Dreaming of Cheers - Chapters 4 and 5

Dreaming of Cheers
Standing Up to Life: Book 3
Part 3 of 23
by Tiffany Shar

Foreword by Carla Ann
The door opened slowly. Inside, the elite Holden Coyotes Dance Squad is busy learning a routine. The girls are smiling despite the sweat and exertion. Two captains in front of the squad appear even more intense. Moving as sisters and leading by example they prod their team, their aim set on State or even National titles, lofty goals for their first year team. Tiny Co-Captain Tiffany Jacobson is entirely in her element and it shows. No one could watch and disagree.

Principal Henry watched, unobserved, as her friend Mandy Holt worked the girls. ‘She’s right, they have the makings of a championship squad.’ She smiled at the irony. ‘It almost didn’t happen.’ Weeks ago factions had allied to prevent Tiffany from trying out. The girl’s family and friends had to take their fight before the school board. Tiffany herself had finally laid matters to rest, courageously facing down her accusers at the meeting. She had merely asked for the same chance as any other girl. Luckily, the Board agreed. ‘Thank God for that. I’d still be trying to fill vacant jobs — certainly Mandy’s.’

She’d never seen a child blossom like Tiffany had this year. From bright, confused, and scared little boy in a world of bullies to this self-aware girl with so much talent; her transformation from pariah to pretty insider was amazing. Her authenticity made her a virtual friend magnet. ‘It’s worth the trouble she’s caused me. She has such great friends… If only her enemies will let her be’. She wondered what struggles and triumphs her small charge would see this school year. A lucky educator is blessed to mentor at least one student in their career whose intelligence, talent, and drive spurs them to great things in adulthood. ‘I wonder if she’ll be one?’


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The Legal Stuff: Dreaming of Cheers  © 2010 By Tiffany Shar
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, Characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright  © 2010 By Tiffany Shar. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.
 
 
Preface

Like the first two books I posted here, I will be posting a full copy here on BigCloset. I am uploading three chapters per week to the site. The full version should be completely posted by July. For those that cannot wait however, I have an e-book version of the full book available from Lulu.com as of today. You may find it at My Store. My assumption is that the majority of my readers would be more interested in this edition of the book rather than a hardback or paperback. If you enjoy this work perhaps you will consider supporting me by purchasing it ($5.95 for the eBook).

Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy reading Dreaming of Cheers!


 

Chapter 4:

 
AT ABOUT ONE o’clock Mom ended up dropping me back off at school. I had returned just in time for Amy and I to have home ec with Coach Holt. “Hey Tiffany, where were you at?” Coach asked me as I came in with a pass.

I spoke softly, “I had a doctors appointment.”

“Okay, everything alright?” She asked.

“More or less. Maybe sometime I’ll explain it all.” I told her.

I think of all of the teachers I still trusted Mrs. Remar the most, but Coach Holt was rapidly becoming someone I felt like I could trust too. Well I could trust her there was no doubt… but you know how it is… there’s always one teacher you know that you can share stuff with.

“Okay… I was just getting ready to tell Amy this. Why don’t the two of you go ahead and head down to the locker room and begin working on putting the face paint on each other and the other girls?”

“The locker room?” I asked quietly, with some trepidation.

She leaned close to me and said, “no one will be changing right now anyway — plus I got it approved that you’re going to use the coaches office in there to change from now on.”

I smiled. Something else that I’d been worrying about was suddenly working itself out. That was unexpected!

The two of us walked down the hallway with our backpacks in hand to go to the locker room. Our school was setup so that there were three locker rooms for each gender. Two of them were for PE, and the other one was reserved for sports activities. This time of the year the girls sports locker room was used by just the cheer squad and the volleyball team. Of course right now that meant it was empty because it wasn’t after school.

Entering the locker room for the first time was yet another sign that I was being accepted as a girl. I noticed that the bathroom actually had stalls setup for the toilets — so I could even use the restroom in here without causing problems. There were also curtains around the shower stalls so I could probably even change in here if we could ever get it worked out. I think Coach Holt realized it was inevitable that I was going to need to.

Amy poked me and brought me back to reality. She showed me a locker where Coach Holt had all of the squads makeup and face paint stored. We dug through it until we found some of our school colors and started painting things like ‘HMS #1’ on each others faces. The other girls started coming in at that point too, with Amy and I working to get everyone’s faces done as quickly as we could.

“Tiffany, why haven’t you been coming here to change now?” Lindsey asked me as I did her face.

“Umm… I don’t want to cause more problems than I already do I guess,” I told her.

“I don’t think any of us would mind if you were in here,” she told me.

“Well… Coach Holt says I can start using the Coaches bathroom in the office to change.” I said with a smile before pausing, “I still have things that I don’t want anyone to have to see though,” I told her while losing the smile.

“I guess I understand that one.” That was all we had time to talk about though because Coach Holt came in and began issuing orders to us to get stuff ready for our performance. We were also going to be taking part with the normal cheerleaders on a routine, so we had to get some pom-poms out to the gym for that before coming back in for a quick meeting.

We had performed at the football game last week… but that hadn’t been everyone watching. I was beginning to feel my nerves a little bit. I knew that I had to make sure I did as well as I could, if not perfect, to keep anyone from being able to comment on my skills.

Amy gave me a quick hug before we went out to join the rest of the cheerleaders. Coach had sent them out before the dance squad members. As we walked out I could see the entire school, about six-hundred, sitting out in the stands. We were called out to do a cheer with the cheerleaders almost as soon as the rally started.

The first cheer was really basic, it was just a chant more or less and it didn’t involve any stunts at all. We got through it quickly and they began introducing the players on the football team and such. The next part for the cheerleaders came soon though, and I found myself cheering along with them, and being put at the top of a small pyramid. I’d been scared I would be too nervous to do anything, but I think the summer performance at the camp had cured me of that.

Before I knew it I was being tossed in the air and caught by two of the other girls. At that point the girls that were just cheerleaders were introduced. They also introduced Katrina as the captain of them. She was the only girl that was on both squads that was introduced then though. In the meantime the rest of us huddled up on the other side of the gym for a quick pep-talk.

Coach Holt said, “Come on ladies you’re going to do absolutely fantastic! Show them just what you ladies can do.”

With that we all got into two separate lines and marched out in step to the center of the basketball court, and down in front of the stands. Amy and I were in front because of our Captain status, each standing just to the side of the center court line.

My heart was beating so loud I was sure the crowd must have been able to hear it. The music started though and I knew nothing but the routine that we had drilled so many times. I smiled as I did it with the knowledge that I was doing the routine right, and kept everything in tempo. During the music I tuned out the cat-calls from the guys — just concentrating with every part of my mind on what was next. Just like every other time I had performed I was surprised when I found myself at the end.

I counted the twelve counts that we were frozen in our last pose before jumping up, turning, and marching off with the other girls in step. I was all smiles though, we had performed so well!

We had a couple other cheers with the cheerleaders before the pep rally ended, including a class chant that the eighth graders won. At the end of the pep rally the football players all went with their coach to warm-up while the rest of the school was sent to their seventh period class to finish out the day.

By the time I got to the band room there was only about fifteen minutes left in the day. Mrs. Remar was far too intelligent to try and make us practice for the rest of the period, so she instead spent time talking to us about how the parade was going to work the next day. “Okay, Ladies and Gentlemen, what are you supposed to wear tomorrow?”

“Blue Jeans and Band Shirts,” all of us echoed back to her.

“Good. Please don’t forget. The only exception should be Tiffany I think… You’re going to wear your uniform right?” She asked me.

I kind of blushed a little, I didn’t know why, and said “Yes, that way I can go from there to the high school with the rest of the squad after the parade.”

“That’s fine Tiff. Nice job out there today by the way,” she added.

It was at that point that a lot of the band members began clapping for me spontaneously. I couldn’t believe it! They weren’t making fun of me either; I think they were genuinely impressed with how well I had danced. It was nice to see that my hard work was being recognized by the other students. I was so relieved to find out that I wasn’t going to face more ridicule for everything from my dancing.

Class broke up pretty soon after that with more of the kids telling me they were really impressed — and I was pretty certain there were actually some of the guys checking me out… Some of them were beginning to think that maybe I hadn’t really been a boy before. They were right in a sense, just not how they were thinking.

As I left the classroom I debated about where I was going to go to change for the game. It was a home game so I had about thirty minutes before we were supposed to be ready to head out to the field. Should I go to the faculty restroom like I’d been using? Or should I go ahead and go down to the girls’ locker room and use the coaches’ room like we’d talked about? I wasn’t sure. About the time that I had talked myself out of using the girls locker room for the first time I felt a hand on my shoulder. I tensed up for a second and turned to see who it was.

“How are you doing Tiffany?” I looked up and realized it was Coach Holt.

“I’m doing pretty well. How did you think we did earlier?”

“I think you all did well. Especially you. I can’t believe that you haven’t been working on dance and cheerleading stuff since you were little like most of the rest of the girls. Keep up the good work you’re doing,” she told me with a smile.

“Thanks.”

“Come on, let’s go to the locker room so you can get changed.” She said guiding me towards the gym.

I just nodded. Sure I’d gone in there earlier… but I’d been in the girl’s locker room before with my PE classes last year. Our coach last year was a lady and she’d have us come in there for some things dealing with health stuff, or written tests, so going there for face painting earlier hadn’t been as big a deal.

Now I was going in there to change — it struck me as a really big step. As I walked down the stairs to the locker room I accidentally ran my giant bag of cheerleading equipment into Coach Holt’s side. I grimaced and said, “Sorry.” She laughed a little and gave me a hard time about it. She pointed out the bathroom I was going to use to change and sent me in there to get dressed.

Changing into the cheer uniform was a continual adventure I found. On a daily basis I did everything I could to hide the male appendage that I hated so much… but in the cheer uniform I was so nervous that someone would be able to see something. Especially given that there was basically a one hundred percent chance that someone would see the cheerleading bloomers I wore underneath the skirt! So, as I closed the door I sat about making certain that it was locked away where it couldn’t reappear. If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew it would probably lead to death, or at least a long hospital stay, I wouldn’t have thought twice about taking a pair of scissors to it if I could have. That thought went through my head at least a dozen times every day.

Once I was certain it wasn’t going to escape to embarrass me, I pulled on my panties, put on the skirt, a sports bra, and the top shell of my uniform. I looked all around my clothes to make sure that everything looked fine before going out to the locker room. I was a little hesitant to go out there. ‘Would some of the girls get mad if I saw them naked on accident?’ I wondered to myself.

I needn’t have worried apparently though because as soon as I got out there most of the girls were already dressed. The other girls just changed without making a big deal about it. I made sure I didn’t stare at them so they thought I was trying to ogle them though too. I wasn’t really sure what to do next, but thankfully Coach answered that question by calling me over to where she was sitting and began applying some eye makeup to my eyes. She had a system in place that led to me next being attacked by another girl to put my hair into a high pony-tail that everyone was getting.

I felt like such an outsider — I’d had to pretty much get ready on my own for the last game. Well, Amy had met me at the faculty bathroom the last week and helped me out with everything, but not like this. If I felt like an outsider at that point it didn’t last long. Within the next ten minutes I felt like I should have always been in that locker room with them. Right about the time we were getting ready to go out to the field Mrs. Henry, our interim principal, came in to talk to Coach Holt about something.

She smiled at me and the rest of the squad and headed back out. I was nervous that it might have had something to do with me, but was sure I was just over reacting.

I didn’t have time to try and ask her though because Coach Holt told us, “Okay ladies, let’s go!”

We all began walking out of the locker room with our stuff, out the hallway into the gym, and then outside towards our football field. It was still about a half-hour before the game, so we began going through the motions of getting all of our pom-poms, megaphones, and bags setup along the track. As we did that I grimaced a bit — I hated our track at our school because it was covered with a loose layer of small red rocks. That meant it was inevitable that my bag would be filthy again by the time we got done with the game. I was really grateful that my mom was so good at cleaning stuff like that off!

We ended up killing a little bit of time laughing with each other before the first game started that afternoon. I had an absolute blast as we cheered first for the JV team, and then for the Varsity team. With every cheer that we performed, and got the crowd into, I felt a surge of energy flow through me. I loved every moment of it!

At half-time during the Varsity game we performed another routine with our dance squad. I was really happy to see that both of my parents were actually sitting in the audience watching us perform! I had noticed them just before we had gone to the back of the field to march on together. As I reached my mark I ran through everything in my head that I would need to do and waited for the music. We didn’t wait long though before the music started.

Amazingly I made it through another flawless performance of a routine with the squad, it made me so proud. After the routine Coach Holt had us all huddle together. “Ladies, that was awesome! You need to perform just like that tomorrow night at the high school game. I do have a few things I want to go over before then, but for now know that I think you all did a really great job!” We all cheered and smiled.

As we rejoined the girls that weren’t on the dance squad they smiled at us and told us that we had done a good job. I couldn’t help but feel the stares of anger from a couple of those though… They were really jealous that they hadn’t made it, and I was an obvious target for their anger. I began to feel like I might have some problems with a few of them as the year went on. I would have to mention that to Amy later to see what she thought I should do. I know that any of the ‘normal’ girls on the squad were just as likely to have catty stuff happen to them from those girls… but since I wasn’t born like them I knew I was a far easier target.

That thought distracted me a bit as we finished up the fourth quarter of our varsity team’s game. With about two minutes left in the quarter we did a cheer where I was put up in a lift. Without any warning the hands of the girl holding my foot up slipped and I began falling. I had a falling sensation in my stomach as I plunged to the ground, doing my best to cushion my unexpected fall with my knees. Just as I thought I might be able to land and not fall over I fell backwards onto my butt!

“Oww!!” I said as I felt the rocks of the track dig into my legs.

Courtney, who had dropped me had also fallen over, but she got up quickly and came over, “Are you okay Tiffany?”

As I looked into her eyes I wasn’t actually sure if she really was concerned or not. She was one of the girls that hadn’t made the dance squad. I forced myself to take the hand that she offered and said, “I think so… ouch though. Can we avoid doing that?” I asked her as nicely as I could. Honestly I was pretty mad, there was no good reason for her to be dropping me at this point in the season.

“I’m really sorry, I don’t know why my hands slipped.” She said. This time I could see a little quiver to her lips and realized it had really been an accident.

I got dropped in practice frequently… ‘Why was I getting so mad about this one?’ I asked myself as I gave her a hug and said, “It’s okay… sorry I snapped at you about it. It could happen to anyone.”

I gave her as real of a smile as I was capable of at that moment before Amy came over and said, “Tiffany you probably should put some band-aides on those,” as she pointed to my legs.

“I’m bleeding?” I said all of the sudden surprised. I had quite a few scratches on my legs where the stupid rocks had cut into me.

“Yeah dummy,” she told me as she led me over to a bench where the football team kept its trainer’s kit. Coach Holt came over and helped me get my legs patched up as the last quarter of the game ended — we had won the game by the skin of our teeth this time. It meant we were still undefeated, but everyone had been really nervous that we were going to lose this game at the end. I had been pretty distracted by the stinging sensation of Coach Holt helping me though.

AFTER THE GAME my parents came down out of the stands. My mom was really concerned about my fall, but she had managed to keep herself from running down to the track to frantically check me. “Are you alright sweetie?” She asked as I walked over to the opening in the fence where my Dad and she were waiting.

“Yeah… it just stings a bit.” I said gesturing to the 10 or so band-aids that were on my legs.

“I’ll bet,” my Dad said while putting his arm around my shoulder and grabbed my duffel bag. Mom grabbed my megaphone and we walked back to the car. I already had all of my clothes I’d been wearing in my bag, so we were able to just leave.

Dad opened the trunk and put my bag inside when we got to their car. “I’m actually parked over there,” my dad said pointing to his work vehicle, “where do you want to go eat?” he asked me.

“Eat?” I asked. I was hungry… but I was really tired. “I don’t really care… wherever.” I told him.

A few moments later he and Mom ended up choosing a restaurant that sounded good to them, with Mom leading the way. I actually would have really preferred to go home and shower before eating, but it was already seven when we left the school. I chatted about the game and everything that had happened since she’d dropped me off at school by the time we got to the restaurant.

“How many?” the hostess asked as we walked in.

“Three,” my Dad said.

“It’ll be about fifteen minutes, is that okay?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he replied.

As we walked to the left where they had seating to wait in I saw Ms. Fitz standing there. I ran up to her, “Hey Ms. Fitz!” I said while giving her a hug.

“How are you doing Tiffany?” She asked me.

“I’m doing really well actually!” I told her, “We just got done with a football game, so I’m feeling kind of tired — but it’s been a lot of fun!” I told her excitedly. It was so nice to see her! Ms. Fitz was one of the teachers that had taken a group of us to Florida this past summer. She was an awesome teacher, I really admired her.

“I’d heard you made the new dance squad, congratulations,” she told me with a big smile.

“Thanks!”

“Is there anything else new?” She asked as she also greeted my parents. We all talked for a couple more minutes before she and her ‘date’ were called. I knew I would have to tell Amy about that one — Ms. Fitz had a boyfriend!

As we sat there waiting to be called I saw lots of boys come by and stare at me. I knew they weren’t staring at me because they thought I was a boy though, they saw me as a cute cheerleader — and it made me smile. I wasn’t sure yet whether or not I wanted to date boys or not… but I definitely liked being thought of as attractive!

“Mandy, party of three?” the hostess announced.

We followed her to a table and she handed up menus, “Your waitress will be right with you,” she told us.

“Thanks,” my mom said for us.

We all looked through the menus for a few minutes before deciding what we wanted, about the time the waitress walked up. “Hey Tiffany, how are you doing?” She asked.

I stared at her for a second before realizing it was Ashley’s older sister, Valerie. “I’m doing good, how about you?” I asked her

“I’m doing okay. I take it you’re coming straight from the football game?”

I nodded. “Yeah, my parents decided we should come out to eat.” With that I introduced her to them real quick. She took our orders and came back off and on to talk to us. Val was the captain of the dance squad at the high school — and really good at dancing. When she’d helped us at our camp last month I couldn’t believe how good she was!

“So Tiffany what did you think about Dr. Reynolds request that you meet with those other doctors today?” My dad asked quietly.

“I’m kind of excited.” I told him while forcing a smile to my face. I was actually terrified that they would disagree with her. After a slight pause that I thought that in I said, “I so want to look like everyone else… It seems like I might be able to actually get there.”

He nodded. I could tell that he seemed a little bit nervous about all of it for some reason. “Look Daddy, I love you — thank you for everything. I really appreciate you coming to the game today to watch me.”

“You’re welcome sweetie.” He said with a smile on his face that seemed a little pained.

I was a little bit worried about him at this point, but the food came and I forgot about it pretty quickly. He got into moods, even before I landed this bombshell in their laps — that I couldn’t really do anything about. I decided not to push anything that night — not that I even had any energy to do it if I wanted to though.

As Val dropped the check off with my parents I noticed that she must have had her nails done. “I love your nails!” I told her. They were painted a deep blue and had some crystal studs glued onto them. I was reminded of how mine had looked when Amy’s mom had taken us to a salon to get ours done last month.

“Thanks!” She told me. “I’ve been nominated for homecoming queen, so I needed to get them done before we have the ceremony tomorrow night.” She said with a big smile.

“So are you going to dance tomorrow night with the squad?” I asked her.

“I’ll be absent I’m afraid — it’s too hard to get dressed in my dress and everything and try and juggle being in my uniform to dance. But I’ll still be around the squad when you guys are hanging out with us tomorrow,” she said.

“Cool.” I told her. With that she took my parents money and left to get change. I got a really strong chill in my body as we walked out of the restaurant that night. It had been tolerably warm when we’d walked in, but with the temperature falling quickly, I was wishing I was dressed in my warm-ups.

By the time I got home all I wanted to do was fall into bed — all of the adrenaline from the game had worn off by the middle of dinner, but instead I had to shower and do homework. In the meantime while I was working on homework Mom washed my cheer uniform since I would have to wear it again the next day.

We were supposed to wear them to school since we wouldn’t have time to change before the parade stuff… or at least the cheerleaders wouldn’t. Since I was going to do the band instead it was going to be a little bit different, but I was one of the dance captains, I didn’t have a choice but to wear it. It meant I also wasn’t going to be able to wear my new outfit to the dance…

Don’t get me wrong, I loved wearing the uniform. There was something about it that said you were cool without saying anything. It instantly moved you up the food chain in life — but I’d worn it all night, and would have liked to have worn something else until the evening. A lot of the girls who weren’t on the squad had talked all week about what they were going to wear to school Friday for the dance, but we were stuck without a choice.

I finally stopped my griping to myself about this long enough to try and figure out why I was so concerned about that. ‘Who is going to care what you are wearing, Tiff?’ I asked myself. I wrangled with that one in my head for a bit. I was so confused about that issue, that I didn’t know what to think at all.

I believed I was really a girl — which meant that liking boys was okay right? But I’d been born a biological boy, which meant liking boys wasn’t okay? Then there was the whole issue of how I’d never really gotten along with boys anyway, would I really want anything to do with one? The idea of a dance tomorrow had me frightened because of it. If I decided I wanted to date a boy, would any boy ever want to go out with me? All of them had to know about me. That night I wished I could just skip the stupid dance, but I didn’t want to stay in class either.

The way the next day was supposed to work was going to be absolute chaos. We were starting off with our normal classes until eleven, when we could ‘buy out’ of our class and go to the dance in the gym. It was a dollar — and let’s face it! Who wouldn’t get out of a class for a dollar? So that was supposed to go on until noon, when we were supposed to have an early dismissal for the high school’s homecoming parade.

The dance and cheerleading squads were supposed to go eat and head to the staging area for the parade, but I was going to go with the band to our band hall to wait for the other middle school in our town, Cimarron Junior High, to meet up with us at our school to practice for the parade. After practicing for a short time Mrs. Remar was supposed to feed us pizza before we left to go to the staging grounds ourselves.

When we were done with the parade I was supposed to catch up with the squad and head up to the high school to help the high school squad finish decorating the stadium. After that we were going to practice our dance routine that we were going to do as a pre-game performance. Then the list continued on until the end of the football game when Mrs. Remar had asked all of the band students to stick around and watch the high school band perform their show that they were going to contest with the next day.

I didn’t know whether to be excited or cry about the next day as I finished up my homework. Thankfully about the time I felt like I was going to be forced to cry the phone rang and mom called out, “Tiffany, it’s Amy.”

I ran to the phone and said, “Amy I’m so glad you called!”

“What’s up Tiff?” She asked me.

“What’s not up?” I asked her. I came off a little more stressed than I meant to though.

“Whoa, what happened?” She asked me.

I told her about my brooding from the last hour of homework, well minus the part about the boys. That was something I wouldn’t mind talking to her about, but not on the phone where Mom and Dad could listen in.

“Listen Tiffany, tomorrow is going to be a blast! It’s going to be great, don’t worry about it. We’re all going to dance together in a group, so you don’t have to worry about anything. And, if there’s a slow dance it’s not like you have to dance,” she told me.

I wasn’t sure how she picked up on stuff without me even saying it. I guess that’s why she was my best friend. “I know…. I think I’m just tired.”

“Tomorrow’ll be great, trust me!”

“I do Amy,” I told her finally managing a smile.

“I know you do. Oh! I almost forgot why I was calling. Coach Holt called me and asked me to tell you that we’re all supposed to wear the cold weather version of our uniform tomorrow. It’s supposed to get down to thirty tonight, and she’s afraid it’s going to get pretty cold at the game tomorrow night too. She also said that we could all go ahead and wear our warm-up pants over our skirts tomorrow morning too if we want.”

“I’m so glad she decided that, I was a bit worried about that.”

“Yeah… it’s a bit cold tonight isn’t it!”

“I just about froze when we came out of the restaurant. It was so warm today and then it just cooled off so much,” I told her.

“Anyway Tiffany my mom is telling me to get off the phone and go to bed, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you then Amy — and thanks.”

“No problem Tiff, good night.”

My own parents came by shortly after that and told me to go to bed. Before I did that though I had to get my warm-ups out of the drawer I had stashed them in and grab the long sleeve shell that we had for our uniforms. Mom also suggested I throw in a thermal top to put underneath if it was really going to be that cold tomorrow night. The top was pretty warm though so I told her I wasn’t really concerned about it. Soon I was in bed laying there trying to put the pieces of my life into order…

 

Chapter 5:

 
MY ALARM BLARED before I knew it, and I dragged myself out of bed. I decided that I was going be excited about today — otherwise I would only have a miserable time. So I showered quickly and set about getting myself dressed for the day. Even though I had nothing to speak of in the chest area I still put on a sports bra first before putting on the top shell.

The top shell that we had for the long sleeve version was more like a sweater than anything else. It kind of itched a bit as I put it on, but I just ignored it — I’d be stuck wearing this all day, so it wasn’t worth thinking about. After getting my hair done I put on a little bit of makeup. My mom wasn’t real pleased with me using makeup at all — but it was a special day with everything going on. Plus, she was already gone! I smiled a bit at that thought. She always left for work before I was even up — so I could probably get away with a lot of things since she wasn’t there.

I wouldn’t though of course. Knowing my luck I’d get busted somehow. Besides, there was always my ‘other’ mom to consider. Melanie wasn’t quite as against makeup as my mom, but she definitely wouldn’t let me get away with a lot of stuff either. I sighed. My life seemed to be complicated every way you looked at it. Once I was satisfied with how I looked I carefully pulled up the pair of nylon warm-up pants I had over the top of my skirt. I had to be careful not to get it bunched up, but it went over fairly easily.

I somehow managed to be out of the bathroom ten minutes earlier than normal, even though I had done more to get ready than I did most days… go figure. I went into the kitchen and heated up some bacon my mom had already cooked and had some toast with it. The news was on in the kitchen already and I just sort of sat down and watched it. Just before I had to go wait for Amy’s mom outside they mentioned that we would be having our homecoming parade, and they would have pictures later this evening from the day.

I’d been on TV before for a couple things this year, not least of which was to try and fight for my right to be myself, but I still got kind of excited thinking about the fact that I might be able to appear in my cheer uniform. Before I could think about that though I heard a door slam outside and knew that must be Amy getting out of the car to come get me.

I ran into the living room, threw on the jacket that went with our warm-ups, picked up my backpack, cheer bag, and all of the other cheer stuff I needed before opening the door and heading out to the car with her.

“Are you ready for the big day?” Her mom asked me as I slid in.

“I think it’ll be fun,” I told her while forcing myself not to think about how uncertain I felt about the day.

“It will be Tiffany. I wish I could go watch the two of you at the dance… but Amy threatened to not talk to me for a week so I decided I could live without it,” she said jokingly. I saw Amy stick her tongue out at her mother and I giggled a little. It was always reassuring to me that I wasn’t the only girl that was abused by her parents like this.

As we arrived at school I noticed that a lot of the girls had dressed a little bit nicer. Nikki was even wearing a skirt to school that day with a really pretty blouse. Our last class before the dance was choir. Kristina, Amy, and I both took our warm-ups off in the bathroom during the class. When we finished getting settled I took my bags and stuff over to the band hall so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it during the dance.

“Teachers, please dismiss the students who are buying out for the dance at this time.” Mrs. Henry called over the intercom.

Kristina, Amy and I all jumped up from the riser where we were sitting faster than anyone else. We gave our money to Ms. Beecher and walked the short distance to the gym where we could already hear the music blaring. The three of us joined up with the rest of our friends in one corner of the gym and began moving to the music.

Kyle was a total goofball during the dance, even going so far as break dancing before getting yelled at by one of the teachers. I didn’t honestly think that was in his character, it was pretty funny. After about forty minutes of dancing I was feeling pretty hot, even without anything covering my legs. Amy must have felt the same way because she said, “Hey Tiff, let’s go get something to drink from the snack bar.”

“Okay,” I told her.

I heard Kyle behind me ask, “Mind if we join you two?” David was right behind him.

“Sure,” I said. The four of us walked together out of the gym and across the hall to the open snack bar.

“So you two look nice today,” Amy said as we waited in line to both of them. They had both dressed up in nice slacks and shirts with ties. All of the football players were required to dress like that for the parade. They were going to wear their jerseys over the top of those.

“Thanks,” Kyle said, “But not as nice as you two look today.”

I blushed. “Thanks,” I told him.

“So you’re dancing at the game tonight right?” He asked us.

“Yeah we’re going to perform for pre-game tonight — it should be a lot of fun!” I said.

“I was really impressed with how well you guys danced yesterday,” he told me. David and Amy began having a side conversation right about that time. “Is it really hard?”

“Yeah, it really is. I can’t believe I’ve been able to learn how to do it so quickly… but it’s so much fun to do!”

“I’m glad they let you on the squad. You’ve definitely had a tough year,” he told me.

I just nodded.

“What would you like to drink sweetie?” A lady working in the concession stand asked as I came up.

“Umm… a coke please.” I said as I handed her a crunched up dollar bill that I’d had in my shoe. It was the only place I could think of to keep money on days like this.

“Here you go.” She said handing over the drink.

“Thanks,” I told her with a smile. Amy, Kyle, and David got drinks too and we started heading back into the gym.

We found seats in the bleachers and tried talking to each other over the loud music about different things. Nothing was really that important, although we did enjoy making fun of a couple of snobby girls that no one would dance with. Several of them had given me trouble when I was trying to try out for the dance squad… so I couldn’t help but have a certain sense of satisfaction about it. With about ten minutes left in the dance we threw away our drinks and rejoined the dance floor.

They announced the last song soon after that, it was a slow dance. I started to kind of move off to the side of the gym, but I heard, “Tiffany.”

I turned around and Kyle asked me, “May I have this dance,” with an over-exaggerated bow. He was still being a goofball, and I felt like I could take him up on the offer and know he wasn’t going to take it seriously.

“Why not?” I told him. I put my right arm around his shoulder and he took my left hand into his. When he put his arm around my waist I felt goosebumps pop up on my legs. I really hoped he didn’t see them. ‘What’s going on with me?’ I asked myself. I found myself smiling as we danced for no apparent reason. ‘Am I enjoying this?’ I asked myself silently as he changed the direction that we were moving.

It was then that I could see Amy was dancing with David, while Kristina and several other people also had formed up into couples for the dance in a cluster right around us. I looked across the gym and saw a number of people openly staring at us. Kyle must have seen them too because he said, “So apparently this is going to be the talk of the school for the next couple weeks?”

“Probably,” I groaned a bit.

“Listen, you remember when I told you last summer that I thought this could be a lot of fun?”

“Sort of,” I told him trying to remember back.

“Well this is kind of what I was talking about. People have such strong opinions about you, now they’re going to have something else to think about. Some of them are absolutely going to throw a fit with the idea of a football jock like me dancing with you.”

I nodded, he was right… I’d been causing problems long enough this year to know that this was going to make a lot of girls unhappy. Of course when I thought of the fact that the snobby girls from earlier would be in that group I kind of grinned a little.

“Yeah, it’s definitely going to knock some people off their feet… but… umm… Kyle… I don’t know quite how to tell you this… but I want you to know that I don’t really think…”

“That we should date?”

“Well… I have a feeling it might cause more problems than either of us… plus I’m not really ready for that.” I told him.

“I’m not really ready for it either,” he told me, “I’m fine with us just being friends too. Like I said, this is as much fun for me as anything,” he told me with a grin.

“Really?”

“Really. But I do want you to know that I really do think of you as a girl — I don’t think you’re a boy at all. So, maybe not now… but maybe someday the two of us will go on a date. I’d be fine with that, that’s all I wanted to tell you.”

“Maybe I’ll be okay with it someday too. Until then I’d be really happy to be friends.”

“Me too. Do you mind if we do this kind of thing to people every now and then?”

“Maybe,” I told him. I didn’t have anything else that I could really say about it. The song’s last bars came to an end, and Mrs. Henry told us we were all dismissed for the day. I gave Kyle a quick hug around the shoulders and then walked away with Amy.

“What happened?!?” She asked me.

“You’re sure nosey…” I told her lightly.

“Well, I want to hear about this from my best friend, not from everyone else in school first,” she told me while linking up arms with me and heading back to the choir room where she had left her stuff. “So what happened?”

“Nothing, we danced… and Kyle told me a few things.” Part of me didn’t want to tell Amy about this where we could be overheard in the hallway. When we got into the choir room I added, “He wanted to watch people’s reactions as we danced. Kyle thought it could be funny… and I agree actually… well sort of… Anyway we both talked about how neither of us is ready to date yet, but that he considers me a girl for real… and maybe someday we would…”

“Wow!” She told me. “But you’re not going out?” She asked me.

“No, didn’t I just get through saying that?” I asked.

“Well… kind of. That’s cool though, if you’re going to land yourself a guy he is definitely the one.”

“You sound jealous!”

“Maybe a little… But I think I like David more.” She told me.

“Ha! So are the two of you going out now?” I asked her.

“I’m not sure that going out is the right word. I’m not allowed to date until I’m sixteen, so don’t you dare tell my parents!” she told me.

“I won’t say anything if you don’t say anything about Kyle.” I told her.

“Pinky swear?” She asked.

“Pinky swear.” We put our pinkies together, and I said, “Well you’d better go catch up with the squad. I’ve got to go into the band room before Mrs. Remar starts wondering where I am.”

We gave each other a quick hug and she headed off to the home ec room where Coach Holt was meeting the girls. Meanwhile I walked down the hallway to the band hall.

WHEN THE OTHER middle school band got to our school we quickly experienced organized chaos. As they came in I felt sort of possessive of them coming into our band hall and putting their stuff all over it. It just seemed wrong for some reason.

“Band atten-hut!” Mrs. Remar bellowed.

“Pride!” We echoed while standing erect at attention as she had taught us.

“Ladies and Gentlemen you have two minutes to have your instrument together and be outside on the blacktop, by instrument section! Fall out!” she told us. We all scrambled to get outside. Thankfully I already had my saxophone together.

Outside people didn’t seem to have any idea of where to go so I decided to at least get my section together, “Saxophones over here!” I said loudly while waving my hand in the air. The three other saxophones from my school came over, followed soon by seven from Cimarron.

“Hi, I’m Ben,” one of the guys from the other school said to me.

“I’m Tiffany, nice to meet you.” We had just enough time to introduce each other within our section before Mrs. Remar started lining us up in a parade block formation. She put the brass up front, followed by the percussion, and then woodwinds brought up the rear. I found myself in the row directly behind the bass drums. It was really cool — between both schools we had about a hundred students. There was a lot of energy with all of us — it was fun! I kind of wished that the football players and other cheerleaders weren’t missing from the group — it would have been even larger!

She had us practice marching as a combined group and playing at the same time. Both schools percussionists practiced playing the cadence in between when we played our piece. By the time we finished a half-hour later I was starving and tired of walking in circles.

“Band Halt!”

“One-Two!” We called back.

“Ladies and gentlemen stay at attention please,” Mrs. Remar said. “When I dismiss you please put your instruments in their cases first. Then Holden students please show the Cimarron students where our cafeteria is. Inside the cafeteria there is pizza and coke for everyone. Please start with two pieces; if there is extra you may get more then. Dismissed!”

I walked back to the band hall and met up with Nikki and Jessica inside. I hadn’t been hanging out with the two of them a whole lot since I joined the dance squad — mainly because I was always so busy — so it was nice to spend some time hanging out with them.

“So Tiffany what’s up with you and Kyle?” Nikki asked.

I blushed, “Nothing, he’s just a friend.” I told her.

“Riiiight.” She told me as we grabbed our pizza and went to find a seat.

I stuck my tongue out at her. “Really there’s nothing going on. He just asked me to dance more or less so that we could watch the expressions on everyone’s faces.” I paused before adding, “Please don’t tell anyone else that though, it might ruin any future fun for us.”

“We know what kind of fun you two want to have,” Jessica said with a wink.

I threw my hands up in despair — if my friends didn’t believe me who would?

“Just kidding Tiffany, I can easily see you and Kyle trying to pull something like that off.”

I breathed a sigh of relief; I was really worried about this rumor mill. Kyle may have thought it was fun, but it was downright terrifying to me. We spent the rest of the time we had for lunch just talking to each other about stuff that was going on. I’d had more time with Nikki than Jessica in the last couple months since she’d gone to New York with Amy, Ashley, and I for the film festival that our film had been shown at.

Before I knew it Mrs. Remar was telling us to head to the busses with our cases. Just before I got on the bus my Mom drove up. “Hey Tiffany, how’s your day been?” she asked me.

“It’s been good so far,” I told her.

“Good, do you have your stuff?” She asked.

“Here you go,” I told her as I handed her my cheer stuff and my backpack. She was going to meet up with me at the end of the parade to give it to me before we went up to the high school. “Thanks for taking it.” I told her. I also ended up handing her my saxophone case so that she could meet me with it too.

As I got back on the bus with my saxophone out Mrs. Remar gave me a look that made me think I was about to get in trouble. “Tiffany, where is your case?”

“I gave it to my Mom. She’s going to meet me at the end of the parade so that I can catch up with the squad to go up to the high school afterward.”

“Okay, I guess that makes sense. Just be careful since you don’t have it in the case.”

“Thanks,” I told her and took a seat next to Nikki. The two of us chatted back and forth about some things until we got to the parking lot of a grocery store where they staged all of the parade from. The bus drove through a large number of floats and groups until we got to the middle of the parking lot where it parked.

When we got off of the bus everyone began getting their instruments together and began talking outside the bus just hanging out. As I stood there I noticed the air was already cooler than it had been the day before at that time. ‘How cold is it going to get tonight?’ I asked myself. A few spots over I could see the cheer squad was getting ready — part of me wished I was over there. I felt so torn between the groups at that moment.

Even farther across the parking lot I could see the high school band getting organized. I watched as they began lining up at the front of the parade. Mrs. Remar had explained to us that we were going to be in the middle of the parade, about twenty floats back, so this was our only chance to see them.

After a few minutes of getting organized their drum major called them to attention and began yelling out seemingly random commands to them. We were all watching as the turned in every direction for several minutes before they were put at-ease. It was so cool! ‘I can’t wait until I get to high school!’ I thought to myself.

“That looks really hard…” Nikki said next to me.

“We’ll be able to do it when we get there — I’m sure of it!” I told her with a smile.

“Well you’ll be able to do it, I don’t doubt that… but I’m not as talented as you are.” She told me.

“That’s not true and you know it. Don’t be so down on yourself,” I told her with a smile.

“If you say so,” she said with a shrug.

I was about to say more to her about this when Mrs. Remar called us to attention and had us get into our lines. Before long the parade began moving forward. The parade route wasn’t overly long, just about a mile-and-a-half round trip, but the first part was up hill. As we marched along I saw some trumpets began moving their horns back and forth as the percussion played the cadence. I of course thought that was an awesome idea and started doing it too, getting the rest of the woodwinds involved.

Before long we had played the song about seven times and were in the middle of the cadence as we came up to the judges stand. An eighth grader from each school was acting as drum majors for us and we began playing our song as they gave us the command. After a roll-off we played our hearts out as we passed by the stand. I felt a sense of pride as I felt the judges and the crowd watching and cheering for us. It was a lot like cheerleading with that, I guess maybe I was an attention hog?

When we came to the end of the actual parade route Mrs. Remar called us to a halt for a quick rest before everyone was going to march back down to the staging point. I saw Mom standing there, so I said goodbye to Mrs. Remar, and walked with Mom to where she had parked a block away. After I put my sax up she drove me to where the cheerleading squads’ bus was.

They had just walked up when we got there. Amy waved at me, “Hey Tiff!”

“Hey!” I said and walked over to her with my bags in hand.

“You guys sounded really good!” Kristina said as I caught up with the two of them.

“Thanks! How did it go for you guys?”

“It went well I think. I wish you could have been with us for it…” Amy said.

“Well I felt like I wanted to do this since I’d been working on the music longer than I’ve been on the squad. You’re not mad at me over it are you?” I asked them.

“Of course not!” Kristina said.

“We understand Tiff, really.” Amy added. I could tell she really wasn’t mad — something I was grateful for. After the last year of being such close friends I was always worried something would come in between us — that thought terrified me.

“Well Ladies, come on we need to get going!” Coach yelled at us. After dropping my stuff off on a seat where the other girls had started a pile of bags and equipment, I sat down next to Amy. I looked out the window and sighed deeply, I’d made it through half of my day.

THE BUS RIDE to the high school lasted a little longer than it normally would have because of traffic from the parade. That gave Amy and me a little time to just sit and relax. We didn’t talk much though, we were both too exhausted from we’d already done that day.

Once we arrived at the high school Coach Holt led us into the high school cafeteria. The high school’s dance squad used that as their staging area and practiced there. They were already scurrying about here and there doing different things. “Okay ladies, this is Kathy — I think you all met her during the camp session, she’s in charge for right now. Whatever she asks you to do, please do it.”

“Hi girls,” she said to us. “Okay so the first thing we need help with is tying some ribbon on the fence in front of the stands…” she had us help with one task after another in decorating the stadium for the homecoming game. The field was freshly painted and had the high school’s mascot, a coyote just like our junior high, was vividly painted in the middle of the field.

I had a lot of fun working with the girls from the high school’s squads as we worked together. Apparently they had invited Cimarron’s cheer squad, but their sponsor had other plans already and couldn’t bring them up. I couldn’t believe that they still didn’t come up somehow, but it was their loss.

At about four our dance squad got onto the field and ran through our routine a couple of times to practice. Meanwhile the girls that were just on the cheer squad went and worked with the high school’s cheer squad. In between run-through’s the high school squad came out and helped fix some mistakes they saw. We eventually had to get off the field so that the high school dance squad could go through their routine. I loved watching them, they were so good. Coach Clemons though seemed to always find something to pick out on them though and she called out corrections on her handheld megaphone. When they finished both of our squads went up to the cafeteria where we had fried chicken waiting for us to eat.

Kathy came over while we were eating and sat down next to Amy, Ashley, Kristina, and I. “Tiffany, right?” she asked me.

“That’s me,” I said with a smile.

“I was really impressed with how you were doing out there. You’re one of the captains, and Amy you’re the other right?” We both nodded. “I wish you two were eighth graders and were going to be here next year… I would love to have you on the squad before I graduate.”

“Thanks,” Amy said for us.

“So I hear that you two are basically inseparable?” She asked.

“The only way they could be more inseparable was if they shared the same body,” Kristina said with a smile.

“We’re pretty close,” Amy admitted.

“That’s cool.” She told us.

She talked to us about a lot of different things while we had dinner. When everyone had finished eating, the high school cheerleading squad taught us several of their cheers so that we could cheer with them. Meanwhile the high school’s dance squad worked on getting into the outfits they were wearing for their routine that night.

Soon Coach Holt had our school’s dance squad assemble, so that we could get ready to go down to the field for the pre-game performance. She led us through the stadium, down to the field, and around the track to the back of the field. The football players were still practicing on the sides of the field — but they had cleared the middle for our performance.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, for your pre-game entertainment we would like to present the Holden Junior High Dancing Coyotes!” The stadium was only about a third full at that point, but the crowd that was there cheered none-the-less.

We marched forward to our starting marks and waited for the music to begin. As the music started we ran through the routine — I felt a huge amount of pride roll in as we marched off the field. I had done the routine better than ever before, and I was proud of myself and the squad. Amy felt the same way as we gathered on the track to wait for a signal to go wait to form a tunnel for the football players to run through. “Tiffany, I think we might just have a chance to do really well at that national competition Coach Holt wants us to go to!”

“Yeah, if we can raise the money to go…” I told her.

“We will,” she assured me.

With that the rest of the evening became a blur. At the start of the game we lined up with the high school cheerleaders, forming a tunnel, and then jumped up and down as the football players ran by. I was rather intimidated at that point — the guys were huge! I wondered if Kyle would ever be that big. During the game we stayed on the track and cheered with the cheerleaders from our school and the high school. Meanwhile the high school dance squad just sat in the stands. I had learned over the day that they considered themselves to be above the cheerleaders. A lot of the high school cheerleaders resented it, and I had a feeling we were eventually going to have a similar situation at our junior high. Well… we already had it, but I was on the other side of it so I hadn’t noticed it as much.

The game was a lot of fun! Leading into half-time our team led seventeen to twelve, and the crowd roared at every good play the team made. Listening to it was enough to send shivers up and down my spine — it was such a cool sound! During half-time the dance squad from the high school started the festivities off with their routine. As hard as I thought ours was, theirs was twenty times harder. They did a routine with beach balls that looked incredibly cool! The girls moved so quickly at times I had a hard time trying to keep track of the counts and moves they were doing. When they finished, the homecoming court nominees came out to the field.

They started off the court results with the guys, then saying the princesses for the underclassmen, before announcing Val as the homecoming queen for the year. I gave Ashley a hug as she jumped up and down. Her dad had escorted Valerie to the field, and had given her a big hug and kiss before the former queen put the crown on her head.

During the third quarter we were allowed to wander around a bit. The first thing any of us did though was put on our warm-ups. We were beginning to freeze! It had gotten cold enough I could see my breath. I hadn’t noticed it too bad while we were jumping around and screaming, but as soon as we stopped I began shivering.

Once we were dressed Amy and I walked over to the concession stand. Mom met up with us there and bought me some popcorn. “Are you having fun?” She asked me.

I answered with a big smile and said, “Yes!”

“Good.” She said.

“Where’s Daddy?” I asked.

“He got called out to work shortly after you guys danced during pre-game.” She told me.

“But he at least saw me dance?” I asked her, a little hurt that he’d had to leave.

“Yes, he saw you dance — he was very proud of you.” She told me with a smile. “Just like I am.” I got a hug from her and then ran into Kyle and David.

“You guys were great!” David said to Amy and me.

“We’re nothing compared to the high school team though…” I told them.

“You will be.” Kyle said to us.

The third quarter ran down rather quickly and we were back on the track cheering. At this point the high school’s dance squad joined us to cheer on the track. That meant we had well over sixty girls cheering — and we were a force to be reckoned with!

Late in the fourth quarter the opposing team made an interception and passed our team’s score. The crowd began going nuts as our team only had a little over a minute to make it back down the field to score. With each play we tried to get louder to inspire the crowd and the team. Just when I thought we might not win the game, our quarterback threw a long pass to another player in the end zone and scored. It was a good thing too — no one would have liked to have lost the homecoming game!

After the game I said good bye to everyone and left with Mom to go home. My plans of staying with Amy had been vetoed when she saw how tired I was the night before. As if to prove her right, I was so tired that I almost fell asleep in the shower. I had been sweating way too much to go to bed without showering first though, so I forced myself through the motions. As soon as I had on a pair of pajamas I went straight to bed — falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.



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