Like Dying Embers
Carrie sighed and took a sip of her hot tea. She hadn’t felt like drinking much, or going out at all really, which is why she sat alone in Rachel’s Atlanta apartment, watching the stupid Oliver Wilde show. She thought that the vacation to Atlanta for the week to visit her best friend for a late-birthday celebration would be worth the trip, but she was realizing quickly that it wasn’t a great idea. Even though apartment 204 was in prime location at the moment, with 203 being empty and 206 being on vacation, she was still bored.
Carrie Andrews, newly age twenty-nine, had been best friends for years with Rachel. They met at a party for some guy she didn’t remember the name of, and they bonded over drinks and jumping in the pool in nothing but their undergarments for a dare. They were twenty-four then, but even five years later, not much had changed. The two still liked to go out and drink and live up their younger years, and didn’t give much thought to any sort of commitment.
That was until almost a year before when Carrie and Rachel had gone out to a local bar. Usually, they headed a few towns over to a city, where more popular night clubs and fancier bars were. Carrie wasn’t up to that scene though; she hadn’t even wanted to go out that night in June. It had been months since she had a bad break-up with that asshole Brett, and those bars were exactly where he would hang out. So, Rachel made her dress up to ‘put the life back in her’ and they went down to a small, old bar in the small town, one they had only been to on several occasions.
Skeeter’s was dirty and old, with one pool table and a shitty tap beer system. Behind the counter was the old owner, Happy Skeeter, and his one other bartender, a young, pretty boy everybody simply called White (his last name). They had taken up residence at the counter, flirting with Happy—who recognized the bottle blonde and tiny brunette—for free drinks. She was wary of having a good time, but Rachel insisted she needed it. A part of her, supposed, that she had to thank Rachel for dragging her ass out of her apartment that night. For that was the night that her whole world flipped, all because of one man.
Merle Dixon. The name made Carrie’s pink lips twitch in a small smile, and she took another sip of her hot, overly sweet tea. Merle Dixon had captured her eye that night, looking bad and mysterious. Plus, Carrie had always had a thing for older men, and after Brett, she was proven that younger guys were fucking stupid. When she met Merle, he was forty-three, his birthday in May; Carrie had turned twenty-eight in March and was up to no good, and that night she had gone home with him. From that Friday night, she expected it to be a one-time thing, but she was happily mistaken, when the next weekend while at work, Merle Dixon had called her up once more.
Their relationship never amounted to much in the first two months, if you could even call it a relationship. Every weekend they would either meet at Skeeter’s or she would just go to his place, and they’d do it again. Eventually it became so regular that she would bring a bag for overnight, and soon a bag all the way to Sunday. One weekend, however, things changed when he wanted breakfast and there was nothing to cook with, and the next week, there had been food in the fridge, specifically for her to cook breakfast.
They had learned each other’s routines. Carrie cooked breakfast and learned of the routines he went through daily and he learned hers; he liked having a cigarette the morning after sex and wasn’t a cuddler, and Carrie like to walk around in hardly anything in the mornings and liked to watch TV for an hour on the couch before heading out.
A big thing in Carrie’s life was also when she met his younger (but still older than her) brother, Daryl. They had formed quite the bond over the course of knowing each other. Daryl meant a lot to her, he was like the brother she had never had. He had been there for her when Merle was high and hit her, and was even there for her little sister’s wedding. He was even there when Merle was thrown into jail after the holiday season. Daryl, like Merle, had taken her out shooting, but he was much more patient. On her birthday in March, their drunken kiss was something they swore never to speak of again, and had made an awkward gap in their relationship until the two of them went to visit Merle in jail.
Carrie sighed as she watched Oliver Wilde demonstrate how to start a fire with sticks. She could almost hear Merle screaming that the man was a pussy, and didn’t know how to really survive. And Carrie would ask him why he watched it then, and Merle would shrug and change the topic. It was no secret that she missed him; Merle Dixon and his stupid, misogynistic, racist comments, along with his overbearing and overdramatic being had wormed itself into her heart. It wasn’t love—hell, they had barely confirmed that what they were was an actual relationship—but she didn’t have a doubt that maybe, just maybe, one day her feelings could be more.
She loved him the way you loved a best friend, but love wasn’t something that neither Carrie nor the Dixons spoke of. Carrie had learned from her parents that just because somebody loved you didn’t mean they cared, and the Dixon brothers, as Merle had told Carrie, grew up knowing that words just didn’t mean shit. It rendered the three of them useless when speaking about feelings for the most part, but through their actions and not words, they showed what mattered most—they cared about each other.
Carrie sipped her tea, curled up into the corner of her couch. Her cell phone began to ring from the side table next to her, and Carrie picked it up with her left hand, her right holding her mug. A small smile graced her face when she saw ‘Darylina’ on the front screen, and she flipped it open to answer his call.
“Hey Daryl,” Carrie greeted him with a smile, though he obviously couldn’t see it. She crushed the phone between her shoulder and ear so she could let go to grab the remote to mute the show. Looks like I’m saved from boredom by Saint Dixon, Carrie thought, thinking about his leather jacket with the sewn-on angel wings.
His gruff voice answered in return,” Merle’s not getting out.” Daryl was never one for formalities over the phone. Still, his bluntness in this shocked her quite a bit.
“What?” Carrie asked dumbly. Her brain was spinning.
“He got in a fight—no chance of parole for at least a few more months,” Daryl answered patiently, the hurt evident in his own voice. Both of them had been hoping Merle would be able to keep a sock in his loud fucking mouth for just these couple of weeks until parole was granted, but apparently, he couldn’t do it. “Hey—don’t get upset now, please don’t cry,” Daryl’s voice said softly to her, and it was then Carrie realized that she was sniffling. She wiped her eyes and shook her head. She shouldn’t have gotten her hopes up, she knew that.
“No, it’s okay Daryl, I’m okay,” she told him, taking a deep breath in and exhaling slowly. She didn’t feel like talking to Daryl anymore, even though she had missed his company. “Hey, I’m going to go to bed,” she said to him, getting up to go put her tea in the kitchen sink.
“’lright. Sleep good,” he told her.
“Thanks, you too.” He hung up without a goodbye, something she was used to by now. It was times like these when Carrie was almost grateful that the younger Dixon didn’t pry into her business—it let her be sad without feeling weak or stupid.
True to what she told Daryl, Carrie went to her makeshift bed on the couch to sleep. Hopefully Rachel and her current boyfriend, Ryan, would keep it down when they came home. She didn’t even register the blue screen on the TV, and with it muted, she thought it was just another commercial. She turned it off before getting ready for bed.
After she brushed her teeth and washed her face, Carrie tied her long brown hair up in a knot on her head before changing into a pair of sleep shorts and a large t-shirt. She curled up on the couch and grabbed the blanket draped on top. Her head found the couch pillow and she covered herself in the blanket, wiggling around a bit to get comfortable. She flipped the pillow to get the ‘cold side’ and sighed when she was finally able to relax. She pushed Merle out of her mind and focused on sleep. She could deal with him in the morning.
NotesAfter a long wait and many empty promises later, I have finally posted my Merle story sequel. I hope you all enjoy. This was mostly an introduction chapter, and if you are interested in knowing the full story, please check out the prequel in the 'Carrie Anderson Stories': Lips Like Kerosene. The original chapter was about 4000 words long, but I cut what I had into sections to give you guys more chapters while you wait for me to write, so I don't ditch you guys too much.
Carrie is one of my favorite characters I have written, and I hope you all will grow to love her too. Please leave a review, let me know what you think!