By the time I entered the gym and my brain caught up with what I was seeing in front of me, it was already too late to turn and run. I’d been spotted; honed in on like a raw steak thrown into a cage of rabid dogs. The mortification written all over my face was like a lighthouse in a storm to the she-devil who immediately bombarded me.
“Oh, my God, I LOVE your hair! It’s so pretty and blonde!”
I watched in horror as the perky brunette bounced up to me, her hand coming towards me like she wanted to pet my hair. I smacked it away with a frown, but that didn’t deter her.
“You are so cute! My name’s Candace, but everyone calls me Candy!” she told me excitedly.
“Candy? That’s a stripper’s name.”
She stared at me blankly for a few seconds and then began giggling as she wrapped one hand around my elbow and started dragging me closer to the large group of girls bouncing up and down in the middle of the gym, clapping their hands and squealing so loudly that I’m pretty sure my ears were bleeding.
“You are going to be perfect for the top of the pyramid. You’re so tiny and cute and everyone is going to love you! And since I’m the captain, I get to decide who makes the squad and who gets cut, so you’re in luck!” Stripper Candy babbled.
Pyramid. Squad. Captain… Oh, fuck.
“Tell me this isn’t cheerleading practice,” I mumbled as half the girls noticed us walking towards them and turned their clapping and squealing in our direction.
“EEEEEEK someone new!”
“Candy, you are a genius. She HAS to be on the squad!”
“I get to braid her hair first!”
I’m pretty sure at this point my brain went into self-preservation mode like those people who are in horrible accidents and wake up with temporary amnesia. My mind refused to process what was happening, which is the only explanation for why I wasn’t running out of here screaming like my head was on fire.
In case you haven’t already realized this, I’m not a girly-girl. Most of my friends are guys because I just can’t stand the drama that comes with having girlfriends. I don’t doodle my name with some dude’s last name all over my notebooks with hearts around them, I don’t spend two hours getting ready to go out in public, I hate pop music and the last time I wore a dress was… actually, I’ve never worn a dress. I don’t squeal, clap my hands or bounce up and down when I get excited, so obviously I’m in the wrong place right now. I am NOT cheerleader material.
“Touch my hair and die,” I deadpan to a tall blonde with her hands dangerously close to my head.
“Isn’t she just the best?!” Candy shrieks. “Who wants some bubble gum lip gloss?”
I cover my ears as the group starts screaming and reaching for the pink tube of gloss Candy pulled out of her cleavage. When the tube finally makes its way to me, I stare at it with a look of disgust on my face.
“I am not putting anything near my mouth that has her tit sweat on it,” I inform them with a point in Candy’s direction.
Someone blows a whistle and my faux pas of refusing Candy’s tit gloss is forgotten as the girls race to the other side of the gym. In the wake of all that hyperactive estrogen, I see a girl standing directly across from me with her arms crossed in front of her, looking just as miserable as I am. Now, I’m not one of those girls who goes out of her way to make friends, which I think is pretty apparent by now. I’ve never taken it upon myself to make the first move—people always seem to come to me and I am perfectly okay with that. For the first time in the history of my seventeen years, I feel the need to approach someone and share my pain with this girl. No sooner have I decided to do something completely out of character for me, when she drops her arms and I get a good look at the t-shirt she’s wearing. It’s white, off the shoulder and, in giant red letters across the front, it reads “BIG FUN.” It’s almost like the heavens opened up above her and a light from the gods begins to shine down. Or it’s just the fact that she moved under one of the gym lights, but whatever. I’m calling it a sign, thank you very much. It can’t be a coincidence that this girl is wearing a Martha Dumptruck, Heathers shirt. Well, I guess it could. I mean, maybe she used to be a big girl and she lost a bunch of weight and she’s trying to tell everyone that even though on the outside she’s small, on the inside she’s still big and full of fun.
Fuck it, I’m going in.
I make it across the gym to her right about the time that all the perky cheerleaders start shouting some stupid chant about the football team.
“Is this school’s mascot really the Ducks?” I ask in shock as I stand next to her and we stare at the synchronized movements across the way.
“Yes, yes it is,” she replies. “Last year, Candy decided that shouting ‘quack’ wasn’t tough enough. She changed all of the cheers to “Let’s go Ducks—RRRRWWWAAAAR!”
“Candy made ducks growl?”
She nods. “Candy made ducks growl. Candy is a dumb fuck.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t really seem like the cheerleader type,” I inform her.
She lets out a sigh and turns to face me. “Yeah, I could say the same for you. Nice effort on the stripper comment. Unfortunately, that really is what she wants to be when she grows up, so she definitely took it as a compliment.”
She finally turns to face me, sticking her hand out in front of her. “I’m guessing you’re new here? My name’s Claire Morgan. Welcome to hell.”