Monday 4 February, 2013:
I get to school at 8:15; Leroi texts me at 8:25. There’s a staff meeting at 8:30, but I decide my presence there is not required (oh, if Karys only knew), and instead go off to see what’s up at Fitzroy St.
At Fitzroy, there (again) are Detective Sandra Martens, plus one sidekick. They’ve come to get Tau – he’s nowhere to be found. Sandra asks if he stayed at mine last night, and I tell her I haven’t seen him since Saturday. I explain that I’m only there to pick up Leroi for school, and at that very moment, Leroi comes bounding down the steps and hops into the car, thus “proving” me correct. This seems to satisfy Sandra, although she is obviously hoping to extract more information about Tau’s whereabouts. I say I’m late for a meeting (definitely true, by now) and off we go
As we drive, “Was Tau in there?” I ask Leroi.
“Yup,” he tells me. “He was lucky – he was in the room when they came, I heard him go out the window and over the back fence. I was in the lounge – I just stalled a bit. I was sure they were going to want to talk to me, so I said I had to be at school, then I texted you so I could get out fast.” He continues, “Cos I was all on my own, too. Sheree got pissed off with the cops. She told them – I’m sick of you, always sniffing around. Last time you said you wouldn’t keep the boys long, then you had them at the cop station all day. What the fuck’s up with that? I don’t need this shit, I’m out of here! And then she just walked off.”
“Did she?” I say, admiringly.
We start to laugh. “Lucky you came, Miss – life saver!” adds Leroi, and this just makes us laugh even more.
“Oh Leroi,” I tell him. “But I am missing my meeting; I wasn’t lying. And I don’t need any extra hassle from Miss Kirk.
“Sorry, Miss,” he says.
“All good Leroi,” I sigh. “At least one of you’s hitting the books.” We look at each other and snort.
At school, I head straight to the theatre, where I’ve just missed Karys’s ‘Principal’s Address’ to the year 13’s. She’s coming out as I arrive, so I just say a casual, “Hi Karys,” hoping to think of some plausible reason for being late, if she asks. But she doesn’t, so all is well – at least for the time being.
Along with the year 13’s, I suffer through a few ‘inspirational clips’, and then we divide into our house groups for the first session – on the theme of Leadership. I see I’ve been paired to teach with Mandy, which improves my chances of getting through to interval without incident. And in fact, a feeling of nonchalance has kicked in, after missing the staff briefing, having to deal with cops at Fitzroy St, and then getting past Karys without being snapped (mentally I’m still crossing my fingers about that).
“Chloe had to cover your tutor,” Mandy tells me. “We didn’t get your text until it was too late.” (I’d texted them both, in an attempt to double my chances)
“Oh well,” I reply, fatalistically.
In the library with the seniors, we look at the list of leadership activities we have been given (compiled no doubt by Marjorie and the DP’s). They’re fairly dire – Mandy leads the first one, while I rack my brains for a way to put some spin on the next. As it turns out, her air of authority and my air of autonomy are a fortuitous combination, and the year 13’s do as they’re told without too much protest. And like that we get on until lunch time.
Or almost. Just before lunch, I receive a text (of all things) from Sandra Martens. She’s already rung and left a message on voicemail, asking if I’ve heard from Tau. And now I get a text from my new bff: ‘Hi, its Sandra from the police. When u r free could u txt this phone & i will give u a call. Thanks’
‘Hi Sandra now’s good’ I text back, and take her call.
This time, she explains to me that she needs to see Tau as soon as possible. She wants to show him something; I think she says some ‘items’. She tells me she won’t keep him long, it’ll be less than an hour. She’s already been over to my place, to check whether he might have come back to the sleepout since earlier this morning – though her tone implies that she does believe I haven’t seen him.
Anyway, she’s hoping I can help, by talking to Sheree. She mentions (and I’m sure she envisages I already know) that Sheree was not pleased about today’s visit to Fitzroy St. She wants me to assure her that Tau won’t be kept long at the station, and that he’ll be dropped back home afterwards.
I broach the subject of the search warrant – thinking that this what might be what Sheree (and Tau) are really afraid of. “Can I tell Sheree – or Tau, if I get hold of him – that he’s not going to be kept in to talk about anything else, today?” I ask. I know Sandra isn’t in charge of the other investigation, but I need to make sure Tau isn’t going to be whisked off to see someone else.
“You have my guarantee on that,” she tells me – and actually, I believe her (for what it’s worth).
So I agree to talk to Sheree. It’s lunchtime now – I decide that rather than ringing, I’ll go back to Fitzroy.
A group of boys are in the shed when I pull into the driveway, but I just give them a general greeting as I go past, without stopping to see exactly who is there. “Hi Miss,” I hear them chorus.
Indoors, I repeat everything Sandra has said, but: “I don’t know if I can make him go in,” Sheree says, helplessly.
“Is he drinking?”
“I’ll go talk to him – see if they can just get it over and done with.”
Sheree follows me down to the shed, I think she’s hoping I might succeed where she has failed. But it’s not to be. Tau is tipping Cody’s (or maybe Woody’s) down his throat, and looks up at me, morosely. “Nah Miss – the cops are all shit,” he tells me.
“They are,” agree the others (who include Raphael and little Michael).
“Anyway, we just want to drink – it’s our last day before school starts,” Michael says, plaintively.
“School’s already started, egg…” I mutter at him. “You’re supposed to be there right now.”
“Well… it’s kind of our last day, then,” he tries.
“I know that – but the cops are only gonna keep Tau for an hour, and then you can all carry on with your day,” I say, thinking that I’m probably fighting a losing battle, to be honest.
Tau gives a short, tired laugh, putting his head up, then down again. “Nah Miss – I just wanna get drunk, now. I don’t feel like going in.”
“I know you don’t,” I say patiently. “But it’s better to go now, before you’ve had too much to drink. Then it’ll be all over for the time being, and you can relax.”
“Nope,” he says. “They’ll keep me there, I’m sure they will.”
“They won’t, Tau,” I reassure him. “She promised me they wouldn’t.”
Tau wavers for a second, and I see him thinking about it. But Michael blurts out, “Fuck the police, they’re all shit, they say that, but they just wanna keep him there all day, they won’t let him out for ages once he gets there. They’ll ask him about the drugs, and…”
“Oh, shut up – you’re just making it worse,” I tell him bluntly, and he looks at me in surprise. I go on: “They won’t – she promised me – and if they tried to now, she knows I’d complain.”
Michael tries to make his point again, but this time Raphael shushes him and says, “Shut up Michael, you don’t know.”
“Yeah, I think Miss is right,” puts in Sheree, who has been standing and watching, quietly.
But Tau shakes his head. He doesn’t look at me again. He just opens another can, and I know there’s no point in continuing with the attempt to persuade him. “Oh well,” I say, my mind almost immediately defaulting to that same nonchalance. Sheree looks at me curiously, and I put my arm round her, and we lean back against the car, which is parked in the driveway.
“I bet you haven’t even had anything to eat,” Sheree says to me.
“I’ll eat when I get back to school – don’t worry,” I tell her. And we just talk a bit, in quiet voices. She looks so stressed out – more than me. She tells me she’s scared of the cops linking things up; she’s not even supposed to be staying at Fitzroy. Something about a protection order – Tau told me ages ago. It was served after some incident; threatening one of the neighbours, I think. But I don’t know. And maybe it’s expired, I think to myself, hopefully. Although I’m not sure that these things ever expire. My heart really aches, for Sheree.
I go back to school, text Sandra Martens, and tell her this: hi sandra have spoken to sheree and explained the situation, she does understand and has told me she will do her best to get hold of tau. i have assured her that this is only in relation to robbie and not with regard to any other matter.’
‘Great thanks. If taurangi can come into the station asap that would be great’, she replies.
Then I text Mandy, stop off in the Faculty office to eat my sandwich, and arrive back at the library only a couple of minutes late. I feel weirdly calm, and in control of my timing. And like that, the afternoon passes uneventfully.
Just… Tau, hmm. Tau, Tau, Tau. I keep thinking about it; the way he’s acting, and the way he lost it on Saturday. I’m so glad Kepaoa was there, his quiet eyes assessing it all, handling the situation. I don’t think I could have trusted anyone to do more, right then.
I don’t know what it was really about – not really – though I can guess at the reasons. None of them to do with me, none of them to do with Kepaoa – but any one of them suddenly triggered by us walking in right then; strolling unwittingly into the middle of one of Tau’s most shaming scenarios. The whole food thing. And something to do with it taking place in front of Kepaoa, I guess. Like I said, we walked into a ‘scenario’. The storyline was already in place, the script just needed improvising.
And I get it, I really do understand it, and I don’t judge. Because I love Tau as much as ever, and no less. And I just keep thinking – it’s not too hard, Tau. It’s ok – it’s not too hard for me.
Oh, it’s hard alright. It’s just… it’s not ‘too’ hard. You know.
But I miss those days when I was… ‘special’. When my presence would have soothed Tau, and not inflamed him. And I guess – it’s like I’ve said before – I had to give up being special, to offer something else. ‘Safety’, I guess. Or a kind of safety, anyway. Or even the possibility of safety, if nothing else. I don’t know what that means, or will mean. I just know I had to do it. And I’ll never regret it. But sometimes I just yearn for those days when I was special, and decisions were simple, and I didn’t know what lay ahead. And I’ll never forget how it was, because everything’s stored up in my heart, and makes it bearable, when I feel hurt or in pain.
And God please don’t forget about any of us. Please don’t forget, not even for one second.