The Cup Bearer
Monday 25 th February, 1995
At breakfast, Emilio hardly ate anything and when he told the boys of his decision about Guido, Jose swung his heavy school bag at him. The front buckle caught his right cheek and left a painful graze. Trying to avoid the bag, Emilio stepped back in a hurry and fell backward over a chair, ending up on the floor. Perquita scolded Jose but the way Ramon and Jose glared at him; he knew their brief friendship was over. No more rough and tumble on the back garden lawn or in the front lounge or begging me to play football in the park. They don't need a surrogate father figure now they have the real thing. Little do they know what they've traded me for. How can I tell them; How will they ever understand?
Emilio got to school fifteen minutes late, having missed the normal bus while he let Perquita treat the graze, and the class stared at the angry red weal across the right side of his face. He spoke only to the teachers and then only when asked a direct question. He just didn't want to talk to anyone, including Sandy for which he was sorry; after all it wasn't the guy's fault. At lunchtime, when he felt calm enough to talk, Sandy asked him about his face and all he said was, "I had a fight with Jose." Sandy didn't believe him, knowing he spoiled his brothers too much to fight with them. Then someone heard Jose boasting in the schoolyard that he'd decked his big brother. Sandy invited him to go round to his house again; he declined the invite. Sandy must have felt hurt and very puzzled, but Emilio was too miserable to explain. He just wanted to be alone. He felt tired and thirsty and spent a long time drinking glasses of water.
Monday 4 th March 1995, Altrincham Ice Rink.
Emilio listened to Marge Buchannan, his coach, tick him off about his lack of concentration. He felt so tired he almost fell a third time, and he cursed Guido for upsetting his life. After a week of the boys begging him, pleading with him, even coming to blows with him, to make him let their father stay at the house, Guido himself came up with a solution. A two-bedroom flat became vacant on the high street, just round the corner from Visick Street. Guido rented it, leaving Emilio the freedom of his own house again without bumping into the man. In her ignorance of the real situation, his mother seemed happy with the arrangement, for the sole reason that if her children were happy, so was she. But what about him? He wanted so badly to talk to her, to someone. He didn't like Bryn Adams, George's proxy psychiatrist. Apart from mentioning Guido's unwelcome presence, Emilio found it very difficult to talk the man. Talking to Bryn wasn't like talking to George and that had been difficult enough. As it was, events left a sour taste in the mouths of all the family. The boys were less than civil to him; they preferred Guido now. For some reason, Maria seemed to watch Emilio a lot. He wondered if she knew anything. Surely not, she 's too young, but she's obviously worried about something. If anyone notices and asks her about her concern, she might open her mouth. But then it might just be me overreacting and seeing signs that aren't there. Emilio's instincts told him the opposite.
Perquita never asked him to explain his reaction to Guido's sudden appearance; in fact she hardly spoke to him at all except on household matters. That annoyed him. Everything annoyed him lately, even Sandy with his wide innocent smile and eagerness to please. That guy was in deep trouble and Emilio wished he could help him. Sandy needed a girlfriend, and fast. There must be one waiting for him somewhere, if only he could find her for him. As for Emilio, Guido obviously enjoyed playing cat and mouse. The man was biding his time, playing the loving father and building up the tension. One day the cat would pounce and Emilio hoped he could handle him.
Emilio set himself up for another try at the combination of double Axel and triple toe loop and spotted Guido sitting in the stands. Momentarily distracted, he took off for the double Axel, came down with his blades all wrong and crashed to the ice, and he lay holding his right knee as waves of pain made him want to be sick.
Tuesday 5 th March, 1995
"Emilio? It's Edward, here. How are you?"
Emilio almost slammed the phone down in his exasperation at the person he least wanted to talk to right now. He hesitated too long before replying and heard Edward say sharply, "Emilio? Is everything all right? I'm sorry Guido took you by surprise; he took us by surprise too. Thomas and I were in Belgium for the last two weeks as you know, and we had no idea. Guido must have known we were watching him, or someone must have warned him. According to Estoban Delgado, our man in Tamarigo, he just vanished. We didn't hear about his arrival in the UK till we made a late night call to our office last night."
Emilio felt a flash of anger. "You're phoning me at seven in the morning just to say sorry? I'm surprised your pet spy hasn't reported in yet!"
"Now, Emilio, that's no way to talk about Don Clooney. He's a good man with his heart in the right place. He's been keeping an eye on Guido during our absence and phoned us last night as soon as he knew we were back. Don mentioned you'd hurt your right knee during training. How is it now?"
"How d'you expect? It's painful and I'm on crutches."
"Yes, Don told me it's a bad strain. Is Guido behaving himself?"
Again Emilio hesitated. "Everything's okay, no problems; I'd tell you if there were."
"What is this, the Inquisition? I thought you trusted me?"
"I do, Emilio, but one cannot be too careful with someone like Guido. I'm surprised Bryn Adams never mentioned him in his weekly report. I'm just glad Don Clooney's around to look after you."
Emilio dearly wanted to tell the man to get lost. "You don't know Guido like I do."
"I don't have to; I have years of experience dealing with men like him under my belt. That's enough for me to be cautious. If Tony was wary of the man, then so am I. If there is any trouble, you must call Don straight away, you understand?"
"Yeah, yeah, my private babysitter; he's outside now so, if you don't mind, it's brain picking time and I'm gonna be late." He slammed the phone down a little too quickly and regretted it. Why does everyone make me so angry these days? Now Edward will be on the alert. As he slipped his arms into his elbow crutches, Emilio vowed Adams would get zero out of him this morning. Not a word!
Thursday 7th March, 1995
Sandy, in goal for an inter-schools league match, wished he were somewhere warmer. A bitter wind blew across the school playing field. With Trentham High keeping the play in the opposing team's half he didn't have much to do and spent most of the first half jogging around the goal area to keep warm, blowing streams of white vapour into the air. The gate to the football field stood behind and to the left of the farthest goal and towards half time he thought he recognised Gomez standing outside the gate. During half time Sweetnam called the team together for a pep talk. By the time Sweetnam finished giving them earache and Sandy jogged over to the gate, Gomez had disappeared. He stepped out onto the pavement and saw a figure way down the street, limping along on crutches, and felt crushed. Sandy let in two goals during the second half and received a verbal lashing from Sweetnam about lack of concentration, even though they won the match. Thinking so much about Gomez, Sandy missed the school bus and got soaked walking home in the rain.
After tea, Sandy went into the front sitting room, hoping his dad wouldn't mind him interrupting his quiet time, knowing Evan liked to be left alone with his bible for an hour each evening.
"Yes, Dafydd?" Evan carried on reading his bible.
"I'm worried about Gomez."
His dad glanced up at him. "Oh? Why's that, then?"
"'E's got a problem of some kind, I just know it."
"Been fightin', 'as he?"
"No, nothing like that. I'd be the first to know, wouldn't I? In any case 'e can look after 'imself, right? I just don't understand it."
"What does 'e say about it?"
"Nothing, that's why I'm worried."
"What does 'is step-dad say?"
"I think 'e's the problem."
"Oh? Well, just keep an eye on 'im, son. That's all you can do without pokin' your nose into somethin' that isn't your business, isn't it?"
"But, Dad -"
At last, Evan laid his bible down on his lap and looked up at Sandy. "Now look, Dafydd, you 'ave to be careful these days; you 'ave to be very sure of your facts, right?"
"I know that, Dad, but - "
"Dafydd, if 'e won't say what's botherin' him, that's his affair. All we can do is watch, and pray for 'im, you know?" Evan raised the bible again and turned a page. "Just keep a notebook and pen on you. Just in case, like."
Knowing the signs that the conversation was at an end, Sandy said a quick thank you and left the room. He had a notebook somewhere in his bedroom if only he could remember where he'd put it.
Monday 11 th March, 1995
Emilio dropped his school bag in the hall, intending to take it upstairs when he went up to his room. After hanging his anorak in the hall cupboard, he carried on into the kitchen. Jose, the bottomless pit of the family, preceded him into the kitchen and without removing his coat, sat down at the table and tucked into the plate of sandwiches their mother always made for when they came home. Maria had stopped off at the corner shop and Ramon already sat at the kitchen table showing their mother his schoolwork. Rita was sitting in her usual place, pouring mugs of tea for everyone. Emilio noticed an extra mug on the table and he saw Guido sitting in HIS chair. He rewarded Guido with a dark look and only Rita's happy expression stopped him from throwing the man out.
Mum didn't know the man had been seen hanging around the school gates and moved on by the police. He'd been at the rink every training night as well; he even sat in on two practice sessions at Dance School. Normally parents weren't allowed in but he'd somehow wheedled his way round the principal. In his pretence at being the perfect stepfather, the man had become a nuisance.
A bouquet of flowers stood in a jug in the kitchen sink for want of a suitable vase; it didn't take much brainpower to work out who had bought them. The creep had shaved, and trimmed his bushy moustache. His hair looked clean and trimmed and he wore a neat dark grey suit and blue shirt. He was obviously courting Mum by the little glances they gave each other. It looks like the man is easing his way into this house, through Mum as well as the kids. Emilio wondered how long this had been going on.
"Emilio?" He realised with a start that his mother was talking to him. "I've a big favour to ask you. I'd like Guido come and visit and perhaps stay here with us some times."
"No. If you two want to make like a pair of love birds, you move into the flat with him because I'm not having him stay in this house."
"There is another way." Jose smiled. "Papa can move in here with us and you can move into the flat. I mean we all belong together don't we and -." All eyes fastened on Jose and his face reddened.
"And I don't?" Emilio said coldly, "How kind of you to remind me."
Rita tried to ease things. "He didn't mean it."
"Oh, yes he did."
Jose dropped his gaze and fiddled with his mug, his face getting redder. Suddenly Emilio felt sorry for his brother and his rage faded to a deep hurt. Jose wasn't to blame; he was just a normally tactless eleven-year old who didn't know the truth. Emilio shook his head at him. "It's all right. Jose. Under the circumstances it might be best." He turned and walked out into the hall and as he reached the foot of the stairs he heard his mother calling to him, asking him where he was going.
"To pack my things," he called back testily. "The sooner I'm gone the better." Unsure of where he was going to go, he certainly would not move into the High street flat. Maybe Don could put me up till Edward finds somewhere for me to live.
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