"Here you go, Jo," Daniel said as he walked
towards me with a bottle in his hand. He pulled the bottom of his
t-shirt up and placed it over the bottle cap before twisting it
off. His round face was covered in freckles and scrunched up as
he handed me the bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade, or "Bitch Beer"
as the guys called it.
I stuck my tongue out at him and reached up to ruffle his dark red curls on top of his head but he dodged just in time. I started to follow after him, but decided to sit contently where I was on the tailgate of Tyler's truck. My best friend, Leah, stood beside me with a half drunk bottle in her hand. I raised my bottle to hers and they clinked before I took a long swig.
"Better not let your cheer coach see you drinking that in your uniform, she might take away your pom-poms!" Leah smirked at me.
"Bitch," I said as I cut my eyes to her and smiled.
I wasn't a cheerleader. In fact, I pretty much hated all of the cheerleaders. I was on dance team. Not that it was much better. My small group of friends had given me hell about it ever since I tried out last year as a sophomore. This was my second year on the team and they were showing no signs of letting up.
I couldn't blame them really. It was actually quite humorous, ME being on the dance team. Dancing and cheering at football and basketball games for the stupid jocks of our school. If you had told me 2 years ago I'd be wearing a blue and gold uniform with glitter on my face I would've laughed hysterically in your face. And maybe even punched you.
Nonetheless, here I was wearing the silly pleated skirt that was entirely too short and matching blue and gold ribbons tied in a perfect bow around my ponytail of soft cascading chesnut brown curls. And true to form, the number "68" was painted neatly on my left cheek to show support for my favorite football player. Regardless of all that, I still felt like the same person I'd always been. Sure, being on dance team had increased my popularity a bit, but to the majority of the "popular" kids I was still that invisible chubby girl who hung out with her weird friends who they wouldn't spit on if we were on fire.
Then why put myself through the torture of dressing up and having my yearbook picture permanently portray me as one of the mindless clones for all of eternity? Because I'm a dancer. I love to dance. I'd taken dance since I was 6 years old. Tap, ballet, jazz, you name it. And I was good at it. But I realized a few years back that my dream of dancing professionally, of getting accepted into some pristine academy and spending my young adult life dancing for an audience, was never going to happen. I didn't have the body of a dancer. I had always been the chubby girl in class, and though I lost most of my baby fat as I got older, I still wasn't built like the lanky stick thin ballerinas. I had hips. And I was busty. And although my butt looked fabulous in my favorite pair of jeans, it didn't resemble the body I wanted -- no, NEEDED to fulfill my dreams.
I tried crash dieting a few times, but I soon realized there wasn't much I could do to change. I had a womanly shape, and short of surgery there wasn't much that could be done about it. Two years earlier I had dropped out of dance. It was too hard watching the girls in my class recieve all the wonderful opportunites that I so badly wanted. So I dropped out. But I was still a dancer. I still loved it more than anything. And I still wanted to dance.
So at the end of my freshman year I signed up for the senior high dance team tryouts. My friends thought I was insane and teased me mercilessly. Hell, I thought I was insane, too. I almost backed out as I walked into the gym and all the perfect Barbie Doll girls of my school looked down their noses at me like I was a nobody. I was a nobody. I always had been. And that was fine, because when I danced, I was SOMEBODY. So I sucked it up, ignored the whispers and stares, and danced my heart out. And of course, I made it. I never really doubted that I would, I was better than any of the girls there, even the senior girls who had been on the team for three years.
So here I was now, a junior, wearing this ridiculous outfit for the second year in a row. But I didn't mind. I also didn't mind my friends' endless teasing. And I didn't mind that aside from a few girls who were actually very sweet, most of the girls on my team didn't even acknowledge that I existed. All of it was worth it to be able to dance.
"Aw, you know I love you," Leah chimed in over my thoughts. "Hey, maybe I should tryout! Then we could wear that stupid skirt together!" she teased as she thrust her drink into my hand before she kicked her leg up as high as she could and jumped up and down clapping like a cheerleader mockingly. I couldn't help but laugh as she plastered on a fake smile while her short blond hair whipped around her face in wild waves.
I looked on at my best friend enviously, wishing I could be as wild and carefree as she was. Leah had never cared about what anyone else thought, which is why I knew even though she teased, she really didn't care whether I was on dance team or on the chess team. I had always wished I could be like Leah. We'd become best friends in first grade and she had been lighthearted and trouble free for as long as I'd known her. She was a free spirit and just went with the flow. She was small and petite, like a pixie, and she had a style all her own. Tonight she was wearing a faded pair of blue jeans with holes ripped in them from top to bottom and colorful tights underneath. Her shirt was an old vintage bowling shirt that she had found at a thrift store. It was turquoise and had the name "Carl" embroidered over the left breast. Her look was finished with a simple pair of converse sneakers. She always looked adorable in her crazy outfits. If I tried wearing something like that, I'd look absolutely ridiculous.
"Leah, stop before you hurt yourself and I have to laugh at you," Daniel laid a hand on Leah's shoulder as he walked back up with a beer in his hand.
"Har-dee-har-har," Leah mocked, elbowing him in his soft stomache.
I laughed as Daniel bent down quickly then effortlessly picked Leah up over his shoulder with one arm while taking a drink of his beer with the other. Leah squirmed and shrieked as she beat her tiny fists against Daniel's back. He chuckled, amused, and winked at me.
Daniel had become friends with Leah and I when he moved here in the fifth grade. We were all in the same class and fate sat him in the desk right between Leah and I. We all grew up as best friends, and Daniel looked out for the two of us like a big brother. There were only a few awkward moments in our friendship where the boy/girl thing got in the way, and it was usually when one of us were dating someone and jealously would rise. Daniel had admitted to me last summer that he had feelings for me, and while I loved him dearly, I couldn't see risking the beautiful friendship we had. Things seemed fine between us now, but they sometimes got a little awkward.
Just then I heard a yell and Tyler ran up, smacking Leah's ass as he flew by before jumping up onto the tailgate of his truck beside me. He was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a West Valley Panthers t-shirt. His chin length brown hair was damp and disheveled and he tossed it out of his eyes before he reached over and grabbed the bottle from my hand, downing half of the drink in one swig before handing it back to me.
"Jesus, I'd have to drink like thirty of those just to get a buzz!"
I raised my eyebrows then rolled my eyes before wiping off the rim of the bottle, pretending to be disgusted.
"Aw, Joey, thanks for being my number one fan!" he said as poked my cheek with his index finger where the number "68" was painted on.
It was true, I had Tyler's football number on my cheek. But that was only because he was the only football player that I really knew. "Yeah, well, I figured if I didn't cheer for you, nobody would," I said pretending to feel sorry for him.
Tyler came into our group shortly after Daniel. Sure Daniel became fast friends with Leah and I, but naturally he was going to make a guy friend. That guy friend happened to be Tyler. Leah and I didn't like Tyler much at first, because...well, as a fifth grader he was kind of mean. He picked on Leah for being so short and made fun of me for being so chubby. He even pushed me off the swingset once and I fell and broke my arm. It took a while, but we eventually accepted him into the group because he had become Daniel's best friend.
As we got older it became easier to like Tyler. Although he was kind of a smartass and cocky, he was funny and a lot of fun to be around. He still teased me and Leah endlessly, but it was all in good fun. He, too, had become one of our closest friends, and we knew he'd never do anything to hurt either of us.
It was a shock to all of us when he joined the football team this year. We made fun of him for it almost as much as they all made fun of me for being on dance team. None of us had ever been real joiners, and for him to join up with all the stupid jocks of our school was almost as unbelievable as me dancing with the Barbie Clones. And surpisingly, Tyler was really good. It was his first year playing but he had already started the first two games of the season.
Daniel finally set Leah down and she walked dizzily over to me as all the blood rushed out of her head. "Ha!" she exclaimed, "You said CHEER! I thought you didn't cheer, you 'DANCED'?!" she said using air quotes, taunting me.
"Well, you can dance for me, too, if you want," Tyler smirked as he reached over and pretended to lift up my skirt.
I smacked his hand away, "Gross!!" I screeched. Leah rolled her eyes as she tipped her bottle up. Daniel busted up laughing and high fived Tyler who was squealing like a hyena.
I rolled my eyes but laughed with them. I loved these people, they were my best friends. We had somehow all come together for a reason. We came from the same walks of life, lower middle class families just trying to get by. We were all nobodies. And that was fine. Because we were somebody to each other