Title: Little White Ones
Fandom: Friday Night Lights
Character: Tyra, mentions of Tim, Landry, Connor, others
Timeline: Just Season 1 (No spoilers for Season 2)
Summary: Lies Tyra Collette tells.
A/N: This is Tyra Season 1. Because I love her.
She gets a lot of practice, you see.
She tells everyone that she hates football.
Her first memory is Saturday afternoon college football with Dad. Still in her Carebears nightgown—Mama (and despite everything, Tyra will always, always think of her with that name a little girl gives her mother) didn’t make her change on Saturday—sitting on the floor at Daddy’s feet with five different kinds of cereal in colored plastic bowls on the coffee table and the TV on. They ate the cereal dry: Daddy washed his down with a beer while he ran his roughened fingers through her hair.
Longhorn football was Daddy’s passion, and Tyra breathed it from the time she was born. It was her special time with Daddy, the only part of their lives that they really shared as she grew up. He left for work before she woke up in the mornings and when he came home, long after the plate Mama had left out for him grew cold, he was too tired to do anything but fall into bed. Sundays for Daddy were sleeping late and then off to the lake.
But Saturdays were football and cereal and Daddy’s hand in her hair. He laughed at the commercials, and she laughed, too, even when she didn’t understand. Daddy cheered or groaned over plays and calls, and she did, too, even if the screen was just a confusing jumble of men in burnt orange who seemed to like to hurt anyone who wasn’t dressed like them.
Over time, she began to understand the rules of the game and the commercial’s jokes, but Daddy had less and less time for football and Tyra, and then he was gone altogether.
By that time, Tyra was old enough to realize there were two addictions Dillon had that were going to suck the town dry and break its spirit: oil and football.
She saw grown men who thought they owned the world because of a huge ugly ring on their fingers. She saw teenage boys crack under the weight of a whole town’s expectations. She saw families split apart by Dillon’s two passions.
She saw Daddy leave.
But Tyra still secretly loves football. It’s just too painful to watch.
She tells Mama she forgives her.
Mama’s daddy died when she was seven, and Tyra tells herself that that explains it, even if it doesn’t excuse it. Mama’s always had to have a man look at her like she’s beautiful, and Tyra knows this from the stories she heard growing up.
Your Daddy was the perfect gentleman, Mama would say with shining eyes. Brought me flowers and took me to
Daddy hadn’t had time to treat Mama like a princess for as long as Tyra could remember. He was too busy making sure they didn’t get evicted or have to eat canned chili for dinner for the tenth time in a row.
It started then. Mama flirting with the customers at work, with the bagger at the grocery store, even with the men at church (back then, the Colletes—except for Daddy—still went to church). Tyra’s pretty sure Mama never actually cheated on Daddy—she isn’t sure why she believes it; she’s just going with her gut on this one; maybe it’s wishful thinking—but it didn’t matter. Angela Collette needed appreciative glances, compliments, winks, like Daddy needed to work to think of himself as a man.
Tyra knew, and Tyra hated it, but Tyra could ignore it. At least until Buddy Garrity and having it thrown in her face, and there is no way she could deny it. It hurts, it feels like a betrayal of Daddy, even if he’s been gone for years and they haven’t heard from him in nearly that long. She should be able to push it away, but now it’s not some nameless man she’s thinking of her mother with—he has a name and a face and a wife, and Tyra will never be able to understand how her mother could do that to another woman.
For the first time since elementary school, Tyra sees a flash in Lyla’s eyes and for that one moment, they understand each other absolutely and there’s no judgment there (that only lasts for that moment, though, because history is just too heavy).
Tyra sticks up for her because she’s blood and that’s what you do for family and because she’s still grasping hold of the idea that someday they’ll be a real family again and Mama will look at her and see her.
But the after is the hardest part: watching Mama act like not having a man (again) is the worst thing that could ever happen to her (when her daughters are right there, and Mama pretended not to care when Daddy left).
And that’s what Tyra can’t forgive.
She tells Tim that she loves him.
It was easy to worship Tim Riggins.
He was a sweet boy, she remembers; that’s the cost of growing up in a small town where you know every single thing about everyone else. He and Jason Street tore through the neighborhood—this was when Tyra lived in Tim’s neighborhood, before Daddy left and they had to move—and got into typical little-boy trouble. But they usually got out of it again with angelic gap-toothed smiles. Tyra tagged along sometimes, scratched knees and messy pigtails, already taller than the boys and a complete tomboy. When Lyla visited, she played, too (because Lyla used to be Tyra’s best friend, before high school and hierarchies and hatred), though she didn’t want to get her dresses dirty—she’d get in trouble. They were all good kids, just mischievous and energetic, and that’s how the adults talked about them.
It was when Tim’s parents were suddenly gone that he changed. Late middle school, and she wouldn’t wish Billy’s guardianship on anyone. Fortunately (or unfortunately, she still hasn’t figured that one out yet) for him, at the same time he became sullen and rebellious, he also became hot.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, she still hasn’t figured that one out yet, either) for her, she became hot at the same time.
She wasn’t Tim’s first girlfriend—she made him chase her, on Mindy’s advice, and she’s still convinced that that’s the reason he stayed with her longer than any other girl.
Tim could be charming when he wanted to, when he actually broke out his smile (no longer gap-toothed), and he didn’t treat her all that badly (she tells herself), even if it was always all about him and never about her. The sex was fantastic (though it took him a whole lot longer than anyone really believes to get into her pants), and sometimes, just sometimes, he would let his guard down, be a bit vulnerable, let her take care of him like she wanted to (because he’s more screwed up than she is, with more abandonment issues, and she always wanted to soothe him, make it better).
Those are the times she tells him that she loves him. She really does wish it were the truth.
Still, she cares about him, about the little boy she remembers and knows is still in there somewhere. And it feels like a slap in her face when he lets her walk away, when she tells him it’s over for real and he just doesn’t care. Like those moments they shared mean nothing to him.
When the truth comes out about him and Lyla, the fact that she doesn’t love him doesn’t stop her from feeling betrayed.
She tells Connor she isn’t going to sleep with him.
She’s used to getting hit on at work. Leers and winks and big tips, even buttslaps sometimes, though no man has ever tried that twice. Work is exhausting , not because of the heavy trays or long hours, but because she has to fend off advances almost every night.
This guy isn’t really like that. He’s in a suit, for one thing, and not the Men’s Warehouse variety. Mindy watches What Not To Wear enough that Tyra knows that Clinton and Stacey would approve of this suit. But he looks a little like a little boy in one of daddy’s suits for the Homecoming dance or a funeral no one knew was coming.
It’s sort of endearing.
He flirts, a little bit, but it’s genuine, and he doesn’t look at her like a piece of meat. The guy probably has less experience in that arena than Tim does, but right now, that’s a good thing.
He looks like the rest of the world, a world without dust or Applebee’s or high school football, a world of traffic jams and deadlines and glamour. It isn’t love at first sight or anything close—it isn’t love at all, or even lust—at least not lust for his body. He’s cute, sure, but it isn’t him that she cares about. It’s what he represents.
He’s asking her if she wants to go for a ride, a little awkward, stumbling over his words so that she knows this isn’t typical for him. Strangely, that makes her feel safe.
And she’s telling him she isn’t going to sleep with him, and she wants to mean it, but even as she says the words, she knows they’re a lie.
He listens when she talks and actually seems to care, and she can’t remember the last time someone did. He tells her she doesn’t belong here, and she knows that for that, she’d give him anything he wants.
He won’t be here long. He’ll go back to
In her heels, she’s taller than him and she was right in thinking that he wouldn’t be as experienced as Tim or any of the other guys she’s been with (there aren’t nearly as many as everyone thinks). But even so, he’s there and for him it’s just as much about her as it is about his own pleasure. That’s new.
For the first time, she doesn’t expect to wake up alone. But she does. Sure, he comes back with a bag of donuts she won’t have the stomach to eat and a cup of coffee that will lose all its heat while she cries. But then he’s gone again, and she realizes that she knew she would end up exactly here.
She knew from the beginning that she would try to grab hold of a life beyond Dillon and west
It always does.
She tells Landry that she doesn’t want anyone to know about that night.
Tyra’s been scared for so long that she forgets that she is: scared she’ll never get out of this town, scared she’ll never see Daddy again, scared that she’ll be alone. She strides through the fear, though, shoves it to the side, and she’s forgotten the way it coils, cold and hard-edged, in the pit of her stomach.
Forgotten till it slowly starts to uncoil, inching its way up through her stomach and into her throat at the way that man looks at her, his gaze lingering a little too long to be merely appreciative, it borders on speculative. She examines him out of the corner of her eye, and it doesn’t occur to her till later (much, much later, when she’s stopped shaking and sobbing) that someone as messed up and full of himself as him would interpret that as being coy. One thing Tyra has never been is coy.
He talks to her, and she can tell from that just how much of a creep the guy is. She wishes desperately that Landry was there, and is disgusted at her damsel-in-distress attitude. It’s that thought that reminds her that she holds her own fate in her hands, that she can study any day, and that she needs to do what Oprah always says and trust her instincts (Mama’s a big fan of Oprah).
Later, she wishes she left her textbook where it was. This was Dillon—no one was going to steal it—it would still have been there tomorrow. But she doesn’t, and then there he is, and it’s all fear and panic and sweat and rain and tears and ohGodohGodohGod.
She doesn’t actually think about the cigarette lighter; her body is struggling for her even though her brain is completely paralyzed. And then he’s gone and she can’t stop crying and then there’s Landry and all she knows is that no one can know.
Because she knows Dillon. Knows that people will say she was asking for it—she’s a Collette, after all (and she knows what her last name is synonymous with in this town and hates Daddy for it just a little because it was never like that when he was still here—he made the name mean something). More than that, she knows that he’ll behave perfectly in prison, get out on parole, and then come after her. She’s not so optimistic that she thinks she’ll have been able to get out of town by then.
All this her cool, logical brain tells her (the brain that absolutely betrayed her during the attack). That brain makes her move throughout her day, studying some more for Calculus, fixing dinner, speaking cheerfully enough to Mindy and Mama. It’s only when Landry suggests, yet again, that they tell somebody, that her emotion breaks through. She snaps at him before reigning in her cool again.
But there’s a part of her that’s still a little girl, curled up in a corner, scared and still shaking (and in the dark when she huddles in bed, she is that girl), that desperately wants to run to someone, to tell, to believe that he can be locked away where he can never hurt her again.
This time, her brain wins.
She tells Mrs. Taylor that she isn’t thinking about college.
Mama didn’t even finish high school. She was pregnant with Mindy during her senior year and had to drop out in November and marry Daddy (those were the days when shotgun weddings were as common as State rings). Daddy had graduated the year before with a State ring on his finger and was already working for the oil company. Mama really didn’t mind; in all her growing up years, Tyra never once heard Mama hint that she regretted not graduating.
Daddy, though, always wished he’d gotten to go to college. When she was a little girl, both he and Mama always talked about both of their girls going to college, like it was a foregone conclusion like it was for Lyla Garrity and the other rich girls. Tyra’s pretty sure that was why Daddy worked so hard, nearly killing himself to save up money that would one day pay for college.
But the oil dried up and all the money with it and Daddy shattered.
Mama had no skills—she worked at the nail salon for a while and at the Dillard’s and as the secretary for Dillon’s divorce lawyer—and money never stopped being tight. Mindy dropped out of high school to work at Applebee’s, got her G.E.D., and on her eighteenth birthday started working at the Landing Strip.
Tyra had just started high school and cynicism then, but she didn’t understand how Mindy could just give in like that (because she could only see it as a surrender). How could the older sister she idolized just throw her life away like that?
Tyra started dating a senior that year, and by the time summer rolled around, she understood. She packed up all her optimism and plans for the future and when she occasionally brought them out again, the mothball stench sickened her.
Mrs. Taylor rattled her so much that the boxes tumbled open and Tyra couldn’t scoop all their contents back inside so easily this time (even when her own mother doesn't believe in her and doesn't care enough to lie to her).
It’s always been there: out: the idea of it so vivid that she can taste it (though sometimes it chokes her and she gasps for air and other times turns saccharine on her tongue). Now, though, it’s accompanied by up, dragging herself out of the
She tells herself that Landry isn’t right.
She can make excuses for herself all day long; she knows the few people who don’t write her off as the town slut make them for her. With a daddy who left her, a mama who cares more about men than about her daughters, a sister who works as a stripper, Tyra Collette was doomed from the start. What else could you expect but that she would chase after men like her mama does, let them use her like her sister does. Never mind that her reputation is a lot worse than her reality—what people believe in Dillon is what’s true.
She’s smart enough that she could psychoanalyze herself, shrink her own head: she uses men, her reputation as the town slut to simultaneously punish herself and search for some kind of meaning. That there’s a part of her that believes that she should let men treat her like dirt (after all, Daddy left her) is just what everyone sees (and who the hell cares if it’s true?). She can’t stand the cliché of it all, even if she lives it, again and again and again.
Tim could be sweet sometimes. There were moments….
And this is what battered women do. She’s smart enough to know that. No man has ever hit her, no man has ever raised a hand against her (except for the one in the parking lot, and oh God, best not think about that). Doesn’t matter. Because she knows perfectly well that it could happen—she could end up jaded and shrewd and making her money by selling her body like Mindy, could end up weak and sad and desperate like Mama, but just as likely she could end up that woman who stands by her man even when she shouldn’t, even when he’s beating the crap out of her, and only gets up the courage to leave when he turns on the kids.
Because that’s what those women do. They make excuses (“there were moments….”), and Tyra is a pro at that. On her better days she tells herself that she would never let that happen, but she’s known enough women with that kind of life to know that it happens by degrees, inching into hell, sliding slowly, no abrupt tumble. She closes her eyes and sees it happening to her, inch by torturous inch.
So when Landry gives her his little speech about “what she deserves,” the jaded Mindy-part scoffs, the desperate Mama-part swoons, the gonna-end-up-in-a-trailer-park-getting-t
She can’t let herself believe him. Because if life has taught her anything, it’s that messes like her don’t deserve anything. Or even if they do, they never actually get it.
She gets a lot of practice, you see.