Safe at Home

By Russell Lewis

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I love sister; she loves me. …
We are a happy family.
(Children’s Songbook, page 198.)

“Why can’t you keep your half of the room clean?” Alicia complained to her new stepsister. “It looks like a tornado just hit the place!”

“It isn’t that bad,” Megan answered. “Anyway, as soon as softball season ends, I’ll have more time to clean up. I may have to spend some extra time in practice for the next few days.” She folded a pair of jeans and put them into a drawer, threw her baseball mitt onto a chair, and put her pajamas under a pillow. “There—a start!”

Alicia sighed. She was glad to have Megan as a stepsister, but they were about as different as night and day. Megan was tall, slender, and very good at sports—but not very good at cleaning her room. Alicia was short, not-so-slender, and very good at cleaning her room—but her athletic skills were limited to being a substitute umpire in the junior girls softball league.

No wonder, then, that after Megan’s dad married Alicia’s mom, patience was in demand in their new home!

Actually it was a new home only for Alicia and her mom. After the marriage, they had moved into Megan’s dad’s house. “Welcome to my jungle!” Megan had said. “Here, let me push some of my junk out of the way. You can have this half of the room, OK?”

Alicia’s heart sank. Her old room had been as neat as a pin. Here, the clutter was unavoidable! On the floor were magazines, socks, baseball mitts, jeans, shoes, softball trophies, pillows, even orange peelings. Well, Mom told me there would be adjustments, she thought. I guess this is what she meant.

There were two more adjustments Alicia had to make. The first one came that weekend. Alicia’s old ward had been small enough that everyone knew everyone else’s first name. That’s where her dad’s funeral had been held three years ago. That’s where she had been baptized, had learned about Heavenly Father’s love, and had prayed for guidance when her mom said that she was going to remarry.

Her new ward was so big! So many people! After Megan had introduced her friends, she felt a little better. Singing the old familiar hymns was comforting too.

“You’ll get used to our new ward,” her mom told her that first Sunday. “Just remember, the important thing is not the building, but the reason for the building—to worship Heavenly Father and to learn to live the gospel.”

The next adjustment came when Alicia went to her new school. All the kids stared at her in her new classes.

Some of them giggled and whispered behind their hands to each other.

The teachers were all nice. And when Miss Younger found out that Alicia had been a substitute umpire at her old school, she asked her to umpire at the softball game that evening. “Megan’s team is playing for the school championship,” Miss Younger explained. “Our regular umpire is sick today. We could really use someone with your experience.”

Alicia wasn’t sure she was that experienced, but Megan had said, “Oh, come on, Alicia! You can do it! Just call them the way you see them.”

“OK,” Alicia had reluctantly agreed.

Now she reminded Megan as they headed out the door for the ballpark, “Remember that during the game I’m not your stepsister—I’m the umpire!”

“Fair enough!” Megan replied. “And you remember that if we win this game, we go to the city championship game next week.” She grinned. “I hope that won’t affect your decisions, Miss Umpire!”

“Why would it?” Alicia asked.

Megan laughed. “Because that means it would be another week before my half of the room gets cleaned!”

Alicia laughed too. “Well, if you win, I’ll clean your half of the room myself.” She quickly added, “But just for one week. And I don’t do orange peelings!”

* * * * * *

The stands were crowded. Alicia’s heart pounded as she took her place behind the catcher. “Play ball!” she called. She hoped that her voice sounded more confident than she felt.

As the game progressed, Alicia’s self-confidence returned. Finally it was the bottom of the last inning. Megan’s team, one run behind, was at bat.

The first batter flied out to the shortstop. The second batter drew a base on balls. After the next batter struck out swinging, Megan—the cleanup hitter—was up!

“Home run! Home run!” her team’s fans shouted.

“Strike out! Strike out!” the other team’s fans screamed.

“Strike one!” Alicia called as Megan let the first pitch go by without swinging.

Megan turned to look questioningly at Alicia but didn’t say a word. She tightened her grip on the bat, took a practice swing, then stepped back into the batter’s box.

The next pitch was right over the middle of the plate. Megan put all her strength into a smooth, level swing. The crack of the bat against the ball echoed over the field like a rifle shot. The ball arced high, headed for deep center field.

The center fielder took off like a small cyclone, but the ball landed just beyond her outstretched glove. Quickly scrambling after it, she wheeled and threw with all her might toward home plate.

The runner on first pounded around second, then third. The ball and the runner seemed to reach home plate at the same time.

“Out!” shouted Alicia, raising her thumb high in the air.

“What? No way!” Megan’s teammates shouted angrily, crowding around Alicia. Their shouting grew louder and angrier. Butterflies began doing flip-flops in her stomach.

Megan pushed her way through the crowd. “Leave her alone! If she called her out, that’s the way it was.” She led Alicia through the crowd. “Come on, Ump, let’s go home.”

Home! The word sounded like music to Alicia. She had a new ward, a new school, a new home—and a new family. She smiled gratefully at Megan. “You can stop calling me ‘umpire’ now. The game’s over. Now you can call me ‘sister!’” She laughed. “And even though your team didn’t win, I’ll still help you clean your half of the room!”

Illustrated by Shauna Mooney Kawasaki