Chapter 8. You Smell Like Pepperoni
Five new cheerleaders were being added to the squad today. It had been a week since tryouts. I had barely seen or heard from Avery. Avery and Mason were together at least five out of the seven days in a week. Mason asked me several times last week if I knew what was with him.
Of course, I lied. I was amazed that I got away with lying because Avery told me I sucked at it. Maybe, it’s just Avery that realized I wrinkled my nose when I lied. Yeah, right, as if he pays that much attention to you. I twirled my hair around with a pencil.
It was impossible to pay attention to the Biology teacher. It was the last class of the day. After this class, I had to go to the gym to find out if I got into the cheer squad. From the smug look on Susie and her posses’ faces, I doubted it. They had been staring at me and whispering all day. It was obvious that their conversation was about me.
The final bell rang and sent, sending out of the room. Not only was I in a hurry to find out if I made the team, but also in a hurry to get away from Susie’s constant shit-eating grin. The gym was mostly still empty. I sat down on one of the bleachers to wait along with two other girls.
“Yo, Prince, catch!” Someone yelled.
My head snapped up.
Two senior football players were at the far end of the gym. I looked over to the left toward the doors just in time to see Avery catch a football. Avery threw it up in the air and caught it over and over again with a smirk.
I couldn’t stop the small smile that spread across my lips. I shook my head, trying to shake away the thoughts of the last time I spoke to Avery. It was like I was under a spell. The past week I tried to think of reasons as to why he would try to kiss me.
“Good luck.” His voice startled me. I wasn’t expecting him to speak to me. My gaze caught his as he was walking past me. He gave me a small encouraging smile.
“Thanks,” I murmured. I had a sudden feeling that someone was staring at me. My eyes locked with the two girls just a few feet away sitting on the bleachers. They were both looking at me in irritation.
“Throw it!” One of the football players yelled, pulling me from my trance.
Avery raised his arm and threw the ball across the gym toward the boys. The ball moved with blinding speed as it spun in the air. Avery never had to put much effort into throwing a ball or anything because he was good at everything, which is why he was the most popular boy in the county.
The girls were now staring after Avery smiling, giggling, and whispering.
Avery sprinted across the gym toward the boys that were now standing near the back door.
“Damn, bro, I think the ball broke my finger,” The football player whined.
“Don’t ever try being a wide receiver, Rhett,” Avery said and chuckled.
A giggle escaped me, and I shook my head.
The girls started filing into the gym. At least thirty-five girls tried out, and only five of them would get to be on the squad. I’ll never get into college for dance if I can’t even get on a stupid cheerleading team.
The coach came out of the locker room at the far end of the gym with the cheerleaders. Susie’s gaze caught mine. She flipped her hair over her shoulder and looked away.
Mrs. Wilx was the coach for the cheerleaders. She was a cheerleader from this high school and went to college. She was only twenty-six years old. Most of the boys fuss over how beautiful she is.
“Hello, ladies,” Mrs. Wilx said and smiled. “We had great tryouts, but as all of you know, there will only be five picked. There are so many of you that are great, and I want to wish you the best for next year. We don’t want you to be discouraged or think you’re not good enough.”
Her words made my stomach turn. I’m screwed. I’ll never get in. I shouldn’t have let Avery talk me into this crap. I should just get up and leave.
“Alyssa Hall,” Mrs. Wilx said.
The gym erupted into claps and cheers. Alyssa was a popular ninth-grader.
“Angelica Garcia,” Mrs. Wilx said.
The gym erupted once again. Angelica was also a popular ninth-grader. Her blonde curls bounced as she grabbed the pom-poms and went to stand beside the cheerleaders.
At this point, I had no twinge of hope. It’s a popularity contest, just like I said. Most of the girls here were in ninth grade. There were only six tenth graders and one junior.
“Elizabeth Rilee.” Elizabeth Rilee was a popular tenth grader who hung out with Susie but didn’t make the cut last year.
“Christina Noel,” Mrs. Wilx said.
Christina Noel was also a popular girl that was in ninth grade.
I slung my bag over my shoulder as tears started to form in my eyes. If I couldn’t get in by tenth grade, I wouldn’t likely ever get in. It was clear that I wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t popular enough.
“Lastly, Stormie West,” Mrs. Wilx announced.
My bag fell off my shoulder, and my jaw dropped in shock. “Me?” I squeaked. My eyes fell on Susie.
Susie didn’t look surprised. She must have known the names before Wilx announced them. She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Best of luck to all of you in future tryouts. We hope to see you next year,” Mrs. Wilx said.
Maybe, she made a mistake.
I rose to my feet and walked over to Mrs. Wilx. I cleared my throat. “Um, Mrs. Wilx?”
“Yes, Stormie,” she said and smiled.
“Is there some mistake?” I asked.
“No, Stormie, of course not. I really enjoyed your performance. You are very talented,” she said and smiled.
“Oh, um, thanks,” I said.
She smiled. “Your schedule is here,” she said and handed me a paper.
“Great, thanks,” I said. I turned around and headed for the back door of the school. Before I could get out of the gym, Susie stepped in front of the door, blocking my way out. “What? No congratulations?”
“I would congratulate you if you deserved it. Avery is the only reason you made the team, Stormie. He put in a good word for you, and everyone knows that Avery’s word means the most in this school. What did you do? Go crying to him? Pathetic,” she snorted. She stormed away from me.
My teeth clenched, and I fought back the tears that threatened to escape. I threw the back doors open and stalked across the schoolyard toward the football field and track.
Avery was running on the track with the other boys.
I ran up the steps that took me up to the bleachers. The concrete platform was about five or six feet high off the ground, and there were four sets of bleachers. Just opposite of the field was a platform just as tall with four sets of bleachers. I waited for Avery to get closer.
Thankfully, Mason was gone today because he had a dentist’s appointment.
“Avery!” I called for him.
He looked up at me.
The other boys looked at me, confused and back to Avery, but continued to sprint down the track.
Avery ran over to me, jumped onto the bench, and leaped up.
My eyes widened in horror. Oh god, the idiot is going to fall.
He didn’t fall. He grabbed onto the railing, pulled himself up, and quickly jumped over the railing. He sat down on the rail and smiled at me. His chest was rising and falling. He had a white muscle shirt that was wet from sweat, and sweat beads fell from his hair down his forehead. The gold chain that he never takes off wrapped around his neck.
“Hey, how did it go?” he asked breathlessly.
“I made it,” I said and shrugged.
“Good, congrats,” he said and looked over his shoulder at his teammates. They were on the field waiting for him. He held a finger up. He looked at me. He was almost eye level with me because he was sitting on the rail.
“You don’t look surprised,” I said.
He snorted and rolled his eyes. “I’m not. I told you, I’ve seen you dance.”
“Or maybe you’re not surprised because you talked to Mrs. Wilx,” I suggested.
He crossed his arms over his chest. “That doesn’t mean I knew you were going to get in,” he said.
“Seriously, Avery? You knew that if you put a word in for me that she would listen to you!” I hissed.
“It does not work that way, Storm,” Avery said. He stood up and towered over me. “Look, I can’t do this right now. I have to get back to practice. I’ll come by later.”
“Don’t bother. I have to work,” I told him. I could feel his eyes on me as I retreated.
I turned in my schedule for cheerleading to my manager so she could copy it. These were nights I wouldn’t be able to work. Friday nights were usually the busiest nights, and this night was no exception.
By the time I finished with work, my feet were hurting. It felt like I had run six miles around that restaurant nonstop. I loved my job, though, and everyone was friendly. I climbed into the black Plymouth, which was mine temporarily. I closed the door and turned to put my purse in the seat.
“Oh my god!” I gasped, and my hand flew up to my chest.
“You smell like pepperoni. I like it,” Avery said. He turned his head to the side to look at me.
“Oh my god,” I breathed. “You bastard! You scared the Jesus out of me!” I hissed and smacked his arm.
“What the hell is Jesus doing in you?” he teased.
“Avery,” I muttered. “What do you want?”
“Well, you said you would be working tonight,” he said. “Come on, take me home, and we can talk on the way.”
“Wait; what? How...” I trailed off and looked around the parking lot. There was no sight of his motorcycle or his truck. “How did you get here?” I asked.
“Well, after practice, I drove my truck home and ran back to town,” he said.
“You ran?” I raised a brow.
“Yeah, notice that I probably don’t smell good?” he pointed out.
I chuckled and shook my head.
“On the bright side, you’re laughing, so I’m assuming I won’t have to run back home,” he said.
“Don’t be too sure,” I teased. I turned the key, and the car rumbled to life. Classic Plymouths weren’t exactly quiet like newer model cars.
“I love the sound of this car,” he said. He pulled out a blunt and lit it.
“Me too,” I said and smiled as I backed it out of the parking spot.
“Jay wanted my mother to give it to him,” he said and rolled his eyes. “I would have chopped his balls off and fed it to him. It’s my favorite vehicle. You think that I obsess over my truck? That truck ain’t got shit on this car,” he said and chuckled. He passed me the blunt.
“Why?” I asked as I took the blunt and hit it.
“It was my dad’s. He loved this car,” he said and shrugged.
I nodded. “Yeah, I guess I didn’t think about that part.”
“Yeah,” he said. He turned the radio up slightly and leaned back in the seat.
“Comfy?” I teased.
“Yeah,” he said. “I am. Let’s go for a drive. We need to talk anyway,” he murmured. “I don’t want you to be mad at me.”
“Well, it’s a little too late for that. I’m angry as hell at you, Avery, but I’ll get over it,” I told him and smiled.
“Look, if I thought that you were bad, I wouldn’t have even recommended you,” he said. “If I said you were good and you had done badly, Wilx wouldn’t have let you in. My word might have counted for a little, but you were the majority.” He stared up at me from under his eyelashes. His eyes were pleading with mine in such a powerful way that I lost what will power I had against him.
“Fine,” I grumbled. “Maybe you’re right.”
“Pull over,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“I want to show you something,” he murmured.
I pulled the car over, and he climbed out.
“What the hell?” I muttered. I climbed out of the car too.
“I’m driving,” he said and wiggled his eyebrows.
“Yes, sir,” I said.
We climbed back into the car and sped down the dirt road, leaving a cloud of dust behind us.