Dixons Don't Cry
"This one has some gas!" I called out to T-Dog and Uncle Daryl. It was a small beat up Corolla, but it still had a bit of gas.
"Thanks Tess," T-Dog said as they moved over with the gas containers and started to siphon it. I nodded at him and moved back to the truck. We were prioritizing gas, so we had to narrow down how many vehicles we were taking. We were only taking the RV, Carol's Cherokee, and Dad's motorcycle.
I climbed into the passenger's seat of the truck, and looked in the glove compartment. I found the registration and manuel and an old pen. I took out a paper with a blank back, and started writing in my small, messy scrawl, not used to writing in a while.
If you find the truck, which I hope you do, then this is Tessa. We had to leave it behind because it took up too much gas. Uncle Daryl and I are fine, more than that even. They went to look for you in Atlanta, but only found your hand. I wish you would've waited, but now we're on a search for you still.
The CDC was a bust, it's gone. There is no cure. Everything is gone and fallen, but I hope that you aren't, and I hope you're okay. I miss you, but I'm not giving up. Dixons don't give up like pussies. We're heading to Fort Benning, so hopefully it's safe there, and that you get this and follow quickly behind.
Love always, Tessa May
I set the pen down and sighed after writing my name. I ripped the paper out of the handbook and placed it on the dashboard. I threw the rest to the ground, and only grabbed my remaining belongings: my crossbow and my backpack. I put on my backpack first and then awkwardly slung the bow over my shoulder and hopped out of the truck. Uncle Daryl and T-Dog were now finishing on the truck's gas tank.
Uncle Daryl stood as they finished and wiped his forehead of sweat. It was getting rather hot in this early morning. Rick was back and supervising as everybody started to move their things into different vehicles.
Uncle Daryl looked to me and motioned his head behind him. "Go putch ya stuff in tha RV."
My chin dropped as I looked at him in shock. "I thought I was ridin' with you! The bike fits two!" I complained.
"If I need to distract a herd, I ain't havin' ya with me. You gotta stay safe," he said, giving me his stern 'you have to listen to me, I'm Uncle Daryl' look. I stomped my foot and was about to protest more when he snapped.
"Tessa May, ya goddamn nineteen, don't be poutin'. Now go sit in the RV!" I took an involuntary step back, surprised by his attitude. He was usually the calm one and didn't snap like dad did. He saw the confused look on my face and pinched his nose. "I'm sorry, but I can't lose ya. Now please, go ride in tha RV."
I gave up, and nodded like a kicked puppy. I wanted to ride the bike with him, I didn't want to be separated just in case. But, I didn't want to argue with him, so I sighed and looked to the RV, seeing how many people were actually going to ride in it.
"I think I'll ask Carol if I can ride in tha Cherokee, looks a bit crowded," I said, and Uncle Daryl grunted before he went back to work with T-Dog.
I walked to Carol, who was tending to Sophia. She gave me a small smile, and Sophia perked up a bit. "Are you gonna ride with us, Tessa?" she asked.
I smiled at her, liking the feeling of being wanted. This little girl had a place in me, and it made me happy that I seemed to have a place in hers. I looked to Carol for permission, and she reached out to lightly squeeze my arm.
"Course she is, sweetheart," Carol said, and I nodded. Sophia smiled and went to say something when the sound of the motorcycle driving forward perked up, and everybody loaded up.
I squeezed in the back in between Carl and Sophia, who was leaned in extra close to her mom. Lori and Rick took the front seats, and we started driving off, Uncle Daryl in the front, then the RV, then us. It wasn't that hard of a fit, since Carl scooted to the door so I could fit. I gave him a smile and he gave one back. He was a cute kid.
As we were driving, the silence broke when Rick and Lori started talking about the time they went to the Grand Canyon and Carl got sick. I laughed with them, shaking my head. I hadn't ever left Georgia, let alone go on a vacation. This biggest vacations were during school breaks when we would go on two week long camping and hunting trips.
"Can we go? To the Grand Canyon? I'd like to see it," Carl asked. His parents exchanged a look, and I knew they didn't want to say they couldn't.
"I would too. Can we go too?" Sophia asked them.
Rick gave a small smile and turned a bit and told her," We'd never go anywhere without you and your mom."
"Can Tess come too? I bet she'd like that," Carl asked, and I looked at him in surprise. Apparently his parents were shocked too, and my blue eyes met Rick's through the mirror.
It was a minute before Rick nodded and answered," Yeah, Tess can come too." I looked down to Carl who shook my arm with a smile. I ruffled his hair, and sat back in the seat, a small smile on my face.
We drove a bit longer, but after a bit, we started to slow. I sat up and moved closer to crane my neck between Lori and Rick. The highway was jammed, and the RV was carefully maneuvering. We slowly did the same, all of us looking around the deserted and destroyed cars. we passed one that had a family, and I grimaced. "Soph, Carl, don't look okay?" I knew Carl probably did anyways.
The RV made a strange guttering sound and it stopped, us shortly after. "Hose musta busted," I said, and Rick agreed.
We all climbed out of the car and I left my pack but brought my crossbow. We all gathered around the RV, figuring about what to do. "We should scavenge!" I suggested, looking around at all of the empty cars. Everybody seemed to agree with my idea but Lori.
"This place is a graveyard," she said, shaking her head. "I don't know how I feel about this." We all looked around, but went anyways.
I slung my crossbow over my shoulder and moved through the cars. I felt Sophia and Carl trailing on either side of me.
"Carl, in my sight, okay?" Lori said.
"Sophia, you too," Carol agreed.
I turned and nodded to both of them. "I'll keep an eye extra on 'em," I said, and the two women nodded. I turned back around and kept walking. I found a promising looking minivan that looked deserted. I stopped and looked inside, and saw a couple bags.
"Soph, Carl, come 'ere," I said, waving my hand, ready to teach them something useful for once. The two got closer, and I looked the their curious eyes, Sophia clutching her doll to her chest. I pointed to the minivan, and nodded at them. "First things first, ya gotta make sure the car is clear, or everythin' is dead dead," I said, and they both nodded, getting closer to the window, standing on their toes to fully peer inside.
"Nothin'!" Carl said, and I nodded to him with a small smile.
"When you think it's clear, ya gotta still be careful. Ya never know," I told them, and opened up the door slowly. Nothing.
"There's bags!" Sophia said, getting a bit excited over this.
"Sure are," I said, grabbing them and pulling them out of the car. There were two black duffle bags and one small purple suitcase. I handed a duffle bag to each of them and took the small suitcase for myself. We all opened them and I instructed," Find anything that can be useful."
In the suitcase was mostly clothes. They were girl's clothes, dresses and pants. I held up one of the pretty floral dresses and Sophia looked at it in wanting. I folded it up and smiled at her. "We got you some clothes her Soph, really pretty stuff."
"Daddy never let me wear pretty stuff like that," Sophia said.
"Well," I said, zipping the suitcase closed," looks like you're gonna get some pretty stuff like this." Fuck Ed, seriously.
"Look, look Tess! I found cans," Carl said as he dug, pulling out cans of green beans and corn.
"This one has a knife! And some clothes!" Sophia told me, also excited about her find. I grabbed the small brown jacket and held it up. It'd be a little big, but it should fit Carl. I handed it to him and he immediately took the jacket and stuffed it in his duffle. Sophia handed him a few more clothing items, and she held the knife up. It was a swiss army knife, and I held my hand out for it. She set it in my hand, and I looked it over.
"Can I hold it? Sophia has a hunting knife, can I have that?" Carl pleaded. I hesitated, not knowing how his mom would react. I just got them on my good side, and didn't want them to be pissed at me.
"I don't know Carl, you gotta ask your ma-" I started, but he cut me off, grabbing my arm slightly and whining.
"Please Tess, you know she'll say no! Come one!" I sighed and looked to Sophia, who was now standing and wheeling the suitcase to her mom to show her. My hunting knife was holstered around her small hips, bouncing a bit as she ran to her mom.
I sighed and looked Carl in the eyes, nothing but seriousness in my tone. "If I give ya this, you can't be showing nobody or telling anyone, not even your daddy or Uncle Daryl. It's for emergencies only, ya here? I don't need your momma bein' sore at me." He nodded and held out his hand. I placed the knife down and wrapped his small hand around it with mine. My two hands were wrapped around his one, and I gave it a squeeze. He had a priceless smile on his face, and I knew it was the right choice. he had to protect himself if need be. I heard Glenn and Shane whooping from a ways down. I patted Carl's shoulder before standing.
He shoved the knife into his pocket quickly before reaching down and grabbing both bags and running back to his mom. I kept walking through the cars, looking for more. I started digging through another car for food or meds when I heard the noise. I turned and saw everybody diving under cars, and my eyes widened in horror at the sight of at least a hundred geeks starting to shuffle down the highway.
My breathing quickened and I crouched, trying to find a good spot to hide. The car I was searching was too open to crawl under. I ran as fast as I could in the crouched position, fear filling me as I moved forward. If I got stuck, there would be no hope. I saw an opened trunk that was cleared out, and quickly made my way towards it. I threw my crossbow in and clambered in as quickly as I could. I grabbed the trunk door and brought it down, closing myself in the car. There was a way to see in through the trunk's window, so I pressed myself as far as I could to the bottom of the trunk, hoping the wouldn't smell or be able to peer in. I'd be dead.
I grabbed my crossbow and held it across my chest, trying to keep my breathing calm as I squeezed the thing for dear life. My heart was something and a scream was in my throat as walkers bumped against the car as they walked. I closed my eyes, biting my lip to keep it in. Was everybody safe? I could her the shuffling and moans of walkers as they went by, first just a few, but then plenty as they all swarmed closer.
"Oh God, oh God," I whimpered quietly to myself. I tightened my grip on my child's crossbow, only loaded with three bolts, the rest of my quiver in the back of Carol's Cherokee. I laid there for what seemed like forever, and it seemed that finally after such a long tome, that the sounds were gone. I let out a shaky breath and laid there for a bit longer just to be sure. I sat up slowly and peeked out the bottom of the window and saw nothing.
I let a breath of relief out and fell back against the bottom of the trunk again, and almost laughed, but then I heard a small, muffled screams. My eyes widened, knowing that it was a little girl. "Soph, no no no," I cried and tried to pop the trunk. It wouldn't budge and I cursed loudly, throwing my bow over the seat that connected the trunk to the back, and climbed through. I could hear the cries and was trying to get out as quick as possible. I got to the back seats and quickly opened the right car door, grabbing my bow and running out.
I ran to where Sophia was and saw that she was now disappearing into the woods, two walkers behind her. Rick was running behind and they all disappeared. "Soph!" I cried out, and went to jump over the railing to chase after them. I felt arms wrap around me, and I thrashed trying to get out, similar to Carol.
"My baby, my baby!" Carol was crying and being held back my lori. I struggled, but the arms around me were too strong for me to break through. I went to kick behind me, but Glenn quickly grabbed my legs. The crossbow was ripped from my hands as I thrashed, small guttural noises pouring from my mouth. Glenn lifted my legs and Shane had me by the arms, carrying me away.
"Let me go! I gotta go! They need help! I gotta get to Soph!" I cried out.
"Rick's got it Tessa!" Glenn tried to reason, but I only tried to kick him in the face, my anger for him in this moment and about the CDC flooding me. I was thrown into the Cherokee's back seat, and I sat up quickly, ready to fight my way out. I had to get to Sophia. Before I could turn back around, the butt of a gun smacked me in the back of my head, and everything went black.
I woke up by water being dumped on my face. I sputtered it out, shaking my head and gasping. I sat up abruptly and felt pain in the back of my head, and I groaned as I rubbed the back of my head. I opened my eyes to see Uncle Daryl, his face dirtied and tired looking.
"Did we find Soph? Is she safe?" I asked immediately, and Uncle Daryl hung his head.
"We gonna go lookin' for her, track her down. Rick ain't come back with her yet," he said softly, and I closed my eyes tightly, swallowing the lump in my throat. It pained me to think she might be hurt or worse; she was like a little sister to me. I don't know what I saw to her, but it didn't matter. I was supposed to protect her. Uncle Daryl helped me sit up, and I shut my eyes tight. I was gonna murder Shane for knocking me out.
Uncle Daryl helped me out of the Cherokee, and we started our way over to the railing. I saw Glenn standing with my crossbow, and as we got closer he handed it to me. I grabbed it forcefully out of his hands with a glare, pissed that he helped restrain me. His face looked sorry, but I ignored it and turned away and followed after Uncle Daryl into the woods. I heard others following behind us, but I ignored it, my mind now it tracking mode.
We found Rick halfway and he led us to the water where he said he left Sophia. He was explaining what he told her before leading the walkers off, and I started looking for any tracks. I saw some up the bank as Uncle Daryl yelled at Glenn for mucking up the trail.
We silently moved forward, Uncle Daryl and I in the lead of the pack. We were both crouched and searching, occasionally making small noises to each other and pointing at tracks as communication. There were definite tracks, but then suddenly they got fainter and fainter.
"They're gone, no more tracks," Rick said, and I shook my head along with Uncle Daryl.
"They ain't gone, just faint," he said, and crouched to look at them. "All she had to do was keep goin' straight, but she veered off this way."
"No signs of a walker either," I said, looking around for the dragging tracks of a walker.
I moved away and started following the tracks that went off while the others figured out what to do. They were really faint tracks, and after moving about twenty feet ahead, I heard steps following me.
"Anything?" Rick asked, and I shook my head and turned to see it was just Rick and Uncle Daryl.
"Did ya send the otha two back?" I asked.
Rick nodded and said," Gotta keep everybody calm."
I nodded and took a deep breath and look into the forest in front of us. "We'll find her." I said, not sure if I was saying it to them, or myself. Rick patted my back, and I nodded and moved forward, my eyes on the tracks once more.
We tracked a while longer, Uncle Daryl pointing out tracks, before Rick asked," How can you tell? I can't see a thing. Dirt, leaves."
I was about to point some things out, but Uncle Daryl spoke first," You want a trackin' lesson, or do you wanna find that little girl?" I rolled my eyes and shook my head. Rick looked to me as Uncle Daryl kept going, and I just shook my head. Rick nodded and we continued forward.
We came across one lone walker. I gasped and my worst fears came in the form of hairs rising on the back if my neck. Uncle Daryl quickly shot it, and in no time, he was cutting it up to check the stomach. Rick didn't say anything and just looked away, but I gagged at the smell and sound. "That's fuckin' gross, Uncle Daryl, Jesus Christ," I said, looking away from the sight.
I heard him start digging around, and I kept my gaze away. "Stomach should be on the left, attached to tha small intestine, Uncle Daryl," I told him, and he grunted in response. He may know squirrel bodies, but I knew a human body.
"You wanted to be a scientist?" Rick asked me. I nodded and looked to him.
"I took a lot of science classes. Human anatomy was my favorite. Wanted to be a biologist, maybe a doctor. Was a long shot though," I said simply with a shrug, knowing that the way my life was, I would have never achieved it.
"Big hoss had a big meal not so long ago, I can feel it," Uncle Daryl said while he dug around in the walker's body, interrupting our conversation.
I made a gagging noise and smacked his shoulder. "You're fuckin' gross!" I said to him, trying to ease my fears of what he just said by making a bit of a joke.
Uncle Daryl pulled out the stomach and Rick offered to cut it. They opened it up and I looked away, shaking my head. Fucking gross.
"Bastard had himself a damn woodchuck for lunch," Uncle Daryl finally said, holding up the half a head of the woodchuck.
"At least we know," Rick sighed.
"At least we know," Uncle Daryl and I said in unison. I sighed and stood, not believing we hadn't found her. It was going to be dark, we had to go back.
We walked in silence back to camp and made it just as it was turning dark. My heart pained when Carol questioned why we were leaving Sophia out there. I went to her and she pulled me into a tight hug, crying on my shoulder.
"We did everythin' we could, but we can't track at night, only get more lost," Uncle Daryl tried to explain. Carol let me go and looked at the two of them.
"She's just a child, she can't survive all on her own, she's just a child," Carol whimpered. Lori grabbed her and I stood awkwardly, looking down, feeling guilty myself for not being able to catch her. But that wasn't my fault, it was Deputy Dipshit and Glenn. "How could you just leave her?" Carol asked Rick in anger.
Rick tried explaining to her and Shane backed him up, and I stayed quiet, trying to think of anything to say to Carol to bring some comfort, but nothing was coming to mind. There had to be something that was in Soph's favor.
"Oh God, is that blood?" I looked up to see that Carol was looking at the gross substance all over Uncle Daryl.
"We came across a walker," Rick explained in a low voice.
"Oh God, a walker," Carol said dazed, looking as if she was going to fall over. Lori and I quickly grabbed her, keeping her steady.
"It wasn't near Soph, Carol, it didn't get her," I reassured her, thinking about what we did to check.
"How do you know?" Andrea asked in a pissy voice. I looked to Rick and he looked to Uncle Daryl. Uncle Daryl actually had a sad look on his face, guilt it seemed. I felt guilty too. He reassured Carol in a soft voice," We cut the son-a-bitch open, made sure."
Car sat on the railing and shook her head. I thought of Sophia and then it hit me: she wasn't completely defenseless. "Soph had my knife," I said aloud, nodding as I pictured the knife holster around her hips. Carol looked up in remembrance, a strange look in her eye. I nodded and a small smile graced my lips. "Soph knows to go for the head, I yelled that at her too many times. I told her plenty of times when we'd go play that trees were safe, she knows how to climb like a damn monkey. She'll be safe," I told Carol, looking her dead in the eyes. Finally, a small glimmer of hope sparked in Carol's face, and she nodded.
We all went to hit the hay some time after that, agreeing to set out at first light to look for Sophia, with me and Uncle Daryl in charge since we could track. Uncle Daryl offering to keep watch. I stayed up too. While he went to sit by the tree line, I sat on top the RV. I wanted to be able to think a bit and clear my head.
I sighed and ran a hand through my dirty hair. I had left it down all day, and it was now feeling greasy. What I wouldn't give for a shower or even a bath. Just a wet rag would do fine too, hell. I looked out to the tree line, thinking about little Sophia, how scared she must be. I had told her plenty of things, but I didn't know if it was enough to keep her alive. But I had hope and faith in her; Soph would be fine, she had to be.
I heard someone climbing up the ladder and I turned my head to see the familiar outline of a skinny man with a ball-cap. I stiffened and turned away from him, asking harshly," What do you want, Short Round? I'm tryin' to keep watch."
"Can we talk?" Glenn asked, his voice soft. I felt him sit next to me, letting his legs hang over the side of the RV like mine.
"What's there to talk about?" I played dumb, not looking at him. I heard him sigh.
"You're ignoring me." It wasn't a question.
I rolled my eyes and said," And? Last time I checked, we weren't married." My tone was harsh from my hurt and stubbornness, blaming him for forgetting our kiss and for Sophia. If he would have just let me go...
"Last time I checked, we were friends," Glenn mocked. I look at him and glared.
"Last time I checked," I sneered," friends don't kiss each other and forget." I came clean with it. His eyes widened a bit in shock. "That's right!" I continued. "Ya came into my room at the CDC, kissed me, and damn forgot about it." The hurt was obvious in my voice, and I felt Glenn's hand lightly touch where mine were curled in my lap.
"Tess..." Glenn whispered. I yanked my hands away and shook my head. I didn't know how i felt about his touch anymore, or how I felt for him in general. Soph was gone, my dad was gone, and now I was just a big ball of confusion.
"Leave me alone, Short Round. Just go," I whispered. For once, Glenn listened and just left me alone. I sighed and rubbed my stinging eyes. Why did everything have to be so damn complicated?