A/N: Wow. I kinda vanished didn't I? A whole lot happened in my life and things got in the way. Recently I found my hard copy of this chapter. I'm not entirely sure where I am going to take this from here, but I feel like I owe it to anyone still reading my story. I do plan on posting more for this and my next chapter will be a flashback of Josie and Don from a time before high school got in the way. I hope if anyone does read this, that they like it!


CHAPTER NINE

Josie sat away from the rest of the cheerleaders. Her breath came out in quick, ragged bursts. It was the first game of the season, and her first game since quitting the squad last year. The decision had been an imulsive one, brought on by her unwillingness to show even the slightest inkling of support for Don. But it was a decision that plagued her for the rest of the school year, and the summer leading up to their new one. Melody had taken Josie's resignation as a victory over the brunette. Her gloating, her smirking and her whispering had infuriated Josie into rejoining the team. Melody's rage contorted face was the greatest satsifaction Josie had felt in a long time; reason enough to keep cheering. However, Melody was not someone who stumbled for very long. Girls on the squad who had been Josie's friends, were now whispering with Melody. They alienated her, unwilling to take her back after her betrayal. Their defection to the dark side of the squad stung, occasionally bringing tears to her eyes. She pulled her long hair into a ponytail, took a deep breath and smoothed the wrinkles in her uniform.

"Josie."

Melody's cold pronunciation of her name made her wince.

"Captain," Josie hissed.

"We all know that Donnie isn't the greatest player when he's angry." The way she cooed his name boiled Josie to the core.

"He's not the greatest player any day. What's your point, Melody?" Josie growled.

Melody's heavilly penciled eyebrow arched as she puckered her lips. "I'm sure he would just DIE to hear you say that about him." The other girls snickered behind their hands. "We've all agreed that you should stay out of the focus, so Donnie can concentrate on the game."

"Can you please just get to the end, so we can stop talking to each other, please?" Josie sighed, too tired to maintain her cold anger.

"You and Sarah are trading places."

Josie jumped up from the bench. "WHAT? We've practiced all week with Sarah in behind! She's not a strong cheerleader!"

"Well, if you don't like it, quit. Again. We won't miss you. And neither will my boyfriend," Melody sneered.

"He may be your boyfriend, but you know nothing about Don. You don't know why he does anything he does, or how he really feels about his father," Josie whispered.

"Maybe not. But I know how he really feels about you, and that's all I care about." She could tell by the look on Josie's face that she'd struck a nerve. "What? You thought that he just pretends you don't exist? Only when you're around, sweetie."

"He talks about me? To you?" she croaked, unable to take anymore breaths. "What does he say?"

"Nothing nice. But everything he's told me about you doesn't come as a huge shock to me. I mean, you'd have to be a pretty serious screw up as a daughter to make your father up and leave you in the middle of the night."

Josie felt her heart completely freeze. "What did you just say?"

"Oh, you thought your secrets were safe with him, even if your friendship is over? Wow, you really are as stupid as we thought you were. Don will get a laugh out of that," Melody stated, chuckling to herself.

The room had begun to tilt as Melody spoke, but as the rest of the girls joined in on the laughter, Josie felt completely upside down. Blood rushed to her head so fast that she felt as if she were spinning. The forest green of their skirts began to bleed into the white of their shirts. She gasped for air as her throat closed around each breath. Melody continued to laugh as she turned her back on Josie. When Jose looked up and saw the other girl's perfect chestnut curls bouncing in their ponytail, she reached out and grabbed them in her hand. With all the force she could muster, she yanked the girl's head backwards. When she whirled back around to face Josie, she was met with a hard slap to the face. The crisp sound of palm to skin contact echoed through the silent room. Melody's shock froze her, an opportunity Josie seized to rush into the hall. Her sneakered feet carried her far down the corridor, her footfalls echoing too loudly to calm her. But when she finally stopped to catch her breath, she could hear no one following her. The salt of her tears burned her eyes as she tried to hold them back. More ragged breaths pushed from her lungs. They proved to be her undoing as she collapsed to the floor and began to sob. She pulled her knees in close to her chest, hoping to alleviate the pain of her betrayal.

"Josie?" The voice reached her ears as a whisper. "What happened?"

Her head jerked upward to look at the quarterback. "Don told her everything, Mike. All my years of deep, dark secrets just laid out for her. More ammunition. How can I face either of them now?"

Mike crouched in front of her, brushing hair from her eyes. "Melody told you this?"

"I see where you're going with this Mike. But she mentioned my dad. Only Don knew about my dad leaving in the middle of the night. He must have told her," she cried.

"She painted him as a villain I bet." Josie nodded. "Let me tell you a little secret of my own, Jos."

"Do you really think it will make me feel better?" she sighed.

He nodded. "Melody is a bitch. None of us think she's worth anything. That includes Don."

"Then why is he telling her things about me?" she inquired.

"My guess is he mentions mundane details about your past and she puts her own spin on them. He doesn't care about her like he does about you." She scoffed. "He does, Josie. But he's hurting, nursing some wounded pride. He let this go on too long. You both did. And now neither of you can just apologize."

"Do you want to be a shrink, Mike Winchell?" she asked with a smirk.

The smallest hint of a smile flickered across his lips. "I'm only sixteen Josie. I don't know what I want to be."

She put her hand on one of his padded knees. "Promise that none of them like her?"

Before Mike could respond, a voice laced with disgust tore through the moment. "What the hell am I seeing here?"

Mike stood to face Don, already attempting to diffuse the situation. "Don, I was just trying to cheer her up. Your girlfriend-"

"Forget it Mike. He doesn't give a shit about me anymore," Josie sighed, standing and brushing the back of her skirt. "I'm just gonna go."

Don's attention turned to her. "I didn't ask your opinion. I was talking to my friend."

"After a year, those are your first words to me? Screw you Don Billingsley. You think you are such a God in this school because you play football. I don't know if you've noticed or not, but you can't even hold onto the ball long enough to gain yards," she sapped, smiling when she saw his body stiffen. "Struck a nerve, did I?"

"Josie, don't do this because of Melody," Mike warned.

"No Mike, let her say what she's clearly been DYING to say to me for a year," Don challenged.

"That's not a wise choice Don," Mike sighed, knowing it wouldn't matter.

"It's fine man. There's nothing she has to say that could hurt my feelings," Don sneered. "Go ahead cheerleader."

She tried to hide the pain of him not saying her name, but she had a feeling she wasn't doing a very good job. "I had really hoped things wouldn't get this far. A large part of me wanted to find some way to get you back in my life. But here we are. You're lucky the whole team isn't here to listen to what I'm about to say."

Don folded his arms over his chest. "What are you talking about?"

"You told Melody about my father," she whispered, staring hard into his blue eyes. "I'm going to tell Mike about yours."

Panic flashed in Don's eyes. "Josie?"

"Josie," Mike warned again. "Stop. You're going to regret this tomorrow."

"Leave it, Mike. Do you want to know WHY Charlie Billingsley drinks so much?" she inquired, watching Don's face pale.

"Shut up Josie. I didn't tell anyone about your dad!" Don snapped. "I don't know how Melody found out about it!"

"Don's dad drinks because he can't stand him. Being drunk is the only way he can deal with his kid, because then he can forget what Don did," Josie stated, her upper lip curled into a sneer to hide the quivering of her lower one. "Yeah, my dad left because he was in ove his head and he didn't love us. But it's not MY fault he's gone. He left of his own accord. Don's mom on the other hand-"

She didn't get to finish. Before she could, Don's open palm connected with her face. The anger driving his blow sent so much force into it that she fell to her hands and knees. When she looked up, he winced at the tomato red welt on her cheek. All three teens were stunned silent and rendered momentarily motionless. Don moved first to help Josie to her feet. When she recoiled, he could feel another piece of his heart tear away to float dead in his chest. The sight of her cowering behind Mike's legs blurred his vision with tears. Blood pounded in his ears, so loud he couldn't hear what she said next. But the words formed on her lips were clear to him as he watched them move.

"Like father, like son."

"I'm sorry Josie," Don whispered.

"Go away Don. Please," she stated, climbing to her feet. "Please go before I saw more mean things. You told Melody about my dad. You broke my heart."

"You broke mine first," he confessed. "I meant what I said at the treehouse."

"Well a year is a long time to let love go. And that's what I did. It's over, Don. And it's probably better this way. All we've done lately is tear into each other and try to ruin us. And I'm too tired to keep it up," she said, rubbing her cheek and catching tears as they fell. "Good luck out there Donnie."

She turned on her heel and walked away from the two friends. Don turned to Mike.

"I'm sorry you had to be here for that."

"For what, Don?" Mike inquired, patting him on the back.

He visibly relaxed then, watching her walk down the hall. "Do you think she meant that? Us being over?"

"Not a chance. But the next time you two speak...be nice to each other, for God's sake!"

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