Beth could hardly contain her excitement as she zipped up her hoodie and worked her feet into her hiking boots. It was the first real spring day, but not the First Day of Spring. That had come and gone over a week ago. No, today was one where the sun was shining, the birds were singing, flowers blooming, and the air was crisp but not cold. It had been a long winter, and it seemed like Mother Nature was having a hard time of letting go of the cold temperatures and rainy days.
She stood up and wiggled her toes in her hiking boots, the ones Daryl insisted she wear if she wanted to go ‘traipsin’ through the woods’ with him. After arranging her long blonde curls into a messy bun, Beth walked through their cozy little cottage toward the back porch where Daryl was doing one final check on his crossbow before they went on their long-anticipated walk. (Well, long-anticipated for her. Daryl didn’t seem to mind the cold and rainy weather and would go out hunting at least once a week, come hell or high water. Beth, on the other hand, was much more content staying where it was warm and hot cocoa was readily available. That’s not to say she didn’t enjoy being outdoors, just not when the air hurt to breathe because it was so frigidly cold.)
“Ready to go, Mr. Dixon?” she smiled at him after taking a deep breath, filling her nose with the smell of the earth, the fresh air, the scent of springtime.
Daryl adjusted the strap for his crossbow onto his shoulder and crossed the porch to stand by her, taking her hand in his. “Sure am, Mrs. Dixon,” he grinned at her and kissed her on the cheek before they walked together off their porch and into the wilderness surrounding their house.
As Daryl navigated them both through the trees along a path he had memorized long ago, Beth tilted her head back to feel the sun beaming down on her face from between the branches above her, whose leaf buds were not yet big enough to block any of the sunshine. Her feet stumbled, but Daryl’s hand was still holding hers to keep her from falling. She pulled away from the sun’s warmth to look at where she was going, and couldn’t help but look at their hands joined together. She turned them to see her still-new wedding ring sparkling in the natural light.
They were married on a snowy day in January, the same date her parents had been married; since then, she hadn’t had much chance to go outside, at least not without wearing gloves, so it was rare she was able to see her ring sparkle the way it was meant to. Neither the soft light in their home nor the harsh fluorescent lights at her job at an elementary school hardly did the diamond any justice. She brought their hands to her lips and pressed a kiss to the back of his, squeezing his fingers as she dropped them back to swing between them as they walked.
“Spring is in the air,” he teased as all around them, pairs of squirrels, rabbits, and birds were chasing each other. Rather, the brightly colored male birds were chasing the females, all with one particular goal in mind. He pointed out a set of deer tracks - two sets, actually, one a lot smaller than the other. “Little fawn and her mama come through here. Gonna be lots of babies walking through here before you know it.”
Beth smiled sweetly up at him, that smile that was just for him, though it only lasted a second before it started to fade. Her entire face suddenly drooped, a stark contrast to the bright spring morning surrounding them.
“Hey,” he spoke softly, as if she were a deer ready to bolt. When she still wouldn’t look up at him, he got down on one knee in front of her, held both of her hands in his, and waited for her to finally meet his gaze. “Beth...what’s wrong?”
She sniffled a little, and she hoped Daryl would think it was because of allergies or the chill in the air and not that she was actually crying. After a short eternity, she finally answered, “I, um...it’s just that...they’re not the only ones who are going to have a little set of footprints following them around.” Beth’s eyes stopped trying to hold the tears back, letting them spill over to run down her cheeks.
She had always wanted to be a mother. One of her first childhood memories was playing with her dolly, wrapping it in a soft blanket and pushing it around in a pink and white plastic stroller. When she and Daryl were dating, they had talked about having kids, at least Beth had tried to bring up the topic, but Daryl usually clammed up when she did. Once they were engaged, he at least seemed open to the idea, but Beth got the feeling he wasn't completely convinced on the whole concept.
A cold chill ran down her back that had nothing to do with the weather. Daryl was still kneeling on the ground, still holding her hand in his, but his expression was unreadable. It wasn’t blank, but something indecipherable - a strange arrangement of his features where she usually found such comfort, but now there was just confusion.
One of the reasons she absolutely knew they were meant to be together was that they could read each other so easily. They could have entire conversations without speaking a word. It was wonderful at Greene family game nights when they played Pictionary or charades. Now, however, his silence was not only deafening, it was scaring her. “Say something,” she whispered, pleading with her words, her eyes, her whole heart.
It took Daryl another moment to finally respond. “You serious?” he asked softly, a grin brightening his features. “You’re...we’re gonna have a baby?”
Beth let out a nervous, “Uh-huh,” her voice shaking with the effort to keep herself from sobbing. She wiped her tears away with her free hand and looked down to see Daryl still smiling up at her.
“What the hell you cryin’ for?”
She didn’t want to tell him that she knew he wasn’t totally sold on having kids in the first place. She didn’t want to tell him she knew he was afraid of turning into his own abusive father. She didn’t want to tell him she knew he was worried about passing on the Dixon name and all the awful history that came with it. “We...we said we wanted to wait a while, and now...here we are.”
Daryl pulled her to sit on his knee and held her tightly. “Here we are,” he said simply. “‘M gonna be a dad,” he whispered in awe then looked up at her, a genuine smile on his face.
“You’re not mad?” the question slipped out before she had a chance to stop it.
Daryl frowned at her, his eyebrows furrowing in concern. “Why would I be mad?” Beth’s voice was caught in her throat, but she was sure her answer was written clearly on her face. Daryl took a deep breath before he started speaking, and Beth braced herself for a verbal lashing for even thinking about doubting her husband. “You’re always tellin’ me, reminding me, that I ain’t my dad. How I got away from all that, and I gotta put all that crap away. Now’s my chance to prove it, show everyone you were right about me,” he rationalized for her.
Beth leaned her torso against his, letting her arms wrap around his strong shoulders, letting him catch her weight when she sagged with relief. When she had composed herself into something less than a blubbering mess, she leaned back only to come back to press her forehead against his. She slid her hand down his arm until she was holding his again and brought his hand to her lower abdomen. "We're gonna have a baby," she said through a still-teary smile.
"Yeah," Daryl smiled back at her, "guess we are." He raised his hand to cup her cheek. "I love you, Beth."
"I love you back," she whispered as a fresh round of tears started to gather. "You're gonna be a great dad, you know."
Daryl scoffed, "I figure if I ain't, you'll kick my ass from here to kingdom come."
"Nah," she giggled as she got back to her feet and held out her hand to help her husband up, knowing full well he wouldn't take it. "I'll either send you to Glenn and Maggie's to take notes..."
He snorted a laugh with a grin. " Or?"
Beth laughed out loud before answering, "Or I'll send you to Merle and Carol and let them deal with you."
"Shit," he rolled his eyes and picked up the pace. "gonna go find some parenting books right now."