“An illegal pass,” he corrected her.

“The double just sort of happened,” she said. “Or actually, it didn’t.”

“Coach said you almost landed it.”

“I . . .” Isobel frowned. Glancing up, she watched her father’s face carefully, trying to gauge not only where this calm, almost detached reaction was coming from, but where it was going. Shouldn’t the yelling have started by now?

“How many rotations?” he asked, and took a sip of his ginger ale.

Isobel’s eyes darted to Danny, who remained absorbed in his game. Then she glanced back to her dad. “I . . . don’t . . . know.” She shrugged. “I just—”

“Coach said it was more than three at least,” he cut in, sounding strangely excited. “Whatever you did, she seemed pretty impressed by it. But don’t tell her I told you that. Anyway, do . . . uh . . . do you think you could do it again?”

“Do it . . . again? Dad. I think it’s fairly safe to say I’m off the squad.”

He scrunched up his face and waved her off. “I talked to Coach,” he said. “Told her about us going up to Maryland. She said you hadn’t mentioned it to her. I told her that’s probably why you did what you did. She seemed to calm down after that.”

Isobel watched her father push his half-full plate away and fold his arms across the table. Chin down, he angled his gaze up at her, several creases running across his broad forehead.

“You’re really serious about cheering, aren’t you?” he asked.


Isobel remained silent, opting to just nod.

“Good,” he said. “Because I called the university today and made arrangements for you to meet with the head coach. I told her about Nationals, and she mentioned that you might show her a few things. Sort of like an unofficial tryout.”

“You what?”

Isobel’s fork slipped. It clattered against the table, causing Danny to flinch. Her brother scowled, and this time left the room, taking his plate with him to the kitchen.

Her dad paused, his ginger ale poised just in front of his lips. He lowered the can, setting it down before he spoke again. “Thought you’d want to meet her while we were there,” he said, studying her closely.

Isobel stared at him in abject horror. He had gotten her a one-on-one with the head coach? And an unofficial tryout? It seemed unthinkable. How?

Her heart constricted in her chest, clenching tighter with each beat.

In that moment, she knew she should never have involved her father in the plans to reach Baltimore. She should have figured something else out, found some way to make it there on her own.

“You know . . . ,” he prompted. “At this super-special university we’re flying up to see week after next?”

Mouth open, Isobel’s lips trembled in an attempt to form words.

He’d meant this to be a surprise—a good surprise.

She did her best to force a smile. Meanwhile, her mind shot into overdrive, trying to calculate how much this would complicate things.

“Are—are we going to have time for that?” she asked.

“I mean . . . that’s the whole reason we’re going, isn’t it?”

She sat back. Gripping the table, she nodded. “Yeah,” she said. “Wow. I—it—Thanks . . . Dad.”

He gave her a funny, squinty-eyed look. “Gosh, Iz, I thought you’d be a little more excited than this.”

“I am excited,” she insisted. Leaning forward in her chair, she touched his arm. She smiled again but didn’t push it, not wanting to lay it on too thick too late. “I just . . . got nervous there for a second is all. I don’t really have anything prepared, you know?”

“Well, like I said, kiddo, it’s not official or anything. Right now, I think they just want to see a little of what you’ve got. You’re still only a junior. And you’ve got some time to practice, though you ought to be in pretty good shape from the competition. You don’t have to do the pass if you don’t want to.” He nudged her elbow. “I mean . . . you’re not having second thoughts about the whole thing, are you?”

“No!” she shouted.

Her dad cocked an eyebrow at her.

Isobel sank back in her chair. She ducked her head and stared at the soupy contents on her plate. The smell of the food began to make her already knotted stomach churn in loop-de-loops. She felt suddenly light-headed and queasy, like she’d spent the entire day on a carnival ride that had only just begun to slow down.

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