Smallville Lanes are out Route 8 almost to Grandville. Chloe is excited and maybe a little surprised that Clark agreed to come along; her giddiness doesn't improve her driving.
Shoes in Clark's size are always stiff and new-ish, though at least they don't stink of strange feet. Chloe reads the 14 off Clark's heels. "You know what big feet mean, right?"
"Big shoes," Clark says sharply, preempting the joke.
Chloe frowns and stalks ahead to their assigned lane. The tricolor shoes match her outfit.
Pete comes back from the concession window with an overloaded cardboard tray. He's working against gravity while Clark and Chloe grab for their food, but somehow nothing spills.
Chloe says, "Ladies first," around a mouthful of hotdog and chooses a pearl-pink ball. Her approach is a stagger, her release a dramatic curtsey, and her toe goes over the line, but Clark isn't about to call her on it. Six pins down, the remaining four grouped on the left. When the pink ball returns, she pronounces it "lucky," and sends it into the right gutter with a graceless swan dive. The look on her face makes Clark want to laugh for the first time in days, but he swallows it.
Pete knows what he's doing and clears eight pins, then dispatches the spare with enviable efficiency. He briskly slaps his hands together and says, "Just showin' you how it's done," while trying not to smirk.
Clark chooses a sixteen-pounder, plain black. He could throw it down the lane with force, punching a hole through the floor, pins disappearing in a clatter of splinters and broken machinery. He could get a strike every time without even trying. He could dash down the lane, lay the pins out like a sundial, and be back on the line looking befuddled without anyone knowing what he'd done. Well, Pete would know. Chloe would suspect. And then she'd remember to hate him for having secrets.
Clark knocks down seven pins, careful to keep from toppling them all. The second ball takes out two of the remaining three. The final pin wobbles but won't fall.
He could stare at the pins and incinerate them.
While Clark finishes out the frame, Chloe eats all of his fries. Sometimes he wants to throttle her, but knowing he could really hurt her means he mostly can't stand to touch her at all.
"What?" she demands, wide-eyed and faux-innocent. "What? I'll get you some more."
"It's okay," he says. "Anyway, it's your turn. I'll go."
Waiting in line, Clark recognizes some kids from school, but he doesn't really know them except by sight. The lanes are straight and narrow, and everyone waits their turn, but that's just the game. Metropolis taught him that everyone has secrets, maybe especially people who look perfectly normal. No matter how sordid the things they keep hidden, none of them have a secret like his.
He turns to watch Chloe release her ball, hopping on one foot behind the foul line, arms pinwheeling. Amazingly, she gets a strike. Pete's jaw drops. Chloe bounces and claps, shrieking.
Maybe it's because Pete knows everything, but he doesn't seem to worry about Clark's plans for the future. Chloe does, though. She wants to know if he's staying, doesn't believe that he is. Every time he's clumsy, lets something slip or tells a pathetic lie, she misinterprets his mistake as a taunt. She's one of his best friends, but always expects him to be cruel, which is another thing he needs to fix.
He wanders back to their lane, popping fries into his mouth, absently wiping his greasy fingers on his jeans instead of the napkin tucked in his other hand.
When he saw Chloe at the club in Metropolis, she reminded him of home, made him miss it. He's back because of her, in a way, but he can't tell her because she'll plunge ahead, drawing reckless conclusions, and he'll break her heart again. Despite all the warnings about hurting people physically, he's only now understanding he has the same responsibility to be kind that everyone else has. Somehow, that part's harder.
Pete's pouting about Chloe's freakish strike, she's gloating, and Clark's up again. It's all so normal. Nine pins drop, deliberate miss with his second ball. He's nothing more than competent, a respectable average, and his friends seem willing to forget they know otherwise.
Chloe knocks down five pins, followed by a gutter ball. Clark imagines what the world might be like if Chloe had his powers. Her world would have no secrets. Pete would take up a permanent position outside the girls' locker room. Lana would never let anyone leave town.
Clark used to have trouble imagining what Lex would do, believing his friend didn't need special gifts. Now he thinks that Lex would be an orphan, safe in his fortress, and thinking clearly. Or maybe that's just what Clark wants. Lex would probably leave Smallville (and Clark) behind, never looking back.
When they've played ten frames. Pete asks, "Another game?" It's a school night, so Clark shakes his head. It's the responsible thing to do. Chloe shrugs; she just wants the scorecard to show her Dad.
In the car, Chloe turns toward Clark in the back seat and says, "Thanks for coming," squeezing his hand.
"Yeah, it was fun."
She can't leave well enough alone. "I know you miss him, Clark. But you did what you thought was right."
He looks away, pulls his hand from hers. "Yeah, well." As always, and of necessity, she doesn't know the whole story. Truth is, there are no do-overs, no spares, no second chances with anything that matters.
Pete clears his throat. "Clark. Just because someone gets a strike, does that make her Bowling Queen?"
"Yes!" Chloe asserts vehemently, grinding into reverse.
Pete's a good friend. Now, under cover of their cheerful argument, Clark's silence isn't so uncomfortable. While they squabble, he thinks. About Lex, mostly.
There aren't any spares, but this can be reframed.
For Slodwick's Double Prints challenge @ http://www.stupidcircumstances.com/picwords.htm 1000 words exactly. The photograph I was given was of a bowling ball return full of rather gorgeous, jewel-toned balls.
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