At the surface, daily life went on as usual. But everything was murky at the depths. I was tired and unsettled. Still, I knew I wasn’t alone – and I was glad.
Friday 18 September, 2009:
The (temporary?) departure of Tau leaves a sizeable vacuum in my day which Nio has filled. Not just filled, but hastened into the breach. He senses the gap – and I think he also senses that my energy is down and needs a boost.
So today, he comes to me at the start of the day, and I speak to him plainly about Miss Poirier and her detective ability.
He admits the theft of the spray can at once:
“I’m slick, aye Miss?” he crows.
“Yup, far too quick,” I growl. “And if I’d known, you would have had to put it back.”
Nio laughs when I ask, “And has it been put to good use – along the motorway?”
“No, it’s been put to good use in the skate park,” he says triumphantly.
“Well – no good worrying about that now,” I say, “She won’t get it back, will she?’
“No,” he concedes.
“And who else knows?”
“No-one, Miss,” says Nio. “Only you, and Alexander – what a little snitch!”
“Well he didn’t really snitch – he just suggested…”
Nio considers this and shrugs.
“Anyway,” I say. “Just don’t go talking about it to everybody.”
‘Nah Miss I won’t,” Nio replies.
I mutter, “Nio, I’m so nice to you – and God alone knows why, when you took my chocolate as well.”
“I didn’t – there were lots of other people there,” protests Nio.
“No, I know it was you – you may as well admit it, little thief,” I tell him, without dismay. And he says at once, “Alright, I did take it… but I had a bad hunger.” He adds, “And then I got a stomach ache afterwards.”
“Well it serves you right,” I say. “It does.”
Then he says, touchingly, “But Miss, I didn’t take anything else. I saw the wallet, and the vivids… and I never took anything out of your drawer – did you check?”
“I did check,” I say. “And you’re right – you didn’t take anything else. And you could have.”
So we part, amicably, but after interval he reappears, wheeling and spinning his way into the library with my 11 Social class.
“Hello Miss,” says the uncrushable Nio, “I’m gonna work with your class today – I’m not going to Maths.”
“Are you not?’ I say.
“No, I’m gonna do heaps of work, all about Malcolm X,” he tells me.
I say, “Well don’t distract these guys.”
“I’m not! I’m working – look!’ And it’s true; he’s busy highlighting sections of his texts.
I go around and see what the others are doing. Every now and then I return to check on Nio’s table. And Nio is being rather indiscreet.
“I stole Miss’s chocolate,” he announces to his table companions.
“And you’re telling her?’ says Dimario, mystified.
“She already knows…” Nio says, carelessly.
“Yes I do know,” I say, “And he should count himself very lucky that I forgave him so readily.”
“Cos I took nothing else, aye Miss,” he continues exuberantly. “I left all Miss’s stuff alone. Her wallet… her keys… and I returned your DVD, aye Miss, that you lent me.”
“So you took the chocolate – you left the wallet,” laughs Jamal.
“Too high risk!” says Nio.
And I say, “Yes, and because despite it all, you’re a good person and you wouldn’t do that to me.”
Nio grins. “I might,” he says, “You should watch your back.”
“Oh, shut up Nio, says Dimario, not unkindly.
“Yeaahh, and you should watch your back too,” Nio retorts.
“Yeah?” Dimario sneers.
“Yeah, cuuunt…” drawls Nio, closing his folder and starting to bomb on the cover.
“Oi, Nio – do some work, if you’re here.” I say.
“Nah Miss, I’m gonna do my bombing now.”
“No – you can do your work, otherwise you can go to Math. I’ve already been way too nice to you today, and now you’re being a dick.”
“Someone wants a hi-ding,” sings Nio.
“Stop talking to Miss like that!” says Dimario. “Stop being an idiot.”
“Nah Dimario, you’re just a little bitch,” Nio says.
I exclaim, exasperated, “Oh for God’s sake,” and then everyone laughs.
“But honestly, Nio,“ I continue seriously. “You really should think before you just say things – and just be grateful that people have any faith in you at all. Especially after our conversation earlier…” and I look at him meaningfully.
“Oh yeah,” he says cockily, “I stole a…”
“Shut up, Nio,” I say, as he tries to say ‘spray can’ and no-one hears him. “I told you,” I mutter, “The less people who know, the better.”
“I can tell these guys!” says Nio, airily.
“No, remember: Miss and her investigation.”
“Oh, alright…” Nio sighs. And then, to my surprise, he opens up his folder again and resumes highlighting his information. Which is a miracle in itself.
The librarian comes up to me as we leave the library.
“I just wanted to say,” she tells me, “What a lovely class!”
“I know – aren’t they?” I say, pleased.
“Every single one of them was on task, and so well behaved – I can’t believe they’re only year 11’s,” she says.
“I’m very lucky with that class,” I agree.
At lunch, Nina’s talking to me when Nio comes to my door: “Can I have my folder?” he says. “I think I’ll go to my own 11 Social class today, and do some more work on it.”
“Oh, well done, Nio,” I tell him, feeling proud of him.
He sees Nina and cranes his neck round the door. “I stole Miss’s chocolate,” he says conversationally.
“Did he? Miss – and you’re so nice to him!” Nina laments.
“Yes, he did,” I admit, “But… Nio ‘s alright, I still trust him.”
“You still trust him?” says Nina in wonder.
“Miss does,” replies Nio. “Because…” and he turns to me with an expectant look.
“Oh,” I say, thinking about just how to reply. And then I say, “Because Nio can be trusted when it counts, and so it doesn’t really matter about the small stuff.”
“Yeah!” he says, tremendously pleased by this.
“And… that’s because we trust you, Miss,” says Nina, thoughtfully.
At the very end of the day, Nio returns, looks in, wanders to my desk and stops beside me. He says, “Miss, can I have one of those lollies, from your drawer?”
“Why should I give you a lolly? You’ve been a bit silly today!”
“I’m sorry,” Nio says, softly and without any bravado. He adds, “You know I don’t mean it.”
“Yeah, I know,” I say.
And he stands quite still and looks at me without trickery.
At the end of the day, that’s why I love Nio. Cos somehow he lets me know I’m not alone. It means a lot to me, on a day when I feel tired, and my voice is all hoarse, and there’s all sorts of stuff to do… and a stupid staff meeting to go to.
George strays in too, then Conor – and they hang around joyfully for a few minutes.