"You look like hell," Maggie said, approaching the car.
It's been a week since my last conversation with Beth and I haven't talked to her or seen her much since then.
When I didn't respond, Maggie continued talkin', "So, what all are we gettin'? Just what's on the list?"
"Um...no. Beth asked me to get her some bigger clothes. Maybe you could grab some and give 'em to her. I don't think she really wants me around right now."
"Rick, I'm sorry she did what she did. I think it might have been my fault, though. I kinda questioned her about the mark you left on her neck."
I looked down, "Maggie, it's nobody's fault but mine. I...I shouldn't have done that. Hell, I shouldn't have done anything."
"I'll get whatever I can find for her...but you have to give it to her."
I cleared my throat and changed the subject when Daryl and Tyreese walked over.
"Y'all ready?" I asked.
We all climbed into the car.
"Alright. When we get there, Daryl you're with Tyreese and Maggie's with me."
"Hey sweetie. How're you feelin'?"
"Eh, 'bout as good as I can."
She smiled, "So, how are things goin'? Has Zach done anything?"
I shook my head, "No ma'am."
"That's good. I'm still worried it could change with him."
"I know. I was kinda wonderin' if I could talk to you about him."
She stopped what she was doin' and grabbed my hand, "Sweetie, you can always talk to me."
"Well, I...I just...I don't feel anythin' for him, ya know. Like nothin' at all. We've kissed and I haven't felt anythin'. It just wasn't what I expected."
"Well, what did you expect to feel?"
I shook my head, "That's the thing, I'm not really sure what it was I expected but I thought I would feel somethin'. I mean, I tried to see if my feelings would change but they haven't. I know for sure now that I like him as a friend and that's it but I don't wanna hurt him."
"Bethie, you should definitely talk to him sooner rather than later. Explain to him how you feel and see if he's okay with bein' friends. If you're sure you don't feel anything, then you should not continue your relationship with him just because you're afraid of hurtin' him," she stopped and looked at me, studying my face, "Beth, is there someone else you want to be with? Or someone you're thinkin' about?"
"You'd tell me if there was, right?"
"Yes ma'am, I would. I think it's best for me to be on my own."
She furrowed her brow, "What about Rick?"
"I don't mean raise the baby on my own. I still want him to be around for that but I'm in no way ready for a relationship with anyone."
"As long as that's the only reason he's around," daddy said, standing next to me.
"Daddy,..." I started.
He sat down, "No Bethie, let me finish."
"I want Rick to help you raise y'alls child but I can't say I wasn't relieved to learn you asked him to move back into his cell. As good a man he is, I didn't particularly like knowin' he was sleepin' in your bed, even..."
"But daddy," I interrupted him.
He held up his hand, "Let me finish, Beth. Even if nothin' was happenin', it's better to know he's not sleepin' next to you. I have absolutely no doubt he cares about you and loves that baby but I've already spoken to him about this, he is at no time permitted to pursue a relationship with you and you are not permitted to start one with him. Yes, you'll be raising a child together but there is no need for it to go any further. As I've told him, you need and deserve the chance to find someone closer to your own age that you can be happy with."
Daddy stopped and looked at Carol before continuing, "I thought you had found that in Zach...but after speaking with Carol and hearing her concerns about his temper, I will support you if you decide to end that relationship but if you decide to do that, promise me you'll have someone with you in case he does somethin'."
I nodded my head, "Yes sir, I promise."
Daddy hugged me and I stood up to leave.
"Bethie, where are you goin'?"
"I'm goin' to talk to Zach."
"What did I just say, Beth?"
"Don't worry, daddy. I'll see if someone will come with. Maybe I'll ask Sasha, if she's not too busy."
"Alright. If there's any trouble, you let me know."
We'd made it to the store we were scavengin'. Since we'd never been there, we had to clear it. It wasn't too difficult since there were only a few walkers. But once that was done, we had separated.
We gathered all of the supplies on the list and more but still hadn't ventured to the maternity and baby sections.
"I don't like the idea of splitting up but we need to hurry. I'll take the maternity section and you can take the baby section," Maggie said.
I agreed with a simple nod and started towards it.
On the way to it, I had to pass the jewelry counter. I let my eyes aimlessly wander across the jewelry as I remembered buyin' things for Lori. At first she'd always loved the gifts but then she changed. Closer to the end, anytime I'd bring her somethin' she'd smile, say thanks and hug me and that was it. It would just sit there collecting dust, she never wore it anymore.
I remember one year for Christmas I had gotten her a ring with Carl's birthstone on it, she wore it that day but none after that. When Shane had arrived with gifts, he gave her a pair of diamond earrings, she always wore those. I had wondered back then if somethin' was goin' on between her and Shane but I had pushed those thoughts out of head. I thought she still loved me because I still loved her.
Now, here I was with a different girl but the same old story. I thought she'd felt the same but she didn't.
"Rick? You almost done?" Maggie shouted out to me, pulling me out of my thoughts.
"Yeah," I shouted back and hurried to the baby section to collect the few things we needed.
I had found Sasha but she was on watch and with the others on a run, there was nobody that could be trusted to take her place.
I scanned the prison yard for someone who could come with me. I saw Karen but I didn't know her well enough to ask her. There was no way in hell I was gonna ask Glenn...or Carol...or daddy. That left only two people, Carl and Merle. I groaned and picked the lesser of two evils.
He was sitting at a table with a few other kids. I heard them all giggling and whispering as I approached them.
"Hey Carl, you mind if I talk to you a minute?"
He shook his head and stood up.
As we walked away I could hear the kids whispering again.
"What'd ya wanna talk about?" He asked with his head down.
"I need your help with somethin'."
"Why me? Why'd ya need my help?" He kept his eyes pinned to the ground.
"Because, you're the only one who can help me."
"Really?" He looked up, "What'd ya need my help with?"
"Yes really. And I need to talk to Zach but..."
"Oh," he hung his head again.
"Carl, I need you to come with me in case he does somethin'. I'm gonna break up with him and I don't know how he'll take it. I need you to be there. Will you come with me? Please?"
I knew exactly where Zach would be. He was by his car, cleaning it up. I found it a bit ridiculous that he'd even bother to do that. Wasn't like he'd get to show it off.
He smiled when he saw, "Hey Beth!"
I smiled back.
I had asked Carl to stand behind one of the other cars.
"What're you doin' out here?" He asked.
"Lookin' for you."
"I thought they wouldn't let you outside 'cause they were afraid you'd pop that kid out."
I shook my head, "I'm alright as long as I don't go too far."
He slammed the hood and leaned against the car, "Either way, I can't wait 'til you do pop that kid out. Maybe then that asshole will quit actin' like you belong to him and not me."
He did not just say that!
I put my hands on my hips, "Zach, I do not belong to you...or him. I don't belong to anyone."
"C'mon baby, you know what I meant."
I scoffed and threw up my hands. I turned to leave but he grabbed me by the waist, "C'mon baby, I didn't mean it."
"Don't call me "baby" and stop touchin' me," I pushed him away, "I came here to tell you I don't like you that way. I like you more as friend and that's it."
"Zach, I don't feel anythin' for you. I mean...I care about you but only as a friend. I'm sorry."
He shrugged, "Don't be. I like you and care about you too but I could see it wasn't gonna work out. You honestly think we can still be friends?"
He smiled and walked off.
"That was easy," I thought to myself. "Almost too easy."
I walked back to Carl and smiled, "Thanks for comin' with me."
"No problem. Can I ask you somethin'?"
"Yeah but do you mind if we go inside first? It's hot out here."
He gave a nod and we went inside.
Carol was at a table feedin' Judith, "How'd it go?"
"Better than I expected it to. He agreed we should be friends."
"I'm glad he was okay with it."
"I'm goin' to my cell, you want me to take Judith?"
"No, I'm fine, sweetie. You just go rest."
Once I was in my cell, I sat down on the bed and looked at Carl, he was standin' by the foot of the bed, "What did you wanna ask me?"
He came closer and fidgeted as he looked down before speaking, "Can I call you mom?"
I was taken aback by his question and I didn't know what to say. I finally manged a few words before he looked up, "umm...uh...I...I don't know, Carl. Why do you wanna call me that?"
"'Cause I want to. I know you're not my mom but you are my brother or sisters mom and you're like a mom to Judith. I'm sure she's gonna call you that when she starts talkin' and I think of you as a mom."
"Wow, Carl. I...I don't know what to say. I'm not that much older than you. Don't you think it'll be a little weird to call me that?"
He looked back down, "I guess so."
"Hey," I held my arms out to him, "come here."
I hugged him when he sat down next to me. "I'm not Lori, Carl. No one can ever replace her but I see your point. Though I kinda disagree about Judith callin' me mom. That's somethin' that'd have to be discussed with your dad, same with you."
"But I've already asked him. He said it was up to you."
"I don't know..." I looked at Carl and hugged him tighter when I saw the disappointed look on his face, "Okay, I guess it'd be alright if you call me mom. But only if you want to and only around me and your dad, for now. Okay?"
He smiled a huge smile and hugged me, "Okay. Thanks,...mom."
"Sounds a little weird to me, Carl."
He laughed and shrugged, "It doesn't sound that weird to me."
"I'm gonna go check on Judith."
"Alright." I smiled.
He hugged me again before he left.
When we pulled through the prison gate and parked, several people came out to help us unload the car.
"Here," Maggie said, handing me several bags, "take these to Beth. It's everythin' I could find that mightt fit her."
I stood there holdin' them but not movin'.
"Go on," she said, "we got this."
I ignored several people as I walked to her cell.
When I reached her cell, I stopped in the doorway.
She looked beautiful. She was lyin' on the bed in a pink sundress.
"Hey," she said sleepily.
"Hey. How're you feelin' today?"
"Good," she said, sittin' up. She stared at me, "You can come in here."
I didn't realize I was still standin' in the doorway.
I walked in and sat the bags down on her bed, "I'm not sure if any of these will fit. If they don't, we can make another run tomorrow."
She rummaged through the bags until she found a pair of jeans and smiled. She stood and turned around and lifted her hair, "Can you please unzip this?"
"Yeah," I moved to unzip it. When I had done so I quietly left.
I made it to my cell and just stood there.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a silver chain that a silver heart shaped pendent with six diamonds on it.
I held it in the palm of my hand and stared at it.
"It's just as beautiful as she is," I thought to myself, "But you need to move on."