"She wore a dress with cherries on it Going somewhere where she'd be wanted In a town this small all they do is talk No wedding ring, chipped fingernail polish She always wished that she could go to college But some dreams fade, they just slip away She started to show a few months ago And she had to go, that's how she wound up..."
Daryl looked up when the Greyhound bus he was on came to a stop. He watched as some got off and one by one more got on. To say he was waiting for something or rather someone would be an understatement. He was fearful that at every stop his father, his brother or some of the countless people they owed would be there. Here he was, a grown ass man who was running from everything he had ever know. One night the shit had finally hit the fan and that's why he was on this bus, one way from Atlanta to Austin.
Watching everyone climb aboard and finally satisfied he hadn't been followed, he looked back down at the book in his hands until he, and the other passengers, heard someone shouting for the driver to open the door. His heart stopped.
A young blonde girl got on and he felt he could breathe again. She apologized to the driver and hung her head as she walked towards the back of the bus. It shouldn't have surprised him when she stopped next to where he was seated. After all, the seat next to him was the only one available.
"Excuse me, sir. Would you mind if I sit here?" She asked and pointed to the empty window seat.
"Naw," Daryl shook his head and stood up to allow her to sit down.
As soon as they were both seated, her head dropped again and Daryl's eyes landed on her stomach that had been hidden behind her bag.
He shook his head and forced himself to quit staring. It wasn't any of his business why, at what looked to be very close to nine months, she was on this bus.
Beth wasn't looking to make friends or small talk with anyone. It was going to be a long ride to Austin and all she wanted to do was make it there without having her family show up to take her back home or without chickening out and going back on her own. That was the last thing she needed to do, go back to that small town, have her family tell her how disappointed they are and have the whole damn town talk about how she slept around.
It was true that she didn't know who the father of her unborn child was but she didn't sleep around. Not that it mattered to anyone though, they were all going to say and believe whatever they wanted to.
She sniffed and wiped away the tears that had fallen as she was thinking about everything that had happened and been said about her.
More tears began to fall at the memory of having to tell her family what she had done and that neither of the guys wanted anything to do with her anymore or her child.
She was all alone. Jobless, homeless and about to be a teenaged mother who had no help at all. She believed she was every bit the the slut she was made out to be.
Her sniffles soon turned into sobs. Normally, she would have been embarrassed by such a display but she didn't care anymore.
Daryl was suddenly very uncomfortable with the crying, pregnant girl being next to him but he couldn't move from his seat, there were no others available.
Her crying didn't seem to be letting up so he reached into his bag, pulled out a bandana and offered it to her.
"Here," he grunted.
She reached out with shaking hands to accept it but much to Daryl's dismay, her crying continued.
They were on the bus for an hour after that before she finally settled down and quit crying.
"Thank you," she whispered, "I'm Beth."
"Daryl," he introduced himself, "An' it ain't no problem."
The ride was almost too quiet for Beth. There were people talking and laughing but it didn't bring her any comfort.
She hung her head and stared at her stomach as she started mumbling the words to a song.
"The rumors flew but nobody knew how much she blamed herself For years and years she tried to hide the whiskey on her breath She finally drank her pain away a little at a time But she never could get drunk enough to get him off her mind Until the night
She put that bottle to her head and pulled the trigger And finally drank away his memory Life is short but this time it was bigger Than the strength she had to get up off her knees We found her with her face down in the pillow Clinging to his picture for dear life We laid her next to him beneath the willow While the angels sang a whiskey lullaby.."
Daryl watched and listened to her for a minute before he realized she was singing to her unborn child.
"That's one hell of a lullaby," he said out loud, though he didn't mean to.
Beth shrugged and looked up at him with tears in her eyes.
"I just sing whatever I like. I figure it's better than ashes or cradles fallin' out of trees."
He nodded, looked around and then back down at his book.
He could feel her eyes on him and was hoping she would find something else to occupy herself with until another seat became available so he could move.
Beth bit her bottom lip and rubbed her stomach. She wasn't much for talking to anyone, let alone a complete stranger but she didn't want to sit there in complete silence until they reached Austin.
"So," she began, "is there a reason you're goin' to Austin?"
Daryl took a deep breath and shook his head.
"Damn it," He thought, "why couldn't she just sit there without asking questions."
He looked up at her and saw she was still staring at him so he shrugged.
"Jus' had ta get outta Georgia. Go some place new. How 'bout yerself?"
"Same, I guess. Well, that and this," she looked down at her stomach.
He knew it wasn't any of his business and he knew she probably wouldn't tell him or want anyone to know but what she said made him wonder if something bad had happened to her and before he knew it, he opened his mouth and the words fell out.
"Were ya...," he couldn't say the word, "did somethin'....?"
"No," she quickly said, "God no it wasn't anythin' like that. I was just stupid is all."
"What makes ya think you was stupid?"
"Because, I was supposed to wait until marriage like I was the good little Christian girl mama and daddy raised. But I believed he loved me and then when he got what he wanted, he left."
"Oh. The lil' shithead didn't want tha kid?"
"No," she shook her head, "and I don't blame him. It may not be his." She looked down in shame before she continued, "After he left, I went to a bonfire with some friends and they introduced me to a guy and then things happened and well, this is what happened."
"So ya don't know which one?"
"No, I don't," she said as she started picking at her already chipped fingernail polish. "I was stupid. I embarrassed myself, my family. I couldn't stay there."
Daryl nodded. Just like him, she was running from her past and he couldn't blame her one bit. If where she was from was anything like where he was from, he knew it wasn't easy to be there without everyone talking shit about you. Even if you said you didn't care what anyone thought of you, their words still stung.
"How old are ya?"
"Eighteen," she replied, "you?"
"Older than you. Ya got family or someone in Austin ta help ya out?" Daryl asked her after half an hour of silence.
"No. Do you?"
"Naw. Don't need no one."
The ride to Memphis was a long one but at least the were going to have a quick stop and Beth was thankful for that. She hadn't been feeling too good since before they left Atlanta but she figured it was her nerves. She'd never left home like she was doing now and she didn't have any idea how she was going to make a life for herself and her child.
The bus stopped an all night diner convenience store combination.
"You alright?" A gruff voice asked her when she leaned on the table in front of her and grabbed her stomach. She turned slightly to find Daryl standing there.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just tired and everythin'."
They both took a seat at that table and order something to eat.
Neither had much money so they ordered the cheapest things on the menu.
While Daryl ate his, he watched Beth poke her food with the fork and move it around, taking three bites the whole time before asking the waitress for a to-go box.
Beth and Daryl were among the first to get back on the bus, taking the backseats before anyone else could.
This surprised the hell out of Daryl. He had been looking for the chance to grab another seat but he found himself not wanting to leave her on his trip. He thought it was bad enough she would be on her own in Texas so he was going to give her at least a little bit of company even if he wasn't the best.
"What are you runnin' from?" She asked once the bus pulled away from the diner.
"I ain't runnin' from nothin'."
"Yes, you are."
"What tha fuck makes ya think I'm runnin' from somethin'?" he didn't mean to raise his voice and he instantly regretted the angry tone he had but she just smiled at him.
"The way I see it, everyone who gets on this bus is runnin' from somethin'. You already know I am and what it is I'm runnin' from. It's alright if you don't want to tell me but you don't have to lie to me about it."
"Lie to you? We don't even know each other so how tha hell would ya know when I'm lyin'?"
"I can just tell. You're afraid of somethin'."
He scoffed, "I ain't afraid of nothin'."
"Alright," she smiled, "but it's still a long way 'til we get where we're goin' so if you feel like tellin' me, I don't mind listening."
He really didn't feel like telling her and didn't think he would but he'll be damned if he didn't start talking to her about it.
He started telling her about his mom and Merle and some of why he was leaving. He intentionally left out the parts about his dad.
They had crossed over into Mississippi, heading for Jackson, about two hours ago and that's when he noticed she was shifting uncomfortably in her seat and grabbing at her stomach every few minutes but she continued to carry on a conversation.
While they talked, she would occasionally stop mid sentence to breathe, her fists gripping the seat and her bag tightly as she did it.
Suddenly, her eyes grew wide and she couldn't hold back the scream that escaped her mouth.
Several of the passengers looked back at them but none moved to see what was going on.
"Beth," Daryl started to panic, "yer havin' tha baby ain't ya?"
She nodded vigorously with her eyes squeezed shut.
"Don't move," he told her before jumping up and yellin' for the bus driver to stop.
The driver took an exit before coming to a stop in the parking lot of a Walmart and calling for an ambulance.
Beth screamed and cried in the back of the bus when the ambulance arrived. The paramedics determined they wouldn't be able to safely move her.
They coached her through the whole thing. Telling her how to breathe and when to push.
"Okay, one more push, sweetie," the paramedic told her.
Beth gave one last push and before she knew it, she hears the cries of her baby.
"It's a girl," they told her and placed the baby in her arms.
After a minute or two, she was on the gurney and in the back of the ambulance.
She cried and laughed while the red lights flashed.
"Hold on," she heard Daryl call out. "Y'all got room for one more?"
"Yeah, of course we do," he was told.
Beth and her baby were immediately checked out by doctors when they arrived at the hospital and after about an hour of waiting, Daryl was allowed into her room.
He sat his bag and hers down on the chair before walking up beside the bed and handing her a gift bag.
She held her baby close to her with one arm as she opened the bag and pulled out two little pink outfits that Daryl had purchased in the hospital gift shop. One of the outfits had an elephant on it and the other had a pair of ballerina slippers on it.
"You didn't have to get this," she whispered, obviously fighting back tears."
"Yeah, I did. What was she gon' wear?"
Beth choked back a sob as she looked down at her baby and then back up at Daryl.
"You didn't have to stay either. We don't know each other."
Daryl shrugged. "I couldn't leave ya here alone. Ya ain't got no one an'....," he stopped himself before telling her he didn't have anyone either. It sounded weird since they really didn't know each other but they were all each other had.
"She got a name yet?" He said instead.
"Not yet. I was thinkin' maybe Celia or Lucy for her first name and Annette after my mama for her middle. What do you think?"
He shrugged again. "I don't know, Beth. Which one do you like?"
"Celia. Celia Annette Greene," she said, looking down at her baby girl.
Daryl woke up the next morning with a stiff neck after sleeping in the hospital chair.
Beth was awake and crying.
"What's wrong?" He asked and rubbed his face.
"Thy won't let us leave until I get a carrier and some other things," she cried.
"Hey," he stood up and walked over to her, "jus' tell me what ya need an' I'll get it for ya."
A few hours later, Beth sat alone with Celia in the hospital room.
Daryl had been gone for hours now and she started to get worried.
"You're so stupid," she thought to herself, "you trusted someone you didn't even know and now you're stuck here, alone!"
Daryl didn't know what the hell he was doing but he'd gotten everything on the list the nurse gave him.
He carried everything to Beth's room and found she was asleep with Celia laying in the bassinet.
As soon as he sat down, Celia began crying. He didn't want to wake Beth up so he walked over and gently picked her up.
"Shh," he whispered and picked up her bottle.
She surprisingly quit crying.
"Ya like that, huh, lil' Asskicker. Ya like that, sweetheart?" He whispered as he walked around the room feeding her.
Beth slowly opened her eyes to see Daryl sitting beside her bed with a sleeping Celia in his arms. She rubbed her eyes and smiled.
"You should've woke me up," she whispered.
"Naw, ya need yer sleep. We still got a long way ta Austin."
"I'm not goin'," she said. "I think I'm going to stay here."
"C'mon, ya cain't stay here," he told her, "'sides, I already got our tickets."
She tilted her head when he stood up and handed Celia to her.
"You sure you don't mind us taggin' along?"
"Hell naw. Ya ain't got no reason ta stay here," he sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "I know we don't really know each other but I don't mind helpin' ya out."
Beth smiled. "Thank you, Daryl. You're probably the closest thing I've ever had to an actual friend all the others, they turned their backs on me when I for pregnant."
He smiled a little too but didn't tell her that in just this short time, she's become the only friend he'd ever had.
When both Beth and Celia where released from the hospital the following day, the three of them caught the next Greyhound for Austin.
"On the backseat of a Greyhound bus Heart so full that it could bust Staring at the rest of her life She never thought this would be the place Where she would find her saving grace But she fell in love, she fell in love On the backseat of a Greyhound bus Sweet baby girl, she found a brand new world...
She wore a dress with cherries on it Going somewhere where she'd be wanted.."