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“Mom, I’m so excited,” Ashley said, jumping up and down in the hotel room. “Thank you so much for letting me miss school today so we could get here early. I can’t believe I’m going to meet Cassie Cannon. She’s totally my idol.”
The smile on Ashley’s face made it completely worth the extra time I had taken off work and her missing school to get here early. Cassie Cannon was what people in the cheer world called a cheerlebrity. I wasn’t exactly sure how she had reached that status, although Ashley tried to tell me it was because she was awesome and had a large social media following. I didn’t quite see how that made someone famous, but here we were. Only three weeks since the last competition, we were in another hotel with all the other cheer teams.
I had paid twenty-five bucks for an appointment with Cassie so Ashley could get her picture taken with her and get an autograph. While I found it a little distasteful to pay money so my teenager could pose with another teenager, the website had said the money was going to a scholarship fund, so I felt better about it. Ashley talked about Cassie almost the entire ride to Detroit, a long eight hours, proving Cassie had done very well for herself with endorsements. Who knew cheerleading could make you a millionaire at sixteen?
“Well, then you need to finish getting ready so we’re not late. I’m sure with so many girls wanting to have their pictures taken with her they won’t wait for us if we’re late.”
This two-day competition started tomorrow, and I hated to have Ashley miss school, but the drive time meant we still would’ve had to travel today—just not leave home as early. But as happy as Ashley was, it was worth it. As soon as we had arrived at the hotel, she had put on her cheer uniform, because that was how she wanted her picture taken with Cassie.
“Just let me finish my makeup and I’ll be ready.”
I waited for her to finish applying her mascara, scrolling through my phone, when a text popped up from Anthony Barrett. I couldn’t help but smile. He wanted to know if we’d arrived in Detroit safely. We weren’t officially dating, but we talked every day. We’d been out for some very enjoyable evenings and neither one of us was in a hurry to start something serious. Anthony was the detective I’d met a few months ago because of an unfortunate incident where a coach was murdered during a cheer competition. Since then, he’d become a frequent customer at my ice cream shop, which had given us something in common. We both liked ice cream.
“I’m ready,” Ashley called out, so I got up, grabbed my purse and the room key and we headed downstairs.
“There’s a sign, Mom. It says pictures with Cassie Cannon that way,” she said, her voice high-pitched with excitement.
We walked to the right, following the signs to the room located in the convention center. When we reached the area, the doors to the room were closed and the hallway was packed with people. So many teenage girls chattering in one place made me wish I had some earplugs.
“Seems odd,” I said absentmindedly to no one in particular. I was sure our appointment wasn’t the first and the photos should’ve started by now.
“Maybe she’s late,” Ashley said, biting her lip.
“Then she is really late, because picture-taking started three hours ago.”
Ashley’s eyes grew round as she looked at me. “You don’t think it got canceled, do you?” she said, and my heart broke at the panic in her voice. I might think that a ‘cheerlebrity’ was ridiculous, but it really wasn’t any different from me wanting to meet Kevin Bacon after watching the movie Footloose when I was her age. I put my hand on her arm and squeezed.
“Let’s see what’s going on.”
I threaded my way through the people until I reached two security guards standing in front of the door, probably keeping a teenage riot from happening.
“Hi. Do you know what’s going on? Is Cassie Cannon taking a break?” I asked, trying to keep my voice light for Ashley’s sake.
One of the security guards shook his head. “She never showed up.”
I looked at Ashley over my shoulder and could see tears of disappointment in her eyes.
“Listen, honey, I’m sure she just had car trouble or something crazy happened. Obviously there are a lot of girls in line for pictures before you, so why don’t we go back to that café I saw in the main lobby? We can get you a smoothie and me a coffee and we’ll come back here and wait.”
“I can’t believe she just wouldn’t show up and not post on social media what was going on. Something had to have happened to her, Mom.”
“Not everything is posted on social media, darling.”
“Yes, it is. She posts everything on social media, so if she couldn’t be here, she would have posted. What if something happened to her?” Her jaw trembled slightly.
While I thought Ashley was being a little dramatic when she said the girl always posted on social media, it did seem a little suspect that she was over three hours late and hadn’t said anything to her fans, especially after charging everyone for an appearance.
“There’s nothing we can do about it right now. Let’s go get some drinks and we’ll come back and take it from there.”
Ashley begrudgingly agreed but wouldn’t stop chattering the entire way back to the main lobby about how Cassie never missed an opportunity to post online. She was religiously refreshing her app as we walked, hoping for an update from Cassie.
It never came.
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