Chapter 1 of Star Struck A stand-alone novel by Ryn Shell
Linton bent and picked up a stone, hurling it far into the distance. He calculated the chance of smashing Rose’s parents’ window was about the same as being hit by a piece of space junk—one in several trillion. It was too far away to tell for certain. Linton had an uncomfortable feeling that the stone had struck its target—he’d destroyed something else aside from Rose. He ran. He wasn’t going to allow anyone to witness his tears. The odds were not in his or Rose’s favour. She’d been struck first. Moonstruck at exactly 12.56 pm on July 21st, 1969, Australian Eastern Standard Time, as Linton lay over her on the worn leather sofa, in front of a black and white television set. In the background, the sound of Neil Armstrong’s voice came through the television speakers. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Linton and Rose thought their moment was monumental too.
Both sets of parents usually cottoned on to things pretty quick. But, it was the sixties, and the teenagers were exposed more to new ideas than their parents’ generation was at the same age. The parents didn’t have a clue what was going on behind their backs with their kids. Rose’s parents, Bess and Ray, assumed that Linton’s parents, Jean and Brian, and older brother, Trevor, along with six-hundred-million people worldwide, would be watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon on the television in their lounge rooms. But, Linton and Rose were unsupervised. It wasn’t the first time they were alone—together. Trevor put them up to lots of stuff; they were his perfect alibi. They protected him so that his parents would not find out he had a boyfriend. You didn’t easily come out and tell conservative parents and wider community you were gay, in the sixties, unless you had a death wish. Trevor took Linton and Rose for country drives. He’d pick up his mate, Alvin, once away from their small home town. Then the couples would part, go for separate hikes together, then stop at fast food venues on the way home to dine in different corners. As it happened, on the moon landing night, Linton’s mother was visiting a relative out of town, and his father and brother were in a truck carrying a load on a highway heading north. Meanwhile, hostage to teenage hormones, and in love, Rose and Linton got carried away—heading south—heading for trouble.
Parents have ways of finding out about these things. Rose’s pacing back and forth in the garden gave Bess an inkling that something was up. Jean took to sniffing sofa cushions—not her scent. Then she smelt Linton’s clothes—Lux laundry flakes. She knew that something was very wrong when her teenage boy washed his clothes and a towel without being asked. Jean spoke to Brian the moment he returned home. Linton and Rose were both grounded—parents’ orders. Linton had no idea what was going on or why he was in trouble for doing his own washing. He curled up on the leather sofa, remembering Rose and reading the newspaper about Skylab, the replacement program for the moon mission. Skylab would not be a single structure, but a cluster of four units, three of them designed for human occupation. The dimensions and future astronaut intake interested Linton. He wished he could hitch a lift, out of there, to the moon and stars. What a great way that would be to forget about weird parents. Spacemen were real men. Linton allowed his mind to fantasise about occupying the house-size Skylab. He fancied that he would spend his days working—real man’s work—in the cylindrical orbital workshop. NASA would build this from the shell of the propellant tank from the Saturn V rocket’s third stage. The upper part would contain food lockers, refrigerators, water tanks, and spacesuit lockers; enough equipment for a party, even a wedding reception. Linton closed his eyes—in his mind’s eye he led Rose to the end of Skylab, to where the Apollo telescope was mounted to create a solar observatory. The other astronauts could look out for the docking ports and spacecraft controls. Linton thought he would love to head all the scientific experiments. He enjoyed science class as much as he loved tinkering with trucks—he would be a great astronaut. Linton envisioned watching Earth from above with Rose and telling her how he would provide for them and protect her—if she waited for him. The deep voice of his truck driver father jolted him back to reality. “Hoy! You—brat!” “Huh!” Linton looked up from the paper. “What are you talking about?” “Get your kit together. You’re taking your brother’s place out on the road with me, where I can keep my eye on you.” Brian boxed Linton’s ears. “She’s jailbait, you stupid little fool.” “Don’t come back home.” Jean handed Linton a packed duffel bag and hugged him tight. “But, Mum.” “Just do as your dad said and stay away.”
Linton stayed away, although he thought of Rose, and saved his money for when they’d be old enough to tell their families that they planned to marry. His dad took interstate jobs, and Linton, travelling with him, kept busy learning the ropes of loading and unloading cargo, checking the time and stock sheets, and learning the everyday maintenance and management involved in a long haul trucking business.
Linton and Rose didn’t care if the NASA Skylab’s safe re-entry over Western Australia was a cover-up, as long as they could be together. A stand-alone, not quite cozy, mixed genre novel. Come on a powerfully emotional, twenty-year journey of family love, mystery and danger in rural and outback Australia. In a year of wonders, teenagers Rose and Linton pledged their love, and men walked on the moon. But as the moon mission ends, Rose is pregnant and Linton is gone. Rose and Linton’s love seems doomed from the start. But, can the enduring love Rose maintains for Linton win them a happily ever after, when even ‘the heavens’ seem to be against the lovers? An intriguing story with universal appeal. Romance and recent historical fiction combine in an Australian story that is highly relevant in today's world. As with Ryn Shell’s other historical fiction and rural-lit mystery novels, there is betrayal, resilience and love at the core of a semi-biographical story set in outback and rural Australia. This book may be read as a stand-alone story or in series order.