The Cup Bearer
After the blessing, when Pastor Hooson said at last, and with a wide smile. "You may kiss the bride." Gypsy lifted the short veil back to reveal what was to him the loveliest face in the world. He kissed her and as everyone clapped and cheered, they hugged each other tight. Someone blew their nose rather loudly. Gypsy looked round and saw Erskine Trumble hastily stuffing a snow white, but now rather crumpled, handkerchief back into his top pocket.
After signing both church and civil registers in the presence of the visiting registrar, with Jose and Jo as witnesses, Gypsy was glad to sit down. Everything was so lovely, and so right; the prayers, the choruses they sang, and best of all the breaking of bread together as man and wife. Through it all, Shana never let go of his hand, and he only had eyes for her, his beautiful bride. He was a married man! "Thank you, Lord."
Behind him, Jose and Ramon were grinning, although Jose's grin did not reach his eyes; and his grandmother was crying and smiling at the same time, while Lucia fidgeted on Manuel's knee next to Shana. Without thinking, Gypsy held out his hand to her and she came quickly to him and he scooped her up and cuddled her close before settling her on his knee where she stayed quite happily to the end of the service. Lucia would always be special to him. She had brought him through a rotten time and he would never forget that. He just hoped Shana would understand. He looked at his new bride and saw the way she smiled at Lucia. His sister smiled at her and they blew kisses to each other. Yes, everything was going to be all right.
Once the service was over, all but the candles on the altar were extinguished and Gypsy and Shana hugged and kissed each other again, this time surrounded by cheering family and friends. Sandy started playing another rousing chorus and Gypsy led Shana down the aisle and out of the chapel. His mate seemed to be everywhere, first thumping the keyboard, now out here organising the photographs like a professional. There were hugs all round, especially for Shana, before Manuel asked them to lead the way back through the woods to the house where yet more surprises awaited them.
"I'm amazed," Gypsy said as he and Shana walked hand in hand ahead of their guests. "How did you manage all this without me getting wind of it?"
"With great difficulty, I assure you," She replied with a laugh. "Every time your dad and I would be doing something, you'd suddenly appear and we'd have to hide things. Everyone helped, even Madame. Our biggest headache was how to keep Lucia from blurting everything out so we didn't tell her till after breakfast this morning. Did you know Madame's a great seamstress? She made Lucia's dress and helped me alter mine. It was a gift from Erskine; apparently it was his mother's own wedding dress. Your Gran and Mrs. Cole's mother made the others between them."
"Really? Remind me to thank Erskine and Mrs. Cole's mum. You look terrific, Mrs. Diaz O'Riley."
"You don't look so bad yourself, Mr O'Riley. Nice suit!"
On the patio outside the music room doors, Gypsy discovered that David and a team of extra hired staff had set out a substantial wedding buffet on a long table decorated with apple green and silver ribbons and bows to match the bride's maid's dresses and Gypsy's waistcoat. Extra patio chairs and tables had miraculously appeared, and Manuel invited everyone to help themselves to the food and make themselves comfortable, while he helped David serve Champagne, low alcohol sparkling wine in sugar rimmed flutes, with freshly squeezed fruit drinks for the younger guests. Bessie, the cook, and Carol the young housekeeper, came out to help serve the food they had laboured over so lovingly, then on Shana's invitation, sat down to enjoy the reception as well. On one of the rare occasions when Gypsy could tear his eyes away from his wife, Gypsy noticed the familiar way David spoke to Mrs. Cole's mother who in turn reciprocated in kind, and her stony features actually broke into a semblance of a smile. She seemed to know Erskine quite well too, and Gypsy was determined to find out how, but that was for later. Right now it was 'feed your face' time, with more than enough food to satisfy even the appetites of 'Different Hats' and Jose Gomez. At the end of the reception which lasted well towards the evening meal, Gypsy realised he had hardly eaten anything, because each time he picked up a piece of food from his plate, someone wanted to talk to him.
Eventually it was time for the speeches. As Shana's male representative, Ed Thompson made a short speech, thanking Manuel, David and the staff for all the hard work in making the day possible, then Manuel stood and thanked everybody for coming and making his son's wedding day an unforgettable one. Then Erskine stood up and cleared his throat. "Friends, I'm not going to bore you with a long oration about the finer qualities of the groom, I can't. I don't know him well enough to do that, and I'll leave that to his sister Perquita who has known him longer than any of us. What I'm going to do is tell you not what he was or is now, but what he's going to be." Taking something out of his jacket pocket he held it up for all to see. It was a compact disc with the original picture of Gypsy with his guitar that Sandy had taken and Gypsy had sent to Manuel, on the front.
Gypsy exchanged looks of surprise with Sandy and the grinning boys as Erskine continued. "This is the single I've been promoting round a few radio stations and agents. Some didn't even bother to listen to it, let alone play it on their programs. Most of them are like that. They're what I call the chaff. You have to crack the nut to get to the kernel. You have to be as ruthless as a threshing machine and blow the husks away before you can get to the pure grain. One or two were interested enough and one notable London radio station played it in their new artist slot only yesterday. As soon as Gypsy has been cleared of the charge he has been burdened with, and he's back to normal good health, I will push as hard as I can to have this song released. I, for one have sunk almost every penny I have into this young man's future, and that of his father. That's how confident I am that 'Sad World' will go into the easy listening charts at no lower than fifteen, if not the pop charts, and it will not stay there for long." There was a cheer from Different Hats and applause from the rest of the gathering. "Now, it wasn't just my own money I invested in Gypsy Diaz. I invested a sizeable chunk of the estate of the former owner of this magnificent house behind me, who has something to say. I now call on the good lady to please stand up and a few words."
Erskine sat down and everyone waited for the lady in question to stand up, no one moved. Then, to everyone's amazement, Mrs. Cole's mother stood up.
"Hello everyone," she said in her usual starchy voice. "My name is Cynthia Chilver, formerly Trumble. Erskine is my eldest son."
Gypsy's brain ticked over in express time at this startling news. He turned to Sandy and found him and the boys making like guppies out of water. They were also remembering her visit to one of their rehearsals. Then he looked at Shana and saw her looking down at her dress, realising she was wearing Mrs. Chilver's own wedding dress. "Oh, my goodness, this is her dress!"
"Oh, bless her," Gypsy whispered back, 'what a lovely gift.'
"Gypsy, boys," Mrs. Chilver said to them, "the offer made to you is genuine, and I have with me a cheque for five thousand pounds from my late son's legacy which he put aside for the promotion of a new pop group. I had already decided that Different Hats was to receive it, but I waited to see if you would carry on due to unfortunate circumstances. Boys, according to my spies, you have proved your metal and I wish you every success in your venture into the world of entertainment. Gypsy, I admire your determination not to let recent events deter you from achieving your ambition and I have a confession to make. It wasn't a coincidence that Erskine was at Barney's the night you performed there. I couldn't resist telling Erskine about you. Believe me he took some persuading, having already bought several pairs of slippers and a comfortable fireside chair to spend his retirement in." This brought a ripple of laughter. "But, as a lot of you know, there is no such thing as retirement in show business. By the way, we couldn't have arranged the trip to Barney's so well had not Mr. Clooney been willing to join our little conspiracy and get in touch with Barney.
"Now, about Chilvers; I'm afraid Erskine and I were a little underhand about the sale of this place as well. As you may have noticed from the state of it, I was indeed finding it too expensive to run and had already moved into the dowager apartment in the West wing. I was looking for something a lot smaller when my daughter offered me a home with her. I put the estate in the hands of an agent who eventually said he had a client by the name of Manuel Diaz Lupino who was looking for something in this area, close to the London Rosscroft Clinic. I was delighted when this client turned out to be your father, Gypsy, and I brought the price down to a level he would have been foolish to resist. Erskine was about to approach Manuel about your plans when Manuel phoned him and put a business proposition to him. The rental and then the sale of this house gives me enough capital to invest in the business as well, of which I am now a proud shareholder. Raise your glasses everyone, to the success of 'Lupino and Son." Amid the cheers that followed Mrs. Chilver's speech, Gypsy stared at his father who smiled and pulled out an envelope from his inside jacket pocket. "Congratulations, partner." Opening it, Gypsy found bill heads and contracts setting up the new business naming Manuel and himself as directors, Erskine, Mrs. Chilver as major shareholders, and the Graftons brothers as legal attorneys.
"What do we need a business for?"
"Security, dear boy." Erskine suddenly appeared at his shoulder, "It's the only way to protect your money."
"What money?" Gypsy said with a laugh. "I haven't started earning any yet."
"Trust me, dear boy." Erskine slapped a hand like a sledge hammer on his shoulder. "You'll make your money, and mine as well, and you'll be making it sooner than you think, although your father has beaten you to the post on that score. His fifth classical CD has just been released and is selling very well. A lot of hungry workers are going to depend on you two to feed them and keep them happy, from me down to the happless person who keeps your drains smelling sweet. And it takes a lot of food to keep me happy."
"So I noticed." Gypsy patted Erskine's paunch. "I think we should have had an extra reception table just for you." He had to duck to avoid the slap Erskine aimed at him. Everybody started laughing and it set the mood for the rest of the day. More Champagne flowed but Gypsy stuck to the low alcohol stuff. He had a feeling he knew what it was like to be drunk, and he didn't want that to happen. Shana, and indeed a lot of others, had worked hard to make this day a wonderful one and he wanted it to end that way. He and Shana spent a few minutes in Mrs. Chilver's company, and thanked her for all she had done, and for the loan of her dress.
"It was my pleasure, and it's not a loan. You really do look lovely in it, Shana. Sorry it still smells a bit like mothballs but it's been packed away for the last seventy years. Now, you go along and have a look at your other presents. David has put them on display in the drawing room, just across the east corridor from the music room."
"Thank you, Mrs. Chilver." Shana kissed the lady on the cheek. "I'll look after the dress and return it you as soon as possible."
"Oh, no, you won't." Mrs. Chilver slipped back into her Lady Bracknell mode. "What would I do with it? It's yours to keep. Cut down, it would make a lovely christening gown, but first you have the rest of this lovely day to enjoy; and by the way, there's a little surprise for you in my old apartment, but it won't be ready till later so no peeping." She dropped a set of keys into Shana's hand. "Run along now, there are lots more people wanting to talk to you."
Manuel's present was a large, plain brown envelope decorated with a single silver rose and the message 'To Gypsy and Shana, with all my love, Manuel' written on a small gift card. Opening it they found the deeds to the house in their names. Chilvers was theirs. But the loveliest present of all was the one Barry and the Gomez children had clubbed together to buy, a beautiful Doberman pup which Gypsy and Shana fell in love with as soon as he scrambled out of his box. They called him Butch and he became the darling of all the guests while they sat about the lawn listening to Different Hats show off the fact that, despite Gypsy's absence, they had not stopped rehearsing at the garage. Gypsy noticed they slipped in a few Christian songs in their repertoire and was surprised when Sandy told him that Evan was now their manager, under Erskine's guidance.
It was good to see Sandy again, and Gypsy made sure they had a few minutes alone for a stroll away from the guests so they could gave a private chat. Sandy said everything was okay with Different Hats, and the boys were happy to have Evan as their mother hen till Gypsy was ready for them to join him as his backing band. Gypsy had the feeling that would be a long time in the future but he chose not to say anything yet. Sandy had something on his mind and Gypsy guessed it had something to do with the fact that he and Evan had been called as prosecution witnesses.
"If you're worried about letting me down at the trial, don't be, I already know about it."
Sandy's face flushed red, "Sorry about that."
"Like I said, don't worry about it. You and your dad were the first on the scene and you have to say how you got there and what you saw. Just tell the truth, okay?"
Sandy nodded. "Thanks, mate, I feel better about it already. Have you had a word with Perquita yet?"
"I haven't had a chance yet, why?"
"She's been tryin' to tell you somethin' since we came back from the chapel, isn'it?"
Gypsy grinned. "I think I've already guessed, but don't let on I said so. Let her think she's got a surprise up her sleeve, or should I say up her skirt. By the way, how did your dad come to be your manager?"
"Oh, you don't know, do you?"
"Pete and the boys are saved now."
"What?" Gypsy jerked to a halt and stared at Sandy. "When did this happen?"
"Just after we thought you were goin' to die. They came to our 'ouse and were waitin' for Dad to phone the Clinic to see 'ow you were and 'e started talkin' to 'em, like. It scared them when they realised it could be one of them in that 'ospital bed and not you, and they made the commitment to Christ in our front parlour. We're a Christian band now, but we still call ourselves Different Hats, isn'it? Like we ARE different hats now."
"That's great news," Gypsy said with a laugh. "If you hadn't told me I never would have believed it."
"That's why we sounded so good in that chapel of yours. Dad helped us get some church function dates and we're booked for a Christian youth conference in Manchester next month."
"Great, I'm really pleased for you. Maybe, some day, I'll come up and sing with you again." They went back to the party and searched for Perquita and were told she was with Shana in the drawing room. Gypsy's two favourite women were deep in conversation over a set of glassware from their grandparents when he walked into the room. Gypsy slipped up behind them and put his arms round their waists. "Is this a ladies meeting or can anyone join in?"
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