I Was a Non-Blonde Cheerleaderby Kieran Scott
New Jersey transplant and sassy brunette Annisa Gobrowski has a problem-literally everyone at her Florida high school is blonde. No lack of golden highlights is going to stop Annisa from making the cheerleading squad. But after accidentally breaking the most popular girl in school's nose, and discovering the cheerleaders all hate her, she starts/i>
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New Jersey transplant and sassy brunette Annisa Gobrowski has a problem-literally everyone at her Florida high school is blonde. No lack of golden highlights is going to stop Annisa from making the cheerleading squad. But after accidentally breaking the most popular girl in school's nose, and discovering the cheerleaders all hate her, she starts having second thoughts. Is it too much to ask to land a spot on the team, win the heart of her dreamy crush and make tons of new friends? Annisa is on the verge of giving up, but the cheerleader in her just won't let her quit. She may be a little different, but Sand Dune High had better watch out-this non-blonde is here to stay in this hilariously funny novel from Private author Kieran Scott.
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First day of school.
Hadn't I already had one of these in September? What kind of sadistic star had I been born under that I got to have two? Two versions of the most stress-inducing day of the year?
I stood outside the back door of Sand Dune High and wondered what, exactly, I was doing here. This was Florida. I was a Jersey girl. I'd only been here five days and already the top of my nose was starting to peel, and that was with daily applications of SPF 15. It was so warm out at 8:00 A.M. that I had already managed to sweat through my black T-shirt on the short walk to school. And according to the huge banner that was hung across the bleachers by the football field, the school mascot was a Mighty Fighting Crab. I mean, come on! The Crabs? I had already made up about ten STD jokes to keep on reserve for parties and lagging conversations.
Okay, be positive, Annisa. It's not like you haven't done this before, I told myself.
My family had moved around the Northeast all my life as my dad, Professor Gobrowski to his colleagues, tried on English department after English Department. I had started at plenty of new schools. This was nothing new.
Okay, well, maybe it was a little new. After all, the last move had been almost four years ago, allowing me ample time to settle in and make friends that I now missed with an ache previously unknown to my body. And I was used to brick buildings, changing leaves, slush and rain and angry bus drivers. This school was very . . . Florida, with its whitewashed stucco walls, Spanish-tiled roof and palm tree-lined walks. But it was just a school, right? There were teachers and students and books in there. How different could it be?
I reached up to touch my signature fashion item-the rhinestone clip that always held back my short brown hair. It acted as a kind of pacifier in moments like these. A reminder that wherever I went, I was still me.
I took a deep breath. "Here goes nothing."
The noise inside hit me like a sharp wind. People darted across the hallway, a couple of guys slapped hands while a few girls bent over an open magazine. Everyone unfamiliar. Everyone nameless. How was I going to do this?
Okay, the first step is always the hardest, I told myself. So I took it. I stepped over the threshold into my new school . . . and my toe caught the lip of the step. My heart shot into my throat. I flew forward. The floor rushed up at me. And all I could think was, Sand Dune High, here I come!
This was going to hurt. I knew from experience.
But before I could hit the ground, a pair of strong hands grabbed my arm and I was saved from utter humiliation. A few people still snickered around me, but it was so much better than it could have been. I looked up to thank my savior and my throat totally dried up. Maybe it was just the effects of hero worship, but the phrase humuna, humuna, humuna comes to mind.
"Are you okay?" my knight in faded Abercrombie asked, releasing me.
I smoothed down the front of my T-shirt and tried not to look anyone directly in the eye. My face was burning red. "Bones intact, ego slightly bruised," I said.
"I'll have that step removed by the end of the day," he joked.
"Thanks. You can do that?"
"I have powers beyond your understanding," he replied, a mischievous glint in his bluer-than-blue eyes. "I'm Daniel Healy, by the way."
Daniel Healy was yum. He was taller than me, but not too tall. Actually, the exact perfect height for slow dancing kind of tall. He had light brown hair with obviously natural blond highlights that matched the sun-bleached wisps on his tanned arms and legs. He was wearing long denim shorts, a faded, red, short-sleeved button-down with the first few buttons open, and a single shell on a black cord around his neck. And his smile? Whoa mama.
A few lines formed above Daniel Healy's perfectly shaped nose. He looked a little bit disturbed. Unfortunately, I get that a lot. "And you are . . . ?" he asked.
Nice one, Gobrowski, I said to myself. I gave him my best self-deprecating, doofy-me laugh. "Annisa Gobrowski," I said. "Don't call me Annie or I can't be responsible for my actions."
My stomach dropped when I saw his shocked face. Misfire. Back home that usually got a laugh. Did people in Florida have trouble catching witty sarcasm? If so, I was in big trouble.
"I'll remember that," he said. "You new? Come on, I'll show you where the office is."
Somehow I made myself move down the unfamiliar hall with its unfamiliar smells and its unfamiliar faces. People watched me curiously, like I was some new, unclassified species. I was so nervous, I was sure my knees were going to go out any second.
All around me students lined the hallway, digging in their lockers, checking their hair in compact mirrors, passing a soccer ball back and forth across the floor. Everything seemed to blur together. Would any of these people end up being my friend? Did I have anything in common with any of them? What if this school was too cliquey and no one wanted someone new to, you know, clique with?
"So, where did you come from, anyway?" I asked Daniel as we rounded a corner. I needed conversation to distract me from my insecure thoughts.
"I thought I was supposed to ask you that," he said. "Aren't you the new girl?"
I laughed. "No, I mean, just now. When you saved me from a splat worse than death."
"Oh, I followed you to school," Daniel said, causing my heart to thump. "I'm not a stalker or anything. I just live down the block from you. We should walk together sometime."
Smiling on the outside, I tried to remember if I'd done anything super embarrassing on the walk to school, like pick a wedgie or talk to myself. Oh, God! I had tried to three-pointer my banana peel into a garbage can by the bleachers and missed by a mile. Had he seen that?
"So where did you move here from?" Daniel asked.
"Really? Did you ever see anyone from The Sopranos?"
Such a boy thing to ask.
"No. And there were no attempted whackings at my old school either," I told him.
Daniel laughed. "Well, this is it," he said, stopping in front of a glass door marked MAIN OFFICE "Good luck, Annisa-not-Annie."
I grinned. "Thank you so much," I said, sounding a lot more breathless than usual.
"Hey, I know I wouldn't want to walk the halls of a new school alone," he said with a sympathetic grin. "Or, you know, trip through them."
Daniel started to back his way down the hall, somehow not stumbling over the skateboards, books and hundreds of feet in his path, all of which would have definitely sent me sprawling.
"See you later!" he added, giving me a wave.
I hope so, I thought with a smile. Maybe this new school thing wouldn't be so bad.
"Excellent record, Ms. Gobrowski, just excellent. Excellent, excellent, excellent."
I sat in the vinyl chair to the left of my new guidance counselor's desk, my hands clasped tightly in my lap. He held the manila folder containing my permanent file up in front of his round face, shaking his head, but in a good way-like he was awed by my many B-plusses and occasional A's. When he lowered the file to his lap, he grinned, his rosy red cheeks growing even rosier. He reminded me of an inflated Christmas elf or one of those lawn gnomes my grandmother has all over her yard in Chicago.
"Just excellent," he said again, his eyes twinkling.
Ever hear a word so many times it starts to lose all meaning?
"Uh . . . thanks, Mr. . . ."
I trailed off, mortified. Already I couldn't remember his name. "In-one-ear-out-the-other" should really be my nickname. That or "Miss Trips-a-Lot."
"Cuccinello," he said with a laugh. "Not to worry-it's a tough one."
"Cuccinello," I repeated, wondering when he was going to let me go to class. The first day was always the toughest, and I wanted to get it over with. Besides, if he kept me here much longer, I was going to be late for homeroom, which meant no slipping in with the rest of the crowd, which meant big attention on me, which meant--
"So, I bet you're a little nervous, huh?" Mr. Cuccinello said, tapping the edge of my file against the corner of his desk.
"Brave girl! I like it!" Mr. Cuccinello barked. As he said the words, he sat up straight for a split second, like a firecracker going off, then settled back down again. He slipped a thin piece of paper off his desk and handed it to me. "Now, here's your schedule. You requested a music elective, so we've put you in concert choir. Are you a singer?"
"Um . . . yeah. An alto," I said.
"Great! Now, if any of your classes are too fast or too slow, or if you just plain don't like 'em, let me know. I'm here for you, Ms. Gobrowski, remember that. Here . . . for . . . you!" he said, enunciating each word with a jab of his finger in my direction.
I looked down at the unfamiliar schedule in my hand. It ran vertically down the page instead of horizontally like the ones back home. Plus, it was peppered with strange room numbers and abbreviations. I felt a lump form in my throat. I just wanted one thing to feel the same. Anything.
"You're gonna do just great here, I can feel it," Mr. Cuccinello continued. "I get a good vibe from you, Ms. Gobrowski, a good vibe. You are going to fit right in like a square peg in a square hole." He made a popping sound with his tongue and raised his bushy eyebrows. "Now get on out there and knock 'em dead!"
"Thanks, Mr. C," I said, the nickname slipping out.
"Mr. C! I like it!" he called after me. "Get a move on! The bell's gonna ring soon!"
Great. Like I needed more pressure. The halls were almost deserted and the couple of people who were there were running. Never a good sign. According to my schedule, I was assigned to room 214. Ms. Walters' classroom. I made a right, vaguely remembering that Daniel and I had passed a stairwell. I figured 214 had to be upstairs, yes? It was a start.
As I scurried up to the second floor, the sweat returned and I had to hike up my long denim skirt so that my ankles could make the climb. Mental note: Factor Florida temperature and abundance of school stairs into all future wardrobe choices. By the time I got upstairs, I was in panic mode. When would the bell ring? Was it going to ring now? No. Now? No. I felt like I was stuck in a life-size game of Mouse Trap.
I glanced left and mercifully saw room 215 at the end of the hall. I figured 214 had to be nearby . . . except it wasn't. The room numbers only went up. And when I turned a corner, I was faced with rooms 200A, 200B and 201. What was this, some kind of sick joke? It was like the set designer from the Harry Potter movies had taken some time off to build my new school. I hustled down the hallway, the numbers flying by. All the classrooms were full of students, doors closed, conversation muffled. I had yet to see a soul in the second-floor hall. I was completely and totally late.
Around yet another corner I finally found room 214. Phew. I took a deep breath, smoothed my hair down, and opened the door to the classroom. The second I did, the bell pealed out so loudly, it could have been inside my brain. I froze, startled, and every single person in the room turned to look at me. I instantly knew that I had made two drastic mistakes.
First, I had not conformed to local fashion codes, which apparently called for the wearing of much color and little cloth. I had never seen so many belly buttons in one place at one time in all my life. And I'd spent plenty of summer days at the Jersey Shore, thank you very much.
Second, I was not blonde. How had I not noticed it before? Every last female in the room was blonde. There were natural blondes and peroxide blondes, highlighted blondes and frosted blondes. Golden blondes, white blondes, ash blondes. Blondes with brown eyebrows and blondes with olive skin. There was even an Asian girl in the front row with her short blonde hair pulled back in two neat ponytails.
I was a very new, very real, clearly distasteful minority.
I couldn't move. The teacher, a rather overweight woman with a horrid paisley dress and yes, a mannish blonde do, didn't even come to my rescue. I had just walked into the Barbie Dream School and I was that brunette reject doll that always got left on the shelf at Toys R Us until she got marked down fifteen times and eventually sold off for ninety-nine cents.
"Well, I'll be damned," a voice said, right behind me. "There is a God."
I felt like I was going to be sick. I moved out of the doorway and was faced with a seriously tall girl with purple hair, black eyeliner and multiple piercings-ear and nose. She was looking down at me like I was her exact version of Mr. Wonderful come to whisk her away to an exotic desert island.
"Hi," I said.
"You are so sitting with me," she replied.
She grabbed my hand-hers was covered in a fishnet glove with the fingertips sliced off-and pulled me toward the back of the classroom.
"Shouldn't I-," I began, looking over my shoulder at the teacher.
"She doesn't care who you are," the girl told me. She fell into a seat with a cacophony of clangs and clanks from her various zippers and accessories. Then she practically flung me into the desk next to hers. "I, on the other hand, do," she added. Her brown eyes glistened with interest as she held out her hand again. "I'm Bethany."
"Annisa," I told her, shaking her hand. I glanced around the room and a few of my spectators rolled their eyes and looked away. Suddenly, Ms. Walters came to life and clapped her hands, telling everyone to take their seats-the morning announcements were about to start.
"You can see me after homeroom, Miss . . .?" the teacher said, lifting her chin to see me over the crowd of shifting students.
"Gobrowski," I said. "Annisa Gobrowski."
A Britney double in a red bandanna-print halter top a few rows ahead of me snorted and leaned over to whisper something to her friend. They both laughed and cast a disdainful look in my direction before facing the front of the room.
I swallowed hard and tried to smile at Bethany. At least she was being a human.
"You have so made my year," Bethany told me as the overhead speaker crackled to life. "I have been praying for another brunette around here since birth."
Someone on the PA said something about the Pledge of Allegiance and everyone stood up. My knees were practically knocking together, but I made it out of my chair.
"Come on. There has to be another brunette in this school somewhere," I whispered, scoffing. I pressed my wet palms into my denim skirt and wondered if that slightly offensive smell was coming from my own armpits.
"Not one that will admit to it," Bethany answered, looking at my hair out of the corner of her eye. "This is all kinds of cool."
The more she looked at me with that stunned, almost loving expression, the more tense I became. My gaze darted around the room from blonde to blonde to blonde to blonde. The Britney-clone looked at me again and snickered.
"Nice clip," she mouthed, glancing toward my forehead. Her friend laughed into her hand. Suddenly my rhinestone barrette felt hard and cold and jagged against my scalp.
It was official. I was in hell. And John Frieda was the devil.
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Kieran Scott lives in Westwood, New Jersey.
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