For what it’s worth, I never once thought: Oh I’m wrong. Instead, I thought: Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not just wrong.
Thursday 17 September, 2009:
Alexander tells me, “Nio’s away today, Miss.”
“Oh, is he just,” I say, laughing, and thinking about the two chocolate bars, which I don’t even care about – because Nio’s good to me. But I still say to Alexander, “Yeah, well, if you see him, ask him what happened to my chocolate.”
“Did he take your chocolate?” asks Alexander, with interest.
“Yes – the little thief,” I say, but he can see from my expression that I’m not really cross.
He says, uncertainly, “And… a spray can, Miss? Did he take a spray can from the teacher office?”
“I dunno,” I say, wondering. “Did he?’
“Ask him,” suggests Alexander.
“Hmmm…” I say, thinking of La-Verne’s spray can the other day, and wondering if Nio had somehow managed to get it into his bag.
Later, I’m in the office, and La-Verne’s at her desk, and I can’t help noticing that the spray can isn’t there. I don’t want to ask, but I’m longing to… until finally I say, “La-Verne, have you had a spray can go missing?’
“No, I don’t think so,” she replies absently, then her eyes go up to the empty spot where it had stood. ‘Oh!” she gasps. “It was there – and now it’s not!”
At once I wish I’d never mentioned it, because now I’m not going to be able to name names – of course I’m not. But I have to explain it somehow. So I say, “It was just something a boy told me, outside while I was on duty. At the time it didn’t register – but then I remembered you had a spray can a while back.”
‘I did!” she says. “Which boy was that – what did he say?”
“I don’t know him,” I lie, helplessly. “I was just on duty, and he came up and said – Has your spray can gone missing from the teacher office?’
She nods, and I go on, “And I just said no, I don’t have a spray can, and he went off… and then later on I thought about it.”
“And you don’t know who he was?’
“No.” I reply, “But, you know – he’s probably seen me going in and out of the office up here.”
“Yes, yes,” says La-Verne. She asks, “Would you recognize him?”
“I’m not sure,” I say, trying to put her off the scent. “Maybe.”
But La-Verne’s like a dog after a bone. She announces, “Right, I’ll get to the bottom of it! I’m gonna send out an ‘All Staff’ email; someone must know something – and I’ll ask the kids.”
I feel more and more unhappy about this development. Why couldn’t I have waited, and just asked Nio. He would have told me. And I like La-Verne, so I feel bad – but I’m genuinely alarmed by all this investigating.
Okay, a cleanup operation is needed, and it’s kind of my fault – though I didn’t mean to be the cause of that.
And a little part of me is so interested in the calmness of my heart… and I understand why the kids don’t snitch, even when they know someone’s done something and it’s wrong. They know it, but they can’t say a word; they really and truly can’t. And now I know what that feels like: first with Tau, now with Nio.
Ohh, to think of Nio being so frickin’ quick though. I had no idea – no idea at all that he’d taken the can. I bet it’s been put to all sorts of good use now, along the city’s highways and byways. I kind of (but not totally) admire him for it. I still have a faint idea that it’s ‘wrong’ to take people’s stuff… but all the same, I never minded the loss of that DVD.
Tau: I speak to Leroi today, he’s slipping into a shadow in one corner of the block as Marjorie Tunbridge rampages after a group of kids with a ball.
“Hi Miss,” he says as I pass by.
“Hi Leroi,” I say, “What you doing?”
“Wagging,” he says, entirely frankly.
“Of course you are,” I reply soothingly, and then, “Seen Tau lately?”
‘Yes Miss,” he nods.
“What’s he up to at the moment?”
“Got stood down,” Leroi says.
“Yeah, I know,” I agree. “But that’s finished now, he’s not stood down any more. How come he’s not at school?”
“Ohh, he’s… doing something, I think,” comes the reply.
“What kind of something?”
Leroi looks evasive, and I say, slightly perturbed, “Has he hooked up with Mischa?”
“No, not Mischa,” Leroi says, and then, “He’ll be back, I think.”
“Oh,” I say, in semi-relief. “Okay.”
And Leroi looks pleased that I’m pleased – cos he hadn’t been altogether sure, I think, that I didn’t want to meddle with truancy officers and DP’s.