I was sitting in one corner of the classroom,leaning my back against the wall. Three periods of English with a new topic that day left me exhausted..Adoi, the pupils were all downstairs having their recess.It was so quiet.Normally I would be in the staffroom during recess, but because the next period after recess I would be in the next class, so I would rather stayed there and relax for a while.
Suddenly Noni ( not her real name) came into the class.She did not see me.Maybe she never expect me there.I saw her looked into a few drawers. Then she opened someone's bag, then closed back.Opened another bag and pick a pencil and an eraser.Went to her bag and put the items inside.
I held my breath. My heart was running wild.She opened another bag, then picked up something and repeated the same action.
I stood up and called her name.
"Noni ! "
Her face white as if she has seen a ghost.
" Teacher ? " She did not move.
I walked to her.Opened her bag and saw a bundle of pencils and, sharpeners, erasers and rulers.All in one plastic bag.
"Why did you do this ?" I was getting real hot..
" Before your friends come in, you better put back all the things in their bags."
"Tak tau dah sapa punya teacher." Muka macam nak menangis.
She was 10 years old then . I thought of my youngest 9 year old Suhail.
I picked up the plastic bag, and asked her to get out of the class.She did not say a word, just obeyed me.
When the bell rang all the year 4 pupils came in , including her. She looked so tense , I could see that.
I stood up, face the class.
" Sapa di sini ada hilang pencil ke, ruler ke, teacher jumpa barang2 ni tadi di tepi almari."
Those yang terlibat pun terus menerpa kedepan, to get their things back.No one asked anything.
" Semua dah dapat? "
"Ok Noni, jum tolong bawa buku teacher pi class year 6." I said to her.
She picked up my books and we walked in silence.
" Bapa kerja apa? "
"Jual buah ."
"Adik beradik berapa orang ? "
"8 " A word from her. Eyes not meeting mine.
"Yang masih sekolah? "
" 5 "
"Lagi tiga ?'
" Sorang dok dengan mak long, sorang tak sekolah dah."
" Sorang lagi? "
" She kept quiet ..."
" Sorang lagi ?"
"Kemarin kena tangkap polis, curi motor."
I did not continue my question.
"Ok, pi balik kelas kamu, sebelum balik umah nanti mai jmpa teacher."
She ran to her class like I am chasing her from behind..
At 1.30 I saw her waiting near my car.
" Kamu dok mana ? jum teacher hantar balik."
"Saya nak balik sendiri." she pleaded.Now she looked really scared.
" Masuk dalam kereta teacher" I commanded.
Her house was a small wooden house in the slump area about 1/2 kilometer from school.
The other houses were in the same condition. Old and waiting to bow to the ground.
Her mum, still young, about 45 of age came out in her kain batik and t-shirt.
"Awat teacher hantag dia.Dia demam ka ? " she asked.
" Dak aih, saja teringat nak melawat kawasan ni. banyak anak murid saya di sini.'
She looked at me.and said " Awat teacher, habak la kat saya, dia buat salah apa di sekolah.?"
" Saja nak tanya , Noni ni tak dak alatan menulis kut.?"
"Tak tau la saya, tapi dia selalu bawa balik pensel di rumah bagi kat adik2.Dia kata kawan dia bagi."
"Awat dia curi hak orang ka teacher? "
I did not answer.
"Tu la teacher, la ni susah sikit, suami saya tak boleh pi kerja .dah sebulan sakit.tu dok ada dalam bilik"
I found no words to answer.
"Teacher tolong la tengok2 dia kat sekolah.Adik dia ada juga darjah 2 sorang, darjah satu sorang"
I left the house with mixed feelings.The other children were running about.Calling me,teacher, teacher.
I waved to them and made my way to my car.Noni was already inside.She did not wait for me to move away.
The next day early in the morning I called her to the school bookshop.
"Ok apa yang kamu tak dak , ambik, teacher bayag, ambik untuk adik2 sama"
She took some pencils, rulers, erasers, 2 bottles of glue and a few others.
I stood facing her in front of the bookshop and said," Mulai dari hari ni, apa yang tak cukup, habak kat teacher.Saya tak mau tengok kamu curi lagi.Sekali ni kalau kamu curi lagi saya telefon polis."
She was ok after that . before raya I would buy some clothings for her . We were good friends.
On my birthday that year she surprised me by giving me a present , wrapped in a little box.
" Apa dalam ?"
"Teacher jangan buka di sini.buka la di rumah." She insisted.
At home I was acting like a child , so eager to open her present.
It was a small piece of wood.So smooth, must have been scrubbed with sand paper I thought. On it was engraved 4 words with a word wrongly spelled. I read it aloud.:
" Teacher I am sory."
How beautiful. How sweet..