The rain that had been falling all night finally stopped just at dawn and Daryl stepped from the front door of his trailer, onto the built-on front porch, as soon as it cleared to light a cigarette. It was still overcast, but looking up, he could see that the faint wind blowing were beginning to do their best to push them along. The sun might actually make an appearance today.
Morning birds were already chirping away, unseen up in their tree branches and three trailers in, the front door creaked open and Ms. Mackey, an older woman who lived by herself, stepped outside onto her porch with her French Bulldog, Frankie, already on his leash. In the grey of dawn, Frankie could see Daryl standing on his porch and began to bark, but then, realizing it was him, the dog quieted down.
Ms. Mackey raised a hand to him and Daryl raised his hand in return. He smoked his cigarette and watched as the old woman moved down from her porch and took Frankie for his morning walk, following the black ribbon of road that curved throughout the trailer park.
Daryl took his time, smoking, enjoying his first cigarette of the day and watched as things grew lighter around him, leaving the greyness of pre-dawn behind.
And that was when he saw them.
Two people were walking down the two lane-road, sticking to the gravel shoulder though no cars or trucks were coming from either direction. A woman and a little kid. The woman had a backpack on and a bundle of something under her arm. Her other hand held the little kid's hand as he walked at her side, a stuffed animal in the crook of his arm.
They got closer and Daryl kept his eyes on them. Where the Hell did they come from? And when had they started walking? The rain had just let up about an hour ago.
"Mama," the little kid – a boy – let out a tired whine. "I'm tired."
The woman didn't tug on his hand or snap at him to stop his complaining. Instead, she stopped walking and knelt down in front of him. "I know you are. I am, too. But look." She looked to the trailer park they were coming up on and then looked back to him. "We're here now and hopefully, we can get some sleep inside one of these nice places."
Daryl's hearing was better than most people's, but even if it was just normal hearing, he still would have heard what they were saying. It was that quiet of a morning.
The woman stood again and the boy slipped his hand back into hers. She looked at the trailer park for a moment, obviously not sure where to go, and then her eyes fell on Daryl, still standing on his porch. His was the first trailer off the road and he came down the front steps. He wasn't sure what she and the boy wanted, but this was his trailer park so if she wanted something here, he was the guy she had to talk to.
The two approached him, walking up the road to the trailer park entry road and Daryl met them halfway. He stilled when he saw their faces. The woman was a young one – pretty – and she also had two bruises on her pretty face; someone having hit her a few times, but they were fading so Daryl knew it had happened a few days ago. Still, the bruises were obvious – at least to him, but he was used to seeing them.
The boy – probably around three, Daryl figured – had a fading bruise on his face as well.
Daryl saw the woman holding the boy's hand tighter as Daryl came to stand in front of them and the boy shyly placed him behind the woman's legs. The bundle under her arms, Daryl saw, was a bed comforter; soaked and probably heavy and difficult to carry.
"Help you?" He asked as he flicked his cigarette butt into a rain puddle.
"I saw a sign a ways up the road," the woman answered. "It said there was a trailer for rent. Is it still available?" Even if she was trying to hide it from him, Daryl could still hear the hope in her tone.
Daryl looked at her and then down to the boy, still hiding behind her legs, before back to the woman and her pretty face. "You been walkin' a long time? You didn' sleep outside, did you?" The questions fell from his mouth before he could stop them.
Something rested uneasy in his stomach at the idea of this woman and kid sleeping outside in the rain.
"Yes, we have and yes, we did," the woman answered both questions without offering any more information on herself or the boy. "Is the trailer…"
"Yeah. Lemme show you first. Might change your mind."
"I doubt that."
Daryl looked to the comforter in her arm. "You need me to carry that?"
The woman shook her head and held it tighter; as if Daryl was going to take it and not give it back.
"Trailer's this way," Daryl cocked his head to the side and then turned, leading the way up the drive, glancing over his shoulder to see the woman and the kid following after him. "Nothin' big. 's a double-wide so it's bigger than a single-" No shit, Daryl. "-but still jus' about 600 square feet or so."
The trailer was between his and Ms. Mackey's and he climbed up the two wooden steps to the front porch. He pulled a ring of keys from his back pocket and found the right one. Looking over his shoulder, the woman was looking at the trailer and the boy was looking at things around him. The trailer park was nicer than most – Daryl made sure of it – with actual trees growing and cut grass. He also always made sure that people kept their junk and trash clear.
Inside, it was empty, but the appliances were still in the kitchen and in the closet in the hall, there was still the stacked washer and drier unit. The kitchen and living room was one combined room and then there was a small bathroom and two small bedrooms. The carpet was a soft mix of tan and white, the walls were white and it wasn't anything special, but it was warm and dry and if these two slept outside and through that rain last night, Daryl couldn't imagine them needing anything else.
He flicked on the overhead light in the living room so she could get a better look. The woman still held the boy's hand – not that the boy was looking to let it go – as she looked around the living room and took a step into the kitchen. She didn't go look at the bedrooms or the bathroom.
"I gotta be on the lookout for anyone comin' around?" Daryl asked her. "Someone lookin' for you two?"
The woman spun towards him, her eyes wide as if he had just solved a Rubix cube in under a minute; like it was some great puzzle as to the situation this woman and boy were in.
(He wished his own mom and him had been in this kind of situation, but instead, his mom had stayed with the old man so they could keep getting the shit beat out of them.)
The woman shook her head. "He won't care. He's still methed out of his mind back in Alabama."
Daryl was surprised at that, but hid it. He had known plenty of people on meth and never had he seen a woman looking like this one, hanging out with a meth head. "You two walked all the way from Alabama?" He asked instead, not wanting to pry more than he had to, but still wanting to know.
"Not as far as you think," the woman answered. "How much is rent?" She swiftly changed the subject and Daryl got the hint.
"Two-hundred a month and you cover your own utilities. I'll take care of grass and other stuff outside as well as maintenance to the trailer if you need somethin' done."
The woman nodded at that and then took a moment to think it through. She then stepped into the kitchen and set the comforter down on the plastic vinyl floor so she didn't get the carpet in the living room wet. She then took the pack from her back and knelt down, her back to Daryl, and the boy came to stand right in front of the woman, offering more coverage. This was obviously something they had already done.
She took a moment, doing something, and when she stood up and turned, she was holding a small pile of bills for Daryl to take. He did and counted the fifties. Two month's rent.
"He might not be lookin' for you two, but he might come lookin' for this," Daryl pointed out to her.
If meth heads cared about one thing, besides getting more meth, it was getting the money for that meth.
The woman shook her head. "Are there any jobs around here, do you know?" She asked instead.
Daryl looked at her; studying her. She really was pretty and maybe she wasn't as young as he had first thought, but she was still damn young; too damn young to be running from some junky with a kid and sporting bruises on her face.
"I think Aldi's lookin' for cashiers," he offered.
She seemed to sigh – with relief – at hearing that. "And is the town far away? I need a dollar store to pick us up a few things."
"Town's 'bout half a mile down the road you were just walkin' on. 'm actually headin' there in a few hours. I gotta pick my dog up at the vet and I can drive you there if you want." He heard himself offering and he wasn't too sure why he was, but he didn't take it back.
(Once, his mom was drunk enough and Daryl felt brave enough to ask her why they didn't leave. She had slurred to him that they would need help and who would help them?)
He looked to this woman and this little kid. They needed help even if neither were asking him for any.
"Will you get us before you leave? I think we're going to get some sleep for a little bit," she said.
"I'll come and get you," Daryl gave a nod. He then pointed to the comforter. "Dryer's in the hall closet."
He didn't say anything else. He turned and left, closing the door behind him and leaving them alone.
As promised, he knocked on their door a couple hours later. If they were still sleeping, Daryl wondered what they needed at the store. But a moment later and the woman answered, looking better than she had just a little bit ago. She had gotten some sleep and she was wearing what she had been wearing earlier, but the clothes were now dry. He was glad she had found the dryer.
They were all now in Daryl's pickup truck, Daryl driving and the woman next to him with the boy in her lap, her arms tight around his middle.
"Thank you for doing this," the woman said.
"Daryl," he then let her know. He glanced over to her and she gave him the smallest smile.
"I'm Beth and this is George."
Daryl dipped his head. "Nice to meet you both. You don't hear that name a lot these days," he then said – for whatever reason – a moment later.
Beth smiled though and squeezed her arms around the boy. "Want to tell Daryl about your name?"
George now looked at Daryl. He had his mama's blue eyes, but not too much else. Daryl wondered if he looked like the meth head back in Alabama.
"Mama named me George for Gershwin, Harrison and the saint," he informed him in his little voice and his mama obviously taught him that.
Beth smiled and kissed his cheek and Daryl smiled a little, too, though he only knew about the Beatle.
"'s good things to be named after."
"Is your dog alright?" Beth then asked him.
"Yeah. Time for him to get somethin' chopped off and he was stayin' overnight for observation."
"Oh," Beth's reply to that was and her smile was growing a little.
Daryl wasn't sure why, but he found himself smiling, too.
For whatever reason.
He dropped Beth and George off at the Dollar Tree store and let them know that the Aldi was right across the street – just in case they couldn't see it for themselves – and he shouldn't be at the vet for too long.
He watched as Beth held George's hand and they went into the store before he drove onto the vet's office.
Daryl's older brother, Merle, won the trailer park in a poker game of all things. The idiot who had owned it hadn't had any money left for the pot so decided to wager that instead. Merle didn't exactly want it himself after winning it over so he handed it over to Daryl.
Daryl hadn't even known if he wanted it, but he took all of the paperwork and the keys and figured since he didn't really have anything else going on at the moment, he'd hang onto it for a while and see what to do about it.
A while then turned into three years and Dixon Park was the nicest of its kind around. Daryl had lived his life in plenty of stereotypical shitty trailer parks and that wasn't what he wanted now that he owned his own. He made sure the cops weren't coming around every other day to break up disturbances or parties or arrest people dealing out of their trailers.
This was America and Daryl knew that people had a right to do just about anything, but Dixon Park had rules and if someone didn't follow those rules, Daryl reserved complete legal right to kick them out. Those were his trailers and he could have anyone living – or not living – there that he wanted. The trailer that Beth and George had now rented belonged to a couple who liked to have fights and throw things at each other. Daryl hadn't put up with their shit for too long.
He wondered if Beth and George were going to be trouble. He doubted it, but maybe trouble would be coming from Alabama. He then had to wonder how a woman – Hell, still practically a girl – like Beth get tangled up with some meth head anyway. Was George's dad the meth head?
Dog was a mangy German Shepherd – from where, Daryl had no idea – but he was sniffing around the trailer park, looking for scraps to eat and shelter to get out of the weather. It took Daryl a little bit of time of leaving cold cuts of lunchmeat on his steps for the dog, but finally, Dog decided that Daryl was alright and the two had been together ever since.
Daryl felt bad about getting Dog fixed, but he didn't need the dog going and knocking some female up.
He picked him up, Dog having to wear a white cone around his neck for a while to keep him from licking the stitches and Daryl paid while setting up a follow up appointment for him.
Dog hopped up into the back bed of the pickup truck – with a little help from Daryl – and Daryl then headed back to the Dollar Tree, pulling up to the curb out front so Beth wouldn't miss him.
He thought of the bruises on her face and the bruise on George's.
Were these the first bruises they had ever gotten and that was why Beth left with George and walked this whole way? Or were these bruises just some of many and these were the bruises that were finally enough for her to leave?
Either way, Daryl and his mom had had so many bruises in their lives, but it had never been enough to leave the old man. It was only after his mom died and his dad had punched him one more time for Daryl to finally take his stuff and leave whether he was old enough to or not.
Beth wasn't like his mom though. That was obvious. Some man hit her and hit her son and she got the Hell out of there, stealing his money on the way out the door. Maybe it hadn't been easy for her. Maybe Beth loved the asshole despite everything. Or maybe it hadn't been easy because she hadn't had anyone helping her on the way out the door.
But either way, she had left and she had taken her son with her which was more than his own mom had ever done for him or for herself.
Thank you very much for reading and please take a moment to review! This idea has been in my head for a couple weeks. I don't think it's going to be long at all. I definitely wanted to get it out and I hope that everyone likes it so far.