Cheerleading Can Be Murder (Horror High #1)(2)

By: Carissa Ann Lynch

The fourth returning cheerleader was Monika Rutherford. She was friendlier than the other three, but far less popular. With her olive skin and astounding height of six feet, she stood out like a sore thumb next to the three blondes. She served as a perfect spotter in the back of the pyramid because of her general size and strength.

If all four got spots on the team, then that only left two empty spots to be filled. Normally, I would have been optimistic about my chances of getting one of those spots, but again, there were factors making it nearly impossible. There was a junior girl named Ashleigh Westerfield, who’d been trying out for the squad every year since she was a freshman. This was the first year she actually had a shot of making it, and according to rumors, the coach was going to give her a sympathy vote and let her join the squad.

That left the one open spot. It should be mine, right? Wrong. Brittani Barlow, the bitch of the century and Principal Barlow’s daughter, was a freshman this year too, and she was trying out for the squad. Regardless of what anyone else thought, I knew that politics did matter, and there was no way the coach was going to turn down the principal’s daughter.

So, if the returning four got their spots back, Ashleigh got a sympathy vote, and Brittani took a spot because of her mother, then that left a total of zero spots for me. It was a sad reality and I should have been bummed, but I wouldn’t go down without a fight.

I was hoping that, by some miracle, I could beat out the returning four, Ashleigh, or Brittani. And as though my odds of beating out the veterans weren’t bad enough, I also had to contend with several other freshmen girls who were going to show up for tryouts today. There was my best friend, Sydney Hargreaves, and my arch nemesis, Genevieve McDermott. And last, but not least, Genevieve’s catty best friend, Mariella Martin.

Stepping down from the bus, I smoothed my skirt nervously, approaching a swarm of buzzing new freshman. Boys and girls were gathered in the courtyard of Harrow High, primly pressed and dressed to the nines. The building itself was a gray, one-story, flat-roofed rectangle that sat smack dab in the middle of town. Nothing special, really. But inside that boring blob of a building lay the key to my hopes and dreams, and even if it was childish, I secretly walked with my fingers crossed. My odds of making the team were slim to none, but I couldn’t help feeling a teeny tiny glimmer of hope.

The nervous ball of anxiety in the pit of my belly made it look elephantine. Who knew high school would be this intimidating?

Taking a deep breath, I made a beeline for the front door, keeping my head down low, with one foot in front of the other.

“What’s up, Dakota?” a boy named Ricki shouted. I wasn’t popular—not by any means. But when you grow up in a town this small, everybody knows your name.

“Hi.” I smiled at him and a few other girls I recognized.

I pushed my way through the heavy glass doors and began the short hike to my first period of the day, Biology.

Brrrrrrrring! There’s the bell! Showtime!

I dove into a seat in the back, tossing my backpack under the chair. Although I tried to focus on the genial-looking, middle-aged teacher leaning against the desk up front, my gaze was already darting back and forth, eager to pinpoint a clock on the wall. Tryouts seemed so far away…

Class had just begun, but the clock’s ticking heartbeat punched the air, resonating in my head rhythmically. Tick tock, it mocked me.

Chapter Two

After Biology, I had to endure two more boring classes—Pre-Algebra and American History. In all three of my classes thus far, there hadn’t been a single friend or close acquaintance, which really sucked. Even though my mind was fixated on cheerleading tryouts, I’d still been hoping for an interesting first day.

It was time for lunch, and after that I had three more periods—Spanish, Phys Ed, and Study Hall. For now, I focused on finding the lunch room and my best friend, Sydney. As I trudged through flocks of freshmen and upperclassmen, I kept on the lookout for her. It didn’t take long to find her.

Sydney was beautiful in her own right, with long, coal-black hair that hung to her waist, flawless skin, and crystal blue eyes. Even though we’d been best friends since grade school, her beauty still stunned me every time I saw her. She reminded me of one of those porcelain dolls that were lovely and creepy at the same time.

When it came to cheerleading, Sydney was less practiced in dance and tumbling than me, but she learned routines easily and could win people over with her elegance and friendly disposition. The last thing I wanted to do was think of her as competition today but ultimately, that’s exactly what she was. I just hoped like hell we could both find some miraculous way to make the squad together…

The thought of the two of us standing next to each other on the sidelines of Harrow’s basketball court was enough to make my heart fill with glee.

Sydney was standing in the hallway in front of the lunchroom, looking around anxiously. Searching for me, I presumed. I struggled to push through a wall of seniors to reach her, finally catching her eye. She waved and smiled just as I felt a hard shove from behind. I plunged headlong, struggling to retain my balance, my new Keds skidding noisily across the linoleum floor.

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