Twelve years ago, Lyla Garrity would have scoffed at the idea of her ever cheating on somebody. After all, she intended to live her perfect life with Jason Street. But of course, the accident happened and that whole plan slowly went to hell. Next thing she knew, she landed directly into Tim Riggins's perfectly sculpted arms. She transformed into the type of girl who cheated on her paralyzed boyfriend. Instead of stopping right then and confessing to Jason, she slept with Tim sporadically until they both got caught.
After Jason forgave her, Lyla worked to forgive herself. She never could take any of it back. Her actions had branded her with an imaginary scarlet letter. Still, she promised herself never to cheat again. She didn't excuse what happened with Jason, but she could admit that the circumstances had been extraordinary. It wasn't everyday that all the dreams for your future shattered. If she had been in a better state, she never would have sunk so low. She considered herself far from the typical cheater. For the typical cheater, someone like her father, cheating was a character flaw; for Lyla, cheating originated purely from a terrible sequence of events.
For the next few years, Lyla swung from one committed relationship to the next. She tried to reunite with Jason, only completely letting go a few years later when she got to know Noah. Fortunately, Jason remained one of her friends. During her extremely religious phase, she strung Chris along for a bit. He lived in an environment familiar to her own, but she couldn't manufacture any truly significant feelings for him. Of course, her inability to love Chris had a lot to do with Tim. Aside from her reluctance, she finally dabbled in an actual relationship with Tim Riggins.
For awhile, Lyla and Tim lingered in a fantasy world where mind-blowing sex and enjoying each other's company could be enough. Eventually, all fantasies end. During her first break from college, she went back to visit him. Despite one wonderful weekend, it became especially apparent that she would never end up with Tim. She had known it all along, but finally had to let go. Part of her wanted to stay, just to live out the fantasy, just to please him. Instead, she left, knowing that staying wouldn't be fair for Tim when reality finally set. By the time Tim ended up in jail, Lyla recognized how reality always set.
At Vanderbilt, Lyla focused on creating her own identity apart from boys. Going into college, she had no plan. Well, she wanted to make a difference, but didn't everybody? She didn't have any particular career path in mind to accomplish her goal. She lived in her continuous state of "what ifs". After having her old plan crash down, she feared building a new one. It seemed pointless, but at the same time, having no plan made her feel stuck. For so many years, Lyla had based her decisions on a tremendously large plan. Paradoxically, she struggled to move forward without one.
At some point, Lyla learned that merely living life could add details to a new plan. She ended up entering a Vanderbilt master's program to become a guidance counselor. Tami Taylor's impact on her life had been tremendous. By helping others with their high school troubles, Lyla felt she could make the greatest impact. In a way, she already considered herself experienced. She had gone through both terrible personal issues dealing with her boyfriend's paralysis and cheating as well as the petty high school issues regarding popularity and catty girls. In addition, she would be instrumental in helping people decide about college. Her decision to go to Vanderbilt had shaped her, but her fear to leave so much behind almost held her back. She wanted to help people get to where they were meant to be, regardless of any plan gone array.
During her time in graduate school, Lyla met the extraordinarily charming Carter Petrelli. After a few months of cat and mouse, Carter finally asked her out to dinner. She eagerly accepted. For the next two years, she dated Carter. Unlike all of her previous boyfriends, Lyla resisted from letting Carter define her. Quickly, the relationship became her most serious since Jason. Carter adored her, dropping off spontaneous bouquets at her door and watching the cheesiest reality dating shows by her side. Last year, he asked her to marry him with the perfect proposal. At some point, she began creating a plan again beginning with their wedding in the fall and the prosperous future they would share. She never learned. On cue, she set her plan on fire.
Twelve years ago, Lyla Garrity would have scoffed at the idea of her ever cheating on somebody. Eleven years ago, she would have promised that she never would cheat again. Today, she lies in a bed next to a man who isn't her fiancée. Today, Lyla Garrity continues her second affair.
When she first considers having sex with Gabriel, she recognizes the hypocrisy. Another affair would be hypocritical on so many levels. Primarily, she thinks about her job. How can she preach answers to kids when she continues to make immoral decisions? She knows that Mrs. Taylor certainly never would have cheated on Coach. Besides her job, there's the obvious hypocrisy of not learning from her past mistakes.
Despite the warnings that flash through her mind, she gives into the desire easily. It all happens far too easily. As she prepares to sleep with Gabriel for the first time, she wants to blame the alcohol coursing through her veins. Grasping at anything, she realizes the excuse is implausible. After all, she still recognizes right from wrong. If she's able to debate about the decision, drinking too much really can't excuse anything. She leaps onto the next scapegoat- perhaps Carter isn't fulfilling her needs anymore. He couldn't even attend the stupid birthday party with her. Thinking about Carter in any form makes her sick. Even in the moment, she knows this is far from her perfectly wonderful fiancée's fault. It's hers.
Even if she could have rationalized sleeping with Gabriel once, she can't even begin to excuse her decision to meet him again. After the night following their first meeting at the bar, she continually visits his apartment. Usually, it happens during the daylight or the evening when she knows Carter won't notice that she's missing. Today is their thirteenth time meeting up. Lucky thirteen. Without fail, Lyla keeps count. Unlike usual, they meet up late tonight. Since Carter's away on business, it really doesn't matter.
Trying not to wake Gabriel, she slides off the bed. She constantly considers how seriously screwed up she must be to sleep around yet again. She analyzes why she ruins everything good in her life. Does she have feelings of inadequacy? Or perhaps, she simply fears happiness. No psychological reason satisfies her.
Even with her careful maneuvering, Gabriel's eyes open. "Where are you going?" he asks, his words clumping together from tiredness. As if to wake himself up, he sits up a little bit.
"Home," she answers dryly. She tries to cut herself off emotionally from Gabriel, as if it makes the affair a little better. She's so screwed up.
"You said he's not around tonight," Gabriel replies, referring to Carter. He hardly ever uses Carter's name. Lyla guesses it makes Gabriel feel better to depersonalize Carter. Without a name, the other man feels a lot less real.
"He's not," Lyla confirms. "You know there's still no reason for me to stay here," she remarks, letting her voice soften a little. She honestly doesn't want to hurt him.
By now, a twisted part of her does care about Gabriel. She tries so hard to separate her emotions, but she's never been good at having sex without feelings. Unlike her, he doesn't have some significant other. She realizes that he wants her to leave Carter, to actually be with him instead. Lately, he's asked her to consider it. She shakes her head, unable to promise him lies. Constantly, Gabriel showers her with compliments. During the sex, she lets him say whatever he wants. In fact, she embraces the words. Any other time, she discourages the idolization. It makes her uncomfortable since she knows it's only a matter of time until she's only going to disappoint him. It makes her feel too much.
Gabriel looks hurt anyways. "It'd be nice if we could stay together one night," he murmurs, watching her intently as she pulls on her jeans. He's already become too attached. Has she as well?
Shrugging him off, she silently begs him to let it go. "You know it's not like that, Gabriel," she says with an unbearably sweet tone. Her voice even rings false in her own ears. She can imagine how ridiculous she sounds to him. "We don't have to do this if it's hurting you," she adds, knowing just how to get him to stop.
"It's not- forget it," he answers abrasively.
Lyla nods. Time after time, Gabriel chooses to let her treat him terribly in order to keep this charade going. Continuously, she manipulates his infatuation with her. She never understands why he accepts the treatment. How can he even like her when she acts in such an awful way? It causes her stomach to sink more. Hurriedly, she pulls her sweater over her head. "This needs to end," she informs him. She has said the same phrase nearly every time they meet. "I'm just hurting you- and I'm hurting Carter too."
As Lyla gathers her keys, Gabriel gets out of bed. Wrapping his arms around her, he approaches her from behind. "Gabriel." She isn't sure whether she's chastising or welcoming him. Gently, he nibbles on her ear lobe. Now, she's definitely welcoming him. As she drops her keys back into her bag, she sighs. When the effort's sexual, he wins so easily.
"I need you," Gabriel murmurs directly into her eardrum. "I want you so badly, Lyla," he whispers, continuing to kiss her. She can say all she wants. If she doesn't actually act, what's the difference?
As her jeans come back off again, she thinks of Carter. She always thinks about Carter, and yet, she's here. Shoving Carter's face out of her thoughts, her mind wanders to Tim. Tim began as an illicit affair. Who's to say she can't make something real with Gabriel? Even as she considers the thought, she knows it's incredibly wrong. She logically thinks of Jason next. Oh, Jason would be so disappointed. Thinking of his disappointment still profoundly affects her. Even as she thinks about all of them, she continues on with Gabriel until she loses herself in him. Only then do the thoughts disappear. Only then does the guilt evaporate, just for a moment.
She tells herself the feeling's enough to keep this affair going. She clings to the notion that there's a reason for her stupidity.
It's another fantasy. It's not enough. Nothing about it ever fulfills her. Constantly, she yearns for more. She knows it's all entirely her fault. She cares and feels strangely apathetic all at once.
Once again, Lyla lies in bed with Gabriel, thinking but unmoving. Absolutely still.