Cheerleading Can Be Murder (Horror High #1)(4)

By: Carissa Ann Lynch

I looked around the lunchroom at the rest of my peers, tuning Sydney out, and that was when I saw Ashleigh, the junior whose year it was to finally make the squad. She was perched at a table filled with people, but she was basically sitting alone. No one was talking or looking at her. With hair the color of dirty dishwater, gunmetal-gray eyes, and homely, holey clothing, the first word that came to mind was lonely. Under the table, the laces to her ragged running shoes were untied. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her.

In truth, Ashleigh deserved a spot on the team this year. I still had plenty of years ahead of me to make the team when the veterans were gone, but she was getting close to being out of chances. Although I wanted to make the team, I wanted her to make it too, I realized surprisingly.

We can’t all make it though, I reminded myself, stuffing a french fry into my mouth. I chewed on it thoughtfully. Two tables up from Ashleigh was Brittani, the principal’s daughter. She’d never cheered before, but for some reason, she thought she could just walk into tryouts and claim a spot on the team, simply because her mom was Principal Barlow. That just didn’t seem fair, if you asked me.

Brittani was surrounded by her usual entourage of friends, which was a combination of preps and nerds, chatting excitedly, talking about tryouts, no doubt. She was wearing her subtle brown hair in a tight, high ponytail, with a pair of glasses hanging on a string around her neck. Brittani did everything well. She made straight As, played tennis, and even co-coached volleyball on the weekends. How would she even have time to cheer? I wondered bitterly.

I stuck more fries and ketchup in my mouth, glaring at Brittani. I had a feeling that, like everything else, Brittani would excel at cheerleading too.

“You’re eating those fries like they pissed you off or something,” a voice called out from my left. Sydney was beside me, but the voice didn’t come from her. I looked over to see my new neighbor, Amanda Loxx, grinning down at me goofily. She took a seat on my right, clinking her tray against mine.

I lived in one of those luxurious, mass-produced McMansions, in the middle of a suburbia called Harrow Hill—hence, the name of my high school. I’d lived here my entire life with my mother, father, and now new baby brother, Vincent. Despite the dozens of similar houses stacked around us, there were always few kids in my age group nearby. The kids in our neighborhood were either too old to want to play with me, or too young for me to do the same.

That all changed when Amanda moved in next door with her grandmother, the infamous Mimi Loxx. Rumor has it, Grandma Mimi used to be a Vegas showgirl, and supposedly, a fast-paced life filled with glamour, drugs, and mini-stardom drove her a little batty. The woman was nearly ninety by now and known around town as a recluse. Local boys delivered her groceries and a professional lawn care service took care of the grounds upkeep. Never outside, the townsfolk of Harrow Hill never heard a peep out of her. That was, until her wild granddaughter Amanda showed up this summer.

Amanda was only fifteen like me, but she didn’t look or act like anyone from around here. She had one of those short, Miley Cyrus hairdos, and a silver barbell in her left eyebrow. The first time I met her she was puffing on a Cambridge cigarette in the grassy area at the side of her Grandma Mimi’s house, squatting down low next to the air conditioning unit secretively. She had on a black, holey t-shirt with the words ‘Kill Your TV’ scrawled across it, which I still didn’t understand the meaning of.

Even though no one told me directly, I’d overheard the adults—namely, my own parents—talking about how Amanda’s father died violently and her mother was an addict. Her parental situation must have been bad if her most lucrative alternative was staying with her eccentric Grandma Mimi.

We didn’t have much in common but somehow, we hit it off right from the start. She introduced me to some new styles of music and I helped her paint her nails for the first time. She even let me try some peach schnapps, which was my first drink of alcohol, although I’d never tell her that. We rode bikes, took walks, and talked about boys all summer long. Honestly, it was one of the best summers of my life. Amanda was witty, confident, and all around fun, and I was glad to have her at Harrow High with me this year.

“Sydney, this is Amanda Loxx, my new neighbor. Amanda, this is the best friend I always talk about, Sydney Hargreaves.” They smiled and nodded at each other, but I could sense a small aura of jealousy emanating from both of them. I scooted over on the bench seat, making more room for Amanda.

Several classmates were looking our way, undoubtedly checking out the new girl. I wasn’t surprised to see Genevieve and Mariella glaring at us too, but I was a little caught off guard by the furious expression on Genevieve’s face as she mean mugged Amanda. I was used to them hating me, but I wasn’t quite sure what their vendetta was against Amanda. It didn’t take long to figure it out.

“I thought I was her only enemy. Guess I was wrong.” I smiled sheepishly at my new neighbor and friend. “Why is she looking at you like that?”

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