Chapter 1: Strange messages.
As the years go by one would think that time is capable of shaping people, the simplified way of seeing it would be a process in where the person, just like a fruit, starts as a weak and small thing that will grow each day, bearing with what life has in mind for it, then having a short period in which it reaches its highest form, until the day it expires.
But now it was painfully obvious that those rules did not apply with them. Or should I say with us?
Inside this conference room, with papers scattered in the table, with numbers and contracts regarding finances and commerce, the air of professionalism it inspires, is awfully broken by the constant arguing of these two. The reason of the quarrel is unknown to me, as I usually space out during these moments, it reminds me of a turbulent time of my life, so, I tend to deviate my attention to something else, like those delicious eggrolls waiting for me in my fridge.
Why do I keep coming to these meetings when I already know that we will achieve nothing?
Why do I have to bear with these two, when I could be discussing important matters with Taiwan?
Why am I here?
“Hey China! Yao! “
I looked up to see America or the United States personification, waving his hand in front of my face, maybe I should call him Alfred, he has just used my name after all. But then again, why would I do that? Our relations are not close enough, and I don’t like him that much anyways.
“Pay attention to me! You need to lecture your Russian friend on how not to interfere with other countries’ governments!”
I blink, not understanding his point. A pair of hands are resting on my shoulders now, I do not have to turn around to know who they belong to.
“You do not have the moral authority to request that, America.” I know that he finishes the sentence with a grin on his face.
“You do not have morality at all, Russia.” America shrugs and takes a file from the table. “Now, regarding an actual shocking fact, I have a proposition for you, Yao.”
The pair of hands in my shoulders disappear and I feel relieved. I see a glimpse of his face, Russia’s face, he is serious, without a trace of his usual smile, he starts writing down on a paper. I turned to America, he is handing me the file, and I hesitate but end up taking it.
Seeing them in front of me, I can tell for instance that growing up physically does not mean to equally increase in maturity.
The two of them are quite similar. Even though they will never accept it. I wonder if the reason why they don’t seem to get along, is due to the fact that they are the reflection of what the other wishes for, or maybe they both wish for the same thing.
Reading the file’s title, I can see that he wants to increase the trades between our countries, I would think it is a selfless and harmless act if I didn’t know him well, I’ll have to revise the file carefully to understand the trap.
Closing the file I say what he is expecting. “I will examine your proposition and answer you as soon as possible.”
How weird, he is not smiling either, did he gave me the wrong file? Or is he still thinking about Russia’s remark.
A folded piece of paper is placed on top of the file by Russia. What is going on? I am about to open it but America takes a hold of my hand.
“But Yao, I was expecting an immediate answer, I have a busy schedule and I have to sort out some business with Germany as well as with Ukraine.”
I stiffen at the sound of that last name and retreat my hand, now I understand, this isn’t about me, this is about him and Russia, why do they have to be so childish? I don’t want to be in the middle of this. I might share some borders with Russia but I cannot possibly persuade him to change his foreign politics. I already tried that once and it didn’t turned out well, I don’t have to mediate between them, is not my obligation, is it? Alright maybe it is now, but why would I try? The best for my country is to have these two against each other, so they don’t realize that I am trying to replace them both in the podium of world power. Why am I even thinking about this? It sounds like a plan for world domination. America is still talking, he placed a hand on my shoulder, I have to focus.
“Perhaps you should read the last page.”
“The last page? I think I’d better read the whole thing.” I said humorously.
The hold on my shoulder tightens. I don’t like this, him or anyone to have this kind of contact with me, it makes me feel weak, and he knows it. He sighs and stands up, I no longer feel his hand on my shoulder.
I take the file and the paper and stand up biding them a polite goodbye. When I close the door, I hear America saying “I call it a draw.”
I sigh, of course it is. I didn’t agree with any of them. These idiots need to understand that I am not going to play their games.
When I am finally out of the building, I go to one of those fast-food restaurants around the corner, America always talks about its hamburgers, even though I am not a fan of them, I do like them from time to time, not that I will ever tell this to America. Once in the table, I decided to look at the folded paper. It has a scrappy handwriting but it turns out to be legible nevertheless.
“I would like to discuss a personal matter with you after this meeting, could you please wait until America is gone?”
It doesn’t surprise me as much as it should, in fact, it is nothing new, but the whole mysterious aura inside the meeting room, plus the message leaves a weird effect lingering on me.
Maybe I should come back and wait. But what does “a personal matter” mean? I cannot risk to be trapped in any problem right now. But personal means it has nothing to do with politics, maybe he wants to talk about his sisters?
I took out my phone and send a message to him, if he wants to talk we can do that here. Is not the best place but the only one who knows us here is Alfred, and I doubt he will come after Russia. In a matter of seconds, I get an affirmative reply, followed by some smileys? Is that what Jia Long called them last time? Whatever, it is still weird coming from Russia.
I take a look at the last page of the file America gave me. How weird, there is just a line on it. Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?
“Hey China, wanna have lunch with me? ;)”
Chapter 2: Euphemisms
I should have read the last page before.
Now what am I supposed to do? Maybe if a text America he will come to eat here. Yes, I can talk with Russia and then have lunch with America, on the other hand, I do not know what Russia wants to talk about, hence, it could take more time than I expect. What should I do?
My thoughts were interrupted by Russia’s cheerful voice. “Privet China, how are you doing today?”
Why is he here so soon?
I try to sound as casual as I can, this sudden conversation makes me feel a bit uneasy. “Uhh fine, I guess….”
He takes a seat in front of me. “You guess?”
I wave my hand dismissively. “We’ve been in that meeting room most of the day, so there is no much to say, why wouldn’t I be alright?”
“Well, you left earlier and I thought you might have been feeling unwell…”
The concerned look on his face, makes me feel guilty, I left early because I was irritated by them, is he… taking my hand? Why is he doing this? I am not dying, why is he acting like that?
“Never mind, what do you need to talk about?” I say while retrieving my hand.
“Ah well, nothing serious, let us have lunch together first.” He smiles. “I must say, I am not very keen of hamburgers but I will make an exception today.”
I laugh, he is so stubborn, he won’t admit that he actually enjoys eating them. “Don’t you have the biggest McDonalds in Europe?”
Russia laughs nervously. “I… yes but it is due to my population of course…” he looks away.
“I am the one with largest population, not you”
He looks at me flustered. “I… I like the ice cream, ok? But do not mention it to America, I don’t want him bothering me for it.”
I can only smile, they sure are alike. Alfred would never tell him how much he likes to ice skate because he thinks Ivan will make fun of him. “I am sure Alfred would appreciate your taste in ice creams, maybe you could try to spend some peaceful time with each other, if you keep up with a conversation about your love for sweets-”
He interrupts me. “I do not wish to do such thing, and since when do you use his human name? I thought it was only for family.”
Oh no, have I been calling him Alfred?
“I … well, it’s a habit, he uses mine all the time, even when I asked him not to, and he is correcting me when I call him America, is annoying, so I gave up and now I call him Alfred.”
The waitress comes, takes our orders and leaves, too quickly for my liking. And here I was hoping a distraction could get me out of this.
Just as if he was reading my thoughts, he leans on the table and speaks again, it is almost like a whisper this time. “And eating here is a new habit too, Yao?”
I can’t hold my gaze, those violet eyes looking at me with disapproval, almost with disgust. I have to change the topic, this reminds me too much of the past, and I hate it. I only have to change the disapproval with hate and it would all be the same. I can feel my hands shaking, I have to calm down.
“No, I just didn’t feel like going far from the building…” He… he is invading my personal space on purpose, isn’t he? He knows I don’t like that, why is he lecturing me? Nothing has changed. “Why am I even telling you this? What are you, my boss?” I laugh but it comes out a bit forced, I hope he doesn’t notice. Or that he does and takes the bait.
He is fidgeting with his scarf. “No, but I thought I was your friend now.”
I feel like I been stabbed, or worst. I can’t describe how much it bothers me to hear that, even if he doesn’t mean it but what’s worse, is that I can’t tell if he is serious or not. That’s one thing I can say I hate about Ivan, I can’t rely on his expressions, he might look calm and collected but I know that inside that head of his, there is a lot going on. Which makes him quite unpredictable and therefore dangerous.
I see him smile, mischievously? No, playfully, and I feel relieved but also annoyed. Why does he do that? Doesn’t he know that it makes me feel bad, uneasy?
No, I know him enough to understand that he enjoys it, the suffering of others, I have seen him.
I am thinking about his old self. He’s changed and it won’t happen again. America said he had changed, he wouldn’t lie, right?
America is always lying, why would this be different?
Did Russia really changed?
“Yao? Are you ok? You’ve been staring for a long time already…. Shall I call Alfred so you both can have a match of silly faces?”
My face heats up. Is he insulting me?
“Why are you saying such things? What did I even do to you? Is this about the name? Alright, I’ll call him America if it bothers you so much, geez, you are like a child throwing a tantrum. In fact, I will correct that, you are a child, and you’ve never stopped being that.”
There is silence, I might have over reacted.
Then, he gives me a look that resembles a kicked puppy.
“I just want you to use my name, is it really that hard?”
I sigh “A child indeed.”
“Why can’t you stop seeing me as a child?” he groans.
“Because you are a child, and you don’t help by acting like one.”
Ivan crosses his arms “Well if you put it like that, then everyone is a child in comparison to you, I am not to blame for not being as old as you.”
Was that another insult? I just knitted my eyebrows together.
The food is served and I start eating in silence.
After a moment Ivan speaks up again. “I… I am sorry, please don’t be mad…. Let’s talk about something else.”
I take another bite of my hamburger. Just to annoy him. “Fine. Did you know that the biggest McDonalds of the world is in Florida?”
“Really?” he replies bored and starts eating too.
“Yes, Alfred showed it to me the last time I came.”
He sets his food apart and rolls his eyes. “Oh please, why do you keep talking about Alfred? Why are you going on excursions with him? And from all places, why Florida?”
“Enough with the interrogation, what is going on? What are you and America scheming now? Is the cold war 2.0? Do I have to slap some sense into you both?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about…- He sighs and loosens his scarf. -I just wanted to talk to you without having that annoying American around, sometimes he gets on my nerves and when I finally react to his offenses, somehow, I end up being the bad one. And you keep talking about him and now I feel even more upset…”
Well he’s got a point, I have to stop talking about America.
I offer him my fries out of habit. I used to break Korea’s and Taiwan’s tantrums by offering them food. Sometimes it even works with America.
“And what do you want to talk about then?”
He looks away but takes them nevertheless. “I… it was nothing, forget it.”
There is an awkward silence, until Ivan decides to speak again.
“You do know that America uses Florida as a euphemism for his dick, right?”
I almost choke in my food. “What?”
Chapter 3: Sharing
How was I supposed to know that?
Apart from the fact that all those “suck my Florida” remarks that America pulls on Ivan make sense now, I had no idea.
After five minutes of Ivan laughing at me, I decided to end with my misery by saying that I had to check up on Taiwan and Hong Kong. Somehow, I convinced him of my inability to contact them through my phone, and went to my hotel room.
Once there, I had time to go through all that happened today, what was all this about? Is the “Florida” thing related to this, or is it just Alfred making fun of me? But that doesn’t make sense, I didn’t know about it, Ivan did though. Maybe it was a joke for him… it doesn’t make sense.
And what’s with the invitation to have lunch? Both of them did that, it isn’t strange coming from Ivan, he hates to be alone but Alfred? Maybe I am overthinking.
I will read the file he gave me instead, yes, it is an official request after all. Now, where did I put it?
I left it at the table, I’ll have to come back there and ask for it. Or maybe Russia took it. What if he did? Would he read it? Of course he would, I would.
There is a knock on my door.
Yes, he took it. And now he is going to question me about it, I hope it doesn’t have any important information, who am I kidding? I hope he didn’t read the last page. I don’t know how to explain that.
I open the door to find Russia outside with the file on his hands.
“Yao you forgot this on the table.” He says while handing it to me.
He is smiling and I know he read it, it is too calm, too calculated, which means it’s fake.
“Thank you, I was just looking for it.” I reply and wait for his questions but there is just silence. He just nods and stands there.
Should I say that I have no idea why America wrote that, or should I pretend I know nothing? Yes, I am oblivious, if I act well enough, he’ll believe me.
“Well, see you later Russia, or tomorrow.”
He nods again, and I try to close the door but he stops it with his hand.
“Yao…”He frowns at me.
Here comes the questioning. This was way too easy.
“Will you visit me the next week?”
That was not the question I was expecting. But it makes me feel relieved and I smile.
“Of course, we have a meeting to discuss how to go about changing the currency on our transactions, but thanks for reminding me of it anyways.”
He furrows his brows, slowly pushing the door back at me.
“Yes, but I was not referring to that, I was asking if you would visit me in my house.”
His house? Why would I do that? I haven’t been there in a long time, not since it was the Soviet Union.
No, I won’t. I don’t want to go there but how can I tell him this without offending him?
Sorry, I can’t go to your house because it gives me the creeps? No.
Sorry but I need to avoid some places so I don’t have a panic attack? That’s too honest.
I would love to but I am allergic to the kind of wood your house is made of? No.
Since when am I so bad at lying?
I look at him, he is waiting for my answer, I have to say something.
“I… I don’t know. What about you go to my house?”
He sighs. “No, I want you to go to my house, will you?”
I lean on the door a bit, only to shield myself from him, from his stare. I don’t know how to handle this without upsetting him.
“I… I can’t…”
“Why?” he seems exasperated and I can feel an aura of coldness around me.
This doesn’t seem like a conversation to me anymore, it is more like an interrogatory, one where if I am not cautious enough, I will end up digging my own grave.
My reply comes out weaker than what I expected. “Because…. I am busy”
That is such a terrible lie, how am I busy if the only thing that I have to do that week, is attend to that meeting with him?
He retrieves his hand from the door and it closes due to my weight on it, I end up with the door closed in front of my face. I don’t dare to open it, I know he is there. But my hand trembles when I reach the doorknob.
He must be mad, I can hear him outside.
“Yao, are you ok?”
Why isn’t he mad? Is it a trap? No, remember Yao, he´s changed, no need to panic. “Yes… I… I am fine.”
“Well… open the door.”
I open it hesitantly, his expression is neither tense nor angry, and he almost seems calm, almost, because I can see a bit of worry on his eyes. He takes a step back and holds his hands together. I am not sure if it is consciously or not, but it makes feel less uneasy.
He talks again, but his voice is soft. “Are you afraid of me? I am not mad.”
“Of course not- I take a deep breath -you are not a threat to me now.”
“But I was. Is that what this is about? If that is the case, I apologize.”
His behavior makes me feel awful, he hasn’t done anything to me and still this happens. “No, is not about that. I just fell and the door closed, really. ”
He sighs again and offers me his hand. After a moment, I take it, and the fact that it is not cold surprises me but also soothes away the shreds of fear I had.
“Yao, we need to talk. I will leave you alone for now, but I will come back later and-”
“Hey Russia, what are you doing on Yao’s door? Are you spying on him? I guess old habits never disappear.”
Oh no, that’s America’s voice. I hear footsteps approaching, I retrieve my hand quickly while Russia frowns.
“Didn’t you hear me? Why are you standing in front of his door?” How weird, his voice sounds different, it isn’t his usual carefree tone.
“That is none of your business, America.” Russia’s voice is harsh, too aggressive for just a little of teasing.
I don’t really need this right now. I want them both to go away.
“Why are you so touchy Russia? Did Yao already rejected you? I told you he is afraid of you, he wouldn’t-”
Russia interrupts him. “Not now America.”
A part of me wishes he hadn’t interrupted him, after all if this is because of a stupid game between them, I would really like to know. The other part of me wants them to leave as soon as possible, so I can have a rest.
But it seems that America in not in favor of my wish for peacefulness because he keeps on approaching.
“Don’t be stubborn Russia and admit that you lost already.”
Lost? What is he talking about?
Russia turns to him and motions towards me. “I´ll repeat it again because apparently you can’t hear me over the sound of your annoying loud voice. NOT. NOW. AMERICA.”
America snickers “Oh man, he really did reject you. I wish I had seen it.”
Russia rolls his eyes. “He didn’t.”
What are these two up to?
“Just admit it already, I promise I won’t make fun of you, for a day. It is just a matter of time before Yao calls me to have lunch together, he is just being polite with you since you followed him after the meeting, and then, I can put my plan on acti-” America holds his gaze at me, his smile falters but he recovers in a matter of seconds. “Yao, you are here, did you read the file? I came here to talk about it.”
Russia looks like he is about to inquire but he just gives me a questioning look.
I decide to keep on with the “oblivious act” and reply with an apologetic tone. “No, I haven’t”
America takes off his glasses, showing me his best puppy eyes. “Aww but I was eager to talk with you.”
I feel annoyed, that trick is not going to work twice. “Cut the act already. I won’t fall for it.”
I hear Russia chuckling.
“That goes to you too, Ivan. What are you two doing? Why are you acting so weird lately?”
Both, Alfred and Ivan are no longer smiling.
Ivan is the first to retort. “I already told you, I have no idea what you are talking about, I am and have always been my usual self. As for him- he points at Alfred- he is just being silly as always, do not pay him any mind. ”
Alfred glares at Ivan but keeps silent, then, he looks at me and winks. Weird.
Ivan places his hand on my shoulder. “Why don’t you rest a little? You must be tired.”
Alfred takes Ivan’s wrist moving away his hand from me and mutters. “Russia, remember you must not touch him, he might think you’re going to hurt him.”
Ivan snatched his hand away.
He turns to me. “We will talk later.” He looks back at Alfred and half smiles then he leaves.
I turn to Alfred but he is not paying attention to me, he just stares at Russia, and surprisingly, he goes after him. Turning around the corner of the corridor, where I can no longer see them.
Now, if I wasn’t confused for all that has happened today, I would have never done what I did next. I decided to forget about my manners and polite customs and went to eavesdrop on them. Was it wrong? Yes. But how could I not do so, if the possibility of discovering what they were playing was so tempting?
I tiptoed as fast as I could and reached the corner, where I could easily hear Alfred’s voice. “You are going to sabotage me, aren’t you?”
Ivan laughed. “But America, remember the rules. No sabotage allowed. Taking into account that I already told you what I’d do, why don’t you tell me what are you planning?”
Rules? What is that supposed to mean?
Alfred’s tone is easy to read, I recognize it from when he annoys England, it is playful, almost like a purr, pretending a false seductive attitude. “Well if you say so, it is not a plan at all, haven’t you noticed? He treats us like children, so, I give him what he wants, you do so too but you behave as a spoiled child, while on the other side, I am the golden boy, therefore I can make him do as I wish, just by asking nicely and showing him the perks of doing as I say. It is quite easy, Yao is a simple man.”
How dare he? I am not so easy to manipulate, am I?
My thoughts are interrupted by Ivan’s voice. “Don’t pull me into your stupid rationalizations, to me, it looks like you want a babysitter.”
America just laughs. “if you think about it, he just wants to take care of the others as an older brother would do so, that’s also the reason why he keeps you around.” he finishes that sentence with his annoying laugh again.
I hear Russia moving. “Whatever you say America, I hope he doesn’t end up hitting you with a spoon for being too direct or too stupid.”
I hear Alfred’s steps towards me. “Take it easy Russia, as a hero, I will take good care of him. Perhaps I´ll try to convince him of finally playing rough, just as you and I used to do during the cold war.” He just keeps snickering.
Before I can let Alfred’s words sink in my mind, I hear steps, and after a moment, a thud against the wall, stopping America’s laugh abruptly. That remark can’t be good if Russia’s reaction is so quick.
“I will warn you beforehand, if you dare to touch him I will end you.” Russia’s voice is barely audible but I recognize the coldness of his tone.
America chuckles. “I thought you liked to share, comrade.”
Chapter 4: Apologies
I am even more confused now.
I had to practically run to my room so America would not catch me eavesdropping. Thankfully, I was not wearing shoes, therefore, he didn’t hear me. I had to accept his invitation to a late walk in the city’s park or he wouldn’t leave me alone.
Now that I think about it, it sounds like he just forced me into it, but a nice peaceful walk, might be a good idea.
I must arrange the mess of thoughts that are flying around my head before going.
What was all that about? Let’s recapitulate what I know. Firstly, Russia followed me after the meeting, which explains why he was in the restaurant so soon. Secondly, they are competing for who knows what, and I am the target of it. Thirdly, it seems that each of them has a plan and I just heard America’s. Fourthly, they have rules for their game, and apparently not sabotaging is one of them. Lastly, I must punish Alfred for thinking that he can manipulate me easily, maybe I should ask England to cook me some scones and feed Alfred with them until he apologizes.
Now, what can I do with this information?
Well, I need to understand what the game is in order to do something about it or I could confront them, but what’s the fun in it? If I am capable to figure it out, I can use it against them. What are the clues I have?
The invitations, but it doesn’t give me any information and none of them had done anything unusual.
Oh yes they have.
They are invading my personal space, maybe they want to annoy me. But America said something about rejection. Their goal cannot be in the lines of anything romantic, both have always been overly affectionate, not only with me but with everyone.
America’s demeanor is cheerfully explosive, he gets overwhelmed easily and shows his emotions clearly, he likes to hug people and to keep some kind of physical contact while talking, to my and Japan’s dismay.
Russia, on the other hand does not show his emotions easily, but he has been secluded from people for a long time, so I know he craves for company, he tends to show affection towards his closest friends, is a shame he doesn’t know how to do it correctly because when it happened to me, I thought he was going to hug the life out of me.
Russia took my hand twice today and America winked at me though.
No it can’t be that, maybe I can get information from America, if I keep with the oblivious attitude, he might get impatient and spill everything out.
The park was not breathtaking, nevertheless it was beautiful, there were children running around, some couples walking hand by hand, several shops located around the park and a fountain in the middle, were the birds could bathe.
Our conversation was simple, something about the weather and how Alfred did not like England’s rainy one. Honestly, I zoned out a bit and started replying shortly while looking at a dove in the fountain.
Alfred put his hand on my shoulder, snapping my attention back to him. “Did you rest?”
I nodded. “Yes I took a nap and I feel like I have been reborn. This is a nice park.”
He looked around. “Yes, it is indeed… Did you read the file? I want to talk about that.”
Time to pretend I know nothing. “Oh I am sorry, I forgot, but you can tell me about it, is nothing unknown to me so I guess you can explain.”
Alfred fixed his eyes on the shops surrounding the streets of the park “Uh, I guess it has to be this way then.” He turned to the left and almost shouted “Do you want ice cream? I’d like that. ” then he left hurriedly to one of the stalls.
I followed him, it was indeed an ice cream shop, with vibrant colors and pictures of children holding the frosted delicacy.
I stood next to him in the counter and inquired. “Well… are you going to explain?”
He looked at me confused, then he asked for the biggest ice cream they had.
He replied hastily. “It is not the file, I wrote something in the last page but now there is no point in it because you had lunch with Russia. I know you like chocolate so you should try the ‘Rocky road.’”
I just nodded, I think he is evading the topic. We went to sit at one of the tables.
If I am going to make him talk, I have to press. “I wouldn’t said it was a “lunch” because firstly the food was really unhealthy and secondly Ivan barely ate.”
Alfred raised his eyebrows and smiled widely. “So you are saying that Russia didn’t invite you to eat?”
Such a strange reaction.
I just tilted my head to the side. “Uh… no? We were there to talk about something, but then I told him about the McDonalds you showed me in Florida, and talking about that, what does it mean that Florida is a euphemism for your dick, were you trying to make fun of me or what?”
He just laughed so hard that the people in the place turned to stare at us.
He took a breath and leaned closer. “So, he didn’t ask you? - he was cracking with laugher- I knew he couldn’t, he is a coward after all.” He stopped laughing abruptly and waved dismissively his hand “Don’t think about Florida, I swear it was a coincidence.”
I was about to ask what was Russia supposed to tell me, when the waitress came with our order, I instantly regretted trusting in Alfred, that quantity of sugar was going to give me a headache. Once I tasted it, I knew the headache was worth it.
Alfred was staring at me. “Do you like it?”
I nodded “Yes, it is delicious.”
He smiled and started eating too.
We ate in silence, I have to admit that it’s nice to have these kind of pauses from time to time, back in China, I don’t get to do this, I used to go out with Taiwan and Hong Kong but now we are too busy to do so.
My thoughts are interrupted by Alfred. “Yao, were you infatuated with Russia?”
My eyes widen. “What? No, why do you say so?”
Alfred sets his spoon apart and furrows his eyebrows. “I know you all think I am not very bright but I am not stupid. You two have been really close since that communism phase you had, I was pretty sure you were…” He trailed off raising his eyebrows while looking at me.
I know what he is implying. “Pardon me? I think you should stop feeding your conspiracy theories and read a history book, did I spend more time with him? Yes. But so did Prussia, Hungary, Lithuania and the others and I never said you were stupid.”
He smiled sheepishly. “Yeah… but you were the only one there willingly.”
I felt my blood boil, how dare he question me like this.
I stood up to left but he did so too. “Whoa Yao, calm down, I was joking, no need to get defensive, I thought it would be funny to see you turning all red.” -He placed me on the seat again. - “You know… because commies like red…- he cleared his throat- “Excuse me if I offended you… but you are lying to me.”
I let out an exasperated sigh. “How many times do I have to tell you-”
He raised his hand and interrupted me. “I know you called me stupid.”
I paused, does he want an apology? Because he won’t get one from me. “I… no I didn’t.”
He smiles and nods vigorously. “Yes you did, you used to do it, alongside the names of capitalist pig, imperialist asshole and my favorite the stupid gum chewer.”
He has a good memory.
I reply calmly. “Ok, maybe I did.”
Alfred leans closer again. “And?”
I sigh “You were right, I did call you stupid in the past”
He made his puppy eyes. “No apologies?”
I shook my head. “I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true at the time.”
He takes off his glasses. “Nothing?”
I roll my eyes, he definitely wants me to apologize. “Ok, maybe you weren’t a stupid gum chewer.”
“I feel like that is not a real apology but I’ll accept it.”
We left the shop and went to the park again, it was empty now. We seated on a bench.
Apparently Alfred cannot stay silent unless he is eating.
“Yao, what do you think Ivan meant when he asked you and the others to “Become one with Russia”?”
What a silly question. “I don’t know, maybe it was a way of saying that he wanted to unify us all in the Soviet Union.”
He side-hugged me. “But in that case, why wouldn’t he ask you to become one with the Soviet Union?”
I’ve never thought about that. “I don’t know, perhaps it takes too long to pronounce?”
He shrugged. “Maybe, I don’t know, I always thought it had a weird sexual connotation.”
I pushed him aside “What on earth are you thinking about?”
He starts chuckling. “Oh Yao, believe me, you don’t want to know.”
Chapter 5: Nightmare
After this eventful evening I decided to call England and ask him for his scones, someone has to teach Alfred a lesson.
I feel bad for Canada if he has to put up with him in a daily basis.
When I enter my room I can feel the beginning of a headache, damn America and his delicious chocolate ice cream.
Ugh, is so warm in here, I think I better turn on the air conditioner, now how does this thing works? Oh right, just the power button on the remote, at least Jia Long is not here to make fun of me.
I lay in the bed and look at my phone, there are some messages from him, one from Taiwan and others from Russia, I decide to ignore the latter, I don’t need to worsen my headache, that will be a problem for the future me.
It has been a really long day and the least I want is to have dark circles under my eyes, the last time it happened Taiwan made me try South Korea’s skin care products, not that I am complaining for the results but it was a bit excessive, after some minutes, present me lets himself be drifted off to the land of slumber.
It’s cold, so cold, I feel the wind against my cheeks, its freezing cold, my hands are numb and my feet are tired and wet?
I look down to find snow, lots of it under my feet, that explains a lot.
There is nothing but snow around, not even the silhouette of a house or a tree, why am I here?
I have to keep walking but my body feels so heavy, if I stop I might never continue, I force myself to move, after some minutes or maybe hours, breathing becomes dificult, the snow is reaching my knees.
Why am I here? This doesn’t feel like home. My land would not be so harsh with me right? We are the same after all.
A chill runs down my spine, I can’t control my shaking anymore, if I stay in here longer I might die. Every breath I take is sending a wave of pain and coldness to my lungs and I am scared, I’m scared of dying for real this time.
I see a glimpse of light, if there is light there must be fire, I need to warm myself, is… is that Alfred?
I can barely walk, I must be hallucinating, he cannot be here, but then again where exactly is “here”?
I can only take two steps before collapsing on the white surface, it is soft but it feels like a thousand needles when the cold reaches my skin then it stops and I feel nothing, I must be so numb.
I hear voices, there is two of them but I can’t understand what they say. I am dragged away from the white hell by a pair of warm hands and the voices become clear. Alfred is talking loudly, harshly, and he is handing me a mug, it’s something warm I try to reach it but I can’t lift my arm, is too heavy.
One of the hands holding me reaches for it and throws it away, I am so cold, I hear Ivan’s voice, saying something about not needing help from the capitalist idiot, Alfred’s hand is touching my cheek, he is warm, Ivan pushes him aside, the warmness is gone and I feel the snow in my feet again, the hands holding me disappear, Alfred is glaring at him and Ivan is demanding me to stand up.
I can’t, I try, I really do but I can’t. Why is he asking me for this? I am weak and cold now, I can’t do it.
I hear Ivan’s voice again, is colder than the snow under my knees and hands. “Such a shame” he says “I thought you’d be more useful.”
I can only blink, I’ve heard those words before, he is leaving, he wouldn’t let me die in here right? I’ll freeze to death, he can’t….
Alfred gets near me, he lifts me with ease. I can’t keep my eyes open, I am so tired, tired of walking, of feeling cold, so tired of breathing.
I hear Alfred sigh.
“What am I going to do with you China?”
I wake up, it is already night, I am so cold.
I notice I slept without changing my clothes, the air conditioner is on, I knew it was a bad idea to turn it on, ugh now I am cold and hungry. What bothers me more is that godforsaken dream, more like a nightmare, what’s the point of remembering those horrible words, what kind of self-sabotage is this?
No need to dwell on it, maybe I can get some food outside, I should have listened to Hong Kong when he told me to carry some snacks with me. Maybe the Hotel has a buffet, yes it must, what kind of hotel doesn’t.
Chapter 6: Breakfast
The next morning I have to arrange my belongings to come back to China, at least I will get some peace while I am in the plane.
If I am lucky enough Jia Long hasn’t burned down the house, and Mei will not bicker with me for some weeks, I can’t hide from Russia or America in my house tough, any of them seem to respect the fact that it’s not their home and always enter like I’d invited them to do so… specially Russia, thinking about him, I better read those messages, he did say he was coming back to talk, but he didn’t… I took out my phone to see them.
“Hello Yao, are you feeling better?
Can I talk to you now?
Yao, are you dead? ”
I frown at the last message, America isn’t the only one who needs punishment, Russia needs to learn to respect me too.
I reply shortly.
“I am not dead I was just sleeping but I might die if I don’t get a decent breakfast or a good tea in here.”
I start folding my clothes, luckily we just stayed here for a short time so I’ll finish this quickly, my phone receives a text. It’s Russia again.
“Don’t die (((, also you slept all day?”
I roll my eyes at that, yes Ivan I am like the sleeping beauty and I slept 18 hours straight.
“No, Alfred took me to a park yesterday, then I fell asleep.”
I don’t even have the time to come back to my task when I get his reply.
“Alfred took you to a park?”
Maybe this is my opportunity to take information out of him, I´ll try to annoy him.
“Yes, we ate Ice cream, it was nice.”
After five minutes I realize that he is not going to reply, but that way I don’t have to talk to him about visiting his house.
That dream didn’t help at all, I think I should talk about it with someone, but who? I cannot tell that to Alfred or Ivan it would be weird, maybe if I tell Mei or Jia Lung…
I get another text, this time from Alfred.
“Hi Yao, how r u? :) ”
England would be furious with that message, but I am not England so I reply.
“Fine, preparing my flight back.”
I finish packing and get several texts, some are from Russia, others from America and one from England? I look at Ivan’s messages first.
“Whatever it is that America told you, it is a lie
I do not make sexual innuendos, I am not a creep like him
I have not asked you to become one with Russia in a long time
He is lying
And you owe me an ice cream, I have breakfast and tea for you. ;) ”
What? I don’t understand anything, and that is exactly what I reply to him.
Then I look at America’s texts.
“Help, the commie is after meeee
Yao he needs Jesus
He is going to turn me into a commie too
He is in my kitchen!!!
OMG he took my cheerios!!
WTF IS HAPPENING
Why is he stealing my food?
Noo he took my bacon :(
I’m gonna fight him!!!
Am I a commie now?
Is this how he turned you into communism?
He made you share your food forcefully?
I will avenge my bacon!!!! ”
I don’t know what drugs he is on or if it is a joke. I’ll just ignore it, let’s see what England sent me.
“Good morning China, I was wondering if you would be so kind as to join me for my tea time in order to explain why the Bloody hell has Russia called me declaring that my tea is rightfully yours? Also I would really appreciate you taking my tea with you on your way here.”
After all those crazy texts, Russia came to my room with a breakfast, he had placed everything in a tray I must say it was quite a surprise and an odd one, nevertheless it was pleasant, I put it in the table and he followed me, sitting right in front of me.
I was about to try the bacon when I realized, I looked at him and questioned.
“Why didn’t you bring two breakfasts? Aren’t you going to eat?”
He blinked and then he tilted his head to the side smiling sheepishly. “Oh, silly me I forgot to bring mine, but you can share with me right?”
I nodded but then I frowned. “I have neither silverware nor plates in here…”
Ivan’s smile grew “I have an easy solution for that, you can feed me” his tone was too cheerful
I shook my head. “No way, I am not doing that.”
He pouted but then he smiled again “Then I will feed you”
Oh for the love of… that is way worst. “What about I eat first and then you eat, or the other way round I don’t really care.”
He shook his head “Nyet, eating alone in front of other is not very nice. Yao, you are always scolding me for my manners, be coherent.”
I can’t escape from this, can I? I sigh “Fine I’ll feed you, just like when you were under Mongolia’s rule.”
Ivan seemed to be bothered by my comment but kept silent.
I feel really awkward doing this whereas Ivan seems content with it, maybe he has a weird fascination for this childish acts, it might remind him of a better time. Anyway, I cannot blame him for it. Looking back is inevitable when you’ve lived for so long, but one has to be careful to not get confused, after all the past might seem better but only for the fact that it already happened, there is a reason why we moved on from that, why we left that behind, but one can’t help but to feel nostalgic…
My thoughts are interrupted when I feel his hand touching my cheek, my eyes widen, why is he so close? I realize I have been holding the empty spoon for too long, I got lost in my thoughts, he is staring but he does not retrieve his hand. I’m getting nervous, there is too much silence in here-
I pass him a piece of bread and he takes it, with his other hand, damn you Russia, why do you use both of your hands?
I try to start a conversation again. “Did you steal this food from Alfred?”
He finally retrieves his hand and bites on the piece of bread then he replies. “Da, he had a lot of it anyways.”
I laughed a bit at his silly response “You should not steal food or anything from others.”
He took a sip of tea and replied calmly “He is our host so in a way I did not steal, I just made him share his food with us.” Then he passed me the tea.
I took it and then looked at him “What about England?”
He shrugged “He owes me for bothering me every time he summons a demon.”
I couldn’t suppress my laugh at that.
Chapter 7: Flight
From all of the places my flight had to do a scale on, it had to be Russia.
That’s the reason why I am currently paying for an ice cream while the passenger next to me in the seats (who “coincidentally” turned out to be Ivan) is reading a book.
Thank you very much economical blossoming, I am capable of paying for such stupid luxuries in a plane thanks to you.
I received the ice cream and offered it to Ivan, I owe him for that breakfast after all.
He looked up from his book, raised an eyebrow and then sighed. “Yao, when I said you owed me an ice cream I was talking about going out and getting it…. Not this…”
Oh you ungrateful brat, how dare you refuse my ice cream? I will eat it in front of you if you don’t want it.
I sighed, being mad won’t get me nowhere I have to be calm, to convince him of accepting it, I don’t want to be indebted with anybody.
I force myself to smile warmly. “But this is the same, even better because it is a unique experience”
He scoffs. “Really? You think I can’t pay for ice cream in a plane?”
I hold my stare with him, I am not backing up on this. “I am not saying you can’t I am saying you haven’t.”
He looks at me for some time, then he looks down at the ice cream and takes it.
I knew he would accept it, it is ice cream after all.
After eating the ice cream he turns to me and inquires: “Yao, you have a scale in Russia, why don’t you stay in my house? You’ll travel again in two days anyways, I have plenty of rooms in my house you can stay in one of those.”
Why is he asking me this again? I don’t want to go there…
“I can’t do that, I have to report myself back and arrange other matters, besides I don’t have too much clothes with me.”
He looks at me confused.
“What I mean is that I didn’t pack for a whole week, I need to get back home and perhaps it is not right to book a flight to China and stay in Russia, I might get charged for that.”
He stares at me for some seconds, maybe he is trying to tell if I am lying or not. Well Good luck with that Russia, you’ll never find out unless I am nervous.
He smiles at me and then he says cheerfully “Then it’s settled, you will stay in my house, I will call Taiwan and she will send you more clothes, it is not far anyways, or we could just get you some new clothes, summer is coming which means it’ll get warmer.”
Then he proceeded to keep on reading his book.
What the hell just happened? I didn’t accept why did he said that?
I can’t go there.
I look at him, he seems focused on his reading. I can’t go there, ok I can but I don’t want to. I shook his arm and look at him pleadingly. “I can’t go, I have to report myself, I have to arrange everything.”
He just stares, why is he doing this?
He sets the book apart. “You worry too much Yao” –he smiles- “I don’t live in a cave, you can always use my phone, or my laptop, you have yours with you anyways.”
If there is a time for me to panic it should be right now. I shook my head. “it’s not that, I can’t go really.”
“Don’t be silly, I am sure you can, I asked Hong Kong if you had anything important this week and he said you were free.”
Betrayed by my own brother, again. Why is history repeating itself?
I can’t hide the awe in my voice. “You called him? Why?”
“Because I wanted to make sure I was not getting you into trouble with your government, I know how strict they can be.-he stopped, shook his head and smiled again -It doesn’t matter, Yao. I promise you’ll be delighted, I asked Lithuania to cook one of his delicious cakes you have to try it, it’s magnificent.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Is Lithuania is your house?”
Ivan laughed. “Of course not, why would he? You know he is busy trying to strengthen his economy but he is such a good friend to me that he sent Latvia with it.”
It’s good to know I am not the only one avoiding places but he sent someone else, I couldn’t be so cruel. “So Latvia is there…”
He shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe. Why? You want to talk with him? I can ask him to stay.”
No, poor Latvia doesn’t need to be more scared. “Why do you want me to go to your house?”
He frowned “Why not? I always go to your house I think it is time for me to return the hospitality.”
Why does he have to be sensible about this? I cannot refuse now, maybe it is time for me to overcome this fear, in the worst scenario I’ll just pass out in the front door. If it happens I’ll say it is because of the heat.
I sighed. “Fine”
Chapter 8: Summer House
This was a terrible idea
Once I stepped out of the airport I felt the weight of my choice, Ivan was so happy about it that I couldn’t take my words back but I was shaking so much that I had to tell him that
I was cold, it wasn’t technically a lie because I was actually feeling chills running down my spine but it wasn’t true either because I was not deprived from warmth.
He bought me a warm coffee so I “wouldn’t freeze to death” as he said, I couldn’t laugh at that, not now, not here. After some awkward minutes of silence he talks again.
“I was going to suggest for us to walk to my house but I think is better if we just take a taxi or something…”
I hummed, trying not to spill the coffee all over myself. At this point it’s like I am in some kind of autopilot I know he is talking to me and I am replying but if you ask me what are we talking about I don’t really know. We get into a taxi and I stare out of the window, everything is so different…
My attention is brought back to reality when Ivan questions me again. “Yao, you are really pale, are you sick?”
I stare at him in shock, am I really that pale? I try to reply casually. “No, I don’t think so… why would I be sick if my country is doing so well?”
He looks at me worried. “Maybe you are not doing so well yourself?”
He knows I don’t want to be here, he knows I am scared of going there.
This is horrible, this is pathetic and why can’t I just tell him I don’t want to go?
Why can’t I go?
Keep yourself together, now it’s not the time to panic, he is not suspecting anything and that is just a normal question. I reply humorously. “Are you my psychologist?”
He sighed “No…but sometimes I wish I were… is really difficult to tell what you are thinking”
The cab stopped but I paid no attention, I chuckle. “A psychologist cannot read minds”
“I know….”he stares out the window turns to me again and beams “Oh look we are here” he proceeds to pay for the ride.
I turn to see a fence… “Are you kidding? Because I have never been here.”
“No kidding.” Then he gets down and motions me to follow.
“You moved from your house?” He passes me my baggage.
He laughs a bit. “Nyet, this is a dacha, silly Yao why would I move out of my house? It practically makes part of my history”
I just nod. “Right…”
He nears the fence and all I see is what seems to be plantations, how long did I zoned out? I don’t know where we are.
He is opening the fence. “Isn’t it peaceful in here?”
I have to admit that it is peaceful, away for the crowds of people, from the traffic jams, all this rural aesthetic is really different from what I have been seeing for a few years until now. I can even hear the rustle of leaves when the wind passes through the trees. “Yeah… Are those potatoes?”
I can’t help but wonder, from all things you could grow in a garden, why potatoes? I was expecting the usual and obvious sunflowers but instead I find potatoes?
Ivan nods vigorously, he seems to be having troubles with that lock. “Of course, the best ones are the ones you grow yourself”
I am a bit skeptic about his reason “Sure… and what do you use them for?”
He laughs nervously. “Isn’t it obvious? It’s edible. I use it for salads, or you can bake them, or just boil them, come on since when am I the one who knows more about cooking?”
I laughed. “I was just asking… I thought Vodka was made out of potatoes…”
He turned to me furrowing his brows and faking a sad expression. “You hurt me, Yao, you though I was making vodka?”
I rolled my eyes. “Maybe”
“I don’t use them for that but now I might do it.” He finally opened the fence and stepped inside, I followed and he turned to close again.
I could hear dogs barking, what else is he hiding in this house? And why does he takes so long to close that fence it isn’t that hard… is he nervous? Let’s annoy him a bit. “Very funny, but I remember you did prepare vodka in 1914 and 1986”
He let out a shaky laugh. “Well you didn’t complain in 1986”
I furrowed my brows. “I wasn’t around in 1986”
He straightened and closed the fence but he did not turned, he was mumbling and I could barely listen to him. “Oh, I am sorry… I can’t seem to have a good memory about that period… I remember some things but I am not sure about the exact order of it, and other times it is just like a blank space where I know I was alive but I am not very sure of what I was doing… but that is normal right? It happens to you too and the other as well, after all, how can we organize all that information?”
So that’s why he never mentions it, it makes sense in a way, he could be lying though. I better change the topic. “I suppose, anyways, why are we here?”
“Oh yes”- he turned to look at me and started walking towards the house-“well I was a bit bored you know? Spending so much time in that old house alone, so I finally decided to get a dacha, and discovered that gardening is a really fun activity to do- he pointed at the garden smiling -I also fixed some parts of the house, you see this is a really old house too but it was so cheap and I thought I could repair it, and I did and now we are here. ” He opened the door and waited for me to enter.
Did I hesitate? Yes, but this house was different, the colors were warmer, everything was tidy and I could see a painting hanged in the wall of the living room, the house had a familiar air, almost cozy, so I stepped inside, taking in the surroundings and finding so many details everywhere I saw. “So… are you showing me your hard work?”
He seemed startled and he blushed, I think I embarrassed him but that was not my intention. “I… no… I am not bragging about that… I just thought it would be nice…” -he started fidgeting with his scarf not daring to look me in the eyes-“I didn’t wanted… why are you being so difficult?”
I coed my head to the side. “I am not being difficult, I didn’t say that to offend you…”
He groaned. “But it makes me sound like a narcissist asshole”
I shook my head. “No it doesn’t.”
“I didn’t do this to show that I can fix a house I just wanted to give you a nice impression and whatnot have a guest in my house but now it seems that I do what America says I do…”
“Alfred has never said you know how to fix a house.” I tried to sound serious but ended up snickering at the end.
I could tell he was frustrated when he talked. “That is not what I meant.”
“So you wanted to impress me?” and when I thought he couldn’t get more embarrassed I saw how he was avoiding my gaze and probably blushing even more.
“I… No, ugh stop embarrassing me…” and just as he has done since he was a child, he was hiding his face in his scarf, I couldn’t help but laugh at that, it is true that some things never change.
I patted him on the back and sighed. “Ok, show me your kitchen, I want to make lunch before we get angry or hungry.”
He finally looked at me. “I didn’t bring you here so you would end up cocking for me in my house.”
“And I didn’t come here to be useless, I am making lunch and you cannot stop me from doing it.” I headed to where I thought the kitchen would be.
He sighed. “I guess I can’t but at least let me help.”
I nodded, perhaps this wasn’t such a bad idea.
Chapter 9: Cake
There was a hurried knocking on the door.
After cooking those home nurtured potatoes in order to make a salad, the rest of the day came by flying. I am currently watching a movie about cosmonauts I must admit it is really interesting, Ivan seems to be more focused on the screen than in the constant sound coming from the door.
I have to call Mei to make sure I have spare clothes this week and to keep them from calling the police and telling them that they had lost their grandfather like they did the last time. Those two really need to respect me more but I suppose it is my fault they act the way they do.
My thoughts are harshly interrupted by the knocking sound on the door again, this time the sound is harder, like someone is trying to punish the poor door for being closed.
I stare at Ivan, he seems tense but is ignoring the sound, isn’t he going to see who it is?
After some seconds he sighs and stands up. “Whoever it is it seems like he’s in a hurry”
I just nod.
He is opening the door when I hear a knock, this time on the window, I can see Alfred waving his hand at me and smiling widely. What is he doing here?
Ivan comes back with Latvia, the boy seems nervous and is holding a box where I suppose is the cake Ivan treaded me with before.
Should I tell them Alfred is outside? I turn to the window but he is no longer there. Am I seeing things?
I shook my head and turn my attention to them I can’t see them, they must be in the Kitchen but I can hear them anyways.
“Thank you Ravis, what took you so long?” Ivan’s voice is soft, I know he is trying to soothe the poor boys nerves.
“I… I was waiting in the house… the other house Mr. Russia…” Ravis voice is shaking, I can’t help but feel bad for him, he doesn’t seem to understand that he is not in danger anymore, I can’t blame him though, even I know it would be stupid to trust in Ivan’s calm behavior but Ravis seems to be over reacting right now.
I walked to the kitchen too, a piece of cake doesn’t sound bad at all.
Ravis is quick to notice me. “Good afternoon Mr. China.”
I smile at him. “Good afternoon Latvia. How are you?”
He seems relieved and gets near me taking hurried steps. “I am doing well except for the fact that I got lost when I was coming here and I came way later than expected- he takes a look at Russia and raises his right hand -but the cake is safe I promise.”
I laugh a bit, this boy is really helpless. “How is Lithuania doing? He sent the cake didn’t he?”
Ravis nodded. “He is very well, Feliks visits him a lot which is a bit annoying if you ask me because they share so much history and tend to center the conversation around them that I can’t intervene much and I end up regretting visiting Toris but I know he doesn’t mean it, it’s just they are closer friends. Just like you and Mr. Russia, or America.”
Ivan inquires. “America?”
Latvia seems shocked, like he had forgotten Russia was present too. “Yeah… because you three are part of the allies… or were? And you talk to each other a lot nowadays…and you visit each other too…”-Latvia starts shaking again- “like what China is doing now, or America… he visits too… not here but the other house…”-he shakes his head and looks at me- “I mean… no… I… he…”-the boy turns to the kitchen counter and points at the served cake- “that cake looks really tasty can I have some?” -Then he looks at Ivan- please?”
I can see Ivan glaring at the boy, he sighs and then motions to the cake “Sure, take as much as you want.”
Ravis takes a piece of the cake and then hurries to the living room.
I stare at Ivan for a moment until he finally talks. “Don’t give me that look, I haven’t done anything.”
I raise an eyebrow “I was just going to ask for my piece of cake, you cannot tell me of the wonders of Lithuania’s cuisine and forbid me from experiencing it myself.”
He laughs and proceeds to give me a slice, we go the living room too and Ravis seems to be hyper focused on the screen or maybe he is just avoiding Ivan’s stare.
When we all finish I hear a soft knocking in the window, I turn to see Alfred again, he is making a sad face and pointing at his mouth, if this is real then it means he wants to eat too, what am I supposed to do? Ask for another piece of cake and throw it out of the window? I must be hallucinating but why? I shook my head and focus on the movie again.
Ivan stands up for a second then he goes to open the door. “I know you are there Alfred, come here already.”
I can hear the window again and before I can turn to see, Ravis is apologizing “I’m sorry really, but he was in the house when I got there and he wouldn’t let me alone and he stared following me and questioning me and I had no choice but to bring him here…”
It’s good to know that I am not hallucinating but all this is unsettling.
I hear Alfred’s voice and his steps inside the house. “Good afternoon Ivan, I came here to ask for a piece of that cake, you can’t refuse since you decided to steal bacon from me the last time I saw you.”
Ivan sighed and nodded. “Seems fair.”
I can only wonder what is happening here.
Chapter 10: Tea Time
I have never seen anything like this.
I am currently in the same room with Russia and America (plus Latvia) and they are not fighting or bickering with each other, I cannot believe they are behaving like adults for once.
Or maybe children who are too enticed by a movie that they ignore everything around them.
If this keeps on happening my life will change for the better. I can imagine it, future meetings where we actually achieve something, not having to arbitrate stupid games of power, only bothering in keeping England and France off of their necks or just leaving Germany to do that. Yeah, it sounds really good, I could get used to that.
But just as the movie finishes and Alfred takes the last bite of cake, reality hits me like a ton of bricks, this peaceful moment is due to the informal air of this situation, right now they are not being America and Russia, they are Alfred and Ivan, this is not a meeting, they are not discussing political issues, this some kind of “short vacation” and when we all come back to our duties it will be the same as always.
Just as if Alfred was reading my thoughts he placed his hand on my shoulder with an apologetic expression on his face.
Maybe he understands my concerns, maybe he knows how much it troubles me to seek for harmony in the chaotic dynamic the three of us have.
“I know what you are thinking Yao.” Alfred says, showing me that bright smile of his, and I understand, in a matter of seconds that he doesn’t, that what he is about to say has nothing in common with what I am thinking, and I feel frustrated.
“This movie was good but it isn’t nearly as good as the one’s they do in my country.” He says that loudly, as if to make sure that we all hear what he says. But I know better, we all know better, that he only wants Russia to hear or perhaps he only says that because of him.
I could swear that the room has turned a few degrees colder.
I turn my head to see Ravis’ pale face and behind him Ivan is frowning, he says nothing, stands up and takes the plate from Alfred’s hands and holds his gaze. His expression serious while he goes to the kitchen.
I feel annoyed, if only Alfred wasn’t so prideful of his people’s deeds this moment would have lasted longer.
Alfred shakes my shoulder smiling warmly. “Tell me, why the long face? Didn’t you enjoy your date with Russia?”
I furrowed my eyebrows. “Excuse me?”
He tilted his head to the side. “I said didn’t you enjoy your day with Russia? It’s ok I am not jealous or anything I just want to know how it went.”
His voice makes me think that he is mocking me but his demeanor is relaxed, it’s weird how he manages to mix those two perceptions in a single moment.
I reply hesitantly. “I don’t understand you Alfred… why would you be jealous?”
He laughed. “Oh well it is completely normal to go out with friends but one has to be careful and spend time with each equally. Just like with family, one cannot have favorites, am I right?”
“You are not making sense.” I turn to Ravis, maybe he has some sensible things to say.
The boy stands up quickly. “I must go to my house already, it is getting late and I promised Estonia to help him with some things, tell Mr. Russia I left.” And just as he said that he turned on his heel and went out of the house.
Well thank you a lot Latvia, doesn’t this kid know how to read the atmosphere? Maybe he knows and that’s why he is leaving. I can’t blame him.
“Yao, why are you here?” Alfred questions.
I shrugged. “Ivan invited me… why are you here Alfred, and why were you playing to be a ghost in the window?”
He looks away. “I was not doing that, it’s just… well I thought Russia was going to be in his house, the old one, and I wanted to annoy him a bit as a revenge for stealing food from me…-Alfred smiles at me and looks down -about the window well I thought it would be funny to scare you all a bit but you caught me and I panicked and that’s why I waved and Latvia knew about it and he kept on looking at the windows until Russia noticed so yeah he kind of ruined my plan.”
I narrow my eyes. “I see…”
He stares at his hands. “Yeah… why did he bring you here? I didn’t know he had a spare house if that’s what you can call this.”
I shook my head. “He said it was a dacha so I guess it’s just for the summer but I didn’t know it either.”
He stares intently and whispers. “You think he is finally getting rid of that big old house?”
I frowned. “I don’t think so he said it was part of his history”
Alfred furrows his eyebrows. “I don’t understand him… why would you keep something that constantly reminds you of a horrible past?”
I sigh. “Not everything was horrible… perhaps it is due to the good memories it inspires him…”
He shakes his head. “Well most of you have bad memories of it… did you know that Prussia refuses to enter that house? I don’t know what happened there but it must have been pretty ugly if he wants to avoid it so much… When was the last time you were there?”
I lie. “I… I don’t know…”
He leans on the coach. “Tell me, I know you have a good memory.”
My reply comes out weakly than I expect. “1956”
He coed his head to the side. “I though you would say something like last week or some months ago, aren’t you on constant meetings? Because you are strategic allies…”
I narrowed my eyes. “Nice try Alfred, I cannot give you that information.”
His eyes widened. “Oh right, secrets of state…- He laughed weakly- Anyways, this place is really nice, is peaceful, I can even feel I am breathing a cleaner air and with you here it won’t end up with my murder scene.”
I laughed. “I am sure that if you really tried to be polite to him you wouldn’t get in fights that often.”
He took off his glasses. “I know but I have this habit of annoying him with my sole presence and well… things are difficult… and between you and I, I get frustrated by the closeness of you both… because you have known each other for a longer time and well…- he looked down- I am a bit touchy about the attention I get from others… especially from the two of you…”
It seems that Alfred is talkative today, maybe he is actually listening too. “I know it doesn’t seem like it but you have a lot of things in common with Russia. When was the last time you had a nonpolitical related conversation with him?”
Alfred laughed sheepishly. “We do that all the time… we were talking about the movie just now…”
I frowned. “I wouldn’t call that a conversation, you were berating the work of his people, that wasn’t very nice of you… Why are you always hostile with him?”
His smile faded. “He isn’t very welcoming either… -he put on his glasses again and met my gaze- but it is part of the fun… it’s like England and France, they fight a lot but they are still friends… not that Ivan is my best friend but I wouldn’t mind hanging around if my government let me. ”
Whoa I call this progress, I never thought Alfred would say something like that. If only he could say that in front of Ivan…
Think about the devil and he will be summoned.
Ivan comes back from the kitchen with a tray and some teacups and Alfred stands up.
The tray is placed in the little table in front of us, I focus in the steam leaving the cups while Alfred shifts from one foot to another.
Finally the silence is broken by Ivan. “Where is Ravis?”
“He left, said something about helping Estonia.” Alfred declares, he sits again and Ivan does so too then the American tries to take a teacup but retrieves his hand as soon as he touches it. “Ugh, it’s too hot. Anyways I left my suitcase in that old house of yours and since Ravis left I need someone to show me the way back as well as to open the door so...”
Ivan nodded. “Fine. We’ll go there after we drink some tea, it gets colder at night and if you get a cold I’ll be blamed for that.”
I look up, he said we, I hope it refers to them because I don’t really have to go there…
Alfred takes the teacup again, this time he sips on the tea. I can see him trying to hide his expressions, the tea must be bitter or not sweet enough for him… he looks at Ivan and talks with a soft voice “Uhh… Russia do you have sugar? I am not used to drinking tea…”
Ivan smiles and replies annoyed pointing at the tray. “That’s what the honey is for…”
I take my cup as well and taste the tea, Alfred was right when he said the hostility was coming from both of them… this silence is horrible so I try to start a conversation. “How is that you are not used to drinking tea if you lived with England?”
Alfred snickered. “Well, that is one of the few things he can’t mess up in the kitchen… but I never really enjoyed it… I did threw it in the sea after all didn’t I?”
“Such a waste…” Ivan scoffed.
I took a sip of my tea. “You cannot deny that it was a good symbolic act of rebellion and the economical loses for England were dreadful. If someone should appreciate the start of a revolution it should be you… or France. You both did help him right?”
Alfred laughed loudly “you just got lectured with history Ivan”
Ivan only stared at me, then he started laughing too.
Alfred was talking hastily. “Yao unofficially speaking I have to say that even when I do not agree with your government system, you have a unique way of doing things, I would have never guessed that you two would fight over ideological differences.”
Silence engulfed us again, I focused on my tea.
Alfred was the one to speak again. “I’m sorry, bad topic… I didn’t realize you two were still touchy about that…”
Now that I think about it, we never talk about that but I am not planning on doing that right now and I am sure Ivan isn’t either.
“I would have never guessed that either” Ivan voice was merely a whisper but I am sure that Alfred hear it too.
Of course he wouldn’t have guessed, he wanted to apply the same system he used in his country but we knew it would fail in mine.
Ok I have to calm down, this is a different time and I don’t want to argue with him right now.
We all kept silence until we finished the tea, Alfred was pacing around the living room questioning about the paintings but Ivan was answering in monosyllables: yes, no, gift, sure and so on.
I was sure that he would keep on doing that for the rest of the day or night? Until he finally stood up. “Let’s go for your suitcase, I think we should stay there for the night, the house is bigger anyways.”
What? No, why? Is he mad at me? Is he doing this on purpose?
“It’s fine by me.” Alfred replied.
From all the possible times to side together why do they do it on this one?
Chapter 11: A game.
I feel like I am going to die.
Not literally but I wouldn’t mind having a stroke or a heart attack right now.
Ivan decided that it was early enough as to walk a short length and then take a cab to his house, naturally I agreed if it meant to delay our way to that horrendous house while Alfred only complained about the lack of choices Ivan was giving us, I admit he was right, the walk wasn’t a suggestion it was practically an order because neither Alfred nor me could give any other options.
Apparently on my way here I was so enticed in my own thoughts that I didn’t realize how long the road had been, so now that we have been walking for around twenty minutes and I see no signs of a city entrance, I am regretting the support I gave to this idea.
My heartbeat is frantic and my hands are sweaty but I am surprisingly cold, maybe I am indeed dying of exhaustion, yes, it is obviously that and not the fact that I am panicking.
Ivan must be mad and this is his way of taking revenge on us. A bit childish, taking into account that he is walking with us too but it is still mischievous. I can hear Alfred’s hurried breathing behind me and I am already feeling tired. I should have listened to Hong Kong and joined him in his morning jogs.
Now that I think about it, when I had to stay in Ivan’s house during his soviet days I remember him going out for walks when Prussia or Poland had managed to infuriate him, maybe this is not revenge but his way of calming down. I am not sure if I should be relived or alarmed with that in mind.
Alfred’s attempts at hiding his breathless self behind a façade of stubbornness failed when he tried to talk without panting. “Dude… if this is some kind of joke it’s not funny… I don’t want to be all sweaty in the backseat of a taxi with the two of you at each of my sides… so I hope you didn’t lie when you said it was a short walk.”
Ivan snickers. “We are almost there.”
Alfred panted, stopping in his tracks. “For real? Or is it just something you say so I stop complaining?”
Ivan stopped too, turning to look at Alfred and replied calmly. “Yes Alfred I am lying because being with you in the backseat of a cab makes part of my fantasies.”
Alfred stared at him for some seconds before exploding in laughter.
Ivan looked at me in confusion. Then he looked at Alfred who was cracking with laughter, he shook his head and started walking.
Alfred put his hand on my shoulder and with a shaky voice said. “Yao, admit that it sounded dirty.”
I heard Ivan groan as he started walking faster.
I laughed “It did.”
Ivan turned looking indignantly at us and whined. “How old are you? Thirteen years old? Stop being so childish and walk faster.”
Alfred teased. “Oh no, I am not walking beside you, I don’t want to know any more of the fantasies you have.” -The American side hugged me- “Lead the way, I must protect Yao from your perverse or should I say perverted plans?”
Ivan stopped and turned to him smiling. “Pretty funny Alfred, why don’t you go bother someone else? I don’t remember inviting you into my house.”
I could feel Alfred’s hold getting tighter in fact he was hugging me now. “I don’t remember giving you permission to empty my fridge either but you still did.”
They were sending each other death glares, the tension was so thick that it was unbearable to be the one between them. Actually, the tension was real because Alfred was holding me so tight that I was having a bit of trouble breathing.
I raised my voice a bit to make him realize what he was doing. “I don’t remember allowing you to touch me so stop that Alfred.”
Alfred’s hold weakened but he didn’t retrieved his hands. He muttered an apology but kept on holding his gaze with Ivan, who was smirking at him.
Ivan’s voice was so harsh that I accidentally flinched. “You heard him Alfred, he doesn’t want you to touch him.”
Alfred narrowed his eyes but let go of me.
I wasn’t sure of what to do now, walking beside any of them was not really appealing for me, after all, this was way too similar with what they used to do in the past, except this time they were bickering over some stupid thing and not about which one would get more land or as they used to call it “territories of influence”.
I can picture myself in the office of that old house, hearing Ivan complain about me not making the necessary effort to overcome the conflict or Alfred lecturing me about the aid he was providing to the government and how I didn’t seem convinced of the soviet threat.
I sighed, I can let my mind wander there, and it is enough being with these two in the same place for so long.
I decide to ignore them and walk alone, apparently Ivan wasn’t lying, after all some city lights are visible from here.
I can hear them behind me.
Alfred was trying to whisper but failed horribly, I could understand all of his words. “This is your fault, you used that scary voice of yours and now he is avoiding us.”
Ivan didn’t even tried to whisper, he was reproaching Alfred. “My fault? You were the one crushing him to death.”
Ugh this doesn’t help my nerves, I have to stop paying attention to those idiots and focus on not panicking.
Finally we get to a more populated place and we take a taxi. Ivan goes in the front seat while Alfred is with me in the back, I avoid his gaze.
We get there faster than what I wanted, I see the façade of the house and my hands tremble. All these years and that house hasn’t changed at all.
It is obviously repaired since the last time I saw it, it is no longer falling apart but nevertheless conserves the gloomy air it had.
When we step outside the air is chilling, and I feel like my senses are hyper aware, I can hear the clicking of Ivan’s keys against the lock, Alfred kicks a little stone with his foot and it lands on the fence and I feel the smell of iron coming from the inside.
No, calm down it smells like wood. Pine or maybe cedar.
My posture is so tense that I could be misplaced as a statue.
Alfred’s voice is barely audible for me. “Whoa Yao I didn’t know you could get so pale! Are you scared?”
Why is he so candid? I can feel Ivan’s eyes on me, I focus on the floor, yes that’s a nice little spot of grass. I hear a dog, I have to ask Ivan if he is keen of dogs, like Germany, or Prussia, Prussia? Yes I understand why he doesn’t come here, he has a reason to, but me? I don’t… why am I so scared then? I make no sense, I left before anything could happen, because I could… no, because I had to, he wanted another satellite state because that meant more land and resources and… and why am I thinking about this if I was looking at the ground?
I looked up to see both Alfred and Ivan looking worriedly at me. I have to say something so they don’t notice anymore… but what?
I end up muttering. “This is a really nice grass…”
Alfred coed his head to the side. “What?”
I point at the ground. “Because is soft… and green and… there is a dog… ”
Ivan frowned. “A dog? Yao I don’t have… -he looked at the house and then at me again- oh… I think there is one… but it’s not mine.”
“Is it a black dog?” Alfred inquires.
Ivan is the one to ask. “What?”
Alfred beams. “England had this uh “secret code” when he doesn’t want to talk about something and he refers to it as a black dog… are you talking about that?” he adds the question with a concerned voice.
A black dog? What is he talking about?
I shake my head.
Ivan is furrowing his brows. “Stop making fun of him Alfred, this isn’t funny.”
Alfred approaches me slowly. “Well… You are really pale so… Ivan why don’t you hurry and open that fence as well as the door, Yao must be tired, you made us walk, and don’t you know that he is really old.”
I hear the fence and Ivan’s hurried steps. Oh no, they are going to push me into that house.
Alfred takes my arm and leads me to the entrance, I feel heavier with each step and I can see Ivan opening the door.
I hear Alfred’s voice and I am not sure if he is concerned or if he is mocking me. “Oh my god, you are shaking, it’s ok Yao we are almost there, I know you are old but don’t die on me, let’s get in the house so you can die in peace, and then Ivan can have all the trouble explaining what happened. But seriously don’t die.”
I can barely talk without looking distressed so I try to seem bothered by Alfred’s words. “I am not that old, you asshole.”
Alfred giggles. “I know but you do seem like you are dying.”
I can’t help but snap at him. “I might be, stop pushing me into that house!” I brush off his hands of my arm and start walking towards the door by myself.
Maybe I can do it after all. I turn to see Ivan’s concerned face he runs to me a takes me by the arm just as Alfred did before.
“Stop touching me!” I don’t want to be mean but my legs are weaker now, this is worse than having Alfred by my side. I am feeling a bit dizzy maybe walking so much was a bad idea.
“But…” he tries to retort but I interrupt him.
“No, I do not want any of you near me…” I try to kneel and reach the floor but I can’t because he keeps on holding me.
“Yao…” It’s Alfred this time but he stops and keeps silent.
I finally reach the floor with my hands, it is hard but surprisingly not so cold, it seems like wood… wait wood?
I open my eyes, how long have I closed them? I realized I haven’t entered the house but I am at the steps of it.
I look at them confused, I must look so pathetic.
Ivan’s voice was soft. “You are just a short distance from the door, could you enter?”
I shake my head. “No”
He sighs. “Then I’ll go get you a glass of water”
I see him entering the house and I feel guilty, this isn’t his fault, well not exactly, not now but I realize that I am still scared of him and that sooner or later I’ll have to talk about this.
I look at Alfred, he shrugs and seats on the floor next to me. “Yao I don’t blame you, this wood smells really good… how are you feeling?”
Pathetic, embarrassed, overwhelmed. At this point I don’t know anymore, I just avoid making eye contact with him and ignore his question.
I hear Alfred sigh. “You almost pass out… but be happy, you didn’t… Now you can tell Prussia that you came here.”
He is right, the wood smells good, it is different too, in fact it seems like it has been polished recently, being this close I can see that the house looks different from what I remember, I turn to look at Alfred and question him. “Why would I do that?”
He knocks on the floor with his right hand. “Because I know that your problem is this house. Maybe it wasn’t the black dog that England talked about, but it was indeed another black dog, I dare to say that it was fear, I noticed Yao, you were scared. The question is why?”
I shrug “I… I don’t know…”
Ivan comes back and give me the glass with water, I am not really thirsty but I still drank it.
“I am really sorry, I already knew that you were avoiding coming here and made him bring us on purpose, I never thought you would react so badly…” Alfred admits, my eyes widen at his words
“On purpose?” I echoed.
“Yeah… ” he says sheepishly.
I was about to ask why but Ivan interrupted him. “You were sabotaging me!”
Alfred denied childishly. “I was not.”
I could tell the Russian was beyond frustrated. “Why do you make rules if you don’t follow them yourself?”
Oh right, they are playing their game, I almost pass out because they are playing a stupid game. I feel the urge to punch them both but I just stood up and started walking, away from those idiots and that stupid house and his stupid games.
A game, all of this is just a game.
I stop and turn to look at them, perhaps I should start playing too.
Chapter 12: Playing
A game, all of this is a game. A stupid and complicated game.
I knew it since the beginning but I’ve refused to believe it.
Nothing has changed.
They want to play? Fine.
No more oblivious attitude, the game is not funny if they are losing. They cannot side together for a long time and I am relying on that.
“Wait. Yao I’m sorry…” Alfred wailed, he is playing the little child card with me isn’t he?
“Yao you almost pass out just a few minutes ago, you shouldn’t be walking around.” Ivan, compelling as usual.
I replied sharply. “I want to get back home.”
Ivan shifted from one foot to another, his voice cautious. “Uh… I think that is not possible right now.”
I stared at him intently and grinned. “Why not? You won’t allow me to?”
Ivan seems startled and avoids my gaze.
Alfred was the one to answer. “Whoa calm down, what he means is that it’s kind of late and well… how are you supposed to get to China at this hour?”
Of course he’ll help him, their game would be ruined if I leave.
I don’t even have to think much about my words, I want him to know I am upset. “I don’t know and I don’t care, I am really tired of putting up with you two, I better leave so you can settle your affairs privately while I am at home as I should be, coming here was a mistake.”
They stare at me in silence perhaps it was too harsh but I am not backing up in this, right now silence is a good sign, it means they are thinking how to retort, just like with everything control is the key and they do not have it in this situation.
I turn my back on them and start walking, not giving them time to think what to say, perhaps this will end if I leave, after all what is a play without an audience.
“You think I want to put up with him? I didn’t invite him.” Ivan is distressed he has raised his voice a bit, his facade of patience is cracking and as expected I am not the only target of his outburst.
I just ignore him.
Alfred whines- “Hey I tried to tell you I’d come beforehand but you didn’t answer your phone because you weren’t in that hideous house of yours.” -His voice raising to stress the last part of his statement. He took it personally, this is not going to end well.
I turn to see Ivan frowning at Alfred’s words. “What’s your problem with my house?”
Alfred sneers pointing at him. “I told you to get rid of this house but you didn’t, you didn’t because you can’t let go of your expansionist fantasies.”
“I was not asking you at the time America besides why should I listen to your ideas? they are always either stupid or horrendous” Ivan is tense.
They are practically shouting at each other now, the noise their voices make is melting with that little voice in my head that tells me to run away from this.
This is wrong, there is too much noise in here and I can only gawk at their display of offenses.
Alfred growls. “Yeah but at least my ideas don’t give people panic attacks.”
Ivan is about to retort but stops and turns to look at me, Alfred does so too.
I have to remember, control is the key to get out of this unharmed but I wonder if that’s even possible at this point.
I replied annoyed. “See? This is what I am talking about, you fight with each other and expect me to support you both, I do not have to take any sides in this, this is your problem not mine. Just drive me to the airport and let me be at peace in my house.”
“But you do have to take part, this is your problem too.” Ivan’s voice is dangerously sharp I can’t help but flinch at the sound of it.
I took some steps back and question him. “Why?”
“Because he is implying that you are afraid of me, of entering my house.” His tone is lower but is obviously frustrated, he takes some steps towards me.
My hands tremble and that stupid voice keeps on telling me to run, I finally utter two words confirming what he just said. “I am.”
Alfred beams with childish excitement. “I told you Russia.”
Ivan keeps approaching, his height towering over me as it always does but this time is frightening, it shouldn’t because his voice is not angry, is hurt. “Why are you scared?”
“I… I don´t really want to talk about this right now… please.” Avoiding his gaze is the only thing I can do, I am not even moving it’s like I have been glued to the floor.
He takes me by the shoulders roughly and asks again, this time I do hear anger. “Why?”
A whisper is all I can manage. “I… don’t know…”
Alfred gets near, his voice is firm but soothing. “Ivan, leave him alone you are only scaring him…”
Ivan’s hold tightens, and he growls at him. “No, I have been patient enough with you America, this isn’t your business and if you keep on interfering like that I will report you to my government, let’s see how you explain your sudden trip here.”
Alfred’s face paled and he took a step back. “At least stop holding him like that…”
Ivan’s face softened, his voice was pleading but his hold was still tight. “Why are you so scared?”
The American cautioned. “You ask him why, look at this, you are threatening not only him but me, this is really unsettling Russia…”
“What did I do to you?” I know he is not trying to be menacing, his face tells me that he is frustrated, sad and even desperate but I can’t shut that voice inside my head telling me that in a matter of seconds he will snap.
“I’ll rot in here.”
His hold weakens, I see confusion and then realization in his face, so he does remember.
Chapter 13: Memories
I tend to talk to myself a lot, not because I am alone but because somehow even though there is a lot of people around, there is no other way to ponder these thoughts if I want to keep them secret.
I have a lot of secrets, I suppose everyone does but being a country means you have to hide certain aspects of yourself, such as the negative feelings that you may have as well as the feelings that are not necessary negative but place you in a weak position such as love and compassion.
I like to think that these two are deeply rooted into the human heart but due to certain events, such as wars, we tend to push them away to favor the current flow of history. It may be weird but I believe that all of us, as the representation of our countries, have to play an exhausting game in where we act as shells of the national interests while deep down we know there is more than that within us.
Sadly for myself, this way of thinking is troubling because it implies that all the wrong I have done and that has been done to me in order to maintain the national interests, was in a way caused by omission or an inner desire to hurt others. I may be overthinking, however these last years of being attacked by whom I considered my brother, of having to side with those who had attacked me in my weakest days and now cohabiting with this “friend” of mine has shown me that no matter how hard I try to deny it, perhaps we are just cruel creatures filled with egoist desires.
Egoism is in fact the core of my problem right now, egoism that comes from me since I haven’t been able to distance myself well enough from him and now I am dependent on his approval to leave, and egoism that comes from him since he evades the topic and confuses me as to why he doesn’t want me to leave, if is it personal or political preference I cannot tell.
The issue right now is that I should already be back in China, until now, I have managed to give excuses for my permanence here but I’ve run out of ideas and out of reasons to stay here. That last part is questionable but I am no longer able to tolerate long lectures about how everything in China is poorly done just for the sake of talking to him. What troubles me the most is that every time I have tried to leave, the conversation shifts to a personal level, my will ends up wavering and I let him convince me of staying more time.
This office is my least favorite part of the house, once you enter here you either go out with an order or a punishment.
I consider myself lucky for now because I haven’t been the target of his anger, in fact it has been quite the opposite since the whole communist ally’s reputation seems to help us both. It is certain that my welcome here is questionable once I start disobeying him but I’ve got no choice if I want to keep my sovereignty intact.
I just hope he doesn’t take this personally because even though his authoritarian behavior towards me enrages me to my very core, I have to admit that I have grown attached to his persona. Not the Soviet Union but Ivan himself, once you get pass through the layers of the calculative asshole he is actually a nice person, is a shame he doesn’t lower his guard more often around Hungary, Poland or Prussia, I am sure that they could get along somehow.
I sigh, that is none of my business and I cannot solve his problems even less if he doesn’t acknowledge it as a problem. I have to focus on this, I cannot let him convince otherwise again.
I finally manage to collect my courage and knock on the door.
The floor creaks with every step he takes until the door is pushed open by a gloved hand.
“What happened comrade? Is my sister threatening you again?” He seems surprised but I know he was expecting me to come.
I shook my head. “I need to talk with you.”
“As in you talking as a... uh… friend and not as the People’s Republic of China?” He is trying to prepare for what I am going to say, figuring what demeanor he has to acquire.
I shift from one foot to another. “Not exactly but I am not talking from an official order either, it does have to do with a formal issue though.”
He frowns but returns to his usual ever present smile. “Oh, I see comrade, come in. I will listen.”
I stepped inside, the desk is full of papers and files, the curtains are closed even though it is still early, it smells like coffee and smoke, in few words it is a total mess, if Prussia could see this he’d probably have a crisis.
I stayed up in front of the desk while he hurried to open the window. He let out a shaky laugh and said. “I am sorry, you know this is normally tidy but there is a lot going on right now due to the reforms and I am really busy these days.”
I nodded, I better get to the point. “What am I doing here Ivan?”
I should have probably worded that better.
He coed his head to the side. “Well that is a though question for me since I do not know what you were thinking when you came.” He motioned to the seat in front of the desk.
I shook my head and sat. “That’s not what I meant…”
“Then what are you asking comrade?” he stayed next to the desk leaning a bit on it. Smiling, looking down at me.
Feeling like a child being patiently scolded, I hold my gaze and ask. “If we are allies why can’t I get a hold of my affairs in my mainland?”
He shrugs. “But you can do that Yao, I am not forcing you to stay here anyhow you agreed with me that this was way easier than keeping contact through letters.”
I lower my gaze. “I did but it had sense before, right now I am just wasting time. Why do you insist on keeping me here?”
He takes some papers from the desk and replies tiredly. “The real question is what are you doing? What is bothering you? I cannot imagine that you are upset over such a stupid thing as this.”
I frown. “Is not stupid, I have to be in China.”
He leaves the papers in the desk again and sighs. “They are doing just fine without you there, there is no need for you to go, do you want to leave already? Have I given you a bad treatment in my house?”
“I am leaving of course because this is not my house and I don’t see why I should stay here anymore as you said I am a guest in here and that means I will not stay forever.” I reply calmly.
Knitting his eyebrows together he retorted with a stern voice. “You are not only a guest, we are allies and your house is my house as well as the opposite.”
“In that case why can’t I leave, my door will be open if you want to visit.” I try to reason with him but that tone infuriates me, how dare he speak like that to me? He is just a child compared to what I’ve lived.
Ivan doesn’t seem to notice my temper because the tone shifts to one of condescendence. “This is better, we have constant meetings and the others are here as well.” He starts pacing around, I suppose he is thinking on an excuse now.
I laugh and stand up. “Constant meetings? They are more like a scolding…”
He stops pacing, and replies annoyed. “Why do you say so? Everyone can participate in the meetings, it is not my fault that the others are not as enthusiast as I am, besides no one is complaining.”
I rolled my eyes at that. Yeah sure, because you’d punish them if they say otherwise.
I sigh, I am not going to argue, is better to convince him. “I really appreciate your hospitality but I think I have been staying long enough, and I don’t want to impose myself in here.”
His expression softens and he approaches me placing his hand on my shoulder. “You are not imposing Yao, I really like having you here.”
I arched my brow. “Are you serious?”
He nods intently. “Of course I am serious, I cannot talk with the others as I talk to you, they do not offer such a pleasant conversation and Prussia’s feisty behavior gets tiring after a while.”
I must admit I am a bit touched by those words but I cannot change my mind. “Still I better get back again, I received the order to do so about three days ago I cannot delay that any longer.”
He smiles and insists. “I am sure that if you refuse and I send the request, they can considerate the idea of extending your stay in here.”
I shake my head. “I… I don’t think that will work…”
He whines and it reminds me of when he was a child. “But Yao I will die of sadness if you leave me alone in this house.”
I reply firmly. “You are not alone, there is like eight more people here.”
“Yeah but they do not want to be here and I cannot be this close to my sisters… they do not understand the situation as you do.”
I look at him perplexed I was not expecting this reaction.
He pushes me back to the seat. “If your leader sent a request three days ago and hasn’t sent anyone to bring you back to China it can’t be that important, stay a week more and if you still want to leave I will personally take you there.”
“A week more?” I ask confused.
He beams happily. “Then that’s it, you’ll stay here and I’ll tell them you refused, don’t you think we should start discussing the prospect of uniting not only our efforts against the enemy but also unifying our houses into one, that would show everyone that our cooperation is stronger, yes I will talk to them and…-
“Wait, I haven’t agreed to that… I cannot agree to that.” I interrupt him, I am sure that panic is written all over my face.
“Oh my dear Yao, it doesn’t matter because eventually you all will be one with Russia, it is just a matter of time, stop denying the inevitable.” The confidence with which he says that disturbs me.
What is he talking about?
I stand up again and question him. “What does that even mean?”
I look at him concerned and he side hugs me dismissing with his other hand. “Oh don’t think too much about it, it’s a joke, you like this house don’t you?”
I mutter. “I… it is a nice place I guess… but-“
He interrupts me. “-You guess? Yao you have to be sure because this will be your home for a long time and I want you to love this place as much as I do, that’s what they have yet to understand too, you are the cleverest of them because you have found something in here that you like, don’t think I haven’t noticed, I did, but in order to accomplish the trust required for it I need you to show me that you are worth it and for that well... you have to change some things…”
I echoed. “Change some things?”
“Yes comrade, this whole revolution thing I know is tiring and that after it you are trying to build yourself again, but you didn’t have to start from the rubles all over again, I showed you the right path but you somehow managed to uh… modify it, I am not saying it is a bad thing but I think you should slow down a bit on it, at least you could convince your people of letting us help to organize the mess in the government, we made a list of critics that you should read and perhaps apply, it is not healthy to have a single figure representing the power… believe me I know… but I assure that even though your case is worse than mine everything can be fixed if you let us-“
“-I will not do such thing.” My voice is harsh, I cannot believe he is doing this, what does he think I am? A dog trying to win a reward?
“Why not? I am just trying to help you, that’s all dear Yao.” The condescending tone returns.
I shove him away. “You promised to stay out of my political affairs…”
Ivan frowns. “And I am otherwise I would have already forced you into accepting.”
“Do I have to thank you for that as well?” I sneer back.
He shakes his head. “You are misunderstanding my words comrade.”
I look at him intently, it is enough of me being patient. “No, I came here to tell you that I am leaving and I will.”
“Yes you will but you have to understand that I only want the best for you.” He takes some steps towards me.
“Alright I understand but I want to stay in my house, with my people, in my country.” He is way too close so I step back.
“You are still too weak and naïve to do this on your own. You need my help.” His voice is calm but I know better, this is a reminder of his position as a super power. He is talking as the Soviet Union.
I frown and hold his gaze. “I think I have more experience in life than you do and even though your advice is gladly appreciated, right now is not really useful, your government has taken another path, one I am not willing to take and you have to understand that.”
He stares at me in silence for a moment before smiling and turning his back on me. “If this is how you are going to behave… fine, go away but forget about my help, Japan was right when he said you were useless.”
I felt my blood boil how dare he utter those words against me, he doesn’t even have half of my age and disrespects me like this?
He leaned close and took my wrist. “Oh excuse me dearest Yao, did you expect me to beg you not to leave? I can see right through you, I give you a bit of kindness and you melt in my hands.” That condescending tone he is using annoys me even more and I realize this might be Ivan talking.
I snatched my hand and glared at him. Breathe, this is what he wants if I attack him in any way he will have the authority to attack me back.
He snickered. “You think I don’t know your plans? You will go to Alfred and plead for his help just like the others would, I thought you were different but you are even worse than them at least they tell me in my face that they do not like me.”
I don’t want to believe it but it is in fact Ivan treating me this way or maybe there is no difference.
“Oh but you do don’t you?”
I look up at him confused not understanding his question.
“You like me don’t you Yao?”
I just stare at him and he laughs, he is paler than usual he must be sick, or maybe he already was but I didn’t realized it until now. I avert my gaze from him, I feel wounded but mostly uneasy with his laugh.
I stand up and he does so too stopping his laugh abruptly. I don’t want to turn my back on him, in this moment who knows what he’ll do.
He approaches me slowly. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean that.”
I see his hands trembling and I take a step towards him but before I am even finished with it he shoves me to the door.
He smiles widely “As I said, still too weak. I might just take you as my pet.”
All I can think about is running the hell out of there, I manage to shove him back and open the door rushing hastily down the hallway.
Dashing down the stairs I hear his apologetic words. “No, wait, Yao I am sorry. Please… ”
It’s a trap, it has to be, I have to go out.
I pass by an astonished Lithuania who flinches when he hears Russia’s wrathful voice and heavy steps going down. “COME BACK IN HERE I DID NOT ALLOW YOU TO LEAVE.”
Prussia’s pale face and scornful smile while he opens the front door is all I barely glimpse at, I can’t even thank him, Russia’s steps are dangerously close and I just keep on running not daring to look back.
“Stop Yao, it’s too cold outside and you don’t have a coat, you can’t go far.” The Russian asserts.
I know he is right I don’t have a plan for this, I have no idea of how to return to China but something tells me that if I stop I will regret it.
I end up jumping out of the fence instead of just opening it like a normal person would, realizing my mistake when my feet touch the ground full of snow, after trudging some more, my mind is able to grasp on the fact that I don’t hear Russia behind me anymore, I stop and look back.
Ivan is on the other side of the fence glaring at me. “Come back, it’s too cold.”
Out of breath, all I manage is to shake my head.
Somehow, he succeeded on looking beyond furious and his voice is now hoarse. “You useless traitor, how dare you abandon me after all the aid I gave you.”
It physically hurts me to hear those words but I have to remember, I cannot let myself feel guilty for I am doing the best for my country or at least I hope so.
The chilling air takes me out of my thoughts, I have to force myself to turn my back and start walking again, it was a bad idea to stop.
As I step forward I hear him again but I do not glance back. “Remember my words, when I drag you back in here you will not get out anymore, I will not allow you to, so you better stay away from this house Yao otherwise I’ll lock you up and you’ll rot in here.”
Those words, I cannot help but take it personally, such hate cannot be caused on behold of diplomacy issues, can it? I wonder if all of this will be worth it in the future, if just as myself he is doing all of this for the sake of his people.
I really hope so.
Perhaps this would have been easier if he didn’t remember.
Yes that would have been a better scenario, just a “what are you talking about?” or a confused glace, it would have been easier to explain, to give an excuse, to avoid this topic.
Instead of that he is staring at me, his eyes are wide and he lets go of me quickly, stepping back, fixing his eyes to the ground.
I always hear the others say that Ivan is a harsh person, someone who’s apparently not capable of feeling tender emotions, some have even dared to say that he is not capable of felling anything at all. I’ve always known they are wrong.
Ironically it is quite the opposite of what they say, I think that he is easily overwhelmed by emotions, that’s the core of his problems, since almost everyone assumed that he does not care for others at all, he ends up secluded from amiable companies. Being restricted to business and official interactions with others, he complied with what the others think of him and just as they neglect him from his own ability to feel, he plays the part, putting up a cold façade of distant courtesy.
Now this saves a lot of trouble when it comes to others but sometimes I seem to forget it is just a façade and that’s the reason why I feel guilty of my astonishment when I see him so wounded right now.
Ivan’s voice was strained. “I… why didn’t you tell me?”
I averted my gaze, I do not want to see him like this, I know how hard he’s tried to gain the trust of everyone again.
He kept on talking. “I wouldn’t have….. I… that was more than a decade ago… I won’t do that… I wouldn’t do that to you… not now, maybe then but not now… you understand that, right?”
“Yao, say something.”
I didn’t reply, what could I possibly say? I know that this fear I have is illogical but I can’t refrain from feeling it. I’d like to tell him that there is nothing to be worried about, that everything is forgotten and forgiven but I can’t, it would be a lie.
Alfred’s voice broke the silence. “Hey guys, it is normally amusing to third wheel you but right now I feel a bit confused and uncomfortable”
Ivan turned to him, annoyance showing in his face. “Why can’t you keep your mouth shut?”
Alfred scoffed. “Sorry but not sorry.”
“Stop being so-”
Alfred held his hand towards Ivan shaking his head. “-I’ll stop you there, this day has been enough of an emotional rollercoaster for him and I think we could at least stop bickering for today.”
For someone who constantly ignores the atmosphere in the world meetings, I am surprised by Alfred’s attempt at easing the situation. He is obviously uncomfortable but still tries to maintain his composure.
I replied quietly. “That is really thoughtful of you Alfred”
“Yes, why are you acting that way America?” Ivan inquired furrowing his eyebrows.
I retorted tiredly. “Please…”
Alfred smiled. “Ivan give him a break, go to that… uh… your house, prepare some tea, calm down and then come back here with it.”
I observed Ivan’s expression, he was about to retort instead he sighed and went on his way into the house.
Alfred sighed too and whispered. “Honestly I didn’t think he would do it.”
All this could have been avoided if only I had arrived to my house in China as I was supposed to do so, I brought this upon myself and now I have to deal with an issue I’ve been avoiding for so long. The problem with prolonging discussions is that the more time it passes the more difficult it gets and the more remorseful one feels, letting time pass means that one can reflect on what happened and that incomes in being more aware of the other’s way of thinking.
“Coming here was a mistake.” I end up uttering these words to no one in particular.
Alfred must have thought I said that to him because he places his hand in my shoulder and speaks condescendingly. “Do not say that, I am sure that we can get over this, you two just need to talk. Let’s go to the steps, and sit there.”
A surge of annoyance goes through my mind, this is not my fault, this wouldn’t have happened if Alfred weren’t here, if he hadn’t insisted on bringing his suitcase back, if he hadn’t made Ivan bring us here, I could still be enjoying my stay in here however he had to come for who knows what.
But I know, this is because they are in a stupid game.
I brushed his hand off “I have nothing to talk with any of you, this wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t so enticed by that stupid rivalry you have. You say you’ve changed but you keep on following the same pattern, you are both childish, stubborn and prideful, why can’t you leave me alone? You obviously deserve each other.”
Alfred laughed standing by my side. “Yao, stop playing the innocent. You know very well that Ivan and I have been courting you. I would have been more direct but I know you are not accustomed to that. If you ask me I think the three of us deserve each other.”
My eyes opened in astonishment and I replied hastily. “What are you talking about?”
He took my arm leading me to the steps of the house and started whispering. “You certainly know that Russia doesn’t go to Lithuania’s or Estonia’s houses or that I don’t usually offer guidance around the nice places of my country to anybody.”
I shook my head. “What are you implying? Russia doesn’t go to their houses because they do not allow him to and you have taken Canada and England on trips to Montana. It doesn’t have any sense, that’s what a friend would do.”
He snickered. “Yeah sure, a friend who’s interested in getting closer.”
If I was annoyed before I could say that I was exasperated at this point. “Look I don’t know what gave you the idea but I am sure this is a misunderstanding.”
He tightened his hold on my arm. “Why do you allow Russia to enter your house?”
I frowned at his action if he is going to intimidate me I won’t allow it, this can’t happen twice in the same day. I took a hold of his wrist. “Why wouldn’t I.”
He let go of my arm quickly and whined. “For the same reason you refuse to enter his. You fear what he might do right? The whole become one stuff, it makes you uneasy nevertheless you allow him to be near you, you also avoid my company in your home, why? Are you scared of what he’ll say if he knows that I visit you? ”
What has gotten into him? Why is he so stubborn? “This is nonsense. You’ve never asked to go to my house, and the times you went you invited yourself just as Ivan does.”
Alfred was smiling, but it wasn’t a cheerful carefree smile, it was ugly, mocking me, the mere sight of that smile was annoying me to my very core.
I was not sure if what irritated me the most was his voice or what he said next. “You know very well what we are doing, and you are playing this game with us, no matter how many times you deny it. You are playing, perhaps you should start to think about it.”
I let go of his wrist, the least I need now is to fight with him. “Are you trying to anger me?”
He sighs. “No, I am just stating the obvious since Russia is not capable of doing so and you don’t admit it. I am not being malicious or mean I am just saying the truth.”
I knitted my eyebrows together, this conversation is giving me a headache. “You are not saying the truth, you are just stating what you think and I am sure that you are wrong.”
“Fine- he let out an exasperated sigh-I am wrong and you are right Yao but if you don’t mind me asking for a favor just try to overcome this situation. Honestly, I thought that Ivan was going to cry before I interrupted the silence. I can handle him being mad at me, it’s predictable, he might throw me a punch or two but vulnerability? I hardly ever see that in him and I don’t know how to manage that. It’s not amusing, it’s kind of weird.”
I only blinked at him, his words surprised me.
He sighed and whined. “Don’t do that! You drift away from the situation and it doesn’t help at all.”
Perhaps Alfred is right, I should have faced this fear before, I should have overcome this already. Maybe it’ll be easier now, if Ivan remembers everything then I don’t have to explain because he knows, if we talk about this, there might be a chance to erase the big elephant in the room that shows up every time we speak.
After this is settled I have a lot to think about, especially about what Alfred said, have I been encouraging them in their game?
I Looked up to Alfred and nodded. “Fine.”
Hi everyone, I am really sorry I checked the last chapter I updated and I don’t know what I was thinking back then so I decided to change it. I hope you do not mind but I felt that other was neither good nor coherent. I am sorry if you got to read that, like really what was I thinking????
Chapter 15: Ping Pong
I refused to get closer to that house again.
Just looking at the steps made me feel sick.
Which is why Alfred and I are currently sitting on the floor, right next to the fence.
Silence has engulfed us after Alfred’s attempt at questioning me about what the “I’ll rot in here.” meant.
It might be mean to keep silent but I do not wish to share that with him, if I can’t get myself to talk about it with Ivan, I am not discussing it with Alfred from all people.
I cannot help but wonder if what he said was true, are they trying to approach me that way? Why would they? None of them showed interest before, not even Ivan when I lived in here, why would they do so now?
I sighed. It’s getting late and even though I am wearing a light coat, the coldness of the night is staring to creep on my skin.
I hear footsteps behind me and my heartbeat speeds up.
Alfred turns his head back and beams happily “finally! And you did bring tea, good, it’s starting to get cold, well thought Ivan.”
I did not turn but I can imagine Ivan frowning at his words, even I was annoyed by the tone of them, it sounded so fake that I am sure Alfred is disappointed on his own acting.
I heard Ivan sigh and then he stepped next to me handling me a cup of tea, I focused on his hands, in the steam coming from the tea, a sense of nervousness is taking over me and I do not dare to look at his eyes.
I know I said I would face the issue but it is so hard for me to think of how to approach it, my mind is blank, all I can think about is the cold air and the warm feeling in my hands.
After a while the silence is broken. “We have to get back” Ivan’s voice is calm.
I nod and take the last sip of my cup.
Alfred’s voice is quiet too. “You still have a car? I don’t feel like walking back.”
Ivan took the cup from his hands placing it in a tray. “Yes, let me leave this in the house- he took my cup too and paused- do you want me to fetch a coat?”
I realize he is talking to me and I shake my head.
He leaves and Alfred stands up “Are you sure about the coat?”
When Ivan comes back and lead us to his car, I decide to take the back seat while Alfred seats with him in the front.
He starts asking about the radio stations and I glance at the window, seeing the old house farther away with each passing second makes me feel relived, I glance back at them.
Ivan is focused on the road and Alfred is staring out of the window with a seemingly childish glee.
I suddenly think about Alfred’s words and they make no sense, if courting me is their objective why do they have to place it within a rivalry.
I frown, they do not fancy me, they are just doing it for the sake of their game.
The thing about Ivan and Alfred is that they are so different yet so similar, I can’t help but think that they should get along better than they actually do.
The two of them act like children, it is wrong for me to repeat this thought over and over again, they have lived more than a century already, I should not view them as children, I know they aren’t but having to take care of my siblings has accustomed me to deal with other countries in such way, especially Russia and America, and likewise my siblings, they too get annoyed when I underline their childish antics.
I can’t help it.
Everything is a game to them.
The silence is broken by the American. “So, does any of you actually like sports?”
I glance at Alfred who is smiling at Ivan. “Come on, I am trying to start conversation guys, help me a bit.”
Ivan sighs “Chess, soccer is interesting and uh… perhaps winter sports.”
“Cool…I like baseball, basketball, I play hockey with Matt but he gets too serious and I do not like it, and I guess ice skating is fun.”
They keep talking but their voices are distant. I guess is good for them to socialize a bit, without aggressions just a normal conversation.
I hear Alfred’s exited voice “Oh I also like hiking and ping pong. I’ve been visiting my national parks more often these days…”
A shudder goes down my spine. Ping pong?
I suddenly feel like I’ve had this conversation before.
The smell of brewed coffee overtakes me and I see myself seated in a horrendously familiar office.
A tiny American flag placed in the desk while the figure in front of me is rambling.
“Do you like ping pong? We could arrange a match between our champions.”
I roll my eyes, this is pointless, I despise him and a common enemy does not change that.
America is frowning. “You have to pay attention, I did not recognize you as the real China for you to ignore me during these encounters.”
I reply tiredly. “I did not come here to hear you talk about ping pong.”
He sighs, running a hand through his hair, his voice rising slightly. “You are clearly not listening, is not about ping pong is about politics.- he sighs again and speaks calmly -as I was saying, we need to show that our cooperation is for real, so in order to do so, we are going to have a public display of friendly interaction, which is what lead us to the ping pong conversation.”
I smile at him. “You are more intelligent than what I thought” I see him frown at the insult but I do not let him reply. “How do I know that you are not pretending to be friendly?”
He shrugs. “You’ll have to trust us.” He stands up smiling, placing a heavy hand on my shoulder and starring right into my eyes. “I am sure you understand the dangers of a Soviet expansion in Asia and as you obviously know, the possibility of you being one of the affected territories.”
I frown. The weight of his words is worse than his triumphant expression. “I do not trust you, but I am willing to pretend I do.”
“That’s the attitude- he retrieves his hand from my shoulder, and presents it for me to shake- I will be expecting the warmest welcome in your country when I finally step in there.”
I smiled back, sneering my answer. “And you’ll sure have it.”
I am brought back to reality by Alfred’s voice. “What about you Yao? You aren’t too old for sports, are you?”
I blink, the insult does not go unnoticed. “Stop saying I am old” I say narrowing my eyes.
Alfred whines. “But you are.”
Ivan interjects. “We all are.”
“But he is the oldest.”
I roll my eyes. “Yes, you should respect me more then.”
Alfred laughs. “Alright but don’t be so grumpy grandpa, answer my question.”
I pause, remembering his question. “Well… nowadays I am too busy to actually practice sports, but as cliché as it may sound, I do like martial arts, nevertheless, I do not practice them competitively, is more of a self-discipline activity and it helps me ease the stress of a busy day. It’s also a good way of spending time with Jia Long.”
Alfred groaned. “Now I am disappointed of my answer because I just said I liked to have fun, I was expecting you to mention ping pong, so we could have something in common. You guys are so serious, even with hobbies, do you ever do anything just for the likes of it?”
I reply without thinking. “I don’t know, do you?”
Alfred seems astonished, he keeps silent.
Even I am taken aback by my reply, I shouldn’t have said that.
Alfred laughs noisily. “You are more intelligent than what I thought.”
My eyes widened in surprise, he is aware of what I am thinking. “You asshole-”
Alfred interrupts me. “Hey, easy with the offences, we are all friends in here, aren’t we?”
I do not reply and avert my gaze from him, the music coming from the radio is all I focus on.
Everything is a game for them, for him. And I played right into it.
I’ve been playing for a long time already.
Chapter 16: Disclosure
After this long day, we found ourselves back in Ivan’s summer house, sadly for me, I cannot seem to get as cozy as I was before we left. Now that I look around the house, I find it quite small, making me feel like I am trapped.
The night was quiet but my thoughts weren’t, I had to accept the fact that I wouldn’t have a good night’s sleep, but refused to let that upset me, I only had to spend two days more in Russia and then I would come back to my house, my home. Somehow, throughout the storm of thoughts going around my head, I fell asleep without noticing
When I woke up, my eyes met the sight of bright sunshine seeping through the curtains, the room was hot, and I felt as if I was melting in the bed. The warmth and the little sleep I could have, mixed in my body, resulting in an unwillingness to move and a sense of exhaustion I should not have.
Barely able to turn on my side, out of breath, I find a familiar sight on top of the nightstand; a tall fresh sunflower placed in a vase. It wasn’t there last night, I am sure of that. I sigh, forcing myself to stand up, I decide it’s time to stop delaying the inevitable.
Once I’ve made myself presentable I go downstairs, the house is quiet, except for the sounds coming from the kitchen, the smell of coffee lingering in the air, and their voices are audible but not loud, when I enter the kitchen I see Alfred and Ivan casually talking, it’s a silly conversation, something about the coffee, Alfred is seated in the isle across Ivan, who is leaning on the kitchen counter. They stop talking and look at me.
I felt self-conscious, not only of my actions as I get clumsy and my walking is slower, but of my demeanor, for I had no idea of how to approach the situation.
Should I say good morning or shrug it off and go towards the coffee?
I end up going for the polite option. “Good morning”
Alfred answered me. “Morning? Dude, it’s like 2 pm.”
Ivan nodded. “We thought you were too tired so we didn’t wake you up.”
I only stared at them, are they serious?
Then Alfred broke in laughter and Ivan joined him.
I huffed at them and went to serve myself some coffee.
Ivan moved aside so I could reach the cupboard. “Sorry, we were planning this while you were upstairs, it was just a joke.”
Alfred giggled. “You should have seen your face, it was priceless.”
I nodded and took a sip of coffee.
Alfred cleared his throat. “Anyways, guess who is going to get the breakfast?”
I rolled my eyes, of course they will punish me for being the last to wake up. “I am not really in the mood to go out, not with this weather.”
Alfred smiled. “Oh no- he shook his head- I am sacrificing myself for the task of feeding ourselves, I will be your hero today. So you better like what I’ll bring to you.”
“We could just make breakfast here, I am sure we can prepare something with what is in your fridge-” I said while pointing at the refrigerator.
Ivan interrupted me. “We are missing the bacon.”
“That’s why I am getting it.” Alfred asserted.
“Alright…” my response was hesitant, they were acting really weird.
We chatted a bit more until Alfred declared he was starving and went out of the house.
When I heard the door close, I turned to look at Ivan. “That was the worst excuse ever. I thought you knew how to lie well.”
Ivan shifted from one food to another. “Yes… I didn’t even try. But the important thing is, we can finally talk without having him here.”
“I guess so.” I replied slowly.
“Yeah…” Ivan seated next to me in the isle, placing his hands on the table. “Yao, I don’t know how to start this conversation, so I’ll just go with it and…”
“Sure.” I didn’t meant to interrupt him but I was getting anxious with every second.
He sighed. “I understand that we have unresolved issues, things that we should have said or done before…”- he held his hands together- “I am concerned by the fact of you being scared of me, and I know you have all the right to be but…” His voice was wavering. “I … I thought that was left in the past…”
I looked at the table, I felt guilty. “I’m sorry”
Ivan’s voice raised, a bit agitated. “No, do not apologize, as I said, you have all the right to be scared just like the Baltics or… or Prussia…”
I could notice this was hard for him so I tried to soothe him, the problem was, I didn’t know how to. “Ivan…”
He interjected again. “No, you are right, because I… I did… it was wrong, I thought I was doing what was best for all, but I never asked them what they wanted, I just thought it was logical for them to be happy, for I was providing them the safety they did not have.” - He was shaking his head- “But I was also keeping them secluded… I wanted… I thought that perhaps, if we shared the same beliefs, the same language, the same customs, they would understand… they would accept their fate and become not only allies but… family… but they didn’t like the idea, they refused, and I forced them to do it, and they hated me for it…”
I felt really bad, if this is how Ivan thinks there is no doubt he blames himself for everything. “They didn’t hate you…”
“Yes they did, some of them still do…”-He looked up at me- “…and when you became the people’s republic of China, I thought that you would understand, and you did… in a way… but you were different too, and I was scared because you would do the same, you would hate me too…” -He paused and took one of the ends of his scarf between his hands staring intently at it- “…So I asked you to come to my house, because if you weren’t influenced by others you would learn, not to hate me… and you didn’t…” –He fixed his eyes on me again- “Why didn’t you hate me, Yao? You should have, I was trying to split you from your land.”
I didn’t know what to say, he was obviously distressed but I could not bring myself to do anything. “You are being really hard with yourself…”
He shook his head. “Why didn’t you hate me? I used you, I was keeping you in my house, I was tricking you, I purposely used your emotions against you, so you wouldn’t leave.”
That was hard to hear, I felt overwhelmed and I could barely talk. “I was… I thought… “
He hid his face with his hands. “I am so sorry, I am really sorry for doing that, and halfway through it, I realized I felt bad for doing so, because I… I grew fond of you, you were kind, and I felt horrible, I felt guilty…”
I kept silent, waiting for him to speak again.
He retrieved his hands, placing them on the table again and staring at them. “I know this isn’t even the way to apologize, but I can’t say I am completely sure of my intentions back then, I started to annoy you so you would leave, but every time you came to my office to speak about it, I was afraid.” –He paused, taking some breaths before continuing– “I was scared of being left alone… and then… then you made up your mind… and I… couldn’t handle it, I was suddenly facing a situation where I could not decide what I wanted. But I am glad you left…”
I raised my eyebrows. That last line taking me by surprise, or perhaps confirming what I already thought, he hated me, of course he would, and suddenly I felt sad, I was hoping that somehow he didn’t, but he has the right to do so, just as I have the right to be scared.
Ivan kept talking. “Back then I was confused, I was angry, I thought you were betraying me but I was also relieved, I was not able to hurt you anymore, not as I did with the others.” –His hands were trembling- “Nevertheless, I was also bitter, because I could not reach out to you, we were officially enemies, you hated me, I could not even speak casually with you.” -He knitted his eyebrows together- “But Alfred could, and he made sure to rub that in my face. So I tried to convince myself, that you were a traitor, that you were an enemy, that I hated you. But I never did, I couldn’t.”
He was fidgeting with the ends of his scarf his eyes fixed on the table, he stood up. “I am sorry, I… you should be the one talking, I am just justifying my actions, you should not have to hear that.”
It took me some moments to reply, to understand all of what he had said. I stood up too, smiling softly. “It is ok, Ivan, I think this is more fruitful than me being the one talking because I am not even sure of what to say. I am reassured in a way, for you telling me that you do not hate me, lifts a huge weight off my back.”
He looked at me, and took a step closer, carefully placing his hands on my shoulders, his head lowered and his expression soft.
I knew that expression, I’ve seen it a lot in my siblings’ faces, it’s the face of someone who is looking for comfort, reassurance, so I complied, I hugged him and he seemed surprised by it, he was tense but relaxed after a moment, hesitantly enveloping me with his arms.
He muttered. “Yao, I do not hate you, I never had. I-“
I interrupted him. “-I do not hate you either, I’m sorry if it seemed like that, it’s just… we have to do what’s best for our people and I-”
“No Yao, I love you.”
Chapter 17: Confrontation
Three words, three words was all it took for my brain to start a frantic search for the feelings I was supposed to have at the moment. Three words that my mind was trying to understand, but at the same time wanted to forget. Three words that would have been welcomed a long time ago, but now, those three words held no meaning, or at least that’s what my mind was telling me, a loud part of it, the other one was panicking, not expecting that, but somehow urging me to answer, to tighten the embrace, without a clear choice, and the time mercilessly passing, accompanied by silence, I replied vaguely. “Oh, I see”
Ivan’s embrace tightened. “You… see?”
I pushed him away, trying to gain some distance between us, barely managing to form coherent phrases. “Look, I do not know… what to say about that… this isn’t probably… the best moment to say such things…”
I looked at him, he sat by the table again. Somehow, he managed to look calm which was in a way, an unsettling thing for me. As if I had just answered how the weather was.
I served myself more coffee, after some sips, not bearing the silence, I muttered. “Don’t you think Alfred is taking too long?”
Ivan frowned. “How can you brush it out so lightly? It does not matter to you at all?”
I shook my head quickly. “I… I don’t know, perhaps it doesn’t. Not now.”
Seeing his astonished expression, I tried to choose my next words carefully. The whole situation was wrong, and I was making it worst. ”That’s not what I meant, it’s just… you can’t throw me all of that conversation at once and expect me to have an immediate answer, it’s not that simple.”
Ivan replied slowly, as if making sure I listened to all of it. “But Yao, it is, you are the one who complicates everything, you think too much through things, through words and at the end you evade your problems, you should try facing them for once.”
With that, being careful was out of my range of thought. I was angry because in a way, I knew he was right. On the other hand, I was not going to let him blame his lack of timing on me. “Excuse you? If I were running away from my problems, I would not be here with you, I would not even talk to you because half of my problems come from you and the other half from Alfred. I am not the one who stays in his house sulking about a past that cannot be changed.”
That was harsher than I expected, luckily, Ivan seemed unaffected by it or that’s what I thought until he stood up. He didn’t looked mad, taking the mug from my hands, I could only watch him, his demeanor was calm but the whole silence through it was scary, he left it by the counter and turned to me, taking some steps, closing the space between us. I felt small, helpless.
After what seemed like an eternity for me, he broke the silence, his voice firm. “I am the one sulking? You keep bringing up the past in every conversation we have, you keep treating me like a child when I obviously am not.” He paused, staring down at my hands.
I hadn’t noticed, I was trembling, I tried to command myself to stop it but it was pointless, even as he took one of my hands, it kept on shaking, he sighed, lowering his tone. “I even convinced Alfred of staying out, so we could finally talk and you refuse to talk at all, I already apologized, what else do you expect me to do? I can no longer force you to do anything, I have no influence over you, I’ve respected the boundaries you’ve set all of this years and you’ve never tried to approach the issue, you prefer to keep silent until something serious happens, and still, I can’t believe you almost passed out in front of my house and refuse to talk about it, you can’t blame all of that on me, when you are the one refusing to move forward. I cannot fix alone a problem that concerns both of us.”
His hand was cold, I couldn’t bring myself to push him back, whilst my hands were shaking I could only hope that my voice didn’t. “I am not blaming you for what happened yesterday, I am blaming you and Alfred of getting me into this sick game you have.”
He raised his eyebrows, the color draining out of his face.
Feeling more confident, I continued. “Yes, I know, it’s pretty easy to know what you two are up to, when you both are so selfish, perhaps, if you weren’t so focused on competing with him, you would have known that I was scared of going to your house, but you knew, and you didn’t care because of whatever stupid plan you have.”
Now, his anxiety was visible, he shook his head and his hold on my hand tightened. “Yao, I wasn’t-”
I retrieved my hand, cutting his words off. “Yes, you knew, how could you not know? Are you going to tell me, that you do not know why Prussia avoids the house either? You said it yourself, we all have the right to be scared, but I am going to add something to that, we also have the right to not forgive you, even when you apologize, even if it’s a sincere apology, I can and I still doubt your intentions. You give me that long discourse of how much you regret doing those things, and I thought, for a moment that I could trust you, but you always have an ulterior motive, why do say you love me just after apologizing? Because you are in that stupid competition with Alfred, and you are mad at me because I didn’t accept you right away.”
“That’s not true… Yao- he paused, turning his head towards the light sound of the entrance.
Someone was knocking on the door.
I shook my head, giving him a tight smile and slightly pushing him back. “Perhaps it isn’t, but that’s what it looks like to me.”
He took me by the shoulders, panic was written all over his features. “See? You are overthinking, you always do this, I am not asking you about Alfred or Gilbert, what I want to know is if you love me back, please, I just need to know that.”
I frowned, he was too close. “Ivan, I always think a lot, I cannot help it, how do you expect me not to do that? you and Alfred are always using me to overpower the other, as for your question, I don’t know, I don’t think so, I do not trust you, it’s hard for me to believe what you are saying, in fact, I don’t really think- I trailed off, the knocks echoing again.
The disappointment in his face was obvious and his voice trembled. “I guess it’s fair… but… I stand by my words, I do love you… and… I am not doing this because of a competition.” he lowered his eyes, and I saw it, sorrow, and I felt guilty, what if I was wrong? What if Alfred was lying?
But my doubts were cleared in a second, because I knew they were competing, since the notes in that crumbled paper and the last line of that official file, I knew what they were doing and I joined them. I didn’t stop it, and now it was painful, not only for me but for him, not even Alfred was enjoying it anymore.
I could only stare, Alfred was right, seeing Ivan like this is even worse than seeing him angry. I was speechless and overwhelmed, I placed a hand on his shoulder to push him back, to gain space, to breathe, but I didn’t, I only left it there.
I didn’t feel threatened anymore, it was actually the opposite, as if by moving just an inch, Ivan’s towering frame would just collapse. So I didn’t, I only stared at the ground, in silence.
He broke the silence again. “Do you trust in Alfred?”
Looking up, I was met by a sour expression in his face that turned into a soft smile when I shook my head.
Then, Alfred’s voice broke into the kitchen. “Whoa, you are way too close, am I interrupting something?”
Ivan let out an exasperated sight and replied dryly. “Yes.”
Alfred narrowed his eyes. “Dude, Chill, I got our breakfast.” He placed a paper bag on top of the table.
The Russian scowled. “Get out”
Alfred seemed unaffected, he took out a box of cupcakes and replied annoyed. “I spent like an hour and a half looking at pastries and receiving ill looks from an old lady, I am not giving you more time, as you said, it doesn’t concern me, so if you couldn´t fix whatever you had to fix, it’s not my fault. -he stepped near us, opening the fridge and taking out the milk, then he stopped, glanced at me and raised an eyebrow- Anyways, by the looks of it, it seems like your talk was more productive than my trip to the market, if you want to eat each other’s faces, fine, but I am hungry and I’ll have my breakfast.”
Ivan stepped back, glaring at the American. “Jealous?”
Alfred grinned. “Of course not, I prefer the sweet taste of a red velvet cupcake than the lousy sour flavor of a Russian dude in my breakfast.”
Ivan frowned, and Alfred started opening the box, he took one out and handled it to me. “Here, this one is yours.”
It was a chocolate cupcake, adorned with white cream, it looked like a panda. I smiled at it and muttered. “Thank you”
“No problem, this was my excuse to stay so long in that bakery, I made the lady in there prepare them, so they are super fresh.”
Ivan scoffed. “Who eats cupcakes for breakfast?”
Alfred beamed. “Oh, don’t think I forgot about you, Russia.” He proceed to give him what seemed like a sunflower shaped cupcake. Whoever made those was really skillful.
Ivan seemed surprised by the sudden amiable act, he took it and asked “it doesn’t have anything weird on it, does it?”
It was a fair question, Alfred is not usually kind to him, neither is Ivan, but is good to see the tension is deescalating.
Alfred seemed offended by the question but answered. “No, it doesn’t, geez why do you always ask me that? -A smirk began to form in Alfred’s face, fixing his eyes on me, he snickered. “The lady in the bakery said it was perfect for mending broken hearts.”
I sighed, of course he was going to ruin it, I looked at Ivan, he was tense and his jaw was clenched, I admit it was a low hit, Alfred was staring at him, smiling, that awful grin of his. It’s a matter of seconds for them to start fighting, again.
Alfred snickered. “I was right, I told you, you had no chance, how could you even think that he was going to accept your proposal if he-” His words were cut off by the sound of Ivan’s fist slamming on the table.
This situation was oddly familiar to me, instead of Alfred it had been Gilbert, he had made fun of our submissive attitude towards Russia, accusing Ukraine of being a weakling in the process, a bad choice of words, I still remember how Lithuania and I had to restrain Ivan so he wouldn’t kill the Prussian.
The problem now, was that I would not be so stupid as to interfere in a fight between these two. That and well… I wasn’t concerned about the American’s wellbeing at the moment.
Alfred let out a loud annoying laugh.
When Ivan stood up I knew I had to get out of the way, I left the cupcake on the table and walked off the kitchen.
Crossing the doorframe, I heard Alfred’s laugh stop abruptly while his glasses landed just a few steps from where I was.
Alfred’s words were inaudible for me when I reached the stairs, but there were loud noises coming from the kitchen.
Sighing, I headed to where my belongings were and quickly gathered everything.
When I came down the stairs I was met by silence. Perhaps they finally killed each other.
My suspicions were cleared when I saw Alfred picking up his glasses, a bruise slowly appearing on his right cheek. “There you are” He beamed.
At that, Ivan emerged from the kitchen with a noticeable bruise on his jaw. He asked. “Yao, what are you doing?”
Ignoring them I walked straight to the door.
I was surprised, not listening to them arguing but hearing hasty steps behind me instead.
Alfred voice was loud. “Yao-”
I turned and he was right behind me. I frowned. “It’s enough. I am not staying anymore.”
“But we have a meeting tomorrow.” Ivan asserted, his voice calm.
“I don’t care, it can be rescheduled.”
Alfred whined. “Your cupcake…”
I shook my head. “I don’t want it. I don’t want any of this.”
Ivan hissed at Alfred. “This is your fault.”
The American persuaded. “He was threatening you before I interrupted, right? That’s why you are mad.”
“You don’t know anything Alfred, shut up.” Ivan’s voice was sharp.
Annoyed by their arguing, I raised my voice questioning them. “Why do you keep on doing this? Do you hate each other so much?”
They stayed silent. Alfred was shifting from one foot to another.
“Don’t you realize how horrible is this? It’s bad enough to bear with your bickering in the meetings but you are also doing it in a personal level. It’s not amusing, it’s not funny, it is awful.”
Shrugging, Alfred stated. “Yao, I was just repeating what the lady said and Mr. Snowflake here got offended.”
“No, you weren’t, stop with the offenses. Are you enjoying this?” I motioned to them, I wasn’t even sure if I was referring to the previous fight or the current scolding.
Alfred muttered. “I wasn’t being offensive.”
“Answer my question. Do you enjoy it? The remarks, the fights, do you want to keep bothering everyone with your childish games?”
His smiled faded. “No, I don’t but he keeps interfering, he knows I like you and that’s why he tries to win you back. He is always scaring the one’s I am close to.”
Ivan contradicted. “That’s not true. You befriend my closest allies and turn them against me.”
“Lies, you are the one who turns people against me, and it’s not fair, it’s not fair with Yao, because he has history with you, I can’t beat that, I can’t erase that, but what I can do is remind him why he left.” Alfred’s voice was loud, he was glaring at Ivan.
This was a vicious cycle, reasoning with them was pointless. “You keep on acting as if the cold war was still going on. Move forward already.”
Alfred put on his glasses, wincing. “You want us to end this game? Fine, tell us who do you prefer to be with?”
I stepped back, crossing my arms. “I am not going to pick, what is wrong with you?”
“You keep bouncing from one to the other, you should pick your choice already.” Ivan asserted.
Alfred took off his glasses again, half smiling. “This started as a simple request, if you had only accepted one of us, this would have ended quickly.”
I stared at them in disbelief. “So it’s my fault?”
Alfred nodded. “Kind of.”
Knitting my eyebrows, I answered. “I don’t want to pick any of you. Somehow you are both manipulative and stupid, you do not care about anyone but yourselves. If you want to keep fighting until you kill each other, fine, I don’t care, just don’t drag me into it.”
“Why are you doing this?” Alfred whined.
Ivan adjusted his scarf. “Why can’t you decide?”
“You haven’t learn anything after all these years, have you? –I shook my head- neither I nor anyone owes you exclusivity. Ivan you should have learned that people cannot be turned into property, and Alfred, for a country who claims to be the defender of freedom, you try too hard to keep everyone on a leash. I am not going to pick anyone because we as countries cannot do that, and as people… well… you are not making it possible, are you?”
They stood there, speechless I suppose.
I continued. “You can’t use me to bother each other and expect me to tag along. It’s not even amusing, stop with your nonsense and think for a moment, I can’t be the only one to notice how this game is degrading you. If you have at least a bit of consideration towards me or even yourselves, you will stop this.”
At that I turned on my heel and left the house.
Fortunately, neither of them decided to follow, even though I had to walk a lot to get into the city again, I felt better by each second.
I should have confronted them a long time ago.
Mei is running around the house, looking for a file that is supposedly so important that I cannot see or know what’s inside of it, Jia long was trying to help her find it, but after some minutes he gave up and is currently sitting by my side in the coach.
I wish she was so vivid when we go out in the mornings to exercise, instead of being glued to her phone. This new activity has made a big difference, at least with how Jia long and I interact, now we get to have short conversations during the day, and they actually involve more than just monosyllables responses from him.
When she goes through the library for the third time, I decide to point out the obvious file resting on the coffee table, next to the unread letters that have been piling up in the last two months.
I must say, I am astonished by the creativity that Alfred and Ivan seem to have, after they realized I was not going to answer their texts, or their emails, or phone calls unless they regarded an official request form their governments they started sending letters.
“You could have told me it was there before! I have been looking for hours!!” Mei whined, taking the file and placing it inside her suitcase.
Jia long asserted. “You’ve only searched for ten minutes.”
She closed her suitcase, taping it lightly. “Well, it felt like hours.” Then, she glanced at the letters and asked “Aren’t you going to read them? I mean, they have been there for a while but these two are from today…”
I sighed, and took them. “This is a bad idea.”
Rolling his eyes, Jia Long stood up. “Whatever. Let’s go, we can’t be late when we are the ones hosting.”
I followed them to the door.
Mei stepped out of the house and her pace increased slightly. “I can’t believe we’ll finally go together, the last time we did that was due to Japan being threatened by North Korea. It’s nice to host a meeting without any major situation involving us.”
“For now.” Was Jia long’s response.
I sighed, he tends to give this kind of answers when he knows something is brewing, the problem is, he won’t tell us anything, if it concerns him. And judging by his silence, it does. I’ll have to take care of that later.
“Now is not time for jokes.” Mei laughed awkwardly and moved her hand dismissively. “Off we go, we can’t be late today.”
We get into the car, Jia long had been nagging at me to get one, so we didn’t have to take a cab, apparently, he’s been getting more and more irritable these days, coming up with unusual quirks, such as getting a car for him to drive or asking me for a laser pointer. And they say I am the one who acts like old man.
I take the letters and open them, this is probably going to give me a headache, but is better to arrive knowing what they are up to.
The first one has a neat handwriting, thankfully is not in Russian, for even I still have problems understanding Ivan’s cursive.
I know you are upset over what happened, and you have all the right to do so, I cannot excuse my behavior this time, and for that, I deeply apologize. I didn’t want you to get so mad, even though Alfred was being an annoyance, I shouldn’t have acted that way. Perhaps you’ve read the letters I’ve sent before, perhaps not. I do know you haven’t read the messages I sent, so that’s why I recurred to this antics.
Yao, please, you have to stop ignoring me, it can’t go on for longer, we are allies and we’ll have to talk sooner or later, obviously sooner if you take into account today’s meeting. As you should already know, I’ve come to your house several times, and none of them have you answered the door. This situation is ridiculous, for I know that you are indeed inside your house. If you do not talk to me during the meeting, I will go to your house and if you still do not answer, I will enter your house by force as I used to do so long ago, you from all people should know that avoiding me is not a wise course of action. I ask you to listen to your common sense and stop hiding yourself from me.
P.D: This is in no way a threat, I am just warning you beforehand so there’s no place for misunderstandings. I only wish to have a civil conversation. Also, thank you a lot for clearing up the mess about your stay in my country, I was already being accused of kidnaping not only you but America, apparently he sneaked out without his government’s permission and blamed me for it.
I sighed, I knew this was a bad idea.
The other letter had several postage stamps in its envelope, alongside a scrappy handwriting.
You have to stop ignoring me, I can’t believe I had to come to your house and leave this note, is the 21st century, for god’s sake!!
I know you are mad at me, but it wasn’t my fault that Russia is a sensitive asshole, you saw how he acted just by a stupid comment I made. And just so you know, he threw me out of his house like five minutes after you left. Without warning and without the cupcakes I bought :(
I have been thinking about what you said though, I also talked with Mathew about it and he made me realize that, up to some points, you are right. I will in fact try to go easy on the Russian bear, I tried to make the effort of calling to offer an apology (even when it’s totally unfair!!! but I guess a hero has to take the first step) the problem is, he does not answer my calls and neither do you. How am I supposed to make things right if none of you cooperate?
(If you cannot answer because you are being spied on, then it’s totally ok, but I know Ivan doesn’t answer on purpose!!)
So, I ask you, to please, help me a bit with this. You can just call Russia, tell him to be civil and talk to me during the meeting, I am sure he will listen to you, or you can approach me there and we can talk :) or both (?) If you ignore this note just as the rest of my calls and messages, I will totally crash into your house after the meeting, no kidding.
P.D: I am obliged to clarify that this note is not a threat, even though some of the other countries feel like they can’t refuse my requests, you are obviously not one of them, I only wish to talk about our personal affairs and not the current commercial war, I cannot give out any official information about that, other than the one I’ll communicate during today’s meeting.
P.D of the P.D: As you can see my government is aware of this note ;) they are super confused.
Reading those letters was like taking a ride in the same rollercoaster twice. I can’t believe they are doing this, scratch that, I believe it.
Sighing, I placed the letters in the glove compartment.
Mei is observing me from the back seat, she places her hand on my shoulder. “Do not worry brother, Jia Long and I have a plan.”
Perhaps I should have answered their calls, or at least one, then again, I didn’t really want to talk to them, what else can I possibly say? I am no longer mad, but I am still weary of seeing them, not only have I gotten tired of their behavior but these last two months I’ve found myself missing their invitations, this last conclusion haunted me more than anything else.
Discussing the matter with my siblings proved to be useless. Jia Long told me to ignore them, and Mei said something about a dramatic disappearance. Why do I even listen to them?
I think this time I’m really messed up, now, I won’t have peace in my own house. I look at the time in my phone. It’s 1 pm. We better eat something before arriving.
After a quick stop at a drive through restaurant, we got to the building rather quickly and took the elevator. The doors opened in the fifth floor and we walked through a long corridor, Mei snapped a picture of it, saying it was perfect for her instagram, and then proceed to take a picture of Jia Long and me, squealing happily after it. I hope she is not using those animal filters again. In fact I hope she is not using that specific app, I am still not sure of how she manages to do it, it is supposed to be banned.
I am relieved to find that we are the first to arrive. I really thought we were late.
Mei is checking the tags in the chairs and changing some of them. For “alliance purposes” she says, but I know better, she just wants to talk more with some of the others, I do not blame her, I have been quite bored these days, only talking with the two of them.
Jia long is standing awkwardly next to the door frame. “We are way too early, I will get a coffee, do you want one?”
Mei shakes her head. “I don’t but I’d like some juice or something, the food was spicy.”
I shrug. “I’ll go with you.”
Mei shakes her head and whines. “No way, you stay here with me, our plan is for you to be accompanied at all times, we are like your bodyguards now.” She starts snickering at the last part.
I roll my eyes and follow Jia Long. “Very funny.”
There is a coffee room next to the meeting room, with some varieties of coffee, this was Jia long’s idea, he said it would help us greet better other countries such as Turkey, who seems to find our drinks hideous. I do not blame him, coffee is not my specialty.
It already smells like brewed coffee, which is quite weird if we are the first to arrive. Unless…
“Hello to you two, I got here way too early, how are you doing?” America’s cheerful voice received us in the coffee room, he is pouring sugar into a cup.
Jia long is quick to answer. “Good afternoon Mr. America, is nice to see you. You are indeed too early, the meeting starts in fifteen minutes. Please, go to the meeting room and we’ll take your coffee there. A guest should not be serving himself.”
Alfred nods but stays still. “Oh no problem, I like to do my own coffee. And don’t be so formal, we haven’t started yet. Hi Yao.”
I was about to return the greeting but Jia long interrupted. “Please do not call him by his first name, it is only for family. Address my teacher as Mr. China, China or if you prefer The People’s Republic of China.”
America laughed. “Don’t act so weird, he already calls me Alfred, right?”
I took three cups and proceed to take the juice for Mei’s. “He is right America, this is a formal meeting, please respect the protocol.”
The blonde frowned. “Come on, don’t be so stiff, I am trying to be friendly after… you know… being ignored for the last two months.”
Jia Long took out his phone and showed it to him. “Mr. America, you have been attacked by the “Ghosting” card, please refrain from interacting with my brother for the time being.”
I couldn’t stop myself from laughing, so this is what Mei and he had been planning.
America’s astonished expression was priceless. “Dude, are you serious? You can’t do that, is so childish!!”
“I am sorry, Mr. America but my brother has all the right to do so. If you excuse us we have to come back to the meeting room.”
I kept on laughing all the way back. Mei was waiting for us in there.
Smiling, she took her cup and laughed too. “I told you we had a plan. And believe me, we will show them not to mess with our family.”
America entered the room making a beeline to where we were. “Can you at least accept my apologies?”
Mei scoffed. “You are not in the position to request anything, please, wait until the meeting starts and fill the report with your suggestions.”
Alfred whined dramatically, pushing his chair back and taking off his glasses. “For the love of God, you can’t do this! You have to answer me, I’ve been thinking about what you said in Russia’s house, and you are right, I feel guilty, please.”
Mei rolled her eyes, took a sip of her drink and asserted. “We have a protocol for this Mr. America. Please, you have to wait until the meeting is finished and we’ll gladly listen to your opinions regarding today’s topic.”
Alfred ignored her, fixing his gaze on me. “At least tell me that you read the letter I sent.”
“Mr. America please keep silent until the meeting starts or until one of your allies is here to engage in conversation with you.”
He snapped at Mei. “This has nothing to do with official matters!!”
I frowned and Jia Long asserted, his voice firm. “In that case we cannot give you any response. Please do not disturb the place.”
The American whined. “God, this is unreal.”
Soon after America sat, we heard approaching footsteps.
“Good Afternoon Mr. Russia, please go to your assigned seat.” Mei greeted.
If the Russian heard her, he didn’t paid her attention. “Yao, please…”
Mei pressed. “Mr. Russia we sent the invitation with instructions included, please, don’t break the protocol.”
Ivan sighed and acknowledged her. “I am not breaking the protocol, you three are part of my allies.”
“If that’s the case you must know that first names are not allowed. Do tell us what’s the matter so we can think of how to approach the issue.”
He frowned. “The meeting hasn’t started, I do not have to discuss any official issue until it starts, I can make small talk with my allies.”
“In that case, please go to your seat and wait for your allies to approach you.”
He took a seat right next to us. “This is nonsense.”
Jia Long shook his head. “We are just following the protocol Mr. Russia.”
The Russian fixed his gaze on me, reproaching. “Yao, stop this stupidity and face the issue, a small talk will not kill you.”
Mei started giggling. “Mr. Russia, you’ve been attacked by the “Silent treatment” card, please refrain from interacting with my Gege.”
Ivan’s astonished face was visible. “What is this?”
Alfred laughed from his seat. “Oh my god, is hilarious when it doesn’t happen to me.”
Russia turned to look at him. “They did this to you too?”
America moved his hand dismissively. “Yeah. But I am being chill about it.”
Ivan frowned, turning to look at me again. “Well, I am not, you can’t do this. How dare you not open the door when I visit? That can even count as a diplomatic rejection.”
Jia long answered. “We weren’t informed of your arrival, Mr. Russia.”
Some other nations started to arrive such as Japan, Germany and England.
Russia kept on talking. “I sent an email, and a letter, I even called but you never answered.”
Jia long retorted, his face serious. “Too bad, Mr. Russia, we went on a short family vacation.”
“Germany, you are here, please take care of this, they are being insensible. They won´t allow us to talk with China.” America greeted
The German sighed. “Well, it was about time, the next time you go on this vacation of yours please invite me, or at least share the location, I also need a break from these two. And Russia, just follow the protocol, it’s not that hard, they even placed our names in the tags. A nice touch by the way.”
Mei squealed. “Thank you, it was my idea.”
The meeting went by shortly after it, some conflicts were highlighted, I had to talk about the commercial war going on, receiving America’s arguments. And Jia Long gave a short speech regarding our national plan and some points he did not agree with. Not good news for me, but is nice seeing him participating more in these meetings.
When it was over, I knew I had to face them, they stayed back, and Alfred even dismissed Japan’s request for lunch.
Jia Long was chatting away with others and Mei was organizing some documents into her suitcase, she paused and looked at me softly. “I’m sorry gege, our plan was to make them keep the order during the meeting, and not to bother you before it, if you ask me, the best you could do is talk to them, at least America said he was regretful…”
I nodded at her. “Thank you Mei, I really appreciate your concern.”
She winked at me and whispered. “If they start fighting over you again, you have to tell me, that kind of drama is what I need in my life.”
I stood up annoyed, she keeps insisting that this situation is something positive. “They weren’t fighting over me!! Ugh, go and tell Jia Long that I’ll join you later.”
I walk over to where they are, the few remaining countries in the room are leaving and Mei is practically pushing them out.
America is talking lowly. “Dude, I am serious about this, let’s make a truce, no aggressions, no remarks, no fighting.”
Russia´s reply is monotonous. “How do I know that you will actually play along? You didn’t last time, most of this mess is your fault.”
Alfred took off his glasses and frowned. “You really make this difficult, I am trying to be civilized and you keep on blaming me.”
“Well, you blamed me for you incompetence and I had government officials searching my house because apparently I had kidnapped a nation.” Ivan remarked.
Alfred grimaced. “They did? Alright, I am sorry about that, it’s just… I couldn’t have more problems and well, they believe everything I say about you, so…”
Ivan crossed his arms. “This only proves my point, I don’t trust you Alfred.”
The American sighed, putting his glasses back on. “I know, I don’t trust you either but we have to try, you’ve been thinking about what Yao said, don’t deny it, you wouldn’t have listened to me if you hadn’t.”
“And how do you think are we going to settle our… issue?”
Alfred replied loudly. “Well that is not only up to me, we all have to talk about it, even you Yao, stop spying and join the conversation already.”
I was taken aback by his mention but approached them, unsure of what to say.
America laughed. “You should be proud Russia, he has taken your soviet antics to a new level.”
I felt Ivan’s hand on my shoulder, perhaps he did it out of sympathy or to show mutual annoyance at Alfred.
“So… I sent some letters…” the American began.
Ivan interjected. “I did so too…”
I felt a bit guilty, I didn’t bother to read them. “I’ve only read the ones meant for today.”
Alfred whined. “Come on, I poured my soul into the first ones!!”
Ivan sat down, glanced at the ceiling and scoffed. “This conversation is getting nowhere!”
The American mirrored him, taking a seat by his side. “Right, so I put a lot of thinking into our current situation, and I’ve come to sketch out some possible solutions.”
“This is going to be a scam.” Was Ivan’s reply.
Alfred narrowed his eyes at him. “Listen first, and then you’ll get your chance to complain.”
I took a seat too. “Go ahead.”
The American’s demeanor changed instantly, he looked livelier. “Alright so, first we have to make a truce, just as I was saying to Ivan, I know we are skeptical about it, I myself do not feel very much convinced with it, nevertheless, we can still try.”
Alfred focused on him, placing his hand on Ivan’s shoulder and even smiling at him. “Second, I came to the realization that we as partners, can possibly work out if we left grudges and treasons behind, but for that, we need constant dialogue. What I trying to propose is that we split our time with Yao equally as to not create conflict between ourselves and-”
I interrupted him. “In what terms are you suggesting this?”
Alfred turned to me surprised, as if he had forgotten I was present. “I… uh… well…”
I sighed, if I am getting into this, I better make them hear me out. “Look, I am tired of acting oblivious, so, I am going to be clear about this. These last months, I have been questioning myself about the kind of relation I have or wish to have with each of you.”
They stayed silent, Alfred was nodding and Ivan was looking at me intently. So they are actually listening.
I continued, staring at the table. “I am not entirely convinced of wanting a romantic relation because for that, I need to trust you, and I don’t. Also, due to your most recent behaviors I cannot approach you as mere friends either, and honestly, I like the attention I get from you both.”
They kept staring at me.
I fixed my stare on them again. “I am telling you this because in your suggestion, Alfred. You are only taking Ivan’s opinion into account.”
Alfred seemed startled. “I… I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it to come out like that.”
“Both of us? You want to keep this up with both?” Ivan inquired.
The question took me off guard. I was not sure if his question was intended to sound so harsh but it did.
Still, I nodded. “This proposal of yours, kind of fits into what I’ve just told you, except that if I were to agree to it, I would demand of you, to engage into friendly interactions too, so you wouldn’t be just splitting the time you pass with me, but you’d also have to spend time with each other.”
Alfred gasped. “Are you telling me I have to go on a date with Russia?”
Of course Alfred would be the first to oppose, I shook my head. “Not specifically a date but you would indeed have to go out with him.”
The American protested loudly. “I am not liking this suggestion very much.”
Ivan frowned and crossed his arms. “Me neither, I don’t think I can tolerate him for a long time.”
I stood up and placed the chair back into its place. “In that case, I will not participate into any suggestions you may come up with. I will not risk to repeat everything all over again. So please, leave me alone and find someone else to bother.”
Alfred replied hastily. “Whoa, wait. You are not giving us too much room to negotiate.”
I fixed my gaze on him. “This is not a negotiation Alfred. I am not something you can divide and share with Russia. If you want me to be involved in this plan of yours, I will be the one writing out the rules.”
“Don’t you mean that we all will be dictating the rules?” Ivan remarked, standing up.
I shook my head. “No, I meant what I said. I’ve let you have the saying for too long, you both did as you wished and got us into this mess. It’s only fair that I do it now.”
They stared in silence, until America let out a giggle that soon turned into laughter.
When he calmed down, he adjusted his glasses and smiled warmly. “I guess it’s fair. Let’s see what you can manage to do.”
Ivan sighed. “I’ll put up with it for now –He fidgeted with his scarf and then smiled- but if America tries anything funny we should be able to expel him from this.”
“Hey!! You can’t team up to attack me like that. It’s enough with having you as official threats.” The American chuckled as he gathered his documents and walked to the door. Russia following behind.
I do not know how long they will keep their end of the deal, after all, none of us believe it will last. Despite fearing a cycle, I cannot help but trust that we have somehow learned from the past, or at least I trust that by having both of them smooth things, we can manage a steady balance between our dynamics. In the worst case scenario everything will become like that dystopian novel that England used to brag about in the 40s or we repeat the same mistakes. Either way, a risk has to be taken, for if I refuse them, I am sure they will not leave alone. And if in a hypothetical situation I pick one, the other will keep bothering me, that’s for sure.
When we take the elevator, Alfred turns to us sharply and grins. “Did we just gave a step closer to finally agree to a threesome?”
Shaking my head I replied quickly. “What? No!!” I am already regretting what I suggested.
Ivan rolled his eyes and reproached him. “You are spending way too much time with France.”
Alfred snickered. “Sorry, I was kidding… unless-”
Both Ivan and I alleged annoyed. “Shut up Alfred.”
Alfred only laughed more, at last we ended up joining him too.
Perhaps this isn’t so bad.
So, we’ve finally reached the end.
I want to apologize for the long delay and thank you for your kind comments and Kudos.
I will be editing the story, mostly looking for mistakes, as well as adding some references that might have not been spotted. This has been a long journey and I have been surprised because I never thought I could neither get that many comments and Kudos nor manage to write it all.
Thank you a lot.