Something unknown awakens deep within her.
A girl had only to leap upward, stretching her legs outward, so that they were parallel to the mat, extend her arms from her shoulders, as in the "T" jump, and, keeping her back straight, reach toward her toes. Like the rest of the girls, Sarah had done this jump a thousand times.
"We don't have all day, Owens," Coach Bigg called.
Gathering her strength, Sarah shoved off with the toes of her shoes, went airborne--and fell on her back, coming down with a hard thud on the padded mat, the fingernails of one flailing hand scratching Jennifer Adams' calf.
No one said anything, not even Coach Bigg. The squad's leader was content, it appeared, to let Sarah's clumsiness speak for itself. Here was a girl who was unable to execute even the simplest cheerleading jumps, a girl who could hurt her fellow cheerleaders' chance to win even a preliminary competition, to say nothing of the National High School Cheerleading Competition, a girl who should, perhaps, be cut from the squad.
"Meet me in the storeroom in ten minutes," Coach Bigg ordered. She looked down at Sarah, who was still flat on her back. "That includes you, too, Owens--for the moment, at least."
The other girls filed into the girls' locker room. No one offered to help Sarah up or said a word to her. In the two days since Coach Bigg's arrival at South Catholic High School, Sarah had gone from being the most popular girl on campus to being a social pariah.
She rolled onto her side, placing a hand on the mat, to push herself up, and her palm slipped on something slick. Disgusted, she looked at her hand. A clear, thick substance was smeared on her palm. She rubbed the goop between her fingers, knowing immediately what it was: petroleum jelly. Someone had purposely smeared the mat in front of her position with the substance to ensure that, in performing the toe-touch, Sarah would slip and fall, just as she'd done.
And the one who'd assigned them their places in the circle was Coach Bigg. The bitch had planned this scenario even before today's practice, to make Sarah look bad in front of her friends. For some reason, the coach had it out for Sarah. She was gunning for her.
* * *
"Ladies, may I present The Carousel?"
The sexy brunette in the white lab coat with a name badge bearing "Dr. Fanner" attached to one of its lapels stood beside a machine the likes of which neither Sarah nor any of the other cheerleaders had ever seen. All they knew--or suspected--because Coach Bigg had introduced the physicist as the "quality control expert for Spank-o-Matic"--was that the device had something to do with spanking.
As its name implied, The Carousel was a great wheel. Composed of interlocking padded wedges, the machine could hold as many as fifteen subjects, Dr. Fanner informed them. The scientist had come, she said, at Coach Bigg's bidding, to demonstrate the contraption, with the help of her "able assistant," Debbie Johnson, a beautiful brunette with full breasts, wide hips, and an Amazonian build. Debbie had shoulder-length, wavy locks, the color of milk chocolate, and her complexion was rather more bronze than pink. Her eyes were dark brown, with thick upper and lower lashes, and she had a small nose, full, sensuous lips, and a firm jaw. In general, she looked much like Lucy Lawless with a darker skin tone.
A central post rose from the hub that connected the great spokes at the ends of which the pie-shaped sections of the machine were attached.