The day has been long and the evening longer.
Beth is in good spirits, if a little flustered because she’s spent every possible moment she can searching for her ex-boyfriend. She grimaces to herself. She sounds like a complete and utter stalker.
But she has been. Looking for him, that is. Through the vows, through the lovely sentiments shared between the bride and groom, through the cake cutting, she’s been relentlessly, shamelessly searching for Daryl Dixon.
“I don’t think he’s comin’, Beth,” Maggie whispers sweetly in her ear, mindful of Beth’s tender, broken heart even as she positively glows in her wedding dress.
Guilt eats Beth alive that she’s making today about her. About her and her problems, her failed relationship but when Maggie asked her to be her maid of honour, the first thing she thought of, the very first was of him.
Not Maggie finally marrying her childhood sweetheart Glenn, not the privilege of being her maid of honour, not excitement for her sister but herself. Selfish as always. She twists her lips and pushes that thought away, the scar on her wrist itching.
"I wasn’t lookin’ for anyone,” she deflects, even when her sister gives her a look that says she’s a hundred percent not buying it. “You look stunnin’,” she says instead.
Maggie flushes, the colour high in her cheekbones as her eyes seek her new husband across the dance floor, as if it’s him she credits her beauty to, before she glances back at Beth, sad and alone at the bar, and her smile deflates a little more, giving Beth more guilt than she can deal with. “So d’you. An’ he’s a fool, Beth, t’miss out on you.”
There’s a noise she makes in the back of her throat, one that says she doesn’t want to go there and won’t allow Maggie to push her into the subject. Her sister admits defeat, gently stroking her arm before leaving to mingle with her other guests.
Beth watches her go, her brunette curls tumbling over her shoulder and her green eyes brighter than the ring on her finger. Beth’s eyes track the roomful of people, friends and family she should mingle with too, since she doesn’t see them all that much anymore.
She doesn’t want to though. The reason she left her little town has more to do with them than her failed relationship and ex-boyfriend. More to do with their pitying stares and sympathetic smiles than Daryl.
Cupping her wrist, her fingers lightly trace the scar there and she shudders back the guilt; the hurt; the grief. Losing her mama was enough, more than enough for her twenty year old self to deal with, but losing her brother three months later?
That was too much. That was far too much. Because it’s not like it was an accident and it’s not like the whole town didn’t know it. Shawn hung himself from the barn rafters and let Beth find him there, all bulging eyes and gaping mouth.
Let Beth be the one to carry that image, to burden it upon her shoulders. Let her be the one to see his ghost, to feel his presence haunting her every day, and she didn’t want to hurt herself, not really, because he had already done it and it was becoming some sick family curse.
But it didn’t stop her from taking that piece of glass and dragging it over her wrist. It didn’t stop her from watching the blood ooze out of the slit with fixed eyes and shallow breaths, just waiting for the moment she would join the missing half of her family again.
So selfish, so dismissive of her sister and daddy, who were right here, alive and wishing she would be alive with them. Maybe it was the guilt that stopped her fighting Daryl off those few years ago.
Maybe it was the shame of the Greene curse, where they all did off with themselves that let her allow him to bundle her in his truck and rush her off to the emergency room.
Let him sit with her in that worn old chair, silent and watching, not judgemental, not invasive but there.
Daryl had been a stranger then. Just some guy who worked on the farm every other Saturday when he had the time, fixing shit that was always breaking, and she should have been embarrassed.
Should of curled up in shame when his blue eyes looked at her, looked at the bandage around her wrist, but she never did. Never did speak to him after that either, not for nearly six months because he either wasn’t there when she was, or vice versa.
When she did find the time to thank him, she was blooming into a whole new person, and maybe that’s why she was open enough to allow his squinted eyes, his gruff voice and his rough manners to worm inside her.
Maybe that’s why she fell so hard for him, why she gave him all of her time, all of her attention, all of her being, until she burned out. Until she had no one and nothing but him.
Just him and her, and it didn’t matter where they were or what they were doing, it only mattered that they were together. That he was with her, that he was in her.
A seeping, hot wave of prickles flows from the crown of her head to her toes and she shoots from her seat, needing air, needing to breathe, to let go of Daryl goddamn Dixon and her incessiant need to see him again, to be near him, to touch him.
Just let it all go, let the heat he still invokes with the mere thought of his name swirl away. When she makes it onto the stone balcony, Beth doesn’t even take the time to appreciate its beauty.
To look at its sprawling vines climbing the walls or the panes of patterned glass in the door, she just rushes for the rail and grips it, taking in big, heaving breaths.
The world feels shaky in a way it hasn’t since before she and Daryl were together, since he made her feel safe and okay; alive again. Truth is, she was crazy for him then and she’s still crazy for him now.
Even if it didn’t work out. Even if it all fell apart and she was left with the broken pieces. But it was her own fault and she knows it because she did it all wrong. She got her hands on him and didn’t let go, didn’t relent, didn’t stop pursuing, always in his space, always there and never anywhere else.
When they first got together he pulled her from her shell, but in the process of being with him, she reverted into a whole new shell that cocooned him and her from the world.
The moon beams down on her as she tries to sort through her hectic thoughts, taking deep, even breaths. The balcony doors unlatch behind her and she swivels around, not wanting to believe but almost doing so.
Even the tiny bit of hope she allows to worm through is enough to steal the breath from her when it’s not Daryl stepping through those doors, just random faces she doesn’t know.
Probably Glenn’s friends, since she knows all of Maggie’s. She twists her mouth together and decides it’s time to freshen up and fix up. She passes the tipsy couple and their sparkling eyes, refusing to remember a time when that was her.
Heading straight for the bathroom, where she intends to fix herself up and then grab a flute of champagne and enjoy her sister’s wedding, goddamn it. The bathroom is empty and quiet, smelling of lavender which actually does relax her.
Heading straight for the sink, she places her sparkling clutch on the side, distracted for a moment as the light catches it and sparkles in her eye. There’s a nice little pyramid of fresh cotton washcloths near her right elbow, so she takes the top one and dampens it, pressing it to the nape of her neck and her forehead, taking the sweat and humidity of a hot summer day away.
With that in its designated wash hamper, she fixes her makeup and straightens her dress, taking a step back to run her eyes over her reflection. Face fresher, her eyes look a little brighter, less lack lustre and her dress is still exceedingly pretty, all pale blue and soft.
The fish plait in her hair is looking worse for wear, but she doesn’t undo it lest she cause any arguments with Maggie. Feet hurting the longer she stands there, she decides it’s time to re-join the party and smile at the strangers of her past as they try to invade her future.
Exiting the bathroom, she heads back to the bar, painting a grin on her glossy lips; determined not to be the sad sack she was earlier.
"Champagne, please,” Beth orders sweetly, crossing her legs as she settles into her stool.
“Whisky ain't y'bag anymore, huh?”
Beth freezes in the act of pushing the tail of her plait over her shoulder, her muscles cold but her insides burning. Of course she would spend all day looking for him and yet he’s gone and found her.
"C’mon Greene, sure y'can turn an’ look at me.” Daryl’s voice coaxes, hot and urgent like she remembers.
And damn it, she finds she can. Despite her frozen state, her head turns to cast eyes upon her ex-boyfriend, a chapter of her life she wants to revisit, a road she wants to walk down again, and again.
Turns her eyes to find him in all his glory. His blue eyes and his dark hair, his squint and his flat mouth. His gorgeous tux, moulding to his body. Turns to find him on the arm of another woman.