THURSDAY 2nd AUGUST 1999
Sandy put the last of the supper dishes away while Trish bathed the baby. Soon they would relax together on the sofa in the living room, time to tackle her about the letters. He dreaded the scene that would come, the row it would create and the tears Trish would shed, but what about his feelings? He had a right to know what was going on, hadn't he? He folded the towel he had been using and dropped it into the laundry basket, heard the knocking on the front door and hurried out into the room to answer the door. Damn, damn! The last thing he wanted tonight was an uninvited guest. He got ready to blast the caller, opened the door and stared at Manuel.
"Hello Sandy, may I come in please? I need to talk with you." They stared at each other for a long time, then Sandy stepped back to let Manuel move past him into the apartment. Closing the door, Sandy led Manuel into the living room then turned to face him. "If you've come about Gypsy, I'm not interested. Me and Trish 'ave our own lives now and we won't -."
"Who is it, Sandy?" Trish popped her head round the bedroom door, saw Manuel and paled. "Manuel! What are you doing here?" She came into the room and slipping her right hand into Sandy's left. "Is something wrong? Is Gypsy…"
Sandy stared down at her, then at Manuel. "What's goin' on, then?" He looked down at Trish again. "I know about the letters Trish. You've been getting' them from Jo and you never told me."
Trish lowered her gaze and fidgeted with the clean nappy she was holding. She didn't reply and Manuel said, "Perhaps I might explain?"
Sandy glared at him. "Yeah, perhaps you better 'ad."
Manuel met his angry gaze without flinching. "Gypsy is ill."
"I told you, I'm not interested." Sandy knew it was a lie.
"I think you might be when you hear the circumstances," Manuel sat down on a nearby chair. "He's been ill ever since you left Chilvers, although at first we failed to realize why. There were the colds and the bouts of flu, and then he had a chest infection, which left him rather weak. The doctors say he might always have chest problems in the future because of' it. Now he has lost interest in everything except Erica, and is growing weaker as time goes by. I've had him admitted to the Rosscroft again. The doctor's diagnosis is that the shock of losing Shana, combined with all the suffering and personal loss he has experienced in the past, has caught up with him and he is dying of a broken heart." He looked at Trish then back at Sandy. "But I don't think it is Shana he is grieving for."
Sandy felt Trish's fingers tighten round his own, willing him to deny it, and his mother's warning came rushing back to prick him with a thousand needles. Confused, he turned away from Manuel. The baby started crying but Trish still clung to him. Suddenly he felt as if a serpent was winding its body round him, squeezing him with ever constricting coils. It was the old misunderstanding over again. Would people always insist on digging it up and throwing it in his face? Now Trish was the latest. His own wife…
With a start he remembered Trish telling him he talked in his sleep and said Gypsy's name and even accused him… He had to break loose, once and for all. He wrenched his hand free and heard Trish's gasp of despair. In desperation, he said, "Gypsy doesn't need me, 'e made that quite plain: And I don't need 'im either, Trish and me are 'appy as we are."
Manuel shook his head. "Sandy, all those scenes with Ed, they were just a sham. That little plot he hatched with Ed's assistance was quite successful, it would seem."
Sandy looked over his shoulder at him, startled. "What plot?"
"You do not think for one moment that Ed was really interested in Gypsy, do you? Gypsy knew you and Trish were not happy; he heard you rowing often enough, and was prepared to sacrifice his own happiness so that you two would not drift apart. He knows you still love him as you did when you were younger, and he deliberately made you jealous so you would leave Chilvers without him ordering you to go. I found out about this yesterday when I arrived home from my latest tour, and Ed and Jo confessed about their involvement. I heard also that you had had an offer to come to Paris to study with a Professor Claude. Strange is it not that the honourable professor is the very man who taught me all I know. Do I have to say more?"
Sandy's throat shrank painfully. "He fixed it. He bloody fixed it!"
"Oh, the bloody fool." Sandy turned to Trish. "And you're a fool too." Trish backed away fearing he would strike her. "Do you think I'd marry you if I wanted Gypsy? He certainly doesn't want me now, not that way."
"Doesn't he?" Manuel shook his head. "If that is the case, why is he pining for you?"
"I don't believe it."
"Sandy, he loves you. He always has."
"Oh My God! And there's me thinkin' it was just a one-sided schoolboy crush. I could have sworn Gypsy wasn't interested and was tryin' to straighten me out. Trish, I only stayed' with 'im because I wanted to 'elp 'im get better. Now see what you've done. He's ill, maybe dyin' and you…I never thought you could be so selfish." Sandy turned away again, the rest of his tirade dying on his lips. Trish gave a faint sob and ran into the bedroom. Sandy sank down into an armchair with his head in his hands. "So what happens now, then? I'll go back if you feel it's for the best."
"A gallant thought but an action not to be recommended, I would think. You have the opportunity to study with a master of music, and I believe the fees have already been paid. It would be a shame to stop now. There is another way, of course."
Sandy stared blankly at him. "Mind to mind? I can't do that."
"It was Gypsy did that, not me."
"Then ring him."
"He won't want to talk to me."
"Gypsy has tried to contact you many times but could not penetrate the barrier you yourself have put up. All you have to do is to remove that barrier. Please ring the Rosscroft."
Sandy sighed and leaned back in his chair, and lifted the phone. When he was through to Gypsy's private Rosscroft number, he heard a faint voice wheezing down the line. Using the old name he used to call his friend he said, "Emmie? What's this I hear about you playing tricks on people?"
"I had to," came the hoarse whisper, followed by a cough.
"No you didn't, you idiot. Me and Trish could have worked things out."
"Emmie, I love you, as a dear friend and supporter, I always will, no matter where I am. But I love Trish to bits, man. All she needs to do is to trust me a bit more. Don't give up, mate. Live for Erica, and for me. Please, mate; no more of this wishin' for things that aren't real."
"But I love you, Sandy."
"I know, and I love you too, I always will. Now you get yourself better or I'll stop writing hits for you."
"Okay, Bro. I'll try."
Sandy put the phone down and wiped a tear from his cheeks. He found Manuel standing over him, watching him closely with a relieved smile on his face. Manuel said, "Thank you," and walked out of the room.
Feeling completely drained, Sandy rose to his feet and walked unsteadily into the bedroom. Trish was standing by the cot, gazing down at their sleeping son. She had her back towards him but Sandy knew she was crying. He went up to her and standing behind her, he put his arms round her to hold her close against him, and placed a tender kiss on the back of her neck. He felt her resist him and lowering his head he kissed her again. "I'm so sorry I shouted at you. Trish, I promise I'll never let anything come between us again."
"I thought you had gone with Manuel." Trish said tearfully.
"Well I'm still here, aren't I?" Sandy turned her in his arms and gazed down at her unhappy face. "I don't 'ave to, see? Worryin' about nothin', you are."
"But you -."
"Love him? Yes, Trish, but like I've said before, only you wouldn't listen, I love you more."
Trish couldn't look at him anymore, she bent her head and said in a small voice, "What about in the night?"
"What? About me mutterin' his name?" Sandy chuckled. "I might ask you who Michael is."
Trish's head snapped up and her mouth dropped open, as her cheek grew pink. "I never!"
"Oh yes you did, several times."
"I'm sorry. I should have told you about the letters. It's all my fault; I should never have said anything to Jo. Now Gypsy's ill because of me. He must have overheard Jo and me talking. I felt so desperate, I had to do something."
"I know love, I know." Sandy hugged her to him. "No doubt he heard us rowin' too, our room being next to 'is, like. The problem was, I couldn't adjust to bein' married, see? I think my mam was right, you know; we were a bit young, isn't it? Just give me time, Trish, everythin' will turn out fine, you'll see."
Trish sniffed back her tears and looked up at him again." I'm sorry, Sandy. I made things worse instead of better."
"That's all right, girl. No 'arm done."
"No harm done?" Trish pulled away from him with a gesture of wretchedness. "Gypsy's life is in danger because I was stupid and selfish, and you say no harm done. I acted like a jealous child."
Sandy caught hold of her chin and forced her to look up at him. "Trish, will you trust me for once? Gypsy's goin' to be okay, I know it, see?"
"I just know that's all. 'E'll be okay now. I don't 'ave to go to 'im; there's no need, see? We can reach each other whenever we want to. I've just proved it."
Trish's eyes widened. "Really?"
"Yes, really." Sandy smiled down at her and then began to laugh. "It's called a telephone."
"Oh, you-!" Trish tried to smack him but Sandy grabbed her and pinned her in a bear hug. "Now stop worryin' about me leavin' you. I'm 'ere to stay and I'll carry on with my studies; that's what Gypsy would want, isn't it?" He kissed her lightly on the nose. "I'll write 'im some great songs and 'e'll be up and about in no time, and 'e'll be back in the charts before you know it, just like 'e used to be. Meanwhile, 'ow about you and me tryin' for another addition to the Roberts family, eh?"
At last Trish smiled up at him, blinking back her tears. "Oh, Sandy, I love you so much:"
"And I love you, Cariad, and that's all that matters, right?" What he didn't tell her was that it wasn't just through the telephone that he could contact Gypsy.
Sandy was there, in his mind, when Manuel reached the clinic and was allowed a few minutes with him. Sandy could see how grey and frail Gypsy looked as he lay back against the pillows, a thin green oxygen tube taped to his nose. As Manuel sat down on the edge of the bed to take hold of his hand, Gypsy's eyes opened slowly. A frown knitted his brow as he spoke in an exhausted whisper. "You went to Paris?"
Manuel nodded. "I had to."
Gypsy shook his head. "I made Ed promise not to say anything."
"You should be glad he had more sense than you have," Manual admonished him. "I went to Paris to save your life. We couldn't stand by and let you throw your life away for nothing."
Gypsy shook his head again. "For nothing?"
"All you had to do was to ask Sandy to leave Chilvers and spread his own wings. He would have gone willingly, for your sake."
Gypsy's eyes searched Manuel's face, his mouth forming the whispered words. "You knew?"
"How could I not know," Manuel said as he tightened his grip on Gypsy's hands. "I have known about your feelings for Sandy for a long time now."
Slowly, Gypsy s eyes closed, the muscles of his face beginning to quiver. At last he let out a trembling sigh. "I tried, Dad. I tried so hard!" and when he opened his eyes again he looked at his father with the eyes of an unhappy child. Manuel slipped his arms under Gypsy and lifted him off the pillows, and held him as he would a sleeping child. Sandy knew then that Gypsy was safe…
12th November 1999
Gypsy manoeuvred his wheel chair into the cooking area of the lounge in the cottage he had rented for the weekend, and reached for an oven glove and a cooking fork as the aroma of grilling steaks filled the air. Easing the grill pan out from under the heat, he balanced it on the specially designed extension and used the fork to turn the two steaks over. After pushing them back under the grill, he spun the chair round to finish preparing the salad on the table, thankful the cottage he had hired for the weekend was small enough for him to manage most jobs. Designed with disabled people in mind, he had found it in a holiday magazine for the disabled, and had fallen in love with it the moment Sean and Ed had brought him to view it.
Sean had wanted to stay and look after him, but his idea had been to find out just how much he could do on his own without people like Sean and Jo jumping to his assistance all the time. But he had compromised and allowed Sean and Ed to light the fire and bring in extra logs.
Now he gazed round the place, satisfied everything was ready for his guest. The table by the open fire had been laid; the only thing not yet done was the opening of the bottle of Champagne standing in the ice bucket. He moved his chair to the fire and began some last minute finger exercises. He wanted to show he could handle a knife and fork well enough to eat his food unaided, although he doubted his right hand was strong enough to cut his steak up yet.
He heard a car drive up to the front door and stop, and he turned his chair to face the door. Someone approached the door and lifted the latch. The door swung open and Manuel walked into the cottage. At first he frowned, then he spotted Gypsy and his face lit up. "Gypsy! This is a surprise. I knew I was to meet someone here but I never thought it would be you."
"Hi Dad, welcome home."
Manuel closed the door and came to give him a kiss, "Happy Twentieth Birthday, Gypsy. Where is Ed?"
"At home, having a few days of uninterrupted bliss with Jo, I hope. Sean has gone to see his folks and I wanted to surprise you and let you see how much better I am now. And I also wanted a chance to celebrate my birthday just with you. Go and rescue the steaks before they burn."
Manuel transferred the steaks to warmed plates and carried them to the table with the salad. "Did you do all this, yourself? My goodness! I leave a helpless son and go on tour, and come back four months later to find him almost independent." He watched Gypsy manoeuvre his chair to the table and sat down opposite him. "How are you coping, by the way?"
"Just watch me." Gypsy grinned and lifted the salad servers to help himself to the contents of the bowl. "All you have to do is cut my steak and open the wine." With the steak cut into biteable portions and the wine poured, Gypsy and Manuel began to eat.
Manuel noticed Gypsy's efforts to control his fork were a little bit clumsy but at least the food was ending up in his mouth and not all over the place as he expected. "So, you've got this far, what are your plans for the future?"
"To get out of this chair, and finish the album I started before I let myself get ill. And I've got something to celebrate."
Gypsy raised his glass. "I stood up unaided on my own two feet for the first time, yesterday."
"Really?" Manuel grabbed his glass and clinked it against Gypsy's. "For how long?"
"Long enough to pee."
They laughed, and toasted another of Gypsy's stepping-stones to recovery, and Gypsy said, "Here's to Ed and Jo, they've worked wonders with me. I have some other news too. I'm going on tour again."
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