Disclaimer: I only wish I owned anything related to The Walking Dead. I'm just having fun filling in some gaps in the story.
Season 1, episode 3
The woods outside Atlanta, night
The world had gone to hell, and they were now living outside, in a makeshift camp, with strangers. And yet, she'd been living in hell for years already. This wasn't all that different, except that in this new hell, there was no electricity or running water. And yes, she missed those things… but she would have gladly lived without them for the rest of her life if it meant she didn't have to be afraid for her own safety or that of her daughter ever again. Unfortunately, this trade was not an option.
In a way, it was so much harder now. Now that they had become, however temporarily, part of a larger group, even if it was just on the periphery. Her husband demanded that they keep their distance from "these people." It was harder, in this camp, to pretend that everything was normal. She felt pulled in two directions. On the one hand, there was the loyalty she felt to her husband, no matter that others would probably not understand this loyalty in the face of everything she suffered. If she was being honest, that loyalty was also mixed with a healthy dose of fear. She knew exactly what he was capable of.
On the other hand, there was her desire to be a part of the group, to contribute, to pull her own weight. And not just to pull her own weight, but to help these other people, though they had been strangers to her only a few days before. The world had changed, and she could see that this mismatched assortment of people needed to pull together, to help each other, in order to survive. She had always had a soft heart for others, and perhaps because of everything she had been through, she empathized with their needs that much more. Mostly, it made her feel good to think that she might be someone who had something to give, like maybe, just maybe, she wasn't as worthless as she had so often been told, even though she dared not truly believe it.
There weren't so many of them in their camp, but there were enough people that there was always someone who needed help with something. Her husband certainly didn't seem to feel any need to pull his own weight or to be useful whatsoever. He seemed perfectly content to take from the group when it suited him, all the while claiming that they would be perfectly fine on their own, if need be. He was rude and argumentative when anyone approached him, his wife included, and he didn't care what anyone said or thought. She shuddered when he acted that way, embarrassed by his actions but unable to do anything about them. This was what life had turned into.
She'd known after she'd apologized to Shane on her husband's behalf, though she had not used his name, that it had been a mistake. She simply could not let the confrontation, which had resulted from her husband's insistence on keeping the fire burning higher than the group's agreement, go unmentioned. Everyone had agreed that the fires would stay low so that they could not be seen from a distance. It was for the group's safety. But he had argued that it was cold, and he wanted the fire higher. He was not one to compromise when he wanted something. He didn't care about protecting the group, he just wanted what he wanted. Her apology had been an automatic reaction, the result of her desire to keep the peace between her husband and the rest of the group. Not just that though, it came from within her. She was a kind and gentle person. When there was a wrong, she tried to right it, if it was in her power. It was just that simple.
As soon as Shane walked away from the cooling embers of the fire that had been stomped out, she began to tremble, realizing that it was only a matter of time. The lack of privacy out here in the woods, surrounded by strangers, had not deterred her husband's temper. Changed it slightly, yes, made him quieter about it at times, not wanting their business to be public knowledge, but the end result was the same. If only I'd kept my mouth shut, she thought to herself. She knew that he hated it when she apologized to other people for him. She knew this because it was far from being the first time it had happened. His reaction wasn't always the same, but there was always a reaction, sooner or later.
"It's getting late. It's time to go and get some sleep," he hissed at her, leaving no room for argument, and ignoring their daughter as he usually did. He got up and stalked away from the remnants of the fire. She glanced nervously over towards the rest of the group, clustered around the dying light of the main campfire area, to see if any of them had paid any attention to his departure. No one seemed to be looking in her direction. Good, she thought. It's easier that way. She felt a momentary longing to be in the circle with the others around the low flames, just talking and pretending that their world wasn't in pieces, but she shook it off. He insisted that they keep their distance from the others, so they did.
"Come on, sweetheart," she said gently to her daughter, smoothing her hair with her trembling hand and kissing the top of her head as she stood up. "Let's go get some sleep."
The girl seemed to sense her mother's apprehension. Sadly, none of this was new to her. "Momma?" she asked, looking up at her mother timidly.
"Sssshhh, come on, it'll all be alright," the woman told her. She wondered if her words sounded as hollow in her daughter's ears as they felt when they left her lips, or if her daughter actually believed them. She'd managed to protect the girl from her father so far, no matter what the cost to herself. She put her arm around the twelve year old's skinny shoulders as they trailed reluctantly behind her husband. There was no way to know exactly what to expect from him next, only to hope, however foolishly, that it would be alright somehow.
If only she could believe that it would be alright. She'd been telling herself this lie for many years now, and somehow it seemed that instead of getting better, everything had suddenly gotten worse. Still, this was her life now. There were no options, no choices. Just this.
Keep breathing, keep going.
She tried to suppress a sigh as they slowly followed him across the camp. Please God, she thought, please… She didn't know how to finish the thought, or even why she was bothering with her plea. She had made the same attempt to pray for help so many times in the past, and it had never done her any good before. On the contrary, the world as they knew it had ended, the dead had begun to attack the living and civilization had fallen apart… It seemed as if the world was only getting worse and worse. And yet even so, she could not help but hope that somehow, some way, something would change for the better. After all, she was still alive, so there was still a chance, however small.
Despite everything, and however foolishly, she had not given up hope.