A/N Thank you all for stopping by. This is a short multi-chapter Bethyl Christmas Love Story. I hope you enjoy!
…everything had fallen into place so perfectly, like it was always meant to be.
It was the morning she started her new job; that was when she had her first encounter with the neighbor. Until then she hadn't even seen who lived in the apartment next door. All she knew for sure was whoever it was they were quiet and she was grateful for that.
That morning Beth was a bundle of nerves and feeling completely flustered. She was fully aware of what a mess of tightly wound anxiety she was. It was just that she was just so excited about starting in her new position.
This was her first day of what she was sure was an honest to goodness dream job, and that just added to the pressure. So even though she was a professional who knew what she was doing she was still afraid she'd mess something up.
She tried telling herself over and over to just relax and calm down, she had this. But it was getting the best of her and she hadn't even left the house yet. She was pretty sure she'd double-checked her backpack at least ten times making certain she had everything. Her lunch, her wallet, her stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, along with all her other work tools, and of course her phone.
She was in the hallway with the pack on her back, her thermal mug of coffee in one hand and her keys in the other, just about to lock her door. That's when she heard the neighbors' door open and shut. The neighbor she had not yet met or even seen.
She glanced up and there he was with his key poised to lock his door. He was looking at her but it seemed more intense than just looking, it was like he was studying her. She felt his eyes lock on her and that made the color come up in her cheeks. But she didn't turn away from his unblinking stare; instead her eyes locked right back on his.
There they stood just sharing this look, neither of them speaking or moving. Finally after what seemed to be a very long time; and yet not nearly long enough, he tipped his head slightly toward her. She returned his nod. He locked his door and she locked her door. Again they stared hard into each other's eyes.
He extended his arm out, hand with palm up motioning her to walk ahead of him. When they reached the big double door entry he leaned in and stretched his arm in front of her as he pulled the door open. Again he motioned for her to go in front of him.
They reached her car first and as soon as she unlocked the door he opened it and held it while she got in, then stood waiting until she started it. Again he gave her a nod of his head, turned and walked on to his own vehicle.
No words had been exchanged but that didn't really matter, it was the most exquisite encounter she could ever remember having with anyone.
She watched in her rear view as he walked away, and there was only one way to accurately describe that walk, swoon-worthy. His stride was like something from an old cowboy movie. And the man was definitely good looking, there was no way to argue that. He wasn't handsome in a pretty boy slicked up way. This man was good looking in what was more of an untamed way. He looked rough and rugged and like he could conquer the world if he wanted to, or maybe he'd just kick the world's ass.
He carried a huge leather tool belt slung over one shoulder, the type with big work suspenders hanging from it. To her it looked too heavy to even pick up, much less wear around all day. The neighbor carried it as if it were light as a feather.
His hair was maybe just a little too long, maybe just a little too shaggy and maybe just a little too unkempt. But as much as she liked a clean-cut look she found the neighbor's look undeniably appealing. Those squinting blue eyes had been so intense she'd thought for a moment he was about to walk over and start interrogating her. If it hadn't been so charismatic it may have been intimidating.
Then of course, there was that killer build of his. Those shoulders weren't telling any lies. Even with his heavy winter coat she could see they were strong and broad.
Besides the look and the walk and the build, there was something else special about the man, some quality she couldn't quite put her finger on. She just knew she'd never been around anyone quite like him. And she'd amazed herself when she returned his look that way. She'd always been very shy around men, painfully shy. But with the neighbor it was like she hadn't been able to look away.
The apartment on one side of him had been vacant for a couple of months and he hoped it stayed that way. The guy on the other side of his place worked nights and that suited Daryl just fine. It meant the man was mostly either gone or asleep when Daryl was home.
He would have preferred living in a house, any house over any apartment, but this was just a short term living arrangement. He'd probably only be in the area a year or so. He could deal with apartment life that long. Then he planned on getting his ass back where it belonged.
One day he heard the telltale signs of life next door and he wasn't thrilled but what are you going to do? It was bound to happen sooner or later. It was apparent someone had moved into the vacant apartment. They must have done their moving on a weekday when he was at work, he hadn't seen anyone around. He told himself it didn't matter anyway, whoever it was they were pretty quiet so he guessed he could stand it for a few months.
Now that he'd finally seen the neighbor he didn't feel like he minded having her there at all, nope not at all. The new neighbor was one real fine looking blonde. Kind of small and real slim, dainty-like. Even in her puffy winter coat he could tell that. She was wearing a knit cap but it didn't hide those blonde curls. Or those big blue eyes.
He wasn't innocent when it came to women but he also wasn't a man who took long hard looks at them. He'd always been a little awkward around the ones he found most attractive, and he found her to be very attractive. That's what made it so strange, the way he felt like he just couldn't look away. Like she'd cast some kind of spell on him.
When he walked her to her car he did notice the uniform pants and white leather shoes and assumed she was a nurse, no doubt working at the big hospital.
All he knew for sure was he was attracted and not just because she was really pretty. With that look they'd shared it felt like there was already some kind of something going on between them. It made him not just want to know her better; it felt like he needed to know her better. But for some reason he felt so unsure about what to say or do. He supposed for now he'd settle for what they had, that look.
If you would have told Daryl Dixon he'd be pulling up stakes and moving to Minnesota he'd have snorted your way and called you a dumb ass. He had no intention of ever living anywhere but Georgia. And even if for some reason he did have to leave his home state he'd surely never leave the south. He couldn't see himself living anywhere up north.
Then everything changed because of his brother, Merle. It seemed that if an opportunity came along to fuck up, Merle Dixon was the man to latch onto that opportunity. He'd proved it yet again.
It all started when Merle hooked up with some woman he met in a bar. They'd been messing around for two or three weeks when out of the blue she asked him to take her to Minnesota to visit her Mama. Being the dumb ass sucker that Merle was he'd agreed immediately. Daryl could still hear his brother holler, "Shit yeah a road trip!"
Daryl didn't blame the woman though, it was Merle's own damn fault. He'd been the one that got caught with the bag of dope and a pocket full of cash, not to mention an unregistered handgun tucked in the back of his Levis. Leave it to Merle, one charge against him was just never enough.
He'd been sentenced to five years in the Minnesota State Pen, doing his time at the St. Cloud facility. Great, just great. Merle's woman had stayed on there with her Mama vowing to wait for his release. Daryl didn't expect that vow to last long but whatever, it didn't matter. He only hoped his brother kept it on the straight and narrow so he could get early parole.
The problem was, he kept thinking about it. That caused Daryl to go on a guilt trip. Merle was his brother, his blood, he couldn't just sit back and do nothing. He couldn't just leave his brother alone in prison somewhere up north. Who knew what the hell those Yankees would do to a backcountry redneck like Merle Dixon?
So, as much as he hated the idea of going he did. He let Tyrese and Karen move into his little house with the promise they'd take care of it until he came back home. He loaded his pickup with his clothes and tools, hitched a bike trailer to the back and left Georgia for St. Cloud, Minnesota.
He didn't expect to stay for the duration of Merle's sentence, but for his own peace of mind he needed to check on his brother. He'd hang around for at least a while. For some mysterious reason he never really did understand, he always felt obligated to make sure Merle was okay. That he was making an effort to keep his nose clean. Not that he really worried too much about harm coming to his brother. He was convinced the only person who could kill Merle was Merle.
Since he only planned to be up in the North Country a few months, just long enough to do what he felt was his brotherly duty, he figured on just working a few odd jobs. Just enough to fund the trip. Then he'd be on his way back home.
Plans changed when he heard about a real good job and he thought, what the hell? Might as well check it out. They were building a new wing on the big fancy hospital down in Rochester and they were looking for journeyman electricians.
He thought there might be a licensing problem; his journeyman's license was in Georgia, not Minnesota. But it turned out since he'd be working under the hospital's master electrician he didn't need his own journeyman's license.
The pay scale was awesome and so, not wanting to his question good fortune, he signed on the dotted line. He'd only be a couple of hours from the prison so he could visit Merle on the regular, and it wasn't like he was making a lifetime commitment. When the job was done so was he. He'd be getting his redneck ass back to Georgia, right where it belonged.
He rented a furnished apartment with a covered parking area that was big enough for the Bike and trailer. There was plenty of street parking for the pickup, and the bedroom had a walk-in closet that was perfect for storing his bow and camping gear. The other important thing his new apartment had was some green space when you looked out the sliding glass door, right there off the living room.
It was no place he'd want to stay for good but he could handle it for a few months.
She called Maggie on her lunch break to tell her all about the handsome stranger next door and the interesting events of the morning. "Maybe he'll invite you over for a drink Bethie, or you know you could invite him to your place."
"Oh quit it Maggie you know better than that."
And Maggie did know better than that. Beth had a little problem. She was friendly, downright bubbly and outgoing with some people like family, close friends and other women or in a work setting. The problem was men, specifically men she found the least bit attractive or interesting. Around those men Beth would suddenly become painfully shy and tongue tied.
Maggie knew all too well, her usually graceful younger sister could become an awkward mess at the drop of a good-looking hat.
She and the neighbor had been carrying on the same way every weekday morning for about three weeks when it happened, he spoke to her.
She was just about out the door, she had her backpack stuffed full of her work tools and lunch and she slipped it on. Then she spotted her phone still lying on the breakfast counter. Between the phone, the keys, the thick gloves on her hands and the thermal mug of coffee, she may have been carrying at least one too many items.
She did manage to get out the door okay, and when she glanced over there he was at his door. He looked at her just like he did every morning, and she looked at him just as she always did. But this time when she went to lock her door she dropped the keys, the phone and the thermal mug of coffee. Thank God the lid stayed on.
The words, "Oh no!" had just passed her lips when his long and slightly pigeon-toed stride had him there. He quickly bent down and retrieved the things she'd dropped. Without a word he grabbed her keys and locked her door, then walked to his apartment door and locked his door.
While he did all that she'd been just standing there like a fool watching him. He looked at her, tilted that shaggy head her way and said, "Ya know ya haul around way too much shit. C'mon, I'll carry your phone an coffee."
His voice was rough, like he'd been drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes since the day he was born. But it was also very sexy sounding, and oh my gosh she'd recognize it anywhere; he was a Georgia country boy. What a coincidence. Of course she didn't manage to say any of that out loud, her tongue was definitely tied.
She felt like her face was on fire and she was barely able to choke out a, "Thank you." When she did he shrugged, "Yeah well c'mon now, we don't wanna be late for work. You got lives ta save an I got conduit ta run." And they slipped right back into their usual non-verbal morning routine.
Beth couldn't wait for her break so she could call Maggie and tell her she and the neighbor had finally spoken.
A/N This fic was inspired by a story my friend Christine shared with me. I hope you enjoyed this first chapter, in the next chapter we'll learn what in the world brought Beth to Minnesota and what she's doing at the big hospital. The very Christmasy chapter photo is posted to my tumblr blogs gneebee and bethylmethbrick. Please check it out. I thank you for reading along and I hope to see you back here next Monday for more of The Package. Until then remember, I love ya large! xo gneebee