Nobody got up early on Sunday morning, it must have been eleven o'clock or there about when Matty and me came downstairs. Gareth was at the table drinking tea and eating toast, Aled was awake, but still lying on the sofa.
"Great party," I said, crossing to the kitchen to put the kettle on.
"I'm out this afternoon, someone to see," Gareth looked up over his mug of tea.
"Okay, we'll cook something later for when you get back."
We joined him at the table, with coffee and toast, Aled moved to get up. He was dressed only in his underpants, nothing else. I thought he was kind of thin, but now you could really see just how thin. His hip bones protruded, he was all skin and bones, emaciated. He looked like one of the starving refugees you see in camps on the news.
I didn't say anything, but I think he noticed me giving him the once over. I wondered what he thought. He sat down and poured himself a mug of tea.
"Linda always puts on a good party and everyone gets invited."
"Yeah, it was crowded alright." Matty said.
"I saw you two with Idris and Gwilym," Aled smiled.
"Hmm, those two," Gareth mumbled under his breath.
I wondered if there was something going on there between the three of them, his reaction was odd, because I thought they were really nice guys.
"I liked them," Matty replied, ignoring Gareth.
"S'pose you would," Gareth answered.
"Don't mind him," Aled said, "he's been in a bad mood since he got up."
"Fuck off Aled..." Gareth got up, dumped his mug and plate in the kitchen and went upstairs.
After he'd disappeared I asked Aled if anything was wrong. "Nah, he probably got out of bed the wrong side."
"He's not usually in a bad mood like that." I looked questioningly at Aled, but before he could reply, Gareth was coming back down.
"You talking about me Aled," he said, giving him a stern look.
Aled said nothing, I guess he knew when it was best not to speak. Gareth grabbed his jacket and keys and was just going out the door when he turned back to say, to no one in particular, "You could tidy the place up a bit instead of lazing around all day." Then the door closed and a few minutes later we heard him driving out of the yard.
We looked at each other. "Didn't he have a good time or what?" Matty asked.
"It's nothing to do with last night," Aled told him, "well maybe he's a bit knackered. No, it's cos he's off to see Mr D."
"Who's Mr D?" Matty wanted to know.
"That's... ah, quite a story," Aled gave the impression he didn't want to talk about Mr D, but well Matty being Matty, he was on the hunt for more information.
"Is he someone he sells drugs to or another dealer?" Matty asked.
I think Aled was tired, he didn't look like he'd last long against an onslaught of endless questions. "No it's nothing like that." Aled replied.
"So what is it like?" Matty would not stop. I thought maybe he'd piss Aled off, but no.
"We call him Mr D, the 'D' is for discipline and for Denis, it's kind of a joke."
"Whose we? And what discipline?" Matty was like a dog with a bone.
"We... is me, Idris and Gwilym. It was Idris who found out."
"Found out what, Aled? Come on, we need to know what's going on. We're living with Gareth." Matty was right, but I don't think if it were me I'd have kept on at poor Aled.
He sighed and poured himself another mug of tea, more for support I thought, because it must be lukewarm by now. "Gareth meets up with... Mr D...Denis, usually on a Sunday. The guy lives the other side of town, he's easily fifty years old. I don't know why Gareth sees him, well I could guess." He sipped his mug of lukewarm tea. "I'm no psychologist, everybody has their life. It ain't really my business."
Matty and I were looking at him as if to will the story from his lips, I think we both realised it must be important. "This guy, Mr D... well he likes to use discipline on young men." He looked embarrassed about what he was telling us. "You know... I guess that's his kink, how he gets off... whatever."
He put his mug down and scratched his head. "Shit this tea is cold," he said.
I got up from the table, "Go on," I told him, "I'll make a fresh pot." I thought maybe not being directly in front of him would ease things a little.
"You see," he continued, looking down at his mug of cold tea. "He tried it on with Idris one time. Said he knew Gareth and that maybe Idris would like the same thing. Well... the same thing is this guy beating your arse."
He didn't need to say anymore, it was too much to keep digging. I'd had enough, the rest I could imagine. I brought the fresh pot of tea back to the table. "It'll have to brew a bit."
Aled nodded. Matty was silent.
"I'm sorry," I said, "but why does Gareth go and see this guy?"
"I don't know," Aled looked close to tears, he obviously cared a lot about Gareth. "His grand da used to treat him bad. He used to beat him, Gareth never had a great childhood. Maybe it's that. I don't know... it's all so fucked up."
Now he had his head buried in his hands. I came over and put my arm around him. I was sure there were tears, but he didn't want to show that he was crying. After a little while he got it together, I poured him a mug of tea and he rubbed his eyes dry. Matty was glued like a statue to his chair, he hadn't moved or said a thing.
When he'd sipped his tea a couple of times he broke the gloomy silence that filled the room and reflected the dull day outside. "Don't talk about any of this stuff, okay. You can see why he's not a big fan of Idris. It's not Idris's fault, but he found out Gareth's secret... so... well I don't think Gareth can face him."
More silence, then rain drops started to ping against the window, soon it was pouring down and very dark outside. What do you do in a situation like this? I realised just like Aled said, everyone has their life... and their problems. I just never knew about all the stuff that goes on, and I never thought we lived a sheltered life, but maybe we did.
Gareth arrived back as the rain was easing off, the rumble of thunder had moved way over the hills. Even so he came through the back door soaking wet, with water dripping everywhere. He threw off his jacket, pulled off his jumper, T shirt, shoes, socks and jeans, he went upstairs in just his pants, and getting drenched had done nothing to improve his mood.
I picked up his clothes and hung them up as best I could over the chair backs and put his shoes by the fire. When he came back down it was odd, nothing had obviously changed, but things where different. It's hard to explain, but I just looked at him differently now I knew where he'd been, that is who he'd been to see.
Matty was in the kitchen, Aled was on the sofa, the atmosphere was weird. Gareth must have felt it when he came back down.
"What's going on?" he asked looking first at me then Aled.
"Nothing, you alright?" Aled asked him.
"Yeah, well..." he didn't look convinced that nothing was going on, but thankfully neither did he draw the link between the odd atmosphere and himself. "Steve phoned. He thinks the pigs are sniffing around and said we should be careful and hide our stash somewhere. Just in case."
"Shit that's all I need," Aled said.
"Maybe it's nothing." Gareth told him.
"I'm not taking any chances," Aled got up and went to get his jacket.
"Stay and eat first," I said to him.
"Nah, thanks, but I need to get back and sort things out."
"Don't panic, it's probably nothing," Gareth sat down in the armchair nearest the fire.
"Maybe, but I'm going home. Bye guys." With that he was out of the door and on his way home.
"That guy worries too much," Gareth said to me.
"He's a good friend though," I replied.
"Ah huh. Is that stew ready Matty," Gareth changed the subject.
Matty served our third stew of the week, and the three of us sat in silence at the table. When we'd finished Gareth told us he thought we were being miserable. I said nothing about his moodiness. When the dishes were done he rolled a joint which we passed around and shared. It seemed to me that was his answer to everything. Not long after we left him alone and went to bed.