“Let’s go, Buccaneers!” I yelled and raised my poms in the air, my breath creating a puff of condensation that reflected the Friday night stadium lights. I bounced on my toes, appreciating the springboard give to the high school track that circled the perimeter of the football field but wishing we’d chosen our warmup pants rather than cheerleading skirts.
I was so ready for football season to be over. This would hopefully be the last game our legs would be subjected to the elements. October in Michigan pushed into cooler nights and through the remainder of the season we could justify warmups.
“Amberlyn.” Bella pulled my cheerleading sweater. “What’s wrong with Skyler tonight?”
“I don’t know,” I mumbled.
Things weren’t going well on the field. My boyfriend, Skyler, the star quarterback, usually kept his cool under pressure. Tonight, he was yelling at his teammates and arguing with the refs and coaches. Something was bothering him, and I wished I could help. There was nothing I could do from the sidelines except cheer for him, and the team, and hope for the best.
My best friend, Jonnie, was also on the football field, and the arguments seemed to revolve around her. From the beginning of the season, she’d been a source of contention. High school guys didn’t want a girl on their opposing team.
Jonnie and the guys at our high school here in Grand Haven claimed the rest of the teams were afraid of her because she was the best wide receiver this side of the Mississippi River. But there was more to the controversy. No one wanted to tackle her. No one wanted to reach around her to steal the ball the way they would from a guy in fear they’d grab body parts that shouldn’t be shown on a beach.
Things were different when she was a tomboy and about the same size as the boys. Over the summer she’d grown up and so had they. The boys became men, and she no longer looked like a tomboy. She was now probably the most beautiful girl in our senior class.
If Jonnie hadn’t been my best friend since we were little kids, I’d probably be jealous of her. I knew a lot of other girls were. The cheerleaders warned me to watch my back because they thought Jonnie was moving in on my boyfriend.
I wasn’t worried. Much. Skyler and I had been going out since our freshman year when we were on student council together and he asked me to homecoming.
Still, he’d been friends with Jonnie longer than he’d known me. The fact that they had some weird sports connection shouldn’t have bothered me. Lately they seemed to have that same connection on and off the field.
If anyone would notice the change, I would. The three of us had been inseparable for years. Jonnie and I lived next door to one another, and Skyler was frequently over. The two of them taught me everything I needed to know about football to help me become a good cheerleader. They would talk about strategies and plays while I’d try to keep up and then patiently rewind the footage to explain things I didn’t understand.
This fall there was a tension in the air, as if they didn’t want to look at one another and loathed being in the same room. Yet I noticed that when Jonnie wasn’t paying attention, Skyler couldn’t keep his eyes off her. It was like he was aware of her all the time.
He was my boyfriend. He should have his eyes on me, not her. He didn’t seem affected by my skimpy swimsuits or short cheerleading skirts either. I chalked it up to him being a gentleman. Now I wondered.
He also hadn’t kissed me in weeks. He was never one to make moves on me or try to get me to do things we shouldn’t. The few times we’d tried to make out over the years had been awkward and forced, as if we were only making out because it was expected as boyfriend and girlfriend.
Was there any validity to what my cheerleading friends had warned about? Did Skyler like Jonnie as more than a friend?
The whistle blew, and a yellow flag flew into the air. I tucked my poms behind my back and lifted on my toes, trying to get a better look. Skyler was right up in the face of a guy on the opposing team, and Jonnie was on the ground.
I couldn’t hear what Skyler was yelling, but more flags were thrown, and Skyler’s best friend Logan pulled him away from the opponent, backing him up, helmet to helmet like two deer with antlers locked. The rest of the team reorganized themselves fifteen yards behind the line of scrimmage.
There wasn’t much to cheer for in this situation. Go, fight, win? Fighting wasn’t helping right now. Fire up? They were already hotheaded. Let’s get ready to rumble? Not good either.
The other team scored a touchdown right before halftime, and I watched helplessly as our team hung their heads while jogging over to the locker rooms. I momentarily considered running over to the women’s locker room to comfort Jonnie, who entered alone.
Instead, I hurried onto the field with the rest of the cheerleading squad to perform our halftime show.