“Mom, I’m bored. I like my new job, and I’m not sorry I moved here, but I haven’t made any real friends yet.” Becky twirled the phone cord around her finger. “Most of the women my age at the church are married, or just not…my type.”
“I’m sorry, hon. But don’t get discouraged. You’ve only been there a month. Give it time.”
“Yeah, I know. I did see a flyer at church for a women’s bowling league. Maybe I’ll sign up.” Becky sighed. “I hope they take beginners.”
“Becky!” A chubby blonde trotted toward her across the small bowling alley, waving her arm in the air.
Becky recognized Monica Patterson from her new Sunday School class, and timidly waved back. “Hi, Monica. How’s it going?”
“Great! This is going to be so much fun. Come on, we’re about to choose teams.” Monica grinned mischievously. “I see you’ve got your own ball. You must be a pro.”
“Not really. To tell the truth, I just bought this stuff over the weekend.” She half lifted the heavy bag slung over her shoulder and shrugged. “It was the cheapest ball in the pro shop, but it’s really pretty. Bright blue with pink swirls.”
Monica laughed. “You’re going to fit in just fine. We started this league to have fun, not win awards. Well, most of us anyway. Laura, though … let’s just say she knows what she’s doing.”
Becky trailed Monica to the growing gaggle of women at the far end of the bowling alley. Please don’t let me be on Laura’s team. I would die.
Becky fidgeted and bounced her knee up and down. Her new shoes were so neon-white, she was sure everyone was staring at them. Her teammates gabbed and giggled like the old friends they were, and Becky felt like an outsider. She lucked out and was on a team with Monica, but, alas, Laura was also on the “Alley-Oops.” The fourth member, Riley, seemed sweet. At 23, Riley was the youngest of the four, but only had Becky beat by a year.
Finally, or all too soon maybe, it was Becky’s turn to bowl. As she stood, she wiped her sweaty hands on her jeans, then grabbed her pretty blue ball from the return. To her dismay, she fumbled and almost dropped it. When she heard laughter behind her, she wanted to disappear.
“Hey, Riley, remember that time I dropped my ball on my foot?” Monica’s infectious laughter rang out. “I had to wear that silly bootie for a month.”
“Yep, and I remember how ‘good’ you bowled in that that bootie too.” All three dissolved into a fit of giggles, and Becky found herself starting to chuckle. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.
Three games later, Becky had three new friends and didn’t feel so much like an outsider. She did, however, feel like a failure as a bowler.
She had studied Laura’s perfect form and smooth release, and then watched her red and black ball cruise across the lane and back, landing in the pocket almost every time. Laura had explained that this “hook,” as she called it, was possible because of her ball. She had called it a “Hammer.” At $250, it would certainly hammer Becky’s pocketbook, but if that’s what it would take to knock down more than three pins at a time, she was willing to make the sacrifice.
“Rats. Another gutter. Sorry, girls. I just can't figure it out.” Becky sulked and pouted as she slithered back to her seat beside Laura. “I’m letting my team down.”
Laura put a comforting arm around her shoulders and squeezed. “Becky, you’re not letting anyone down. We don’t care about the score, but we do care about you.”
Riley and Monica came close to add their love. “Yeah she’s right. It’s just a game,” Riley assured her.
“I’ve been using this ‘Hammer’ for two weeks now, but I’m getting worse instead of better. Laura, you said the expensive ball was what made you so good.” Her warbling voice gave evidence of threatening tears.
“Oh, sweetie!” Laura hugged Becky again. “I’m sorry; I gave you the wrong idea. It’s not just the ball. It helps me, sure, but my dad teaching me to bowl when I was six is the real reason for my scores.”
“Do you think… Would you teach me?” Becky lifted her eyes hesitantly to Laura’s.
“I’d love to! But you’ll need to start over with your pretty, blue ball.”
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