Authors: R.L. Stine
manda Roberts pulled her thick, auburn hair up into a ponytail and wrapped a rubber band around it. Then she curved one arm over her head and bent sideways from the waist. “Ugh!” she groaned. “I'm as stiff as a piece of dry spaghetti.”
Janine Klein, Amanda's best friend, blew out a breath and started in on some leg stretches. “Don't even mention food,” she pleaded. “All I've done this whole Christmas vacation is feed my face. If I eat one more piece of fudge, I'll pop out of my uniform.”
Keesha Wilson grinned and her hazel eyes sparkled. “That would give the crowd something to cheer about!” she exclaimed.
Amanda laughed and continued her exercises. It was Saturday. School started Monday, so she'd called
a cheerleading practice. Amanda, a senior at Shadyside High, was captain of the squad.
It's the best squad in years, she thought, glancing around at the four other cheerleaders.
Janine was short and slightly stocky, with a round face and big brown eyes. She always complained about her weight, but she was as light on her feet as anybody.
Tiny Keesha Wilson had tons of energy. Plus she was always laughing and joking. Nobody ever got too serious when Keesha was around.
Nobody except Natalie Morris. Amanda paused for a second and watched Natalie practice a spread eagle, jumping high off the floor with her legs straight out. Slender and graceful, with dark hair and gray eyes, Natalie was shy and quiet and very serious. She only came alive when she was cheerleading.
Victoria Hopewell stood near Natalie, practicing some kicks. The two of them were good friends, which was weird because they were so different. Victoria was big-boned and athletic, and as friendly as a puppy. She had the most spirit of anyone on the squad.
As Amanda went back to her warm-ups, the gym door burst open, and the boys' basketball team ran onto the other end of the court. The Tigers had their first game against Lincoln on Friday.
“Andrew!” Keesha shouted, jumping up and down and waving. “Don't forgetâwe're going out to eat after practice!”
Andrew Collins flashed Keesha a thumbs-up, then turned back to his teammates.
Janine nudged Amanda in the side. “I'll bet you a hundred dollars they never get around to eating,” she whispered.
Amanda rolled her eyes and nodded. Keesha was totally obsessed with Andrew. “Come on, Keesha!” she yelled. “Finish your warm-ups!”
“But Andrew is so awesome looking, I can't help staring!” Keesha protested with a giggle. She began her warm-ups again.
Amanda smiled. Every cheerleader except Victoria had a boyfriend on the team. So it
kind of hard to concentrate sometimes when they were all together.
Janine went with Brandon Farr, a wiry, red-haired forward who liked to joke as much as Keesha. Natalie dated cool, blond-haired Luke Stone, another forward. And Amanda was going with Dustin Feld.
Amanda gazed down the court at Dustin. His sandy hair flopped around his head as he leaped into the air and shot at the basket. The ball circled the rim three times, then fell off. Dustin angrily grabbed it up and spiked it on the floor.
Amanda sighed. Why can't he lighten up? she wondered. Why does he have to be so intense?
“Check out Brandon!” Janine cried. “Does he look good or what?”
Amanda glanced down the court. Brandon raced toward the basket and got ready to shoot. But at the last second, Luke Stone snatched the ball from his hands, turned, leaped, and sank the shot.
Natalie punched her fist into the air and shot Janine a cool, superior smile.
Amanda sighed again. Luke and Brandon were competing to be on the starting team on Friday, and their rivalry had rubbed off on their girlfriends. Especially on Natalie.
Natalie is another one who needs to lighten up,
Amanda thought. She could cause problems on the squad if she keeps treating Janine like a rival.
As Amanda tried to decide whether she should discuss this rivalry with Natalie, a basketball bounced across the floor and rolled to a stop in front of her feet. She picked it up, bounced it a couple of times, and heaved it down the court.
Judd Hunter, the Tigers' center, grabbed it out of the air and grinned at her. “Nice throw!” he yelled. “You have a better arm than I do!”
Amanda felt herself blush. She hadn't told anyone, but she'd had a crush on Judd for a month now. Not only was he a great player, he was a great-looking player. Dark hair, sky-blue eyes, broad shoulders, and high cheekbones.
Plus he played basketball as if it were the most fun thing in the worldânot a heavy-duty chore, the way Dustin did.
like a chore. Or a test. Amanda still liked him okay, but not as a boyfriend. It's time to find a new boyfriend for the new year, she thought. Time to move on.
Maybe on to Judd Hunter.
A shrill whistle broke into Amanda's thoughts as Miss Daly, the cheerleading coach, entered the gym.
Amanda smiled to herself. Tall and gangly, with red-orange hair swept up into a messy topknot, Miss Daly reminded her of an ostrich.
“Time to get to work,” the coach declared as she stopped in front of the cheerleaders. “Amanda, the walkovers in the new routine could use some polishing, don't you think?”
“Right,” Amanda agreed. “Okay, everybody, line
up. Keesha and Victoria, start your walkovers on the word âprowl.'â”
The cheerleaders arranged themselves in a straight line, arms stretched out, fingers almost touching.
“Hey, Lincoln, don't look now,
The Shadyside Tigers are on the prowl!”
On the beat, Keesha and Victoria began their walkovers. As they straightened up and prepared for the next ones, a loud shout echoed off the gym walls.
Everyone turned to look. Amanda gasped.
At the other end of the court, Brandon and Luke were on the floor, wrestling furiously with each other. The other players gathered around.
“What's with you, man?” Brandon shouted hoarsely. “You think I need to trip you to get the starting position?”
“That's exactly what I think!” Luke shouted back. “The only way you'll get it is if I break my leg!”
Miss Daly blew her whistle and began loping down the floor, her topknot bobbing up and down.
“You're crazy!” Brandon cried. He flipped Luke onto his back and raised his fist.
With a shriek, Natalie raced down the floor, passing Miss Daly. “Stop it!” she cried, grabbing Brandon's arm. “You're the one who's crazy!”
Brandon gazed up at her in surprise. He shook her hand off and rose to his feet.
As Natalie reached out to help Luke up, several of the other players snickered. “What's the matter, Luke?” one of them teased. “Need your girlfriend to rescue you?”
Luke's pale face turned red with embarrassment. Ignoring Natalie's outstretched hand, he scrambled up and straightened his T-shirt. “I can take care of myself, Natalie,” he mumbled.
Miss Daly said sarcastically. “I suggest both of you grow up fast, before Coach Davis gets back here.”
Brandon shrugged and turned away. Luke scowled for a second, then knelt down to tie a shoelace.
Natalie started to kneel beside him, but Miss Daly stopped her. “Come along, Natalie,” she ordered. “Back to work.”
Natalie followed the coach, frowning angrily. “That Brandon is such a creep!” she declared as she joined the rest of the squad. “He should be kicked off the team.”
Uh-oh. Natalie really shouldn't bad-mouth Janine's boyfriend like that, Amanda thought.
She glanced at Janine. Her friend looked ready to explode. “Okay, everybody!” Amanda said quickly. “Let's take it from the top.”
The five cheerleaders arranged themselves in a line and began the routine.
“Hey, Lincoln, don't look now,
The Shadyside Tigers are on the prowl!
Hey, Lincoln, better watch your back,
The Shadyside Tigers are on the attack!”
As they worked on the cheer, Amanda kept sneaking glances at Natalie and Janine. Thank goodness, she thought. They're too busy concentrating to think about each other or their boyfriends.
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After an hour, Miss Daly finally blew her whistle. “Not bad,” she announced. The cheerleaders gathered around, breathing hard. “Now what about the game next Friday? What other routines do you want to do at halftime?”
“We're getting together Sunday to decide,” Amanda told her.
Miss Daly nodded. “See you in school on Monday,” she said, then jogged across the gym to her little glass-fronted office.
“Who's hungry?” Victoria demanded, glancing around at the other cheerleaders. “Let's all go to The Corner.”
“Not me.” Keesha grinned. “Andrew and I have plans.”
“I'm waiting here.” Natalie unclipped her dark hair and shook it out. “For Luke,” she added.
“I'll come,” Amanda said. “I could use a pitcher of Coke.”
“Me too,” Victoria declared. “And some fries.”
“And a shake,” Janine added. “Chocolate.”
Amanda laughed. “I thought you were worried about popping out of your uniform.”
“Okay, so I'll have a
shake!” Janine tucked her chin-length brown hair behind her ears and stuck her tongue out.
Amanda crossed to the bleachers for her duffel bag. She slung it over her shoulder and turned around.
Judd Hunter stood in front of her. “Hi.”
Amanda quickly wiped the sweat from her forehead and smiled. “Hi. Is your practice over, too?”
Judd shook his head. “We're just on a break.” He smiled. His blue eyes crinkled at the corners.
Amanda's stomach did a little flip. He's so cute! she thought.
“I caught the end of your routine,” Judd told her. “You looked really good.”
Me? Amanda wondered. Or all of us? “Thanks,” she said. “Have Brandon and Luke declared a truce?”
Before Judd could answer, a piercing scream rang out, echoing off the walls of the gym.
Amanda turned quickly.
Why was Janine on her knees in the middle of the floor?
Why was she opening her mouth in another scream of horror?
hat is it?” Amanda shouted, rushing toward her friend. “Janine! Are you hurt? What happened?”
Janine leaped to her feet and pointed a shaking finger at her duffel bag. “Somebodyâtake it away!” she cried hysterically.
Victoria demanded. “What are you talking about?”
“That!” Janine kept pointing at her blue bag. “I can't stand those things. I can't
Amanda skidded to a stop, her sneakers squeaking on the wooden floor, and peered down at the bag. “I don't seeÂ .Â .Â .” She broke off and gave a little gasp.