The next few weeks and months brought many changes in the England family home. Canada settled into his new home quite well, thanks to his adoptive father's kindness and the love of his new siblings (especially America, who took great delight in telling everyone that they were twins.) Canada grew, put on weight and started to smile more. To him, it was as though he'd stepped into a storybook where everyone lived happily ever after.
He and America were inseparable. They went to their first day of school together, rode bikes together, lost teeth at the same time and even caught the chicken pox at the same time. One warm and sunny afternoon, the two boys sat side by side on the front porch, licking Popsicles and valiantly trying to keep them from melting all over their fingers.
"You know what, Alfred?" Canada said.
"Whnght?" America replied as he licked a dribble of grape Popsicle off the back of his hand.
"I'm happy that Daddy got me," Canada replied. "And I'm happy that you're my brother."
"I'm happy too," America replied. "You're my bestest brother ever." Then America thought for a minute and asked, "Matthew, do you have any other brothers or sisters?"
"Umm..." Canada frowned. "I think I do, but I don't remember..."
The young blond man studied the slip of paper nervously. He showed the address written on it to the cab driver and climbed into the back seat of the cab with a sigh. He really, really hoped he'd find the place he was looking for, not to mention the person.
Mon frère, France thought as he studied the houses in the very posh neighborhood. My little brother, I've got to find you again. He had been furious when he heard that Maman had dumped the poor little boy on some distant relations without even saying so much as a word to him...
"I would have taken him myself," he growled quietly. "I would have found a way." Never mind that he was bouncing between various hotels, and various jobs. He wanted his little brother back with him. France hoped that there wouldn't be too much of a fuss retrieving the boy from these relatives. "He is my brother after all..."
"'Ere, guv'nor," the cabbie suddenly said. The cab had come to a stop in front of a very large and stately home with a lushly landscaped front yard and wrought iron fence. France paid the fare and cautiously approached the front gate. He drew a deep breath, paused for a moment to collect himself, and then knocked on the huge and heavy front door.
A tall, distinguished man in a three piece suit answered, carrying an infant in his arms. This must be Maman's cousin, France thought. The man looked a little surprised, but said warmly, "Francois, I haven't seen you since you were a tiny lad... come in, please."
France couldn't help but gape as he stepped into the foyer of the home. Truthfully, he hadn't seen many hotels as grand as this place. England led him to the living room and offered him a seat on the sofa. "I'll be with you in a moment," he told France. He returned a few minutes later without the baby. "Sorry about that, it's Peter's nap time. Would you like some coffee?" England asked politely.
"Oui, s'ilvous plait," France replied, although what he really wanted was to collect his brother and leave. He kept looking around the home for any signs of him...
"Cream, two sugars?" England called to him suddenly from the kitchen.
"Oui, that's fine," France answered. "Matthieu, where are you?" he whispered as his eyes fell on a box of toys tucked away behind an armchair. England soon returned with two cups of coffee, one of which he handed to France. He then sat down in a large leather armchair and looked expectantly at the young man sitting opposite him.
France cleared his throat. "Monsieur, I must first say this: thank you. Thank you for taking in mon frère after Maman abandoned him like she did. I cannot thank you enough." England nodded and said nothing. "But now, I have come to fetch him. Where, might I ask, is he?"
"At school. He'll be home soon," England replied pleasantly. France felt relief. This was going to be relatively easy...
"Well then, can we start packing everything of his so he and I can depart when he gets here?" France said hurriedly. He stood up and...
"No." England's tone remained pleasant. France was momentarily dumbfounded.
"No?" he repeated.
"No." England replied. "I legally adopted Matthew immediately after your mother left him with me, so he is my child." France blinked furiously and swallowed hard, trying to keep back tears. I keep losing everyone that I love, he thought. First Pappa Rome, then Jeanne... now my little brother, I'll never see him again... He realized that England was still speaking to him.
"... whenever you wish," England said. "I've no desire to keep you from seeing your brother, but I can't let you take him." He looked keenly at France. "I don't mean to insult you, lad, but I think I can give Matthew a more stable home than what you would be able to provide for him at this time." France had to admit that he was right.
England started to say something more, but was interrupted by the front door bursting open and a voice calling, "Dad, we're home!" All three boys, led by Iggy, trooped into the foyer, still wearing their school uniforms. Iggy stopped short and looked suspiciously at the visitor, then turned to his brothers and said quietly, "Let's go have a snack."
"Matthew, come here please," England called. France looked up from his coffee cup and gasped. He barely recognized his brother. Mon Dieu! France thought. He's grown...
He looked healthy and happy: clean and well nourished, with bright eyes and a sweet, gap toothed grin. He even had his own little pair of wire-rimmed glasses. And he really did look adorable in his school uniform. Little jacket and tie, starched button down shirt, neatly creased slacks, polished shoes... everything about his appearance suggested a child that was much loved and well cared for.
"You have someone here to see you, Matthew," England told him softly. "Bonjour, Matthieu," France exclaimed, holding his hands out to the boy. Canada looked at France, and his eyes widened... then he took a step backward and held his hands up in front of him anxiously.
"I don't want to go back to Maman, Daddy," Canada said, turning to England. "I want to stay with you. Please don't make me go with him, Daddy... please..." He was not crying, but he looked a little scared. He kept looking back and forth between England and France.
France really wanted to cry at his little brother's reaction to him. England hurriedly replied, "Matthew, Francois just wants to visit with you." Canada warily stepped forward to touch France's outstretched hands. France, overcome with emotion, pulled Canada close to him and hugged him tightly.
"Sit with me, Matthieu," France said, patting the seat next to him. England chose this time to discreetly slip from the room and greet his other children. Canada sat down, looking suspiciously at France.
" Avez-vous été bien?*" France asked him. Canada wrinkled his nose.
"Do I have to talk like that?" he replied in English. "And where did my daddy go?" He started looking around... "Can I have my snack now?" His tone wasn't rude in the least, but France could tell that the boy wasn't comfortable with him at all.
"Oui, go and get your snack," France replied. Canada scurried off to the kitchen. France was truly heartbroken, but he didn't blame Canada. Nor did he blame Canada's adoptive family... C'est ta faute, Maman*, he thought angrily. Matthieu's afraid of me now, because he associates me with you.
Canada soon returned with a plate of apple slices and celery sticks with peanut butter, a glass of milk... and another small blond boy in tow.
"Hi," the other little boy said curiously, looking at France. He was a cute child too... a little taller than Canada, also wearing a school uniform and wire rimmed glasses. Canada whispered something in the other boy's ear and they both sat down on the loveseat opposite the sofa, where Canada proceeded to eat his snack.
"Hi," France answered him. Canada finished his snack and then sat looking at France, holding the other boy's hand tightly. "Matthieu, who's this?"
"He's my brother," Canada told him. "His name is Alfred." America grinned at France. He's even missing the same teeth as Matthieu, France thought.
"How old are you, Alfred?" France asked.
"Six," America replied.
"We're twins," Canada told France, who chuckled. At least he gets along well with the other children, he thought to himself.
"Matthew, are you done with your snack?" Iggy asked as he approached them, still looking suspiciously at France. "Dad told me to wash the dishes." Canada handed him his empty plate and glass, and he left again, glancing in an unfriendly manner at the visitor. Meanwhile, Canada and America were whispering back and forth.
France looked at his watch. I really should go, he thought a bit sadly... but he didn't allow himself to finish the thought, without my brother. He stood up and smoothed his clothes. "Well, Matthieu... I need to be on my way," he told the boy. "It was nice seeing you again."
Canada looked at him a bit nervously. "Are you going to come back and visit some other time?" he asked, still clinging to America's hand.
"Oui," France responded. "Your papa said that I could come visit whenever I like."
"Okay," Canada answered.
"Goodbye, Matthieu, goodbye, Alfred," France told them both.
"Bye," America said cheerfully. "See you soon."
France went to take his leave of England, who was in his study working on some papers. "Leaving already?" England asked, looking up from the work on his desk.
"Oui," France replied. England removed his glasses and rose from his desk to shake France's hand.
"Come back and see him any time, Francois," England told him. "And I DO mean any time. I'm not going to keep you from seeing him."
"Merci beaucoup," France said. England showed him to the front door again (it was easy to get lost in the family's home) and as France was exiting the house, a little voice called after him.
"Francois, wait!" Canada ran to the front door. Iggy was following him carrying a Polaroid camera. "I want Arthur to take a picture of us together."
France was surprised. He looked at the unfriendly teenager holding the camera, who told him quietly, "He's your brother too... I thought it would be a nice idea."
France knelt beside Canada and put his arms around the little fellow. Iggy snapped two pictures, one he handed to Canada and the other to France. "Careful, it's still wet," he said.
"Merci," France replied.
"Bye, Francois," Canada said, clutching the photo in one small hand. With the other arm he was clinging to England's leg.
As France climbed into the waiting cab, he looked out the window one last time to see Canada waving goodbye from the front porch. He allowed himself a few tears and then looked down at the the picture he held in his hands as the cab pulled away.
Awwww... I was gonna make this a little less happy for France, but I decided not to.
Sorry I took so long to update, I lost my inspiration.
1. Have you been well?
2. This is your fault, Mama.