The Cup Bearer
At first his mother resisted his touch and it was some time before she put out a hand to stroke his face. He caught hold of it and held it tight within his own. "Mum, what's he doing here? How did he find us?"
"I don't know; he just turned up on the doorstep tonight. I told him to go but he forced his way in, demanding to see the children. I hadn't the strength to keep him out and he just pushed past me. The boys were so pleased to see him; there was nothing I could do."
"But Edward said he would have him watched. He said he'd warn us if the guy showed any signs of coming back here."
His mother shook her head and closed her eyes. Sensing she was in no state to talk any more, he tucked her hands back under the duvet, kissed her and left the room. All he could think about was how to get rid of the monster that haunted his nightmares. As he went out onto the landing and closed the bedroom door, he found Perquita waiting for him. "Emilio, what's wrong? It's only Papa."
Grabbing her by the sleeve of her sweater he dragged her into her bedroom and closed the door, and before she could say anything he told her quickly. "He can't stay here. We've got to make him leave."
Perquita stared at him, wide eyed. "But he's only just got here."
"He's bad, Perquita. I can't explain how I know that but I'm scared, not just for me but for all of us."
"Emmie, what are you saying! I know he used to hit you but-."
Before Emilio could reply, the door opened and the man stood in the doorway. He smiled at Emilio and said in Spanish, " Hola Emilio, nos encontramos de Nuevo! "
Emilio put his arms instinctively round his sister's shoulders. "No eras bienvenido aqui."
"Emilio," Perquita gasped, "eso no es agradable."
"Esta esmi casa, y yo estoy dicendo que te vagas." Emilio replied. "Si no lo voy a llamar a Policia."
Guido shook his head and reverted to English. "I don't think so; not after you and I have a talk. Perquita, go and see Maria and your brothers off to bed. I wish to talk with Emilio alone."
Perquita hesitated, and Emilio said quietly, "Do as he says, Perquita."
"No. I'm not going to let you treat my father this way."
Emilio tried to push her from him but she resisted, and Guido pulled her away and pushed her, protesting, from the room. He closed and locked the door, then turned to look Emilio up and down. "So, you thought you could get away from me, did you?"
Emilio stared at the door, wondering how a nightmare could suddenly materialise into reality and be standing here in front of him. Edward should have warned me . He stared at the man and anger and hurt seethed like a cauldron inside him. "You hurt me. I'll never forgive you for that."
Guido moved slowly towards him; seeing the glint in his eyes, Emilio backed away until he was brought to a halt by Perquita's wardrobe. Guido stopped, inches from him and his mouth pulled into a tight smile. "The first thing I did when I got out of jail was to look for you. I thought I'd lost you, and then I received a message telling me where you were." He reached out to stroke Emilio's left cheek.
Emilio turned his face away, not wanting to look at him. "Don't touch me."
Guido laughed softly. "Do you want your mother to learn what her son was doing after he ran away to the big city? I don't think I'll be leaving here, if you want me to keep my mouth shut."
Emilio fought the panic that threatened to overwhelm him, at the same time recalling the rule that forbade him to use his martial arts in anger. Suddenly Guido moved away and Emilio staggered over to the bed and sat down on it. "This is my house," he said angrily as Guido unlocked the door. "I say who lives in it, and that certainly does not include scum like you."
Guido smiled and said, "At least I'm not Gypsy scum." The door slammed shut, leaving Emilio frozen with shock. Once he was decently calm, he opened the door and went out onto the landing to find Perquita waiting for him again.
He closed the door behind him. "He can sleep in the spare room next to mine tonight. It's the only one with a big enough bed for the creep, but I want him out of this house in the morning."
"The boys want Papa to stay. What's got into you?"
Emilio glared at her. "You were there when he beat me all those times and you never lifted a finger to stop him, none of you did. And you want me to give him a home?" He thrust off her hand and walked towards the attic stairs.
He heard Perquita say softly, "The boys need a father. I can't be a father to them as well as a mother."
Emilio rounded on her. "Who cared for you all when we were little? Who is still caring for you now and providing a home for you? Aren't I good enough for you?"
"But you won't be with us for ever. We'll be on our own again, like last time."
That really hurt. "Well, if you think he can do better than me, you go with him and find a place of your own, because that pervert is not living in this house."
Perquita's eyes flashed. "How dare you call papa a pervert. He's nothing of the kind."
"Oh yeah? Tell me about it." He stormed upstairs and into his room where he slammed the door and leaned on it as he tried to make sense of things. A year ago he'd been to a friend's birthday party and for the sake of the younger guests they played Blind Man's Bluff. When it was his turn to be blindfolded he felt nothing but panic and the blackness of the blindfold. His heart hammered, and black spots appeared before his eyes. It was the same now. He shook violently and his legs refused to hold him. He sank down onto the floor where he sat with his face in his hands. Don't cry. It will only make things worse. Later, after locking the house up for the night, Emilio crept into his mother's bedroom, hoping she was still awake. "Mum?" he called softly. She lifted her head off the pillows and smiled at him then held out a hand to him. Emilio knelt down by her bed and, taking hold of her hand, he gazed into her eyes and asked her, "Mum? Guido called my father gypsy scum. It isn't true is it?"
His mother smiled. "Of course not; remember I showed you his photograph? Guido promised to give you his name but now I'm glad he didn't. We can always have your name changed legally, although we can't have your real father's name added to your birth certificate until he acknowledges you as his son. I know he'll want you to have his name; otherwise he wouldn't have come looking for me. He never gave his name or where he could be contacted but he looked too smart to be a gypsy, according to David. Someday we'll make inquiries but I don't suppose gypsies have permanent addresses. It's amazing how much you look like your father. Right from the moment you were born I knew you would look like him. Do you remember how I stared and stared at you for such a long time the first time we met? I really thought I'd gone back in time and you were Manuel. I suppose it's because you look so much like Manuel that Guido hated you so much."
"That was no reason to beat me."
"Of course it wasn't. I know you told the village priest about him, but Guido swore on oath that he never harmed any of his children, which was true I suppose. Father Fidel believed his word and not that of a child or of a foreign woman. You know I was never really accepted in that village, always the outsider. Poor Emilio, my little soldier, always protecting me from him; I'll never forget how you kept him off me when he was drunk. I don't know how you did it but I love you for it."
If only you knew , Emilio thought bitterly. Aloud he said, "I couldn't stop him making you pregnant though. Couldn't you have used something?"
Mum shook her head, "You know how devoutly Catholic they are down there. I don't regret having the kids but I always felt so ill. I didn't realise until I came back to England that I had a bad heart. If you want to go back to Nashville, Mi Chiquillo, I'll understand."
"De Nada, Mama." Emilio suddenly realised how fond of her he had grown over the last few weeks. "I'm not going to leave you, and I promise he'll never touch you again, not while I'm around he won't. I've told him to be gone by morning." After kissing her he held her close until she was relaxed and drowsy, her sleeping pill taking effect at last. But before she went to sleep there was one more question he had to ask. "Tell me again about my grandparents."
His mother gazed, sleepy eyed, at Emilio once more. "I told you, my mother and father are Irish Shelta, the last of their families apart from some distant cousins somewhere in England. My parents came over here to look for their folkes and rented a smallholding in Davyhulme where I was born. You were born there too. It was after we sailed for South America that they bought the farm in West Houghton."
Stunned, Emilio suddenly remembered visiting a cottage as a toddler. "They had two big horses, didn't they, in a field beside the cottage? I seem to remember crawling through a gap in the fence while you grownups chatted in the garden. I just had to get to those horses."
His mother smiled. "You were nose to nose with the biggest one before we realised where you were and whisked you away."
"You needn't have worried, I was safe enough."
"Yes, Old Ranger could have trampled you but he must have sensed you were kin."
Emilio stayed with his mother until she fell asleep then went out onto the landing and locked her door, not to keep her in her room but to keep Guido out. He went to bed and lay awake in his attic bedroom, thinking about his Shelta and Gitano blood. I suppose that's where my psychic abilities come from. He didn't really believe in that sort of stuff but it happened just the same; he found it disturbing and very confusing. Now he sensed that this ability would someday have a profound affect on his life. He heard heavy footsteps on the landing below, and the rattle of a door handle. After a few seconds the footsteps continued on up the attic stairs, and stopped outside his door. The handle turned and Guido was silhouetted against the landing light. Emilio tensed as he watched him enter and switch on the main light then close the door quietly. His heart began to hammer as Guido came to sit on the side of the bed. Emilio jerked the duvet up his chest. It was trapped under Guido's bulk and the man raised himself a little to free it. Emilio drew it right up under his chin; gripping it tightly and watching Guido glance round the room. It was the largest of the attics, decorated in soft creamy colours. Besides the usual bedroom furniture, it housed a full, floor to ceiling bookcase, a desk strewn with his homework, his music and stand, his guitars and flute in their cases in one corner, his portable Body tone gym, training weights and skates in another. In the middle of the room stood a settee and matching easy chair, each with a cream throw- over Perquita had crocheted to match his grandmother's heirloom bedspread and gracing his bed during the day. Emilio slid down under the duvet and turned on his side. "Go to bed and be out of this house before breakfast."
Guido did not move. "You'll soon change your mind, kids like you always do."
Emilio raised his head off the pillows to glare at him. "In a pig's ear!"
The smile faded from Guido's face. "You'll come to heel soon enough, because I know something about you that you'll never discover."
"I know how to control you." Guido got up from the bed and walked to the door. Opening it, he turned towards Emilio with a cold smile. "It isn't important who told me, but I know the secret and you don't." Guido went out and closed the door and Emilio listened with growing alarm to the opening and closing of the door next to his own. He shivered, not from cold, but with the knowledge that all the horrors hidden away in the deeper recesses of his mind were returning, bit by bit, to make his life hell in the form of Guido Gomez.
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