"Get in here, ladies! I ain't here t'play! If you can't keep up, then you better get ya self outta here!"
That was Velma Kelly, head captain of the Varsity cheerleading squad. Today was the first day of school, and marked the last first day of Velma's career in high school cheerleading. She was now a senior, and after four long years of fighting her way to the top, she was finally going to graduate this final year. Today was also the day where tryouts were being held for five lucky girls talented enough to make it. And it wasn't just anyone who made the squad. You had to get Velma Kelly's okay, and that was never an easy thing, because Velma's expectations were pushing impossible. But still, even if she didn't think they were fit to be on the squad, she still needed to pick five girls, and that meant that that day was going to be a long series of tiring routines.
The doors were opened and the girls piled into the gym, dressed in tank tops and shorts, preparing themselves for the worst. Velma, clad in an all black outfit which consisted of short shorts and a zip-up sweatshirt and white cheerleading sneakers, stood with her arms crossed in front of the girls. She watched, unamused, as they managed to set themselves up into a decent straight line. For a moment, there was a silence, as Velma gave them all a quick onceover. The silence was so awkward and unbearing that some of the girls began to giggle or smile nervously, recieving a glare from Velma. They all eventually kept their eyes down towards the floor, because it seemed that each time they looked up, they would be greeted by the dark eyes of Velma Kelly drilling into their own.
"I ain't here t'play," she repeated, one eyebrow cocked upwards in an unfazed manner. "My squad is the shit. I ain't puttin' you on this squad jus' 'cause you wanna be called a cheerleader." She paused for a minute to laugh bitterly, forcing the other girls to force nervous laughter. "I'm not an idiot, alright? Half you girls here can't even do a cartwheel. Half you girls... don't even know what a cartwheel is. An' for all the fatasses who think they're gonna be gettin' lifted up an' thrown around, you better think again, 'cause you're in for a rude awakening. I don't jus' put anyone up there, you gotta have the look, the talent, an' I get real pissed when lifts fall." She looked around slowly, and each time she made eye contact with a girl, they would smile or nod, afraid of what else there was to do. Three girls had already left the gym the minute Velma gave her little speech, and she merely watched them leave. They pretended not to notice, but they could feel her ice cold eyes burning into the back of their heads.
After six torturous laps around the school, and Velma threatening to add two more laps for every second a girl stopped, she led them through a series of warm ups, followed by jumps. She watched as each girl did double toe touches, spread eagles, and pikes. Almost half the girls were eliminated, as Velma didn't approve of how little the distance was between their floating bodies and the ground. "If you knew you couldn't jump... why the hell would you try out for cheerleadlin'?" she would constantly ask, causing the other girls to giggle.
One of the girls that stood towards the back, Liz, rolled her eyes and watched as Velma yelled at some blonde girl in the front row. She ran her fingers through her dark, straw like hair and turned to a girl with dark, red hair. "This is so dumb," she mumbled.
Annie bent down and stretched her back out, turning her head to look at Liz. "Remind me why we're here again?" she asked, slightly annoyed.
Liz bent down as well, just so they could make eye contact. "How many times I gotta tell ya, Annie?" she asked with impatience in her voice. "I lost a bet an' had t'try out for this dumb sport."
Annie sighed. "Well why're you complaining? Kelly ain't gonna put us on the squad. We ain't exactly Laker girls. 'Sides, ya lucky I'm even doin' this with you. I didn't lose a bet."
Liz pulled a cigarette from her back pocket and lit the tip of it, pulling a match from a box of lighters she had resting on one of the bleachers. Annie rolled her eyes and chuckled softly, as June, a tall, muscular girl walked over to them, bored of stretching by herself.
"Now what the hell's she doin' here?" Liz asked, looking at Annie, as if June was completely unaware that they were speaking of her.
June grabbed a cigarette that she had tucked behind her ear and held it out to Liz, who gladly lit it for her. "Thought this was karate tryouts," she said glumly, as she brought the cigarette to her dark lips and took a long drag. Annie stifled a laugh and took the cigarette from Liz's lips, inhaling it quickly before giving it back to her.
Liz scanned the girls who were actually paying attention to Velma's commandments, and sighed, smoke exiting her lips as she did so. "Damn, Kelly's got these girls whipped. Why're they all so fuckin' afraida her?"
Annie looked around as well, and her eyes fell on Mona, a tiny, dark skinned girl, with wild, curly hair that was thrown up into a ponytail. She kept her eyes on Velma's every movements, making sure to get each part of the routine perfect. She was the perfect size for a flyer, and she had the natural look of a cheerleader. Big smile, nice, clean movements, and a loud, obnoxious voice that could be heard over everyone. Liz laughed, blowing smoke out towards Mona's direction, who let out a small cough and moved further away from them. "Someone's a perfectionist," she mumbled, watching as Mona repeatedly tried a cheer, trying to get it completely flawless.
"Dontcha know? 'Er mom was some famous cheerleader an' she wants 'er t'be the same way," June said. "She'll probably make it. She's crazy at them backflips."
Before Liz or Annie could get a chance to say another word, Velma put her hand up in the air, which was enough to shut the other chattering girls up. "Split ya selves in t'four groups o'three. Don't make me choose 'em for ya, 'cause this ain't the third grade."
Annie, Liz, and June all looked at each other and shrugged, as they slowly formed their own group. Mona stood by herself and looked around, until a girl with short dark hair, and a blonde skinny girl who Mona didn't even think spoke English, joined her as well, and they were instantly a group. The other girls grouped themselves as well, and Velma picked the first group at random, which was Annie, Liz, and June.
She sat down and her eyes met Liz, and they both exchanged smirks. Liz and Velma had been friends for a while, and Velma was well aware of Liz's reason for trying out, but didn't say anything, just because the thought of Liz's audition was slightly amusing. She looked over at June and Annie; who looked just as clueless, and gave them a nod, letting them know that they could start when they were ready.
The three girls looked at each other for a moment, and they all simultaneously took a deep breath, before Liz spoke up. "Wait, what the hell're we doin'?"
Velma rolled her eyes and stood back up. "First off, gimme the fuckin' cigarette," she said, grabbing it from Liz and holding it between her own two fingers, saving it for later. "The cheer that I jus' fuckin' taught ya. Weren't you payin' attention?"
Liz looked at Annie, who looked at June, who shook her head. "Nope."
"Oh Christ," Velma mumbled. "Y'know what? Make up ya own fuckin' cheer. It's original an' it'll be entertainin'." She sat again, and raised her eyebrows, giving them each a warning glare. The other girls stood silently and watched, amused, yet afraid, at the situation, and of what Velma's reaction was going to be afterwards.
The three girls exchanged glances and stood there for a couple of seconds. "What sport is this?" Annie asked.
"Football," she hissed, strumming her long fingernails against the desk she was sitting at. Her nails were almost always painted a deep red, but it was a rule for cheerleaders to not have their nails painted. Besides, red wasn't their team color.
They all took a deep breath again, and Liz started off the cheer, as the two other girls tried to follow. "Blue an' white!" She clapped three times. "We're the shit!" She kicked her leg up, as did Annie and Liz.
"They got our ball!" Annie chimed in. She clapped her hands and bent over, before snapping back up. "We want it back!"
"Go team!" June yelled effortlessly, sticking her middle fingers up. "Fuck the others!"
After a couple of minutes of weak words being thrown into chants, Annie fell into a split, Liz stood up and punched her fist into the air, and June kicked her leg up into a sloppy heel stretch. They all looked at each other, desperately hoping they were done. Silence fell upon the other girls, as they all watched Velma, waiting to see what she would say.
She looked up towards the ceiling and rolled her eyes, as if she was cursing the heavens for having to deal with this nonsense, and some of the other girls giggled at this. She gave them a questioning look, the lit cigarette still between her fingers. "I'm gonna need t'get drunk after that one," she said weakly, taking a long drag on the cigarette. "Next."
They quickly cleared the area, and Mona, the blonde girl, and the dark haired girl followed. Velma eyed them, and smiled as she saw the dark hair standing uncomfortably, trying not to make eye contact with Velma.
"Since when're you in t'cheerleadin', Veronica?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest. "Tryin' t'follow in the footsteps of ya sister, hm?" She didn't give her a chance to finish, and her eyes fell on the blonde girl. A puzzled expression washed over her face and she sat forward, as the girl's cheery smile stayed pasted onto her pale face.
"D'you even speak English?"
"Yes!" she responded in some foreign accent. She spoke slowly, as if someone had taught her this one English phrase and she continuously repeated it, not even knowing the meaning. "I try out... for cheer."
Some of the other girls stifled giggles, and Velma just looked over to Mona, who stood clean the entire time, and that boosted Velma's hopes a little. They had all seemed like failures so far, and Mona was the only one she had some hope in. But then again, the girl constantly got on her nerves, and she didn't know if she could handle having her on her squad. Some of the other seniors who were already on the team offered to help her with the tryouts, but she refused; she wanted to do this by herself, and didn't want to look like an idiot when she pulled five untalented girls onto the squad. So Mona's good posture was a nice thing to see and calmed her down a bit.
She nodded at them and the three of them started, at first at different times, but then all became in unison. Veronica was only good because she was a performer already, the blonde girl was alright, but she didn't seem like a cheerleader. Maybe a ballet dancer; her moves were just too slow and graceful for cheerleading. And Mona, although she wouldn't say it out loud, was close to perfect. Her arms and legs were straightened perfectly, until they actually had to bend, and each move possessed perfect cheer qualities. She had good facial expressions a well, which was always a good sign, and was what judges were looking for. Her voice also projected very nicely, and it wasn't as annoying and obnoxious like she usually acted. Once the cheer was finished, Velma gave them all a slight nod, trying not to let them see what she was feeling.
The rest of the groups went, but they didn't really strike Velma as anything, and didn't really give her anything to remember them by. Following the cheer auditions, Velma wanted to try lifts next. She went through the girls and made a couple of lift groups, not knowing who was experienced in what. She put June, Liz, Annie, and Mona in one group, and as she put the rest together, Annie and Liz looked at each other and began to laugh. "I'm gonna drop this bitch on 'er head," she mumbled to Annie, not caring whether or not Mona heard.
She turned around and gave Liz a dirty look, turning back around to face forward. "You better not," she said.
Liz nodded. "Watch me. While ya up in the air, I'm jus' gonna pop ya up an' throw you in a random direction, an' see where ya end up." She looked at Annie and she snickered at the thought.
"You better not!" Mona repeated, as Velma came over. Mona quickly straightened up and Velma put June in the back as the backspotter, and Annie and Liz as the bases. She quickly went over the counts with them, and showed Annie and Liz how to put her up into a prep position, and June where to put her hands and how to guide her into a comfortable standing position. This wasn't Mona's first time being a flyer, so it was easy to teach her.
"Alright ready?" she asked, as Liz gave a careless shrug. "5,6,7,8!" At that moment, they all forgot the directions given to them, and all just threw Mona into the air in a sloppy manner. She squealed and waved her arms wildly, trying to catch her balance. Liz held her right foot and watched people outside, instead of looking up at the flyer, like she was supposed to. Annie held her other foot, with one arm on her knee, trying to balance her out, as Mona teetered in the air. June just kept her fingers wrapped around her little ankles and looked at Velma's disapproving face.
"Okay, bring 'er down," she said, before quickly remembering that they didn't go over cradling out, nor would Velma teach them that day. "Never mind! I got it." She reached her arms out to Mona and laced her fingers with hers, as she slowly brought her down to the ground. She went on to the next group, where the Hunyak was a flyer, and was surpisingly good at it. She had good balance and nice, graceful moves, and Velma saw some hope in her. She moved on to the group after that, and then the last group, and made mental notes in her head. Finally, as the girls went over some of their jumps and cheers they'd been taught, Velma observed them and went through all the tryouts in her head.
For some reason, all she could remember was the first two groups that went during the cheer auditions. The first group... she didn't know what that was, but that really didn't count because they just made a cheer up on the spot. Then again, they weren't listening, and she only ran a squad that listened to her, and possessed order and class. But if they took the curses down a notch and actually tried to smile, it might work. Annie's split wasn't that bad, and June's heel stretch could use a little work, and Liz... well, Liz would always need a little help, but besides that, she saw a little something in them. And for their first time lifting, it wasn't that bad. Mona was a definite; she was talented and she listened, and she wasn't an annoying suck up like she pictured. And as for the fifth girl, she didn't know. Definetely not Veronica. No, she wouldn't give that part to her sister. But, maybe that other girl she was with, that went up after Mona. Kaitlyn, was it? Katherine? Something like that. Didn't matter anyway, she didn't need to know names. She was a good dancer, but was she fit to be a cheerleader? She was a typical ballerina, but that meant she was flexible, and could probably do almost anything up in the air. Velma considered these possibilites and dismissed herself, announcing that she'd be back in less than an hour with the list.
"Well what the fuck're we supposed t'do til then, eh?" Liz asked, and Velma gave her a rough shove as she walked out the door.
"Work on ya cheer," she told her, turning around to face her. She left the girls alone, and they all turned to look at each other. Liz walked off into a corner with Annie and June, and leaned against the wall.
"Where the hell did Kelly put my cigarette?" she asked, looking in her empty cigarette box. She sighed, aggrivated, and threw it down on the floor, looking over at June. "An' why didn't she take yours? Where'd she put yours anyway?"
June shrugged. "I put mine out b'fore we went up."
Annie ruffled the top of Liz's hair and gave her a small smile. "Aw don't sweat it. You'll survive ten minutes without a cigarette."
Liz kicked her lightly, as she shoved her hands into the pockets of her shorts and leaned up against the cold, hard wall. After about fifty minutes of useless conversations that were there just to kill time, Velma returned with a folded paper in her hand. The girls stopped talking and all looked over to her, and began to immediately swarm her. She put her hands up in the air and pushed past them, as if she was taming wild beasts. "Calm ya selves down, you animals," she yelled over their chatter, and grabbed a thumbtack and posted the list onto the wall. She quickly got out of the center of the group and everyone swarmed around it. Most girls' smiles faded and looked extremely disappointed, and they slowly walked out, tears forming in their eyes.
Mona let out a squeal of excitement and ran over to Velma, throwing her arms around her neck and hugging her tightly. "Thank you!" she squeaked, as Velma rolled her eyes and tried to pull her off.
"Yeah, yeah, paws off," she said. "Ya did good, kid. Practice t'morrow."
Mona nodded, still with a huge smile on her face, and quickly left the gym, running home to tell her mother. Katalin basically had the same reaction as Mona, and clapped her hands in delight. She looked over at Velma and they made eye contact for a moment, but Velma looked away and watched the other girls look at the list. She approached her and touched her hand lightly, forcing Velma to acknowledge her.
"Thank, you," she said slowly, nodding at her, as if that would help her understand her more. Velma looked at her thoughtfully, as if she was going to say something somewhat nice, because she was a little touched at her gesture, but quickly hardened up liike she always did.
"Work on ya English," she told her. "Practice's at two t'morrow. Don't be late."
She smiled and nodded. "Yes," she said slowly, as if she was just guessing that was the right answer.
The rest of the girls had left and only Annie, Liz, and June were left over. They both turned around with different expressions. Annie looked somewhat proud, June looked amused, as if this was all a big joke, and Liz just looked pissed off.
"Why would you put us on the squad?" Liz asked, her lip curled.
Velma shrugged, as she walked over to the list and examined it, before tearing it down and looking back over at the girls. "Well why not? That was some helluva cheer ya showed," she said, a sarcastic grin forming on her lips.
"But... we were terrible," Annie said.
"Then I'll have t'whip ya into shape." She stared at Annie with a serious glare, which turned into a dangerous smile. "...It'll be fun."
Liz threw her hands up into the air and just laughed at the situation, still unable to believe what had just happened. "What the hell's goin' through that heada yours, Kelly? We ain't cheerleaders."
"You get mad easily," Velma told her. "Anger's a good thing t'have in cheerleadin'. Ya get pissed off that we're losin' a game, or if a lift falls during a competition. The madder ya get, the more spirit ya put into ya cheer. An' that's what we need--spirit." She almost whispered the last word to her, and she looked over at Annie. "You. That split wasn't all that bad. If I get ya t'stretch at least five times a day, it'll be flawless by the time I start makin' the competition routine."
Her eyes fell on June, and she raised her eyebrows thoughtfully. "You're strong, an' ya tall. You'll make lifts look real good, an' that's what we need. I have my reasons, I didn't pick these names outta my ass. You all suck now, but once I get through with ya, there might be some hope."
She looked at the three of them for a moment, before crumpling the paper up and tossing it into the garbage can. "Practice starts at two t'morrow," she told them, raising an eyebrow once she mentioned the time. "Don't be late."
Velma began to walk towards the door and she turned around, looking at the girls who were still gaping. They all stared at each other for a minute, before a mischevious smirk all formed on their lips. Liz snickered, Annie shook her head, and June chuckled softly. Velma winked at them and headed towards the door again. This was going to be an unforgettable year of cheerleading.