When Joe left an hour later, John had still not returned. Now at six thirty, Moana began to wonder if he had gone with his mates for a drinking session. She was not pleased.
James and Lucy sensed their mother’s displeasure and decided to help out preparing dinner.
'How about I make curried sausages like you taught me, Mum?' James offered.
'And I’ll make that instant pudding mix up?' Lucy chimed in.
'That’s nice of you both, but it won't get your old man out of trouble if he’s been on the piss again,' Moana replied, and then went into the lounge with her cup of tea to watch the rest of the news.
Moana didn’t really watch the TV, even though it was louder than usual. There had been a Tsunami warning all day for the East Coast of New Zealand, but she hardly registered. Her thoughts were very much on her husband. She couldn’t get the thought out of her mind that something was not quite right. John was due to start his job, full time next week but here he was, going off with his so called friends; doing God knows what. He most definitely had some serious questions to answer.
When James and Lucy brought in a tray with her dinner, she sat up and attempted to take an interest in their efforts.
'That looks so nice--- and you’ve even dished it up beautifully,' Moana praised her children. 'Where’s yours?'
'We had ours in the kitchen,' James said. 'We were hoping you and Dad could have a nice dinner in the lounge together, but when he didn’t come home, we decided to bring yours in so it doesn’t spoil,' Lucy said. 'Are you and Dad going to have another argument, Mum?' Lucy added, her face betraying her discomfort.
'I don’t intend to, hun, but he is pissing me off lately with his shenanigans,' Moana replied.
'You didn’t used to fight, Mum,' James said.
'Yeah well, things change, don’t they.'
'Can I play on the computer, Mum?' Lucy asked.
'Yes, but don’t spend too much time in those chat rooms you seem to like. You know what I think of them.' Moana said.
'Come-on Mum------ how else am I gonna keep up with my friends in Christchurch and my new ones here?' Lucy whined.
'Just stop that tone young lady. I have enough to worry about without you getting into trouble, so be careful---OK?
'All right Mum,' Lucy responded in what she hoped wasn’t that tone her Mum and James disliked so much.
Moana sat at the kitchen table with her bottomless cup of tea thinking of the last few days and how her husband had changed. She thought back to the time in Christchurch when he had associated with a group that nearly ruined their marriage. It was only when his parents had intervened and pulled him back to his senses, that the marriage was saved. She was unaware to this day what they had said or done but now she felt alone. Maybe she should let them know what was happening. A big part of her refused to do that. It felt like an admission of defeat, barely days after they had arrived in Auckland. No,------she must dig deeper and find a solution herself. The problem was that she didn’t know what she was dealing with. John had admitted to a few drinks, but something didn’t fit. He didn’t appear drunk. If anything, he seemed to be wired up, jumpy and extremely short fused. Moana resigned herself to another argument. She also worried about what the affect would be on James and Lucy.
In the lounge, Lucy logged on to the computer and quickly found the site where she loved to chat with her friends. She giggled to herself at her Mum’s ignorance of how the site worked. Her brother was not so ignorant, so Lucy was careful to only chat with her friends when he wasn’t around. Lucy looked out through the lounge window onto the backyard where James was hitting a tennis ball against the concrete block wall of the garage. 'Hehehe. I wonder how long it will be before the sound drives Mum a bit nuts,' Lucy Mumbled as her fingers flew around the keyboard.
Lucy began chatting with one of her friends in Christchurch and within a few minutes she was updated with all the latest gossip. Lucy was particularly interested in how one of her friends had met a cute guy in the chat room. She wished something like that would happen for her. There seemed to be something magic and a little forbidden about the idea of meeting a total stranger online and then hooking up with them later.
There were several new members in the chat room, one of whom was from her new school. She had joined the same chat room that Lucy always used. 'Mmmm--------she was quick to use my number and profile,' Lucy thought.
They chatted for a while and then promised to meet up at school the following week. Both of them were year nines and were starting the same day. It would be nice to have someone she knew in the school; both of them feeling the uncertainty of being new at the school.
Lucy became aware of someone trying to buzz her. 'Bad Boy' was asking if she wanted to talk privately. Lucy was a little uncertain at first, but then gave in. Surely no harm would come from just chatting.
'Who are you? ' Lucy typed, still in the main chat room.
'Go Private------too many nosey buggers here,' Bad Boy replied.
'But I don’t know you,' Lucy returned.
'Maybe I’m too much for ya, then,' Bad boy teased.
LUCY ----Sez who?
BAD BOY Maybe yusz chicken.
LUCY How old?
BAD BOY 14
BAD BOY what ya look like?
LUCY my frenz say I’m cute-------brown hair, 1.60 and slim. --------U?
BAD BOY islander, league build. All da chiks like me eh?
LUCY lol-------they all say dat. Hey, I gota go----- my nosey bros coming inside--- chat another time.
BAD BOY sure doll—catch ya------sweet.
Lucy signed on to her Hotmail account and read the messages from the inbox.
'What you doing, sis?' James asked, not really interested. 'I wanna check my messages.'
'You mean someone actually sends you messages?' Lucy said sarcastically.
'You are such a bitch,' James replied. Maybe next time you get in the shit, I won't help uh?'
'Suit yourself. I was doing all right anyway,' Lucy said half-heartedly. She was genuinely thankful for her brother’s intervention but would hardly admit it to him.
'Lucy-------it’s your brother’s turn,' Moana shouted from the kitchen. The last thing she needed was an altercation between her two children.
'You always take his side,' Lucy said petulantly, and then stormed off to her room, leaving the computer to James. She had forgotten to sign out.
BAD BOY you still there doll---- I thought ya brother was coming.
James stopped signing in to his Yahoo Messenger. 'What’s she been up to then?' he thought. 'Maybe I should check up on my little sister.'
LUCY (James) Naah----he’s gone again.
BAD BOY Good, cause I wanna get to know ya.
LUCY (James) same------you sound kinda cute.
'Shit----- I better be careful. I don’t know what they been talking about,' James thought.
LUCY (James) what school you go to anyway?
BAD BOY I’m in the south.
LUCY (James) south what?
BAD BOY you stupid or something? South Auckland.
LUCY (James) who u callin stupid--------- arsehole?
BAD BOY Just kidding-lol
'Mmmm, I better be careful,' James thought.
BAD BOY outa here------- next time
James wondered about who BAD BOY was but then again, he didn’t really want to get too involved in his sister’s stuff. God knows what he would do if he found her doing what he had just done. But he was the oldest, so just maybe he would do it again. He looked at his watch.
'Eleven-----his Dad wasn’t home yet. Mum would be really pissed off. Perhaps it was best he went to bed early. Too bad----- wasting a Friday night--------pity, what with school starting next week; Friday nights would be important in his social life.'
In the kitchen, Moana looked at the clock on the wall. It seemed to be the only sound in the room, ticking away, reminding her that John was still not home. She pulled away from the table and stood up, straightened her hair, locked the back door and wandered off down the hall to the bathroom, forgetting to turn off the light. Moana looked at the worried face in the mirror.
'Why do you do this to us?' she pleaded, tears beginning to stream down her face. She washed her face and crept passed the children’s’ room, hoping that they hadn’t heard her distress. Moana didn’t bother to undress; simply falling onto the bed, pushing her face into the pillow to lessen the sounds of her crying from her children. She did not hear the sound of gentle knocking on James’ window.
James was lying on his bed, watching the tiny fifteen inch TV, which he could only tune into three channels. If he wanted to get the music channel, he would manoeuvre the aerial until he managed to get a semblance of a picture. It was either a clear picture and no sound, or sound with a crappy picture. At first he didn’t hear the knocking but on the second attempt by whoever was trying to attract his attention, he turned the TV off and went to the window.
'I hope it’s not those bastards again,' he muttered, but this time he felt that he could take them on if he needed to.
James pulled the curtains aside and looked into the yard under his bedroom window. Sione waved at him, all smiles. James opened the window.
'Do you want the cops to pick you up or something?' James said a little annoyed.
'Come on out-------my brother wants to make peace, Sione whispered, well aware that the lights were still on the kitchen, despite, Moana’s departure.
James thought for a moment, and then announced, 'What the hell. I’m bored stupid and if it’s OK for my old man to not turn up, then why the stuff not-------but you better not be playing tricks Sione, or I will beat the shit out of all three of you.'
'It’s just me and my Bro,' Sione said, indicating his crouching brother in the yard.
James jumped nimbly out of his window, landing beside Sione.
'This is my older brother, Corey,' Sione said as the other boy came forward, a little sheepishly.
'I hope you’re not gonna try to jump me this time,' James said as he put out his hand to greet Corey.
'Naah-------lets peace it man. I’m in enough shit to last me years,' Corey replied, taking James’ hand in a tight grip.
'Cool------let’s get the hell out of here before my mother notices us or my old man gets home,' James suggested.
The three boys jumped the fence and headed out into the park.
'Hey--------where’s that other dude who was with you the other night?' James asked.
'Things got too hot for him so he pissed off down the line,' Corey replied. 'Not just for what we did to you, but for far more bad stuff.'
When they were about five hundred metres into the long narrow park near the school, the boys stopped by a playground. Corey pulled a packet of smokes from his pocket, offering them to James and Sione.
James reused, saying he didn’t smoke.
'Pussy,' Corey teased.
'I’m not wasting what stuff all money I have on these,' James said.
'What makes you think I pay for them?' Corey laughed. 'Just do over a few houses and I have smokes for a month-------booze too.'
'Aren’t you scared of getting caught?' James asked.
Corey laughed. 'They don’t do nothing------just another Family Group Conference.'
'Yeah, but you’re seventeen now, and they’ll chuck you in prison next time you get caught,' his younger brother said fearfully.
'Fuck them-----they gota catch me first,' Corey boasted.
'So what do you do-------you go to school?' James asked Corey.
'You're kidding me?' Shit--------I dropped out of that when I was fourteen,' Corey replied condescendingly.
'Yeah------that’s why you’re so dumb,' Sione let slip.
'Watch ya mouth kid,' Corey replied, cuffing Sione across his ears. There was no real force in his slap and James detected a fondness in Corey’s relationship with his younger brother.
'Let’s go and get a drink,' Corey suggested. 'I’ve got some stored under that sports shed in that school.'
'What if the kids at the school find it?' James asked, thinking of the trouble it would cause if the kids had a few drinks.
'If that happens and I find out who took it, they’ll regret it, I can tell you that,' Corey said threateningly.
James had a distinct feeling that he had made a mistake joining the two boys. It wasn’t Sione he was worried about----but his older brother had serious problems------ones that James thought he would be better to avoid being part of.
'I think I better get home now,' James said uncertainly. 'If I’m not home before the old man, I’ll be in deep shit.'
'You’re such a poof, James. Who gives a shit what your Dad thinks? From what you told me before, he couldn’t care less about what you do,' Corey said accusingly.
'I know he’s not the best lately,' James said, feeling a twinge in his stomach at the meaning behind Corey’s words.
'Come on------just one drink eh? Be one of the boys,' Corey taunted.
James relented and followed Corey and Sione over the fence into the school grounds. Once again, he had the feeling that Sione wasn’t really a willing partner in Corey’s adventure. James wasn’t sure if Sione was awed by his brother or just wanting to be part of the group. When they retrieved the booze, they went to a quieter part of the school grounds, where they found several of Corey’s other friends.
'Damn,' James thought. 'Now it’s going to be a lot harder to get away.'
'Corey, ya dog----who’s that with ya?' one of the boys called. He was obviously well on the way to being drunk. However, on closer inspection, James realized that the boy had been sniffing something, judging by the mess around his face and the bag he was carrying. James remembered seeing the same scene several times in Christchurch. He also noticed that Sione was sticking closely to him, seemingly distancing himself from the other boys.
Corey passed the bottles around and when James took a swig, he discovered that it was strong sprits, probably vodka or whiskey. He hated the burning sensation it caused when he swallowed it, so he pretended to drink and the others were unaware that he spat out most of the fluid. There were about six boys in the group they had joined and they were making an increasing amount of noise; surely enough to attract the attention of one of the neighbours near the school.
As the boys drank more, they began to look for more stashes that Corey had boasted about. This entailed moving around the school. It wasn’t long before one of the younger ones decided to smash a window and enter one of the classrooms. James grabbed hold of Sione and whispered to him.
'Let’s gap it out of here. That idiot probably set off an alarm.'
Sione didn’t need any further encouragement. He was becoming more and more concerned about his brother’s antics. When James made his suggestion, he readily agreed. While the others stepped into the classroom, James and Sione quietly slipped away. They retraced their steps towards the fence line on James’ property. As they jumped over the fence they heard the sound of police sirens.
'That was close,' Sione remarked, relief clear in his voice. Then he thought of his brother back at the school. 'He’s gonna be pissed when he sees we aren’t with him,' Sione said.
'Well, I’m damned sure I don’t want to be part of his stupid gang,' James said.
'I wish it was that easy,' Sione said quietly. 'He gives me a hard time if I don’t follow him.
'Mmmm-------I think I may be getting a hard time too. I see Dad’s home,' James said a little fearfully.
Although John wasn’t one of those parents who regularly beat their children, he still had a way of making it perfectly clear that he was not happy when either of his children broke his rules.
At first James was going to try to climb back in his bedroom window, but he realized that it was a little too high. He decided to go through the back door.
'I’ll come with you,' Sione offered. 'Maybe he won't go off his nuts if I’m there.'
'Some hope,' James replied.