I stepped off the bus and looked around the prison. Grey
walls with fencing just about everywhere. Tyreese was leading everyone
inside to be instructed on how we will live from now on. My duffle bag
that was digging into my shoulder while we listened to Rick instructed
us on where to set up. "Let me introduce the group. They will be in
charge of parts of the camp." He gestured to his right side. "This is
Daryl, Glenn, and Maggie, Michonne, and my son Carl. They're in charge
of weapons and combat training." Daryl stood off to the side with a
crossbow slung over his shoulder, Glenn stood next to Maggie with his
arm around his waist. He was lean and tan while she was a couple
inches taller than him with a brown bob-ish haircut. Carl stood next
to his father with a gun holster on his hip and a sheriff's hat on his
head. The look on his face was of total annoyance. He couldn't have
been older than thirteen. Michonne leaned against the wall behind
Rick. She carried a katana over her shoulder. Dreadlocks covered her
dark face, giving her a mysterious air.
Rick talked for a moment about combat training before moving on to the
next side of the group. "Now this is Carol, Beth, my daughter Judith,
and Hershel. They are in charge of food and cleaning." Carol stood
next to Beth who was holding a baby, which must be Judith. Carol's
gray hair was cut short, almost a boyish cut. Beth had long wavy
blonde hair and pale skin. Her hair reminded me of my own, which I had
to cut off. Hershel was a white bearded man standing on crutches. Part
of his lower right (?) leg was missing. I shuddered at what had to
have happened for him to lose a leg. "Now, there are plenty of open
cells for you to choose from. My group and I have cleared out those
blocks for you to settle in. Try to keep two people in a cell to
conserve space." Rick released us to go pick a cell.
I found my own cell block away from everyone. The top bunk was missing
the mattress so no one would be able to room with me. A mirror hung on
the wall across from the bunk bed. I looked exhausted. Really really
exhausted. Dark bag hung under my hazel eyes. My blonde hair stuck out
in all kinds of directions. The back of my head was still jagged and
uneven. Cutting your hair from the Undead's hands wasn't exactly the
time for a trimming. My grey tank top was smeared with dirt and grime,
along with the dark forest green jacket that I wore. The three
bracelets, that had survived me running constantly for a year and a
half, left rings of clean white skin around my wrist. I was so dirty.
My normal light tan complexion has been darkened several tones.
"I'll be around to meet everyone soon," Rick's voice echoed through
the cell block. I sighed and set down my bag. I would have to speak to
him. I could hear his boots hitting the floor as he went cell to cell.
I lied down on the bunk. It wasn't as comfortable as the bed in
Woodbury, but I'd take this over having the Governor possibly come
back. My arm rested over my eyes to block out the light for several
minutes before a gentle knock came from the entrance. I lifted my arm
up and saw Rick in the doorway. "Do you have this cell to yourself?" I
nod and sit up. He sees the top bunk and nods. "Well welcome. What's
"Courtney Fletcher," I give him a small smile.
"It's nice to have you here Courtney. It's good to have more people
around. Do you have any particular skills? We can use all the help we
can get." Rick kept his hands in his pockets. He blocked the light
from the window out of my eyes.
"I was a chef back in Marietta and I worked on cars as a hobby," the
image of my brother's smile flashed through my mind and I bit my lip.
I couldn't think about him now in front of Rick. Rick continued
talking, but everything is going in one ear and out the other. I was
trying so hard to keep from letting the sob escape my throat that I
don't hear his question. He stands and waits for me to answer, but
changes the question when I realize he had said something.
"Are you okay Courtney?" His gruff voice was filled with concern. I
closed my eyes and nodded.
"It's been a long day is all," I avoid his gaze, but I feel it bore into me.
"Well if you're feeling up to it, Beth and Carol will be starting
dinner soon. I'm sure they would appreciate they help." He nodded and
walked to the next cell. I put my face in my hands and focused on not
crying. I hadn't thought of my brother in months and just mentioning
working on cars brought back an onslaught of memories. He was my best
friend and my confidant. I pressed my fingers into my eyes to prevent
the tears from forming and tried to slow my breathing. Once I was in
control of my body again, I left my cell and looked for something to
do. Even though I didn't want to interact with anyone, I wanted to
pull my weight.
Carol and Beth were moving around their make-shift kitchen in a
hurrying. Biting my lip I walked towards them, "Would you like some
Carol glanced back at me but looked back to her work and said
something to Beth. I flinched. Did they not want me here? Beth on the
other hand, saw the hurt on my face and beckoned me over with a smile
on her face.
"Do you have any experience?" I nod and try to put moisture back in my mouth.
"I use to run my own kitchen," my voice came out weak and raspy. I
cleared my throat and waited for a response.
Beth's face lit up, "That's amazing. We'll be able to use your
abilities. You can help me over here. What's your name?" She gave me a
couple of vegetables to cut and put in a broth.
"Courtney." I said while cutting a carrot.
"Pretty," Beth smiled at me. She seemed so young, but so mature. I
guess that's what happens when the world goes to hell.
"Beth!" Daryl comes down the stairs with Judith in his arms. "She's
hungry. Do we have any formula ready?" Beth leaves me with Carol to
finish preparing the meal. I glanced at Beth and Daryl from the corner
of my eye. He seemed to be ragged and tough earlier, but he was cooing
over a baby.
"That's Daryl." Carol mentioned next to me. Her voice was kind, but my
face instantly lit on fire as I brought my face back to my hands. I
had been caught staring. She gave a little laugh and I could feel my
cheeks get even hotter. "He looks tough and acts like a hardass but
he's a good man." She smiled to herself. Her hands were cutting meat
into portions; I now realized why she had only glanced back at me.
"Are you two..?" My question hung in the air as my cheeks gave off an
enormous amount of heat. I had high school boyfriends and college
boyfriends, but once my culinary career took off I only had time for a
few friends and my family. I was really rusty with the whole 'couple'
"Oh no no," she laughed as we put the ingredients together. "We're
close but not like that." Carol returned to cutting a small slab of
meet into tiny chunks. I glanced back at him and he was feeding
Judith. Carol and I finish making the meal and start dividing it into
bowls. The meal was mostly broth with chunks of meat and vegetables.
It smelled good though. It made me think of the smell of spices when
I'd add it to a dish at work. The smell would fill the kitchen and
everyone would groan because it just smelt that good. "Could you help
move the food over to the long table so people can pick it up?" I nod
and start carefully moving the bowls over. People had already lined up
for their share. I felt great to be doing something I was good at.
We had served everyone when Carol handed me a bowl, "Go eat. You did
good today. You deserve to rest. I'll clean up."
"Oh, thank you. Are you sure I can't help clean up?" She shook her
head and shooed me away to eat. I looked among the tables; everyone
was involved in some sort of conversation. Rick, Glenn, Daryl, and
Hershel were all sitting together discussing something. I saw the
stairs open and sat down to eat. I hadn't realized how hungry I was
until I actual started eating. I laughed at myself; I did the same
thing in the kitchen. Worked so hard that I never realized I was
hungry until someone put food in front of my face. Beth and Carol
cleaned up then joined me on the stairs.
"You don't have to eat alone," Beth smiled at me. "No one should have
to be alone." I smiled back at her. It was only my first day here and
someone was making an effort to make me feel welcome.
"You would like to help us with cooking?" Carol said between
spoonfuls. "You were a tremendous help today Courtney."
"I'd love to." A warm feeling spread over my body and it wasn't from
the soup. Once the meal was done, Carol recruited Maggie and Glenn to
rinse out the bowls while we went to bed. Flopping down on a mattress
with metal bars underneath may not have been the best idea, but I was
pleasantly exhausted now. It was easy to fall asleep.
I don't know how or why, but no matter when I go I sleep I always wake
up before the sun. This is okay, because I like watching the sun rise.
I slip out of my cell and tiptoe up to the fenced in catwalk. Even in
all the chaos and destruction of the new world, I was still able to
find beauty in a sunrise. So I never missed one. I leaned against the
fence and watched the light extend over the land while the colors
mixed together. A smile rested on my face as I just enjoyed the
moment. Orange and pink started the morning as the day's bright blue
sky began to show. White fluffy clouds rolled over head by the soft
breeze. I closed my eyes inhaling the crisp air of the morning.
"What're you doing?" I jump and whip around to face gravelly voice.
Daryl was holding his crossbow over his shoulder as he eyed me,
waiting for an answer. My mouth went dry.
"Just, uh. I was…" My hands fluttered around, trying to explain what
my mouth couldn't say.
"You should go back inside." Daryl stepped out of the way as I walked
past, embarrassed. I felt nauseas listening for Daryl to turn away,
but I never heard him move as I increased my speed. I stayed in my
cell all morning. Beth brought me food and tried to coax me down to
join everyone, but only got me to sit in the corner of the loft. She
and Carol took care of Judith in the loft and kept an eye on me as
"Beth, could you come here?" Hershel's voice called from the bottom of
the stairs. She signed and handed Judith over to Carol. Carol pursed
her lips and muttered to herself, the task she was just about to do
was put on hold. Her eyes swept the room and landed on me.
"Courtney, could you watch Judith for a few minutes? I need to get
some fresh formula made and diapers." Before I could refuse, the soft
and fragile Judith had been laid in my arms. Her face was sweet with a
broad innocent smile spread across her face. I bit my lip and smiled
back at her. I envied her. She had never known loss or pain. Just love
"You're a lucky little baby." I murmured as I kissed her forehead and
swayed back in forth. Her bright eyes started to flutter, battling
sleep and losing. I hummed a lullaby that my mother use to sing. It
helped Judith finally close her eyes and fall asleep. I kept swaying
and humming for a long time before I looked up for Beth or Carol. They
weren't around, but Daryl was watching me from across the room. His
eyes met mine for a moment before returning to the sleeping baby in my
arms. I looked down at her again and tried to ignore Daryl along with
our encounter this morning. She had fallen asleep with a fistful of my
shirt in her hand. I laughed to myself a bit. Daryl shifted and it
brought my eyes back to him. He was slightly smiling down at the baby.
"Thank you for watching Judith," Carol popped back up from the stairs
and crossed over to me. "You got her asleep? That's great. I had been
trying for a half hour with no luck. You must be good with kids." I
beamed up at her.
"I don't know. She's beautiful though. She has the same smile my niece
had," I stood up and walked with Carol to where Judith's bed was. I
could feel Daryl's eyes on me as I passed. His gaze gave me the
Carol helped me get my shirt out of Judith's fist and put her in her
crib then looked at me, "Are you alone?" I stood shocked for a moment
before closing my eyes briefly and nodding. Before I could open them,
Carol's arms were around my neck. I awkwardly returned her hug. "Me
too." She let me go and smiled. I couldn't help but smile at her.
"Would you like to help with Judith more often?" I blinked in shock
again. I just got here yesterday. "You seemed to be very comfortable
with her and we could use some extra hands." I nodded as she sat down
at a small table and started putting bullets into a clip. I say down
next to her and started playing with the box.
"Do you know how to use that?" I gestured to the gun.
"Yeah, our whole group has been taught. Do you know?" Carol glanced up
without stopping what she was doing.
I shook my head, "No. I haven't touched a gun in my life."
"How did you make it so long then?" We both knew what she was talking
I took a deep breath, "I ran. If I was surrounded, I'd climb the
tallest tree and wait it out."
"Wow. That's a lot to do by yourself. How did you stay fed?"
My hand fidgeted with the empty box, "I ate whatever I could find. I always wanted to find new spices for the kitchen without paying for them so I learned a lot about wild plants and such. With less animals around, more natural food grew. The winter was the worst... I barely made it to Woodbury."
"How could you last this long without killing a walker?" Daryl was leaning against the railing by Judith's crib.
"I never said I didn't kill," the words were forced through the lump in my throat. Daryl gave me an unbelieving look. This was the first time I was actually able to look at him. His brown hair was long and plastered to his head. Blue eyes wary, but affectionate when he looks at Judith or Carol. I felt more like an outsider than ever.
Carol got up and put the gun with some others. She stopped behind me and started looking at my hair, "Did you cut it?"
"My hair? Uh yeah. I had to cut it when a Walker grabbed it." I touched the jagged edges of my make shift haircut. My hair felt dirty and full of tangles. I grimaced.
"If you want, I could even it out for you." She sat down next to me and gave a sweet smile. "Maybe give it a rinse too?" She laughed and winked. "Yeah, I saw that face." I rolled my eyes and let a smile escape to my face.
"I'd like that." I laughed a bit to myself. Carol brought a bucket of water and tried to rinse most of the grime out before starting to cut my hair. The water was cold and had my arms covered in goose bumps. By the time she was done, my hair was essentially even. I looked in the mirror of my cell with Carol leaning against the door frame. "Thank you. I don't look like such a wild woman now." Carol and I laughed at my lame joke.
"You're welcome. Beth is warming up some of the soup we had yesterday. So could you go down and help? I'm gonna stay up here with Judith in case she wakes up hungry again."
"Okay," I shook my hair and tried to get as much of the loose hair out before working with food then headed down. Working in a kitchen again was one of the most amazing feelings. I had been so sure that I would never see the inside of a kitchen again that being back felt like a dream, even though it wasn't since all of our lives were in potential danger every second. Beth and I cleaned up after everyone had been fed and sat down to eat against the wall.
"How old are you Beth?" I closed my eyes with my head against the wall, enjoying the warmth of the soup in my hands.
"Just turned seventeen not to long ago," Beth took a sip of her soup.
"What about you?"
"I'm twenty-eight." I looked at Beth. She was so young and full of potential. I hoped she would live through this and have a life. Death still scared me but I had lived; gotten to the top of my career, had wonderful friends, fixed up cars with my brother, and still close to my parents. Beth had only began her life.
Rick stood up and got everyone's attention, "For those old enough, there is going to be shooting class in a few minutes. Meet up out in the courtyard if you would like to attend."
Beth looked at me, "I can handle dishes tonight if you wanna go. I think Maggie isn't doing today's lesson so she can help too."
I finished off the last of my soup, "Okay. Thanks Beth." I put my bowl by the sink and head out to the courtyard. Rick, Carl, Michonne and Glenn were standing in a circle by a table of weapons. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Daryl standing by himself watching us. He was a silent and watchful one. Several other women had joined me outside and were waiting for instructions.
"We'll start you out on small weapons first. Some of you will learn close combat with knives while the other half learns how to shoot." Rick split the group in half and I started with shooting. There was only three people in my group. Rick was our instructor with Carl helping out. He gave us each an empty gun and told us to sit down. "We're gonna clean the gun first." He walked us through the process and had us try on our own. It wasn't too difficult but my hands were shaking. I have never touched a gun before. All I knew was that it had the capability to kill.
Carl came up and sat beside me, "Don't be afraid of it." He looked up at me squinting because of the sun. "It's a machine. It won't do anything unless you tell it to." He took out his and emptied the rounds. "Rule number one: the gun is always loaded. No matter if you just took the ammo out. It is always loaded."
"Rule number two: never point it at anything you don't want to destroy. This will help calm you. If it's not pointed at someone you care about, then you won't shoot them." I listened intently to Carl. Even though he was young, he knew exactly what he was talking about.
"Rule number three: keep your finger off the trigger unless you're aimed and ready to shoot. You don't want to shoot yourself in the foot because you jumped and pulled the trigger."
"Did you try to do that?" The example seemed too realistic.
"When I started shooting, I almost did. Rule number four: be sure of your target and what's behind it. You don't want to accidentally shoot a friend because you thought they were a walker. Andrea almost shot Daryl in the head because she wasn't thinking." I nodded, impressed. Those rules were like the ones in my kitchen. "Always tell someone when you're behind them." "Never scare anyone in the kitchen." "No running with knives" Those rules made my kitchen safe and these rules will keep me and those around me safe.
"Thank you Carl," my hands had steadied with these rules and I was able to clean my gun quicker. He nodded and stood to go help someone else. Soon enough, Rick had given us ammo. One woman freaked out and gave the gun back to Rick, running back inside. I wetted my lips and reminded myself of the rules Carl had told me. Now it was only me and another woman. Rick had set up a table with random items that we wouldn't miss on it: a glass bottle and a tin can.
"Take a shot when you're ready. Be sure to take off the safety," Rick and Carl were behind us. Daryl still stood off to the side watching us. I took a breath and steadied my hands, then slid over the switch to turn off they safety. I lifted the gun and aimed at the glass bottle. I pulled the trigger and a shock wave shot through my hands. My hands trembled as I realized I missed the target so I set myself up as the woman next to me took a shot. She missed as well.
It took me a couple shots before I hit the bottle. When it shattered, it made me jump. Rick chuckled and Carl had a smirk on his face. I slid the safety switch and took a couple deep breaths. The other lady took longer to hit her tin can while Carl went to get another tin can for me.
"Keep practicing. The better shot you become the better, but keep in mind that Walker's don't stand still," Rick said from behind us. I set myself up again and slid off the safety. Carl set up the tin can and hurried out of the way. Taking a deep breath, I started shooting again. This time I was able to hit the can several more times than before. Slowly I was making progress. Soon enough, the sun was going down.
"Okay, that's enough for today. Go inside and grab something to eat. We'll start again with the groups switched tomorrow," Rick collected the gun from the other woman but held his hand up to me. "Keep it. You're a good enough shot that we could use you in an emergency." He handed me a holster.
"Uh thanks." I put the holster around my waist and tucked the gun in. The weight felt lopsided but it was okay. I double checked that the safety was on before I went inside, but I took out the clip to make myself feel better.
Carol and Beth were waiting for me by Judith's crib, "Got your own gun now?" Carol nudged my shoulder with a smile.
"Yeah, Rick said I was a good shot." I smiled back. "How's Judith?"
"Asleep. We're running out of formula so Rick, Daryl, and a couple other people will be making a run soon," I nodded and looked down at Judith.
"You seem tired," Beth smiled at me. "You should go to bed." Before I could object, a yawn escaped my throat. "See, go to bed Courtney." I narrowed my eyes playfully at the order but complied.
"Goodnight Beth. Goodnight Carol." I smiled at them then leaned down into the crib and whispered, "Goodnight Judith." I unbuckled my holster and put it on the desk. I also put the clip back into the gun. I didn't want to wake up in an emergency and not have it in.
The next morning, Rick called the whole group together and announced that he, Daryl, Carl, and Michonne were going on a run for food, weapons, and other supplies we needed. Glenn, Maggie, and Hershel were in charge. When Rick dismissed us, Carol went over to Rick and Daryl with Judith. Beth went over to Maggie and Hershel to talk to them. I rocked back and forth on my heels before turning and going back upstairs and sat at a table taking apart my gun. It gave my mind something to do when memories tried to break through.
The next couple days were uneventful. I helped Carol and Beth with meals as Beth balanced Judith on her hip. The kid was getting big. Suddenly Maggie ran into the room, "We need all guns! Walkers got in!" Carol and I looked at each other and hurried after Maggie.
Walkers were coming from the entrance gate. Someone forgot to lock it after Rick and them left two days ago. Maggie and Glenn was barking out orders. Carol grabbed a gun and led me to an safe area to shoot. The walkers were continually coming in. Tyreese was giving us extra ammo.
"Someone needs to get that gate!" Maggie screamed over the gun shots. There was six shooters out but there still was too many walkers. She was arguing with Glenn and trying to keep the walkers from getting any closer.
"I can get it," I started putting my gun away.
"What? No Courtney let Glenn do it. He's fast," Carol said between shots.
"I've been a runner since this began. I can do this Carol," I wanted to do this. I -knew- I could do it.
Carol looked conflicted for a moment, "Fine. Go, I'll keep you covered."
"Thank you," I bounce on the balls of my feet and look for an opening. Adrenaline swept through my veins as my body realized what I was doing. Carol took out too walkers right next to each other, that gave me my opportunity. I bolted forward, headed straight for the gate. Walkers saw me and started making their way towards me but I didn't slow for a second before the gate.
The clip was still hanging on the opposite side while I dragged the gate shut. My normally steady hands shook as I fumbled with the clip. Walkers were closing in and I didn't have much time. Then there was a familiar grumble racing towards me. Daryl was speeding on his bike, crossbow ready. Michonne had her door open slicing walkers in half. Rick was driving while Carl hung out the window shooting. Instead of closing the gate, I push it in the opposite direction to let them in. They passed with such speed I could feel the wind. Daryl's motorcycle almost deafened me. As soon as they were in, I shut the gate and clipped it. Most of the walker's were distracted but some were still focused on me. I pulled out my gun and started shooting.
"Courtney!" Carol's cry pierced the air. I looked at her and she was pointing behind me. I swung around me to face a walker twice my size. I was too close to get a shot so I turned for run. The walker reached out and grabbed my shoulder and pulled me to the ground. Carol's eyes widened but the grip slackened. Daryl had shot an arrow through its head. I scrambled to my feet, giving Daryl a grateful glance and running back to Carol. I was breathing hard and shaking. She tossed her gun to Tyreese's friend, Sasha, and took me inside.
"Are you hurt?" She sat me down and looked me over. I shook my head numbly. She checked me anyway but found no wounds. Her words weren't registering in my mind. All I saw was a mixture of Carol's worried face and the outside when I got grabbed. My body shuddered at the thought.
Carol fed me and took me up to my cell to sleep. I didn't sleep well. It took a long while to fall asleep in the first place. Then I woke up from nightmares of my past in the middle night. Carol was sitting in the corner, asleep. She must have been watching over me. I silently slipped out of bed and picked up my blanket, laying it over Carol. I grabbed a notebook out of my bag and wrote down my dream. Then leaving it on the desk, I went outside to get some fresh air. The walker's were piled in a corner of the yard waiting to burn. The moon gave them an eerie look.
Anger welled up in my chest as I kicked them, tears rolling down my cheeks. "Why did this happen! Why them!" I scream at the sky and collapse by a wall. Finally I was mourning for my lost family. My brother- the closet person to me. My mother- she loved me even when I couldn't make a lunch date because of work. My father- the one who made me feel like a princess. I bawled into my knees until I heard footsteps.
"What're you doing?" I hastily wiped my face and looked up at Daryl. He looked down at me with sympathy in his eyes.
"Uh, nothing." I stood up, avoiding his gaze. "Just a bad dream." His crossbow was slung over his shoulder. Daryl nodded and looked past me.
"We've all lost someone, but that's what makes us family now," his words were true. I looked up at his face. He seemed to be remembering someone he lost. I nod and started walking past him. "You know the thing about bad dreams," I stopped and turned back to him. He was looking over his shoulder at me, "you wake up." I stare at him blankly for a moment. Then realize the sunrise is about to start.
"Would you, uh, like to watch the sunrise with me?" I sit down on a step facing the sun. He walks over to me and stands against the wall, watching the sky. We watched in complete silence but it was comfortable. The whole time I was wondering about how he found me and why he was awake, but it was nice to have someone to share the morning with. Once the sun had risen, I stood up and walked back inside. Carol was up on the loft taking care of Judith while Beth was starting on breakfast. I was going to start working with Beth, but she stopped me.
"Carol was looking for you. I think you should see her before helping," her voice was polite but something else lingered in her voice. I scrunched my eyebrows together in confusion, but walked up the stairs anyway.
"Carol?" I asked as I rounded the corner. Her eyes were full of worry. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you where I was. I just needed some fresh air." I stammered. Carol just ignored my words as she laid Judith down then walked over to me, eyes locked on mine. She didn't say a single word but just pulled me into a tight hug. I returned her hug even more confused. I stayed in her arms until she released me. "What's wrong?"
"I didn't know how alone you were." Her voice was quiet as if sharing a secret. My eyes widened. My dream, nightmare actually. She saw my reaction and nodded. "I shouldn't have read your notebook but it was lying open." Carol was shaking her head.
I sighed and pulled her away from the group to talk in private. She sat down next to me at the farthest table. "My family started out running together. No one was bitten or sick. Everyone was healthy. Bobby, my brother, worked on cars for a living and as a hobby so he was able to keep our truck working until the sway bar broke and it became useless." The memories flooded back. Mom and I sitting in the back while Bobby and Dad sat up front with the guns. "We walked for awhile and were fine. We hid near rotting walkers that we had killed already so that no new ones would notice our scent. That backfired on us. One was already laying there and we were careless." My voice was thick and the words barely came out. I swallowed to make it easier. "Mom got bit and Dad refused to leave her even though she was dying." Dad's broken face covered in tears flashed in my mind. I choked back a sob and gave myself a moment.
"You don't have to go on," Carol said gently. I shook my head and continued.
"Dad made Bobby and I leave them. He shot Mom then himself… We never actually left him and he knew that. He just wanted us out of vision so we wouldn't have to live with the memory, but we did. We buried our parents and moved on. It was a little easier with Bobby. He knew me so well that only a look could tell him that I was scared, hungry, or tired. We could've been twins." I laughed a bit at the memory. "We were attacked at night. A walker grabbed me by the hair. Bobby cut me loose but he was overwhelmed. I lose him too…" Tears welled up in my eyes. I blinked them back as best as I could. "I ran and didn't stop running until Woodbury over a year later. Now I'm here and safe while they died horrible deaths…" I looked at my hands as I remembered their faces. It was harder now but I wouldn't forget them. How could I?
Carol laid hand on mine and gave a gentle squeeze, "You're alive. Any parent would give their life for their child to live." Her eyes were brimmed with tears as she got up and went back to Judith. I sat there for a moment to collect myself before going and helping with breakfast. I scan the group for Daryl but he doesn't show up for breakfast. I bit my lip and keep quiet while Beth and Carol talk.
To keep my mind busy, I ask Carl to help me get a better shot. He and the group and found a lot of ammo and guns so practicing shooting was okay again. Glenn offered for Daryl to teach close combat training, but he was once again no where to be found. I quit just in time to start dinner. Carol and Beth are waiting for me and hand me two jars of spices.
"Think you can use these?" Beth handed me a bottle of Basil and Paprika. My jaw just dropped.
"Where did you guys find these?" I'm so excited that I don't know what to do with myself.
Carol and Beth smile at each other then Beth walked over to me and whispered, "Daryl found them on the last run." She nods over the stairs by the doors and he's sitting and watching. "He went hunting today and brought back several rabbits." I look down at the spices then the rabbits on the counter. I get a huge smile on my face.
"Ladies, we have some work to do." With some help from Rick, we skinned the rabbits and cooked them. I used the spices sparingly, but enough to get the flavor. The whole area smell wondrous and people were watching me cook. I felt normal again bustling around food and barking orders.
I watched everyone eat after we were done. All of them were smiling and gasping at how the great the food tasted. Carol handed me a bowl, "This is the best tasting food I've had in a long time. You're an amazing cook." I smiled and started to eat. I closed my eyes to savor the taste and nodded to myself. I hadn't lost my touch even after all this time. I opened my eyes and looked around for Daryl. I wanted to thank him for the spices. He wasn't among the group, but Glenn had come back in from watch. I let Beth know I was going outside and brought the last bowl after Glenn had gotten his.
I found Daryl pacing back and forth, keeping watch. "Did you forget to have some dinner?" I sheepishly held out a bowl to him.
"Thanks." He took the bowl and slung his crossbow back behind his back and started to eat. He was wearing a black biker's jacket with white wings on the back.
"Thank you." I met his eyes as he raised an eyebrow. "For the spices I mean. They mean a lot."
"You're welcome Courtney." I smile at him and walk back inside. I was attacked by an onslaught of people complimenting my cooking. Everyone had a smile on their faces and the whole room was cheery. With all this joy and laughter around me, how come I still can only think of Daryl alone outside?