REWRITEPosted on 2012.10.11 at 01:56
Something bristles under her skin when Rick orders “Everybody stay close. No one goes off alone until we know we’re secure.” It isn’t bad advice. Carol isn’t reckless by nature and she doesn’t have any delusions about pitting her strength against the undead. She plays it safe. But she doesn’t like being told what to do.
Still, she’s prepared to be stopped when she tries to slip away from the group chatting in the cafeteria. (The small group of survivors, two men and three women, they met on the highway seem safe enough, but everyone is still cautiously feeling each other out.) She’s prepared to chirp, “I thought I’d go check out the laundry room. Maybe have a special moment with the washing machines,” but no one asks. Lori catches her eye as she gets near the door, but doesn’t say anything. She’s clearly given up trying to mother everyone. It’s doesn’t seem as worth it to bother with a crowd when your own life is such a mess, Carol figures.
The hallways are empty, but they don’t wind and they’re clearly marked and she finds her way to the laundry with ease. It’s a big room, set up to handle the washing for a couple thousand men. In the cupboard there’s real (off brand) laundry soap and carol about goes weak in the knees. She likes laundry really; it’s relaxing. But the generators aren’t running now and anyway that’s not what she came here for.
In another cupboard there are stacks of blue/grey jumpsuits. At least it’s not orange. They’ll all look more like janitors than convicts, she thinks as she holds one of them up to her slim frame, mentally cataloging all the work she’ll have to do. That’s if she can get anyone to wear them.
When they finally found gas, they also found clothes and everyone took what they needed. But their new lifestyle is hard on clothes that aren’t meant to last more than a season. Not to mention Carl and Lori who will both be growing out of their clothes every other week.
After some more rooting through the stacks, she finds the size she needs and sits down at the folding table to get to work. They tiny pink sewing kit she found in the back of an SUV on the highway is missing its pair of scissors and there aren’t any in the room that she can see, way too dangerous in a prison probably, but there’s a knife in her pocket. As she picks it up and makes a jagged cut into the fabric, Carol hums. Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. Be my Baby. Old songs that make her smile and that she hopes manage to last. Sofia knew them. She would have passed them down. Carol hums louder and cuts faster to keep her mind empty.
When she gets the jumpsuit into two pieces, she sets the knife down, farther away than she needs to. She’s trying to get used to carrying it, but Carol can feel the weight of it burning against her thigh with every step and prefers to keep it at a distance. It’s better than a gun, at least. She doesn’t feel like it’s going to suddenly go off and kill everyone in the room. And, if she’s being honest, really honest, with herself, she likes that it reminds her of the night they spent camped on the scenic turnout. Underneath the memory of cold and fear, there’s one of hope. Daryl, of all people, reminding her that she is enough. Carol’s always had trouble getting that idea to stick.
Her thoughts are clear, but somewhere between her mind and her tongue the message tends to get lost. She thought it would get better after Ed, but old habits die hard. She wonders if she had been able to get her thoughts together during the discussion about Randall’s fate, if she could have changed the outcome. If she had been able to tell the group of people who are, if not her friends then at least her neighbors, that she wasn’t going to be a part of killing a living person.
She wanted to, opened her mouth to say it a few times, but her throat was dry. Something inside her wouldn’t let the words come. It grabbed at the rogue opinion, clamping down on it. Her pulse quickened with containing it. Carol wants to be heard, but she wants more than that not to be wrong. It’ll take longer than this for her cheek to unlearn the weight of a backhand, for her heart to unlearn that stupid fucking cunts don’t get to have an opinion. The group told Dale that he was being unreasonable and she couldn’t convince herself that it wouldn’t be even worse for her. The muscle memory was too strong.
But she still wanted to speak. Her opinions churned around inside her with her fear. They didn’t mix. They didn’t settle. The room darkened around the edges, Dale’s hat still a dark circle of light. The words spewed out all wrong. Crazy.
The pity on their faces was unbearable. Poor Carol. Can’t even decide whether or not to kill someone. Must be tough being so stupid. Dale called her a murderer anyway. She was too busy waiting for the edges of the room to sharpen to contradict him.
Shaking her head and setting down her needle and thread, she picks up the pants and frowns. The new waistband came together easily and her stitches are even, but there’s no way to salvage the zipper. Sighing, she throws them back down on the table and leans back in her chair. But she doesn’t stay angry for long. She won’t let it be a waste of time. Diving back into the kit, Carol finally finds a pack of buttons. They’re pearly white, a little too girly, but they’ll hold the pants closed. They’re good enough.
Applying the buttons takes more time and more thread than anything else she’s done so far. She’s so focused that she stops humming. The thread squeaks against the fabric as she stabilizes the buttonholes she cuts with the knife. In the quiet, satisfaction starts to settle in her chest. Carol is doing the best she can with the scraps she’s found and everything is turning out okay. Not perfect, but it’ll hold together.
With one more button to go, she pauses, checking to make sure all three of them are in line with their respective buttonholes.
The door explodes open, banging hard against the wall behind it. Shrieking, Carol stands and whirls, pressing her back to the table. She’s conscious of the room’s single exit, of the knife a foot away, of the fleeting nature of life. When she sees Daryl, her breath gusts out of her like wind and she slumps against the table.
“You scared the hell out of me.”
“Well what’re you doing down here alone anyway?” he snaps back, masking the relief that had just for a moment flicked across his face.
“Sewing.” As she gets over her shock, Carol doesn’t mind being flippant with Daryl. It’s almost remarkable how little his anger frightens her.
Carol smiles, turning back to her work. It’ll take six more stitches, tops. “Wait a spell and I’ll show you.”
“I don’t care about some stupid fashion show,” Daryl snarls. “I was just making sure you didn’t get yourself killed.”
“You don’t have to worry about me.” If she turns around now, Carol won’t be able to hide her delight. A smile like the one she’s fighting will chase him away for sure, so she tries to keep her voice even.
“Because I’m all set, remember? I have this?” Picking up the knife, Carol waggles it in the air and sets it back down.
“Like you know how to use it.”
“I sure do. I used it to cut up this uniform. No scissors around here,” she adds, tossing a look over her shoulder.
Daryl’s next words are in her ear and his breath is hot on her neck and this time when she spins around, she bounces off his chest. “Got time to use it now?”
“Something comes through that door, you gonna offer to hem his pants?”
“I knew you were there.”
“Yeah well it ain’t always gonna be me.”
Being this close to him when he’s like this isn’t easy and Carol starts to squirm, trying to get some space. She holds his gaze though, angry that he interrupted her sanctuary to act like a child and confused by his intensity. She comes close to pushing him away, asking what the hell he thinks he’s doing, but she can wait and see.
Daryl’s look softens and he steps back.
“There’ll be scissors in one of the offices. Knife won’t stay sharp if you use it like that.”
Blinking at the sudden shift of tone and subject, Carol nods, “Okay.”
“And say something next time you come all the way down here by yourself.”
Because he’s calmer now and because she can’t help herself she clarifies, “So no one’ll worry about me.”
Breaking eye contact, stepping back, crossing his arms, Daryl nods, “Yeah.”
“I’ll get you some scissors.” He’s dying to get out of the room. He’s almost halfway out as he’s talking to her and this time Carol allows herself a smile. A small one.
“Hey wait a minute.”
She turns back to the table, grabs her needle and dips it in and out of the fabric, securing the last button in place. Taking a deep breath, she steels against her worst fears and faces Daryl again, holding the pants out by their crooked waistband. “Made you something.”
“What?” he repeats, less snappy, more surprised.
“I told you I’d patch those,” she says, nodding toward what has become a gaping hole in the knee of his pants. “Since you don’t ever take those ones off, I thought I’d make you a substitute.”
“You want me to drop ‘em now?” Daryl asks, putting hand to the button of his jeans as he travels the four steps back across the room and takes the clothes from her.
“If you like,” Carol answers, the corner of her mouth twitching up in a smirk.
Daryl drops his gaze again at that.
As he runs his thumb across the waistband, Carol feels self-conscious yet again. “I think I remembered your size,” she says. “I did the laundry often enough. But if they don’t fit right, don’t wear them. I know they’re a little sloppy and the buttons aren’t exactly…”
She stops when Daryl meets her eyes again, “No, they’re good. They’ll be good for workin’ in. ‘Sides, my knee was getting cold out there in these ones.”
“Well we can’t have that.”
They smile and Carol feels a rush of warmth across her chest and into her cheeks. Job well done. Friend made happy. She’s done something good. And no one else could have.
The moment holds as long as it can and then Carol clears her throat, “I should get this put away. Won’t take a minute.”
“Okay,” Daryl says. “I’ll see you back there?”
“Oh,” she doesn’t know why she expected him to wait for her, but she can’t keep the disappointment out of her voice. “Okay.”
She doesn’t know how he does it without her noticing, but when she goes to bed that night, she finds two pairs of scissors sitting on her pillow.