The Cup Bearer
There was a movement behind him. He looked up and found Shana standing in the flat doorway in her bathrobe. She came over and sat down beside him. "Don't let Brian get to you; the boys and I are all on your side."
"So I heard; thanks." He rested his head on the nearest banister upright and stared down into the dark once more.
"Then what's the matter?"
Gypsy sighed and closed his eyes. "They say the truth hurts. I never realised just how much."
"You've lost me."
"You heard what Brian called me."
"Yes, but we all know Guido's not your father."
"I never thought much about it till just now."
"He adopted you, didn't he?"
"Oh, I see. But you've found your real father now, so what's the problem?"
"I'm still a bastard and always will be; nothing will change that."
"That's nothing these days, lots of parents aren't married. Tell me about your real father, what does he looks like?"
"You're looking at him."
"Really?" Shana's eyes gleamed in the dimness and he loved her for her interest. He wondered why he had never told any of the band members about Manuel. He told her now, and she seemed genuinely interested. "Well, a lucky find like that should have you over the moon. Do you see much of him?"
Gypsy shook his head. "He's too busy at the moment. Just when I need him, he's suddenly found fame, and he's flying all over the world doing concerts and stuff; maybe not for too long though. Maestro Claude is getting too old for touring and wants to get back to what he loves most; teaching. It's too bad Mum and Manuel didn't get together before we went to Tamarigo; I would never have had Guido ruin my life."
Shana's hand covered his. "And you wouldn't have become such a wonderful dancer and singer either. Out of ugliness shalt thou find beauty, out of cruelty shalt thou find gentleness; out of hate shalt thou find love. I read that in a book of poetry of my grandmother's."
Gypsy didn't feel so philosophical. "I'll bet it also says out of life shalt thou find a living hell."
Shana squeezed his hand again. "Now you're being silly."
"Am I? I don't think so. I've managed to ruin every friendship I've ever made, and made more enemies than I care to count. I'm a Scorpio; I have a sting in my tail. I sting my enemies but in stinging others I sting myself even more. I take so much out of people without meaning to. I take and take, and I seem to drain people of their very souls. People who get too close to me end up getting hurt. Stay away from me, Shana or I'll sting you too."
Shana rose to her feet. "Now you're being really silly. I don't believe in star signs and you can't get rid of Shana Royle that easily. Come on, on your feet, it's time you were in bed." He was glad of her arm to lean on as he hobbled into the flat. There was one dim light left on over the double bed and in the gloom they found that Brian had taken over Gypsy's bed. Only the double was vacant.
"It's okay," he whispered. "I'll sleep in one of the chairs."
"Oh no, you don't." Shana closed the door behind them. "Just get undressed and get into bed."
Gypsy glared at her and hissed. "I can't get into bed with you."
Shana flapped her hands and hissed back. "We run round a dressing room with next to nothing on, what's the difference?"
"A dressing room is not a bed!"
"Okay, we'll just stand here all night and talk about the weather." Shana walked round to the far side of the bed, slipped off her robe to reveal a very modest sleeveless T-shirt and cropped cotton shorts, and slid into bed. "Do what you want, I'm tired." She reached for the light pull and plunged the room into darkness. Gypsy stripped down to his briefs and groped his way into bed, and settled down as far away from Shana as possible. Okay, what next, he thought.
As always, he woke bathed in sweat, sitting up in the dark with his heart pounding and getting ready to scream. Two gentle arms slipped about his shoulders and Shana whispered gently to him, telling to lie down. His hair was wet and stuck to his forehead, and he felt Shana's cool fingers stroking it back.
"It's okay now; you can cuddle up if it'll help." Her right arm was under his neck and she was warm and sweet smelling. Gypsy felt his terror fading as he remembered the objective he had set himself; reckless and totally indiscreet, but what a way to pay Brian back. Slowly he turned on his left side to face her and let her draw him closer till his left cheek rested against her right shoulder. Today he had seen a hint of her interest at the club. It wasn't enough now, just to sing with her and for her to watch him dance. She wanted to get closer but what did he want? What about Don? What about Sandy?
In the dark she turned her face towards him and he tightened his arm around her waist. He let his lips touch hers gently. A hand came up to stroke his chest. He could just make out the shape of her face and her large eyes gazing at him. Why shouldn't they be together like this, she wasn't married to the creep. This would teach Brian a lesson; and Glen; come to think of it. It would also prove he was no fag. God, what was he thinking; maybe he was bi? The moon came out from behind a cloud and shone a beam directly on them, filling the room with ghostly light. They gazed at each other and he saw the love in her eyes. It seemed she was as content just to be near him as he was with her. Happy now, the pain in his ankle seemed to settle to an uncomfortable throbbing. I need this, he whispered to himself, thank you God.
When Gypsy opened his eyes again the room was filled with sunshine. He was lying on his stomach with one arm draped round his pillow. He heard someone moving around, and remembered who he had spent the night with. Even though they didn't do anything, he feared the worst. He raised his head off the pillow and looked at the head on the pillow beside him. Archie's hairy features stared back at him. The man winked and closed his eyes. Huh?
Gypsy raised his head high enough to look over to Archie's bed and saw Shana lying curled up in it with her eyes closed. He rolled over to look at Brian, still snoring in bed, and he buried his head in his pillow to try and work it out. He was sure it hadn't been a dream. Nothing had happened; it had just been a wonderful, peaceful night, falling asleep in Shana's arms.
Later, Gypsy woke out of a doze to the feel of a hand nudging his shoulder. He rolled over onto his back and waves of pain laced up from his ankle, reminding him in a hurry about his injury. Archie was standing by the bed, holding a cup and saucer. Forcing his eyes to stay open, he glanced round the room and found it empty. "Where is everyone?"
"Out." Archie placed the cup of tea on the bedside locker. "Brian's taken Shana shopping for an apology present and I hope she fleeces him. The boys have gone to phone a solicitor in Liverpool to talk about new contracts."
Gypsy felt sick and wanted to dive to the loo. Archie wagged a finger at him. "You ought to be more careful, laddie."
Gypsy reddened. "We didn't do anything."
"Knowing Shana like I do, I believe you, but will Brian? You should be grateful I was awake early enough for us to swap beds otherwise you would have had your neck stretched this morning. You are playing around with one mucho dangerous animal, laddie."
"It was Shana's idea. She made me sleep here so go tell, Big Cat Brian if you want to; I'm in too much pain to care. Why haven't you told him yet? I thought you and him were best mates?"
"We were till you opened our eyes about the contracts. There's another reason as well. You showed Brian he can't push people around without getting his knuckles bruised. We should have done it ages ago but we're a lazy lot. It isn't just his band you know; we just let him carry on running the show. We've all got a slice of the pie, although Brian's got Daddy Bear's portion. He seems to have forgotten that if it hadn't been for us putting up a third of the capital he wouldn't have a band. In a way he's still a prefect in that posh school he used to go to. As for Shana, she's a real Christian lady and Brian's being trying his best to get inside her panties for ages. He just doesn't seem to understand about Christian women, know what I mean?"
So that was why she never made a move last night.
"You should have seen her this morning; happy as a dog with a new bone and ready to forgive anybody anything; hence the trip to the shops with Brian. You must have done something last night that made her very happy, but don't worry, there's only me knows. I'm wiser than the three monkeys when Brian's around. Perhaps you'll trade me some of your secrets sometime."
Archie shrugged his shoulders. "Right now, Doctor Drumstick will settle for taking a look at that ankle of yours." He reached down to draw the duvet back and instinct made Gypsy grip them firmly, which made Archie chuckle. "Not so bloody shy with the women, are you?" Gypsy let go of the duvet, feeling too ill to argue. Tossing the duvet aside, Archie whistled appreciatively as he frowned at the damaged ankle. Even with the strapping on it was dreadfully swollen. Archie shook his head. "I'm not touching that, laddie. It needs a doctor or you're in trouble. Are you sure it isn't broken?"
"Don took a look at it before we came away. He said it wasn't."
"Got any money?"
"Quickest way to get a doctor out here is to go private."
"I'd have to get to a bank."
"No need. You can pay me back. So let's get you to the loo before you mess the place." He added sarcastically, "Brian wouldn't like that."
"I'd rather not, thanks very much."
Ten minutes later Gypsy was back in bed and finishing his tea while Archie nipped out to find a doctor.
When the band arrived back for lunch, Gypsy was lying on top of the duvet with his ankle freshly strapped in a bright blue foam splint; his foot raised up on pillows, and a bottle of strong painkillers for company. The doctor had given him strict instructions to stay off the ankle for at least twenty four hours and then to walk only with the aid of a pair of elbow crutches the doctor had kindly loaned him. Brian hit the roof, Shana lost her temper, and they had a blazing row. It was obvious where Brian was going to sleep that night.
Gypsy was already in bed and dozing when the band came back from that night's gig. Brian marched in, his face grim; the rest of the band trundled in behind him with long faces. Archie was the last to arrive and as he closed the door he winked at Gypsy and gave him the thumbs down sign. The gig had gone badly without Gypsy to front the band despite the changes Brian had made to the program at the afternoon's hurried rehearsal; fitting in songs he could sing himself and loading Shana with more numbers. She looked drained but Gypsy guessed they had all found it tough, and he hoped Brian realised what he would lose if he pulled out. So, what now, Brian?
That night, Archie joined him in the double bed again, but it wasn't Archie's hairy arms that reached for him later. His contentment to be with Shana made the pain in his ankle fade away. If he ever needed a mother figure he had certainly found it in this beautiful dark eyed woman.
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