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beth writing 30 days without

FIC - TWD - Three Moments for Every One - A BETHYL fanfic - Chapter One: Recovery

Title: Three Moments for Every One
Author: maddieamber
Word Count: 14,220
No warnings apply to this story. Sorry, that means no smut either.

This is my Bethyl Big Bang 2015 story.

Author's Notes: I would like to express my appreciation to Team Delusional. All their wonderfully thought out metas and theories helped solidify the plot of this story. Thank you.

And a special thank you to expiredloverx who jumped on the chance to claim this story and provide art/graphics.

This story takes place immediately after the events of Coda. Like Slabtown, this is largely a Beth story, because the Beth in my head (the one who dictates everything I write) told me it had to be this way. But stick with me – there will be Bethyl before it’s over.


It was like a nightmare she could not escape, Beth thought as she stood at the window looking out on the city of Atlanta. When Beth regained consciousness she found herself once again a patient at Grady Memorial Hospital. The only thing Beth wanted was information about what had happened to Daryl and her family. The longer she waited the harder it would be to find them. Even the best tracker could not follow a trail almost four weeks cold. Each passing day drove her to start her own search. She did not know what had happened to her family, but if Noah was still with them she hoped that he would convince them to go to Richmond. Day by day that thought became the beacon that led her. She had to find her way to Richmond. And each day as she grew stronger she became more obsessed with the idea. Beth was ready to leave this place. Regardless of the dangers they would encounter on the journey to Richmond, even the uncertainty of what she would find there was preferable to staying here one more moment.

So here it is, all in one piece, under the cut:

Three Moments for Every One

Edwards stood in the window watching the scene unfold below him. He was still shaken by the turn of events, shocked by the sudden death, not of Dawn, but of Beth, regretting that she did not live long enough for him to make amends for using her to his own ends. Granted, he did not use her like Gorman had planned on doing but his transgression had been almost as heinous because he had used her trust in him to do his own dirty work. In doing so he had lost her trust and eventually had lost her as well. Which saddened him deeply because he had seen a spark in her that had been sadly lacking from all the ‘survivors’ here at Grady but most notably from himself. He had been drawn to that spark, that little flame. He did not know why at first and was too foolish to recognize her special gift until he had completely and thoroughly alienated her. But now he understood. Beth had embodied hope. In this hopeless, miserable world she had dared to hope for better - to dream of life beyond the ugliness - to sing. And now all hope was gone.

As he watched the strangers had emerged from the building onto the paved parking lot below. It had been less than fifteen minutes since the incident in the hallway, and yet it seemed an eternity. Beth’s “family” quite honestly terrified Edwards. They had the wild look of people who had lived on the edge for far too long making their own rules and defying order. For all the tenuous nature of the situation at Grady they did have order. For one insane second after the bullets stopped flying, Edwards was convinced Beth’s people would turn on all of them. It would have been a slaughterhouse if they had. No one would have left that corridor alive. To his surprise they had gathered up their dead and simply left looking as shell shocked as he had felt. He had watched their small party exit the hospital as another group arrived in a fire truck of all things. The one who had shot Dawn carrying Beth’s lifeless body down from the fifth floor. The only sound they made as they left had been the sound of muffled sobbing.

Someone behind him cleared their throat as if to get his attention and Edwards turned. Standing in the doorway was Bennet, one of the officers from the confrontation in the hallway.

“What do you want us to do with her?” Bennet asked. “Dump her down the elevator shaft with the rest?”

There was no need to name the ‘her’. Edwards knew he meant Dawn. Suddenly he was furious. He was pretty damn sure Bennet had fired the shot that killed Beth.

“What the hell did you think you were doing?” Edwards demanded, uncharacteristic rage boiling up in him as he moved closer to the man in the doorway.

Bennet took a step backwards, startled by Edwards’ outburst. “What we all wanted,” he said

“What we all wanted?”

“Yeah. Taking care of Dawn.” Suddenly the man did not sound so sure of himself

“Taking care of her. We agreed to take care of her. We did not agree to kill her. I never advocated killing her. It wasn’t necessary once Gorman and O’Donnell were out of the way. And you didn’t kill her. You shot Beth.”

“That was an accident,” Bennet said defensively. “I had a clear shot. I wouldn’t have missed if that girl hadn’t interfered.”

“But she did interfere and you did miss, you idiot. We were going to let Dawn loose in the city to fend for herself. Maybe that’s what we should do to you.”

Bennet blanched. “You wouldn’t.”

Edwards could see the man bristle defensively, his hand going to the butt of his gun. Taking a deep breath to calm his own nerves, Edwards backed off a pace or two. “Well, the damage is done. And we were damn lucky to come out of it with no fewer losses than we did. We had no way of knowing how Beth’s friends were going to react. They could have easily killed us all.”

“Not before we took out some of them.” Bennett continued to defend his position.

“And what would that have gained us?” Edwards was by no means a master of the withering glare but Bennet glanced away none the less. “We might have been stronger with them as allies.”

Before Bennet could answer there was a gunshot from the lot below. Edwards rushed back to the window only to see a swarm of undead piling up against the outside gate. Drawn by the commotion of the fire truck’s arrival moments before. “Holy, Jesus!” he cursed under his breath. Beth’s people were going to be overwhelmed in minutes.

Turning back to Bennet he snapped an order in a voice he did not think he had. “There’s a swarm of rotters pushing through the fences. Get shooters to the roof NOW! While we still have a chance to stop them.”

Bennet stepped close enough to the window to glance out and assess the situation himself.

“Go now!” snapped Edwards, “We’ve got to keep that area clear.”

Bennet raced from the room.

As Edwards turned back to the window his stomach clenched into a cold hard knot of fear. They were dead. Beth’s people were all dead. Edwards watched in despair as the undead flowed into the lot below – an unstoppable tide, reaching, grabbing, tearing. Good, God, he thought, how had these people survived this kind of mayhem out there and what had it turned them into? Then he remembered Beth’s light, her strength. She was still there in the middle of the melee. The man that had claimed her and carried her to the ground floor, now knelt on the pavement, his face buried in her golden, blood stained hair, as though oblivious to the carnage that threatened around him, consumed with grief. Their leader, the bearded one named Grimes, was shouting words Edwards could not hear as his people formed around the fallen, backs to the center of a circle of death. Edwards began to understand why they had survived. Why Beth wanted so desperately to find them. They were a team. No, they were a family. They moved like one creature from the sword wielding woman with the wild dreadlocks to the red head who could only be a former soldier. They lashed out with knives and guns, dropping the rotters almost as fast as they pushed through the crumpling gate.

Then Edwards heard the report of the first rifle from the rooftop and then another and more of the rotters began to collapse. Grimes was shaking the man holding Beth. Screaming something at him as he dragged him to his feet. They were within a few feet of one of the patrol cars and Edwards watched as Grimes dragged open the back door and helped place Beth’s body into the back seat, slamming the door when they were done. One of the rotters came around the corner of the car and had Grimes by the upper arm, gaping mouth ready to close on his living flesh but was dropped by the dark haired Asian man who had arrived with the second group. They began to inch towards the fire truck still parked near the gate, the man who had held Beth was now fighting like a man who no longer had anything to lose or to live for. The rifles from the hospital roof had made a sizeable dent in the crush of rotters near the gate and Grimes and his crew used the fallen corpses as stairs to climb to the top of the fire truck. The red headed soldier managed to get into the driver’s seat and after several attempts succeeded in starting the truck. The last man on board was the one who had carried Beth out into the sunshine. He had to be physically hauled onto the top of the truck and he fought those trying to save him. As the vehicle lumbered away Edwards had one last glimpse of the man with the crossbow, crumpled near the cab of the truck head hanging in utter dejection. The sound of the fire truck drew most of the remaining rotters who mindlessly follow it.

Edwards continued to stare in numbed silence as the remaining undead were picked off by the gunmen on the roof until the last one had fallen and two officers braved the battle zone to clear and secure the gate. Only then did Edwards move away from the window. The mess would have to be cleaned. A fire would draw more rotters, but it was the only way to get rid of so many corpses. Someone would have to organize the effort. And then there was Beth’s body. Personally, he didn’t give a shit what happened to Dawn’s remains. But he was determined that no disrespect be shown to Beth’s. She’d have a proper funeral. And if she ended up on a pyre at least it would be done with dignity.


Edwards moved cautiously through the bodies strewn across the pavement. Even though his brain told him they were dead, he half expected them to rise again. He hated being near any of them dead or truly dead. Watching them through the security grate on ground level was one thing, touching was another. And though he reminded himself they had all been human beings at one time, it was hard to envision. He had donned a surgical mask and gloves before stepping out onto the blacktop. It was near mid-afternoon and the sun pounded down on the black surface heating the air into shimmering waves. The carrion stench from bodies decaying before they were finally put down was overwhelming. No surgical mask could repel the nauseating odor adding to the utter chaos of the scene before him. He tried to ignore the corpses. He had only one goal. He motioned to Bennet and the younger man joined him.

“Do you want me to add Dawn’s body to the pile,” he asked.

“No,” Edwards replied. “A separate fire. One for her and one for Beth.”

“But I thought the others,” Bennet began

“Took Beth with them?” Edwards finished his question. “No, they were forced to leave her behind. She’s in that car there.” Edwards pointed to the cruiser that contained Beth’s body.

Bennet’s nose wrinkled in poorly masked disgust. “That’s my car.”

“Well isn’t that appropriate,” Edwards replied sarcastically. “I guess you’re the man for the job then.”

Bennet took a deep breath before yanking open the rear door. One of Beth’s legs slid out of the car, the tip of her toe touching the ground like a ballerina poised to dance. Strangely graceful even in death.

Edwards wiped the image from his mind and forced himself not to admonish Bennet to be careful.

Sticking his head into the rear door of his vehicle, Bennet mumbled something under his breath that Edwards could not understand. He grunted as he tried to maneuver Beth’s body out of the back seat. Edwards watched the procedure, ready to help if the man asked but not willing to volunteer. Let him struggle, he thought.

“Holy fucking Christ,” Bennet suddenly shouted. Jumping back out of the car, he slammed his head against the door frame in the process. He turned to Edwards his eyes round and face pale. “She just took a breath.”

“Probably a reflex reaction as her body functions shut down.” Edwards answered, more amused than he admitted by Bennet’s reaction.

“NO!” was Bennet’s adamant reply. “She’s fucking breathing,” he insisted, vigorously pointing his finger at his car.

Edwards pushed the young officer aside, convinced he was over-reacting and wedged himself into the back seat of the car. As he did Beth gave a shuddering, half-choked gasp. Oh, my god, Edwards thought. Was it possible? Yes, the clinical part of his brain replied, he damn well knew it was possible. He never got the chance to examine Beth’s body after she was shot. To confirm her death. The bowman had let no one else touch her. Placing two fingers on Beth’s neck Edwards tried to find a pulse. He could not, but her skin was still warm and pliant, and not because of the sun beating down on the car. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out his stethoscope. Yes, he thought. Very faint, but detectable. She had a á weak heartbeat.

“Get a gurney now!” he bellowed to Bennet. “She’s alive! We need to get her inside!”


Beth always imagined death was like floating in a vast white expanse, pain free and light as a feather. Somewhere in the whiteness she would find Daddy and he would have Momma and Shawn with him. And they would not have to wait very long before they were joined by Maggie and Glenn and all the others she loved. So she knew she was not dead because she could not see or move or talk, and her head was filled with an agonizing pain pounding to the faint beat of her heart. Voices echoed through the blinding pain and the darkness. Rick and Carol, Noah and Tyreese, but mostly Daryl. She could hear the tears in his voice, feel the shuddering sobs ripping through him as he hugged her to his chest. And she wanted to tell him she could hear him and she was inside her head listening even though sounds came through wadded cotton muffled and indistinct. But she could not make the words come. She was trapped and the world had slowed. Time was distorted. Every second seemed like three.

But against her ear, behind the ragged breathing she could hear his heart beating, strong, steady as loyal and dependable as only Daryl’s heart could be. And then she was floating. Floating in Daryl’s arms. She could sense the motion as she hung limp and helpless, cradled in his strength. She felt his footsteps hitting the linoleum floor of the hallway, then a jolt as he took each step, five floors of steps, out into the blazing sun she could not see but felt as fire on her skin. They were taking her home. She was going home with her family wherever that ended up being. Maybe Richmond with Noah.

The motion stopped, but she could still feel his arms wrapped around her, hear his heart beating, and feel the rise and fall of his chest as he took each breath. Daryl was murmuring soft words, his voice vibrating through her even though she could not understand their meaning.

Then a sound like thunder ripped through her. She could sense the change in those around her that spoke of danger and urgency. They was more shouting and explosive noises, but for her everything moved in slow motion. Someone was trying to take her out of Daryl’s arms and she could not fight them off, could not shout for help but she could hear the outrage in Daryl’s voice as he struggled to maintain his hold on her. And then Daryl’s warm arms were gone. She could no longer feel his breathing or hear his heartbeat and for the first time she was afraid. She was surrounded by the silent darkness and terror. And she was no longer going home.

An eternity later, she felt a soft touch on the side of her neck.


Edwards leaned against the side of the door watching Beth sleep. He had done all he could to stabilize her condition, now all he could do was wait and hope the damage to her brain was minimal. There had been very little bleeding, which was good because it meant no major blood vessels had been damaged by the track of the bullet. He also hoped that meant no hematomas would develop in her skull that would increase pressure on her brain. Without a CT scan he had no idea what parts of her brain would be affected by the bullet’s path. He could only surmise from the angle of the entry and exit wounds what structures might be involved. For the next two weeks brain swelling would be the critical issue. Even though the bullet had entered and exited cleanly with no apparent fragmentation, the pathway would still be a source of shock and minimizing swelling was critical. He was no neurosurgeon and the thought of having to remove a portion of her cranium to alleviate pressure on her brain terrified him. For now, he would keep her sedated and pray.

“Can we really spare the resources?”

Edwards bristled at the sound of the voice behind him. Turning he faced Bennet, and this time he had brought back-up in the form of Officers Licari and Sheppard.

“How can you even ask?” Edwards’ voice dripped sarcasm. “She took out Gorman, helped Dawn eliminate O’Donnell, and was the direct cause of Dawn’s demise. We owe her whatever we gained from all of that. In return we put her it the position she is in now. Yes, we can spare the resources.” Edwards stared coldly at the three officers. “Not only can we spare them, we will go out and find more of them if we need to. What is the point of eliminating Dawn if we aren’t going to be any better than she was? Wasn’t that the whole purpose behind this? To make things better for everyone here, not just the officers.”

Bennet and his cohorts glanced at each other. Each nodded as though confirming something they had already decided.

“Let us know if there is anything you need, Doc?” Bennet finally said, in a voice that was respectful, and perhaps a bit contrite. “We’re having a meeting in the dining hall. Organizational. We think you should be there. Maybe one of the wards could sit with her. Just in case there’s an emergency.”

Edwards sighed. Suddenly regretting his sharp words. He was determined to be better than Dawn not become her replica. “Please find Percy. He will be glad to sit with Beth.”


Beth felt as though she had been gone for ages. She did not know where she had been, only that she had been gone. She still felt leaden, her arms and legs so weak she could barely wiggle her fingers and toes, much less lift her extremities. But she was no longer floating, in Daryl’s arms or in her mind. She was very aware of the firmness of a mattress beneath her back.

They must have gotten to Richmond, or found shelter somewhere with real beds. She wanted to stretch the stiffness out of her muscles, but no matter how hard she tried her body would not cooperate, so she remained still, listening the buzz of sound around her. In time the buzz differentiated into snatches of voices and a persistent bleeping noise. None of the voices were saying words she could understand. She wanted to talk to them, to talk to Daryl and the others, to tell them how much she had missed them. It had been so long

Slowly the muddle of sound became more distinct. The rhythmic, mechanical bleeping a background to the words.

“…gradually. We need to assess how much damage the bullet inflicted.”

Bleep, bleep, bleep…

“..startle her. We have no idea how she will react. If she’s even capable of responding. But we need to keep her as calm as possible.”

Bleep, bleep, bleep…

‘…sedative. I’ve prepared one.”

Bleep, bleep, bleep…

“Only if she gets over agitated.”

She could feel her left fingers and toes now, though there was a strange numbness in her right side. Beth continued to rise slowly to the surface of the darkness, like a deep sea diver that had spent time in the oceans depths, she felt herself moving upward in cautious baby steps. The darkness giving way to light. And as it did she suddenly realized the undercurrent of sound she had been hearing was the steady sound of a heart monitor. She was in a hospital. In Richmond? Why?

“She’s coming around.”

“Okay, let me handle this from here.”

The voices were so familiar and Beth struggled to put faces with the sounds.

“Beth?” The voice was tentative.

Where ever she was they knew her name. Daryl or Rick or Carol must have told them. Beth pushed harder against the last remaining fog in her brain, trying to break through.

“I don’t know if you can hear me. I want you to try to remain as calm as possible. We need to evaluate your condition. I’m going to ask some questions. First, if you can, open your eyes.”

Beth wanted to respond, but as hard as she thought about opening her eyes, her eyelids refused to respond.

“Just take your time.” Said the voice. “When you’re ready. And don’t be frightened. We’ve kept the room dark. So you can adjust.”

Beth made one last herculean effort to open her eyes and felt them flutter, imagined the feel of her lashes against her cheeks, then finally felt her eyelids open the barest slit. To see nothing. She felt herself take a short startled gasp.

“Remember, Beth, the room is dark. You’re not going to see anything just yet.”

But Beth did not need to see. She remembered - the voice, the smell, the sound of the monitors. She was still in Grady. She had never left. Her eyes popped open and she saw the recognizable profile of Dr. Edwards against the bright glow of the monitors behind him. She opened her mouth, wanting to voice her dismay, and her anger about still being here but all that came from her mouth was a garble of nonsense syllables. Struggling to sit up, she felt hands on her shoulders coaxing her back onto the bed and she fought against them. No one was going to keep her in this place. Not now. Not after she’d found her family. Not after she’d found Daryl.

“The sedative,” Edwards said sharply. “Before she hurts herself.”

NO! Beth screamed, but the sound was only in her mind.


“That went well,” Bennet said sarcastically.

Edwards shot him an angry look.

“Now what?” Bennet continued, more contritely.

“We try again tomorrow.”

“She’ll react the same.”

I hope she does, Edwards thought, because that means she’s still fighting and has a chance. He shook his head. “The sedative we just gave her was much lighter than what she’s been under for the last two weeks. She should be much more aware as she wakes up.”

“Well,” Bennet said again, “it might be wise to make sure she doesn’t get her hands on any sharp objects until she understands we mean her no harm. I got a funny feeling you might be her first target.”


It was like a nightmare she could not escape, Beth thought as she stood at the window looking out on the city. It was not the same room she had awakened in when she had first been brought to Grady Memorial Hospital weeks ago, but the view was the same. She had been conscious for about ten days. Long enough for Edwards to explain what had happened to her, and why she was still here. Still here, while her family was lost to her again. She was slowly recovering her strength but was plagued by persistent numbness in her right arm and leg. Both limbs worked, but felt as though they were completely asleep, which threw off her gait and her ability to manipulate anything with her right hand. Edwards assured her the condition would improve as long as she continued to exercise both limbs. Whether she trusted Edwards enough to believe was another story. She could only hope and mark each small improvement as another step towards the day she would leave this place permanently. Each day she would walk the corridors of the hospital that were open to them. First with a walker - and she had laughed at the pun once she got accustomed to using one. More recently she had moved to a cane. Often the former wards walked with her to make sure she did not fall.

Her ability to walk was steadily improving. Edwards assured her the cast would be removed from her wrist in a few days and she could begin to exercise her hand. What was more unsettling though was her inability to form coherent words, to express herself or to ask for the most basic questions. She understood everything that was said to her and her memory remained intact, as she recalled past events with startling clarity. But she could not find the correct words regardless of how hard she tried. She could speak, but what came out of her mouth was nonsense. Yesterday the only word she could annunciate was ‘chicken’. Edwards called the condition Broca’s Aphasia. She did not care what it was called she only wanted to know if it could be treated.

She did not know what to think of Edwards. She was still angry and disappointed by how he had used her to kill an innocent man because he was too much the coward to do it himself. And yet he seemed truly contrite about that and about the fact that she had been accidentally shot. He steadfastly refused to tell her who fired the bullet that entered her head, and in reality, she did not need a name. It had happened. She believed it was an accident. She had no intention of conducting a vendetta against the culprit. Besides, she was partially to blame herself thinking she could somehow inflict an injury on Dawn. And Edwards had saved her life. They had used precious resources to keep her alive while she healed and were continuing to make every effort to aid in her recovery.

Edwards attempted to convince her that everyone at Grady had agreed to alter the course set by Dawn. There seemed to be some movement in that direction. At least Percy seemed much happier and less intimidated. Dear, sweet Percy had taken it upon himself to act as her caregiver, walking with her as she learned to navigate on two feet again, bringing her the best tidbits of food to encourage her to eat, reading to her as much to amuse himself as to entertain her. The old man seemed to have a fondness for her and she returned the affection. In some ways it helped to ease the pain of losing her father. She was very grateful for his solicitude.

But no one, not even Percy, could completely dispel the sense of gloom that had overtaken her. She had not lost hope, but to come so close to being reunited with Daryl and her family, only to be robbed of their company, had been a devastating blow. To awaken from a drug induced sleep to find herself back where she had started after so tantalizing a contact with the people she loved was difficult to bear. Each day, standing at this window, she watched the patrol cars drive out of the gates as the officers continued to make supply runs into the city. It was dangerous business, no one argued that point. But they no longer brought back hapless victims to become ‘wards’ to service their needs. The only thing Beth wanted from the officers was information about what had happened to Daryl and her family. As each car left and returned with no word of her friends, she grew more desperate to leave this place. The longer she waited the harder it would be to find them. Even the best tracker could not follow a trail almost four weeks cold. Each passing day drove her to start her own search. She did not know what had happened to her family, but if Noah was still with them she hoped that he would convince them to go to Richmond. Day by day that thought became the beacon that led her. She had to find her way to Richmond. And each day as she grew stronger she became more obsessed with the idea.


Edwards stepped back and eyed the painting critically to make sure it was hanging straight, stepped forward and nudged the bottom left corner just a bit, then stood back again.

“Yep,” he said to himself. “That will do.” When he first took possession of the Caravaggio master work he thought he it represented a life that could never possibly exist again. The world of art, and the music he had listened too where just reminders of all he, no, all that humanity had lost. He had been convinced all of the classical endeavors were fossils of the past in this reality. But then Beth had said to him ‘I still sing’ and since her literal return from the dead he had begun to re-think his attitude towards the arts. Maybe, just maybe, there would come a time when men could once again indulge. And to that end, he felt the need to preserve what they still had, to pay homage to past genius and provide a more appropriate display for the painting.

The sound of soft applause startled him and he turned to see Beth in the doorway, a smile of approval on her face, and for some crazy reason, that approval meant more to him than he could possibly have imagined. She was standing, he noted secondarily, without the aid of her cane. In fact, she had not brought the cane with her. Remarkable, he thought. She had made remarkable progress. A conceited man would have taken credit for her survival and rapid recovery, but he knew his skill as a doctor had little to do with the speed with which she progressed. That was all Beth and her determination to heal. He had helped to keep her alive, but the rest she had done through sheer will power.

Edwards noted that she surveyed his once cluttered and dingy office with an observant eye. He had made a point of straightening out the mess, opening the windows and letting in the sun. There was no longer a need to hide in a cave piled haphazardly from one end to the other with objects of little use except to aggravate Dawn with their presence. He was not naturally a sloppy person. That charade had been his one small act of defiance in a situation over which he felt he had no control. It was good, he admitted, to feel like he actually had some control over his life and his fate again.

“Is there something I can do for you?” he asked at last. He doubted Beth had come simply to pay him a social call.

Beth nodded and walked carefully into the center of his office, glanced around as though looking for something specific, then nodded. She went to his file cabinet and took down the rolled map he had placed on top of the set of drawers. Apparently, she had noticed the map on one of her earlier visits. Since his world had been reduced to the halls and rooms of the hospital, he had almost forgotten it existed. But there was a world outside these walls. A terrifying world to him, and yet one in which Beth and her companions had survived since the beginning of this debacle.

Setting the map on the now clean surface of his desk, Beth carefully unrolled it, placing weights on all four corners to keep it flat. She studied it for only a moment to orient herself then pointed at a location. Edwards moved closer.

“Richmond?” he asked, uncertain of what she was thinking. Although her motor abilities had vastly improved, her speech unfortunately had not. Without a skilled speech therapist, Edwards was not sure it would ever improve. “Do you need to know something about Richmond?” He needed to be careful he did not add to her obvious frustration at being unable to communicate.

“Turtle,” she said, then closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. “Turtle.” She opened her eyes and looked at him.

He waited patiently. They would figure this out eventually.

“Okay, I’m not sure what turtle means,” he said at last.

“Fam.” Beth took a deep breath. “Famine.”

“Famine?” Edwards knew he could not take anything she said literally. The random words her brain generated were usually not what she actually meant.

“Famy,” Beth said.

“Famine. Famy. Family?” Edwards said at last.

Beth nodded furiously.

“Family,” Edwards felt relieved that he had guessed so quickly. “You have family in Richmond?”

No, Beth shook her head. Pointing to her chest she said “Famy”, then rested her finger on Atlanta, tracing the highway north to Richmond.

Edwards thought for a moment. “Your family. The people who came here for you. You think they went from Atlanta to Richmond?

Beth smiled broadly, and nodded vigorously.

“But how would you know that?” Edwards blurted without thinking.

Beth frowned at him as though he were a complete idiot.

I probably am, he thought.

“Ark,” she said bluntly.

“Ark?” I am an idiot, he thought. Ark? What the hell could ark mean?

“Ark,” Beth repeated emphatically.

“Of course,” Edwards said excitedly, “Noah.”

Again Beth smiled broadly.

“Noah was from Richmond. And you think he would lead your family back there.”

Edwards thought Beth was going to hug him she was so excited. She pointed at him, then herself, then retraced the route on the map from Atlanta to Richmond. Edwards eyed her skeptically. “You want me to take you to Richmond.”

Yes, she nodded firmly.

“I don’t know if that can be done.” He was startled by the sharp sting of her hand as she slapped him across the face. She was glaring at him, then repeated pointing to him, herself and the map. It was not a question. She expected him to get her to Richmond. “Okay, I’ll take it to the next council meeting. This is going to have to be coordinated if it’s going to work.”

Beth nodded once before turning and walking out of his office, head held high and her back straight, only the slightest limp to betray the lingering paralysis in her right side.

“Okay,” he said again after she had left. “Jesus, how am I going to swing this?”


Chapter Two: The Journey