Hiraeth

by Huw Jones

Chapter 19

The next morning, Huw woke at his usual time of 7 o'clock. He went into the bathroom for a very necessary pee and decided that as things were quiet, he'd have a quick shower. As he was drying himself, he realised he'd forgotten his clean clothes but he decided not to put his pyjamas back on but streak back to their room as it was quiet outside and their room was almost opposite. He stepped outside the bathroom to be greeted by Janet. "Morning, Huw. My goodness, we're seeing a lot of you this morning!"

As embarrassed as only a teenage boy can get being discovered naked, he muttered a greeting and fled back to the bedroom followed by gales of laughter. Back safe in the bedroom he reached for his clean underwear and was greeted by a wolf-whistle from Gareth's bed.

Huw groaned, "Well, I've got no secrets from your mam now. I didn't hear her outside the door." His face brightened and he struck a body-builder pose. "Glad you are impressed with my manly body."

"It wasn't that! I couldn't believe how somebody would be prepared to show off such a scrawny body publicly," he said innocently.

"You cheeky bugger!" yelled Huw, throwing the pillows off his bed accurately at Gareth.

Both boys laughed as Huw got dressed and Gareth got out of bed and returned the pillows to their rightful place, and left for the bathroom.

He avoided going downstairs for as long as possible, waiting for Gareth to finish in the bathroom and to get dressed. The boys walked into the kitchen where David and Beth were already seated at the table and sat down with them. The adults were looking down at the table with their shoulders going up and down silently as they stifled laughter.

"Keeping the heating too high are we Huw? Sorry it was too hot for you," David sniggered.

"All right, laugh all you like, I'll get my own back when you don't expect it. Just remember ' revenge is a dish best served cold '," said Huw good-naturedly. "Sorry Beth for embarrassing you this morning."

She laughed, "I wasn't embarrassed, it's nothing I haven't seen before in this house. My men don't bother with clothes upstairs."

He joined the others in the laugh at his expense, relieved they were past the awkwardness and they enjoyed an excellent cooked Welsh breakfast. After breakfast the boys walked into the bus station in town to pick up the bus for Pwllheli. As they checked the timetable he started to worry about what might happen when he met his grandparents. Gareth noticed that Huw had gone very quiet and guessed what was going through his mind.

"Huw, one of three things will happen today. First, they will be out, in which case you will be no worse off and we'll have a good time in Pwllheli. Second, they will be in, they'll be horrible to you and you will be no worse off. In that case, we'll go for a walk and you can stamp around and get angry. Then we'll get fish and chips and have a good time in Pwllheli. Third, there will be a wonderful reconciliation, in which case we'll have a good time in Pwllheli. Whatever happens we are going to have a..."

"... good time in Pwllheli!" they chorused.

"Thanks Gareth," said Huw. "I'm glad you're with me. Let's hope for the third one to happen."

Their bus left shortly afterwards and they settled down for the 45 minute journey. It was only a short walk to his grandparents' house from the bus stop and he pointed out the house, the end of a terrace of four cottages. As they approached the house, he could see it was as immaculate as ever, Taid always kept the paintwork fresh and he loved gardening. Not surprisingly for the season, it was full of daffodils, primulas, crocuses and other spring flowers. Hesitantly, he walked up the path from the gate, closely followed by Gareth and taking a deep breath, knocked on the door.

After several moments, the door was opened by his Nain who looked at him for a moment and screamed, "Huw, Huw cariad," and to his embarrassment started to shower him with kisses.

His Taid appeared behind his wife. "What is it, Anne? HUW!" he shouted and immediately started to hug and kiss him. Huw was really embarrassed by this stage and pulled away.

"Nain and Taid, this is my friend Gareth. Please let's go inside," he pleaded.

They were ushered in to the living room and Nain went to make everyone a cup of tea. It was just as he remembered; full of old furniture with ornaments everywhere and, he noticed immediately, a picture of all five in his family taken just before his father died. It had the central place on the mantelpiece and was clearly a focus of the room. With all four seated with tea and Bara Brith, Nain began. "Oh Huw cariad, we never thought we would see you again. My heart has been broken."

Huw was confused. "But Nain, you and Taid told mam you didn't want anything to do with us after Dafydd and Mair were killed in the disaster."

They looked at each other amazed, "Huw, it was your mam who wrote to us after the funeral and said that she didn't want us having any more contact with you and her. Every attempt we made at contact was rebuffed in the weeks after the children's funeral and then the phone was cut off and letters returned undelivered," said Taid. "Anne has broken her heart and is in tears almost every day."

"Oh Nain and Taid, I am so sorry. mam became very ill after the funeral -- really, she never recovered properly from dad's death and it got worse and worse until in the end, her mind gave up and now she is living in a mental hospital in Cardiff. She doesn't even recognise me when I go to see her," he explained sadly.

His grandparents were visibly shaken as they took in this awful news. "So where are you living now?" asked Nain.

"That's a really long story," he said and for over an hour he told them the harrowing history that had finally brought him to this point. Both Nain and Taid had tears when he told them the story of his disastrous stay with the Salisburys and his suicide attempt. He brought the narrative up to date by explaining about Gwyn's interview. "And if Gwyn is successful in getting this job in Llanrug, we will be moving to North Wales and we will be able to see each other any time we want."

His grandparents sat in stunned silence taking in all that had been shared until Nain jumped up and said, "I've got two growing boys here who need feeding. I need to make some lunch."

"No, Anne. This is a wonderful day for our family. I'm taking you out for lunch for the best meal we can get in Pwllheli. You can have anything you want to eat!" said Taid firmly.

And that is just what he did. The three men all had excellent sirloin steaks and Nain had chicken. After delicious puddings, the four of them could hardly move, but they went back to Nain and Taid's house for a cup of tea and a rest in the comfortable living room chairs.

Conversation ran easily when they got back to the house and Huw's grandparents asked Gareth to tell them about himself. He put them in the picture about moving to Reading from Caernarfon; about his unhappiness at school in Reading due to the bullying and of his return to Wales. Gareth gave only a minimum of detail of the crisis that caused Gareth and his parents to return to North Wales.

By four o'clock, the boys thought they ought to be getting back home to Caernarfon so they thanked Nain and Taid for the meal and the great time together and stood to go.

"You're both welcome here any time," said Nain and then addressing Gareth, "Huw is our only grandchild and we'd be very pleased if you'd like to be an honorary grandson."

Gareth was choked and could hardly respond, "I'd be thrilled to have you as my Nain and Taid. All four of my grandparents have died and I can't remember them at all. Thank you so much." He threw his arms around Nain and then Taid giving them both huge hugs. Reluctantly, they said their goodbyes to their hosts and walked back to the bus stop.

There was little conversation between the boys on the journey home as they replayed the events of the day in their minds. Gareth turned to Huw and smiled, "So it was option three then?"

"Yes," said Huw, "option bloody three!" and they both burst into laughter as they stepped off the bus at Caernarfon bus station to the puzzlement of some of the people waiting there.

Back home, David was back from work early and there seemed to be something going on. "What's happening here?" Gareth asked his parents.

"Hello to you too," responded Beth.

"Sorry Mam," said Gareth sheepishly. "Hello Mam and Dad! Now, what is going on?"

Beth responded with a smile, "We've just had a phone call from Janet asking us to come over for a meal this evening. You boys need to get washed and changed and then we're driving over for a meal."

"Was there any news about the job, Beth?" asked Huw.

"She didn't say, but they wanted to hear what happened to you this morning and I'm sure they will be updating you if there is any news about Gwyn's interview," responded Beth. "Keep the full story for later on, but we're dying to know if it went well with your Nain and Taid."

Huw kept a straight face and decided not to give too much away, "I think we're in a better position than before but we'll tell you the full story with Gwyn and Janet tonight."

Gareth just grinned and the lads went off to get washed and changed. They were back 20 minutes later and the family left for the short journey to Bangor. Huw was very impressed with the house which was a large Victorian double-fronted structure close to a huge Gothic building which Huw assumed was Bangor Cathedral, but which was in fact, he learned, the Arts Building of Bangor University.

Gwyn greeted them and introduced them to his brother Hywel and Hywel's wife Megan. Haddie and Betsan rushed over to Huw to give him a huge hug and to both talk at him at the same time. "Hey you two, calm down; I only left you yesterday." The girls sheepishly released him and melted into the background.

Hywel offered drinks to everyone; the adults opted for gin and tonics and the youngsters all had Coke. Huw could contain himself no longer and blurted out to Gwyn, "So how did you get on this morning? When will you know if you've got the job?"

Gwyn decided it was not the time for teasing and so he came straight out with the news, "There were four candidates for the job and I was interviewed second. They told us that they would be making a decision that morning if they were able to find a suitable candidate and that they would be appointing today, subject to satisfactory references."

He paused, which proved too much for Huw who shouted, "So, what happened? Did you get it?"

Gwyn answered simply, "I start in September."

"Not just a new job," said Janet beaming at everyone, "but afterwards we went round the area looking at houses and we saw a house we liked in Cwm-y-Glo. We called the estate agent on the board outside and he jumped straight into his car to show us round. It's vacant possession as it was owned by a lecturer at Bangor University who had moved jobs and it's in wonderful condition. It has four bedrooms and we loved it."

"We made an offer," continued Gwyn, "and we had a call an hour ago to say the owner has accepted."

Huw and Gareth went completely wild, jumping around the room, cheering and generally making fools of themselves. Although the other adults had suspected the news already, everyone was on their feet congratulating Gwyn.

"That's the second wonderful result today," said Huw.

"So how did it go with Nain and Taid? I suspect from what you're saying, it was quite well," said Janet.

"It was better than well," he replied, "it was absolutely brilliant. I was terrified as I knocked on the door but there was no need to worry at all. It turned out that the whole rejection thing was all in Mam's mind. For some reason she had somehow got the idea that she didn't want anything more to do with them and so she cut off contact but told me that it was their idea." He continued sadly, "It all fits with how she was behaving after the disaster. Her mind just closed down. But the good news is that it's all worked out and everything is fine again."

"This definitely makes it a double celebration," said David, "Megan and Janet have made us a celebration meal tonight."

Gareth laughed, "Actually, it's a triple celebration. Huw's Nain and Taid invited me to be their honorary grandson as they only had the one, and he wasn't up to much."

Huw grabbed him in a headlock. "Not true. They saw that I was being kind, taking on a hopeless case so they thought they'd help me out a bit." Everyone laughed at the lads' sparring and Huw added, "Then they took us out for an enormous meal at lunchtime."

"So you lads will only want a sandwich this evening," said Beth with a twinkle.

"No!" said both lads together with horror. "We're growing lads," continued Gareth, "We've got room for a proper meal." They all laughed and Hywel said, "Come on, time to move in to the dining room."

Despite their large meal at lunchtime, Gareth and Huw polished off everything they were given and everyone spent a wonderful evening. During the meal Janet looked thoughtful. "How about inviting them to our family get-together on Saturday?" she suggested, "We'd like to meet them and I think David and Beth would like to meet their son's new grandparents!"

"What a great idea," said Huw. "I can call them in the morning." Then he had a second thought. "They don't have a car so they'd have to come by bus to Caernarfon then a second bus here to Bangor."

"That's no problem," said Gwyn, "I'll come and pick you up then we can drive down to Pwllheli to collect them."

By 8:30, the twins were falling asleep and so Janet took them to bed protesting strongly, despite their tiredness. The lively conversations continued until 11 o'clock when everyone was starting to feel quite sleepy. David and Beth and the lads thanked their hosts and they all returned home tired and completely stuffed after a wonderful meal (two wonderful meals in the case of the lads), to go straight to bed.

After visiting the bathroom to clean their teeth, the lads undressed for bed without any shyness this time. It was strange that it was only Huw's second night back in North Wales but he felt he had been here for so much longer. So much had happened in such a short time. Gareth turned the lights out straight away and they settled down, each lost in his own thoughts.

Huw wondered if he dared believe his life had turned a corner. For four years his life had been a living hell. He went down the list of disasters; his father and his siblings killed violently; his mother's mind broken and uncomprehending; seemingly rejected by the grandparents he loved; cruelly treated and savagely beaten by a foster father; a failed attempted suicide; uprooted into an alien culture; and finally, separated from the closest friend he had ever known.

In contrast, now he was part of a wonderful family who clearly loved him – with loving parents and two beautiful sisters. In the last 24 hours, he had learned he was coming back to the land and the culture he loved: hiraeth had called him home. He was fully reconciled with the Nain and Taid who were so important to him and he was reunited with Gareth.

Suddenly, he was overwhelmed with the enormity of it all and began to sob into his pillow.

Gareth was an intuitive young man and he realised that with all the reversals that had taken place so suddenly in Huw's life, it was not grief he was experiencing but emotional overload. He quietly got out of bed, walked around to Huw's side, lifted up the covers and climbed in behind him. "Move over, cariad," he whispered and settled down behind Huw, putting his arm over him he pulled Huw's back into his chest. Nothing was said between the young men but both fell quickly to the deep refreshing sleep that only comes with security, freedom from fears and the love of another.

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