Today was the day. So many people had already jumped. What was one more body? The stock market crashed. America hurt so much that he wanted to just end it all. No one would miss him, he was just one nation. He was just as replaceable as any other nation. Rome had fallen and Northern Italy and Southern Italy came from his fall. So what would stop someone from replacing him if he were to jump? England would just say that he knew better than to let America off on his own. France… Well, France never really cared for him all that much. A few nations would even be happy to see him go. They would give him a kick of the bridge if he asked them to.
Alfred stood on the edge of the bridge, waiting to jump. He would jump, get hit by a new automobile or something and then that would be the end of him, he hoped because if a nation willingly gave their life a new nation would take their place. Suicide seemed willing enough for Alfred, since it was going to be his choice to take his life. But the day was dreary. To make matters worse it suddenly started to rain. He held on to the railing, meant to keep the people from falling but it was a light hold for he was going to jump, plummeting to his death for sure. As if anyone would care what happened. The European nations hated him. So did the Asian nations. Well actually, now that he thought about it, there wasn't a single person in the World who didn't hate him, including himself. Even Canadia hated him, though his brother would never admit it.
He look back, his moment interrupted by some idiot – girl who wasn't about to let him jump. He frowned. She hadn't been there before. The bridge was under deconstruction anyways. He watched as she ran over to him as quickly as she could, nearly slipping on her way up the already rain soaked steps. She stopped a few feet away, with wide eyes. She didn't seem to care that she was getting soaked by the cold rain or that there were cars zooming below the bridge. They would have helped in his death. There would be no way that he would be able to survive falling off a bridge. She stopped when she was a good ten feet away from him. Alfred frowned. She wore one of the two-piece sweater and skirt outfits that had just hit the racks by Jean Patou, which a part of Alfred might have been offended by because the woman also had a bob cut.
"I said hey, so don't ignore me," she ordered. "What are you doing out here?"
"I don't know… I thought I might jump," he replied casually.
He expected her to gasp, yell at him maybe, and try to convince him to climb down or even call the police so they could convince him down. He wouldn't care. By the time police got there he would have jumped and there would be nothing anyone could do to stop him. Instead, she looked down at the distance of his jump and then to the side before looking back at him. There was a bitter look on her face and she gave him a sort of pained smile. She rubbed her forearm ever so slightly and looked up at him. He looked away from her eyes, unable to bear looking at them and the deep emotions that seemed to flicker through them at an alarming rate. She smiled weakly as she took just a single step towards him. Now there were only nine feet between the two of them.
"Not a good idea," she told him, "You might get hurt."
Alfred sneered at her, scorning her for even caring about him because it made him not want to jump. He moved to push himself off but before even his feet could lose contact with the bridge, a strong hand caught him by the arm and pulled him back, away from the edge. He looked down at her flinching once again at the look in her eyes. It seemed like fire danced through her eyes. She was refusing to let him die. He should have been prepared for that. He had been about to jump before she came along. He should have jumped sooner, so that way she wouldn't have seen him. She wouldn't have had enough time to draw him into a conversation. Now he didn't even have the courage to look her in the eyes. He was a coward. England was right.
With the stocks so low what else was he to do? Men were jumping to their deaths. He could feel their lives being snuffed out and the pure anguish their families felt as they blamed Wall Street and America – him – for their troubles. He hadn't done anything. It was credit cards and the large businesses that took over, creating more than what the market needed and laying off when they didn't need workers. No one realized this pained America too. His economic situation was terrible. It would only prove to England that he wasn't fit to become his own country after all. He should have listened. He should have let England take care of him and then asked when he knew that he was ready. Now his people suffered because of it. He suffered because of his decision.
"Don't be stupid," she whispered.
She closed the distance between them. Then she showed enormous strength by pulling him closer to her, farther away from the edge of the bridge, farther away from his death. He was much bigger than she was so it was surprising that she was able to pull him away from the edge at all, considering the differences they had. He should have been able to fight back. He should have been able to resist but under her gaze he felt as weak and as boneless as a fish. He hid his face in her shoulder so that he didn't have to face her, so that she couldn't look at him because he was too embarrassed to let her do that. She just held him tighter than before, allowing him to rid himself of his anguish.
He could feel her face heat up as he hugged her tightly for dear life, because truly, she was his only anchor at that moment and the terror of what he was about to do had finally sunk in. His silent tears had become loud sobs into her designer jacket. But he was sure that he was hugging her, crying like he never had before. Terror ran through his veins. It finally hit him that he had almost taken his life. Before hand it seemed like a good idea but now he was terrified. But taking his life at that moment just seemed so right. Things were just too hard to bear anymore. He strongly believed she was not pushing him away. This was, in some way, good. In another way it was bad. He was allowing some stranger to get involved with his problems and his life but he couldn't bring himself to care.
"And don't you dare to even think about jumping," She ordered.
He was surprised but quickly found how warm and comfortable the young woman was, so he let it be. His head was on her shoulders, his hands between them, cradling his heart but also creating a barrier between them that he wouldn't let the stranger cross no matter how depressed he actually was. He looked like a vulnerable child in her caring arms. To her surprise, he suddenly went limp in her arms and she had to lower herself to the ground in order not to let him fall backwards. She didn't mind. Not for the first time in his life, Alfred felt weak. In his mind, he was pathetic, disgusting, sickening. But he really hadn't felt this bad since the Revolution. When England left him once and for all, and after the War of 1812, Alfred started battling with his depression.
Her arms grew tighter around him, pulling him closer to her chest, as if she knew the bought of pain that Alfred felt. With a slow, child-like want, Alfred turned to face her and held her as tight as he could. Tears streaming down his face, all she could do to keep her own from pooling was to smile, a sweet, comforting smile, just for Alfred and Alfred alone. Moving the hand on his back in slow circles, she ran the other through his rain-soaked hair. She just smiled at him, despite the fact that she felt like crying along with him. But after a while the cold rain had seeped into her very bones. She was freezing. He had to be just as cold as she was, if not colder because he was probably in the rain longer than she was. She gently brushed his hair out of his face. He looked up at her through watery eyes from behind his glasses.
"Why don't we," she suggested, making him look up at her, "Get out of the rain?"
She gently helped him to his feet. She kept an arm wrapped around him. She acted as if she were afraid he would run off after his near death. Running was the last thing on his mind. He couldn't believe he had actually almost taken his life. She led him down the bridge and down a street. He barely caught a glimpse of the sign hanging above the door that she led him through. He shivered as warm air hit him. The place smelled of coffee. The café was warm, wonderfully inviting to the nearly frozen man's frigid face. He felt slightly comfortable there, but also, he felt strange. He felt different as he stood by the woman at his side. He looked at her once again. He had no idea who she was, what she was doing, or why she saved him. He wondered if she wasn't one of his people but he didn't get that feeling as he looked at her. He wasn't sure what she was.
There were multiple round tables were scattered in the center of the room, while booths made for more than two people were against the walls next to windows that overlooked the bustling streets of the city. A few couples were sitting at the circular tables, chatting over steaming mugs of warm liquid that made the shivering man's mouth water. Something warm to drink sounded absolutely fabulous. In fact, it sounded rather godly. Food sounded good too but he knew that he didn't have a single dollar in his pocket. He only had his dogtags from the war around his neck. He wanted to warm up. The girl standing next to him felt warm, although she was soaked as he was. He shifted for a moment, uncertain as to what to do. He looked at the woman. He would follow her lead, he supposed. People were already giving them strange looks for coming in, out of the rain, looking like drown rats.
"Grab a table and I'll be back," she told him, gently.
She walked over to the counter without another word, leaving him to go and find the two of them a table. There weren't very many people in the café yet so he grabbed a small secluded table in the back so that no one could look at him or gawk at out of place he looked. He looked like some homeless man who had been crawling through the mud and sewage. He realized with acute horror that he had gotten the girl's outfit wet. It was an expensive outfit too, very hard to replace at the moment. He currently didn't have enough money on him, as Alfred but as America he could buy her as many replacement outfits as she wanted, but he doubted she wanted a reward for what she just did. She was just as dirty and wet as he was but she wasn't concerned in the slightest.
He watched as the girl chatted with the man behind the counter. The man's eyes flickered over at him once and then the girl's tone took a dark hint to it as she spoke and although Alfred couldn't hear what she said, he still shivered. The man looked back at her without a second thought. She could still possess that same demanding presence on the bridge in public, even in a muddy white dress shirt, splattered black slacks, a sullied black jacket placed over her shoulders that was worn, with worn, soaked, black heels on her feet. Her long chocolate colored hair was starting to frizz and fall out of place. Wisps of her own hair fell into her eyes. She looked like she had been the one about to kill herself instead of Alfred trying to kill himself.
She started walking back over to his table. In her hands were two steaming drinks. Alfred's mouth watered in delight when he saw the waiter following behind her, carrying a tray of food behind her. He realized that she either worked there or she was a regular there. She had only brought him there to get to work and then dump him off on someone else or she really was trying to stick to her word and warm him up. But who would want to babysit some suicidal maniac anyways? She probably didn't even care that he was trying to off himself. He was slightly surprised when she set the drinks on the table and sat in the chair across from him. The waiter set the tray down and gave them soup, salad and bread – today's special he told them. The woman waved him off. The waiter nodded and walked away.
"How do you feel?" she asked.
He quickly looked away, unable to meet her eyes. He realized that she was just the kind of woman who made you wonder why she was even bothering to look at you, let alone smile at you. Then when she actually did say hello to you just felt more than just a little bit confused and overwhelmed. She had what he wanted and for a moment he hated her beyond anything he had ever felt before. But the hatred slowly ebbed away. She was still smiling that smile. It made him want to hurt her, to make her stop smiling like that. But that smile was good, it was kind, it was everything he wanted to be. He wanted to be just like her, so happy that no one could hate him. He envied her greatly. He wanted to be her. He didn't doubt that she had a lot of friends, either.
He wanted to know why she found it possible to smile when he was in so much pain. Her life was probably easy. She probably had everything she could ever want in her entire life, handed to her on a silver platter. He had to work, had to work every day of his entire life just to make it so that people recognized him. He just wanted to be seen as an equal to all of the other nations. He was really just a nuisance. He didn't have many friends. No one wanted to be acquainted with someone from a low class nation like himself. He was just low class trash, destined to remain trash or so many of the nations kept telling him. He did well enough in the War, but apparently it wasn't enough to the other nations, he was too soft and it took him too long to join the fighting. Was it really his fault he hadn't fought many wars and that the wars he did took a lot of damage to his heart?
"Why do you care?" he asked coldly.
That one question shook the young woman to the core more than anything else he had thrown at her in their short period of acquaintanceship. There was nothing a woman of her stature valued more than loyalty and valor, friendship till death. She treated it as her duty to care when no one else did, despite what everyone else had done. She didn't understand why he had even thought to ask something like that. No one needed to understand why someone cared. It was always only a question as to whether they cared. She reached across the table and took his hand, mindful of the food, the drinks and the glassware separating the two of them. She just continued to smile in that insanely infuriating way that was also trusting and endearing at the same time.
"I care because I do," she said simply, "People don't need reasons to care, they just do."
He shook his head, showing just how much he disagreed with her logic about how things were supposed to work. He might have agreed with her at one point but that's not how people were anymore. She frowned, realizing he had seen more of the dark side of human nature than the kindness. She squeezed his hand tightly, trying to convince him otherwise. He blinked almost owlishly, uncertain as to what to do now that the woman was in front of him, though he did wonder if he was entitled to the wish of never being alone after everything that had happened in his life. Being alone in the United States was lonely. He had so many homes to visit throughout the country. He had his brother, whatever his name was, but even with his brother's visits he was alone most of the year. He had put so much into Western expansion that there was little to no expansion to really worry about at the moment, but they would find more ways to expand, for sure.
His people were the enduring type. He had tried to endure but the loneliness was eating away at him. He could barely take it anymore. No one knew of just how depressed he was anymore. He was able to hide his depression from everyone. Not even Canadaria knew he was sad. He licked his lips. The woman wrapped his hand around one of the steaming mugs. Inside was hot chocolate, extra marshmallows, chocolate syrup, and chocolate sprinkles – one of his personal favorites. Her drink was also hot chocolate but it only had marshmallows. It was strange, as if she knew his taste in hot drinks but then again, she might have thought the sugar would help him cheer up. He could have sworn he read something about chocolate and science proving it helped create endorphins or something like that that would make people happy.
"People always need a reason to care," he said matter-of-factly. "They're always trying to get something out of someone else."
"I don't want anything from you," she soothed.
He sneered at the way she was treating him like a wild animal. The woman let go of his hand. She took a drink of her hot chocolate – the one with only marshmallows. She sighed out of pure content. It warmed her insides. That look on her face, of pure contentment, made him want to take a drink as well. Alfred didn't make a move though. Paranoia from the war was setting in, mixing with his depression like a bad drug. He could really use a shot of whiskey at the moment. It made him forget about everything, something he really wanted to do at the moment but he just couldn't do that right now. People expected America to be such a great person, no one expected him to have any problems at all. He hated carrying that burden on his shoulders but it was his burden to carry. No one understood him and not everything in the world worked the way he wanted it to. Nothing would change, no matter how hard he tried.
If she knew that he was the nation and he had just tried to kill himself, she would have been furious. If he died, so did the country, until a new nation stepped forward out of wherever it was that new nations came from and took control. Canada might actually take control for a while. It would make him larger than that Russia guy… But then Canada would have to pick up the pieces of what was left of him. He would miss him, or at least America liked to believe that. You probably just thought that America was just some guy who had lost everything on Wall Street and the banks.
"Why don't you just go? You probably have better things to do."
"You don't know me too well, do you? I'm as stubborn as heck," she said, "I will hold onto an idea, bunker down and never let it go."
Alfred shifted in his seat. He looked down. To give his hands something to do he took a drink of his hot chocolate. It really hit the spot. He was glad that she had gotten him something to eat but he had to repay her somehow. He had no money on him. He had no way of contacting her. He had nothing. But something in him told him that she wouldn't ask for anything for anything in the slightest. Every fiber in him screamed that no one did anything good without wanting something in return but there was this woman, whose name he didn't even know, saving his life and buying his dinner, all within the same hour. He hadn't been treated this kindly since he was under England's rule – before the taxes.
"You might as well give up already. I'm staying here until you tell me what's wrong. I will be here for you."
It was startling, hearing that from a complete stranger. Alfred stared at her, blazing sapphires meeting shimmering emeralds. She seemed so kind, so trustworthy. Alfred felt like he had known her for a very, very long time. But that wasn't possible. This was the first time they had ever met. Also, he never made a point of going and becoming friends with humans, which is what he assumed she was. Humans died too easily. And it was hard enough seeing his bosses leave after only four or so years in office, let alone seeing humans he had grown attached to die. Going to Washington's funeral was hard. Don't even get him started on Madison. Lincoln was still a sore subject for him because sometimes, he still found himself wishing that he had known what had actually happened to her while other times he was glad that he didn't know, best not to know, so that he could always think she went in peace.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Adrianna," she said, "And you?"