James and Lucy both rose earlier than normal. They sensed that things were not good between their parents. They were unnerved by the rare event of their parent’s serious fight. After a quick breakfast of wheat-bix and toast, they made an excuse that they wanted to take a bus to the zoo, explaining that they could use it as a way of checking out the bus for the trip to school the following week.
'Just watch out for those little gangsters,' Moana said. Although she still had concerns about the safety of her children, she also realized that she could not watch them twenty-four-seven. For the moment, she needed to concentrate on her husband. By eight thirty James and Lucy had caught the bus into the city, where they hoped to find out how to connect with a service going near the zoo, along Great North Road.
Moana looked up from her second coffee for the morning as John came in to the kitchen. He looked decidedly bedraggled and guilty. She had thought a great deal about what she was going to say. She was determined not to have a verbal slanging match, but she wanted to be sure that last night was a one-off. Even she could forgive him for a single lapse.
'John-----what were you on last night?' she began. 'I know damn well it wasn’t alcohol. What sort of example is that to your teenage children?'
'There’s nothing to worry about, hun,' John said unconvincingly.
'Well, I think there is. Is that the way your new employers and workmates are going to be-----me waiting at home, wondering what state you will return in each night. Once I start work next week, I need to know that our family are all doing their bit---that includes you,' Moana said, surprisingly calm.
'Actually-----it wasn’t my workmates I was with. I finished that after lunch. I met by chance with some old university mates who live up here now.'
Moana kept her thoughts to herself. What university mates? He had never mentioned them in the past. Although far from satisfied with his explanation, she decided to drop it----for now. But there would be many more questions if anything like last night happened again.
'OK dear------but please let’s not have it happen again. God knows------I’m not perfect,' she said, thinking of her farewell party at her old workplace.
John sat down and reached for some toast that Moana had made earlier. He didn’t complain that it was cold or that marmalade wasn’t exactly his favourite spread.
They were silent for a few moments, before they heard someone knocking on the back door. Officer Alex came in when they called out.
'I was just passing and thought I’d drop in,' he said, eyeing the toast.
'Sit down Alex and I’ll make you a nice coffee with our new machine. I’ve wanted to try it out, but things have been a bit chaotic around here,' she added, glancing accusingly at her husband.
'Yes-----I heard about your encounter with those thugs again, at the mall. We haven’t managed to find them as yet,' Alex replied, unaware of the underlying tension in the kitchen. 'Where are the kids anyway?'
'They’ve gone off to the zoo together and will check out the bus for school too while they're at it. It’s nice to see them almost getting on for a change,' Moana added.
'I’ve been invited to a Neighbourhood Watch meeting tomorrow night at Kathleen’s next door, so make sure you’re there too,' Alex said between mouthfuls of toast and marmalade.
'Yes---I like Kathleen,' Moana replied. 'She seems to know what’s going on around here too.'
'What’s going to happen to those kids who attacked James in the mall?' John asked, pleased that he was no longer the centre of attention.
'I wish I could say something to allay your fears a bit, but unfortunately Youth Justice takes ages to act and even then the result is rarely what the victims would like. If they go ahead and have a conference, would you be willing to face those guys?' Alex asked.
'Why the hell should we, Alex?' John responded. 'It’s not us who made this problem---stuff them!'
'So you know who these guys are and where they live?' Moana interrupted in an attempt to divert her husband’s anger.
'Well-----yes we do, but so far they’ve eluded our attempts to find them and you can be sure their parents or guardians aren’t exactly helpful,' Alex said.
His answer did nothing to calm John.
'The parents are a bloody waste of space. It’s a damn pity you can’t charge them for what their kids do,' John said before walking out the back door. He sat in the back yard and lit up a smoke, much to Moana’s annoyance.
'He looks a bit under the weather,' Alex observed.
'You can say that again,' Moana said, almost letting him know her true thoughts about her husband.
'I better go then,' Alex said. 'See you tomorrow night at Kathleen’s.
John came back in few minutes later. He seemed to have calmed down.
'It'll be interesting what we find out tomorrow night but I suspect there’s not much we can do. I bet the parents of those kids don’t come,' John said.
'Are you going into work today, dear?'
'No need to. Maybe we can go out for lunch?' John suggested. 'Once you start work, there’ll be less chance for that.'
At the zoo, James and Lucy watched as the lions were being fed.
'I wish those wannabe gangsters were in the cage with them,' Lucy said as she watched the lions devouring the meat.
They had spent the morning wandering around the zoo and as the temperature rose they sought out some shade to eat their hot chips, purchased from the nearby food outlet.
'Hey let’s go for a wander around the school, yeah?' James suggested. 'It's just over the road and it looked like it was open when we got off the bus.'
'Sure------why not,' Lucy replied.
When they approached the gate one of the staff was getting out of his car.
'Hi Sir,' James said in a friendly manner. 'We are starting here next week. Is it OK if we have a bit of a look round?'
The teacher smiled and told them that there would be a tour of the school in the few minutes for some of the new students who would be starting and asked them if they would like to join. When they agreed, he took them to an area where about ten other new students were gathered.
'It’s cool not having to wear a uniform,' James said as he noticed the array of dress style worn by the others.
'Yeah Mum said that we can go shopping tomorrow at Farmers for a few more bits and pieces cause there’s a sale on there,' Lucy said. 'Mmmm------but looking at what this lot are wearing---makes me wonder. They certainly ain’t wearing The Warehouse clothing.'
'Hell---I reckon it looks more like op shop stuff,' James said laughing.
'Shush--- don’t make life hard for us before we even start,' Lucy whispered.
'Welcome everyone. My name is Mr Kent. I’m the Year Eleven Dean. I’m going to give you a tour and be available to answer any questions.
Over the next hour, the group were shown around the school along with the Performing Arts Centre on the school grounds. They met some of the teachers and the principal who were preparing for the school year.
By the end of the tour, James and Lucy knew several of the other new students. They exchanged cell phone numbers and by the time they were half way home, text messages were flowing between the new friends. They were so engrossed in texting that they overshot their bus stop by two stops.
'Oh hell,’-----James said to his sister. 'Look we are almost at those other shops on Dominion Road Extension.'
They got off the bus and started to walk towards the motorway near the mountain.
'Hey----let’s walk up there and have a look at the view.' Lucy said as they passed the entrance to the reserve.
'You sure you’re up to it?' James teased. 'It looks pretty high to me and your short legs may not manage it.'
'Since when you been Mr Fitness, you faggot,' Lucy shot back.
'Who’re you calling faggot, you little twat?' James yelled as he rushed past Lucy and headed for the top of Mt Roskill.
James reached the top and waited for his sister, ready with another string of insults. After five minutes, he began to wonder why she had taken so long.
'God-----she’s not that slow, surely', he muttered. He waited another five minutes before deciding that she had given up and made her own way home.
The sound of a distant scream jolted him back to his senses. He had heard that high pitched, annoying scream on many occasions. It belonged to his sister. James ran from the summit, almost tumbling over himself in his panic. He knew that Lucy would never scream unless there was something seriously wrong; not in public at least. Lucy screamed again.
'Leave me alone you bloody creeps! My brother is coming!'
James finally sighted his sister. She was backing away from three hooded boys as they advanced towards her. He knew who they were in an instant.
'Oh boy----here we go again!' James yelled, as he rushed at the first of the boys. The impact knocked the boy to the ground and before he could get up, James administered a quick kick to the boy’s stomach, causing him to curl up in a ball, the wind taken out of him for a while. The fight went out of the boy and he lay still, hoping that James had finished, or his friends would come to his assistance.
James turned his attentions to the other two boys.
'You cowards never learn do ya!' he shouted angrily. 'You seem to like picking on girls, don’t you!'
One of the boys pulled out a knife and began to circle James, while the other one tried to get in a position to threaten him from behind.
'No, you don’t, you bastard!' Lucy yelled. She picked up a rock left over from the construction gang that was working on the cycle path in the distance.
She took ain and hurled it at the boy, connecting with his shoulder. The boy turned on her, ready to attack. He didn’t get the chance as Lucy let fly with another rock. This time the rock hit the boy on his hand, eliciting a pained yell.
James had his own problem, as his assailant thrust the knife towards him in an attempt to slash and cut. He ducked again as the knife wielder came at him front-on, this time succeeding in slashing James’s upper arm. He felt a burning sensation as the knife cut, followed by a wet feeling as the blood flowed freely down his arm.
'This guy means business, James thought, as the boy came at him again. He could see his sister in his periphery vision as she maintained her attack on her tormentor. He renewed his efforts to avoid the knife and looked for some sort of weapon to defend himself.
The men working on the stone walls alongside the cycleway had watched the initial assault by the boys on Lucy and the subsequent attempt by James to intervene. The dropped their tools and headed towards the battle.
When the two boys noticed the three workmen, they turned and ran, leaving their injured friend lying on the ground. He tried to rise but once he realized that escape was not possible he stayed on the ground, moaning about being attacked by a crazy guy.
'You just stay there, kid------we saw what you and your mates tried to do,' one of the workmen said. 'Joe-----call the cops on that new phone of yours and make yourself useful for a change.'
'Hey, are you hurt boy?' Joe asked as he took out his cell phone. He looked stupidly at his phone then appealed to his mates for help.
'Actually I’ve never use it yet-----stuffed if I know how this one works. It’s not like my old one.'
Lucy came to his rescue.
'Let me see, sir------yes it’s a Nokia, just like mine---- see?' she said, proudly showing hers. 'Just unlock it like this and push 111.'
'Let me see that cut of yours, boy,' the older workman said kindly. 'I don’t think it’s anything serious, but who knows how dirty that knife the creep had was.'
'What about him then?' James said, pointing to the boy on the ground. 'I think I may have hurt him when I was trying to rescue my sister from those shits.'
'Perhaps he has learnt the hard way not to bother you in future then eh? Maybe we don’t need the cops. I know the family of one of those who ran away. He looks suspiciously like one of my nephews. It’s hard to tell when they wear that hoody crap thing.'
'Don’t ring the cops, uncle,' the boy on the ground pleaded.
'So it’s you. I think you better start talking, fast, or you’re gonna feel first mine then your Dad’s boot up your arse,' Joe threatened.
'It’s not my fault. He made me do it,' the boy said. 'He’s run away from home since the other night when he broke that window of these stuck-up fullas and tried to stab him in the mall.'
'That’s no stuck-up fulla that was fighting off your brother then is it? Looks like you three met your match and now you got yourselves in deep shit.'
'Come on boys,' Joe said to his workmates. 'Let’s call it a day, eh and take this lot home. We can fix up this young fulla’s cut and do some serious talking to the other guy’s Dad-----my brother.'
Joe invited James and Lucy to sit in the front of the Ute with him, while the other two workmen sat in the back with the nephew, who had recovered from his encounter with James. Joe drove the short distance to his brother’s house near Mt Roskill Grammar. When they arrived, they found Joe’s sister in-law working in the front garden. She waved, until she saw the look on her son’s face.
'Hi Joe------what the hell has he been doing now? He hasn’t been home for two days and as for that useless brother----if his father gets hold of him------we just don’t know what to do.'
'Hi ya, Janine. Sione here has been up to mischief. Luckily I was around so I brought him home. His brother wounded this guy here,' he said pointing to James.
‘Come in---let’s have a look eh?’ Janine said, ushering the group into the large kitchen and family room.
'Mmmm----just a fairly shallow cut. I’ll soon have that cleaned up,' Janine said as she cleaned the wound and applied some Detol.
She then turned her attention to her son.
'What have you got to say for yourself? Isn’t it bad enough that Corey and that damned mate of his are always in trouble? The bloody cops were here twice in the last twenty four hours looking for him. I reckon they probably want a chat with you too,' Janine said, barely holding off from hitting her son.
'I better take my workmates back to their homes now, Janine,' Joe said. 'You stay home now---- you hear?’ he added for Sione’s benefit.
'Wait, ------not before Sione has something to say to these two----hey, I don’t even know your names,' Janine said.
'I’m James Campton and this is my sister, Lucy.
'Well, ------what have you got to say, Sione?'
'I’m sorry James. I didn’t want to do any of those things. Them two made me go with them,' Sione said in a quiet voice.
'If I see you on the streets again causing trouble, you’re gonna feel this boot up ya arse. Is that clear enough?' Joe said as he prepared to leave.
'Before you go, James and Lucy, how about you bring your Mum and Dad here tomorrow night for a feed, eh? 'I’d like to make amends, a bit, for your trouble,' Janine said.
James looked at his sister, who nodded her agreement.
'OK Mrs-------oops I don’t know your name,' James said slightly embarrassed.
'It's Mrs Finau----here’s my number and address, so you can get your Mum to ring.'
On the way back to James and Lucy’s house Joe told them how he was worried about his two nephews.
'I’m afraid the older nephew has it coming to him because he’s over seventeen, but it’s not too late for Sione. Maybe you can be friends and keep each other out of trouble eh?'
'I dunno----I guess he seems nice enough when he's not acting tough and it might stop all that crap happening with his brother too,' James said hopefully.
When they arrived at James and Lucy's house, the front door was open, but the car wasn’t in the drive.
'Maybe I better come and meet your parents, cause they’ll be worried about your cut and being late,' Joe suggested.
'Thanks, sir,' Lucy said.
'How about you call me Joe eh?'
'Dad will shoot me if I do that, sir,' James said seriously. His Dad was a stickler for manners.
'OK then. Let’s go in and talk to your parents then.
Before they reached the front steps, Moana came out with a worried look on her face.
'Where have you been, then?' Moana asked anxiously, casting a look in Joes’ direction. 'I hope you haven’t been creating trouble, James.'
'They have done nothing wrong, Mrs Campton. They’re the victims here,' Joe said, much to James’s relief.
After Moana had heard of the afternoon’s events, she was less anxious and once informed about the invitation from Janine, she asked Joe in for a cup of tea.
'I hope that husband of mine gets home soon. He should have been back an hour ago. My scones should be ready now so we may as well scoff them.’