“Hey, Skyler, who’s the new cheerleader?” Logan nudged me with his elbow to snap my focus away from the center of the field. The humidity hadn’t set in yet and the dew-covered grass clippings clung to my practice cleats as he and I trudged to where our football team was gathering.
The cheerleaders clumped into little cliques, taking advantage of their tardy coach. If there had been a new student, they would all be gathered around her. Plus, I would have known about it. As captain of the varsity football team and star quarterback, I considered myself in the know about these things. I shielded my eyes with my hand to get a better look.
My girlfriend, Amberlyn, waved lightly from across the field and the girl beside her turned to look at me. My breath caught. It couldn’t be--
Her long, flowing blonde hair caught the morning sunlight and glinted in waves as it rested on the shoulders of her ratty practice jersey that looked exactly like the one I was wearing. Except where my jersey pulled against my pectoral muscles, hers pulled against—woah, I wasn’t going there. While the cheerleaders displayed their tanned calf and thigh muscles under little shorts, her white sweatpants, covered in grass stains from last season, hugged her hips and curves.
“That’s Jonnie,” I choked out, halting my march to the fifty-yard line.
“No flippin’ way,” Logan said. I swear his jaw dropped. How cliché. I realized mine was hanging open as well. I snapped my mouth shut and gulped.
Jonnie turned to give Amberlyn a quick hug then pulled the scrunchie from her wrist and gathered her long hair into a sloppy ponytail. She reached down to grab the duffle bag, shoulder pads, and helmet that rested by her feet and smiled as she jogged toward us.
“Hey guys,” Jonnie said. Her exuberance at seeing us shone on her face. Was she wearing makeup? To football practice? No, she just had a sprinkling of freckles across her sun-kissed cheeks. “Did ya have a good summer? I haven’t seen you in months.”
Neither of us answered her and I’m pretty sure our jaws hung open again.
“Guys?” Jonnie’s brow creased. “Are you okay?”
“I thought you were a new cheerleader,” Logan stammered.
“Yeah, right.” She pushed his shoulder and guffawed. “Could you imagine me as a cheerleader?”
“Uh huh,” Logan and I both answered. I finally gathered my wits and shook myself out of my stupor.
“Where’ve you been all summer?” I asked.
“I went downstate to stay with my dad for eight weeks,” she said. “Bummer that I didn’t get to hang out at the beach, but the good news is, my dad totally threw me like a million passes, so I kept in practice.” Her voice rose at the end in a sing-song way that gave me goosebumps.
“In practice? For what?” Logan scratched his head.
“Touchdowns, you dork. What’s wrong with you today?” She shook her head at Logan, then turned to me. “You’ll be happy to know that I’ve been running between three and ten miles every single day, other than that week when we had, like, three feet of rain. But I ran a couple of 5K’s too, so it made up the difference. I won’t let you down, Captain.” She punched me on the arm playfully.
“Touchdowns…” My voice trailed off as she ran toward the center of the field, calling out to some of the other guys.
“Jayce! Oh my gosh, I haven’t seen you in forever!” She ran right into his arms and he lifted her up, swinging her around.
“Chica! What’s up? You look amazing.” Jayce set her back on her feet and she reached over to hug Conner.
“Hello, beautiful,” Conner said. “When did you grow up?”
“You’re so funny, Conner.” Jonnie laughed and batted at his arm like a… like a girl. Like a flirtatious, teenage girl.
“Oh, crud,” I grumbled as the whole team gathered around the girl who was not our new cheerleader. She was our best wide receiver. “We have a problem.”