The afternoon sun had set, signaling Emily that it was time for her to prepare dinner. She looked at the castle, half expecting Alfred to scurry down the courtyard and demand for food. When she saw no sign of the energetic little boy, she shrugged and headed towards her abode.
Once there, she immediately went into the kitchen and placed a pot full of water on the fire. As she waited for the water to boil, she busied herself with slicing vegetables and some meat. She looked out her window from time to time, secretly worried about Alfred. She wondered if the boy fell off one of the towers. The sound of small feet running proved her suspicions wrong.
"I'm back, Ma!" the door slammed open and Alfred's shrill voice filled the room.
Emily smiled, not looking up from her cutting board. "Welcome back, Alfred. You must be exhausted from all that cleaning."
Alfred appeared by the kitchen doorway, a huge smile on his face. "Nah, it was easy!" he bragged, darting towards his mother, "And guess what, Ma! Guess what!"
Emily looked at him, amused. "What, Alfred?"
Alfred's eyes shone with a glint of excitement. "I met a new friend! He's the same age as me, Ma! And he even looks like me! Don't ya think that's weird? I mean, two people can't look the same unless they're twins… Oh! Maybe we are twins! Ma, you never told me I had a twin!"
Emily plainly shook her head, the smile never disappearing from her face. "I assure you, Al, you don't have a twin. I would remember if you did…" she answered with a chuckle.
Alfred looked disappointed. "Yeah, I guess that's too good to be true…" he sighed, "But, that's fine! 'Cause even if we're not twins we're still friends! Right, Ma?!"
Emily raised an eyebrow. "Of course, Alfred!" she replied, "Now, tell me the name of this 'friend' of yours…"
Alfred's smile widened. "His name is Matthew!"
Emily's smile fell and she staggered backwards, accidentally hitting the plate of cut vegetables beside her. There was a loud "crash" as the plate fell and broke into a dozen pieces.
"Ma, are you okay?" Alfred rushed to her side, catching his mother's hand to steady her. He ran towards the small table in the middle of the room and grabbed a wooden chair.
Emily seated herself with the assistance of Alfred. "W-W-Who?" her voice was a bit shaky, earning a look of concern from Alfred.
"Ma weren't you listening?" he whined.
Emily shook her head unconsciously.
"His name is Matthew, Ma!" Alfred repeated, "Matthew! MAAATHEEEW! Matthew Williams!"
Emily shook her head. "No, it can't be…" she whispered to herself, "Not him… Anyone but him…"
Alfred got another chair for himself and sat across his mother. "What was that, Ma?"
Emily looked up at him, determination shining in her blue eyes. She held both Alfred's cheeks, forcing the boy to look up into her eyes. "You are to stop seeing this 'Matthew', Alfred… You are not to be friends with him, is that clear?" her voice was as cold as the barren lands of Chernyi*.
Disbelief clouded Alfred's eyes. "B-B-But… Why?" he asked, taking his mother's hands away from his now painful cheeks.
Emily refused to meet his disappointed gaze. Instead, she directed her attention at the flames by the hearth.
"You've outgrown the stage of imaginary friends, Alfred…" she said laconically.
"What are ya talking about?" Alfred screamed as he stood up. "Are ya saying Matthew's imaginary, Ma? Matthew isn't imaginary! He's real! He's real!"
"Alfred F. Jones!" Emily's voice was demanding and ominous. "Matthew is not real… Mathew... He…"
"He's what, Ma?!" Alfred yelled, hands curling into fists.
She looked at him, hurt blue eyes meeting cold sapphire orbs. "Matthew Williams does not exist."
The next day…
"Hey, wake up! Hey! Hey! Wake up!"
Matthew continued to toss and turn in his sleep, ignoring his bear's cries for him to wake up. Kumajirou sensed his master was not listening to him and decided to take drastic measures. Being careful to avoid the sunlight, Kumajirou climbed up one of Matthew's bookshelves placed right across his bed. Once at the top, he got into a diving position and jumped.
"Maple!" the boy yelled as Kumajirou's head made contact with his stomach.
Matthew grunted, pushing the bear of the bed. "I'm up!" he said as he got up. He walked towards his wardrobe, picked a decent outfit, and then changed.
"You didn't have to jump on me, Kumakiro!" he nagged, picking the bear up from the ground and gently placing it back on his bed.
"You wouldn't wake up."
"What's so important about today, anyway?" Matthew asked. He was now seated in from of an empty piece of canvass, paintbrush in hand. He was about to start painting his favorite blue roses when Kumajirou spoke.
The young blonde's hand stopped in midair, the blue paint slowly dripping down his brush. "Oh…" he muttered, "Alfred is coming today, isn't he?"
A blush crept to his cheeks as he remembered the rather enjoyable day he had with the energetic boy. He quickly placed his brush back in its place and ran excitedly towards the window. He scanned the courtyard until he caught sight of a bushel of golden hair.
"Alfred!" he yelled, waving his hands.
"He can't hear you."
"I know, Kumamuro!" he replied, "But I can try, right?"
"Try all you want, he still can't hear you."
Matthew puffed out his cheeks, pouted, and then stuck his tongue out at the monotonous polar bear. "Stop being such a stick-in-the-mud, Kumatarou! I'm sure Alfred will look this way! I'm sure he will!" Matthew sounded more like he was trying to convince himself rather than his bear. He leaned on the cold stone window and waited patiently, eyes never wandering from the blond-haired boy a couple dozen feet below him.
"Please turn around…" he silently begged.
Just then, as if the wind carried Matthew's message to Alfred's ears, the little boy turned around. No matter the distance, both were sure their eyes met. A smile found its way to Matthew's face and he waved his new friend "Good morning". Alfred, on the other hand, only shrugged.
"See. He wasn't looking at you."
"Yes he was!" Matthew could argue with the bear all day. He knew in his heart that Alfred saw him and no one was gonna convince him otherwise. "I'm sure he saw me! He even looked up! He obviously saw me!"
"Who saw you, petite?"
The door slowly swung open, revealing Queen François dressed in an azure silk dress. Matthew quickly dove to his bed, knocking Kumajirou right in the path of a ray of sunlight. He grabbed a book Alfred had left by his bedside and opened it to a random page.
"No one, Maman…" he murmured, looking up from the book as his mother seated herself on his bed.
"Are you sure, Matthew?" she asked, concern clouding her deep blue eyes, "I heard you talking to someone earlier. Was there anyone in this room besides you?"
Matthew glanced at Kumajirou then shook his head. "Non, Maman. I've only been talking with Kumakiro today. No one else came."
François smiled, gently stroking Matthew's hair. "Are you telling me the truth, Matthew?"
"And what was that commotion I heard earlier?" she narrowed her eyes, her fingers almost trembling; "You were saying someone saw you? Who saw you, Matthew?"
A flash of surprise showed itself in Matthew's amethyst orbs. It was tiny, highly unnoticeable. But, François caught it instantly. She brought her hand to the young boy's shoulders and squeezed them, hard.
"Who saw you, Matthieu? Tell me the truth…" she said in a low, almost terrifying tone.
Matthew trembled under the strength of her grip. He had never seen his mother this way. It terrified him to feel her nails digging into his soft skin.
"N-N-N-No one s-s-saw me, Maman, no one…" he stammered, trying to wriggle out of the Queen's grip.
But it was useless. François gripped his shoulders tighter, shaking the poor boy. The love in her blue eyes had disappeared and replaced by the look of fear. "Are you sure no one saw you, Matthew? You have to be honest with me, dear. No lies…"
Matthew shook his head vigorously, feeling the blood on his shoulders drain. "No one, Maman! No one!" he cried, a tear escaping his right eye.
François froze, loosening her grip and letting her hand slid down to Matthew's sides. She looked at the poor boy, tears streaming down his blushing cheeks. She touched her forehead and shook her head. "Matthew… Are you telling me the truth? Are you sure no one saw you?" she sighed.
Matthew wiped at his tears, "No… No one else but you, Maman…" he lied.
The Queen nodded then smiled softly. "Matthew…" she began, "You do know the reason why you're in this tower, right?"
Matthew slowly shook his head.
"You're here for your own protection." She ruffled his hair. "It is during these hard times that we know not where our enemy lies. I can't trust anyone anymore… That's why I won't ever let them get to you. It's to keep you safe…"
"And to keep my secret safe…"
Matthew thought he heard his mother's tone falter at the end, but he bade no notice. He let her kiss his forehead and watched longingly as she walked away. He then turned his attention to the blue sky outside his window.
Blue. The same color of Alfred's eyes. The eyes that would soon come back to play with him. The eyes that promised him eternal friendship.
Matthew found himself wishful again. He tried to forget the horrible expression on his mother's face and imagined the big smile Alfred greeted him with the other day. He smiled, softly humming to himself. He couldn't help but wish the day would move faster, so his only friend would finally come and play with him.
Emily's voice hung in the air that separated her from Alfred who was sulking on his bed. Alfred still hadn't gotten over the fight they had yesterday.
"What?" he snapped, head still buried under a pile of pillows.
"Lunch is ready. Do you wanna eat? Jason and Kyle are waiting for you…" Emily asked kindly, walking over to the blonde.
"I'm full. I don't wanna play with them right now. I wanna play with Mattie…" Alfred's voice was muffled, but Emily was certain it was still hoarse from all the yelling.
Emily sighed and then placed herself on a chair next to his bed. "Listen, Al…" she began, "I'm sorry for saying Matthew doesn't exist… It's just… You're too old for this kind of stuff, Alfred. You have real friends now… You don't need to make them up anymore…"
Alfred turned on his side to look at her, blue eyes damp with unshed tears. "He is real, Ma!" he yelled, throwing a pillow at her. "I saw him this morning! Matthew waved at me from the tower!"
Emily's eyes widened. She stiffened uncomfortably in her seat. "He… He waved at you?" her voice faltered as a bead of sweat formed above her brow, "You saw him, this Matthew?"
Alfred nodded. "I saw him with my own two eyes!" he argued, "You have to believe me, Ma! He does exist! You can't keep me from seeing him!"
Emily could feel anger rising from the pits of her stomach. She wanted to scream. To tell her only son he was just wasting his life trying to be the friend of the Queen's bastard. She wanted to stop him from hurting poor Matthew any further.
"Alfred, listen." She managed to control her voice, to keep it from rising. "Remember some time ago, when I changed my name?"
"You didn't doubt me, right?" she asked, "You were fine with it. You didn't ask me why, right?"
"I didn't ask why because it wasn't a big deal!" Alfred explained, sitting up. "What's the difference between Amelia and Emily, anyways? 'Sides, I think Emily sounds cooler, Ma."
Emily stifled a giggle, ruffling up Alfred's blond hair. "Well, Al… There was an important reason as to why I did that…" she winked, trying to lighten up the mood. "You'll understand when you're older… And I'm sure you'll also understand why I can't have you seeing this Matthew anymore…"
Alfred's face fell and Emily had to swallow hard. She couldn't bear to see him this way. "Alfred. Please understand…" she pleaded, eyes closed. "I told you before; Matthew is just a figment of your imagination… He will ever ex-"
"You're wrong!" Alfred interrupted, jumping off the bed. "You're lying to me! You're lying!"
Emily would have yelled at him if Alfred hadn't run to the door, slamming it open and rushing outside like some mad man. Emily ran after him, calling out his name. But, the younger boy was too fast, and within seconds, he was out of Emily's sight. She ran across the courtyard, looking right and left, trying to spot a bushel of blond hair somewhere.
But, it was useless. Alfred had already climbed up the stairs that led to Matthew's tower. He had to find out if Matthew exists. He just had to.
Alfred had kicked the door open the moment it came to view on the top of the staircase. Matthew, who was seated on his bed, immediately jumped up and stared at Alfred glaring by the doorway.
Alfred walked forward, resting his hand on Matthew's cheek. "You…" he breathed, tucking a strand of hair behind Matthew's ear. "You do exist… I wasn't… Yesterday… It was all real!"
Matthew just stared at him, amethyst eyes wide. He nodded slowly, feeling Alfred's hand slide down from his face to his aching shoulders. "Of-Of course I exist, Alfred…" he sighed, smiling. "We were playing yesterday! We had so much fun!"
Alfred smiled. It was his usual, mega-watt smile. Matthew couldn't help but smile as well. And when Alfred pulled him in for a hug, Matthew couldn't help but burst into a fit of giggles.
"I knew Ma was lying to me!" he cried, finally letting Matthew go. "I knew you exist! I just knew it!"
Matthew shrugged, gripping his arms. "Hey, Alfred…" he whimpered, "Did. Did you see me earlier?"
"Huh?" Alfred tilted his head sideways, a question mark plainly pasted on his face.
"Uhm, earlier this morning… I-I waved to you…" Matthew blushed, "You saw that, right?"
Alfred beamed and he rushed towards Matthew's bed, yelling: "Of course I saw you!"
Matthew glowed as he sat himself beside Alfred. "Really? You actually saw me?" he asked, secretly sticking his tongue out at the now inanimate stuffed polar.
"Yeah, 'f course!" Alfred grinned, lying back on the bed.
Matthew felt a sting of pride growing in his heart. Pride, and something else. Something that put a smile on his face when he realized Alfred had been watching him from the courtyard. Something that made his stomach do a flip-flop when Alfred smiled at him from his place in his bed.
Matthew blinked, locking eyes with Alfred. "Yes?"
Alfred grinned as he lunged towards the smaller blonde, hands wiggling and exploring Matthew's sides. The latter was helpless, laughing and giggling, unable to do anything to his attacker. He wiggled his hands and tickled Alfred's sides. But, it seemed as if the other boy was already used to the tickling. He didn't writhe like Matthew did.
"C'mon, Mattie! You gotta do better than that!" Alfred dared, pushing Matthew down on the bed.
Matthew was still giggling when he spotted a cowlick on Alfred's almost perfect hair. He smiled, stretched out his hand, and pulled on it. Alfred's hands stopped, he jerked forward and he lied on top of Matthew, face flushed.
Alfred looked into Matthew's shocked face. "You know… You shouldn't have pulled that…"
With a grin, Matthew grabbed Matthew's own stray curl and pulled harshly on it. It earned him a yelp from the smaller blonde, who instinctively pulled on Alfred's cowlick as well.
They both flushed, feeling hot for some reason. Alfred was the first to notice that his breath was a little warmer than it used to be. He watched Matthew; the latter was writhing under his body as if he was molested or something. When Matthew opened his eyes, he was met by a rather eager-looking Alfred watching his every move. His already red face turned a shade darker and he whimpered.
Alfred smiled and winked. "You look cute, Mattie…" he whispered, closing his eyes and dipping his head.
Matthew closed his own eyes when he felt Alfred's lips press his. He felt happy, dazed, confused and all the feelings surge in him all at the same time. But when Alfred pulled back to stare at him, the door flung open. And his dream was shattered.
"I knew it! I knew it!" came the shrill voice of his mother. "You lied to me, Matthieu! You told me no one saw you! Explain to me who this boy is, petite!"
François rushed to the two blondes, pulling Alfred by the collar of his shirt and throwing him against the wall. She glared at Matthew before pulling him by the hair, slapping him hard against the cheek.
"Why are you here?!" she yelled to Alfred, "What do you know about mon petite Matthieu? Who did you tell about him?! Did you tell anyone about his existence?!"
"Maman!" Matthew cried, trying to pry François' hand from his hair. "Alfred didn't do anything! He only played with me, nothing more!"
"Yeah, lady!" Alfred retorted, standing up. "You don't have to be mean to Mattie! Let 'im go!"
François sneered, throwing Matthew to his bed. "Silly brat!" she yelled, slapping Alfred as the younger charged at her with his small fists. "Who gave you permission to play with him? No one should be able to get up to this tower! You are simply trespassing!"
Alfred lightly touched the red spot on his cheek, his blue eyes filled with anger and fear. "I'm not trespassing! I work 'ere!" he countered.
"And I'm the Queen…" François' tone was harsh, sarcastic. "If anyone knew you were trespassing in my private room, you would be beheaded!"
At that instance, someone appeared from the doorway. It was Emily, her hands pale and her body shaking. By the way her eyes glimmered with fear when she looked at François; one would've guessed that she heard the entire conversation. She ran towards her son, kneeling down and pulling him into her arms.
"Oh, your Majesty, please don't do anything hasty…" she pleaded, "I… I promise to keep Alfred away from this tower… I promise!"
François' narrowed her eyes at the newcomer. "Amelia, is that you?" she exclaimed, "How. How could you? You swore that you would not tell a soul about Matthew!"
Emily shook her head. "My name is Emily now, your Majesty..." she confessed; her head bent down. "And I… I never meant for any of this to happen… Alfred was just… He was just curious… He never meant to-"
"Enough!" François voice echoed in the stillness of the room. She glanced about her, thanking every god that existed that no one heard them. It was still the afternoon after all; everyone must have been busy preparing lunch.
"The best I can do is to banish you…" François sighed, looking at Emily sternly. "Take your son and leave my kingdom…"
Matthew's eyes widened. "No! You can't do that Maman! Alfred is my only friend! You can't take him away from me!" he yelled, pushing past his mother and scrambling towards Alfred.
The other blonde struggled to free himself from his mother's embrace. He ran towards Matthew and hugged him, glaring at François as if she was some cold-hearted murderer. "I'm Matthew's hero…" his voice was cold, almost deadly. "I am staying with him…"
François narrowed her eyes at him. "You know too much…" she simply said, taking Matthew by the shoulder and dragging him away. "You have to leave… Both of you…"
"But why?!" Alfred yelled, trying to stand tall despite being way younger than the Queen. "Why do you have to banish Ma and I?! Why can't I stay with Mattie?!"
Emily looked at him, pleading with her eyes. She placed her hand lightly on his shoulder until she could feel him breathing normally again. "Alfred… I'm sorry…"
"For what, Ma?" Alfred asked, looking up at her teary face. "You didn't do anything! It was all this Lady's fault!"
Emily shook her head. "No…" she insisted, "It was my fault for not being very convincing… I'm not as good a liar as Her Majesty…"
She narrowed her eyes at the Queen, who trembled at her cold gaze. "We will leave…" she agreed, drowning out all protest from Alfred. "But, it will be your duty to explain to the other servants…"
François raised an eyebrow, her arms crossed over her chest. "I shall see to it myself…"
"But, Ma!" Alfred began.
Emily looked at him, her eyes telling him not to worry about anything. He nodded and looked at Matthew. "I'll be back…" he mouthed.
Matthew started to cry, tears falling down his cheek. "Promise?" he replied.
Alfred simply nodded his head as Emily motioned them to leave. She took Alfred's smaller hand and led him to the door. François followed afterward. She took one last, murderous glance at Matthew before slamming the door shut. Matthew stood there for a moment before collapsing on the floor.
K/N: I'm sorry for the late update. Things got hectic with the end-of-the-year clearance coming up. Plus, I ended up catching the flu during the holidays. And there were lots of unseen circumstances and… Well, you get the picture! This chapter was a little rushed, didn't edit the spelling and grammar and all that. But glad it still followed my original intentions of separating Alfred and Matthew dramatically. It isn't as dramatic as it is in my head, but hey, I managed to separate them somehow! Well, let's all hope they'll get back together again, shall we?