Merle was dead. A heroin overdose. At thirty-nine, Daryl was on his own for the first time. No shithead father around to keep him in line. No older brother's thumb to be under. So, Daryl roamed from one shitty manual labor job to the next. He was riding his Harley through a small town about sixty miles outside Atlanta when he stopped in at the town's only gas station. An old as hell notice board hung beside the bathroom. A small horse and produce farm was looking for a full-time farm hand. The pay was decent and room and board were provided. Daryl had nothing else going on and the farm was only another fifteen miles down the road. He decided to check it out.
“Well, I heard he needed some help on the farm,
Somebody with a truck and two strong arms,
Not afraid of dirt and willin' to work,
Till the sun goes down.”
The old farmer's name was Hershel Greene. On top of running one of Georgia's best horse farms, old Hershel was also the town's veterinarian. A soft-spoken but no-nonsense man, Hershel had taken a chance on him. He told Daryl that he would basically be in charge of the farm's day-to-day operations. Everything from feeding the horses, pigs, cows, and chickens to maintaining and harvesting the peach trees, corn fields, and pumpkin and watermelon patches now fell on his shoulders. Hershel gave him the keys to a small one-bedroom cabin located in the woods about a mile from the main farmhouse. Daryl had ridden back to his shithole trailer on the outskirts of Atlanta, cleared out shit crap, loaded his Harley into the bed of Merle's old 1969 Chevy pick-up truck and left his old life behind him.
“So I pulled up and said I'm your man,
I could start right now and we shook hands.
He said the fence needs fixin',
The peaches need pickin',
And the cows need bringin' round.”
“Daryl,” Hershel met him at his truck when he arrived for his first day of work. With him was an Asian kid who couldn't be any older than maybe twenty-five. “This is my daughter Maggie's fiance, Glenn. He's been workin' here every summer since he was thirteen. He'll show you around, let ya see how everything's done around here.”
Glenn politely held out his hand and Daryl was silently glad that Merle wasn't around to see him shaking hands with a 'China man.'
“First things first,” Glenn led Daryl out to the stables after Hershel departed for his office. “The storm last night knocked down part of the fence in the cow pasture. We need to get it fixed before the cows can graze.”
Fixing the fence was child play to Daryl and took all of an hour. Glenn knew what he was doing even though he looked like he should be fixing someone's computer. Their task completed, Glenn proceeded to show him around the farm and give him a rundown on his daily chores. “I'll usually only be around on the weekends,” Glenn informed him as they were putting their horses back in their stalls.
“What do you do the rest of the time?”
“I'm a cop...a rookie. I'm training a few towns over under Deputy Sheriff Grimes.”
Daryl was more surprised but that than he wanted to admit. He never would have pegged Glenn for a cop and the white-trash redneck in him was disgusted by the fact that he actually liked the guy. “What else needs to get done around here?”
“The peach trees all need to be harvested before the end of the week but you'll have help,” Glenn assured him as they both exited the barn and took seats on the tailgate of Daryl's truck. “You'll be in charge of the farm's operations but Hershel's youngest daughter, Beth, is in charge of the farm's profits. She makes a pretty penny with her jams and baked goods down at the farmer's market every week. The peach trees are her babies. She always gets her hands dirty during the harvest.”
“And where is this girl?” All Daryl was imagining was a spoiled little daddy's girl getting underfoot while he was trying to get actual work done.
“Her and my fiance, Maggie, took a girls only trip to Panama City. They'll both be back tomorrow afternoon.”
“I was haulin' hay, I was feedin' the hogs,
And that summer sun had me sweatin' like a dog.
So I cooled off in the creek.
Then it was back to work in the daggum heat.
I was cussin' out loud, thinkin' bout quittin'.
Lookin' back now, I'm sure glad I didn't.
'Cause just when I thought it couldn't get no hotter,
I caught glimpse of the farmer's daughter.”
“Mother fu – ” Daryl caught himself as he heard the squeaky screen farmhouse door swing open behind him. The last thing he needed was old man Hershel getting on his ass about his language...again. He sucked the thumb that he had just smashed with a hammer into his mouth. He was putting up posts for a new horse arena and his fuse was short. It was 105 degrees in the shade and ever a dip in the creek out by the chicken coop hadn't provided much relief. Either his workload needed to lighten, the temperature needed to drop, or he was seriously thinking about quitting and heading home to Atlanta.
“Don't worry, I'm not my daddy. No need to watch your mouth on my account.”
Daryl turned to find a sun-tanned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed fairy of a woman who's very existence seemed to suddenly make his job worth keeping.
“She was just getting home from Panama City.
She was all tanned up and my kinda pretty.
When her eyes met mine,
I was thinkin' I sure love my job.”
“Daryl,” Beth called to him from the other end of the peach grove.
“What's up, girl?” Daryl climbed down off his ladder and jogged over to her.
“I got all the trees over here clear...except for the tops. I was hopin' you would help me.” Beth was looking down at her boots and wouldn't meet his gaze. That was unlike her. Daryl had a hard time keeping his head around her because every time she spoke to him her baby blue doe eyes felt like they were looking right into his soul.
“You scared of heights?” Daryl smirked, for once feeling like he had the upper hand with the farmer's daughter.
Beth crossed her arms and looked like she was almost hugging herself. She kicked at the dirt. “My momma and older brother died in a plane crash when I was sixteen. Haven't much-liked heights since.”
Daryl felt bad. “I'm sorry.” For once he actually was. Then his heart rate sped up. There were many reasons why Daryl considered Beth was off limits to him. The biggest one was that until only a moment earlier he had assumed she was a minor and thus jailbait. But she spoke of being sixteen as though it was something in the not distant but also no close past. “How old are you, girl?”
“Nineteen,” Beth looked up, obviously confused by the question.
“Make ya a deal.” Daryl bit his bottom lip and tried not to grin before he continued. “I'll get the last of the peaches for ya if ya go out ridin' with me later and show me all the trails.” Glenn had already done that but she didn't need to know that.
“Deal,” Beth rewarded him with a sweet smile.
“As the days got shorter, our talks got longer,
The kisses got sweeter and the feelings got stronger.”
That first ride through the five miles of trails that surrounded the farm turned into an evening tradition for the two of them.
“Daryl,” Beth got his attention one evening at the start of fall. They were seated on the bank of the creek that ran beside his cabin as the horses grazed in the front lawn. “How old are you?”
Daryl chuckled as he tossed a rock into the water. “We've been hangin' out for months and you're just now askin' me how old I am? Damn, girl.”
Beth giggled and shrugged her shoulders. “Never mattered much to me. Daddy trusts you and I l...like you.”
Daryl noticed when she stumbled over her words and it took all his strength not to break and show her his hand. “I'm almost forty, baby girl.” He moved a little closer to her and took notice when she blushed. “I like you too, Beth.”
“Seriously?” Beth's head shot up in surprise.
Her reaction managed to pull a rare laugh out of him. He took a gamble when he asked, “What do you think,” right before he kissed her.
Beth was still smiling after the kiss. In fact, the girl looked damn near giddy. “I didn't think you'd be interested in me given our age difference.”
“But you just learned what the difference is,” Daryl teased as he reached out and gave her ponytail a playful tug.
“I still knew it was a big one.” Beth cuddled into his chest as he wrapped his arm loosely around her shoulders.
“I'm more than interested in you, baby girl.” Daryl didn't elaborate. “If you want, meet me here once your daddy goes to sleep. I'll take you for a midnight ride.”
Daryl would take her anywhere she fucking wanted to go. The feeling was new to him but it wasn't an alien concept. He was ass over elbows in love with the farmer's teenage daughter.
“So we'd hop in the truck and get all tangled up,
Every chance we got.
We were down by the river all night long,
When the sun came up I was sneakin' her home,
And draggin' my butt to work,
With the smell of her perfume on my shirt.”
“Daryl, where are we?”
“I found this place not long after your daddy hired me.” Daryl killed the engine of his pick-up truck. They were only about ten feet away from the rapidly flowing river. “This used to be a scenic pull-off before the highway came through. Nature's slowly takin' it back.” He reached over and grabbed a camping lantern that had been sitting on the floor of the passenger side of the truck cab. “Come on, baby girl.”
They ended up laying atop an old worn-out blue sleeping bag in the bed of the truck watching as the moon rose and the stars came out.
“Aren't you scared my daddy will find out about us?” Beth was laying on her back beside him, gazing at the sky as she spoke.
“What's there to know about us, baby girl,” Daryl challenged. “I ain't scare of nothin' but what's there to be scared of?”
“You know what I'm talking about.” Beth sounded both annoyed and timid and Daryl found it a weirdly arousing mix. “You know how I feel about you, Daryl.”
“No, Beth. I don't know what you ain't said.”
Beth sat up so she could see him in the dim light of the lantern. “I ain't never felt this way before so it took me a little while to understand it. You're my best friend, even more so than Maggie, but it's more than that...”
Daryl had been laying with his hands behind his head, patiently listening. When Beth trailed off and blushed so deeply he could clearly see it in the scarce light, he finally sat up. He reached over and took her hand. “You're my best friend too. The only I've ever had.” He wasn't much with words but he hoped that what he said registered with her and would give her the courage she needed to finish her confession.
Beth smiled and laced her fingers through his. “I know what we have is more than friendship because I find myself feeling lonely in my own bed at night. I never felt that way before we met. I love talking to you like this but I wish these conversations could happen while we're laying bed in together at night.”
The poor girl couldn't or wouldn't meet his gaze and was damn near shaking she was so nervous. Daryl decided that she had confessed enough and that it was time for him to bite the bullet. “Beth, I love you, my baby girl.”
Beth's smile damn near lit up the Georgia night. “I love you too.”
“I know you do, girl.” Daryl pulled her down so he could take her lips in a tender kiss. When he pulled back, he caressed her cheek. “I'mma talk to your daddy about us. We'll do this right.” It was the first time in his life that Daryl wanted to do the honorable thing and get a father's consent. He was determined to do right by Beth Greene.
They fell asleep together in the bed of the truck that night. Daryl had been forced to help his girl sneak home in the morning's first light. He could have sworn that he saw old man Hershel spying on them out of the living room curtains but nothing ever came of it.
“I'd be on the tractor, she'd be on my mind,
With the sun beatin' down on this back of mine.
Just when I thought it couldn't get no hotter,
I fell in love with the farmer's daughter.”
It took three days for the fearless Daryl Dixon to get up the courage to talk to old man Hershel. He paid him a visit whilst he was in the barn performing routine checkups on the horses.
“I have a suspicion that I know what this is about,” Hershel was taking notes in an old leather binder and wasn't looking at Daryl as he spoke. “I'm old, son. I'm not blind. I know how you and my daughter feel about each other.”
Daryl wasn't surprised. He strongly suspected the old man knew everything that went on on his land...even Beth's nightly visits to his cabin. “I love Beth. I wanna do right by her. I wanna marry that girl someday if she'll have me.”
“Oh, trust me, she'll have ya.” Hershel still didn't look up from what he was doing but there was a small mischievous smile on his face. “When my wife and son passed on I thought I'd have no one to leave this farm to. Maggie's marrying Glenn and movin' on. They aren't farm people at heart. Never expected that it would be my baby girl and her husband who would take on this place.” Finally, he looked up. He caught Daryl's eye and nodded. “That was me givin' you my blessing in case you missed it, son.”
“We got married last spring,
And there ain't no better life for me.”
“Honey,” Daryl's heavily pregnant young wife giggled. She always did when he nibbled just below her ear. “We gotta get up and movin'. It's the first day of pumpkin season. Visitors are gonna start showing up within the hour.” The farm offered hayrides to the pumpkin patch all through October and November. It had been another of Beth's money making ideas.
“You know how hard it is to get out of bed when you're layin' there lookin' so beautiful?” Daryl kissed her slowly.
“You get going' and I'll bring ya some of my lemon iced tea just as soon as I get up and dressed. You know that takes a while these days.” She gestured to her very swollen stomach.
“Deal.” Daryl stole one more kiss before getting out of bed. “And you know you're sexy as hell, pregnant or not.” Daryl Dixon was a lot of things but he wasn't a fool. He knew how good he had it. Nothing could make his wife unattractive in his eyes. “Love ya, silly girl.”