The Cup Bearer
Emilio returned to the study, shivering with cold but calm inside and in control. He approached the desk where the three men sat; his footsteps echoing round the bare walls. The briefcases had been packed, all the drapes unhooked and folded. Every display case stood empty, the bookshelves cleared of Tony's favourite reference books. The room, where Tony wrote most of his biographies and critiques, no longer held anything to remind Emilio of his late benefactor. It wasn't a room any more, just an empty space. Tony, where are you? Don't leave me like this; not when we've only just begun.
He resumed his seat in front of the desk and Thomas placed a thin pile of papers in front of Edward, on top of which rested the will. Edward studied it for a moment then glanced at Emilio. He cleared his throat. "You weren't paying much attention when Thomas read the will so I'll go over the major points again. Apart from certain legacies, Tony has left his entire estate to you, with enough immediate capital to provide you with a home of your own. You know about the trust, of course?"
"Tony wasn't a multi-millionaire but he knew how to handle his finances. The dividends from his businesses, the continuing royalties from his books, and the sale of whatever furniture and personal effects from this house you do not wish to keep, will yield enough regular capital to provide for your welfare and education till the trust matures. Tony owned everything in this house; Peter just owns the bricks and mortar and the grounds it stands in. You will have to get used to a more modest lifestyle, of course. No more trips to Hawaii or the Far East, or shark fishing in the Caribbean whenever you feel like it, but it seems Tony had every confidence you will treat this as a challenge and not a burden. He asked us to care for you as he has and that's exactly what we intend to do, if you'll give us the opportunity."
"What about Peter?"
"As far as Tony was concerned you were the only son he had," Thomas said.
"But Peter has to be provided for."
"Oh, he's provided for all right. Our father is well into his nineties and showing no sign of giving up on life just yet, so Peter will have to wait a little while longer for his money; unless, of course, our father hears about Peter's dirty deeds and changes his will. If Peter tries to contest Tony's will, he'll have us to deal with."
Emilio shook his head. "I still don't like it. It's not right."
"Peter wouldn't bother all that much about you if the circumstances were reversed," George put in. "He wouldn't leave you a dime, which is why I started shifting stuff from this house and into storage the minute I heard Tony was dead. Leave anything behind and you can bet your last dollar Peter will burn it, including the grand piano. Nothing is sacred as far as Peter's concerned. He's the biggest money grabber I've ever met. The van is coming back later today to take what's left. Edward's right; the best thing is to sell off what you don't want for as much as you can get, and put the proceeds into your education funds. You've still got six years to go before the trust opens it's doors, and money doesn't stretch too far these days."
"Which brings us back to where you are going to live," Thomas said but the door opened and halted further conversation.
Gillian walked in, a cheerful smile on her face hiding the fact that she had spent most of the day in tears. "Sorry to interrupt gentlemen, a Mr. Clooney called from England. An agent of yours I believe?"
"That's correct," Edward said. "Did he leave a message?"
"Yes. He said he's found Emilio's mother."
Emilio wasn't sure how he was expected to react to this sudden piece of news. He certainly didn't feel any excitement at the thought of rejoining a family he hardly remembered. To him it was just another nail in the game of manipulation. They all looked at him expectantly. "So?"
Edward and Thomas blinked in surprise. Thomas said, "I thought you would be pleased at the news."
Gillian cleared her throat. "Emilio, your mother is living in rented accommodation in Cheshire, England. Mr. Clooney, went to see her as per Mr. Grafton's instructions, and broke the news that your are alive. It was quite a shock, but a happy one no doubt. Emilio, your mother is not well, a heart complaint I believe. She needs help to look after the family or the authorities will take them into care, which will mean a further break up of the family. Now, I happen to have several good friends in Cheshire. I could ask them to look for more suitable accommodation for your family and yourself."
George smiled. "It just so happens that I also have connections in Cheshire. A friend of mine runs a private hospital with a new childcare unit. Perhaps we can put our heads together on this."
Emilio didn't like this. "Who says I'm going to live there?"
"Living in a family environment will help you recover from losing Tony," Edward said. "Also, if you agree to the move and continue with the project, we'll finance George's visits to England, should he wish to supervise your continuing treatment himself."
George nodded. "Thanks, Edward, but that all depends on whether Emilio wants me to or not, and if I can fit such visits into my schedule. He isn't my only patient, you know."
"Could you set up a local proxy, perhaps?" Thomas asked him suggested.
"It's possible. I'll get in touch with my friend. He might have the right psychiatrist who can help. Okay by you, Emilio?"
Emilio shrugged again. At least he wouldn't have to start all over with a new head fink if George held the reins. "I'll go and visit on one condition. If I don't like it over there, I come back and you can kiss your ideas goodbye."
To his surprise, the expected backlash did not occur. Edward just sat back and folded his hands across his chest and said, "Have you thought about the alternative if you don't leave here? Remember, you are only fifteen."
Emilio clenched his teeth. Round one to Brothers Grafton and Co. George could back them up all he wanted, but he wouldn't make it easy for any of them. He stood and walked to the door. As he passed Gillian, he gave her a cold look. "I'd like a word with you, please?" He pulled the heavy door closed behind them and faced Gillian. "Why this sudden enthusiasm about helping me?"
"Why shouldn't I help you?"
"Two reasons. One, you think I'm scum, and two, I don't trust you."
"Let's say I've changed my mind. Tony would want me to make things easier for you. Cheshire is my home territory. I know people and places."
"I haven't said I'll go yet."
"What if I told you that Cheshire boasts one of the best Ice Rinks in the UK? It's in Altrincham, near where your family live. As luck would have it, a friend of mine is the head teacher of an excellent high school close by."
"I won't need to go to school."
"You will in the UK, till your sixteen. In any case, most theatre colleges or schools of performing arts won't admit you till you're eighteen or have finished your formal education."
"I'll have tutors."
"I doubt that. Tony paid for your education from his earnings. Now, you only have his legacy to keep you afloat till you're twenty-one. Why pay for an education when you can have it for free?"
Emilio turned away and thrust his hands into his coat pockets. "You know all the answers, don't you?"
"About my own country? I know more about it than you do. As a friend I could be useful."
"A friend? How can I trust you not to throw things in my face like you did at the villa?"
"That was a mistake, for which I apologise. It won't happen again and I promise to stay well in the background unless you need my help. Believe me, Emilio, you're moving into unknown territory and need all the help you can get."
Emilio took a few paces away, torn between doubts about her and fear of stepping out on his own. Maybe he was wrong about her. Maybe his feelings were clouded by the problems of his own awakening sexuality. She was right of course. He needed someone to guide him if he moved to England. He faced her again. "All right, I accept your help on the condition that you don't try to manage me. I make my own decisions, right?" Without waiting for an answer, he marched back into the study to give the Graftons the same ultimatum.
When Peter arrived to claim the Nashville house that evening, the removal van had not yet returned for its final load, and Edward had to stand guard at the front entrance with a court injunction in his hand. "You may own it, Peter but this paper says you are not putting one foot inside this house till seven o'clock on the dot," Edward declared. "Emilio is stressed enough without you adding to the situation."
In his anger, the tall blonde young man snatched the paper from his uncle and, in doing so the legal document had been served. "I'll make him pay for this. I'll burn everything my father owned rather than let that little turd get his hands on it."
Edward remained firm. "You only own the bricks and mortar. If any other property is damaged you will answer to me. I am now the senior partner of Grafton, Grafton, and Kearslake and I have influence, even in this country, where you do not. I see the van coming back up the drive, so I suggest you contain your impatience a while longer. Thomas will stay here to see you don't touch anything that does not belong to you, is that understood?"
Peter flung himself away down the steps and stood watching in helpless rage as Emilio came out of the house for the last time, carrying a heavy sports holdall and a bulging music case. Maisie and her handyman husband followed him, carrying a few odds and ends to put into the boot of Edward's hired limousine. Both had tears in their eyes. Peter glared. "How touching." Emilio ignored him and carried on down the steps. Peter followed and grabbed Emilio by the shoulder.
Edward started down the steps to intervene, but Emilio dropped his bags, grabbed the offending hand, and turned to stretch Peter's arm, twisting it outward and bringing his right foot to connect with the back of Peter's his right knee. The leg collapsed under him and Peter landed on his back at the bottom of the steps. Edward reached out to pull Emilio free but Emilio gave Peter's wrist a final twist then let go. He pointed at Peter. "You did something bad to me when I was a kid. I don't remember everything but when I do you'd better start looking over your shoulder. One day you'll find me right behind you, getting ready to make you pay." Terror registered on Peter's face and he crabbed backwards, using his good hand and his heels, but Emilio stepped after him, "Never forget me, Peter, because I will never forget you." To Edward's relief, he turned away and addressed Maisie and Jonah, "Did you get fixed up with a place to stay?"
Jonah's ebony face lit with a grin. "Yes, thank you, Mr. 'Milio. We went to that place Mr. George told us about. We can stay there till we get fixed up more permanent."
"What about your plans to move back to England and live with your daughters?"
"Well, that idea needs a re-think," Maisie said. She used a tissue to dab her eyes. "They might not have room for us now; their families have grown since we came here with Mr. Tony."
"But you'd still like to go."
"Of course we would, if we can raise the money to buy the tickets."
"Perhaps these will help," Emilio drew an envelope from his inside coat pocket and handed it to Jonah.
Maisie's eyes widened as Jonah drew out two airline tickets and ten one-hundred-dollar bills. Peter scrambled to his feet. "And just what am I supposed to do for a housekeeper"
Maisie fixed him with look of contempt. "Mister Peter, I wouldn't stay on as your housekeeper if you paid me a thousand million dollars a week. You want a housekeeper? Go find one, if you can find anyone crazy enough to work for you."
"You can't just walk out of your job like this!"
"We were employed by your father, not you," Jonah said. "As of five o'clock this afternoon, our jobs were terminated and paid to the end of the year in lieu of notice, according to Mr. Tony's instructions. We're only staying on to look after Mr. 'Milio and make sure all his things were safely removed. Now, if you don't behave yourself and let us go peacefully, I'll have to do what your father should have done a long time ago. That's to put you over my knee and give you a good thrashing; may the Good Lord forgive me."
Edward stepped in front of Peter, blocking any attempt at retaliation, and watched with satisfaction as Emilio shook Jonah's hand then gave Maisie a hug and kissed her on the cheek. "Who knows," the boy said with a rare smile, "maybe we'll bump into each other in England. You were like a mum and dad, the way you looked after me. Those tickets are just a way of saying thank you."
So, Tony was right, Edward thought with surprise, the boy does have a caring side to his nature underneath all that bitterness. Moments later, as the hired chauffeur steered the limousine down the curving driveway, Edward asked Emilio why his words caused Peter so much fear. The boy frowned and shook his head. "I don't know; the words just came into my head. Right now I'd rather forget him."
Edward's thoughts ranged ahead to what the future might bring for this boy, and for Peter. Dear me, what am I going to do with him? I'm a lawyer, not a nursemaid. Let's hope Ms. Achres realises how much of a task she is taking on.
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