The Cup Bearer
Saturday 23rd November. 1995
Gypsy walked into the Clovely Hotel in Blackpool, carrying his guitar and a soft sided case, and saw a four piece band already preparing to begin the evening's entertainment on a tiny stage. He was glad appearances could deceive as they didn't look like any of them could play his stuff. They were all grey haired and looked more like a Bach ensemble than a dance band. Tables and chairs bordered the dance floor and a long buffet table had been set up along one side of the room. Several hotel staff finished loading it with a mouth-watering selection of cold dishes as the place slowly filled with guests and friends of the bride and groom. He walked up to the band and set his stuff on the floor. "Excuse me, which of you gentlemen is the leader of this band?"
The scrawny looking piano player turned round on his stool and blinked at him. "I am, young man; what is it you want?"
Gypsy unzipped the side pocket of the case and pulled out the sheets of music Sandy had worked over; he had even made notes across the top of each one setting out the rhythms, and had marked the relevant breathing spaces, and even the metronome values. He held them out to the bandleader. "I'm the entertainment and these are my scores. Piano, drums, guitar and base; that's what I was told to bring."
The bandleader took them, gave them a quick scan and looked at Gypsy in surprise. "You're going to sing these?"
"Is there a problem?"
"No. I can understand your choice of Spanish songs for your second set but you just look a little young to be singing jazz and ballads."
Gypsy glared at him. "What do you expect me to sing, Humpty Dumpty?" He turned away before he hit the roof and said something he shouldn't.
"Don't be hasty, young man; don't you want us to run through these with you?"
Gypsy turned back to him and said as calmly as he could, "You play them; I'll sing them, okay?" Disgusted he turned to look for Shana and saw her making her way towards him. She looked terrific in a sapphire blue satin 'forties' outfit. She had a matching pillbox hat perched on her head with a veil hanging daintily over her large black eyes. Trying not to look too eager to see each other they squeezed hands, and Gypsy asked, "Did Jo object to you wearing that outfit today? I mean it isn't exactly bride's maid's gear is it?"
"Of course not; she was quite tickled, and she didn't even ask why I wanted to wear it. It's a wonder it still fits me. I haven't worn it for years. How did your Spanish vacation go?"
"Great. I never knew I had so many cousins; I lost count after the first ten. They really are a great bunch of people. You must come with me next time."
"We'll see. Have you got your stuff?"
"All here." Gypsy pointed to his bag. "Where do I change?"
"There's a dressing room at the back of the stage." Gypsy noticed the sparkle fade from Shana's eyes. "I'm so nervous, Gypsy. Are you sure we should do this? Jo said she wouldn't say anything about us entering that contest next week but I didn't tell her about this routine so she's as much in the dark as Mum and Dad."
Gypsy gave her hands another squeeze. "You worry too much. You want to get back to dancing and you've proved you can with that contest, so what better way to show your family they were wrong about you not dancing again. And don't forget, this is your wedding present to Jo and Ed, after all it's them who got you back on your feet."
"And you into my dancing shoes again." Shana smiled at him. "But I only did this routine with Jo and that was years ago."
"So what; you think we can't do as good as you and your sister did? Come on, stop getting cold feet!" Gypsy didn't tell her he was having butterflies of his own at the prospect of singing with a strange band. He'd been given the opportunity of a quick rehearsal and he'd blown it. If she knew his own knees were knocking she'd never dance a step. He changed into his new white suit and the blue shirt Shana had managed to find to match her costume, and joined her in the ballroom. First she introduced him to her parents, who had flown over from the States for the wedding. The minute Shana mentioned he was her boyfriend there was a flash of disapproval in her father's eyes. It was obvious they did not approve of their baby daughter associating, even business-wise, with a Latin. What was it with these people who wore their prejudices on their sleeves for all to see?
The party itself was a good one, the food was excellent, with plenty to drink including non-alcoholic, and everyone was enjoying themselves, including the band that proved to be more than capable of playing a variety of music from old time waltz to modern disco. The atmosphere was perfect with the dance floor full to bursting, and that suited Gypsy because they put him in the right mood to sing. Shana introduced him and he sang five songs, each a different tempo and was suitably impressed by the band's efforts to keep with him, then the time came for Shana to spring her surprise. As the wedding guests roared their applause, he signalled to the band to take over while he slipped backstage to put on his tap shoes and a white fedora. Walking back out he stood off stage while Shana stepped behind one of the two stand mikes that had been placed in front of the stage. Turning to the puzzled guests, she spoke into the mike. "Can I have your attention please? Thank you. Now, Jo and Ed, Mum and Dad, relatives and friends, most of you know about the car crash that put me in a wheel chair and you know it was Ed who pulled me through and brought me home. With his help, Jo got me on my feet again when the doctors said I was a hopeless case. As a wedding present to these two lovely people I've planned a surprise. Jo, do you remember the dances we used to do when we were in our teens? Remember this outfit?" Shana indicated her costume. "You and I used to wear these when we pretended to be the Andrew Sisters and learnt all their songs so we could entertain at family parties. Well, Jo, you've got a new partner now and I wish you all the best for the future, but I can't dance on my own, so I'd like you to meet my new dancing partner."
Immediately, the band broke into a foot tapping boogie, and Gypsy stepped forward to join Shana behind the mikes. They'd worked out a medley of Andrews songs, the first being 'Rum Boogie' with Shana singing melody and Gypsy the harmony. Once through the song they stepped in front of the mikes and treated their surprised audience to a fine piece of footwork. "Beat Me Daddy. Eight to The Bar!" a voice shouted from the audience as they started the second song of the medley, and Jo came skipping across the floor, already lifting her lace wedding dress to knee height. Gypsy grinned happily as Jo fitted into the routine as if she'd rehearsed it with them. Now he had two beautiful partners to dance with and he loved it. After the third medley song, Jo returned to her astonished husband and let her sister have the glory. A quick glance at the pianist told Gypsy the guy was tickled at the way the routine was going; his three companions enjoying themselves as much as he was, with huge grins on their craggy faces. He had taken them, back to their own teenage years and that could only be good. When the applause came at last, Gypsy was quick to acknowledge the band before Jo and her family ran across the floor to mob Shana with tears in their eyes; tears of delight that their little angel was dancing again.
Feeling this was a private affair, Gypsy turned to go backstage but was stopped by a large hand on his shoulder. Ed grinned down at him. "Thanks for finishing what we started."
"You've got it wrong, Ed," Gypsy protested as Ed pumped his hand. "Shana did it herself. I just gave her the opportunity." But Ed wouldn't listen and dragged him into the family group who wanted to shake his hand and thank him. It was when they started subtly examining his face that he decided to escape to the dressing room and cool down. Screaming kids he could handle but this flood of adults covering their curiosity with adoration was something he could not yet cope with. He changed back into his normal 'Gypsy' costume complete with the black hat Juan had given him, and waited another five minutes before returning to the stage, carrying his guitar. For another twenty minutes, he held the wedding guests in his control as he sat on a high stool and accompanied himself while he sang a selection of Latin songs. Soon it was nine o' clock and time for the golden coach to turn into a pumpkin. His act was at an end and it was time to step down and become one of the guests. Shana immediately claimed him for a dance; a nice slow number with the lights turned low. They danced real close with fingers entwined, cheeks touching, daring to nuzzle each other in front of her folks; dangerous but oh so delicious. Gypsy glanced at her parents and saw them glaring at him. Mr. Royle leaned his head towards his wife's and said something to her. Gypsy turned Shana round a little way, and said in her ear. "They're talking about us."
"I'll give you three guesses."
Shana laughed softly. "I can guess what they're saying. 'It's disgusting, a grown woman smooching on the floor with a boy, and a Latin at that.' Well I don't care."
Gypsy moved his head till they were nose to nose. "Do you think it's disgusting?" Shana didn't seem to share his humour, and he frowned at her. "They've got something against Latinos? What is it?"
"I'm sorry, I should have warned you. There was some trouble while we were living in London; it involved a group of Latin Americans businessmen. Dad was forced to return to the States to save the embassy any embarrassment. Dad's had a nasty taste in his mouth about Latinos ever since, and avoids having anything to do with anyone of Spanish extraction."
"Oh dear," Gypsy said with mock severity. "I don't think Shana Royle is in her daddy's good books right now. Are you bothered about it?"
"Like I just said, I don't care." Shana replied and placed a quick kiss on his nose. "I'm not Daddy's girl anymore; and I am twenty one." Gypsy picked her up and twirled her round and round and they hugged and laughed, and didn't care who saw them.
Jo and Ed left at ten o'clock, driving away from the hotel and round the block to park at the rear of the hotel next door where they were to spend the night unobserved and undisturbed. Certain friends had found out where they were supposed to be staying and were lying in wait, and it was Gypsy and Shana who had overheard the would be ambushers planning their dirty deed. They had alerted Ed and the alternative arrangement had been hastily made by the hotel manager, with the hotel next door. At eleven thirty, Barry arrived to drive Gypsy home and, despite the Royle's hostility towards him, he found he didn't want to leave. Shana and Gypsy managed to find a dark alcove just off the main foyer where they could embrace without being gawped at by too many curious people and Gypsy found he was trembling with a new nervousness he couldn't describe. He didn't want to let go of her, he didn't want her to stop kissing him the way she was, and suddenly he knew what was happening. He jerked back from her, breathing hard and trying to calm a stirring inside that he recognised with a mixture of gladness and horror. Shana's eyes widened as she too realised that something was happening as well.
"Oh, wow!" Shana stepped back from him with dancing eyes and a faint smile tugging at her mouth.
Gypsy's heart began to hammer and the heat reached his cheeks. "I'd better go. If I don't…"
Shana nodded her head and lowered her eyes, looking like a shy teenager on her first date. "We might…I'll call you."
Gypsy found it hard to just walk away from her, pick up his guitar and case, and walk out to where Barry had the Volvo ticking over. Tossing his gear onto the back seat he got in beside Barry and let out a sigh of relief.
"Trouble?" Barry asked.
"You bet, but not the kind you can take care of. Just drive and get me home." All the way home, he tried to work out why and how it had happened, and how he was going to handle it. At least it gave him the hope that the thugs had not been entirely successful. Before he went to sleep that night, he knelt on the carpet by his bed and thanked God for showing him the signs and asked God to forgive him, and help him fight against the temptation that had almost overpowered him. A voice spoke softly to him, calming him, telling him he had done well; and that led him to phone Shana.
She answered the call after the first ring, as if she had known he would call. "Gypsy, I was about to go to bed but I couldn't stop thinking about you. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm okay. You know what happened tonight, don't you?"
"I think so." Shana's voice held a chuckle in it. "Are you pleased?"
"About what; the fact that I love you or that something might have happened if I'd stayed with you?"
"Yeah, I'm pleased, I think. But I'm afraid as well."
"So am I. We'll just have to be careful, won't we?"
"I guess so. Shana?"
"I love you."
"I love you too."
"G'night, Shana, I'll call you."
"Goodnight, my sweet prince."
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