Hiraeth

by Huw Jones

Chapter 18

The Williams family sat down with Huw for their evening meal. "Welsh lamb chops tonight, Huw," said Beth as she loaded his plate. "We thought you'd like to get back to eating good home-grown Welsh food!"

He laughed. "Actually, I've been doing very well as Janet has been making sure that I get Welsh cakes and Bara Brith regularly and we can buy Welsh lamb in the shop but I can never get too much of your cooking."

"Get away with you," laughed Beth. "You boys would do anything to get extra food on your plate."

"Well you can't blame me for trying," said Huw cheekily.

David joined in the conversation at this point and asked, "Huw, we are delighted to see you and glad that you can stay a few extra days but we're all puzzled why you came up before the end of term."

"Gwyn said I could tell you now. He has an interview tomorrow morning in Llanrug for a head of department job in the new high school," he explained.

Gareth's face lit up. "That means you would have to all move up here if he gets the job," he said excitedly.

"That's right, but don't count your chickens before they hatch. He may not get the job," Huw cautioned. "Mind you, I can't tell you how much I want him to get it!"

The rest of the meal was spent catching up with their news and discussing what was planned for the Easter holidays. He told them of his plan to go to see his grandparents in Pwllheli and of his need to understand why they had cut off all contact with him and his mother. David and Beth shared Gwyn and Janet's concern that it may be a very difficult time and reflected their anxiety that he would find it very distressing. He explained to them, as he had to Gwyn and Janet, that it was already distressing to him and it couldn't be any worse if they were to say that to him face-to-face.

David suggested that they take the bus to Pwllheli the following day because Wednesday being market day in Pwllheli, if things go badly with his Nain and Taid or if they are not at home, at least they would be able to have some fun in the market. Both the boys thought that was a good idea. Huw reasoned that he wanted the issue resolved and recalled a line from his study of Macbeth at school, ' If it were done when 'tis done, then ' twere well it were done quickly'.

After the lads helped with the washing up after dinner, they went for a walk into the centre of Caernarfon to watch the activity around the harbour and the imposing 13th century castle that dominated the town. Gareth told Huw how much happier he was to be settled back in North Wales and to be away from bullying and all the unpleasantness he'd experienced in Reading. "Mind you," he joked, "some of the lads here say I'm speaking Welsh with an English accent!"

Huw was delighted to see that Gareth was so much more at ease with himself and had lost the unhappy demeanour that had been so much in evidence. Now there was even a sparkle in his eye. The lads continued to walk for another half hour and came home with Huw feeling the effects of his early start and a full day travelling. He was ready for bed.

Beth made them both a cup of cocoa when they got home and they watched television for half an hour with Huw's eyelids becoming increasingly heavy. He wished them good night and went up to undress for bed. He used the toilet and cleaned his teeth in the bathroom and climbed into bed but left the light on, as he knew Gareth was not too far behind. Twenty minutes later Gareth came up the stairs and went into the bathroom, emerging a few minutes later in the bedroom where Huw was lying awake. He was surprised to see that Gareth had changed into his pyjamas in the bathroom. He found that strange because they had always shared a bedroom before and neither of them was shy about changing in front of the other -- they had seen each other in the school showers often enough.

"Do you want me to turn off the light, Huw bach?" asked Gareth. "We can talk in the dark."

"That's fine but don't be surprised if I fall asleep on you," he responded.

Thinking about his intention to find a swift resolution to the problem with his grandparents, he decided to meet the other big issue head-on. "Actually, I did want to talk about the elephant in the room and get it out of the way right at the beginning of our time together. You surprised me when you got changed into your pyjamas in the bathroom. We've never been shy together before. I wondered if it had anything to do with our conversation in hospital, about how you feel about me."

Gareth sighed. "You're right, it was about that. I do want to talk about it and I don't. I'm afraid of losing you as a friend and I never want that to happen."

"That's never going to happen, Gareth. You told me you love me and I didn't know how I should respond at the time -- I still don't. You're my best friend, the person who knows the real me better than anyone else and you are really important to me. I know I can say straight away that I love you as a friend but you are too important to me to say something that would raise your hopes too high before I really understand what it means to say anything more."

There was silence for a moment and Gareth said slowly, "That's more than fair. Let's talk about this again later and just enjoy each other's company in the meantime."

"Thanks Gareth. But I would like to ask you a question that you can choose not to answer. Either way it won't change how I feel about you," he said gently. Gareth just nodded, suspecting he knew what he was going to ask.

"Have you been trying to say to me that as well being a close friend, you're attracted to me sexually? Are you saying you like boys?" he asked, holding eye contact with Gareth.

Gareth looked away, shrugged and looked back at Gareth with tears starting to fall down his cheeks. "I've known since I was about 10 that I liked boys and not girls. That day in the showers, they were right; I am a 'fucking queer' as they so delicately put it. Funny thing is I wasn't perving on them or anyone else for that matter; I just had a hard-on. As to your question… am I attracted to boys? Only to the one boy I'm looking at now and yes, I am attracted to you sexually but I would never do anything unless you felt the same way."

Huw felt a huge wave of emotion sweep over him. He leaned across and gently kissed Gareth on his forehead. "Gareth, thank you for being so honest with me. I'm touched and I'm honoured and, to be honest, I'm flattered as well. I don't feel good about myself most of the time and to know someone other than family thinks so much of me is wonderful. I owe it to you to be equally honest, but I don't know if I understand where I am in it all.

"You know my history and how everyone precious to me was taken away by one means or another. I am terrified of that happening again. Gwyn and Janet, Haddie and Betsan are as important to me as my real family were. You are just as important and in some ways, even more important. I only survived that hell-hole of Bath Road School because you and Gwyn's family were there. Now I'm living with Gwyn and the family, it's better but I so miss you. If he doesn't get that job tomorrow I'll be more devastated than he will.

"To be honest, I don't think about sex much at all. I was late into puberty. There has been so much going on in my life and in my emotions that I think circumstances suppressed a lot of that in me." He paused and grinned, "Mind you, I'm not saying I don't get a lot of pleasure with the aid of my right hand but I don't think of anyone while I'm doing it.

"All that's a long-winded way of saying that I'm still sorting myself out. I don't want to spoil our friendship by rushing into something that's not right for both of us. We're close enough to be affectionate together but more than that would be too much for me now. You don't need to change anything or do anything differently, just allow me to work this out at my own speed."

Gareth was almost lost for words. "Huw...Huw..." He began and tailed off. "Huw, thank you for saying that. It's far more than I could have hoped for. I've been torn between counting the hours before you came here and dreading having this conversation. If we stop at where we are now, I'll still consider myself the luckiest person in the world. I promise not to push anything and I'll give you the space to come to your own conclusions. I love you, Huw," he finished simply.

Huw grinned and before he could react, gave Gareth a quick kiss on the lips, "Goodnight Gareth," he said with a mischievous gleam in his eye and immediately snuggled down into the bedclothes. Gareth chuckled as he got out of bed to turn off the light. "Goodnight, Huw," he said softly, turned off the light and climbed into bed. Both boys were asleep in moments and both had a restful night.

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