The next morning I awoke to an empty tent.
Still no Maggie.
I sighed and tried to let go of the hope I had for them returning today. I tried not to think about where they were, what they were doing, what kind of danger they were in...
Instead I decided to take my anxiety out on my gun. I grabbed it from my backpack, loaded it like Rick taught me, and headed towards the woods.
I was careless with my shooting. I wasn't as concerned with hitting the target as I was just wanting to pull the trigger again... and again and again.
CLICK CLICK POW
CLICK CLICK POW
I knew I was missing the tree but I didn't care.
CLICK CLICK POW
Suddenly, a figure sprang from the woods behind me. I saw it from the corner of my eye, and I thought it was a walker. I jumped around and held my gun up at it, ready to fire.
It wasn't a walker.
"Woah woah woah!" he yelled with his deep southern grunt. He had his hands up to guard himself.
I froze when I saw him, and didn't even put my gun down when I realized it wasn't a walker. I just stood there, my mouth open, eyes wide, shaking like a scared puppy.
"Are you gonna put that down anytime soon?" he said angrily.
"Um... uh..." I studdered. "Sorry," I choked. I put the gun back in my belt pocket.
"What the hell were you doin' anyway? Shootin' at nothin' like that," he said, and was now trying to reposition his cross bow over his shoulder.
I was so embarrassed. He probably thought I was an idiot.
"I was trying to practice but... I got a little carried away," I said looking down. I felt Daryl's stare.
"Somethin' botherin' you?" he asked.
I shook my head no. But he didn't take his gaze off me. I tried a different response.
"I guess I'm just worried about Glenn and Maggie," I said softly. I looked up at him this time. We made eye contact, and I could see that as much as he didn't want to show it, he was concerned too.
"Don't worry, kid. They'll be back."
With that, the connection broke and he turned to walk back into the woods. I stood there for a moment but then called after him.
"Where are you going?" I shouted.
He yelled back.
Then he left my sight. I didn't quite know what to think of Daryl yet. He was still just the mysterious guy with the cross bow who leaves in the morning and comes back in the afternoon with dead animals.
All I know is, my encounter with him really put things into perspective with my shooting. For the rest of the day, I shot the gun responsibly at the tree. I got so good at hitting the target, I actually asked Rick to come see.
He seemed really impressed by it.
"Fast learner," he said.
I was all smiles walking back to camp. When I saw Beth walking by, I remembered Glenn and Maggie. My smile broke and I ran up to her.
"Are they back yet?" I said quickly.
She just shook her head. I watched her walk away gloomily.
That night, there was a strange feeling within the group. We were all worried, but the adults tried to keep the mood calm for the children.
As for me, I didn't have a problem showing my concern. It was a quiet night. After dinner, I was on my way back to my tent when Rick stopped me.
"Can I have a word?" he asked.
I nodded, not knowing what he wanted to say. But I followed him over to the edge of the road where no one could hear us.
"Now I know it's normal for days to go by before any of our group returns from a run, but not this time. They took a car, and the hospital is right up the street. Glenn and Maggie are usually the most efficient. I don't want to alarm anyone, but I think something might have happened," he didn't breathe until he was finished.
My eyes were wide with concern, taking in his every word. I understood what he was saying, but I didn't understand why he was telling me.
"If they aren't back by the morning, I'm sending Daryl to go look for them," he continued.
Still didn't understand what I had to do with anything...
"And I'm sending you with him."