The Cup Bearer
Sunday 2nd June 1995
Gypsy tested his ankle, letting his weight bear down on it, decided it was a lot better and picked up his crutches to make his way to the table where Shana dished out the massive portions of fish and chips Glen had brought in for their lunch. Lots of carbohydrates were essential before a heavy day's work, even if Gypsy had to monitor what he ate. They had an afternoon festival to perform at, but the jewel of their tour that night as a supporting act at the Manchester Apollo in place of a band that had gone lame at the last minute. If they did well there, they were on their way up, and Gypsy didn't want to hobble on stage on crutches like he had last night. The previous night's gig in Blackpool had gone down well, even though his dance routine had been cut out and extra numbers slotted in. He had spent most of the time perched on a high stool using a hand mike or playing his guitar. Even Brian seemed pleased, but only Archie knew the reason he and Shana blended together so well.
Gypsy sat down at the table and poured himself a cup of coffee, listening idly to Glen and Dave discussing a problem they were having with one of the amplifiers. Brian came into the room, growling about Archie taking too long in the shower. He still hadn't twigged what was going on under his nose. When he did, Gypsy would be ready for him. Archie said he would be glad when the tour was over and things were back to normal, believing that Shana would go back to being Brian's girlfriend, and Gypsy would take his pick of the birds who fronted the stage at their gigs; Gypsy was not so sure. He didn't think Shana would have the same feelings for Brian, and he certainly wasn't interested in the local talent.
Archie came into the room, carrying his gear, and went to his bed to pack his holdall. Suddenly he froze and stared at Brian who was sprawled out on the double. Gypsy glanced his way and saw Brian frowning, then sniffing and turning his face to the pillow beneath his head. Gypsy heard Archie swear softly. Shana's new perfume, the one Brian had bought her as a peace offering! Zero hour had come at last. Brian was off the bed and standing behind Shana in seconds. "You bitch!" He caught hold of her arm and spun her round. Chips flew everywhere and the fork she was using clattered to the floor. "You cradle snatching slag!"
He raised his hand to slap her and Gypsy said quietly, "You do and you're history."
Brian hesitated and all except Archie stared in astonishment when anger ruled out reason and he struck her such a back hander she fell sideways into Glen and Dave as they shot to their feet. They landed on the floor with a load of chips for company and Gypsy shot to his feet, his chair clattering backward. Brian grabbed for his hair and sudden agony seared his ankle as he went into a defensive Judo stance, knowing his ankle would not hold him. Brian jerked him off balance and slammed his fist into Gypsy's stomach. The room tilted and he couldn't breathe. He landed heavily and instinct made him roll to his knees but as he shook his head to clear it, Brian's foot connected viciously with his ribs, sending him sprawling again. Somewhere far away he heard Brian shout, "You slimy little pig shit! I ought to tear your heart out." As soon as he could breathe again and could see properly, he saw Archie standing between him and Brian, with Glen and Dave holding Brian back from kicking him again. Archie said, "Take it easy. Brian, no harm done, nothing happened."
Joe helped Gypsy to his feet and demanded to know what was going on. "You mean you don't know?" Brian snarled. "Archie does, don't you Archie? No wonder that black bitch didn't want to share the double with me, she wanted to play little games with this piece of rubbish. How's that for a bit of back-stabbing?"
Dave's eyebrows disappeared under his hairline. "But she was in the other single, we saw her."
"Was she? That's not where I smelt her perfume; the one I bought her AFTER we took the singles. The double stinks of it." Escaping from Dave and Glen he grabbed Archie by his T-shirt. "Started wearing lady's perfume, have we, Archie?" He hit him, and Archie went down, then Brian turned his attention to the real quarry. By this time Gypsy was on his feet and sufficiently recovered, and ready for him. His hatred for the guy overcame all pain. Brian launched himself at him but Gypsy was in the perfect position for a Seoi-nage, his legs spread and his weight on his left foot. He made full body contact, braced himself for the pain as he stepped in from his right, and executed a two handed version of the throw. Agony made him sick as he pivoted in front of Brian, pulled Brian's weight on to his right foot, his balance already broken. Brian sailed easily over Gypsy's right shoulder to land heavily in front of him. Everyone else in the room thought that was it and stood frozen to the floor. Gypsy used the time it took for Brian to sit up, to conquer the waves of pain and nausea and get his breath back by dropping to his knees behind Brian and catching him in a simple choke, thumb side of his right arm pressing steadily against Brian's throat and kept there by clasping his two hands together. Squeezing hard, he pulled Brian back onto him. He knew how far he could go without endangering Brian's life; he just wanted to give the creep a nasty fright. Brian's hands clawed at his face then at his arm, but he hung on. Someone caught hold of Gypsy's hair and forced his head back. Someone else was trying to break his hold, and all the time Brian was making horrible choking sounds. Suddenly Archie was kneeling in front of them. "Sorry, kid, I have to do it." When he came round he was lying on the double bed. His chin hurt, and someone held wet compresses to that and his forehead. Shana was sobbing in Joe's arms and Brian was sitting on one of the singles with his head in his hands. No one spoke till it was time to leave for the festival.
They arrived back at Visick Street at 2 o'clock on Monday morning and found Don watching anxiously from the front lounge window. They had stopped in Liverpool first, to drop Les and Glen at their homes, and Shana at the bus station. Brian had been the only one who had not got out of the van to see her onto the last bus to Blackpool. She didn't say anything, and that alone signified to Gypsy that he had done more damage than he meant to. Shana had hugged and kissed them all in sisterly fashion, but when it was Gypsy's turn she had just put her arms round him and kissed his cheek with tears in her eyes. He had refused to be helped back into the van till her bus had left the station and Brian drove off without him but someone in the van made him stop and back up to him. On the way back to Trentham he'd sat between Joe and Dave in the back of the van, nursing a badly bruised chin and ribs. His ankle hurt like the devil and he felt utterly miserable. In wanting to hurt Brian, he had hurt Shana as well. Yet again, he had created a disaster for himself, and had made one more enemy. Although he had won Dave and Glen onto his side, as always he had been stung by his own tail and had drained the last ounce of vitality the band had possessed; a band which had been strong leaving Trentham, but returning literally in shreds. His eyes had filled with tears when he realised that in wanting to hurt Brian he had hurt the whole band. Nothing would be the same again for any of them.
It had been a miracle they had got to the festival on time or to the Apollo that night, which had turned out to be the best gig they had ever done, getting through it with the minimum of conversation and a load of pan-stick to hide the bruises. The crutches had been returned to the doctor and Gypsy managed the best he could without them, but he had put up with the pain and had shown Brian what it was to be a pro, and what he couldn't do with his feet he had more than made up for with his voice till his throat was red raw. To keep the peace, he and Shana had avoided each other except when performing, and Brian had agreed to let things be till they were on home ground. What would happen next was anyone's guess. Shana had told him at the bus station that she was going home to Blackpool for a few days break, and to help her sister run their kiosk on the prom; she needed time to think things over. Joe had told him not to worry too much; the band would pull itself together in time. He didn't think they would ever trust Brian again, especially where contracts were concerned; but what about him? How would they feel about him? He wouldn't blame them if they thought him a troublemaker who couldn't keep his hands to himself. With him not yet sixteen, they weren't the type to believe the truth.
He watched the band drive off, after dumping him and his gear outside his house, and he remembered the words he had said to Shana at the top of the stairs. "Stay away from me, Shana, or I'll sting you too!" She should have taken him seriously; he also knew he was going to miss her. Forgetting about his ankle, he picked up his bag and guitar case, and turned to go through the gate. A wave of sickening pain shot all the way up his leg and the next thing he knew Don was picking him up off the pavement and carrying him into the house.
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