“This isn’t working.” I stepped back, hands on my hips, ready to give up. No matter what I did or how I explained the stunting technique, Preston wasn’t getting it. He was trying. His heart was in the right place, but he needed a guy to demonstrate the correct way to lift a cheerleader.
He needed Doug.
My next-door neighbor, Doug Wilcox, could do these stunts better than Preston and he was just a varsity football player. He’d been helping me with stunting since we were in elementary school when I wanted to pretend to be a cheerleader.
I’ve always loved cheerleading. We’d watch cheer competitions on sports networks and practice the moves in the back yard between our two houses. Doug inherently wanted to help me become a good cheerleader just like I inherently wanted to help him become a good football player.
Gender roles never really defined us. I played trucks in the sandbox and he played house with my Barbies. We threw baseballs and footballs back and forth, we played basketball in the driveway, and he helped me learn to do a back handspring. On rainy days we played video games or watched sports on the big screen television in my basement.
He was the closest thing I had to a brother. He was also the closest thing I had to a boyfriend. We tried to kiss once, back in sixth grade, just because we were curious what the fuss was all about. That didn’t work out very well. We bumped noses, had no idea what to do with our tongues, and his mouth tasted like pizza. Not the best first kiss experience, but I had nothing else to compare it to. As a senior in high school, I still had never kissed anyone else. To my knowledge, neither had he.
There had never been a moment when we looked at each other and suddenly thought the other was attractive, more that we’d always been there, like a sister and brother. But yeah, if I had to admit it out loud, as a man, Doug was smoking hot.
Most likely everyone in our high school thought of us as a couple. We sort of were. We rode the school bus together until he was old enough to get a car and then he drove us back and forth. That’s probably why neither of us had dated. Doug was mine and I was his. End of story. No other guy would think to look in my direction. And what girl would want to date a guy who spent every day with another girl? He was pretty much off the market. Fine by me. I didn’t want to lose my best friend.
Today, I needed my best friend to teach Preston how to do stunts.
Cheer camp had been last month, but Preston hadn’t joined the team until last week. He had the cheers down; he learned them quickly. He could tumble and flip and jump. I’d never seen anyone do six back handsprings in row and then end with a back tuck and come out of it smiling and cheering. He was going to add spunk and life and energy to our team. He was just having trouble with the stunts.
I thought I knew enough about these moves to teach them to him, but I was coming at them from a girl’s perspective.
I contemplated for a moment before stomping defiantly onto the football field and marching myself over to where Doug was practicing with Derek, his quarterback. Doug was a decent wide receiver, probably the best on his football team.
“I need your help.” Not caring that I was interrupting practice, I reached for his wrist and dragged him away. With wide eyes he tossed the ball to Derek and followed me without hesitation.
“Are you okay?” Always looking out for me, his first instinct was to protect me. His sultry voice was low and concerned, not even annoyed I was pulling him away from practice or wondering if he would get in trouble with his coach.
“You need to teach Preston how to do lifts.”
“The kid’s scrawny,” Doug said. “He’s never going to be able to lift a cheerleader.”
“You’d be surprised. He’s a gymnast, you know. You’ve never seen him up close. He just needs to learn the proper technique,” I reasoned. “You’re a guy. You can teach him.”
“I may be a guy but I’m not a miracle worker,” Doug grumbled. Still he followed me without question and a dozen cheerleaders watched in shock as I dragged a football player over to the sidelines.
“Doug, this is Preston. He needs you to teach him how to do lifts.” I held out my hand, presenting our new student like a game show host displaying a grand prize.