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||bellbottoms, cheeringleading, inordinate, multi-pouched, negligible, physique, precarious, sequins-studded, strawberry-blonde, thermoses, ulcerous, lithe, raucous, halftime, languid, epitomize
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By Colleen Messina
1 Caitlin tossed her baton into the air, crossed her right leg over her left, and spun around rapidly twice. Her strawberry-blond ponytail streaked behind her like a ray of rosy light at sunset, and her clear blue eyes followed the glittering baton. As she faced forward again on the second spin, she effortlessly caught the slender silver stick in her hand, and her face beamed. She had mastered the precarious twirling maneuver at last!
2 "Hot stuff!" said Nancy, Caitlin's best friend. Their right hands clapped enthusiastically in a victorious high five.
3 Caitlin and Nancy were looking forward to their freshman year of high school, and both girls wanted to join the twirling squad. They fantasized about sitting together on the bus rides to football games, sharing thermoses of hot chocolate, and watching the football players exhaust themselves. The twirling squad performed at halftime and wore smart navy uniforms decorated with shiny brass buttons and gold fringe.
4 Caitlin epitomized gracefulness as she twirled and danced in perfect rhythm. The intricate dance steps and baton maneuvers seemed effortless for Caitlin because she had the physique of an athlete. Nancy's build was shorter and heavier, and her twirling moves never looked completely smooth. However, with Caitlin's encouragement and subtle corrections, Nancy's mistakes became negligible.
5 "I can't wait for tryouts!" Nancy exclaimed to Caitlin one sultry summer day as they practiced on Nancy's asphalt driveway. Today's hazy 95-degree heat made the driveway ooze like hot molasses so practicing was impossible in the afternoon. Each morning and late evening, the girls practiced until their errors became infrequent.
6 Finally, the leaves began to show touches of scarlet and orange, and the sky seemed even bluer against the radiant autumn colors. The air smelled deliciously of wood smoke and dry leaves and the cooler September weather made everyone feel a renewed mental quickness that had disappeared during the languid summer months. Wayward children and teenagers braced themselves for the beginning of school.
7 Caitlin and Nancy purchased three-ring-binders, multi-pouched backpacks, and the latest styles in teenage fashion. Color-loving Caitlin bought sequin-studded jeans and multi-colored shirts, but Nancy had an inordinate preference for plain polos and khaki pants. Nancy's bland taste really did exasperate Caitlin.
8 High school was a new world, but soon the long hallways lined with tall metal lockers became familiar. Caitlin and Nancy had different classes, and soon Nancy noticed that Caitlin hung out with some girls Nancy did not know. The girls were cheerleaders! Caitlin didn't want to practice twirling every night, even though tryouts were in one week, and when she did, she didn't seem as focused as she had been before. For the first time, Nancy felt strangely insecure about their friendship. On the night before tryouts, the girls sat on Caitlin's front porch steps, surrounded by the cool, green tendrils of ivy leaves that covered the railings. They enjoyed being sedentary for a moment, and then Caitlin suddenly turned to Nancy with a troubled look on her face.
9 "Nancy, I need to tell you something, and I hope you will understand," Caitlin said.
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