Beth doesn’t talk about the lost time. She can’t talk about it, she’s never been able to, and she probably won’t ever try. For a long time there were parts of her missing, more than just a chunk of brain, a fragment of skull, and a spot where she’ll never grow hair again.
But she could write about it.
So she did, because even though she couldn’t remember her own name or how old she was or her favorite color or whether she could play an instrument, her hands moved like her soul would seep into the tips of her fingers. Like something inside of her was urging her to pick up a pen and say something. Those first few weeks it was just scribbles. Eventually they transformed into words, but she couldn’t string a sentence together for shit and it was pages of utter nonsense. Finally, fully developed thoughts started to appear before she realized she was even thinking them.
Beth remembered some things.
The ones she remembered first were family. There was a sister, brown hair and happy green eyes. A daddy, fluffs of white on his head and face, and his heavy arm on her shoulders. A mama, sweet voice and an even sweeter laugh. A brother she could never quite grasp in her mind, but when she thought of him she would roll her eyes and smile like it was as instinctive as breathing.
Dark hair, mean face, gentle eyes. She thought about her family all the time, but she still wrote him the most and she wondered if he was even real. They started off short because she got tired and cranky easily, and the people she was with were a little frightened of her when she got into a mood. She was pretty sure they knew her other family. Not Mama or Shawn, but people who weren’t her blood. A group more than a little dangerous to anything or anyone that threatened their own. They were something to be feared in a world overrun by monsters.
Those first few weeks when she had to rely on strangers for things as simple as eating or going to the bathroom, her impatience and despair made her downright cruel. Through her tantrums, they would gently remind her you weren’t always like this, it won’t always be like this, yet they would never mention if she was truly alone or if she still had people out there. As the memories came back, she would prod some of them, but even the cops would get this… look on their face. Sad, but afraid. Whatever they knew, they kept it close and Beth didn’t mind. She liked rediscovering these people in private.
So, she wrote.
I don’t know why, but I think about you the most.
Do you think about me, too?
They tell me all I had was a spoon, which is so weird, isn’t it? It’s not even the kind you eat with. It says Washington D.C., like one of those fancy collectables. The people I’m with said I’ve always had it, even before me getting hurt. They say when they found me, I was using it like some sort of weapon. Then when they first tried to take it (so I wouldn’t jab them in the eyes), I nearly bit them like one of those monsters.
I hate when they tell that story because it’s really embarrassing. Maybe I was a collector.
We made a family. I’m remembering them more and more. I bet you still take care of them. I feel like you take care of them, you know?
I bet you took care of me, too.
I remembered your name today! The woman that watches me said I’ve been saying it in my sleep for weeks. You’d think that’d be the kind of thing people tell you, but whatever. She’s kind of a bitch.
Thinking of you hurts real bad sometimes, but I still like it more than thinking of Daddy or Mama or Shawn. That hurts the worst. It’s how I know they’re gone. Like, dead kinda gone. Hopefully they’re really dead and not stumbling around somewhere like one of those walkers. The people here call them rotters but I like the name walkers more. Seems less mean, I guess.
I think I miss you, Daryl Dixon. I hope you miss me.
The first time she wakes up with a moan in her throat and his face behind her eyelids, she starts to piece together the clues that maybe he wasn’t just another member of her family. She never remembers the dreams. No matter how hard she tries to hold on to them, the details fall through her fingers like fine sand. They drift away until Beth is left with nothing but an ache between her thighs and an overwhelming sense of loneliness that would take her breath away if he hadn’t already stolen it.
After a while, she learns to enjoy the few moments of bliss when she wakes up. There was no point in trying to remember them. He always returns.
I’ve started fantasizing about you. Maybe. They could be memories. I kinda hope they are.
Telling apart my memories from made up thoughts is still a little hard. It’s been over a year and it still confuses me. It’s so freaking annoying, but I guess it could be worse. I could be dead, right?
I wonder what you look like now. Your hair was long, but maybe you let Carol cut it the way it used to be on the farm? I remember what it feels like. It’s thin and a little greasy, but also really soft even though you let it get all tangled. I remember how it felt against my face when you gave me a piggyback ride, which seems so ridiculous I’m not sure if that’s a real memory. I remember the way you carried me into a kitchen even though I wasn’t really hurt that bad, too. It’s like watching someone else’s life. If I didn’t know it was me in these memories, I would say you did all that because you wanted that girl.
I think I know what you feel like, too. What your skin on my skin feels like. This is where it starts to get fuzzy. I think I know what kissing you felt like but when I try to really remember, I can’t. It probably means what it’s just some fantasy I cooked up when we were all together because when I think about it, it feels so familiar and comfortable in my brain. Kinda like I’ve thought about it a lot before. God, I don’t even know why I write this stuff down! I don’t know if I could stand you reading it if all these things are just recycled hopes and wishes. If they are, I wonder if you knew I felt this way?
I know I loved you like I loved all of our family, but I know it was starting to change. Almost like it was getting bigger or something. Sometimes the memory of it fills my heart and I feel like I’m a teddy bear who’s been stuffed too full. That’s a dumb way to put it (I can imagine exactly how you’d roll your eyes at it), but it’s the only way I can describe it.
I hope you still think about me. I know it’s selfish because you probably think I’m dead. You wouldn’t have left me behind if you thought I was alive, would you?
Obviously I think about you enough for the both of us, anyway.
She writes less when the hospital gets taken and they have no choice but to face the open road, but despite complaints from her companions, she carries her diary with her. It’s the fastest way for her to document the things she remembers. Losing so much of herself has made her paranoid she’ll forget again. The doctor that is still with them says it’s very unlikely, but people also said it was very unlikely the dead would rise to terrorize the living.
Beth never leaves her diary behind. It’s all she has. It’s all she is.
I know how to sing! I wish we weren’t out in the open because now that I know, I want to do it all the time. We had to leave the hospital, but the guys said something about our family heading
North. They said that Rick offered a place in our group but no one but Noah went. Do you like Noah? I bet you do. I hope you’re all still alive. I hope we find you.
We’ve made it to West Virginia. Today was hard. We lost a lot of people to a herd of walkers that snuck up on us. I nearly got bit because I kept thinking about you and Maggie and Glenn and Rick and Noah and Carol and Michonne and Carl and Judith and Tyreese and Sasha and just how there were so many of us. Sometimes it hurts so bad I can’t breathe. I can’t remember the last thing I said to you. I can’t remember the last thing I said to Maggie. Did I tell her I loved her before we lost the prison? Did I tell my Daddy I loved him before he died?
Are you dead now? Can you see this from heaven? I don’t think I’ll ever see you again, just like I won’t ever see Daddy or Mama or Shawn. I don’t remember getting shot, but I think this is what dying felt like.
Their bodies fall apart so much faster now. It makes them both easier and harder to fight. I miss your knife…well, I guess it was really my knife after two months of using it. I didn’t have it on me when they found me, so I hope that means you have it. Oh!!! I tracked something today without realizing! One of the people in my group pointed it out and asked me how I knew how to do that.
I said you taught me! He was pretty impressed, so I must be good.
We lost another person today and everyone’s tip-toeing around me because they think we were together. We kissed a few times and even hooked up, but most of the time we would tell each other stories after everyone else fell asleep and it was our turn to be on watch. He lost his girlfriend when everything started and even though it’s been years, he said he still missed her. He would cry sometimes when he talked about her, and I could never tell if the memories made him happy or sad.
I told him about you after we first hooked up because I felt so horrible. There I was having sex with him but I wasn’t even thinking of him. He said he already knew. He said he would never get physical with someone who could love him because he couldn’t ever love them back. I was so relieved and also really sad. We made a pretty pathetic pair.
I’m glad he can be with the one he loves now. I don’t think you’re dead yet, but if you are, send me a freaking sign, okay? I’ll stop trying so hard to stay alive.
We must have crossed into Virginia somewhere because we’re seeing a lot of signs to Baltimore and D.C. I can’t imagine how overrun they must be, so I’m glad we’re making sure not to get too close.
We came across the remains of a community today. Some guy was there looking through the remains and he pick-pocketed the guy who leads our small group now (Don) when he tried to talk to him. He got so red in the face, I couldn’t help but laugh. I think even you would have laughed. Despite the pick-pocketing, he’s staying at our camp for the night and I’m certain he’s going to rob us all blind. I kinda like him? He’s so different, but he reminds me of you. Maybe because I think your hair would be as long as his now. Maybe because I know you would really hate him.
I hope you haven’t let your beard get as long as his, though. If I see you and you look like a crazy man with hair all over the place like Rick or this thief, I’m coming at you with something sharp!!!
He definitely robbed us but he must have appreciated me giving him an old stick of gum I had saved in my bag because he left me alone. He said my scars were beautiful. It’s the first time anyone’s said something about them to my face. I forget they’re there because we don’t really have any mirrors. I wonder if I look really different now. I wonder if you’d even recognize me?
We’re hauling ass out of here now. Don is pretty pissed and wants to find that guy.
It’s so hard to have hope when I’ve been alone so long. I started humming while picking berries today and scared Angela half to death when I started crying so hard, I could barely speak. Took me a while to remember that it was me and Maggie’s favorite hymn. We would get so excited when we would see it up on the wall at church. Once I got myself under control I was so embarrassed. I’ve been with these people a long time but they’ve never seen me weak, not like I used to be. I don’t trust them like I trust our family, like I trust you.
None of the people that are still alive from the hospital remember a Maggie being with you guys, but I have to believe she’s with you. Everyone else is gone, but Maggie’s a fighter. She would stay alive just to say “I told you so.” You know how she is. Maybe her and Glenn finally had that baby. It’s been years and the walkers seem to be rotting faster every day, so it could be safer to have a baby, right? I bet you’re an uncle to their baby just like Judy. Thinking about it makes me sad and happy all at once.
I wish the world was different.
The thief is back. Don caught up to him and kinda took him hostage, which is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. I still have no idea why they let him be in charge. I found out his name, though. It’s Jesus, which I’m pretty sure isn’t his real name, but he at least looks the part.
He says that he has a big group and that we wouldn’t stand a chance. I don’t think he’s a liar. If Don doesn’t let him go, I’m going to help him escape. I worked too hard to get here only to be killed over a stupid man’s ego.
I’m going to ask him some questions, too. He mentioned a woman in his group that uses a sword, but that’s all he’s said. I know it’s so stupid and naive to get my hopes up because there were thousands of swords before this all happened and I’m sure there are other people that use them to fight off walkers but it can’t hurt to ask, right?
Wish me luck!
He knows you. His group is my family, our family. I’m shaking so bad I can barely write, but I have to get it out somewhere. We’re still a day’s walk away from where he says your community is. I know he could be messing with me, but how would he know all he does? He says Maggie’s alive and Glenn and Rick and Michonne and Carl and Judy and so many others! Some I know, some I don’t. More importantly, he says you’re alive.
He told me this crazy story about a truck full of supplies and how he first met you and Rick. My cheeks hurt I was smiling so wide and I didn’t even realize I was crying until he gave me a cloth to wipe my face. I know this sounds crazy, but I think it was yours. It kinda smelled like you? I
asked him but he just shrugged and got this weird look on his face, like I said something really funny. Maybe you can tell me about it later.
I’m so happy I could explode. I can’t believe I did it. I found all of you.
I found you.
Beth doesn’t say much when she arrives at Alexandria. She’s couldn’t get out the words if she tried because it’s a surreal experience, despite all she’s lived through. She’s glad she’s not alone, but Jesus must feel her tension. Must understand what’s about to happen because he mostly stays quiet, a small smile on his face as if he’s about to deliver one hell of a joke. Perhaps he is. He seems like the kind of man that would find this whole insane situation hilarious. He kept smiling when he insisted on fake-tying her up a mile back.
They’ll be less likely to shoot first and ask later if they think you’re a useful captive. That should have terrified her, but all it does is make her smile because it sounds like them. They walk up to the huge gate and by the time the metal noisily slides to the side, her nerves are so fried she’s
“I heard Michonne say she was going to beat the hell out of you if you brought in one mo—” The beautiful brunette that’s on the other side is mostly focused on Jesus as they’re revealed. Beth is pretty sure she’s never met her before, but she flinches and nearlys takes a step back when she gets a good look at Beth’s face. “Coño!”
Jesus laughs, even when the woman raises her gun to Beth’s face. “This isn’t fucking—TARA!— this isn’t funny. They’re going to kill you. This isn’t just another walker prank…you don’t understand what—”
Beth shoots her hysterical companion a dirty look. “Can you at least make sure she doesn’t shoot me in the head?”
The brunette’s grip on her weapon goes slack. Her whispered dios mio drowned out but Jesus’ low chuckle.
“Rosita?” Another woman appears and Beth guesses this must be Tara. Once she gets a look at the scene, her gun is out. Beth squints at her, wondering if she knows her and that’s why she seems so familiar. “What’s going on?”
“Go get Daryl.”
Rosita and Jesus speak at the same time and Tara’s eyebrows raise, looking between the two.
“Get everyone.” Rosita speaks up and drops her weapon completely. “Make sure Maggie comes too. Hurry.”
It’s a funny thing, watching people she knows but at the same time don’t recognize approach her. Maggie halts when she spots her, Glenn knocking hard into her shoulder as he looks at her with concern. She watches her mouth her name over and over—Beth Beth Beth—before it finally breaks through. Beth sucks in a harsh breath and moves forward, hands yanking through the thin rope Jesus loosely tied around her wrists until they’re free. She’s moving slowly but Maggie breaks out into a flat run, nearly slamming into her as she wraps her arms around her waist and shoulders.
She hasn’t cried in a while, but she can’t help it now. She remembers all the little things she had forgotten. The softness of her sister’s hair. How strong her hands are. The sharp slope of her shoulder.
She cries and hugs and kisses her family. Watches the way Michonne grasps Rick hand and remembers how she always used to think they’d be a good pair. Barely holds herself together when she spots an eyepatch wearing Carl and she has to get on her tiptoes to hug him because he’s so tall now. It doesn’t matter because she loses it once Judith waddles over to her and reaches her hands out to be held. When she meets a little girl that has her daddy’s smile and Glenn’s kind eyes, she cries even harder.
It’s exhausting, all this happiness, but it’s not perfect.
One look at Daryl Dixon and she knows, or rather, remembers. He isn’t crying, but when he wraps his arms around her, he’s trembling. When she imagined this moment, she thought she’d be enjoying it, but the line between fantasy and reality is suddenly so clear, it makes her face burn.
He squeezes her tight enough that she loses her breath, but then he’s gone, another in his place.
It takes her a few overwhelming hours to realize everyone is talking to her but him. She’s too distracted over the quiet humiliation of it, thinking she was coming home to some sort of lover. She’s been ushered into one of the bizarre, beautiful houses and the living room is positively crowded, but he’s nowhere in sight. They all have plenty of questions and she does her best to answer, but she’s careful. Careful not to confuse the strange picture she had built up in her mind with reality.
It’s Carol that notices her distress first and she’s more than happy to follow her up the stairs to her room to lay down. For the first time, she hopes she doesn’t dream of him.
After a few weeks, her injured pride slowly mends itself. She considers burning her diaries, but they’re the only thing she has that prove everything she went through is real. On particularly hard days, she goes back to that first book and thumbs through the first few pages of squiggles and random words. She silently wonders what she was trying to say, what she was trying to immortalize on the pages during some of the most painful and difficult months of her life. It used to bring her such grief, knowing she would never recover parts of herself, but the black and gray pages now remind her of how far she’s come.
Her relationship with Daryl is a strange one. They have a very obvious familiarity with one another, despite the years apart and the fact they don’t really interact all that often. It’s a surprise when he drops off a few books for her one day. She thought that he’s been avoiding her or thought she was annoying or maybe he found her scars too hard to look at. Yet, the books say he’s listening.
They mean he’s been watching her closer than she thought.