It felt like your heart had been smashed into a million tiny pieces. It felt like all of the breath had been knocked out of your lungs. It felt like you had been punched in the stomach with the force of a thousand bulls. You had suddenly forgotten how to move, how to breathe, how to speak, how to do anything except stare into the fierce, determined eyes of the person who had been under your protection for all these years…your baby.
"W-What…?" you asked in a voice that was barely above a whisper.
Matthew sighed before he dropped his gaze down to his hands. "I said I want to be independent."
"Why?" you asked in the same voice, feeling your throat clog with emotion.
"Because I want to go and live on my own and take the responsibilities of a country," he said, determination filling his voice to the point where it was a pain for you to listen. He lifted his gaze so that it once again met yours, and you tried your hardest not to flinch. "I've been thinking about making this decision for a really long time. Ever since you told me that I age just like a person who represents a country, I thought that it was my job to go out and live on my own in order to fulfill that job. And since I'm grown up and can do many things by myself, I'm sure it wouldn't be that hard to start living on my own and finally represent a country."
You let out something of a chocking sound as you continued to stare at Matthew. "B-But Matthew," you whispered, "you don't have to do this...."
"No, mom," Matthew said defiantly. "I want to do this. I want to do what I think is right and become a country."
"But becoming a country doesn't mean going out and living on your own," you objected quietly as you tried to do whatever you could've to convince Matthew that he was making the wrong decision.
"Well, to me it does," Matthew protested, his voice no longer as quiet as it was when he first began talking. "If I become a country, there's no way I can handle the responsibility and work with the presence of someone else. It will be too distracting."
"Are you saying that I…distract you?" you asked, trying hard to keep your voice from shaking.
"No, mom," Matthew said as he shook his head. "I'm saying that if I want to be a country, I have to go out and start a new life with new responsibilities."
"But being a country doesn't mean going out to live on your own," you repeated, your voice on the edge of desperation. "I mean, look at America. He's a country, but I bet he's still living with England. You can be a country and still be under my care. You don't have to leave, Matthew." You let out a weak smile despite the depression that slowly took over your body.
Matthew shook his head again. "That's not how I see it, mom. Besides, that was some time ago, when America was still a kid and not completely independent. Maybe he changed his mind."
"Or maybe he didn't," you said softly, clenching your hands into fists.
He shrugged. "Either way, what America does shouldn't have to affect what I do. I want to be independent and start my own life as a country."
Your eyes widened. "But Matthew, you said a while ago that since America was a country at such a young age, it meant that you had to become a country, too."
Matthew nodded. "Yeah, but I was thinking about becoming a country even before I met America. He just convinced me that it was the right thing to do. And now that I'm grown up, I can become a country and live on my own."
"Matthew, please," you said desperately as you rested your hands on his lap, digging your nails into the fabric of his pants. "I don't want you to leave. Do you know how much I cared for you and did all I could to protect you? You had done so many wonderful things to me, and I don't want to go back to the depressing life I had before I found you. I promised myself that I would've always been here to protect you. You can't just leave without even thinking about how much this is going to hurt me…!"
"I understand, mom," Matthew said quietly. "But nothing you say will convince me to change my mind about becoming a country. I've thought about this for a really long time, and I've decided that this is what I want to do. I'm sorry." His gaze continued to burn into yours, and you were able to notice determination and a bit of sadness mixing in his eyes. But mostly, it was the ambition of becoming a country and living up to its responsibilities.
As you continued to meet Matthew's gaze, you felt like you were on the verge of crying. Your chest tightened as well as your throat, and you felt your lower lip quiver as the edges of your eyes began to fill with tears. But just as you felt you were about to break down and cry, a trigger came inside you that made all of your sadness disappear. Your tears vanished, the tension in your body released, and the sad gaze that you were giving Matthew was quickly replaced with an emotion towards him that you had never experienced before until now.
"Fine," you snarled as you stood up and began to back away towards the door. "You can become independent for all I care!" you yelled as you pointed a finger at him. "But I just want you to know that I'll no longer protect you! You can go out and break my heart if you think that's going to make things better for you, but if you're ever in need of help, I just want you to know that I won't be there for you!"
A long moment of silence passed, you breathing heavily with your eyes blazing in anger and your hands clenched into fists and dropped down to your sides, while Matthew looked at you, eyes wide in surprise, and his expression changed from determined to guilty.
Right in the middle of the silence, Mr. Kumajiro lifted his head so that he was looking directly at Matthew and asked, "Who are you?" But neither you nor Matthew paid any attention to him.
"But mom," Matthew began slowly, "I—"
"Shut up," you growled before you turned your head away and waved your hand at him dismissively. "Just go pack your things. I don't want to look at your face anymore."
Before Matthew had the chance to reply, you stomped out of the room and fiercely shut the door behind you, not even bothering to wince at the loud slamming noise.
Where had I gone wrong? That was the question that was on your mind. What had you done that made Matthew want to become independent? Looking back at the course of events that happened, you realized that it had been England who had convinced you to tell Matthew that he was a country. You figured that if you didn't tell him that he was a country, you could've easily came up with some other excuse as to why he aged that way, such as a genetic mutation. And since he was young at the time, he would've believed you.
But no. Of course you had to listen to England and end up making one of the worst decisions in your life.
You held the door to your house open with one hand that gripped it tightly, your nails raking the paint of the door. In front of you on the porch stood Matthew, all of his things packed in numerous suitcases that were set on the floor next to him. He had Mr. Kumajiro in his arms, who continued washing himself.
"So…" Matthew began quietly. "I guess this is, uh…goodbye, mom."
"Yeah, whatever," you said flatly, your voice colder than the chilliest winter. "Go off on your own and become a country if that makes you feel better about yourself. But I want you to know that there has never been a single moment throughout these few years that I have once regretted bringing you home from the woods and taking care of you. And if you ever find that living on your own is not as great as you expected and you want me to be there for you, don't think that I would bring you into my house if you decide to come back."
Matthew sighed desolately before he looked down at his feet. "Okay," he said quietly. A few more moments of silence passed before he looked back up at you and met your gaze. "But mom, I want you to know that even though I'm leaving, I'll still always love y—"
But he never got the chance to finish his sentence before you slammed the door in his face with such force that it caused the whole house to shake. You growled to yourself before you hastily walked over to the couch and threw yourself facedown on it. You blindly reached out for the nearest pillow and let it cover your face before you started crying louder than you ever had before.