Letting Go, Beginning Again

Letting Go, Beginning Again

by Helen Sophie Whelan

Amelia Daxton had enough of life. She needed somewhere to go, make a new start, and yet she had no clue where to go. She spun the globe, closing her eyes, and when it stopped her finger would point to her new destination. Not quite sure if all she needed was a vacation or an entirely new life – probably the latter. Slowly she opened her eyes to see her destination – South Wales…never heard of it. Sighing, feeling the weight of her heavy heart she wondered what lie ahead. Amelia decided to Google her destination – finding that Wales is a land of magic, myth, and dragons. Hmmmm, castles, she read, and her thoughts went back to a little girl’s fantasies of castles and Prince Charmings. She smiled as she remembered the many castles her grandfather built for her to play in, and how he always assured Amelia that she would not only see a real castle but would indeed meet her Prince Charming. The fact that there are 641 castles in Wales, more than in any other European country, complete with dungeons, towers to climb, and ancient walls to walk along spurred her curiousity about her trip.

Amelia slept almost the entire flight to London. She dreamt of her grandfather’s horse farm outside Indianapolis. That is where she fell in love with horses. And later she fell in love with a man from a neighboring farm believing Jake loved her too. He did. Family obligation meant Jake would marry Melissa not Amelia. Their farms were joined to create the largest horse conglomerate in the state of Indiana. It took a very long time for Amelia to get past her broken heart. Her prince charming had left her to do the “right thing.” It cut deep like a knife, not only did she face the hurt and pain and loss; she had no idea how to go on with life – didnt love conquer all, dont prince’s always end up with their love, how could she ever trust again. Her solution was an office job in the city. In the end, that felt more like a self imposed punishment much less an escape or fresh start.

Amelia didn’t know exactly what to expect when she landed for the first time in a country not her own. It was uneventful like any other airport – the hustle and bustle of travelers going every which way some struggling to find their way. The only difference being the sound of many different languages being spoken, almost like that of an orchestra of many instruments not quite in unison. She almost laughed aloud while thinking..what did you expect…the queen herself to greet you? Invite you to tea maybe? Second thoughts were already creeping into her mind causing doubts about this entire idea. But she needed a new life, one with meaning and a new direction. Amelia made her way to the subway that would take her to the train in London Paddington that would take her Swansea, Wales, and on to Pontarddulais by taxi. By the time she reached Swansea, the butterflies in her stomach had begun both from excitement and the beauty of the countryside. Her eyes immediately glimsing the remains of several castles. Maybe this decision wasn’t so bad after all.

It was almost impossible to not notice the two women talking and somewhat quipping at each other. It was hard to tell if they really were arguing or not – especially when she didn’t speak the language. Amelia wondered if she would have to learn Welsh, she hadn’t thought of that. She noticed how different their attire not only was from each other, but completely altogether different from hers as well. Gwyneira bantered to Angharad, “Dwi’n cofio Gaereth Evans. Nest ti…?” (“I remember Gareth Evans. Didn’t you?”) “Naddo. Bloody hell!!” (No, I didn’t. Bloody Hell!!”), Angharad barked back. Eventually the sisters realized they were drawing attention to themselves and clearly laughed about it with each other. Amelia was smiling in acknowledgement when her eyes met theirs. Immediately, she noticed they did not smile but had lowered their eyes, she followed suit. A chill ran down Amelia’s spine she felt awkward and for the first time, that she was not only in a strange place, but that she indeed was the stranger. And yet, instantly she knew the sisters would be part of her new life. She dismissed all this as being tired from the long flight. This would prove to be contrary as their connection began in the shared taxi ride to Pontarddulais – cabs were scarce, not to mention that Ankara had suggested they save a few swllt (pennies). Amelia agreed knowing she had a strict budget besides her curiosity had been peaked.

It quickly became apparent that Gwyneira spoke little English, but that Angharad was quite adept. Gwyneira kept whispering in Welsh to Angharad, who would then ask her question in English – Angharad chiming in her own questions. It did not take long for Amelia to determine which sister was asking what question. They were night and day – Gwyneira was sheepish and reserved, Angharad was forward and direct with a bit of a spark in her eyes. Amelia could tell Angharad had lived a full life. Sadly, she identified with Gwyneira having barely lived at all – she wondered if Gwyneira was like her…afraid to really live life – afraid to take any chances, always doing the right thing, the expected thing. Her mind floated to thoughts of exactly what that had gotten her in life. Zero! Zippo! Nice girls finish last… Once again the anguish of losing Jake, losing out on her prince charming and the life that went with him, was front and center in her mind. Had she been a fool all along? Did Jake know he could never marry her? Angharad startled Amelia when she shook her arm to get her attention. They had arrived at Amelia’s rented studio. The sisters invited, well actually insisted, that Amelia have lunch with them tomorrow – complete with a Welsh language lesson. She accepted their gracious but somewhat demanding request – smirking to herself about the difference of the two.

The driver dropped her bags at the door. It was a cool and damp almost chilly night. As she struggled with the key, Amelia was grateful she had sent 2 trunks ahead and that her things would be waiting for her inside. She was surprised to see that someone had left a light on for her; there were fresh flowers, and soft haunting Welsh folk music playing. Even more of a surprise was the welcoming note and late night snack – a sandwich and Tetley tea. After exploring her rental, she downed her nightdowng grabbed her snack and settled into the overstuffed chair glass of wine in hand. She had done it! She had left America! She was too tired to feel scared, too exhausted to be excited, too weary to think about the coming day. Her eyelids heavy like cement blocks, she never finished the wine before she drifted off to sleep.

Barking dogs and chirping birds woke Amelia still in the chair from last night. She could smell breakfast – bacon, biscuits, fried eggs, fried bread and laverbread (fried kelp), cockles; and surprisingly she was sure she smelled baked beans…for breakfast? Her tummy growled as she stretched. Apparently, what she had read was true – big breakfasts were typical in Wales. She frowned when she realized those wonderful aroma’s were not for her. Today ,was the first day of her new life and there was a part of her that wanted to hide in the bed, hide from this new world. She was feeling apprehensive. Her sigh was followed by a deep breath inhaling the scent of flowers from the window boxes brightening her mood to face the day. All she knew of Wales so far was there are 3 million people compared to 11 million sheep, 3 national parks in a country the size of Massachusetts, 750 miles of coastline, and that both Welsh and English were spoken here.

Within her first few footsteps, Amelia was amazed by the flare and wit of this strange place that was the odd combination of heritage and modernity. The main Welsh motorway – The M4 – is directly behind the “Old Church on the Marsh” or Llandello Talybont Church – distinct with its white washed exterior with matching almost clinical white interior walls in contrast to the dark beams of the roof and high-sided pews.

Pontarddulais is a town in the city of Swansea, Wales – translation bridge of Dulais, Dulais meaning black stream derived from its journey through the coal industry, thus its nickname “Y Bont” ( The Bont). Pontarddulais had remained a quiet remote hamlet for centuries. Amelia could see remnants of that in the light industry buildings now turned into service businesses – in essence, new business housed in buildings that once represented the quaintness and solidarity of Welsh tradition of days gone by. It is easy to distinguish between the traditional Welsh who knew each other, conversed in Welsh, who lived side by side in the community, versus modern day Welsh who work alongside strangers speaking English working in impersonal surroundings. Although the number continues to decrease, she could not help but be impressed by the number of churches and chapels. Standing on a Carmarthenshire Hill overlooking Pontarddulais is “Yr Hen Gapel” – the mother chapel of the community. It was founded in 1712 and continues to be a place of worship today. Having done her homework, she knew Pontarddulais paths to industrialization began with the transportation of coal via railways,and later tinplate which eventually became obsolete as other towns built newer tinplate industries leaving Pontarddulais to become a dormitory village – a place where residents sleep but rarely shop or work. Nonetheless, it appeared that she had found a corner in the world like no other.

No matter how fascinated she was with Pontarddulais, Amelia knew she had to find a coffee shop that would be on her way to work at the bookshop. There were many more opportunities for tea than coffee. As is characteristic of the modern Pontarddulais, Amelia found her coffee shop tucked into one of the old industrial buildings. Time was getting short, she didn’t want to be late for her lunch date with the sister, as Amelia hurriedly opened the door then bumping into and spilling a man’s coffee. His first expression was that of annoyance but it quickly faded to a warm smile. She could not help but notice his mesmerizing green eyes. They both squatted at the same time to clean up the spill, almost knocking each other over once again. Immediately, Cledwin stood and extended his hand to help Amelia up. He spoke in Welsh, apologizing and insisting it was his fault, and that he would clean it up. Realizing Amelia spoke no Welsh, he struggled to restate everything in English, totally forgetting he was still holding her hand, lost in the beauty of this stranger who he just knew came from far, far away. Neither had any idea that they would begin each workday morning at the same place. Both had thought about but dismissed what happened as nothing more than a mere accident.

Before Amelia knew it the morning had past and it was time for her lunch with the twins. She couldn’t help but wonder why she had accepted such an invitation…lunch with total strangers, although she did find them very intriguing. And there was no doubt about it, she now realized she would indeed need to learn to speak some Welsh leaving her no choice but to take them up on their offer of lessons. Wanting to at least bring a token gift, she had picked up fresh flowers to take to the sisters. Lunch proved to be quite insightful in defining the stark differences between sisters. As they enjoyed cawl (Welsh stew with lamb and leeks), Barabith (speckled bread, a sweet bread with raisins, Zante current, and candied peel) and Murroughs Welsh Brew Tea, the sister’s story began to unfold. They were twins having lived through WWII, both had worked on their father’s farm, Angharad had left and went to work in a factory in the village below, both seeing the farm dissolved because of hard economic times. They had married, remained close throughout their long marriages, and reunited after the death of both their spouses. Gwyneira was the traditionalist maintaining her native language, while Angharad chose to learn English. Although Gwyneira’s explanation for her sister learning English are tales of Angharad’s promiscuity with the US WWII soldiers, it remained something she herself could never understand. In tough times, Angharad kept her hair set, often pricking her finger to use her blood for rouge and lipstick, and would use a pencil drawing a line down the back of both her legs to give the illusion of stockings. The difference remains clear to this day even at age 83 – Angharad is a class act – slim, well dressed with makeup and her hair fixed. She had gone with the times – still having no problem sitting in the pub getting the attention of male suitors. Her promiscuity that began before her marriage that stopped upon taking her vows returned as a widow. It raised many questions for Gwyneira.

Gwyneira, unlike Angharad, was a plain almost homily, chubby girl with unkempt short hair, and not much had changed in the past 65 years. She had maintained her working farm values all her life. Her stubbornness has kept her out of touch with life, in essence life had past her by in many ways. It seemed to Amelia that Gwyneira was almost afraid to be pretty and modern, that Gwyneira had no clue how to handle the modern world versus the her safe “old school” world, much less the attention of a gentleman. It was obvious to Amelia that She constantly struggled trying to decide if she should have been, or should be more like her sister. Could she really be promiscuous? Did she know how? Where does one begin? Would their bond as sisters end if she did not conform to her sister’s ways? To say that Gwyneira was in turmoil was an understatement. And now to add fuel to the fire, Angharad has taken this American, no less a total stranger, under her wing! Amelia could read exactly what Gwyneira was thinking…oh my…and thinking no more because she was incapable of going any further, it would have not been proper after all.

That night as Amelia fell asleep she remembered his green eyes – how could she not, exacty how many men have green eyes she found herself thinking? She gave herself a strict warning – you dont know him, you are in a strange land, he was just being polite, he paid no special attention to you, he could be married…Amelia you are not allowed to have feelings for anybody…feelings end up hurting you more times than not. Don’t you remember the pain, the sadness? You are here for you – not to find a man!

Two days had passed since Amelia and Cledwin had collided. Time seemed to have flown by, but Amelia was glad that her new life would begin today at the bookshop. She remained nervous about her lack of the Welsh language, hoping her employment wouldn’t be terminated as a result. The Welsh lessons from the sister’s had helped but she retained little. Again, being a bit distracted outside the coffee shop, she failed to see Cledwin patiently waiting holding the door for her. He whistled softly getting her attention. She smiled in acknowledgement and walked in. They exchanged good mornings, Cledwin pleasantly surprised as she spoke in Welsh. There orders came too quickly for both of their likings. Wishing each other a good day, this time in English for Amelia, they parted ways. And so, an entire week passed each morning the same as the day before. The next week was the same with the exception of a little more conversation each day, Cledwin joining the crusade to expand her Welsh vocabulary. By the end of the second week, he had convinced Amelia to arrive early to enjoy their cup of coffee together. She found herself thinking over and over again, exactly how had he managed to convince her of that? She was committed to never letting a man get close enough to her to hurt her like Jake had. And yet, here she was in two weeks time, not only having cracked the door open for exactly that to happen, but also finding herself begining to like Cledwin. He was kind, funny, a gentleman, and exotic, not to mention those eyes of his. His shyness made it hard for Amelia to believe he would ever hurt a fly much less her. Of course, immediately after that thought she reminded herself of what happened when she believed some of these things to be true about Jake.

Amelia’s evenings and weekends were spent learning all about Pontarddulais and Welsh life from the sister’s. They spent hours talking about how all three had grown up. As she learned about Wales, the sister’s learned about America and life as an American. At Angharad’s insistence, Gwyneira even began to learn English. There even had been several visits to the pub. Many pubs were closing; people began to drink at home to save money even at the cost of losing out on pub conversation – a true enjoyable pass time of the Welsh. Angharad insisted they visit The Skirrid Mountain Inn that housed the oldest known Welsh pub dating back to 1110. Amelia was and continued to be amazed at how far back Wales history went compared to Indiana’s. There was a certain charm to it all. One evening the discussion turned serious discussing their disappointments and regrets. No one held back. They laughed and cried together that night. All three realized they were forever bonded. The dialogue was somber to say the least. Angharad talked of the difficulty of leaving the farm, leaving Gwyneira behind, and the struggle to become someone she really wasnt – becoming modern and worldly. That shocked Gwyneira, she spoke of feeling abandoned and feeing that she had always been a disappointment to her sister. Angharad quickly assured her that wasnt true, but she could never allow herself the feelings of envy she had for Gwyneira for having been true to herself. Gwyneira admitted always longing to be more like Angharad but never having the courage – being stuck in her world, made her afraid and untrusting of a new one. The sister’s hugged each other for a long time as Amelia watched feeling so very honored to have witnessed this, they turned to her waiting for her to share her soul as they had done. It was the very first time Amelia had ever spoke about Jake to anyone. She shared how she had grown up, where her hopes & dreams had come from only to be shattered, how she couldn’t bear to stay where she was and watch another woman live her dreams, so she moved to the city. The sister’s immediately acknowledged how Amelia had a little bit of each of them in her, in her past. Amelia shed many tears that night, tears she was sure that she had already finished with, thinking she had put the past behind her. Angharad reassured Amelia that the past is the past, it never leaves, and one can only hope to remember the good and learn a lesson from the not so good. Amelia asked how would she ever be able to trust a man again? Gwyneira quickly agreed with Amelia, reinforcing how important it was to never, ever open your heart again, as that was the only way to prevent that. She knew because she had done exactly just that! Angharad’s face was that of surprise at her sister – she wondered who had hurt Gwyneira, but they were talking about Amelia, so she dismissed it for the moment. Angharad took Amelia’s hands in hers, and then gently explained that in order to have a great love, you must open yourself, and risk comes with that – stating without the risk, there is no chance of such a love. Both Amelia and Gwyneira were somber knowing what Angharad said was very true. Suddenly, Angharad jumped up from her chair to go put music on. Soon Amelia realized the commonality between sisters – singing. They were both serenading Amelia, when Gwyneira saw her surprise. As Angharad continued softly like background music, Gwyneira explained that the Welsh are known for singing and had long ago come to the conclusion that sounding melodious wasn’t the be all and end all. The camaraderie of singing together, no matter the harmony or lack of it, was astoundingly beneficial. The sister’s convinced Amelia to not only sing but sing with all her heart. That night they sang separately and together – the sister’s finally understanding why Amelia left her home in America to start anew; in essence, Amelia had put all of her eggs in one basket and the basket broke. Amelia had been broken too.

Cledwin had rehearsed his picnic invitation to Amelia a hundred times. He had no idea how to ask an American woman on a date. He was nervous as hell. He feared rejection having changed his mind over and over again. Today was Friday, last day of the week; it was “do or die” time. Cleddy, as Amelia had come to call him, was fidgety this morning so much so that Amelia noticed immediately. Unsure she remained quiet. They were about to finish their second cups of coffee. As she began to get up, Cleddy grabbed her hand, their eyes met, immediately he apologized for touching her. She could see he was embarrassed. Slowly, she took his hand in hers, and in amazingly clear Welsh, reassured him it was ok. That gesture gave him courage to present his invitation. He noticed her eyes drop and prepared himself for her refusal. Slowly, she raised her eyes to meet his and accepted. Cleddy caught up in the moment loudly exclaimed, “WEl, duw, duw” (“Well, bloody hell”). For a split second, he again was embarrassed until he saw her smile and heard her laugh. Soon they were laughing together.

Friday night Amelia had supper with the sisters. Immediately upon her arrival they could tell there was something different about her, something wonderfully different. The twins were cautiously excited for Amelia all too aware of her broken heart from Jake when she explained about her date. Gwyneira warned Amelia that she really did not know Cledwin. Angharad quickly reminded her sister that he is Welsh and therefore a picnic date sounded wonderful to her. They gently interrogated her through dinner. In the end, Gwyneira remained cautious; Angharad began to fall in love with Amelia falling in love with Cledwin.

Amelia slept well that night, awakened refreshed and excited about her date. She had changed three times before Cledwin arrived having decided to go with her original choice – a longer tea length navy blue polka dot dress with an ivory cardigan sweater. She decided on navy flats since Cledwin had said they would be doing a little walking. Amelia kept thinking that picnic’s are not for everyone wondering if they were for her? What if it rained? After all it did rain here on most days. Peeking out her window, she saw him coming down the street and realized she hadn’t been in a car since she arrived in a taxi. She remembered how odd it was riding on the left side of the road and that steering wheels were on the right.

As Cledwin approached her studio door he quickly did an about face running back to the car. He had forgotten the flowers. She was at the door waiting. She was pleasantly surprised that he had listened and then remembered that she loved daffodils, coincidentally they are the national flower of Wales. The bouquet was beautiful and she was impressed. She invited him in to see her studio before they left. Of course she had coffee ready, it was then as they sat at the small kitchen table that Cledwin handed her the little box. Inside the box was a lovespoon – a wooden spoon decoratively carved that was traditionally presented as a gift of romantic intent. Cledwin explained that the lovespoon dated back to the 17th century and originally was a spoon for regular use, but over time when the decorative carvings were added it lost its practical use and became a treasured decorative item to be hung on a wall. The spoon was given to a young woman by her suitor. Certain symbols came to have specific meanings – a horseshoe for luck, a cross for faith, bells for marriage, hearts for love, a wheel supporting a loved one and a lock for security. Amelia then asked the most important question – had he made it himself? Initially Cledwin was hurt because it went without saying that of course he had carved it, but then he realized that he had presented it as a tradition of the past, one that he still believed in. Remembering Amelia was not Welsh, he began to kid her and show her the tiny cuts on his fingers and hands that had resulted from his handywork. Cledwin could see in her face that his gift had pleased his date. When she thanked him and their eyes met all Cledwin could think of was how much he wanted to kiss her. Amelia saw the want in Cleddy’s eyes and then saw him regain his composure. She was slightly disappointed.

Off to the Mumbles they went – both an area and community in Swansea, Wales that includes the ruin of Oystermouth Castle. As Cledwin drove, he provided both a history lesson as well as current information about their destination. Archaeological evidence indicated that an ancient submerged forest was located on what is now the foreshore of Mumbles Bay. The first human crop growers arrived over 3000 years ago. There is evidence that the Romans were based in Mumbles in a villa on the site of the present All Saints Church in Oystermouth. After parking, they walked to the top of a hill and clearing where you could overlook Mumbles and the ruin of Oystermouth Castle. Cledwin spread a blanket on the ground and then held Amelia’s hand as she sat down. She sat in total stillness and silence for quite some time, Amelia was in awe of the beauty of Swansea. She found the bay beautiful beyond words. There were three limestone crags triangled shaped jutting out into the waves. Amelia could see that you could walk beneath them right to the shore. It was perfect – the sea, the cliffs, the salt marshes, and a meandering stream that curled down to the sea. Cledwin broke the silence when he offered Amelia a glass of wine. While she had been admiring the magical surroundings, he had set up their picnic lunch on a small tablecloth complete with wine glasses and plates and silverware and cloth napkins that displayed the food in an inviting and romantic manner. The menu included Chelsea buns, Caerphilly welsh cheese, smoked salmon, a fresh salad, and picau bach (welshcakes). As they ate, Amelia asked question after question of Cledwin. He quickly picked up on her interest in castles and had asked if she would like to return tomorrow to tour the ruins. It took no time at all for her to accept his invitation. They spent the afternoon talking and laughing occasionally walking from time to time. As the sun began to set, Cledwin pulled Amelia to him, her back rested gently against his chest. He sang a Welsh folk song as they watched the yellow orb descend in the sky. When Amelia shivered, he wrapped his arms around her not quite sure if that was the right thing to do. She entwined her arms in his and Cledwin knew it was. They both knew it was time to leave, the dampness had begun to set in. As they drove back to Pontarddulais, it was Amelia’s turn to wonder if it were proper to invite her date in for a cup of coffee. She asked herself, what would the sisters do, being careful not to laugh aloud when she realized Angharad would have said bloody hell yes and Gwyneira would have never even considered it. Surprisingly, she went with Angharad and without a doubt did invite him in. At first he was uncomfortable, but he soon relaxed as they each settled into an overstuffed recliner. Cledwin knew it was time to go upon finishing his coffee and said so accordingly. Amelia walked him to the door; Cledwin paused to tell her once again what a wonderful time he had and how he was looking forward to tomorrow when they explore the castle. Then there was that awkward moment of silence, Cledwin saying good night all the while wanting to reach out and pull her to him once again wondering if he dare be that bold? Her eyes let him know she wanted to kiss good night and so Cledwin took her hand and wrapped his other arm around waist. She eagerly stepped closer and placed her arm on his shoulder. Blue eyes looked into green ones. All time seemed to stop. As Cledwin began to bow his head toward hers Amelia, closed her eyes. His lips were soft and gentle as they met hers, they let go of each other’s hand wrapping their arms around each other. Cledwin paused his kiss and pulled at her very pouty lower lip with his teeth and tongue. Amelia heard herself moan ever so softly. And once again his lips found hers only this time with yearning and hunger, she returning his kiss with passion. Cledwin knew he best end their kiss and so he did but could not help but hold her in his arms. And then whispered, “Nos da Amelia” (Good Night Amelia) and slipped out the door.

Cledwin and Amelia headed back to the Mumbles to Oystermouth Castle (Castell Ystum Llwynarth) – a Norman stone castle in Wales, it overlooks Swansea Bay on the east side of the Gower Peninsula. This first castle was founded by William de Londres of Ogmore Castle soon after 1106 following the capture of Gower by the Normans. In 1116, the Welsh of Deheubarth retook the Gower Peninsula and forced William to flee his castle which was put to the torch. The castle would soon be rebuilt afterwards, having only to be destroyed again in 1137 when Gower was once more retaken by the princes of Deheubarth. The Londres or London family finally died out in 1215 when Gower was again taken by the Welsh and under the leadership of Llywelyn the Great. By 1220, the Welsh were expelled from the peninsula and the government of Henry III of England returned the barony of Gower to John de Braose who rebuilt both the Swansea Castle and Oystermouth. Although fascinated by castle history almost as much as the castles themselves, Amelia’s head was spinning from Cledwin’s history lesson. Seeing that in her face, Cledwin tapped Amelia’s knee gently reassuring her that it was a lot to take in and remember all at one time.

As they walked hand in hand to the entrance of the castle, Amelia’s heart was pounding with excitement as she was thinking…a real castle, I am going to walk through a REAL castle! Cleddy loved to watch the excitement in her eyes. She was so open and honest and never afraid to let her feelings show. At first that scared him, he didnt know what to think, he couldnt conceptualize what it felt like being that free. As time passed, he embraced it and it was the core of what made him fall in love with Amelia. Welsh women were not like that, well least not the majority of them.. It occurred to Cledwin that Amelia had grown up in a totally different way – a way where society didnt establish your “place” in society from the depths of the past. As they passed through the stone archway, Amelia could feel the history, feel the eeriness of the castle, almost feel the happiness as well as the sadness of what had transpired here so many, many years ago. “Cledwin, can you imagine what it was really like to live here when the castle was filled with people and their lives?” Amelia asked. He smiled nodding his head in agreement knowing his imagination couldn’t begin to match hers. There was a small area immediately inside, almost like a lobby with a small high desk the like of which you would register at in a hotel. Cledwin let her hand fall as Amelia began to explore the small initial chamber. It was apparent that she would explore every inch of every room in this castle. As Amelia turned, she was surprised to see a gentlemen behind the counter, dressed in full decor reminiscent of the days when William de Londres had resided at the castle. He greeted her in Welsh, and she could tell he was indeed pleased when she responded accordingly. They chatted a few minutes about the castle, the gentleman advising her of things to be sure to see that were not in any pamphlets or brochures. He then inquired about Amelia – where she was from, what brought her to Wales, and he acknowledged that he could see her love for Oystermouth. She turned to call Cledwin, and when she turned back, the man was gone. Cledwin came to her side as she explained about the gentleman, during her explanation she could see he was looking at her oddly. “What’s wrong, why are you looking at me like that?” she asked. Cleddy merely explained that he knew of no such guides for any of the castles. Funding had run out long ago, and basically it was a self guided tour. “Do you think me daft?” she whispered. “No, perhaps tis just the excitement,” he said while wrapping her arm in his. As they began to walk through the castle Amelia started to rebute further, but Cleddy looked at her as if to say its all right lets enjoy our tour, and so they did.

The Braose family were able to afford to rebuild the castle in stone. A high curtain wall, some internal buildings, a chapel, basements and three story residential buildings with fireplaces and guardrobes on each floor were added. There first stop was the entrance gate where the walls curve inward, demonstrating at one time there were supposed to be two round towers built into the gatehouse – no one could ever confirm if they actually ever existed. As they passed through, the “gentleman” stepped out of a shadow and pointed to the stairs that led to the 2nd floor chapel – without even thinking Amelia nodded in thanks, immediately realizing “the man” had appeared again, she quickly turned and again he had vanished. Cledwin saw she was befuddled and called her attention the remnants of a 14th century ornate medieval painting. It worked, his diversion was successful, she was awed by the bits and pieces that were clearly angels. Amelia heard a very faint whisper, “quite angelic arent they?” She had already become familiar with her mysterious guide’s voice.

Cledwin led Amelia through all three residential buildings – she enjoyed discovering where the cooking was done, where the residents slept, where they entertained, and where the long ago gardens had been. As they toured, Amelia was sure she was hearing footsteps and rumblings yet she initially saw no one. When Cledwin left her at a fireplace she was admiring, “the man” from the lobby area approached her and asked if she were enjoying her tour. And later in another residence, he asked if he could be of service to her. There was a warmth and coolness about this man. She could deeply feel his presence. It was strange, almost alluring to her; she could not deny a connection between the two of them, but could not begin to explain exactly what that connection was. Twice, Amelia started to tell Cleddy, but decided it best not to.

Cledwin saved the great hall for the last. It was the place where everyone who lived at the castle gathered and where guests were received. There were secret passageways throughout the Oystermouth. The Lord had his own private apartment. There were small guardrooms as well. When they entered the Lord’s apartment, Amelia blinked feeling dust in her eye, opened to see a fully furnished appropriately dated apartment. Her head spun, she felt dizzy, catching herself on the bedpost, only to be startled by the gentle laugh of her guide lying on the bed. Amelia felt her knees give way…she fell to the floor. Cledwin rushed to pick her up, profusely apologizing that he should not have given her the full tour all at one time. He carried her to a bench in the lobby, holding her in his arms until she steadied herself. She put her fingers on his lips to stop his multiple apologies, and reassured him that she had had the most wonderful time exploring Oystermouth with him. As they walked through the archway, Amelia stopped and turned to look behind her one more time…there was nothing, no one and yet she knew she distinctly heard, “Come back soon Amelia.” Cledwin took her hand and as they walked to the car he asked, “Was the castle all you dreamed it would be?” She replied, “Yes! It is a grand castle. And the magnificent view of the Swansea Bay is awesome.” He never noticed as Amelia’s smile disappeared and was replaced by a solemn look as she was not quite sure what had just taken place…

Amelia lay restless in her bed that night. She had cancelled plans with Cleddy for dinner. He was disappointed and concerned about her, and only agreed when she promised to have dinner with him the following night. When sleep finally came, she dreamed of the man at the castle – dreams that when she woke seemed to be completely real. She quickly began to realize she knew things about Oystermouth that she would have had no way of knowing. Again, something without explanation. Amelia thought of asking the sister’s what they thought but thought they along with herself would think she was daft – dismissing all of it as excitement and nerves about Cleddy. Although her outward appearance was one of contentment and acceptance of Cledwin, she had not lost her fear of believing in a new love much less trusting in one.

Cleddy arrived for dinner the next night, picking her up for an early dinner promising a surprise afterwards. She always took his breath away when he first saw her – his perfect mix of beauty, warmth, humor, honesty, and zeal. He had told her to dress warm for the after dinner activity, he was surprised to see her in a skirt, blouse, and sweater. Amelia caught his frown, “What’s the matter?” “I hope you won’s be cold after dinner, I don’t want you to faint again,” he said with great concern in his voice. Amelia reassured him that she would be fine, he knew she would because he had brought along plenty of blankets. Dinner was at an old, historic Welsh restaurant. She was excited about her surprise, asking several questions during dinner, Cleddy always laughing maintaining the secret. Dessert was always a necessary evil of Amelia’s – although tonite she didnt lull over it as she had in the past, Cleddy teasing her about it as such while purposely eating his half very slowly. He so loved sharing dessert with her. When he paid the bill, he also was handed a small shopping bag. Amelia was curious, but Cleddy shook his finger at her letting her know she had to wait. Once again he drove to the Mumbles, Amelia knowing exactly where they were going. She had never told Cleddy about the separate 3 trips she had made herself to Oystermouth – each time “the man” becoming her guide of places she had never seen before within the castle. After parking, Cleddy asked Amelia to carry the shopping bag, he had grabbed several blankets in his arms. They walked the path to the top of a hill where he spread the blankets, holding her hand as always when she sat down. They were close but not at the exact spot of their picnic. Cleddy also pulled out two pillows, as he sat beside her, pulling her down on the blanket, covering the two of them with the other blankets, asking her to close her eyes. Amelia complied. “Now open them.” Laying on his side, he watched as her eyes opened as she lay on her back. The darkest sky was a carpet of twinkling stars, Amelia lie still and quiet as she had sat for the few minutes of their first picnic. “Oh Cleddy, is simply beautiful,” shivering as she spoke. He moved closer to her, wrapping her in his arms, but careful not to turn her and block her view, he would wait until she was ready to turn to him. He sang a Welsh love song softly kissing her cheek and neck, Amelia struggled feeling herself getting lost into his kiss not wanting to take her eyes from the stars. “Amelia, I am falling in love with you,” was all Cledwin could say when he finished his song, watching her close her eyes. His heart pounded, he knew what had happened with Jake, he knew she had no intention of ever letting in another man. It seemed like hours to him, and then Amelia turned to her Cleddy, he began to speak when she whispered, “shhhh…kiss me.” His lips met hers as he pulled her slightly to him, soft and gently lips searching and wanting more from the woman he loved. It was Amelia who intensified the kiss with passion and desire moving further into his arms, her lips becoming pouty, her tongue finding his, hearing him moan tenderly. Every time their lips parted, in the dark of the night lit only by the stars above, their eyes would find one another’s leading them back to each successive kiss. It was almost an hour before either one realized it had begun to rain, neither cared, they were both lost, lost to each other. Amelia pulled her lips from his, finding his eye’s once again and said in a hushed voice, “Let’s go home Cleddy.” It took no time at all for them to gather their things and descend the hill to the car, Amelia shivering along the way. As he drove, she placed her hand on his thigh never moving it until they reach their home, her studio. When the studio closed, Cleddy pulled her to him, she was surprised he didn’g kiss her, but instead asked, “Are you sure Amelia?” It took no time at all for her to say, “Oh yes Cleddy, very sure.” He picked her up and walked to the bedroom tossing her gently on the bed. Amelia shocked face turned to laughter as she saw his smirk.

Cleddy jumped on top of her, his eyes going from playful to somber after kissing her, and then beginning to open her sweater buttons and then her blouse buttons revealing her lacy braziere, his fingers running over where the mounds of her breasts met the lace. Her serious, sultry eye’s matching his. Cleddy pulled her hands above her head, hand upon hand, he passionately kissed her, then pulled her to sit on him with her legs wrapped around him. His hand found the back of her neck and hair, pulling her head gently back as he found her neck, a place he had already realized to be very erotic for her. It was her turn to unbutton his shirt, her fingers trembling from her own excitement, then running her hands over his chest, then wrapping around his neck, kissing him with all the longing she had inside herself. Cleddy rolled them to their sides, parting his lips from hers, undressed her and then himself. As green eyes found the oh so familiar blue ones, each began to explore the other’s body, fulfilling the need to touch. There was no denying the pent up desire any longer, there bodies had betrayed that to the other. As hands touched places that only lovers touch, their passion ignited to lust, each making the sounds that lovers do – gasps and moans which began softly turned to yearning and need. Both lost in each other – Cledwin lost each time he found her ivory mounds and warm haven below, Amelia far away as she touched his manhood. When neither could take anymore Cleddy whispered, “Amelia,” as he pulled her to him, Amelia whispering back to him, “take me Cleddy.” And so Cledwin did, in the end making love to each other, and with each other again and again. When both were spent, Cledwin pulled his love to him, holding her tightly, kissing her tear streamed face from the release of their pent up desire, as they fell asleep in each other’s arms.

Amelia and Cleddy spent most of the next eight weeks together, Amelia spending less and less time with the twin sister’s. Occasionally when together, Gwyneira would try to broach the subject of Cleddy with Amelia, as the sister’s were both all to aware that she was in love with him, but Angharad always shaking a finger at her sister to stop, always holding out for true love. Gwyneira remained steadfast doubting and worrying that Amelia may be heading for another broken heart. The couple never spoke of a future, both afraid to bring up the subject. Instead their days and nights outside of work were spent exploring Wales and its castles, the beaches, the gardens, dining out, dancing, watching stars, and making love. Each realizing that Amelia’s visa would mean a decision would need to be made, and that that day would come sooner than later.

The dreaded day came. Amelia knew what day it was all along, but reality set in when she saw the envelope in the mail, knowing all too well what it was about and what it meant. She loved Cledwin, she knew that. He loved her, she knew that too. And yet, there was that ever present never ending tiny seed of doubt. Amelia tried and tried to decifer her feelings, and more importantly tried to determine if she did really trust Cleddy. That process always ended the same – no answers, no solutions, leaving her confused and unsure of herself. Could she really believe? Look what happened last time she believed? She repeatedly assured herself she was not a young, stupid school girl. Although, that’s exactly what she felt like! Her only conclusion was not going to be easy on Cleddy, the sister’s or herself; but in her heart she felt it was the only thing she was sure of – she would go back to the United States. Fearful that she would lose Cleddy, her plan was to ask for his patience, for her to return to America for a couple weeks – being away from him was the only way she felt she would really know. She prayed he would understand.

Flight delay, too much time to think. Her head flooded with conflicting thoughts – Cledwin, the twins, she had come to love this place hadn’t she, exactly what did she think she was returning to? Why did she feel so strongly about a separation from Cledwin to know the answer to her question? The flight attendant had made the final boarding call for flight 8317 Heathrow to New York. Amelia could have boarded earlier, she chose not to. The same butterflies that filled her stomach when she arrived had returned. Cledwin had not come to say good bye. Amelia could not help thinking that once again she had lost at love. He was hurt and angry when she talked to him. He became defensive questioning if they were really meant to be. Was he right? Were they really too different? Would the day come when she would want to return to America? Or would she live the rest of her life in Hiraeth – a Welsh emotional state. It translates as “homesickness” but there’s so much more to it than that. If it must be called homesickness, it’s a sickness come on – in welsh ailments come onto you, as if hopping aboard ship – because “home” isn’t the place it was supposed to be. It’s a yearning for a past that never was but nonetheless exists, fully formed, in the collective imagination of the Welsh for a future that dances just out of reach. It’s a once-and-future emotion, and you don’t have to leave home to experience it. You can feel it in Wales. Hiraeth is to the Welsh as soil and climate are to fine wines, an integral part of the terror that makes them who and what they are. An affliction or a gift of home. It also speaks to beginners like Amelia, visitors to Wales who fall in love with the place, and spend a good deal of their time ever afterward dreaming of returning and becoming in some small way, Welsh themselves. She arrived with a heavy heart and she would return with one. “Ms. Daxton, will you be boarding,” the flight attendant inquired. Amelia sat frozen in her seat, slowly she rose. There was a lump in her throat. Her legs didn’t want to move. She felt stiff and robotic placing one foot in front of the other. It took everything she could muster to fight back the tears. Oh Cleddy… Suddenly, she stopped as blue eyes met his green ones. Somehow she just knew he had been standing there almost totally out of site all the while she had been waiting. Amelia felt her back stiffen as her pride kicked in. Without any expression on her face she lingered to look him straight in the eye, as if to let him know she felt nothing then slowly turned away, and began to walk toward the boarding gate door. She walked assured of herself, not a running pace but a deliberate one. The flight attendant verified her identification and passport. Amelia continued to the gate door, paused for what seemed to be an eternity, and then turned to take one more look at her Cleddy through her tearful eyes. Blinking because she could not believe her eyes, Cleddy was gone…she closed her eyes hard trying to fight back the tears…when she opened them she saw the man from the Oystermouth castle Sir William de Londres…

“Amelia…Amelia…Amelia”, Jillian called. Amelia woke feeling very fuzzy. She was confused…where was she? Had she heard Jillian’s voice? How could that be…she was in Pontarddulais? “Amelia, are you all right”, Jillian asked. She became concerned by the blank look on her face. Jillian explained to her coworker, now much more a friend, that she had been asleep in the work lounge for over two hours. “Is your headache better,” Jillian inquired. Amelia was too busy trying to rationalize – if Wales had been nothing more than a dream, if Cledwin was real, if she really did meet the twins – than to answer Jillian. “I am all right, yes…yes my headache is gone,” Amelia replied. As she rose she staggered a bit her friend wrapping her arm around her waist to steady her. As they walked Amelia had already come to the conclusion that obviously this had all been nothing more than a dream – of course it was a dream, what else could it possibly be? At the doorway to Amelia’s office, she assured Jillian she was okay and that she could go to her own office. As Amelia sat down at her desk, she immediately noticed the scent of fresh yellow daffodils. Her eyes went to the vase and standing against it was the note card scripted as “Amelia Daxton from Sir William de Londres “, the one way airline ticket to Wales tucked behind the note…

The End

Special thanx to my mentor, who never waivered in his support and encouragement without whom this story would never have been finished. xxx

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