Keeping company

Monday 6 September, 2010:

After lunch there’s an email from Marjorie, to let me know that Inia and Noa have been brought back to school by the police. Noa posed no real problem; she’s sent him straight to class. But Inia’s been angry and abusive: first he swore at Marjorie, then he had difficulty breathing – now he’s at the Health Centre.

So I decide to go find out for myself what’s happening. I knock at the hushed door of the nurses’ station, explain who I am, and they readily show me through.


Inia is lying on his back on one of the narrow examination beds, under a large diagram of the female reproductive system and a couple of pregnancy posters. He’s shivering and has two big tears in his eyes. When he sees me, he blinks, and miserably let them fall. My heart goes out to him.

“Hey Inia,“ I said, “I just came down to see if you were ok – Miss Tunbridge emailed me.”

He nods. “I’m sick -” he manages to say, wheezing as he speaks. “I’ve been feeling sick all day… that’s why we were going home. First I got cold, and then I got all hot, and -” he coughs, with a weak rattling sound. “Noa was walking me home, but the cops stopped us and made us come back to school.”

Silly,” I tell him tenderly, making him smile a little bit despite himself. “If you’d just told someone you were sick, we could have signed you out.”

“Yeah – the cops asked if we had one of those blue papers, but we didn’t,” he croaks, his feet pointed out stiffly and his shoulders trembling.

One of the nurses comes up behind me, saying, “He’s really quite ill – I’d be happier if someone could pick him up. He’s got a bad cough, and he’s very hot.”

I reach out and put one hand on Inia’s forehead, which is feverish and burning. I say, “Inia, I know you probably feel cold – but you might feel a little bit better if you take your jacket off.”

“Good idea,” says the nurse. She tells me, “I wanted to give him paracetamol too, to bring his temperature down, but he hasn’t had anything to eat, and he won’t eat anything I’ve offered.”

Inia shivers but sits up with a little encouragement from me, and I help him take off his jacket.

“Okay,” I say. “Now, how about I go get you something to eat from the cafe – just so you can have some panadol, alright?”

Inia nods obligingly, looking at me with an expression of willingness.


On the way to the cafe, I call by Marjorie’s office. She’s pleased with the update, saying, “It makes more sense now, if he was feeling that sick. I was shocked when he swore at me – but I don’t want further consequences for him over it.”

She reaches into her drawer and pulls out a fruit bar. “Give him this,” she says.

“Ohh, thanks,” I say in surprise. “I’ll tell him you sent it – I’ll just go get him a drink and then I’ll take it to him.”

She grins, and hands me a bottle of water. “Here – take this for him too!” she tells me. “And tell him I’ll slap him around the face with it!” and I can’t help laughing.

I take the stuff back to Inia. “Here you go – Miss Tunbridge sent you this.”

“Miss Tunbridge did?” Inia blinks in bewilderment.

“Yup, and she said be careful or she’ll give you a slap in the face with it –”

Inia laughs and coughs, sitting up unsteadily and unwrapping the fruit bar.


“Do you wanna go home?” I ask.

He nods, sighing and relieved at the thought.

“Ok – well is there someone at home?”

“I’m not sure,” he admits.

“Shall I go get Noa – cos I think you should have somebody with you. And I could drop you guys off.”

“Yes please, Miss,” Inia says.

So I go get Noa from Vikshal’s class, sign them both out at Student Services, and take them home.


Touchingly, Noa opens the door of the car for his twin, helps him in, and then comes and sits in the front with me.  He says, “Inia didn’t mean to get all upset – he would have been alright if the pigs hadn’t stopped us.”

“Yeah, I know – it’s ok,” I tell them. “Don’t worry about it anymore.”

Noa spies some lollies and asks, “Can we have some of these, Miss?”

“Course you can – give some to Inia as well,” and he does.


When I drop them off, Inia turns back and put his head through the door again, and says to me, “Miss. Thanks a lot.“

“Anytime. And Inia,” I add. “I never thought I’d be saying this to you, but just stay home tomorrow, ok?”

He laughs.

“Just stay home and get better.”

“I will, Miss,” he tells me, and they go up the drive.


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