The Cup Bearer
Drenched with sweat, and feeling the first pangs of weakness, Emilio leaned on the wall outside the kitchen and watched Tony walk across the hall to his bedroom. He'd heard most of the conversation, which confirmed his dislike for the woman and for Peter. He had tried to be friendly, for Tony's sake, but all he felt from her so far were bad vibes. He didn't want to be anywhere near her; but if he didn't get some sugar down him soon, he would be in trouble. He would have to see a doctor soon to confirm his suspicions. He stepped into the kitchen and steeled himself for a confrontation.
Gillian ignored him. He walked past her and opened the fridge, took out a bottle of orange juice and opened it. He raised it to his lips and waited for the inevitable remark.
Right on cue, Gillian said, "I wish you wouldn't do that."
"Drinking from the bottle; you should use a glass."
"This is my home; I'll do as I please."
"It's not hygienic."
Emilio walked up to Gillian and showed her a label on the bottle. It boasted his name in red ink. "See this? It says mind your own business."
Gillian glared at him. "You can be quite rude at times."
"Only when you're around; I don't know what you're playing at, lady, but there's something not quite right about you and I'll do anything to protect Tony from you."
"Young man, you can't do anything."
"Oh can't I?" Emilio gave her a chilly smile. "You think you'll still have wild nights when I'm not around?"
"Don't be so crude." Gillian popped the avocado halves into their dishes and reached for the bowl of savoury filling. "He's had the best therapy and he's almost cured. I can vouch for that."
"I don't care what he's had; it won't change him. He is what he is. George has told him that till he sounds like a cracked record but Tony would rather waste his money on impossible dreams instead of opening the nut and looking at the kernel." One of the avocados proved to be diseased and yet the outside of the fruit showed no sign of blemish. He placed the withered kernel in front of Gillian to demonstrate what he said. "At least I know what Tony needs. You think he's good in bed? That's because he comes to my room before he comes to you, to make sure I'm okay; he always has done every night, because I have this fear of going to sleep. But it's all right; he's never touched me; yet. Why don't I come into your room tonight; he'll make love to you like you've never dreamed of."
Gillian's right hand came up in a vicious backhander. Emilio rocked from the blow and his right cheek burned.
"Gillian!" Tony stared wide-eyed at them from the kitchen door. Emilio fought the stinging pain and marvelled how a lady could pack such a hefty wallop. Gillian caught her breath and turned away. Tony walked up to him, grabbed the bottle of still cold juice and held it to Emilio's cheek. At that moment, he began to experience the first wave of dizziness. The room tilted and his knees buckled. Tony grabbed a kitchen stool and made him sit on it. Gillian watched in cold detachment as Tony filled a glass with some of h juice and mixed a spoonful of sugar into it. He held it out to Emilio. "Get that down you. This isn't the first time this has happened and I don't like it. When we get home I'll have a doctor check you over."
"What's the matter with him?" Gillian asked.
Tony pressed the bottle to Emilio's cheek again. "Probably low blood sugar; he hasn't eaten much since lunch and used up too much energy. If you want to help, I'd appreciate you getting the dinner on the table as soon as you can."
Gillian bristled. "I beg your pardon! I'm a guest not a servant."
"You're no guest," Emilio snapped at her. "You weren't invited."
"That's enough, Emilio." Tony checked Emilio's cheek for bruising. "Go and wait in the lounge, Gillian, I'll see to the meal myself." Gillian tore the apron off and flounced out of the kitchen, and Emilio couldn't help enjoying the woman's outrage; r ound one to me.
Before retiring for bed that night, Tony knocked on the door of the spare bedroom and Gillian told him to enter. She sat at the dressing table, already in her negligee, brushing her hair. Out of its pins, her hair hung halfway down her back. He wanted to take her in his arms and bury his face in that pale molten gold, but he had made his decision and he would stick to it. "Gillian, I feel I owe you an explanation." Gillian glanced at him through the mirror, her eyes unwelcoming. He sat down on the bed. "Although Emilio can cope with daily life now, and he still has periods when the slightest upset will turn him upside down. He has to be treated with gentleness and understanding." Gillian turned round with a retort on her lips but Tony held up a hand for silence. "Today was one of those times and what you did and said to him showed me a side of your character I never knew existed; a side of you I do not like. You two will never get on so, under the circumstances, I think it best if we had a rethink about our marriage plans."
Gillian shot to her feet, her eyes narrowed to slits. "I'm to be dumped in favour of a grubby little rent boy, am I?"
"Whatever gave you the idea Emilio is a rent boy? He's the victim of horrific circumstances and needs help."
"He doesn't need help." Gillian's voice could have soured fresh cream. "He knows more about you than you do yourself. Can't you see he's manipulating you? He even told me he would do anything to keep me away from you. If you don't get rid of him, all the therapy in the world won't help you. At least he got that right. You should have listened to George and saved yourself a load of money. Now, please leave the room; because of that brat, I have a two hour drive to the airport in the morning, and I need to sleep."
Tony rose to his feet, ready to give her a parting blast, when a thought struggled for domination and made him smile. He looked Gillian up and down, taking in her curves under the gossamer gown, and her beautiful hair. Her face devoid of makeup was still beautiful even in her anger; but he felt not a trace of desire for her. He suddenly noticed lines round her eyes and mouth, as well as the white roots beginning to show where the hair had grown since her last dollar-eating trip to her favourite beauty salon. He saw a woman trying so hard to stay young and attractive, and failing; not that it mattered to him, it was the character inside that counted; he just felt sorry for her that she thought she had to go to all that trouble just to get her man.
Tony walked to the door and opened it. "He got two things right, not one. You have fooled me for three months but he saw right through you from the start. He knew you weren't right for me." The hairbrush flew towards him. He stepped aside and let it sail out into the hall. The door slammed behind him as he bent to pick it up. Feeling happier than he had for a long time, he went to check on Emilio, switching off all but the hall nightlights on the way. He stepped into Emilio's room, found it empty and felt a stab of panic. Emilio's sketchpad lay open on the rumpled bed. The boy had shown his artistic talent as a result of lessons in stage and scenery design, and George had told Emilio to write about or sketch whatever he felt he could not openly talk about. Tony had never seen the sketchpad but George had warned him that some of the drawings would be pretty graphic. He flipped through it and his stomach churned.
The last sketch showed a scene from Greek mythology with Zeus on his throne and other familiar gods paying homage. At Zeus's side stood an almost naked boy holding up a large wine cup; the boy had long black hair and the way he leaned against his master's knees, with the man's arm round his waist, it was easy for Tony to name him; Ganymede, cupbearer to the gods.
The drapes fluttered in the open French window and Tony hurried out onto the patio where a full moon painted everything in black and silver. A double recliner had been dragged away from the pool and placed under a Victorian street lamp; a relic Tony had imported from England in one of his quirky attempts to remember his roots. Under the light of the lamp, Emilio sat cross-legged on the recliner, wrapped in a snow-white djellebah with the hood pulled up against the cool breeze. A book lay open between his thighs
Tony sat down beside him, put his feet up and settled back against the cushions. "Do you want to talk?"
Emilio nodded. "I want you to forget about adopting me."
"I'm not concerned about what you were, only about your future and your safety."
"So am I. In six years I'll be twenty-one. Till then I won't go back to Nashville. I'll stay here. That way, no one will need to know. Down here, the age of consent is thirteen so there'll be no gossip."
"How did you know that?"
Tony felt his heart begin to pound. He took a deep breath. "Are you offering yourself to me?"
"I owe you, and I love you." Emilio's eyes remained fixed on the book.
"And I love you too but not in the way you mean. What about your career and your schooling?"
"They're not important. You are."
"You heard Gillian and I talking."
"Emilio, look at me." Tony waited till Emilio shifted round to face him then placed his hands on the boy's shoulders. "Gillian's got it all wrong and so have you. There's nothing to pay back. I've done things for you because I wanted to."
"And I'm doing this because I want to."
Tony sighed. How could he make Emilio understand? "Emilio, I can't accept your offer."
"I'm not gay. And neither are you."
Emilio shook his head vigorously. "There you go again, denying the facts."
"Do you want to be gay?"
Emilio looked away, a frown on his face. "I don't know."
"Then the problem you are trying to sort out isn't mine, it's your own. I've seen the drawings in your sketch pad."
Emilio glared at him. "They're private."
"I looked at them because I love you and want to care for you. I could never touch you in that way. I can't understand how you would want me, to after all you've been through at that sex club."
Emilio looked away. "It wasn't all bad."
Tony knew he had to voice his suspicions about the contents of the sketchpad. The boy had to know that he only wanted to help him. "The drawing of Zeus and Ganymede – that was you, wasn't it?" Emilio nodded. "And Zeus?"
"Marcus Munante, he ran the place but I don't think he was the boss. He was a nice guy."
"Nice? How can anyone connected with a place like that be described as nice?"
"He acted the part of a cruel master just to please the clients but inside he was a softy. He made sure we were well looked after. We were fed well and had the best of medical attention." Emilio looked away. "I don't want to talk about it any more."
"What about Munante, did he touch you?"
The boy looked at Tony, his eyes hard with defiance. "I had to survive, okay? He said he loved me so I did a deal with him."
"What deal was that?"
"We made a trade."
"What did you ask for?"
"The impossible or so I thought. You remember Caroga?"
"He came from Houston, on the run from some kind of mafia type set-up. He lived in the village before he worked for you, in a shack below ours. He had an old wind up record player and a load of jazz records. I peeped in his window one day and saw him dancing; I was about five. I asked him to teach me and he did."
"So that's why you're such a good dancer. I did wonder; but how did Caroga affect your position with Munante?"
Emilio shrugged. "I agreed to be his Ganymede if he brought Caroga in to look after me and carry on the dancing lessons. I never thought Munante would do it but the next thing I knew, Caroga arrived. Man, he was one mad bull at being snatched. Munante built a practice room for us. What could I do; I was trapped."
"We all wondered why Caroga suddenly vanished from the village. Did you like what Munante did to you?"
The boy's head dropped lower. "I tried hard not to."
"Did you do anything to him?"
"I was forced to do things with him and with the clients."
"You've done nothing to be ashamed of; you made the best of a bad situation."
Emilio sat up straight, his face tense with confusion. "But I …"
Tony smiled. "Emmie, it's hard not to enjoy an orgasm, forced or otherwise. You did nothing wrong. You survived long enough for Caroga to carry you to safety during the raid."
Emilio's eyed widened. "Caroga got out? Where did he go, is he okay?"
Tony tried to be as gentle as possible. "I'm sorry, lad. Someone shot him as he reached the police lines."
"What did the police do that for?"
"Not the police. One of the guards shot him. He died in hospital two days later."
"Oh, no; I killed him!" Emilio's face crumpled.
Tony loosened his grip on the boy's shoulders and waited for him to get over the shock in his own way then turned his grip into a comforting embrace, fingers gently massaging his back. "You didn't kill him."
Emilio stared at him, moist eyed. "Yes I did. If I hadn't insisted on Munante bringing him in he'd be alive now." After a few moments of strained silence, he added, "Did he say anything before he died?"
"Yes, his last words were, 'Tell the kid to keep on dancing and watch out for wolves'. Is that what you're trying to do now, to keep me from a certain female wolf? There is no need; I've told Gillian to leave in the morning. Now, why don't we talk about this adoption?"
Emilio shook his head. "It wouldn't work."
"I can prove it to you."
Emilio reached out to place his hands on either side of Tony's face and leaned forward to place his lips on his, and kissed him gently. A kiss so beautiful and tender, Tony closed his eyes and savoured the moment. Then he took Emilio into his embrace and kissed him back. Years of frustration and longing fell away like a long overdue avalanche as he remembered the night he and one of his therapists spent the night in a motel where someone had left a gay magazine behind. For fun they had looked through it and that night he had a raging erection that had surprised them both, and delighted the therapist. Could it be the boy was right? Since Emilio had come into his life, his sex drive had been intermittent, and as he thought back, he realised the highs were when he had first seen Emilio into bed, and the lows were when the boy was away on a sleep over at a friend's house, or when Tony was away from home. That magazine hadn't been just a normal one, the centre spread had carried a photograph of Emilio in a semi naked pose, with a caption offering him as a guide to the delights of Tamarigo. Now Tony was sure that picture had been the cause of his erection that night. A surge of joy passed through him and tears welled up into his eyes as the reality of his awakening hit him with the force of a battering ram.
Gillian watched from her bedroom window as Tony carried Emilio across the patio and into the boy's bedroom. She smiled to herself and planned her next move. An hour later, she crept into the boy's bedroom to make sure they were asleep. Tony and the boy lay spooned together under a sheet, in a deep asleep with Tony's clothes scattered across the polished floor. Satisfied she would not be disturbed; she hurried to the lounge, searched for Tony's laptop and plugged it into the telephone socket. Once connected to the internet she wrote an email.
Ganymede is alive; I repeat, he is alive.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]