No Longer Lonely

When the world has turned its back on you, darkness looms on your doorstep, and a loyal friend is hard to find it's easy to lose yourself. It is in those moments that you could be in a room full of people and still feel completely alone. Daryl had gotten used to being by himself, the loner with the messed up childhood that would have sent a lesser person screaming for the hills, but it had been one random Thursday morning when she had literally crashed into him. She had been running late for class and came around the corner only to smack into his chest, sending her to ground. Carol had muttered a few words about under her breath as she gathered her books that went flying on impact and blinked in shock when she saw a hand in front of her face, offering to help her to her feet. He thought that would have been it but he had been surprisingly wrong. He had gotten used to being alone but Carol had this uncanny way of making the loneliness disappear even if she wasn't right next to him.

The grass was cool as he laid in the yard, gazing up at the stars. His father was off on another bender with some trick who fell for his empty promises and his brother was in boot camp making a better person of himself. Daryl had welcomed the silence of the night but then again his mind had never been quiet since he met her. It had been two years since their first awkward kiss behind the high school. There were no fireworks or anything cliché like in those romantic movies he had sat through with her but there was an indescribable calm that washed over him as their lips met. The blush that flushed her cheeks and smile that graced her face had his heart swelling. It had been a year since he got his GED and started working at the local scrap yard. It was a full day's work out in the hot Georgia sun and he always came home needing a shower to wash the day away but it had been worth it. It had only been six months since they first slept together and it was then at the early age of nineteen that Daryl knew Carol was it for him. There was no one else who had ever regarded him with such compassion before. Never once had he seen an ounce of disgust, pity, or better yet fear in her eyes. Simply having the last name of Dixon had put him in a category where people judged him based on his father's actions. He had gotten used to it growing it up because there was no reason to sit and dwell on something that couldn't be changed that was until Carol came along.

Things had been going good, too good, and that should have been his first clue that there was a storm on the horizon. It had been three weeks since she showed up crying on his doorstep because she found out the bank was going to take her parent's house. Carol had an aunt that lived a few states away that had graciously offered her family a place to go but she wanted to stay. She wanted to stay in the town that held all her memories like treasure chest she wasn't willing to give away. She wanted him. He remembered the tearful explanation she had for what was happening and he wanted to take away every ounce of pain she was feeling.

Tonight though as he stretched out under the stars everything felt possible. There was a hope in the middle of the night that wasn't there in the day light. Carol had just turned eighteen and was technically an adult so as long as she had somewhere to stay she wouldn't have to go with them. He had saved every penny from his paycheck in hopes of escaping his childhood home but now his mind raced with ideas of taking Carol with him. It probably wouldn't be much, definitely not what she deserved, but it would be theirs. There was an apartment building over on Market Street that had cheap one bedroom apartments that he was sure his paycheck would cover. Sure, he might have to work a little overtime and they would be living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but it would be worth it.

It was a foolproof plan in his mind until he got the sickening thought that maybe she wouldn't want to stay. It was easy to say you didn't want to leave the same night you got the terrible news but now she had time to think on it. He couldn't really blame her if she decided to go with her family and he got a knot in his stomach at the idea of the darkness closing in around him again if she left. He sat up, resting his arms on his bent knees as everything ran through his mind. It was as if someone had put a cap on his happiness and when he had gotten too close to letting himself live fate would come along and rip the carpet out from underneath him. He thought briefly about going with her, finding a job and doing whatever he had to so he wouldn't lose her, but before he could get too wrapped up in it there was a soft knock on the front door. He hadn't heard a car pull up and wondered who it could be as he made his way through the house and unlocked the door. He pulled it open to see Carol standing on his front porch with a bag.

"Hey," she smiled and shifted the bag on her shoulder, "It's not too late is it?"

Daryl shook his head and stepped aside so that she could come in. She kept her hand wrapped tightly around the strap as she rocked back and forth on her feet. She looked more nervous than he had ever seen her and it set him on edge. "Everything alright?"

"Yeah, I think." Her answer hadn't exactly put him at ease and he raised an eyebrow encouraging her to continue. "I want to say. I mean I can visit them and there's phone calls and letters but I'm not sure where or if you want me here or what we do with any of this…" Daryl hadn't heard any words passed I want to stay and let out a deep breath he hadn't realized he had been holding. Her words trailed off and she tilted her head to the side as she waited for him to say something, anything. "Daryl?"

"You're staying?" He felt like he was in a dream and he had to be sure that he wasn't going to wake up at any minute only to find her already gone.

Carol's eyes lit up brighter than he thought was possible as she quickly nodded, "If you want me to."