Chapter 8

"I cannot believe you made me watch a movie called Go Team Go," Ivy said. She and Olivia were standing in the hallway after first period Monday morning. "It may have been the gravest eighty- two minutes of my life. That Veronica girl was seriously stupid."

"You were supposed to watch the cheers, Ivy," Olivia said. She swung her ponytail. "Anyway, where should we practice this afternoon? I've told my parents I have practice every day after school for the next two weeks."

"Since school's not an option," Ivy said, "let's use my backyard. My dad just landed a big project, so he won't be home early again any time soon."

"Great," Olivia said.

Over her sister's shoulder, Ivy spotted Brendan coming down the hall. Instinctively, she edged behind Olivia.

"What are you doing?" Olivia asked.

Ivy hesitated. "Hiding," she whispered.

To Ivy's horror, Olivia turned around to look.

"Oh, my gosh." Olivia spun back around. "You should see the look on Brendan's face!" She gave Ivy's shoulders a squeeze. "I'll leave you two love- bugs alone," she said and hurried away.

"Hi, Ivy," Brendan said, glancing down at his boots.

"Hey," gulped Ivy, her heart beating wildly.

"How--how was your weekend?" he asked.

"Good," Ivy answered, unable to come up with anything more detailed.

He laughed awkwardly and looked away the moment their eyes met. "Thanks again for com- ing with me to the mall," he said.

"You're welcome," Ivy answered lamely. She knew her answers must sound seriously dim, but she was just too excited to think straight.

Brendan started pulling the cap on and off a pen he was holding. "So, er . . ."

Suddenly Ivy realized that Brendan Daniels was nervous. She could almost hear his heart pounding. It made him even more gorgeous.

He dropped his pen cap by accident, and it clattered to the floor. They both knelt down to pick it up. Ivy's hand brushed against his.

"Sorry," they both said.

Brendan picked up the cap. "So, what I wanted to ask you is . . ." he began, still kneeling awkwardly.

Ivy leaned forward.

"Will you go with me to the All Hallows' Ball?" Brendan finished.

Ivy's heart stopped. She stared at Brendan, the boy she'd been in love with for three years but only talked to for the first time on Friday. Then her heart restarted with a roar. Brendan was watching her intently as her mind flooded with questions. What am I going to wear? What if I have to dance? What if I look stupid? She was lucky she was already on the floor, or she might have fallen over.

Finally, Brendan stood up. "It's okay," he said quietly, nodding in resignation. "I understand if you don't want to go. I--I just hope we can still be friends."

Ivy leaped to her feet. "No!" she cried. "I mean, yes!" She shook her head as if it were sur- rounded by bees. "I mean, I can't dance!"

Brendan's face lit up like a full moon. "Neither can I," he said. Then he cocked his head and asked, "But have you ever tried dancing with someone else who can't dance?"

Ivy shook her head.

"It's not so bad," Brendan told her. "Look." He took Ivy's hands and placed them on his shoulders; then he put his hands gently on her hips.

Ivy felt like she was touching one of those static electricity things at the science museum. Energy coursed through her, and the hair on the back of her neck stood on end.

Neither of them moved.

"What are we doing?" Ivy murmured at last.

Brendan looked deep into her eyes. "We're not dancing," he whispered.

They stood there like that forever, or at least until Ivy heard the bell for second period ring.

"Then what happened?" Olivia asked, bending forward and putting her palms down on the cool grass. She could feel the muscles stretch in the backs of her legs.

Ivy pulled her foot up behind her. "I was late for art," she replied coyly.

Olivia thought maybe Ivy was blushing, but it might have been the sun. Finally she gave up try- ing to tell. "Well," she said, hopping up and down on the balls of her feet, "I don't know if that's like the most romantic thing I've ever heard . . . or the weirdest."

"Shut up!" Ivy cried.

"Not dancing?" Olivia giggled. Her sister was so smitten!

"Stop it!" Ivy said. "It was very . . . sweet."

"I may not have known you long," Olivia said with a grin, "but I already know that `sweet' is not a word my sister would normally use."

"Sweet," her sister repeated tenderly.

Olivia grabbed Ivy's hand playfully. "Well," she said, "you certainly have reason to . . . CHEER!" She raised both their arms into the air.

Ivy groaned.

Olivia silenced her with a double clap. "Okay, let's get started!" She paced in front of her sister like a drill sergeant. "What's the most important thing to remember when you cheer?"

Ivy thought for a second. "Don't get a wedgie?"

"No," Olivia said. She spoke slowly and care- fully, "Never stop smiling!"

"Right." Ivy frowned.

"Let me see it," Olivia commanded.

"Do I have to? Nobody's even watching," Ivy complained.

"Exactly," Olivia said.

Ivy huffed and contorted her mouth into a crooked smile that looked like a four-year-old had dragged a marker across her face. She raised her eyebrows in defiance.

"I bet you don't know the second most impor- tant thing to remember either." Olivia paused for dramatic effect. "Never, ever touch another cheerleader's . . ."

Her sister's black-lined eyes widened expec- tantly.


Ivy's mouth burst into a huge grin.

Olivia shouted, "Hold that smile!" and rushed to show Ivy the first cheer. She'd specifically picked one that she thought her sister would like.

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,

Hate to beat you, but we must.

When you're up, you're up.

When you're down, you're down.

When you're messing with the Devils,

You're up (clap, clap) side (clap, clap) down

(clap, clap)!"

Olivia finished with a big smile, her fists raised, her ponytail bobbing. "Okay," she said, "now you try it!"

Her sister skulked into position.

From the neck up, Ivy was even worse than Olivia had feared. She was a total mumbler, and her smile kept sliding off her face.

From the neck down, though, Olivia almost couldn't believe what she saw. Ivy hit every hand- clap in perfect time; her jumps were high; her splits showed great flexibility; and she even threw in a backflip at the end that she stuck perfectly.

Ivy looked at her expectantly.

Olivia put on her best poker face and said, "Let's try another one." This time, she did a much more complicated cheer. The girls on her old squad had called it the Washer-Dryer because it involved so much tumbling. It ended in three consecutive roundoffs.

Ivy did it perfectly on her first try--except that she did four roundoffs. When she finally came to a stop, her back was less than a foot from the wall of her house.

"Wow!" said Olivia.

"Told you so," said Ivy, returning with a smirk on her face and her arms crossed.

"If we can get your yelling and smiling up to speed, we might just get away with this," Olivia admitted.

"Can't I just lip-synch?" Ivy asked, kicking the ground.

Olivia wrinkled her nose. "Sorry, but no."

By the end of the hour, Olivia had taught Ivy four cheers, which was one more than Olivia had planned for. Ivy was a really quick learner. To end the session, Olivia put her hands on her sister's shoulders and said, "Tonight, I want you to bury your head in your pillow and yell your head off. Okay?"

"I'll do my best," Ivy agreed. They hugged good-bye.

Olivia skirted the side of the house and bounded down the long driveway. She'd prom- ised her mom she'd help make dinner to celebrate the unpacking of the final moving box.

She felt so much better. For the last three days, Olivia had been worried sick about how in the world she was going to train Ivy and be ready for tryouts herself. But today's practice had changed all that.With a partner as good as Ivy, they'd both be in stellar shape! She skipped into the cul-de- sac at the end of the driveway.

"Hello, Olivia," a familiar voice said coolly.

Charlotte Brown was standing in the next driveway, which led up to a peach-colored bunga- low. Olivia had totally forgotten that she and Ivy were next-door neighbors.

"Hi, Charlotte," Olivia said tentatively.

"Did you have fun at Ivy's house?" Charlotte asked.

Good thing we didn't practice in the front yard, Olivia thought. "Yeah. It was great," she said vaguely.

Charlotte shook her head. "I don't get you, Olivia," she said. "You're a good cheerleader.You could really have a future with us. But"--she shrugged--"if you want to be a gravedigger, that's your choice." She turned and started trotting away up the driveway. "Just don't expect any of us normal girls to be in your cult!" she called over her shoulder.

As she headed home, Olivia marveled at how much had changed since she'd first met Charlotte last week. I can't believe I actually thought Charlotte Brown would be my new best friend, she thought. Gross!

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