Alex was a skinny boy. His greasy dark hair was cut short, and his nose seemed forever stained with dirt. He had a wiry frame, and was too small for a six-year-old, having been underfed for most of his life.
He had never worn leather shoes. He had always been either barefoot or had adorned cheap canvas shoes found in back alleys. But now he had new brown leather shoes, and clean socks on his feet. He played with the laces, untying them, then tying them again. Tying them using fisherman's knots, and then untying them and tying them the way George had shown him.
"How are you doing, Alexander?" George asked, turning his head around from where he sat upon his horse, seeing Alex in the little cart in the corner of his eye.
"Bueno," Alexander replied.
"In French," George reminded.
Alex took a deep breath since his French wasn't very good. "I am good, papa."
"Good job, Alexander. We are almost there." George chuckled. "Sing me something, Alexander. Something you learned at the ports."
Alex thought for a moment. "Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain. For we've received orders to sail for ole England, but we hope in a short time, to see you again."
Alex kept singing until the horse came to a stop, the cart jolting. Alex was surrounded by fabric though, so didn't get jostled too much. He plucked out of the cart by George, set on the dirt, and then handed a few rolls of fabric. George carried the rest, smiling as he approached the door of the large and vain house in front of them, whistling through the gap in his teeth. Alex tried to pick up the tune and whistle to it as well, but he wasn't yet a good whistler.
"Papa," Alex started, looking up at the tall man. "Where are we?"
"We are at the Laurens estate. Henry Laurens has asked me to tailor a suit for him. He has a boy about your age, I hope you too will get along." George hummed. "Behave, yes? The Laurens family and I are close friends."
George smiled at Alex. "You've got dirt on your nose."
Alex tried to wipe it off but ended up smudging more on his face.
George laughed, approaching the door and knocking. "Do not fret over it, Alexander. Martha will clean you up tonight."
Alexander had been under the care of the Washington's for just under three months. Before that, Alex had lived in Portugal, despite being born in Spain, under the employment of a port manager. Before that, Alex had been with his mother. His father had left the two of them once Alex was born, and his mother quickly turned to prostitution to pay for their needs. Alex's earliest years had consisted of him finding other places to be besides home.
Eventually, even Alex's mother couldn't afford him. At the age of four and a half, Alex was sold off to a shipping port. Alex was a good worker though, despite his age. He carried whatever he could off of the boats and into the shop. Even when big boots would step on his little toes, he wouldn't cry, just continue on.
George was in Portugal, picking up a shipment of silks from China. He was a tailor, after all, and he had been making a dress for a client and needed the fabrics. He stepped into the post office and told the man at the desk which shipment he was looking for. Then, small, six-year-old Alexander Hamilton came over a large burlap bag on his back. He was struggling under its weight a bit but managed to hand it to George without letting it touch the floor.
"What's your name?" George asked, looking the scrawny kid up and down. He was short, with messy dark hair that stuck up, and a large nose that he hadn't quite grown into.
"My name is Alexander Hamilton," the boy replied in his broken French. He had never been good at French before, but he had learned a couple of phrases from French sailors that had docked in the port. He needed to know a few French phrases, numbers, direct orders, just so he could get his job done.
"How old are you?"
Alex paused for a moment, trying to translate the French into Spanish in his head. "I am six years old, sir."
"Do you work here with your parents?"
Alex shook his head. "My father left when I was young, and my mother sold me to the port for ten Spanish dollars."
"How much for the boy?" George asked, turning to the man at the counter.
George nodded towards Alex.
"What do you want with him? He's one of those Israelites, he'll just steal your money from under your nose," the counterman laughed.
"Nuh-uh, it was just my momma from Israel," Alex spoke up, crossing his arms. Now that George looked at the kid, he could see the kid obviously had middle eastern blood, from the long face to the dark dark eyes.
George shook his head. "You sir, have an unjustified prejudice. How much for the boy?"
"You're French, yes?"
"Yes, I am French."
The man at the counter paused, thinking. "Seventy Francs."
George let out a breath. "Seventy?"
The man behind the counter considered this for a moment. "Fine."
George pulled out his money bag and handed over seventy Francs, then turned to Alex, looking him up and down. "Do you have shoes, boy?"
Alex shook his head.
"Yes, well, come on." George slung the burlap sack over his shoulder and put his hand on the back of Alex's neck, walking with him. "You've never had a father, and your mother left you to work here, yes?"
"Si," Alex nodded.
"In French," George began. "You will need to learn French."
Alex nodded. "Yes."
"I will be your father, boy, and my wife, your mother. You are a hard worker, yes?"
"Good. You will come of use." George lead Alex to his cart and set the bag down, then picked up Alex, putting him in the cart. "The ride to home will take a week. Rest, I will wake you when it is time to eat."
So Alex rested. He never got much sleep on the ports, it was always too loud, so that week of quiet trotting on dirt roads through Europe was the best sleep Alex had ever gotten. At night, George would afford an inn, and let Alex drink ale to stay warm. During the day Alex would spend his time watching the landscape change, or singing. He had learned several sea shanties, and since they weren't a bother to George, he sang them.
George began to tutor Alex on his French during the week. He would point at everything, say the same in French, and have Alex repeat that name back. Tree, horse, cow, grass, cup, anything. Alex was getting better, and George was impressed at how well Alex was doing, promising the start of formal education in the fall of this year.
Martha, Washington's wife, was beyond happy at the idea of a son. George had been pronounced barren, so Martha's grown daughters were all they had for children, but Martha had always wanted a boy. So, when this dirty, shoeless six year old walked through her door, she was ecstatic, instantly cleaning him up and taking him to get some new clothes, as well as some shoes. She would take him everywhere she went, talking to him in French so he learned quicker. He was a good learner, especially since he had no choice but to learn. No one in France spoke Spanish, so he needed to speak French.
The door to the Laurens estate opened and out walked Henry Laurens, a large man, broader than George, with short cut black hair and dark freckled skin. "Hello, George! How good to see you!"
"Henry, it's been too long." George smiled, shaking Henry's hand. "Henry, may I introduce you to my son, Alexander. I recently adopted him on a trip to Portugal."
"Well, he looks like a fine young man," Henry laughed. "Come in, come in. Does your boy work with you, or can he go play?"
"He's free to play," George nodded.
"I'll call down my son," Henry chuckled, looking to the stairwell. "John! John Laurens! Come downstairs!"
A few seconds later, a boy came tumbling down the stairs, laughing. He had short curly black hair, and ears that stuck out too much. His skin was a light summer brown, and his smile seemed to take up half his face.
"John, you know George. This is his son, Alexander," Henry introduced.
"Don't be shy," George coaxed, noticing Alex step behind him a bit.
John offered a big smile, and Alex realized John had no front teeth, which made him more approachable.
"My God, have you begun losing teeth already?" George laughed.
John nodded. "I'th becau'th I'm th'even."
Alex smiled. "I'm six."
"You boys go play, John, be nice," Henry warned.
"Ye'th, papa," John smiled. He took Alex's hand and lead Alex back up the stairs, smiling wide. "Where did you come from? You don't th'ound French."
"I was born in Portugal," Alex told John, smiling. "Were you born in France?"
John nodded. "My Papa ha'th lived here th'ince he wa'th my age."
Alex laughed as John pulled him into a large room. "Whoa, is this all yours?"
"I have to th'are it with my little brother th'ometimes, but he'th a baby so he spend'th mo'th of hi'th time with my Mama."
"You wanna play th'oldiers?"
"How do you play?"
John was quick to teach Alex the rules, though there weren't many, and the two boys were off, playing, making a bit of a mess. Alex had never really played like this before, but he loved it. Neither of them realized how long they had been playing until George poked his head through the doorway.
"Alexander, we must be off, it's almost supper," George said softly.
"Can he th'tay five more minute'th?" John asked.
George smiled. "Sorry, little John, we need to be home in time to wash up. Your father told me to fetch you as well, your mother is downstairs and would like to see you."
John stood up in smiled. "My mom i'th gonna have another baby, you know. Th'e th'aid th'e hope'th it'th another girl, but I want a brother."
"Oh?" George nodded, listening to John ramble and making sure Alex was walking with them.
"Yeah, becau'th brother'th are much better, because they do more than cry," John explained.
"Well your sister is still just a little girl, but I'm sure she'll grow up."
John waved his little hand. "Th'till. A brother would be better. Ale'th, do you have a brother?"
Alex shook his head. "No, but I have two older sisters."
George smiled. "They're much older than little Martha is."
"How old?" John asked.
"Our oldest is sixteen, and our middle child is twelve," George told John.
"John, sweetheart, come here," Elanor Laurens called out. She was sitting on a loveseat, Two-year-old Martha on one side of her, and a swollen stomach poking out from under her dress.
"Hi, mama," John smiled.
"Elanor, as always, it's a pleasure." George took her hand, kissing the back of it. "You haven't met my son yet. Elanor, this is Alexander. Alexander, this is Mrs. Laurens, John's mother. Say hello."
"Hello, Mrs. Laurens," Alex smiled, holding out his hand.
"Hello, little Alex." Elanor chuckled. "He's adorable, George. I assume he's adopted?"
"Yes, yes, I found him in Portugal, working on the docs, just three months ago. He was a thin little thing when I picked him up, but oh, no one can stay thin with Martha's cooking." George patted his stomach, chuckling.
"He still looks skinny, let me get him a sweet."
"Oh, Elanor, please, don't get up," George gasped.
"Bah, you men think I am so weak. I can do whatever I please." She stood up and made her way to the pantry, pulling out some macarons and wrapping them in a linen cloth. "Here, Alexander, you take this. Do not spoil your supper though, save them for later."
"Thank you, ma'am," Alex nodded humbly, pocketing the linen in his deep pockets.
"Well, George, here is your money." Henry smiled. "Should I come in in a week?"
"Yes, though it won't be done, I will need to make sure everything is fitting so far. Two weeks from now it will be finished." George smiled, shaking George's hand. "Bring John when you come in, I feel as though our sons have become friends."
Henry laughed. "Good, I was beginning to worry John couldn't make a friend."
"Papa," John whined.
"Alright, Goodnight, George, I'll see you in a week's time." Henry turned to the small child besides George. "Goodnight, Alexander."
"Goodnight, sir," Alex nodded.
Alex and George left the house and went back to the cart. Alex snuck one macron out of his pocket, nibbling on it quietly. It was sweet. Alex loved sweet things. When he worked the ports, he could, every now and then, collect enough coins from the floor of the ships to buy a pastry. He would sit outside the shop and eat it as slowly as possible. Pastries were always from another world to him.
"Did you enjoy John's company?"
Alex nodded. "Si, papa."
"French," George reminded.
"Yes, papa," Alex corrected. "What is Mama making for dinner tonight?"
"Coq au vin." George chuckled. "Do not spoil your dinner with those pastries, Alexander. You can have the one, but save the rest for after dinner."
"Yes, Papa," Alex nodded. "Do you think I will ever be good at French?"
"Yes, I do, Alexander. You are very smart, and once your formal education starts, it will be much easier to learn." George turned around to look at the tuft of brown hair on Alex's head, the way the boy looked so small, curled up and nibbling on his sweet. "I have much faith in you, Alex."
Years went by. Alex grew, his French got better, and he got smarter. He was no longer a wiry little boy who didn't speak up, he was loud, he was there, he took up space. He was only seventeen, still living with the Washington's, still continuing his education. He seemed to be always moving, always doing something. He had absolutely no idea what he wanted to do, but it was just short of everything.
John had grown too. Taller than Alex, dark curls, almond eyes, and a set jaw. Freckles covered him from head to toe. He was toned, broad shoulders like his father but a cut waist. He was only seventeen, not quite grown into what he was, who he could be. He was still clumsy, trying to remember not to trip over his feet or knock down a vase. His adult teeth grew in, and he had mostly all of them, besides a back molar that got knocked out in a fight when he was sixteen.
John and Alex had remained friends. They didn't attend the same schools or even run with the same crowd, but they were friends. They would meet up after school and not come home until grace had been said and food and started to get eaten. John helped Alex with his French, which Alex didn't really need, but it was always fun for John to point at things and Alex to say what they were.
It didn't make total sense how they remained friends. A scrappy and often dirty Alex was looked down upon by John's school friends, but John never felt the need to ditch Alex. It was easy for the two of them to talk, to be together. They watched each other grow, and they quite enjoyed that.
"John Laurens," Alex mused, jumping down from the tree outside John's school. It was a warm April day in the year of our Lord, 1825, and Alex was feeling up to no good.
"Alexander," John smiled, approaching Alex, school uniform already wrinkled from the day. "What on earth could you be smiling about so late in the day?"
Alex shrugged, looking down at his feet and smiling. "Just thinking."
"Thinking we should get into some trouble."
It was barely an hour later before they were hopping the fence to an apple orchard, one they weren't supposed to be in, and walking down a row, talking and laughing. Alex had his shoes in his hand since he liked the feeling of the dirt. John's frock coat was left by the fence and his shirt was unbuttoned a bit since the Paris air was warm that day. Alex managed to get them both apples as they continued walking, talking about the events of the day and other little things.
"Have you thought of university yet?" Alex asked.
John shook his head. "I don't believe I'll go. I'd rather be an artist, spend my days painting and drawing the Paris streets. University is overrated. None of my father's children before me have made it to this age, and I'm not going to waste my luck on more schooling. I have things I want to do."
"John, you are so morbid," Alex complained. "And your lack of work ethic is not very Calvinist of you."
John shook his hand. "Bah, you sound like my father."
Alex chuckled, taking a bite of his apple and then tossing it to the ground since he didn't really like apples.
"And what of you?"
"What of me?"
John laughed. "What of you? Have you thought of university?"
Alex let out a nervous chuckle, rubbing his arm. "Yes, actually."
"Where would you go?" John asked.
Alex paused, taking a breath, remembering what Martha said about being honest. "Uh, I actually am already going somewhere."
John almost stopped. "Oh? Where? Sorbonne? You always did like the campus."
"No." Alex looked at John. "I've been accepted to Humboldt university."
John hummed. "Where's that one again?"
John paused. "Germany?"
"You're going all the way to Germany?"
Alex shrugged. "Things are happening in Germany right now, John. The arts are happening in Germany." Alex stopped, grabbing John's hand. "You could come with me. You would love it, you could be an artist, you and I could live together."
John tried to smile, but his lips seemed firmly planted in their tugged down position. "Alex, I... I can't."
"My mother, my siblings, my family. I can't leave them. I don't even know how you are baring to leave yours! Can schooling truly be more important?"
"John, there are things I want to know, things I want to learn." Alex swallowed hard. "There's more to this world than Paris, John. I promise. And Paris will still be here when you come back."
"I can't, Alex, and you know I can't."
Alex's shoulders slumped. "I wish you could."
John was quiet.
Alex looked back up, meeting his friend's eye. "You will write to me, right?"
"Yes, yes, of course." John smiled, though both knew it was forced. "I don't know how I'll live without you by my side, but I'll survive, yes?"
"Yes, you will." Alex smiled softly. "I do wish you would come."
"But, I do not leave for another three months, so we will have time together." Alex squeezed John's hand, taking a deep breath. "I will write to you as soon as I am able when I get to Germany, alright?"
"Do not fall in love over there."
"Why not, Laurens?" Alex chuckled, walking again.
"Because I fear if you fall in love I may never see you again."
Alex tilted his head back and laughed. "I do not think you have much reason to fear, John. German women are too tight for me. It's much easier to find a good loose woman in Paris. You know I can not stand my woman tight."
"You crave the pink flower of womanhood yet you reject the freshly bloomed bud, and relish in what wilts with age." John sighed wistfully, with a tone of sarcasm. "How the aged wine of a woman tastes when it is not the fresh juice of a girl."
Alex smiled. "You have not had wine nor juice, have you not?"
"Alexander, you know very well the answer to that question," John scoffed.
"Promise me, promise me, John, that you will taste the fine wine of the floor of womanhood before I return from Germany. Do you promise?"
John paused, running his tongue over his teeth. "Why do you need me to have intercourse with a woman?"
"Because I do, John. I do. I need to know you've thrust your cock into the flower of womanhood and felt your own sweet release before I get back from my education," Alex sighed dramatically. "If I could watch, I would."
"You would watch!" John laughed.
"Yes, I would." Alex smiled.
John rolled his eyes. "I do not know what I am to do when you leave. Who will be here to make me laugh as you do?"
"Oh, a face like that? You'll find someone, I promise." Alex let out a dreamy sigh. "I wrote more poetry today."
"May I hear it?"
Alex was already pulling a folded up piece of paper from his pocket. "I suppose."
"Don't play shy, you are just yearning to read your work aloud," John teased, bumping Alex. "Come on then, let me hear it. Do not leave me waiting."
"Oh, how the summer crisp air of childhood fades, and the winter gloom of an old age grow. Oh, how we set down our books and our trades, seeing the sun get low. I am no stranger to the feeling of death, it comes and goes as it should. I seem to block out all of the rest, and bury myself as I would. Do not blame me if I cannot sing, my voice is much to warn to bring, the sweetest kiss of happiness. Oh, here comes my sullen spring."
John smiled. "And what's this one called?"
"Summer Crisp," Alex decided. "Why do you never write poetry?"
"Bah, I find it mind-numbing to write, but I like listening to yours." John smiled. "When you are gone, promise me you'll send back a poem or two now and then."
"I promise," Alex nodded.
John let out a sigh, hoping Alex didn't pick up the sad tone it held. "Well, come now, let's see how close we can get to the house before that old shrew of a farmer attempts to stick us, yes?"
The day of Alex's departure came too soon. John almost wanted to cry as he watched Alex load up his trunk in a carriage that the Laurens family loaned to the Washington's for this occasion. Alex was dressed in a felt blue coat, with fresh and new clothes George had tailored for this exact occasion. Alex needed to look sophisticated when he was in college, and George wasn't about to let his son look any less than that.
"Dear John, you look as though you may cry," Alex commented, stepping down from the back of the carriage. "It will only be a few years, and then I'll be back."
"Yes, I know, but... Oh, Alex, I'll miss you."
Alex smiled softly, taking John's hand. "Write to me. Tell me how home is, and I'll tell you what Germany is like." Alex stepped closer, making sure his father was busy talking to Henry, before leaning in and lowering his voice. "Please, check on my family now and then. I do worry about them. I told my sisters to come home when they can, but please, if you have a spare moment, do stop by and write to me how they are. My father would never admit it if they had begun to struggle."
"I will. And if they do start to struggle, I can help."
Alex took John's hand and squeezed it. "Thank you, John Laurens. You are truly my closest friend."
John smiled sadly. "Have fun in Germany, Alexander."
John watched Alex's carriage disappear into the evening, blissfully unaware he was not to see his friend until the summer of 1834, nine years later.