So this idea was in my head even as I was writing another one-shot called 'Christmas Came Early.' This is from that same little Holiday universe. The entire time I was writing it, I was humming Judy Garland's song, Easter Parade, from which I took a line to title this fic. I hope y'all enjoy it.
The shoes were the final straw. It took a week after Maggie and Glenn's wedding for Beth to regain feeling in her toes. When she stood beside her sister at the altar, she felt overwhelming love, joy, happiness, but most of all, pain. Two hundred sets of eyes on the bride and groom and the maid of honor made a vow to herself right there and then that her wedding would be different. No dresses that required fasting and strictly enforced liquid diets by the bride. No second Korean ceremony and three wardrobe changes within a five-hour period. No running interference for Maggie to prevent inquiring aunts, uncles, and cousins from asking when there would be a baby on the way. The result of which meant that questions were redirected at her, wondering when it would be "her turn."
Three years would pass before it was "her turn," but Beth remembered the promise she made to herself. The only things she wanted to take away from Maggie's wedding were the radiant glow of being a woman in love, and the lone wedding guest tugging at the collar of his shirt and staring at her as if she hung the moon.
Beth contemplated everything that had changed in those three years as she lay on her side, staring at the smooth features of Daryl Dixon's face. At rest, the shadows of a rough life vanished, the often wary expression he wore replaced by peaceful repose. Her father had brought this man into her life. The man who helped keep the farm thriving even after Hershel Greene passed away. The man who helped her make her own unique mark on family land passed down for generations. The man she'd fallen in love with so deeply, every hope for the future included his solid presence beside her.
"Quit it Greene," Daryl startled Beth out of her reverie, eyes still shut, and head pillowed under one bent arm.
"What am I doin'?" Beth asked.
"Yer watchin' me sleep. Don't be weird," Daryl scolded, his amusement ill-concealed by an imperceptible twitch at the corner of his mouth.
"Y'ain't sleepin'," Beth pointed out.
"Cuz yer watchin' me."
She grinned and reached out, splaying her hand across the warm expanse of his bare chest. Leaning forward, she placed a soft kiss on his shoulder and snuggled in closer. It wasn't often Beth woke up before the quiet hunter, but there was something about the weather turning warmer. The sweet scent of spring air wafted in through the open windows of their bedroom carrying with it an idea that when it rooted in Beth's mind, every synapse in her brain fired and jolted her out of sleep. Excitement thrummed through her veins, radiating out through her limbs.
The truth was that she wanted to bolt out of bed, dragging Daryl along with her. But while the fresh spring air invigorated her, for her fiance, she'd never seen him more relaxed. She couldn't bear to disturb the comfort of the cocoon created by their blankets and Daryl's boneless weight. The demands of the farm and her business endeavor called back a distant memory of a New Year's Eve party years before. A fight with a drunk, angry Daryl Dixon revealed their feelings for one another, but not before he'd snarled that her crazy antics were what would drive Hershel Greene into an early grave. She wasn't going to steal away Daryl's much needed rest. Hershel had been taken from her too soon, he wasn't going to follow down the same path.
The farm was hard work, and for the Greenes, absurd ideas sprouted up faster than the corn in the fields. A brilliant photographer and his partner drove up to the house one day asking to take pictures of their barn and their beautiful land. Aaron loved the way the light streamed through the trees, and just had to stop the car. He and his partner Eric were on their way to an estate sale to purchase a wedding dress for his partner Eric's vintage dress shop, but the scene before them halted them in their tracks.
Beth dropped everything, enthusiastically showing them all her favorite places on the farm, sharing lemonade with the couple and asking all about their businesses. Eric looked out onto the property from the shade of the front porch and said, "Wouldn't this just be the dreamiest place to get married?" That was it. It had been the impetus of converting part of the farm into an event facility, and quickly Aaron and Eric had become two of Daryl's and her best friends.
In the past two years, Beth hosted weddings and parties while still keeping the farm functioning as it always had. Daryl built more cabins and a beautiful archway at the top of a hill where Hershel loved to watch the sun set. People got married at Hershel's Overlook and then danced the night away in their rustic barn strewn with flower garlands that she and Daryl hung. He'd helped her wrangle flower girls in fairy wings and hitched up horses to pull a carriage for the bride and groom. All the "girly shit" as he called it. Then come Monday they were tending to their crops, keeping an eye out on their fifty head of cattle. Daryl was strong and stoic. Even if they bickered and he teased her for being a dreamer, he was right there beside her in the middle of the night helping her transform their property into every bride's vision.
Daryl rolled over tugging Beth to him so her body was flush with his. He pressed a kiss into her hair, before tucking her head neatly under his chin, "I can hear your wheels spinnin' girl. What is it?"
"I wanna get married," Beth tilted her head back so she could gauge his reaction.
This time, the corner of Daryl's mouth lifted up into a crooked smile, "That's good, cuz we're engaged."
"I mean, I wanna get married next week," Beth clarified.
"Ain't that Easter?" Daryl asked.
Daryl still hadn't opened his eyes to look at her. After a few moments of silence, she thought the answer would be no. Instead he said, "Your sister's got like five thousand eggs for me to hide out in the yard."
"I can help you with that," Beth pointed out.
"And don't ya got a ham to bake or whatever?" Daryl asked.
"Two hams, but I could do that before," Beth reasoned, "Maggie, Glenn, and little Hershel are already comin' up. And Aaron and Eric. And Rick and Lori."
"And bout thirty more people?"
"Well, for Easter lunch sure, but for the actual gettin' married part, we just need a few witnesses. We could walk down to where you and Daddy liked to go fishin'," Beth liked the idea more and more by the minute.
"So you wanna get married on Easter?" Daryl cracked an eyelid.
"In the morning, before church," Beth nodded, "I wanna let Aaron and Eric know and Fr. Gabriel of course, but it can be a surprise for everyone else."
Daryl shut his eyes again, giving her waist a brief squeeze, "Alright Greene." He could feel the broad grin on Beth's face as she settled back against him.
"Alright," she echoed.
Except later on when Daryl found it difficult to make eye contact with her across the breakfast table, it was obvious the plan was not 'alright.' He hadn't acted so squirrely around Beth since the first time he'd seen her naked.
Beth finally set down her fork and fixed him with an expectant stare till his eyes met hers, "I can hear your wheels spinnin' Daryl. What is it?"
He cleared his throat, fingers drumming a tattoo atop their dining room table, "Ya sure? About… you know."
"Are you not?" Beth's eyebrows rose.
"I am!" Daryl rushed to get out, "It's just… don't you want everyone there 'n all that girly shit?"
"Who's everyone?" Beth asked.
"Y'know, like at Maggie and Glenn's wedding. Everyone at Hershel's Overlook. The barn packed with people. Sparkles and twelve-foot cakes n'whatever," Daryl shrugged.
Beth had to choke back an incredulous 'HA!' when she saw the look of genuine concern etched across Daryl's face. Sparkles and twelve foot cakes and distant relatives tearing her to shreds over her future reproductive plans? How could she choose that over a peaceful spring morning with birds singing and a quiet babbling brook setting the scene for the happiest day of their lives? No fuss, just blue skies and the deep blue of Daryl's eyes beaming down at her. Just imagining it filled her with warmth and love. She stood up and came around to settle herself in Daryl's lap.
"Daryl, we've had forty-three weddings here since the day you rolled your eyes and muttered 'fine,' to my brilliant idea of making this an event venue," Beth began, "I don't want our wedding to be like anyone else's. I wanna walk down to yours and Daddy's fishin' spot and feel like he's right there with us. I wanna stick my toes in the water. I don't want you tuggin' at your collar in a tuxedo, lookin' like a buttoned up penguin. I just want you and me and our beautiful little world in bloom."
In true Daryl fashion, he merely grunted, before glancing up at her, "Y'sure?"
"I'm sure," Beth nodded solemnly. She ducked her head down and pressed her lips to Daryl's, relishing the pressure of his hand on her thigh. She broke the kiss with a snort, "Are you sure? Does Daryl Dixon want a twelve-foot cake and little girls dressed as fairies dancing round him as he goes to stand at the end of the altar?"
"Pfft," Daryl jiggled his knee to get Beth to stand, "You know one a'them flower girls bit me? An' I thought your damn horse was moody."
Returning to her seat across from him, Beth picked up her fork, "Sounds like the pot and the kettle."
A half a pancake of silence and the tone of Daryl's voice turned thoughtful. Beth could see the tips of his ears pinkening, "You could ride Nellie down to the creek. Y'know, so your dress won't get messed up? Shit, do you have time to find a dress?"
Beth murmured for him not to worry about something as silly as a dress. She knew he wanted to give her the world, and sometimes Daryl forgot he already had. A certain dress or flowers or location weren't the most important part of getting married, he was. Aaaand, maybe the truth was that just a few days after he'd proposed, she couldn't bear to keep the secret until Christmas day when her family and friends would be together again. She found herself driving straight to Eric's shop and spilling the beans by holding out her hand to show him the ring.
As soon as Eric stopped blubbering he disappeared to the back room of his shop and came back with a garment bag containing what he described as Beth's "perfect dress." He'd found the treasure in Savannah, undeterred by some signs of age in the delicate lace. Instead he'd pulled a Pretty in Pink and salvaged the dress into a romantic gauzy two-piece ensemble that complimented Beth's slim frame perfectly. Both the front and back of the cropped top's embroidered neckline dipped into a wide vee, displaying the merest sliver of skin at her waist. The delicate detail and soft flowing skirt embodied exactly what Beth wanted for their big day. As she stood in front of the mirror staring at her reflection, she didn't know when or where she and Daryl would get married, but it would be in that dress.
The weeks went by, and she'd found a pair of pants that weren't too dressy, a vest, and a shirt that would look just right with the sleeves rolled up and Daryl's standard choice of work boots. A few more weeks went by and while shopping with Maggie, her sister distractedly commented about a pale green dress she thought was pretty but had nowhere to wear with a teething, clingy baby Hershel. Maggie couldn't have known the pleated chiffon of the tea-length dress was the perfect, slightly bohemian style to stand next to her as matron of honor. During a diaper change, Beth purchased the dress and had the store ship it to the farmhouse. After that, whenever Maggie pressed her to make decisions about wedding details, Beth just patted her sister's hand and said, "Don't worry, it's all done. Just need to pick a date."
Each time this elicited a groan, an eye roll, or an exasperated sigh.
"Fine," Maggie conceded as if she'd just pick up the conversation another time.
"Fine," Beth smiled with smug finality.
Dozens of eggs hidden, cabins prepared for their little wedding party, Easter lunch prepped, and Daryl's hand in hers as they waited out on the porch swing for their friends and family to join them. They had a tray with a pitcher of sweet tea and glasses, ready to hand to their friends and family as soon as they arrived, which would be any minute.
"What d'you think Maggie'll say when we tell 'em?" Daryl asked.
"She might get out Daddy's shotgun that she waved at you on New Year's Eve that first year," Beth teased.
Daryl hummed and Beth could tell he was contemplating going inside and locking the weapon away, absentmindedly scratching at the bristly whiskers sprouting from his chin. Finally he half-heartedly argued, "Naw, she's got her hands full with the baby,"
Beth was grateful to see Aaron and Eric pull up the drive first, followed by Rick and Lori shortly after. Daryl had lured the two couples to the farm, asking if they would help Beth and him get the house ready for the Easter festivities. Daryl asking for help was such a foreign concept that they all agreed without question, concerned that he might be deathly ill to even consider asking for help. It was a good thing Maggie, Glenn, and Little Hershel were already making the trip down, because the excuse would never have worked on her. It was the reason Beth was glad Aaron, Eric, Rick, and Lori arrived first. The secret would've been out before their party was complete, and Beth wanted to make the announcement all at once.
All the tables were set up with their chairs tucked neatly under them. Table linens were folded and stacked in a bin just inside the front door. Rick was the first to grow suspicious, his keen sheriff's observation bringing the most obvious question to his lips.
"I thought y'all needed help with stuff… thangs," Rick turned a tight circle, surveying the area, "Looks like everything's ready for tomorrow."
"Oh look, Maggie, Glenn, and Little Hershel are here!" Beth changed the subject, shoving a glass of sweet tea into Rick's hand to hopefully keep him occupied for just a few moments longer.
Their SUV took the curve of the circular drive, stopping right at Beth's feet. Maggie Greene-Rhee stepped out, arms outstretched and ready to pull her little sister in for a hug.
"We made it!" Maggie turned to check the backseat before exclaiming, "Hershel slept the whole way. Mother. of. the. Year."
Beth pulled Maggie up to the porch, with Glenn closing the driver's side door as softly as he could before following behind them. She handed them each a glass of sweet tea then took her place standing next to Daryl.
"Ooh, Bethy, will you always greet me with refreshments when I come visit?" Maggie asked taking a sip.
"Actually," Beth looked to Daryl for encouragement, "We wanted you all to have a drink in hand because we had some news."
Daryl cleared his throat, assuming responsibility for making the announcement, "Beth and I wanted y'all to come out tonight instead of after the Easter service tomorrow because we want you to be with us in the morning… when we get married."
The looks on everyone's faces ranged from shock to understanding to giddy tears (Eric's). Then Beth's eyes reached Maggie's face and she felt all the excitement drain away.
"What?!" Maggie spluttered on the mouthful of sweet tea. Her brow furrowed, eyes narrowing as she looked from Daryl to Beth to confirm she'd heard them correctly.
"Yeah," Beth started, "We've finally got spring weather, and tomorrow is supposed to be a beautiful day—"
"So you decided just to get married?!" Maggie's voice was working it's way to near shrieking volume.
"Beth—" Daryl began, but Maggie turned on him.
"You," Maggie cut him off with a point of her finger, "This was your idea. Couldn't even let Beth have the kind of wedding she deserves? You think you should just spring this on her like it's just any regular day?"
"No!" Beth interjected, but a new realization—albeit an incorrect one—dawned on her older sister, blessedly drawing her wrath back to Beth.
"Are you pregnant?!" Maggie asked. For obviously that could be the only reason Beth and Daryl would want to hurry up and get married without all the customary fanfare, "Is that why you greet us on the front steps with sweet tea instead of a beer or a glass of wine?! Well don't think I am going to agree to any of this!"
And before anyone could stop her, Maggie stalked off, tossing the glass into the grass. She climbed into the driver's seat of the car, slamming the door so hard it set Little Hershel off into a fit of wailing. With the keys left in the ignition, she fired up the engine again and sped off, kicking up gravel and a cloud of dust.
The looks of shock on the group's faces were now more of a reaction to Maggie's angry outburst instead of the surprise of being invited to a wedding. Six pairs of eyes shifted to convey their sympathy to Beth. She felt the briefest relief when Daryl ushered everyone into the house to get them refills on their now dusty beverages.
He allowed everyone to file in before him before leaning down to whisper in Beth's ear, "She actually took that better'n I expected. Least she didn't wave a gun at me."
Beth sagged into Daryl's side, trudging into the house feeling the exact opposite of what she'd expected she'd feel when they announced their surprise. The only person who'd really gotten the surprise was her. She should have expected Maggie would have a fit. After Hershel passed, she seemed hellbent that Beth's wedding would be so grandly perfect that maybe everyone would forget that Hershel wasn't there. Beth probably should've realized that instead of simply deleting emails with the ice sculpture artists and twenty-piece bands and private helicopter getaways.
"Would you mind keeping the others occupied—tell 'em the whole plan and about dinner tonight? I'm just going to walk down to the battlefront and see if Maggie will come join our side," Beth stood on tiptoe to press a kiss to Daryl's cheek before pushing him towards the living room.
She retrieved a garment bag from Maggie's childhood bedroom then set out across the field where she knew Maggie and Little Hershel would be brooding in their cabin. When Maggie threw open the door, Beth expected to get another earful before being unceremoniously turned out.
Instead, both Maggie and Little Hershel's faces were red and splotchy and Maggie was doing her best to swipe away her tears with the back of her hand.
"Aww, Maggie, we told you we're getting married, not that someone died!" Beth put a hand on her sister's shoulder to lead her back inside, "I don't think I saw you this upset at Daddy's funeral."
"I know! I—I just can't stop crying," Maggie set Hershel down on the floor to free both her hands up to mop up her face.
"I know my wedding plans don't meet up to your standards, but it is what I want. It was all my idea. You know Daryl would do anything to make me happy. Hell, he'd wear the wedding dress if I asked him to," Beth held out the garment bag in her hand, "Here. I hope this shows you that I've had this idea in my mind for a long time. Not the exact date, but somethin' spontaneous, whenever it felt right. I wanted to be ready."
Maggie sniffled, accepting the bag and unzipping it to reveal the dress she'd admired weeks before. She gasped, "Oh Bethy, if ya knew back then, why didn't you just say somethin'?"
"Would you have been more excited?" Beth arched an eyebrow.
"No… probably not," Maggie frowned, "I guess… I guess I was just hopin' we'd get to do somethin' real special for you cuz Daddy won't be here."
"But it will be special, and Daddy will be there," Beth reached forward and took Maggie's hand, drawing her down to sit on a small sofa, "You'll see."
Maggie held the dress out in front of her again, her lips pursed together as if trying to stop herself from smiling, "So… you're not pregnant?"
"No, I'm not pregnant," Beth shook her head, "We were just planning on taking everyone out to eat some yummy Mexican food. Sort of like a mini-rehearsal dinner at Rosita's, so we figured we probably shouldn't let everyone booze it up before driving into town."
"An' here I was consoling myself that at least we'd get to be pregnant together," Maggie sighed, this time letting herself smile, even as her eyes welled up with tears all over again. She looked like a complete maniac, tears streaming down her face and grinning at the same time.
"You're pregnant!" Beth exclaimed, "No wonder you handled the surprise so well!" She pulled Maggie into a tight hug. She was getting married and she'd get to be an aunt for a second time. Just like everything else in her life since Daryl entered it, all the pieces were falling into place one by one at exactly the right time.
"Let's not spill the beans just yet. Only Glenn knows and now you. We were going to make the announcement tomorrow, but now I don't want to steal your thunder. Whatever your wedding day will be, I want it to be all about you and Daryl."
"Hmm," Beth chuckled, thinking about how Daryl loved to stay on the periphery, never in the spotlight, "Don't tell Daryl that, he might change his mind. Can we head back up to the big house now? I'm starving, and I'd like to have a margarita for the both of us."
"Alright, but on the way up, you have to tell me everything about what you have planned for tomorrow," Maggie draped her dress over the back of the sofa and held her arms out for Little Hershel to toddle over to her.
"Everything?" Beth asked.
Everything was that while Beth was bringing Maggie on board, it was decided that Daryl couldn't possibly sleep in the farmhouse that night and get ready with her in the morning. Eric accepted that Beth and Daryl were not a conventional couple, but just knowing what Beth looked like in the wedding dress he'd made for her, the suspense would be worth it. He'd have to spend one final night in the cabin he lived in when he first started working for Hershel. The men were all too excited to share a few drinks with the groom-to-be after dinner, ready to impart wisdom as already-married men. Aaron and Eric were going to make sure he was dressed like a groom the next morning instead of a surly hunter. Fr. Gabriel was showing up bright and early because he'd have to get right back to the church to do Easter service.
Between Lori and Maggie, they fashioned the flowers Beth picked up that morning at the local farmer's market into a delicate floral wreath for Beth's hair. Maggie would also wear a few blossoms tucked behind her ear, and carry a posy bouquet of the colorful spring blooms. For Beth, they arranged a full cascade bouquet because Maggie said there needed to be a little touch of drama in every wedding, and no, her hysterics did not count.
The older Greene girl couldn't keep a dry eye at the sight of Beth in her wedding dress, being photographed by Aaron before they rode down to meet Daryl and the rest of the men at the creek. Maggie always saw her sister as a little bird, delicately built but stronger than anyone realized. Lori and Eric worked on her hair, pulling Beth's hair into a loose braid that trailed down one shoulder. In the gauzy material of her wedding dress, she looked ethereal in the early morning light, like a shimmering fairy.
And then Beth hitched up her skirts, revealing her work-worn cowboy boots, and laughter bubbled up out of Maggie's chest. They both looked like proper country girls in their dresses and boots atop their horses. Beth made the the horses set a crawling pace, no matter how much Maggie insisted they could go faster.
Everyone except Maggie and Aaron were waiting for them down at the creek. Aaron took several pictures of Beth and Maggie on horseback before riding ahead of them to take some pictures of Daryl. Beth couldn't help but smile imagining Aaron's camera lens in her fiance's face. She hoped Aaron and his camera wouldn't end up in the water.
If it wasn't for Maggie and the baby, Beth would've flown across the fields, through the woods to get to Daryl. She hadn't slept a wink the night before. The bed felt cold and empty without him beside her. It took everything inside of her not to burst into tears when she first laid eyes on him, standing with his hands in his pockets beside Rick and Fr. Gabriel.
Daryl was dressed in the clothes she'd picked for him, and he looked even more handsome than she imagined. The broad set of his shoulders filled his shirt and showed off the strong definition of his arms. And then he turned around, and she had to tighten Nelly's reins to keep from slipping off her saddle. His deep blue eyes stared at her with such intensity, Beth felt a shiver travel up her spine and her stomach erupted in butterflies that never seemed to diminish.
He came around, the palms of his hands encircling her waist to help her down from Nelly. His thumbs brushed the bare skin at her waist and Beth sighed at his touch.
"No turnin' back now Mr. Dixon," Beth murmured.
"Just 'bout to say the same to you. You're the one with the getaway horse," Daryl teased, continuing his featherlight touch against the expanse of her lower back.
Father Gabriel cleared his throat, "How about we make it official?"
Beth jumped, forgetting where they were for a moment, "Oh! Yes please Father."
Daryl led her a little further down the creek to where the current formed a sandbar in the middle of water, "How about right there?"
A breeze caught the soft curls framing her face, and it felt like her father's loving caress encouraging his doodlebug to take the plunge. Beth bent down, tugging off her cowboy boots and tossing them to the side. Maggie handed her her wedding bouquet and Daryl scooped up the hem of her train to keep it from dragging along the wet creek bank.
Just as she envisioned, she waded ankle deep before she could gain her footing on the little island. The water was cold, but the sun shined down on all of them, lending a sparkling quality to the dewy grass and wildflowers. Aaron plodded right into the water to get the best shots of them as Fr. Gabriel began what Daryl and Beth requested be a short and sweet ceremony.
The truth was, everything Fr. Gabriel was saying felt far away. Beth felt like she was floating, watching the scene from above. She felt the weight of her bouquet in one hand and the safe, firm grasp of the other in Daryl's own two hands keeping her from drifting out into the atmosphere.
Dimly, she heard Daryl's low voice rumble, "I do."
"I do," Beth returned, voice just as thick with emotion, love, adoration.
Fr. Gabriel reached the culmination of the marriage rite, and suddenly Beth could feel herself reinhabit her body. She felt the cool metal of the simple gold wedding band as Daryl slipped it on her finger, and repeated the words back to Daryl as she mirrored his vows. From the start, Daryl had never revealed more to anyone about himself than what he shared with Beth, but the bond between them was more than just words they exchanged. In the way they acted with one another, the way they held fast to one another, they conveyed their love in a silent language in which only each other understood. There was Daryl and her and this feeling of peace and joy that grounded her. As if in that moment, the commitment she was making was her rebirth as something new.
All of it, all for this man whose strong hands came to either side of her waist, pulling her to him before Fr. Gabriel could even pronounce them man and wife. Which she assumed he did while she was consumed by the fervor of her new husband' kiss. For all the things he couldn't say in words, he said with his lips and the way he held her to him like she was the only thing anchoring him to the earth.
Once they broke apart their little party erupted in whistles, hoots, and applause. Aaron grinned down at the display of his camera, satisfied with the shots he'd gotten of the ceremony.
"I'm blushing just looking at these pictures," Aaron fanned himself, "No wonder you two are so private, you'd melt people into puddles."
Daryl promptly raised his middle finger to their friend before swooping up his wife and carrying her back across the water. Maggie met them as soon as Beth was back on her feet, pulling them both into a bone crushing hug. In between the tears streaking down her face and the hiccups, she spluttered, "I'm just so happy for you two!"
"Ya wouldn't know it by your face," Daryl's brow furrowed, completely baffled by the woman's display of emotion.
Beth swatted at his chest, knowing what her husband did not, "Leave'er alone, she's your family now."
As if the thought had never occurred to either of them, Maggie and Daryl's features fell and they both uttered in unison, "Shit."
For church and the festivities after, Beth changed out of her wedding dress, but she kept the flower wreath in her hair because it matched the blue and white floral pattern of the top of her simple Easter day dress. Aaron called her spring incarnate taking more pictures to capture the events of the day. The whole wedding proceedings would have flown under the radar if Fr. Gabriel had not allowed Maggie up to the pulpit to announce Beth and Daryl's marriage to the entire congregation.
The response was visceral and immediate. You would have thought Jesus Christ resurrected in the very pew where Beth and Daryl sat. A sea of faces all turned around to look at them as if locking down a target on their location. As soon as the organ cued up the open notes of the recessional hymnal, Daryl grabbed Beth's hand and tugged her towards the nearest exit. It was a miracle Beth could get Daryl to come to church with her for special occasions, she had a feeling it would be months before he crossed the threshold into the sanctuary again. Beth was relieved that whenever Daryl was with her they gravitated towards one of the pews in the back of the church. They'd never make it out alive if they'd sat where Hershel usually camped out in the second row.
They tore out of the parking lot and back to the farm, and Beth silently wondered how much time they would have before people started showing up at the house. She scooted across the bench seat of the pickup and laid her head on Daryl's shoulder, trailing her fingers lightly up and down his thigh.
He jerked slightly, making the gears in the old truck grind as he downshifted, "Uh-uh Greene, don't start what you can't finish."
"Who said we can't finish?" Beth teased.
"My new sister-in-law an' her impeccable timin'," Daryl grumbled, "'Sides, for all you know, she's inviting the whole church back to the farm."
She better not, Beth thought to herself. Daryl was right of course. No sooner than she finished setting out the potato salad and the deviled eggs people started pulling up the drive. Lori and Carol shooed her out of the kitchen with a glass of lemonade, and she was left to receive well-wishes from all of their friends. She spotted Daryl across the yard shaking hands with Abe Ford, his neck already bright red from the effort of enduring so much unwanted attention.
The news of their wedding created a revolving door of community members dropping by the farm throughout the day to offer their congratulations to the bride and groom. Thank God for Carol's banana pudding, peach cobbler, and bunny shaped cookies to distract the adults for a few minutes. Beth slipped away and sank down under the shade of a nearby tree where she could watch all the kids hunting Easter eggs. Glenn held Little Hershel's bucket for the toddler to deposit all of his treasures, most of which were not the colorful candy filled plastic eggs.
Daryl filled her peripheral view with a paper plate heaped with banana pudding. She hadn't even seen him coming, but then again he was much more adept at slipping through crowds unnoticed. Beth accepted the plate and a kiss as her husband settled down beside her and draped an arm over her shoulders.
"On my way from the garage to the house to refill the ice, I saw Maggie puking into your rose bushes," Daryl recounted, "Either she's been drunk all day or Glenn's gonna have two ankle biters clingin' to his legs next year."
Beth held out a spoonful of banana pudding to feed to Daryl, "Hmm… or."
"Or she's just batshit, like some other Greene girl I know," Daryl squeezed Beth's knee.
"I'm a Dixon now remember? That better?"
"Naw," Daryl shook his head. They sat in companionable silence, and Daryl played with the end of Beth's braid as he watched Hershel squeal with delight at the confetti that burst out of one the plastic eggs. He nodded his head in the kids' direction, "An' if we have one a'them, I hope they're more Greene than Dixon too."
The image of a little Dixon baby running around made her pause over her banana pudding. She pictured their baby looking like a tiny Daryl if Daryl had been given the real love and care he deserved from his mother and father. She couldn't describe the emotions welling up inside her. Beth's love for Daryl made her feel so content, and yet this is what it must have felt like for unconditional love to expand inside someone till she felt like she could burst. Her daddy's voice resonated in her memory, the gentle southern lilt of his voice saying, My cup runneth over. At that very moment she knew exactly what Hershel Greene meant, but its significance lay not in its biblical origin. Instead the scripture placed her back in her childhood. Hershel would sit quietly and watch Maggie and her in the rare occasion where Maggie wasn't bossing her around and she wasn't being a whiny little brat. Beth vividly remembered looking at him and asking him why he was smiling, and he would simply answer with that snippet from his favorite Psalm.
Beth made a mental note to share the anecdote with Daryl, but she wanted to revel in his unintended admission that he'd imagined them with children. They had plenty of time to talk about their future. So she raised a hand up, delicately brushing Daryl's unruly hair out of his eyes.
"Happy Easter Mr. Dixon," Beth pushed up to kiss Daryl, still tasting the sweetness of their wedding dessert on his lips.
"Happy Easter Mrs. Dixon."