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The bell rang. Free period. Normally Molly Rayner would be very lax during this period, floating between the football field watching her crush, Chris, and the art room, where the teacher, known only as Beth, would slip her candy in exchange for the wonderful poems that Molly had a knack for writing.
Today, however, free period was hell on earth for her. Half of the kids were coming up to her, patting her on the back and congratulating her. The other half jeered and laughed at her when she walked by. The latter was not an issue for Molly, as she got picked on a lot anyway, but attention, and too much of it, was one of her pet peeves. She hated it. She was not one of the people you’d find trying to be popular. It just wasn’t her thing. All of this unwanted popularity was happening for one reason and one reason only. Molly had crossed the line. She was trying out for cheerleading.
This wouldn’t be a problem to most people, except that Molly wasn’t cool. She could have and probably should have been in the “cool clique,” but there was one flaw in her life. Becky.
Molly had the looks, the style, and the money to be “cool,” but being friends with Becky changed all of that. Becky was the queen of uncool. She wasn’t pretty, she made a horrible fashion statement, and she was geeky. Of course she was friendly, nice, and funny, but who looks at those qualities?
“You can do it!” Molly heard a voice from the crowd say.
“How hard could it be?”
“Wrong,” Molly thought, “very wrong.” She imagined herself standing on the bright blue gym mats with two other girls to the left and right of her. “That’s not so bad,” she thought. Then she replaced one of the girls with Brittany Marsh. She sighed and dismissed the image with defeat.
Brittany Marsh was the coolest, prettiest, meanest girl in Molly’s senior class. She was also the most athletic, which meant that she was always captain of the cheerleading squad. And if Brittany was captain, Molly would be off the team in a second. As she liked to put it, “We don’t hate each other; we’re just mortal enemies since the moment we met.” This meant that each of them would do anything to outdo the other.
After what seemed like hours, Molly finally got to the gym door. She opened it to the sight of Brittany laughing hysterically with a couple of her friends. Brittany didn’t look nervous at all. As Molly walked to the other side of the gym, she bumped into Mr. Marks, the gym teacher, who spilled his coffee
“Watch where you’re going!” he yelled.
“Sorry,” Molly replied weakly. Brittany and her friends were staring. The young redheaded senior had never appreciated the beauty of the gymnasium ceiling more.
“Ledger, Megan! Rayner, Molly! Marsh, Brittany! To the stage for the first round of tryouts!” It was her turn. Nervousness was overtaking her from head to toe, and the butterflies in her stomach doubled in size. She was trying out with Brittany, her worst fear.
The first tryout was a simple chant and easy dance routine. Both Brittany and Molly passed easily. It wasn’t until the fourth round of tryouts that Molly was faced with a real challenge. She was finally on the mats alone doing a more complicated cheer. The judges sat in a sort of semicircle in front of her on rusted metal folding chairs. One of them spoke up. “Whenever you’re ready.” A lone cheer came from the small crowd. “Go Molly!” It was Becky. She had come to support her best friend in spite of a mathathon contest in room 132, and the international release of Windows Mojave. Nothing could have been more uplifting for Molly.
The next day, Molly eagerly awaited the posting of the cheerleading results all throughout 1st and 2nd period. When she finally got to the bulletin board outside the gym, it was nearly impossible to see with all the girls crowding around it. When she finally got to see the results she knew them by heart. The gaggle of girls that had once surrounded them made sure of that. She knew that she was second on the list, right below the captain, Brittany. She also knew that the “would be” captain had been caught drunk last night at a party, taking her of the team for good. (She had been thrown off the team by the school, but more so her parents, who were doctors a nearby hospital. Molly almost felt sorry for her. Almost.) Brittany being off the team meant only one thing. Molly was cheerleading captain. This, unfortunately, was the only good news she was going to get all day…
* * *
“What?!” Molly was outraged. Her heart dropped like a stone. All of her hopes and dreams diminished by a single statement. After becoming cheerleading captain and finally feeling like she was starting to fit in, her family was moving. Again. This time it was to Texas. Boring old Texas. They probably didn’t even have a football team, let alone a cheerleading squad. Old Haverbrook. It was the poorest in the town in the state with the biggest military population in the country. That was the reason of course. Military. Always Military. Molly’s dad was the general of a sort of moving brigade that traveled to bases around the country. She had often joked about becoming a peace activist just to tick him off.
Molly had been to every state in the US except one. The only on she had ever wanted to go to: Hawaii. She dreamed of white, sandy beaches, and tall palm trees. She had joined a surfing club when the family was in Florida, and had ever since longed for the perfect Hawaiian waves.
“I haven’t even lived here yet!” she protested. But her contradictions, although true, did not sway her parent’s opinion. They moved, promising that it would be the last time.
Unfortunately, that’s what they said when they had to leave Rhode Island. And California. And every other stupid town in every other stupid state that they’d had to leave. Molly had almost gotten used to the cycle. Arrive at a new town. Make new friends and stay for a year and a half, at the most, and then pack your bags to leave. That was how it worked in the Rayner house, or rather houses, as they had lived in more than everyone in her 1st grade class combined. (That class had thirty-five people!)
So they took the long trip to Texas, and Molly was right, it was boring. The only good thing about it was the people, but they were nice to the point of being annoying. Until she met Michael – Mike to his friends. On what was to become the best day of Molly’s life, she was approached by Michael for what she thought was another two minute conversation before class. It wasn’t.
“Hey Moll, what’s up?” asked Michael.
“Nothing much,” replied Molly, “Hey, are you all right? You look a little pale.”
“Yeah, I’m fine, just getting over a cold,” he lied.
“Oh, I hope you feel better,” said Molly.
“Hey,” Michael asked excitedly, “Guess what?”
“I know this guy who really,” he paused, “really likes you and wants to go out with you.”
“For real?” Molly had noticed a lot of guys interested in her lately, none of whom she really liked. She prayed it wasn’t someone stupid or super popular.
“His name,” Mike took a deep breath, “is Michael.”
“What? You?” Molly said. The truth was she had had a crush on Michael since she first laid eyes on him.
“Oh Michael, of course I’ll go out with you!”
Mike looked like he had just hit the jackpot. He replied, “Well, see you around.”
“Yeah, see ya.”
Both of the couple’s thoughts were the same as they walked away. “Best day ever!”
He changed her life. Romantic days at the park and lunches on the front lawn were the only thing that got her through the week. He was the best thing that had ever happened to her.
After a year of dating they were best friends, doing everything together, when Molly got the good news. It was another day at their favorite place on the local pond. They called it their secret spot, although everyone in town knew about the little cave off of Seter Pond. The couple was debating this and that and eating Oreos, when Molly got a call from her summer job at the amusement park.
Over the past few months Molly had taken a series of tests to see if she had what it took to be the manager of the park. It had been hard work, but support from her friends, especially Michael, convinced her that she had a chance for the job. Molly must have read and re-read the rule book more than seventeen times, and she practically had it memorized. Molly’s life depended on this job for one reason. If her parents moved again, she wasn’t going with them. This decision had taken place several weeks ago, when her boyfriend had convinced her that she couldn’t leave. She had made up her mind, and she wasn’t changing it.
While Mike waited eagerly for her return, Molly picked up the phone. The conversation with the current manager was nervous at first, quickly turning into forced politeness, and strained calm. But when she hung up, a series of screams, hugs and tears of joy celebrated a new Fun Land manager and a new life yet to be lived.
So as it turned out, Molly’s parents did move a couple of months later, but without her. The family still keeps in touch with their only daughter and son-in-law, as Mike and Molly were engaged and married two years later, happy as ever. They still enjoy days in the park, and picnics in the grass. Molly later realized that, instead of being the worst, Texas was the best thing to ever happen to her, and the place of many treasured memories to come.