Thirteen Days 5/6

Thirteen Days
Written September 2013
Rated PG-13
Synopsis: Sequel to Shelter from the Storm.  “It had been thirteen days since they returned from their run. Thirteen days since he had pushed her away. Thirteen days since he had spoken to her. He hated every minute.”

Disclaimer: The characters and universe herein were created by Robert Kirkman et al. The series is produced by AMC and other corporations. No infringement is intended.  The italicized text later in the chapter came directly from the comics and thus is the work of Robert Kirkman.


Happy chatter reverberated through the mess hall at breakfast. Glenn and Maggie’s wedding was slated to occur at sundown, turning what would typically be another uneventful day into one of excitement and anticipation.

Daryl sat alone, eating a bowl of oatmeal and peaches, courtesy of their ill-fated run two weeks before. He kept his attention focused on Carol as she dished out a meal for herself and joined Sasha and the Greene sisters at a table. She seemed happier than she had been in a while and definitely cleaner, her skin glowing in the natural light from the windows.

He thought about approaching her, maybe even sitting by her side, but the impervious wall of estrogen made it too intimidating. There’d been no resolution last night, as they had been interrupted by Rick and Glenn unloading the supplies, but she knew where he stood.

At least he hoped she did.

He knew where he stood anyway, a decision much too long in the making. As he had listened to Michonne explain the events of last night, Rick’s speech began to resonate with him. Even if he had gone on the run with her, the same events could have happened. He had no say in who lived or who died. The rest of their story had already been written; it was just a matter of when they reached the end. If he was lucky, he’d get a few pages, maybe even entire chapters, with her before it was said and done.

A squeal interrupted his thoughts. “Glenn! You’re not supposed to see me before the weddin’!”

Glenn, who looked exhausted from his overnight shift in the tower, threw his hands over his eyes and spun around. “I thought it was just in your dress!”

“No, it’s the whole day! It’s bad luck!” She ducked behind her sister, but it wasn’t long before she burst into giggles. “You shoulda seen your face.”

He peeked out between his fingers then slowly lowered his hands. “Are you messing with me?”

“Yes,” she laughed, hopping out of her chair to give him a long kiss, receiving some scattered applause from the room.

Daryl returned his gaze to Carol at the same moment she looked over at him, and his breath caught in his throat. She rewarded him with a shy smile before she turned away, cheeks stained crimson. His mouth twitched as he tried to stifle a cheer.

Maybe there was hope after all.

***

Daryl busied himself with mundane chores for the rest of the morning until he saw Carol head to the outdoor kitchen to prepare the wedding cake. She’d mentioned to him on their run that she’d found a book with World War II-era recipes that were perfect in times of limited fresh ingredients and could be cooked on a wood-fire grill. One of the recipes was for a cake. He couldn’t imagine it tasting very good – what the hell kind of cake didn’t have butter or eggs in it? – but she was determined to serve it for the wedding.

Either way, it distracted her long enough for him to sneak into her cell undetected. Once he was there, he found himself hesitating to do what he had planned.

It had nothing to do with her but everything to do with him. She’d spent most of her life under a cruel hand, and she deserved more than what he had to offer. He’d never been on a date, never been in love, never tried to woo someone. The entire process was foreign to him.

While Glenn and Maggie may have come together over their rampant sex drives, giving Carol a condom and a come hither look wasn’t likely to win him any points. He wasn’t completely ignorant. Despite the poor examples he’d witnessed in his life, he knew that she should be treated like a lady: opening doors, pulling out chairs, that kind of shit. But they lived in prison cells and ate on picnic tables, so how was he going to do all that?

Or maybe the world was just so screwed up at this point that he could win her over by killing a really big buck. Dress it, butcher it, cook up a nice venison chili for her. She liked when he brought her fresh game; protein from meat was a delicacy now. If only he could find a deer.

Daryl shook the thoughts from his head. This whole thing was stupid. Carol had told him, many times in many different ways, that she wanted to be with him. Why couldn’t he just accept that? Why did he have to make it so damn difficult?

He looked at the object in his hands then squinted when he noticed it was moving, however imperceptibly. But how… “Fuckin’ ridiculous,” he mumbled. His hands were shaking like a little girl. She wasn’t even here, and he was still messing things up. He just needed to do it and be done with it.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Bend over. Release item. Straighten up. Turn around. Walk away. Done.

And the blue hydrangea waited patiently on her pillow.

***

The evening sun began its descent toward the horizon, casting a soft orange glow on the prison courtyard. Guests formed a semi-circle around Hershel and Glenn in anticipation of the ceremony. Most of the community was in attendance, dressed in their best attire, with a few offering to watch the children or work in the towers.

Volunteers had spent the afternoon creating a romantic atmosphere for the outdoor wedding. Picnic tables had been arranged in a U shape and decorated with long-stemmed candles and wildflowers. One table had been stocked with several bottles of wine, five small cakes, and all of the supplies needed to consume them.

Hershel spoke softly to Glenn, who was bouncing nervously on his heels, eyes transfixed on the door to the cell block. Despite his obvious anticipation, he looked as excited as a child on Christmas morning. Maggie had gotten ready in a different area of the prison to avoid him seeing her before the wedding, and her arrival was due at any moment.

Daryl and Beth were also absent, the latter helping her sister and the former cleaning up after a shift in the tower. Carol touched the blue hydrangea, which she had placed above her ear, and smiled. The intimacy of the gesture did not go unnoticed. She hadn’t even thought about the flower since the attack at the craft store, vaguely aware that it wasn’t among the other buds in the basket when she and Beth began creating the wreath and bouquet. The fact that Daryl had retrieved it, kept it, and then returned it to her meant more to her than she could verbalize.

The door to the cell block opened, and the audience collectively gasped. When it was Daryl to come out, the only person who didn’t relax was Carol. He had cleaned up well, looking almost formal in a pair of dark slacks and grey button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He looked around awkwardly, and Carol smiled when he locked eyes with her. The moment was short-lived, as something from inside the prison caught his attention. He grabbed the closing door before it was able to fully shut, and Maggie walked out, eliciting murmurs of admiration from the crowd.

She floated down the stairs, carrying her rose bouquet, eyes fixed on Glenn. His chest was puffed out with pride, and he looked ready to burst. She was beautiful, wearing a tea length white slip dress with lace accents along the hem and the wreath that Carol had made.

Beth grabbed Daryl’s arm and guided him down the stairs, parting from him at the perimeter of the semi-circle. Carol met his eyes, heart pounding in her chest. He began walking the edge of the group, gaze never wavering from her face. She couldn’t catch her breath, barely cognizant of Hershel reading a passage from his Bible. Sounds faded, sights dimmed.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

As he made his approach, she could see the faintest of smiles form on his lips. She admired his restraint because she couldn’t stop grinning, waiting for him to reach her side. She would wait forever if she had to. It would be worth it.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

He stopped on her right, body angled toward her. His gaze shifted to the hydrangea in her hair. Her simple act of acceptance was all he needed.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Eyes fixed on the ceremony, on Glenn reciting his own vows, Daryl reached for her hand and took it into his.

“… and I vow to love you for as long as I have left and to do everything in my power to ensure that is a long time.”

She looked at their interlaced fingers and felt a tear slide down her cheek, then his thumb as he wiped it away. Any lingering doubt vanished and was carried away by the soft breeze.

I give myself to you as your wife.”

He was the one she wanted. The one she had been waiting for. Through the good and the bad, whatever had passed and whatever was yet to come, she would stand by his side without question.

I do.”

His grip tightened, and she smiled up at him. His face was relaxed, gentle. Happy.

I do.”

This was it. This was real. From now on, it would no longer be him and her but them.

Then by the powers vested in me by the unusual circumstances of our lives and the good Lord above – I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

End of chapter 5

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