“Dude, there’s no way you’re going to be able to lift a cheerleader.” I didn’t even bother reaching my hand out to shake Preston’s. He had moved into our school district a few weeks ago and made ripples in the status quo by joining the cheerleading team. The first guy in the history of Grand Haven’s high school sports to become a cheerleader.
“I’m stronger than I look.” Preston put his hand on his hip and pouted, actually pouted. Who does that? Maybe I was just comparing his size to football players.
“If I’m going to teach you technique, you have to agree to come with me to the weight room.” I knew enough about cheerleading to know he was going to be a great addition to the team. His tumbling skills outperformed most gymnasts. But he needed some serious upper body strength if he was going to handle lifting these girls.
“You want me to come with you to the weight room?” Preston raised his eyebrows. “With all those sweaty guys?”
“You got a problem with sweaty guys?” I let my question hang in the air while he stood in the sun with perspiration on his forehead. Maybe I was being a jerk, but he needed to grow up.
Preston glanced around at the eleven girls gathered around him, all of whom were a least a head shorter than him and had curves in all the places he and I would never have.
“Newsflash, you are a sweaty guy. And if you want to be a cheerleader you need to learn how to be an athlete. Takes more than backflips to cheer as well as these girls do.” Okay, maybe that was bordering on insulting, but he got the point.
“I am an athlete. I’ve taken gymnastics lessons since I was four. I just need to learn the technique.”
“Fine, which one of these girls is your flyer?”
“Your flyer. The girl you’re going to be in charge of lifting. If you don’t have a perfect connection with her, you’ll drop her. Lesson number one in cheering. Your flyer doesn’t hit the ground. If she falls, you better be underneath her. Because you need to work on your upper body strength, you’d better choose the smallest girl on this team to be your flyer. Which one of you is shortest?” I looked around at the girls. “Serena? You’re short and small. Do you want to train as Preston’s flyer?”
“Um… sure.” Serena bit her lower lip and allowed her eyes to rove Preston up and down.
“Don’t worry, we’ll start off with some easy stuff and once he builds up strength”—I looked at him pointedly— “And he will if I have anything to say about it—then we’ll try some more difficult moves.”
“Okay, if you say so.” Serena stepped closer to Preston and wrapped her arms around his waist. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders.
I titled my head to the side, evaluating the two of them. “Yeah, this could work. Let’s head to the weight room.” I started to turn toward the field to go tell my coach I was cutting out early and would be in the weight room, but Preston stopped me.
“But… we’re in the middle of cheer practice. I can’t just leave.”
“Yes, you can.” Several girls, including the cheer coach echoed the sentiment.
Their coach, Mrs. Briggs stepped forward. “For you, this is cheer practice.”
“Fine.” Preston almost stomped his foot in reluctant acceptance and started to follow me. The girls stayed on the sidelines.
“Uh, I need Emma and Serena too.” I raised my eyebrows at them. “How am I supposed to demonstrate the moves without my flyer.” I held out my hand to Emma and she took it without hesitation. We didn’t let go until reaching the middle of the field and I had to grab my gear bag. I explained to Coach Bryant that I was needed in the weight room and he didn’t question my departure.
On our way up to the school the realization hit me. I just held Emma’s hand, like I was her boyfriend. A tiny smile crept onto my face. That could be cool.