The Cup Bearer
As he went upstairs, he heard Rita's angry voice. "Jose, how could you? After all he's done for us. Go and apologise to him, at once."
"No, Rita," Emilio heard Guido say, "I caused the problem, I'll sort it out."
By the time Guido walked into his room, Emilio had one case out of the box room and emptying the dresser drawers into it. "Emilio, this isn't the way I want it to be."
Emilio flashed him a withering look. "I'll bet it isn't. I don't remember everything that happened, but I remember enough to know you're bad news."
Guido shook his head and smiled. "Don't you want me to be a father to you?"
"Your definition of that word isn't the same as mine." Emilio closed the overfull case and started to fasten the catches. He managed one but other refused to close. "All this courting nonsense with Mum doesn't fool me."
"It's not nonsense. I've never stopped loving your mother and I want to be with her, and why don't you admit it, you want me here too."
Emilio whipped round and hit him hard across the mouth, drawing blood.
Guido smiled at him as he licked the blood off his lip. "Now just what did you hope to achieve by that? Let's stop playing games, shall we? People around here will not be too happy to hear they've got a catamite living in their community."
"What!" Emilio stared at him in disgust. "Where did you get that idea?"
"So, it's true, what I heard."
"That you can't remember things; what a pity." Guido's smile vanished. "Do things my way and no one will know. If you don't there's always your brothers, or maybe your sisters? Perquita has grown into quite a lovely young lady and Maria's isn't too far behind her."
Appalled by Guido's insinuations, Emilio choked out, "You wouldn't, not your own children."
Guido shrugged his shoulders. "Try me."
"Wait till Mum hears about this."
Guido's laugh was cold. "You think she'll believe you? Can you risk her surviving such a shock? Think of it, your brothers and sisters grieving for their mother while they blame their depraved brother for her death, not to mention their devoted father defending himself against false charges. No one in this middle class town would want anything to do with you. As for me, I'd just disappear again. Now, how about us getting re-acquainted before I go and tell the family you've changed your mind?" Guido backed Emilio against the case, and Emilio was aware of the man's erection pressing against him. Guido smiled again as he reached over to press the stubborn catch closed. "You see, Emilio, there are things you cannot do that I can."
Fortunately for Emilio, help came in the form of Jose and Ramon shouting his name as they came up the stairs. Guido jerked away from him, cursing softly, and headed for the door. "Do as I say or watch your family have a hard time."
As the door closed, Emilio sank down onto the stool in front of the dressing table. Leaning his elbows on the glass-covered top, he stared in despair at the face in the mirror and didn't see anyone to be proud of. He dropped his head onto his arms and wished Sandy was there with his wide smile and youthful strength. Mustn't cry, it'll only make it worse.
Unaware there was anyone in the room he jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He raised his head and saw Ramon watching him with concern. Jose leaned on the bedroom door not wanting to come any closer. "I'm sorry, Emilio, I shouldn't have said what I did. I just want Papa to stay with us, that's all."
It was Ramon's face that broke first, and squeezing onto Emilio's knee he put his arms round his neck. "I don't want you to go, Emmie, and I don't want you and Papa to fight any more."
"Neither do I." Emilio hugged him, and wished things could be like Ramon wanted.
That night, when Emilio paid his usual nightly visit to his mother's bedroom, before going to Altrincham, his mother took his face in her hands, smiled up at him. "Thank you, Mi Chiquillo."
"For making the kids happy. I'm sure Guido's changed; he's promised me he'll never hit you again, and he appreciates you letting him come here, he really does. The drink and the long days away at sea that made him like he is, that's over now, to be sure. He's not going back to sea if he can help it. He's going to get a local job so he can be here with us, and he says he's going to pay all the bills himself."
"No way, Mum. They're my bills and no one else's. I'll pay them myself."
Rita sighed. "Well, he wouldn't be much of a father if he didn't want to help financially. You have to see things from his side."
Oh, yeah, I can see his side all right, and the reason why he wants to play banker. Oh, Mum, if I could only tell you.
Emilio arrived home from Altrincham and found the man waiting for him in his bedroom "Damn you, Guido! I'm not your rent boy."
Guido looked amused. "Whatever gave you the idea that you were?"
"All this about you paying the bills; I'm not that stupid. Now get out of my room, you make me want to puke."
Guido went out of the room, laughing softly.
Tuesday 12th March, 1995
Emilio limped towards the admin block and saw MacCaffrey outside the faculty common room, waiting for other teachers to arrive for the weekly staff meeting. He had to talk to someone and at the moment the Beak seemed to be the only one interested enough to listen. He'd tried to speak to him a few times over the past few days but had got cold feet at the last minute. He knew Sandy had bought a diary and scribbled in it when Sandy thought he wasn't looking. It didn't take two guesses to work out that his mate went to see the Beak earlier that afternoon. So, if he talked to the Beak now, he'd find him already prepared. Looking over Sandy's hands as he turned the pages, while appearing uninterested, he had managed to decipher most of what Sandy had written. Phrases like, 'Moody.' 'He's changed.' 'Losing interest in his appearance.' 'Doesn't want people round him. Goes off on his own most of the time.' 'Like he was when he first came here.' And in the entry for 18th February he'd written and underlined, 'Stepfather arrived, trouble began from this date', followed by a big question mark. On a more recent date he wrote, 'Gomez usually a cool customer, hard to read him. Now he's touchy and snaps my head off. All out of character.'
At today's meeting, the teachers would probably report that his work was down the drain and the Beak would put out an alert, after the lame excuses he gave for being late for school and nodding off in class. Suddenly he wanted to run; he didn't care where. He put his head down and walked past the Beak and out into the yard, half expecting to hear his booming voice calling him back.
Wednesday 13th March 1995
Emilio shivered, thrusting his hands deeper into the pockets of his anorak against the biting March wind. He sat on a bench in the park; deserted except for an old woman walking her tiny sky terrier. The woman shuffled along on spindly legs with the dog matching her speed. They seemed well suited. So what am I suited to? He glanced at his watch – five minutes past ten and he'd been out since after tea. The less he saw of Guido the better. He swung his feet up onto the bench and sat with his knees bent and his back braced against the wrought iron arm, wanting to delay his return to the house to avoid Guido. The only way he could avoid the creep was to keep well away from the house for as long as possible. Last night he couldn't even lock his bedroom door because Guido had pinched the key. Changing the lock wouldn't help. Guido was ahead of him, and warned him not by word of mouth but in the way he eyed Jose when the boy's back was turned. Because of him he'd missed dance class and should have been ready by ten for Don to take him to Altrincham, but he didn't much care any more. He didn't care about anything except protecting the kids. He'd only left them on their own in the house tonight because Mama was still up. He'd done no flute or guitar practice for ages, and he'd bunked off school again because Ramon had stayed home with a bad cough. In any case, what's the point of sitting in class if he couldn't concentrate on the work? The teachers were watching him too closely; for what, signs of abuse? Ha! There wouldn't be any, would there; once Guido started? Guido would be too careful.
He saw the highly polished shoes first, then the black overcoat, and finally the bowler hat and grey hair of the man standing at his shoulder. He sat down on the bench, close to his feet, and smiled. "Are you on your own, young man? You should be at home."
Instinct made Emilio stiffen. "What's it to you?"
"It's a bit late for a boy to be out alone, heaven knows what could happen."
But you know, don't you, you bastard. The woman and her dog had gone, and the park was looked empty. Emilio swung his feet off the bench and stood up. The toilets just inside the park gates were locked at eleven every night. He gave the man one last knowing, challenging look and headed towards them. He stepped inside the gents, and he waited.
By the time Don Clooney charged into the gents, the man's face was a bloodied mess and he was sailing over Emilio's right shoulder to land on the floor with a loud groan of pain. Before Don could grab him, Emilio had kicked the man twice in the crotch and was drawing his foot back for a third strike. Grabbing him round the waist, Don scooped the kid off his feet and carried him outside, kicking and protesting, and didn't slow down until he reached the Rover parked outside the park gates. Holding him struggling and kicking against the car with his body and one arm, Don opened the rear door then picked him up to throw him into the back of the car. Emilio managed to brace his feet against the doorframe and lock his knees.
"I don't know why you're acting so stupid," Don growled at him. "I'm just doing my job and keeping you out of trouble." He dropped Emilio onto his feet, wrenched his arms up his back and grabbed hold of the waistband of his jeans, forcing the boy to bend forward or have his shoulders dislocated. Don propelled him head first into the back of the car. As Emilio fell against the leather upholstery, Don heard a voice behind him. "All right, sir, that's enough of that. Would you step away from the car, please?"
Letting go of Emilio, Don straightened up to talk to the new arrival and found a young police officer muscling up to him. "Look, pal, I'm his minder and I've just stopped him from trashing a pervert. Said pervert is still on the bog floor checking if he's got any nuts left. Now, if you don't mind, I'll finish doing my job and take him home to his mother."
Emilio tried the offside rear door, found it unlocked and scrambled through it. As he straightened up, he snarled, "Don't listen to him, he's the pervert," and he took off at a fast sprint down the street; his feet pounding the pavement and the buildings a blur. The sound of other footsteps grew louder, and suddenly something hit him at the back of his legs and he crashed to the pavement with such a force that the breath left him. His nose narrowly missed being split open as he instinctively let his hands and arms take the impact. Winded and helpless, he felt strong hands haul him to his feet. Furious, he got ready to lay into Don the minute he got his breath back but he was spun round to face the opposite direction and he saw Don still standing by his car, holding the policeman's helmet.
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