MEL WOODS

I shouldn’t be out this late. It’s a school night.

Snow has just begun to fall, and tire tracks follow my car as I roll down the side roads on the west side of town. My wipers brush flakes away while some sappy love song plays on the radio, a soft background hum in the otherwise frozen air.

I know I’m going to be exhausted at tomorrow’s pep rally, which makes tonight’s errand more taxing than it already is. We’ve been practicing the routine for weeks. The captain even coordinated matching sparkly hair bows for everyone, although they look tacky paired with our bright purple uniforms. Then again, cheerleading has never been anything except tacky.

Within moments I arrive at my destination. There’s an old campground a few miles outside of town, forgotten about and left to the elements. We came here when I was a kid, but the summer camp program lost funding, so the place hasn’t been operational in about ten years. I stop to look for a moment, saddened by the ruin, but after a second, I remember why I’m here and get to work.

See, the thing that nobody expects from cheerleaders is strength. We wear miniskirts and bright lipstick, sure, but we also lift girls into the air, catching them when they flip and tumble back down.

That bitch Ashley certainly didn’t expect me to be so strong when she slept with my boyfriend.

I need to work quickly if I want to get her out of my car without leaving a trace. The snow is picking up, and her body should be covered just enough if I leave it behind the cabins. I throw open the trunk and sling her arm over my shoulder. Just as I pull her up enough to start walking, a pair of headlights skims across the tree line.

I duck immediately, taking Ashley down with me. My mind goes a thousand miles a minute trying to create a plan of escape without giving myself away. I can hear tires rolling up the gravel road, and in a snap decision I pull the both of us into the locker rooms about thirty feet away. A foul, damp smell perfumes the room, and all the shower curtains are torn and limp. Setting Ashley on the ground, I hear a car door close.

“These damn kids, always sneaking around and drinking,” I hear a female voice say.

“Well, Connie,” a male responds, “we weren’t much better when we were their age.”

She simply sighs, and I hear her walk a few steps. My heart sinks, knowing that my car is sitting right there in front of them.

“You wanna run the plates?”

A new voice crackles across a radio, something I can’t hear. They must be cops.

“Hold on,” he pauses to listen to the radio again, “Donna says they found the kids down a few blocks. We should go round ‘em up… forget the car. Our shift’s almost over, and I’m dead tired.”

I hold my breath while they walk back to their car and drive away from the camp. Once I can no longer hear the rumble of the engine, I scoop Ashley up and stuff her into one of the lockers. Its door had been torn open, but I slam it so hard that it sticks in place.

The snow is heavier now, and it’s later than I planned. My car takes entirely too long to warm up. Maybe it just feels that way when you’re fleeing from a crime scene. I grumble to myself about not having enough time to wash my hair when I got home, but then I remember the squad’s matching hair bows.

Thank God for tacky cheerleaders.

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