The stadium was colored with blue and white pompoms thrown skyward. Hurrah…Hurrah, The cheers filled the stadium. Twenty girls danced around the football field. The late summer sun bore down on them. Sweat rolled from their young bodies but still they cheered as if there was no tomorrow. For some there would be no tomorrow, at least as a cheerleader. This was the last day of tryouts and the final cuts would soon be made.
Debbie worked harder than all the rest. This was her senior year and the last chance at becoming a cheerleader. Since her earliest memories she had wanted to be like the girls on television. She wanted the chance to cheer her team to victory. Debbie was as pretty as most of the girls. Some said she could do the cheers better than anyone. Still she never made the squad. In her heart Debbie knew it was because of her poor family. Most knew that only the popular and wealthy girls became cheerleaders.
This year Debbie had even resorted to flirting and kissing up to the judges. She was not the type and normally would have never done such. Only this year she was so desperate. This was the last chance.
The tryouts over Debbie walked over to her best friend Scott. He smiled as she approached and said, "You are going to look great in the cheerleader uniform."
"I think not." She commented.
Scott smiled proudly, "You are sure to make it this year. The rest of the girls were clumsy compared to you. " He laughed and said, "Did you see that Loretta Duncan fall twice. You are sure to beat her."
This made Debbie laugh. She felt sorry for Loretta but wanted to beat her no less. Loretta was not very good at the cheers and not pretty either. Even Debbie was beginning to have hope. Scot had always helped her feel better about her chances to make the squad.
"Can we go by my place before heading to your house?" Scot asked.
"Sure. " Debbie replied
The house was huge and did not come close to looking unassuming, yet it was the basis for his rejection in life. For all of his life he had been rejected and all because of the house he lived in. Debbie had been his only friend through the years. The funeral home his father owned was still home to Scot.
They walked through the front door and Scott walked, not noticing the body lying in the open casket. Though Debbie has been there many time she always stopped to stare at the bodies. Scott continued walking out of the front viewing room and said, "Wait here. I have to get a few things from my room and then we can go."
Debbie nodded and walked over to the open casket. Inside was a girl no older than Debbie. She looked at the girl and noticed how pretty she was. Debbie felt sad for the girl but wondered if the girl might not be happier now. How many times had this girl tried to be a cheerleader, she thought.
Scott returned to stand next to Debbie and said, "She is pretty isn’t she. My dad said she died from a drug over dose. Such a waste."
"Why would a girl so pretty do drugs and risk her life like that?"
The sound of a car pulling to the back entrance drew their attention. It was Scott’s father’s hearse. The two teens looked at each other and smiled at having the same thought. They raced for the back entrance, laughing on the way.
The stopped at back of the hearse and stood quietly. Scott’s father got out of the hearse and walked to where they stood and asked, "What are you two up too?"
Not answering Scott asked, " Who do you have there dad?"
Scott’s father looked at the two teens and said solemnly, " I think you might know her. She was a cheerleader at your school. Do either of you know a Melissa Anderson?"
Debbie nearly went into shock at hearing of the head cheerleader’s death and asked, " How?"
He looked at his son and then at the girl and hesitantly said, " They found her hanging in the locker room after practice."
"We were there not more than thirty minutes ago. " Scott said in shock. "We did not hear anything about it."
"The police and the school kept it quiet and had me rush her body from there."
The teens looked at each other and then began to laugh. Scott’s father looked at them strangely. Scott noticed his father’s dismay and said, "She was a snobbish bitch. No one liked her."
That night as Debbie sat on the bed brushing her long blonde hair the phone rang. She looked at the caller ID and saw it was Scott, " Hi."
Scott excitedly said before Debbie could say anything more, " You are not going to believe this, they are going to bury Melissa in her cheerleader uniform. They are going to cover the casket with the pompoms she used."
"Wow! I have to see this. When are they going to have her dressed and ready?"
Scott hesitated and said, "I think tomorrow night is the viewing."
Pausing for a moment Debbie said, " Can I come over tonight. I want to see her."
"Sure, my dad is going away for the night. We will be alone here. But I doubt Melissa has on the uniform yet."
That night after Debbie’s parents was in bed she slipped out the window as she had done many times before. Being a small single story house it was much easier slipping out than if she live in one of the mansions the cheerleaders lived in. Quickly she slipped over the fence that divided the alley from the house. There she could travel unseen to the funeral home that was only two blocks away.
The back entrance to the funeral home was unlocked so she walked in. This door opened into one of the rooms they keep the bodies when not being viewed. There were four caskets in the small room. Debbie wondered if any of them had Melissa in it. She thought about looking in them when Scott walked in, "My Dad just left so we have the place to ourselves."
"Cool." She said.
Scott took her hand and said, "Follow me."
They walked out of the small room and into the main viewing room. The girl that had been there earlier in the day was gone. They walked back to a room Debbie had never been in before. In it was a steel table with drains running from it. She asked, "What is that?" Pointing to the table.
Scott replied, " That is the embalming table. The drains are for the fluids to run off in."
"Gross." She said giggly.
Scott pulled a handle on the wall and a long steel table rolled out. On the table with a frosty fog around her body was Melissa. Debbie walked closer and stared in silence for several minutes. Then in a low throaty whisper she said, " My god, I never knew she looked so much like me."
As if looking through new eyes Scott said, " I never noticed the resemblance either. Maybe the embalming made her look different. If she had blonde hair I would swear it was you."
Scott pushed the table back into the wall and said, " This is what I wanted to show you." He led her to a closet and opened the door. In it hung Melissa’s cheerleader uniform. " I thought you might like to try this on. " He said smiling.
She said nothing as she pulled off her tee and blue jeans. Debbie, wearing nothing but panties and bra reached for the blue and white cheerleader uniform. She did not even think about being partially nude in front of Scott. Having been friends since childhood they had seen each other’s nude bodies often. It was as a brother seeing a sister.
The uniform fit as if it was made for her. The short blue and white pleated skirt hung to her mid-thigh. The top was blue with a white "C". She turned to Scott and asked, " What do you think?"
With a huge smile he replied, " If they saw you in that uniform you would make the squad for sure. You look better than all the other cheerleaders."
Debbie blushed and said, " Show me her casket."
They went into the same small room Debbie had entered in. He pointed to a blue casket that was the same color as the cheerleader uniform. Scott opened it and the inside was the same shade of white as in the uniform. Embroidered in the lid was a praying cheerleader. Debbie, in a near daze, climbed into the casket and lay down. She crossed her arms over her chest and closed her eyes. She asked Scott, " How do I look?"
Her laughed and said, " Doesn’t she look natural."
They both giggled at that comment for several minutes. The phone rang and Scott rushed off to answer it. Debbie lay in the casket in the silence of the funeral home. Being in the casket was the most fantastic feeling she had ever had. In that silence a plan formed in her mind. It was a daring plan but one she believed she could pull it off.
Scott returned to the room and said, "You won’t believe this. That was my Dad on the phone. The viewing for Melissa has been moved up to noon tomorrow and my Dad can’t be back till eleven. He wants me to get Melissa ready for the viewing and I told him I might could get you to come over and do the makeup."
Debbie sat up in the casket and said, " I can’t believe the luck. I have something to tell you. Please don’t think me crazy. I want to take Melissa’s place at the viewing tomorrow."
Scott looked at his friend in amazement and shock. He stared at her for several minutes and thought about what she was saying. The more he thought about it the more he liked the idea. He remembered how much the body looked like Debbie. For after what was terrifying moments for Debbie, Scott said, "Its insane you know? But I think it will be fun to try. If we get caught we can go to jail you know."
Debbie leaped out of the casket, the pleated skirt flaring in the air, " Lets get started I can’t wait."
Scott looked at her and asked, " What do we do first?"
"First we find some brown hair dye. I have to have my hair the same color as hers."
Scott said, " That’s no problem we have everything we might need in the preparation room."
An hour later Debbie walked into the room with brown hair, styled just as Melissa always wore hers. She wore nothing but a terry robe; the cheerleader uniform hung neatly on the wall. More excited than ever she said, " We have to get Melissa out so I can do her make up."
They rolled the chilled body of Melissa into the preparation room. Debbie found right away that mortician’s makeup was a bit heavier than everyday makeup. It took some practice to get it just right. At last she was satisfied with the results. She said to Scott, "I have to thin and arch my eyebrows to be like hers. I always hated eyebrows that were that unnatural."
Debbie shaped her brows and then looked at Melissa’s face and then her own over and over as she carefully applied the makeup. The sun was coming up when Debbie leaned down and placed her face beside Melissa’s and asked, " How do I look?"
In amazement Scott replied, " You could be her twin."
Debbie then began to apply body makeup to her arms and legs. She had to make her body look dead but fake alive. This was easily done with the heavy mortician’s makeup. At last she was able to once again put on the cheerleader uniform. Propped against the wall was a large portrait of Melissa in her uniform that was to be used during the service. She held it up and stood in front of the mirror. She looked to be the dead girl’s twin.
Scott was amazed at the transformation in Debbie. He had never seen her so beautiful. If things had been different he could have fallen in love with her at this moment. After recapturing his composure Scott said, " There is one thing we have not thought about. If someone touches you they will feel you are warm and not cold as someone dead should be."
Debbie thought for a minute and said, " Then we have to make me cold. I can get in one of those refrigerated lockers like Melissa was in."
" That would work I think."
They went to the embalming room and opened the locker that Melissa had been in. Debbie lay down on the cold steel table. She shivered as her bare flesh of her thigh touched the cold steel. She smiled at her friend and said, " Thank you for everything."
Scott kissed her on the cheek and closed the door. Cold darkness surrounded Debbie. She thought this must be like death itself. In just a few minutes she lay there shivering in the darkness. It took all her courage not to scream for Scott to let her out. This was necessary for the plan to work.
Time passed slowly in the darkness. Time seem to stand still. In time the shivering stopped and in the hypothermic cloud she knew much longer in this cold and she would be dead. At this point she hoped for it. Never in her life had she felt such peace.
What seemed like hour’s later light blinded her eyes that had grown use to the darkness. She looked up through the cloud of hypothermia and saw Scott. He said something to her but she could not comprehend or speak. She lay there just as lifeless as Melissa had.
Scott looked down at his friend with worry. He thought for a minute she was dead but then noticed the slight rise and fall of her chest. Each breath seemed to be minutes apart. He thought maybe he should warm her up and forget this plan. Then he noticed the calm and happiness in her eyes. Debbie had been sad most of her life. He had never seen such peace in her.
He placed his arms under her and lifted her from the cold prison. He felt her firm thighs under his hands and thought he should move their relationship to more than friendship. Scott carried her to the casket in the main viewing room. He eased her into it and pulled down her skirt. He crossed her arms and nearly cried. She looked so dead it saddened him.
Just as Scott finished hiding Melissa’s body, Scott’s dad walked in. He looked at the makeup laying about the preparation room and said, " I hated to ask you to help me like this but did you get her ready for the viewing?"
" I did the best I could Dad."
Scott’s father walked into the viewing room and looked at the body in the casket. For several moments he was quiet and then turned to Scott, " You did this all yourself?"
Scott stuttered and said, " Well… Debbie… helped me."
His father said enthusiastically, " She did a fantastic job. I wonder if she would like a job here after school?"
Holding back a snicker he replied, " She might just do that. Debbie really got into what she was doing."
Debbie’s mind slowly cleared from the cloud as her body began to warm. She came close to smiling at Scott’s words. Scott’s father touched her cheek and it was all she could do to not tense. This was the testing moment. His father turned to Scott, " You should have took her out of the cooler sooner. I like the bodies to be at room temperature for the viewing."
Scott nodded and said, " Sorry Dad, I will remember next time."
At noon the front doors were unlocked and guest began to arrive. Fear washed over Debbie at the thought of being discovered. She was sure that Melissa’s mother would spot the difference. That fear did not last long for Melissa’s mother weeping over her daughter’s tragic death was standing over her.
The mother cried madly as she stood over what she thought was her dead daughter. The woman took Debbie’s hand and held it tightly. This made Debbie sad and for moment regret what she was doing. This woman was in deep grief and yet held the hand of another.
Debbie felt better as the mother moved on. None of the rest touched her. An hour later the voices grew distant so she knew the viewing was close to over. Then suddenly there was a voice over her. It was John, Melissa’s boyfriend. He touched her cheek and said, "I am going to miss you. Sex with you was better than all the other girls."
He looked around to make sure no one was watching and grabbed Debbie’s breast. It took everything in her not to slap his hand away. There was nothing tender about his touches it was pure lust. John stared at her exposed thighs under the short skirt then ran his other hand up and down her thigh. Debbie was about to scream when there was a voice and the hand moved quickly away. Thank goodness she thought, Scott had come to her rescue.
John then turned and left with everyone else. At last the funeral home was quiet again. Scott leaned over the casket and said, " Everyone is gone. Are you okay?"
She opened her eyes and replied, " Yes thanks to you. That guy John is a real creep. He touched me."
Before Scott could reply his father walked up and said, " Its time to close it up so we can get the body to the graveyard."
Scott nearly shouted, " What do you mean grave yard?"
" I didn’t tell you last night? The viewing was moved up as well as the funeral. The family is in such grief they wanted to get it over as soon as possible."
Scott did shout this time, " But you can’t…"
His father looked at the boy and asked, " Is there a problem?"
He thought quickly trying to figure a way to get Debbie out of this. Sighing slightly Scott replied, " No Dad, everything is fine. I am just not use to things moving so fast, especially with someone I knew."
His father said as he put an arm around his son, " You can go I will take care of things."
Scott jumped, " NO. I want to close the casket and move her to the hearse since I knew her so well."
At last Scott’s father left him alone with Debbie. He took his friend’s hand and said, " We are in a real mess. Hurry, get out so I can get Melissa in the casket."
Debbie thought about the last few hours and what it was like to be dead. The temptation was strong to just lie there and go through with the burial. Her heart told her to stay and go to the grave as she cheerleader she had dreamed about for years.
It was as if Scott read what was in her mind as he said, " Please get out. I think I have fallen in love with you. I don’t want you to die."
Debbie sat up in the casket and kissed the boy she had called friend for so many years. So many times she had wanted to tell him how much she loved him. They kissed for the first time but not the last.
Together they got Melissa’s nude body into the casket and sealed it. The funeral went off without a hitch. No one had guessed the deception they had practiced that day. The only evidence of that day is the cheerleader uniform hanging in Debbie’s closet. One like she would not wear this year. Once again she was not picked as a cheerleader. The wealthy and clumsy Loretta Duncan was pick instead.
In her dreams Debbie can see the casket lid close over her, the dirt fall around her. Above the slow filling grave is her lover, Scott, crying. That day in the casket started something that can only end but one way, her funeral.
Or is it?