Hiraeth

by Huw Jones

Chapter 24

The following morning was dry, if not sunny, so the lads decided over breakfast that they would use their day for a walk in the mountains. Gareth suggested that they might climb Snowdon again, but by a different route.

"That's a good idea," said David. "Why don't you go to the summit from the Rhyd Ddu path this time and then come down the Pyg track and I'll meet you at five o'clock at Pen y Pass youth hostel."

"That's a great idea," said Gareth enthusiastically. "That would mean we won't have to retrace our steps and whichever one of us arrives first can wait at the youth hostel." He turned to Huw. "Pen Y Pass is the highest point of the Llanberis Pass and an easy meeting place."

The boys checked they had plenty of warm and waterproof clothing but Huw suddenly realised that he did not have climbing boots with him. Fortunately, David was able to come to the rescue by loaning him a pair of his boots which fitted him perfectly.

As David departed for work, they busied themselves in making a packed lunch and assembling the various things they would need for the day. They walked into the centre of Caernarfon to find a bus that would take them to Rhyd Ddu. Unfortunately, it was not a very frequent service so they had to wait almost half an hour for the next departure. After what seemed like an interminable journey, they arrived at the start of the path.

Gareth frowned when he saw that clouds were gathering at the summit but thought they were adequately protected against any weather that Snowdon could throw at them.

As before, it took them two and a half hours to reach the summit on a steady climb. Gareth explained that this route took them up about 3000 feet but they would not have to descend anywhere near as much on the other side of the mountain.

When they got within about 500 feet from the summit, they found themselves in thick mist and the temperature dropped considerably. They decided not to climb the last 50 feet or so to the trig point, but instead to go into the cafe and have a hot drink. Huw still thought it peculiar to have a cafe on top of a mountain but was particularly grateful for the hot chocolate drinks they were able to enjoy together. By this time it was just after one o'clock and so they decided to take a leisurely walk back down via the Pyg track.

"Actually, we've got plenty of time before we need to get to meet Dad, so why don't we go on a slightly different route which will still end up in the same place. We'll go via Crib Goch which is really spectacular," said Gareth. Suddenly he had a thought, "How are you with heights? Crib Goch does take you along a long ridge which can be a bit scary."

Huw didn't like to admit that he wasn't great with heights. "I'll be fine as long as the path is reasonable," he said with more confidence than he felt. They set off to walk back along the route that Gareth had suggested. When they reached the branch on the path which was signposted 'Pyg Track', Gareth went straight on and took another path to the right a few hundred yards further on.

From the start, this alternative route started to make Huw nervous. It began with a steep descent which led to the ridge that Gareth had promised. The weather started to deteriorate even further and it became very slippery underfoot. After half an hour he began to be very frightened but pride prevented him from admitting to Gareth how terrified he was. After another forty five minutes or so, he was very relieved when Gareth said that they were almost at the end of the ridge. Just where the path no longer fell away sharply on each side, they emerged from the mist. Gareth said that they would be rejoining the Pyg Track in a very few minutes.

Huw started to feel more confident and turned to look back to where they had walked. As he turned, his foot slipped and he fell down the mountainside. Although it was not particularly steep, he was unable to stop himself falling. He reached a rocky ledge and to Gareth's horror, disappeared over it. Gareth ran down and was relieved to see that he had only dropped about six feet when he fell over the ledge. Huw was conscious and Gareth could not see any blood as he ran up to his friend.

"Huw, cariad, are you badly hurt?" asked Gareth frantically.

"It's my arms and wrists," said Huw through his pain. "When I fell over the edge, I stupidly put my arms out to break the fall and I think I may have done a lot of damage."

Gareth was beside himself with worry for his friend. "I can go and get help. You wait here. I'll get you settled here out of the weather and bring some medical help."

"I think I'm all right to walk," said Huw, "but I can't use my hands at all to steady myself, or for balance."

"Okay, we'll walk down slowly and I'll walk by your shoulder in case you lose balance at all," responded Gareth with anxiety in his voice. Carefully, they walked down the path and arrived at the youth hostel at about 5:15pm.

David was sitting in reception with a cup of tea when they walked in. He saw at a glance that Huw was in pain. Gareth quickly told him the story and suggested that they bought a hot drink for him but David would not let him have a hot drink in case he needed medical intervention. They quickly got into the car to drive the 15 or so miles to Bangor hospital.

Huw was clearly in shock. He was as white as a sheet when David took him into the accident and emergency unit. He was quickly assessed by a nurse who took him immediately to see the duty doctor. The doctor examined him thoroughly to see if any other damage had taken place during the fall. It was a difficult process initially because they were unable to take off any of his upper clothing and to his horror his jacket and layers underneath were cut away from his arms. He was embarrassed that the examination of his legs and pelvis meant they had to remove all his clothes but they quickly put his underwear and trousers back on again.

It was clear by this stage that he had suffered extensive bruising to his abdomen and legs but no serious damage had taken place in those areas. His wrists, however, were a different issue and he was sent away for x-rays as soon as the initial examination was completed.

When the x-rays came back the doctor joined David and Gareth who were sitting in the cubicle with Huw.

"Well, Huw, you did the job properly -- you broke both of your wrists. Fortunately the bones are reasonably in alignment so I think we can set them in a plaster cast and you won't need any operations," explained the doctor.

"How long before they're healed?" asked Huw worriedly.

"We'll put these in a temporary cast until the swelling goes down and then in a couple of days you'll need to come back again for another cast which we'll take off in about six weeks. Hopefully, you should be healed fully by then," he answered.

Huw was dispatched to the plaster room where a nurse swiftly and gently put both wrists into plaster casts. She explained that she was doing what was called a 'back-slab', which was a light plaster cast which would allow the swelling to go down. She would make an appointment for him to come back in 72 hours to have a more permanent plaster cast created. After the nurse finished the job, they collected some strong painkillers from the hospital pharmacy and drove back home.

David had telephoned Beth from the hospital so she had known that they would be late for their evening meal and now quickly set about cooking sausage, egg and chips for them all. It was then that Huw realised how much he was going to be dependent on other people for help as he was unable to hold a knife and fork. Gareth fed him, taking an occasional mouthful of his own meal. When David finished his meal, he took over from Gareth.

Beth suddenly realised that Gwyn and Janet should be told what had happened. David picked up the phone to bring them up to date with that day's events. He explained that the hospital said it was essential that Huw rested for several days in case there were any other repercussions from the fall and to allow his body to repair the bruising. Eventually they held the phone to Huw's ear so that he could speak with his foster parents.

Janet's evident concern overwhelmed Huw's defences and he started to cry. David took the phone back and explained that this was probably the shock of the event coming out. It was clear that he would be staying longer than the week they had planned and reassured Gwyn and Janet that the three of them would be happy to look after all his needs.

Beth decided to exercise her role as mother and said that he needed to go up to bed to rest. In no condition to argue, Huw walked upstairs with Garet to the bedroom.

"Do you realise you'll have to do everything for me, Gareth?" asked Huw sadly.

"And it'll be a pleasure and a privilege, cariad," he responded gently.

He undressed Huw and got him into his pyjamas. Fortunately, the sleeves were just wide enough for the casts to go through. They walked into the bathroom and Huw stood in front of the washbasin, nodding to his toothbrush. Gareth cleaned his teeth which led to them both having a fit of the giggles. Huw then walked over to the toilet.

"I warned you that you'd have to do everything for me," he said blushing.

Gareth reached into Huw's pyjama fly, brought out his penis and pointed it at the bowl. As Huw let go Gareth said quietly, "And when it comes to wiping your bum, I'll do that too. Remember you did it for me back in Reading."

He smiled at Gareth's kindness. "I'd really like a bath to soak away these bruises, would you run one for me, please."

While Gareth ran the bath, Huw sat on the edge quietly, too tired for conversation. Gareth helped him out of his pyjamas again and steadied him as he stepped in. The temperature was just right for a soak and Gareth had purloined some of his mother's bath salts which gave off a relaxing fragrance. Huw lay back with his arms up on the sides of the bath. After fifteen minutes he said to Gareth who was sitting on the toilet lid, "I think I need to get out or I'll fall asleep."

Gareth helped him stand up and step carefully out of the bath. After tenderly drying him and dressing him in his nightwear again, he took Huw into the bedroom and helped him into bed. In less than two minutes, he was fast asleep and Gareth quietly closed the door and went downstairs.

David and Beth looked up as Gareth walked into the living room. David asked, "How's he doing?"

"I got him ready for bed, gave him a bath and he's fast asleep," answered Gareth as he sat down.

"And cleaned his teeth, helped him have a pee and dressed him as well," said Beth warmly, "We heard."

Gareth shrugged. "It needed doing and..." he faltered, "...and ...and..." He put his head into his hands and started to sob. "Mam, Dad, I love him," he said through his tears..

"We know that, son. We've known that for a long time," said David taking Gareth into a hug.

"And you don't mind?"

"Gareth, cariad, you're our son," said Beth "We'll always love you, with no conditions attached. But do you know what he feels about you?"

"I told him back in Reading that I loved him but he has always said he loves me like a brother. It's because of all his loss he's been afraid open up to love anyone. He always has said that I mustn't push him because he needed to go at his own speed. But, a couple of days ago he said he was prepared to take the brakes off slowly and we kissed. That's all we've ever done," he said anxiously.

"It sounds like he's being very sensible," said David. "We're proud of you both and I'm especially pleased that you are looking after him so well. Are Gwyn and Janet in the picture?"

Gareth shrugged. "I don't think that he has said anything because there hasn't been anything to say." He frowned and thought for a few moments. "If they know Huw as well as you know me, then they'll have a good idea about the depth of our friendship."

"You're aware enough to know that things are changing in our society. The law is slowly catching up to reality. You've not done anything illegal but a lot of people have entrenched attitudes, especially here in Wales. Many wouldn't understand how two young men could be in love and would see it very negatively," said David.

Gareth looked up sharply. "Well tough luck on them. We don't hold hands, kiss or do anything else outside this house so it's nothing to do with them."

Beth took his hands in hers and said gently, "But, cariad, when Huw or you walk into a room, your faces lights up and you both beam. When one of you is busy doing something, the other is constantly glancing across and smiling. Do you see how quickly that would be spotted at school both by your friends and by others who might use it to hurt you both?"

Gareth slumped back into the chair, aware of how true Beth's perception was.

"Let's call it a night. Good night, cariad," said Beth and she kissed him on the cheek, followed by David who also kissed his son. Gareth realised how much his parents loved him but he was too exhausted to talk further and went wearily to bed.

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