The Cup Bearer
Monday 22nd April 1995
When Emilio first made his appearance back in 5B's classroom, his mate was ready to jump on anyone who gave him a hard time, and was amazed when he heard someone begin to clap. Someone else joined in and the applause spread throughout the class till most of 5B including Gaskin and Co., were applauding him, much to Miss Wayne's amusement. Others joined in by banging the tops of their desks; and whistles pierced the air. Emilio gazed round the classroom with growing surprise then smiled his gratitude. Sandy stood up and clapped and cheered the loudest as Gypsy made his way to his own desk, smiling broadly.
During morning break, Emilio and Sandy managed to lose the hangers - on for a quiet talk in a corner of the school yard . Emilio pulled a piece of paper out of his jacket pocket and held it out to Sandy who unfolded it and saw it was a clipping from a magazine. "That's your father, right?"
"Yes; he was in the UK for a few days and Maria spotted the write-up in a music magazine. Edward traced him to a London hotel but his party had already checked out twelve hours earlier. Now we're not sure where he is. Edward's making enquiries and all we know is that he flew out to New York; he could be anywhere in the States by now."
"You missed 'im by twelve 'ours; that's tough! What are you goin' to do now, then?"
"Write him a letter. I'll write to a couple of Tony's old friends in Nashville and send them copies of that clipping. If they find Manuel they can pass it on." Delving into his pocket again, Emilio brought out a much-handled piece of paper with words and phrases crossed out. It was written in Spanish and leaning back against the railings, he said, "You know I'm not too good at writing stuff like this so I thought maybe you'd tell me if it sounds okay."
"Okay; I'm not much of a letter writer either but I'll have a go."
"Yeah, you and your diary. 'Dear Mr. Diaz," Emilio began to translate, " I hope you will forgive me for writing to you but I would like to introduce myself. I am the son of Rita Gomez, a lady who fell in love with you while on a visit to Spain in nineteen seventy-nine. She still has the photograph she took of you; she cherishes most dearly. I was born on the 12th of November, nine months after her visit to Spain. I am fifteen and a half years old and I have been playing the guitar since I was old enough to hold a half size one. I enclose a copy of the photograph Mother took of you, and a similar photograph of myself, so you may see our likeness. If you do not wish to acknowledge me as your son I will understand, and beg your pardon for intruding upon your privacy.
Yours sincerely Emilio Gomez.
PS My mother still loves you very much.'
" Well? What do you think?"
Sandy laughed. "I think it's brilliant! Are you 'appy about all this then?"
"Are you kidding? I've never felt so happy. I've wanted to change my name ever since Mum told me about my dad. It's just a case of waiting for him to acknowledge me. I want you to be happy for me too."
Sandy frowned. "Why shouldn't I be?"
"Because you're probably thinking, if my real dad arrives on the scene, I'll forget about you. Well, I promise it's not going to happen like that. You and Don are important to me; you occupy a special place in my life and no-one, not even my father or the person I marry will ever take your place."
"Hey! Give over, will you?" Sandy hung his head in e mbarrassment. "You're makin' me blush with all this silly talk."
"I'm not being silly. Why not come over for tea tonight and we'll talk. I need a bit of help with the back garden any way. It's proved too tough a job for Jose and Ramon so I said we'd help get them started."
Sandy gave him a knowing smile . " Oh, I see; I thought there was a catch somewhere. Okay; but only if you let me take the photograph to send to your dad."
When Sandy arrived that evening, Emilio took him straight upstairs and locked the door so they wouldn't be disturbed. They sat facing each other on the settee while Emilio filled in the details of his life that Sandy still didn't know about, sparing him nothing. Sandy listened in shocked silence as all the raw details were revealed. When at last the story was told, Sandy felt a bit green round the gills but understood a lot more about his friend, and the reasons for his strange behaviour on that first day at school.
Emilio sighed. " I'd understand if you wanted to end our friendship now, especially after hearing all the gory details. I appreciate you standing by me since I arrived here; it means a lot to me, but it's going to take time to purge myself of the past. I think I've found someone who can help me, but I'll still need you in a different way, for some plain and simple friendship. With this other person I can talk about things only a guy like him can understand. He has a problem, and I may be able to help him in return, I don't know; and before you start to get jealous -."
"I'm not getting jealous!"
"Yes you are, you soft moo. I can read it in your face." Sandy blushed and looked away. Gypsy laid a hand on his arm. "This guy is talking about moving away so it may come to nothing. It's going to be a hard time for all three of us and I'll need you even more when he's gone. That's until the ladies start moving into our lives. By then we won't need each other so much."
"Don't talk wet."
"I'll prove it to you."
"I don't know; but someday I will, somehow."
Sandy's heart sank. Emilio had chosen him to be his special friend and confidante but, although he hadn't said it out right, Sandy guessed that the other guy was Don Clooney. That hurt, more than Sandy was prepared to admit. To cover his feelings he changed the subject and asked if Emilio had heard anything from the Rosscroft about the tests he'd had done.
Emilio shrugged his shoulders. "The HIV test came back negative but it's too early to tell."
Sandy mouthed a silent, "Oh," then asked, "'Ow long will you 'ave to wait till they know?"
Emilio pulled a wry face. "About three months."
Later, Sandy sat back on his heels in Emilio's back garden, wiped the sweat off his brow with his sweater sleeve, and viewed his work with a sense of satisfaction. He wasn't all that interested in gardening and always tried to disappear when his dad wanted any help, but he glanced along the bed he'd just weeded and felt quite proud of his efforts. A shove from behind almost sent him flying.
"You don't get supper for daydreaming." Emilio walked past him to throw some empty seed packets in the bin by the back gate. "Perquita wants these herbs this year not when she's too old to cook."
"Remind me to vet my next slave driver," Sandy replied with affected annoyance, but smiled to himself. Emmie wore old jeans and a sweat shirt with his hair tied back, and looked like any other guy, but to Sandy he was the centre of his world, even though their conversation earlier on had left a sour taste in his mouth. Emilio had his reasons for doing what he did, and Sandy knew he had to be content knowing everything there was to know about his mate. Sandy felt God had put him where he was, to help someone in greater need of His Peace which was fine with Sandy; it was the waiting, and not knowing the next step, that confused him. He looked at his watch; it was ten past eight and getting dark. He heard Perquita shouting that supper was ready, and the younger Gomez boys came charging out of the house.
Ramon blurted out the news. "Emmie, there's someone to see you."
Emilio frowned. "Who is it?"
"One of your school mates," Jose said.
"Well bring him round."
The boys shot of at a gallop through the side gate leading to the front of the house and Emilio started collecting the garden tools together. Sandy gave him an enquiring glance and he shrugged his shoulders then stared as the boys came marching back with Gaskin following more slowly behind them. Sandy stood up, expecting trouble. Gaskin had been quiet in class since the Saturday gig, and Sandy wondered if he was changing at last; but Emilio had remarked, that day, that he sensed Gaskin was troubled about something. Now the pain in the arse was here in person. Sandy started forward but Emilio raised his hand to stop him, and turned to Gaskin. "What do you want?"
"I need to talk about something." Gaskin glanced at Sandy. "In private."
He and Emilio stared at each other for a long time before Gaskin lowered his head and stood with his hands in his pockets. Emilio gave Sandy a nod, indicating that it would be okay, and Sandy shepherded the brothers through the side gate to collect the tools the boys had been using in the front garden. When he carried the first lot of tools into the back garden to put them in the shed, he saw Emilio and Gaskin standing in a corner of the garden, talking quietly, or rather Gaskin was talking and Emilio was listening. Gaskin had his arms folded across his chest and he looked quite upset about something. The second time he went through to the shed, Sandy was surprised to see them sitting on the wrought iron bench beneath the kitchen window. Emilio had an arm round Gaskin's shoulders and Gaskin had his head down. Was Gaskin crying! Well that was a first! Nobody thought Gaskin was capable of such emotion.
Emilio looked up at Sandy, his eyes appealing for sympathy for Gaskin. Sandy was stunned. Something had happened to Gaskin and here he was pouring out his heart to the one person who had every right to send him down the road. With curiosity burning a hole in his patience, Sandy pottered about the gardens with the Jose and Ramon at his heels. They proved themselves to be useful young assistants until it was really too dark to see, and Perquita got more than a little irate at the lack of mouths to eat the food she'd lovingly prepared. When at last there was nothing left to clear away, he led his two helpers to the back door and reminded them to wipe their feet before entering the kitchen. As he did so, Gaskin walked past and out through the side gate, red eyed, and head down. Emilio came round the corner of the house, caught Sandy by the arm and signalled him to follow him back into the back garden. "I just found out why Gaskin's dad confiscated his guitar."
"Promise you'll keep it to yourself, at least till Gaskin says otherwise?"
"What do you think?"
"What do I think what?"
"Come on, Sandy, you're not stupid. Look at me, then look at Gaskin."
Suddenly Sandy realised what Emilio was trying to say and his moth dropped open. "Who? 'Is dad?"
"No; his dad's older brother."
"No! The one who's in the Navy?"
"That's the one. It's been going on for about four years and when he finally told his dad, his uncle denied it and his dad called Gaskin a liar and took his guitar off him till he apologised. Naturally he didn't and his guitar is still locked up in the attic."
"But why come to you?"
"He wanted to talk to someone who'd understand. Believe me; I know what that feels like. When he heard about me he guessed I'd listen. I just hope he won't be the last to open up. He's wanted to come round and see me since I came home but kept on getting cold feet. He was quiet in school today because he was so uptight about things. I sensed there was something wrong."
"Poor Gaskin! So what did you tell him?"
"I suggested it was time to go and talk to Rudkin and make a formal complaint against his uncle. Apparently his uncle looked after his dad when their dad died and Daddy thinks the sun shines out of his brother's backside. When he's home on leave it's little tin god time; Uncle Terry can do no wrong."
"You think 'e'll go to the police, then?"
"He says he will if I back him up. I can see now where all his aggression has been coming from. All the trouble he's been getting into comes from his wanting to lash out at his uncle; and his dad. He's been screaming for help and nobody's noticed."
"So what 'appens now then?"
Just then, Jose poked his head round the corner of the house. "Emmie, Perquita says if you don't come in now your supper's in the bin."
"Okay, we're coming." Emilio gave Sandy a pensive smile. "All we can do is support him and see he does the right thing."
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