I honestly feel so bad whenever my muse comes up with a new idea because I can't think of anything else until I start to write it, but I don't know how to turn the muse off. Also, thank you for being patient with me and my updates. The promotion I got at work is making my days pretty busy, but I'm trying to write whenever I have a spare moment. Thank you for your continued love and support of my stories.
"Seven, eight, nine," the teller counts while lying out the ten dollar bills in front of Beth on the other side of the glass. "Ten-thousand, nine hundred. Would you like an envelope, Beth?"
Beth nods. "Please."
She goes to get her one large enough as Beth looks at the neat piles of bills in front of her. She has never seen so much money all at once before and it's a little overwhelming and a little frightening. But Beth can only hope that it will actually be enough. And it should – at least for a while; for a while until she finds out where she's going and she is able to get herself a job.
Her older sister, Maggie, has always called her frugal, but right now, Beth thinks that that's the best thing she could have ever been. When she was eight-years-old, her mom took her to the bank to open up her savings account and since then, every cent earned from babysitting and later, from teaching piano lessons went safely away, never to be touched. Upon graduation from high school, she received money from family and most of it went into the savings account as well. Her maternal grandparents gave her the same present they had given Maggie and their brother, Shawn, and helped pay for college. Beth had stayed in state for the low tuition and she worked as a waitress through the four years, allowing her to graduate with no money owed back and a bit more in her savings account.
Her job out of a college as a secretary at an office – and still living at home on the farm with her parents – has helped with expenses and more money is being able to be tucked away.
"What the hell are you saving it all for?" Maggie had asked her once they had stopped by the bank on the way to the mall – Maggie to check on the amount on her debit card and Beth to divide her pay check – half going into her checking account and the rest going into savings.
Maggie's eyes had nearly bugged from her head when she saw just how much Beth had accumulated over the years – the five digits printed in Beth's bank book staring back at her as she had snatched it to get a closer look. Maggie had never been much into saving and both sisters knew it. Their daddy had always said that money liked to burn holes through Maggie's pockets and as soon as she had any, she had to spend it.
Beth had shrugged. "For a rainy day."
And now, it isn't just raining. It's a torrential downpour and Beth is trying to keep herself from drowning in it. Thank goodness that she's always been frugal because now, she needs as much money as she can get. He gave her a grand – in cash – the last time she saw him.
"Take care of it," he had said to her as if they were discussing some leftovers in the staff refrigerator that he wanted her to clean out.
At that point, Beth was still in such shock over everything, she hadn't been able to have much of a reaction to anything as her carefully constructed life fell absolutely apart, landing in pieces all around her.
But she had just taken his money and wondered if she could feel any less cheap than she did then in that moment. For everything they had done and everything that she had given him, she had only been worth a grand to him. She left without a word and she knew that she would never see him again nor speak to him. She would let him assume anything he wanted; let him think she "took care of it", because while it was painfully obvious that she was naïve, she wasn't so naïve that she didn't know what he wanted her to do.
She couldn't do that and she wouldn't.
So instead, she would leave. The idea had come to her just the night before as she laid in bed. She hadn't been able to sleep in days and her mom had finally commented on it last night, during dinner.
"When I can't sleep, I take Benadryl," Annette offered.
Beth had done her best to smile at her mom's suggestion and shook her head. "I'm alright. Just thinking about things from work."
To put it mildly¸ she added to herself.
"You're too young for that, Bethy," Hershel replied.
Beth had kept quiet at that because if only her parents really knew.
Later, after the dishes were washed and drying in the rack next to the sink and her parents had settled in to watch some show on PBS, Beth had gone upstairs and drawn herself a bath. She wasn't sure how long she stayed in there – thinking of what she could possibly do – but her fingertips were wrinkled and her mom was tapping gently on the door when she finally pulled herself from the tub.
"Are you alright?" Annette asked with a furrowed brow and dark concerned eyes.
"I'm just tired," Beth answered and it was, at least, partially the truth.
She then hugged Annette long and tight and when Annette held onto her, Beth had to clasp her eyes shut to make sure that no tears leaked out. If she started crying now, she would completely break apart and she wasn't ready for her parents to know. What would they say? How would they act? She already knew. They would be so angry and so disappointed and so ashamed – especially if they ever found out who the father was.
"I think I'm going to take a personal day from work tomorrow," Beth said, still hugging her mom. "You're right. I need rest and I just haven't been getting it."
Annette gave her a squeeze and a smile. "Good."
And with that, Beth went into her bedroom and closed the door and laid awake in her bed for the rest of the night.
They will be angry that she left – of course. Angry and scared and worried. But this is for the best. It really is. And after they read the letter that she's left for them in her room, after a while when they have given their emotions a chance to calm down, they'll see it's the best. This is such a small town and it is fueled on gossip and Beth doesn't want any of the people here to think that she's a reflection of her parents.
Her parents are the best and her sins are her sins to burden alone.
"Here you go, Beth," the teller returns with her envelope and helps her place all of the money inside of it. "Do you need anything else?"
Beth looks at the thick envelope now in her hands. She has everything she needs. Her savings account now says that she has zero and everything she's ever saved in the world is now in her hands. She can't help, but drop one of her hands down to her flat stomach. Well, her entire world has now changed and it's all about this little one now. It's not this little one's fault that their mom has made such a mess of her own life. With this money, Beth is going to do everything she can do to make sure that this baby has a good life; as good a life as Beth had had, herself, before she went and mucked it all up.
"Yes," Beth tells the teller. She puts the envelope carefully into the messenger bag slung across her chest and then pulls out another envelope – this one much smaller and thinner; a second letter to her family. She slides it under the glass. "If any of my family comes here, asking about me-" Beth abruptly cuts herself off and swallows down the ball lodged in her throat. "Could you please give this to them?"
"Of course," the teller says, sliding the envelope closer to her. "Beth… is everything alright?"
Beth does her best to nod. "It will be," she responds and is amazed that to her own ears, she actually sounds almost confident.
Well, to be honest, it's not as if it can possibly get any worse.
She's aware of the building manager standing in the front door of the apartment, watching her, but he doesn't say anything and she can't think of anything to ask him. As long as the apartment has four walls and a roof and is in a slightly decent neighborhood, she can't ask for more than that.
Beth goes to the sink in the kitchen and turns on the tap. Fresh, clear water pours out.
"I love these tiles," she finally speaks, her hand gently touching the white subway tiles beneath the cabinets.
"Thanks," the man replies and his voice is gruff as if he goes for long periods of time without using it.
Beth looks back to him. "You did the work?"
He gives a single nod. "Tyreese and Karen own this buildin' and a bunch of others around town. They're into that whole flippin' thing and I work for 'em."
Beth turns fully towards him. "But this is the one you live in full time?"
"I live in A1, right across the hall. Buildin' manager," he tells her. "If anything goes wrong in this place, you come and get me. If you wind up livin' here," he then adds.
Beth nods and looks away again. He's a tall, lean man and yet, he's wearing a tee-shirt that shows her that he definitely has muscles. His hair is dark and long and he should probably cut it, and yet, it looks good on him.
But Beth looks away before she can think of anything about him further. She honestly doesn't want to think about a man ever again.
The kitchen and living room are one room – separated with a breakfast counter. She's always dreamt of having a breakfast counter in her own place someday. She runs her hand along the smooth surface and then steps into the living room. They have used a warm yellow tile for the kitchen floor and it bleeds perfectly into the hard wood used for the floor. There is a large window on the back wall and Beth walks to it now. It overlooks a small bank of trees that is growing on the side of the apartment building. At least it's not a parking lot. Not that she's being choosy. She just wants her baby to have a view of something.
It's small, but that doesn't matter because it's obvious that this man and the two owners put in plenty of time and money into the place.
Beth bites down on her bottom lip. She turns back towards the building manager. "Thank you for showing this to me."
He frowns a little. "You done? You don't wanna see the bedrooms or bathroom?" He asks.
She just shakes her head. "No, that's alright. Thank you and I'm sorry to have wasted your time." She begins stepping forward, but he remains standing in the doorway.
He tilts his head ever so slightly to the side – as if he's studying her – and Beth gets the strangest feeling that he can actually read her mind right now. It's a little unnerving even if she knows that that's not possible and that he's not actually reading her mind.
"You ain't wastin' anything," he says. "Come on. It'll just take a moment."
"No, that's really alright. I'm just going to keep looking," she says and then her eyes can't help, but take one more look around. It really is such a beautiful apartment – especially with the way the sun is pouring in through the back window right now.
She wonders if her parents have read the letter – or letters – yet.
Of course they've read them. Beth left this morning while her parents had been at the church, planning the church's carnival coming up in just a few weeks and after packing her car and stopping at the bank, drove until she found herself in the far southwest corner of the state – nearly into Florida. She thought herself lost a few times until she reminded herself that she didn't even know where she was going so she couldn't very well get lost. A random two-lane road, surrounded by woods and farm fields and she found herself in Scott, Georgia – a small – smaller than small – town that she had never heard of before – and she knew that most people hadn't; including her own parents.
She had pleaded with them to let her go; promising that she would call them once she had gotten herself settled; once she found herself somewhere. And then, she reminded them that she was twenty-three and she would be alright.
She has only been in Scott for just an hour – having seen the apartments for rent sign almost immediately – and it's just a little bit before five. She's going to have to find a motel for the night and she's going to have to start looking for a job. She wonders how other real estate is in Scott, Georgia because even though it has just been a small amount of time, she likes the feel of this little town.
"Every buildin' in town that you can rent a room from is pretty much owned by Tyreese and Karen. So if you don't like the style of this one, you prob'ly ain't gonna like the styles of the others."
"No!" Beth rushes. "It's so beautiful here. I love everything about it."
He frowns. "But you wanna keep lookin'," he then states.
"I don't think I have the money for this place. I just have a little bit saved and I still have to buy furniture and I'm looking for a job-"
–and I'll have a baby to take care of in a few months, she thinks silently to herself.
"Startin' over," he gives a nod as if he's maybe done the very same thing himself. "'s 300 a month."
Beth's eyes widened. "That's all?" She can't help, but sound completely surprised.
The building manager shrugs. "Cheap cost of livin' out here." He finally steps from the doorway. "Come on. 'll show you the bedrooms and bathroom."
The rest of the apartment is just as perfect. Small bedrooms, but perfect with the same hardwood floors and the walls are painted a plain eggshell.
"Would I be able to paint?" She asks.
"Depends. You show me paint chips of what you have in mind and I'll let you know."
Beth instantly imagines warm yellows.
In the second bedroom, there is a window that overlooks the same trees that she saw from the living room window and she inspects the lock. She knows that they are in the middle of nowhere out here, but still, anyone can open up a first floor window and snatch a baby if the opportunity was there.
"How is the crime around here?" She asks, turning back towards the man as he is standing in the doorway. He doesn't make it obvious that he is, but Beth has felt his eyes on her the entire time that she's been looking around.
He shrugs. "Minimal. Mostly family stuff and then usually on weekends, you get the dumb-ass drunks gettin' arrested from the bar for startin' fights and bein' idiots."
"And the school?" Beth asks.
His eyebrow raises at that, and she wonders what he's thinking.
"Got one school for the younger kids. High school kids get bussed to the next town. Baker. We share sports teams with 'em."
Beth nods and takes one more look around the small bedroom. He gave her a grand and she fully intends to furnish this into a nursery as best as she can with that money. He may not have wanted anything to do with either of them, but Beth is going to love this baby and she is going to make sure that this baby knows that every single day of their life.
She looks back to the building manager and smiles. "Do you take cash?"
He looks at her for a moment and then smirks a little. "Prefer that way. Can't give me bounced cash." She smiled at that, feeling better than she has in days. "You wanna stay here? I'll bring the application over."
"Thank you," Beth smiles and then he's gone.
She crosses the hall towards the bedroom that she has decided will be hers.
She gets a wave of homesickness, but she shakes it off after just a moment. She is home now. And once she gets the application filled out and gives the building manager the money, she will go and begin looking for a job somewhere in this little town. She left her cell phone behind so her parents couldn't trace it and once she is a bit more settled, she will call them. She has to call them. She knows that essentially running away wasn't the most mature option, but the way she can see it, it is still the only option she could possibly do.
They, of course, won't agree with her once they read her letters, but it's the best. It really is.
And Beth hopes that she will believe this completely, too, the more she tells it to herself.
She hears steps again and she turns to find that he has returned, papers in his hand.
She gives him a smile. "I don't know your name," she then realizes. "I'm Beth Greene."
She steps forward, offering him her hand. She is not going to have any man in her life for the rest of her life – the only exception being if she gives birth to son – but that doesn't mean that she can't be friendly to the building's manager and the person who she will be, hopefully, living across the hall from.
He gives the slightest of head inclines towards her. "Daryl Dixon," he says and after wiping his hand along the side of his jean-clad thigh, he shakes her hand in return. "Here's the application, but I don't really know what you can fill in. You don't have a job and you're startin' over so I'm figurin'…" he looks at her. "If you're in Scott, you don't want to be found."
Beth just stares at him.
Maybe he can read her mind.
"You said you got cash?" He looks up from the papers in his hand to look at her.
Beth nods, looking at him, her stomach knotted, not daring to get her hopes up, but hoping that he is going to say what she thinks he's going to say.
No, that's not a knot.
No, no, no.
She slaps her hand over her mouth and her eyes widen. She needs the bathroom. Right this second or else, the hardwood floor will be her victim.
"I am so sorry," she manages to say right before she rushes past him.
"Wha'…" Daryl begins to say, but Beth has already burst into the bathroom he has just showed her a few minutes ago for the first time and falling to her knees, she has her morning sickness into the toilet.
Her morning sickness is usually always hitting her in the evenings. She should have been expecting this. But not right at this instant when she's trying to get an apartment. Really, little baby? You could have at least waited until I was outside and I could have thrown up in the parking lot, Beth scolds her baby. I am trying to get a roof over our heads.
Well, hopefully Daryl won't tell Tyreese and Karen about this so she can look at their other properties for rent.
Hearing a throat clearing from next to her, she almost doesn't want to lift her head. She can just imagine Daryl telling her to get out.
But nonetheless, she lifts her head. Hopefully, the town has a motel and he'll let her know how to get there before he kicks her out.
Daryl is standing there and he's holding a can of ginger ale and a sleeve of saltine crackers.
"Might help your stomach."
Beth stares at the offering for a moment and then lifts her eyes to look up at him, standing over her. His face is completely blank, but his eyes are intense, focused on her and nothing else. She feels her face flush with embarrassment as she shyly reaches out and takes the can of soda and the crackers from his hands.
She doesn't take her eyes from him.
"I can give you three hundred dollars," she blurts out.
Daryl stares at her and after a moment, he smirks a little. "'s just ginger ale and crackers. Don't cost nearly that much."
Beth flushes the toilet and then stands up. She sets the sleeve of crackers down on the sink counter and then pops the tab of the can, taking a sip, grateful for the cold liquid pouring down her throat.
"I'm sorry," she then says after she swallows. She takes a deep breath and moves her eyes back up to his face.
Daryl is still looking at her – watching her closely – and he shrugs. "'s your apartment. You can do pretty much anything you wanna do."