The little blond's body trembled as you washed him gently. The warm water soaked him thoroughly, grit and dirt drifting in the bath. You were horrified at the amount of filth you managed to clean from him, but you had to admit that he already looked a lot better.
The boy you'd discovered in the alley close to your home was small, frightened and quivering like a leaf. His stained clothes and teddy-bear were spinning in the washing machine at that very moment and you rinsed his hair a few times.
He'd regained a bit of colour on his cheeks and he splashed the water between his dimpled hands. You replayed the scene from before in your head.
"Where's your mum?" You asked tentatively. The little boy merely shook his head, burying his nose in his bear. "What about your dad?" His purple eyes watered and he shook his head again.
You bit your lip in worry, glancing around for someone that could help you. "S-s'il t-vo-vous plait, aidez-m-moi?" His shaking voice snapped you out of your musings, one of his hands raised up, palm out to you.
When you looked into those watery violet eyes your resolve was made, almost unconsciously. You took his hand and pulled him up into your arms, cradling him against your chest. "What's your name?" You asked, hoping he could answer your English question, you had the impression he could at the very least understand English.
"Ma-matthieu! Et vous?"
"I'm (y/n). So you speak French? Can you also speak English?" He blinked and looked down, frowning slightly as he searched for an answer. "Oui! I-I mean yes, a bit." He smiled brightly, happy someone was going to help him. That he wasn't left like before.
He squealed as you doused him completely, his hair sticking to his forehead. "Well then, what say we get you something to eat? Is there anything you want?" You said, as you lifted him out of the bathtub and wrapped a warm, fluffy towel around him.
His eyes sparkled at the mention of food, his expression awestruck as he thought for the most delicious thing he could imagine. After a moment he asked: "Co-could we eat crêpes?"
You chuckled, ruffling his short hair. "Of course!" He grinned happily and you set about drying him and finding him a pair of pyjamas. The only thing you had close to his size was a pair of shorts and a grey tank top. Nevertheless he wore them, the shorts coming down to his knees, the tank not far off.
As he sat at the table, you managed to throw together some pancakes, flipping them in the air expertly as you'd been taught to and set the plate down in front of him.
The look of radiant contentedness on his face was so adorable. It made you wonder how long he'd been alone for. Not that it really mattered, because from now on, you'd take care of him. You'd make sure Matthieu would be alright.
After cleaning the sticky mess he'd created on his face due to his excessive use of the maple syrup, he yawned, stretching. As his eyelids started to droop, you picked him up again and set him gently on your bed.
When you laid down next to him, the drowsy infant clutched at your shirt, wanting to hug something, wanting something warm to hold. As you did.
You wrapped your arms around him without a moment's hesitation, stroking his hair as he sighed, sleep not far from overpowering him.
Murmuring the only lullaby you knew to him, he smiled when he recognised it. His native tongue flowed easily from your lips. "Au clair de la lune, mon ami Pierrot...."
Matthew, as you now called him had settled in quite well in your home. The way he smiled when he was happy made you in turn feel joy, and he was extremely grateful to you. Being a very well-behaved child, you rarely had to scold him.
The two of you were a make-shift family and you were going to sign him up for a school, despite his restraint to it. Though you didn't have a second bed, you and him both liked sleeping together. Initially it had been him that needed the comfort that you were there, but you felt that too.
That desire to make sure he was alright, he was still there and that you could hold him whenever you wanted a hug. You weren't doubting your feelings, you knew you loved him. He was like the little brother you never had, maybe even like your own son.
Unfortunately to all good things, come a terrifying and horrific end.
It happened, one night when Matthew was practicing his reading with you on the sofa. The doorbell rang and as per usual he jumped up to get it, his stuffed polar bear in tow. As you waited for him to return with the guest, a bloodcurdling scream tore through your ears.
Sprinting towards the door, your eyes fell upon Matthew being held tightly by several dark-clad men. "Put him down!!" You shouted, struggling with one of them when he blocked your path. "Sorry ma'am, but we can't do that." The intruder's voice was controlled, calm.
"You have no right to do this!!" Your fists pummelled on the man's chest with every word you threw at them. "Maman!" The child's frightened voice urged your instinct to protect him, your balled fists hitting the man's face several times, but he didn't even flinch.
"Let him go!!"
"We have to take him. He is not one of us and needs to be instructed by one of his own."
You growled at him, not caring about anything like that. "I won't let you take him from me!" The guy grasped your wrists tightly and held them behind your back. "We will use force if necessary." And that they did.
Even though you struggled and bucked your body in all manners, Matthew was being taken away from you. Tears streamed down your cheeks, red-hot in frustration. He echoed your sobs, weeping as he grasped his bear to his chest.
Though the two of you screamed for each other, the men showed no compassion. They tore you apart and after Matthew had disappeared from your sight, you felt something heavy hit your head.
When you awoke to a throbbing head-ache, your brain fully realised what had just happened. The days that followed were a haze, a desperate search for anything that could lead you to Matthew.
The leaves were starting to turn that special reddish brown colour, falling off frost-covered and yet you hadn't discovered a single clue as to where he was.
Every night, you sobbed yourself to sleep, wanting to know if he was alright, if he was eating good food. How well he was reading, what he and his white bear got up to.
Your empty eyes yearned to envelop a blond head with their gaze, your arms aching, wishing to hold a small warm body close to yours.
Your entire being searched for the comfort that the child was there. That child. Your child.