National All-Star Cheerleading Championships
The warm-ups room is humid and boiling hot. She pulls at the spandex sticking to her skin. She can feel herself getting nervous.
Nervous. She almost laughs at herself.
She’s a veteran. A pro. There’s no place for nervousness in her routine. There’s no place for nervousness in any part of her life for that matter.
She’s highly respected by the guys for that very reason.
She’s fearless. She doesn’t think before she throws a pass. She just does it.
She leans against the water table, eyes closed, envisioning the beginning of the routine, when she feels someone grasp her hand.
“Nervous?” the owner of the hand(a brunette with curled hair held up high above her head in a bow) inquires.
She almost laughs. “If I was I wouldn’t tell anyone. But I’m not. I can’t be.”
The brunette rolls her eyes. “You can be nervous, you just can’t screw up.”
She rolls her eyes. “Not sentimental this time, Bridget?”
Bridget rolls her eyes. “We’ll have time to be sentimental when we’ve got the trophy in our hands and the jackets on. This is our year.”
She smiles. “Damn right it is.”
Bridget’s eyes cloud slightly. “What was it like last year?”
She thinks a second before answering. Bridget is a newbie; this is all new to her, despite her confident ways. “Soul crushing. I cried the rest of the week.” She smiles slightly. “But the year before….was perfect. Our name announced in lights. Flawless.”
They smile at each other, sharing a small moment before a tall Hispanic boy calls them over.
“Julie, Bridget! Coach wants you it’s time to line up!”
Julie grins at Bridget and pulls her curled, blonde ponytail tight.
The mat vibrates with anxiousness, the product of the 5 teams on the mat shaking. Julie’s hands are being gripped by Bridget, on her left, and on her right by a muscled brunette.
“Thomas,” she says to him quietly as she squeezes his hand tighter. Thomas looks up at her.
They’re sitting in a circle. The rest of their team, dressed similarly to them in black and yellow, remains unaware of the current exchange between Julie and Thomas.
“I didn’t land my third pass.”
His eyes narrow.
“I didn’t land it. And now….Georgia’s gonna beat us again.”
He shakes his head slightly. “Julie. Don’t say that. It’s not a big deal. They had some falls too. It’s fine.”
She nods, though continues to look worried. Bridget, next to her senses this and squeezes her hand tighter.
The announcer finally speaks up and the stadium goes quiet.
“First place in Level 5 Senior Large Co-ed…goes to….”
Julie squeezes their hands harder and everyone else on the mat does too.
3 seconds until dreams are shattered or made. The stadium seems to hold its breath for her exclusively.
“TOP GUN ALLSTARS OUT OF MIAMI, FLORIDA!”
Julie drops the hands in disbelief and immediately launches herself at Bridget.
She hugs her and they lie there on the mat there, screaming.
At some time someone brings over a trophy and the tears start to flow for the whole team. Bridget is still attached to Julie and they settle next to the trophy together to take the photo.
The arena is screaming, cheering.
It’s a beautiful moment. Wonderful. And for a second, she swears to herself she’ll never ever forget it.
But for her, her team, her coaches, this moment is infinite. They’ve achieved their greatest success. They’ve done something unbelievable.
In this infinite moment they seem to have captured perfection. They’re holding it in their hands, as a collective whole.
And in her nineteen years she swears she's never experienced anything quite so magical.
And she swears she never will.
Cheerleading is her life. It's her love. It’s the most important thing she's ever been involved in.
Until time goes on.
Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara Police Department
She hasn't seen the name in a while. That's all she could think when she first read the email.
She was almost unfamiliar with the person the sender thought she was writing to.
Alot had changed since 2004(the last time she saw the sender).
It was an invitation.
However, anyone who knows the sender would classify it as a demand.
The person she was in 2002, or 2003 or heck, even 2006 wouldn't have thought about it.
But this is 2013.
She's in a relationship, however complex and mangled in may be.
She's dedicated to her job.
And nobody's called her Julie since she was last in Miami.
"O'Hara! Did the lab email you the results yet?"
She switched back to her inbox, pulled back to reality from the past.
She goes back to the email.
She'll have to think about it.
Every time she reads through it she gets more tempted to accept the offer.
She rereads the final line of the email.
"I know you're busy, but we're all busy and there's always time for something you truly love."
“I almost thought you wouldn’t show.”
“I said I’d be here. I’m interested.”
“Are you sure? I didn’t even recognize you…Julie you’re wearing a suit.”
Juliet glanced down at her suit before glancing back up at her old friend. “So?”
“So? So? Miami Julie would’ve never worn a suit! All you wore was spandex, jean shorts and bikinis.”
Juliet rolled her eyes. “That’s not really suitable attire for a detective. Besides I was teenager. I’ve changed. Don’t try and tell me you haven’t.”
The brunette’s eyes narrowed challengingly. “Wanna bet?”
Juliet shook her head. “No. I would like to catch up with my old friend Bridget and drink some coffee.”
Bridget pouted. “Don’t call me old. You’re a whole year older than me Ms.Thirty.”
Juliet grinned. “Neither of us is old. It’s just our friendship is old.”
Bridget rolled her eyes. “I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean. Look, we didn’t just come to catch up we’re her to-“
“What are you even doing on the west coast?” Juliet interrupted suddenly, as if it had just come to her.
“Seriously? Have you stopped checking Inside Cheer? California is a hot spot of cheerleading. I had to get in on it. That’s why we’re here.” She rolled her eyes again.
“You’re coaching?” Juliet questioned.
“I’m coaching, baby! And I would like to offer you the first in! Be my assistant coach!” Bridget begged.
Juliet’s face turned doubtful. “Bridge…my job is really stressful and it’s got long hours I can’t just…” she trailed off.
“You can’t just use what time you have for something you love?” Bridget’s eyebrow’s narrowed. “Don’t you at least want to know what level I’m coaching?”
Juliet’s eyes widened.
“Small, all girl, level 5. You can’t resist that! We’ll go to Nationals and Worlds.”
Juliet’s eyes widened. “Worlds?”
Bridget’s smiled in victory. She almost had her. “You never got to go. They started it after you retired. Doesn’t that suck?”
“I’ll help coach.”
“What? Really?” Bridget feigned surprise.
Juliet’s eyes rolled in response.
“Good. I already told them you would. First practice is tonight 7:30 to 10. Don’t be late. You’re a coach now.” Bridget announced to her friend smugly.
Juliet rolled her eyes. “Should I be prepared for anything in specific?”
Bridget smiled slightly and shook her head. “Just be ready to work, girl.”
The gym wasn’t larger than Juliet was used to, but it was more advanced with a nice sitting area for visitors and parents, offices for the owners, brand new mats and equipment and plastic cubbies.
“Finally! I thought I told you not to be late!”
“It’s 7:15. I’m early.”
“Juliet, as a coach, you really need to in half an hour before practice. Duh.”
Juliet rolled her eyes at Bridget. She really hadn’t changed.
“Now let’s go met people!” Bridget dragged Juliet over to a group of guys. “Now, I’m sure you remember Josh!”
Julie’s jaw dropped.
“You remember me I guess.” Josh said with a shrug.
“You were at top gun with us when you were 10! You were like my little brother! Look at you! All grown up!” Juliet cried out.
Josh grinned and hugged Juliet.”22, actually. Not very grown up.” Josh was stocky, short, and very muscular. His brown hair was fairly short, with most of its length on top.
“This is my man, Nick and my friend Tyler.” Josh introduced her to a tall, gangly black man and a blonde man built like a baseball players, both in about their twenties.
“Tyler used to play baseball before he cheered,” Josh said nodding to the blonde, “And Nick used to…do stuff before he came here.”
“Yo, check this guys. Today I was spotting tucks and this girl asked me if I’d ever been to prison.” Nick said, out-raged.
“Have you?” Juliet asked, concerned. Everyone around her laughed.
“Okay see you guys later!” Bridget said leading a baffled Juliet away.
“What was that?” She asked.
Juliet flopped on her bed exhausted. It’d been a long time since she’d been tired in this way. She was tired from a successful practice. She’d gotten to meet all the girls and had discovered that they had a pretty talented team this year. A lot of the girls were returning though some were new to the squad, moving up from level 4 or restricted 5.
“I can’t believe I almost said no.” She said quietly before falling asleep, still in her clothes.