When I slip into splits, extending my front foot on top of a bench near to where the football players sit, Savannah's face twists from conceit to concern. Looking over as I turn my hips and move into an effortless box, I smirk at Finch. His reaction is as priceless as Savannah's, face contorting in shock. It's a comic contrast to the whistles from the guys surrounding him. Now that they've ignited my competitive streak, I'm playing up to the crowd. If I'm to dig my own grave, I don't plan on going down quietly.
Loud gasps as I complete the first twist tell me I've struck gold, and a warm glow courses through my body. I smile at Savannah's wide-mouthed disbelief. I hurdle-step into my second tumble - two back handsprings into a full, twisting layout. Perfect landing. Cricket and Anna-Beth cheer I land my third - a perfect standing back somersault with a full twist. From the look of Twila's beaming face, I've impressed her. Without taking a backward glance at Savannah, I walk off the mat.
'You're a dang ninja,' Cricket says. 'How do you even get your body to move like that?'
I roll my eyes at her modesty. Her tumbles, although not as advanced, had been perfect too.
'You're a shoo-in,' whispers Anna-Beth, shaking her head in amazement.
'I don't know about that. If it was on gymnastics alone, I'd feel confident, but I've never danced like that before.'
Cricket passes over water. 'Oh, spare me. You hit every move, your tumbling is better than most of the Seniors and you can bend like a dang pretzel.'
'I can't stunt, though.' I knock back half the bottle and wipe the sweat from my forehead.
Cricket grimaces in agreement. 'Maybe you can learn?'
Anna-Beth leans forwards and lowers her voice to a whisper. 'That doesn't matter. My sister told us to focus our work on tumbling over the Summer. The team lost most of their tumblers last year and that's what they need. Trust me.'
'And if you don't trust AB here, you can trust her sister,' says Cricket. 'She was varsity captain last year.'
A hush settles over the room as Twila steps forwards, a bunch of papers in her hands.
'Well done everyone who came out to trial today. The standard was high, and it's been a hard decision to make. Y'all should all be real proud.' The surrounding girls nod their heads emphatically, and a ripple of nervous anticipation rolls over the waiting crowd.
'As y'all know, we've got five spaces to fill. However, we've been so impressed today, we're inviting eight new members to varsity. After last year, we all know how important it is to have alternates. For those that didn't make it this time, keep up the hard work in the Blossoms.'
The tension in the room is almost tangible, and I breathe through the familiar prickle of anticipation I'd felt at every gymnastic meet and dance recital. I've come to show up Savannah. To save face after last night's drama. Until now, it's never occurred to me that I want to make the team for myself.
'The alternates this year, and the first to come and collect their schedules will be Scarlet Andrews, Savannah Bouchard and Cricket Davies.'
With a shriek, Cricket rushes up to Twila, a spring in her step. Returning to us, she clutches the paper to her chest, a tear in her eye.
Anna-Beth leaps at her and drags her into a deep embrace. 'Oh, my holy hey, Cricket!'
'I never thought I'd make it,' she gasps, the paper shaking in her hands.
As Savannah stalks back, a huge grin on her face, she smirks. Unlike me, she's safe. Winning. Maybe I've made a huge mistake and overplayed my hand. I swallow and hold my breath as the shrieks and claps die down.
'The five girls invited onto the Hurricanes this year all showed the exceptional technique, fighting spirit and good grace of a Hurricane. From the Senior class, Chelsea Abrams, Gia Sanzin, Carter Jackson, and Sara Klayton.'
Four Seniors, all with long, glossy ponytails, rush up to hearty applause. My heart sinks as I tot up the number of spaces left.
As the claps become louder, and the tension swells to breaking point, I feel dizzy with nerves. I take short, shallow breaths, my heart racing. Cricket laces her fingers through mine and squeezes tight.
'Our final spot goes to the girl who most embodied the Hurricane spirit today. She blew in, full of fight, and caused quite the storm. I, like many, underestimated her. I doubt people will make that mistake again.' At this, Twila looks over at Finch.
'The final team member for this season is Martha Heysham.'
Heart full, I beam at Cricket and Anna-Beth and rush up to Twila. As I reach her, she hugs me tight and hands over my schedule.
'That's what you call a comeback,' she whispers. 'He's a damn fool.'
Twila carries on speaking, but I'm deaf to anything but my racing heart. A grin spreads from ear to ear and my cheeks hurt from smiling. It takes all my strength not to turn to Savannah. From the look of guilty pleasure on Cricket's face, I know Savannah is seething. She won't have reckoned on that. Well, karma's a bitch and after last night Savannah's got off lightly.
'You've got someone here to congratulate you,' says Anna-Beth, looking over my shoulder.
'Get rid of him.' Although I've come out on top, I don't want Finch dulling my excitement.
'It's the other one.'
'Congratulations, Betty,' James says, pulling me into a brief hug.
'The football player and the cheerleader. Rather cliché don't you think,' mocks Cricket as he releases me.
It was only then I take in the football jersey slung over his arm.
'Oh my god!'
I throw my arms around his neck, whispering my congratulations to him. I know how much this means. James pulls me into a tighter embrace and lifts me off the floor. The strength makes me shiver. Remembering him squaring up to Finch and defending my honour last night, a deep blush burns my cheeks. I'm glad he can't see it. Although I don't melt the same way that I do under Finch's touch, my heart beats fast. Maybe I don't feel dizzy, as though I can't breathe, but I feel safe.
Letting me go, he blushes, a bashful smile on his lips. 'Only a bench warmer for now. I'm a year out of training.' He runs his hand self-consciously through his hair and I notice the dark tinge of violet mottling his knuckles. 'If I'm being honest, I'm lucky to have made that. There were guys there who out-performed me today. But Coach has known me my whole life, and he seems to think he can whip me back into shape. At least I get to train, and Coach says he'll be watching me.'
I link my arm through his, my smile matching his broad, carefree grin.
'I think this calls for celebratory milkshakes at Delilah's.'
'Only if they are Oreo with extra chocolate.'
My mouth waters at the thought. Riding on euphoric waves, I pick up my bags, briefly forgetting the events that led to this moment. Despite knowing better, I glance over at the stands. To where he is sitting. I expect him to look shocked. Surprised. Maybe even a little contrite. I want to revel in my revenge. To show him I'm not weak.
I don't expect an empty seat.
YOU ARE READING
Under Tennessee SkiesTeen Fiction
When she moves from England to the small town of Hopton Hills, Tennessee, Martha Heysham finds both her dream of Oxford University and her heart at risk from her new neighbours, the Whittingham boys. **** Martha Heysham hates Tennessee. The sticky h...