“There’s that freak again,” Britney says matter-of-factly. “She’s staring at us.”
“Probably wishing she could kill you with her eyes,” Stacy sneers. “Then she could have Jake all to herself.”
“God, I don’t know what your boyfriend sees in her,” Charlotte says between smacking her bubblegum. “She’s so creepy.”
“Taylor and Jake share many common interests,” I say coolly as I stretch out into the splits. “Oh, and Charlotte?”
“Get rid of it. No gum once practice starts. You know that.”
Charlotte rolls her eyes, but she gets up to obey. She knows better than to cross me.
“Don’t you ever get worried though?” Britney wonders as she leans into her stretch. “I mean, it’s only obvious to anyone with half a brain that she’s infatuated with your boyfriend.”
“Britney,” I say sweetly, “why don’t you worry about landing that double handspring, and I’ll worry about my boyfriend.”
Only when all the girls are preoccupied with their stretches do I turn to look at the subject of our conversation – Taylor Swift.
Taylor and Jake grew up together, were BFFs since they shared their first PB&J in kindergarten, and remain BFFs even though he’s obviously outgrown her.
And I don’t just mean that socially, he’s one of the star football players while she’s still rates somewhere above “WoW Addict” on the social scale. I mean the fact that he’s setting his sights on studying pre-law at an out-of-state university on a football scholarship, but she thinks she’s getting out of this town because of her bubblegum pop voice and her country ballads.
And that’s why I’m Jake’s girlfriend, and she’s always going to be the BFF.
“Alright, girls,” I bark, “line up for drills.”
I catch Jake’s eye across the field and smile.
Britney wonders why I don’t worry about her, but there’s no reason to. Taylor would be pretty if she tried, would be smart if she studied, would sparkle if she weren’t so shy. But she doesn’t try, she doesn’t study, and she doesn’t talk to people. She hides behind her glasses and spend her time making google-eyes at Jake.
She thinks I don’t see her panting after my boyfriend, thinks I don’t know how badly she wants him to be hers. She thinks I don’t notice the subtle way she tries to one-up me in every conversation with the three of us, but I’m fucking Cheer Captain. I fend off more passive-aggressive backbiting insinuations before breakfast than she’s probably thrown her entire life.
But I put up with her because she’s Jake’s friend, and pretend like I don’t know how much she wants me to die, and our relationship would still be shits and giggles on eggshells, if she hadn’t pushed the wrong fucking button at the wrong fucking time.
It’s the morning after one of my knock-down drag-out fights with Jake, this one about whether he should give up going to college so he could move to L.A. and be another broke-ass musician trying to make the scene. I know he only gets these ideas in his head because she fills his head with idealistic “What ifs” and “Couldn’t we?”s about how glamorous it would be, living for the sake of your art.
I don’t want to rain on Jake’s parade, but while he’s good at his guitar, he’s not great, and guitarists wanting to live the dream in L.A. are a dime a dozen, but his full-ride football scholarship is nothing to be scoffed at.
So I am so not in the mood when I get to school early that morning, intending to let off steam through practicing my double-backflip, front handspring, double-twist, aerial combo. As I walk past the music room, though, I hear a few chords strain through, and then it’s her voice.
But she wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts
She’s Cheer Captain and I’m on the bleachers
Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find
That what you’re looking for has been here the whole time
And that’s when I lose it. I push open the doors and storm in, interrupting her mid-lyric.
“Look, bitch,” I say before she can get a word out, “let’s get something straight right here, right now. I don’t want to have to repeat myself, so I’m only going to say this once-”
“If you’re going to tell me Jake’s yours, I know,” Taylor said, voice trembling, “but he should be with me, and one day he’ll realize that, and then-”
“I’m not here to tell you he’s mine. I’m here to tell you why he’s mine. I’m here to tell you why I’m not scared about you taking him away from me, nor will I ever be.” I lean in. “It’s because while I had the fucking self-confidence to take the initiative and go after him, you’ll only ever pine away from the sidelines because you’ll never have the courage to do anything about it.”
I don’t give her the time to respond, before I turn and walk away. When I get the door, I turn back and take in her shocked expression. “When Jake gets to school in 25 minutes, I’m going to tell him that I saw you crying alone in the music room, and I’ll send him in to comfort you, and he’ll console you and ask you what’s wrong, and I want you to know the whole time that he’s here because I told him to come, and I sent him because you’re not a threat.”
I’m about to close the door, but she actually says something.
“Jake’s not going to university with you, you know,” she stammers out, voice quavering. “He’s told me about his dreams. He wants to be a musician. He’s going to L.A. with me and we’re going to make it big and he’s never told you because you don’t understand him like I do-”
“Honey,” I said sweetly. “I don’t give a flying fuck. We’re in high school, and I like Jake because he’s a great guy, but odds are we’re not going to be together five years from now. When we graduate, he can do whatever the fuck he wants because he’s a grown person and I’m not his mama. I love him now, but my life sure as fuck doesn’t revolve around his. I may not understand him like you do but I’m also not dependent on his every word and action like you are either.
“I wish you luck in L.A., though. You’ll need it.”
And then I let the door slam behind me.
Five years later, when I see her singing on television, I almost laugh. Looks like she actually made it big as a pop star while I’m in a cramped apartment, grading the last of the Physics 301 quizzes before I head out with my fellow TAs for a night out at the bar. Guess Jake was nothing but a distant memory for the both of us.
That night, I raise my martini glass in a silent toast to Taylor, wherever she is.
To dreams …