Not The Cheering Type
I detest the audition process. It makes me wonder why I'm a cheerleader in the first place. Watching a bunch of sad people parading around in front of us, just desperate to be chosen to be in the elite. I suppose that's my answer. Being a cheerleader brings prestige, and that's what I'm all about. Poor little rich girl. Daddy's little princess. A cut above the rest where academia is concerned. It's not like the Chess club is going to suit me is it? Which means I had to join the cheerleading squad. Luckily I'm a great dancer, and I do enjoy learning the routines...but days like today just make me think about things a little too profoundly.
If Carver hadn't gone and broken her leg I wouldn't have to sit here and listen to Courtney raving on about how we should just pick Whitney's little sister Jamie. Yes, because that would be fair, right. Of course, I'd be surprised if either of them could spell nepotism, let alone define it. Then we have Torrance. Our newly appointed leader. She's really trying...and it shows. All perky and blonde. She's a nice girl, she really is. I should like her. But something about her just irks me and I don't know what it is.
And now the torture begins. It amazes me that people have the guts to try out for the squad when they are so painfully obviously not cheerleading material. Do they honestly think they'll be chosen? Coming along here and making fools of themselves for our viewing displeasure, complaining about the colour of our uniforms...or just generally being terrible. I haven't seen a single person that I'd even consider allowing onto the squad yet. This rapper...person is the worst yet. Does she actually understand what cheerleading is? I seriously doubt it.
Jan's looked interested in most of the hopefuls. Scratch that, most of the female ones. He's such a guy. A set of boobs, a half decent pair of legs and he's quite happy. Never mind the fact that none of them could dance.
Oh my God. What an absolute whore. This girl has the misplaced view that cheerleading is somehow closely related to pole-dancing. Or stripping. Or prostitution. She is wearing the tightest, shortest shorts possible. And she just took her top off...thankfully she's wearing a bikini underneath. Now, I can appreciate a good-looks as much as the next person. But this girl will not be making it onto this squad. She's now writhing around on top of the table in a really disgusting manner. Right in front of Jan, who looks like he's about to overheat. Sad man. I have to look away, the girl is just degrading herself so much I can't watch. And Jan just fell off his chair, thankfully bringing to an end the impromptu porn act we had to bear witness to.
Then comes Whitney's little sister. And she sucks. I've seen more pep at a funeral for goodness' sake. She even has the gall to look bored. Like her big sister. It's evident that Whitney's promised her a spot on the squad and she feels like this is just a formality. And I'm really sad to say that, going on what we've seen already today, she's probably going to make it. I underline her name on my audition sheet. The best of a terrible bunch. Well, at least the hell is nearly over.
And then She walks in. For the first time today I sit up and take notice. Even from here I can tell she's got moves. Her walk is fluid and graceful, her arms hanging loosely at her sides. The swing of her hips captivates me. She's not the usual type to come to these auditions. She's wearing combat pants and a tight little t-shirt...just showing the slightest tease of her toned abdomen. I have to check that my mouth is closed. Because I'm positive my jaw dropped when she entered. She is quite possibly the most beautiful creature I have ever seen in my life.
"Excuse me, where'd you park your Harley?"
Whitney's whisper travels along to me and I get this inexplicable feeling in my chest. Like I want to spring to this girl's defence. She hasn't even spoken yet and already the vultures are pecking at her. But of course, I don't defend her. That would never do. Proud, aloof Darcy speaking up for someone new and different? I don't think so.
"Tattoos are strictly verboten. Sorry!"
For the first time I notice the intricate design on her left bicep. Panic swells up inside me. She's fallen at the first fence and I'm not even going to get to speak to her. But wait...she faux-smiles at Courtney and extends her middle finger. Then she slowly brings it to her mouth and rubs it across her flat tongue. It's incredibly erotic. Or maybe that was just my own personal interpretation. Then she takes her finger and runs it over the tattoo on her arm, smudging it. It's fake!
"I got bored during fourth period."
Oh God, she has a sexy voice too. I wouldn't have expected otherwise.
"You need to...fill one of these out."
Whitney makes her disdain clear with her tone of voice. Courtney's is plainly displayed all over her face. Clearly the new girl is not a hit. I'm going to have to watch how I play this one. I can't be fawning all over her.
She holds up a completed form and cements her place in my heart by facing off with the bitch-twins. Suddenly I feel the need to establish eye-contact with the...is there a female version of Adonis? Venus? Aphrodite? Whatever...anyway, I really want her to look at me so I hold my hand out for her form. I smile at her, not in an obvious way. But I smile nonetheless as she walks toward me and hands me the piece of paper.
I'm really trying to appear casual as I open up her form. Inwardly my heart is racing and parts of me I'd forgotten existed are stirring. There's also an embarrassing moistening taking place. God, please, not in this outfit. Jan looks over my shoulder to see what's written on the page. He's going to notice. I really have to get this under control. I take a deep breath and kick my haughty routine up a gear.
"Missy, is it?"
That was possibly a bit too much. It sounded downright hostile. She looks at me strangely, like perhaps she didn't expect me to sink to the level of Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber along the other end of the table. She nods.
"Before we start, I'm afraid we're going to need to make sure you can do a standing back tuck. Standard procedure, you understand."
Where the hell did that come from? Standing back tuck? Most of the people we've seen today couldn't do a handstand, never mind a complicated gymnastic move like that. Maybe I just want to see that body move. Or maybe I'm not as individual as I thought I was. Maybe I'm scared of what Whitney and Courtney would say if I was nice to this girl.
Missy doesn't look phased at all. She removes her keychain from her pocket, looking right at me all the while.
"Standing back handspring back tuck OK?"
She throws her keys to the ground and I'm smitten all over again. And I don't even know why. I can't help the big dopey smile on my face now. I nod at her in an attempt to appear disinterested. I don't think it was very successful.
She nods once in response. Then she takes a breath and throws herself into the move with the practised ease of a trained gymnast. I think my heart is doing its own personal form of gymnastics as she finishes the combination and straightens up, walking back towards us.
"Where's this girl from, Romania?"
Whitney is a jealous person. When someone is better than her at something she has to bring them down. Which means that she pretty much has to put someone down constantly.
Courtney holds her hands out like she's going to bring up something really important.
"Can she yell?"
Missy just smiles at her with tight lips. I'm so in awe of her confidence. People tend to worship cheerleaders. They get out of our way in corridors, offer to carry our books for us. People auditioning to join us have been known to throw up because they're so nervous. But not Missy. No sir.
"We'll try an oldie. 'Awesome, oh wow, like totally freak me out I mean right on...Toros sure are number one!'"
I cringe at how stupid that makes Torrance, and by association the rest of us, sound. Missy is evidently not impressed if her expression is anything to go by. She raises her eyebrows as Torrance finishes, indicating that she should now attempt the cheer. She puts on her best 'cheerleader' face and goes for it.
"I transferred from Los Angeles, your school has no gymnastics team, this is a last resort."
Not quite the cheer we were expecting. But she did nail the rhythm and her delivery was very impressive under this kind of scrutiny. The others don't look happy. For them cheerleading is practically life. You can see why they would be insulted. Missy must realise she's offended some of them.
"OK, so I've never cheered before, so what? How about something that actually requires neurons?"
She's just going up and up in my estimation. She's so different from the usual blonde, bimbo clones that turn up and churn out cheers like robots. Plus she used the word 'neurons'. Her vocabulary is already wider than that of 90% of the squad. Also, she has the sweetest little crease in the centre of her lower lip. Which has nothing to do with anything, but I just noticed it.
Oh no. Courtney should really work on her whispering. What do those two have up their sleeve now?
"Front handspring, step out, round off back handspring, step out, round off, back handspring, full twisting layout."
What? You don't have to be able to do that to get into the Olympics. I look over at Whitney in disbelief. Missy just shakes her head and smiles. Then she turns and walks away. Those bitches have driven her away. How can they think it's OK to treat people like tha...oh, she's not leaving. She's stopped at the back of the hall. She pauses for a second, takes a little run up and then dives into the combination requested. With every move I can feel my smile growing. Yeah, you show them Missy. She really has talent. There's no way they can't pick her now.
She finally comes to a halt, her back facing us. There are gasps and exclamations of disbelief from the table. I remember that I should probably breathe soon.
"Missy is bank."
Yes! I knew she'd be in. Torrance is the captain, what she says goes. Missy is our new recruit.
"Bankrupt! We've already so decided on Jamie."
But of course, Courtney can't just let anything go. Missy looks confused. As well she might. How Courtney could even suggest that we pick someone else after that display of gymnastic prowess is beyond me. But then again, she's Courtney.
"Courtney, this is not a democracy, it's a cheerocracy. I'm sorry, but I'm over-ruling you."
See, it's little things like that that bug me about Torrance. She should just have given Courtney the finger and told her where to get off. But no, she has to use silly little phrases like 'cheerocracy' which only serve to perpetuate the rumours about cheerleaders and stupidity. That said, I'm glad she's over-ruling Courtney in this instance.
"You are being a cheertator, Torrance, and a pain in my ass. We already voted. Besides, Missy looks like an uber-dyke."
That felt like a physical blow to my chest. This is another reason I sometimes question my choice to be a cheerleader ö the raging homophobia among certain groups. Why is it alright for Les to be out and proud, but if I were to suddenly announce that I'm attracted to girls there'd be an uproar. Maybe I'm blowing it out of proportion slightly. What I really mean is that Whitney and Courtney would be mean to me. Like they've just been to Missy.
She looks really hurt. All that confidence she was oozing a moment ago seems to have fled. Maybe they hit a nerve? They certainly did with me. She gathers up her keys and turns to leave, walking briskly out of the door. I'd like nothing more than to go after her and tell her not to listen to them. But I'd be a hypocrite if I did. Because I listen to them and I let them get to me.
"Courtney, I'm the captain. I'm pulling rank, and you can fall in line or not. If we're going to be the best we have to have the best. Missy's the poo, so take a big whiff."
They don't look pleased. I think they thought they'd won and that Jamie could be measured up for her uniform tonight. I'm impressed that Torrance stood up to them. And happy that she wants Missy on the squad.
But what about me? What if I just want her? I guess I just have to make a choice. Am I willing to go through my whole life doing what's expected of me? Am I willing to let someone I think I could like slip past me just because of what other people would think if I spoke to her? Or am I going to grab the proverbial bull by the horns?
I can't believe I'm a cheerleader now. Me. A cheerleader. What the hell would the old crowd say if they knew? Probably the same kinda thing Cliff is taking great pleasure in saying at every opportunity. 'Not the cheering type'. So what type am I? The 'serious gymnast type'? The 'no-school-spirit type'? Or the 'uber-dyke type'? All of the above.
I'm so mad that I let that little bitch get to me. Why couldn't I just turn around and give her some smart-ass remark? That's what I normally do. I guess I just thought maybe I'd left all that behind in LA. At least for a while. New school, new start. That was the idea at least. But no, second day of school and the D-word rears its ugly head. If only I hadn't reacted like I did. If I'd just stood my ground. But it took me by surprise. It's not like I have it tattooed on my forehead or something.
Gotta say, I was surprised when the blonde came to see me. What did she say her name was? Torrance. Yeah. Didn't expect that one. But at least she doesn't just go along with the bitch-crew. I think that's why I agreed. She obviously went to some trouble on my behalf...which I'm not really used to. So that was cool. Plus of course, there was the jibe by my lovely brother...which just sealed the deal. I'll show him the 'cheering type'.
Oh, there goes the doorbell again. Probably some 'Welcome Wagon' shit again. People are so desperate to welcome us. Who're they trying to kid? They just want to nose around and see who the new people are so they can go away and talk about us to their friends. Hmmm, I'm kinda young to be this cynical. That's what living in Hell-A will do for ya.
I open the door and find my cynical little self to be proven wrong. It's a cheerleader. Another one, not the blonde. It's the really cute one who took my form from me. Don't know her name. And I have even less idea what she's doing on my front door step.
Good opener, Miss, real smooth.
"Hi. Missy right?"
She looks nervous. Or uncomfortable. Or something.
She holds her hand out. I take hold of it and we shake firmly. She looks directly into my eyes the whole time. She has really nice eyes, very dark and deep. She lets go of my hand and neither of us know what to say next. We both look at the ground.
She starts to speak and I look back up at her. She's pulling at the end of her little cheerleader skirt. Something tells me she's not used to feeling nervous.
"...I just wanted to...uh, I wanted to tell you not to pay any attention to anything Whitney and Courtney have to say...they're just ignorant little girls with superiority complexes."
Hmmm, looks like this one's actually got a brain. And a hell of a body to go along with it. A combination I'm rather fond of.
"Hey, no problem. I've dealt with worse before."
She smiles at me.
"I hope they haven't put you off joining the squad. I know it's not the most taxing hobby in the world but it can be fun at times. It's not gymnastics but it should keep you...you know...supple."
Now she's blushing. The thought of me being supple is making her blush. This could be a definite possibility.
"Your captain came by earlier, asked me to join. I said yes."
OK, she's looking a bit too happy at that. We just met. There's something going on here. Maybe we should take it inside.
"Look, you wanna come in? Have a drink or something?"
She nods and I stand aside to let her in. We walk in silence to the kitchen, with her slightly behind me. I walk into the room and my heart sinks. Cliff's here. Great. His eyes light up when they land on Darcy.
"Wow, Miss, another one? Fast worker huh?"
He walks over to Darcy and lifts her hand, kissing the back of it. I roll my eyes at him but he ignores me, as per usual.
"You know, it's bad for my rep when the steady stream of cheerleaders at the front door always turn out to be looking for my sister. I'm Cliff by the way."
"Enchanted, I'm sure. Well I'll by seeing you. Later Crater-Face."
I sigh deeply. God I wish I had a sister. Darcy watches him go and then turns to me, wearing a very confused expression.
I raise my eyebrows. Then I smile at her, and point at the big-ass dimples that crease both my cheeks. She laughs.
"I think dimples are adorable."
"To my brother, nothing is adorable...unless it's blonde and in a cheerleading outfit."
I said the last part under my breath. But obviously it wasn't quiet enough because Darcy looks at me quickly with a questioning eyebrow raised.
"You're brother's into Torrance huh?"
I shrug. I don't even know if that's true. It's just a vibe I picked up on at the door. All that joking and smiling he was doing, it was pathetic. And she was trying oh-so-hard to pretend she wasn't interested. I move to the fridge and take out a carton of OJ. The next task is to locate glasses...which is harder than it sounds.
"What do you think of Torrance?"
I glance over at her. She's leaning on the island in the middle of the kitchen. And she's not looking at me. I finally find some tumblers and pour us both a drink.
"She's... she seems nice I guess...regular cheerleader type. Very perky."
She laughs. Something's telling me she's not a big Torrance fan.
"I gotta say though, she went out on a limb for me...she didn't have to."
"Yeah...yeah she did."
She's staring off into the distance. OK, might as well cut to the chase here and see what's what.
"She kinda reminds me of the first girl I ever went out with."
I look up to see her reaction. It's not surprise. It's not disgust...which is always a plus. It's...well, it sorta looks like she's...pleased. So, could be our little Darcy's intentions for me aren't entirely about friendship. Interesting.
"So is that your type? Someone like Torrance?"
I stare down at my drink. Do I have a type? Can you have a type when you're a seventeen year old girl surrounded by homophobes? I guess my type is someone who doesn't just want to screw me and then beg me not to tell anyone. I've met a few girls like Darcy, they're very vocal when it's just the two of us...but they tend to keep their mouths shut around other people. And that's not what I'm looking for.
"No. The girl I'm talking about...it was coupla years ago. Weird chick actually, popular, cheerleader and all that. Then she starts hanging around with some strange people. A lotta rumours going around about her and shit. That's when we started 'seeing' each other. I think she was confused. She got expelled for burning down the gym. Then she moved away and I never saw her again. It wasn't what you would call a healthy relationship."
She's been looking at me the whole time I've been talking, really listening.
"Where'd you go to school before?"
"Hemery High in LA."
"What was it like?"
"It was High School."
She nods, like she gets it. But I'm not convinced that Darcy has experienced the kind of high school I'm talking about.
"So how about you? What's your type?"
I watch her closely as I ask her. She looks down at the counter. She fiddles with her glass. Then she shrugs.
"I don't have one."
"Let's start easy. Boys or girls?"
Silence. Maybe I was a bit pushy. I don't even know this girl and here I am quizzing her about her sexual preferences.
I barely heard that, she said it so quietly. She looks up at me and her eyes are all shiny with tears. God, I made her cry. Unexpectedly she lets out a peal of laughter, like a pressure valve has just be released in her.
"Wow...I've never actually said that out loud...even to myself."
She's still laughing, and crying. She puts her face in her hands and I can see her shoulders moving as she cries. I suddenly feel very awkward. A girl whose name I learned fifteen minutes ago just came out to me in my kitchen...not a normal afternoon by any stretch of the imagination. I put my glass down and move closer to her. I place my hand on her back and sort of rub it...to comfort her or something.
She straightens up and wipes her eyes. She laughs again.
"I am so sorry. I can't believe I just turned up on your doorstep and then came in here to dump this on you."
"No problem. Can I just ask though...why did you come here today? I'm guessing you didn't plan on telling me that stuff."
A lovely redness creeps up her neck and over her cheeks. She really is a gorgeous girl, I noticed her at the audition...I guess I never gave it much thought at the time, too busy projecting my tough-girl act.
"I...I...IthoughtyouwerereallybeautifulandreallycoolattheauditionandIwantedtoseeyouagain. Shit, I can't believe I just said that!"
She's now practically glowing, she's so red with embarrassment. I can actually feel heat spreading over my own face. No-one's ever said something like that to me before. I'm kind of stuck for a reply here.
"Look, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything...I'll go."
She turns to walk out of the kitchen and before I realise what I'm doing I've grabbed her and turned her back to face me. I reach up and trace her full lips with my thumb. Her eyes flicker shut at my touch. I move my hand down to hold her hip. My other arm goes around her back and I pull her more firmly against me. Then I lean in and press my lips to hers.
As our lips touch my own eyes drift closed and I let myself fall into the kiss. Her mouth moves against mine, tentatively at first, then with more confidence. Her tongue flicks out and runs along my lower lip and then dips into my mouth. Her arms come around to encircle my waist. It's been so long since I kissed someone like this. When it wasn't about sex, when there was no reason for it other than two people wanting to kiss each other. In fact, it's never been like this. This is ...this is Darcy.
We break apart and just look at each other. We're both breathing heavily, and still holding each other close. I need to say something.
"Can...can I see you again...I mean, can we...do this properly...like a date thing?"
There goes the cool, tough girl image. But she nods anyway. Then she leans back in and places a tiny kiss on my lips.
"Yes, I'd really like that."
I smile at her and let go of her. We stand and look at each other like idiots for a minute before she decides to speak.
"Well, I should go now...and I'll see you...later."
More standing. Then she kind of nudges me in the direction of the door and I remember it's my house and I should really show her to the door. We walk in companionable silence through the house until we arrive at the door. I reach for the handle and then something occurs to me.
"Is Darcy your real name? I mean, is it short for something?"
"My name's Judith, but I hated it when I was younger so I made everyone call me Darcy...which is my surname."
"Judith. I like it. But I'll call you Darcy if that's what you want."
"It's up to you. Is Missy your 'real name'?"
"It's Melissa. But nobody calls me that. Except my mom when I annoy her."
"Melissa and Judith. We're some pair huh?"
"I hope so."
On impulse I grab her and kiss her again. When we separate this time we don't speak. She just smiles at me and then walks out the door. I watch her go, I watch until I can't see her anymore. Then I close the door and lean back against it. Wow. Maybe San Diego will be different after all.