doing, but being only 17 he got time in juvie. If he'd been a few months older it would have been county lock up.
That's where Caesar and Dwight ended up, county. So yeah, he realized he'd lucked out getting this particular form of punishment, living in juvie hall and doing janitorial work at the County Hospital. Yeah, it could be a lot worse.
They must have given her some kind of good drugs because she didn't even remember getting in a room and getting in a bed. Damn them. She tried asking the woman who brought her breakfast and then realized she wasn't a nurse, she didn't even speak English. She was probably a prisoner in her way too, just like Beth and janitor. Everyone in this awful place was there against their will.
Then the shrink came in, just the person Beth didn't want to see. She didn't need her head shrunk, she needed to be allowed to do what was best for her. Why couldn't these jerks believe she knew what that was? But the woman was nice, a little awkward but obviously smart and kind of witty. Dr. Denise Cloyd was her name.
Her voice had a softness and an understanding tone as she told the young woman, "I know you're upset Beth. I'd be mad too if I wasn't allowed to do what I was sure was best for me. I also know the last thing you want to hear from me is that you're young, you have your whole life ahead of you and you just have to realize how wonderful that life can be, and how lucky you are. Blah blah blah, I get it. No one wants to hear that crap. What I want to hear is why you think your way is the best way for you."
Beth didn't want to like the woman but she couldn't help herself, she did. Denise Cloyd was the first person who acted like they gave a crap about her thoughts and feelings.
He saw her that afternoon. She was sitting at a table in the day room playing solitaire and looking bored to death. Maybe he shouldn't say that exactly. He had a feeling he knew just by the bandage on her wrist why she was here. He knew she sure as hell didn't want to be, she was a prisoner just like him.
He wasn't sure where he got the guts to do it, but as he moved the dust mop side to side he moved over close to her. He was practically right behind her chair when he whispered just loud enough for her to hear, "Wanna take a break? I got a couple smokes. Meet me in the janitorial supply closet, just down the hall, I'll leave it unlocked." And he kept moving the mop side to side as he slowly made his way back down the hall.
At first she just shook her head. Who the hell did he think he was? Why would she want to go anywhere with him? Besides, she didn't even smoke. But it was something and she was bored and maybe she should take up smoking. That would serve them right for leaving her locked up here.
She stood and stretched and told the nurse she was going to use the restroom then go write in her journal, just like the doctor told her to do. The nurse just smiled as if she cared.
Just like in the outside world no one really paid any attention as she casually sauntered down the hall. No one really cared. She smiled when she saw the door, quickly looked around and slipped in, shutting it behind her.
There he stood with his knee bent, foot pressed flat against the wall he was leaning on and a naughty little smile on his lips. "Hey girl, didn't think you'd really come."
"I probably shouldn't have. Obviously you're some kind of criminal. Just what did you do to end up in juvie? You didn't hurt a person did you?"
His eyes never left hers as he expertly shook just one cigarette far enough out of the red pack to slip it between his lips. He flicked the lighter, took a long drag, shrugged and answered, "Nuthin' so bad. Never hurt no people. Damn sure didn't hurt no girls if that's what you're worried about. A couple a buddies and me was drinkin' beer when we got an idea. We hotwired an old Ford, took it on a little joyride. I guess my bud Caesar got going a little too fast. A cop started chasin' us, lights, sirens the whole party. Caesar thought he could outrun the man but the man had cop buddies. They caught us out on Higby Road. Caesar and Dwight are in county lockup. I's the only one under 18 so I got the jumpsuit and the cleanin' job."
He took the cigarette from his lips, flipped it so the filter was pointed at her and smiled again, "Drag?"
"Sure." She took it from his hand, took the smallest puff she could manage and immediately begin coughing. "That's nasty."
"Yeah it is and you're too fuckin' pretty ta be smokin' anyway. Ya look more like the kind to be eatin' one a them frozen yogurts in a cup."
She smiled, "That does sound kind of good right now."
With that he moved in close to her and clutching the side of her head in one hand he pulled her into a deep kiss. They held the kiss for a while before he drew back smiling, "What's your name girl?"
She was stunned by what he'd done but more stunned by how much she liked it, "I'm Beth. What's your name?"
After that day it was every day that he worked over the next two months. They met in the supply closet and they talked and he told her his story and she told him hers. Both of them had given up on life. Him in his way and her in her way.
He told her she should try to work with the doc, that the woman only wanted to help and that maybe it really would help. For some reason when he told her those things it didn't piss her off, not like when everyone else said it over and over.
He also told her she was lot stronger than she realized and that she ought to go ahead and show everyone just how tough she was. "Maybe you just gotta prove to em you can survive whatever the hell this world decides to throw at ya."
She told him he was a lot smarter than he gave himself credit for. She told him he was a good person, and to have survived all he'd survived he had to be the bravest and strongest boy in the world. She told him he could survive anything; his scars were proof of that. She told him, "Daryl if the world ends tomorrow you'll still be here, you'll be the last man standing." And as daunting as that sounded to him he liked that she would think it of him.
They talked about how life was and how they wished it was different, and how they were going to make it different for themselves when they got the hell out of the prison they were in.
And every day he pushed her up against the door of that room and every day they kissed each other hungrily and toward the end of his time there she let him start putting his hands up her shirt and his mouth on her breasts. They rubbed their bodies together until they made each other cum. Then she'd leave and he'd clean himself up and they'd get back to doing what they were supposed to be doing.
It was a Wednesday when he told her, "This is my last day girl. The state's gonna send me ta some trainin' school. They say I got a future if I want it. I'm thinkin' maybe I better go for it. I hate ta leave ya though. Shit girl, I think I love ya."
She looked so sad as a tear rolled down her check and she told him, "You have to Daryl. You have to go to that school and prove to them how good you are and prove it to yourself too. I'll be out of here in two months, I'll be 18 then. Maybe we'll find each other again."
"We will, I'll find ya girl," and one last time he pushed her up against that door, and one last time they kissed and he touch her breasts and he put his mouth on them and they rubbed their bodies together until they gave each other release.
And then he was gone and it was just her there, alone.
For years he would ask himself what the fuck was the matter with him. Why hadn't he gotten her last name? Why didn't he get her phone number, an address, something? She was the one who made him see light, who made him see there was more to life than being bad. That to get what you want maybe you have to work at it. She was the brightness that finally came into his life, the brightness he still craved every day. He'd been so stupid he'd let his chance at real happiness get away.
It wasn't that he didn't try. He went back to the hospital several times that week before the state sent him away. He begged them to let him in to see her, no one listened to his pleading.
She was miserable there without him but she did like he suggested. She started to open up to the doctor. She wanted to get better, she did want to show everyone that she could. That she was strong and capable and not just some weak little girl who couldn't handle life on life's terms.
But there was one thing she didn't share. She kept her secret. She never told Dr. Cloyd, she never told Maggie, she never told anyone about the boy who made her want to live again.
Why though? Why had she been so stupid? Why hadn't she given him her phone number or gotten his? Why hadn't she given him her address? Missed opportunity. It would always be her biggest missed opportunity. He said he was bad but he wasn't bad at all, he was everything good and every day she craved him and every day she knew she'd never have him again.
Once she got out of that hospital that she called a prison she worked hard at getting her life together. Although she'd made up with her family living at home with them was something she didn't think she could ever do again. She took a job waiting tables to get enough money and get her own place.
She got a tiny one bedroom apartment with a girl she'd known in high school, a girl named Amy. She took classes during the day and waited tables at night and soon she was a trained Phlebotomist. She could have gone to work right there at the hospital where she'd spent two months falling in love with a boy who had a rough look, a rough sounding voice, a rough past, rough hands, a gentle spirit and a warm heart. No, she couldn't work there. There would be that daily reminder of what could have been.
She packed up her old car and she moved north up near Dalton. She took a job in the hospital and got a small apartment and tried to move on with her life. But she couldn't help herself. Every day she thought about the boy who called himself bad and was so good.
The state sent him to a training school up out of Augusta and the first thing that happened was he earned his GED. He felt proud to have the piece of paper that said he wasn't stupid, he was capable. Just like the girl named Beth had told him. He couldn't have done it without her there in his mind, telling him every day that he could.
He began to study plumbing and parts of the schooling were hard, but he always heard her telling him he could do it. He got on as an apprentice and he studied at night and finally it happened, he was licensed. He moved closer to the mountains and got a good job, and he rented what he thought of as his first nice place. A little duplex right in town and close to the company where he worked.
The area where he lived was surrounded by beautiful country. There were lots of places to escape to on his days off. Places where he could explore, and he always thought of her.
She was on her way to a patient's room to draw blood when she heard it, someone called out to her and she knew right away who that rough voice belonged to, "Hey girl."
She turned around and smiled as tears filled her eyes. He was dressed in a working man's uniform with a tool belt around his waist, "Daryl."
"Been missin' you every day Beth."
"I've been missing you every day Daryl."
"Ya alright, ya ain't a patient here are ya?"
He looked so worried and she answered quickly, "No, no I work here."
He smiled, "Thank God."
"Why are you here?"
"Leaking pipes in the imaging lab. I'm off at five tonight, can we spend time together? I can pick ya up on my bike."
"Yes, I'd like that. I'm off at five too. Your dirt bike? Do you still have it?"
"Nah, nah I got a Triumph now." He took his phone from his pocket. "Put your number in, k?"
She took it and she was so excited her hands felt a little shaky. She put the number in and handed it back, and he sent her a text so she'd have his number.
She smiled, looked around quickly, took his hand as she led him into the linen supply closet. "I have a patient, we just a minute alone to get us by until tonight."
Just like all those years before he moved in close to her and clutching the side of her head in one hand he pulled her into a deep kiss. They held the kiss for a while before he drew back smiling, "I was right, I do love ya."
"I love you too."