Authors: Monique Polak
Copyright Â© Monique Polak 2005
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Home invasion / Monique Polak.
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8631.O43H64 2005 jC813'.6 C2005-904465-9
First published in the United States, 2005
Library of Congress Control Number:
While a home invader terrorizes the city,
Josh finds himself sneaking into other people's houses.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.
Cover design: Lynn O'Rourke
Cover photography: Getty Images
Orca Book Publishers
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Orca Book Publishers
Printed and bound in Canada
Printed on 50% post-consumer recycled paper,
processed chlorine free using vegetable, low VOC inks.
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For Mike and Ali, with love
Thanks to Viva Singer, Claire Holden Rothman, Evadne Anderson and my mother, Celine Polak, for reading this manuscript in its earliest stages; to my students Lee Rovinescu and Anthony Bossy for the basketball lessons; to Rina Singh and Elaine Kalman Naves for their continuing encouragement; to Barbara Vininsky and my friends at the Jack and Jill Shop; to my editor, Andrew Wooldridge, for his good sense and sharp eye, and to the rest of the team at Orca. Finally, thanks to my daughter, Alicia Melamed, and my husband, Michael Shenker. Their humor and love make all things possible
Don't ask me what she sees in him. He's not handsome, that's for sure. He's got chipmunk cheeks and this weird cowlick that looks like a rhino's horn. She thinks he's funny, but then Mom's always had a bizarre sense of humor.
The two of them were at it again last night.
My room's right next to theirs, and the walls are paper-thin. I could hear their bed creaking. I tried pulling the pillow over my
head, but then I heard Mom's voice, soft and low.
She kept whispering the same disgusting thingâover and over again.
“Shh, Clay,” she kept saying. “We don't want to wake Josh up.”
As if I wasn't already awake.
How do they expect me to look at them in the morning?
I was sitting in the kitchen reading the comics. Mom was just leaving for a run. The last thing she said to me was “Don't let the home invader in!”
Everyone in Montreal's talking about the home invader. He's some guyâor maybe it's a girl (I don't want to be sexist here)âwho robs houses while the people who live in them are home. You gotta admit, it's pretty creepy. Bad enough getting burgled when you're out, but imagine it happening when you're right there.
Mom was already out the door, so she didn't hear what I muttered under my breath: “You already let him in.”
Of course I was talking about Clay. Her new husband. My stepfather. Montreal's number one home invader.
Things were going fine before Clay moved in. Him and all his stuff. His maroon bathrobe, his weird recipes, his old turn-tableâwho listens to vinyl anymore?âand the little scraps of paper he's always doodling on.
As I was thinking that, Clay rushed downstairs. The guy's always in a hurry, late for one thing or another. He had a big white blob of shaving cream smack in the middle of his chin. If I were nicer, I'd tell him.
But I'm not that nice.
“Have you seen my keys, kiddo?” he asked.
I shrugged. If he were normal, he'd use the key holder that's hanging in the front hallway. It's got little hooks, and it's shaped like a key, so you'd think he'd figure out what it's meant for. But Clay is not exactly normal. He rifled through a pile of papers on the desk in the corridor, adding to the mess. I wondered if he thought about checking his pockets.
I heard him opening the front closet. From where I was sitting in the kitchen, I could only see the soles of his feet. He was on his knees, taking stuff out. I spotted a pair of skates and the box where we kept mittens. Didn't he realize it was July? Why would his keys be in with the winter stuff?
Suddenly he started talking to himself. “We need to do something about this closet,” he said. Then he started emptying the whole thing out. I could hear him dragging out the vacuum cleaner and some suitcases. I bet he had forgotten about the keys altogether. Which would be just like Clay. He's not exactly focused. Mom says it's because he has an artistic personalityâand that that's one of the things she loves about himâbut if you ask me, that's just an excuse. In my opinion, the guy's a disaster.
He had emptied so much crap into the corridor, I could barely see the front door. Then he stood up again, surveying his work.
“There you are, you little bugger,” I heard him say. Then his voice dropped. “Right in my front pocket.” I tried not to laugh.
Now that he had found his keys, he would probably forget about putting the stuff back in the closet. If I did that, Mom would have a fit. But she never, ever gets mad at Clay. It's one more thing I hate about him.
The doorbell rang. I could hear Clay wade through the mess he had made.
I put the comics down and headed out into the corridor. It looked like a war zone. A girl and a middle-aged woman were standing in our vestibule. They didn't look like home invaders. Besides, home invaders don't use the bell.
“I'm Annette Levesque,” the woman said, reaching out to shake Clay's hand. She looked tired. “This is my daughter, Patsy.” Patsy smiled. She had braces and wavy brown hair. You could tell she'd rather not be here. “We just moved in two doors down and we're wondering if you have an X-Acto knife we could borrow. Ours is in a box somewhere.”
“We need an X-Acto knife so we can open boxes and find our X-Acto knife,” Patsy explained.
I laughed. “I'll get it. By the way,” I said before I headed back to the kitchen for the knife, “I'm Josh.” I lifted my chin toward my stepfather. “He's Clay.”
“Welcome to the âhood,” Clay said.
Why did he have to say âhood? He's such a loser.
When I got back with the knife, Clay and Mrs. Levesque were discussing recipes. “I wish Sylvain would help with the cooking. Maybe you'll be a good influence,” she said.
Good influence? She's got to be kidding! Last night Clay invented a new recipeâpasta with peanut butter. I wondered what Patsy would think of that.
As I handed Patsy the knife the phone rang. Clay picked it up. I could tell from the way Mrs. Levesque and Patsy were shuffling that they wanted to leave, but they thought it'd be bad manners not to say good-bye first. Now they were stuck waiting for Clay to get off the phone.
“Are you going to Royal Crest in the fall?” I asked Patsy.
“Uh-huh,” she said, “grade ten. How about you?”
“Me too.” I wanted to tell her I could introduce her to some people, but I was listening in on the phone call.
Clay raised his voice, which meant he was probably talking to my gramma in Toronto, who's hard of hearing. “What's the phone number there, Tammy? Of course, if you need her, she'll come. No, no, she'll want to be there with you. She's out for a run, but I'll have her phone you the minute she gets in.” He checked his watch.
I was right. It was my grandmother. Something must be wrong.
“Is Gramps all right?” I asked Clay.
He didn't answer. He wrote the number on a slip of paper.
“We really should be going,” Mrs. Levesque whispered.
When I followed her and Patsy to the door, Mrs. Levesque squinted at me, like she was studying my face. “You have your dad's eyes,” she said.
One of Clay's flip-flops was lying on the
floor in the hallway. I gave it a kick so that, for a second, it flew up into the air. “He's not my dad,” I told her.
“At least this'll give you two an opportunity to bond,” Mom told us when we dropped her off at the airport.
Gramps had a heart attack. The good news was he was going to be okay; there wasn't much damage to his heart. The bad news was Gramma had flipped out, and needed Mom to be with her in Toronto for at least a week. Which meant I was stuck with Clay.
I felt like puking when they gave each other one of those big mushy kisses. Instead I
turned away and counted to five, hoping that when I was done the two lovebirds would be through. It was a good thing she had a plane to catch or they might still be at it.
On the way home, I made a point of not saying a word to Clay. I could tell from the way he tapped the steering wheel that I was making him uncomfortable. That cheered me up a little.
There was a slimy brown apple core at the edge of the floor mat, near my right foot.
“Oops,” Clay said when he noticed me looking down at it. “I didn't want to throw it out the window.”
“Do you have a bag in here for garbage?” I asked him.
He pointed to the glove compartment, but when I opened it, all this junk came tumbling out onto my lap. Crumpled-up maps, candy wrappers, parking tickets and car wash coupons. I couldn't help laughing.
“What's so funny?” Clay asked. “I told you there was a bag in there,” he added triumphantly, pointing to a tattered plastic bag balled up in the back corner of the glove compartment.
“What do you feel like having for supper?” he asked me when we're turning the corner and heading onto our block.
I knew what I didn't feel like having. Pasta with peanut butter. “Whatever,” I told him, shrugging my shoulders.
“Well then, I guess I'll invent something.”
My heart sank. What was he going to doâadd jam to the recipe?
“I'm going to shoot some hoops,” I told him as we pulled into the driveway. I hoped that maybe I'd bump into Patsy, the girl from that morning, on the way to the park
I was dribbling my basketball down the sidewalk when I noticed a telephone company van parked outside Patsy's house. They were probably getting their phone hooked up.
When I got closer, I noticed the garage door was half open. I slowed down for a better look. Maybe Patsy's dad was doing some yard work. But there was no sign of anyone.
I looked over my shoulder. Nobody was watching. Then, just like that, I walked into the garage. It was like I was on autopilot. I didn't know what made me do it. Curiosity, I guess.
I remembered something we learned in English. This guy, Edgar Allan Poe, came up with an idea he called “the imp of the perverse.” Mr. JohnstonâI had him for English last yearâsaid it's like when you see a sign that says
Wet paint. Don't touch
, and you have this overwhelming urge to touch it. It was like that with the Levesques' garage door. If it hadn't been open, I never would've thought of going inside.
My heart was thumping like crazy, and I was sweating. The weirdest part was I didn't think I ever felt more alive. Or more excited.
The garage was filled with cardboard boxes, stacked one on top of the other. They were all labeled.
Kitchenâpots. Dining roomâfragileâgood china. Pats
, which I figured was short for Patsy. I spotted some barbells on the floor. They were probably her dad's.