Cheerleading Can Be Murder (Horror High #1)(10)

By: Carissa Ann Lynch

“Let’s head out to the track and do a mile!” Coach Davis blew that whistle of hers.

The school track was located behind the school building. The eleven of us pushed through the heavy steel doors and began our descent to the starting line of the track. Coach Davis assumed her position beside us, and I respected her for running the mile right along with us. She might be tough, but I liked her.

The whistle sounded and we were off, racing down the long stretch of track, our various types of sneakers pounding against the dirt loudly. I enjoyed the sound of it…it reminded me of being a young girl, racing my friends on the playground at school. I wasn’t the fastest runner, but I did have endurance. I could do this mile, no problem. And I wasn’t worried about out-running the other girls. After all, this was cheerleading, not track.

I ran at a steady pace, keeping my eyes focused on the lane in front of me. I remembered to control my breathing. By the time I made my way all the way around, I felt exhilarated.

“As soon as you finish, you’re free to go!” Coach shouted. She was already finished herself, stretching gracefully in the grass next to the track. She didn’t have to tell me twice—I was exhausted.

Sydney and Amanda caught up with me, and we walked together to the front entrance of the school. Sydney’s dad was parked out front in his silver Mercedes. “Call me tonight. Lots to discuss,” she said breathlessly, jogging off.

I could see my mother parked several cars back from him, waiting faithfully as always. Not only was my mother always on time, but she was usually early. When I cheered in primary and middle school, she never missed a game. Not that she was one of those crazy cheer moms; quite the contrary. She was simply supportive of everything I did, and she wanted me to make the team because she knew how bad I wanted it myself.

I smiled at her through the windshield of her beat-up Toyota Camry. Considering the size of our house, you’d think she would drive something fancier, but she doesn’t. She likes her old car just the way it is. I couldn’t wait until I had my driver’s license and could drive myself around, but deep down, I knew that someday when I was thirty, I would miss having her there to pick me up every day.

Amanda was still standing by my side and I knew she was too proud to ask for a ride. I knew for a fact that her Grandma Mimi wasn’t going to leave the house and come pick her up. “Will you ride home with me? Let’s talk about tryouts.” I opened up the back door of the Camry so she could climb in.

“Hey, Mom!” I greeted her, climbing in beside Amanda. “You don’t mind taking Amanda home, do you? She lives just next door,” I explained, even though my mom already knew who Amanda was.

“Sure!” she said, in her usual cheerful voice. I could tell that my mom was dying to ask me about tryouts, but I knew she’d wait until after we dropped Amanda off.

“Our group routine is fabulous! I definitely think the four of us will make it!” Amanda exclaimed excitedly. Since Amanda was new, she didn’t know much about the four veterans, or Ashleigh’s year to finally get a turn, or who Brittani’s mother was, so I had the honor of filling her in. I didn’t want to bum her out by admitting that our chances were slim, but that was exactly what I did. When I was done talking, she looked as though she might cry.

“I’m sorry,” I told her afterwards, the disappointed expression on her face making me feel guilty.

“At least we live close to each other, and can practice together!” she reminded me perkily.

My mother pulled up in front of Amanda’s house. Amanda gathered up her backpack. “What the heck do you have in that thing on the first day? It looks so freaking heavy!” I chuckled.

“Thanks for the ride, Mrs. Densford! Bye, Dakota,” she said, climbing out of the car.

“We can beat the odds! Don’t let my pessimism get you down!” I yelled out the window. She gave me a thumbs up sign.

I knew I needed to practice the group routine, but I was simply too exhausted when I got in. I needed to eat, shower, and solve some pre-algebra problems that I should have completed in Study Hall when I had the chance. Mom ordered pizza while I ran upstairs to take a shower.

The hot water felt good on my sweaty skin, and the lavender smell of my bath soap helped soothe my nerves. I couldn’t help it; I started reciting the routine in my mind as I scrubbed my body clean. I wanted to make the team so bad. We all do, I reminded myself.

I ran through the entire routine several times before the water went cold. I allowed my hair to air dry while I rushed through the math problems. I finished just in time for the doorbell to ring, announcing the arrival of pizza.

My mom was downstairs waiting for me, laying out paper plates and opening pizza boxes. She’d ordered my favorite garlicky bread sticks and my favorite type of pizza, Italian sausage and mushrooms. I smiled at her graciously. She must have known that I needed this on a day like today.

“Thanks, Mom.” I piled my plate with gooey pizza and breadsticks.

I knew my mom was waiting to hear about tryouts, so I went ahead and filled her in. Like always, she was supportive and encouraged me to stay positive about my chances of making the team. It was exactly what I needed to hear at the moment.

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