The Cup Bearer
Don felt better now he was on his way to the plane; No time for a last minute change of mind. He strode along the designated Jetway; determined to find Cissy and start a new life, no matter how much it hurt. His future lay open and uncertain, and his next home would be wherever he landed. Where that would be he didn't know, and didn't care.
He couldn't believe how willingly Manuel had released him from his promise to protect Gypsy till his education was complete, and had still bought the garage. Was this a pay off? Don didn't think so as it was his own idea to leave, not Manuel's, but it would pay for his flight and his immediate needs while he searched for Cissy. He was so engrossed in the thought of having enough cash to see him through the next few months at least, that he didn't take any notice of the scuffle and yelling behind him until someone screamed his name. He turned round out of curiosity and had to drop his bag in a hurry to catch the figure that raced towards him. He had no option but to open his arms and scoop him up or be knocked off balance, such was the force of Gypsy's body hitting him.
"You can't do this." Gypsy pummelled his chest. "You can't leave me like this. I won't let you."
"I have to." Don tried to push the boy off him and fend off the blows.
Gypsy grabbed hold of his coat and clung desperately to him and gazed up at him with angry, tear filled eyes. "You can't do this to me. You're my bro."
"I have to," Don said again. "We have to make the break."
"No we don't."
"You might not have to, but I do." Don sighed deeply, and seeing he wasn't going to extricate himself from the boy's grip he tried another way. Embracing the boy, he pulled his head into his chest and rocked him gently. "I'm only doing what you did for Tony. I know now how you feel and I'm doing this for you as well as myself. Remember what Elijah said? Remember what we read in the Bible? It's best this way. I'm going to look for Cissy and I'm going to marry her, and maybe catch a few perverts on the way." He felt Gypsy start to weep against his chest and he tightened his embrace.
"You can't just leave me like this," Gypsy choked out. "I need you, Don. I need my big bro."
"No you don't." Don managed to break Gypsy's hold on him and thrust him away till he was at arm's length and he could look into his face. "Just listen to me for a moment, kid. We're too close for me to handle it. I should have done something about this long ago. I tried to, but your dad persuaded me to stay and look after you. That just made things worse for me. Do you understand?"
Gypsy stared up at him and sniffed back his tears. "You mean you…you love me?"
"Yes, Gypsy." Don reached out to stroke Gypsy's left cheek. "That's why I have to go. You were right when you told Elijah Stone it wasn't easy for me."
"Mr. Clooney, we're ready to go," a woman's voice broke in. "Would you mind boarding the plane, please." A stewardess was standing a few yards away from them. In the direction of the departure lounge, Manuel and Edward walked towards them followed by two airport police officers.
"I have to go." Don ruffled Gypsy's curls, almost in tears himself. "Goodbye, little bro. Take care, and maybe one day, when you're a big star I'll say to people, hey, that's Gypsy Diaz, my little bro up there." He lowered his hand to shake hands with him, and Gypsy grasped his hand tightly while trying to find a handkerchief in his pocket.
Once his face was dry and his nose blown, Gypsy said bravely, "It would have been great if…"
"Yeah," Don replied gruffly, "it would have been great but it's not to be."
Manuel's eyes were moist as he took hold of his son and pulled him gently away from Don.
"Bye, big bro," Gypsy whispered tearfully as he tried to smile.
Don picked up his bag and gave Gypsy a lazy salute before smiling to hide his own breaking heart. "Bye, little bro." He turned to follow the stewardess and found it the hardest thing he'd ever done in his life.
Behind him, Manuel had a firm grip on Gypsy but there was no need as the boy stopped struggling and watched Don walk away; a look of confusion on his tear stained face. Manuel turned him round in an effort to relieve him of the painful sight, and Gypsy stood with his head down. Slowly Manuel put an arm round his shoulders and steered him to where Edward and policemen were waiting. Edward said something to the two men and they nodded and walked away, satisfied there would be no trouble. On reaching Edward, Gypsy shook off Manuel's arm, lifted his head and, clutching his sore hands to his chest, he limped ahead of them.
The drive home, with Edward driving the Rover, which Manuel had also bought off Don, was silent and stressful. Manuel fully expected Gypsy to explode again, but his son sat in the back seat and stared out of the window. They reached Visick Street without mishap and Gypsy walked into the house as if he was returning from a rehearsal, and Manuel wondered how long the show of normality would last.
Maria had wisely made sure the boys were shut in the back living room with their homework; and Manuel guessed Perquita was still in her bedroom. Gypsy walked straight into the kitchen, put the kettle on and poured some medication into the bowl Perquita had left on the draining board. Manuel exchanged worried looks with Edward. Now they had the unhappy task of explaining to Perquita that she was right about her brother and Don. They went and sat in the lounge to wait for her to appear. "He's too normal," Edward observed as they sat down. "I think I prefer him yelling and crying to this."
"Have you contacted George?"
"Yes. He's arriving Thursday morning. I have to get back to London but I've already arranged for Gary Norton to pick him up at the airport. Can you stay?"
"Yes. I only had three private seminars over the next two weeks and I've managed to re-arrange them. I've reached the point in my career when my students and audiences are quite happy to arrange other dates for me. I will stay as long as my son needs me." He heard Gypsy's voice, raised in anger and he stood up, preparing himself mentally to have a quiet talk with Perquita.
He stepped out into the hall and saw Lucia in the kitchen doorway staring at her brother who yelled at her. "My name isn't Meelie anymore, it's Gypsy, and I'm not your big brother so leave me alone." There came the sound of a cup smashing on the floor then the back door slammed and Lucia turned and ran towards Manuel with an unhappy wail.
"Lucia?" Perquita appeared on the stairs and ran down as Manuel scooped the crying child into his arms. "What's wrong?"
Between sobs, the little girl wailed, "Meelie doesn't …like me…anymore."
Leaving Perquita to comfort her sister. Manuel went into the kitchen. Coffee was splattered all over the floor with pieces of broken cup plus the bowl and its contents. Manuel stepped over the mess, opened the back door and went out into the garden. He found Gypsy sitting on the bench under the kitchen window with his head in his hands. Sitting down beside him he said. "You shouldn't have yelled at Lucia like that. She doesn't understand. She needs a big brother."
Gypsy looked away. "What about me, don't I need one? All my life I've had to be big brother. I never knew what it was like to be a kid. Then Don came along and for the first time in my life I didn't have to be a grown up. It was great, Dad, having a big brother."
Feeling choked up himself, Manuel thought of his own family, so many brothers and sisters, all older than him and with families of their own. He just couldn't imagine being an older child. He slipped an arm round Gypsy's shoulders, and at first Gypsy resisted his offer of comfort then slowly leaned against him, and began to cry.
Thursday 5th September 1995
Manuel checked his watch for the fifth time and stared out of the lounge window, watching for the Rover bringing George from the airport. The last two days had been worrying for all the members of the household; everyone being affected by Gypsy's reaction to Don's departure. Beresford had called on Tuesday morning, checked his blood sugar levels, which had nose-dived from not eating properly, and he in turn had contacted Adams. The psychiatrist arrived Tuesday afternoon and left some anti-depressants with Manuel, and decided to wait for George to arrive before he did anything else. All through the rest of Tuesday and all of Wednesday, Gypsy stayed in a sad world of his own. He neither spoke to his siblings nor joined in any family activity, choosing to stay in his room or wander about the house as if looking for something. On Wednesday afternoon Gypsy went upstairs. An hour went by and Gypsy had not returned.
Manuel went to look for him and found him in Don's bedroom, sitting on the floor in a corner of the room, head down with his arms wrapped round his knees. No amount of persuasion on Manuel's part could make him come out of that room. Adams paid him another visit and told Manuel that if Gypsy did not respond to the medication soon, he would admit him to the Rosscroft. Manuel didn't want that to happen and searched the street for the Rover. When it did appear he almost cried with relief.
George marched into the house, and Manuel met him in the hall. They shook hands and George said, "I came as soon as I could. I rang Adams from the airport. I guess we've got a problem. Is there somewhere we can talk in private?"
Manuel showed him into the lounge where he gave George as many details as he could. "He refuses to go to school, he's not eating properly, he rarely sleeps at night, and I found him in the music room at three o'clock this morning, trying to play his guitar and failing miserably. He didn't notice I was there. In the end he was ready to smash it and I had to take it off him and get him back to his room. He won't talk to anyone, and hides in dark corners. His daily life has come to a standstill."
"And this is due to Don Clooney leaving?"
"It couldn't be for any other reason. He feels he's lost a brother."
"That makes sense. He's grieving, Manuel. A man suddenly leaves his wife, or a wife leaves her husband; a family gets broken up and taken into care. The person left behind suffers the same trauma as a person losing someone through death. The boy is grieving. Edward mentioned he's been crying a lot since Don spoke to him, but I don't think it's just over Don. He's grieving for a lot of things gone bad in his life; like losing Tony and his mother. At least that's one breakthrough. For some reason I could never fathom, he couldn't cry. My advice is to encourage him to cry. It could help release the barriers of the cocoon he's been living in. Did Don mention why he asked the kid if his mother told him not to cry?"
"Yes. Apparently Don's mother told him the same thing. Don't cry, mustn't cry, it'll only hurt you more. It took a long time for Don to break that rule himself, and he sensed that was what Rita had done to Gypsy when he was being abused by Guido as a little boy."
"Well, Don's stay here proved a blessing in one way at least. Don gave him a taste of something good, and he wants it bad. I guess the boy was coping with having to grow up with Don's help; but losing Don, even if Don's reasons for leaving were in the boy's best interests, was too much of a blow."
Manuel remembered his own childhood, poor in circumstances but rich in love and happy enough. Thinking about it made him realise he needed to see his family again, especially his grandmother. "It seems Don was both right and wrong to go. What can we do about it?"
"Steer Gypsy away from even thinking about this possible affair with Don. Make him feel like a kid again and take him back to his childhood. We can all do this, not just you and me but the whole family. Let's talk to Perquita first. The sooner we get Gypsy sorted the sooner she can get back to work and live her own life again. It must be hard on her being a mother to her brothers and sisters and a nursemaid to Gypsy as well. Where is she now?"
"I'll call her." Manuel felt relieved already that someone else was taking authority over the situation. Going out into the hall he found Perquita hovering outside Gypsy's bedroom door with Lucia playing nearby.
When she followed him into the lounge with Lucia in tow, George's eyes immediately went to the little girl. "There's your answer, Manuel."
Gypsy sat in the corner of Don's bedroom, with his head on his arms, thinking of the time he'd slashed his wrists. It would be so easy to do it again. "Help me, God," he whispered desperately. "I want to die but I know it's wrong. Please help me."
Someone touched him on the shoulder. He looked up and found George gazing down at him with a twinkle in his eyes. He was on his feet in a flash and trapped in a crushing bear hug. He felt so safe, safer than he had been for a long time. George wouldn't let him down, not ever.
George sat by the bed watching Gypsy's eyes close and his breathing slow to an easy rhythm. "Can you hear me?"
"You're not using the hypno stuff on me are you?"
"No. I just want you relaxed and comfortable while I talk. I want you to think of the kind of childhood you would have liked. Think of the games kids play. Imagine yourself as Lucy, just learning to read and learning about rainbow colours. Can you see them?"
"Yeah, I can see them. What else is there?"
"Lots of things, like books and colouring pencils, ball games and table games; have you ever played Ludo or snakes and ladders?"
"Once, I think, before…" Gypsy's forehead creased into an angry frown.
"Forget Guido. Think of snakes and ladders, and Ramon's new Starwars game. Ramon tells me it's his favourite game and he wants to show you how to play it. Jose's just bought a card game."
"Cards are bad."
"Not this game. You match colours and numbers and the winner of the hand is the one who gets rid of his cards, just like Rummy. It's called Uno."
"Uno; spelt UNO. I like playing Othello myself."
"I've heard of that one." Rolling over onto his side, Gypsy opened his eyes and studied George. "What did you do as a kid?"
"Me? It was all baseball for me; and Disney. I think I was weaned on Disney films, Bugs Bunny and Marvel Comics. I think the first Disney full length cartoon I ever saw was Fantasia. There must be loads of cartoons on the TV. You'll have to get Jose and Ramon to show you them. Better still, Perquita says your local cinema has a Saturday morning cartoon club. Use Jose and Ramon as an excuse to go. That's what I used to do. And I used to love the park, you know?"
"Parks are bad."
"Not all of them. Some have swings and roundabouts and stuff like that. And fairs, I liked fairs, I still do. We used to have lots of them where I lived." George watched Gypsy's eyes getting heavy. If he talked just a little bit longer, the boy would fall asleep. He talked softly for another ten minutes then went downstairs to talk to Manuel and Perquita. "He's asleep now and I suggest you let him sleep when he wants to and where he wants to. I've sown the seeds, we'll just have to wait and see what happens."
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