Home > When I Need You (Need You #4)(7)

When I Need You (Need You #4)(7)
Author: Lorelei James

“We’re slammed with renovations and we’re turning down more work than ever. Jase and I discussed expanding, but we’re clearing substantial profits as it is. For him, an increased workload would take time away from Tiffany and their baby girl Jewel. Given what he’s been through to finally have a family, money isn’t a driving force for him. For me either. I want to be with Trinity and baby T-Dub as much as possible.” He grinned. “So I’m an old married dude content to spend my weekends puttering around and being at my pregnant wife’s beck and call.”

I clapped him on the shoulder. “It’s what you’ve always wanted, so I’m happy for you.”

“Thanks. Swing by and have a beer this week.”

“I’ll take you up on that.”

I drove home and felt no guilt whatsoever crawling back in bed for a few hours. At least if I was sleeping I wasn’t obsessing over what would happen during my lunch meeting with the guys who held my football future in their hands.

 

 

Four

 

ROWAN

 

Calder woke up in a grumpy mood. Normally he was a sweet, easygoing kid so I wasn’t sure if he just didn’t get enough sleep or if he dreaded something at school. When I asked him about it, he mumbled into his cereal so I let it go.

I dropped him off at school—thank heaven for all-day kindergarten—and then backtracked to the University of Minnesota campus. This weekend we had tryouts for next year’s squads, and last year we’d had a thousand students try out for eighty spots. The dance routine was the same as last year’s; we changed it every other year. That one small thing made the tryout process easier—the current cheerleaders were familiar with the routine so they could help teach it to newcomers.

I helped with the choreography of the dances and cheers, but mainly I served as an athletic trainer, advisor and coach to the stunt groups. In middle school, I’d spent three years as part of competitive club cheer group, four years in high school as part of a traveling competitive cheer squad, and four years on the U of M elite all-girl competitive cheer squad. After discovering my pregnancy the last semester of my senior year, I had to quit the squad.

I’d been lucky to get hired by the U of M athletic department as a trainer after my college graduation. The other benefit of my job was the onsite day care during the school year.

As challenging as training was, I missed the actual cheering at a sporting event. Dante, my former mentor, had scored a job working for the Vikings, and he suggested I try out for the Vikings cheerleaders.

Right. Those women weren’t “real” cheerleaders. They were models. Probably empty-headed models, or dancers whose real job involved nightly pole work and lap dances. The supposed “pro” team didn’t even do stunts! What kind of a cheer squad couldn’t at least throw up a liberty a couple of times a game?

Dante checked my attitude. He reminded me of how hard cheerleaders had worked to overcome stereotypes and the dismissive attitude that we weren’t considered “real” athletes. I’d needed to get knocked down a peg. My driving purpose with the collegiate athletic department was to ensure that all athletes—male and female—received equal training opportunities.

Spending eight or more hours in the gym every day demanded that I keep up with my students on a physical level. I’d stayed fit during my pregnancy, and within four months of Calder’s birth I’d returned to my prepregnancy body. Even after Dante convinced me to attend an open practice session at the Vikings cheerleading camp, I doubted the organization wanted someone like me—a single mother with a one-year-old baby—to represent them.

Had I ever been happy to be proven wrong.

The cheerleader roster included women from age nineteen to thirty-four. From all walks of life—students, hairstylists, teachers, homemakers, nurses, personal trainers—all women who’d spent their lives cheering or dancing or both and hadn’t been ready to give it up. Were the women beautiful? Absolutely. But that almost seemed to be a secondary concern; the cheerleaders’ fitness mattered above all else.

I’d never been as nervous as I was the day I showed up for the first open practice. So many hopefuls had applied that they’d had to split it into five sessions of one hundred women in each session. I’d been sitting by myself, practically in the corner, when a brash blonde plopped herself down beside me and struck up a conversation. That turned out to be the best thing that had happened to me. Daisy and I became fast friends, and I wouldn’t know what to do without her in my life.

We both made it past the preliminaries and the semifinals into the final round. We squeed appropriately when we both were selected as Vikings cheerleaders and celebrated by polishing off a hundred-dollar bottle of wine Daisy had been saving for a special occasion.

Although I was confident in my qualifications to cheer and dance, part of me couldn’t help but wonder if I’d been chosen partially because I was a single mother and it created interesting PR. But I hadn’t cared then—or now. I was proud to be a Vikings cheerleader.

Auditions were held every year, and being on the squad the previous year didn’t guarantee a spot. I had a sense of accomplishment that I was about to start my fifth year on the team. Besides Marsai, who had an extra season on us, Daisy and I had been there the longest. I’d know in my gut when it was time to hang up my pompoms, but I felt I had a couple more seasons in me.

Today I had a meeting with Heather, the head of the cheerleading staff. I’d scheduled a longer lunch break so I could drive to the Vikings corporate offices and training center in Winter Park. While we were a few months away from the unveiling of the new U.S. Bank stadium, the excitement over the near completion of the billion-dollar facility was palpable everywhere.

With this expanded stadium, the cheerleaders were given a new set of expectations. To be honest, the pay to cheer for games is crap—none of us do it for the money and there’s no such thing as a full-time cheerleader. The Vikings organization needed the cheerleaders to mingle in the skyboxes during the games, providing a more personal touch to those who could afford to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for the prized box seats. So in addition to the fifty cheerleaders on the field, they’d auditioned and hired fifty more women as “ambassadors” meaning they paraded around in uniforms similar to ours, chatting with fans and corporate sponsors while we sweated our asses off, dancing and cheering for all four quarters.

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