The Cup Bearer
Shana gave Gypsy a gentle push. "This is kitchen talk, so shoo!"
"Not so fast, Mrs. O'Riley; Perquita will tell you I'm as much at home in the kitchen as on the dance floor, so just you remember that. Now, sister dear, is there something you want to tell us, or have you already spilled the beans to my wife?"
Perquita smiled quietly. "Barry and I got married in February while you were still in your own little world. We did come and tell you but I don't think you understood."
"And there was me, conspiring with Dad to give you a big wedding," Gypsy grinned to hide the sadness at missing the chance of giving her away. "What took you so long? It was obvious you and Barry were crazy about each other from the day he arrived. Who gave you away?"
"Daddy Manuel did; that's what we call him now. We had a family conference with Gran and Granddad and we've decided to move the kids down here as soon as you've got the second floor bedrooms sorted out. Manuel is officially their foster father now and he's making plans to adopt us, possibly next year. They think it's a great idea, all except Jose that is."
"Even though I took their own dad away from them?"
Perquita's gazed at him with a sombre expression, "They don't blame you for that anymore. You showed us what a brute he was, and we believe you acted to defend yourself and us."
Gypsy felt choked up at this and sought to change the subject before he ended up blubbering. "Thanks, Perquita, I appreciate that; are you happy?"
Perquita's mouth dropped open, "How did you know?"
Gypsy gave her a brotherly squeeze. "You should know by now I can tell what's going on; am I right?"
Perquita blushed. "Yes, I'm nine weeks gone I think."
"That means," Gypsy calculated the months, "a February baby. Just don't expect me to deliver it. Lucia was bad enough."
"I thought you enjoyed it, " Perquita teased him.
"Perquita, it was awful. I never told Mama but I threw up afterwards. I was no hero, I can tell you. I just had to get on with it. Right, ladies, no more hiding in here, we've got a lifetime to admire all these pretty things. We've got guests to talk to outside and I'm not doing it on my own." Out in the evening sunshine they found Different Hats entertaining the guests, with the hired staff moving the tables back to the edge of the patio to make room for dancing. The buffet had been replenished and the champagne and soft drinks continued to flow. When Gypsy and Shana weren't dancing, they were content to sit with their arms round each other and make small talk while people came up and took photos of them.
At one point, Gypsy excuse himself, needing to use the bathroom, and promised not to be too long. He passed Ramon on the way into the drawing room and noticed the sad expression on his brother's face as he stared out at the party. Gypsy turned and went back to him. "Hey bro; why the long face?"
Ramon glanced up at him then back at the party. "Nothing, it's okay."
Now Gypsy knew something was wrong. This wasn't like the usual mischievous brother he remembered. "Come on, bro; you can tell me." He noticed Ramon watching someone intently, and followed his line of vision. There, at the far side of the patio, Jose was chatting with Pete Gaskin. Ramon said, "Gypsy, can I come and live here with you?"
Gypsy smiled down at him. "Of course you can." Ramon's face lit up with a happy grin. "I'll let you into a secret; you're all going to live here."
Ramon's grin faded as quickly as it had appeared. "Oh." Once again he stared across at Jose, and a chill swept over Gypsy as he suddenly remembered a night some months ago when Ramon had walked in his sleep. He had believed Jose's story about finding Ramon on the attic stairs, and having just blown a fart; now Gypsy was not so sure his brother has been telling the truth. That meant only one thing; Guido had got to Jose as well; and now I looked like Jose was having the same thoughts about Ramon.
Gypsy wrapped his arms round his little brother and drew him into a loving embrace, and kissed the top of his head. "Don't worry, bro. I'll sort it, okay?" Ramon lifted his head to gaze up at Gypsy, and knew he didn't have to worry any more. He nodded and pulled out of the hug to walk out onto the patio, while Gypsy went to the bathroom. While he was there, he thought about the problem and how to deal with it. By the time he returned to the party he knew what he had to do, and he went in search of his grandfather.
Gypsy found him at the far end of the patio, leaning against the balustrade and gazing down at the flowerbeds below while sipping a glass of beer. The old Irishman lifted his head and glanced sideways at him as Gypsy approached him. "You look as if you'd be wantin' to have a talk, lad."
Gypsy reached him and took up the same stance against the balustrade. Knowing they could not be overheard, he said, "I think there is a problem in home camp, and I'm going to need your help."
"Oh? Tell me, lad."
Gypsy stared out over the garden. "How do you feel about having Jose live with you on the farm?"
He sensed his grandfather studying him closely. "I'd be likin' that very much, lad. He's always shown a love of the land on his visits to the farm. But how would he like being moved away from the family?"
Gypsy shook his head. "I'm not going to give him much choice." At last he turned his head to look into Paddy's eyes and knew he didn't have to say anything further.
Paddy nodded. "Ramon?"
"How do you know?"
"Ramon just asked me if he could come and live here, and the way he stared at Jose gave me a clue. When I told him they were all coming to live here he looked like I was setting him adrift in a leaky boat."
"Like father like son."
Paddy nodded once more. "Leave it with me, lad. No need for Perquita or your Gran to know, is there, now?"
Gypsy found Jose at the buffet table, cramming yet another cream cake into his mouth. Gypsy placed a firm hand on his right shoulder and said softly, "I'm not about to make a scene on my wedding day but you and I are going take a walk like two loving brothers, and we are going to have a little chat."
Jose froze, and turned frightened eyes towards Gypsy, gulped the rest of the cake down and let Gypsy lead him to the end of the patio. Once out of sight and hearing of any curious guests, Gypsy tightened his hold on his brother's shoulder, indicating he meant business, and marched him down the patio steps. At the bottom he steered Jose to the left round the of the house There he shoved Jose up against the supporting wall and held him there, nose to nose. "Right, brother; I'm gonna talk and you are gonna to listen. I think I know what you've been up to with Ramon, and he hasn't told me anything, so you needn't think about getting your revenge on him. Now you have two choices. You can go and live with Gramps on the farm and be willing to learn the trade, and I'll see you get into Agricultural College, all expenses paid, and I'll forget about your little games with Ramon, as long as you promise to leave him alone, and any other kids you think of getting your dirty mitts on. You will also stand up in court like the doting brother you are and tell the judge what Guido's been doing to you as well as me. Do you understand me, bro?"
"And if I don't?"
"I'll tell the court how much you hate me and how I found you creeping down the attic stairs after a little night game with Guido. I'll also tell the court you knew that Guido was raping me almost every night, because I seem to remember the faces in my bedroom now, and one of them was yours. I wonder how many of those photos of me and Guido's friends were taken by you? No wonder you liked playing around with Sandy's camera the day Mum was buried. Fancy a spell in juvenile detention with your name on the sex offenders register for the rest of your life, do you? You'll be sixteen in two years; that gives you two years to straighten yourself out. After that it'll be open season and I'll be gunning for you. Now do you understand me?"
"That's blackmail and harassment."
"Can you prove it? I just gave you two choices. That's not blackmail or harassment."
"You'll tell what? By rights I should hand you over to the Graftons and let them deal with you. So just remember, I have the clout of a legal team behind me and you have fuck all. Now go and tell Grandpa and Grandma you want to go back with them, and then go and find Edward Grafton and tell him you'll testify in my defence; and remember, stay clear of Ramon." With that last warning, Gypsy watched Jose slouch away up the steps and leaned back against the wall as the strength left his legs. Gees, what a mess!
As the evening wore on, Gypsy began to think of what lay ahead. He put his mouth close to Shana's right ear. "Too bad we can't go on honeymoon. The cops will be coming to take me away tomorrow. I'm going to hate being in custody, even for one night."
Shana smiled craftily. "Well, dear husband, I've got news for you. You're not being taken to the police cells or a detention centre. Rudkin has been in contact with Inspector Bradfield and he's willing to have you taken to the Northern Rosscroft for the duration of the trial. Technically, George has not discharged you yet, so you're still under his medical care. The only difference is there will be police guards sitting outside your door, but I'll be with you all the way."
Gypsy breathed a loud sigh of relief. "Thank The Lord for that, I was really dreading being locked up in a prison cell. I remember someone warning me about what could happen to guys like me in places like that, I can't remember who." There was something else he could not remember the details of nor who it was caused the unsavoury memory to suddenly enter his mind, leaving him feeling decidedly chilled and souring any pleasant thoughts about his wedding night. He checked his watch and found it was almost nine o' clock and the air was getting chilly; but the party didn't seem to be abating at all. Trying to appear his normally cheerful self, he said, "How about us moving the party indoors? It's getting a bit cold out here." He pulled her to her feet and they walked towards the French windows, calling to David on the way. "Can we move everyone inside, David?"
"It's already in hand, sir," the butler replied. "I've rearranged the presents to make room for people who just want to sit quiet in the drawing room, and the sound system is on in the music room and the settees moved back for dancing."
"David," Gypsy said, "you are so kind."
"No, 'e's not, " grouched a rough Cockney voice behind them, "'e's mean an' orrible!" With a scowl on his face and a mischievous twinkle in his eye, Erskine pointed his cigar at David. "I could tell you fings abaaht 'im that would make yer 'air curl. Talk abaaht turnin' into a vampire after dark!"
At this, David put on a mock hurt expression, "Oh, sir, how can you be so heartless. I do have a reputation to keep here, you know." Tossing his head in a truly camp manner, he turned on his heel and minced off, leaving them chuckling to themselves.
"His dad and I had some fun in the old days," Erskine explained as he stared after David. "Inside the house he was a perfect butler, down to the last button on his waistcoat. Outside and off duty it was a different picture. He was a right tearaway. As my minder, he was supposed to keep me in line but most of the time it was the other way around, which is why I went into the pop management business. If I could manage Jonathan David, I was sure I could keep my young charges in line. There's always been a David looking after this place since it was rebuilt, the job being handed down from generation to generation."
"Why were they all called David?" Shana asked.
"Because it's their surname, and it stuck as an appropriate handle. This one is Steven David; his dad Jonathan David was our butler till he died three years ago, and Steven took over the post. Granddad Wexford David was butler to my dad, and his dad before him was butler to my granddad. So, just you look after young Steven David; there's nothing he doesn't know about this place, and a he's a great bargain hunter too. My mother nicknamed him The Dealer."
Later on, as guest began to leave, Shana became aware that something was troubling her husband. He had gone quiet and not inclined to join Different Hats or Manuel as part of the entertainment, and twice she had to nudge him to gain his attention. Towards eleven o' clock, she was about to ask him what was wrong when David came to her and said Mrs. Chilver would like a word. Gypsy didn't seem to notice as she slipped out of the music room. In the main hall, Erskine was helping his mother put on her coat and gloves, her usual stern expression softening as she spotted Shana. She pressed a small key into her hand, gave her a kiss. "Have fun tonight, dear." As all she said before turning to walk out of her old home for the last time, on Erskine's arm. Shana placed the key in her wedding purse along with another key which Mrs Chilver had already given her earlier in the evening.
Manuel was entertaining the guests with a selection of classical favourites when Shana returned to the party. His eyes were on Gypsy and, as Shana passed him, he looked up and gave her a slight shake of the head, indicating he too was worried about his son. Gypsy stood by the French windows, leaning on one of the door frames with his hands in his trouser pockets while he stared out over the patio in a world of his own. Was it the coming trial he was thinking of or perhaps an event much sooner than that? He was so young to be married and become an adult overnight. Determined to make the night pass easily for him and not put any pressure on him, she went up to him and put an arm round his waist. He glanced round at her and in his eyes Shana saw the haunted look of someone who wanted to crawl into his little hole and stay there; the same hole he had told Shana about, where he had lived while in a coma.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]