I stand up, and lay a hand on the pile of dirt. Small grass is starting to peek. Can't believe how long it's been since my mother's death.
I narrow my eyes again at the three flowers. They were laying on her grave before I got here. Someone else must've put them there. Perhaps Vinnie. He must miss her too. But he doesn't come out here so often as me.
It's been about three weeks since we've last heard of the Governor. It's getting colder every day, so I guess I can say that autumn has finally started. Not that I'm happy about it, but you kinda get annoyed after all that heath. And this autumn will be the first since the outbreak where I will be able to sleep in a real bed. Last year….it was horrible. It was snowing when we stumbled across Woodbury. We thought it was a safe haven. How could I ever be so wrong…?
With a last glance at my mother's grave, I turn around. With my hands in my pockets, I start walking back to the main building of the prison. I don't have to ignore the sound of growling walkers at the fence. It has become one of those sounds you just get used to, like traffic. But still; I'm so glad Glenn and Tyreese fixed the gate. When the Governor had smashed his creepy van through the first one, walkers where able to come inside whenever they wanted. They could almost walk onto the courtyard. Now they can't anymore, and it makes me sleep a little deeper.
A shiver rolls down my spine as a cold wind blows through my jacket. Note to future-self; go shopping for a better winter/autumn-jacket! And for Vinnie too. Can't let him get sick now.
I'm greeted by Carol, who comes walking from behind one of the huge blue barrels. An old man from Woodbury suggested we could catch rainwater to boil and use it for drinks. It's been here for over a week, and it's for the first time in months that I could go to bed without a dry mouth.
"You comin' too?" Carol asks, carrying a bucket of water with her. "Everyone's having breakfast right now."
I smile gratefully. I've been the socially awkward-kid, ever since the new people came in. Most of them still think of me as a traitor, the boy who left his family behind to help the terrorists. I get it, you know. It's hard to understand that the Governor is a bad guy, after all the nice things he had done for us. I know I won't be able to just turn the switch and realize that everything you believed was a lie. They just have to get used to the idea of being fully save with the people who terrorised their town because the town's leader had kidnapped two terrorists and unchained a war….Long story.
"I'd sure love to" I say. When enter the first cellblock, Vinnie comes rushing towards me. He jumps and puts his arms around my neck. I stumble back by surprised.
"Hey, man!" I laugh, patting him on the back. "What's wrong?"
I had left before he had woken up. I have no idea how long I was gone. Must be a while.
"Nothing" Vinnie says into my neck. "I just felt like hugging you."
"You sound like a girl" I say, putting him on the ground. Vinnie frowns.
"What's wrong with giving a hug?"
I rub over his head. "Don't worry 'bout it. Let's eat."
Vinnie walks over to one of the metal tables, where Carl is doing some stuff with his gun, and his new friend Patrick, whom I used to football with back in Woodbury, is watching him curiously. The two seem to have gotten close to one another.
The whole hall is noisy. People are laughing, talking, telling each other stories. It almost sounds like a real cafeteria. People feel save, even though Daryl sits on top of the stairs with a crossbow next to him. Maybe that's even more comforting, knowing that a tough redneck will save your ass when you're in trouble.
Vinnie and I join Patrick and Carl, but neither of the guys look up. They're so caught up in the weapon like it's the most amazing thing in the world. I've held a gun once, and it was the most terrifying thing ever. I know, I'm a pussy.
Suddenly, Vinnie pokes me in the side. "Danny! Look!"
He points at something, or rather someone, just entering the cellblock. I feel cold and warm at the same time as the craziest redhead of the world is jumping inside on one leg. Heads turn and eyes widen as Vicky greets all happily.
"Good morning, dear peeps!"
She makes a round and pats everyone on top of their head. The people anxiously rub their hand over the spot Vicky just touched, checking if she didn't put something dirty in their hair. Yes, it happened before.
I turn my back on her, hoping she'll just pass me like she does with everyone else. It's been a little awkward ever since our last conversation. She doesn't show anything, or at least, she tries. But every time she looks at me, her pupils get a little tinier. It's just a split second, each time. And it's enough to make my heart crack. I just don't dare to look at her anymore. I know I've hurt her. Very much.
Vinnie has been trying to warn me each time she's around, suspecting, or maybe heard, what happened between us. Only eight years old, yet so smart already.
I decide to just wait for Beth to say that breakfast's ready. But I don't see her anywhere, so the usual porridge probably isn't ready yet.
As soon as I feel her soft hair strike over my arm, I know that she hasn't just passed me. I don't need to turn my head to know that she's sitting right next to me now. Vinnie is sitting at the other side of me, and I can see his jaw drop. He didn't expect this either.
That's what I used to like about her. The unpredictable part. You could never tell what she was going to say, what she was planning now, or what crazy things she was thinking.
Carl still doesn't look up, but Patrick has. He's widened his eyes in shock. Vicky has built up a pretty bad reputation around the new people. I don't know how, but they found out about her little present for the Governor. I'm talking about the huge walker-flavoured muffin, seasoned with blood and bones.
I feel vomit make its way up my throat when I think back.
"So, you've haven't developed your social skills, I see?" Vicky sighs, bumping her shoulder into mine. I slightly turn my head to her. I suddenly notice how quiet it has got in the so called cafeteria. Unintentionally, Vicky has become a huge buzzkill. I know she's done some bad stuff, but she tries to make everyone she likes happy. And when you're not on your good side…I guess most of the walkers out there can tell you what will happen if you are.
I try not to bother myself with all the eyes watching us. Vicky doesn't have to remind herself of that. She still doesn't care what others think. Except for me. She cares what I think of her.
"Look" she starts when I don't reply. "I don't want to go on like this. I want us to be friends again. I'm getting real tired of this whole awkward thing between us. We had good times together."
She leans with her chin on her hand, her head a little skewed. She has a smudge on her cheek, a cut on her arm and her hair has all sorts of greens braided in. She's probably been outside the walls again. She seems to do that very often. Daryl asks me almost every day if I've seen her, as if he's suddenly worried about her. To me, she looks even better than before.
OK, maybe that sounded wrong. Sure, I was in love with her. I still care about her. I wouldn't want her to die, but that's different than wanting to kiss someone. And I'm not even sure if I still don't want that…
"OK" I say eventually, and Vicky smiles.
"Awesome!" That's all. With that, she stands up, looking across the hall. All the people who were looking at us the whole time, quickly bow their heads, or look at each other, as if they're in a very important conversation. But as soon as Vicky has turned her back on them, they watch her walk out of the cellblock again. They watch every move, as if she's a bomb.
Everyone does it, except for this one guy. It's a man with big glasses, brown hair and a small notebook. Not the computer, just an old fashioned notebook. He watches Vicky as if she's a science project, writing stuff down in that notebook. What a weird guy.
"Isn't she going to eat breakfast…?" Patrick carefully asks, as soon as the normal talking and morning noise returns.
"Don't worry about her" Carl says, still looking at his gun. Still, he seems to have taken bits of the conversation. "Trust me; she can take care of herself."
Maybe he didn't mean to make it sound mean, but it still came out that way. Especially because he's the one who once shot her. He's lucky to still be alive.
I stand up, suddenly not hungry anymore. Vinnie grabs my arm.
"Please, don't go away again! You just got here!"
"I'll be back in a min" I say, freeing myself. I know I'm not being a good big brother. I keep isolating myself from the others, and from him. I just need space to think. I'm very confused.
In the past two months, I entered the supply-runners from Woodbury and almost got myself killed, fell in love with the girl who saved me, flee the place I thought was home, lost my mother, lost my saviour, and fell in a sort of depression. Or something. I don't know what this state is.
All I know, is that I need my mother.
I close my small notebook as soon as Carol puts a plate on my table. I give her a grateful nod, which she doesn't return. Instead, she narrows her eyes suspiciously. She leans with one hand on the table, and puts the other on her hip. I smile at her again, knowing that when she doesn't want anything from me, she'll leave. Since she doesn't do that, I suspect that there is indeed something she wants to know about me.
"Can I help you?" I ask politely. Carol doesn't move, but purses her lips instead.
"Perhaps. I just want to know what you're writing in there." She nods towards my notebook next to my plate.
"Well, Carol, do you know what I did….before the outbreak?" I ask, still politely. Carol sits down, and leans with her elbows on the table.
I nod. "Exactly! I study people's behaviour, the way they think. Please, don't get me wrong, but this whole 'apocalypse'- thing is extremely interesting. The way we behave, the way the human way reacts in distressed situations…there's so much we don't know."
Carol nods, and I notice at her body language that she's very interested. And I appreciate that.
"And the things I'm writing in here" I continue, with a pat on my small notebook, "are observations of one of your friends, who's been very helpful in my investigation."
"You mean Vicky?" Carol corrects me, folding her arms. "You're observing Vicky?"
The way she says it, she makes it sound wrong.
"Well, yes. But for good reasons. I want to find a way to help people like Vicky. Perhaps you could tell me something about her."
"I don't think she likes you writing stuff down about her like that" she slowly says, but I can see that she's considering it.
"I've had some help from the blonde" I say, pointing at the girl pouring an old woman some more porridge. Carol looks at her friend and leans with her chin on her hand.
"You really want to help her?" she asks carefully, turning back to me again. I nod, putting my spoon down.
"Of course. That's what I do."
Carol bites on the nail of her index finger. "Maybe she doesn't want you help. Have you thought about that?"
"Of course I have. I've had many patients with a mental illness who didn't want my help, but they were all very grateful when I did. But Vicky is very special. I've never seen a girl like her before."
"She used to be different" Carol says, staring at something farther away. "Before the outbreak. She was a scared teenager who just couldn't handle it. The world made her the way she is now."
"Did you know her from before?" I say, opening my notebook.
"No, I didn't" Carol continues in a dreamy voice. "But she six weeks ago, she hit her head really hard, and injured herself. She lost every memory from the point where she got into a car. At least, that's what she told me. It must've been really strange for her to wake up here, instead of at her mother's place."
"Do you know anything about her parents, or her early life?" I ask, writing notes down in my blurry handwriting. Carol sighs.
"Not really. She hasn't told anyone very much about herself. I never asked. I do know that her father was from Ireland, but that's about it."
Suddenly, Carol stands up. She looks disappointed, not at me, but disappointed towards herself.
"I'm sorry, I don't think I can help you. Perhaps you could ask Vicky herself."
Carol's cheeks turn red as she walks away. I watch her walk away, knowing she'll change her mind again in a few days.
It's funny to be in a place where the people are so predictable. In Woodbury, things were not always what they seemed, and I finally found something to do; finding out what was going on behind the scenes. The Governor sure is one interesting man, whom I'd like to talk to once more. I still have some papers around here somewhere.
The Governor and Vicky have a thing in common; they're both unpredictable, and because of that really interesting to observe. Maybe having a private session with Vicky herself isn't such a bad idea at all. But if I have to believe Carol, I need to be patient and careful. If she's right, then Vicky doesn't want my help at all. We'll see.
I've finished my breakfast, but am not ready to leave yet. Vicky isn't the only interesting person around.
From what I've heard, the name of the man sitting at the staircase is Daryl. He always wears shirts without sleeves, revealing his muscular arms, and this ripped pants. His best friend the crossbow never leaves his side. He doesn't talk much, only to the people who run this place, which would be Rick, Hershel, Tyreese, Sasha, and himself. At first sight, you would say that he's a man who goes out to hunt or found food in other ways, but that's the not what he does. Every time I see him, he's sitting somewhere in the corner of a room, keeping eyes on everything and everyone.
And I could see his reaction when Vicky walked in; he quickly lay his hand on his weapon. His eyes were only focused on her, and he had his finger on the trigger, as if he was ready to shoot. What I also noticed, is that he kept looking at the boy with the sheriff hat.
Reading back these notes, I would say that this Daryl is protecting the sheriff-boy from Vicky. I'm curious to know why and why the boy's father isn't doing this job. Someone must've gotten on the wrong side with Vicky, and now the boy has to pay the prize. From the looks of Daryl, I seems this prize hasn't been paid yet.
I need to consider getting another notebook.
I lean with my back against the fence, watching Carl closely. He's sitting on the ground, scraping with a knife into the stone. Since he's been hanging out with that new kid, Rick thinks Vicky will leave him alone. He says she won't 'attack' or 'kidnap' him with someone else involved.
But he still wants me to keep an eye on things when he's gone. If he really wants to protect his kid, he should babysit him himself. Now I have to do it.
I feel a shadow coming over me, and when I look up, I see Hershel walking towards me. He's been working on a protease for his leg, and I see him with a new possibility every day.
"How are things out here?" he says, catching his breath after the long walk from the cellblock-door to here. Must be weird for him to walk on two legs again instead of three.
"Quiet, for now" I reply, looking over my shoulder. Rick, Glenn and Tyreese can be back any minute now. "Red hasn't been seen yet."
Hershel shakes his head, and scratches over his beard. "When Rick gets back, tell him to find another babysitter. I hate seeing you around here, when you're more useful outside these fences."
"I ain't really got a choice, with her still being around."
Hershel folds his arms. "I don't agree with that. Vicky's not a bad girl. Not anymore. She won't hurt Carl. She knows that if she does, she'll have to leave this prison forever."
"It's been three weeks" I say. "She hasn't made her move yet. She waits till we let our guard down. Till Rick lets his guard down."
"This can't go on like this" the old man says, and I agree. "You playing guard dog. You know Vicky. You know she doesn't kill unless she feels like it."
"She's been going outside the walls every day since we brought the Woodbury-people in" I say, scraping my finger at one of my arrows. "When she comes back, her clothes are covered in blood an' dirt."
Hershel shrugs. "It's better to do that outside than in here."
"That's not what I'm worried about" I mumble. "She's losing it. For real, this time."
Now, Hershel doesn't talk for a while. He thinks about it, putting his hands in the pockets of his pants. "She needs something to distract herself. If this is her way of remaining calm inside these walls…There's nothing we can do about it."
"Wasn't she so pumped up about the whole Glenn-Maggie-romance?" I say, and Hershel chuckles. "I don't know much 'bout it, but I'd say that's a better therapy than a killing-raid."
"I'll talk to Maggie about it" Hershel says with a grin. At that moment, we hear the sound of a car nearing the prison. I turn around, and walk towards the lock at the gate.
The father finally has returned. From the corner of my eye, I see Carl is getting on his feet, holding the knife in his hand. He doesn't look extremely happy to see his dad again.
Rick drives the jeep onto the courtyard, and Glenn steps out from the passenger's seat. As I close the gate behind them, I feel a wind rushing by me. Next thing I know, Glenn is stumbling back with his girlfriend/fiancé/whatever hanging around his neck.
I smirk, and Tyreese whistles between his fingers while Maggie kisses Glenn. Hershel greets his son-in-law with a handshake.
Rick pats his son on the shoulder, Carl giving him a slight grin. Rick then walks up to me, with a serious expression on his face.
"How did everything go 'round here?" he asks softly. I shrug.
"Same as every morning; nothing special."
"Good." He then walks to the back of the car and opens the trunk. I hesitate, before going after him. I feel that Hershel is watching me, quietly remembering me of what he told me.
Rick puts some of the boxes on the ground, or gives them to Tyreese to take inside.
"Hey, man" I say, getting his attention. Rick looks up for a sec, then continues his work. I look over my shoulder at Carl, who stands just out of hearing range. "We need to talk."
"About what?" Rick asks, wiping sweat from his forehead.
Rick's face suddenly gets pale. "I thought you said everything was OK around here."
"For now it is. And I don't think that's going to change."
Rick looks me in the eyes. "We've been over this. I'm not leaving Carl without someone keeping an eye on Vicky."
"Hershel and I discussed it" I say, with a glance at the old man walking back to the cellblock with his family. "Vicky's not going to do anything to Carl. At least, nothing bad. Carl doesn't need a babysitter anymore. He can take care of himself. Vicky's cool. Just, leave it."
Rick looks at me like I'm retarded. He puts a hand on his belt, and shakes his head. "No. No way. She threatened my son! She is a sick person! I'm not just gonna 'leave it'."
I look at Carl again, who frowns at his angry dad. Tyreese lifts an eyebrow at us. I nod towards the cellblock, and he continues walking. Only Carl is staring at us now.
Rick looks over my shoulder at his son, and comes a little closer to me.
"I'll let it go when she's gone" he says a little softer. "If she doesn't leave, I'll make her."
With that said, he grabs another box from the trunk and starts walking to the cellblock. He nods at his son to follow him. I bite at my tongue, getting really tired of this shit.
"You know, you gotta find yourself another babysitter" I shout at him. Rick stops walking. " 'Cause I ain't doin' it for you anymore!"
Rick stands there with the box in his hands. I hear Carl asking his dad about what's going on. Rick assures him that he'll tell him later. Carl sighs, and makes his way to the door of the cellblock, knowing that this is just another worthless promise of his father.
"So, how did it go?" my sister asks. I shrug, putting the box on the metal table.
"It was alright. No real trouble on the way."
It had been the first supply run I had made since before Woodbury. Glenn, Rick and me make a pretty good team. Going out there with the former sheriff was a little awkward, but we didn't make it any more weird than it already was.
"How are things back here?" I ask. Sasha shrugs too, a thing that runs through the family.
"It's OK. Vicky made a scene at breakfast, as always."
I chuckle and shake my head. "You can't stop hating her, can you?"
Sasha gives me a shove to the shoulder. "Hate is a big word. Of course I don't hate her! I just…I'm just having trouble to forget what she did."
Before I grab the second can of food, I look at my sister. "It's been three weeks, Sasha. Three weeks. Nothing's happened. Vicky is just another person in this prison. Another survivor."
"A crazy one" Sasha mumbles. "Do you know what she does all day? Most of the time, she isn't even here. She goes out in the woods, and sometimes comes back here, and stays in that one cellblock at the other side of the prison."
"So what?" I shrug. "She's still a teenager. I remember when you were. You locked yourself up in your room too. Just let her be."
"Yeah, but I wasn't a psychopath."
"Neither is she."
Sasha rolls with her eyes. "What's the thing about her that makes you defend her so much?"
"Perhaps she's the only person who makes jokes nowadays, a person you can share a laugh with. She's not that bad. I told you that when we got here, and now I'm saying it again; she's not as bad as you think. Just, get to know her."
Sasha purses her lips. "OK. Tomorrow, maybe."