As they approached the back door, they heard the sound of raised voices and crying. John was yelling at Moana while she tried to reply between loud sobs.
'Get off my back, woman! Can’t a man have a little bit of time with his mates!'
'Mates-----you call those lowlifes mates?!' Moana countered. 'You’ve changed John. What sort of example are you to your children? Look at what’s happening. James isn’t even home------He’s snuck off somewhere, to tell the truth------I don’t blame him. Why would he want to stay here and watch his father falling to pieces?'
'Watch your mouth, bitch!' John yelled and raised his hand to hit Moana.
Moana cowered before his words and the threat of violence. In all their years of marriage, he had never hit her. Now she looked at the man she loved, but no longer understood.
'You lay a finger on me John Campton and I swear you’ll never see me and the kids again,' she threatened.
John looked at his wife, tears cascading down her face. He lowered his hand, shaking from the effort to control himself. Time seemed to slow as his thoughts ranged from hopelessness to anger. 'How had things got to this state?' he thought. He thought of his so called friends and the evenings he had spent with them. If his wife really knew what he was sliding into, she would be far more concerned than she appeared now. The friends he had described as old mates, were somewhat different to the description he had given Moana. He had met them after the first meeting with his new boss, when he had dropped into a tavern close to his workplace for a relaxing drink.
On that night, one drink had led to several and then a conversation resulting in an invitation to one of the men’s flats nearby. They had continued with a few drinks, and then one of them suggested something a little different. In his past, John had experimented with dope, but had not really liked it because he was a non-smoker, causing him to puke when he smoked a joint. What he was offered, was entirely different and far more dangerous.
'Come-on John. A little bit of this never hurt anyone. Besides,' the man had said, ’One go’s not gonna hook you, is it?'
If John had been totally sober, he probably would have rejected the offer. He had heard of ‘P’ on the news and in various conversations with mates in Christchurch. He didn’t know anyone who openly partook of the drug, so had never really thought too much about it.
'Here-----take a drag-----it’s unbelievable,' his friend had encouraged.
John gave in, and a few minutes later experienced a sense of euphoria he had never felt in his life. He felt invincible. He could do anything. To hell with booze and the hangovers. These mates were cool. He felt he could truly relate to them. In his altered state he knew they understood him and as he looked at them, he felt that, maybe, for once, his life would take on new possibilities.
A few hours later he drove home, to face the wrath of a wife who did not understand him. After a brief argument, he had gone to bed and dreamt impossible dreams. When he awoke, he was hit with a feeling that something was missing. The feeling he had experienced the previous night was gone but not forgotten. He knew that he wanted that feeling again, and again.
'John------are you listening to me? Has anything I said got through to you?'
'Just leave me alone. I wanna sleep,' John slurred.
'Well, it won't bloody be with me!' Moana shouted and walked out, slamming the door between the hall and the kitchen.
John looked at the closed door, his mind befuddled and confused.
'Stuff her,' he muttered and stumbled into the lounge, where he slouched onto the sofa and turned on the late news. The newsreader was announcing the latest breaking news of yet another baby killed through neglect by its parents.
'Some people don’t deserve to be parents,' John mumbled bitterly. Then he fell into a troubled sleep.
'I’m buggered if I’m going in there,’ James informed Sione. 'Who the hell does he think he is, treating Mum like that?'
'Come back to my place, mate,' Sione said sympathetically. ‘Mum will look after you.'
The two boys walked the short distance to Sione’s house, making sure that no one was following them. When they arrived, they noticed a police car in the drive, its lights still flashing.
'Shit-------that’s all we need,' Sione swore.
'I’ve had enough for one night. Let’s just go in and face the music, yeah.' James said unexpectedly.
'Yeah, I think it’s Corey who’s in the most trouble,' Sione said hopefully.
The front door was wide one and the sound of angry voices could be heard as they approached.
'Get ready for a rough ride,' Sione joked.
When the boys walked into the lounge, Janine looked up; at first relived then angry as she noticed that James had accompanied her son.
'Sione, isn’t it enough that you and Corey get into trouble, without dragging James with you?'
'His Mum and Dad are fighting Mum,' Sione said, hoping to deflect attention from James and himself.
James noticed that the policeman was Constable Alex Coleman.
'So----were you with those other guys, James?' Alex asked.
James nodded guiltily.
'But we didn’t break into that classroom,' Sione said, drawing a hateful look from Corey and one of the other boys who had been caught.
'Well, I guess that answers all your questions then doesn’t it Constable?' Sione’s father said.
James hadn’t met Sione’s dad before. He was a little surprised. He had somehow pictured a big Island guy, but the man sitting on the lounge suite was anything but that. He was shorter than his wife and had a gentle appearance to him. Nevertheless, he looked angry as he eyeballed his two sons.
What happens from here, Constable?' Sione’s dad asked.
'I am going to arrest Corey and the other boy, but Youth Justice may well be working with Sione. As for James, maybe he has had his first and final warning,' Alex said, looking pointedly at James. 'If it’s OK with you Mrs Finau, could you look after James for the night? I don’t think he’s going to be any trouble, eh, James?’
'No sir,' James said, looking at Sione’s Mum and Dad.
'Sure he can. His Mum and Dad are coming for dinner tomorrow night anyway----well I guess it’s tonight now,’ she added, looking at her watch. 'I think I better ring James’s mum. James, do you know your Mum’s cell phone number?'
James gave her the number and Janine left the room and they could hear her talking to Moana for the next few minutes, before returning to the lounge.
'Moana was OK about you staying. It seems than she has enough on her hands with your Dad at the moment, Janine said sympathetically. 'I think your Mum needs to have a good chat with me later.'
'Right---- you two are under arrest, for more than just tonight’s little effort,' Alex announced formally. 'I strongly suggest you cooperate now, or it will go even worse for you.'
A second police car had arrived in the interim and two more policemen came into the lounge, causing the boys to give up on any ideas that they may have had about absconding. They knew their number was up.
'I’ll call round and see your Mum in the morning, James.' Alex said as the two other boys were led away with downcast faces.
The lounge suddenly seemed almost empty once the police and their charges had left.
'It’s about time I introduced myself,' Sione’s father finally said, breaking the silence. 'I’m Joseph Finau. 'It seems my boys’ troubles have spread out to include you,' he added sadly.
'I think I managed to get myself into trouble by my own efforts,' James answered.
'How about we all have a nice cup of Milo and get a bit of a sleep before morning really does arrive,' Janine intervened, taking control. 'There will be plenty of time in the morning to have a discussion. I think James’s Mum may want to be in on it too.'
'Sione, you can make up the spare bed in your room. Don’t you talk all night. I know what you are like when you have friends over,' she added before disappearing to make the hot drinks.
'Dad’s a teacher,' Sione said, breaking the silence. Everyone was tired after what had been a crazy day. 'It’s a bit strange having your father teaching at the same school you go to. By the way------ what school are you going to?' Sione added.
'I start with my sister on Monday at Western Springs College,' James answered, his voice weary with the day’s hectic events.
Sione started laughing. 'Same here, so we better behave or Daddy will give us a detention,' Sione teased.
'Sione, how about you act a little more seriously,' his father said. 'Both of you have a good deal of to think about with what has happened over the last few days. Corey has got himself into serious trouble. He’s seventeen now and will face an adult court for his actions. Perhaps you can learn from his bad behaviour. I don’t know what to do to help him from here.'
James wondered what his Mum would have to say when she saw him in the morning. She had enough problems with his Dad without him bringing more on the family. He also had an uncomfortable feeling about whatever his sister was up to online. His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Sione’s mum, along with a tray containing the hot Milo and cookies.
'Right you lot------ get these down you and then let’s all get a rest. I think tomorrow’s going to be a day when we have to face some serious business. Honey----I think we will give church a miss in the morning. Is that OK with you?'
'Yes dear. I think you are correct,' Joseph replied warmly to his wife.
James wondered if his Mum and Dad were still fighting, as he sipped his drink.
'Right—off you go boys. It will be time for breakfast soon if you stay up much longer. Sione, you can lend James a shirt after his shower in the morning,' Janine ordered.
Both boys had fallen asleep as soon as Sione had made up a bed for James. They didn’t talk all night as Janine had feared. They were far too tried. Now they had even slept in; an unusual occurrence in the Finau household.
The two boys joined the parents in the kitchen, where the smell of bacon and eggs teased their taste buds. Piles of buttered toast completed the picture as the boys sat down. Janine said a quick grace and then invited the boys to tuck in. They ate in relative silence; the spectre of a much more serious conversation to come, hanging palpably in the small kitchen come family room. As they finished the final slices of toast smothered in home-made plum jam, there was a knock on the door. Janine opened the door to find Moana and Lucy on the back porch.
'Come in, Mrs Campton,' Janine said warmly.
'It’s Moana, and this is my daughter Lucy. I think she’s been part of all this too,' Moana added before accepting a seat at the table.
'This is my husband, Joseph and my son, Sione,' Janine said as she busied herself making a fresh pot of tea. 'Can I make some fresh toast for you, Moana?’
'Yes------- that would be nice. I didn’t get any sleep last night and forgot to eat in my haste to get here,' Moana said, warming to the friendly woman.
'Hey---- he’s a teacher at out new school,' James whispered to his sister.
'Oh----is that so?' Moana said, on overhearing her son’s comment. 'That’s good---we will hear about everything you do then, won't we?'
'I try not to get too much in the kids’ faces. They have enough trouble accepting me being there without me doing that,' Joseph said laughing. He started telling some light-hearted stories about the school which soon put Moana at her ease and for the next few minutes Moana just accepted Janine’s’ hospitality, relishing the warmth between the two Finau parents. She wished her husband was on the same wavelength with her.
'Well, I suppose we should talk about-------------Now what?' Janine said, going to the door to answer a sudden knocking 'You might as well join us,' Janine said to Constable Coleman.
'I went around to your place, Moana, but when I found no one home, I thought I’d come here to talk to the Finaus about what's been happening. I must say it’s a nice surprise to find you all here.'
'Take a seat and join our little discussion group then, Alex,' Janine said.
'You all seem to know one another rather well,' Moana commented.
'Our kids have been in trouble on and off for years,' Joseph said wearily. 'I guess our community constable here has gotten to know us well as a result.'
'If you think it's only kids from so called bad families that get into trouble, then here’s a prime example of a good family, who care about their kids, yet trouble still finds them,' Alex offered as a way of explaining his closeness to the family.
'It’s as much a question of who they associate with, if you ask me,' Joseph said. 'I see it time and time again at school. What’s going to happen to my boy and the others?' Joseph asked, turning to Alex.
'I haven’t heard the charges as yet, but at worst Corey could do a short stint in prison; mainly because of his long record as a youth offender. I told him many times that his offending would eventually catch up with him, but it fell on deaf ears,' Alex said, clearly frustrated.
'No one knows that more than we do, Alex,' Janine said, thinking back to countless family meetings with Alex and various other agencies, including CYFS, school authorities, counsellors and Youth Aid.
'I’m not saying it’s too late for Corey, but when this is over and he’s back at home, he won't get another chance. He really has to stay clean,' Alex said seriously. 'As for you, James, let this be a warning to you. I think your Mum has enough on her hands from what I’ve heard about your Dad,' he said exchanging glances with Moana and Janine. 'Sione--------you better keep yourself away from your brother and those wannabe gangsters. They are all heading for much more serious trouble than they know. Am I making myself clear?'
'Yes sir,' Sione replied, looking at his parents. Their faces showed the stress they had been under for months over the activities of his older brother.
'You two could be good for each other. Look out for each other and get involved in sports or some other useful activity,' Alex continued. 'If it’s OK with your parents, I will take you to the local gym. I have an arrangement with them for some free places.'
'Alex--------thank you so much,' Moana said, almost at the point of breaking down.
'Come on girlfriend------its time you and I had a woman to woman talk. Let’s go,' Janine said as tears formed in Moana’s eyes. She took the distressed woman’s hand and a few minutes later the sound of the car leaving, indicated that their talk was going to be away from the others.
'Looks like I’m stuck with you lot for the day, then, doesn’t it?' Joseph said, resigned to the fact that his wife was most likely going to make a day of it with Moana. 'Trouble is----no car.
'I think I can help with that, Alex said. I’ve finished for the day, so I’ll just drop the beastie car back to headquarters and be back in an hour. If you guys and Lucy don’t mind a copper hanging out with you for the day, then let’s head out to the beach---------Piha sounds good.'
Joseph mouthed a silent thank you to Alex. 'Right then-------it's going to be hot today. Help me make up a picnic pack and some drinks. We can pick up your gear at your place on the way. OK everyone--- Let’s move it,' Joseph ordered, military like.
An hour later, Alex reappeared in his civilian role, complete with garish beachwear and more importantly to the two boys, a rather cool looking late model Subaru.
'Hope you got good sounds,' Sione commented cheekily, receiving a less than encouraging look from his Dad. They left a note explaining where they were going and brazenly said that they were looking forward to dinner on their return.
Once they had picked up James’ and Lucy’s gear, they headed out along the new South-Western Motorway and then west through New Lynn to the Waitakere Ranges. The boys were in heaven as the sound system pumped out their favourite raps.
'How come a cop likes this music?' James asked incredulously.
'Can’t say I love it, but it does sort of get to you,' Alex replied.
Joseph suffered in silence, just pleased that Alex had stepped in at a crucial time. His thoughts were on the upcoming new school year. He was still trying to get his head around the NCEA curriculum and all the paper work it entailed. He had come to teaching only recently and was struggling with the organizational part of his job. His teaching skills were excellent and he liked the students; rarely having any serious trouble in his classes. He was also going to be a dean for the year ten students; a task that even the best of teachers often found challenging.
'Look at that--------wow--------I have never seen a beach like that for real before,' Lucy exclaimed excitedly. 'It’s the one that is on Piha Rescue right?'
'It sure is and you better obey the safety flag rule,' Alex ordered. 'Remember?
'Always swim between the flags,' James and Sione sang almost in unison.
'It looks so blue and beautiful from up here. I feel like God looking down from heaven,' Lucy said delightedly.
Alex smiled as he drove down the long hilly road to the beach.