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They were on a mission to find medical supplies, they were running low again. The plan was to search every school, day care, office block for anything that may have been overlooked. Five hours of driving so far had earned them a basic first aid kit from an accounting firm and painkillers and anti-histamine from the attached apartment. Rick slowed down in front of a half-burned down school building.
‘You think it’s worth checkin’?’ Daryl asked.
‘We’re desperate’ Rick replied.
The second car pulled up beside them and Rick told Abraham to park a block away, they’d park in the opposite direction and meet back there.
Sasha and Abraham met them at the assigned spot and they checked the outside before entering. Someone else had clearly been through it, furniture upturned and drawers pulled open, their contents emptied out on the floor. They were about to enter the staffroom when they heard voices. Without a word they crouched in an attempt to conceal themselves.
‘We’re out of pills but she’s locked up in there, won’t be a problem’ they heard a man’s voice.
‘Thought you couldn’t lock the door?’ a deeper voice replied.
‘Chained her to the desk’ his companion explained.
‘She won’t scream? Cause a fuss?’
‘Her? She’s scared of her own shadow. She’ll sit where I left her until we’re back, left the bitch some water but wasn’t wasting anymore food.’
The voices faded out and the group cautiously got back to their feet.
‘We gotta find whoever they were talking about’ Sasha said
Abraham shook his head
‘Don’t wanna get tied up in a mess, best we just get on out of here and hope we don’t cross paths with them on the way out’ he said but Sasha was already headed down the hall. Rick shrugged and followed her, she opened a small office door and gasped.
The men rushed to her side and took in the room. It was littered with empty booze bottles and trash, it stank like something rotten and right in the middle was an old desk with a young woman chained to the bottom of it. Long blonde hair streaked with blood covered her face and she was bent over sobbing. She wore a black satin robe but her bared legs were covered in cuts and bruises down to the ankle the chain was twisted around. A bowl of water sat to the left of her. She had obviously heard them but didn’t look up.
Sasha crouched down beside her,
‘Hi, are you Ok? We’re here to help’ she spoke slowly but the girl didn’t respond.
‘Please let us help you, we can get you out of here’ she tried again.
‘Go away’ a hoarse voice replied.
‘We’re not going to leave you here. We’re good people’
‘It’s not safe, you need to leave’ the voice was barely more than a whisper.
Sasha reached out to touch her and the girl tried to push her away, facing them in the process. Her face wasn’t as damaged as the rest of her but her nose was bleeding and her eye was black. Nothing could stop them recognising those blue eyes though.
‘Beth’ exclaimed Daryl and Rick in unison.
Sasha looked the girl in the face and saw they were right, Beth Greene, after all this time.
The three men closed in on her, Abraham recognising the name of Maggie’s long lost sister.
‘Beth, it’s so good to see you’ Sasha smiled at her and slowly saw recognition in Beth’s eyes.
‘Sasha, Daryl, Rick?’ she looked at each of them and shook her head ‘you can’t be here’
‘We’re here’ Daryl knelt down beside her and she froze.
‘You can’t be’ she insisted.
‘Beth, can we see your leg? We’re going to get you out of here’ Rick cut in.
Beth looked up at him.
‘Are you, are you OK?’ she asked.
He nodded.
‘More than OK, we’ve got somewhere safe to live, food, community. Maggie’s there too’ he said.
He went straight to her ankle and tried to figure out how to remove the chain.
‘We need cutters’ he said
‘Haven’t got any’ Abraham said. Then he looked at the desk.
‘Daryl, help me lift this, we’ll slide the chain off then cut her out back home’.
‘No, no, no’ she cried but they did it anyway.
She looked at Sasha and pleaded ‘don’t take me, you can’t, I have to stay here, I can’t’
Sasha tried to pull Beth to her feet but Beth refused.
Rick looked up at Daryl. He could see the shock and hurt across his face. Daryl met his gaze briefly then looked away before focusing his attention on Beth.
‘You aint got no choice Beth, we gotta go’ he said and scooped her up into his arms. Beside him Rick grabbed the dangling chain and they headed for the door. Abraham ran ahead and checked they were clear. Beth was shaking, sobbing, struggling but Daryl just held her tighter. She was bony, her movements almost frail, she’d be lucky to weigh 70 pounds he thought.
As they got to the door she looked up at him
‘You’ve carried me like this before’ she whispered.
‘I have’ he confirmed as she spat in his eye.
He looked straight at Sasha who gave a sympathetic face.
Rick pulled her aside
‘I’m going to travel with Abraham. We’ll aim to get there before you, give people the heads up so she’s not crowded the moment we arrive.’ He said ‘you travel with her and Daryl, and watch him, he’s...’
Sasha cut Rick off
‘I know’ she said. She understood, they’d all watched Daryl lose part of himself as he tried in vain to search for her, mourned her loss, couldn’t bear to hear anyone speak her name. Sasha never asked him about it but she understood, in his own way, Daryl had loved her.
Once they left the building Beth screamed but her voice was so weak it gave out. She pounded her fist against Daryl’s chest but he wouldn’t put her down.
‘You right to drive?’ Sasha asked, but one look at his face gave her the answer. There were tears in his eyes and an expression she hadn’t seen on him for a long time, not since he’d come back from Atlanta after following that car and getting nowhere.
Beth pushed herself as far away from him as she could in the car, pressing her body against the door. Sasha fetched a blanket from the trunk and placed it over Beth who promptly covered her face with it. Daryl let out a sob so Sasha got in the front and drove.
Two hours later they had to stop for a bathroom break. Beth hadn’t stopped crying or repeating ‘no, no, you can’t, it’s not safe’ as she rocked back and forth in the back seat. Daryl turned the walkie talkie on and walked away from the vehicle. Sasha turned to face Beth in the back.
‘I remember the first time I saw you’ she spoke, calmly, ‘you were holding Judith and she was just a few days old. She was so beautiful and I was in awe, because I never thought I’d see a baby again. She was, pink and perfect and in your arms. You were so good with her; we all assumed she was yours. Even when we knew she wasn’t, it was easy to forget because you were a natural with her, so sweet and patient.’
In the back seat Beth had finally gone still, Sasha kept on talking.
‘You were like that with all of us, so nice and kind, unless someone pissed you off. I think we all took you for granted a bit, how special it was to meet someone so genuinely sweet in a world like this’ Sasha continued.
‘I realise now how strong that made you, how you were still in high school and your world got turned upside down but every day you got up at the crack of dawn with that baby and made breakfast for us and sang while you did it’. Beth pulled the blanket off her head.
‘They’re going to kill me’ she said flatly.
Sasha shook her head.
‘No they aren’t. We got you’
Beth sighed and looked back out the window. When Daryl returned to the car she pretended not to notice.
‘Everything alright?’ Sasha asked him
‘They got, uh, held up’ he replied, throwing a glance in Beth’s direction to indicate he wouldn’t expand further, ‘asked us to wait another ten before moving on’.
‘You OK?’ she asked him.
He shook his head and looked away.
They sat there in complete silence until Sasha started the car again.
‘Daryl, there’s apples in that black bag’ she spoke ‘can you get one out for me?’ he fished around in the bag for the fruit and handed it over.
‘Beth, do you want one?’ she asked
‘I already ate today’ Beth mumbled into the window.
They let it go and drove on into Alexandria. Beth covered her face back up and rocked quietly in her seat, mumbling to herself.
As they got closed Daryl turned the walkie talkie back on.
Rick advised them to drive straight to Maggie’s house.
‘Will I see Maggie?’ Beth asked softly, to the surprise of the others who hadn’t really thought she was listening. She’d revealed her face again and Daryl couldn’t help but notice how big her eyes looked on her face, she was too thin and it made all her features somewhat exaggerated.
‘Yeah, she’s waiting for ya, with Glenn’ Daryl said.
‘They’re supposed to be dead’ she said meekly.
Daryl shook his head ‘nah not those two’
Beth began banging her head against the car window again.
Daryl reached his arm out to stop her.
‘Beth, don’t’ he said.
She turned and gnashed her teeth at him. Then she began to cry, real tears that made her shoulders heave and appeared more sad than angry.
‘I don’t even know who’s alive’ she said looking down at the ground.
‘We’ve all been there’ Sasha spoke again in her calm voice ‘we’ll walk you through it, slowly’.
When the car pulled up Beth froze again.
‘I can’t get out’ she said.
Rick opened the door to her but she wouldn’t move. Not until she saw Maggie behind him, a baby girl in her arms. Beth’s face broke into a smile
‘Judith’ she said
Rick shook his head and spoke slowly, as though talking to a small child ‘Beth, Judith’s four now, she’s a big girl. That’s Maggie’s baby’ Beth looked at him with disbelief.
Maggie passed the baby to Sasha and stood next to Rick.
‘Beth, Bethy, you’re here’ she said crying.
Daryl met Abraham and Glenn on the front steps of the house but otherwise the street was empty. Rick had told everyone to give them some space. Everyone had been eager to greet Beth but Rick warned them she’d be overwhelmed.
Slowly they ushered her into the house. Although there were plenty of seats, Beth threw herself down on the floor. She pulled the blanket up to her chin and looked afraid. The baby cried again and Beth looked at Rick.
‘That’s not Judith?’ she questioned.
‘No, that’s Elsie, see how dark her eyes are, not like Judith’s’
Maggie moved over to where Beth was sitting and showed her the baby.
‘Elsie, this is your Aunt Beth’ she said quietly.
Beth looked at the baby and smiled a little.
‘She doesn’t look like you’ she whispered.
Maggie shook her head and smiled ‘Nope, she’s all Glenn.’
‘but Judith’s alive?’ Beth questioned.
‘She is, she’s four now’ Rick repeated, ‘she’s at home, with Carl and Michonne’
Beth shook her head. ‘They aren’t alive’
‘They are Beth. And Carol too’
Beth shook her head and looked back at the baby.
‘How old is she?’
‘Seven months’ Maggie said
Beth looked around the room, cautiously as though it would hurt to make eye contact with anyone.
‘I think times all gone funny, in my head’ she said.
Nobody knew what to say and Beth started shaking.
‘Or I’m dead and this isn’t real. Or I’m dreaming’ she started sobbing. Maggie handed the baby to Glenn and threw her arms around her sister.
‘It’s not a dream Beth, it’s real, we’re here, we’re all here with you and we love you so much’. Beth pushed her away and hissed at her sister ‘I can’t believe that.’
Abraham reappeared there with chain cutters, he handed them to Rick who came and crouched next to Beth. ‘Is it OK if I cut these?’ he asked. She nodded but covered her face beneath the blanket. Rick set to work freeing Beth from her chains.
‘Left a hell of a bruise’ he said to the room; then gestured that the rest of them should join him in the kitchen.