The Cup Bearer
Emilio's hands shook as he read the article about a gifted guitarist from Madrid touring with a French classical pianist. The maestro had been impressed enough to want to help him become a soloist in his own right, and the duo had been playing to packed halls in the south of England for the last few days. "It's him! He's here; in Britain?"
"Yes but not for long; why don't you write to him and arrange to meet him in London? I'm sure Edward could arrange something."
"Does he know about me?"
"Not yet, I had no address to write to."
"Then how can I contact him?"
"You could try the editor of the magazine. Maria still has it in her music case. I'm sure they'll forward your letter on to him."
"I'll do better than that. I'll phone Edward." Unable to believe his luck, Emilio dived out into the hall to make the call. As he waited for Edward to answer his call, a tremor he had rarely experienced before shook him from head to toe. He could only describe it as sheer happiness as he listened contentedly to the sounds of his family starting to live again. The two boys were arguing on the top floor about the colour they were going to paint their new bedroom. Maria was in the lounge, practising a song for the school open day; and in the kitchen Perquita was having a jolly conversation with Lucia about soap bubbles. So when Edward answered the phone, his own excitement made him stumble over his words to his startled guardian. After tea he would supervise the creation of a haven for his mother in the room that used to be their playroom. He was the head of the family again, and it seemed as if that was how the family wanted it to be. Emilio hoped it wasn't too late for Mum to give him that part of her love he had been deprived of. In return, from now on, Emilio would try to be a perfect eldest son and brother.
Two minutes later, however, he went back into the room with his delight at hearing about his father somewhat depleted by something Edward had just told him. He sat down beside his mother. "Edward says you have something to tell me. What is it?"
Rita waited till Emilio looked directly at her. "The doctors say I have to have an operation."
"An operation! What kind?" Emilio's concern for her made him go cold.
"They want to operate on my heart."
"Oh, Mum! When?"
"As soon as possible but there is a waiting list. In any case I don't feel I want to go through with it."
Emilio frowned at her. "Why not? If it's going to make you better, I have enough money for you to go private with Monclare. He's the best surgeon there is."
"It isn't that," Rita tried and failed to keep her words steady. "It's..." Suddenly she laughed. "It's just me being silly. It'll be all right, I'm sure." But Emilio saw a cloud suddenly obscure her face, and for a few horrifying seconds he was sitting alone on the old settee. He blinked and she was with him again, still smiling. To hide his fear of what he had seen, he returned her smile and took hold of her hands. He squeezed them gently and stared down at them, knowing she was going to die. "It'll work out okay, you'll see. I think we ought to have a family pow-wow, don't you?"
"Yes but first I think there is something you want to tell me, isn't there."
"What about him?"
"Oh, have I jumped the gun?"
Emilio stared blankly at his mother, not really understanding what she was talking about. She reached up to squeeze his hands hard. "Emilio, I'm a gypsy too, remember? I can sense you've been thinking a lot about him."
Startled, Emilio started to laugh, "Mum, you're so wrong. I don't think of Don like that. I don't want to think of anyone like that." What was he saying? He knew he was getting too close to Sandy and couldn't get him out of his mind.
Rita sighed. "I know a lot more about you than you realise. I've seen you look at Don. After the life you've been forced to lead it's too late to try and stop you."
Emilio shook his head. "Mum, you've got it all wrong, there's nothing going on between us. We're just good friends, that's all."
Rita let him help her to her feet then studied him closely. "Then I must have it wrong. I saw something; maybe in the future? Just be careful; promise?"
Emilio smiled warmly. "You really have got it wrong this time. There's nothing to make a promise about. I've always wanted a big brother, now I've got the best brother anyone could have."
His mother smiled back at him but he knew she didn't really believe him.
That night, at the Trentham Youth Centre, the dancers jigged and bounced to the latest pop discs while the DJ's voice burbled unintelligibly over the PA system. Sandy and Gaskin had found an empty table and were slumped down in their chairs, waiting for Ball and Vetch to bring the soft drinks and packets of crisps from the bar. Sandy felt nervous and a bit of a twit. It was his first time in the place on a Saturday night, and considering the way his dad felt about the people who hung out at the place, he was lucky to be here at all. So here he was, wearing his best suit and feeling like an idiot for listening to his mam, because everyone else was wearing jeans and casual gear. Had this not been Emmie's debut night, he would have walked out long ago. At least he had his Minolta 3000i Dinax with a medium zoom to keep his hands occupied.
Gaskin leaned across the table. "I hope this is gonna be worth it. I've better things to do that watch all this crap."
"Oh, 'e's good!" Sandy tried hard not to react to Gaskin's street language. "You won't want to go breakin' windows after tonight, not after you've seen Emmie in action, see? By the way, Emmie thinks you're pretty good yourself and still wants you in 'is band."
Gaskin just sneered and fell into a sullen silence. Ball and Vetch arrived with the goodies and he laid into them for being so long. Vetch glared at him. "Have you seen the queue? Next time go for your own drinks."
"Why should I keep an oily rag and dirty my own shirt?"
Vetch fixed him with a challenging stare. "I'm nobody's oily rag, Gaskin, so wipe your snot on your own sleeve from now on."
"Oh, I see. Got our eyes on some other leader of the gang now, have we?"
"No. Ball and I are just fed up with being pushed around and told what to do by you."
Gaskin shot to his feet, ready to land Vetch one but Sandy grabbed him and shoved him back in his seat. "Cut the aggro, you lot! We're 'ere to listen to Emmie, not start a fight and get me grounded for months on end, right?
Gaskin and Vetch glared at each other as the noise on the dance floor abated to a reasonable level, and they were able to hear what the DJ was saying. "....their welcome return to the Centre where they had their very first gig. This is where it all began folks and it's great to see them back. Put your hands together and give a warm welcome to 'HIGH STREET'!"
Sandy noticed Gaskin's efforts to look totally uninterested but he still took occasional glances towards the stage as the band walked on and set themselves up to the sound of noisy applause and loud whistles. Of Emilio there was no sign. Not counting him, the band comprised of six musicians and Shana, a gorgeous coloured backing singer. She really was a petite stunner with a beautiful figure, and Emilio had told Sandy they had hit it off the minute they started rehearsing together. Their voices and styles matched and Emmie said he was having fun working with her. The only damper on a near perfect working relationship was the fact that she was supposed to be Brian MacCaffrey's girlfriend. Emmie told him that at first he thought she would be jealous of him taking the lead vocals from her but he soon learned she was just the glamour part and was happier letting someone else have the attention out in front.
The band, attired in a rainbow of satin shirts over white jeans, went into a loud and lively medley of Top Ten hits to get the dancers moving, and Sandy took a few test shots. Only a few got up to dance and Sandy wondered if seeing Emmie would have any affect on them. People had heard he was making his debut and wanted to hear him or put him down, or even view for them selves the guy the town was talking about. Sandy wondered how many would recognise him.
At Brian's invitation, Sandy had gone back stage and had seen the new Gypsy Diaz dressed in black, figure-hugging pants and shirt, black beaded bolero, cummerbund, and high-heeled boots. His curls had been trimmed and layered and left long at the back. A neat black Spanish hat tipped cheekily over one eye completed the transformation. Somehow, his skin looked darker and his teeth whiter, and Sandy thought him so cute he would have hugged him right then but for the presence of the band. Sandy sensed there was something different about Emilio. He seemed to be holding back, as if uneasy about making contact. There seemed to be no warmth in him any more. Was it due to what he had been through, or did he have something new to worry about? Sandy didn't know, and it worried him that his mate didn't even try to use his mind to reach him any more.
At last the music died, and Brian stepped forward to speak into the mic Shana had just stepped back from. "Thank you, everyone; are you enjoying yourselves?" He got an ecstatic response. "Well you're going to enjoy yourselves even more because we've got a new band member making his official debut with us tonight. He's a little guy with a big voice, he plays a guitar like he was born with one in his hands, and you men had better hang onto your ladies tonight, because he's good looking and he's sexy, so give a big welcome to GYPSY DIAZ!"
Emmie walked onto the stage to a tremendous applause, electric guitar already slung over his shoulders, and Sandy had to laugh at Gaskin and his mates staring open mouthed, and couldn't resist capturing their comic expressions on film. As Emmie reached the front mike, Gaskin snorted. "That's not Gomez!"
Sandy couldn't resist a laugh. "Oh, yes it is."
"His hair! What's he done to his hair?"
"He's 'ad an 'air cut."
As the band went into their own version of Wet Wet Wet's hit 'Angel eyes' with Emmie singing the song as good as Marty Pellow, Sandy watched Vetch sink back in his chair with a gasp of astonishment. "For crying out loud!"
"WOWWWW!" was all Gaskin could breathe.
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