"Tyra, it's Julie. You've got to come and get me, I can't take it anymore! Mom's totally nuts with the hormones and the crying and the bonding and Dad hates his staff and freaks out every time Mom does. Matt's at football camp and Landry is too, if you can believe that. There's nobody else. You're the only one who can save me. The last time Mom had a sanity breakthrough she said if you came out here and picked me up we could both stay at the house in Dillon. Please, Tyra. It's life or death and I'll owe you big time."
Julie's incredibly dramatic, but you caught a glimpse of Tami's hormone-induced insanity when she decided to "pop in" on Coach and help him settle into his new apartment. If there's one thing you took from that, it's never get pregnant -- especially when you're over 40. It's a lesson that's been drilled home in a major way by the presence of Buddy Garrity and his kids in Applebee's three times this week alone.
Nobody needs to eat at Applebee's three times a week, especially growing kids. Watching Lyla give Buddy the silent treatment has been fun, especially since he makes a point to never sit in your section so you have to listen to all the whining and bitching and rotten kids without getting any tips out of it. You've got to give it to Lyla, it's been months since she found out about the affair and she's still not showing any signs of speaking. No matter how much Buddy hammers at her. She always looks smug as hell watching her little brother and sister throw tantrum after tantrum.
Your truck wouldn't make the 400-mile trip to Austin and back, and your mom needs it anyway. But Lyla's car would make it and she'd likely pay for the gas with Buddy's credit card. You'd bet your entire summer's tips that Lyla would jump at a chance to get away from Buddy and the kids, even if it's only for one night. This time last summer you were half convinced Lyla was the love of your life. Then it all fell apart and you spent nearly the entire school year hating her and making her life hell, and while you'll never forget how bad it hurt you when she said you didn't mean anything to her, you've gotten past it. The ride to State wasn't so bad and you've managed to get along since then. Besides, Julie's too good a friend to abandon her to her parents. So. You punch the time clock, hang up your apron, and saunter over to Lyla's table.
Buddy starts sputtering the moment he notices you and Lyla doesn't bother hiding the grin on her face. "You ready to go?"
Lyla doesn't miss a beat, which takes you back to when you could play off of each other seamlessly. "Sure." Lyla smiles up at you then turns her smile on Buddy. "Daddy?" Her voice is saccharine sweet and tipped with poison. "Can I have some money?"
Buddy looks so relieved that Lyla actually spoke to him that he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a couple hundred bucks. Lyla snatches it out of his hand and pushes away from the table. "Got your bags packed?" you ask. Can't help but dig the knife just a bit deeper into Buddy.
"Not yet, I wasn't sure how long we'd be gone." You're walking and talking slowly enough that Buddy can hear every word. The youngest Garrity, little Buddy, starts banging his knife and fork on the table screaming, "I want fries. I want fries. I want fries." Buddy keeps trying to hush him up and listen in at the same time.
"Oh, a couple of days at least, we've got to rescue Julie from her insane parents."
"Now, you just wait a minute, Lyla. I need you to help me take care of your brother and sister--"
The rest of his words are cut off as the door closes behind you.
"Austin." You nod and hope Lyla's not going make this into a thing. You're not ready for things. You're not sure if you're even ready for two miles with no one but Lyla, much less 200. But Julie called and you've learned what a real friend is and that they always show up when they're needed.
"Let's go." Lyla says it casually and you can't help but sigh in relief. No things.
You're on the road in under an hour -- bags packed, car gassed, and Tyra's riding shotgun staring out the window. You've both spoken less than ten words and there's more than three hours in the car with nothing but your iPod and the radio to distract you. You glance over at Tyra, she looks good with her new bob. It's shorter than she's ever worn her hair before and it suits her. "I like your haircut."
"Thanks." She doesn't even glance over at you, just keeps staring off in the distance. The sun is down and there's not a lot of street lights; obviously, Tyra'd rather focus on nothing than talk to you. You can't help but try again, it's your nature.
"Anything you want to listen to? I've got it on shuffle but if you want to listen to one group or a song or something we can."
Tyra finally looks at you. You meet her eyes and it's like it was before last year, like it's been every time you've looked at her since she walked out of your life. An electric current shoots through you, your heart beats a little faster, and you're just a little bit breathless.
"Look, Garrity. Thanks for helping out, but I'm not trying to be BFF with you, so give it a rest."
Her voice is so cold and distant it kills that electric current before you can do anything stupid like reach out and touch her.
She returns to staring out the window. You grit your teeth and squeeze the steering wheel until you notice your fingers are hurting and then you force yourself to relax your hands a bit and reach for your iPod. You scroll through the playlists until you find one that you know will get to Tyra. Grrl Power. Yeah, that ought to make her talk. Or pick a fight. Anything would be better than the silence and the avoidance. You should know, you've employed these very same tactics against Dad all summer and it's come closer to making him insane than anything your mother or siblings have tried.
You get no reaction from Melissa Ethridge, Tegan and Sara, or Tori Amos. She snorts a bit when Carrie Underwood belts out Before He Cheats but otherwise stays quiet. You remember when the two of you used to ride around in the back of Jason's Jeep and sing anything and everything that came on the radio at the top of your lungs. It seems like a lifetime ago even though it was just last summer.
"Do you mind if I open the sunroof?"
"Suit yourself, Garrity."
Sometimes you miss the cars Dad would get for you, like now when you have to fumble through the glove box to find the handle that fell off so you can jimmy it in and crank the sunroof back. The crank squeaks and groans with every revolution but it gets the job done. Eventually.
"You always do." Tyra mutters.
The sunroof is back and air rushes into the car and the music is loud enough that between it and the fresh air the windows rattle, but you heard Tyra. It runs all over you that she said that. You asked, politely -- very politely -- before picking the music. Before rolling back the sunroof. Hell, you asked which way she wanted to go, the highway or the back roads, and she left it all up to you. You glance in the rearview mirror, relieved to see nothing behind you -- which is why you chose to go the back roads -- and you slam on your brakes. Tires squeal and the car jerks a little but you've got it under control.
Tyra doesn't -- the seat belt nearly strangles her and she's bracing her hand against the dash. "Are you out of your damn mind?" If looks could kill, the glare she's leveling at you would put her on death row for sure. She's panting and flushed and you can see fire burning in her eyes.
You put the car in park and turn off the engine, making sure to grab the keys before getting out of the car. You wouldn't put it past her to leave you here. You storm to the passenger side and jerk the door open. "Get out! Get out of my car!"
She's out and right in your face. "What the hell is your problem, Garrity?"
"You." You push her shoulder with your index finger and she grabs your hand. "You are my problem. You've been my problem since last summer!"
"Don't you fucking touch me." Tyra hisses through her teeth as she shoves you back. You stumble a bit and nearly fall but manage to keep your balance. "You lost any right to touch me, speak to me, or hell, LOOK at me when you said I was nothing."
"Don't you deny it, Garrity. Jason and Tim'll both back me up. You used me and treated me like a piece of trash." The unspoken 'just like your Daddy did my Mama' hangs between them like a boulder balanced on a canyon ledge. Tyra's chest is heaving, there's a streetlight shining on her like a spotlight and she's the most beautiful, amazing thing you've ever seen.
"And then? You just went right ahead and fucked Tim behind Jason's back! What the hell were you thinking? You broke them up, you broke us all up, and when it mattered most you stomped all over everything, like like," -- Tyra shoved back at you, pressing you against the car -- "Godzilla in a cheerleading uniform."
You can't deny it. You've been pushing it down every time it's tried to take over but you can't now, the shame wells up inside you so much you can taste it and it brings tears to your eyes. You're weak. You've always been weak and even though you're crawling out of the hole you dug for yourself, you're still not strong enough to face what you've done. "I'm sorry."
"Tell me something I don't know." Tyra grabs the key out of your hand pulls away, leaving you hot and cold at once, then turns on her heel and marches back to the car -- driver's side -- and slams the door shut so hard the car rocks a little. The music switches over to something deep and heavy with a driving bass line and you can hear Tyra bitching about your dyke music.
If she only knew.
Except she does, but not really, she just thinks she was a fling or a diversion, when in reality she was everything.
"We're not getting any closer to Austin sittin' still, ya know." Tyra shouts over the music. You wipe your face and get back in the car.
The tension in the car is so thick you could choke on it. Lyla's taking turns staring out the window and out of the sunroof, pulling the same silent treatment you'd just put her through. Unlike Lyla, you can take the silence. Prefer it even. You didn't mean to explode like that, had planned on never bringing any of it up and pretending to be casual acquaintances all the way to Austin and back again.
Best laid plans and all that shit.
God, you can't believe you called her Godzilla, definite proof of spending way too much time with Landry. You can't help but imagine Landry's face if he'd seen the fight, what with the boob on boob against the car -- you're not, definitely not thinking about how perfect that was, nope not at all -- and the freaking Godzilla reference. A giggle bubbles up from deep inside and escapes even though you try to hold it back. God, Landry's face, he would have been red and then purple with his mouth hanging open and his eyes popping out of his skull. Then he'd start trying to figure out how to get Godzilla in the uniform and it would lead to diagrams, an analysis of the stretchable properties of polyester/spandex blends and whether or not they could get those fancy panties on a lizard. You're really laughing now, so much so you have to slow down. Lyla glares at you and that only makes you laugh harder.
"What?" she asks and turns down the radio. You nearly drive off the road and Lyla grabs the wheel and asks what again.
"Polyester." A snort escapes and that only makes you laugh harder so you have to stop the car long enough to get yourself under control. "Godzilla." You throw the car into park and somehow manage to get a few words out between laughing and breathing. Landry, uniform, and panties, mainly.
Lyla's smiling at you and giggling a little too. "You spend way too much time with Landry, Tyra."
You nod and wipe your eyes and struggle to catch your breath. "I do. I really, really do, but he's a great guy and we have a lot of fun."
She smiles at you then, sweet and open, and looks down at her hands which are folded primly on her lap. "I'm glad." She picks at her nails a little and looks up at you from beneath her bangs. "We never really had a lot of fun and laughs."
"No." It's immediately sobering, thinking back to then; it feels like billions of years ago instead of two. "No, we didn't." You had a lot of stolen moments and hidden corners and passion, but not a lot of fun and laughter. That probably explains why you like Landry and Julie and Matt so much. Their lives are complicated, but your relationships with them aren't.
She reaches across the car and puts her hand on your knee. "I really am sorry about everything."
"Don't, Lyla," you start to warn her.
"Let me finish, please?" Her voice is pleading and she's already taken her hand off of you so you shrug a shoulder and look up out of the sunroof at the stars. "I know I ruined everything and I know nothing will ever be the same again. I'm sorry about what I said that day. I'm sorry how I kept you hidden and I'm even more sorry that I slept with Tim. I should have apologized then or sometime last year. But I didn't understand what was going on enough to explain myself."
She stops and draws in a shaky breath and you turn to look at her.
"What you and I had, was one of the best things of my life. There's not been a day since then that I haven't regretted throwing it away." It's her turn to look away. She stares out the window and twists her hands together. "I'm not asking you to forgive me or take me back or even if we can try again. I just want you to know that you were, you are important to me."
She seems finished and you need some time to process so you slide the gearshift into drive and head toward Austin. "Ya know, if we don't stop stopping and starting we'll never get there." You see her nod out of the corner of your eye. "Thanks, Garrity. For telling me that, I mean. Better late than never, right?"
About an hour from Austin Tyra points at the skyline. "Can you believe from how far away you can see the lights? That's part of why I've always wanted to get out of Dillon and move to a city. Dillon's always so dark at night, except for Fridays."
"That's a pretty weird reason to want to live in a city." You've always wanted out of Dillon too, but your dreams were centered more around Jason and college and football than the size of the town you lived in. "I think I'm going to go to school up North."
"You gonna turn into a Yankee, Ly?"
"I don't think you can turn into a Yankee." The old nickname makes you warm inside. "But I want to get out of Texas. Away from Dillon and my folks. I'm pretty sure I can get into Northwestern or Brown and I can't think of anywhere more different than Dillon than that."
"Mrs. T says if I work hard the next two years I can get into one of the Texas universities." Tyra steers sharply to the right, accelerates out of a curve; your car shakes a bit as it strains to keep up with her (there's a metaphor that would send you into a fit of hysterics if you thought about it any longer) and she laughs. "That's a whole lot better plan than moving to LA and trying to be an actress. I'd probably wind up waiting tables the rest of my life or dancin' like Mindy."
"That's really great, Tyra." You want to reach out and touch her (again) but manage to restrain yourself. "You can do it too, I know you can. You've always done everything you put your mind to."
She doesn't speak for a while and neither do you. The silence feels good now instead of awkward and strained.
"Mama and Mindy. I love them so much, they're my family, ya know?" Tyra doesn't wait for you to agree. "But they don't see anything wrong with their lives. No. Wrong's not the right word, just -- not wrong or bad but that there's MORE to life." Tyra lets go of the wheel with both hands, making a huge gesture that you can tell encompasses the world and everything in it. "Than the way they're living. They think I'm crazy because I don't want to work at Applebee's the rest of my life. Both of them are always waitin' on some man to come rescue them, sweep them off their feet like some kind of fairy tale. Would you believe that Mama sat me down after me and Tim were finally finished for good and begged me to get back with him?"
You shake your head and don't try to fight back the laughter when Tyra does an imitation of her mama.
"Now that Tim Riggins, he's a good boy! He's so good looking, and he and his brother have that house with that real nice inground swimming pool. You'd best go beg him to take you back before it's too late, Tyra!" Her voice drops back into its regular pitch and she shakes her head, grinning from ear to ear. "God, like that's all there is to life, a house with a swimming pool." Her grin fades a little and you wish there was more light because you can't really see her eyes in the dashboard light. "They don't understand why I want" -- there's that world encompassing gesture again -- "more."
Tyra doesn't say anything else. The Austin city lights are getting brighter and brighter so you pull out the directions and turn on the overhead light to study them. "We've got about twenty more minutes. We should take 290 into town." You navigate through town and pull into Coach Taylor's apartment complex at two a.m.
"It's awful late to be knocking on the door," Tyra says as she climbs out of the car and slams the door shut. "Do you think we should take our bags in or leave them in the car for now?" She doesn't wait for you to answer, mumbling "Screw it," and gets out of the car and heads toward the apartment. Before Tyra can knock, the door flies open and Julie rushes out, throwing herself at Tyra saying, "Thankyouthankyouthankyou."
You can't help the hot rush of jealousy at how easily Tyra wraps her up in a hug and laughs into her hair. Julie's the perfect height to bury her face in Tyra's ample cleavage -- she doesn't do it, of course, but she could. You have to look away and reach into the trunk to get the overnight bags and give yourself a chance to settle down. The front door is standing wide open and you can see the Taylors and Tyra in the kitchen. Mrs. Taylor's huge and sweaty but smiling as she pours iced tea into large plastic cups.
Julie comes to hug you. "Thanks for bringing Tyra," she says and you hug her back. It startles you how clearly you remember that the last time you had another girl in your arms it was Julie. The night of Jason's accident. Tears prick your eyes and you hug her tighter, surprised at how familiar she feels even now.
"Are you kidding? I'd have brought Tyra to the North Pole if it meant getting away from my dad." You give Julie a little extra squeeze and let her go.
Julie giggles as she steps away and rolls her eyes. "God, I know exactly what you mean. I owe both of you big time for saving me from the insanity."
"I heard that, Jules!"
"Julie, don't you disrespect your parents like that," the Taylors say in unison and all hell breaks loose as Coach and Mrs. T. launch into one of their famous bickering sessions. Julie grabs each of you by the arm and hauls you down the hall to a tiny bedroom. She slams the door shut and flings herself on the bed. "I begged mom to let us just leave when you got here but she insists you have to spend the night."
You can't imagine turning right back around and heading home. It was a long drive out and you need some space even if it is in a cramped bedroom with two other people. It's better, anything would be better really, than the two of you alone in the car anymore tonight.
"Not a problem. Samantha said she'd cover my shift tomorrow if I need her to, so if there's anything you want do in town, we can."
"No! No, no, no, no." Julie shakes her head. "I want out of here and back to Dillon and Matt and my own bed."
"Julie!" Tyra laughs and flips a lock of Julie's hair. "Are you planning something? Something naughty?"
"What?" Julie blushes bright red. "That's not what I meant and you know it!"
Watching Tyra and Julie settle into the bed while you blow up the air mattress for yourself is surreal. Tyra's never had a girlfriend before that you know of (Friend who is a girl. Or a real girlfriend either because you wouldn't give either of you that.), and it feels so strange seeing her like this -- unguarded and completely open. You wonder if it could have ever been like that between you. If there hadn't been the sex and the boys. But that was never really it. From the beginning it had been shame and fear and in the end it was always easiest to believe that it was because Tyra was a Collette and that was something your mom had wanted you to stay away from. Almost like she knew what could happen if the two of you had ever had a chance to be alone together.
Sleep almost doesn't come. But when you wake up to the smell of bacon your dreams linger. Blonde hair mingling with brown, legs for miles tangled together. You wake up aching and wanting, your panties nearly soaked through. The back of your throat aches as you reach between your legs and bring yourself off quickly and silently. You're probably never going to have a chance to make things right with Tyra but you won't know that for certain until you try.
The ride home is about a billion times better than the ride to Austin. You spend the majority of the ride twisted around in the front seat talking to Julie in the back. Lyla's being quiet. Not the bitchy-superior quiet you know by heart, but something different. Has been since she finally stumbled into the kitchen and stared into her breakfast instead of joining in on the conversation. It feels almost like she's studying you. Or Julie. You turn around to turn the radio up and catch Lyla's eyes darting between you and Julie.
It dawns on you that she's studying both of you. Julie belts out the first line of the song and you can't help but laugh out loud.
"My singing's not that bad!" Julie shouts above the music, she's grooving in the backseat, totally rocking out. Lyla's getting that prim look on her face and you can't help yourself, you have to mess with her a little. Julie squeals as you climb over the seat into the back beside her. She whips out her cell phone and pretends it's a microphone. As the chorus starts up again she holds it between you and you both sing into it, dancing (more like wiggling and squirming enough to make Lyla blush and squirm a bit herself) as best as you can in the backseat.
Dont cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me
Dont cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me
Dont cha, dont cha, baby
Dont cha wish your girlfriend was raw like me
Dont cha wish your girlfriend was fun like me
Dont cha, dont cha
It's terrible music but it's catchy and somehow you know all the words. A raucous beat starts up with the next song and Julie squeals out, "This one's for you, Lyla!"
God. It's terrible and hysterical and Julie's good mood is contagious. You pull into Dillon to all of you singing that you
ain't no hollaback girl.
ooh, that's my shit, that's my shit
"That's my Matt!" Julie shrieks. "Stop the car, stop the car!"
Lyla pulls over and Julie tumbles out of the car straight into Matt's surprised (but happy, very, very happy) arms. You get out of the back and walk around to the passenger side and climb back in, watching Lyla out of the corner of your eye. "Looks like this could take awhile."
She's watching Julie and Matt with a small smile. "I'm not in any hurry."
The clock on the dash says it's nearly 3:00; if you're going to make it into work on time you should go on and go. Or call Samantha and have her take the shift, but you need money more than you need a night off. "I need to get to work, could you drop me off?"
"What about Julie?"
"Hey, Jules!" you yell as you roll down the window. "Can you get Matt to take you home?"
Julie waves at you and Matt nods. "I'll be over after my shift." The window sticks a little as you roll it up and the ride to Applebee's is made in silence. Lyla pulls up next to the employee entrance and puts the car into park.
"So," she starts.
"So, thanks for driving me to Austin," you finish.
There's something heavy in the car and you can't put your finger on what it is, but it feels like something left undone.
"What are you and Julie doing tonight?"
You shrug. "Probably rent a movie or something."
"That sounds pretty tame."
"Yeah, well, you never know with Mrs. T. Especially now that she's crazy with hormones. She trusts me and Julie to be there alone but that doesn't mean there might not be a surprise visit."
"So. No boys?"
"No boys." You agree. "Though I can't see what danger there is in Landry and Matt coming over." Lyla raises an eyebrow at you. "Okay, I can't see anything wrong with Landry coming over."
The silence is long and feels heavier by the second. You reach for the door handle when Lyla breaks the silence.
"What about girls?"
A flare of icy-heat washes over you and you turn to look at her. "What about girls?"
"Would Mrs. Taylor allow a girl to come over?"
Lyla meets your gaze and for once you can't see any hint of shame. She's uncertain, you can tell by the set of her mouth and the way she's unconsciously picking at her cuticles. Hell, you're uncertain if you want her at the Taylors' at all, much less for what she's implying. But what the hell, you're -- the both of you -- are completely different (better) people now than you were.
"I don't think she'd mind Julie's friend Lyla coming over."
She reaches out, squeezes your arm hard and then lets go. Both of you stare at the impression her fingers leave behind. "What about you, Tyra?"
You climb out the car, grab your stuff from the trunk and walk around to lean in the driver's side window. "I've never had a friend named, Lyla. I used to have a fuck buddy with that name but that was a long time ago."
Lyla reaches out and twists a finger around that one piece of hair that you can't get to stay behind your ear no matter how hard you try. "How about Julie's friend Lyla comes over tonight for movies and the two of you get to know one another?"
She lets go of your hair and you catch her hand in yours and give it a squeeze. "I think Mrs. T. would approve of that." Lyla shifts the car into gear and gives you a smile so bright it hurts.
"See you tonight, Tyra."
"Count on it, Garrity."