The Bull Singer
Although I couldn't explain it to him; his holding me close brought back memories of some of my mother's boyfriends who took pity on me and gave me the hugs and cuddles she never did. Some of them went a bit further but I liked it, and I soon realised I was gay. Now I had my own beefy teddy bear to snuggle with, to hold me tight, and make me feel so safe, I would let him do anything he wanted; but he was right about the sex, it wasn't necessary. We could love each other just the same and maybe – just maybe – I would try again to capture his heart. So back to the present; how was I going to cope while he was away with the band; three whole weeks of loneliness and yearning emptiness. At last he raised his head to look at me, and we smiled at each other, the smile changed to a grin, followed by us laughing and hugging each other; but inside I was sobbing with grief. We used some of the tissues to wipe tears of happiness, and grief in my case, from our faces. We stayed in bed for another half hour, just cuddling, while I lay in his arms like a contented child, but knowing I was far from contented. I was glad he was a musician because his hands were smooth and uncalloused with manual work, and I loved his gentle touch, so much so that, when someone knocked on the door and called us down for dinner, I was disappointed at us having to vacate the bed despite what we had decided.
After a quick shower, we went downstairs, and Joey hesitated at the bottom. I took hold of his hand and smiled at his sudden shyness. "It's okay; you've already met the guys."
Joey shook his head. "Only Daley and Rob; the others were in the barn when I arrived. Your dad explained that I was tired and Daley sent me up to bed."
"Well, you've nothing to be shy about; the lads are okay." I put an arm round his shoulders and drew him close to lead him into the kitchen. Everyone was seated round the table, including Dad and Pete who were being teased something rotten about their supposedly new found love. Then we were spotted; eyes widened and jaws dropped with shock as the band stared at Joey. Daley grinned at the band. "It's all right, boys, you haven't seen a ghost. This is Joey Street, Mags's nephew. He does look like Billy, doesn't he?"
I felt Joey stiffen and try to pull away, but I tightened my arm round him and drew him to the table. Dad winked at me and pointed to the two vacant chairs beside him. Rob had made a wonderful lamb stew, and while we ate, I kept one arm round Joey, and I felt him lean into me. Thankfully, the teasing only lasted a moment before the topic of conversation turned to Pete's problem with Mr Faring. Dad announced his intention of taking Pete home and installing him in the cottage, which the band agreed was a good idea, and they promised that once the Christmas and New Year was over, they would use Daley's contacts to investigate Mr Faring further to see if there was anything they could pin on him and make him leave Pete alone. They also assured Joey and I that they would back us up in our fight against Angela and her thugs. As the evening wore on, Joey seemed to relax a bit more, now he knew he wasn't going to be teased any more. The band showed him the barn and some photographs of their successful mini tours including some of Billy and me. What made his visit more worthwhile were the CDs the band gave him so that he now had a complete set, from the very first disc we cut, to our latest one due to be released at Christmas. Daley took out the sleeve and we all signed it. Daley dated it and Joey was proud to own one of the first copies out.
Before supper, the band entertained our three guests and our drummer even invited Pete to take over the drums for a bit. Joey sat beside Dad, enjoying the music but as the evening wore on he started to get fidgety, his feet tapping away to the rhythms. I saw Dad nudge him and jerk his head at the band. Joey stared at the band for a bit then shook his head. I guessed what Dad was on about and called to Joey, "Come on lad, give us a twirl."
We were playing some jazz favourites, and it only took a few more seconds for Joey to lose his shyness and step out onto the floor. What dancer could not resist taking to the floor. Those not blowing winds grinned as Joey launched himself into a fast and furious foot-tapper routine, and Daley made the band repeat the tune a couple of times more than normal to give Joey enough time to complete his dance. He didn't have tap shoes on but the dress shoes he was wearing made enough sound on the hard floor for us to enjoy it. At the end, the guys crowded round the kid to give him his richly deserved praise, and even asked him to sing the next song with them, 'All That Jazz'. This was the first time I had heard him sing and I was stunned as I heard Billy singing. It was so uncanny I had tears in my eyes.
Later, when we were packing up and getting ready for supper and bed, Daley came to me. "Are you okay, Mags? It sure took me by surprise, and some of the guys are a bit filled up. Why didn't you warn us?"
"I honestly didn't know, Daley. That's the first time I've heard him myself."
"What's the betting the band asks him to join us? We could use a good singer and it would pull the crowds, having someone look and sing like Billy. Or would that bother you too much?"
"No, it wouldn't bother me, but I wouldn't want to push him into anything, not yet any way. We've got his mother to sort out first."
"Well, just so he knows he'd be welcome." Daley's handshake was firm.
When we got back to Top Farm the following morning, to give Angela our ultimatum, we had the band with us, and she couldn't stop us all marching into the house with Joey in tow. Her face was a picture of shock-horror, then fury, as Rob made her sit down and listen to what Dad had to say. Dad sat in a chair opposite her. "Angela, you remember me telling you when you first came here not to make trouble because you were my daughter? Well, it's come to the point where you can't use that knowledge against me or Elias anymore."
Her reply was a snarl. "Wait till your sisters find out."
"You're too late, they knew years ago. The only one who didn't know was my wife, and she's dead. You can talk your head off now, no one will listen, and before you start to make trouble for me or my family, or my grandson, let me warn you, I know a lot about your business dealings and can soon drop you right in the muck heap. In future, you and your friends will keep your hands off Joey and I'll keep my mouth shut about you. I also know what you've been doing to Joey." At this Angel's face took on the hue of a sheet. "You put a step wrong, my girl, and you'll be up in court on a charge of sexual abuse of a minor. Do you understand me? And while I'm here, you can hand over Joey's birth certificate and his child benefit book; and get yourself a good lawyer because my sisters and I are applying for joint guardianship on the grounds that you're an unfit mother."
Ten minutes later, we prepared to leave the house with Joey in possession of his birth certificate, and at the front floor, Dad turned to Angela and gave her his last broadside. "By the way, Angela, Benjamin has kept a record of all the money Elias gave you over the years, for Joey's keep, and also the money Benjamin himself gave to Joey for his own use, which you apparently stole from him. Elias wants that money paid to Joey by Christmas, all fifteen thousand eight hundred and forty eight pounds of it."
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