Being Clutch paid really well. Be peppy and excited dressed up as a weird creature and make bank. Sounded like a good deal to me. And now here I was at a basketball game, a sport that I detested, to cheer on our team. I usually prided myself on my fake enthusiasm, but today I’d just had enough. I hadn’t been in a good mood ever since the scene with Emma.
She’d been standing alone in the hallway at her locker. I’d seen it as a perfect opportunity. I took a deep breath and went up to; aware of my growing pit stains and the pickle on my breath from lunch. So in hindsight maybe it hadn’t been perfect timing, but I’d sprayed on some extra cologne and was hoping that would cover anything else. I’d heard that girls can’t resist a dude that smells good.
“Hey, Emma,” I’d said, trying to sound cool and confident like all the guys I’d seen around her.
She looked around with her perfect smile, but it disappeared when she saw me. “What?”
“Uh, you wanna go see a movie?”
I tried not to falter. “With, uh, with me.”
“Um…” I didn’t know what to say. I should have just walked away.
“Wait, you’re serious?” She laughed again, blonde hair falling in her face as she doubles over to hold her stomach.
She was really going for over the top now. This would draw attention. People were going to come see what was going on and see her laughing at me.
“Why would I ever go out with a pizza-faced nerd like you?!”
I heard footsteps coming down one of the halls and knew I had to get out of there. I turned and walked the opposite direction as fast as I could without running. I heard her spreading the news about the idiot she had just rejected.
She was just standing over with her cheerleader buddies now, talking and flipping her hair. She wasn’t thinking about the “pizza-faced nerd” that had asked her out. She was thinking about the starting point guard or something. Maybe the party after the game. But not me. Sure, she’d told her friends about it and they’d had a good laugh. I’d heard them when I’d broke into a run around the corner. But it was over for them, they’d forgotten about it by now. Rejecting nerds was all part of a day’s work for a popular kid.
I wanted to get back at her somehow.
“And now! For your viewing pleasure, our very own Bay City Cheerleaders are going to put on a little show!” the announcer’s voice boomed from the speakers. Emma and all the other cheerleaders made their way out on to the court.
“Clutch! Get out there! You’ve been standing still for five minutes!” My boss’s voice came out of nowhere. “Do you want to get paid or not?”
I jumped into action, reminding myself I needed this paycheck. I hopped around and waved my inflated arms above my head and the crowd let out a cheer. As the cheerleaders got in formation, the band was playing a tune called “Eat ‘em Up” and I began to form an idea.
The band quit playing for their five-minute break and a song began to come through the speakers for the cheerleaders. Their routine was half cheerleading, half dancing that took them all over the court. Emma was coming towards the sideline and I ran at her, arms waving. She screamed jokingly and jumped out of the way, trying to stay on time with the music. I went after her again, laughing in the blob of my costume as she ran away. She failed to hide her annoyance when I bumped the giant mouth of the costume against her and she stumbled.
“Cut it out!” she said, plastering a huge fake smile on her face to pretend this was planned.
I bumped her again and then ripped the Velcro apart and dragged her into the costume with me through the mouth. She let out of a real scream this time as I held her off the ground to run in circles around the court. She kicked at my legs but they were covered in pads for me to perform stunts safely. I got an elbow to the ribs, but I kept on.
“What are you doing! Let me go!” she tried to smack at me and I laughed. I could hear the crowd cheering their lungs out. They thought this was great.
But the other cheerleaders weren’t so thrilled. “Let her out!” I heard a yell and I started feeling tiny girl fists hitting me through the bubble.
“Go out with me,” I said to Emma.
“Go out with me or I won’t let you out.”
“No!” she managed to hook a foot behind my knee and I lost my balance. She smacked and punched at my face until she found the Velcro opening. She pulled herself out of the costume, kicking me in the balls in the process.
“Are you okay?” a few girls called to her, trying to help her get to her feet.
“I’m fine.” She flipped her hair and looked down at me on the ground as I held myself in pain. “Freak.” Then she smiled at the crown and walked away.