A/N Thank you for checking out my newest Bethyl story. I hope you'll stay with us for the journey we're about to take with Daryl and Beth. It's going to be quite the road trip.
Trigger warning for domestic violence / abuse.
He'd been on the road for nearly three weeks. He'd hauled a load to Kansas and from there he'd gone to Santa Fe, then up into Colorado with two separate loads, then into Wyoming, over to Minnesota and now he was on his way to Tennessee.
It had been a helluva trip and it wasn't over yet. But for right now he just needed a quick break. He planned to take enough time to fuel up the rig, have a hot shower and a hot meal. It wouldn't be long after that and he'd be dropping off his load in Tennessee where he'd pick up a new shipment destined for San Diego, California.
He'd wrap it all up with a run over to Indio, CA, pick up a hot load there and as soon as he dropped that outside of Atlanta, he was heading home.
Home was his cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia.
He pulled in that big truck stop just over the Tennessee line about 7pm. He fueled up first and parked the rig. He grabbed his towel and a small canvas duffle that held a change of clothes and his shower kit. He headed inside.
He paid his money and took his hot shower and he was already feeling better. Now he just needed to eat and maybe catch an hour's nap, then he'd be gone.
Nighttime was his favorite time to travel. Less traffic, cooler temps, and it was quiet. He liked the quiet and he liked the solitude of the big truck.
Some folks thought trucking was a lonely life. He didn't feel that way at all. He didn't dislike people but he had no trouble being alone.
Right now all he wanted was to eat and the busy truck stop restaurant had a full counter, packed with other hungry road warriors. He saw a single seat and he took it. That's when he noticed them, well how could he miss them? He was sitting right next to her.
She was blond, young, and pretty, but she looked like life had dealt her a rough hand. She was all hunched over almost like she didn't want to see anything or anybody, except the tiny girl that was sitting next to her.
The waitress came over looking like she was in a foul humor, and sure enough she was. She fussed at the woman sitting next to him. "You can't just be taking up space. If you're not gonna order anythin' then go on, we got people waitin' for seats."
And the blond woman looked up and that's when he saw that big bruise on her cheek, and he saw the look in the little girl's eyes. And he knew. He knew because he'd lived it himself.
He looked to the waitress, "Hey now there ain't no need ta be actin' like that, they just been havin' a little trouble decidin' is all. I'ma have the chicken fried steak, mashed taters with country gravy, an I want extra gravy an give me an extra biscuit. The woman is havin' the chicken dinner and the child is having some a them chicken nugget deals, and get her some mac n cheese with that. And milk. An ya might wanna try bein' nice ta the customers."
The waitress huffed, "They're gonna charge ya for the extras."
"Yeah well that don't matter we're hungry." Shit what an old bitch.
The blond woman grabbed his sleeve and just as quickly let go. "I can't I don't have any money, nothing."
"Ya gotta eat and the child's gotta eat, and hell I'ma eat and maybe I don't wanna eat alone. Ya wanna move on over ta that booth? It'd be more comfortable for you an yer girl."
And she looked down and she nodded like she was afraid to argue with him. Fuck. He hollered to the waitress "Hey Sunshine, we're movin' over ta that booth there."
He sat to one side and the woman and the child sat across from him. She absentmindedly brushed her hair back with her hand and that's when he saw. It was worse than he'd thought. She was marked on both sides of her face and her left eye was turning black.
"You're on the run ain't ya?" He knew the answer.
She didn't look at him. "Yes."
"Where's he at?"
"The neighbor's called the police and they took him in but they won't keep him, they never do. I grabbed Claire and we just got out." She was still looking down but he saw the tear fall.
His lips were pursed and as he nibbled at his bottom lip, he just nodded.
The child couldn't have gotten any closer to the woman without being on her lap, and her little eyes were every bit as haunted as her Mama's.
"Well we'll have sumthin' ta eat and then I gotta get on the road again. Where're you ladies headed?"
"I don't know there really is no place. I can't pay for the dinner you ordered, and I'm not going to…you know, do anything to earn it from you." She was avoiding eye contact.
Maybe he shouldn't have been but he was surprised by her words. What shocked him more was he was hurt by them. But he didn't get angry with the woman because there was no reason to, she didn't know him and it was obvious someone had put some serious hurt to her, "Hey I ain't like that. I'm just lendin' a hand is all."
"I'm sorry. You've been very kind it's just that everyone always seems to want something, to have a price they expect to be paid."
"Yeah I get that, but I ain't everyone."
The food came and he could tell, "Been a while since ya ate, huh?"
"We've been walking since early this morning. I didn't have any money to get food."
"Ya got anythin' with ya? Ya know like yer stuff, clothes an the like?"
"No I didn't even think about it I was scared and we just took off." She knew she'd been stupid and she'd acted in haste, but this time she had just wanted so desperately for it to be the last time. She had to try and get away. She supposed she should have thought it through but her mind wasn't exactly clear at the time.
"Ya got family or sumthin'?" Why did he give a fuck? He had his own life and his own plans and he didn't need bullshit and complications. But he knew why he cared. He'd been there.
"No, no family, nowhere we can go." And he saw a couple more tears fall from her eyes. The child seemed aware of the desperate tone of the woman's voice, and she clung to the woman's arm.
"Do ya live far?"
She laughed but it was a hollow laugh and a sad laugh and she still hadn't made eye contact. "No we only made it about three or maybe four miles. I'm not a very good judge of that stuff. Claire's little and she was hungry, tired." And the woman stroked the child's hair.
They ate their food and he thought on it. He thought on it real hard. And he just couldn't throw them to the wolves. He knew what would happen. She'd go back just like his Mama always went back. There was no place else to go but back. That's how it seemed to go in these situations. And there was the child. He couldn't do it, he couldn't walk away.
Merle had always told him he was the sweet one. Well he figured he was that and the soft one and the stupid one too. But he just couldn't leave them.
He took a deep breath and threw caution, and whatever little bit of good sense he had, to the wind, "If ya want I'll drive ya over there an ya get just what you n the girl need, not too much we ain't gonna have the room. I'm dropping off a load here in Tennessee then I'm on my way ta California with a load. I'll be back over this way after that. If ya wanna come along I'll get ya outta here, maybe we can think a where you could go. And I ain't takin' nuthin' from ya of any kind. No kinda payment. I ain't expectin' nuthin'. I told ya I ain't that way."
She was pretty sure she was out of her mind, what if he was some weird creepy serial killer? He was a little rough looking, shaggy haired with some scruffy facial hair and a tat there on his hand. But there was something about his manner, the way he looked at her and her child that put her at ease. Under that rough exterior he seemed kind and like he could be taken at his word. He didn't seem like the evil type but how do you tell? She'd obviously been a lousy judge of character in the past.
And if she stayed here she knew she'd have to go back to that mean abusive bastard, the handwriting was on the wall. She hadn't even lasted a whole day out here with Claire before she'd needed to be rescued.
She hated that bastard but what else would she be able to do if she passed up this chance?
She was desperate. She looked to him and nodded, "Please don't hurt us and please don't abandon us somewhere in the desert. I'm Beth, and this is Claire."
"I told ya I ain't that way. I'm Daryl. Finish up now and we'll go."
There wasn't a spec of food left on a plate. "You an the child use the bathroom, we ain't gonna be doin' much stoppin'. I'ma pick up a few things in the store here."
But she didn't move to leave, the woman and the child stuck close to him. He bought some snacks but he had no idea what he should get for them and she wouldn't tell him what they might want, she wouldn't ask him for anything. So he ended up with a box of crackers, a bag of chips, a package of donuts, and a bag of Gummi candy for the child. He got some single serve orange juice drinks for the woman and the child, and a huge coffee for himself.
He got it now, why she was sticking close. So he just went ahead and walked with them over by the restroom and waited while they used it. She looked relieved to see him when they came out, like she'd expected him to leave her.
They walked to the big rig and he put the snacks away in the sleeper, he helped the child into the cab and gave the woman a hand up, and they were on their way. There were just the two seats in the cab but the woman and the child were small, they easily fit together in the one.
She told him how to get to her place.
He went in first, just in case the bastard was there, but no, the place was empty. And it was a wreck. There was furniture overturned and holes in the walls, the TV screen was broken out and all the contraptions, cable boxes and DVD players, everything looked like it had been ripped out and thrown. Yeah, it had been ugly and it stirred memories in him.
The truck was idling and he knew her neighbors were probably pissed. Well fuck the neighbors she was moving out anyway.
She wouldn't leave the girl alone in the truck with him while she went in the house, and for some reason he was hurt by that, but she was right that was the smart thing and he got it. She asked him to please come inside with them. It almost sounded desperate. He told her he had to keep an eye on the rig running but he said he'd also keep a close eye on the door. That didn't seem to ease her mind but he told her "just go now, I'm waitin' on ya" and she did.
It took less than five minutes and the woman and the child came out and each had a backpack.
He'd been so busy watching the house and making sure she and the child got in and out of it okay, he hadn't seen the car parked up the block, or the man sitting in it, watching and taking pictures of him and his rig.
"The sleeper's in the back. It's nice, comfortable. The bed's big enough for ya both." He tried just a little humor, "If I'da known I's havin' guests I'da washed the sheets, but they ain't too bad. Only been three days since I done wash. Y'all get some sleep it's been a long day an I know you're tired. I'ma be stoppin' at a rest stop in 'bout two hours. I need ta fill in my log book an I gotta take some mandatory rest time. Only allowed ta drive so many hours in a day."
"There's a bunk comes down there above ya. I'll take that one. I'll try not ta wake ya. Y'all get some rest an I'll see ya come mornin'." And he helped the child and he helped the woman into the sleeper.
She didn't know why he was being so kind but it was a godsend and she was going to try real hard not to question it. And the sleeper was much nicer than she would have imagined. He had it real neat and clean. There was a small fridge and a closet and some other storage above, and even a T.V. and laptop.
The bed was surprisingly comfortable. Claire would get a good night's sleep. Her poor little angel had been through hell. The woman felt guilty.
She was certain she would not sleep. She'd just lay there with her daughter and hope to God all of this somehow turned out okay. Maybe this trucker really was as nice as he seemed. Maybe she and Claire could find some kind of a shelter.
It must have been the long day and the motion of the truck, the full stomach and the sleeping child cuddled up to her. Maybe the feeling that they were finally safe, that they were in good hands and that the trucker really would care for them. She slept.
He heard the soft sounds of their sleep and it was oddly comforting to him. Sure he knew he was crazy, shit he had no business hauling some woman and some child all the way across the damn country and back. But he had to, he knew he had to.
He just kept thinking about that little boy out playing with the other neighborhood children. The boy whose father beat him regularly; and he beat the trucker's brother until his brother had run and got himself in a whole world of trouble. And he'd beat his Mama.
He remembered coming home that day to a burned down shack and a burned up Mama. He knew he couldn't think about that and remember all that horror, and then leave this woman and this child behind.
And he hadn't missed the fact that the child had yet to utter a word or make any sound at all. He knew about that too. Keep quiet and maybe no one will notice you. And he could see that the woman and the child both feared being left behind, abandoned.
This was a fucked up mess of epic proportion but he was in it now. He'd been drawn to it, compelled to try to help. He knew it was stupid and it went against his nature but none of that seemed to matter.
He could deal with the inconvenience for a few days. When he got them back to Georgia he'd find a place for them, maybe a shelter or a church. Surely there was someplace that would take them in. There must be people that could help.
If he was able to get them somewhere like that, somewhere that was safe, then it would all be okay and he'd feel like he'd done something to help. He could get on with his own life and his own plan. The woman and the child would make it, they'd survive just like he had. He'd get on with his own life.
And he had plans, a future mapped out for himself.
For right now, he was planning to chill there at his cabin for at least a month when this trip was over. That was the best thing about being an independent owner / operator, he could lay off once in a while. He scheduled his own trips, worked things out himself. He didn't want to always be doing things someone elses' way. Independence suited him.
He'd been saving for a long time. There was just him and he lived modestly. He had few needs and fewer wants. He couldn't care less about most of the frills in life.
His cabin. Hunting. Fishing. His motorcycle. That's what he cared about. That was all he needed, all he'd ever wanted. He was looking forward to getting home to it.
He planned to work at driving one more year then he'd sell that big Peterbilt.
He was 32 years old and it was time to move on to what he really wanted to do, carpentry. He liked it and he always had and he knew he was good at it. He'd built his cabin himself.
It was just that he didn't care to work for someone else and that had always been his only real option. He wanted to start his own business but that took cash.
And then Merle got sent up for 20 to life. His brother signed the big rig over to him, "I ain't gonna be usin' it Little Brother, it'll be nuthin' but a rust bucket time I get outta here. One of us just as well get my money's worth outta the thing."
Daryl had been overwhelmed by the gift. No one had ever given him anything. "I'll pay ya for it Brother."
"Nah I don't want yer money. What I want Little Brother is for you ta beat this fuckin' Dixon curse. Show me yer the one ta do it kid, yer the last hope."
And trucking had been a positive in his life, he made a good living and it helped him build a good nest egg. He was grateful for that, and grateful he'd been able to buy the best tools for his future business and build a nice shop on his land. He was set to survive quite a long time, he'd have time to get his new business established without falling on hard times.
And he wasn't too worried he wouldn't get jobs, he already had folks inquiring. They'd seen his work and they wanted him to do work for them. Yeah he'd be okay. He'd always been okay. He was a survivor.
He pulled into the rest stop and the woman and the child didn't wake, they didn't even stir. He filled out the log book and he tried hard to shut his brain off.
He pulled the upper bunk down as quietly as he could and climbed in. He put on his headphones and listened to a little Jamey Johnson. He thought about her, she seemed so young and even though she had to be tough to survive what she'd obviously been going through she seemed fragile, like delicate glass, like she could break if she was mistreated again.
He was thinking about her and eventually sleep came to the trucker.
A/N And so begins our journey. I'm thankful to you for taking the time to read this and I hope to see you back for more. This story will post once a week on Saturday. I would really appreciate you taking the time to comment / review. xo
To see the chapter photo please visit my tumblr at bethylmethbrick For story alerts for all my fics follow me here or on my tumblr. Thank you again and I hope to see you next Saturday! gneebee xo