Without thinking, Matthew ran and ran. He let the trees surround him, wishing with all his might that they would block out his feelings. As the forest grew denser, Matthew was forced to slow down. His instincts told him he should turn back, but in that moment, his sadness was stronger than his instincts. There was no way he was returning to the cabin. There were no more hard decisions he’d force himself to face.
The birds kept singing overhead, and to Matthew, it seemed almost rude of them to carry on like that. He recalled how he used to think of the birds and squirrels as his friends; that was before he met Alfred. It wasn’t fair that he would have to give up Alfred.
Matthew sobbed. He wanted someone to comfort him, but everyone he loved was so far away in so many ways. Soon, the forest floor was so thick with plant life that Matthew had to change directions. He spied a clearing a short distance away and made his way over to it. When he had nearly reached gentler ground, his foot caught on a tree root. He fell upon a cluster of sharp twigs and thorny weeds. The clean, grassy ground taunted him from about a metre away.
Sobbing louder, Matthew sat up. He examined his arms, which had absorbed the brunt of the fall. There were many scratches, some of which were bleeding.
“It’s not fair!” Matthew cried to the forest floor.
“What’s not fair, little one?” said a voice. Matthew gasped. He looked up to see a dark-haired woman standing over him. She offered her hand and helped him into the clearing. The two of them dusted the leaves off of Matthew. Suddenly remembering something, Matthew’s hands flew to his shirt button. His maple leaf from Alfred was, thankfully, still there. The woman, who looked rather familiar for some reason, smiled down at him.
Out under proper sunlight, Matthew looked at the woman once more. He couldn’t believe it. Unmistakably, she was the person in Arthur’s picture. Matthew tried to speak. He had so many questions, but words failed him. The woman knelt to his height.
“You’ll be alright,” she said, examining the scratches on him. “My house isn’t far from here, so we can get that cleaned out in just a moment.”
“I... I know you...” Matthew whispered. The woman’s gaze travelled from his arms up to his face. Puzzled, she looked deep into his eyes. Soon, her own eyes lit up with a flash of recognition.
“Kanata?” she asked.
“I... think so?” Matthew replied. The woman gently grasped a lock of Matthew’s golden blond hair.
“You look so different since you went into your fathers’ custody,” she said, an edge of sadness in her voice. “Both Arthur and Francis have made their mark on you, it seems.”
Matthew curled his pale hand around her tan wrist, wishing to hold her close to him forever. More memories came rushing back. Her voice. Her scent. Her warmth.
“Mother!” he cried, burying himself in a hug. She squeezed him tightly.
“Yes, my little Kanata,” she said. “You’ve finally come home, if only for a little while.”
Reluctantly, Matthew pulled back. He wiped his tears away with the back of his hand.
“Only a little while?” he asked. “What do you mean?”
Matthew’s mother sighed.
“Your father made some very particular arrangements,” she said flatly, getting to her feet. “Arthur, I mean.”
“So I can’t - wait, what? Arthur is my father?”
Matthew’s mother nodded.
“And Alfred’s as well,” she said. “You are brothers by nature as well as by... whatever it is Arthur and Francis have concerned themselves with.” Once again, Matthew was overwhelmed by conflicting thoughts. If his family was much closer than he initially thought, why were they all further apart than he could ever imagine? If Arthur was his father, then he did indeed have a home as a British colony. But that would pull him even further away from his papa. These paradoxes were made all the more stressful since he’d finally met his mother, only to learn he could never get close to her again. Fresh tears began to fall.
“Don’t cry, little one,” Matthew’s mother said. “Let’s go back to my house and deal with those cuts, first of all.” Matthew nodded. He let her scoop him up and carry him across the field.