The Cup Bearer
That night Gypsy found it hard to sleep, even with the tablets Dr. Beresford had left for him; he was so wound up about the prospect of meeting his Spanish relatives. Sitting up in bed he used the remote to switch on his TV and video. His way of getting to sleep was to find a suitable video and play it. He was usually asleep within the first half hour but that was the whole idea wasn't it? One of his friends had given him a video of a ballet company dancing Debussy's Coppelia. He had been watching it for about ten minutes when he saw in his mind the ballet being danced in a different environment. Diving out of bed he grabbed a notebook and pencil off his desk. Climbing back into bed he began to make hurried notes, using a condensed form of writing that only he could understand but was much faster than longhand. The ballet was into the last scene and Gypsy was more than ready to sleep when the bedroom door opened and his father walked in clad in pyjamas and bathrobe.
"Still awake? It's almost three o clock."
"I couldn't sleep and I got rather busy. You're up late too." Gypsy replied, eyes fixed on the TV screen.
"I was thirsty so I came own for a hot drink. Would you like one?" When Gypsy declined the invite, Manuel came to sit on the bed. Gypsy held out his notebook, which Manuel took. He turned the notebook so he could read the notes and look at the drawings Gypsy had done. He couldn't understand a thing. "What exactly are you doing?"
"Making notes; it's just a crazy idea I'd like to try someday. I'd like to put Coppelia on ice." Lifting the remote he switched off the TV and settled down in the bed. His father rose to go and Gypsy reached out to catch hold of his hand. "Dad, will you tell me something?"
"Are there any other Diaz kids around?"
Surprised at the question, Manuel looked confused for a moment then said, "I assure you, Gypsy that you are my only son. I was only eighteen and ready to follow my older brothers in their roles as Spanish Casanovas when I met your mother. I fell hopelessly in love with her and she was my first love and my last. Does that answer your question?"
"Yes. Dad, I'm sorry I asked."
"You had every right to know, and I'll tell you something else as well. I arrived here with every intention of asking Rita to become my wife, if she were free. Is there anything else you'd like to know before I go and lubricate my throat?"
"Yes, Dad; are you saved? I never thought to ask you before."
Manuel sat down again, letting his hand remain in Gypsy's. "Yes, Gypsy, I am saved, thanks to my grandmother. Why do you ask?"
"Nothing." Gypsy closed his eyes and burrowed into the pillow. "It's a great feeling, isn't it?"
"Being loved?" Gypsy closed his eyes and didn't remember another thing till the morning.
Manuel sat on the bed and watched his son falling asleep; their hands still clasped together. Yes, Lord, it is a great feeling. It is also a great feeling that my son has the love of good friends like Sandy and Shana to help keep him sane in my absence; thankyou. According to Barry, it had taken a lot of hard talking on Dr. Beresford's part to stop Adams from carting him off to the clinic; arguing that a party was by far the best treatment, hence Perquita's frantic call to Mrs. Cole again. Adams had argued that it was wrong to expect Perquita to cope with a possibly suicidal brother on her own. Beresford rightly pooh-poohed the suicide idea and insisted that taking him away from his family would cause Perquita much more pain, and that she now had strong helpers in Shana and Barry. Shana had raced to the rescue, offering to stay for a few days to cover the hours when Perquita had to go to work to save her job. When Beresford phoned him, Manuel agreed with him that Perquita was a wonderful mother to her siblings and it was more important to support her and not burden her with more worries, even though she would probably be cross with everyone for trying to protect her. Women were such unpredictable creatures.
"One day…" Gypsy muttered sleepily.
Manuel replied gently, "One day, what?"
"Nothing, just thinking about grey rabbits."
"Hush now, go to sleep?" Manuel leaned over to place a gentle kiss on Gypsy's forehead before creeping out of the room. There would be no nightmares tonight...
The following evening, Manuel helped Gypsy hang the sword on the wall above his bed, and then Gypsy gave the white suit and two of the shirts to Ramon to grow into. The other shirts he gave to Maria who looked pretty in them and said they would go well with her new jeans. Jose accepted the cine and TLM cameras with a mumbled word of thanks, and threw his snap camera into a drawer. The tie-pin Gypsy kept for himself. Sandy was lost for words when Gypsy dropped a new Minolta 3000i camera and lenses into his hands; his old one having sustained serious damage when a kid knocked it out of his hands during a shoot at a pool; cameras and water didn't mix very well. Perquita said the books would look very elegant on the lounge bookshelves and promised to ask their grandmother's advice on removing the bloodstain from the bathrobe. There wasn't anything Gypsy could offer Shana but she was quite content to love and cherish the original article.
Friday 15th November. 1995
Gypsy dreamed during the flight to Madrid, of an old woman sleeping peacefully with a smile on her face. When he woke up, he knew why Manuel had chosen this week to cancel a business appointment in Manchester, feeling he should go home; but Gypsy didn't tell him what he knew; that inside an old wagon, a few miles outside Madrid, Old Aida opened her tired eyes and gazed at the faces of her family gathered round her bed. The grey haired man at her side felt her hand tighten within his own as Aida summoned the strength to say, "He's coming, the one I have been waiting for. I said I would live to see him and not one of you believed me." She smiled softly and closed her eyes, and whispered almost to herself. "I knew he would come."
Not long after their arrival at their Madrid hotel, Manuel hired a Landover for the journey to the camp, but before they set off he said to Gypsy, "It has been a long time since I saw my family. I can't guarantee we'll be warmly welcomed. Once a Gitano leaves his tribe, and lives among the Gorgios, his tribe considers him to be a Gorgio also. They don't have the same trust in him again."
Gypsy covered his father's hand where it rested on the steering wheel. "Don't worry, Dad, Your Grandmother will see you're made welcome."
Manuel shot him a surprised look. "How do you know that?"
"Months ago, I would have put it down to my psychic mind, but these days it feels more like God is talking to me. He spoke to me in my dream and let me see Aida. She's dying, Dad, and she wants to see us before she goes."
Suddenly Manuel's eyes were moist and he stared out of the windscreen. "My Grandmother was the first one to speak to me about Jesus. She told me she was saved and I wanted to know what it was like. Most Gitanos follow the Catholic faith in their own erratic sort of way. When they are near a church and the priest makes an effort to minister to them, they make the effort to go to attend mass in return, although the congregations don't always like it. A lot of the gypsies in Spain are classed as thieves and layabouts, up to no good; and certainly not the romantic people portrayed 'a la Hollywood'. There has been a move during the last few years to try and house them and care for some of them. They thanked the do-gooders by ripping out anything saleable including the toilets and cookers, and selling them for what they could get. I was my mother's youngest child and her favourite and she didn't want that life for me. When she heard about the offer of free tuition Maestro Claude made, she urged me to go to Madrid. It was her dying wish and my father could hardly refuse her."
"Well, don't worry, Dad; it's going to be all right. And don't you think we ought to drop the English while we're here in Spain?"
His father laughed, and switched to his native tongue. "Point taken, I've got so used to speaking English in so many countries; I sometimes forget I am Spanish. But how will you get on? You speak it differently to us."
"I'm talking okay now, aren't I? I'll let you into a secret; I'm teaching the kids at home to speak like you, seeing as they regard you as their dad now, except Jose of course."
Manuel looked at Gypsy in surprise. "Did they tell you this?"
"They didn't have to. Since you've been with us, the Gomez family have learned what having a real father means. I don't think you'll win Jose over into your corner of the ring, but I think if you asked them, the others would be happy if you offered to adopt them. They're in limbo, Dad. I was the one who had no dad and had to prove myself as a brother. Now their mother's dead and their dad is missing and due for a long spell in prison if he's caught. As I see it, the roles have been reversed, but while they couldn't understand how I felt about things, I can understand how they're feeling now. I've been thinking about this for some time. They need a father they can rely on and look up to. Legal fostering, leading to adoption in the future, would be wonderful for them. It would also relieve Perquita of some of the work load." Gypsy gave his father a wicked grin. "Barry and Perquita can't keep their eyes off each other, can they? I'm glad we invited his kids to visit."
Manuel studied Gypsy carefully. "You seem to have everything well thought out these days, but if they do get married, won't they want to move to their own place?"
"Well, if they don't, there's plenty of room at Visick Street for all of us. I'd rather Barry stayed close."
"You suspect something, what is it?"
"I don't know. Rudkin came to see Barry the other day? I think Rudkin's got wind of something and Barry won't say what it is. I just have a feeling that something's going to happen. I also have a feeling Jose is going to be a problem in th future. I'll be glad Barry's around to keep an eye on him."
They drove into the mountains, and arrived at the camp as dusk was about to fall. The camp consisted of three old but brightly painted wagons parked outside the entrances of two large caves, and a collection of tents and ramshackle lean-tos. Manuel wisely parked the Landover away from the improvised corral holding several horses. Most of the gypsies were standing in front of the wagon Gypsy had seen in his dream, watching it in silence. A few of them looked towards the strange vehicle and one of them went up the wagon steps and knocked on the door. A grey haired man came out and looked to where the other gypsy was pointing. Shading his eyes, he watched Gypsy and Manuel climb out of the Landover and walk towards the wagon. More people turned to watch them. The old man came down the steps and pushed his way through the crowd. As he came towards them his eyes flicked from one to the other, then he stopped as few feet away from them and stared with widening eyes.
Gypsy and his father had discussed the idea that they should look as much like each other as possible. Gypsy's hair was back to its normal curls and length now, and both he and his father wore identical jeans, white shirts, and black waistcoats left unbuttoned in the way of gypsies. They stood side by side and let the old man take in the uncanny similarity, before Manuel said quietly, "Hello, Papa. I've brought my son to meet you. His name is Gypsy Diaz, named in your honour."
Gypsy said, "Hello, Grandpapa," and waited for Juan Diaz to make the next move. Manuel had explained that his father would either turn his back on them, and walk back to his people indicating he did not acknowledge them as kin, or he would show some sign of acceptance. They waited while he examined them closely. Gypsy looked like the Manuel who had left the camp sixteen years ago; how could he not know who they were?
Slowly he walked towards them and stopped in front of Manuel. "It has been a long time since you left us, Manuel. I acknowledge you for the sake of your grandmother. She has been hanging onto life because of your son." He looked Gypsy up and down. "So you are the one whose birth my mother saw, the day my wife died?"
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