She holds the dress against her, smiling. Only slightly. She doesn't want to lose herself in this moment.
"Add it to the pile, Ty, it's friggin' gorgeous."
"Ya think?" she spins around, holding the dress up against her, preening for her sister and mother.
"Um, yeah," Mindy Collette is grinning from ear to ear. "Will you get in there already? You have, like 17 dresses to choose from. And he's not gonna give a shit what you're wearing anyway. At least not on the wedding day," she raises an eyebrow.
"Mindy!" Tyra looks at her in mock horror. "How dare you?"
Mindy laughs. "Get in there, baby sis."
"Okay, okay," Tyra wrinkles her nose, grins at her mother and sister, and sweeps into the changing room with the dress.
"And hurry it up," Angela Collette calls after her. "We're hungry."
"Mom," Tyra pops her head out of the changing room. "I'm not eating this month. Wedding, remember?"
"Honey, you are going to be the most gorgeous woman there."
"Thanks, Mom," Tyra's voice is muffled as she disappears back behind the door.
"Well?" Mindy asks expectantly after a minute or two.
"Gimme a minute, please?" Tyra calls through the door. She stares at her reflection in the mirror. A vision in white. With frills. Lace. Flowers. The dress she pictured all those years ago when she first dreamed about marrying Tim Riggins. When they were five years old.
Tyra carefully runs her fingers down the satin. It feels amazing. But is white a . . . stretch? How long have she and Tim been screwing anyway? Does that blow job in the eighth grade count? I love it, though. She twirls in front of the mirror. Will he?
Is he going to love this? Love me? Tyra shakes her head slightly, willing the negative thoughts from her head. Tim and his . . . proposal. Was it really a proposal? Or resignation? Does it matter whose idea it was? Whose ultimatum? Wouldn't he have proposed eventually? That's the thing about Tim Riggins: she never knows if he's just going with the flow . . . or if he really wants this. Her. A wedding. A life together. All that stuff she's been dreaming about since she moved back to Dillon.
Tyra takes a deep breath and looks back at her reflection in the mirror. If she has ever realized how beautiful she is, today is that day. Focus on this, Tyra Collette. The wedding. The dress. The fact that you're marrying Tim Riggins. Tim fucking Riggins. Who would ever have guessed that we'd finally end up together after all? After all that we've been through? All the shit he's pulled? She smiles at herself in the mirror. You have everything you want today. Remember how happy you feel right now. On this day.
Tyra takes a deep breath and steps out of her changing room.
Her mother and sister gasp. "Good lord," Angela whispers. "My gorgeous girl."
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"Dude, seriously, are you ever going to pick up that tux?"
"Yup. At some point."
"Yeah, well, it's been at the shop for two weeks. They've called me three times. I picked up mine last week. And I'm the best man. They're wondering where the fuck the groom is."
Tim Riggins picks up his beer bottle and takes a drink. "You seem pretty stressed, Billy. Isn't the best man supposed to be . . . I dunno, a calming influence?" he grins at his brother.
Billy Riggins throws a beer cap at Tim. "Here's calm for you. You're getting married. In three weeks. To Tyra. You seem not to be particularly excited about this. Is there something you want to discuss?" he sits down on the sofa across from Tim.
"Nope," Tim replies.
Billy sighs. "When's Street comin' up?"
"Does he know what's goin' on?"
"What's goin' on with what, Billy?"
"With you, Timmy. With this – wedding. Why are you doin' this?"
"Doin' what?" Tim raises his eyes from the television set. Briefly.
"You know what I'm talkin' about."
"No, I don't, Billy."
"Really? 'Cause, from where I sit, you keep pretendin' this day isn't comin.' That you're not three weeks away from the happiest day of your life."
Tim doesn't respond.
"What are you doin', Tim? Seriously. Do you want to call it off?"
Tim looks up at Billy, surprised. Like this is the first time he realizes that calling off the wedding is a possibility. He is silent.
"What?" Billy asks. "You think you're stuck because she gave you the old 'marry me or I'm gone' shit? You don't have to do this, Timmy. Not if you don't love her. Not if you know this isn't what you want."
"This is your sister-in-law you're talkin' about, you remember that, right?" Tim grins.
"Fuck it, Tim," Billy looks hard at him. "If you don't feel about Tyra the way I feel about Mindy, then – fuck it."
"And how do you feel about Mindy these days, Billy?" Tim looks at his brother, amused.
"I don't know why this is funny to you, Tim," Billy shakes his head. "This isn't some game you're playin' here; you're gettin' married. How do I feel about Mindy? I love that woman. I would fuckin' jump off the roof of a building for her. I would shout it from the rooftops."
"You did," Tim offers. "When you proposed." He grins. "Of course that wasn't a rooftop so much as a stage at a shitty Mexican joint."
"Fuck you, Tim. I love Mindy."
"I'm real happy for you, bro."
"You don't seem real happy about anything, actually, Tim."
"I'm doin' just fine, thanks, Billy."
"Goddamn it, Tim. I'm tryin' to help you here. Does Tyra have any fuckin' clue that you don't want to do this?"
Tim stares at his brother. "What makes you think I don't want to do this?"
"I know you," Billy says quietly. "That's how I know." He opens his mouth to say something else, but thinks better of it.
Tim is quiet for a moment. Finally he speaks up. His voice is short. Strained. "Thanks for your your concern, Billy. But things are fine. I . . . love Tyra. We're – I'm – I'm happy."
Billy raises an eyebrow and watches Tim. Skeptically.
"I'm fine, Billy," Tim says again. "Seriously. Everything's good. Just leave it alone. Please."
Billy looks down at his beer and takes a breath. He decides to say it. "Is Lyla comin'?"
Tim glances up at his brother. Sharply. He recovers quickly, and looks away. He doesn't respond.
"Yeah, that'll be great," Billy continues. "You up there at the alter, Lyla in the pews? Good times."
"Shut up, Billy."
"Is she bringin' her boyfriend? The lawyer? Or is he her fiance now?"
"Are you really gonna go through with this? I know, Timmy. The whole fuckin' world knows."
Billy shakes his head. "You can't even pretend not to give a shit, little brother. You're fucked."
Tim hurls his beer bottle against the wall. It shatters, breaking the silence. He stares at the glass shards on the hard wood floor, the puddles of beer. He looks up at his shocked brother, then back at the floor.
"Sorry," he mutters. He can't look Billy in the eye.
"Why are you doin' this?" Billy finally asks. Quietly.
Tim doesn't respond. He gets up, grabs his car keys, and walks out of the house, leaving his brother behind.
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"You have to go, Lyla," he sighs. "You can't back out now. What will that look like?"
"Who cares what it looks like?" Lyla Garrity curls her legs underneath her in bed and leans back against a pillow. She repositions the telephone in her hand.
"This is our best friend," Jason Street says. "We've been there for each other since before we could –" he pauses, swallowing before he completes the cliched phrase – "walk."
"Right," Lyla replies. Quickly. Too quickly. Even after all these years, sometimes the silliest reference serves as a painful reminder of all that's come before.
"And you're going to be there for this," Jason pushes through the awkward moment. He's focused on Lyla. And her crisis of conscience. Or whatever this is. Sometimes, when they're talking like this – he can't believe they can still talk like this – he wonders how they have come so far, stayed so close. The fact that they both moved East probably helps. The fact that they both left their families, their pasts, their painful memories, their connections. The fact that their lives now are so different than what they were when they felt destined to spend them together. That probably helps. But sometimes, in moments like this – when he sees her at her most vulnerable, when he realizes how deeply he still cares for her – he wonders how different things would have been if . . . if he could still walk. If he was still that guy. Quarterback Jason Street.
"I really don't think I can do this, Jason," Lyla replies, interrupting his thoughts and pulling him back into the moment. "Seriously. I'm – I'm having panic attacks. The wedding's two weeks away, and I'm having panic attacks."
"Lyla, you're being crazy. I miss you. I want to see you. And I cannot believe you'd even for a minute consider not being there to see him . . . get married."
"I can't believe you can't believe it."
"You were there for my wedding. For me."
"I love Erin. And Noah."
Jason sighs. "Come on, Lyla. Is this about Tim making a mistake . . . or something else?" He decides not to elaborate on what the 'something else' could possibly be. He knows her well enough to know that she knows that he knows, and that he's supposed to pretend not to know.
"There's nothing else, Jason." Lyla is defensive.
Probably the right decision not to elaborate, then.
Lyla's words are jumbled, distraught, like she wants to make sense of things, but can't – "He doesn't – this is just – Tyra? Seriously? I thought they'd have called it off by now. Him. I thought he'd have called it off by now. How can he actually go through with this?"
"There's nothing wrong with marrying Tyra," Jason says. Patiently. "She's – she's – they have history. They're both in Dillon. They're . . . ."
"The best thing you can say about them is that they're both in Dillon?"
"What do you want me to say, Lyla? Tyra's gorgeous, she's smart, she's fun, she's –"
"Gorgeous? You think she's gorgeous?"
"Yeah," Jason replies. (Lyla can hear him grinning through the phone.) "Did I ever tell you she came to visit me in the hospital after my accident? After the whole thing about you and Riggs came out?"
"No," Lyla says. Wearily. As much as she loves talking about the time she screwed her paralyzed boyfriend's best friend, knowing that Tyra was somehow involved in the story (other than her involvement in hating Lyla's guts after Lyla "stole her man," or whatever it is Tyra thinks happened all those years ago) makes things even better.
"Yeah," Jason continues, "well, we had a blast. Played quarters or some shit like that. Got totally hammered. If it had been another time or place . . . well, who knows?" he laughs.
"That's a great story, Jason," Lyla deadpans. "Thanks for sharing. So why don't you marry Tyra?"
Jason ignores the barb. His tone grows serious. "Look Lyla, they're getting married, and you can't change that. Pretending it's not going to happen, backing out of going to this wedding? At the last minute? Not gonna change things."
"She's not right for him."
"And you know this because . . .?"
"Because. Because," she splutters, "I – when I've seen him – they just don't seem right together is all."
"Well, I've seen them together, too. And I think they're just fine."
"Not like we were," Lyla says quietly.
And there it is. The unspoken 'something else' that Jason's supposed to pretend he doesn't see. "No, they're not," Jason finally says. Gently. "They're not like you were. You were pretty great together. . . . But you're not together anymore."
Lyla doesn't respond.
"You could always go all 'Mrs. Robinson' on him and just show up to break up the wedding," Jason laughs, trying to lighten the mood.
"I'm with someone, too, Jason," Lyla says quietly. "I'm not just . . . sitting here waiting for Tim to come get me. I don't live in some fantasy world."
"Ah ha, so you admit, Miss Garrity, that, in your fantasy world, Timmy drops everything and comes running to your rescue."
"Enough with the cross-examination, Jason; I'm the lawyer here," Lyla laughs. Grudgingly. "Anyway, there's nothing to rescue me from. I'm happy. William makes me happy. He's . . . great. He's – did I tell you he's been promoted to partner?"
"Changing the subject, Garrity."
"I'm not changing the subject. I'm just telling you that things are good here. I'm not sitting around waiting for Tim."
"Okay. But, for some reason, you can't stand the thought of Tim being with someone else."
"That's not what this is about."
"It isn't? 'Cause it seems, from where I'm sitting, that Timmy could be marrying Mother Theresa, and you'd be flipping out."
"Mother Theresa is dead."
"Fine then, Hillary Clinton."
"That would be interesting."
"Come on, Lyla."
"So, if I didn't like who you were marrying, you'd assume I was still in love with you?"
"Are you still in love with him?" Jason already knows the answer to this question.
"I'm asking you the question. Is that the way this works? Showing concern for a friend must somehow be misguided jealousy? If I didn't like the person you ended up with, it would mean I'd have to be in love with you?"
"No," Jason says. "Not with me. . . . But you and I didn't have what you and Timmy had. And there's no reason to think he's making some huge mistake here unless you're still in love with him. And, well, whaddaya know? You are still in love with him."
"I'm not," Lyla says heatedly. "And even if I were, it wouldn't matter. Because I'm here, in Washington. With William. And he's there, in Dillon. With Tyra." Lyla can't even utter her name without feeling the bile rise in her throat.
Jason tries one more time. "If nothing else, Tyra loves him. Doesn't that mean something? Isn't that worth something? That she's going to try to make him happy? That she wants to make him happy? Don't you want that for him? If you love him, if you still love him, you should want that for him."
Lyla shakes her head. At no one. No one is there. "I just can't watch him do this," she finally says. She leaves unspoken the fact that she can't stand the idea of going to this wedding to watch another woman claim the love of her life. To watch him promise another woman to love, honor, and cherish her. To watch him put a ring on someone else's finger. To watch someone else claim him as her own. When Lyla knows that he will always be hers. She suddenly feels sick to her stomach.
"I have to go now," she says.
Jason sighs. "Will you just think about it?" he asks.
"Sure," Lyla says. "Sure."
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"Hi there." He hears her voice and his heart stops. He almost forgets the words that are supposed to come after someone says hello to you.
"Hi Garrity," he finally manages.
"New cell number," she offers. "Not caller ID ready."
"202. I should have . . . I mean, I should have known."
"Could've been the president, too, I suppose," she laughs.
"Right," Tim finds himself smiling.
Lyla hesitates. "Have you talked to Jason?"
"Yeah," Tim's voice grows harder.
"Did he tell you?"
"That you're not coming? . . . Yeah."
"I'm sorry. I wanted to call and . . . explain."
"You're busy, something came up," Tim says. He shifts his weight and sinks into the couch. He's glad that Tyra isn't home yet. Tyra hates it when Lyla calls. Hates that he invited her to their wedding. Hates that they still talk. Tyra always says that it wouldn't be so bad if she was sure Lyla wasn't still harboring feelings for him . . . but as it is, she hates feeling like Lyla's always hovering over them with her superior attitude, yet seemingly ready to swoop in and reclaim him.
'Thank god she's in Washington; he's not going to come for her in Washington.' That's what he heard Tyra tell Mindy the day he'd proposed. Or, the day Tyra demanded that they get married or break up. Is that a proposal? What's the difference, anyway? Tim thinks it's strange that he and Tyra live with this . . . thing between them – this Lyla thing. He wonders if Lyla's any better at playing house on the East Coast with William the Lawyer. He wonders if William the Lawyer hates him as much as Tyra hates Lyla. He wonders if what he feels for Tyra is enough to sustain them for the next 50 years. Or the next 5. And if Tyra is so in love with him that she truly doesn't care that there's someone out there that makes him want to shout from the rooftops. As long as that someone isn't in Dillon, Texas. Tim tries not to wonder about these things too often, particularly not with a wedding coming up. His wedding.
"I'm – I'm not too busy for you, Tim," Lyla is telling him. "For your wedding? Are you kidding me?"
"What then, Garrity?"
"I just think it's best this way, don't you?"
Tim is quiet for a minute. "Why didn't you just say no in the first place? Why wait until the actual wedding to blow me off?"
"Blow you off? This isn't a date, Tim," she grows quiet. "Why did you invite me?" she finally asks. "Why did you invite me to your wedding to . . . her?"
"I thought you – I thought –" Tim stumbles. "How could I get married and not invite you to the wedding? You're my . . . you're my family, Garrity."
"I can't do this, Tim. I thought I could. No, I'm lying. I thought you'd – I thought you'd call it off. Not go through with it. That's why I said yes. Because I just – I just assumed there wouldn't be a wedding. That you'd – that you'd realize how insane this is before you actually went through with it."
"Why? What do I have waiting for me? You?" Tim is suddenly angry. "You want me to be alone while you're over there in D.C. going to your . . . Capitol Hill parties? With William? Is that what you want?"
"Oh, please Tim," Lyla's voice betrays a bitterness, "when's the last time you spent a night alone? Tyra or no Tyra, there's no chance you'd ever be alone."
"Whatever other women I've been with, that's on you," Tim snaps. "You left me – remember?"
"Yeah, to pursue an education. I remember. While you pursued prison."
They are both silent.
Finally, Lyla speaks. She is angry. "How can you go through with this? You don't love her!"
"How can you be such a hypocrite? Do you love him?"
"Yes!" Lyla snaps. "No," she adds quietly. "It doesn't matter. Goddamnit, Tim. Why are you doing this?"
"She wants to. And I don't have any reason not to."
What about me? Lyla screams. In her head. She can't say it out loud.
There is silence on the telephone while they both consider carefully what to say next.
Lyla speaks first. "This is a mistake, Tim. Don't do this."
"Give me a reason not to do this, Lyla."
There's only one reason he will accept. She can't give it to him.
"Fuck you, Tim."
"Right back at ya', Garrity."
"Great, then, glad we had this conversation," Lyla's voice is cold.
"Yeah, this was fantastic, we should do it more often."
"Have a great life with Tyra."
"Lyla's not coming to the wedding," Tim says. His voice betrays nothing.
"Oh, that's too bad," Tyra says. She tries to keep her voice even, but it's clear to Tim that Tyra doesn't really think it's "too bad."
Tim is silent. He stabs a piece of chicken with his fork. Tyra looks up from her plate. "Why not?" she asks. Evenly.
Tim shrugs. "Something came up," he mutters.
"What came up?" Tyra raises an eyebrow.
"I dunno. Something with her boyfriend, I think." Tim pops another piece of chicken into his mouth.
"Well, we'll miss them," she smiles sweetly at Tim. He doesn't look up. Tyra watches him eat for a minute.
"Have you picked up your tux yet, babe?" she finally asks.
"Not yet," he says. "Tomorrow, though. For sure."
"For sure," Tyra repeats. "They have to do the final fitting, and we're running out of time."
"Right," Tim says. "I'm pretty sure it'll still fit."
Tyra smiles and gets up from the table. She goes over to Tim's side and wraps her arms around his neck from behind. "You do look pretty hot in a suit," she kisses his neck, letting her mouth linger.
"Thanks," Tim grins, reaching behind his chair and encircling her with his strong arms.
"When's Jason getting here?" Tyra whispers in his ear.
"Good, he can help you with last minute stuff – like, what a man is supposed do for his bride on the night they get married."
"Oh yeah?" Tim raises an eyebrow. "What's that?"
"I'll show you on our wedding night," she bites his ear and kisses his neck again. "But I'll give you a preview now if you'd like."
Tim pushes his chair back and stands up, pulling Tyra against him. "I'd like that," he grins down at her. His fiancee. Tim pushes down the gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach, the one that's been there since he and Tyra got engaged. Tim could get used to this – to this beautiful, smart, fearless woman standing in front of him. To this woman that cooks him dinner every night and watches TV with him and drinks beer with him and goes to Billy and Mindy's place with him to play with the kids. Like a family. To this woman that loves him and wants him and is here. Right here for him. In Dillon. Not in Washington, D.C., going to her glass-front law firm every day, getting takeout for dinner every night, too busy with Washington parties and lawyer friends to care about family, old friends, him. He could get used to this. He will get used to this. Tyra is here. And wonderful. And he loves her. He does. Really, he does.
"She's here, Timmy," Jason says, looking up from his cell phone.
"Who?" Tim turns his head away from the television set that's blaring above them over the bar.
"What are you talking about?" Tim stares at his best friend. They are sitting in Buddy Garrity's bar, watching a baseball game.
"She's here – she just texted me – 'am in Dillon. where are you?'"
Tim stares blankly at Jason.
"I guess she's decided to come to the wedding?" Jason asks.
Tim shakes his head. "What? She's . . . did you know about this?"
"No, no, are you kidding? What do you want me to tell her?"
"That we're at her father's bar. Does Buddy – do you think he even knows she's here?"
Jason shrugs. "I don't know – I guess he'd have to, right?"
Tim's eyes widen and he shakes his head. "You'd think one of us would've known, too . . . ." his voice trails off.
He is quiet as Jason types furiously into his cell phone. Tim twirls the bottle of beer he's holding. He is still watching the television, but he can't really comprehend what's going on with the game anymore.
"Okay," Jason finally says. "She's coming."
Tim is silent.
"Have you talked since . . . ." Jason starts to ask, but isn't sure quite how to finish the question.
"No," Tim says quickly.
"I really had no idea she was thinking about this, Timmy," Jason says. "Seriously. She told me that she couldn't . . . do this."
Tim lets go of his beer bottle and props his elbows on the bar, leaning his head into his hands. He doesn't speak.
"Tim," Jason says again. "Are you okay? Are you gonna be okay?"
Tim shakes his head, still in his hands.
"Timmy," Jason says. Gently. He puts a hand on Tim's back. "Do you want to just . . . go? I can talk to Lyla, find out what's she's doing here, why she . . . . We can figure out what's . . . best here, you know?"
Tim looks up, not at Jason. He can't look at Jason. He stares at the bottles that line Buddy's bar. Buddy's bar. The place where he got his first job out of prison. The worst year of his life. The year that he found out who his real friends were. And weren't. The year he had to start over, not as Number 33, football star, but as Tim Riggins, former felon. Buddy had given him his fresh start.
And Tyra. She'd come out of nowhere. He hadn't seen her in years. And she wanted him. When he didn't believe that anyone would want him, could want him – when Lyla Garrity, the love of his life, was across the country, going to law school and dating guys with BMWs and the roman numeral "III" following their last names – Tyra wanted him. Tim owes her.
"Timmy," Jason is still talking to him. "Go home, okay? I'll talk to Lyla."
Tim shakes his head.
"What?" Jason asks. "You want to stay? I think that's . . . probably not the greatest idea now, Tim. You're getting married in two days. Your bride-to-be is at home waiting for you. You and Lyla are barely on speaking terms. She's not even supposed to be here right now. You two . . . together . . . is probably not the best thing. Not right now. Wait until after the wedding to patch things up. After you're . . . ." Married. Jason doesn't finish the sentence. He doesn't tell Tim that he's concerned that Tim may not get married if he sees Lyla first.
"I'm staying," Tim says.
Jason watches his best friend carefully. He nods. "Okay," he says slowly. "So we'll stay."
"No," Tim says. Immediately. "You go. I'm fine here."
Jason is quiet for a minute. It's left unspoken that Lyla is clearly coming here – is here– to see Tim. Not Jason.
Finally, Jason speaks. "You think . . . do you . . . ." his voice trails off. He doesn't really know what to say, how to address the fact that two people he loves very much are on a painful collision course that he doesn't know how to stop. He doesn't know what his place is here. Tim is his best friend. Lyla is his former girlfriend. If anyone knows what Tim is going through, doesn't he? If anyone can tell Tim – has the right to tell Tim – to get the fuck over it and move on, shouldn't it be him? After all, Tim's the reason that Lyla drop-kicked Jason's heart all those years ago. Timmy and Lyla together. At one time in Jason's life there was nothing more gut-wrenching than that thought. And now, all these years later, seeing them with other people feels . . . strange. But this is how things are now. And it's hard to imagine Tim and Lyla being able to rewind the clock - after all the space, all the distance, all the hurt - to get back to that place. Years ago Jason might have pushed Tim to just do whatever it took to get his woman back. To make things right again. But that was years ago. Jason and Tim are both older and wiser now. Hardened. Neither of them actually believes anymore that love conquers all.
"I'm okay, Jay," Tim looks at him. "I need to do this. Alone. Lyla and I need to do this alone."
Jason nods and reaches for his wallet. "No," Tim says immediately. "Are you kidding me? Go."
Jason wants to smile, to say thank you, but he can't. He pushes himself back from the bar. "You're sure . . . ."
"Yeah," Tim says. "You gonna be okay gettin' home?"
"Yeah," Jason says. "Tell Lyla to call me."
Tim turns back to the television set and sighs. What now?
"You're here," she smiles as soon as she sees him. She's beautiful. Still. Of course.
"Who did you expect?" Tim rises from his bar stool. He puts his arms around her and pulls her close to him. Against his chest. He doesn't hesitate. She falls into his arms and stays there. She closes her eyes and feels his heart beating against her cheek. Through his shirt. She remembers what it was like to fall asleep against him. Every night. She always felt so peaceful and secure against this heartbeat.
They stay like that for what feels like forever. Finally, she forces herself to pull away from his embrace. "I wasn't sure," Lyla says as she disentangles herself and looks up at him. "Does this mean I'm forgiven?"
"For the incredibly shitty way I acted when we talked last week?" Lyla looks at him sheepishly. Shyly.
A slight smile plays at the corner of Tim's lips. "Always."
"I'm sorry," she says, hopping up on the bar stool next to him. "I am sorry."
"I know," Tim says, sitting back down on his stool. "Me too."
"I hate fighting with you," she says. She laughs. "How can we still be fighting after all these years?"
He looks over at her with clear affection in his eyes. "Some things never change," he slides a fresh beer bottle toward her, and raises his own in toast.
"I couldn't not be here for you, anyway," Lyla continues. "Jason was right. . . . Where is Jason?" she looks around, noticing, for the first time, that he's not here.
"Gone," Tim says.
Lyla nods. She doesn't ask him why. Lyla touches the wet glass beer bottle sitting in front of her, running her finger down the side.
"For what it's worth, I'm glad you're here," Tim says.
They sit quietly for a minute.
"So, you're actually going to marry her, huh?" Lyla finally asks.
"Yeah, I am," Tim says.
Lyla nods and raises the beer to her lips. She takes a sip.
"Where's William?" Tim asks.
"He didn't want me to come."
"He doesn't understand this . . . thing. Us."
"That makes two of us, Lyla."
"Three of us," Lyla offers, popping a pretzel into her mouth from a bowl that sits in front of her. "Dad's done a nice job with this place, huh?" she looks around.
Tim doesn't respond. He covers Lyla's hand with his own. She looks at his hand on hers, but doesn't make any moves to pull away. "Aren't you worried someone will see us?" she asks.
"No," he says. "I don't really care."
"I'm not the one getting married this weekend."
"I'm holding your hand, Lyla; I'm not shoving my tongue down your throat."
She hesitates. "Do you want to?" she looks at him.
"Yes," he meets her eyes with his own.
Lyla pulls her hand away and looks away. "What are we doing?"
"I don't know."
"You should. Know. I should know. We can't be like this every time we see each other. It's not . . . it's not healthy. It's not fair to . . . William."
"You don't love him," Tim says, looking down at his beer bottle. It's not a question.
"And you don't love her," Lyla replies, pushing her beer away. "But you're marrying her."
Tim nods. "She's here."
Tim sighs and runs a hand through his hair. "There's nothing I want more than . . . ." he trails off.
"Than what?" she asks. Quietly.
"You know what. What I've always wanted. You."
"I wouldn't have guessed that when I got the wedding invitation."
"Come on, Lyla. There's no future for us. I got your memo. Years ago."
Lyla pauses. "I'm not coming back to Dillon," she says.
"I know," Tim nods. He takes a drink of beer.
"I'm in love with you," she says quietly. "But I'm not coming back to Dillon."
"I know," he says again. "And I'm in love with you. But I'm marrying Tyra. My life is here. In Dillon."
Lyla is silent for a minute. She knows this. But it still hurts like hell all the same. "I know," she finally says. "I know."
She is glowing. She manages to hold the tears back until the exchange of rings. When Tim puts that ring on her finger, she just about loses it. She can barely see through her tears as she slides the solid platinum ring onto his long tanned ring finger. As she glances over at her maid of honor – and her mom, who's bawling – she finds herself laughing and crying at the same time. She gives her husband a long kiss and whispers in his ear: "I love you, Mr. Riggins." She feels him squeeze her hand. This is the best day of my life.
I'm Mrs. Tyra Riggins.
She is crying softly. Her father whispers that it'll be okay, now that William's a partner he'll propose soon, too, and then, this will all be hers. A wedding, marriage, babies. The whole shebang. Except it'll be much nicer because who does a wedding at the Dillon VFW? For his baby girl, he'll do it up right – at the Dillon Country Club. Or maybe at Congressional in DC. That's the famous one, baby. The one where all those senators and presidents and Supreme Court justices play golf. She wipes away her tears; she doesn't want anyone to see her like this. Not today. Not with all of these people around who are watching her, wondering how she feels, what she must be thinking. What she's doing here. Watching him marry someone else. She nods. Right, Daddy. Right. I can handle this. I can handle anything.
I'm Lyla Garrity.
He can't look at her, although he feels her there. When he promises to "love, honor, and cherish" – his voice breaks a little – but he plows through. He feels her lips on his; hears her whisper "I love you, Mr. Riggins." He squeezes her hand. He can't respond. He can't say the words. Not now, anyway. Not with her sitting in the pews, watching him. Knowing that this whole thing is a lie. He looks at his brother, who wears a mask. A tight smile. He looks at Jason – his best friend, the one person who's never lied to him. Jason has an arm around his wife, and is holding her close. Jason nods. He doesn't smile. Jason can't pretend this isn't bull shit. Tim can't either. He can't look at her, even as he's walking out of the hall with his new wife. His wife. He can't turn around. He keeps walking, head held high. Like a champion. He's always been a champion. On and off the football field.
I'm Tim Riggins, Number 33.
Five years later.
He throws the screeching little girl into the air. "One more time, Daddy! One more time!"
"Okay, but seriously, this is the last time," he grins. "Or you're going to give your dinner right back to me, and mama over there is going to kick my -"
"Bottom," she interrupts, elbowing him and reaching her arms out to her daughter. "Really, munchkin, enough for the night."
"Nope, go grab your pj's and a binkie; sleepy time, baby girl," she ruffles her daughter's hair.
"Okay. But more tomorrow," the little girl gives her father a conspiratorial look.
"Okay. More tomorrow," he laughs and kisses her head.
"Your daughter is an extortionist, and she's not even three," she shakes her head, but can't hide the smile.
"Like mother, like daughter," he grins.
"I'm more subtle, anyway," Lyla Garrity reaches for "The Cat in the Hat" and waits for her two-year-old to come bounding back with a pair of pajamas.
"Yeah, real subtle," Tim Riggins grins. "Little Mermaid pj's again?" his eyes are back on his daughter. "Katie-bear, those things are going to fall apart in the wash."
"Ariel, Ariel," Katie sings.
"Ariel, Ariel," Lyla scoops Katie up and pops her into Tim's arms.
"We're buying stock in Disney," Tim mutters as he carries his daughter up the stairs. "Like crack, those movies are."
"Let's keep the crack talk to a minimum until she's at least thirteen."
"Right," Tim agrees. "Like football."
"Yeah, I'd rather talk about crack."
"Hey, Garrity," he grins, "Try not to show quite so much disdain for the lifeblood of our family at tomorrow's banquet, okay?"
"I have my best-coach-husband-dad speech all done. Memorized. You'll love it. Katie-bear helped me write it."
"Did you help mama write that speech for daddy's team, Katie-bear?" Tim tickles his daughter.
"Seriously, it's inspirational," Lyla grins. "I thank the University of Virginia for convincing you that there's a world outside of Texas. That people even play football outside of Texas. That people win games outside of Texas."
"Please, save a little of the inspiration for tomorrow night," Tim laughs.
"What are we doing tomorrow night?" Katie asks.
"You are going to sleep," Tim kisses her on the head. "Mama and I are going to a banquet where people are going to tell me how great I am."
"Can I watch Little Mermaid tomorrow?" Katie asks as he deposits her into bed.
Tim raises an eyebrow. "Seriously," he looks at Lyla. "Crack."
Five years earlier.
The reception passes in a blur. Mr. and Mrs. Tim Riggins. Mindy Collette is talking his ear off about how they're all family now and how great it is that Timmy and Tyra are together forever and are going to have babies, lots of babies, and when are they going to get started on that because the three littlest Riggins need cousins. And there are the sloppy wet kisses from Angela Collette, who's just a little bit too drunk for her own good. But Buddy Garrity is there to pick up the slack on that front. And there's Jason, who seems kind of distant and preoccupied with Erin, even though Tim could use a friend right about now. And, of course, there's his wife. Who has no fucking clue how he's feeling right now. He holds up his hand and inspects the ring. And there's Lyla. Who's . . . gone. What the fuck have I done?
She drags her bag to the exit doors. National Airport. There's a buzz around her. It's the sort of buzz you don't get in Dillon. In Texas. There are suits all around her; guys on their smartphones talking about bills and legislation and steak dinners at Charlie Palmer and meeting on the boat with Congressman so-and-so who's a big drinker so if you want to get something passed, you grease his palm in the right way or maybe with a round of golf or a quick weekend trip to St. Thomas. Maybe.
She normally lives for this stuff - this feeling, this buzz that comes from living in the most powerful city in the fucking world. Today she just feels numb. Someone pushes past her as he snaps orders into his phone. "Screw him, Jim - get the deal done, you know? We have three hours before the senator's out the door." He doesn't even notice that he's shoved her out of the way as he hurries toward the taxi line. Doesn't give a shit. Eh. Neither does she.
She runs a hand through her hair and takes a deep breath as the sunshine hits her. It doesn't feel like the world should be moving right along, but here we are, and here it is. Black Lincoln Navigators line the curb. Generically handsome guys in conservative gray suits (pinstripe, of course) are rushing in and out. In the distance she sees the Washington Monument. Home. This is home now.
She hears a beep. It becomes more insistent as she wanders slowly along the curb toward the cab line in a daze. She finally looks up. D.C. tags. "No taxation without representation." Life in Washington. Everyone has a cause. Everyone has something to sell. Everyone has an Ivy League education and a conservative suit and something more important to do and someone more important to meet. She doesn't smile, although she knows she's supposed to, as she watches William Charles Kane III step out of his shiny black BMW. "Hey baby. Surprise. Welcome home."
Four years earlier.
They are always fighting now. He's not around. She's crying. She knows he slept with Lyla Garrity when he went to visit Jason. At least he was honest about that. On the surface nothing's changed and, yet, everything's changed. She can't understand how they went from that – that amazing wedding day – to this. This life that Tyra can't seem to fix. She loves him. She watches him at night as he sits impassively in front of the television with this sadness that she can't take away. She wants so desperately to take it away.
She wants to have a baby with him. He won't have sex without a condom. They're married, for Christ's sake, and he won't have sex without a condom. Like he doesn't trust that she's not just going to forget to take her pill. This is when they have sex at all. Which they don't. Not often enough, anyway; and it makes sense, because having to put on a condom every time you have sex is, like, a recipe for not having sex at all. It takes all the spontaneity out of it. It's insulting. Like I'm just some girl he picked up at a bar. And where the hell is Tim getting sex if he's not getting it from me? She wants to believe that Tim's not out there at night – Billy insists he's not – but then again, Billy doesn't know about Lyla, so what the hell does he know?
And the fights. They are horrible. Why doesn't he want kids? Hasn't he always wanted kids? Is it his coaching schedule? The games? Her? If he just wants to be left alone, why did he marry her? And how can they go on like this?
And that bitch Lyla Garrity. Like she hasn't caused enough grief in Tyra's life already. Lyla doesn't call anymore, at least not as far as Tyra knows – she's ostensibly left Tim alone since the wedding. But somehow – somehow – she ended up in New York visiting Jason at the same time Tim was there? Please. What is it with her that Tim just can't stay away? When he came back from that trip Tyra knew something was up, that something had changed. Tim told her straight out – 'I slept with Lyla.' He didn't even – he didn't even provide a lead-up, a soft cushion, an 'I can't believe I did this, I was drunk out my mind, I'm a terrible person, but I slept with Lyla.' No, it was just an 'I need to tell you something. I slept with Lyla.' Those words will be seared into Tyra's memories forever.
Tyra doesn't even remember what she did after that – it was all a blur. She remembers yelling and screaming, throwing dishes at Tim's head, slamming the bedroom door, crying herself to sleep. She remembers the look on his face – was it one of sadness? Of pity? She remembers the next morning when Tim asked her if she wanted him to leave . . . she said no. She said, 'please, no.'
Tim is "honorable." Not the real honorable, the fake honorable – the kind of "honorable" where he refuses to be the one to say that we made a huge mistake and he's not in love with me and he's in love with someone else and he wants to go be with her and can we get divorced? That kind of "honorable." It's bull shit.
And so we keep fighting. And having sex occasionally . . . with a condom. And I keep telling myself that things will change – that eventually things will get better because I love him so damn much and he has to see that; he has to see how good things can be with us. Otherwise, how can we go on like this?
Three years earlier.
If he closes his eyes for a minute and just listens to the sound of the football players and the coaches, it almost feels like he's back in Texas. When he opens them and looks around, the University of Virginia's Scott Stadium (home of the Cavaliers – what the hell is a Cavalier?) doesn't look a whole lot like anything in Texas. Neither does the University of Virginia.
But it's pretty goddamn beautiful, all the same. And they're offering him a position here. An assistant coaching job. A job that would put him exactly an hour-and-a-half outside of Washington, D.C., and 1500 miles from Dillon, Texas.
Coach T. says this is a great opportunity for Tim, and that living on the East Coast isn't terrible. Tim smiles as he recalls the conversation with his mentor and friend. 'It's not Texas,' Coach T. told Tim, 'but it ain't half bad.' It was an honest conversation, and Tim came clean about a lot of the terrible stuff that's happened – not that's just happened; that Tim's done. But Coach T. has always seen the best in Tim . . . even when he hasn't earned it.
And there's the fact that, for the first time in as long as Tim can remember, Jason is on board with a choice Tim is making. 'Come to D.C., you idiot.' Tim thinks those were Jason's exact words. This may be, at least in part, due to the fact that Tim has left nothing but scorched earth behind him in Dillon, Texas, and, at this point, it's pretty much either Tyra or him. Dillon's certainly not big enough for both of them anymore. Not after everything that's happened between them.
When she signed the divorce papers he thought she was going to reach across the table and rip out his heart. She didn't. But he's pretty sure he ripped out hers.
And, of course, there's Lyla. This is what it's all for, anyway. This is where he belongs. He knows this now.
They don't do a big wedding. He's not actually sure anyone would even call this a wedding. They go to a courthouse in downtown Washington, D.C., where no one knows - or cares - who they are. They sign some papers and say "I do." He slips a simple platinum band on her finger, and she does the same. There is no wedding gown, no best man or maid of honor, no rice. He buys her flowers because he thinks that a bride deserves flowers, even though she insists that she doesn't need anything and is totally okay with all of this. He's pretty certain that this is not how she dreamed her wedding would be, but she's insisted that they do it this way because she doesn't want to put him through another big event. Not after everything that's happened.
They don't invite anyone to join them; they don't even tell anyone what they're doing. Buddy Garrity is furious when he finds out. Goes through the roof. Luckily, he lives in Texas, so he can't literally reach through the phone to strangle his daughter's new husband. It doesn't stop him from trying.
When Tim calls Billy to break the news, he expects Billy to chew him out. He doesn't. He says congratulations. Quietly. Tim can hear the happiness in his voice, even if Billy's doing his best to hide it. Billy tells Tim that he'll break the news to the Collette side of the family. Probably for the best. 'Also, don't come home for Christmas.' Too soon. Which seems kind of funny to Tim, since, to him, it feels like this whole thing has taken forever.
When the judge tells Tim and Lyla that they are married, Tim looks into her eyes and knows instantly that he has everything he wants. He's happy for the first time in so long. Genuinely, incredibly, shout-it-from-the-rooftops happy. He says what he couldn't say two years ago on his wedding day. "I love you." She says it back.
"'Night dada. 'Night mama. Remember Little Mermaid for tomorrow."
"Will do, baby," Tim grins and shakes his head, as he and Lyla tiptoe out of their daughter's room and close the door.
Lyla leans against the wall and closes her eyes.
"Long day?" Tim pushes some hair out of her face.
"Mhmm. Tired," she opens her eyes and smiles up at him.
"You still look pretty cute, though, Garrity," he smiles down at her. "And I love you," he whispers into her ear and kisses it.
"You, too, Riggins," she smiles and rests her head against his chest, listening to his the drum of his heartbeat - steady, like him, like them together, like they've always been together. "You, too."