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Cross Both Hands Over the Middle of Your Chest

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Alfred sat on the wooden bench in the front hallway, his legs tucked up under him. He thought it was weird that there was a wooden bench in the front hallway, but his Dad had scolded him when he said so to the lady who lived in the house. Now he was stuck sitting on the dumb thing while Dad and Papa talked to the lady in the kitchen.

He was bouncing in his seat; how long did they expect him to sit there? He was supposed to meet his new little brother today. Why were they making him wait!

Dad and Papa had asked him about five months ago how he felt about having a younger sibling. Alfred, naturally, had been ecstatic, and it was all he would talk about to anyone ever since.

There was a short woman in a suit who came around a lot after that. She liked to ask Alfred questions—

“Do you want a brother or a sister?”

“Yeah!”

“Which one?”

“Oh, um… A brother! ‘Cuz then I could teach him football and stuff. But a sister would be cool too. Can I get both?”

“No, just one for now.”

“Ok, then a brother.”

“Now, what if your brother was a little bit different?”

“I don’t understand.”

“What if he couldn’t see, or he couldn’t hear; would you be okay with that?”

“I don’t get it.”

“If your brother was disa—”

“No no no, I get that. I don’t get why I wouldn’t be okay with it. I love my brother! Hey what are you writing? You write a lot.”

“I’m just making sure I remember what you say. How do you know you love your brother if you haven’t met him yet?”

“Don’t need to. I already know he’s gonna be awesome!”

“And what if a bigger kid was picking on your brother in school? What would you do?”

“I’d save him, duh, ‘cuz I’m a hero!”

“Okay, sweetie, please get down from the table.”

—She asked questions like that for a couple weeks, until Dad and Papa finally told him that there was a little boy that they wanted him to meet, one that might end up being his new little brother.

That had been five days ago, and now Alfred was waiting impatiently on the pointless front-hall-bench. It had been a whole seven minutes!

“I’ll find him myself!” He declared, jumping down onto the smooth tile floor.

He ran to the door straight across from him, twisted the handle, and shoved it open to reveal a blue ocean-themed bathroom. His face screwed up in confusion and he sprinted to the next door. This one was heavier, taking both of his hands to open, and behind it was a big, beige room filled with couches and wall-to-wall bookshelves. Curled up on one of the couches was a small boy with dark blonde hair framing his face. He had a large book sitting open on his lap.

“Hey!” Alfred yelled, startling the boy out of his reading. Ignoring the other’s surprise, Alfred ran and leapt onto the couch. “I’m looking for my new brother, have you seen him?”

The boy shook his head slowly while Alfred situated himself sitting on his knees again.

“Papa said I’d meet him today, but they’ve been talking to the lady for-ever. Hey what’s that you’re readin’?” He grabbed the book and proceeded to stare at it upside-down. Not that he realized it was the wrong way, since he’d forgotten his glasses at home and the world was slightly fuzzy for him anyway. He squinted and leaned his face closer to the book. “Is this in French or something? I can’t read it.”

He looked back up at the boy, who gave a small smile and reached out to turn the book right-side-up. Alfred squinted and stuck his nose back in it, now able to make out a few words.

“Oh, I see. ‘The great sala…’” He trailed off, and suddenly thrust the book back into the boy’s arms. “I don’t know that word, but you must be really smart to read that stuff! And it’s a big book, too, not like the ones Mrs. Jensen has. Are you a genius or something?”

The boy shook his head sheepishly.

“I’m Alfred, what’s your name?” He leaned in so he could see the boy’s face better, unconscious of the fact that he was now about two inches from the other’s nose.

The boy backed up a bit, only stopped by the arm of the couch at his back. Then he lifted his right hand and began to slowly move his fingers. Alfred couldn’t tell exactly what the boy was doing, so he made his best educated guess.

“You’re right—you must be my new brother! We gotta go tell Dad and Papa that I found you!” He grabbed the boy’s hand, which was still held up, and slid off the couch, yanking the boy down after him. The book tumbled to the floor and was left behind as Alfred dragged his newfound friend out of the room, down the hall, and through the door his parents had disappeared through about ten minutes ago. They were sitting with the lady around a square wooden table. His Dad was talking.

“Well, I’m sure once we all meet—”

“Hey Dad I like him can he be my new brother?” Alfred grabbed the boy’s shoulders and pushed him towards the adults.

Papa laughed, his arm casually slung around Dad’s shoulder. “I suppose we do not have to worry about them meeting.”

“Alfred, I thought I told you to stay in the foyer,” Dad cut in, casting his disapproving look at his son. Said son ignored it like usual.

“I did, for like an hour. Can he be my brother?” Alfred pointed at the boy, who was shuffling his feet and staring at the floor.

Papa stood up and walked over to crouch down in front of the two boys. He brushed a lock of wavy blonde hair behind his ear and said, “Hello there. You must be Matthieu.”

The boy nodded and hesitantly waved.

“My name is Francis. That’s Arthur, and I see you have already met Alfred.”

Matthew nodded again. After a pause, he began to move his hands. Alfred frowned in confusion.

“What’s that you’re doin’? You were doin’ it earlier, too.”

“Alfred,” Dad chimed in, now coming over to kneel by the boys as well. “Matthew is using sign language. It’s how he talks.”

Alfred tilted his head. “Why doesn’t he just talk?”

“Because he doesn’t have a voice,” Dad explained, tapping his throat. “So he uses his hands instead.”

“Oh… you mean like this?” Alfred began to move his arms and hands rapidly, nearly smacking Papa in the face. Dad quickly grabbed his arms and held them still.

“Yes,” the man said with a slight laugh, “something like that.”

“So your name’s Matthew!” Alfred suddenly rounded on the smaller boy, shaking off his Dad. “Awesome! I promise I’m gonna be the best big brother ever!” He threw his arms around Matthew’s neck and hugged him tightly.

“Alfred, don’t choke the poor boy,” Papa said jokingly. Alfred released his brother and shot his parent a quizzical look.

“But I’m doing sign language.”

“You are?”

“Yup! That’s ‘I love you.’ Can’t you tell?”