aven hair cascaded down the womans back, gleaming in the moonlight. Her face had haunted Rahtis dreams ever since he could remember. He had never seen a face as lovelya face bending over him as though to protect him.
In his younger, more gullible days he believed this wondrous creature to be his guardian angel. Youre enough to make an angel weep, was almost a catch-cry of the women who had fostered him over his fourteen years. That must be where he got the idea the woman in his dreams might be an angel. And she was always weeping. Hed never been able to make much of the black wrought-iron structure looming behind her, however. Shouldnt he see wings there if she was an angel?
And angels didnt weep, did theydespite what those silly women said? Yet moments after she appeared her eyes welled with tears that the brilliant moonlight turned into shining pearls. Then the tears flooded down her pale, silken cheeks, no longer pearls but marring her beauty like the slimy track of a slug. After that the dream faded and he would wake up.
Only this time he didnt. Her tears splashed onto his faceas scorching as the grief she seemed determined to make him see and feel. He heard a small protesting noise that sounded oddly like a baby about to cry. With surprise he realised it came from himself.
The vision put a finger to her lips and for the first time he heard her voice. Sh, little one! Rahti must be brave and not cry like Mumma. Mummas crying only because she can read enough of the future to know shell never see you again. But shes happy that youll grow up as the son of a wealthy and respectable family. Theyll look after you as I cant. And Ive made sure you wont suffer the stigma of being your fathers child. Should that become known, theyd not only hate you but fear you beyond all reason.
Her words made no sense to Rahti. Wealthy people had never fostered let alone adopted him, and the adoption people claimed not to know his mothers name, never mind his fathers. He opened his mouth to ask what she meant, but could barely manage one of the baby sounds.
She rose and moved out of view. Rahti found himself staring into a black sky heavy with stars, and realised the wrought-iron structure was an enormous pair of gates. The fleur-de-lis decorating its top pierced the sky like spears aimed at the stars.
He opened his mouth in a silent scream of protest and stretched out his arms to pull the vision back. But she didnt return. His fingers clutched empty air.
He heard a loud sob followed by the sound of rapid footsteps. Then there was only silence. Rahti was left staring through the elaborate wrought-iron gates stabbing the starry heavens.
When he lowered his gaze to examine the gates properly, he received a clue as to where he was. Olwen House they announced in plain but elegant white lettering.
Rahti woke up with the imprint of the name still behind his eyelids. He groped around in the half-dark for the pen in his bedside drawer and wrote the name on his palm. At least hed still remember it in the morning, he told himself as he settled down again.
But sleep wouldnt come. He couldnt free his mind of the face of the woman from his dreams. It kept forming behind his closed eyelids as though resolved not to let him forget it.
As if he could, he thought as he switched on the light. He climbed out of bed and groped again for his pen and some paper. Ten minutes later he was looking at a creditable likeness of the woman. He then drew the gates. Satisfied, he returned to bed and switched off the light. This time he was asleep in moments.
Who owns Olwen House? he asked Maria Sheppard, his new foster mother, the following morning at breakfast. His foster father looked up from his newspaper. Rahti didnt miss the startled glance that passed between the couple.
It was his foster father who answered. Sir Rodney Olwen. Hes a big property magnate, one of New Zealands richest men. Rahti received the impression David Sheppard was striving to sound casual. Olwen House is a flashy English-style estate in the country up north. Is that what youre talking about?
Rage rose inside Rahti. He ignored the question. Thats where my mother abandoned meat the gatesisnt it?
Maria Sheppard choked on a mouthful of coffee. Her husband didnt seem to notice. He gaped at Rahti over his newspaper. Where did you hear that? Did the social worker tell you?
Again Rahti ignored the questions. So its true?
David carefully folded the newspaper. Rahti had an urge to reach over and snatch it from him. Normally he would have obeyed the urge. But that would mean never getting answers to his questions. He forced himself to wait patiently.
By this time Maria had recovered. She heaved a sigh. Well, you have the right to know all there is to know, even though your mother obviously wanted your origins to be kept secret. Everything was done to trace her. It shouldnt have been difficult. You were only hours old and had clearly had the best of attention, so someone qualified must have helped at the birth. But wherever the authorities turned they drew a blank. All anyone knows about her is she wanted you to be called Rahtian obviously made-up name. There were no fingerprints on the note she left with you.
Rahti could hardly contain his rage now. So she did abandon me at the gates of Olwen House?
Maria sighed again. Dont judge her harshly, please, Rahti. She must have been desperate to have done what she did. Well never know her reasons.
But she did abandon me at the gates of Olwen House?
The distress on Marias face deepened. I dont know how you found out, but yes, its true. In her note she begged the owners of the house to look after you and love you as they would the child they couldnt have. She also asked them not to ever let you know you werent their birth childwhich is why you havent been told you were left at their gates. I dont know why she thought Sir Rodney was childless. He had three children, and they were grown up even then. Both daughters have children, but his son hasnt.
Then it must have been the son my mother meant. Why didnt he adopt me?
Maria Sheppard gave a helpless shrug. Who can say?
Well, why didnt somebody adopt me? That baby on TV that was left under a school building got lots of offers of adoption.
The same happened when you were found. I dont know why none of them adopted you. I think perhaps it had something to do with the fact that they usually match babies with couples who at least look as though they might be the childs natural parents. Eyes and hair as black as yours normally go with a black skin, not a milk-white one. Even Maori children have dark-brown eyes rather than black.
But why should that make any difference? Besides, people are always adopting babies whose skins are a different colour from their own.
You were rather a difficult baby. Apparently you criedscreamed, rathernearly all the time. Yet doctors could find nothing wrong with you. Youve always been remarkably healthy.
Rahti realised, in surprise, that Marias statement was true. He couldnt remember having a cold let alone anything more serious.
He pulled from his shorts pocket the drawing he had done in the night. Thats what she looks like. Its a good likeness. Surely someone can trace her from it?
Open-mouthed in surprise, Maria was too slow in taking the drawing: David reached it first. Critically he looked from the womans face to Rahtis. Well, its a good impression of what you might look like when youre an adult, if you happened to be a girl. But your mother will be much older now. Besides, shes hardly likely to look that much like you.
He handed the drawing to his now-impatient wife.
Good heavens! she said, blinking. Rahti looked at her in rising hope. So shes seen my mother somewhere. But his hopes were dashed as she continued: Youve captured a mothers anguish at having to give up her child with remarkable skill and sensitivity. Where on earth did you learn to draw like this?
Rahti scowled in frustrated anger and all but snatched the drawing from her. I didnt. Ive been painting and drawing as long as I can remember.
With that he thrust back his chair and marched out, slamming the door behind him.
Rejection! Rejection! That was the story of his life. Abandonment by his mother was bad enough. Being turned down for adoption by a rich fellow who couldnt have children of his own was just too much. And hed had a gutsful of being shoved from one set of foster parents to another. Where were his real parents? Why hadnt they come forward to claim him? Even shoplifting just to get himself on TV still hadnt forced them to make themselves known. Stowing away on that American ship just to get himself noticed by world-wide TV, in case his parents had emigrated, only landed him in worse trouble with the police. Even his pleas on TV for his parents to come forward brought no results. Other fostered and adopted kids were allowed to trace their birth parents. Why had his mother covered her tracks so thoroughly? Why did his parents need to skulk under a cloak of mystery anyway? Why had the adoption people gone to so much trouble to hide from him that hed been dumped at the gates of Olwen House?
And how much more rejection could he take?
He had nearly reached his bedroom when something made him creep back to the closed kitchen door.
You shouldnt have told him any of that, he heard David Sheppard say in lowered tones.
Why not? his wife challenged. Especially as hed already found out some of it anywaythough goodness knows how. Besides, he has a right to know. He certainly has the right to know his mother loved himthat she hated giving him up and was only trying to do what she saw as best for him.
We were told all that in confidence! her husband hissed.
Well, children given up for adoption have rights now. Marias tone was chilly.
Yes, but this boys different. The social worker told you hes taken it harder than most kids that hes never been adopted. One man I know whos ex-wife fostered him said she described him as a proper little devil. Hes only here because no one else will take him. I would certainly rather not have him.
Hes done a little shoplifting, hes run away from most foster homes and he once stowed away on a ship. He could also do with some lessons in good manners. Thats hardly bad enough to class him as a devil, though. Weve fostered other kids whove stolen and run away from foster homes and werent exactly polite. Most grew out of it.
David Sheppards only answer to this was a grunt. Well, Id best be off or Ill be late for work.
Rahti heard the sound of a chair being pushed back. He fled to his room. Thank goodness he didnt have to share this house, let alone a bedroom, with a smug foster brother, he thought as he threw himself on his bed.
A few minutes later Maria Sheppard found him striving to stifle noisy sobs by pushing his face into the pillow.
Go way! he yelled in answer to her soft tap at the door. But she had already entered. His anger rising so that it felt as though his heart would burst through his rib cage, he lifted his head and thumped the pillow with both fists. How dare she intrude on him when he was bawling like a little kid! Leave me alone! His scream just about tore his throat apart. When she didnt immediately turn to go, he grabbed the book he had been reading and hurled it at her. Get out!
Maria winced as the book struck her shin. Her colour heightened noticeably. However, she said nothing but merely picked up the book and left, taking it with her. The door closed behind her with a deliberately soft click.
Rahti stared after her in disbelief. Shed taken just about the only thing he owned that he treasured! And he didnt need telling she had no intention of giving it backnot without what she saw as a good reason anyway. Shame joined his furynot so much for the way hed treated his foster mother; after all, shed asked for itbut for what hed done to his book. It was a special book because its title was his name and it was about a boy around his own age who found himself in a strange land full of exciting adventures. The name of the author was Bella Dynhydralon and he had never seen the book, or any other by the same author, in either the book shops or the library. Maria couldnt have found a better punishment. Clearly she was going to be harder to get the better of than other women whod fostered him.
But he wouldnt have had a tantrumlet alone such a childish oneif shed had the sense to allow him the dignity of being left alone. So she expected him to apologise and beg for the book back, did she? Well, she had another think coming. Hed jolly well call her bluff. Hed soon have his book back.
from an agent to whom I submitted an outline of this book.
© L A Barker Enterprises