The Cup Bearer
Monday 6 th May 1995
Emilio just knew something was going to happen today; he'd had a tingling feeling up his spine all morning. Sandy had asked him what was making him so restless and he couldn't explain it. When it happened he was totally unprepared. The corridor was crowded with pupils making their way to the canteen or out into the yard. He didn't see her at first; not until he was almost behind her. He was busy talking to Gaskin and was looking away from her. Then the toss of red hair caught his eye and made him look up. There she was, walking right in front of him with two girls from 5A. She was about his height but her long hair, which reached almost to her waist like tresses of burnished copper, made her seem taller.
"Wow!" He didn't realise he had spoken. She looked over her shoulder at him and for the first time in his life he felt the heat of a flush. She looked to the front again and walked off to the left, towards the canteen, and Emilio slowed down with his mouth hanging open. He would have followed her into the canteen like a puppy dog after a treat but Sandy grabbed him by his jacket collar and steered him out into the yard. He spent the lunch hour in a happy daze, and Gaskin and Co. found his apparent trance very amusing. On the way back to class for the afternoon session Emilio saw her in the corridor again, this time walking towards him.
Emilio slowed down as his heart did a flip and he hoped she would look at him. At the last minute she looked up and one of the girls whispered in her ear, probably telling her who he was. Their eyes held for as long as it took to pass each other by. He turned to watch her walk off with her friends, and Sandy and Gaskin had to grab hold of him again, to march him into class. He sat with his books unopened for most of the lesson, thinking of nothing else but the beautiful red head he was going to marry; but how? It was Sandy he was in love with.
Tuesday 7th May 1995
By nine thirty the first of the visitors to the school open day events started arriving, greeted by four pupils in each classroom to answer questions and explain the various exhibits. At ten-o'clock, the main exhibitions began in different parts of the school, the major one of the day being the gymnastic and martial arts displays in the gymnasium. Everywhere the visitors walked, there was something to look at, watch or listen to, teachers to chat to and senior pupils to give directions. By the look on MacCaffrey's face, Sandy knew the man was satisfied that the day was going well, as had the previous evening's musical extravaganza in the main hall. The Misses Wayne and Dempsey had surpassed themselves in the drawing together of a strong orchestra and choir of pleasing accomplishment and Sandy had been proud to be part of it. Emilio's talent with the flute had proved to be a real hit and also when the choir produced the surprise of the evening by singing 'Orinoco Flow', with Emilio, in white tuxedo and tie conducting both orchestra and choir in the flamboyant style of James Last. It earned them a standing ovation unheard of at Trentham School performances and led by MacCaffrey himself.
Sandy made his way into the crowded gym where a demonstration of Music and Mime had just started. Emilio had joined the seniors, all dressed in black leotards or black T-shirts and slacks, in the centre of the floor. Miss Dempsey was already speaking into the microphone. "This year we allowed the senior classes to choreograph their own mime, giving them the freedom to use whatever music they wished to demonstrate what they had learned. As with the juniors they use no props or costumes, just their own personalities and your imaginations. The seniors have called their mime simply 'SATURDAY'."
To a cleverly arranged medley of music from West Side Story, Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Suite , and An American in Paris, the audience packing the gymnasium were treated to an original and very modern version of the old theme 'Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl', with Emilio playing the boy's part and Trish the girl's. MacCaffrey had not seen much of the Music and Mime classes and Sandy snapped a close-up of the Beak watching it, open-mouthed.
The applause was deafening and Sandy snapped MacCaffrey wiping a stray drop of moisture from his left eye before clapping hard along with everyone else. Sandy grinned at him and snapped the embarrassed man , before putting two fingers in his mouth to give an ear splitting whistle of appreciation. As they rose to their feet, both Emilio and Trish glanced towards him and Trish caught his eye and smiled, making Sandy's cheeks feel hot. He realised that the Beak was eyeing him with veiled amusement and he was glad of his camera to hide behind.
"Well, well!" MacCaffrey remarked in Sandy's ear. "Wonders will never cease! You seem to have got yourself some female attention at last!"
Still red faced, Sandy followed the mime team into the changing rooms. He forced his way through the crowd of sweating bodies to where Emilio was sitting on a bench, wiping the sweat from his face with a towel. His sat down beside him and grinned. "That was some show you put on mate. Got some brilliant shots, including some of MacCaffrey behaving very un-head masterly indeed." He made an impression of a noisy sea lion honking and clapping his flippers.
Emilio smiled softly. "I'm glad they liked it, we worked on it hard enough."
Sandy nudged him. "I'll stand you lunch. They're treating us to Kentucky Fried at half canteen prices."
The smile faded from Emilio's face. "No thanks. I'm not hungry."
"Aw! Come on mate, you've got to eat. You told me that yourself."
"No thanks." Emilio leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees and shivered. "Is it me or has this place gone cold?"
Sandy felt his face. "It must be you. You're worried about your mam, then?"
"Wouldn't you be? They let me in to see her before I came to school this morning. She wasn't too good."
"She'll be all right. She's probably nervous about the op."
"You think so?"
Sandy felt cold as he watched Emilio put the towel to his face once more and hold it there. "If you think something's wrong, why don't you split and get to the hospital?"
Emilio glanced up quickly, his face tight. "And leave the open day in mid - flight? It's nothing; just a feeling I have that's all. Now go and get some lunch or whatever. I'll catch you later."
Suitably rebuffed, Sandy knew when to leave his mate alone so he left the changing rooms in search of the Beak to tell him his team was running out of film.
That afternoon, Sandy strode back towards the gym, feeling more than satisfied with the success of the day so far. The governors, here in force, had insisted on having their lunch in the school dining-hall along with the pupils. Finding himself sitting at a table close to them, Sandy had turned his camera on them as an excuse to listen to their more than generous conversation.
Dr Beresford, chairman of the board, beamed happily into the lens over a chicken salad before turning to MacCaffrey. "First class Jim. Excellent show this year; I'm amazed at the standard of class work too. I really am. And that display this morning; marvellous! I'm not saying that because my daughter was involved. I'm just glad someone's been able to draw my daughter out of her shell."
MacCaffrey nodded. "You have Miss Dempsey to thank for that. At first I had my doubts about her as a teacher but I think her problem was that she was straight out of teacher training college and trying just a bit too hard; a bit too keen to go by the book and frightened to use her own instincts. Then she fell under the spell of our Latin star. What kind of magic that boy has at his fingertips, I'll never know but he certainly changed our music teacher for the better. She's more relaxed now and her popularity is increasing week by week. She's even persuaded me to let her include more modern music and such into school activities. I must say your daughter acquitted herself very well this morning. Does she take dancing lessons?"
"Not any more. She took lessons for about two years when she was small but turned her attention to Guides and Art instead. Her mother was disappointed of course, seeing such talent go to waste but I suppose we parents have to accept that our ambitions are not always the same ones our children would choose. In any case, a friend of mine who's in the theatre business said that once you have a taste of anything theatrical you'll always go back to it sometime, if only as an amateur. It seems my friend has been proved right. Patricia has a liking for the stage again. I wonder if her change of mind has anything to do with Gomez; he's quite a performer isn't he?"
"Absolutely . If you visit the gym this afternoon you'll see a lot more of him."
"Oh?" Beresford's eyebrows rose a little.
"Yes. Gymnastics and Judo," the Head replied with relish. Sandy finally sat down at the table across the aisle, to eat his own lunch but kept his ears alert.
"Busy little tinker!" Beresford said in surprise. "Of course you know he should be at the hospital with his mother?"
"I spoke to him about that. He said he'd rather keep busy and said Perquita would phone the school secretary if he was needed. That's professionalism for you!"
"Yes. Still, he's under too much pressure at the moment. His mother told me he's over tired. I've told him to come to see me at the surgery tomorrow. I'll certainly be in the gym later, if only to keep an eye on him."
MacCaffrey put down his knife and fork and folded his arms on the edge of the table. "He's such a strange boy." His voice dropped till Sandy could hardly hear him. "He may be only fifteen but he has such an adult attitude to life. He certainly does not belong in this school; not as a pupil any way. If I started full time training for a career at twelve then had to go and live in another country and sit behind a school desk again, I think I would go quickly up the wall. His dance teacher has asked me to join forces with her to help him get a place in a stage school but we've been hitting a brick wall up to now. He missed some crucial auditions because of this trouble with his stepfather. When his dance teacher enquired about new dates for the auditions she found the places for this September had been filled. So, unless he wins a scholarship somewhere, Emilio will have to wait till next February or March before he can try again through the normal channels. It's such a shame; he's a born entertainer and it shows in everything he does." Sandy listened to him relate the episode of Gomez and Gaskin in the Science corridor, and Beresford and the other members of the board chuckled into their coffee. "I'm sure he did it purely for entertainment value as well as making Gaskin look a fool," he continued then told them about the ensuing essay.
Beresford laughed. "Good for him! If you didn't say what language it was to be written in , you left yourself wide open to attack. Will you be in the gym later?"
"I'll be in and out all afternoon. Can't show favouritism now, can I?"
"Ha! And that from a man who's talked about no-one else over lunch?" After that, the conversation moved on to things concerning the school in general, in which Sandy had no interest. He finished his lunch and went to look for Emilio.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]