And he’d lost seven states, and it looked like more were soon to follow.
He didn’t know why he was there, outside, greeting delegations from another country. Hell, he really still couldn’t process in his mind that South Carolina was, in fact, now a part of the Confederate states of America. And he’d said that title over and over in his head so many times, and he’d always mentally trip over that last part – his name.
Or maybe it was more like a last name, and he’d have to share it with someone else now? He didn’t see another country there, and, hell, he was desperately hoping this was some sort of joke or dream.
“I see that you’re looking well, son.”
It takes a few moments before it registers that they’re speaking to him. Which, it probably should have sunk in a long time ago, because there’s certainly no one else that looks young enough to be called ‘son’ there. Even though he’s certainly far older than any of them, but it’s not a point worth arguing.
“Huh, oh, uh, yeah, you too, sir.”
He’s being much more polite than he normally would be (like me, please come back, is this really necessary). And as they pass into the parlor, America is struck with the sickening realization that they certainly still feel like Americans. Have they come here to laugh over some wine or something? America isn’t sure whether he’d be relieved or whether he’d be spitting mad.
Maybe it really is that cold outside…
“Did you lose your glasses?”
“Yes sir, I haven’t been able to find them all week.”
There’s a heavy silence, and he realizes suddenly he should probably take off his coat. Everyone else has already pawned theirs off, and now he’s the one who looks stiff and overdressed, and with a crowd like this, that’s really hard for someone like America to manage. He slides his coat off quickly, awkwardly. The others have already moved on.
They’re there to see Mr. Lincoln, aren’t they? America should certainly be there too, right? Though what he can do to help, he really isn’t sure. At least it’s nice and toasty inside, and there’ll probably be dinner soon. Everyone relaxes when there’s food to be had, America tells himself. It helps that he really is that hungry. Or just that nervous.
“Well, it’s rather fine that you don’t need them to see, isn’t it, son?”
He nods dumbly. Whether or not he actually needs them, America sure as hell wants to find them. He feels much smaller without them, less dignified, and by far more easily ignored. They’re talking amongst themselves, only throwing afterthought statements in his direction. And if he’s called ‘son’ one more time… (I’m your goddamn country. Acknowledge me!)
“Gentlemen, the President is ready.”
They all file into this room, and America brings up the rear. However, when the door shuts behind him, all eyes turn towards him in a slow, but deliberate fashion. Except Lincoln, of course. Lincoln’s folding the paper, and now he’s looking at them while they stare at America. And America feels like a child who’s about to be scolded.
“Thank you for greeting our guests, America,” Lincoln says calmly.
“Welcome…” he trails off.
“Mr. President, we’d like to speak to you alone, if you don’t mind.”
America freezes. His heart stops, and it definitely isn’t in the good way. He hasn’t realized his mouth has opened in protest until all eyes are back on him. Did he… Did he just whine? Out loud? Get it together, he needs to regain his composure. He coughs, and forces himself to try and maintain a neutral face.
“I, uh… I’d like to be here.” The words take some effort, and it’s not America’s forte to be calm in a situation so… like this. This is nothing he’s ever encountered. It’s nothing he ever thought, or ever wanted to encounter.
Lincoln regards the men heavily, and he doesn’t look at America. America’s actually grateful for that. The last thing he wants is his boss to look at him and make him feel even smaller than he already does. Why, he asks himself, why do these men have to have such harsh stares? Is that really necessary?
“Why should I ask him to leave?”
“We would like you to use the full of your logic, and with him here, it may impair your ability to listen to our request.”
There’s a shout. “What the hell type of request are you wanting to make, then?!”
And then there’s silence, and America’s heart is racing. He doesn’t know whether he really wants to listen to their request. It hangs in the air, then suddenly it’s not warm enough in this room for him. That cold is back, and now he wants his jacket. He wants to put it on, and hide in it until this nightmare goes away. He feels like he might shout something else until someone moves, Lincoln, and he comes back, harshly, into reality of the situation. He can’t shout, even if he desperately wants to.
“I appreciate your worry, gentlemen, but I believe he has a right to know your demands too.”
America doesn’t dare smile, or utter a word of thanks right then. He just hopes that Lincoln understands that he’s repeating the words over and over in his head, hoping that somehow he’ll hear them. The southern delegates nod.
“Very well… We’ve come with an offer to buy the federal property of the United States. We would like to maintain peaceful negotiations with the union, if you don’t mind. It would be the most beneficial course of action for the both of us.”
All eyes are focused on the President. They can’t notice the fear in America’s face, or more likely, they don’t want to. Oh, but it’s there. It’s there, and they’ve already factored him out of the equation. It doesn’t matter what he wants.
“I refuse. And I’m certain America does, as well.” America simply nods dumbly.
“You’d refuse fiscal compensation? Why?”
“Because, gentlemen, I owe a responsibility to the union of this country, and I have no intention of conceding this matter. Or of legitimizing your rebellion.”
They were loud, all of them at once, with reason after reason for why he was being foolish. This would be better, and any action otherwise would forever sour relations between the two countries— For a brief second, America mentally recoiled. For one moment, of the men in that room… Only one felt like an American. The sensation was gone as soon as it came.
Did Lincoln want relations soured in such a manner—think of the current relations between Great Britain, and show some sense.
“Do you intend to spurn our generous offer, Mr. President?”
“I believe I already have.”
Moments later, America was watching them leave from the window of the room they had all been occupying before. He couldn’t look at the one other inhabitant, and his hand gripped the windowsill as though for dear life. Anything to keep from shaking. To keep from wondering what had just happened. Was he seriously going to go to war with himself? Where did he fit into this situation? This wasn’t as simple as fighting England for independence—a success- or taking over Canada while England’s back was turned—a tie.
“Are you ready for dinner, America?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah.”
Had a new country been born? Or had he always been there, so close and similar to America that he’d simply never known? Why, for one second, did they not feel like his citizens? There was only one certain thing.
If America ever met that bastard Confederacy, he was going to punch him in the face.
By the end of April, America had lost Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, and North Carolina. The attack on Fort Sumter hadn’t gone as well as anyone had planned. And the southerners were always quick to remind everyone that they had the advantage. They had military prowess, and all they needed to do was maintain their defenses.
Though the Confederacy—he was going to repeat that name forever every time he heard it, because it didn’t seem, wasn’t, real to him- hadn’t been officially recognized by anyone, though they were trying. There was good news, in November, when Captain Charles Wilkes returned with two of the Confederates. Confederates. Confederates, and they still felt like his, what the hell was he supposed to think about all of this?
It was good news, right?
Correspondence. Clipped, tight, angry, from England.
Keep your bloody hands off of my ships, or you will regret it.
America stares at the letter, dumbfounded. For a moment, he’s at a loss for words, and then wonders if Lincoln has gotten a similar letter. The next day, he’s found he has, and all that good news has dried up in the face of England, who can’t realize that he’s fighting a Civil War.
Lincoln insists on making things right with England. America disagrees.
“You don’t want him siding with them,” Lincoln cautions knowingly.
The next day, America sends a response of one word-- Sorry. To be fair, it’s written in the most elaborate handwriting he can write it.
The numbers of dead Americans are well into the hundreds of thousands by the new year, in 1863. Everyone is predicting a Confederate win. America feels like he’ll never be well again.
It’s a last minute plan, going to Gettysburg. America isn’t going to speak. (When does he ever?) However, President Lincoln has been asked to, and in turn Lincoln has asked America to come with him. He’s even offered to invite Canada, though America finds no comfort from the other right then. Actually, this is a pretty terrible meeting, and it feels a little too personal to have Canada watching as his entire country falls apart.
It’s cold, and America draws close to Canada, who either is seriously blind, or pretending not to notice. Either way, he’s warm, and America is grateful. The two of them stick out like a sore thumb amongst the ladies and gentlemen attending the commemoration. America feels overdressed, and his collar is far too stiff. Then again, he’s still, and he’s been having pains from the cold anyway.
“It’s not so bad…” Canada comments suddenly.
America regards him, confused. He’s noticing the odd shivers (isn’t Canada already used to the cold?) and the tenseness. Maybe he’s catching a cold, or something like that. And America looks back towards the vacant platform, and then he looks around, wondering where Lincoln could be, Canada’s presence vanishing from his mind as suddenly as it was there.
“Oh, ah, you seemed tense so…”
A sigh, and then he looks back to regard his companion. Canada seems small, almost unimportant. And if he would stop breaking the silence, that’d be fantastic, because one of the things America no longer wants or cares to do is entertain small talk.
“As long as you’re not here to burn down my house again or whatever, I’m fine.”
Where is Lincoln? Maybe America should have sat close to him… But he recalls that he wanted space, and it’s stupid that he’s looking for his President now. He probably just can’t see him from wherever he is. Satisfied with that answer, America leans back against the chair. If Canada’s said anything else, he didn’t hear. And he really didn’t care. America’s still pissed at England.
He looks up when he hears a slow walk that he’s become so familiar with. There’s Lincoln, he can stop looking now. But he can’t relax. That’s been the case for almost three years now, though, hasn’t it? There’s a slow, hesitant preliminary applause. America does not clap with them. He doesn’t want to, though he’s pretty sure Canada is clapping beside him.
Four score and seven years ago…
There’s deliberation in his words, America can hear it, which says a lot. Many things, America can’t bring himself to hear or to recognize anymore. It’s easier to stay optimistic if you pretend you can’t see yourself falling apart. Or if he pretends he can’t feel some part of him separating, becoming something new. It’s like the very clothes he’s wearing are threatening to strangle him as he is, because they are made of cotton.
The south is cotton. He’s corn. He can’t be both.
There is another slow, more hesitant clap, and he’s sure even Canada is hesitating now. America, however, is suddenly livid.
Canada sounds concerned, though people are starting to dispatch around them. They sound like a dull roar in his head, but he knows they’re no where near that loud. Is that all he can say? 150,000 people died, and is that all he can say? What was he expecting? Something longer, something less general, something different from what it was. Canada repeats his question. America responds.
“Is that all he can say…?”
The words roar in his head, but only a whisper escapes his mouth.
1864. They say the war is turning in favor of the union. Soon, they’ll have Richmond. America wonders how far away ‘soon’ really means, sometimes, because he just wants it to stop. Is it even worth fighting over anymore? It’s been so long since he’s looked at a Confederate soldier and felt like they were his countrymen. Sometimes, he wonders if they ever will be again, no matter what the outcome is.
Though he doesn’t converse with Lincoln much anymore. The other is busy, and America has been nursing a silent grudge for… he’s not sure how long anymore. But it’s there, and it makes the few times they do meet awkward and uncomfortable. Lincoln doesn’t show it, but then again, he already looks to have aged twenty years in the short span of four.
America does see Lincoln one more time before the elections, though. He bites his tongue as his boss greets him. Good morning? It’s cloudy, and rainy, and a little bit cold. He thinks he might be getting sick, and his President looks like a ghost, and all that he can manage is ‘good morning’? He shakes with a—a sigh that won’t come out.
Lincoln regards him for a moment before he speaks again. “You seem agitated lately… You should speak your mind.”
Speak his mind… He’s right. “Sir,” America starts, choosing his words carefully, “if you come back, that only means this war is going to continue.” Lincoln shows no surprise; he’s probably heard it, hasn’t he? “More people… my people are going to die, and we don’t even know if we can win, or—or if it was even worth it!”
“You don’t think it worth it to protect the union? To protect you?”
“I… Yes, I want to protect me, but isn’t this cost too much? Is it really worth it?” America has had his doubts about his bosses before. They weren’t charming enough, or they seemed rather dimwitted and slow… Or maybe they were just too plain for someone with energy like him, or too strict and angry and he felt like he couldn’t get anything done, or even do anything right. But none of them had led him into the bloodiest conflict he’d ever seen.
None of them had been with him during a Civil War. And Lincoln—why was he so calm? Did he ever panic? Yes. He’d panicked over England being a jerk, hadn’t he. He’d panicked over France (even though America had wanted something like the Emancipation Proclamation for ages). But right then, he appeared way too calm, too collected. America couldn’t relate to that. How could he even hope to ever relate to that?
“America… You will have to have patience.”
After the election, by some miracle, or maybe out of the tired unwillingness to let someone else enter in the middle of a conflict, Lincoln was still America’s president.
The war would go on.
It’s spring now: April, 1865. The war is over, and restoration is slated to begin.