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Thunder Road

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The screen door slams
Mary' dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely

It started during Thanksgiving with a few drinks at Lyla's Dad's bar. It had been cold that year, but she and Tyra had ended up out back sitting on the picnic table the staff usually used on their smoke breaks. The music from the jukebox floated out, and every time a door opened they'd hear snatches of conversation, people talking and happy.

Just another Dillon night like so many others. Only for the two women it wasn't just another night. Home for the holidays, Dillon seemed smaller and smaller every year.

"You remember that night out at the lake. Back before Jason got hurt?" Lyla was leaning back, a beer in her hand as she stared up at the stars. "Texas forever. You remember that, all the plans we had for after high school?"

"If by plans you mean marrying those fool-ass boys, following them around as they played football for some college, buying some ranch and popping out a couple kids?" Tyra laughed, shaking her head as she remembered the night exactly. She and Lyla had never really been friends back then, getting along mostly when the boys wanted to hang out. They weren't really friends now either, but time had changed things for them both. "Then yeah. Yeah, I remember those plans."

Lyla laughed too, though she swatted at Tyra. "Come on, it wasn't like that."

"I don't know what sorta thing you're remembering, but it was totally like that," Tyra insisted as she sat up, hooking one of her legs up beneath her. "We were going to spend the rest of our lives playing second fiddle to those boys, and you were going to end up being your mom. At least I wasn't going to end up like mine. Or, who knows, maybe I was."

"You wouldn't have." Which wasn't what Lyla would have said back then. "Anyway, that's not the point. The point is how much things have changed. Could you imagine it now?"

"Hell no! I couldn't even see staying in Dillon any longer. I dunno, I guess… I went off to college, I did the thing that everyone always said I couldn't." Tyra shrugged, proud of all that she'd accomplished in her life. "And this place, it'll always be my home, but it's smaller now. There's too much here."

"Too many memories?" For Lyla there were. Jason and all of their plans, then his injury, and everything with her and Tim. Her parents splitting up, her mom getting remarried and moving out to California with her brother and sister. This place was rife with them.

"Something like that." Tyra couldn't find any better words than those. It all meant the same, it all meant that she couldn't ever live here again. She'd moved past that, way past. "I only have half a year left. I'll be graduating in May."

"Yeah?" Lyla glanced over at her, knowing that it had taken a lot for Tyra to even get there. "Me too. It'll be good to be done, won’t it?"

“You got any idea what you’re going to do?”

“Not really. I’ll see when I’m done, I guess.” Lyla didn’t like not having a plan. The only time she’d ever honestly managed to forget about life and all the expectation she put on herself was when she was with Tim. Even then she could only do it for so long, her worry always creeping back in.

“I think I might move to LA. Who knows. As long as I get the hell out of here.” Tyra held her bottle up in a toast, pushing off her seat to stand on the top of the table. “Screw you, Dillon. I’m going to see America. It’s going to be amazing and you can’t stop me.”

 


To: l.garrity@vanderbilt.edu
From: tyra.collette@universityoftexas.edu
Date: February 10
Subject:Graduating Roadtrip

Lyla,

Have you thought about taking a road trip after graduation? Seriously, it’ll be amazing.

~T

 

To: tyra.collette@universityoftexas.edu
From: l.garrity@vanderbilt.edu
Date: February 12
Subject:RE: Graduating Roadtrip

Tyra,

Are you serious? To where? What’ll we do for work, for money?

Lyla

 

To: l.garrity@vanderbilt.edu
From: tyra.collette@universityoftexas.edu
Date: February 12
Subject:RE RE: Graduating Roadtrip

L,

It might surprise you, but I have some money saved up. Besides, I was thinking of LA, but why not San Francisco? LA is such a cliche (apparently) and anyway I want to do something new. We can do it all, Vegas, Colorado, Minnesota, Chicago, come on Garrity. You know you want to.

~T

 

To: tyra.collette@universityoftexas.edu
From: l.garrity@vanderbilt.edu
Date: February 17
Subject:RE RE RE: Graduating Roadtrip

Tyra,

That’s your plan? Driving to San Francisco just because?

You’re crazy.

Lyla

 

To: l.garrity@vanderbilt.edu
From: tyra.collette@universityoftexas.edu
Date: February 18
Subject: Come on

Garrity,

Does that mean you’re in?

~T

 

To: tyra.collette@universityoftexas.edu
From: l.garrity@vanderbilt.edu
Date: February 23
Subject: RE: Come on

Tyra,

Fine. I’m in.

This is crazy you know.

Lyla

 

To: l.garrity@vanderbilt.edu
From: tyra.collette@universityoftexas.edu
Date: February 25
Subject: See you in May

Lyla

G,

Of course it’s crazy. That’s what makes it a great idea.

~T

 


 Darling you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking
That maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith there's magic in the night

Lyla watched the movers cart her boxes down the hall, going back to grab her suitcase. She had a flight back to Dillon that night, and a two-week visit to her Dad before she came back to settle into the house she’d rented with a couple of girls from her classes. Staying in Nashville for another year now that she was done at Vanderbilt had made sense. She’d gotten a job in admissions, just doing administration, but it would pay the bills and give her experience. A year and then she’d consider what was next for her, but for now this was what made sense.

“Hey. I don’t know where you’re planning on going with that suitcase, but it better not be back to Dillon.”

Tyra’s call surprised the heck out of Lyla as she walked out of Carmichael Towers into the already muggy May Nashville heat . So did the car she was leaning up against. It was a red convertible, at least a decade old if not more. “Tyra. What are you doing here?”

“Um, road trip? Remember those emails? I figured you’d be done by now and-”

“Seriously?” Lyla shook her head, wondering if this was really happening. The emails had been months before, she’d very nearly forgotten about them. “I can’t. I’ve made plans, Tyra, I’m starting my life here.”

“Your life,” Tyra snorted, not ready to give up. She’d driven that car all the way from Texas and she wasn’t taking no for an answer. “You’ve just finished college. Let me guess, you’re gonna go home and see your dad, then you’re going to start some crappy ass job pushing around papers, stapling crap. Am I right?”

Lyla bristled, the description too close for comfort. “it’s not like that.”

“Sure it ain’t, Garrity.” Tyra laughed as she opened the passenger-side door. "Get your ass in here. Unless you’re chicken?”

“You don’t think calling me chicken is getting me in that car?”

“No. I think reminding you that you have your whole damn life ahead of you is going to get you in this car.” Tyra shrugged, sure she had the other girl convinced. “You’re going to settle down, get a job, find a boyfriend and get your ass married soon enough. Right now it’s time for a little fun. So. You in?”

“Fine,” Lyla gave in, tossing her suitcase in the back. Honestly, she’d been excited about the idea of this all those months ago, and why not? She could visit her dad in a few months, once she got settled back in. “But you have two weeks, that’s when I start my job.”

“We’ll see.” It was a good enough answer for now.

 


You can hide 'neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a saviour to rise from these streets

It was crazy how time flew. Two days turned into a week, and a week turned into two. Lyla’d ended up calling Vanderbilt and asking if she could delay her start til the end of summer. Tyra had laughed when she’d hung up the phone, passing her a bottle of coke and an ice cream sandwich. “Come on. The corn palace awaits.”

They weren’t driving according to any real plan. Lyla had picked up a cheap map at a gas station and after carefully plotting their trip Tyra had taken it and thrown it out the window. “Look. This isn’t about planning. Just drive, okay? We’ll get there eventually.”

Just drive. That was harder for Lyla than she cared to admit, but it was maybe good for her too. She’d given in when Tyra slapped her hand at the next truck stop when she’d tried to pick up a guide book. “Missouri. I always wanted to see that arch,” Tyra had pointed at the sign that said St Louis was 124 miles away. “Let’s go there.”

Which was how they’d ended up in South Dakota two weeks later, standing outside a building covered in corn in the sticky heat. “This is the tackiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“I know,” Tyra laughed, grabbing Lyla’s arm to tug her along, “isn’t it great?”

 


With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow
Back your hair

They were somewhere in Wyoming when the car broke down. It was a couple of hours south of Yellowstone on some state highway with nothing around, when the thing lurched to a stop, steam pouring out from under the hood.

“Stupid piece of crap.” Tyra kicked the tire. “What is wrong with you?”

“Hot, driving thousands of miles,” Lyla squinted at her phone, holding it up to try and get reception. Of course there wasn’t any. “Something like that. Can you get any bars on your phone?”

Tyra raised a brow, “I don’t think I’ve even charged it since Iowa.”

Who did she have to call anyway? Her sister was fine, being all married and a mom, working at the Landing Strip probably. Her mom was her mom, and wouldn’t worry as long as Tyra checked in once a month. “Looks like we wait.”

“Great.” Lyla pulled a couple bottles of water and tossed one to Tyra. “So we’re stuck here until someone drives by and stops out of the goodness of their hearts? Just great.”

“Hey it could be worse,” Tyra cracked open the water, wishing to hell it was a beer. “Could be raining.”

“That’s what could make this worse? Seriously?” Lyla leaned back about the car, the heat pouring up off the asphalt. She was sweating like a pig, pressing her bottle of water to her forehead in the hope it would keep her cool.

“Really?” The annoyance in Tyra’s voice made Lyla’s eyes snap open. “Garrity, you’ve been having one of the best months of your life, don’t even try to pretend you’re not. So the car broke down. Someone’ll come by. We’ll get a ride to the next town or something, and get it fixed. So what? Stop thinking about where we’re going for chrissake. Can’t you just enjoy getting there?”

Lyla blinked, unsure of what to say in return. The thing was, Tyra had a point. She had been having a good time, when she forgot about things. But it wasn’t easy, and she was the one always asking what and where was next. “I- Okay.”

“Good.” Tyra tugged off her shirt, the bikini top she’d taken to wearing when they drove with the top down perfect for this kind of thing. “But if we’re stuck here, we might as well catch some sun, right?”

“Yeah.” Lyla smiled, the tension of moments before fading away. Tyra was good at that, something Lyla hadn’t ever quite realised before this. “Might as well.”

 


 Well the night's busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels

It had taken less time than either of them had expected. A family with a trailer hitched up offered to squish the girls in the back of their car and they’d accepted the offer enthusiastically. The blast of air conditioning that hit them was even more welcome.

Green River hadn’t been exactly what they were looking for. It was a tiny town, but there was some kind of festival on that made it almost impossible to get a motel room. They’d begged, and in the end gotten a room that smelled musty and only had one crappy bed.

“It’ll only be for a night, maybe two, right?” Lyla said hopefully as they traded off showers. Their car would maybe be fixed the next day, the mechanic had said. Maybe, maybe not. It was a Friday after all, and they could very well be stuck here all weekend.

“Whatever. There’s a party out there, Garrity, and we’re going.” Tyra chucked a towel at Lyla. “Get cleaned up. You stink.”

 


Climb in back
Heaven's waiting on down the tracks
Oh-oh come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land

 This place didn’t have anything on the Dillon fairs, but it was kinda nice in a way. It was familiar, kids running around the rides, a band playing covers at one end and karaoke set up at another. Already the girls had heard more than a few catcalls and appreciative murmurs, but they’d ignored them, laughing and weaving their way through the crowds.

“Looks like we still got it, Garrity,” Tyra had her arm hooked through Lyla’s, a beer in her other hand. “Small town America. It’s a bit like Dillon, isn’t it?”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Lyla admitted, nudging the other girl toward a stand with cotton candy and popcorn. “Weird isn’t it? No matter where we go, here we are.”

“Of course we don’t know anyone here. We could be anyone from anywhere.” That was what Tyra wanted. She was over having to prove herself like she had to in Dillon. Another Collette, probably going to end up like Mindy or her mom. A stripper or a waitress for the rest of her life, that was what everyone had thought about her. It was part of why she’d needed to leave and she knew it was why Lyla had to get out of there too. She’d always been the good girl, the cheerleader and the sweet one. Even after things had broken down between Jason and her, after she’d started dating Tim. Lyla was always forgiven, was always just acting out.

“We could,” Lyla paid for the cotton candy, her hands full with the stick of it and her beer. Tyra snuck a bite and Lyla yelped, “Hey! Get your own, thief.”

“Nuh-uh, no way. What’s yours is mine.” Tyra was laughing, her lips sticky from the melting sugar. "But if you want it back...”

Lyla hadn’t expected Tyra to kiss her, not in a million years. When their lips brushed she froze at first, meaning to pull back, to ask Tyra what the hell she was doing. But she could almost hear the other girl in her head, telling her to just enjoy the journey, that getting there was half the fun. On this whole trip it had always seemed that Tyra knew her better than she cared to admit.

Those thoughts flashed through her head in seconds, and before she could think about it anymore, she was returning the kiss. Lyla’s mouth opened to Tyra’s and she pressed closer. Her hands still full, Lyla wished she could run them over the other girl’s cheek, the way Tyra was doing to hers. When they broke apart it was because Tyra had pulled back, Lyla blinking as she tried to process what had just happened.

“Thought I’d never get a chance to do that,” Tyra whispered. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”

“Uh-huh.” Lyla nodded, not able to make any other words come out. She knew that she wanted this, that she wanted the other girl in a way she had never even considered.

“I’ll drive.”




Well I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back
If you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride it ain't free

Wyoming led to Utah, which was where they almost got arrested. Indecency, the small town cop had said when they came out of the diner bathroom flushed and mussed after 20 minutes. The old lady behind the counter had glared at them, and Lyla and Tyra had put on their best innocent looks, explaining how they were just passing through on their way to California. The local cop waved them on with nothing more than a stern talking to about immoral behaviour, and Lyla was happy for the little gold cross she still wore around her neck.  

“That’s what you get for not keeping your hands off me, Garrity,” Tyra said as she slid into the car, her voice low so only Lyla could hear her.

“Sure. You just keep telling yourself that it was me who couldn’t keep my hands off of you,” Lyla teased back, in a great mood in spite of what had just happened.

“You know what?” Tyra had the keys in the ignition, but she paused and looked at Lyla. “I think you’ve finally done it. You’ve finally started just enjoying the ride. Only took us 5 weeks and most of America.”

“Shut up and drive Collette.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

They pulled out of the lot and Lyla reached across the car to twist her fingers through Tyra’s. Squeezing, she didn’t let go hands resting between them as she leaned back in her seat to watch the world pass. Tyra was right. She was just enjoying herself now, and it felt good. Different than she’d ever managed before.




And I know you're lonely
For words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free
All the promises'll be broken

“This is it,” Tyra looked out at the sun-dappled water, the sea lions crowded on the rocks, the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. This was the end of the road, the end of their trip. San Francisco.

“Yeah. It is.” Lyla wasn’t looking out over the water or at the sunset or any of it. She was looking at Tyra who seemed determined not to meet her eyes.

“Guess your time is almost up. Should probably look at getting you a flight back to Dillon, and then to Nashville.”

Lyla frowned at Tyra’s words. It was like everything of the past two months was done and over with, and she was just expected to leave. “You trying to get rid of me?”

“No. Just-” Tyra turned to face her, “it’s been almost two months. You have a life, a job back in Nashville. I have this.” She waved out over the bay, “it’s not exactly Tennessee, is it?”

“It’s not Dillon either.” It was a new start for Tyra, and Lyla knew how important that was. But Lyla’s heart was in her throat as she spoke again. Maybe the last couple of weeks had been some kind of crazy road trip fling, but maybe it hadn’t. The worry was trying to figure out which one it was. “The thing is, I thought I might stay for a while. There’s no reason I can try and get a job here, filing is filing, right?”

“I guess-” She could see from the Tyra’s slow smile that the other girl wasn’t letting herself assume too much either. Until she laughed, shaking her head. “Look at us. We’re worse than a kid trying to ask a girl to their first dance.”

“We are kinda, aren’t we?” Lyla smiled too, ducking her head and biting at her lip. When she lifted her eyes she was confident again, knowing she just had to say what she wanted. “I’d like to day. I like this. I like us.”

“I do too,” Tyra lifted a hand, dragging a knuckle across Lyla’s cheek. “Never thought I’d see the day-”

“-Me either,” Lyla laughed, leaning in to kiss her. She didn’t know how or even if things would work out, but she wanted to try. She wanted to see how it was getting there.