You woke up one morning a few days later to the soft feeling of something gently patting your shoulder. "Mama…" the voice said quietly as your shoulder continued to be nudged.
You groaned before you covered your eyes with your hand and let out a yawn. As you removed your hand and squinted against the sunlight that quickly filled your eyes, you spotted Matthew staring down at you in concern.
You smiled despite the numb feeling in your face. "Good morning, Mattie," you said before you grasped his shoulder and pulled him toward you so that you were able to kiss his forehead.
"Good morning, Mama," he said softly before he gently kissed your forehead in return, causing your heart to melt for the hundredth time in less than a week.
Matthew pulled away from you just enough so that he was able to look at you properly. "Mama…I'm hungry."
At that, your face brightened. The fact that he was hungry was a good thing. It meant that he had regained his appetite, which meant that it was likely that he wasn't sick anymore.
"Okay," you said before you ruffled his soft hair. "I suppose you wouldn't want to eat soup for the fifth day in a row?"
He scrunched up his nose and frowned. "N-No." A few moments of silence passed before he asked, "Mama…can I please have some pancakes?"
"Pancakes, huh?" you asked before you sat up in bed and rubbed sleep from your eyes. "Yes, I believe that I may have some pancakes…"
After you got dressed, brushed your teeth, brushed Matthew's teeth, and took a shower, you walked into the kitchen with Matthew wrapped comfortably in your arms. You set him down beside the counter before you started browsing through some cabinets to find a box of pancakes.
Once you found it and took it out, you looked down at Matthew, who was staring back up at you in anticipation. "How many pancakes would you like, Mattie?" you asked him sweetly.
"Um…three, please," he said quietly before he stared down at his feet.
Once the pancakes were finally ready, you put them on a plate before you looked back down at Matthew. "Is there anything you would like on your pancakes?" you asked him.
He looked up at you. "Maple syrup…" he said softly.
Once you poured maple syrup on top of the pancakes, you handed the plate to Matthew and sat down in a chair in front of the kitchen table before you grasped him by his arms and lifted him up onto your lap.
"So, how are you feeling today, Mattie?" you asked him as he ate.
He swallowed whatever food was in his mouth before he replied, "Um…I'm okay. I don't feel sick anymore."
You smiled before you ruffled his hair. "I'm happy to hear that."
A few more minutes of silence passed before Matthew craned his neck to look up at you and said, "Hey, Mama, you said that when I was better, I would've helped you clean up the house."
You looked down at him, surprise quickly filling your eyes. "Oh, you're right. But I don't need your help, Mattie," you said, a smile forming on your lips. "I'm perfectly fine with cleaning up the house myself."
He frowned. "But I can help you!"
You sighed before you drifted your gaze off to one side. "But you don't know where all my stuff is supposed to go. You'll get confused."
Matthew tugged at your sleeve and looked at you expectantly. "But I want to make it easier for you to clean up, Mama. I don't want you to work too hard…"
You looked back down at him and saw determination in his tiny violet eyes. "Okay, Mattie," you said, a smile appearing on your lips. "If you really feel like you want to help me, go ahead."
"Thank you, Mama," Matthew said before he went back to eating his pancakes.
No, you thought to yourself. Thank you.
You never realized how messy your house was until you and Matthew got to cleaning. You told him to arrange any papers he found into neat piles while you took care of cleaning up any food wrappers, coffee cups, and anything else that was littered over the floors and the furniture.
Matthew turned out to be a big help for you. There were dozens and dozens of papers that you had scattered across the floor, and you had no idea whether or not you would've been able to pick all of them up and put them in such neat piles as Matthew did. Besides, you didn't think your back would've been able to put up with it.
By the time the house was more or less clean, you ended up throwing away 18 coffee cups, and Matthew ended up gathering 12 stacks of papers that were taller than him.
You sighed as you entered the kitchen and threw an empty coffee cup in the trash can before you walked back into the living room, where you saw Matthew sitting expectantly on top of a stack of papers.
You smiled as you knelt down beside him, lifted him by his arms and pulled him into a hug. "Well, we did it," you said, relief evident in your voice. "We cleaned up the house without a lot of trouble."
"I'm happy to help you, Mama," Matthew said before he buried his face in your shirt.
You smiled before you kissed his forehead. Now all that was left was for you to organize the stacks of papers and figure out which ones to keep and which ones to throw out, but you could've taken care of that on your own.
Your gaze shifted from Matthew and down to the stack of papers that he had been sitting on top of moments ago. The paper that was on the top of the stack was able to capture your attention, and your eyes widened in surprise.
You carefully bent down, trying not to disturb Matthew's comfortable position in your arms, and grasped the paper with one hand, staring at it for a good few minutes. It was the form that you had to sign to officially become a country. Everything that was written on that form suddenly became so familiar to you, it felt like you received it just a few days ago.
You sighed as you continued to stare at the form that was held lightly in your grasp, feeling anger slowly start to grow inside you. This was the form that made you a country. This was the form that caused your simple, relaxing life to turn into one filled with depression, stress, tons and tons of work. This was the form that caused your life to spiral downwards, that caused you for the first time ever to hate your life….
You weren't aware of the growl that escaped your throat, and the fact that your grip on the paper was so tight that it started to crumple under your grasp.
Matthew looked up at you, and when he saw the fury in your eyes, he instantly drew away from you. "Ma…ma, are you okay?" he asked, panic slowly filling his voice.
That was when you became aware of what you had done. You stared at the now crumpled form before you looked back down at Matthew, who had tears on the edge of falling from his eyes. You sighed before you set the form back down on the ground.
"Fine…I'm fine," you muttered, avoiding Matthew's gaze so you wouldn't have to look at those frightened eyes.
"Y-You don't look fine, Mama," he said quietly, concern replacing the panic in his voice. "Do you want me to give you a hug?"
Despite the tension that had grown inside your body, you instantly felt some of it release and a smile managed to make its way to your face. "Yes, I would love a hug," you murmured before you felt Matthew's tiny arms wrap themselves around you. You sighed before you wrapped your arms around his little body, pressing your nose into his soft hair. For some reason, having Matthew hug you always seemed to lighten your mood. Seconds ago, you were on the edge of having a breakdown after you saw the form that made your life spiral downwards, but just receiving a hug from him instantly made you forget about that stressful life that you had to cope with every day before you met him. In just a week, he had already done so much for you, so much that made your life thousands upon thousands of times easier, and you were probably never going to be able to pay him back.
You sighed before you pulled away from the hug just enough so that you were able to look down at Matthew. "I feel a lot better now, Mattie," you said warmly. "Thank you."
He smiled before he stared back up at you in confusion. "Mama, where is my bear…?"
"Oh!" you gasped before you covered your hand with your mouth. For all you knew, Matthew's stuffed bear was still sitting on the windowsill in the bathroom, probably dry and fluffier than ever. "Your bear is still drying in the bathroom," you said to him sweetly. "Let's go get it for you."
You once again lifted Matthew and let him rest comfortably in your arms before you walked down the hall and stepped inside the bathroom, where you found his bear sitting in the exact same place that it was when you had first washed it. It looked so much cleaner, and a thousand times fluffier than when it was before.
You approached the window and lifted the bear before you handed it to Matthew. "Here you go, Mattie," you said as you held out the bear in front of him.
Matthew slowly turned his head to the side so that he was looking directly at the bear, and his eyes instantly widened in excitement. "Yay!" he said before he grasped the bear and pressed it tightly against his chest, burying his face in its soft fur. "It's so fluffy…thank you, Mama…"
You smiled before you ruffled his hair. "Now that we cleaned up the house, tomorrow we're going to go shopping so I can buy you some clothes."
"Okay, Mama," Matthew said, his voice muffled through the bear's fur.
Seeing Matthew wrapped up warmly in your arms, a content expression on his face, made your heart flutter in a way that you never imagined. The kind that a real mother has when she loves her child.
Without thinking, you pressed your lips against the back of Matthew's head and murmured, "I love you, Matthew…"
Matthew instantly lifted his head from his bear and looked up at you, confusion filling his eyes. When both of your gazes met, you felt your face turn beet red at his reaction. Maybe it was the wrong thing to say. It was probably too early. After all, he had only been under your care for a week. Now he was probably never going to trust you. Oh, why did you have to say that?
But instead of going into a panic, Matthew giggled before he clutched your shirt and buried his face in it. "I love you too, Mama…"