Helen looked over her kitchen island and sighed. She had a problem. Her daughter had been having a rough time adjusting to high school. In middle school, she’d had a bunch of friends and had been part of a few clubs. But her friends had ended up at a different high school and she hadn’t really made any new ones at this school. Lisa had gotten quieter in the first few weeks of the school year, talking less and less about her day. Now all Helen got was a subdued “fine” when she asked how school had been.
Helen just wasn’t sure how to help. There were a couple kids Lisa had said hi to when Helen dropped her off in the morning, but she hadn’t asked anyone to come over after school or asked to study with someone. She hadn’t even really talked with her old friends since classes started. She’d simply shut herself up in her room.
With another sigh, Helen went back to opening the mail. Bill, bill, junk, bill. She opened an envelope and was surprised to find a card inside. “Help celebrate Jacob Collins’ birthday at Lazer Warz!” it read, listing an address and a date. Collins was the last name of one of the moms Helen had met at the PTA meetings. She seemed to remember a shy-looking boy waiting for her after the meetings who Lisa had waved at once or twice.
“Hey Lisa?” Helen said, knocking on her door. “Can I come in for a sec?”
“Yeah,” Lisa called back.
Helen pushed open the door, finding Lisa lying in the bed, a gaming controller next to her. “Hey, you got an invite to a birthday party on Saturday.”
Lisa shrugged. “I think everyone in my class was invited to that. They’re just being nice.”
Helen sat on the bed next to her. “It could still be fun. Looks like they’re doing laser tag. It’s like those games you enjoy but in real life.”
Lisa rolled her eyes at her mom’s comment but she looked contemplative. “I really think it’d be good for you to meet up with some kids outside of school,” Helen added gently. “If you hate it, you can tell me you feel sick and I’ll take you home and I won’t make you do something like this again. But I think you might like it.”
Lisa was quiet for a few moments but finally she nodded. “I can’t promise to have fun. But I’ll go,” she says. Helen squeezes her hand and then heads back downstairs.
“Okay so we’ve got Red Team vs Blue Team,” the Lazer Warz employee said, explaining the game to the teenagers waiting in front of him. Helen saw Lisa, looking nervous, standing with her team. Everyone had been introduced as the arrived so the kids knew who they were playing with.
“Well that’s it. Go ahead and everybody go in. The game will start in just a minute.” The kids dispersed into the blow-up obstacles. Helen saw a brunette boy stop Lisa and they conferred before finding the spots they wanted to start. When the game started, the boy and Lisa worked as a team, taking people out while everyone else seemed to scatter. They covered each other and at the end, it was their team that won. Helen saw the first genuine smile she’d seen on her daughter’s face in a long time.
Lisa was practically bouncing as she rushed up to where the parents were sitting. “Mom, Mom did you see us? We were like bam! And they were like ah! And that was so cool!” The boy she’d talked with before called her name and she ran back for another round.
In the end, the parents practically had to drag the kids away at the end of the party. Lisa had a small group chatting with her as they headed for the door. Helen hung back a few moments, giving them longer to talk.
As the other kids dispersed, Helen and Lisa head toward the car. “This was so awesome and Sam and Tammy asked if we could hang out this week and we totally have to do this again. Can we come back next weekend? We could see if Andrew and Hannah want to come too and…” She continued talking, hardly pausing for breath.
Helen hid a smile. Thanks Lazer Warz.
Story by Ashleigh McKenna