The Cup Bearer
Sunday 16th June 1995
Before approaching Gypsy, Don drew the curtains over the observation window so that whatever they did or said would be private. He'd spent the last half hour in Bryn's office, meeting George Sherbourne for the first time and having a very candid talk about Gypsy and himself; letting the doctor know at last what was really going on in his head. Bryn agreed that for Don to leave the group was a wise move. Sherbourne wisely agreed that caring for Gypsy would be a full time occupation for anyone, and gave Don a crash course on looking after the boy's mental state. What Don told the Graftons would remain a confidential matter, and Bryn said he had already enlightened George Sherbourne about recent developments; Bryn being Gypsy's Psychotherapist only by proxy. Satisfied on all counts for the first time in years, Don walked to where Gypsy was sitting by the window staring at nothing. Turning the chair side on to the window Don hunkered down in front of it and searched with a despairing heart for the beautiful face behind the livid scars. As soon as he felt the chair move Gypsy had shut his eyes and turned his face away.
Placing his hands gently on Gypsy's knees, Don said softly, "Gypsy, look at me." When there was no response he reached up to take hold of the boy's chin, careful not to hurt him, and turned his head to face him. Slowly Gypsy opened his eyes and gazed back at him, but there was nothing in them. The light and the vibrancy had gone, stifled by inner pain at the knowledge of what the attackers had done to him, and that he might never dance again, never play his guitar, never be called Pretty Boy again, and never have children. The three older Gomez children had been allowed to visit their brother, and it had been difficult for them to accept the scars without showing some level of aversion. Ramon and Lucia still had that to come; even though counsellors had been talking to them on a regular basis since the tragic event. Having to look upon this ruined face was no less abhorrent to a man as tough as Don.
"Do you know who did this to you?"
Gypsy nodded slowly. "Guido."
"How can you be so sure?"
"They gave me a message." Gypsy spoke with difficulty. "They said, it was a present from the Engineman; to keep my mouth shut or next time I would have no face left."
"Guido's nickname; he sent them and they told me why. He knows I've been used as bait and he wanted me marked so I couldn't be used again."
"Would you recognise them again?"
Gypsy closed his eyes and frowned, then nodded his head. When he opened his eyes again Don saw the despair and hurt in them.
"I think it's time to go find Grey Rabbit, don't you?"
"I Can't just walk out of here."
"You wanna bet?" Don smiled as he stood up. "It's all taken care of. Monclare agrees with Adams, you'll recover faster at home with your family. You can walk out of here any time you want to, and who said anything about walking?" Leaning down he slipped his arms under the boy and lifted him from the chair.
The boy settled his head on Don's right shoulder and draped his arms round him as best his could, and whispered, "Take me home, Bro."
Friday 27th July 1995
The ground floor bedroom was quiet and cool, and Sandy found Gypsy sitting in his wheel chair, tapping away, right-handed, at his home computer. Manuel had bought it so he could catch up with his schoolwork and take his mocks as soon as he got back to school in September. There was no way he could hold a pen but he could tap a keyboard with one finger easily enough. Gypsy looked around as Sandy closed the door behind him to shut out the din Gypsy's brothers and little sister were making in the hall. He took in the wad of notes in Sandy's hand. "More work? I haven't finished the last lot yet."
"Maybe this will help." Sandy dropped the notes on the bedside desk and rummaged in his school bag. Taking out some floppy disks, he showed them to his mate. "GCSE Maths Revision Notes; Dad bought them for me."
"I don't think I'll be carrying on with the exams, but are they any good?"
"Don't know yet; I thought we could look at them together, right?"
"I need the loo first."
Sandy rolled his mate out into the hall, where Jose and Ramon insisted it was their job to help their brother into the downstairs loo while Don had a break upstairs. While Sandy stood waiting for the three brothers to return to the hall, he reflected on Gypsy's progress. Supported by his brothers, he could shuffle on his padded heels the short distance from his chair to the loo. His hands were healing steadily, and except for the scars and the fact that his smile was a bit crooked and pulling to the right, his face was getting back to normal. Lucia no longer backed away from him or ran away to hide, and that was good, but it was his moods that had Sandy worried. He hadn't yet resumed his interest in music. Playing his flute was impossible and his left hand, which was still splinted, was too weak to finger the strings on his guitar. Sandy guessed this was what frustrated him and made him crawl into his mental shell at the least provocation; but not for long, Sandy hoped. He had a plan which he'd discussed with Pete Gaskin. Gloating unashamedly at his brainwave, he went back into Gypsy's bedroom to put his plan into action. Picking up Gypsy's acoustic guitar, the one his Uncle Jose had made, he removed the strings and began to put them back in reverse order. He had almost finished when Jose wheeled Gypsy into the room. Gypsy glared at him, accusing him silently of touching his treasured possession, but Sandy ignored him. After tuning the instrument according to Gaskin's instructions, he held it out to Gypsy. "Try it."
Gypsy shook his head. "I can't. You know I can't."
Sandy shook his head and turned it round so that the neck was pointing to the right, and laid it across Gypsy's knees. Finding a plectrum in the bedside cabinet drawer, he closed Gypsy's left thumb and index finger on it. "Try playin' it that way." Gypsy just sat there, looking down at the guitar, and Sandy said impatiently. "I can name at least one famous guitarist who plays his guitar that way round."
"I'd have to relearn it all." Gypsy's protest was a feeble one.
"So? Get relearnin', then. That's what a famous Belgian gypsy 'ad to do after damaging 'is 'ands in a fire."
"Yep. 'D'Jango was only eighteen at the time. Lost two fingers on his left 'and." When he saw the sides of the wheelchair got in the way, Sandy removed them. "You get a few decent chords out of that guitar and I'll let you see the surprise I've brought."
Sandy shook his head. "You've got to earn it first? No chords, no surprise." Fifteen minutes later Gypsy managed to play the chords of C. G and F to Sandy's satisfaction, the plectrum gripped comfortably between the thumb and index finger of his nearly useless left hand. Sandy rummaged in his bag and brought out the twelve by nine inch photographs he had printed the previous night. Before Manuel returned to Chicago after the funeral, he had begged Sandy to take a series of portraits, of him and Gypsy, and of Gypsy and his brothers and sisters. Sandy and Jose worked together and shot the whole series in grainy black and white with everyone, including the girls, wearing white shirts and black trousers, and Sandy had printed them on semi-mat paper. There were twelve shots in all and from the look in Gypsy's eyes, as he studied the results, Sandy knew he was more than pleased. He also knew not to expect any more reaction from him. Since the day Don had carried him into the house and deposited him in the downstairs bedroom, lovingly prepared by his siblings and filled with Grey Rabbit and all his favourite things, he had shown little reaction to anything.
He had little or no interest in any of the things he used to do and would often be found sitting by the window, staring at nothing. It seemed that he was reliving what had happened over and over in his head, and was haunted by it. Even when Edward Grafton had marched in with the computer Manuel had paid for, accompanied by a retired schoolteacher with gentle eyes and white hair, who came in for two hours every weekday to supervise a program of study organised by MacCaffrey, he had been slow to respond. Sandy and Pete tried to get him interested in music again but had hit a blank wall, and the idea of friends dropping by to keep him company had been strongly rejected. Gypsy had even snubbed Sandy for two days for even suggesting it, and he had refused with fierce determination to be taken out in the wheelchair or in the Volvo. For all Don's courageous efforts to prevent it, he was becoming reclusive, and that was why Sandy had thought about the idea of encouraging him to play his guitar to the right, so all Gypsy's left hand had to do was hold the plectrum, or pluck the strings with already claw shaped fingers. Music and pain was all Gypsy had known from a young age, and Sandy knew that the former had to be the key to surmounting the latter.
He drew out a second parcel from his bag. Opening it carefully, he laid it across Gypsy's knees and saw Gypsy's eyes glisten at the sight of the framed photograph Jose had taken of Gypsy and Lucia in the garden on the day of Rita's funeral. Sandy had experimented with it and had blurred the edges of the print, leaving just the central oval in focus and showing the two heads with the fanned eyelashes. In the bottom left hand corner he had tucked a label reading 'eyelashes by Jose Gomez.' The writing was in gold scrollwork written by Sandy's mother who was a dab hand at calligraphy, and it made the photograph look more professional.
"This is really beautiful. This is the one Jose took, isn't it?"
"Yep, 'e's going' to be a good cameraman when 'e's older."
"Has he seen these yet?"
"No, shall I call him in?" Sandy asked. Gypsy nodded and lifted the print to look at the other smaller photographs taken the same day. Sandy went to the door to call Jose in. He trotted in, wondering why he'd been called into his brother's domain, and then he saw the photographs on Gypsy's lap and his eyes lit up.
Picking up his first photographic attempt, he grinned happily. "Wow! I did that?"
"Yep, and these others," Gypsy handed them to Jose to look at. "It's your birthday next month. Perhaps you would like a camera; you've got talent." Then the smile faded from Gypsy's face as something not so pleasant crossed his mind, and placing all the photographs into Jose's hands, he handed his guitar to Sandy and manoeuvred his wheelchair round to face the computer. Had he just realised that these were the last photographs ever to be taken of him with a perfect face, or had he remembered others that had been taken of him in the past? Sandy didn't know. "Will you go now," Gypsy said sharply. "I have work to do; you too, Sandy. I want to be alone for a bit."
Sandy steered Jose quickly out of the room and the lad looked angrily at him. "He's not getting better is he?"
"Of course 'e is; it's just two steps forward and one step back, isn't it? We've just got to be patient with him a bit longer; like the band, right? Makes no difference 'im not playin' with us yet; we're still practicin' just the same, back at Don's garage; and you're not to breathe a word to Gypsy about that. It's a surprise for when 'e's back to normal again, right? Now you and Ramon have got to carry on, normal like. And don't worry about 'im shovin' the pics at you like that, you could see 'e liked them. 'E'll 'ave you 'angin' them up on the walls in no time. So promise me you'll stick by 'im? And by the way, it isn't Gypsy's fault your dad's not 'ere. Your dad brought that on 'imself, right?"
Jose hesitated for a moment then glanced over his shoulder at the closed bedroom door. He nodded before going off to find Ramon; and Sandy went back into the bedroom to show Gypsy how the programs on the floppy discs worked.
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