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Flier: The Heart-wrenching Tragedy of an Eight-year-old Drama Queen
“Honey, what’s wrong?” Mrs. Jennings asked, her voice dripping with forced sympathy.
I angled my body away from her, defiantly refusing to respond. I gazed beyond the bleachers, across the field to where the young football players were running until they were more sweat than boys. I would say I admired them for their hard work and determination, but that would be a lie. I was just glad it wasn’t me. I’d take the salty droplets escaping from my eyes over the ones racing down their backs any day.
“Honey, talk to me.”
When she was greeted by only more silence, she tried another approach.
“Here. How about I get you some candy from the concession stand. Do you like ring pops?”
After an appropriate amount of sulky hesitance, I nodded my blonde head.
She took my small hand in her larger one and led me to the concession stand. I dragged my light-up Sketchers through the cleat-trampled grass, weighed down by the newfound knowledge that I was in fact, by the standards of East Lyme Youth Cheerleading coaches, “bigger”.
Only a week ago I had been one of the smaller girls. How I made such a monumental shift in body type of the course of a mere week was inexplicable to me. I had been a flier. The girl that was lifted. The girl that was thrust up into the heavens to receive the glory of being on top in every sense of the word. I know it seems like a slightly embellished account of what it’s like to be the flier on a small town’s recreational cheerleading squad. I had slightly skewed priorities as an eight-year-old.
I had arrived at practice promptly at three, eager to claim my place atop my throne. I reported to the group I had practiced with before, consisting of two bases, a front spotter, and a back spotter. It was clear to my inflated ego which of us was the most important. The head coach crossed the field to stand in front of my team.
“Pilarski,” she snapped. She was not a patient lady. She was an unforgiving tyrant at her worst and an unpleasant, miserable cheer coach at her best. How she ended up with a position requiring tolerance for young children, I will never know. “Today you’ll be trying out being a base.”
I gave a curt nod. She walked away, completely unaware of the fact that she had just ruined the life of a young girl. The second she was out of sight, I dashed off the field, already in tears.
So, I sat on the bleachers crying, my ring pop and self-pity my only company. Suddenly, from a crowd of giggling girls emerged a blonde, blue-eyed face. Looking concerned, she made her way over and plopped herself down.
“Hi,” she chirped.
I appreciated the effort, but it’s going to take a little more than that to bring me out of my sulk. I’d had a lot of practice at this. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve had my life ruined.
“I like your shirt,” she offered, looking down at the unforgiving August sun reflecting off my sequined top.
“Thanks,” I muttered at my shoes.
“I’m Jacqueline. What’s your name?”
“Amanda,” I said, doing my best to maintain my sullen attitude.
“Hi Amanda,” she replied. “Do you want to come practice the new cheer with us?”
I paused. Do I wallow in my self-pity? Or did I allow this friendly girl to take me with her to clap and shout and forget about my problems.
“Sure,” I said firmly, to her and to my hesitation. I took her hand and we strode over to the group. Among them is my base—or my former base rather.
“Hey, did I hear coach say that you weren’t going to be our flier anymore?” she inquired innocently, not knowing what a loaded question she is asking. I felt myself beginning to drown in my hysteria again when I was tossed a life preserver in the form of a reassuring squeeze of the hand. I composed myself.
“Yeah,” I said, the picture of nonchalance, “but it’s no big deal. I’m flexible.”
I smiled internally, taking great pride in both my cool demeanor and ability to deceive these foolish girls.
“Then why did you run off the field crying?”
Apparently my capacity for deception was not what I thought it was, but I did gain one thing, I thought to myself as I glanced over at my newfound friend. The knowledge that throwing fits typically results in candy.