"You want me to what?"

"Come on, B. Just try out with me? Please?"

Bronwyn Fleuger's forkful of smothered and covered hash browns was stopped halfway to her mouth as she stared in disbelief at one of her best friends. Meredith knew this was going to be a hard sell, but she hadn't expected this kind of reaction. She really needed some support if she planned on acheiving her next big goal, and she figured that if she just appealed to Bronwyn she'd get it from the dependable redhead. She hadn't really considered what was coming next, though.

"Mere," Bronwyn started, "have you thought about what the Line would say about that? I've just established myself as one of the guys, and you want me to try out for the one section of the band they either date or make fun of? I'd be worse off than where I began!"

Meredith sighed. She knew B was right. The male drummers measured their esteem for the Color Guard by the length of the girls' legs and the lack of length in their uniform skirts. In fact, many of the band members saw it that way. The Guard was the cheerleading squad of the band; shallow, attractive girls without enough musical talent to actually play an instrument. The bandies who held that belief conveniently ignored the small detail that all members of the Guard played in concert band or jazz ensemble during the off-season, and some were rather accomplished musicians. That was simply irrelevant to them, but not to Mere. Her passion for the music she played on her flute made it impossible to stiffly mark time on the field. She felt it and wanted to move to it. She wanted to personify the grace and the intensity of every piece the Brookwood Marching Cavaliers performed.

She wanted to be a member of the Guard, no matter the stigma. She'd fight the whispers if that's what it took. But she understood that Bronwyn simply couldn't. Too much was at stake for her during their junior year. She needed the respect of the Line if she ever hoped to be captain their senior year. Sure, B didn't talk about it, but the two girls sitting across the table from each other at the Waffle House knew that was B's dream. Mere would have to count her out.

"Look, I'll go to your tryouts, wait outside the door, and cheer you on like a good friend does, but please don't ask me to touch a flag. Please, Mere."

"No B, it's okay. You've got enough on your hands with your own tryouts and with Tony." Meredith giggled as the cute drummer's name rolled off her tongue. Tony wasn't her type at all. Ben, her boyfriend, was. But Tony seemed to be a thorn in Bronwyn's side, and it was almost a source of amusement to Mere when B and Tony got into yet another one of their screaming matches. It was the ultimate power struggle, and it was poised to only get worse next year.

Bronwyn's eyes rolled at the thought of him. "Don't remind me. But hey, thanks for understanding. And if you need to vent about tryouts..."

"I know, I know. I'll come running to you," Meredith finished with a small smile. "Thanks."

The two friends finished up their meals and were headed to the counter to pay when the door swung open and a group of three girls walked in and assessed the place with slight disdain. They were a year older than Meredith and Bronwyn, and easily recognizable to both. Bronwyn leaned over and whispered, "Dana and her cronies. The Guard bitches. Do you really want to put up with that for a whole school year?"

Meredith just watched them claim a table and pick up their menus, never breaking in their conversation about upcoming tryouts. The girls had a reputation for being maneating, backbiting elitists who talked down to just about anyone who crossed their paths. She wondered if they even knew she hoped to join them next year. She wondered if she'd eventually be accepted, or if she was setting herself up for a year full of drama, just like B's.

"Yeah, B. I do. I'm going to try out for the Guard, and whatever happens, happens." Meredith nodded for emphasis and followed her friend out the door, unaware that Dana heard her...

...and was very unhappy with this revelation.