Friday 10 May, 2013:
I watch the morning news – there’s an item about High Times. A group of kids in MC uniform going into the store, then two kids (their faces not shown) getting wasted. The newsreader actually mentions the school by name: “Students of Municipal College were filmed yesterday smoking K2 …” she pronounces. Ohhh man, the DPs are gonna have fun today.
My own school day is uneventful, apart from two texts. First Slade, saying he’s coming back this weekend, he’ll be at school Monday. Then Kepaoa, to say court was adjourned, he’s standing again on the 30th. He asks if I can take him to training after school.
I get to Montgomery Rd, and Kepaoa jumps in the car. He looks ok, a bit tired maybe – which isn’t surprising. As we drive, he tells me, “I messed Paki around, yesterday. I didn’t want him to come, so I just got up early in the morning and went to court on my bike.”
“You went on your bike?” I say, in wonder.
“Yeeeeh Miss.” Kepaoa sighs. “I just didn’t want anyone to come. I thought I did… and then I didn’t.”
“It’s ok,” I say. “You just handled it the best way you could.”
“I just kept thinking, how it was my own fault, all this shit!” He scowls and lowers his head. “I got myself into this shit, I need to deal with it myself.”
“Algood…” I say, gently.
Saturday 11 May:
Yesterday Elroy absconds from juvey. It’s a long story, but eventually he makes his way here. Kepaoa (who has been worried about his brother all evening) is by now asleep, having first created the usual sauna-like conditions in the lounge.
So at 3:15am I get a text:
Misss yu upp?
I’m awake u alright elroy?
Na im at yur hwce aha
Is dat allg im by ma self
When did u get here, egg!
Aha jst lke one minet ago
I wake Kepaoa, let Elroy in, and go back to sleep.
Next text says: Yeah mis any munchs up in thea miss? Ah
This morning: Tau, Kepaoa, Elroy. All of us sitting in the heat trap, having breakfast. Elroy makes Kepaoa a hot chocolate in the ‘I LOVE MY SISTER’ cup.
“Cos he’s my sister…” says Elroy, grinning at Kepaoa.
“Faag,” says Kepaoa, taking the chocolate. “Little bitch.”
Over at the table, Tau listens to this conversation and grins softly.
Later I drop them all off. Tau to Fitzroy St, Kepaoa to Carthill, Elroy to Clancy (where he’s going to work on the door of the KB’s tinny house). He tells me, with some pride, that he’s a prospect now; says they’ll “look after him”. I’m not so sure. But at the moment he’s the biggest fish in the small pond at juvey, and thinks he’s gangbangin’ with the best. I don’t know how long he can stay out of jail.
Tau, I can tell, likes being round here today. Having Elroy here too makes him less shy of Kepaoa. And actually, it’s good to see Tau settled and happy again, even while I know he’s taking risks.
Kepaoa seems a bit weary, though it’s nothing I can quite put my finger on. Court’s still nearly three weeks away. I think maybe he’s just trying to push down any fears he has about it, and I don’t blame him. It’s a big deal, jury trial and everything. Intimidating, no matter how tough he is. And he’s a very tough boy. But he’s humble and kind, and I won’t forget that he’s been there for me.
Sunday 12 May:
Feeling good after my eight hours. I don’t even reply to Elroy’s ‘Miss wat r u doin?’ text, which arrives just moments before I fall asleep. Ohwell, I think – let the KB’s look after him tonight, if that’s how he wants it.
I really care about Elroy, and he can be humble and everything, but he’s got this almost ruthless streak too . He doesn’t hesitate to sum up people’s weaknesses, maximize his chances with them. I guess that’s what we all do, in a way. But sometimes, Elroy doesn’t trouble to veil his intentions at all. Which can make him seem kind of callous. When he’s like that with me, I get offended, straight up.
He isn’t always like that. I know he’s got his soft spots: love for Kepaoa, for one thing. Sheree kind of summed it up, one time. “I wasn’t sure about that little black boy at first,” she told me, (man, if Kepaoa had heard her say that about his brother, he would have been ticked off). “But you know, I think he’s been brought up properly.”
Yeah, that’s true. Elroy’s a hustler, but he’s been brought up properly, ha.
Kepaoa, who’s also a hustler, has a far more well developed ethical compass. Though in his eyes, mobsters don’t get the same consideration as anyone else, that’s for sure. Honestly, there’s something of the penitent about Kepaoa, despite all protestations to the contrary. He doesn’t even really like drugs, though yesterday he tells me he wants to slang, and: “No you don’t!” I chastise him immediately, making us both laugh.
And he’s gone off the boil with the KB’s (last week he seemed interested, saying they were “looking for fighters”).
“I really don’t like that idea,” I reprise, yesterday, at the thought of Kepaoa joining up with the KB’s. “I hate that idea… so much.”
The sequence of intensifiers makes him grin, but then he nods at me quite seriously. “I know, Miss – that shit’s fucked up. I ain’t gonna.”
“Good,” I say, with a sigh of relief.
“Fuck that shit,” he adds, indicating extra scorn.
I’m just about to head for the gym when I see a dejected figure coming up the drive. It’s Elroy, and he raises his head from his hoodie and sighs: “Miss… can I come in?” He adds, by way of further explanation, “I’ve had a rough night”
I see that his lip is swollen and his nostrils are caked with dried blood. He smells of sweat and alcohol and damp grass. He’s limping.
“I’m going to the gym,” I begin, “But you…“
I’m about to say – you can come in and I’ll be back soon. But Elroy assumes he’s going to be turned away. “Could I… just stay out the front then?” he tries, wearily.
My heart gets all squeezed up. “Oh, Elroy,” I say. “I wasn’t gonna make you stay outside. I want you to come in and wait for me, is that ok?”
“Oh, yes Miss,” Elroy says. “Can I do that, please? And can I lie down, Miss. I’m really tired.”
“Of course,” I tell him. “Here, just crash on Kepaoa’s couch…” and we laugh.
Elroy sinks onto the couch and pulls the rug over him, shivering a little bit.
“Do you want the heater on?”
“Yes please, Miss.”
I flick it on, saying, “I won’t be long, Elroy. Use anything you want, just help yourself. Have a shower, make a feed, whatever you want, okay?”
“Thanks…” he murmurs, half-closing his eyes.
When I get back, he’s taken a shower, made some noodles, and fallen asleep. The room is warm and the TV is on, and Elroy is snuggled under the blanket, I can’t even see his hair, or an arm.
Right then, my phone beeps: ‘Ms has elroy txtd u?. ms?’
I let Kepaoa know his brother is safe, then I go take a shower myself. I tiptoe around a bit afterwards, but Elroy doesn’t stir. It’s not until 12:30 that he wakes up and tells me he got a hiding from the KB’s (the same ones who are supposed to be looking out for him).
I text Kepaoa (no point in hiding the facts) take Elroy home – for church – and stop for a pie on the way back to Municipal.