Tyra sat in the booth across from Landry. She still couldn't believe he wanted to be seen with her. She'd assumed after the night she was attacked he'd run in the other direction. Who would blame him for thinking she was nothing but trouble? When he hadn't, it'd thrown her a curve. When Mrs. Taylor'd come to her door it'd thrown her entire world off its axis. No one had ever thought enough of her to care and get her help before.
She doubted Landry'd understand that. He was such a good guy. She wasn't sure he saw the world in terms of people being able to do bad things. There were just people different then him. She'd liked it when he got jealous of Tim. It meant he liked her as more than a friend. That in itself gave her hope that Mrs. Taylor wasn't lying to her about potential.
She'd been kind of glad they'd ended up with four tickets instead of two for the state game. If they'd ridden alone together he would have wanted to talk about her being upset. And being in a car with him for that long she wouldn't have been able to get out of it.
Here they were now, talking about it anyway. She could run but she couldn't hide. She wasn't as raw now as she was then. A couple weeks had gone by and she was able to see things a little more clearly. The violation was still there, but it wasn't quite so fresh. She didn't feel quite so beaten down. He'd stuck around. That was the clearest thing of all.
She took a sip of her drink and cleared her throat. She wasn't sure where to begin. Or how.
"I didn't want to go to the police or Mrs. Taylor. I was afraid they wouldn't believe me."
"Cuz I'm Tyra Collette. And my mom."
He slid a hand across the table and placed it on top of hers, squeezing lightly. "You're not your mama, Tyra."
"Yeah, you say that now."
"No, I'd say that any time. Anybody who doesn't see that."
"They might have thought I was doing it for sympathy. Or that my mother put me up to it. Especially after the party that was cut short by a trip to the hospital. You know, seeking attention or something."
"No one would think that. Mrs. Taylor didn't think that."
"I know that. Now."
"It's not like I told the whole school! I just needed to," he paused. Their eyes went to their joined hands almost at the same time. He smiled and let his thumb brush along the side of her hand. "I needed to know what to do for you. Praying wasn't doing it."
"I wasn't ready. And the questions they asked. I could see in the policeman's eyes he didn't believe me."
"I'm sure that's not true. Maybe you should have asked for a woman cop."
She smiled at that. "I don't think it works that way."
"Well, why not?"
"I don't know. I think you just have to take who they give you."
"Well, that ain't right. What if there were things you wanted to say? And being that it was a man that attacked you."
"It's okay. It's done with. I doubt they'll ever catch him. I mean, that's what bothered me the most. I didn't pay much attention to him. I talked to him, politely and everything. I couldn't describe him, though. Not well enough to do any good."
"Would you recognize him?"
"Yes," she said, her body stiffening. He must have felt it, too, because he squeezed her hand again.
"I'm sorry. I was just asking. It's okay."
"I just. I close my eyes sometimes and I."
"You don't have to tell me anything more. I hope you'll talk to Mrs. Taylor, though. She'll help you and know who can help you if she can't."
"I know. She's helped me so much already. Thinking about college. There was a part of me that wondered if it wasn't punishment."
She sniffled, wiping at her eyes. "My mama told me that a Collette has no business thinking so high as to aspire to go to college. Maybe she's right. Maybe I'm not."
He stood then and slid next to her on her side of the booth. He draped an arm around her and looked at her. He was so intense. He was always serious. So smart. She reached with her hand and touched his face. His eyes fell closed and she smiled.
"You deserve everything anyone else does, Tyra. Don't believe different. You can be anything, do anything you want. I'll help you. Mrs. Taylor'll help you. Shoot, there's tons of others who will, too."
"You're welcome. So, we're all right?"
"I'm sorry. Really, I am. I just wanted to help you. You're always so happy. It blew me away to see you looking like that."
"I know. Thank you."
"You're thanking me?"
She smiled and leaned in to kiss him. "Yeah, I am. You're a good friend, Landry Clarke."
"I ain't aiming to be your friend, Tyra."
"I think friends is a great way to start. I'm not sure I can do much more. Any faster. Not yet, you know?"
"That's fine. Just so you know. I have designs on you."
"You do, huh?"
"Yeah. And they include us both being in college together."
She laughed at that. "I'd be on the phone with you every night looking for homework help."
"That's the idea."
She blushed and looked away, out the window. Her hand went to her glass, grazing the rim absently. It was a nice idea. A nice dream. A few weeks ago her dreams had gone from dismal to bright to dark and scary. She was starting to come out of that fog. Slowly. Landry seemed to understand that. As long as someone did she'd be all right. She believed that. She had to because she had to get out of Dillon. She was not going to be her mother. She was not going to live her life making guys like that creep think she was an easy mark.
She'd seen it in the cop's eyes, too. He thought she was weak. Probably thought she'd done something to deserve it. Led the guy on somehow. Someone like her wouldn't attract someone like Landry. Not seriously. She was not going to be the girl who cried wolf. The one who was laughed at her entire life because she'd gone through every available guy in town and then some.
"I like it," she murmured, turning again to face him. "I like it a lot."
He let out a soft whoop. "Well, all right then. We got our work cut out for us."
She tuned out briefly as he started talking about this and that she'd need to work on, tests she'd need to take. She'd think more on it tomorrow. Right now, she just wanted to enjoy being Tyra again. She deserved that.