The Cup Bearer
1 30 PM Saturday 4th May, 1995. North Beach, Llandudno.
Sandy spotted Emilio and Lucia on the sand in front of the bandstand as he jogged down the steps wearing his bathing shorts under his jeans, and his towel and beach mat rolled up under his arm. All sorts of beach gear were strewn everywhere around them and it looked like half of Trentham Comprehensive had descended on Llandudno. The incoming tide threatened a game of no holds barred football and soon they would have to move back to the steps. Still, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, diving into scrum after scrum with careless enthusiasm. Emilio sat out of the game, watching Lucia digging in the sand. Sandy made his way across the shingles, intending to have it out with him, when a slim blonde girl broke away from the game and dropped onto Emilio's blanket. Shocked speechless, Sandy almost turned round and went back up the steps, then remembered his Mam and Dad had gone off somewhere for a meal to celebrate their wedding anniversary and would want him hanging around them with a long face. Finally he dropped his stuff at the edge of the shingle, stripped down to his bathing shorts and headed straight for the water. Emilio turned at that moment spotted him and waved him over. "Sandy! You made it after all, what happened?"
Sandy ignored him and carried on jogging till he reached the water. Wading in till he was waist deep, he cursed at the still icy temperature despite the warm day. He dived under a wave while he thought about the situation he was now in. Should he stay and try to ignore the girl, or should he go and find his Mam and Dad after all, and let Emilio have the last laugh? The water was too cold to stay in for long so he had to make his mind up fast. ' Dear Lord, please tell me what to do.'
He swam about till he felt really chilled, turned and let the tide float him in till his toes scraped the sand. He stood up, water cascading off his body and felt the afternoon sun on his chest. He glanced towards the blankets and reddened again. Wading out of the water, he noticed his stuff had been moved to where Emilio was sitting and his pad and towel had been spread out ready on the sand. The girl was still there, facing away from him and talking to Emilio. She had short, wavy blonde hair that fluttered in the light breeze and she wore a red bikini top and matching shorts. She was very close to Emilio, their heads almost touching, not sexily as Sandy had seen in films but teasing. Then Emilio looked up and spotted Sandy watching them. He waved and Sandy turned his attention to the game, his cheeks burning. The ball bounced his way and he seized the opportunity to join in; then wished he hadn't when he saw a pack of bodies bearing down on him. He ran with it but the lighter bodies had the speed and were warmed up while he was still trying to shake off the cold. They brought him down and tugged and tickled till he released the ball and he was free but covered in sand. Gaskin appeared above him and offered him a hand up. "See what I see? Watch it or you'll have your nose put out of joint."
Sandy dusted the sand off his chest as best he could. "Who's the girl?"
"Dr Beresford's daughter. Word has it she wants to meet someone about six two with blonde hair and talks with a funny accent. Know anyone of that description?"
"Get lost!" Sandy felt his face burn, but not from the sun in his face.
Gaskin laughed. "Say that to the girl and see what happens. She's the Gypo's partner from Music and Mime. It's hush-hush what they're doing on Tuesday but the gossip is it's a real mushy piece. Romeo and Juliet and all that tripe; like real moochy-smoochy?" He winked at Sandy before he turned to dive back into the game. Sandy stood watching for a few minutes, lost for the right thing to do. How could he make things right with Emilio without seeming to back down, but what if the guy had found him a girl? Drat! That meant the guy had been right all along about the girls coming soon. Maybe he'd been wrong about the attention Emilio had been giving Gaskin and Co. He desperately hoped so.
He joined in the game for a few more minutes until he was out of breath then dived back into the waves to wash the sand off before he made his way back to the blankets. Flopping down near Emilio, he stretched out on his towel, feeling the sun bathe his front. He was facing the sea and he raised his head to look at it as he pondered several ways to start a conversation with his mate. Something in the distance caught his eye; he looked again and saw the silhouette of a tiny figure with a bucket and spade, about to step into the water. A wave came rolling in and the toddler turned to run, tripped and fell with a wail of fright.
"Luce!" Sandy was already on his feet when Emilio shouted to his sister. He ran the short distance to the crying child and scooped her up in his arms. She was wet and sandy down the front of her costume so he went a little way into the sea and knelt down on one knee so she could sit on the other. She splashed her feet while he washed her down, and her wails turned to squeals of laughter at the cold as she thrashed the water with her feet.
After a while she turned her head to look for Emilio and frowned. "I wanna go back now. Where's 'Meelie gone? My bucket's gone!"
"No it hasn't." a voice said behind them, and Sandy turned to see Emilio bending to pick up the bucket from a few feet away. The girl was standing a few feet behind Emilio. She was the same height as Emilio and had pretty, pixyish features which suited her blonde curls. Emilio waved a hand in her direction. "Sandy, this is Trish Beresford."
"Oh? Oh yeah. Hi; I've met your dad." Sandy burned as he found himself taking in her neat figure and found himself tongue tied as he ever.
It was Lucia who saved him. "Carry, Sandy, I wanna carry." She lifted up her arms.
"Okay, come on then." Seconds later she was perched on the back of his neck, her little fingers gripping his hair as he jogged about the beach, each step forcing a happy gurgle from the child. Emilio and Trish had reached the blankets ahead of him and Sandy dumped Lucia into her brother's lap to be gently scolded for going too near the water on her own when he had told her not to. Emilio glanced up at Sandy and nodded to him. "Thanks."
Sandy shrugged his shoulders in embarrassment and sat down on his towel with his back to Emilio. Lucia went off to play close by and Sandy felt hands catching him by the shoulders and pulling back off balance. He fell against Emilio's legs and he squinted up at his mate's upside down face. Emilio smiled down at him. "Don't you know it's bad manners to turn your back on a lady? Why don't you say hello properly?"
Trish's face appeared alongside his mate's. "Hi again!" Her big brown eyes sparkled with amusement as she spoke.
Sandy stared up at her, aware of Emilio's hands still holding him down. He sat up and shuffled round to face them. He and Trish smiled at each other and Sandy decided she was interesting at least.
Emilio offered him part of a chocolate bar they were sharing. "Gaskin said you were coming on the coach. What happened to make you miss it?"
"Ta! Gaskin's a big mouth. I never said I'd come! Anyway we 'ad an emergency at the flats; I 'ad to give Dad a hand."
"Yeah, a bit of muck got through to the 'eader tank and jammed the cistern valve open. Talk about water everywhere!"
"What about your visitors?"
"Only one couple there and they were packed and about to leave.'"
"So how did you get here?"
"Mam and Dad brought me. They've got the insurance people sortin' things out so they thought they'd 'ave a run out and give me a lift at the same time, like. Celebrating' their weddin', isn'it"
They made small talk and Sandy found Trish easy to talk to, because she didn't put on any airs. She was in 5A and hoping to go to Art College to study textiles and fabric design. Sandy was expecting to stay on in school to take his A levels then try for a scholarship for the Royal College of Music in London. Trish's parents wanted her to take her A levels too but she wanted to go straight to college and take them alongside her Art. Trish liked the cinema, sports, jigsaw puzzles and computers. Sandy liked the cinema, sports and photography apart from his beloved music. His mate raised a bemused eyebrow and remarked how well suited they were. Sandy coloured and a hefty shove sent Emilio flying on his back. Once he was sitting up again their eyes met and locked, and Sandy knew he was forgiven for being so silly. So, everything was all right, wasn't it? Or was it? Gazing into Emilio's eyes he got the feeling his mate wanted to talk to him on his own. They excused themselves and moved a few feet away, and Emilio said in a low voice, "The fuzz have arrested Gaskin's uncle.'
"Really!" Sandy stared at him in surprise. "When?"
"Last night sometime; Pete told me when he rang last night to make sure I was coming today. The police were waiting for his uncle when his ship docked at Portsmouth."
"Well, that is great news! What 'appens now, then?"
"He's being brought to Risley remand centre. He'll be held there till Monday when he'll go before a magistrate and formerly charged; he'll apply for bail I suppose."
"I doubt if 'e'll get it. 'E'll be sent back to Risley till his trial. Is Pete pleased?"
"I guess so. His dad went up like a rocket when the police informed him, and still only half believes Pete's telling the truth. At least he's let Pete have his guitar back."
Sandy caught Emilio's eye before his mate turned to take Lucia for a paddle, and knew Emilio wasn't as happy about the situation as he should be. "Any sign of Guido?" Emilio just shook his head and looked out to sea. He knew something he wasn't letting on about, and Sandy realised he was seeing things in his mind, worrying things. That troubled Sandy because his mate no longer had Don's Clooney's protection. According to Gaskin, who seemed to know a lot about Emilio these days, the Graftons had employed another man but there wasn't the same rapport between them as there had been with Don. The American had been a friend and Emilio rode up front with him in the Volvo, but Emilio treated the new guy as just a chauffeur and body guard, and rode in the rear seat.
Sandy fished out his camera and started taking shots of the fun and found Trish was interested in how his camera worked, but his mind was more on Emilio than taking photographs, glad now that it seemed their brief tiff was over and forgotten.
Emilio was sure Trish Beresford was right for Sandy; she was a completely unpretentious creature with a sweet but strong nature and had the ability to make those around her unwind. She had a wonderful sense of humour and he truly believed she would make Sandy happy; although he hoped she wouldn't be so strong she would lead him round by a ring in his nose rather than one on his finger.. As he played with Lucia at the water's edge, he glanced back to where the two were sitting. They were deeply immersed in a lengthy conversation over his camera, and Emilio felt a loss of something vital and a feeling akin to heartache as he wondered if his move to throw his mate into a female's arms so fast had been a good move, for him. The idea that he wasn't gay was stupid. With Guido's assaults and his incarceration in the sex club, who was he trying to kid? He knew if Tony had been alive, they would have had a wonderful life together. He had begun to have feelings for Don too, but had ruined his chances with him, and now he was losing Sandy as well. Every relationship he had was doomed to failure. Salty tears sprung to his eyes to be washed away as water splashed his face and brought him out of his thoughts. Lucia laughed up at him and squealed as he splashed her back.
When it was time to go back to the coach, Sandy's parents offered Trish a lift home, leaving Emilio to spend a miserable journey home. He was glad Lucia slept all the way home in the seat Sandy and Trish would have occupied. He felt too dispirited to deal with a boisterous child. Trish's gain was his loss and he just hoped she realised what a sacrifice he had made. It wasn't till now that he realised the size of hole in his life that sacrifice was going to make. He also realised how much he really loved the guy.
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