A CUSTARD CHUCKER
"What are you staring at?" sneered the shaven-headed blader as he frontsided down the brass handrail of the bank.
Strobe moved back quickly before he landed on her. "Just watching," she said.
"Then buy a ticket."
"Don't upset the audience, Vulture," yelled Winston as he topside-souled along the same rail.
"Go buy yourself a pair of decent boots why don't ya!" yelled Vulture, cutting the Chinese boy off with a vicious skid.
Winston shook his head at Strobe. "Pity his manners aren't as good as his skating, eh?"
Strobe agreed that it was a pity. Then she glanced down at Winston's boots. They were covered in masking tape and looked as if they would fall apart any minute.
Winston wriggled them at her then grinned. "Yeah they are pretty bad, so why don't you blade? You look as if you'd like to."
Strobe nodded. "I would but my aunt, who I live with, thinks it's dangerous."
Winston skated around her. "She's not wrong. It's a rough sport for girls."
Strobe's blue eyes turned thunderous. "Girls can skate as well as boys."
"Then get some blades and join us," he yelled as he skated off.
"Do you mean that?" she shouted after him.
Arching his back, Winston bent his legs backwards so he could touch his boots and did a gumbi over a flight of steps, but he miscalculated and almost fell on his face. Righting himself, he grinned at her. "Sure do. Just ask for Winston."
Strobe thought about the Chinese boy all the way home on the bus. He was heaps taller than her but she knew he was only a year older as she'd seen him in his school uniform. And he was nice. Not like that Vulture. Yuk! What a slime bucket Vulture was! And Winston had said that she could blade with him. Which he probably hadn't meant. But if he had it was perfect because he was the perfect person to teach her how to do a custard chucker.
Her aunt's housekeeper said her aunt was in the library waiting for her. This surprised Strobe as Aunt Olwyn was normally out socialising or networking for business. Strobe was also surprised at how pleased her aunt sounded to hear that she was home. Usually she barely noticed.
"Strobe dear," her aunt called from the library. "I want you to do something for me."
"Ah!" Strobe wagged her finger at her face in the foyer mirror. "That's why."
Strobe liked her Aunt Olwyn because she knew exactly where she stood with her. Which was that dratted niece who had to be babysat for three months of every year. She also knew that if she kept out of her aunt's way and wasn't a bother then almost anything was possible. Strobe hoped that this time "anything" meant the buying of a pair of roller blades.
Aunt Olwyn aimed two kisses each side of Strobe's face. "Dear Strobe, I've got some lovely news. I've arranged for you to play tennis with Elise Breck."
Strobe's mouth dropped open. "I hate Elise Breck."
"No dear," corrected Aunt Olwyn. "Well brought up children don't hate anyone."
"Then I hate tennis and I won't play with Elise Breck."
Aunt Olwyn's beautifully made-up face tightened and her voice rose. "Stephanie Thelma Rowena Olwyn Bevan-Evans I need you to organise a tennis tournament for the engagement party I am organising for Elise Breck's mother and her new father, the famous, rich and not to be trifled with, Mr Leslie Burton and that is that!"
Strobe's voice rose as well. "Tennis is for snobs."
"I play tennis and I'm not a snob," countered Aunt Olwyn.
Strobe agreed that her aunt was not a snob. She was gorgeous. All the newspapers said so. One reporter described her as an ex-model with the brain of a high-tec, military designed computer.
Strobe's father was even more complimentary. "Lady Moncrieff (the title was because Aunt Olwyn had once been married to a duke), is a world authority on food preparation and social etiquette. You could learn a lot from her, Strobe."
Strobe didn't want to learn about food preparation or social etiquette. She wanted to learn how to do a custard chucker on blades. But for this she needed a pair of ultra light boots with alloy frames, gel padding, dual braking and 70 mm 85A Aero wheels. And she needed them immediately because... Well, because she'd been showing off at school pretending she could blade and Alexis Andrews and Elise Beck had challenged her to bring her blades to school and show everyone how good she was. So now she had to. Only how? She couldn't blade and she didn't have a pair of blades. She'd been lying and pretty soon the whole school would know.
"Aunt Olwyn, can I buy some blades?"
Without a flicker of her mascara-covered eye-lashes Aunt Olwyn continued explaining how there would be two hundred guests and forty children at the party which was why she needed a children's' tennis tournament to amuse the children.
"This party is the pinnacle of my catering career, Strobe."
Which Strobe knew wasn't true, as Aunt Olwyn had a career pinnacle every time she prepared a conference or party.
"Does Mr Burton realise if he marries Mrs Breck he gets Elise Breck as a step-daughter?" she asked.
"He's looking forward to it," said Aunt Olwyn. "His son from his first marriage is a big disappointment. He's not even on the party invitation list. Now let's get back to the tennis tournament. Mr Burton doesn't care what I spend. So..."
Strobe's brain sped faster than a jet plane. She WAS NOT going to play tennis with stuck-up Elise Breck and she WAS going to get her blades, but how? Shouting worked wonders with Aunt Olwyn's older sister, Aunt Thelma and sulking won every time with Aunt Olwyn's younger sister, Aunt Roweena, but the only thing that impressed Aunt Olwyn was a good business idea.
"If this party is so important," said Strobe carefully, "why aren't you going all out for spectacular?"
Aunt Olwyn looked at her niece as if she were four kinds of stupid. "Five courses of gourmet food, a candle-lit marquee, an eight piece orchestra and a trapeze act to entertain the diners and fireworks afterwards is SPECTACULAR! Did I mention, they want a metre wide cheesecake?"
Aunt Olwyn waited for Strobe's reaction.
Strobe gave it. Open mouth, wide eyes, a sharp intake of breath, then she jumped in fast. "But a tennis tournament is so old fashioned." Aunt Olwyn hated anything old-fashioned. "Now if it was a blading tournament. That would be different. Blading is 'in'." Strobe knew Aunt Olwyn adored being 'in'.
"Everything to do with blades is a status symbol," she continued undaunted by her aunt's suspicious look. "They're even thinking of including them in the Olympic Games."
Aunt Olwyn's stubborn expression turned thoughtful. "Go on."
Strobe did. "So if you employed a blade rental shop to provide forty pairs of boots, helmets and pads and a half pipe, then employed some professionals to show the children how to blade in the half pipe, it would be spectacular."
Strobe's ideas petered out for a second then, "No one gets into the newspaper for organising a boring tennis tournament but a super-rich, top-society blading tournament with a blade-shaped cake for the children would be front page news."
"A blade-shaped cake," Aunt Olwyn's mind was already planning it. "So how could I convince you to do the preliminary organising of such a tournament, Strobe dear?"
"Buy me a pair of oxygen Argon boots with Coxmo wheels and pay someone to teach me how to do a custard chucker by Friday," answered Strobe all in one breath.
"Done." said Aunt Olwyn. Then up came a red-nailed finger pointing straight at the front of Strobe's school uniform. "But if it fails I will never talk to you again. Double-plus you will inherit nothing when I die. Understand?"
"Perfectly!" Strobe threw her arms around her aunt's slim waist and gave her an unwelcome hug. "You're a fantastic business woman Aunty Olwyn."
"You're not so bad yourself," snapped Aunt Olwyn. "Now, stop crushing my dress."