Excuses

Saturday 1 June, 2013:

First day of winter. I’m up before the crack of dawn (literally), to uplift Tau from the roadside and take him home. He texts me just before 3 am, and I go and collect him, along with Leroi and Raphael, from Carthill Rd, where they’ve been trudging along in the freezing cold.

Then I’m out again by 8, Kepaoa and I having already made plans to go to training and the gym, respectively. I pick him up, and he tells me Teri is definitely in town. She got here Thursday – hasn’t texted him, hasn’t called. He feels like a dummy. But, “I’m not gonna worry about it, Miss, ima just do my thing,” he says, with admirable poise. He sighs, adding, “She’s… young, I guess.”

I can’t help snorting at this. “She’s not that young,” I retort. “She’s your age – she’s not 12.”

“Yeah, I know,” he concedes. “She should get hold of me, huh.”

“Yup,” I say. I can’t even find it in me to think of excuses. Usually I do, but she’s starting to tick me off bigtime.

“I’m just gonna do my thing,” Kepaoa repeats. “If I don’t see her, then alguds. I’m sick of worrying about her games.”

“Just wait and see,” I tell him. “Maybe it’s gonna be okay.”

“Maybe,” is all he says.

 

 Sunday 2 June:

 I’m parking outside the mall when Kepaoa texts: Ms alguds if I stay at uaz tday ms? Plz.

 U and who? Your welcome at mine anytime u dnt even have to ask, bt other people thats a diffrnt story.

 Juc me nd teri and dante ms is that alguds? Just needa place to ctay fo tha nyt. Nly if thatc algdz wichu?

 I can feel my fingers trembling a little as I compose the text: Sorry, im nt comfortable with that. I cant open my place up to other people.

 Alguds ms its juct teri an dante nowun elce, Kepaoa replies, obviously thinking that I’m worried about friends of friends and the like.

So, with some regret, I go on: I have to be honest idnt realy trust her. Last time she stayd someone went through my room. I ddnt say anythng to u at the tym as i kno u had your own issues ta sort out. Bt i wasn’t happy bwt it

So you saying it her ms? Did she touch ua thangz?’

Idk, it could have been one of her mates. Bt someone went through my things i could see that straight away. And yup 2 rings missing. I can’t have people staying over unless I trust them.

K, nah inau wachu mean ms undrctand everythng!! Nd dw its cool inau ms.

I feel bad though, having to tell him this way, when I should have brought the whole thing up earlier, if only I’d known how. Maybe I was just waiting for the right moment… but there was probably never going to be a ‘right moment’.

And I’m kind of stung by Kepaoa’s humility, when I know he couldn’t have been expecting this. I don’t even want to say these things, don’t want to make it hard for him. But sometimes you just have to say what you have to say.

 

So I sit there a bit, and then I go shopping. Go into all the boutiques I wouldn’t normally look at. Price tags hundreds of dollars. Who the fuck would pay $279 for pants, I ask you? But I just feel like I don’t want to go back home yet. It’s funny, kind of. I feel as if I’m playing a believable role. Chatting to all the sales assistants like I’ve got loads of money. Trying on pants I can’t even afford, just checking out what they look like on me. I take some pants to the counter in one store, to ask the price, and the sales assistant says to me helpfully, before I even open my mouth, “Oh right,  you need a smaller size? Those are the last pair we’ve got. We do alterations though, honey.”

Then I downgrade to Just Jeans, Jeans West… the mid-range shops. I’m having fun now, almost. I felt like I don’t want think about anything else except trying on clothes.

By the time I get to the discount stores, Glassons and K mart,  I’m in the mood for buying. I feel blissfully contented, seeing the twenty dollar racks stretch out in front of me. I try more pants on, and purchase a pair of brocade-look skinny jeans from K Mart. I could even get away with wearing them to work, I reckon, despite the ‘no jeans’ policy.

I still feel like I’m pushing my thoughts away. I don’t dwell on anything too much. I’ve done the right thing, I’ve looked after my own. Only I wish I didn’t have to. I wish I wish I wish…

Because I know I could lose, and I don’t want to lose.

 

Monday 3 June:

 I’m wistful this morning, imagining all the untouched and still possible outcomes. But all the same, I feel like my two feet are firm on the ground.

The minute I get in the door from school, text from Kepaoa: Ms u home?

I text back, say I’ve just walked in.

Ms can i ask you a favr please?

Yup course wat is it?

Ms can me nd teri stay at yours tnyt nd please ms 😦 il protect it all trust me!! Please?

This is followed up by: Please, I will let nothing go wrong ms please

Kepaoa this is so uncomfortable for me – bt its stil a no.

Nah im sorry your right! My bad.

And that’s where I have to leave it, I guess. I feel used, I won’t lie. As if everything has just been to keep the door open for Teri. I want to say that, too. But I know it would be unkind, unfair and probably untrue. Or only containing an element of truth to it, you know? Not the whole story. And I care about Kepaoa a lot. So I’ll just leave it.

But all the same, it really ticks me off to think of him running round after Teri the minute she clicks her fingers.

 

Tuesday 4 June:

Text at 12:09am: Ms um u up?

Im in bed but not asleep. How come?

Na juc wantd ask afvr ms. At my auntys, just took off frm hme. Bt nah algds ms.

Ay? So wats the favour?

Ifu cud get me a feed ms plz? Or is that too much? Na na sory dnt mean to bova u..

Its algud bt wea are u? U wnt me to bring it over to u? At auntys.. do u mean?

Just starvng ms that’s all. Yes please ms?

Just starving nd thea no food. Ms nly if it aint a hasle.

Its ok, where are u?

Arahunga rd ms off carthill

Idk wea that is.

Unau the bp on carthill souf ms? That rd..

 Ok. Wat u doing thea? Weaz ur aunty? An wats actualy going on?

 Nah nun ms, it algds. Just starving nd she owta twn. Im aldgs dw ms.

 So u an teri thea? Ur famly kno wea u are? 

 Yehp, nd nah fcuk home! Too much stress, aint gng bck!! Nun dem nau.

 

I feel pissed off, now. To see him losing the plot with everything, just because Teri’s back. I have to restrain myself from saying I wish she’d fuck off back to Oz and stop messing with his head. But I don’t say that, of course. Still, I don’t pull any punches:

 U are nt thnkn straight!! Actng like little kids. U need to sort it owt. Man wats uhp? all of a sudden its like ur nt thnkn anymore!! Im happy to bring round some food so u dnt starve Bt u kant run away frm ur problms u just have to sort them out. U both got famlies hu love an care for u. Its not fair on everyone to act like this. 

 And then I don’t hear back.

I try going to sleep, but I can’t sleep. Every now and then, I send a text or two:

??

Kepaoa?

Still nothing. And so finally I give up and… not sleep, exactly. More like doze.

 

Next text arrives at 2:32am: Ms? Fcukn phne fckd up!!  Any feeds ms? Plz!?!

Ok Kepaoa yup algd il go mcdz drive thru i rekn it myt be only place open atm. Bt i got work in the morning and havnt slept yet. Woried. Il tx when i get to the street? Cos idk the number of the house.

K ms.

Coming. Hope your phones workn when I get thea.

I get out of bed, put my jacket on over my pyjamas, grab a beanie and go out into the night. It’s not actually as cold as I’ve anticipated, so thats a relief. Get to McDonald’s, then find their eftpos is down at the drive through – I have to go back up Municipal Rd to the ATM. By now it’s almost 3am. It’s a little bit scary, to be honest. There’s hardly anyone on the street, but I hear someone call out at me as I leave the car. The voice sounds kind of drunk and futile, and comes from a little way off. So I just take forty bucks out fast and skip straight back to the car. Don’t even look around, just try to act like I’m algood with being out there in the middle of the night.

Then I go back to the drive through, pick up the food, and head for Carthill.

 

3:08am: Weau nw ms?

Almst thea,  I text, as I drive. Im out on the road. I just hope im in the right street

The imminent arrival of food has restored Kepaoa’s sense of humour: Wa st u on? Ha gaaanstah ae.

Fuck idk. I turnd right after bp?

U mean left?

Yeah left

Ms algds leave it just on footpath please?

Oh kay. Theaz 20 buks in the bag aswel. To get some food tmoro. Bt yup im levn it out on street hope someone else doesnt grab it first

Ok thanks ms. THANKYOU! IDK HOW TO THANKU!!!

 

I get out of the car, hoping like hell that I’m actually in Arahunga Rd. Put the bag and the two drinks down in some leaves, by the fence at the start of the street.

Its by the fence,  I text, when I’m back in the car.

U gne ms?  Kepaoa checks, evidently before he comes out with Teri.

Yup,  I reply. By now I’m back on Carthill Rd, heading for Bream. I stop to send one last text, which reads: U got it ay? Hope so. Algd il talk to u tmoro. I have to get a couple hours sleep before work. Tc. Try to get some sleep too.

Actually, I wouldn’t have cared if Teri saw me. I did it for Kepaoa anyway, not for her. I bought them both a feed – I’m not gonna be cruel. But I don’t care what she thinks. I’m just sorry this is happening, and I’m not entirely sure how it’s going to get sorted. But it has to get sorted. And I’m not providing a place of refuge for them, either. It’s true what I said. They’ve got families who care about them, and they’re being real selfish right now. Despite being starving.

 

Later, during staff Professional Development, I can hardly keep my eyes open. It’s the usual meaningless drivel which we have to ‘engage with’, in groups. Answering inane questions like, ‘Why do we teach so much?’ and ‘Should we learn more?’ Fuck, fuck, waste of my fuckin time.

Though I sit very subdued, because of being tired. Underneath that is a still quietly seething outrage that Teri could come back and within the space of two days, have Kepaoa taking off from home, and on the run. What the fuck does she think she’s playing at?

 

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