Bowled Over

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This is my submission for the 2014 Summer Lovin’ Contest so please enjoy it and remember to rate it. Any feedback would also be much appreciated.

For any serious cricket lovers out there, please forgive any inaccuracies; I’ve done my best but most of my knowledge comes from a cricket-loving grandfather in my childhood and a little extra research.


I guess that for most British people, or at least most English people, there is nothing quite so redolent of summer as cricket: the players in their whites on the green field, the gentle crack of the leather ball on the willow bat, the gentle ripple of applause after a good shot or a well taken wicket and, of course, the black scoreboard in the corner of the field… we’ll come back to that later.

For those of you who don’t know cricket, well, I’m not going to explain it here; go and Google it. It has an undeserved reputation for complexity but, in reality, if you can understand football (in any of its many varieties) or baseball, you can understand cricket. What is deserved is, I think, its reputation as a slow, sedate game. I can never remember which Irish writer said that, lacking spirituality, the English had invented cricket to give themselves an understanding of eternity but he had a point. Certainly five or six years ago I would have agreed with that sentiment: I would rather have watched paint dry than a game of cricket!

My involvement in the game came, circuitously, as a result of my now long ex-husband’s mid-life crisis. When he hit forty he, like many I suppose, found himself frustrated in his life and what he had achieved and suddenly aware of his ageing body. However, not for him the typical, if embarrassing responses of donning Lycra and taking up cycling or joining the Little Hambelton Morris Men; not the dangerous response of skydiving or buying that motorbike he’d missed out on as a teenager. No: Alan decided on a series of affairs as his way of avoiding ennui and proving that his body wasn’t past it yet.

I could, indeed I did, forgive him his first fling with, how clichéd, his secretary. The second, with a woman at the golf club, was harder but we might have survived that, at least while the boys were growing up. The third, some woman at a business conference he attended, was just too much. It was bad enough that this was the third time but what made it worse was that, while I could think that Alan had seen the first two sluts regularly for years (and temptation can play the long game) this woman was a complete stranger; somehow, this was simply too hard to bear.

A year later, at age 39 I was a divorcee with three boys aged fourteen, twelve and eight. It was two years after that that cricket entered my life when my eldest, Jack, starting playing in the senior team at the local club.

The scoreboard in the corner always intrigued me with its moving numbers that changed mysteriously. Wandering the boundary during matches I discovered that it was, in fact, a shed one wall of which was the scoreboard. This piqued my curiosity further: what went on in there? Was the scoreboard operated by a squad of Munchkins who slept in the shed between games? Was it full of obscure leavers and pulleys? As you can tell, at this point the cricket wasn’t holding my attention. However, the one thing I never considered was that it could be the starting place of a lesbian affair between two divorcees. I know — no imagination, me.

My first time in the box was a year or so later. By then most of the laws of cricket has permeated my brain by some kind of osmosis. Actually, it was more that, however dull I’d found the game at first, watching one’s child competing at something is always captivating. When he did well, I wanted to appreciate it; when he was dismissed I wanted to know why. So I watched and I asked questions and I learned; by the end of Jack’s first season, I knew the player positions, the rules and even the umpire’s hand signals. So then one Saturday, before the match began Roger Smyth, the team coach, came over to ask me if I’d help with the scoreboard. One of their regular scorers was off sick or something and Roger had heard me explain a decision to another mother the previous week and thought that I had a good grasp of the game. “Don’t worry that you’ve not done any scoring before, Bill in there will keep the scorebook. You’ll just need to spot the umpire’s signals and change the score on the board.”

And so I became a scorer. There were no Muchkins and such machinery as there was inside was simple. The scorebook, on the other hand, was much more arcane with its strange symbols for byes, wides, no balls, wickets and all the rest. However, never one to admit that there was something a man could do that a woman could not, I learned to keep the scorebook too.

Yes, I know there’s no lesbian love interest yet but be patient. Like cricket, this is not a quick story.

Jack moved on to university but by then Daniel was playing so I was still involved şırnak escort with the cricket club. Finally, my youngest, Harry, who proved to be the keenest cricketer of my three sons, was playing. I’m now 47 and perhaps a little physical description of myself is in order.

I’m fairly average in height at five foot six and have a figure that might, in my mother’s phrase, be called ‘comfortable’ — her code for overweight. Not hugely, mind, just more rounded all over; bits that were flat now curved and curves were, well, curvier and squashier. My eyes are pale blue, my once red hair is… still red actually, but now thanks to dye rather than nature, wavy and shoulder length around my oval face. In fact, the bit of extra weight has helped my face; it was always rather hard and narrow when I was younger but now my cheeks are fuller it’s actually quite pretty, in a middle-aged sort of way.

It is the first game of the season when Roger, still the team’s coach, comes over with a woman behind him. “Sorry, Helen, but there’s a bit of a problem: Jason, the chap who was supposed to be scoring with you this season, has pulled out, says he can’t do it. Now, I’ve found Margaret McKinley here,” he gestures to the woman and I glance at her in time to see her flinch at the name, “and she’s done a spot of cricket scoring before and can help out, at least for the first few matches. Okay? Right, jolly good… er, must dash and make sure the chaps are all fired up and ready.”

He bustles off, leaving the two of us. “Hello, Margaret, I’m Helen Walker,” I say as I offer my hand.

“Hi, Helen,” she says, shaking my hand, and I detect the slight twang of an antipodean accent, “but please, call me Mags.”

“You don’t like Margaret?” I ask, just to make conversation as I lead the way to the scoreboard.

“No, I bloody hate it, if you’ll excuse my language.”

I smile. “No problem Mags. Who’s your son? Mine’s Harry; he’s the wicketkeeper and mid-order batsman.”

“My son’s Kyle, fast bowler.”

“Harry mentioned him. He said he was really good.”

“Thanks. It’s his first season at the club so we don’t really know anyone. Nice to hear he’s made a good impression with his teammates.”

“I just wanted to ask, are you Australian?”

“Accent’s still there isn’t it, even after eighteen years. I’m from Brisbane originally.”

We enter the shed and get organized, continuing to chat. Mags hasn’t had that much experience scoring but knows more than I did the first time, so I know she’ll do okay. I show her how to change the scores and agree that will be her role along with spotting.

The game begins and we start work. I cannot place exactly what it is but there is a very different feel in the shed today. The scorers always have to communicate but the talk is always very focused on the game and the scoring. We, however, also chat about ourselves. Her running comments on the game are a departure too; her exclamations of “Bloody hell umpire that was wide!” or “Jesus, Kyle you can bowl better than that!” liven up the proceedings and make me smile. I find her comments are contagious, and I find myself calling out “Oh, Harry, bad luck!” when he just misses a catch. “Bloody unlucky!” is Mags’ summary. She apologises for her swearing at first but I tell her not to worry about it. I find it fun and a refreshing change to the stuffy reserve I’ve always encountered in the past.

Talking of stuffy, that’s another difference. Several hours in a closed shed on a hot day can become somewhat aromatic and over the years I’ve grown accustomed to the slightly sour, sweaty aroma of men, interspersed with occasional episodes of overpowering aftershave. Mags, however, smells… lovely; a light, fresh and slightly floral scent. I find myself inhaling deliberately every time she is close.

At the change of innings they also take tea, so we get a break and time for some serious chatting. She tells me that she’s not that long divorced. “Eighteen months ago it was, due to ‘irreconcilable differences’. That was the court’s phrase for the fact that he treated me like dog shit the whole time and I’d had fucking enough of it. What really pissed him off was when I put his favourite £300 Italian suit in a bucket of bleach. He pushed the divorce real fast after that.”

I look at Mags in amazement: she has such spark and life in her. She has dark blonde, shoulder length hair that she has pulled back into a ponytail. Her heart-shaped face has high cheeks, a petite, rounded nose and green eyes with a sensual mouth that readily breaks into a very lovely and winning smile. She is shorter than I am, five foot four, and with a sizeable bust and hips, is curvaceous. She is in better shape than me, her waist, stomach and legs, visible in her tight jeans, are trim.

I tell her my story in return and that pretty well cements us as friends: fellow survivors of nightmare husbands. “I wish I’d had the guts to do something like you did though, set fire to his golf şırnak escort bayan clubs perhaps,” I tell her. “So, is there any new man in your life or on the horizon?”

“For me? Nah. I just don’t need the complication at the moment and Kyle certainly doesn’t. I do miss sex though. What about you, Hel?”

I smile at my new pet name. “Do I miss sex?”

She laughs. “I meant do you have a man around! You can answer the sex question too if you like.”

“No, the only men in my life are my sons. After the divorce I had no interest in another man, then later I had no time to try and meet one and now, well I guess I’m used to my life. It’s not exactly exciting but it’s okay I guess.”

“And the sex?” she asks, smiling.

“Well, my sex drive seems to be hibernating most of the time. When it occasionally wakes up I, um, deal with it.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’m doing: dealing with it. The orgasms do what they need to but it would be nice to have one in company, you know what I mean.” She looks at me, “Oh shit, Hel, I didn’t mean to embarrass you, I’m sorry. Me and my fucking runaway mouth!”

“Mags, you’re the first breath of fresh air in my life in a long time. It’s just, well, not something I’d normally talk about, to anyone. Anyway, you’re right; you don’t get cuddles before or after a solo, um, orgasm.” I blush again. “And there’s nothing wrong with your mouth: I like it, I mean, I like what you say.”

“Thanks. And yeah, I really miss cuddles too.”

To my amazement I find myself turning on my chair and reaching around Mags, pulling her into a hug. She is startled but almost immediately relaxes into me as I hold her. I now feel awkward, unsure of what to do next, so I settle for rubbing her shoulder gently. Mags gives a little sigh of contentment while I glance out of the shed window to see the players returning onto the pitch. “Sorry Mags, duty calls,” I tell her as I release her.

As she pulls back I see her eyes glistening in the twilight of the shed. “Thanks, Hel,” she sniffs, “that was so sweet of you.” She puts her hand on mine and squeezes as she rubs the tears away roughly with the back of her other hand. “Right, let’s see our boys batting,” she declares firmly.

We return to scoring and I try to keep focus. However, I am now very aware of Mags as she moves around changing the scoreboard. I feel a connection with her and an affection that wasn’t there half an hour ago. The first three wickets fall disappointingly quickly and for few runs so now Harry is up and I point this out to Mags. He has a nervous start and a ball narrowly misses the wicket. “Too fucking close!” I gasp then apologize; I don’t normally swear like that.

“No worries, Hel; your learning to speak like an Aussie!” and we both laugh.

Harry settles down and starts to score steadily, if a little slowly. The loss of three partners in four overs doesn’t help. “Hey, Hel, that’s my Kyle coming out to bat.” Her hand rests on my shoulder and I enjoy the feeling of companionship her simple touch brings. I realize that the feeling of being with someone, the closeness, is missing from my life. I wish Mags was a bloke; I’d be interested in a relationship then.

Just then I see Harry swing and connect with the ball perfectly, sending it clean over the boundary: a six! The next ball is a repeat performance, another six and Mags yells “Go, Harry, you fucking legend!” She looks at my grinning face “Er, sorry about that, got a bit carried away!”

“No worries,” I tell her in a corny Australian accent, “anyone who calls my son a ‘fucking legend’ is alright in my book!”

Harry continues with a boundary for four runs than a single. This brings Kyle on strike for the last ball of the over and he seems determined to emulate Harry as he too sends the ball over the boundary for six more runs. “Twenty-three runs that over, very Impressive,” I say.

The next over and Harry manages a single and Kyle then hits four consecutive boundaries. The two of them are pulling the team back into the game. “Kyle’s a fucking legend too,” I tell Mags.

“Absolutely!” she agrees. The game continues, Harry and Kyle each trying to outscore the other in what quickly becomes the match-winning partnership. The players walk off the pitch shaking hands and our sons are cheered by their teammates; meanwhile, we finish up, totalling and checking the score sheet and tidying up.

“Mags, that’s the best afternoon I’ve had I years. You will come and score with me next week won’t you?” I plead. Mags bursts out laughing and, after a moment’s thought, I realize why, making my cheeks redden. “Not that sort of score!” I tell her, slapping her arm softly.

“I’d love to. I’ve enjoyed this afternoon too.”

“Oh good. Come on, let’s go to the pavilion and listen to the after match talk.”

We cross the grass of the pitch in the early evening sunlight. The sky is cloudless and the air pleasantly warm and fresh after the closeness of the scoreboard shed. escort şırnak We arrive outside the pavilion just as the team are gathering after getting changed. Roger congratulates the team on their victory and then comes to the man of the match. “This week, I really don’t think it would be just to recognise a single player as Man of the Match. This match was won by a partnership and so our join Men of the Match this week are Harry and Kyle. Well done lads.”

Our boys grin at each other and slap each other on the back and Mags and I hug each other, two very proud mothers. I find I’m almost as happy for her and Kyle as I am for Harry. The lads come over to us. “Well done, both of you, that was brilliant batting,” I tell them.

“Fucking legends, the pair of you!” Mags confirms, though she does keep her voice down so as not to offend too many people. “Hey, Hel, d’you reckon these guys deserve a reward? What about we all go out for pizza?”

“Cool!” replies Kyle.

“Oh, please, can we?” asks Harry.

There was never going to be much chance of my objecting given how much I’d enjoyed the afternoon with Mags. “Of course, you both deserve it. Let me just give the score sheets to Roger.” As I hand him the sheets Roger hands me two sheets of paper.

“They’re about a little tour I’m trying to organize for the team in three weeks. I know it’s short notice but another team pulled out. It would be a long weekend, four days away playing a couple of local sides around York. It would be really good if Harry and Kyle could come, especially after today’s performance. The details are in the letter but I’ll need payment by the week after next, okay? There’s a copy of the letter for Margaret too but don’t lose them as they’re the last copies.”

“It’s Mags, she doesn’t like being called Margaret,” I correct him, feeling protective of my new friend. “I’m sure Harry will want to go but I’ll let you know.”

We head off to the pizza restaurant, driving in convoy. During the meal, it is clear that Harry and Kyle are hitting it off almost as well as Mags and me and there is much laughter. We discuss the tour, which of course both the boys want to go on. “Look at this,” says Mags pointing to the letter, “It says that because the boys are under eighteen, they need to be accompanied by an adult; we’ll need to go too.”

“Well, there are worse things than a weekend in York,” I reply.

“Especially if we both go,” she agrees.

As the meal ends Mags and I exchange phone numbers and we hug. I know I have a new, and very close, new friend.

This new friendship is borne out and built upon over the next week and we chat every day, either on the phone or via Facebook, often both over the course of the day. This is so much a fixture that by Thursday when Harry comes in from school and sees me on the phone he simply says “Say hi to Mags and Kyle from me,” and disappears up to his room.

Saturday eventually rolls around and I wake with a butterfly sensation in my stomach that takes me back to being a child on a special day: all excited anticipation of what could happen. When I see Mags I feel myself grinning like an idiot but, to my relief, Mags is much the same. We hug and kiss cheeks. “How’s my newest and bestest friend? Ready to score?” she asks, grinning.

“You’re not going to let me forget that are you?” I smile, “Come on then, let’s score together.”

We slip easily into each other’s company, as If we’ve known each other for years, not days. Our team is put into bat first this week and Harry does well until, on thirty-eight runs, he is called out, leg before wicket.

“Fuck a duck, umpire,” Mags curses, “that was never LBW!” She is more upset by Harry’s dismissal than I am. Fortunately, Kyle does very well with seventy-seven, not out at the end of the innings. As we sit drinking tea at the interval, I congratulate Mags on Kyle’s performance. “You’d think his Dad would want to come and see him play, wouldn’t you?” she grumbles.

“My ex is the same: zero interest, certainly in Harry. He came a few times with my eldest but it didn’t last; it got in the way of his bloody golf.”

“Do you ever think that there’s something wrong with the sex you are?”

“I’ve never wanted to be a man, if that’s what you mean. Although I did wish… er, no, nothing.”

“What? Come on, no holding back; best friends, remember?”

“Okay,” I say, my face hot, “I did sort of wish last week that you were a bloke and then I could ask you out. I just like being with you,” I protest but when I look at Mags I see that she is red-faced too. “Okay, what is it?” I ask.

She laughs nervously. “I sorta wished the same thing: that we weren’t both women so we could be, you know, like a couple.” It goes very quiet between us, our eyes locked together. The thought occurs to me that, these days, being the same sex is not a barrier to being a couple. I’m tempted to say this but my nerve fails, afraid of what she’ll think I’m suggesting. Just then she says, “But, not going to happen, one of us becoming a guy overnight.”

“We can still, you know, see each other and help each other out,” I manage in a tight voice.

“Too right!” She reaches out and we hug. I enjoy the cuddle but can’t quite relax fully into it as I wonder whether two women could make a life together.

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