Authors: Margaret Pearce
by Margaret Pearce
Published by Astraea Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
INVITATION TO A STRANGER
Copyright Â© 2012 MARGARET PEARCE
Cover Art Designed by
Looking back, Ronnie realized bleakly that
until the Dementos moved to town, they had lived
normal lives, and then they had met Drake.
e school disco where they had first
was the real start of it all.
The school gym hall had been transformed. The silvered ball suspended from the ceiling threw odd gleams into the shadowy corners as it turned. The wooden floor vibrated with the thudding beat of the sound equipment.
Ronnie's father stayed at the door talking to other parents. Ronnie had moved into the hall looking for her friends.
“This is so cool,” Katie said, as she darted forward and grabbed Ronnie.
“So cool,” Ronnie agreed happily.
Katie Smith and Jasmine Purdue were her gang. Katie was
tall, skinny with sparkling blue eyes,
very keen on
playing all sorts of sport
Jasmine was short, dark and plump with widely spaced brown eyes
that she batted at all the passing males
wore frilled miniskirts, sparkly tops and lots of makeup.
For a few seconds Ronnie's pleasure was dimmed. Her mother had flatly refused to buy the frilled mini skirt she wanted. She had to wear her best jeans and a crop top. Katie went with Ronnie to the room set aside as a cloakroom and helped Ronnie try out some of her make-up.
“Eye shadow and mascara make your eyes look wonderful,” Katie said.
Ronnie admired herself in the mirror. It was amazing the difference makeup made. Why was her mother so stodgy and old fashioned about it?
Always nagging there was plenty of time for make-up and
dressing up when she was older.
She and Katie crowded on to the dance floor with everyone else. It was then they first noticed Drake.
looked almost foreign, Ronnie decided as they danced and swayed closer to him. He was tall and thin, but somehow glowed with vitality and energy. His hair was very black and long and pulled back into a ponytail
eyes glittered in the odd gleams of the turning silvered ball. He wore a black top and black jeans.
it had been a hot summer, his skin looked abnormally white against all the other dancers.
“He's not from the school,” Ronnie whispered.
“Maybe he's been sick. Look at how white he is,” Katie whispered.
“Haven't seen him around before,” Jasmine whispered back. “He looks cool, doesn't he?”
They got closer. He glanced in their direction, looked straight into Ronnie's eyes and smiled.
It was a nice smile, friendly but somehow a bit shy.
Ronnie felt her stomach tighten with a most delicious thrill.
“G'day,” he drawled.
Ronnie and Katie exchanged glances. Whatever he looked like, he was a country boy. His drawl was unmistakable.
“I'm Ronnie,” she introduced. “And this is Katie and Jasmine.”
“Drake,” he said.
“Hi, Drake,” Jasmine said batting her big brown eyes at him. Ronnie realised that Jasmine was also impressed with Drake.
âSo where are you from?”
“Little ghost town near the border, farm country
” Jasmine said. “Been a drought up there hasn't there?”
“Did you own a farm?” Ronnie asked. There had been a lot on the news lately about farmers walking off
losing their land.
“Cattle farm. They'll hang on to the land until things improve,” he said with a sigh. “Father's bought a place over at the end of Castle Street.”
“The one with the swimming pool?” Katie almost squealed.
Drake grinned. “More like solid green turtle soup.”
danced around with him and kept talking. They found out that his grandfather lived with them and it was a household without women, as his mother had died when he was young.
“Grandfather came over from the old country when the communists took over,” he explained between dances. “He's a real pain in the neck. Said he used to live in a castle.”
“Wow!” the girls chorused.
“Dunno,” Drake said with a grin. “I mean, who would want to live in a castle?
Think of how cold and draughty it would be
“Very funny,” Katie said with a giggle.
It was then that another boy danced up to them. He also was tall and thin with long black hair and black eyes that sparkled, and the same oddly white skin. Ha
ley Bighamâthe meanest girl in schoolâand her pack danced around him. Ronnie noticed in disgust that they were all done up in their black tops, miniskirts and makeup, even
black lipstick and nail polish.
oth,” Katie said with a giggle.
“You're twins,” Jasmine squealed, noticing the resemblance between Drake and the other boy.
“Brod's my cousin,” Drake introduced, his smile dimming.
“Three white mice,” Brod sneered. “So see how they run.”
“Very fast from idiots and nerds,”
in a way that was insulting, but
just gave him a superior smile back.
She was used to keeping her brother
under control and wasn't going to be upset by some idiot who thought he could get away with being childish.
“Get lost,” Drake whispered at him, his face losing its friendly grin. “You don't belong here.”
“Nor do you, oh very stupid and slow country cousin,” Brod sneered back.
“Come on, Brod,”
called impatiently. “We're breaking for
after this dance.”
Brod gave Drake a nasty look, turned, and
. He was a very good dancer, Ronnie noticed, his body graceful and elegant as he twisted and swung to the beat of the music.
“What a pill!” Jasmine said in disgust.
Drake remained silent, his face still dark and angry.
“Can't take responsibility for
“I wish,” Drake said with a sigh.
The band stopped, and they pushed their way over towards the supper tables. They piled their plates high with the usual hot sausage rolls, Pavlovas and passion fruit sponge with plenty of cream.
“I just love passion fruit sponge,” Drake said grinning happily. “We had some country ladies who were the most expert cooks in the world.”
“You criticizing my Mum's passion fruit sponge?” Jasmine asked.
“Love it,” Drake assured her.
The gym opened out on to the basketball court, and the four of them had settled on one of the benches by the wall when Brod, Ha
ley, and her gang returned.
“Still with the three white mice,” Brod sneered.
“Three white mice, see how they run,” Ha
ley and her gang chanted in a slavish imitation of Brod.
put down her plate carefully. “Go and get
ad fast, there's going to be trouble,” she whispered to Katie.
Brod feeling more and more worried.
Brod was just being unpleasant
, but it felt like
Katie put down her plate, strolled through the open door
then broke into a run towards the front door where Jasmine's dad, a policeman was on duty.
“You're a disgrace to the family,” Brod sneered. “They should've drowned you at birth.”
“A disgrace to your family,”
and her gang parroted.
They seemed to be enjoying themselves, Ronnie decided angrily. It was a pity they couldn't all be expelled from school. They were a horrid gang of kids.
“Knock it off,” Drake said. “You've been drinking, and you know what father will say to that.”
“I'm not as gutless as you.”
Brod snapped his fingers. “That's what I think of your father.”
Ronnie wasn't quite sure how the fight started. She thought that Drake had turned away, and Brod had pulled him back and aimed a punch. Drake punched back. Ha
ley and her gang started squealing in excitement. This attracted more onlookers from inside the hall. The two boys moved into the shadows of the cent
e of the court as they punched and ducked, and more people crowded out to watch.
Suddenly, it was all over. Jasmine, moving faster than Ronnie had ever seen her, had moved behind Brod and dropped
Ronnie recognized the tactic that her brother Jeff and Jasmine's brother Mike had used since their early childhood.
“Push him, fast,” Ronnie whispered to Drake's back as she ran towards him.
Drake pushed. Brod stumbled back and fell over Jasmine's crouched form,
By the time Brod had got himself to his feet, Jasmine's father was racing out with two of the other parents, Katie close behind them. Drake was kneeling down to help Jasmine up.
“You all right, Jasmine?” her father asked.
“Brod knocked her over when he picked a fight with Drake, Mr. Purdue,” Ronnie explained.
“I'm all right, Dad,” Jasmine said. “I must've got in the way when Brod swung at Drake.”
“And Brod started it,”
said. She looked at Ha
ley and her gang. “Didn't he?”
“We weren't watching,” Ha
ley muttered. She and her gang headed back into the gym where the music had started its thudding beat again.
“What!” Jasmine's father
. He was a big, solidly built man and he stood nose to nose with Brod. “And you've been drinking!” He
came up close to
Drake. His face relaxed. “And you haven't.” He took a firmer grasp of Brod's arm. “I'm charging you if you fail the breathalyser test.”
Brod looked back at them, his face stiff with rage. “I'll get you for this, you and your three white mice,” he threatened.
Jasmine's father then left, towing the sulky Brod after him.
“Guess I owe you girls,” Drake said. “You're pretty smart with that trick
. Brod would have hammered me to mush. He is a top fighter and a nasty piece of work even if he is my cousin.”
“Not responsible for your relatives,”
The beat of the music amplified and they couldn't talk over it. They started dancing again, and enjoyed the rest of the evening.
“I intend to clean the pool next week, around dusk,” Drake said as they were leaving.
“Going to have a pool party?” Katie asked hopefully.
Doubt if it will ever be that clean,” Drake said with a sigh.
“If you see me there drop in and inspect the pool.”
“What about Brod?”
“I won't clean the pool if he's around,” Drake said.
His gaze focused on Ronnie.
So if I'm not outside, or my father's car is there, don't visit.”
Ronnie wondered if that was a personal warning or was he talking to the three of them?
She glanced out the front door. Her mother's car was there to collect them. She gave
Drake a smile. He smiled back.
They called said their goodbyes, even to Ha
ley and her very subdued gang and
“At least Brod is out of the way,” Jasmine said with a giggle. “He didn't pass the breathalyzer test and Dad carted him off.”
“Which makes it a good end to a terrific evening,” Ronnie said to the unanimous agreement of Jasmine and Katie.
It was a good evening, Ronnie
Drake had definitely looked at her when he said don't visit if his father's car was there. He was the most special boy she had ever met.