Lyla spends the first part of 2007 in a funk. Everything just keeps falling apart. It's over with Jason. It still hurts too much to try and speak with him as a friend she can, but only in short bursts, when she has to, and even then it's so incredibly awkward.
And now that she's quit cheerleading, there's so much ... empty time in her day after school lets out. She doesn't know what to do with herself sometimes.
She tries throwing herself into her schoolwork, but ....
(Why do adults seem to think that as long as you've got good grades everything is fine?)
By the time May rolls around, Lyla feels like she doesn't even know her mom sometimes. She's on an unholy tear of a rebound right now; it's as if she's trying to completely get rid of any vestige of her life as Mrs. Buddy Garrity. She's quit going to church. She's starting buying all sorts of strange new foods from the health food store. She doesn't do anything with the Booster Club Wives any more and she's quit the book club, too.
On the other hand, Lyla's not so sure she wants to know her father sometimes. A part of her will always love her daddy, but that's what makes finding out how childish and selfish and pushy he is so much worse. She feels like a game piece in his passive-aggressive war against her mother and she hates it, but doesn't know what to do.
Lyla hasn't been to First Baptist since that rainy winter Sunday when Angela Colette slapped her father in front of the whole congregation and what was left of life as she knew it started coming apart for good.
She sits in the pew on this sunny May morning and tries to smile, tries to say hello.
Christ forgives, but the members of First Baptist do not. That's what it feels like.
She's gone to church all her life with these people and they're treating her like a stranger. A stranger with a bad smell.
She tries for three more Sundays, and a few Wednesday nights, too, but the whispers and smug kindness, the saccharine smiles are too much. Lyla Garrity is a sinner and the daughter of a sinner, and no matter how much Lyla hears that Jesus forgives her, she knows in her heart that these people's forgiveness is conditional, because they keep bringing up sin and how good they are to forgive sinners any time they can shove it into a conversation or a sermon.
Lyla's sorry she ever came back. She understands now what some woman she overheard years ago meant when she said, "Baptists can't ever do anything nice for you with out putting a bit of mean in it."
It's a bitter lesson.
By the middle of June, Mom is buying all of their groceries at the health food store. At first, Lyla thought it was just a part of her mother's rebounding, but it's more like how Lyla got rid of her uniform and pom-poms. It's a change that goes clear to the bone. So it looks like Smart Deli, soy milk, tofu, and organic apples have become permanent parts of her life oh joy. (The organic apples are actually pretty good. Her mother's attempts at cooking tofu, not so much.)
The guy who owns the store has been very friendly to her mother, has gotten a lot more flirty in the past few weeks. Lyla sighs on the inside when he asks her mother out for a cup of coffee and her mother says yes.
There's a flier on the bulletin board at the front of the store. An image of two overlapping rings of light coming from what looks like an an oil lamp. "Find your own path to spirituality". A date, a time, a place. The elegant simplicity of the design makes it stand out from all the other fliers about yoga, crystal meditation, unlocking the third eye, and Wicca.
Lyla's been looking for a new church since things went down the toilet with First Baptist. She still wants to have God in her life; she loved how connected with others that she used to feel at First Baptist, but so far she hasn't found the church that has to do with the God she's come to know in her heart. She figures she might as well give this Unitarian Universalist church a try.
"'Is God keeping you away from Church? Building a new relationship with Life, the Universe, and Everything.' What, is this some sort of cult?" Tim asks when she hands him a flyer for a Young Religious Unitarian Universalists meeting outside of the Winn Dixie.
She smiles back, "No, Tim, it's a group of teens coming together to explore various ideas about religion and what it means to be a good person."
He lifts an eyebrow, takes a chug from his beer, and wipes at his mouth with the back of his hand. Lyla can tell that he's been drinking steadily all day. She wants to shake him until his teeth rattle. "It's what I've been doing with my summer exploring my relationship with the Universe. I'm working to become a Youth Leader. What have you been up to?" She suspects it's a whole lot of nothing, and that's just such a waste. Tim could be so much more if he would just ... stop being himself. Well, the bad parts of himself.
"Well, I had a threeway with the Stratton sisters." He smirks at her. It's a line meant to sting.
Despite herself, Lyla laughs and says, "You know, the pursuit of pleasure can be a healthy and rewarding lifestyle choice."
"Really?" He slathers on the sarcasm.
She brushes it off and continues, "Epicurus the Greek Philosopher believed in a life devoted to the pursuit of pleasures. 'Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.'"
Tim frowns at her in thought. "You're not you're serious, aren't you?"
"Totally." She smiles up at him. His eyes glaze over, shutter. She's lost him.
"Because we're not about fire and brimstone or being holier than thou, or about telling you that going to heaven means living in misery and fear and denial." It's not that you drink and fuck around, Tim, it's what's driving you to drink and fuck around.
Tim pauses for a moment and then he gets that soft half-smile on his face, the one Lyla knows is real. "Alright, Garrity, I'll see you there." He fishes a flyer for Christ's Teen Messengers off his windshield and holds it up for her to see. "I like the sound of what you're selling a hell of a lot better than this."