Cheerleading Can Be Murder (Horror High #1)(7)

By: Carissa Ann Lynch

My own dodge ball was tucked neatly under my arm, and as I continued to glare across the court at Genevieve, I had an uplifting thought. This may not be a chicken coop, and there may not be eggs to throw, but I have something even better to chuck at her right now, and I can’t even get in trouble for it. I smiled down at my ball happily. Today, dodge ball was my favorite sport.

I’d never had terrific aim when it came to dodge ball, or any sport for that matter, but I’d never been this motivated either. Genevieve wasn’t paying attention to the game, and for a moment, she turned her back to the net, leaning over to whisper something to Ronnie. The whistle sounded and that’s when I threw it.

My aim was spot on. The ball flew through the air, then drilled her right in the center of her back. She yelped loudly, falling to her knees. Embarrassed, she jumped back up to her feet, brushing nonexistent debris from her knees and upper thighs.

“Who did that?” she howled, the annoying sound of her voice echoing throughout the massive gymnasium. Not backing down, I smiled at her brightly and locked my eyes on hers, enjoying one small moment of revenge. Little did she know, I was planning to achieve a much greater revenge—I was going to get a spot on the squad, no matter what it took to obtain it.


The last period of the day was Study Hall. Lucky for me, it was only forty minutes long. The first twenty-five minutes was supposed to be for quiet, individualized study and homework, but the last fifteen minutes was free time. Since I had very little schoolwork from my first day, I planned to rehearse some of my moves in my mind and do some positive self-talk and meditation. Then I planned on spending the last fifteen minutes applying makeup and styling my hair, so that all I’d have to do when the bell rang was put on my gym clothes and wait for tryouts to begin.

I found a decent seat in the back, but didn’t see Sydney or Amanda. I was hoping to see them, but in all honesty, I needed some time to relax and calm my nerves. I was just grateful not to see Genevieve or her pal, Mariella. I placed my overloaded backpack under the seat, got comfortable, and then leaned back in my chair, closing my eyes.

My mother had a degree in Social Work, and I couldn’t begin to count the number of times she preached about the usefulness of relaxation techniques and positive imaging. I decided to take a page from her book, imagining myself standing alone in the middle of the gym floor.

My feet were planted firmly on the hardwood surface, and I stared straight ahead with a smile. I bent my knees, keeping my back and neck straight as an arrow. Lifting my arms, I pushed off from my toes, and reached my knees up to my chin as I flipped. My feet hit the floor simultaneously. I’d landed my standing back tuck perfectly.

I’d pictured this scenario a thousand times, and in the next scene, the gymnasium erupted with applause. But that part never came because a whiny, high-pitched voice invaded my daydream, and I jerked my eyes open, agitated. The voice belonged to Brittani Barlow, Principal Barlow’s daughter, sitting in the desk right next to me.

She was talking to two other classmates about tryouts. “It’s going to be an awesome year. I know we’ll definitely get to go to the finals in Dallas!” she declared, not caring that everyone around us could hear her. She was talking about one of the biggest cheer competitions in the country, and she was talking about it as though she’d already made the team. I couldn’t help it this time. I groaned audibly.

She jerked around, eyeballing me. “Just yawning,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“Are you trying out this year, Dakota?”

“Yes, I am,” I admitted, waiting for a rude retort.

Instead she surprised me by saying, “Good luck today,” and she actually sounded genuine. “Thanks. You too,” I grumbled, closing my eyes again.

I tried to conjure up more images of success, but I’d lost interest in it. Mrs. Bartlett was sitting at a stiff metal desk in the front, grading papers. What could she possibly be grading on the first day already? I wondered. The important thing was that she was in her own little world, and didn’t seem to be paying attention to us. It wasn’t free time yet, but I pulled out my makeup bag anyway. I started applying concealer methodically.

I didn’t usually wear much makeup, but today was not a typical day. I smiled at myself in the mirror, and again tried to channel my mother’s method of positive thinking. But it was hard for me when I looked in the mirror. I was by no means ugly, but I was rather plain, with mousy brown hair that hung slightly below my shoulders. It’s not curly, but it’s not straight either. I had light blue eyes and average skin. I just didn’t feel like anything special, really.

But when I put on the glitter, channeled my inner glam girl, and jiggled those pompoms around, I somehow felt like a better version of myself. I’ve got to make the team, I thought determinedly. I finished my makeup and secured my hair in a basic ponytail. I added a thin, black and gold ribbon to it, to represent Harrow’s school colors. I couldn’t help it—I had to look at the clock. Only a few minutes to go!

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