Promises to keep

Tuesday 17 August, 2010:

As soon as Leroi gets to school, he finds me to tell me, “Tau got kicked out of his course, cos he’s 16.”

I suspect at once that this is just Tau’s spin on the situation.

Then Leroi continues, “And Saturday night wasn’t good.  A lot of people turned up and everyone got in fights. Our windows got smashed – the house got trashed.” He adds, “Tau had gone to sleep by then.”

“Did he start too early?” I ask

“Yes, he started drinking at 1 o’clock,” he tells me.

“And was Scott there?”

“Yes – but he couldn’t make those people leave,” Leroi says. “He tried to.”

“Are the windows and stuff fixed now?”

“No,” Leroi says calmly. “No-one… cares anymore.”

I nod.

“And Tau said to tell you – he can’t text you cos his phone got stolen while he was asleep. But he said that he’ll see you soon.”

“It’s alright,” I say, “Tell him there’s no hurry.”


Then, “Miss,” says Leroi. “Tau beat up Shae.” He looks at me to see my reaction, and satisfied by some calmness in my eyes, continues. “He went next door, and these girls were there, they were about 18 -”  He pauses and says, “And you know, dressed really skanky.”

I just listen, and Leroi goes on: “And Shae went over and said – what are you doing – and Taurangi told her to get out. And then they argued and he beat her up.” He said, “I saw him shin her, and he punched her, and she’s got bruises all over. And he spat on her.”

I try to think of Leroi telling me so faithfully, so as not to be shocked or upset – but I feel such a big, hot pain in my heart all the same.

“Marie’s really angry,” says Leroi.

“Who’s Marie?”

“Shae’s mum.”

“Oh…” I say.

There’s a little pause, and then “Miss – do you think Taurangi is bad, now?” asks Leroi.

“No,” I say. “Of course I don’t think Taurangi is bad. He’s done something wrong, but he isn’t a bad person – he’s a very good person.  I know that Leroi. I’m just really sorry it’s happened. Then I murmur, “He told me he didn’t touch Shae – hadn’t touched her once.”

“I don’t think he had either, Miss,” says Leroi. “Sometimes they had arguments – but he didn’t hit her.”

And we talk about it, and I can see that Leroi is just wanting to tell someone, and he has such a quiet, composed expression in his eyes that I can hardly stand it.


I try to lighten things a little: “Tell Tau we’ll find him a better course, ok?” and Leroi laughs, saying, “Scott says he should get a job, but I don’t think anyone will hire him,”

We roll our eyes, at Tau’s chances of finding employment.

Later on I ring the Back to Basics course. They say Tau wasn’t kicked out. He wanted to leave – and he left. They said they aren’t going to follow it up – because he isn’t funded anymore, and it’s his choice not to come back.


And all afternoon I think about Tau hitting Shae. I don’t know if there’s a single useful thing I can do – but all the same, there’s a strange, strange symmetry. I know that this is ‘a time a place’, and I have to hold on.

Because I promised I would, and there’s some promises you have to keep.


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