It had been a few months since she'd moved into Cheertown, the dormitory of the Lancer Hellcats. The semester was winding down and most of her teammates were spending a good chunk of their time cramming for finals. Not Savannah. She considered herself a cheerleading major and put only enough effort into her schoolwork to keep a steady C average and keep her scholarship. Her mind was on the upcoming span of holidays that she wouldn't be spending with her family.
"Earth to Savannah." Savannah looked up to see Alice, the girl who'd given her such a hard time at try-outs, standing in the doorway with arms crossed, dressed for a night out. "Those things with the numbers on them? You use those to contact the outside world."
Savannah let a bit of a grin come as she shook her head and looked back down at her phone, letting the jabs of her teammate roll right off. "Sorry. I was trying to decide if calling home would be worth it."
There was a slight flicker of pain in her eyes before her face hardened. "I knew it. You're going back to them, aren't you?"
Her head popped up again with a look of disbelief. "What?" Savannah shook her head as she got up from the bed where she sat and moved toward her teammate. "No. I told you, I'm not going back to Mem Chris. I don't belong there."
Alice looked her over with ambivalent scrutiny before seemingly giving the benefit of the doubt. "So why the call?"
Savannah sighed. "It's the holiday season. Everyone else is going home to spend time with their families, but chances are I'll be spending them here by myself."
She watched Alice avert her gaze to the floor briefly before looking back at her. "Well if it works out that way, I'll stay here with you."
She looked back with wide eyes. "Really? What about your family?"
Alice grinned back at her. "Raised by wolves, remember? No one's going to miss me."
Savannah smiled in return. "Thanks, Alice."
On Christmas Eve, the two sat on the floor next to the miniature tree near the window.
"Sorry about your mom," Alice said, a rare show of sympathy that brought a smile despite everything.
"Thanks. I'm glad you're here."
Alice averted her eyes before reaching under her bed. What she pulled out was a small box, blue with a yellow ribbon. She took hold of it with both hands and held it out between them. "I got you something." When Savannah just stared, her eyes widened with slight annoyance. "Come on, it's not going to bite you."
Savannah laughed at herself and took the box, setting it in her lap before tugging at the ribbon. What she pulled out was a gold chain with a polished script pendant spelling out the word 'Cheer'. Her mouth hung open for a few seconds. "Alice, it's beautiful."
The other girl shrugged. "The style of the script reminded me of you, and I know how much you miss your family, so I thought I'd remind you of the family you do have."
Savannah smiled bright and shifted to her knees, wrapping her arms around Alice. "Thank you so much." She squeezed just a bit tighter after it was returned, tears forming at the brim of her eyes and her voice lowering to a whisper. "Thank you."