The Bandbox Hat
Previously: SarahJane has a restless night. The next morning she and Cassie are chosen for a bowling date with Austin and his mom. In the car on the way to the bowling alley, Cassie confesses that she have met someone while on the show—someone on the crew.
Cassie and I shuffled along behind the other girls and followed Austin into the dark bowling alley. Ooohs and Aaahs echoed around us. The place looked like we’d taken three giant steps back in time.
“Did they film That Thing You Do here?” I whispered to Cassie who responded with a low chuckle. “I swear Tom Everett Scott was drumming against that dark-paneled wall.”
Dim lights illuminated a dozen alleys. Gears meshed and ground as balls emerged from the automatic return tubes then rolled to a stop.
“Get your bowling shoes over here,” Liam called, waving his iPad from a nearby counter.
After shoving my feet into a pair of new sock and then into previously worn shoes, I looked around for a ball.
“Over here.” Linda waved to me from the next alley. “Try this one.” She thrust a ball into my arms and I staggered under the weight.
“I’ve been playing so much Wii bowling, I forgot how heavy these suckers are.” I tried to place it in the sorter gently but it slipped and thudded, making the whole contraption shudder.
Linda laughed. “It’ll be fun.”
Before I could agree, Cassie skipped up to us. “Are we assigned to certain alleys?”
“We’re using both sides of this one.” Linda waved a hand at the semi-circle of plastic chairs molded to someone’s backside. “As soon as we’re all here, we’ll get started. Cassie, we figured this was safer than beach volleyball. These balls are too heavy to spike into anyone’s face.”
Cassie laughed but a shadow crossed her face.
A prickle ran over the nape of my neck. Something was missing … I glanced around the dim building. Girls still chattered at the shoe counter. Liam and Austin spoke in low tones by the snack bar. They both had intense expressions on their faces but I couldn’t make out any words.
Wait … cameras. Where were the ever-present cameras? They’d been spying on Amanda and me in the middle of the night, but they weren’t here capturing a bona fide group date. That made no sense. Also, where was Nathan? If he was being added to the show, shouldn’t he be here? Something was going on.
I strolled by the snack bar, striving to hear Austin and Liam’s conversation. But when I got close, all I heard was, “… that’s final.”
They broke apart and looked at me. “Where’s the cameras?” I asked. May as well let them know I knew they were up to something.
Liam shrugged. “They’re around. We thought it would be more natural to keep them at a distance.”
Right. And my great-aunt Martha was born yesterday.