I don’t glance at lane twenty.
Instead, I deposit the tray at the ladies’ table, set a hand on my hip, and shoot Miriam a playful look, tapping the toe of my Mary Janes. “You do know that to bowl, you have to send the ball down the lane.” I sweep my arm toward the very empty lane that Chanel-No.-5-scented Miriam and her two friends are not using since they’re gabbing. Which is fine by me. I’m also a gabber, and I love to gab with my besties too, whatever chance I get.
Miriam laughs—a rumbly, rich kind that matches her presence as the leader of the group. “Then we’d have to take a break from discussing Sara’s new coconut-cake-baking skills.”
The women break out in peals of laughter. They usually assemble for a book club at my friend Arden’s store, but tonight they brought the book club here.
Narrowing my eyes, I tap a finger against my lip. “Hmm. Something tells me coconut cake is a euphemism. I wonder.”
From behind her cat eye glasses, Sara lifts a brow as she grabs a glass of the wine. “Not true. I did make a coconut cake after I read this book.” She grabs a paperback from the green-and-white plastic bench seats, slapping a dog-eared The Coincidence of Coconut Cake against her thigh. “Then, my boyfriend and I wanted to see if it was true what they say about coconut.”
Miriam arches a brow. “Coconut?”
Sara’s pure deadpan when she answers. “That it makes certain substances taste better.”
Chuckling, Miriam shakes her head. “Honey, that’s pineapple.”
Sara wiggles her brows. “No, coconut does the trick too.”
From her spot on the bench, CarolAnn adjusts her messy bun, shaking her head while laughing. “Ladies, if you don’t watch your euphemisms, we’re going to get kicked out of Pin-Up Lanes.”
I wave a hand dismissively. “As if I’d ever kick you out for exchanging such useful intel.” I smile then wave toward my usual post behind the counter. “On that note, I’ll leave you to your cake talk. And feel free to not bowl one bit.”
As I leave, CarolAnn calls out, “Vanessa, I love your dress, and I’m jealous you have the figure to pull it off. But not jealous enough to lay off the wine.”
I swivel around, briefly glancing down at my swingy teal-blue number with a cherry pattern. “Wine is never the problem, and you’re stunning. You’d look amazing in a cherry-pattern dress, and you absolutely have the figure for it. I’ll take you shopping to prove it.”
“Wait! I want to go shopping with Vanessa,” Sara calls out.
Miriam’s voice cuts through. “Evidently, you old birds are not above begging this sweet gal to take you shopping. It’s like I can’t take you out in public.”
I laugh and leave the conversation with a wave, heading back behind the counter, where I busy myself checking in a few new bowlers. As I hand shoes to a family of four, I don’t check out Shaw. Yay me. I deserve bonus points tonight.
A little later, Sara beckons me over to their lane with a wiggle of her fingers. “Vanessa, tell me something.” Her cheeks are flushed, and she’s bolder than usual.
“What do you want to know?”
“Are you still single?”
I shoot her a fierce stare for an answer, then I give her a verbal one. “Am I stealing whatever coconut cake you don’t finish tonight? Is wine the greatest beverage ever? Does fashion rule? Yes, yes, yes, I am single.”
Miriam grabs her phone, tapping quickly on the screen, while Sara takes the reins, answering me with, “Good, because we have someone in mind.”
“Who would that be?” I’m not opposed to being set up. I’m open to meeting the right man, whether he’s on an app, knows one of my friends, or is strolling down the street. And these book club ladies not only know men, but they’ve raised boys who’ve become men.
Miriam jumps in. “My stepson. He’s a catch. You know him, I believe, since he grew up here. Jamie Sullivan.”
My eyes widen. “Of course. Jamie Sullivan, as in two years older, captain of the football team, student athlete and valedictorian who went to Yale Law School?”
Miriam beams proudly. “He’s the one.”
My brow knits as I try to remember what I’d last heard about him. “But I thought he was involved?”
Her smile morphs into a satisfied grin. “Not any longer, and thank the Lord. I never did care for her, and she never seemed to care for him.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
Miriam tuts. “It’s all for the best. I’m glad he figured it out before he proposed. But now he’s single and ready to mingle . . .”
Her phone trills.
Miriam’s eyes flicker with surprise. “Who could that be?”
Sara chuckles as the phone rings again. “Mir, you don’t need to pretend. The jig is up.”
Miriam grabs her mobile but keeps up the ruse. “Oh, look at that. He’s calling.” She answers her phone on a video call. “Hey, sweetie.”