“I can only be over here for half of practice. I promised my football coach I’d get my pads on and run some plays with them.”
Underlying message was this little rally gripe session couldn’t last long. But the girls needed a chance to shoot daggers at me before we could get past the hostility.
“I’ve explained the whole story to Preston and Emma, but you girls deserve to know the truth.”
“We know most of the story,” Bella said. “Derek told us.”
“Half the school told us,” Serena mumbled. “Every football player in every class yesterday made it clear you didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
“We forgive you,” Carli said. “We want to get past this just as much as you do.”
“Change of subject,” Coach Briggs said. “How is your football coach handling your involvement with the cheerleaders?”
“Coach Bryant’s not happy about me splitting my time. But I think he’d rather have half of me than me leave his team completely and join with you. He doesn’t want to lose his best wide receiver. Gotta give you guys something to cheer for on Friday nights.”
“What about basketball season? Have you thought that far ahead?”
“Yep.” I nodded. She was asking a loaded question. There was no way I could divide my time between the two sports. Basketball games were twice a week and cheer competitions were almost every weekend.
“And?” Coach Briggs and the cheer team waited with raised eyebrows. My heart raced. What should I say?
“On the last day of football season, I’m officially… a cheerleader.”
“Yes!” There was a collective excitement among the team.
Emma jumped into my arms and pressed a kiss to my lips.
“Gee, if I’d known it was that easy to get you to kiss me, I would have announced that weeks ago.”
“Oh, shut up.” Emma pushed me playfully. “You can barely stop kissing me.”
“True story.” I grabbed her around the waist and, with a quick bounce, had her on my shoulders, where she belonged. “Okay, we’ve now cut our practice time in half. Let’s get some stunts organized so I can get onto the field and pretend to be a football player for a little while.”
“You’re a really good football player.” Coach Briggs patted me on the arm. “Or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
“Thanks, Coach.” I held out my hand in a sweeping gesture and said, “Your team, Coach.” Just like a football captain. I wondered if they were starting to think of me as their cheer captain. Probably not far from the truth.
“Okay, Preston and Doug in the back with your flyers. Bases, get in position. You all know what to do. Let’s go.” Coach Briggs clapped her hands to wake everyone up, and we all fell into place.
If someone had told me six months ago that I would be on the sidelines as a cheerleader, I would have laughed. Now, I knew I was where I was meant to be.