Hiraeth

by Huw Jones

Chapter 20

Huw woke early the next day and, glancing at his watch, he saw it was almost 8 o'clock. Sunshine was streaming in through the gap in the curtains where they had been carelessly pulled the previous night. During the night they had reversed position and now he was cuddled around Gareth. He could see that the bright stripe of sunlight would soon be on Gareth's face. He smiled as he looked at his friend, still soundly asleep alongside him. 'How could I be so lucky?' he wondered, listening to Gareth's regular breathing and watching his chest gently rise and fall. He smiled at the irony of that thought. In reality, his life had been anything but lucky in the last five years. However, he marvelled that someone as perfect as Gareth should have come into his life at his time of greatest need. He thought about Gareth saying that he loved him and about its implications. He realised that he felt a deep affection for Gareth, more than for anyone else he had known, but he could not quite bring himself to use the 'L' word yet.

The losses he had experienced had created a major problem for him - everyone he had ever loved had been taken from him. He couldn't bear to open himself to that possibility again. There were also profound implications to following the road that the L-word led to. He hadn't sorted those in his mind either. Gareth had declared himself as 'gay', the new word which was becoming increasingly used. Although the law on homosexuality had changed in 1967 in England and Wales and decriminalised gay relationships for adults of 21 and older, that five years away for them. He also didn't know where his own sexuality lay because he'd never allowed himself to explore that area.

As the sun moved across Gareth's face, he stirred and opened his eyes, quickly shielding them against the light. Huw chuckled and moved to cast a shadow on his face. "Good morning, sleeping beauty!" he said. He paused for a few moments and said quietly, "Thank you for last night, it was all too much for me and I just lost it." Impulsively, he leaned in and kissed Gareth briefly on his lips.

Gareth looked startled and then his face broke into a huge beam. "Huw, cariad, does this mean you're feeling the same towards me too?" As he asked the question, he stretched his arm over Huw and ran it down his back. Huw gently lifted Gareth's arm and returned it to his own side.

"Gareth, I'm sorry but like I explained to you. I'm not clear where I am in that area. You mean the world to me but I've had so many things happen to me that I've given no thought to relationships. I've gone to all-boys schools and I've hardly met any girls to find out where my future lies. We both know you prefer boys..."

Gareth cut him off and said with tears beginning to fall down his cheeks, "No, not boys. Just one boy -- Huw Rhys Jones."

"OK," he responded, "I know you love me and I do love you Gareth, but I don't know if I'm... I'm..."

"Gay," said Gareth in a small voice, "You can use the word."

"Look Gareth," he said gently, "Please don't push me. If you do, I know I'll back off and we'll both lose out. Our lives have been brought together again and we have time on our side. Walk with me, and at the very least, we can have a friendship people would give their right arm to have. It might become more than that if you let it grow without pressure. I promise you I will be honest with you."

"I'm sorry, Huw, my emotions and my hormones take over sometimes. The truth is that if I can only have you as a friend, with what we have now, then I'm still the luckiest person in the world and I'll still be happy. I daren't think of anything more than that," said Gareth.

"Now you're being soppy," said Huw quickly trying to move away from this embarrassing conversation. "I'm hungry and it's breakfast time."

He jumped out of bed to go into the bathroom for a shower, remembering this time to take some clean clothes with him. As he stood under the warm water he thought about the disparity between where he and Gareth had reached in their friendship. It was easier to use that word than relationship because there were implications with the latter that he couldn't deal with. Gareth was in love with him and clearly was ready to move from that into a physical relationship. He loved Gareth very much but he couldn't say he was 'in love' with him. Like all adolescents, he enjoyed solo-sex but realised with a start that he never thought about girls or boys as he did it. It all began to coalesce in his mind: the reason he couldn't go forward was that he had prevented himself from feeling anything for people -- male or female -- in case they were lost to him later.

From time to time people penetrated those defences: Lewis, Tomos, Sandra, Gwyn's family and most of all, Gareth. However, any feelings of affection that he felt for those people were always balanced by his fear of losing them. The first two of those people had already disappeared from his life to all intents and purposes. Once again, he felt the loss of his family and yet something else concerning loss was niggling him; he had to find out what it was.

Breakfast was a lively time talking over the events of the previous day and discussing plans for the remainder of the holiday. The boys both had GCE exams looming in a few weeks time and so they decided that they would use the rest of that day for revision and take a complete break from study for the four days between Good Friday and Easter Monday. They decided in principle that, after Easter they would study for two hours each morning and enjoy themselves the rest of the day. David and Beth were delighted that the lads were showing such responsibility and said they would support them in any way they could.

Huw remembered to telephone his grandparents to invite them to join their families for the day on Saturday and arranged that Gwyn and he would collect them at 11 o'clock to take them over to Bangor for lunch. His Nain and Taid were thrilled to receive the invitation and assured him that they would be ready for him.

The boys were as good as their word and got their heads down to revise their two years of coursework. They stuck with their revision until mid-afternoon, taking only a short lunch break. Apart from a walk down into the centre of Caernarfon for a cup of coffee in the Maes -- the main square -- the rest of the evening was spent watching television and doing very little.

Good Friday dawned and the family used their breakfast time to plan the day. David asked Huw, "You've told us that you used to come up to your Nain and Taid in Pwllheli, but how much more of the area do you know?"

"Because Nain and Taid didn't have a car, and neither did we, we were limited to places that we could walk to or travel on the bus or train. In reality, we seldom went much beyond Caernarfon," he replied.

"How about we walk up to the top of Snowdon as the weather is good today," suggested David.

"That would be brilliant! I've never actually been up Snowdon although I've seen it every day that I've spent in North Wales," said Huw excitedly.

David laughed, "Well, you can hardly miss it as it is the highest mountain in Wales and England." He paused for a moment, "From memory, it's 3560 feet high. I think we'll try and avoid the crowds, so we'll go up one of the western routes rather than the popular one, the Llanberis path. That one is the easiest but it's actually the longest. We'll go up the Snowdon Ranger path."

Breakfast was speedily washed up and Beth made some sandwiches for them to eat when they arrived at the summit. Huw was surprised that in only 20 minutes they arrived at the Youth Hostel which marked the start of the Snowdon Ranger path. David parked the car and they started to walk up the path.

"If I remember my history correctly, this is the earliest of the six main Snowdon paths. There was a copper mine on Snowdon and before the road through Llanberis Pass was built, men carried the copper ore from the mine to a point where horses would take the ore down on a sledge along this path to be transported by horse and cart to Caernarfon," said David thoughtfully.

"So why is it called the Snowdon Ranger path then, dad?" asked Gareth.

"That I do remember," said David. "The path was named after a mountain guide called John Morton who called himself the Snowdon Ranger. About 150 years ago, he built an inn where the Youth Hostel now stands today."

"Did he have a mask, a white horse and an Indian companion called Tonto?" asked Gareth innocently.

"Twmffat!" laughed David. "He was the Snowdon Ranger, not the Lone Ranger!"

Conversation began to dwindle as the four of them tackled the steeper parts of the route. It took them just under three hours to stand at the summit but the journey was well worth it. More often than not, all anyone can see from the summit of Snowdon is thick cloud but today was an exception. They could see from horizon to horizon: a vista of mountains, valleys, lakes, tiny communities and the sea.

Beth was puzzled, "David, if you look across the West I can see some mountains across the sea. Surely that must be Ireland."

"You're absolutely right," said David. "We really are lucky that it is so clear today. Those are the Wicklow Mountains and you can only see those on the very clearest days."

Beautiful scenery has only so much interest for growing lads when food is available and so the priority switched to eating the sandwiches and cake that they had brought with them.

"I've run out of water, I'm going to get some pop. Are you coming?" Gareth asked Huw with a grin.

"Coming where?" asked a baffled Huw.

The adults and Gareth just laughed and Gareth pulled him to his feet and dragged him round the other side of the summit to an ugly building he had noticed as they were climbing.

"I suppose it makes sense," said Huw grinning. "All those poor people who had to summon up the energy to ride on a train to the summit of Snowdon badly need reviving with a cup of tea in the cafe."

The lads went inside and bought two bottles of Coca-Cola which they finished off rapidly. They walked back to David and Beth and helped them pack up the debris from the picnic ready for the walk back down the mountain. The journey back was conducted mostly in companionable silence and all of them were relieved to be sitting down in the car again.

"We'll take the scenic route home so you see a little bit more of the area," said David.

He continued the journey south and stopped in a delightful little village called Beddgelert where they stopped for an ice cream and for a short walk by the river Glaslyn. David pointed out an oak tree in the middle of the field. "That's the site of Gelert's grave," he said.

Huw fell straight into the trap. "Who was Gelert?" he asked naïvely.

"Let me tell the story, dad," said Gareth. "Gelert was a hunting dog owned by Llywelyn Mawr, Prince of Gwynedd. Llywelyn returned from hunting to find his baby's cradle overturned, the baby missing and Gelert with blood around its mouth. He assumed Gelert had killed the child so he drew his sword and killed the dog. He then hears the cries of the baby and found it unharmed under the cradle, along with a dead wolf which had attempted to attack the child and been killed by Gelert. Llywelyn was then overcome with remorse and he buried the dog there with a great ceremony. After that day it was said that Llywelyn never smiled again."

Huw was impressed but a little sceptical. "Is it really true?" he asked.

David answered the question. "I'm afraid it was another example of ways to part gullible English tourists from their money. The legend was started by the landlord of the Goat Hotel here. He connected the legend to the village in order to encourage tourism. Just like the Victorians built the railway to attract tourists up Snowdon and some entrepreneurs in the 1860s added another 46 letters to Llanfairpwll's name just to make it the longest place name in Britain."

"Oh well, it all contributes to local prosperity," laughed Huw.

They walked back to the car and David took them back home along the south side of Snowdon and through the Llanberis Pass. On the way home he drove through Cwm-y-Glo where Huw would be living from the summer and Llanrug where Gwyn's new school was located. Huw was pleasantly surprised to realise that he would be living only five miles from Gareth -- an easy trip on his bike. In another four months or so, he would be 17 and could take driving lessons. He hoped that the rental income from his home in Aberfan might even allow him to buy a second-hand car in due course.

They arrived home in the late afternoon tired but happy. Beth disappeared to take a bath; David and the lads to get changed and to do absolutely nothing except to recover from the exertions of the day. Dinner was a subdued affair that evening as everyone was tired from the strenuous walk. By 10 o'clock, everyone was ready for a good night's sleep and the family day in the morning.

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