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Whistling Dixie

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Dixie-Lee Hayes lay on the ground gasping for breath, scowling at the tree above her. That very particular tree, which she had been previously occupying, was the dark-haired woman's favorite because it grew at an angle and required very little effort to climb. The branches of the surrounding trees were full enough to shade the area but not to obstruct her view of the camp, making it the perfect area for her to people watch after she had finished her chores. The tree was steep enough that no walker would have had enough balance to climb and covered enough that anyone from the group would have to actively look for her in order to see her, giving her the perfect false sense of security.

Dixie normally had no problem staying in the tree, even when falling asleep. But in her defense, she didn't normally need to worry about alarms roaring directly below her.

After regaining her breath Dixie slowly sat up, flinching at the pressure she put on her right wrist. She looked down at her arm and let out a groan as she saw the blood already flowing from a rather large scrape along her forearm. Quickly looking over herself for any other injuries, noting the blood seeping through the now torn fabric jean fabric covering her right knee.

"Great now I’m gonna halfta ask for some bandages," Dixie grumbled to herself. She slowly got to her feet and started to limp towards the main part of camp. "Maybe I can sneak my tent and use one of my ruined shirts as a bandage. It not bad enough to waste supplies we might need in the future."

"I'm not arguing. I'm just saying." Dixie stumbled into the opening of the camp and saw the young Asian man stood by the Red muscle car, looking like he was getting a lecture from the two patriarchs of the group. "It wouldn't hurt you to think things through a little more carefully next time, would it?" The eldest in the group, Dale, continued scolding.

“Sorry,” Glenn replied in a melancholy voice. He paused for a moment before optimistically added, “Got a cool car.” He was met with a mixture of groans from the two men and a breathy chuckle from Dixie as she neared the car.

“Shit baby girl, are you al’right?” Shane, the pseudo leader of the group, shouted bringing the growing collection of people’s attention onto Dixie as she limped closer to the commotion.

She tilted her and very slightly scrunched up her eyes, ‘I'm limpin’ and half covered in blood, what the hell do you think,’ inwardly sneering at the pet name. Taking a breath, she responded, “Well I’m upright and still breathin’,” in a slightly cheerful voice that did not at all match her sarcastic thoughts. 

“What the hell happened?” Shane asked, now taking steps towards her. Dixie took a step back, shrinking away from Shane as he approached. She shifted her weight to her left foot turned slightly so that her right side was out of everyone’s line of sight and snaked her left arm across her body, resting it on her right arm.

“N-nothin’, I just lost my balance.” She stammered, uncomfortable with the officer’s approach. The rumbling of a large car’s engine stopped Shane in his tracks. Shane and Dixie looked in the direction of the road to camp along with Glenn, Dale, and the other nine or so survivors.

Glenn was smiling while the others looked on anxiously, wondering who made it back from the supply run to Atlanta alive. Soon a white and read Ferenc Builders truck came rolling up the pathway coming to a stop right behind T-Dog’s Holy Cross Lutheran Church van at the entrance. Dixie could see Morales in the front passenger seat along with a man she didn’t recognize.

There was no way the group would let Merle Dixon drive, even if they were desperate. Besides, the man in the front seat was too thin to be Merle or T-Dog. His physique, though slim, was masculine, obviously ruling out Andrea and Jacqui.

Morales exited the truck and made his way towards his wife and two kids who had been waiting anxiously for his return. He gathered his children into his arms and greeted his wife with a kiss as Andrea exited the vehicle excitedly calling out her sister’s name, “Amy!” Jacqui and T-Dog followed Andrea out and greeted the group sharing in the merriment of their return.

Dixie was slowly backing away from Shane who had yet to move from his spot close to her and retreated towards her tent near the edge of the camp. She passed a tall brunet comforting her son Carl who looked like he was about to cry. Dixie felt sorry for the boy, his mother Lori told her that his father passed away in a coma when the outbreak started. Dixie remembered feeling horrible for thinking that the man was lucky that he didn’t have to endure this hell. Sure, there options to escape reality, drugs, giving in and letting one of the walkers bite her, or even the bittersweet release of death that came from the cold barrel of her scavenged Beretta 92FS. She could never do it, though. She didn’t know if she was just too soft, or if she hadn’t felt desperate enough to pull the trigger, either way, she was still here.

Dixie had almost made it to her tent when she heard Carl shout, curiosity getting the best of her, and turned around. “Dad, Dad!” Carl ran into the arms of a tall man with brown hair wearing the same tan and brown sheriff’s uniform Shane had been wearing, promenading around to give the fake atmosphere of superiority he so desperately craved. That is until she accidentally got blood all over it. The brown-haired man crouched down to meet Carl, crumbling onto the ground with his arms wrapped tightly around his son before easily picking up the boy and walking over to his stunned wife. Dixie could feel tears in her eyes, looking at the man and his son.

Dixie frowned at the sight of Lori timidly wrapping her arms around the two. It took all of three seconds for Lori to lose interest in her husband, to give a pointed glance at her lover. ‘Instead of relishing in the fact that the father of her son is alive,’ she thought with a wicked feeling in her stomach as she entered her tent, ‘Lori looks like a Jezebel about to be caught in her wicked deeds.’

Dixie sat in her tent ripping up an old shirt that had been worn out well before the dead started to come back to life. She folded and stacked the makeshift bandages next to a small travel sized bottle of soap and looked for a hand towel. Seeing the dark red cloth grabbed it and wiped away the blood that was running down her arm and knee. She had changed into her only clean pair of pants, light blue jean shorts with the front fabric dyed to look like the American Flag. She hated these shorts because they were too short by her standards. She only kept them because they were a gift from her mother, an attempt at mother-daughter bonding.

She gathered up her makeshift bandages, the soap, the towel, and her freshly bloodstained jeans in her left hand and made her way down the quarry to the lake. As she traveled down the pathway, she found her right hand resting on her Beretta, a habit that had developed a short time before she arrived at camp.

Before all this started, she had never once thought of owning a gun. Despite growing up near the mountains of Georgia, she had never really embraced the mountain mindset. Her family certainly didn’t raise her to hunt; she thought as descended towards the body of water, absent-mindedly chassé-ing every now and then. She missed the days when she could just dance around care free, not having to worry about anything or anyone.

When she made it down to the lake, she sat her things on the near the edge and slowly waded into the water, dipping her sore leg and arm into the surprisingly tepid water. She grabbed the soap next and squeezed a little out before closing the lid and placing it back next to her soiled pants. She lathered her arm doing the best she could not to irritate it further but making sure to clean it thoroughly. The stinging didn’t bother her as much as the now pulsating warmth coming from the wounds.

“I knew it, only scrapes,” Dixie said out loud. “Next time I fall asleep in the damn trees I’ll drag my sleepin’ bag under for a cushion.” She gave an exasperated sigh. “I swear if I get cholera from this I'm fuckin’ done.” She paused her ramblings to rinse off her arm and leg, appreciating the feeling of the water washing away the soap from the scraps. “I need to make sure this stays dry. I don’t want to take any antibiotics away from someone who might need it later.” She patted down the torn flesh with the clean part of her bloody towel. “The rate of death from infection before modern medicine was what 15%? No that seems too high. It was definitely more than ten but not as high as 15.” She sat on the shoreline in frustration and made a grab for the torn cloth fragments, swiftly wrapping her injuries.

“At least I can use one skill from before.” Wrapping injuries was no new task for Dixie; she had been certified in CPR and First Aid every two years since she was 10. Making quick work of dipping the bloody knee of her jeans in the water and scrubbing it as clean as she could with the soap, she was soon gathering up her belongings in her left hand and making her way back up to the camp. 

Dixie was lost in thought as she ascended the quarry path, busy mumbling to herself about historical death rates and diseases. “Got it!” She had broken the silence that came along with the long walk up to camp, “1 in 7 died from TB and 11% from infection!” She yelled smiling to herself. She turned on her left foot in quick celebration before continuing back up the pathway. She took her first step out of her pirouette and immediately smacked into a hard object throwing her off balance, causing her to drop everything she brought with her, save the gun strapped to her leg.

Dixie’s heart raced as a warm hand wrapped around her right forearm, saving her from a plummet down the pathway. She looked up at the person the hand belonged to and saw the slightly concerned face of the new survivor Morales brought back into camp. He was speaking to her, but Dixie couldn’t register anything. The only thing that she could think of was to run. Running away from the man who helped her was currently her only reason for existing. Her breathing was getting heavier and black dots invade her vision as she stood there with her arm in this man’s hand.

Acting purely on instinct Dixie ripped her arm away from the man, muttered a quick I'm sorry and ran as fast as she could back to her tent. She ran like her life depended on it, blowing past everyone at the campground, she made it to the front of her tent. Dixie stood there fumbling with the zipper at the entrance, feeling the expansive forest closing in around her. After several minute-long seconds, she finally opened her tent just enough to slip in and then abruptly zipped it up. She clumsily piled everything save for a jacket on the ground and her sleeping bag in front of the entrance and clambered into the farthest corner of her tent. She crouched down into the tightest ball she could and pressed herself against the boulder that lay against the back wall of her tent. She pulled the sleeping bag over herself, making sure that her head was completely covered, and just sat there.

No matter what she did, she couldn’t calm herself down. Every sound was amplified. Her heart still hammering 200 times a minute echoed in her ears, pounding against her skull. Her hands and feet became clammy despite the bone chilling cold she felt seeping into her, freezing her. She felt ashamed of her actions, scared of what the new man might do now that he saw her in this vulnerable state. Terrified of what Shane or Ed might do if they realized the crippling agony she was feeling. She was slowly sinking into the roaring sounds of life wishing that it would just stop. She just wanted the noises to stop.

Her body ached from her shivering, her mind fuzzy, her breath escaping her attempts to fill her chest; the ever-present gloom of needing to escape but knowing that there was no safe place left. She had long ago thrown her gun away from her side, terrified that her actions would take on a life of their own. She felt guilty that the man who had only wanted to save her caused this response. The pure intent that kept her from falling sent her spiraling down into a hell she couldn’t escape. She felt stupid. She felt weak.

Dixie felt worthless.

Chapter Text

Dixie woke up disoriented with a pounding headache and an ache that radiated throughout her chest. The sun filtered through the beige walls of her tent signaling that she had overslept. Slowly she sat up, using her right arm as leverage. Flinching from the familiar sting of healing skin being stretched to its splitting point she looked down at the damage she had sustained last night. The scraps of cloth that barely passed as a bandage were still there permanently stained beige color.

The pain jolted Dixie out of her morning grog. She sat up, switching her weight to her left hand, and pulled her left leg close to her chest and rested her chin on her uninjured knee. She massaged her temples with her right hand being careful not to move it more than was necessary.

“Shit,” Dixie groaned at the memories rushing back to her from last night. “Musta passed out.”

With fear being ever present, but manageable, in the back of her mind since the start of the outbreak, she was surprised that this was the first anxiety attack she had suffered. Dixie had become accustomed to hiding it since Dale, Andrea, and Amy found her almost a month ago.

Looking around the room, Dixie frowned at the mess she made while barricading the entrance to her tent. “Real smart there Dixie. What the fuck was that gonna to do against a threat,” she criticized. She made quick work of reorganizing her belongings into neat piles, ready to grab if she needed to make a break for it. She was feeling nauseous again, so she decided to forgo her usual protein bar that she had for breakfast most mornings. Placing a bag with a pile of clothes to clean next to the door, she holstered her Barretta strapped a knife to her belt and exited her tent.

 Dixie looked around camp, holding her uninjured arm in front of her eyes to block out the sun. She noticed the new guy talking to Carol Peletier, one of the only people in camp that Dixie didn’t mind talking to, who was currently hanging out his uniform to dry. ‘Well, I better apologize to the new guy,’ She thought as she saw the man nod his head at Carol in thanks before taking his leave.

Dred filled her stomach as she saw the officer notice her. She took a deep breath and walked, albeit shakily, over to him. The man seeming to mirror her actions started towards her. His long legs were making his trip a great deal shorter than hers. They stood in front of each other, neither party speaking. They were both sizing each other up. He towered over her 5’3 frame. However, he wasn’t as intimidating as she thought he would be. She noticed his brown hair as way too messy for just sleeping. His sky-blue eyes that matched Carl’s perfectly shown with mild curiosity. ‘What’s up with the blue eyes in this camp,’ Dixie thought. His arms laid down next to his sides with his palms slightly facing her. His stance was neutral and non-threatening, allowing Dixie to lower her guard slightly.

Dixie stood in her usual closed off position, left arm crossed her body to rest upon the right. The fingers of her right hand stuffed into her pocket next to her gun in case she needed to draw it quickly without seeming like she perceived everyone as a threat. She looked down towards her feet for a moment before opening her mouth, “I-I’m sorry about l-last night.” She finally said. Mentally cursing her newly developed stammer.

Seemingly taken aback, the man just stood there looking at her for a second. “You have nothin’ to apologize for ma'am. I startled you,” he replied. His voice was low-pitched and smooth. She could hear the familiar Georgian drawl she grew up around. “The names Rick Grimes.” He extended his right hand. Dixie stared at it for a few seconds before slowly taking her hand and grasping his as tightly as she could muster. He seemed friendly now, but she wanted to show him that she wasn’t as week as she appeared last night.

“Dixie-Lee Hayes,” she replied, dropping into her old teaching persona. She instantly transformed. Her posture straightened and her stance widened slightly. Her voice dropped her previously timid cadence. “And please, I ran away from you like a lunatic after you saved me from fallin’ down that stupid hill.” She dropped his hand. “Thought you were a walker at first,” she lied effortlessly.

“I guess I should be grateful your first instinct wasn’t to shoot me,” Rick replied looking down at the holster that held her gun.

“Even if I did go for it, you would probably be fine,” she shrugged. “I have terrible aim.” She was suddenly relieved that her flight instinct kicked last night.

“You haven’t used it before?” he asked curiously.

“Before all this, absolutely not. Guns were never a family favorite, despite livin’ near the edge of a forest,” she said with a bittersweet smile on her face. I’ve had to use it a few times before I met up with Dale, Andrea, and Amy, but not since.” She unclasped the holster and grabbed her Barretta 92FS to show him. “I only have seven rounds left.”

“If you don’t mind me sayin’, that’s a big gun for a lady,” he said eyeing the handgun in appreciation. The silver barrel gleamed in the sunlight and the custom grip ironically matched her American flag shorts.

“The kickback is a bitc-,” she stopped herself and cleared her throat, “bit much.” She rubbed the back of her neck in embarrassment as he chuckled. “I had to take it off a corpse.” She holstered the gun before continuing, “It only had 14 bullets when I found it.” Her tone softened out of respect knowing the owner decided this world wasn’t meant for him. 

“Was that the first time you saw a dead body,” Rick asked, mimicking her tone.

She shook her head. “I saw my family die day after day when this all started. But that’s a story for a different time.” She looked away from the officer in front of her and spotted Glenn standing by his new toy, while Dale and Jim looked like they were messing around with the engine and Morales took off a tire. 

As if sensing her stare, Glenn turned his attention away from the older men. He looked at her like someone just shit on his birthday cake. Snickering at his expression, Dixie looked to Rick and then motioned with her head over to Glenn. Nodding his head, two made their way over to the sullen man.

Dixie liked Glenn. He was one of the three, well now four, men in camp that didn’t make her want to hide away from the world.

Dixie and Rick stood next to a mumbling Glenn.

“Look at 'em. Vultures,” Glenn spat. “Yeah, go on, strip it clean.” Glen sounded so disappointed.

Dale walked by Glenn with a red gas canister in his hand. “Generators need every drop of fuel they can get. Got no power without it.” Dale gave Glen a light pat on the shoulder before continuing on his way, “Sorry, Glenn.” If Dixie didn’t know better, she’d say that Dale was enjoying Glenn’s misery. Jim, on the other hand, made no attempts in hiding his satisfaction as he ripped something out of the engine.

“You doin’ alright there Glenn?” she asked as she and Rick stopped by Glenn.

“Thought I'd get to drive it at least a few more days.” He lamented. Glenn, Amy, and herself were all around the same age so she could understand his desire for the nonessentials more than the others.

“Maybe we'll get to steal another one someday.” Rick put a comforting hand on his shoulder before walking over to greet Lori.

“It really was a cool car,” Dixie told him with a smile.

“Yeah, it was,” Glen responded, and the two made their way towards the campfire. “So, I heard an interesting story from Rick last night,” he said changing the subject. “I have to ask, why do you know the death rates for diseases that haven’t killed anyone since the 1800’s?”

Dixie looked away slightly embarrassed, “First, the TB vaccine wasn’t invented until 1940, so a lot of people have died from Tuberculosis since the 1800’s. Besides TB still, affects millions around the globe who don’t have access to the drugs. Second, we should know these things since there aren’t any hospitals left.” She looked at him for a response and saw none, so she continued. “What we really need to do is look through libraries and bookstores. Find some books on architecture, construction, plumbin’, and most importantly agriculture.”

“Next time I’m in the city, I’ll keep my eyes out for a Barnes and Noble.” Glen teased.

“Don’t go out of your way for them in Atlanta. That city is too dangerous for any-” The sound of screams cut her off.

Dixie and Glenn took off running towards the sound, Lori, Rick, and Shane right behind them. Dixie was faster and soon pulled ahead of the other four survivors. She made her way into a small clearing a short distance away from camp. She looked around for the source of the screams and found Carl and Sophia standing behind a walker who was feasting upon a deer with three familiar green and orange arrows sticking out of it.

Without hesitation Dixie stepped between the kids and the monster, drawing her knife instead of her Barretta. “Carl, Sophia, go find your parents now,” her tone gave no room for arguments, and with a little push in the right direction, the kids were off.

“Carl!” Rick called out, followed by Lori’s screams, “Carl! Baby!”

“Over here,” She called out, not taking her eyes off the thing in front of her, the noise slightly registering to the geek still happily munching on his treat. “Kids back up, now!”

Glenn and Shane bust through the clearing followed by Rick and some other men from camp. The group stood staring at the walker crouched over its meal. Its skin was sickly gray, chunks of hair were missing. With the addition of Amy and Andrea entering the clearing, and the men circling the beast, the walker finally decided to find out what the noise was about.

The walker stood, and Dixie saw the hazy dead look in its eyes. It started shambling towards her only making it a quarter of the way. The men charged it, beating it senselessly with their weapons. Dixie slid her knife back in its sheath as Dale decapitated the thing with an ax.

Dixie hadn’t taken her eyes off the thing until she was sure it wouldn’t be walking around. She walked over to the deer carcass to examine the arrows sticking out of it. She heard Dale say something akin to, “it’s the first one we've had up here. They never come this far up the mountain.”

“Well, they're runnin’ out a' food in the city, that's what,” Jim explained. She looked over at the remains of the walker and saw that its head was still intact. With a roll of her eyes, she placed a foot near the arrow that pierced the deer’s side. “Dixie-Lee, the hell are you doin’?” Shane demanded. Instead of answering him she grabbed the shaft of the arrow and pulled straight up, dislodging it from the animal’s side. The bolt slid out with a sickening squelch that caused Andrea and Amy to groan. She held it horizontal if front of her face. ‘Where’s Daryl?’ she asked herself.

Still ignoring Shane’s question, Dixie stepped towards the head. She was stopped in her tracks about a foot away from the lump by the crunching of leaves and the snap of twigs. Shane reached out to Dixie to pull her behind him. She tore her arm away stepping closer to the walker's head, feeling more comfortable there than next to the self-appointed leader of the group.

The rustling continued until a man came strolling out of the woods with a crossbow in his hands. “Oh Jesus,” Dixie heard from one of the men. Daryl Dixon emerged from the forest and looked around at everyone confused for a moment before spotting his tainted prey.  “Son of a bitch. That's my deer!”

The group began to back up towards camp. Rick only retreating slightly looked at the man curiously. Daryl made his way up to the dead body, “Look at it. All gnawed on by this, filthy” He paused and delivered a swift kick to the walker’s side, “disease-bearin’,” kick, “motherless,” kick, “poxy bastard!”

“Calm down, son,” Dale interjected, “That's not helpin’.”

Daryl stepped around the body to get to Dale. “What do you know about it, old man?” he asked accusingly. Shane raised his shotgun up slightly to block Daryl from getting too close to Dale.  “Why don't you take that stupid hat and go back to "On Golden Pond?"” Dixie sniggered quietly to herself and received glares from all but Daryl.

He sighed and before returning to the deer and started removing the arrows lodged in its hide. “I've been trackin’ this deer for miles.”

Daryl looked at the hole where the third arrow should have been. Confused when he didn’t find it lodged in the deer like the other two. He looked around in search of the arrow until his eyes stopped on the usually shy woman just to the left of Shane. He cocked his head to the side in question to which she just shrugged her shoulders.

“Gonna drag it back to camp, cook us up some venison.” Dixie’s mouth watered at his words. She longed for a piece of meat that wasn’t from a can. “What do ya think? Do you think we can cut around this chewed up part right here?”

Shane had changed his stance, trying to look tough. He put his shotgun on his shoulders and rested his wrists on top of it like some apocalypse scarecrow. “I would not risk that.” He said condescendingly.

“That's a damn shame.” Dixie could hear the disappointment in Daryl’s voice. “I got some squirrel… about a dozen or so. That'll have to do.”

Suddenly the unattached head opened its mouth and eyes next to Dixie. A sound started to protrude from its mouth stunning Dixie for a second. “How the hell, is it moanin’ without any lungs or a diaphragm?” She asked. Her question ignored by everyone. She grew more annoyed with this head by the second.

“Come on, people. What the hell?” Daryl asked the group. His voice took on the same patronizing tone Shane’s had just a second ago. Her patients with the head reached its peak as it wiggled itself around with its jaw, trying to get closer to her.

“Oh, fuck the hell off,” Dixie enjoined to both the head and Daryl as she stabbed the skull directly through its eye socket with the arrow she was holding. She walked off leaving the group to stare at her retreating figure.

“It's gotta be the brain. Don't y'all know nothin’?” Daryl stated, still eyeing Dixie as she unintentionally strutted away.

“She is how old again?” Shane asked the group, “Because I wouldn’t mind some of that every night.”

Daryl adjusted his grip of the belt of squirrels he had hanging over his shoulder, at the comment. Despite what it may seem, Daryl hated that kind of talk about women. Even though he didn’t have an excellent role model as a kid, he still grew a strong respect for women; especially those who could take care of themselves like Dixie seemed to. Hell, the only reason he put up with Merle’s comments, was because he was his brother.

Merle tried to call her sugar tits once, and he was met with a slap in the face and a five-minute screaming lecture. Apparently, after she was done screaming at him, they actually had a civil conversation resulting in Merle naming her Twinkle Toes.

The group kept staring in Dixie’s direction, some stunned that she used that kind of language, other’s stunned they had actually heard her talk, and a few thinking how good she looked from behind. Whatever the reason was they stayed dumbfounded until she couldn’t be seen through the thicket. “Too bad she hates you, Shane,” Glenn quipped being the first one to follow after the girl. The group laughed at the joke and followed suit leaving Shane standing there alone.

Chapter Text

Glenn eventually caught up to Dixie and took hold of her wrist, “hey is there something going on with you?”

She pulled her wrist out of his grasp but didn’t back away or flinch like she normally would nowadays. Looking at Glenn, she sighed at the concerned look he was giving her. “I’m just tired, and I might be comin’ down with somethin’,” she explained while motioning for them to continue walking.

“Are you sure that’s all?” he pressed. “It’s just, I’ve never heard you say anything like that to someone before.” They reached the edge of the forest that hid their little bubble of safety.

“I usually try not to direct that kind of language at other people, but sometimes I just lose it.” She explained, “Thought I had a pretty good grip on it too since I couldn’t cuss in front of my kids.”

Glenn looked at her curiously and opened his mouth to ask another question when a rugged voice echoed throughout camp. “Merle!” Daryl’s called out. “Merle! Get your ugly ass out here!”

Dixie hadn’t seen Merle anywhere near camp that morning, which was odd. Unless he was out with Daryl hunting, he’d be by his tent pretending to be busy or out in the forest getting high.

“I got us some squirrel! Let's stew 'em up.” Daryl continued to call out to his brother who wasn’t answering.

“Hey Glenn,” Dixie tapped his arm lightly with her elbow to rip his attention away from Daryl. “Where is Merle? I haven’t seen him around camp.”

Glenn looked at her wide-eyed and slightly guilty, “you mean you don’t know.”

“Don’t know what?” She asked in confusion. The look on Glenn’s face had dropped into a full-on frown, something that she wasn’t used to seeing on the typically optimistic man. “Glenn, what happened.” Her voice took on a bitter undertone.

“Daryl, just slow up a bit.” Shane’s call directed Dixie’s attention back to the hunter. “I need to talk to you.” Dixie stepped closer to the two, curiosity trumping the manners her mother taught her.

“’Bout what?” Daryl asked impatiently. It wasn’t a secret that Daryl, like his brother, didn’t like Shane. So, when the cop said that he needed to talk, Daryl knew nothing good could come of it.

“About Merle,” Shane said as he came to a stop right outside Dale’s RV and the group of ladies in front of it.

Dixie’s blood ran cold. Merle was dead. Merle was dead, and Shane was going to tell Daryl right in front of everyone. ‘How the fuck does that asshole think this’ll end well? I’d never want to to be told somethin’ like this in front of people, and Daryl’s shyer than I am.’ She looked around at the crowd gathering to see the show, and it sickened her.

“There was a…” Shane hesitated, trying to find the right words. “Shane!” Dixie walked over to the pair and put her hand on Shane’s shoulder. As much as it sickened her to be willingly close to Shane, she thought for some reason that sparing Daryl was worth it.

“With all due respect, maybe whatever y’all need to tell him should be done in private. Not in front of a bunch of people who don’t know how to mind their own business.” She instantly regretted her words. “Sorry that came out wrong,” She apologized to the group outside the RV. “I honestly didn’t mean to offend.” Her once strong voice lost some of its command.

“Now’s as good a time as any baby girl,” Shane said back to her. She looked at Daryl and saw his gaze focused on the hand that she had on Shane’s shoulder. She quickly removed it and stepped away from the pair to take a spot on the far side of the RV, still in earshot but away from judgmental eyes.

“What ‘bout Merle?” Daryl’s voice was harsher than before.

“There was a problem in Atlanta.”

The air was buzzing with anticipation. Waiting to see how the brash Georgian would do. Daryl looked around at the crowd that was closing in, most of them with pity on their faces.

“He dead?” Daryl didn’t beat around the bush. “We're not sure,” Shane replied. Dixie whipped her head around to look at Glenn who avoided her gaze.

“He either is or he ain't!” Daryl yelled and started pacing, looking like one of the animals he hunted.

“No easy way to say this,” Rick stepped out of the crowd closer to the two, “so I'll just say it.”

“Who are you,” Daryl spat. He sensed the unfamiliar man as a threat.

“Rick Grimes.”

“Rick Grimes,” Daryl repeated with enough venom to make a cobra flinch. He looked over to Lori and Carl then back to Rick. Daryl was able to make the connection immediately. “You got somethin’ you want to tell me?”

Rick took a breath, “Your brother was a danger to us all, so I handcuffed him on a roof, hooked him to a piece of metal. He's still there.” Dixie covered her mouth and put a hand on her stomach. She turned away from the scene and would have vomited if she had eaten anything in the last 24 hours. 

“Hold on. Let me process this.” She turned back to the scene in time to see Daryl turn away from the majority of the crowd and rub his face. His attempt to inconspicuously wipe away tears that had formed in his eyes broke Dixie’s heart. He turned around, and his pacing became more unpredictable. “You're sayin’ you handcuffed my brother to a roof” Daryl’s voice became louder with each word, “and you left ‘im there?!” His voice raw with emotion.

“Yeah.” To Ricks credit, he stood there and owned up to his mistake.

Daryl took a step back, his breathing becoming more erratic. He was fighting to keep the tears out of his eyes. Dixie wanted to go over to him, to comfort him in some way. She took a step towards Daryl before stopping herself. ‘What am I doing?’ She thought as she looked on at the scene.

Suddenly Daryl launched his belt of squirrels at Rick and lunged. The officer ducked under the furry bundle and braced himself for the inevitable hit. Sensing the threat to his friend, Shane leaped into action. He quickly intercepted Daryl and brought him to the ground before he could get anywhere near Rick.

“Hey!” T-Dog yelled and dropped the bundle of firewood he was holding to join the fight. Dixie saw Daryl break free of Shane and quickly got to his feet while reaching his hand towards the weapons on his belt. “Watch the knife!” She heard someone yell in the background. She looked at Daryl’s hand and saw the large hunting knife gripped painfully tight in his grasp.

Daryl struck out towards Rick who skillfully dodged the knife. Daryl swung the weapon again with similar results. Taking advantage of an opening, Rick ducked under the arm that held the blade and braced himself against Daryl’s shoulder. Daryl couldn’t reach Rick with the knife anymore and struggled against the grip surrounding his upper body. His struggling left him open to Shane who quickly wrapped his arm around Daryl’s neck, bringing the hunter to the ground once again, only this time he wasn’t letting go.

Shane had a firm grip around Daryl’s neck, the latter struggling to breathe. This situation was painfully familiar to Dixie was doing all she could to keep her breathing steady.

Rick was able to knock the knife away from Daryl’s grasp as Shane kept his grip on Daryl. “You best let me go!” Daryl shouted.

Dixie heard a feminine voice in the back of her head as her world began to darken.

“Let me go!” A young woman screamed as loud as she could with the masculine arm securely around her neck.

“Nah, I think it's better if I don't,” Shane’s voice alight with condescension. His grip around Daryl’s neck tightened as Daryl struggled against him.

“Choke hold's illegal,” Daryl pointed out, trying to appeal to the cop’s previous code. Daryl’s struggles lessened as the need for oxygen increased. Dixie looked at the scene with tears in her eyes, further blurring her already darkening vision.

“You can file a complaint,” sarcasm seeping out of every word Shane said. “Come on, man. We'll keep this up all day.”

Dixie was in the forest hiding out with the others after the initial outbreak. Suddenly she could feel His weight on top of her, pressing her further into the ground. One of his arms was placed firmly around her neck while the other held her hands behind her back. She could hear the screams and shouts of her group mates in the background. 

“Don’t worry, your next.” He whispered in her ear. She struggled against his massive form, desperately moving any part of her body that could shift his weight off of her. “You keep wiggling like that baby girl and your time will come sooner than you think.”

The man shifted his weight off of her hips, trapping her hands between his chest and her back. His now free hand snaked his way under her distressed body, her whimpers only serving to excite him. “Baby girl, we’ll keep this up all day,” His hand plunged their way past the waistband of her jeans and continued further. She thrashed and cried when he reached his destination, but her screams were just met with laughter. 

“Stop” she whispered as tears streamed down her face. Shane’s grip tightened despite the lack of a struggle coming from his captive. “Stop, please!” she yelled. Her voice cracked as she screamed for Shane to let Daryl go, her memories still buzzing around in her head. “Just let him go, please.” It took everything she had to keep standing there. She squeezed her eyes shut and clutched at her ears, the sounds of nature intermingling with the voices of her past.

“Dixie…” She slumped against the RV, not sure where the voice came from.

“Please just let him up,” She begged again, her voice sounding broken, breaking the hearts of many of the survivors around her. This person was completely different than the individual who had just impaled a walker skull with an arrow not even ten minutes ago. This girl was damaged, beat down by a past that she never spoke about.

“Baby girl…” She heard Shane call out to her. That was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Dixie ran. 

Chapter Text

The sun was high in the sky, and Dixie had lost track of how long she had been down by the lake. The young woman had spent the better part of the morning trying to suppress the memories swirling around in her head, curled up as tight as possible repeating the phrase, “Don’t think about ‘im, you’re safe here.”

The sun was now high overhead, and Dixie had finally calmed down from the frantic mess she was had been only hours before. She looked out over the bright blue surface, tiny waves danced across the glossy surface. The light breeze in the air provided her some relief from the scorching sun. ‘It’s so peaceful here,’ she thought as she took off her boots and socks and waded her feet into the pleasantly cool water. ‘You can almost forget how fucked up the world had become.’

She sat there contemplating the life she had lived before the world went to shit. She thought back on her job, ‘I didn’t even get to finish the semester before all this started.’ A wave of sadness washed over her as she thought about her coworkers. Though Dixie hadn’t been there long, she had managed to make friends with some of her colleagues, a feat that had not been easy for the short brunet. ‘Doesn’t matter now. They’re probably all dead.

She remembered her family; her sister Mary-Anne’s smiling face, how Annie and their brother Taylor would have conversations without saying a word to each other, their mother watching Dixie’s dance lessons, while their father was doing work in his office with the door open so he could still watch and be a part of the family. She couldn’t stop the tears if she wanted to. “They were still here a month ago.” She sobbed loudly, angry that the world could be so cruel. Angry that God had to violently take away the only family she had left.

The skirmish that had happened that morning brought all those memories Dixie had tried so hard to repress flooding back into the forefront of her mind. She could still hear Annie’s horrified screams as she was thrown to the ground; her father’s angry shouts as he was helpless to protect his little girls in this new world.

Dixie was lost deep in her mind. “Dixie?” she shot up from the ground and her body whipped around her right hand had instinctively reached down for the Barretta strapped to her leg. She bent her legs in a slight plié prepared to run if she needed to. She chastised herself for being so trapped in her own world that she didn’t hear the shoes crunching across the rocky shoreline towards her until it was too late. “Dixie it’s Carol,” A soft motherly tone called out tentatively.

Dixie released the tension in her body but left her hand resting on the holster of the gun. “Are you okay?” Carol asked.

Dixie let out a shaky breath and replied, “Yeah Carol, 'm fine.” she mumbled and turned back to the water. She already missed the sound of silence that allowed her to pretend that the world hadn’t gone to shit. 

“Well I know that’s a lie,” Carol stated with a sad smile. No one was ever alright when they said they were fine, she had just hoped Carol wouldn’t notice. ‘Great,’ Dixie groaned in her mind.

She crouched down and grabbed a relatively flat rock from the shoreline. She kept her gaze on the water while fidgeting with the stone, needing the distraction. She felt its smooth surface, twisting it around in her hands. “Don’t wanna talk about it,” she informed the older woman, still gazing at the calm blue water.

“Well,” Carol took a seat beside her, “we don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to. But I think you do need to talk,” she counseled.

“You ain’t gonna drop this, are you,” she sighed. Carol shook her head, “Nope. Sorry, sweetie.” Carol put a hand on the younger woman’s shoulder. Dixie had to fight off the urge to brush her hand away. 

All she wanted was to be left alone so she could sort through her thoughts. After her anxiety attack yesterday, and whatever the hell happened earlier, she wanted to piece together what the hell happened these last 24 hours to make her reactions so wonky.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t need or want anyone tryin’ to psychoanalyze me, Carol.” Dixie already knew that she had an issue expressing her feelings. Talking about what happened before would ultimately break her newly gained composure. She certainly didn’t need to give any more reasons for the people here to think that she was a weak little girl in need of rescuing. She had already done enough to warrant that image of her without everyone knowing about the attack on her previous group.

“That’s not what I’m trying to do!” Carol reassured. “I just know that everyone needs to talk sometimes.”

“Fine, what do you want to talk about?” she asked, wanting to get this conversation over with. she put her feet back into the cool water as she waited for her answer. 

“That’s up to you. I don’t want to make you more uncomfortable than you already are.” Carol’s gentle voice was the only indication that the woman was genuine in her sentiments.

“Well I'm sorry I have to tell you this, but I don’t interact well with people. I’m not a very good conversationalist,” Dixie told her. She would have liked to say that this unfortunate character trait was a product of circumstance, but I’ve been this socially awkward since she was in middle school.

As a kid, Dixie was a happy child despite the unfortunate first years of her life. She was taken from a negligent, abusive home when she was only a year old and adopted by a wonderful family. She grew up with love and shelter, a direct contrast to her previous family. Her mother kept her in dance classes throughout her childhood, her father kept the family clothed and fed, her brother and sister would spend time with me despite our age differences. Her parents provided me every advantage they could to make sure she could succeed, but it was never enough.

Dixie felt that she was never as intelligent as her brother, never as felicitous as her sister, facts that her mother would point out every time grades came home, or a school dance was announced. She knew that she didn’t mean to do harm, but being compared to your siblings, especially when you came from a different family like she did, left her feeling inadequate. When she was a child, she had an impediment, which turned me into an unintentional Elmer Fudd impersonator. Even after she fixed her speech she would and still do fumble her words or over clarify ideas when talking to others.

Her performance in school up until her junior year of college left much to be desired. Despite outstanding grades on all her research papers and her Praxis scores, she felt as though she never had enough knowledge to comfortably talk about a subject. She felt like others had more knowledge of issues because they got a better grade on their tests. Hell, she had a master’s degree in ancient Roman history, and she still wouldn’t discuss her research with anyone who had taken a Roman history class. So, she internalized her thoughts.

I was an outspoken young lady whose ideas of success differed significantly with her family, but she craved the acceptance and stability of her family. She became more secluded as her knowledge grew. Slowly and unintentionally she changed from a happy outspoken child into a speak only when spoken to introvert.

I turned her attention back to Carol just in time to catch her question. “Well, how about this; how long ago did you move here? Or did you grow up here and move away?” Carol offered as a starting point.

“Yeah, um,” took note of the inquisitive and apparently observant nature of the older woman. “Born n’ bred, coincidentally, in Rome, Georgia.”

“Coincidentally?” Carol probed, and she let out a small bittersweet chuckle.

“I received my master’s degree in Roman History. I kinda spent my entire college career studying about Roman history. I unintentionally my bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on Ancient European Civilizations. I was aiming for a generic history degree, but I found out I had enough classes to allow a specification. After that I just continued with the Ancient theme and got my master's in Roman History,” she explained. "Imagine my surprise when I visited back home over winter break and actually noticed all the similarities in architecture between my textbooks and some of the wealthier areas of my hometown."

“How were you able to get a master’s degree so fast? Doesn’t that take six years?” Carol asked stunned. 

I shrugged, “how old do you think she am?”

“You can’t be older than 18 or 19,” Carol insisted.

“You ain’t the first one to say that to me.” Carol looked away slightly embarrassed. Dixie was on the shorter side, barely able to claim that she was 5’4. She didn’t wear much makeup before the outbreak and to wear it now would just be stupid and impractical. She had a dancer’s body, so her curves were subtle enough to enhance her physique but not to overstate her femininity. “I did in fact study in California for six years before coming back home. I just turned 23 a few weeks before all this happened.”

“Sweetie, you are going to look amazing in your old age.” Carol complemented.

“If I live long enough to enjoy it,” Dixie mumbled.

“What was that?” She asked.

“Thank you. I said thank you. Umm, I don’t really know what else to talk about.” Dixie started to move aimlessly around the shoreline.

“How about, what else did you do in California? I mean six years is a long time.”

“I really just studied and worked. I majored in History and minored in Christian studies which took three and a half years. I had a job as a dance coach at a couple high schools all throughout college, so my afternoons and a good number of my weekends were busy. I worked on my Georgia teaching credential online while taking classes in California to get her masters. My summers were filled with summer school for the first half and Band Camp for the second," her voice grew heavier as she thought about her short time after college.

Carol noticed the subtle change in her voice. She changed the subject to distract me from the path her mind was wandering down. “What about friends or family?” 

Dixie's whimsical meandering along the coast fell into a meticulous pacing. “I never really got close to anyone out in Cali. I had one boyfriend for about three months. We broke up because I had no time to do anything between school, work, and my crippling social awkwardness.” She paused her pacing and looked towards the sky, using her arm to block the worst of the UV rays. The beauty of the clouds drifting lazily across the blue sky had a calming effect on me.

“I had one friend during her time in California. He was actually one of my colleagues from Rome High. I was hired my last semester of college via a series of Skype calls. One of my interviewers was the gym coach since I’d be helpin’ out with the class over the summer. Once I got hired, we would video chat together to plan classes and we just sort of hit it off.” She looked over to Carol and saw a knowing smile on her face. “Hit it off as in friends!” she clarified. Not that it really mattered anyway. The world had ended, who really cared if she slept with anyone or not.

“I didn’t say anything,” Carol chuckled. The older woman still held a small smirk that read, ‘I don’t believe you.’

Dixie’s rebuttal was stopped before the words were even spoken as we heard the careful shuffling of feet coming down the hill.

She and Carol turned to see Amy, Andrea, and Jacqui making their way into the quarry. She stepped out of the water and dried off her feet, refusing to put on her boots just yet. “His wife had just died ‘fore this all happened. ‘Sides, we decided it was better to be friends after we were together,” she said softly. Carol could tell that the comment was more internal thoughts than an informative statement. Dixie grabbed all of her belongings and started walking towards the trio holding laundry supplies. She finished her thought as she walked further and further away from the peaceful shoreline.

"He’s probably dead now, so it don’t matter anyhow.” 

Chapter Text

I met the Amy, Andrea, and Jacqui just as they reached the bottom of the quarry. Carol continued past telling the group that she was going to help Ed bring down the laundry.

 “Hey y’all. I’d just like to apologize again for what I said earlier. I didn’t approve of way Shane told Daryl about his brother, and I took it out on you guys instead of trying to reason with Shane ‘im self.” Dixie took the time to address everyone equally, keeping eye contact so they could see that she was genuine in her intent. “I’m just not feeling right these days, which I don’t wanna use as an excuse for my actions, just an explanation. I am truly sorry.”

“I get it,” Amy offered with a bright smile, “this place has you stressed, plus with your hormones right now, you probably want to scream at everyone.”

Andrea and Jacqui gasped Amy’s comment looking Dixie up and down. Dixie just stood there oblivious to their inspection; her brow furrowed and her head cocked to the right in thoughtful confusion. “Hormones…What are you talkin’ ‘bout?”

Amy started to walk towards the sandy section of the shoreline before explaining. “You know your hormone imbalance,” Amy said once everyone followed her. She started to unpack some of the laundry supplies from the plastic crate she had them in without a care in the world. The small group stood by and stared at the twenty-four-year-old with a mix of amusement, confusion, and worry.

“Alright, I’m still missin’ somethin’. What are you on about?” Dixie wasn’t thick by any means, but with everything that had happened, she couldn’t for the life of her understand the other girl’s reasoning.

“Well how I see it, you’re either PMSing-”

“Amy!” Andrea dropped her crate in slight anger and embarrassment; soap and scrub brushes crashed down and started to scatter around the area from the impact. Dixie’s started to feel warm, and she knew a blush had started to creep across her face. Jacqui, who had remained silent, tried to send Amy a look that said she needed to stop talking and apologize to the brunette.

“What,” Amy said innocently. “I'm just saying that we haven’t seen her on her period since she’s been here.” She defended her statement with the same inflection Dixie imagined the girl would use while ordering a sandwich. “Besides you didn’t let me finish.”

“I don’t think you need to finish. I think you need to apologize to Dixie.” Andrea reprehended, giving Dixie an apologetic glance.

“Fine,” Amy grumbled to her sister then looked to Dixie, “I’m sorry if what I said made you uncomfortable.”

Dixie could hear the lack of empathy in the girl’s voice but chose to ignore it. “It’s not a problem. But maybe next time, we keep that kinda talk between us too, kay?” She tried to keep her voice as lighthearted as possible. “Sounds good,” Amy replied, and the group got back to work.

They had unpacked all their supplies when they heard a car come rumbling down the hill. They all looked to see Ed and Carol in the front seats of their pastel yellow 1979 Jeep Cherokee SJ. To Dixie's surprise, she also saw Shane and Carl making their way down the hill with buckets in their hands.

“What do you think Shane’s doin’ down here?” Dixie asked the rest of the trio of women who looked in the same direction. “It’s not like he’d ever help with this. ‘Laundry’s woman’s work. I’m too busy lookin’ after everythang ‘round ‘ere.” She did her best to mimic the officer’s intonation.

The ladies chuckled for a second before Jacqui explained that Shane had promised Carl that they’d go frog catching today. The car and the duo made it down to the open area close to the shoreline. Ed got out of the car and stood off to the side while the women came over to help unload the car.

“Carl, how ‘bout we help these nice ladies with their bags.” Shane patted Carl on the young boy’s shoulder and smiled down at him.

“Alright,” Carl replied before setting down his bucket and enthusiastically walking over to help.

“So, I hear you have a fun day ahead of you,” Dixie called out to the kid. She always had a soft spot for children. It was one of the reason’s she chose to become a teacher instead of a government worker or archeologist.

“Shane and I are going to hunt for frogs!” Carl’s enthusiasm made her smile. “We are going to catch a lot of ‘em, right Shane?” The boy’s blue eyes sparkled with excitement as he spoke. Dixie made the mistake of looking towards Shane for conformation with her smile still on her face.

“That’s right little man.” Shane looked up from Carl to stare at Dixie. “We’re gonna catch us some frogs.” He nudged the boy closer to the mountains of clothes in the back of the jeep. “But we can’t do nothin’ unless we help the ladies out. Hop to it.” Shane smiled as Carl shuffled to the back of the car and tried to grab too many bags. Dixie quickly stepped in to help and took one bag off the top and set it down to the side before grabbing another, leaving Carl with a load he could carry.

While Dixie and Carl busied themselves with the laundry, they made small talk. Carl enthusiastically told Dixie about his dad, his hatred of math homework and how happy he wasn’t in the small lesson some of the moms gave to keep the kids up on their school lessons. “Shane likes you ya know,” Carl said randomly changing the subject.

Dixie’s foot caught on an imaginary crack in the round and stumbled. “W-What?” She asked, not sure if she heard they young boy right. “Shane likes you.” He simply stated again. “And I think Ed does too.”

Dixie's skin crawled at the child’s seemingly harmless comment. “Why do you think that?”

“Well, when you aren’t looking, they both stare at you,” Carl said.

“Ed stares at everyone,” She countered, looking over at the piece of trash that was Carol’s husband. “Carl, listen to me when I tell you this. This may be the most important thing you ever hear.” She crouched down in front of him and put her hands on his shoulders. “Staring at a girl like she is a piece of meat is not how you show her you like them. Small glances are okay, or if she has already told you she likes you, some people find staring romantic; you are so much better off holding a conversation or trying to make her laugh.

“When you do finally find yourself a girlfriend, you need to make sure you know what kind of personality she has. Everyone has a different personality, so you need to make sure you respect everyone’s boundaries. You need to appreciate how people feel and why they feel that way. Understanding a person’s background is the key to any successful relationship, romantic or not. And most importantly, when a person says to stop, says no, or that they don’t like something, you need to stop whatever you are doing. No matter what. Does this make any sense?” She asked when she realized she was rambling.

“I think so. It’s like what dad taught me; no means no, right?” Carl said.

Dixie smiled and pressed her hand to his head and ruffled his hair. “That is absolutely right; you’re a smart kid.”

Once they finished unpacking all the laundry bags and the girls got to work while Ed ‘supervised’ and Shane and Carl moved to the natural dock that she and Carol were at earlier.

After about thirty minutes of light conversation and a whole lot of scrubbing Dixie was starting to feel a familiar ache in her arm. She put down her scrubber and held her left arm straight across her body. She hooked her right arm under and secured the opposite arm in the bend of her right. She pulled her right arm closer to her chest and felt the pleasant stretch in her bicep. She swung her arms around and repeated the action with the other arm.

As she stretched out her arms, she looked over at the sounds of splashing and saw Shane making a complete ass of himself, but she smiled. The sound of laughter was like a candle in the dark for Dixie. This was one of the only times she found Shane attractive.

“I'm beginning to question the division of labor here.” Jacqui’s disapproving voice snuffed out Dixie’s light in an instant. Andrea agreed over Shane’s yells of, “They're comin’, little man! Get 'em!”

Though Dixie agreed that the men needed to put in more work other than standing watch and boiling water, she couldn’t help but say, “let’s give Shane a pass for today. It’s nice seein’ Carl have fun for once. I wish the other kids were down here too. They need a little fun in their lives.”

“Ooo is someone getting a little comfy with Shane?” Amy said in a teasing voice followed by snickers from the other three ladies.

“Lordie, please don’t go there,” Dixie begged.

“What? You're telling me you don’t have eyes for our sheriff?” Andrea chimed in sarcastically. Entertainment was in short supply these days, so the others found it entertaining to tease Dixie who just went along with it.

“Yeah no. A snowball has a better chance in the seventh circle of hell.” She chuckled and softly knocked her elbow into Andrea.

“You Californian’s and your phrases. What does that even mean?” Carol commented lightly as she scrubbed a white blouse against her washboard. “Yeah no. Are you saying yes or, are you saying no?”

The light laughing still hadn’t stopped. “Alright, yeah no means no. No yeah, means yes. You take the meaning of the second word not the first.” Dixie explained, “I have no idea why they say it like that, or why I picked up on it.”

“Well I know one person who likes your California sayings,” Amy added.

“I swear if you say Shane…” Dixie threatened.

“Well, I wouldn’t say Shane…But apparently, Carl would.” Amy said in an accusative voice.

“You heard that?”

“Heard what?” Jacquie asked.

 “Carl told me that he thought Shane liked me because Shane always looks at me.”

“Well that’s slightly creepy,” Andrea said.

“I know right!” Dixie said a little too enthusiastically. “And I swear if he calls me baby girl one more time…” She trailed off.

“Too affectionate?” Amy asked.

“No, it's fucking creepy! Baby girl is something you call your one-year-old, not a twenty-three-year-old college graduate who has an A.A. in Christian Studies, a B.A. in history, a master’s in Roman history, and is licensed to teach in two radically different states.” Dixie took a deep breath to calm down. “Next he’ll be referring to himself as daddy.” A shiver went down her spine.

“Tell us how you really feel,” Amy mumbled.

“Sorry, he just annoys the living hell out of me.” Dixie cast one last glance at Carl playing in the water and saw Lori making her way over to the pair. ‘Well, this should be good.’ She thought before turning back to her work.

“Can someone explain to me how the women wound up doin’ all the Hattie McDaniel work?” Jacqui complained.

“The world ended. Didn't you get the memo?” Amy said with a sassy tone.

“It's just the way it is,” Carol said defeated, squinting at the sun as she scrubbed. “I do miss my Maytag,” she sighed looking over to the others.

Andrea picked up the conversation, “I miss my Benz…my sat nav.” Dixie looked over to the others. ‘Why are we talking about this. It’s not like all this wishing will make a difference.’

Jacqui was next, “I miss my coffeemaker with that dual-drip filter and built-in grinder, honey.” She looked like she was remembering paradise. Dixie was glad that she was able to make it through college without the caffeine addiction.

“My computer,” Amy looked over at Dixie for support, “And texting.”

They all looked over to Dixie, waiting for her addition to the list. “I miss the computer; I’ll give you that.” She could see the disappointment on their faces.

“You can’t copy me!” Amy whined childishly.

“I don’t know,” Dixie couldn’t think of anything she really missed. They had food, some kind of shelter, fire, company. Sure, she missed her family, but she wasn’t about to open that wound again. “I guess I miss dancing?” she stated questioningly. Dixie could feel the silence creeping in.

“I miss my vibrator,” Andrea said out of nowhere. All women burst out laughing except Carol who only chuckled and Dixie who was too busy blushing to say anything much of anything else. Jacqui and Amy both said “Oh my God.”

Dixie needed to look anywhere but at the women. She looked over to the rock dock and saw that Lori was leading Carl away from an angry and disappointed Shane. The laughter died down, and Dixie decided that it was safe to turn back into the conversation.

“Me too.” Carol chimed in and all of the girls, including Dixie, lost it.

“What's so funny?” Ed demanded, ruining their moment of serendipity.

The girls looked at each other in mutual disgust while Carol looked down in shame. “Just swappin' war stories, Ed,” Andrea replied.

Ed didn’t seem to like that answer and continued his walk towards the ladies. He finally stopped next to Carol.

“Problem, Ed?” Dixie said while continuing to scrub. She didn’t want to give him the courtesy of her full attention.

“Nothin' that concerns you.” He said to Dixie while licking his lips menacingly. He turned to his wife, “And you ought to focus on your work. This ain't no comedy club.”

“Ed, tell you what,” Andrea threw down her brush clutching a wet shirt in her hand and got up to face him. “You don't like how your laundry is done; you are welcome to pitch in and do it yourself. Here.” Andrea tossed the shirt at Ed.

Ed immediately hurled the shirt back at Andrea, “Ain't my job, missy.”

“Andrea, don’t.” Carol pleaded.

Andrea ignored the mother and threw the wet cloth on the ground, “What is your job, Ed? Sitting on your ass smoking cigarettes,” she asked refusing to back down from the imposing man.

“Well, it sure as hell ain't listening to some uppity smart-mouthed bitch. Tell you what,” he looked up Andrea before turning to Carol, “Come on. Let's go.”

Dixie saw the red flag warnings and stood to put herself between Ed and Carol. Andrea stepped closer, “I don't think she needs to go anywhere with you, Ed.”

“And I say it's none of your business,” Ed replied loudly, making it clear that he was getting upset. “Come on now. You heard me.” Carol tried to go around Dixie, but the younger woman wouldn’t let her.

“Carol, you don’t have to go with him,” Dixie whispered to Carol. “Dixie, please. It doesn't matter,” Carol pleaded.

Ed went to reach for Carol while Dixie pushed her safely behind her. “Don’t you dare,” She said with a low voice.

Ed was visibly angry, “You don't tell me what!” He raised his hand threateningly, “I tell you-”

“What the hell is going on here!”