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The locker room is packed with Hurricanes

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The locker room is packed with Hurricanes. After a month of wins, we're all high with excitement. With only fifteen minutes until the game starts, the other girls put finishing touches to their hair and make-up, or practise the half-time routine in small, chattering groups.

I do neither.

Instead, I pause over face paint. Hopton Hills has a long tradition of cheerleaders wearing players' numbers, and tonight's no exception. If you're in a serious relationship, the numbers might be embroidered onto your varsity jacket in gold and green, or worn around your neck. Everyone else paints their cheeks, the single cheerleaders responsible for the numbers not represented by girlfriends. God forbid that a player be forgotten. Easier said than done when there are over 40 players on the team and only 25 girls.

I dip the paintbrush into green paint. Before I touch it to my face, I hesitate. If I paint Finch's number like he wants, I signal my interest. It tells him my answer loud and clear and will change my life for good. It also demands attention. Finch Whittingham is a popular choice right now.

Abby Carter, a pretty blonde Senior, sidles in beside me and picks up a discarded brush. Seeing mine hovering mid-air, she smiles.

'Not sure who to pick this week?'

I shake my head. Like everyone, I've painted the captain, Stevie's, number on my left cheek. On my right, I usually paint James's, even though he sits on the bench. Until now, it's seemed like an easy way to avoid rumours. My weekly olive branch to fix our broken friendship. Painting Finch's number over his will only widen the divide.

'Who are you going for, Abby?' asks Gia Sanzen, as she pats gold glitter over her temples.

'Easy. I'm gonna paint Finch's number all over my body.'

I freeze. It's irrational to feel annoyed and unfair to Abby. She doesn't know he's taken. Mine. The word shocks me. I've never considered him as belonging to me before, but it's true. I'm his, and he's mine. It strengthens my reserve, and I dipped the paintbrush into the pot, ready to tattoo my feelings for the world to see.

Abby adds a final flourish to the second digit. 'I gotta grab him while he's still single. Make my move when I have a chance.'

Gia laughs. 'I think it's fair to say you've got more than a chance after last weekend.'

'My red dress never fails me.'

Her large, expressive eyes flash, and the two girls giggle.

My stomach contracts. What does Gia mean? My brain whirs as I try to piece fragments of understanding together. Last Saturday, Finch had been unloading church donations with me, and on Sunday, Lucille had taken them over to Green Hills for lunch with TJ. For a moment, my panic disappears. Then a small voice reminds me of the Senior Skip party Finch had gone to after we parted. Would he have spent the afternoon asking me for more, and then moved onto Abby at JP's? I know the old Finch could have done that. Easily.

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