Never a Ever After

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Oh, Mickey you're so fine

Maia leaned forward, resting her elbow on the table as she did so. She pressed the side of her face into the palm of her hand as her eyelids began to droop. Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ blared through her earbuds as the teen tried desperately to focus on her laptop screen. Maia couldn’t recall if she was watching the Varsity Spirit championships or Cheersport Regionals. She’d been viewing hours of cheerleading footage for the past few days now and could no longer tell one competition from the next.

Just as her eyes had finally closed, a loud thud caused them to fly back open. “Morning, sunshine,” Rozene cheerfully greeted as she flopped down in the chair next to her.

Stifling a yawn, Maia replied, “Morning, Roz.”

“More research,” Rozene asked.

The brunette answered, “Yeah, I feel like I have the basic jumps down, but my back handsprings and back tucks are still a bit sloppy. It’s a good thing I still have several months to perfect them.”

“More like three weeks,” Rozene corrected.

Fine lines formed on the teen’s forehead as she frowned. “What do you mean three weeks,” Maia inquired.

Shoving aside the stack of books that she’d just dumped on the table, Rozene placed a flyer down in their place. Maia leaned over to get a better look, her eyes widening as she read it.

“I thought the squad was full,” Maia questioned.

“Was being the operative word, Mai. It was full. Amber Simms is moving to Arizona because her dad got transferred, and Rebekah Dawson took a nasty fall at practice last week. Rebekah broke her arm, so she’s out for the rest of the season. That means the squad is two girls short of qualifying for Regionals. The coach needs to replace them immediately if they want to still compete.”

While three weeks seemed like too short of an amount of time to prepare, Maia was determined to try-out. With the help of Rozene and her mother, the brunette spent every afternoon after school choreographing. She practiced her jumps, her kicks, and her tumbling until she was confident that she wouldn’t make a fool of herself. However, as she sized up her competition upon arriving, suddenly Maia was a bundle of nerves.

Maia fidgeted with her hands as beads of sweat dotted her hairline. Anxiously shifting her weight from one foot to another, the fifteen-year-old lifted her gaze to the small table set up in the school gymnasium. Behind the table sat Ashley and her two best friends, Madison and Keaira, who served as the squad’s co-captains.

Maia’s heart raced as she studied the expression on each girl’s face while they observed the snazzy jazz routine the perky brunette in front of them was performing. The teen began to nibble nervously at her bottom lip as she scrutinized her competitor’s movements, seeking fault where there was none.

How am I supposed to beat that, Maia wondered. She’s flawless! Just look at the height on those kicks! The Latina took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Don’t psyche yourself out. You’ve been working hard these past few weeks. You can do this, Maia encouraged.

Maia Morales,” Ashley called out.

Paralyzed by her self-doubt, the teenager didn’t hear her name being called.

“Maia Morales,” Ashley repeated.

Maia could detect a hint of irritation in Ashley’s voice as she spoke her name again. Slowly, the Latina made her way towards the center of the gym. As she moved into view of all three judges, Maia was vaguely aware of whispers taking place not only within the stands from the spectators and fellow cheerleading hopefuls but among the judges themselves.

In addition to being the close friend of a girl that the judges hated, Maia had a stellar academic performance. It served as a confirmation for her parents that they had made the right decision in allowing her to attend public school. However, it also categorized her as a nerd. Much like the scholarship kids at her old school, nerds were at the bottom of the social pyramid.

Trying out for the cheerleading squad after already being classed as a nerd was a bold move. The panel was merely humoring her out of obligation. They had to appear to be fair and non-discriminatory. Maia knew that they didn’t expect her to do well.

They expected her to fail and to do so spectacularly. Understanding this did little to ease the pressure that was already hanging menacingly over Maia’s head. Keaira smirked, saying snidely, ”Uh...anytime now.”

With a sheepish grin, Maia responded, ”Oh, um...right. Sorry.”

Turning towards the stands, Maia gave a curt nod to Rozene, who responded in kind as she pressed a button on her portable Bluetooth speaker. Instantly, the athletic facility filled with the pulsating backing track of Lady GaGa’s Just Dance. Maia launched into the routine that she had been diligently choreographing for the past four weeks.

As she ended in her finishing pose, Maia stole a look at the panel. Politely, Maia thanked the judges before scurrying over to her friend. Maia flopped down next to the auburn teen as she took a moment to catch her breath.

“So, how did I do? Be brutally honest. How bad was it?” Maia inquired.

Giggling a little, Rozene replied, “Well, it wasn’t a total disaster.”

Giving the other girl a playful shove, Maia retorted, “Gee, thanks, Roz. ”

Grabbing a lightweight jacket that Roxanne had on her lap, Maia shrugged the garment over her shoulders as she reached for her duffel. Snatching it up from the floor, Maia continued, “Let’s get out of here. I’m starving.”

A look of surprise overtook her friend’s face as she asked, “You’re not sticking around to watch the others?”

Shrugging, Maia responded, “I was next to last. There’s only one more girl after me. Besides, did you see the girl before me? I was good, but she was great. We might have to come up with a Plan B.”

Not bothering to wait for Roz to respond, Maia stood up and made her way to the exit.

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