pom-poms and megaphones and imperfections

Losing a bet against Jarred Cooper involved a megaphone, a hot pink mini skirt, pom-poms, and a skin-tight t-shirt that read "Jarred Cooper is Perfection". I know, I know. As if.

I voiced that last thought to the two males sitting in the couch in front of me, who were laughing like the whole situation was the funniest thing in the world. Hayden was laughing so hard he nearly fell off his seat. Then they high-fived each other and continued laughing. I know, I was surrounded by comedians.

It was two days later and Jarred was back in our house, holding much more than his touch footy stuff. And then I knew my worst nightmare had arrived – in the form of a cheerleader's outfit. Not to mention the customised shirt. It even had little flames on top of the words. A Supré shirt would have been more tasteful.

"I'm not wearing this," I said, hoping they'd hear it this time.

Jarred stopped laughing, but he was grinning all the same. "I got you blue pom-poms to match your eyes."

Knowing he was colour co-ordinated was reassuring. Not. I folded my arms across my chest. I was wearing denim shorts and a plain t-shirt, and it was exactly what I was going to wear for the rest of the day.

"Come on, Alexa," Jarred drawled. "You really don't want me to dress you."

I stared at him. If looks could kill, he'd be sliced meat. Then he'd be minced meat.

I transferred the look on to Hayden, who was grinning like an idiot. But upon seeing my look, he jumped up. Good. I arched an eyebrow, signalling him to run – which he did. Hayden knew when to give up. "I'm, um, going to get changed," he said, and ran upstairs.

With satisfaction, I moved the look back on to Jarred. Unfortunately, it was ineffective. He just smiled.

"I'm not wearing this," I said again, picking up the shirt distastefully with two fingers.

Jarred stretched across the sofa, making himself feel at home. "You lost the bet."

"This," I accused, throwing the shirt at him, "is playing dirty."

"It's actually very clean. Brand new in fact. I designed it." He sounded proud.

"I'm still not wearing it," I said stubbornly. I didn't even know how many times I'd said it already.

The glint was back in his eyes, which were now very light amber with flecks of green. "Like I said," he said slowly, standing up, "I can always dress you."

He folded his arms too, and it was like a face-off across the coffee table. I held my stance and narrowed my eyes. He did the same thing. If I wasn't so set on not wearing his costume, I'd admit it was a bit intimidating on him, but since I was set – and most definitely set – I wasn't going to budge anytime soon.

"You have ten seconds," he drawled.

I arched an eyebrow. "Am I supposed to be scared?"

Jarred smiled in response, looking somewhat pleased. "Don't say I didn't warn you."

"Oh yeah? What are you going to do?"

He took a few steps around the coffee table. I took a few steps back.

This time he arched an eyebrow. "Running away?"

"No," I retorted, but my feet were saying different things, taking small steps backwards. And then I felt the coolness of the wall against my back. He was only a metre away from me. Damn.

"First," he said, smiling, "you won't be able to escape."

My first instinct was to run, but before I could his arms were suddenly on both sides of me, trapping me against the wall. I tried to duck under his arms, but he easily outmanoeuvred me. His face hovered a few centimetres away from mine, very much amused by my efforts.

"And I'd like to think I'm pretty strong," he continued. I snorted on instinct but he held up a finger near my lips, that annoying smile still in place. "So you can try, but escape's going to be futile."

"This is sexual harassment."

"But I'm not doing anything." What I wouldn't do to wipe the smugness from his face. "Well, yet."

"Did you know I'm a black belt in karate?" I added.

"Yeah, and I'm poor and ugly."

Charming and modest. I played along and patted one of his cheeks. "About time you realised."

He rolled his eyes. "Let's face it. I'm insanely hot and you can't resist me."

I used a finger to motion the not-so-much space between us. "From an outsider's perspective, I think I'm the irresistible one here." I fluttered my eyelashes. "You just can't let me go."

I expected him to retort, but he just smiled and said, "Nice try. I'm better."

"At what?"

He leaned in and whispered near in ear, "Getting my way."

The sensation made me shiver.

"See," he pointed out.

I moved my head away from his. "That was because of…how un-hot you are." In terms of comebacks, it was pretty lame, but it succeeded in wiping the smile off his face. My theory why he and Hayden became best friends was that they both suffered from a Narcissus complex and needed each other to reassure themselves of their own hotness.

"Jarred," I tried, "the real reason I can't wear your shirt is that it's completely untrue, and I'm a really truthful person. You. Are. Not. Perfection." I enunciated each word extra clear so that it would penetrate through his thick skull.

Jarred feigned pain for a split second. Then he went back to normal and smiled. "You lied to me a few minutes ago."


"You said you did karate but you've never been to a single lesson," he said knowingly.

My story was blown. "How do you know?" I asked suspiciously. Even though Jarred was Hayden's best friend, it wasn't as if we were bum chums too. In fact, the past few days were more Jarred bonding then let's say, the whole past year.

"Because I distinctly remember you revealing the source of your self-defence lessons."

Okay, I had no idea what he was talking about.

He sighed at the confusion that must've been on my face. "Miss Congeniality."

Oh, SING. I was fifteen and wanted to try it on the first male that I encountered, since both of my brothers went into hiding after I saw the movie. That made Jarred the first male to enter the house. Fond memory.

Jarred mustn't have thought so, because he frowned slightly.

"Well I didn't actually get you in all four places," I said to make him feel better.

Jarred wasn't too impressed. "Okay, not that we've settled you're a liar, can you hurry up and get changed?"

And we're back to square one. "No."

"Stop being such a sore loser."

"It's not about being a sore loser," I defended. "It's about pride and refusing to demean one's self!"


"The reign of being under chauvinistic –"

"I'll call your mum."

"– male, wait, what?"

Jarred smiled.

"No," I said, shaking my head. "No, no, no! That's playing even dirtier!"

Jarred shrugged. "Well, we're running out of time." He gave me a pointed look. "So what's it going to be?"

We stared at each other, him expectantly and me calculatingly. Finally, I narrowed my eyes. "You can remove your arms."

He did that, looking smug.

I made my way to pick up the pile of clothes he brought over. So much for self-preservation. Grabbing the pile, I started going upstairs. I was going to show him how long a girl could take to change.

"Alexa!" he called out when I was halfway up. I turned around, hoping he'd change his mind. Instead he smiled, and it showed anything but mercy. He held out the dreaded t-shirt. "You forgot something."

He threw it, and it landed on my face.

"Don't take too long."


Half an hour later and we were at the oval, with me in my humiliating garb. And trust me, it was a long and painful half an hour. Hayden and Jarred had argued over the stupidest things, like whose car we were going to take. Because it totally mattered who drove. When I pointed this out, they both ignored me. It only took my offer of driving and the matter was solved – they both looked at me and started laughing. Hayden pointed out the obvious that I only had my Ls and couldn't drive anyways.

And then once we got into Jarred's car – since his car was on our driveway and Hayden's was in the garage – there was an argument about the music. When logic kicked in again, they figured Hayden in the passenger's seat had the free hands whereas Jarred's were currently engaged on the steering wheel. I sat at the back trying to block out the noise. Least to say, it did not work very well, being in the same car and all.

So I was beyond thankful when I got out of the car. In fact, so thankful I almost did cartwheels.

But then I saw the group of guys in front of me staring at my chest. Some were looking lower.

An arm slung around my shoulders and dangled a megaphone near my face. I knew it was Jarred before he said, "Gentlemen, meet my head groupie."

I shot him a look and attempted to punch him in the face, but he easily dodged it.

"Use that spirit" – he dumped pom-poms into my arms – "to cheer me on."

Hayden appeared and tossed a ball to one of the guys. I was so outnumbered it wasn't fair.

Jarred dumped the megaphone in my arms, which were already holding two pom-poms. Was he expecting me to hold three things at once?

"Rotate," he answered my unsaid question, grinning. "Now for the most important part."

I arched an eyebrow. I wasn't told there was more to this.

"Because you can't tell perfection when you see it," he said seriously, "I think we need an alert."

"So, what? You want me to say "perfection alert" every time I see you?"

My sarcasm was lost on Jarred, who grinned. "You've got it." He ruffled my hair, messed up my ponytail, and walked off to the centre of the oval with the rest of the guys. And then I was standing by myself next to the car park. So he thought he could drag me here to stand and watch them play?

It was such a wasted day, no thanks to anybody here. I wasn't going to let Jarred get away with it, bet or no bet. I flicked on the switch for the megaphone. "Jarred Cooper!" I yelled into it. "You too, Hayden!"

All of them turned around and looked at me. Jarred was playing with the ball in his hands, looking at me expectantly. Most of the guys looked amused, apart from Hayden who was making a face. If he was embarrassed, I'd show him what embarrassment really was – I think my outfit constituted more embarrassment than a sister with a megaphone.

"You two did not drag me here," I continued, my voice larger than life, "just to ditch me by myself. I'm not cheering either."

I did not do these things on a regular basis – I didn't do yelling into megaphones and attracting attention. I mean, it wasn't as if I followed Hayden and Jarred around when they went out. So if I was going to wear a hot-pink skirt and all, they could at least pretend I existed, instead of ditching me to play ball. I was totally unwilling too. I liked running in different circles.

Hayden groaned, if I was going by the hand he covered his face with. Jarred's lips were curved. He waved the arm with the ball, and it looked like he was asking me to play with them. For a second I considered it, but then I realised my outfit did not suit sports, especially touch football. The mini-skirt barely covered my butt.

Jarred must have realised this too, because his eyes slowly raked down my body. I wanted to pull the skirt down, but it had barely enough material to cover what was needed to be covered. I was going to kill Jarred one day. Still, I chucked the pom-poms to the ground and tugged the skirt down a little.

I heard cat-calls. I gave them the finger. I was not impressed with the laughter either. Jarred grinned, then pointed to his left with the ball.

There were girls sitting on the grass.

And not just any girls. I recognised Dana Mackintosh, one of Hayden's ex-girlfriends, with her friends. Great. I think Jarred expected me to hang out with them otherwise.

They were giving me the look. The look was somewhere between how-uncool-is-she and…well, much dislike. I looked back at Jarred, waiting for him to explain. He gave me a slight shrug. I looked at Hayden, but he was avoiding eye contact.

It was so hard to choose from the options offered. No joke.

"I'll play if any of you will switch clothes with me," I tried, asking the guys. "The skirt at least?"

No response. Except for more looks at my outfit. Well, none of them would have probably fit.

I weighed up the options. I could stand here for the next…however long they were going to play. Or I could sit with the other groupies. Forgetting the fact that most of them dislike me with a passion. Choices, choices.

And then a wave of genius hit me.


I went to get out my phone before realising I didn't bring it. Today was not my day, to say the least. Well, there was only one thing left to do. With the megaphone in one hand, I marched up to Jarred, since Hayden was ignoring me and all. He was the only guy I knew from the group. I recognised a few from my classes, but I'd never spoken to Hayden's mates apart from Jarred – mainly because when Jarred spoke to you, it was hard to ignore. He gave persistence a new name.

"Yes?" he said when I was a metre away from him.

"I need your phone." I decided to get straight to the point.

Jarred reached into pockets, but only keys came out. "It's in the car."

Great. I was about to drag him back to his car when somebody offered a phone to me. I looked up to meet a friendly looking blond. Cute. "You can borrow mine if you want," he offered, smiling.

"Thank you." I gave him my best smile.

"My name's Luke."

"I'm –"

"Okay, okay, hurry up," Jarred cut in.

Luke continued smiling. "You're Hayden's sister, right? You can give it back to me when you're done."

I smiled back, threw Jarred a look, and walked back towards the car park. The short fence surrounding the oval was made out of logs, and I sat on one of the stumps while I called Taylor. As I waited for her to pick up, the boys started their game. And while I'd never say it to his face, Jarred Cooper was made to play sports. I could see the girls on the other side of the oval, their eyes glued on him and totally drooling.

Taylor picked up after the fifth ring. "Hello?" I heard her say, her voice muffled against background noise. Where was she?

"Taylor? It's Alexa. Are you busy right now? Can you pick me up?"

I heard some more noises before she answered. "Yeah, where are – okay, give me a sec. Clarisse!"

Half a minute later and Taylor was back on. She sounded a bit weary. "Where are you?"

"The oval near school. On Barton Road, I think."

Taylor hung up, but not before telling me she'd be there soon, and then there were more background noises. Strange. I didn't know anyone called Clarisse, and I thought I knew all of Taylor's friends. We'd been friends since she moved to the same primary school as me in year two. That year, I learnt that girls weren't supposed to play with boys because they had cooties, so that ended playing with Hayden and Jarred.

I placed Luke's phone in the skirt's only pocket, and watched the match until Taylor arrived around fifteen minutes later in her mum's car. But strangely enough it wasn't either of parents I saw driving into the car pack. A girl jumped out from the driver's side when the car was parked, the blond highlights in her brown hair bright under the sun. I guess this was Clarisse.

Taylor, gorgeous as ever, waved and started dragging her companion towards me. When she saw my outfit, she paused, her dark eyes widening in surprise.

"Surprise," I said, waving my hands out slightly.

"Nice shirt," she laughed.

"I'll take that as a compliment," I said, scrunching my nose up when I looked down at the shirt again.

"Who's Jared Cooper?" her friend asked. It was a bit unnerving, all these people staring at my chest.

I paused for a second, choosing how to answer. "Jarred Cooper," I began, "is the loser who designed this shirt and forced me to wear it." I smiled. "I'm Alexa."

"You're Taylor's best friend!" She smiled too. "I'm Clarisse. Taylor's cousin. She's told me all about you!"

There weren't many resemblances between Taylor and her cousin, besides their natural hair colour. Taylor had a warmer complexion, with her mum's Asian heritage. But the one thing I could've said was that they were both really pretty. Sometimes I wondered how my vanity could take being around people like Jarred and Taylor. Ah well.

I got over it quickly and turned to ask, "And what has Taylor been saying about me?" I raised an eyebrow at said best friend.

Clarisse's smile turned mischievous. "That your brother's a babe and you always have hunks at your house."

I raised my other eyebrow too. I looked at Taylor for an explanation. Babes and hunks? Too much! And if she was talking about my brother Hayden…oh god. Not that Scott would be any better. I should know. I've lived with them my whole life. Unfortunately.

Taylor rolled her eyes. "Not me, I swear. She went through my photo albums. She even made a list of the people she wants me to introduce her to."

Clarisse linked arms with me and Taylor. "If we become friends, can I come over to your house?"

"She's staying over with us until holidays end," Taylor explained.

"My parents suddenly decided they wanted to see the whole of Australia, so they packed one day and dropped me off at Taylor's place. Which is totally lame, but it's cool too! Now I get to meet some new guys and – oh." She suddenly stopped, nearly sending me and Taylor tripping. I looked at Clarisse, but her green eyes were transfixed.

"Potential groupie?" I mouthed to Taylor.

Taylor nodded sadly.

Suddenly Clarisse turned to me and looked at my chest again.

I was going to kill Jarred.

She looked between my shirt and the boys playing touch. She repeated this process, her mouth forming a perfect "O". Then she unlinked our arms and faced us both. "Guy with the ball," she said seriously. "Your brother, right?"

Taylor and I both turned to look at who had the ball. Hayden. We nodded in unison. Hayden and I had the same colouring of brown hair and blue eyes, so it wasn't too surprising.

"Guy with the ball now," Clarisse said again. She paused for a second. Then, slowly, she whispered, "Jarred Cooper, right?"

Both Clarisse and Taylor looked at my chest again. Gr. I folded my arms across, though it was a bit awkward with the megaphone. Taylor and I turned around again, to see Jarred get a try. We nodded.

Clarisse clasped her hands. "This was the best idea ever," she said to Taylor. "You can introduce me when they finish playing."

I was nodding until I realised what she said. "Wait," I said to Taylor. "You're picking me up, right?"

Taylor looked like she was stuck between a rock and a hard spot. "She has her Ps."

I wanted to be dramatic and beg for Clarisse to take me home, but the starry-eyed look in her eyes predicted any begging would be turned down. I sighed. Maybe I should have done my hours after all, instead of lazing off. Taylor and I were both L-platers.

Now looking like a kid in a candy store, Clarisse hooked our arms again. "Let's go and watch."

I was being pulled by Clarisse in a daze until I realised where she was taking us. Before I can protest and lead us away, we were in front of Dana Mackintosh and the other groupies. Under their gazes, I was infinitely conscious of the length of the skirt and the words printed across my chest.

At that moment I realised murder was not good enough for Jarred. Something slower and agonizing would be better.

"Hi! Are you Taylor's friends too?" Clarisse asked.

I didn't dare look at Taylor's face. I imagined our facial expressions would have mirrored each other's.

The answer to Clarisse's question was no. Times to the power of infinity.

There was silence, and the groupies all looked at Dana to answer. With her perfect blonde hair and complexion, she reminded me of a barbie doll, except she was pursing her lips. I had no idea what Hayden saw in her. Still didn't.

Dana looked at me, totally ignoring Clarisse. "I like your shirt, Alexa. Did you make it yourself? That is so precious." Her voice was dripping with fake sincerity. "Right, girls?"

The girls around her nodded, all fake smiles too. "It's like what you said before," another girl piped in. "What you don't do to attract a guy. So tacky." I found this ironic, since her outfit made the one I was wearing look tame.

"Screams desperation," said another one. There are more murmurs of agreement.

I'd be so cut if they didn't believe what they were saying, except they did. Sadly. They were eating from the palm of Dana's manicured hand. I had half the mind to actually start stripping and show them real desperation for attention, just to see the shock on their faces. But then I remembered we were in public, with a group of guys near us.

I looked at Taylor and knew that we were both contemplating walking off. Responding to anything these girls said was giving them the opportunity to speak more, boring us more than anything. I was about to give Taylor the okay-let's-bolt signal when Clarisse spoke up.

"Now that is too cute." She was smiling.

The groupies' heads turned to her. I could see them trying to assess her and her comment, whether she was being sarcastic or serious. I couldn't tell either. Instead, I looked at Taylor, who was hiding a smile and shaking her head slightly. I'd take that as a good sign then.

Dana's blue eyes narrowed.

Clarisse clasped her hands together. "Precious even," she continued, eyes on Dana. She pouted slightly and tilted her head. "You're jealous, right?"

The effect was immediate. Their reactions ranged from mouths open to outraged gasps. I made it worse when I let out a laugh.

Dana's mouth opened to say something, but whatever it was, it was interrupted a voice saying, "It's nice to see my harem getting along." An arm dropped around my shoulders. A warm and sweaty arm too, I would like to add. Taylor rolled her eyes at Jarred's other arm around her shoulders.

"Please shower before you touch me next time," I said under my breath.

Jarred heard it and made a disapproving sound, shaking his head. But he removed his arm nonetheless. "You're forgetting something," he told me.

I stared at him for a second, but I remembered when his eyes fell on the megaphone hanging by my side. Right.

I lifted it up and said, "Perfection alert."

There was silence around us. And here I was hoping nobody would notice it. They looked between me and Jarred. And when they looked at me, I'd like to mention it was more the chest part of me their eyes were at. Quite charming.

"Well," said Jarred thoughtfully, "I think it needed more…how do I put it?"

"Expression?" Taylor helped. Traitor.

"That's it."

I lifted the megaphone again. I'd give them some expression. I took a deep breath and yelled out, "Perfection alert!" My voice echoed across the oval. Silence ensued.

"So?" I waited for the verdict. I thought it was quite expressive.

Taylor and Jarred looked like their ears were still ringing. It truly warmed my heart. When neither of them answered, I turned around to the guys on the field. "Did you hear that?" I yelled, sans megaphone.

Most of them had collapsed on the ground, or were sitting. The ones whose heads I could see nodded.

I turned back and beamed. No one was impressed.

"Did you hear the expression?" I asked Jarred in a saccharine voice.

Jarred suddenly smiled. "That wasn't expression, that was just painful."


"It should be special, seeing perfection," Jarred continued. "You need to make it special."

It went in one ear and out the other. I had no idea what he was talking about.

Jarred patted one of my shoulders. "It's okay, there's always next time."

Before I could say "there will be no next time", he cut in and asked, "So what were you ladies saying before I arrived?" Now I wasn't impressed.

"I was telling Alexa how adorable her shirt is," Dana put in. "Have you seen it?"

Her voice was missing the fake sincerity from before. It was the Jarred effect, also causing other groupies to start smiling adoringly. I scowled.

"Oh please." Clarisse rolled her eyes. "Obviously he has."

Jarred turned to her. This was somebody he hadn't seen before, and after a quick examination, he turned on the smile.

It was going to be a long day.

At least for Taylor it was one less name on Clarisse's list.

Author's Note: And now it gets a bit messy ;) But first of all, I would love to say how I love you guys. Each review made me smile and feel extra dorky. You don't know how much they mean to me!

Second of all, you may notice this chapter's a bit messier than the previous two, because of the increase of characters. I've never written this much before, so I'm trying to find my feet right now. I'm going to be making a lot of mistakes, so I'd love whatever feedback you can provide.

And last of all, this story is set in Australia, if you couldn't tell yet. It just makes everything simpler for me, rather than write a story in America and requiring tonnes of research. If there are things you don't understand, feel free to ask me. (Just think of me trying to make sense of the American schooling system in other stories – I still don't completely understand it haha.)

Some things explained:

- In Australia (well, NSW at least), the legal drinking age is 18.

- You can start driving at 16, at a (L) learner's level, but that means you have to drive with someone who has a full license. After you do the minimum 120 hours and you're at least 17, there's an exam. If you pass it, you get your (red P) provisional 1 license, which allows you to drive by yourself, but there are still restrictions. I'll tell you about them if they come up :)