It was lunchtime in Wessex High. Unique felt like she was at the top of her game. This afternoon was going to be her moment of truth for who gets to be the new cheerleading captain. Of course, she knew it was going to be her. No one else had the leadership skill or quality to take the role of cheer-dominatrix and bring the school a first place, second place, or some kind of place trophy. Nothing was going to get in her way this time. Unique took a deep, confident breath then applied some lipgloss to her lips before smiling cheerfully and opening the heavy, red gym doors. The minute she opened them, however, Daryl was in the midst of leaving. It was apparent that he was still upset about Nicki and her sudden move to Los Angeles, but to hell with that girl. Unique was always more confident than Nicki when it came to her body and her looks. So what if Nicki was gone? Daryl should get over her and fall for a real woman. She was ambitious just the way he likes, she had a beautiful body, and she was going to be the captain. A captain always gets her way and access to multiple perks: passing grades just to stay on the squad, sponsors from all around, and hot team player boyfriends. In fact, her first goal after she's declared captain is getting Daryl Joseph as her main squeeze and possibly her first lover. Nicki probably spoiled Daryl rotten; otherwise, he wouldn't even care if she was gone.

"Hey, Daryl, you been alright?" Unique asked in a soothing, friendly voice.

"Yeah," Daryl sighed, looking into Unique's eyes. He felt something off with this girl; she was normally angry whenever he saw her.

"That don't sound alright to me. What's wrong really?" she asked, caressing his arm then placing her hand on her shoulder.

"Nothing, I'm jus' confused," Daryl answered in somewhat honesty.

"C'mon, boy, tell me," Unique probed.

"I don't get how Nicki people jus' up and decide to move clear-across country. Like really?" Daryl questioned, furrowing his eyebrows. "The thing about it is she moved right when she came back from wherever the hell ya'll went for camp."

"Georgia," Unique interjected.

"Whatever," Daryl said, rolling his eyes and preparing to stomp off.

Unique placed a hand on his chest and cooed, "Hey, hey. You know, you're not the only one who's confused about this. I wouldn't be surprised if she knew from the beginning that she was movin'. I mean, what kind of parent doesn't tell their child that they're moving to another state that isn't within driving distance?"

"Real talk," Daryl nodded, agreeing with the girl in front of him.

"I mean, if you think about it, what could Nicki gain from tellin' nobody that she was leavin'? You know, Los Angeles is the home of a bunch of famous people and cheerleaders there enter nationals every year no matter which team sucks ass. She like dancin', right?"

"Yeah," Daryl answered, not quite seeing how dancing relates to Nicki moving to Los Angeles.

"Well, while she's in LA doin' her thing, mommy dearest might try to put her up for choreography. Once Nicki gets recognized, she'll be meetin' other guys and won't have to worry about breaking up with you later. It's almost like a plan. Let's say she wasn't gonna do dancin' for a career, she still got cheerleadin' and there's probably hundreds of high schools in California alone that'd take her under their wing. She'll get to nationals, win some trophy, and she'll forget all about this school like it was a dream but with black people in it. See, Nicki can do anything she wants in LA. Nationals, music video fame, rich boyfriends? Think about it. Nicki's probably in the best spot of her life, but what if she already knew all of that? She had to know somethin'; otherwise, there'd be no reason to leave. She could have just as easily told her daddy she wanted to stay here with Eda and Farah. She could've even said she wanted to stay with you, but she didn't even try to fight her daddy back. Don't get her twisted. I think she knew from the start, so I'm not mad that she left. Fact, I wish her the best."

With that, Unique left Daryl in a daze and entered the gym with a devious smile. She saw two of her best and only friends in school waving at her and sauntered over to them in her new excitement. After a few days pass, she'll have Daryl eating out of the palm of her hands. It was all a matter of time, especially with what she just told him about her number one rival. Yeah, Nicki was in the best spot of her life at the worst time.

"Whatchu smilin' all big like that fo'?" one of Unique's friends asked. Her name was Sherice (a.k.a. "Sherry Cola") and she usually had a boyfriend every week.

"Let's see. Now that Nicki's gone and there's no one to run against me for captain, I don't have a reason not to smile anymore. Fact, as far as I'm concerned, this whole school and whoever likes that deceivin' hussy can kiss my ass."

"Alright, ya'll," a tall girl with curly hair greeted, walking in the gym with a paper. "I have some good news, bad news, and truly ugly news for this year. Which one ya'll wan' hear first?"

"What's the ugly news?" Eda asked, taking a sour straw from Farah's pack.

"We don't have enough money to go to regionals, buy new uniforms, or help buy concessions for the games, so we pretty much broker than the coffee cup that fell off the dinner table."

"What's the bad news?" Farah asked, drinking a one-liter Fanta.

The tall girl put her clipboard against her chest, sighed then pouted, and said, "Nicki's mom called last week to tell the school that Nicki wasn't go'n be in this school no mo'. Eda and Farah just told us a couple of days that Nicki and her people moved to Los Angeles."

"What!" the squad questioned, with exception to Unique, Farah, and Eda.

"Yeah, ole' Brini's gone to the West Coast," the girl said. "But the good news is we still have a nominee for Wessex High cheerleading captain. Ya'll been good, faithful athletes since the beginning of your careers, and with ya'll new captain I hope you continue to be just that and more. She'll lead you through the financial struggles as best as she can and help you obtain the recognition you know you deserve. So let's hear it for your new captain... Unique Beaux."

Unique jumped up from her seat and started hopping and screaming at her victory. Eda and Farah looked at each other, knowing they were in for the worse, and just shook their heads and clapped. They couldn't really change the ballots since all the votes went to Unique as runner-up, but if they could at least try to use some of Nicki's ideas that could liberate the work that was going to kick in once regionals' competitions started. They only had a few months. Unique can't possibly think of raising money to replace uniforms, concessions, and transportation to regionals and nationals that fast on her own. Not even their current captain, Jody Beaux, could think of an idea in a few days.

"Now, this year, I'm only going to be co-captain to make sure Unique doesn't abuse her rights as captain. After that, though, she's captain 'til graduation. Coach Higgens go'n go over the Spirit Law and rules for the routine, so pay attention and ask questions if you need to. What's up, Farah?"

The squad turned to the tall girl as she adjusted her sitting position. She asked, "If we have an idea to raise money can we tell the both captains?"

"Yeah," Jody answered, making Unique scoff silently. "What's your idea?"

"This somethin' Nicki thought of before she left, but I thought it'd be okay to use. She said - "

"I don't think it's a good idea to use a squad member's ideas without permission from the squad member. Since Nicki's not here, we don't know if this is your original idea or if you're stealing ideas from her," Unique said, convincing Jody to be on her side as she nodded.

"That's true. Did you ask her if it was okay? I'll use her idea personally, but you never know," Jody said.

"Nicki said it was fine. She said it could earn us about 2,000 dollars if we do it right," Eda remarked. "She said what we should do is put up 90 dollars and buy some supplies for the students from Walgreens and stuff while everything is on sale. Then put like two pens, a folder, some pencils, erasers, and highlighters in a bag and sell it for a dollar. If we put up an extra 50, we can sell art supply bags for like two dollars. During lunch, we can sell like granola bars or something small for like fifty cents to a dollar. If we keep doin' that, we'll have 2 to 300 dollars a month. On the side, we can do other stuff to raise money."

"That's good. I like that," Jody commented.

"Fine. We'll do Nicki's idea for the time being since we got nothin' else to start off with. But from here on out, we do it my way," Unique said, silently threatening Eda with a vicious glare. "All other ideas are to be original. No phone calls to former members, got that?"

"Whatever," Eda mumbled, rolling her eyes.

"Good," Unique replied, hearing the bell for lunch to be over. "We practice our routines for the first pep rally first thing tomorrow after school. Five laps if you're late."


"New girl!" Beatrice called, frowning visibly.

She was practically hunting for the new staff member of her team. Beatrice kicked the back door open, wondering if Nicole was washing the trashcans again, and then looked both ways before noticing that Nicki wasn't in the back. Nicole was actually busy replacing the trashbags for the garbage cans and recycle bins before her lunch duty in fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, since this morning, she had run into Vacious Ubersax twice during the first half of her hectic day and Teresa Puccini only once. Apparently, she shared Physics I, English II Honors, and Spanish II with Vacious, which she wouldn't have minded at all if he were nicer to her in the beginning. She then began to think about the black clothes-wearing boy and started blushing. He really was cute and his hands were practically calloused. Suddenly, the image of her grandmother wearing Rey Mysterio clothes and dive-bombing on Vacious made Nicki realize she was just staring into space and thinking about some guy. She didn't even think about Daryl this much.

"New girl!" Beatrice roared, standing akimbo and frowning.

Nicki snapped her head to Ms. Beatrice's voice so fast a nerve in her neck gathered into a bundle and made a burning, tightening sensation right beneath her ear. She sucked in a breath between her teeth and hissed. Her mouth hung loosely as she moaned in pain, but she couldn't be rude or leave lunch duty on her first day of school anyway. Her finances didn't allow that.

"Yes, Ms. B?" Nicki answered, rubbing her neck for a minute or two then smiling at the older woman. She said, "Are there lunch duty rules I have to follow?"

"Nah, most of 'em are the same as breakfast duty," Miley answered. "The only thing that's different is the greeting."

"The greeting?" Nicki questioned.

"Yeah, that's right. Unlike breakfast duty, lunch duty is where the most reviews kick in and that means you have to be extra sweet to these nutballs," Beatrice responded, scoffing. "Let's go over the greeting. Miley, the smile."

"Every student has to have the same greeting, so what we've all developed is the Little Miss Sunshine smiling face, or the LMS smiley. It goes like this. First, you give a little wave - not a flirty wave - as if you've been friends for a week or two. Then, you say 'Hey, what can I serve you today?' Lastly, you flash a sexy, corporate American grin that suckers them into thinking you're a total bff and that makes them buy a bit more. You see, what most people don't know is if you can grasp the essence of a professional smile, you can sell more stuff for no apparent reason. Here, we call it the stock market."

"Alright," Nicki commented, not fully understanding the connection. Being a former cheerleader doesn't save her aching cheeks. She was almost through with smiling all the time. Nicki sighed, shaking her head, and then turned to say, "Gotcha, Ms. Miley."

"Now, we'll see how well you manage the LMS smiley," Beatrice said, huffing to the register. "Get to the serving area. It's only one lunch period for the whole week 'til Princey Poo's block schedule starts. We gotta make sure the kids get what they get then we're gonna move you to the teacher's lounge. You're gonna be learnin' from me there."

"'Kay, Ms. B," Nicki mumbled, walking behind the serving area. Once she got in her spot, Nicki rolled her eyes at the sound of the bell then erased her attitude and turned into an upbeat teen.

Beatrice fought the laughter about to spew from her lips and sat on her stool. She was reminded of herself whenever she looked at Nicki or watched her complain. Sometimes she remembered her old high school crushes when she watched the boys flirting with Nicki. In a small way, Beatrice wanted to protect Nicki just as her mother wanted to protect her. Boys do stuff, let's face it. Once they start reaching that phase where girls are the "it" thing to worship besides cars and money, the girls have to wise up fast and be trained on how to handle them. One particular boy that Beatrice watched out for was the goth kid, Vacious Ubersax. His sister, Lara, was such a sweet girl, but if it wasn't for her brother and his girlfriend she would be a star cheerleader and probably wearing less black than usual. Vacious could change any woman he wanted into a demon without intending to do it. Beatrice didn't want him anywhere near Nicki for any reason.

Unfortunately, the goths were always the first to lunch, which was the oddest thing for a group of kids who could give hell about the world or people. Even the creepy kids have to eat, though; it's a matter of survival. Beatrice watched one of the goth girls walk over to the serving area and ordering something from Nicki before turning her full attention to the group of black-wearing kids. There were only four people, but there were usually about ten to thirteen of them at the ends of the tables where shadows were prominent.

"Excuse me," the goth girl called, gaining Beatrice's attention. "I'm paying for my lunch."

Beatrice looked down at the tray, calculated the sum of the items, and typed in some numbers on the calculator. She scowled and said, "$10.45. Card or cash?"

"Cash. New girl gets a tip. Fifteen bucks," the girl said, handing Beatrice two bills. "Try not to cheat her. She's a good kid."

"We know," Beatrice said, smiling softly then putting the money in the register.

Nicole earned herself just about seven bucks in tips, Beatrice thought. Keep it up, kid.


Lara was placing her new textbooks in her new locker this year. It had to change since more people enrolled this year and she had to switch homeroom teachers. She was a bit disappointed after not seeing Nicole since this morning at breakfast. She hadn't eaten breakfast at school in two years, but she at least had something to look forward to every morning. She wanted to tell Vacious about her new friend, but it wasn't official quite yet. She had to be sure that they were going to be friends and then slumber parties and talking about boys would come later. She hadn't actually talked about those things since middle school.

Geez, Lara, how much more excited are you going to be? It's only been a few hours and you're already thinking about telling her your dream wedding. We're trying to make nice friends not scare the girl! Lara thought.

"Everyone out of the hall in two minutes," the disciplinarian bellowed.

Lara closed her locker door then locked the combination lock onto the latch. She picked up her bag and left the hall to the cafeteria. School was crowded as usual but not too crowded since her last class was on the first floor. Algebra II Advanced was on the second floor thank goodness. She paced her way passed a bunch of other students who didn't like or wear black and walked in the cafeteria. The crowd was a lot bigger than outside the doors, and there were boys parading to one spot in the serving area. That was a sign that the new girl was there. Lara inhaled happily then hurried to get a tray. Out of nowhere, some jock tossed a wet piece of bread to his friend, who couldn't catch a ball to save his life, and laughed when it hit Lara in the face. Lara's mouth slowly hung open as she touched the buttery substance on her face then grabbed the bread and flung it back at whoever threw it. The bread hit someone in the eye. Abruptly, jocks started swarming towards her; however, the minute she almost cowered, Nicki and a campus officer were behind her.

"Hey, what the hell are you doing throwing things?" the officer questioned.

"Hey, are you okay?" Nicki asked, looking concerned.

"Nicole!" Lara said, turning to Nicki.

"Hey, you're Lara, right?" Nicki questioned, pointing at her fellow junior.

"Ah, you remember, huh?" Lara said, teasingly.

"Course, Lara's not a hard name. Now, if you had a hard name, I'd never get it right or remember it. Did you get hit or someone else?" Nicki asked, turning to the jock.

"Yeah, I think it was garlic bread or something."

"Hmph..." Nicki scoffed, retrieving a warm cloth. "Well, at least it was just bread. Here, wipe your face. You got some seasoning on it."

"Thanks. So, is that long line of boys for you or did you say something was free?"

"Nah," Nicki said, laughing. "I think it's the same ones from this morning. I remember one o' dem had a Bob Marley necklace and he just bought two pizzas. This morning, he bought a pancake slam. Since I'm on this side, what would you like today?"

"Cheeseburger with onion rings. No tomatoes please," Lara said, watching Nicki gather everything. "You know, I haven't seen around lately. You sure you're a junior?"

"I'm quite sure. It's only been half a day; I'll see you around sixth period or somethin'," Nicki joked, placing Lara's order on her tray.

"Don't lie to me. I'm gonna start lookin' for you," Lara cutely threatened.

Freakin' hell, Lara! You probably scared her! Lara thought. Why are you being so weird?

"You a mess!" Nicki remarked, laughing. "Ms. Beatrice go'n ring you up, hea'?"

Lara walked away from Nicole with a warm smile on her face and felt genuinely proud of herself and happy. She paid for her lunch and walked toward the familiar corner where the goths were. Even though she had a thing for cheerleading, she also had a love for dark poetry and was kind of a romantic. Even if Nicole didn't love her love of dark romance and imagery, she might like the cheerleading thing. Lara opened her ketchup packets and started pouring its contents onto the cheeseburger. She turned back to Nicole from time to time as she put her earphones on and started thinking about cheering again. It was a pity she sat around people who hated cheerleaders, jocks, and anything potentially athletic and pointlessly noisy because they would take the punk rock cheerleading competition by storm. They loved punk music, would be instantly famous and at the top of the popular person pyramid, and could get other jobs besides supporting benefit campaigns. However, most of the goths she sat around were only interested in supporting one person within their own group: her brother, Vacious. While he was busy earning the attention of radio stations and night clubs, she slowly dwelled in his shadow and she hated it little by little. Talking to this new girl, Nicole, was beginning to be the relief she needed.

Speaking of Vacious, Lara turned to see him walking through the cafeteria's front doors with his best friend, Allen. Lara realized sometime last year that Allen had a crush on her, but he didn't tell her or Vacious about it. He just so happened to let it slip when Lara ordered pizza for the band while they practiced. Since Vacious usually worked over the summer all day and very little during school, he hardly ever had to ask Lara to pay for food but that day he was broke until next payday. Since that time, Lara has paid very special attention to avoid Allen if he came by. Allen was a nice guy, but he wasn't Lara's type. Today, Lara planned to avoid Vacious and Allen and just stay close to Nicole; instead, though, she watched her brother change expressions. He went from being a playful, talkative guy to a demonic playboy. Concerned, Lara quickly got up with her tray in her hands and walked over to Vacious. As she got closer, she heard the oddest conversation take place.

"Hello, what can I get for you today?"

"Well, if it isn't my fav newbie," Vacious responded in a seductive growl. "Didn't think you'd be working the buffet. That inner bitch in you come out yet?"

"Nope, I've been a very good girl," Nicki said, deception of joy in her eyes.

"Really? Because earlier you were checkin' me out and flirting with your customers is considered inappropriate. Oh! Is that a big word for you to remember, my little goody-goody?" Vacious teased, deliberately lowering his voice to a sensual whisper. Vacious was once again taken aback by the change in expression the new girl emitted. As he watched Nicki become a seductive vixen, he practically melted in her confident smirk and mischievous eyes. At that moment, he knew they would never mend the pieces in their broken relationship. It was too shattered to fix and quite regrettable.

She leaned over the counter, puckering her lips the way she knew (or had to know) Vacious liked, and licked her teeth before chuckling lightly. She said in probably the sexiest, raspiest voice Vacious ever heard, "Not as big as your failure for trying to piss me off because it is epic. Anything else you want to try to say to me?"

"Suck...my...cock," Vacious hissed, now pissed at the girl. Inwardly, the pervert in him wanted to see her lips work a penis, but he wasn't going to even admit that. He just wanted to shut the new girl up and make her life a living hell. If she begged for mercy, maybe the sucking of his genitalia would be the edge he needed to forgive her, but until then...yep, those lips were going to be put to really good use in the future.

"When you learn to speak to a woman nicely and maybe stop trying to impress the people around you and just be yourself, you can get the whole nine yards: a sucked dick, a kissed ass, and possibly the best sex of your short life. Since you don't know how to talk to girls or accept compliments from girls, you're gonna have to live with an un-sucked cock, an un-kissed ass, and an STD because I'm cursin' you for life," Nicki threatened, displaying a devillish grin. "Chicken sandwich meal for two plus two oatmeal raisin cookies coming right up."