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“You did what?” Jack demanded, taking in Janice’s indecently short white and red dress. Janice’s hair was gathered in a ponytail, just like Len’s, Jack thought.

“I tried out for the Cheerios and I got in,” Janice repeated, unperturbed. “Cheerleading rocks!”

“You’d better not talk like that when we get home. And anyway, why? We’ll have left before you can really do anything with them.”

Janice grinned. “That’s where your toes turn in. We’re staying longer – Willie said so, and she told me to tell everyone. It means I’ll be on the squad for sectionals, so there!”

Jack was about to respond when Wanda came into the room, dripping wet, shivering, and with some kind of purple-coloured concoction pouring down her face and hair.

“Wanda!” exclaimed Jack. “What on earth happened?”

“It w-was the boys from – from the football team!” Wanda was close to tears. “They called me a loser and threw this at me.”

“Did they indeed?” Jack, raging, made to leave the room, but Janice caught hold of her.

“No, Jack! You’ve already been in trouble for fighting. Just tell Willie and the Head.”

“I’m not going to fight them,” said Jack, scornful. “I’m just going to tell them exactly what I think of them.”
She shook free of Janice’s hand. “Or are you on their side now that you’ve decided to stand beside the football pitch dancing in – in that?”

“It’s a lot more than dancing!” Janice retorted. “I suppose you’re just upset that I didn’t ask your permission first – you can’t lead all of us all our lives, you know!”

“I’m not...” Jack began, but at that point Wanda really did start to cry, overcome by the shock and the cold crushed ice. There was no Matey here to send her to bed, and in any case bed was in a rented apartment that Miss Wilmot had to drive them to and from every day in a minibus. With a final glare at Jack, Janice put her arm around Wanda and led her to the bathroom, where she and the other Chalet girls did their best to remove the dye and clean Wanda up.

Jack followed through on her threat and stormed off to the gym, thinking it was the likeliest place to find the footballers – in particular the one she already suspected was the ringleader of the attack on Wanda. The same one she’d scuffled with on the corridor, and who had continued to bump into her every time he had passed her.

As she had expected, the entire team was there, some working out, and others just laughing and joking around. And there he was – Jack’s nemesis, possibly the largest boy she had ever encountered, at this moment wielding a sizeable metal weight with ease. She watched his muscles bulge with each lift for a moment, and then stomped towards him.

“I want a word with you,” she shouted.

The boy, whose name was KeShawn, looked up in surprise, as his teammates laughed and hooted behind him.

Jack ignored them all. “I know it was you who chucked that stuff at Wanda. What d’you mean by it?” she demanded.

KeShawn let the weight fall to the floor and stood up slowly. He took a couple of lazy steps towards Jack, running his dark eyes over every inch of her. Although he towered over her, Jack stood her ground. It simply never entered her head that he would do anything other than defend his actions verbally.

“I asked you a question,” she reminded him, tilting her head to meet his eyes.

“Thought Miss Pillsbury hit you with a restraining order or something,” he remarked. “You better watch out, girl, coming in here.”

“I’ll go where I please,” Jack retorted. “You stay away from Wanda in future, you and your gang of pigs.”

There was an uproar of hilarity from the team, all of whom had fallen silent to listen to the exchange. Some of them repeated Jack’s words in high-pitched tones.

“What if I don’t?” KeShawn asked, a contemptuous smile on his lips.

“Try it and find out, you... beast!”

“Someone call me?” The football coach, a massive woman in a t-shirt and shorts, strode into the room. When she saw the boys grouped around Jack, she stopped and her eyes narrowed. “What’s going on here?”

“Nothing, Coach Bieste,” KeShawn answered without taking his eyes off Jack.

“Young lady, you can talk to your boyfriend after practice,” the coach told Jack.

“He’s not my-" Jack started, outraged.

Coach Bieste didn’t listen, and escorted Jack out of the gym, before turning back to her team. Jack could hear her screaming at them as she made her way, unsatisfied, back down the corridor.

She cursed the extension to their exchange. Now the list of questions she had to ask Len was growing and was sure to take at least a day to get through. How did a woman grow to that size? Why would a girl want to put on a teeny-tiny cheerleading uniform just so that boys would watch her? Why would boys want to watch her anyway? And why did she want so badly to start a feud with KeShawn and his pals now?



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