The Cup Bearer
Minutes later, Emilio lay back, exhausted and blinked back his own tears. "Believe me; this blackbird has no intention of flying anywhere. How long can you stay for?"
"I go back to the States in three days." Manuel dried his own face with a tissue. "I will be away six weeks then I will inform the maestro I am restricting any further performances to Western Europe, for the next year at least, to give us a chance to get to know each other. Why?"
Emilio shook his head. "Now you're here, now I know you're real, I don't want to be without you. Please don't go."
Manuel's face saddened as he took hold of Emilio's hands. "I have to go. I have six weeks of my present contract with the maestro to finish, even though he is no longer my employer. Maestro Claude has worked hard to make me what I am and never charged me a penny. Honouring the bookings we still have is the least I can do to repay him"
Emilio looked at their clasped hands. "You could take me with you."
"Do you think I would hesitate if I could do that?"
"Why can't you?" Manuel did not answer and his eyes were troubled. "What is it?"
"I have talked with the doctors here, and with your Dr Beresford."
Emilio suddenly realised where he was. "Where am I? Is there something wrong?"
Manuel nodded his head. "You are at the Rosscroft. Your energy expenditure is so erratic, your blood sugar level rises and falls like a yo-yo, which isn't good for you. Too much sugar causes damage to various organs of the body, including the heart, kidneys and eyes. Not enough sugar and there is a risk of insulin coma. You are suffering from the latter and that is why you collapsed. It is called Hypoglycaemia. Passing out and feeling tired can be symptoms of a host of diseases. That is why it goes undetected in some people."
"What do I have to do?"
"Mr. Monclare wants you to stay here for a few days to stabilise you and decide on the best diet. I promise I will be back as soon as I can."
"Don't go." Emilio pleaded.
Manuel frowned at him. "What are you afraid of?"
"Being alone." Emilio hoped he didn't sound like a spoilt child.
Manuel's grip on his hands tightened. "Emilio, I am not going to leave you. I'll be working for a few weeks then I will come back and I will make my home here, I promise. Do you believe in God?"
"I used to."
"If you did, you would realise you are never alone. I would like you to do something for me. Evan Roberts has invited me to attend his church with his family on Sunday. If I can delay my flight till Monday, I would like you to go with me. I'm sure your friend Sandy would be pleased to see you there. Will you go with me?"
"If you want me to." Emilio didn't like the idea but if it meant being with his father then he would do it. "This maestro of yours, what does he do?"
Manuel laughed. "What doesn't he do? His main instrument is the piano of course, but he also plays the guitar, cello and violin and is a Professor of Music. He is also an excellent conductor and sometimes he is invited to various places as a guest conductor where he introduces Spanish classical music to the orchestra's repertoire. We have our own small ensemble when playing in European countries, of which I am lead musician; but now I am billed as an artist in my own right, Maestro Claude allows me to choose a lot of the music we play including flamenco and gypsy music. So you see, I am not so much ruled by Maestro Claude, as more of a partner, which makes it more important that I fulfil my commitment to him. He is getting on in years and will soon retire from public life. He has asked me to stay with him till that happens."
"Then what will you do?"
"First of all, I will take a few weeks ' vacation and maybe visit my family in Spai; although I might not be entirely welcome. That's the fate of gypsies who leave home. You have a lot of cousins, you know. I have heard that Aida, my grandmother, is still alive; God bless her. She's a wonderful old lady and I'm sure she will want to meet you."
Emilio nodded. "I'd like that too. There is something else I'd like you to do."
"Oh? Tell me; if I can do it I will."
"Give me your name."
Manuel leaned forward to kiss him on the forehead. "With all my heart I will give you my name. I will see Thomas Grafton about it before I leave. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Teach me to play as well as you, and study like you did."
"And?" There was a twinkle in Manuel's eyes, as if he already knew what Emilio was going to say.
"I want to be a world famous entertainer."
"So I've heard."
"I'm good but not good enough. I can dance, I can sing, and I can skate pretty well. I just don't want to attach myself to the music industry and sing anything they throw at me. I want to be good enough to call my own tunes right from the word go. But I've a lot of learning to do."
His father nodded thoughtfully. "I would like to hear you play your guitar." He looked at his watch. "It's getting late and Perquita mentioned she would delay the evening meal till we arrive, so why don't I go and find a doctor and ask him if you can go home? But we must promise to have you back here on Monday so Monclare can start monitoring you."
They walked through the house and found it deserted, and Emilio wondered where everyone was. While Manuel used the hall bathroom, Gypsy headed for the kitchen and reached for a tumbler standing on the drainer and was about to turn on the cold-water tap when he glanced out of the window. There they all were. His grandparents sat at the garden table on the lawn, talking with Edward , Dr Beresford and Sandy's parents. Perquita sat on the gently rocking swing hammock with Lucia on her knee. The little mite didn't look too happy, and who could blame her.
Manuel came into the kitchen. "Ah! There they are; shall we join them?"
Emilio shook his head. "Not yet. I just want to be quiet for a bit. I can show you the house if you like." He filled a glass with water and started to drink it when Lucia chose that moment to look up. Spotting Emilio at the window, she was off Perquita's knee and running towards the house. Emilio turned to face the back door as it burst open, and Lucia ran to him with her lower lip sticking out a mile. He scooped her up and she flung her arms round his neck, and buried her face in his shoulder wailing pitifully. "I want my mummy, Meelie."
"So do I, Lucy babe." He hugged her tight and almost wailed himself.
He turned to Manuel in silent appeal and his father reached out to stroke Lucy's head. "I know how you feel, little one. My mother went away from me many years ago, but I know a little bit of her is still here with me, watching over me."
Lucy turned her head to look at Manuel over Emilio's shoulder, hiccupped and whispered, "Where is your mummy now?"
Manuel patted his chest. "Here, in my heart, and I know she will never leave me."
"Have I got a little bit of my mummy in here?" Lucia pointed to her own chest.
"I'm sure you have." Manuel smiled at her, "and so do your brothers and sisters. These little bits are called Love and they are very precious."
"Anything you never ever want to give away."
"Like Grey Rabbit?"
"Yes, babe," Emilio said, knowing his dad would not understand who grey Rabbit was, "just like Grey Rabbit." Closing his eyes for a moment he savoured the thought that he too had that precious part of his mother inside him. Blinking back his tears, he introduced Lucia to her Spanish grandfather.
Sandy sat on the bench beneath the kitchen window, showing Jose and Ramon the workings of the telephoto lens coupled to his Minolta 7000, when Emilio appeared round the corner of the house, with Manuel carrying Lucia a pace or two behind . The grown-ups raised their heads in unison and conversation died. Sandy noticed the sudden tightening of Emilio's mouth as he avoided looking at them. Paddy O'Riley started to rise from his seat but Edward stopped him with a gentle hand on his arm and a slight shake of his head.
Sandy watched them walk across the grass and sink down onto the hammock, settling Lucia on Emilio's knee. Perquita said something to him and Sandy saw him shake his head and Perquita got to her feet and walked back to the house with a thoughtful frown on her face. A nudge from Jose brought Sandy back to what he was doing, and he let the lad lift the camera to his eyes while showing him how to use the one-touch zoom. Ramon had lost interest and left them to walk slowly down the lawn. His grandmother called to him to leave Emilio alone but Emilio turned his head to look at Ramon and held out a welcoming hand to him. Ramon hurried to him and Emilio gently put his arm round Ramon's waist and pulled him up to sit beside him. Ramon leaned into him. It was such a touching scene, of an older brother giving comfort to the two youngest members of the family that Sandy wished he hadn't let Jose have the Minolta just then. He heard the click and the burr of the camera being used and looked up in surprise at Jose who in turn looked pleased with himself and carried on snapping, making full use of the zoom till he ran out of film. He handed the camera back to Sandy who showed him how to reload it.
A little later Ramon ran indoors and Jose wandered onto the lawn to take a shot of Emilio and his father. Sandy had told Jose all about Lucia being good portrait material, just like Emilio was. She was such a pretty child and the only one, apart from Emilio who looked like their mother, although it was clear, now that Manuel had arrived, who Emilio got his looks from. Lucia had crawled further up into Emilio's arms and had settled her head on his shoulder. Their cheeks touching, they were both looking down at Emilio's multifunction watch and two pairs of long thick eyelashes were fanned against their cheeks. Putting his animosity towards Emilio aside, Jose saw only the beauty of the shot as he began snapping from different angles, till Emilio raised his head to look at him. Jose expected Emilio to choke him off for intruding on a private moment but instead he just gazed steadily at him with eyes that hinted of warmth and encouragement. At one point Emilio even told Lucia to look up into the camera before turning their attention back to his watch, and Jose took a couple more shots before taking the camera back to Sandy with a feeling of quiet pride; hoping Sandy would be pleased with the results. I wonder why I did that? Jose thought, " I don't even like him. I'll get my own back on him, someday, for making my dad go away. Just see if I don't. "
A while later, after the Berisfords and Sandy's parents had left to go home, Perquita looked out of the kitchen window and saw Emilio and his father rise to their feet and walk towards the house, their arms round each other's waists, and talking quietly together. " So like each other ," she mused as she filled the kettle at the sink. " M ore like brothers than father and son ." Manuel was about three inches taller than Emilio. They had the same loose, confident, dancer's way of walking too. She turned to place the kettle back on its stand, feeling she should be glad that Emilio had someone to lean on now. But she felt her own sadness rise up to fill her with a sense of jealousy. What about her; so alone now her mother was dead? She knew she could rely on Grandma for motherly support but her grandparents were still undecided whether to move down here or take the family up north. Going north meant Perquita giving up her job at the nursing home, just when promotion had been offered from part time to full time carer with the chance to study nursing. Her boss had even offered to pay for her to attend college one day a week. But why did her decisions have to depend on other people making their minds up first? It just wasn't fair. Hearing Emilio bringing his father into the house via the kitchen, Perquita fled into the hall and up the stairs. " Pull yourself together, girl. This isn't the time to be selfish ." She would discuss things with the family tomorrow.
She went into her bedroom to tidy herself up then peeped into Lucia's room and found her fast asleep clutching Grey Rabbit. She knocked on Maria's door and heard her sister tell her to go in. Maria was lying on her bed with a wet handkerchief to her nose, her eyes puffy and red. Forgetting her own sadness, Perquita rushed to her and gathered her in her arms. "It's all right. Maria, cry if you want to. You've been so brave this last week, helping me look after the younger ones. Don't worry, you'll always have a mum while I'm here."
Maria sobbed in her arms. "It's so unfair. We don't know where Dad is, and Emilio's got his own dad now. He won't want us anymore; we'll have no one."
"Don't be silly." Perquita sounded more positive than she felt. "Of course he'll want us, and we've still got Grandma and Granddad."
"But Emmie will want to go away with his dad and leave us on our own," Maria argued tearfully.
"No he won't, he can't; Dr Beresford said so."
Maria raised herself into a sitting position and stared at Perquita. "Why? Is there something wrong? What is it, Perquita? Tell me. "
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