Stacey And The Cheerleaders

 

Stacey and the Cheerleaders

 

Ann M. Martin

 

 

Chapter 1.

 

"Watch out!"

The shout startled me. Before I could turn around, something hit my shoulder. It threw me off balance. My books went flying, my feet shot out from under me, and I fell.

I, Stacey McGill, was a victim of the winter's first snowball. Or one of the first, anyway.

Until that moment, it had been a great morning. Snow had fallen overnight, even though it was only early December. I had wolfed down my breakfast, put on my new plum-colored corduroy pants and white down jacket for the first time, and taken a nice, slow walk to school with my friend Claudia. The sun was blazing away, and Stoneybrook had never looked so gorgeous.

Now, I adore snow. But right then, sitting in it was not what I'd had in mind.

As Claudia helped me to nay feet, I could

see I'd left two plum-colored streaks in the snow. "Ohhhh, look," I said.

"Hmm, I guess you better wash those pants separately," Claud remarked.

I was too annoyed to laugh. "Thanks," I replied, brushing myself off.

A big shadow loomed behind me. "Sorry. I didn't mean to hit you."

I looked up.

And up ... and up.

My attacker must have been at least six feet tall. I was eye level with his jacket, which had a varsity letter sewn to it — the letters SMS with a basketball across the middle. (SMS, by the way, stands for StoneybrookMiddle School.)

When I reached his face, my anger melted away. I knew who he was. Everyone in SMS did. RJ Blaser was a star of the SMS basketball team.

I should explain something. This winter our school had been swept up by basketball fever. Our team was number one. Totally undefeated. Even I had started going to the games, and I'm no jock. The Stoneybrook News, which never writes about SMS, had printed a big article about the team.

To be hit by a snowball from behind was no fun. To be hit by RJ Blaser? Well, that was

different. I felt kind of honored, I had noticed RJ around school (who hadn't?), but this was the first time he had ever looked me in the eye.

"That's okay," I squeaked. "It's . . . soft . . ."

He looked confused. "Your shoulder?"

Claudia rolled her eyes. "No, the snow."

"It wasn't hard enough to hurt," I quickly added. "Really."

We stared at each other, smiling and saying nothing. Claudia brushed off the back of my corduroys with sharp, strong swipes.

"Um, my name is RJ," he said.

"I know," I replied without thinking. "I mean, I went to a basketball game last week and they were calling out your name over the loudspeaker a lot."

RJ's face brightened. "Was that the 64-59 over Mercer or the 70-60 over Lawrenceville?"

"The ... uh ... Mercer one, I think."

"Yeah. I scored twenty-seven points and collected five fouls."

Huh? I thought he said fowls, and I couldn't remember any chickens running around the basketball court. But I said, "Wow," because I could tell I was supposed to be impressed.

"So that's why they were calling my name," RJ added. Then he pointed toward the school

and said, "That's Marty Bukowski. You probably heard his name, too. He's the one I was throwing the snowball at."

I looked across the lawn and recognized Marty. He was with Malik Jaffrey and Wayne McConville, two other drop-dead cute basketball stars. With them were four of the most popular girls in the school: Darcy Redmond, Sheila McGregor, Margie Greene, and Penny Weller — all cheerleaders.

"I guess you better stick to basketballs, huh?" Claudia piped up.

RJ gave her a blank look. "Say what?"

"You know, instead of snowballs?" Claudia glanced at me warily. She must have thought she was intruding on something, because she started backing away. "Just a joke. Uh, I better get going. I have some questions for my homeroom teacher. See you later."

"That's okay — "I began, but Claudia was booking.

As she passed RJ's friends, one of them yelled, "Yo, Blaser. It's cold. We're going in."

"Okay," RJ called back. "Later!"

The group started walking toward school. I was a little disappointed. It would have been cool to meet them.

"It is kind of late," RJ said. "Want to walk with me?"

"Sure," I replied.

As we headed in, I didn't feel the wetness at the back of my corduroys at all. I didn't feel much of anything. I wondered if anyone was actually witnessing my walk with RJ Blaser.

"So, you're . . . ?" RJ was asking me a question.

"I'm fine," I answered.

He flashed a big smile. "No, your name. You didn't tell me."

"Oh!" I must have turned red, because I could feel my ears heating up. "I'm Stacey McGill."

He nodded and looked earnestly at the ground. For a moment neither of us said anything. Then, as RJ held open the front door of the school for me, he asked, "Did you see Mall Warriors II yet — you know, the movie?"

I shook my head. "Uh-uh."

"Good. We can see it Friday night. It's playing in town. Okay?"

"Okay, sure."

Rrrriinnngg! The homeroom bell echoed through the school.

RJ began trotting down the front hall as if it were a basketball court. "My dad can drive us," he called over his shoulder. "I'll get your address later. See you."

" 'Bye!" I called.

Kids were scurrying to their classrooms. I stood rooted to the spot until no one else was

in the hall. It took me a moment to realize I hadn't picked up my books from the snowy sidewalk. I'd have to run out and get them, and I'd be late for homeroom.

But you know what? I didn't care.

I was going to go out with RJ Blaser.

Okay, time out. Do I sound hopelessly boy-crazy? I'm not. I mean, I do like boys, but they're not the only things in my life.

I guess I should tell you about myself. My full name is Anastasia Elizabeth McGill, but please don't ever call me that. (My parents are the only ones who do, and just when they're angry.) I'm an only child. I'm thirteen years old and in eighth grade. My family moved to Stoneybrook when I was twelve. Before that we lived in New York City.

Yes, kids do grow up in the Big Apple — and like it. Does that surprise you? It surprised some kids in Stoneybrook when I first moved here. They believed New York had only office buildings and theaters. And some of them had these weird expectations that all New Yorkers should be warped, nasty, or snobby.

No way. New York does have its problems, but I love the city. Plenty of kids live there, and there's so much to see and do it's impossible to be bored.

We first moved to Stoneybrook when my dad's company transferred him here. It's a suburb, but to us it felt like the country. I met some really great friends, including Claudia, and I joined the Baby-sitters Club (more about that later). Then came the McGill Family Drama. We moved back to New York when Dad was relocated again, and he and Mom started fighting all the time. Soon they were asking me the Big Question: whom did I want to live with after the divorce?

Well, it wasn't as sudden as it sounds. The problems had been growing for awhile. But nothing had prepared me for how much the divorce would hurt. After lots of crying and arguing and talking, I decided to stay with Mom. Even though I'm such a New Yorker, I had grown to love Stoneybrook, too. And I missed my new friends terribly.

So we were off to Connecticut again, but this time there were only two of us. We've been here ever since. Stoneybrook is just a train ride away from Manhattan. I visit Dad pretty often, so I have the best of both worlds.

What else can I tell you about me? Here are some things I like: clothes, movies, kids, and math. (Yes, math. I can't help it. I'm good at it, and I think numbers are fascinating.)

Here are some things I don't like: snobbi-

ness, seeing people barf, and doctors. Not necessarily in that order. I have to see doctors a lot, and I probably will for the rest of my life. You see, I have diabetes. That means my body can't regulate the amount of sugar in my blood. Have you heard of people who get a "sugar rush" if they eat too much candy? Well, multiply that by a hundred, and that's what I could get if I eat even a small amount of sugar. It's not just a rush, either. I could end up in the hospital. To keep my body running normally I have to give myself daily injections of a drug called insulin. It sounds gross, I know, but you get used to it if you have diabetes.

Now that you know I have a life outside of boys, let's move on to the next subject, which is ... well, boys. Or, the lack of them in my life.

Have you ever heard the song "Lucky in Love"? It was not written about me. If my love life were a bottle, it would be empty. If it were a place, it would be the SaharaDesert. Or Death Valley.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. But not by much. Let's face it, I may not be boy-crazy, but I'm boy-interested. I mean, it wouldn't take a lot to make me happy. Just a gorgeous, smart, considerate guy who takes my breath away and happens to love me even more than I love him.

Is that asking too much?

One time I did fall in LUV. Head over heels. He was gorgeous, smart, and considerate. One catch: he was also twenty-two and my substitute math teacher. I thought he was in love with me, but he told me (politely) that I was wrong. It was beyond humiliating. I felt about two inches tall.

Yes, I am interested in boys my own age. I've dated a few SMS guys, but nothing has ever clicked. Sometimes I go out with Pete Black or Austin Bentley, but they're just friends. In other words, plenty of LIKE but no LUV.

My one steady boyfriend was Sam Thomas. We lasted a long time, but we kind of drifted apart and agreed to see other people.

As of that snowy Wednesday morning in December, I was still waiting for the other people.

That snowball may have changed everything. At least I hoped so. RJ was cute. Not gorgeous, but nice to look at. He had curly red hair and hazel eyes and broad shoulders.

Through him, I hoped I'd have a chance to meet some of his teammates and cheerleader friends. I didn't know any of them, but I wanted to. They were definitely the coolest and most popular kids at SMS. The guys were

Major Hunks and incredible athletes (not to mention tall, which I find very cool). Every single one of the girls was stunning and talented. Plus you would not believe the amazing clothes they wore. I'd been dying to ask some of them where they bought their outfits. Not anyplace I'd ever been (including all the boutiques I'd been to in New York).

So I was in a pretty good mood that day, even though I was late for homeroom. I tried to sneak in quietly, but it didn't work. Sheila McGregor, one of the cheerleaders I'd seen outside, began giggling when she saw my books. I looked down to see they were dripping with melted snow.

Our teacher, Ms. Levine, raised her eyebrows. "Stacey McGill? Late? What a novel concept." (She talks like that.)

I slunk into my seat. "Sorry."

Ms. Levine harrumphed, then continued making her morning announcements. A minute or two later I felt something poke me on the right side of my back. I moved over a little. Sheila sits behind me, and I figured something on her desk had slipped.

Another poke. I began to turn around. I saw Sheila's hand by my elbow, with a note in it. The note was folded neatly into a triangle. I took it, opened it, and read it:

PS

It wasn't an
 
accident
  
He, never misses.'

I couldn't help blushing. Quickly I turned and smiled at Sheila, who smiled back.

Ms. Levine didn't notice. Thank goodness.

After homeroom, Sheila and I walked down the hall together. She gave me this huge grin. "So ... did he ask you out?"

"Yeah," I replied.

"Lucky," she said. "Maybe you guys and Marty and I can go out together sometime."

"You and Marty?"

She showed me a ring with a jewel in it. "We go steady. Isn't this beautiful?"

It was. I had never, ever seen a ring like that on an eighth-grade girl. "Wow."

We said good-bye at the next corner. Sheila's class was in the opposite direction from mine. I watched her for a moment as she walked away. Her hair was so silky and thick, and her clothes showed off her perfect figure. I

could see guys staring as she passed them, as if she were a movie star.

Of course she had no trouble finding a boyfriend. If she broke up with Marty, she could probably pick from a waiting list.

Must be nice, I thought.

At lunchtime, I sat with my BSC friends. (BSC, by the way, stands for Baby-sitters Club.) We were just yacking away, until I told them about RJ.

You could practically hear their jaws clanking to the ground.

"He asked you out!" Kristy Thomas asked the question around a mouthful of Swedish meatball.

"Say it a little louder, Kristy, so everyone in the cafeteria can hear," Claudia said.

"Is it so unbelievable?" I asked.

Kristy laughed. "No, I didn't mean it that way. It's just that, you know, the boys in The Group always seem to date the girls in The Group." (Kristy pronounced "the group" as if it were the title of a movie.)

"Maybe RJ's dated them all already/' Claudia remarked.

"You guysl" I complained.

"Just kidding!" Claudia shot back.

"I think it's great, Stace," Mary Anne Spier said.

"I admit, he is cute," Kristy conceded.

"Hey, Stacey!" Sheila's voice called out. I looked up and saw her waving to me as she walked into the cafeteria.

"Hi!" I called back.

For a moment I thought she would sit with us. But instead she walked to a table in the back, where The Group was sitting.

I know it sounds weird, but I had an urge to go sit with Sheila. The Group seemed to be having such a great time at their table. Besides, boys were there, including RJ.

But the urge went away. Claudia was telling us about a baby-sitting charge who insisted on using a wicker trash basket as a helmet. Soon we were all laughing hysterically, and I forgot about The Group.

You know what? Sheila was not the only cheerleader who was friendly to me that day. Margie Greene, who had never even looked my way, asked me about my outfit in English class. Penny Weller and I had a conversation about makeup in Social Studies.

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