Papa Francis and Mon Petit Matthew
Faster, faster the little boy urged his feet as he raced across the large house. Panic was building in his small body, he was frightened beyond belief. The night has started so normally, like all the rest of the nights. He had been read to and tucked in by his Papa and then had drifted off to sleep clutching his favorite stuffed polar bear. Now just an hour later he found himself in a terrible race, one he had run before and hated more than anything he thought as his bare feet slapped against the hard wood. Little Mattie was in a race against the lightning that flashed outside the window, he needed to make it to Papas bedroom before the flash and the following crash of thunder.
Up until the moment he had jolted out of bed, leaving both Kuma and his glasses behind, it had been a relatively quiet storm. The first low rumbles of thunder had slightly stirred him, making him rolling over and snuggle against Kuma just a little tighter. It had been almost impossible to hear the next few rumbles over his twin brother Alfreds obnoxiously loud snoring. The only indication he had to point to that it was storming outside was the quick light flashes he could tell were illuminating his room through his closed eye lids. Just a simple storm, one he could easily handle.
Or so he had thought.
As the storm approached, the thunder got louder and more violent. Lightening streaked across the sky casting scary shadows around his room. He had tired his very best to stay brave, gripping onto Kuma for all he was worth but the bear was only providing him so much comfort. Mattie had ducked under the covers and shut his eyes tight as a particularly bright flash ripped across his room. It would be over soon he tried to reason with his four year old brain but a loud crash of thunder interrupted those thoughts. He had to try to be brave, Alfred would tease him again if he didnt. Another loud crash and he had buried deeper into the covers, trembling harder.
Little Matties imagination had begun running away him as he listened to the rain pound against his windows. What if one of the branches, that when he dared a peek from under the blankets looked like grasping claws, broke through the window and snatched him or Alfred? Carrying them away from the safety of the house, away from Papa. Mattie fought back tears at the thought. Then, his mind wondered what if it rained so hard their bedroom broke away from the house and floated away? Again away from Papa? This time he let a frighten tear spill from his eyes. Curling up tighter against Kuma he allowed one more terrifying thought cross his mind. What if it was Papas side of the house that drifted away instead? Mattie gasped at the revelation that his Papa could be taken away from him.
With the next crash of thunder, he had sprung out of his bed and begun sprinting towards Papas bedroom. Convinced the next combo of lightning and thunder would tear that part of the house from him, he had begun his race against nature.
A few minutes later, just in the nick of time, he rounded the corner and stood frozen in the doorway to the bedroom. To his little hearts great relief, his Papa was lying there in bed closest to the door snoring away unaware of the terror outside and in. His shockingly white teeth clearly visible as his mouth hung wide open, leaking drool pleasantly. The lump in the blankets on the other side of his Papa gave a loud grunt and turned over. Arthurs snores were as loud as Alfreds sometimes. Mattie almost let a smile spread across his face at his parents but wiped a few tears away instead. Taking a deep breath, he leaned into the room to speak.
Papa? His quiet voice whispered. It was immediately drowned out by a large clap of thunder.
Little Mattie had had all he could take of the storm. He jumped and sprinted to the foot of the bed, diving underneath a blanket kept folded there. The air around him instantly got hot and stale from his labored panicked breaths but he didnt care. This little bubble, so close to his Papa would keep him safe. Just for a moment his mind thought of Alfred now alone in their room. If it did break away, Alfred would be fine. After all he was always bragging about being a hero. Mattie giggled softly, Alfred could take care of himself.
Mattie managed to find himself at his Papas feet. Though another thin blanket separated him from the bare feet, he wrapped his small hand around the big toe. There. Now if Papa went, Mattie would go too. He pulled himself close to the bottom of his feet and stayed there, trying to calm his trembling frame. Here in the room, so close to his Papa, he surely couldnt be scared anymore. That storm that raged outside couldnt get him in here, in his parents bedroom.
An extremely loud crash of thunder, the kind almost always heard in the scary movies Arthur liked to watch, exploded. Mattie clutched his fist hard around his Papas toe and jumped, letting out a tiny squeak of fright. To his surprise, the toes twitched a bit and then slid away from Mattie. He sniffed back some tears and pulled his now very heated bubble closer to him.
Mon Dieu, zhe storm iz bad tonight mon amour. Franciss groggy voice said quietly. Mattie heard the click of the bedside lamp and felt the other side of the bed bounce as Arthur shifted positions.
Shut off the damn light and go back to bloody sleep. Arthurs grumpy tired voice replied, yawning on the last word.
But mon cher, we ave a little visitor wiz us tonight. Franciss now almost fully awake voice quipped. Mattie smiled a little but then cringed with another crash.
Do we now? And who
be? Arthurs yawning voice drifted out of the covers. It was already heavy with sleep again. Alfred and Arthur were much more alike than they would ever admit Mattie thought.
Zhey are iding, lets see ere. Francis said. Mattie felt light pressure as Papa started to gently push and poke the blanket he was under. It tickled and he giggled quietly.
Certainly couldnt be zhe ero Alfred. Not for such a little storm as zhis. Francis said as the thunder crashed. Oui, it would take much more to drag im out of zhe bed. This statement earned a snort of light laughter from both Mattie and Arthur.
Very slowly, the edge of the blanket was lifted up popping his bubble letting the very air conditioned air rush in. The cold air not only felt good of his tear and sweat streaked face but he took a big breath of it too. Little Mattie looked up panting, small left over tears still under his eyes, and gazed at his Papa. The man smiled down at him with his head cocked to the side. Mattie was relieved to see his face and lifted his own head up to look at him properly.
Papa, I-Im sorry I woke you u-up. I-I was worried- he trembled but Francis placed his index finger on his lips to quiet him.
Mon petit, it iz ok. Come ere, close to me. He whispered quietly lowering his hand to offer it to Mattie. Without another word, Mattie eagerly wrapped his arms around Francis forearm and was pulled gently out of the blanket.
In one swift, powerful motion, Papa placed Mattie in his arms and against his chest. Mattie nuzzled against him and smiled as Papa wrapped his strong warm arms around him in a tight embrace. As Papa settled with his back resting on the head board of the bed to prop himself up, Mattie listened to his heart beat inside his chest. It was a gentle rhythm, a soothing one. It almost drowned out the thunder Mattie also listened to with his other ear. Stay focused on the heart beat Mattie told himself, gripping Papas night shirt hard.
Softly and to Matties delight, Papa began to hum and sing to him in French while rocking him gently back and forth. True Mattie did fully understand the language just yet and it was proving to be a bit difficult to teach him both English and French, he found it relaxing. Mostly right in this moment because he could listen to Papas voice reverberate in his chest. It was interesting, the noise made it sound like Papas chest might be hollow but Mattie knew it wasnt. His heart was in there somewhere because he was focused on listening to it beat. And he could feel Papas chest rise up and down with his rhythmic breaths. He wasnt hollow at all but sounded like he was and that for the moment was distracting Mattie away from the storm.
For a few verses and choruses, Mattie hummed and sang along quietly with him. Their chests vibrating together in harmony, Matties own voice seeming to echo not in his ribs but in his Papas. He smiled, happy to be so connected with his Papa, happy just to stay there for the rest of the night. He nestled into his arms as close as he could and Papa gave a small, compassionate laugh while continuing to sing, hugging him tighter as well.
Just when Matties eyes were beginning to close again and he was relaxed enough to consider sleeping, a crash of thunder that seemed to shake the walls brought him out of that peace. His fears about the house being ripped apart looked as if they were about to be realized and he panicked. Mattie buried his head into Papas chest to shield himself from the oncoming doom and squeezed his night shirt in his hands until his little knuckles turned white.
Papa! Dont let it in! His muffled voice cried. He felt Papa wrap his big hand around Matties little one and squeeze it tight.
Non mon petit, zhere iz nozing to be frightened of while I am ere. He said. Mattie involuntarily rubbed his runny nose against Papas shirt and looked up to him to find he was he was smiling.
With that smile, Mattie felt his very tense body relax and melt once again into his Papas arms. He was safe in here, Papa wouldnt let any harm come to him or leave him. The thunder and lightning that rage outside couldnt get him in here, the scary unknown could stay out in the world. In here things were warm and familiar. Mattie wanted to it stay that way, forever. Papa could manage that couldnt he, his Papa could do anything.
Little Mattie was about to say something to his Papa but a bright flash illuminated the room and when he looked over he briefly saw a figure in the door way. It was gone as quick as the lighting and Mattie looked back up at his Papa confused. Papa didnt seem scared at all, in fact he held up his finger and emitted a gentle shh. This puzzled Mattie until heard an enormous grunt and cry of pain beside him and whipped his head around to stare at Arthur. He started laughing with Papa, bouncing up and down with his chest.
Alfred had appeared and jumped, knees first, onto Arthurs chest, startling him awake. Arthur jumped up so that he was sitting against the head board like Francis. It was evident that Alfreds jump had hurt him, he grimaced in pain and to Mattie it looked like he was about to explode with rage. Normally he would have, but Mattie watched the pain and anger fade away when he looked down at Alfred who like Mattie, had small tears under his eyes. Arthur wrapped his arms around him and drew him in close, then leaned against Papas shoulder. Alfred looked at up at Arthur and sniffed, the man just smiled down at him calmly, reaching up to stroke his hair.
Was my little hero afraid of the storm? Arthur asked gently. Matties twin looked over to him and shook his head, trying to laugh normally but his fear caught it in his throat.
No, I was worried about Mattie. I-I came to check on him, like a he-RO! He said yelling the last syllable as thunder crashed. It was much quieter now but still the boys were afraid. Both of them gripped as hard as they could onto the person they were clinging to.
It took a while, but eventually both men got their boys calmed back down enough so that they would fall asleep again. Arthur rubbed Alfreds back gently and before long his own head was slumping further Franciss shoulder. Mattie laughed as he heard light snoring from both of them, and he knew he was next. The storm was almost long gone but he looked sleepily up to his Papa.
Promise youll always stay here Papa, forever. He lazily whispered fighting off sleep until he could he his answer. Franciss scooted down lower, careful not to disturb Arthur and Alfred, and Mattie lay flatter against his chest.
I promise mon petit, forever. Now go to sleep and dream beautiful dreams. He whispered gently back, Matties light snores now rising with the rest.