The Cup Bearer
It wasn't long before Thomas arrived with the news that the trial was booked for the 16th of June at Manchester Crown Court. "That's very short notice, isn't it?" Manuel queried. They were in the music room where Manuel had been giving Gypsy a guitar lesson. "I thought he would be tried in a juvenile court." Shana put down the book she had been reading and went to stand by Gypsy's chair. Gypsy glanced up at her and took hold of her hand, squeezing it hard.
"Sometimes we don't even have that much time before a case is brought to court," Thomas said. "All homicide cases are tried in a Crown Court regardless of age. All too often a defendant does not meet his barrister till the morning of the trial but at least Gypsy won't have that problem. Edward will represent him in court. A friend of ours, David Winterton, QC will be his assistant. I might not be acting as solicitor for the case as Edward wishes to bring me in as a witness for his defense." That night, Gypsy had another nightmare, a bad one, followed by a panic attack the following morning that had Manuel thinking of calling George in. Once Gypsy was quiet and resting, Shana asked Manuel if she could talk to him in private.
They went for a walk in the garden, and Shana said, "I think I know of a way to lessen the agony Gypsy's going through. Last night, he said he was scared to sleep because he kept on going back into the nightmare, only I don't think it's nightmares he's suffering from. He's remembering everything that people have done to him and he's living in a waking nightmare because it's there, with him, day and night. But he hasn't told anyone, not even George. It's just that it's worse at night when he's on his own. You know I stayed with Gypsy again last night? Nothing happened of course. I just comforted him and it seemed to work. I love him, Manuel, and I want to marry him; the sooner the better, don't you think?"
Manuel stopped walking and turned to face her, searching her face, and looked into her eyes. "Are you sure about this, Shana? After all, until he is fully recovered, he is just a little boy in many ways."
"A frightened little boy," Shana corrected him, "and I can help him grow up."
Manuel nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe you're right. What does Gypsy say about this idea?"
"We've talked about marriage and I know he wants it as much as I do. As he's only sixteen he has to have your permission to marry."
"He certainly has that, but have you thought about the physical side of the marriage?"
"You mean Gypsy's problem since the attack last year?"
"Yes. We have talked about it. He was quite honest about his past life and he said he had never been touched by a woman or embraced by one, only by men. He's afraid he might not be able to -."
"Manuel, please." Shana placed a gentle finger on his lips. "I'm not a child. He told me all about himself, his past, and his fear that he may not be fully a man. I know there may be difficulties, but I know the Lord will come through for us and I'm prepared to be patient and let things happen in their own time. His immediate needs are more important than ours." She did not tell him what had happened the day her sister got married; that was a secret she and Gypsy would keep to themselves.1
Manuel gripped her hands tightly. "Then, Shana, not only does he have my permission but you both have my blessing. I hope I can help you make your wedding a very special one for both of you. When do you propose to be married?"
"How soon can we get a license?"
"I think it is seven days."
"And how many days to the trial?"
"Counting today, ten days."
"Then we don't have much time if we're to be married before he goes to court." Shana smiled as she kissed Manuel on the cheek. As they carried on walking, she added, "I've got an idea that will make it really special, not just for Gypsy, but for me too," and she outlined her plan.
Manuel was thrilled at the idea Shana put forward and agreed wholeheartedly to arrange things. Most important of all was the idea of not telling Gypsy anything about the wedding. Shana wanted it to be a surprise and when Manuel called the staff together to discuss their part in the celebration, David said he had an idea which would add a certain romance to the occasion. If Manuel wouldn't mind accompanying him he had two items of interest which he would like Manuel to see. The first idea, Manuel told Shana about. The second he kept to himself, as his own surprise for her, and David promised that both items would be ready in time for the wedding.
Manuel's belief, that Shana was right in her theory, was confirmed several times during the next few days. Gypsy started disappearing and, on one occasion, Manuel found him in his shower, trying to scrub Guido's blood from his body and saying he could still feel it there and it made him feel dirty. The headaches increased in frequency and Manuel put them down to mounting stress brought about by the approaching trial. As the days passed, he slipped back further into the dark moods that had troubled him at the Rosscroft.
David checked his watch before entering the rehearsal room. He had to time the next few minutes to the very last second. When Erskine Trumble said, "jump," everybody jumped. That included Gypsy who had obeyed the order to put on the new white twenties-style suit, white shirt, silver waistcoat and bow tie, and white fedora, which Erskine had sent, and present himself in the rehearsal room for a date with a photographer for some publicity shots. "If you want to sing jazz and swing, my boy," Erskine's note said, "you need to look the part."
Stepping into the room at exactly twelve minutes to eleven, David coughed politely. "Excuse me, sir, but Miss Royle would like you to join her in the garden. She asked if you would keep the suit on as she would like to see you in it. If you would care to follow me, I'll take you to her."
Gypsy glanced towards Steve, perched on a stool by the door, and gave him a quizzical look. The minder, who looked quite smart for once, just shrugged his shoulders and rose to his feet.
"What's going on, David?" Gypsy asked him, getting a sniff of something being planned. "Another of Shana's little jokes?" David hid a smile. Miss Royle was always springing little surprises on people, with Lucia as her chief conspirator.
"Miss Royle has a surprise for you," David said, checking his watch. He had ten minutes to get Gypsy to the northern boundary for eleven o'clock. Knowing Gypsy's curiosity would drive him to follow, David led the way downstairs and out of the house via the music room. David said nothing as he walked round to the rear of the house and down the sloping lawn, across the stream by the tiny rustic bridge and on through the woods.
"It's a lovely day," Gypsy commented as he strode along beside David, with Steve tagging along a few paces behind.
"Yes, sir, and it's going to be a hot one too."
Gypsy's head lifted on entering woods, "Listen to that!" he said with a smile, referring to the morning birdsong that filled their ears."
"Yes, sir; our very own chorus. It's lovely isn't it?"
"I wish you wouldn't call me sir," Gypsy said, "I'm no sir, I'm just Gypsy."
"It wouldn't be right, sir," David explained. "I wouldn't feel it was proper,"
"Okay, let's reach a compromise. Would Mister Gypsy do?"
Surprised, David stopped and turned to face him, "That would be fitting, sir; and may I tell you what you have just done?"
"You said the word compromise without any trouble at all. It shows you are almost well."
"Oh, yeah," Gypsy said in wonder. "I did didn't I? Thanks David."
"It's my pleasure, Mister Gypsy; I'm glad for you. Now, if you don't mind, we'd better move on." And David led Gypsy deeper into the woods.
Suddenly he veered to the right and walked down a narrow path which looked like a dead end full of brambles and wild shrubbery. Partially hidden was, at first sight, an old ruin. Over the last few days, David had supervised the clearing of the path that led to the ancient oak door and had the tiny stained glass windows cleaned, the interior cleaned out and fold-down chairs placed where pews had once stood.
"What is this place?" Gypsy asked, stepping up to one of the windows and peering in.
"This was once a private chapel." David hoped Gypsy didn't see too much. "Chilvers was not the first house to be built on this site. The Chilver family built the first Chilver Lodge in the early sixteen hundreds. If you look up the Civil War records you'll find they were royalists, and built this chapel and let the weeds hide it from the Roundheads so they could continue their family worship uninterrupted."
"Why didn't Dad tell me about this place?"
"Probably because he wasn't told about it, It hasn't been used for over a hundred years and was believed to have fallen down by now. My last employer didn't bother telling the estate agents about it, so it wasn't listed in the inventory."
"Wow! Our very own bit of history! Thanks for showing it to me, David. I'll certainly come and take a closer look at it some time. Now where is Shana?"
"She's waiting inside." David fought the urge to smile. "You just have to knock on the door." Gypsy went to the door and knocked on it. It opened, and Manuel came out with a white carnation in his hand, and closed the door after him. That was David's cue to hurry back up the path and put the next part of the surprise in motion.
"Dad? What are you doing here?" Gypsy realised now that there was something going on.
"You are exactly two minutes late." Manuel pinned the flower to the left lapel of Gypsy's jacket. "And let me be the first to congratulate you."
"Congratulate me, what for?"
"It is your wedding day, of course."
"My what?" As if on cue, the Gomez children came running down the path, the girls in matching apple green dresses and the two boys in smart white suits. Instead of flowers the girls carried the white Bibles he had given them last year; the boys carried theirs too.
"Hi, Bro," Jose said as he shook hands with Gypsy. "I'm your best man."
As his siblings hugged him, Gypsy was aware that Jose was taller than him by two inches and probably still growing. Ramon had grown too, and Perquita looked radiant. She's pregnant , he thought with a start. Maria hugged him the hardest and the longest and seemed reluctant to let go.
He looked down at himself. "White suit, silver tie, photo session; I'll get even with Erskine for this."
Manuel grinned happily. "I think we are ready, shall we proceed?" and taking up a position on Gypsy's left he put a hand under Gypsy's left elbow. Gypsy looked round for Lucia and asked where she was.
"Inside, with Shana," his father said. He knocked on the door and suddenly the chapel was filled with the rousing hymn 'Thine Be the Glory'.
The Gomez children formed up behind them and, puzzled, Gypsy said, "I don't get it, the bride is supposed to be doing this."
"There is no law against breaking with tradition. Shana wanted it to be very special and a day you will always remember as different from any other wedding." Manuel replied. "Who are we to argue with the bride?"
The door was opened wide and Gypsy stepped into the chapel with his father, and saw people busily lighting candles. As the flickering light increased, Gypsy saw an old stone alter draped with blue cloth and decorated with flowers, and fold-down chairs placed on either side of a narrow aisle. An elderly man stood on front of it, a Bible open in his hands. Beside him stood Lucia, looking very pretty in a long dress of apple green and her hair caught up with ribbons and tiny flowers. She clutched a tiny basket in one hand and Grey Rabbit in the other. Even Grey Rabbit sported a white top hat and tails, Shana stood to the left of the altar, in a twenties style dress of layered white lace, with her hair swept back and held by simple band of a satin and sequins across her forehead. A simple veil was draped over her head and pinned to the back of the band. She carried a large bouquet of freshly picked white lilies. She looked absolutely stunning, and Gypsy caught his breath at the sight of her.
Ed Thomason was standing beside her with Jo just behind her, also in apple green. To the right, Gypsy recognised George, Edward and Thomas, his grandparents and Barry. On the left were Madame Marsaud and Erskine Trumble and, goodness, was that Mrs. Cole and her mother?
Someone had been really busy and not just Shana. Crowding the small space behind the altar, Different Hats were playing the music, and Sandy beamed at him from behind a keyboard. But how?
As soon as everyone was inside the chapel, and Steve had closed the door, Lucia handed Grey Rabbit to the man at the altar and came forward. She giggled as she reached Gypsy, gave him a cheeky smile, then turned and walked very daintily back to the altar, scattering rose petals as she went. Someone's been drilling her hard, Gypsy thought; and it has Madame's hand written all over it.
Manuel's hand at his elbow spurred him to walk down the aisle, the scent of freshly crushed rose petals rising from the floor. As they reached the altar, Eric Hooson began the opening speech. Pastor Hooson? It was him all right, but how? This wasn't happening; it was all so unreal. Surely he was dreaming, but oh what a wonderful dream; a dream he never wanted to wake up from. Sandy had picked up a camera and was aiming it at him, recording for all posterity the stunned look on his face.
Hooson made the formal introductions then said, "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?"
"I do," said Ed with a wide grin. Taking Shana's left hand he placed it in Gypsy's. Gypsy started to tremble as he looked into Shana's veiled eyes, saw the love in them, and knew then that he wasn't dreaming. When it came to making their vows, Shana turned to give Jo her bouquet then faced Gypsy and took his hands in hers. She said her vows, not to the altar but directly to him, her eyes sparkling. "I Shana Rose Royle take you, Gypsy Diaz O'Riley, to be my wedded husband. Before God and these witnesses, I give you my promise to love you and cherish you from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance."
In the same way, prompted by Pastor Hooson Gypsy made the newly written vows to Shana and meant every word he uttered as tears of joy sprang to his eyes. Jose produced matching gold rings and placed them, on the Bible to be blessed, and Gypsy could hardly say the words Hooson asked him to repeat as he placed the smaller of the rings on Shana's finger, "This ring is a sign of my faithfulness. With it I wed you, worship you, and endow you with all my worldly goods. In the Name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, Amen."
In contrast, Shana's voice was firm and clear as she repeated the same words and slipped Gypsy's ring on his finger.
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