He slipped a crooked finger under her chin nudging her face up so she had to meet his eyes, and his eyes were fixed on hers. It was as if he were scolding her when he half barked, "I want ya ta take a hard look at me Beth. Can't ya see, I'm nobody, nuthin. I ain't even got a high school diploma for crissake."
He was biting his lip as he looked down, slowly shaking his head "no." When he finally looked back up at her the expression on his face was so serious, but she saw it there. It was behind his solemn look and the no-nonsense tone of his voice. It was the sadness in his eyes. "Dammit Beth. I ain't ever gonna be any more than what I am right now. Look at me, look at this place. Is this really all ya want?"
She had something she wanted to say about all that, but he wasn't done, "And what about Mick? Ya really willin' ta take that on? That ain't no part time deal, ya know that. It's full time and it'll be for a long damn time."
His face was right in her face and although he wasn't yelling at her, his voice was gruff and harsh sounding. He waved an arm around the room and said, "Look at this place dammit."
She had no idea where the nerve or the courage or whatever it was came from, but she didn't give up like he wanted her to. She stood straighter, taller and looking right back in his eyes she got a little harsh sounding herself, "You can't tell me what I want Daryl Dixon. I know what I want. I want you. I want Mick. That's everything I'm ever gonna want and everything I'm ever gonna need."
He wasn't backing down either. Not yet, "Ya say it's enough, but Beth, ya deserve so much more."
" I don't care about all that stuff you think I should care about Daryl. I've told you before, none of that stuff matters to me."
He was cradling her sweet face in his big rough hands when his voice got so quiet. The look in his eyes now seemed to be pleading and he asked, "But don't ya see Beth? It matters ta me. I need ta be able ta give ya that stuff."
One Year Earlier, Summer, 1951
The public library of all places, that's where she first laid eyes on Daryl Dixon. It happened to be the day she secured a weekend waitressing position at The Castle Diner.
Waitressing at the diner wasn't her regular job. She had a real good job with the telephone company. Being a telephone operator was one of the best jobs a girl could ever hope to get and Beth Greene felt so lucky to have it.
She'd been with the phone company a year now and the pay covered her regular bills just fine, she'd even managed to save almost fifteen dollars. Then her car conked out. Completely.
She mentioned it to her friend Enid at work who told her not to worry. She said her boyfriend Alden knew everything there ever was to know about cars. It was decided that early Saturday morning Enid and Alden would come by Beth's small apartment and he'd diagnose the problem.
Alden looked serious as he popped the hood of the old car, touched this and that, sighed and said "Sorry Beth, this old jalopy is a goner."
As sure as he seemed to be, Beth wasn't willing to accept that. She knew from growing up on the farm you never just throw something away, everything can be fixed. The trouble was she was sure whatever was wrong would cost money to repair. Fifteen dollars would never be enough.
Her friends left and Beth decided what the heck, she may as well make the most of the rest of her day. It was still early and not too terribly hot yet. She'd go ahead and walk across town to the library. On her way home she could stop by the grocery and pick up a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread. That would be enough to get her by for a couple of days.
She always made a trip to the library on Saturdays, the only difference this particular Saturday was the walking. She didn't let it bother her though because really, what could she do? She might as well get used to it, she'd be on foot until she could save more money. She slipped the two books to be returned in her canvas carry bag and she was on her way.
Beth did manage a smile as she walked. After all, reading was a favorite pastime of hers. She loved sitting in her little overstuffed chair and enjoying a story in the evenings and on Sunday afternoons. So naturally, she was always happy to go to the library, look through the titles and check out new books.
Still she had the big dilemma on her mind, how was she going to come up with a way to make the extra money she would need to fix her car? It was as she walked that what she felt certain was the solution to everything fell right in her lap.
She happened to stroll by the Castle Diner just as a man was placing a sign in the window that read, "Weekend Help Needed." She smiled, said a little prayer, and went right in. As it turned out he was looking for a waitress for the Saturday and Sunday early morning shift, 5:00am to Noon.
The owner gave her a skeptical look and asked, "Ya gonna be able ta get yourself up and get here that early young lady?"
"Yes sir, I promise I can and I will. I've been getting up early my whole life. I grew up on a farm."
"Whole life, huh? How old are ya missy?"
"I'm 19 sir."
"Ya ever done this kinda work?"
"Well if getting paid for it is what you're asking me, then no. But I've sure served a lot of meals to my Daddy and the farmhands. I've cooked plenty of meals too. I've been doing that stuff since I was 10 years old."
She needed the job because she needed her car, and she wasn't too proud to beg. "I just want a chance sir. I promise you won't be sorry. I'm trustworthy. I'm not one to complain and I'm not afraid of hard work. I won't call out sick either. I'll be here no matter what, and I'll be real nice to the customers."
He smiled and agreed, "Alright, you can start in the morning. Come a little early and I'll show ya how the coffee maker works and where everythin' is. It pays seventy-five cents an hour and you'll get some tips. Not a lot, this ain't some fancy joint. We got a good breakfast crowd though and if you don't let their coffee cups sit empty and you smile a lot, you'll get tips."
"Ya get one meal and a glass of soda pop or milk at the end of your shift. If you want a milkshake ya gotta pay a little for that. Not as much as the menu price, but a little sumthin'." He pointed to a door and said, "There's clean uniforms in the closet in the back, pick one that fits ya. When you're workin' ya gotta wear your hair pulled back so it don't get in people's food, and there's no gum chewin'. It ain't appetizin'."
None of it seemed unreasonable and she couldn't wait to get started. Her little wheels were spinning, she could have oatmeal at home in the mornings, eat her meal at work and she'd be full for the day. Besides getting paid to work, she'd save on groceries.
"Thank you so much for this chance sir, and I promise I'll be here bright and early in the morning and ready to work hard."
"Alright young lady, we'll see how it goes. And my name ain't sir. My name's Jim. That's what ya call me, otherwise my regulars are gonna think my head has got too darn big for my hat."
"Yes sir, I mean Jim. I'll see you in the morning and I promise you won't be sorry you hired me."
Jim had been through a lot of waitresses in the twenty years he'd owned the diner, he gave this pretty little gal no more than a month or two and either she'd tire of the work, or some fella would spirit her away.
She couldn't stop smiling as she walked to the library, now carrying her uniform in a brown paper sack and her books in the canvas carry bag.
She had herself set on two very different type of books this week. She wanted to try something new, a detective story. She thought that might be kind of different and exciting, as long as it didn't get too dark or frightening. The other one she would check out was in her usual genre and she got a little embarrassed just thinking about it.
It was all Maggie's fault she even knew that sort of book existed. Beth had been a girl who read classic novels and poetry before her sister introduced her to Victorian era romance novels.
It was downright embarrassing to check out those terrible stories. The trouble was, she loved them. That left her with no choice but to just swallow her embarrassment when the librarian checked them out. Then she'd quickly stuff the books in her canvas carry bag, hiding the titles and the cover art, and hurry home to start reading. She'd never want anyone to see her with one of those kinds of books. What in the world would they think?
She'd never forget the day Shawn found a particularly steamy one in Maggie's room. He teased her relentlessly about reading "bodice rippers" and how he didn't think good girls read that sort of tripe.
Maggie was so bold and brave and feisty, she yelled right back that it was none of his gosh darn business what she read. Then she got real smart-mouthed and told him if he ever learned to read, he should consider trying one out.
Beth heard the whole argument from her room and as always her sister's spunk impressed her. She would never be able to stand up to her overly protective brother that way, but it was wonderful to hear Maggie get so sassy with him. That Maggie, she never backed down and Beth just buried her face in her pillow so Shawn couldn't hear her laughter.
It wasn't too long after that incident when Shawn married his sweetheart, a real nice girl named Amber he'd been dating since they were juniors in high school. Against the wishes of Beth's Daddy, and the wishes of Amber's Daddy and Mama, they loaded up Shawn's Chevy and like so many other young couples did after the war, they headed west to California.
Since then everything about Beth's life had changed dramatically.
In 1950, a year after Shawn and Amber left Georgia, Beth graduated from high school. One week after graduation she'd been hired on by the phone company. She wasn't going to leave home just yet though. She planned to continue living on the farm for a year or so to save up. When she had a little rainy day money tucked away, she'd get a small place of her own in town.
But a month later all those plans changed. Suddenly Daddy was gone. He'd joined Mama in heaven.
Shortly after Daddy's passing the three Greene children would learn the farm had been heavily mortgaged. Everything they thought their Daddy owned was lost to the lending company.
With the loss of the farm Beth was forced to make new plans. She had no choice but to use the money she'd received for her high school graduation to rent a small furnished apartment.
Maggie took a different path and Beth was sure her sister had completely lost both her mind and her morals. Maggie moved in with a man. A big redheaded man named Abraham Ford she wasn't even married to. He seemed so loud and he said some of the oddest things, and oh my, his language could be quite crude. The whole situation was shameful, and of course it was the talk of the local gossips for months.
For a while Beth felt like nothing made sense at all anymore.
Now, a year later things were going pretty gosh darn good. Maggie seemed happy and Beth had accepted the fact Maggie was just a different kind of person than her. Besides, there was really no use in arguing or scolding her about the things she did. Her sister was always going to do whatever she wanted to do. No one could seem to control that girl. Not even the big redheaded man.
As for her, Beth had grown to love her little apartment and the feeling of being grown up and independent. She was happy in her position at the phone company where she felt she provided an important service to folks needing a little assistance. She also enjoyed working with and being around other women.
Some of the stories and the gossip she heard each day were every bit as shocking and juicy as a romance novel. Some of it though, she wondered if it could really be true. So much of what she heard, and many of the things she read, seemed downright unbelievable. She was too embarrassed to ask anyone though. She didn't want to let on she didn't know anything about anything when it came to the facts of life.
Well that wasn't exactly true. She knew what Maggie told her and she knew what she read in the books, and she knew what these women said. If all of it was true. In practical terms though, in terms of her own life experiences, she didn't know anything whatsoever.
She'd absolutely never been with a man, she'd never really been romantic with one. She'd dated a couple of boys, but there had been been no physical contact beyond hand holding and a chaste goodnight kiss. Not because of all that stuff she heard and read. It was because she just hadn't come across the right man.
Most of the girls she'd gone to high school with were already married, and many either had a child or were expecting their first. She wasn't married, she wasn't engaged to be married and she didn't even have a sweetheart. Sometimes she wondered if there was something wrong with her.
Enid and a couple of the other ladies at work told her she was just too picky. She'd smile and say, "No, I'm not so picky. I just haven't seen him yet. I'll know it's him when I do."
That wasn't quite how it worked.
She walked in the library feeling practically giddy about her new job and getting herself books to read. But she didn't forget to be careful. She did not set the books from her bag in the return rack, she never did. Instead she laid them upside down on the counter. She smiled appreciatively at the librarian, Olivia, who understood and smiled back as she quickly moved the books to the rack behind the counter.
The two women whispered a greeting, softly chatted for a minute or two, then Beth made her way in the direction of the fictional novels section.
She still had a smile on her face as she started to walk by the children's reading area, until she felt her eyebrows raise and her mouth open slightly in surprise.
She'd never seen anyone like him and she was instantly fascinated. Part of it was that he seemed so out place, and the fact that he was sitting in a tiny chair designed for a child made him appear even more so.
There was far more to her fascination than simply that though.
The first thing she noticed was his handsome face, even though it seemed as if he was going out of his way to hide it. She couldn't believe a man would let his hair get so long and scruffy. And the hair on his head wasn't all that needed a trim. The hair on his face was just as scraggly and unkempt.
None of it succeeded in hiding the truth from Beth. It couldn't disguise the firm line of his jaw, those cheekbones, or the piercing blue of his eyes. He was the very definition of handsome, all wrapped in some very rough packaging.
He was dressed in the attire of a working man. Although the clothes were a little worn they appeared to be freshly laundered. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up to his elbows so his arms were mostly covered. But Beth could tell his muscles were like the muscles of men who graced the covers of romance novels. Big, bulging, and…well, just so gosh darn manly and attractive.
She had to quit thinking those kinds of thoughts, she was making herself blush.
Besides the fact he was sitting at the tiny table in the impossibly tiny chair, there was the little girl with him.
Only two things gave away the fact she was a girl at all, her sweet little freckled face and her braided hair.
If it weren't for those two things the child could easily be mistaken for a little boy. She was dressed in brown corduroy overalls, a striped t-shirt, and little brown shoes that laced up to her ankles.
She was tiny and thin. Beth didn't know how old she was, but for some reason she felt sure the child must small for her age. The little girl appeared so serious as she looked at where the man was pointing at the page of an open book.
His voice was soft and low and yet it sounded a little abrasive. Not mean though. It was more like his natural voice had a roughness to it when he asked the small child, "Ya know what that word is?"
The little girl sounded hopeful when she whispered back, "Is it "dog", Daddy?"
His face softened into a barely there smile as he gently touched the little girl's shoulder and said, "It sure is girl. Ya see there how smart ya are?"
Beth had been so caught up in the man and his child she'd forgotten herself. She didn't realize she was just standing there staring at the two. Not until the little girl looked up and saw her. She waved her small hand and loudly whispered, "Hi!"
Her Daddy turned to Beth, tipped his head once, then turned to the child. Beth heard his whispered reprimand, "Mick, ya know better'n that. No talkin' ta strangers."
Mick? The little girl even had a boy's name. That seemed especially odd. Beth couldn't be dwelling on it though; she was being terribly rude standing there staring. She hurried to go about minding her own business.
The trouble she was having was trying to concentrate on book titles and descriptions, instead of thinking about the long haired man and his sweet little girl. Where was the child's Mama? Why had she never seen the man and the little girl here before?
Then it came to her. Of course, she usually didn't get to the library until later in the afternoon. After she'd cleaned her apartment, bathed and washed her hair and just before she ran her other errands. Now she realized she would probably never see them again, she'd be at work when they were here.
Why exactly did she want to see him again? Oh my goodness, she should not be thinking about such things. He was surely married. Otherwise there would not be a child. And for golly sakes, he looked so rough that it was kind of scary.
Except she wasn't scared of him at all. She'd seen the way he behaved with his child. How tenderly he touched her shoulder and told her she was smart. It was one of the sweetest things Beth could ever recall seeing. The impossibly unpolished man and the tiny and sweet-faced little girl.
The sight of them had caused her heart to swell with feeling, a feeling she couldn't quite put her finger on. There was another feeling she was experiencing as well, sadness. She was never going to see them again.
Why would she feel so sad about that? She didn't even know them. My goodness, where was her mind?
She told herself to just stop it, to come to her senses. She did her best to concentrate on the books and finally chose a detective story and a romance novel. She caught herself again, she couldn't help thinking about the long haired man and his muscles when she looked at the cover art. Shame on her.
She made her way to the counter and there they were. There was a line of folks waiting to check out, and there were two people in front of him. Beth took her place behind the long haired man and the little girl named Mick.
She held the novels close to her chest, knowing she would simply drop-dead right there on the spot if the man were to see the sorts of books she'd chosen.
That didn't stop her from trying to see what it was he was checking out. It appeared to be a non-fiction book, something about raising children. The little girl, Mick, was smiling so happily as she clutched a storybook in her hands.
The child tugged on her Daddy's hand and whispered loudly, "I'm so itcited for my book Daddy. You can read it ta me about a hunert times 'fore we bring it back next Saturday."
He tugged on her hand right back as he smiled that impossibly small smile and whispered, "Oh yeah? Is that what you was thinkin' Mick? Cuz what I's thinkin' was ta have ya read it ta me a hundred times."
"I will Daddy. You'll see I can."
"Ain't no doubt in my mind ya can girl, and I can't wait ta listen every time ya do."
It was then the little girl noticed Beth behind them. She smiled and whispered, "Hi."
Her Daddy turned, gave Beth a quick nod of the head and turned back to the child, "The lady don't wanna be bothered Mick, besides, ya know the rule. No talkin' ta strangers."
"But Daddy she ain't a stranger no more. I already said hi ta her before. Remember?"
"Yeah, I remember. It's still the rule. Now quit arguin' with your Daddy or I'll be cookin' liver n onions for dinner like I want, instead a them hot dogs like you want." He smiled again as he gently tugged on one of her braids and said, "And hush now, you're in the library."
That's when he turned to Beth and she would never forget that first time he spoke to her, even though all he said was, "Sorry Miss."
She nearly fainted as she tried to remember her own manners. She swallowed hard and answered back, "I didn't mind at all. She's very sweet."
She watched as Olivia checked the man and the little girl's books out and she referred to him by name, "Thank you Daryl, and you too Mick. I'll see you both next week."
It must have been the look on Beth's face that gave her thoughts away. After she'd checked out her books, and as she hurried to put them in the carry bag, Olivia leaned over the counter and whispered, "In case you're wondering, he's a very nice man. He's raising that sweet little girl on his own."
Beth was embarrassed to know Olivia had caught on to the fact she was interested, but she couldn't deny she was happy to know the news. She smiled at librarian, whispered, "Thank you Olivia," and hurried out the door.
Usually when she left the library all she could think about was getting home to read her new books. Not this day. All she could think about this day was the man and his small child, and the fact she'd never see them again.
Oh stop it Beth, she told herself. And anyway, why did she care? She liked well-dressed suave men, like the famous actor Cary Grant. His hair was so nice and it was short and properly styled. Like a man's hair should be. He was clean shaven too. And he had that wonderful British accent. He was positively and perfectly dreamy.
Yet darn it, she couldn't get her mind off that rough looking, rough sounding man and his small child.
It would come as quite the surprise when, very soon, she saw them both again.