فصل 12

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فصل 12

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CHAPTER TWELVE

A new start

‘Oh damn!’ said Megan. ‘Why does the phone always ring when I’ve just sat down? Hello?’

‘Hello, this is Huw. Is that Megan?’

‘Huw! Where are you? You sound so close!’ Megan began to shake.

‘I’m in the Rose and Crown, just outside Tredonald,’ said Huw.

‘Oh, Huw, why didn’t you…’ And then she couldn’t continue.

Neither of them spoke for a few seconds. Neither could quite believe they were so close to the person they’d lost fifty years ago. When Megan finally said something, her voice was lull of tears. ‘Let’s meet in the Tredonald Arms Hotel. It’s on Bridge Street. Do you remember it?’

‘No, but I’ll find it. See you there in half an hour?’

‘No, I need a bit more time,’ said Megan. She wanted some time to get herself and her thoughts together. ‘Let’s meet a bit later… say seven o’clock?’

‘Fine,’ replied Huw. ‘And Megan… it’s good to hear your voice. I can’t really believe I’m talking to you again.’ From the moment Megan had answered the phone, Huw had felt sure again. He wasn’t worried about how the meeting would be - he was just impatient to see her.

‘I know, Huw,’ said Megan quietly. ‘I’m happy you’re here.’

As soon as she finished talking to Huw, Megan rang Beth. ‘He’s arrived,’ she said, knowing she didn’t need to say who had arrived.

‘And? Have you seen him?’ asked Beth. Megan didn’t reply immediately. Are you all right, Mum?’

‘Yes, sorry dear, I’m meeting him at seven. But I don’t feel very brave. I think I’m sorry I wrote to him. I mean… what are we going to talk about? Oh Beth, it’s all too much for me!’

‘Don’t worry, Mum,’ said Beth. ‘I’m sure it’ll be fine. Just take it as it comes. Ring me later. And remember, I love you.’

At seven o’clock that evening, Megan walked into the Tredonald Arms Hotel. Huw was sitting in a big armchair, opposite the front entrance where he could watch everybody who came in. They saw each other immediately.

What he saw was a slim woman with grey hair and a strong face. What she saw was a tall, handsome man whose face was brown from the sun. They shook hands, and then he kissed her on both cheeks. They both stood looking at each other for a few moments without saying anything. Then Megan sat down in the soft armchair.

For the next two hours, they talked. At first, the conversation had been a bit difficult with lots of ‘I can’t believe it!’ and ‘Is it really you?’ and ‘After all these years’. But slowly they began to talk as old friends. It was easy to talk about their homes, work, Tredonald and Toronto. But it was more difficult to find the right words when they talked about Beth.

‘Megan, tell me about Beth, our daughter. I want to know everything,’ said Huw.

‘I don’t think of her as our daughter, I’m afraid,’ replied Megan carefully. ‘I’ve been her only parent all her life. Of course I’ve talked to her about you, but you’ve never been a real person for her.’

‘I’m sorry,’ said Huw quickly. ‘I didn’t mean to… You’re right, of course. But I want to know all about her.’

‘Well,’ replied Megan in a more friendly voice. ‘She lives in Cardiff, she’s married with three grown-up children, so you have three grandchildren as well.’

‘That makes five. My son Mike has two - David and Amy.’

Megan nodded and continued. ‘She and her husband have their own business - they’re architects. Beth was always interested in drawing’.

‘Like me,’ said Huw, pleased that he shared something with his daughter. Then he became more serious. ‘Your father really hated me, didn’t he? He preferred to let you be an unmarried mother rather than marry me.’ Huw felt himself getting angry.

‘I don’t think he hated you - it was more that he really loved me, or maybe his ideas for me,’ replied Megan.

‘Was it hard for you when she was born?’

‘Yes and no,’ replied Megan, sitting back in her chair. ‘When I told my parents I was pregnant, they were angry… sad, hurt… everything. My father had big plans for me - do you remember? After I had Beth, I went to college and became a teacher, and he and my mother looked after Beth. They were wonderful, really. They loved her and she had a happy time as a child. It was only when she used to ask about her daddy that the conversation went cold. But she soon learnt. Her daddy was somebody she asked me about, not her grandparents.’

A little bit of sadness had come into Megan’s voice. Huw took her hand and, for a few seconds, she didn’t realise. Then she gave a smile and took her hand away. Anyway, now it’s your turn. I want to know more about you. You’ve done very well with your art, haven’t you? I’m so pleased.’

She was able to look at him as he talked about his work and she could see the same Huw that she’d known all those years ago. She wanted to reach across and touch him, to reach across fifty years… But how could she?

It was a fine evening so they went for a short walk. Huw needed some fresh air. He felt tired after his long journey from Toronto, but he didn’t want to say goodnight to Megan. They stood looking down at the river.

‘We used to spend a lot of time walking by this river, didn’t we?’ said Huw. ‘Do you remember?’

‘Yes, we did,’ laughed Megan. ‘Well, we didn’t have many places. It was either here or up on the hill, wasn’t it?’

‘True,’ said Huw. ‘And the cinema. We went there the night Gareth was killed.

‘Yes, I remember it well,’ replied Megan. I often think of Gareth.’

‘Really? Why’s that?’ asked Huw, surprised.

‘I sometimes take groups of visitors on tours down the mine,’ replied Megan. ‘The tour takes people past the entrance to the tunnel where the roof fell. Gareth is always in my thoughts when we pass it.’

Huw turned towards her. ‘But why are you - I mean, when did you start going down the mine?’

‘Oh, it’s a long story,’ said Megan. ‘But when we knew that the mine was going to close, I had the idea of trying to do something with it. I’d stopped teaching so I had the time. I don’t go down very often now. Most of the tours are done by the older ex-miners. That was another reason for not letting it die. There was nothing else for the men to do. Now at least some of them have jobs.’

‘Good for you,’ said Huw. ‘You always were a fighter, weren’t you? I think I’d like to go down again. Would you come with me?’

‘You don’t need me. You know it better than I do,’ said Megan.

‘I did, but not now. Come with me.’

‘OK,’ said Megan. ‘If you really want to.’

As they walked back towards the hotel, Megan told him more about her work for the mine. She explained how difficult it had been to get money to develop the mine so they could open it to tourists.

‘It took five years, and it was hard work - but I met some interesting people, including a very dear person, Paul Henderson, who… helped me a lot.’ Megan had meant to say ‘who I’m going to marry next month’, but she didn’t. At least she’d introduced Paul’s name into the conversation: now she could talk about him, and maybe the next time she met Huw she would tell him she was going to get married.

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