Hiraeth

by Huw Jones

Chapter 25

The following day, Saturday, was wet and dismal. Neither of the lads planned to get up early but a call of nature meant that Huw had to wake Gareth to help him to the toilet. After nature's demand had been dealt with, they went back to bed. Gareth thought he should tell Huw about his conversation the previous evening at the first opportunity. He recounted the conversation in detail and Huw was somewhat alarmed to feel that others were aware of their burgeoning friendship.

"I'm a bit worried that they know all about us but it was our own fault. I didn't realise we were giving off such signals. All we've actually done is kiss a few times, for goodness sake. Still, the important thing is that they are supportive, I suppose," said Huw thoughtfully.

Gareth nodded, "What's more of an issue is the things mam said about those signals when we smile when the other comes into a room or the way we look at one another."

Huw grinned, "Yes well, she's right and we are going to have to do something about that if we're not ready for the world to know."

"Are you going to say something to Gwyn and Janet?" asked Gareth.

"God no!" said Huw quickly. "Mind you, they don't miss much so they probably have a good idea about us." He thought for a moment. "I don't think they would be a problem either, maybe we should in due course."

Both boys lay back down to doze, lost in their thoughts, until at 10 o'clock Beth knocked on the door to say she was making a cooked breakfast which would be ready in ten minutes and there was no need for them to get dressed. The lads went down in their pyjamas and tucked into bacon, egg, sausage, mushrooms, baked beans, toast and endless cups of tea. With Huw's need for assistance, it was a lengthy meal and it was well past 11 when the lads went upstairs to get washed and dressed.

They started a game of Monopoly at the kitchen table, stopping only for sandwiches at 1:30 when Beth fed Huw to give Gareth a break. An hour later, there was a ring on the doorbell and the lads were amazed when Gwyn walked into the kitchen.

"Gwyn! I had no idea you were coming up," said Huw. His face fell and he asked anxiously, "Have you come to take me back?"

Gwyn laughed. "Not unless you want me to! I only decided to come up this morning so I rang David and Beth while you were still asleep, to discuss your situation. It's your choice, but I suspect by the tone of your voice that you'd rather stay here. I need a cup of tea and a bit of a rest and then I'd like it if you and I could go to your room to talk."

For half an hour, Gwyn, David and Beth made small talk over cups of tea and then Gwyn spotted that Huw was looking very anxious. "Let's go and have a chat, Huw bach," he said gently. They climbed the stairs and went into Gareth's room; Huw lay on the bed with his feet up and Gwyn sat in a chair.

"I'm so sorry this has happened," Gwyn said, "is it very painful?"

"It has been and I do have painkillers but I'm trying not to take too many of them. They make me sleepy."

"I gather from David and Beth that Gareth is proving himself an excellent nurse and is looking after you really well. There are not many young men of his age who would take on the sort of tasks that you need him to do for you."

Huw looked bashful, "He's amazing. I can't believe the lengths he's prepared to go to for me."

"Do you think he's up to doing this for more than just a few days? David and Beth said they would be prepared to be involved but Gareth is being very firm that he can cope," said Gwyn.

"Well, I don't mind if David and Beth get involved. When I stayed before, I was streaking between the bathroom and my bedroom and I met Beth on the landing so there's nothing of me that she hasn't seen. I'm beyond embarrassment now." They laughed together.

Gwyn said, "They've suggested that you stay here until we move in July. That's only five weeks away and with Janet's part-time job, you'd be on your own for some of the time. Remember, bach, sometimes Janet may have to do the personal jobs that Gareth is doing."

"I don't mind that and staying here sounds like a good idea but I'm going to need more clothes and what about the costs of feeding me and so on?"

"I was expecting that you would want to stay here. I've brought all your clothes and your other personal stuff. It means that it's one less person to move up from Reading. Regarding finances, David and I had quite an argument on that subject. I pointed out that we get a weekly allowance for you that I would simply pass over to David and Beth. We decided that we would quietly forget to tell Sandra about this arrangement. You can bet your life that bureaucracy would kick in about your accident and there would have to be some sort of enquiry. Are you happy we leave it like that?"

Huw was thrilled to hear the news. "That's fine. I'm fed up with rules and regulations. I was living with a wonderful family in Reading and I'm staying with another wonderful family in Caernarfon. I don't want anything to disturb that."

"And neither would we! Come on then, let's go back and join the others," said Gwyn, standing up to leave.

Gwyn stayed until five o'clock and left to stay for the night with his brother in Bangor promising to stop by mid-morning the following day on his way back to Reading.

Huw got bored very quickly, as there was so little he could do. Sunday passed very slowly. The weather made a walk outside impossible. The combination of high winds and driving rain penetrated even the best rainwear. Only Gwyn's brief visit before starting his long journey south broke the monotony. The following day, Beth took him to the hospital to replace the plaster casts on his wrists with new ones that he would wear for another six weeks when, hopefully, his wrists would be fully healed.

He was very relieved when Beth rang Gareth's school and was granted permission for Gareth to stay away from school to give him the personal care he needed. Although Huw would have been prepared to accept help from Beth, it would have been harder for him than from Gareth.

When the lads went to bed on Tuesday night, Gareth was aware that Huw had something on his mind. "What's the problem? You're obviously wanting to say something," Gareth asked with a grin.

"Er yes. I was wondering... no. Er, well, er, usually I find time to er..." said Huw floundering.

Gareth looked puzzled and suddenly the penny dropped and he roared with laughter, "Oh dear! You've lost the use of your hands for the time being, so no opportunity to pleasure yourself. He grinned. "I bet you're desperate after five days."

"Exactly!" said Huw blushing furiously, "Five and a half days actually."

"Well sir, before it becomes six, let's see what I can do," said Gareth mischievously.

In the following few days the young men developed their nascent relationship although Huw was still cautious and reluctant to go too far. They also found ways for Huw to be more independent. He stopped wearing pyjamas so he could at least pee at night and in the morning without disturbing Gareth. He met Beth twice on the short journey between bedroom and bathroom but neither was embarrassed. Beth had helped Huw with personal care on a few occasions when Gareth was not available, usually when he was needed at school events. Eating quickly became easier when they found a way to wedge a bent dessert spoon into his plaster cast so he was able to feed himself when his food had been cut up.

Over the next few weeks, Huw kept in touch with the Evans family every few days by phone. The contact was frequent because Haddie and Betsan were worried about their big brother. On one of their early conversations Betsan tried to understand how he managed to do simple tasks with such little use of his hands. When she asked the question, "Well, how do you wipe your bottom then?", he was relieved when he heard Janet's voice in the background saying that was not a nice question to ask. Janet took the phone at that point and their conversation continued.

"I must admit I was wondering myself how you were coping with personal things as you obviously need a lot of help," Janet said.

Although embarrassed, Huw decided that it was an appropriate thing to talk about in the safe context of the family.

" You're right," he said. "Although, things are getting better. The answer to Betsan's question is that Gareth does most things for me when I need help but sometimes Beth helps me when Gareth isn't about. I'm not really embarrassed about it any more and I am getting quite good at feeding myself now and other simple jobs. It's just the toilet, washing and bathing, getting dressed and fiddly jobs.

Phone conversations carried on regularly after that but Janet must have spoken with the twins, because there were no more intrusive questions.

For the next few weeks they passed their time exploring the area, majoring on travelling on the narrow gauge railways. They spent quite a bit of time over three days watching the narrow gauge trains taking the slate from Dinorwig Quarry between the Llanberis end at Gilfach Ddu to the coast at Port Dinorwic.

The drivers quickly began to recognise the lads and waved as they passed but their happiness was complete when a driver looked around and seeing no officials from the quarry around, signalled for the lads to come up on the footplate and they rode the entire route to Port Dinorwic. It was fortunate that they had that opportunity. On 22 August, the quarry closed without any notice.

Finally, six weeks after the accident, Huw had the plaster casts removed. X-rays confirmed that the bones had indeed healed well and he travelled home flexing his fingers and moving his wrist backwards and forwards. He was given a list of physiotherapy exercises to restore his muscle functions fully and was warned not to pick up anything heavy for a couple of weeks. He was amazed how weak the muscles had become but delighted that within a few days he was able to use his wrists normally without discomfort and to great effect and personal satisfaction.

Three days later, Gwyn, Janet and the twins moved up to the house at Cwm-y-Glo. On moving day, all four of them came from Caernarfon to help the Evans family settle in and to bring an evening meal over for them all. As soon as he arrived, Huw spent half an hour talking and playing with the twins before he got involved in helping with the moving in. Haddie and Betsan were overjoyed to see him again, an emotion equally shared by Huw.

Gareth and Huw helped them unload the boxes that the movers had distributed round the rooms. Huw was a little puzzled that there was no bed in his new bedroom but Gwyn explained that the bed that he had been using had been dumped, as the mattress and base were both old and uncomfortable. Huw could only agree with this! He learned that a new bed was being delivered from a supplier in the centre of Bangor in a couple of days. He could move back with them as soon as it was delivered. Two days later, he packed all his stuff and travelled with David, Beth and Gareth to make the four-mile move to his new home.

"Come and have a look at my new room," said Huw enthusiastically to Gareth. The lads clattered upstairs and rushed into the room. He was speechless as he looked at his new bed. It was a 5-foot double bed! Gareth and Huw looked at each other amazed. They were suddenly aware that Gwyn was standing in the doorway.

"I knew you'd want Gareth to stay for weekends so we've made it comfortable for you," he said simply.

They stared at him open-mouthed. "When did... how did you know?" asked Huw, visibly shaken.

Gwyn chuckled, "When? That was when I first saw you two together when Gareth was in hospital. How? Fifteen years of teaching and working with teenage boys. When you go back to school you are going to have to be careful about how you behave around one another, even how you look at each other." He turned to Gareth, "Do your parents know?"

"Yes, and they are supportive of us. They said the same thing about being careful about how we look at one another, particularly at school." He continued after a moment, "We are going very slowly and carefully in our relationship," Gareth said. "Actually, it's Huw who's keeping the brakes on. I'd take things forward faster if I didn't have him slowing me down," he admitted.

Haddie and Betsan rushed into the room at that point and looked at the bed with astonished expressions.

Haddie was first to speak. "What a big bed! Why do you need a bed is so big? Can we come and sleep with you sometimes?"

Betsan had noticed something else. "You're holding Gareth's hand, Huw. Do you love him?"

Such an innocent question! Huw dropped Gareth's hand hurriedly and looked across in panic to Gwyn for rescue.

"Off you go, you two!" said Gwyn, shooing them to the door. "Leave Huw to discover his new bedroom!"

Huw and Gareth smiled at Gwyn gratefully.

"You two are good for one another," Gwyn said as he gathered them into a hug. He turned round and quietly closed the door. Huw and Gareth realised what had happened. Both their parents knew of their love for each other and both approved.

Love had transformed two lonely, damaged young men from enduring lives of misery to the joy of a loving partnership in the land they loved: beautiful North Wales. For the first time in many years, Huw was excited and optimistic about the future.

The End

Thank you for sticking with me through Huw's traumatic journey. As you may have guessed, a great deal of this story is my journey. Please let me know your thoughts about the story at huwjones1952@gmail.com

© Huw Jones 2016. All rights reserved

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