The Breakup Support Group

By: Cheyanne Young

In a weird way, I’m really proud of my mom. Jane Rush has directed the cheer squad since the Warriors were an apathetic high school football team that no one cared about. Now, the Deer Valley Warriors are one of the state’s top-performing teams. I can’t help but wonder if some of that is due to my mother’s hard work in keeping the team motivated. The players are more confident and play better when everyone is cheering for them, and we seem to score more when the stands are painted in green and gold.

Mom’s good at rousing people. She was a cheerleader in high school and college and even managed a few years cheering professionally for the Dallas Cowboys back before I was born. She has that classic cheerleader smile, all-white sparkling teeth and eyes that shine, a great body, and beachy blond hair that falls in perfect waves around her face. My mom is a catch—and my dad knows it. Marrying her is his second favorite thing to brag about, after me.

I am characteristically none of the things that makes my mother so amazing. Where Mom’s hair is golden waves of perfection, I have mousy brown hair that can’t grow past my shoulders without looking plain stringy and weird. Unlike Mom’s ocean blue eyes, my eyes are the same color as my hair and entirely too large for my head. My friends all swear that my eyes aren’t that big, but I know they’re lying when they send me YouTube tutorials on how to draw on eyeliner to minimize your eyes. Even with a mom as hot as mine, I am a female version of Dad, the nerdy accountant. Except I’m terrible at math. Sometimes genetics has an ironic sense of humor, I guess.

I’m also not a cheerleader. Not from a lack of trying out three grades in a row, and certainly not from a lack of my mother pushing me to be my best with late-night cheer sessions in the back yard and copious amounts of watching old DVDs from her Cowboys days. Some people just aren’t born with the skills to jump around in sync and shout catchy cheers to an audience of bored small town high school football fans. I am one of them.

So instead, I hold the (not) esteemed and (super) embarrassing title of Spirit Squad Leader. It is a title my mother invented shortly after she was hired on to be the cheer coach. Basically, it’s me and a few other girls who are all too inept to make it onto the cheer squad. We paint our faces and wear green and gold and carry megaphones and hang out in the bleachers at the football games. We help rouse the crowd and pass out mini pom-poms and noisemakers to little kids. We organize fundraisers and bring in snacks for the cheerleaders and the football players. We’re basically glorified water boys.

I wear the title proudly because it keeps me close to Nate. There’s no way you can date a linebacker unless you hang out on the field with him every day after school and attend every football game. Regular students aren’t allowed off the bleachers, but the Spirit Squad can come and go on the field. That’s why I love what I do.

I smile slightly and squeeze the trigger on the glue gun, aiming it toward a plastic football. Before I realize my horrible aim, a bead of molten pain sears through my index finger. “Dammit!” I yelp, dropping the glue gun. I wipe off the glue and put my finger in my mouth. “Ah, shit that hurts.”

“Watch your mouth,” Mom says from across the table, her voice sounding resigned, probably from years of futile attempts to make me watch my mouth. She leans over and takes the glue gun, righting it so that it won’t burn a hole through the tablecloth.

I suck in a deep breath through my teeth, flailing my burned finger around in the air. The coolness from my spit helps it a little, but I know it’ll blister and then the rest of my day will be screwed. Tears pool in my eyes as I stare at the stupid red splotch on my skin.

“You okay?” Mom asks, peering at me over her own glue gun. I nod, and her lips flatten. She squeezes glue onto a plastic football then presses it to a wooden W and puts her glue gun down next to mine. “Talk to me, Isla.”

My already huge eyes get even bigger in my poor representation of innocence. I shrug. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

Mom’s ocean blue eyes meet mine. She’s giving me that you can’t fool me look. “You’ve been weird all week, girl. I’m not an idiot. What’s wrong?”

I swallow and seriously consider telling her about Nate and how distant he’s been lately. It’s awkward to talk to parents about this kind of thing, but maybe she’ll have some insight, some kind of advice to put my mind at ease. But then the back door creaks open, and I’m saved by the arrival of my dad.

“Where’s my girls?” he calls out, walking through the alcove that leads into the dining room, AKA the Warrior’s spirit warehouse. Of course he knows we’re in here—we’re always in here before school starts. He shrugs off his shoulder bag and opens it, taking out a few papers that he hands to Mom. “Can you look over this real quick, see if I forgot anything?” To me, Dad smiles. “I was thinking pizza after the meeting. What do you say, Isla?”

“Meeting?” I ask for one confusing second. And then I groan. “Ugh, is it HOA time again?”