Morgan Frierson looked across the football field, at stands filled with Edison students, all stomping and cheering for the start of the pep rally. A frenzied exhibition of school spirit would guarantee that Edison’s principal and staff would authorize another such rally. And who didn’t want to cut out of last period thirty minutes early? Morgan knew some kids were already melting away into the Michigan afternoon, ditching school and the rally, but most were hanging around in the stands.
She stood at the mouth of the short tunnel leading from the locker room, the football team stamping behind her, waiting for Principal Simmons to finish his comments on the makeshift stage in the middle of the field. The marching band had already played and gone through a few formations, and now its members were standing at the foot of the stage, sweating in the hot sun. Morgan fidgeted impatiently, and when she felt the brush of lips on the back of her neck, she jumped a foot.
“Whoa, babe! It’s a kiss, not a knife,” she heard her boyfriend, Trent Caparella, say.
Behind them, a few of the players made smacking sounds and off-color remarks.
Trent turned, saying good-naturedly, “Knock it off, dirtbags.”
Morgan spun to face Trent. “You startled me.”
Trent was a soccer player, but during football season Coach used Trent’s kicking leg to add necessary extra points and field goals to the scoreboard. “Nervous, Madam President?”
They were seniors and Morgan had been elected student council president. Today was her first public speech to the student body. “Nervous? How could I be? I just love talking to a thousand kids who are going to ignore me.”
“Never happen. When they see you coming, they’ll bow.”
“Very funny.” Morgan chewed her bottom lip, heard her name from the principal’s mike. She took a deep breath. “Here I go.” She jogged onto the field, looking at the ground so she wouldn’t trip. Catcalls and cheers erupted from the stands. She glanced up to see her best friend, Kelli, and a whole squad of cheerleaders waving at her. The front rows of the stands were packed with her fellow seniors, benches of honor at every pep rally, off-limits to the other kids.
Morgan trotted up the platform stairs, her hair bobbing on her shoulders, and went to the mike. “Seniors, juniors, sophomores, freshmen!” The bleachers yipped with whistles and stomping. Each class attempted to outscreech the others. Morgan quickly decided to dump her prepared remarks about school spirit. “Here they are!” she shouted. “Your Fighting Eagles!”
The football team, dressed in bright blue-and-white uniforms, jogged out onto the field, and the students did their cheering duty, led by the cheerleading squad. Morgan kept her eyes on Trent. He was gorgeous: tall, blond, broad-shouldered, with bulging leg muscles from years of playing soccer. She felt so lucky to be his girl. Ever since their freshman year, when they’d first set eyes on each other, they’d been a couple--“the Jock and the Princess, a Disney movie in living color.” That was what Kelli had always said about them. Morgan couldn’t deny she agreed with her friend’s analysis. She and Trent were a perfect couple; everyone said so. He was one of the reasons she’d been elected student council president, and they the Most Popular Twosome for the yearbook. But she’d earned Most Likely to Succeed and become a Merit Scholar on her own. No denying she was driven to earn high grades and college scholarships. Trent had already been offered athletic scholarships from top universities. They would be going their separate ways after graduation. That was hard for Morgan--knowing that this was their last year together before their lives changed forever.
The team jogged around the football field. Cheers. Kelli and the cheerleading squad flashed pom-poms, made human pyramids, executed precise tumbling routines. More cheers from the bleachers. The band struck up the school song and air horns sounded out of nowhere. The principal beamed toward the stands. Morgan felt a deep stirring of school spirit and teared up. For a moment, her gaze connected with Trent’s. He blew her a kiss.
And then, without warning, in front of the goalpost at the east end of the field, all hell broke loose.
Excerpted from Red Heart Tattoo by Lurlene McDaniel. Copyright © 2012 by Lurlene McDaniel. Excerpted by permission of Ember, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.