A big guy stands in front of the bowling alley doors with his massive arms crossed over in front of his chest. He's down right intimidating. "Ahem", I clear my throat and try to find my voice as my grasp on Lexi's hand and my coffee gets a bit tighter.
"The Alley is closed for a private function", he says, glaring at me.
"Um, I'm Faith and this is my daughter Alexis. She won a contest at the mall. We're supposed to be here..."
"Let's see some ID", he says. I pull my wallet out of my purse and show him my driver's license. "Ok, go on in...", he says finally.
Lexi is vibrating next to me as we walk inside. I take a moment to familiarize myself with the lay out of the place, where the bathrooms and exits are. Just in case I need to make a hasty retreat. "C'mon mom!", Lexi shouts and breaks free from my hand. I let her go. The place is literally on lock down, where can she go. I walk over to the desk.
"What's your size?", the guy behind the desk asks.
"I'm a ladies small in most things...", I blurt out before I really think about what he's asking.
"I think he means shoes...What size shoes?" a voice chuckles from behind me. I spin around, my cheeks flush in embarrassment.
"Um, yeah. I knew that. I was just kidding... Hey, you're the coffee guy?!"
"Actually, I'm Harry Styles... and this is Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne and Niall Horan. And you are?"
"Her mom...Faith Harrison", I say, offering my hand and nodding in Lexi's direction.
"My god, those are some good genes...", Zayn says, smiling and my face flushes an deep crimson.
"Did the coffee help..."
"You have no idea. It's been kind of a crappy day", I say, turning back around to face the shoe guy. "I'll take a kids size 11...", I say and he hands me the shoes.
"What about you?", Harry asks.
"'What about me?"
"I mean, you need shoes too...", he says.
"I've never, I mean, I don't really know how to... I think I'll just watch..."
"Don't be silly. What are you a size 7?", Liam says.
"7.5", I sigh. Clearly, I'm not going to be able to sit on a bench and wallow in my own self pity.
Lexi comes running over then. "HI!", she squeaks. The boys all laugh and respond with a round of hi's and hello's of their own. We make our way to a couple of lanes and put our shoes on. Liam and Louis sit at the scoring desk and write all our names on the score sheet, while Niall helps Lexi with her shoes. She has the biggest grin on her face, I'm glad she's so excited.
"Ok Alexis. You're up first love...", Liam says. I watch quietly as she gets up and grabs a ball.
"Just line your ball up with the little arrows and throw Lexi...", Louis says.
She throws the first ball and knocks down 4 pins. After her third ball, only 1 pin remains, leaving her with a score of 9 out of ten. She gives me a high five as she settles on the bench next to Zayn, Harry and Niall.
"You're up Faith", Louis says, smiling. A groan escapes my mouth as I make my way onto the lane and grab a ball. "What are those things called?", Louis says smiling.
"What things? The balls?", I ask and he and Liam chuckle.
"Real mature...Dirty...", I smirk, shaking my head. I throw my three balls and make my way back to the bench.
"Those jeans are really working for you...", Zayn says.
"Yeah?", I answer, blushing again.
"They're really working for me too...", he continues. I'm pretty sure my face looks like a beet by now. Harry and Niall shoot him kind of a weird look.
"Are you flirting with me?"
"Something like that..."
"Ok, I'll give it try. Hey guys, your bowling shoes work well with your...um, shirts..." Harry and Niall both laugh.
"Gee, thanks...", Zayn mumbles.
"I never said I was any good at it..."
"We heard you this morning. On the radio", Niall says. I can feel the color drain from my face as soon as he says it.
"Excuse me", I say, rising to my feet and heading to the washroom. I don't want to cry in front of anyone. Not here, not now. I can't ruin this afternoon for Alexis. As I make my way to the washroom, a hand grasps my elbow and gently pulls me back.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you", Niall says softly, his piercing blue eyes staring intently at mine. I can see how someone could easily get lost in them. I give my head a shake, scattering those thoughts completely out of my head.
"It's ok, It's just been a really bad day. I think it's all just catching up to me", I mumble, swallowing back the lump forming in my throat.
"Want to talk about it? The lads tell me I'm a pretty good listener...", he offers.
"No, I'm sure you have better things to do...", I start to say.
"Actually, there's nothing I'd rather do...", he says, smiling warmly at me.
"Everything ok over here?", Harry asks, making his way over to us.
"I was just trying to find out why Faith's day has been so crappy...but she remains a mystery...", Niall says.
"I'm just going to use the washroom, I'll be back in a few minutes", I say, walking away.
Harry and I make our way back over to the bench. I feel really bad about upsetting Faith. I'd really like to know more about her, but she keeps herself so guarded. "Good Job Alexis!", Liam says, giving her a high five.
"Hey Lexi, the lads and I heard you on the radio this morning!", Harry says smiling.
"You did?", she smiles, sitting on the bench.
"We thought you're wish was really sweet...", Liam adds.
"I wish I could make things better for my mom...", she says, looking between us with her green eyes.
"What kinds of things would you make better?", I ask, feeling a little guilty over pumping the kid for information.
"She tries to keep everything from me so I don't worry, but I hear stuff. Like the 'super' of our building this morning wanting our rent. She promised him Friday. He told her that if it wasn't for me he'd of kicked her out months ago...and today...it was her day off but her boss called her into work. Then, cause' she wouldn't break her promise to me, he told her not to come back. I can hear her at night. She cries. I want to make things better but I can't cause I'm just a kid...."
That's when I had an epiphany, it was as if a light bulb was switched on in my brain. "Hey mates, can I talk to you for a second. Wait here Lexi," I say, pulling them aside. "We need to help them..."
"I agree, but something tells me Faith is not the type of girl to just accept help so willingly", Harry says.
"Why can't they be our 'borrowed' family...", I suggest. "We can make it seem like they'd be doing us the favour, but we'd actually be the ones helping them".
"Great idea!", Harry says and the others all agree.
"Ok, here she comes. Let's ask her and see what she says", I say, as we make our way back over to them. "Ok, so this is going to sound a little weird, but our manager wants us to collaborate with this big deal songwriter for our next album...", I begin.
"But this guy will only work with a band if one of it's members is married with a family...", Liam continues.
"And so, we have to 'borrow' one. We're wondering if you and Lexi would be willing to be that family. It would be about 3 months, 1000 pounds/week, you would have to live with us during this time, but everything would be above board. Nothing inappropriate or weird", Harry finishes.
"You're kidding right? Just the offer is inappropriate and weird...", Faith says.
"You'd be helping us out of a jam", I say.
"Would the 'option to buy' be included in your offer...I'm quite sure there are tons of people who would be willing to be your rented family for 3 months. C'mon Lexi, it's time to go...", she says, sarcastically.
"No mom! I want to do it!"
"No Lexi, let's go!", she shouts, grabbing her by the hand.
"Ouch! Mom stop! You're hurting me...", Lexi shouts back.
We watch as she let's go immediately and sits down on the nearest bench. Tears spill out over her cheeks as sobs erupt from her core. "I'm sorry Lexi", she says, burying her face in her hands.
"Please mom...", Lexi pleads, wrapping her in a hug.
"There are incentives...unlimited supply of coffee...", I tease.
"So, all we have to do is pretend to be your family? Do you really think you can pull this off?", she asks, sniffling.
"Why not?", I ask, smiling.
"So which one of you will be my dad?!" Lexi shouts, eagerly.
"I don't know, let's flip a coin. It's between Harry and I, because the others already have girlfriends," I say. Zayn mumbles something under his breath that none of us catch.
"Call it Niall...", Liam says, pulling out a coin.
"It's tails...", my heart leaps from my chest and into my throat at his words. I feel like a deflated balloon.
"YES!", Harry gloats.
"I know pronounce you husband and wife...", Louis teases.
"God, this feels wrong on so many levels...", Faith says, running her hands through her hair.