The Cup Bearer
Saturday 13th April 1995
Emilio saw nets move at the windows of nearby houses as Don parked the Volvo outside the Visick Street house. The walk from the car, up the path to the door of the house, was only a matter of twenty feet or so, but for Emilio it was going to be the longest walk he'd ever made. He stared up at the house, remembering, and knowing he had to decide whether he wanted to live here anymore. It was a difficult choice to make, and his alone. Edward had said he didn't have to stay at Visick Street if he'd rather live elsewhere. Maybe it was best if he did move away. That way, he and his family wouldn't be plagued with gossip and rumour, but there wasn't much point moving unless it was away from the area and that would mean uprooting the family again and the house was perfect for his needs.
Don nudged him out of his daydream and pointed towards the front door of the house where his mother was waiting to welcome him home with Perquita and the rest of the family. Suddenly he felt very unsure about having to face them again. He was okay with his mother now; he'd made his peace with her at the hospital, but what about the others, especially Jose? Sensing his hesitancy, Don nudged his arm. "Come on, kid, no use sitting and thinking about it. Best get it over and done with. Remember, you've done nothing wrong. Your family know that now, so quit worrying. And remember what that book said about your star sign. You have to step out into the sun and show people you're stronger than the shell you're hiding in. Your other character is the eagle; that's what you have to become if you want to survive."
They got out of the car and Don opened the gate, stepping aside to let him walk up the path ahead of him. Lucia broke away from Perquita's grasp and flung herself towards him with a squeal of delight. As he scooped her up and cuddled her, she demanded to know where he had been, that she had missed him.
"I've been in hospital."
"Have you been poorly?"
"And are you better now?"
"Not quite, but I will be soon. Thanks for letting me borrow Grey Rabbit."
At this she gave him a wide smile. "Did he give you lots of lovins'?
"Yes, he did, thank you." Emilio kissed her and put her down and found Maria reaching for him. She hugged him tightly and Emilio whispered, "Thank you, Sis. I couldn't have done it without you." Ramon was next, leaping up into his arms like a jubilant footballer.
Jose was standing beside his mother, staring solemnly at him till Rita gave him a push. As he walked towards him, Emilio saw the hostility in Jose's eyes, and he realised his brother was hurting because he'd taken his father away from him.
Emilio shook hands with him. "Hi Sport!" His brother was as tall as him already and he was going to be a lot like Guido, in looks if not in temperament.
"Hi, Gypsy; I'm sorry about what happened," Jose 's reply was stiff and formal, as if he had carefully rehearsed what he was going to say; or had Rita coached him? "But I can't hate him, he's still my dad."
Emilio nodded. "That's okay, I understand. Let's hope it's all over now, and we can get back to normal. We've got to carry on for Mum's sake. We're the men of the family now, you and me." Then, releasing Jose's hand, he punched him gently on the chin. "I need you with me, bro."
Perquita came next with tears running down her face as she flung her arms round him. They stood for a long time in a fond embrace, not saying anything, before she led him up the steps to where his mother was waiting. Giving him a quick kiss, Rita led him into the house with the others dragging Don in behind him. What met him was a jumble of furniture and clutter in the hallway and everyone tried to tell him all at once what was happening.
"We're doing what you suggested." Ramon dragged Emilio into what had been the rumpus room opposite the back living room. "Mum can't climb the stairs anymore, the doctors said so. So we're turning this into her bedroom."
"In other words you two are after Mum's old room," Emilio teased, to which the two brothers glanced at each other before beaming and saying in chorus, "Yes, please!"
"Well, I've got a better idea. Let Maria have Mum's room. Lucia's big enough to have her own room now; and you can have mine."
Immediately there was a loud cheer as the boys danced around in delight till Perquita yelled for quiet. "That's the younger ones sorted but what about you, where will you sleep?"
"Simple. I'll take the boys' room. It's big enough for me. There's something else we can do too. What about turning the other front room back into a rehearsal room? Maria's doing well with her music lessons at school, and she can't really practice properly with us turning the front lounge into Euston Station, and there's no way we can get the piano upstairs to her room, is there? I also need a place to practice my stuff. It'll mean taking up the carpet again but Mum's wanted to show off that lovely parquet flooring for ages, now's her chance. We can put a board down so you and Maria and I can practice our taps without ruining it."
Emilio saw Mum's frown disappear. "All right, then, a music room it is. Thank God it's next to the back living room and not my new bedroom." There were giggles all round, and for the first time in two weeks Emilio felt like smiling. Without knowing it, the family had made up his mind about moving. There was no way he could move anywhere now. Thanks to his brothers, the uneasiness about sleeping in a room full of bad memories had gone. He'd been worrying for nothing. He spotted Don watching him from a distance and they exchanged looks of friendship that eliminated the need for words. "All right, that's what we'll do, but on one condition."
"What's that?" was the chorused reply.
"You all help to get the place redecorated." This brought a cheer and Ramon was the first to race upstairs to claim their new bedroom, shouting at the top of his voice about how he wanted it painted. Emilio glanced up at the old fashioned brown and yellow wallpaper on the hall and stair walls. Yes, it was time for a change. The place needed decorating in lighter colours.
Don waved a hand at Emilio and stepped out through the front door, leaving Emilio to enjoy the love that radiated towards him from a family that understood at last the reasons for his hatred of their father, and his moods over the past weeks. His mother drew him into the back living room and closed the door. Sitting down on the settee with him, she took a deep breath and closed her hands over his. "Son, I'm truly sorry for what happened to you, and I want to make it up to you in any way I can. What kind of future do you want?"
"Stardom as high as I can get; I want to stick it to every jerk whose helped ruin my life. 'High Street's' a good enough launch pad so I'll stick with them till something better comes along. It sounds like I'm using them, so what! People have used me, now it's my turn. I've been in touch with Brian; we've got the gig at the youth Club tonight, don't forget. As for skating, I know you wanted me to go for the British and European but it's too late for this year's entry, so I'm going to shelve the skating for a while and concentrate on my stage work."
"But what about your health?"
"I'm fine, Mum. I get tired easy but that can be dealt with. I'll see what I can ditch and what I can't. In any case, I have to make room for the group because I'm going to be helping Don and the group catch some slippery fish.
"How on earth are you going to do that?"
"They need bait."
"Bait?" Rita looked horrified.
"I have the looks, Mum.", and I know what creeps to go for, don't I? Kids hang around the arcades and places like that; some of them on the run from kids' homes or even their own homes. These animals come along and offer them money or a place to hide. I'll go in as bait, and the group will be watching close by with cameras and stuff, so I'll be safe enough. I'll go along with the guy for a bit to let him think he's got a good one; then I'll make an excuse and split. The group will keep him under surveillance till they've got enough evidence to hand to the police."
"Are you sure you're feeling up to it, so soon?"
"I'm fine Mum, honestly."
"All right, if you feel you must."
"I've got to, Mum. That's my aim in life, to save other kids from what I went through and put as many of these creeps behind bars as I can. This may sound like I'm anti-gay but I'm not, I'm anti-predator. That's why I've got to make a name for myself so I can earn the kind of money that will pay for all this."
"Have you thought about a stage name for yourself yet?"
"I don't need one!"
"Of course you do! Emilio Gomez is too much of a mouthful and I don't think you want to use the name of Gomez for much longer. You need something that rolls off the tongue and people can remember. How about Gypsy? I heard Jose call you that just now and I think Gypsy Diaz sounds quite nice."
"Who told him about me being a gypsy?"
"I did. The kids and I had a long talk this morning. I thought it was time your brothers and sisters knew about your father. I showed them his picture and I'm glad I did because Maria showed me something in one of her music magazines. I cut the article out and it's in the left sideboard drawer."
Puzzled, Emilio crossed the room and opened the top drawer of the old fashioned sideboard. There he found a folded newspaper clipping. He unfolded it and his jaw dropped as he stared at the photograph.
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