The Cup Bearer
Puzzled as to what Don meant, Gypsy went upstairs to pack a bag. Searching the bathroom for a fresh tube of toothpaste, he noticed something on the cabinet shelf that had once belonged to Guido. A chill ran through him and he shivered. Dropping the toothpaste and his brush into his bag he closed the cabinet then, as an afterthought, he opened the cabinet again. Could he be so lucky? He dropped the tiny jar into his bag. Halfway down the stairs he stopped as he remembered what his mother had said to him. "You and Don, be very careful."
As Don nursed his mug of tea, he realised he was about to walk on eggs. What on earth had made him invite the kid along! He'd been driving the van around the town to listen to the engine and had found himself heading into town along Visick Street. It seemed too much of a coincidence for a gang of six youths to be hanging around number eight. He braked and swung into the curb so fast they had to scatter or be mown down. When he alighted from the van and started walking menacingly towards them, they backed off fast enough with his shouted warning ringing in their ears, but they had watched him enter the house. Don sighed deeply and finished his tea. The kid was jailbait and no mistake but he couldn't just drive off and leave him alone with those yobs to deal with. Just what was that housemother thinking of; leaving him on his own. He would make sure Edward knew about it. This wasn't how he planned it but he had some serious talking to do, and he knew it could all go wrong if the kid got the wrong idea. He just hoped the kid would listen to what he had to say.
An hour later they were deep in the Welsh mountains and ready to eat a giant sized tea. The cottage stood exposed to the elements half way up a mountainside near the village of Capel Curig, with an unobstructed view of the beautiful wilderness of the valleys through which they had just travelled. Unfortunately, Don's friend, Teddy Price, was at home and expecting a visitor but, he gave them full use of the plot of ground beside the cottage to park the van, and the use of the kitchen and bathroom at the cottage. Although he gave Don a roaring welcome, Gypsy felt a coolness towards himself. Teddy insisted they have dinner with him, waving away the need to change out of their summer wear for the occasion; it was so hot. Then they went for a walk.
Once they were well away from the cottage, and enjoying the splendour of the mountains in their evening colours with a beautiful pink sky heralding a good day tomorrow, Gypsy said, "I guess your friend's a bit jealous."
Don glanced sideways at him. "I didn't know there was anything for him to be jealous about!"
If Gypsy had been fair skinned he would have been crimson faced, and the rest of their walk was completed in silence. Back at the cottage they found a note pinned to the cottage door. Teddy's friend had arrived and had taken him off to a party in Caernarfon. They were not expected back till the early hours if at all, so they made their own supper in the kitchen while Don told Gypsy about Teddy. A Manchester businessman, he spent a good deal of his time travelling and preferred to commute from the cottage rather than have his asthma aggravated by city living. Once the meal was finished and the kitchen tidied up, they went back to the van and Don started checking out the single, drop down bunks; one on either side of the van. The task was awkward because of the lack of space and Don's bulk. Wanting Gypsy out of the way for a few minutes so he had space to move about, he handed Gypsy the water container and the keys to the cottage. "You go and fill this at the cottage and bring some milk from the fridge. I'll see to the bunks."
When Gypsy got back to the van, the table had been folded away against the driving seats and the bench seats pulled together with the backs dropped down to form a king sized bed. Don was in the process of spreading a sheet and a duvet over it. He looked round and caught Gypsy's questioning gaze. "I checked the singles out; they were made for midgets. Not even you could fit in one of them and sleep."
Avoiding looking the guy in the eye, Gypsy put the milk in the fridge and connected the water container to the system. Under the settee seats Don had found a load of pillows and cushions as well as a duvet, which Gypsy didn't think they'd need. Until it was time to sleep, they piled the pillows and cushions onto the bed and lounged against them while Gypsy played his guitar and they sang a few country and western songs; then they played a few hands of Uno. When suppertime came, Don made two mugs of hot chocolate. Gypsy stared at his and felt his throat constrict. "I can't drink this."
After a few seconds Don realised what he'd done and apologised profusely for his gaff and quickly tipped the offending drink down the sink and offered him something else. Gypsy settled for a can of coke, which helped take his mind off his sudden hatred of hot chocolate. As darkness fell, Don went round the van, drawing the curtains and switching on the lamps above the bed. He switched on the portable colour TV and once he had the aerial set correctly he crawled onto the bed with his chocolate and they sat side by side against the cushions. There was a good film on and both of them became engrossed in it. Gypsy didn't remember dozing off but when he opened his eyes he was leaning sideways with his head against Don's shoulder. Don's arm was wrapped loosely round him. He thought he ought to move in case Don got the wrong idea but he was too comfortable and didn't want to. In any case Don squeezed him gently, indicating he knew he was awake. The next thing he knew, he was lying under the duvet in the dark with the warmth of Don's bulk sleeping next to him. Relief hit him like a tidal wave and he sighed into his pillow.
It was the horrendous pain that brought Gypsy awake. He was so sure it was real as he sat up, h H e could still feel the pain in his fingers and feet, and the blade slashing at his face. He was drenched in sweat and he shook violently as he brought his hands to his face to check for blood. The Don reared up beside him and switched on the lamp. Putting an arm round Gypsy's shoulders he urged him to take deep breaths. Fully awake now, he realised it was definitely a dream, but the terror refused to leave him.
"Nightmare?" Don asked him. All he could do was nod his head, unable to talk for a moment, not wanting to. After a while Don asked, "Was it the same as the others?"
"No." Gypsy managed a hoarse whisper.
"Want to talk about it?"
Gypsy hesitated, not really wanting to but knowing this one had been a really bad and he didn't want it to fester like all the others had. He clutched the duvet to him and Don pulled it round him then placed his arm gently round him again. "I was lying in a van and the rear doors were open. There were bikes outside; I could smell the engine oil. They held my hands and feet to the floor of the van and hit them with something heavy. The pain was dreadful, and I heard someone say something about my claws being clipped. Then I was thrown out of the van and it drove away; and I was left with the bikers. My hands and feet hurt so much I couldn't defend myself; I couldn't escape. They … they cut my face." Gypsy traced the lines of the cuts down his left cheek, across his right, across his chin and across his forehead. "There was more pain, deep inside me, and here." he brought his right hand down to his crotch. "Then I was falling and I was bleeding all over. There was nothing under my feet, just empty space. Something had hold of my hair and was pulling it out of my scalp; it's the worst dream I've ever had." A sudden thought made him shudder. "It could be a premonition."
"Nonsense!" Don hugged him tighter. "Nothing is ever gonna happen like that. I promise."
Still trembling, Gypsy looked up at Don and saw the determination in his eyes, then he hunched forward over his raised knees. "You couldn't keep a promise like that."
"I'd have a dammed good try." The way Don said it so softly made Gypsy look over his shoulder at him.
"What, be a twenty four seven escort?"
"It's not impossible."
"There's a spare room in your house."
"You'd move in?"
"If that's what it takes."
"After what you said?"
"I promise you, kid, nothing's gonna happen to you." Don raised a hand to ruffle Gypsy's hair. "I'd kill anyone who marked you."
Gypsy felt flattered that the guy should want to protect him like this, and didn't know what to say. He was just a mixed up, unhappy kid and no-one special. He just knew he wanted Don to be with him, and he'd be thrilled to have him move into Visick Street. But that was tempting disaster.
"I don't think that would be a good idea." He eased the duvet away and got off the bed. He stepped up to the sink to get a glass of water and as he drank it he was aware of Don studying him. Rinsing the glass, he placed it upside down on the draining board. "Why did you bring me here, Don?"
"Because of what you said, about not believing that astrology stuff. It may surprise you but I went out and bought a Bible and a Concordance and looked up what they said about the subject. It shook me, I can tell you. That sun signs book went in the bin last week. I'll have some explaining to do when Cissy gets back. It shook me up so much I went on a bender for a few days. I was coming out of it when your guardian angel arrived at my door."
"Sandy?" Gypsy stared at him. "You're kidding!"
"He really worries about you, you know. You ought to glad he's your friend and not your enemy." Don got up off the bed and dragged his own holdall out of the tiny wardrobe. Rooting in it, he pulled out two books and tossed them on the bed. Sitting on the bed he picked them up and held them up for Gypsy to see. "One Bible, one concordance; Sandy gave me some verses to check. When I have a problem and need to be quiet, I head for these mountains. I was thinking of heading out here to have a quiet time reading them when I spotted those thugs outside your house. So you see, this wasn't all planned for your benefit. You just hitched yourself a ride on the way."
Feeling a little deflated, Gypsy went to sit down beside him and took the Bible from him. He flicked through it, noticing there were passages marked with different colours, and there were slips of paper marking certain pages. Giving the Bible back he took the slim, paperback concordance from Don and examined it. "The Oxford Bible Reader's Dictionary and Concordance; you have been busy. What else did you find?"
"Answers to our mutual problem; Romans One verse 26."
"I can give you a better one." Gypsy picked up the bible again. Turning the pages he searched the book of Leviticus and stopped at chapter twenty. Handing the book to Don, he said, "Twenty, verse 13."
"If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman," Don read aloud, "both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death. Yeah, that's clear enough, don't you think?"
"Try reading Revelation twenty one, verse eight."
Don regarded him quizzically. "You sound as if you know your Bible. Where did you learn all this?"
Gypsy shrugged his shoulders, thinking back to happier days with Tony. "I only know bits of it. Tony and I used to go a Pentecostal church in Nashville."
"You aren't one of these Born Again people, are you?"
"We were thinking about that but Tony got killed and I … I just couldn't go through with it."
Gypsy shrugged his shoulders again. "I guess it didn't seem right. It would have been a lie, wouldn't it? And the way I was treated today, like something the demons threw up after breakfast? Thanks but no thanks."
"Do you believe God exists?"
"I don't know. My dad believes, and he said something when I first met him, about never being alone if you believe. I was feeling so miserable, I started praying that if He was real He would come and help me. Then you arrived. I think it was God who sent you."
"So, why were you feeling miserable?"
"I was angry with that guy in church and I took it out on Sandy. Sometimes I do such stupid things and I hurt people, and hurt myself as well. I hurt you, Don, and I'm sorry." Gypsy lifted his head to look Don in the face. "I've missed you."
Don nodded his head and stuck out a hand to grip Gypsy's left shoulder. "I know; Sandy told me what happened. He also made me rethink my own actions. What you need right now is something you've never had before."
"You need an older brother who can fight your battles and keep you safe and keep you straight when your dad isn't around. My brothers did that for me till I outgrew them in size and I became their big brother." He began to chuckle. "Lately, if their own kids step out of line they show them a photograph of me and threaten them with a taste of Uncle Don. Doesn't work though; the kids know I'm a big softie." Don had already showed Gypsy some snaps of his nephews; two brothers and a cousin aged ten, thirteen and fifteen with blonde curly hair.
Gypsy nodded his head. "I've always been the older brother."
"That's exactly my point. You've always cared for other people. It's time you were cared for, protected and looked after. How would you like me to be your big brother for a while?"
'It wouldn't work." Gypsy rose from the bed, needing another glass of water. Instead, he turned and sank to the floor with his knees to his chest. Wrapping his arms round them, he lowered his head to his arms and was prepared to spend the night where he was. The pain of it was, Don was right; the guy had the whole thing sussed out. He did need a brother, but having Don living so close was inviting trouble.
"But if the bible is right," Don asked him, "God doesn't make mistakes so why did he make us the way we are? We didn't choose to be gay, we just are. That's how God made us, and he must have had good reason to have us on this earth. And Jesus stressed that we should love our neighbours AND our enemies; he also told us not to judge others lest God judge us. I don't know about you, kid, but reading these bible passages sure makes me feel more confused than ever. Now come back to bed, it's late and I'm bushed."
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