“MON AMI! MON AMI, WAKE UP!” Lafayette hurled himself onto his brother’s bed.
“What the hell, Laf?” Alex choked as Laf landed on his stomach.
“It is time! Time for fireworks!” Laf shook Alex by the shoulders.
The smaller boy shut his eyes tighter. “But I’m comfy here. You and Mom and Pops go without me,” he said, already starting to drift back to sleep.
“No no, Alexander,” Laf tsked. “You are coming! It is our family tradition!” With that Laf pulled Alex into a sitting position, the smaller boy groaning out protests as Laf ripped the blankets from him.
“This is independence day, Laf, and I independently decided that I am staying in bed.” Alex tried to turn back over, but Laf hauled him from bed.
“Non, mon ami, none of your talk. You are coming.”
Alexander sighed. He could tell that protesting any further would be of no use. He stood and let Laf drag him from his room. Laf tugged him into his own room across the hall and sat him down at his desk chair, where he had a lighted mirror and a scattering of gaudy red, white, and blue jewelry set up.
“Hell no,” Alex said. “I draw the line here, you baguette!”
“You must get in the spirit, mon ami!” Laf grabbed some mardi gras beads in the colors of the flag and dropped them around Alex’s neck. “Magnificent!” he grinned.
“Oh my god,” Alex said.
Alexander remained silent as Laf did the rest of his work. He brushed out Alex’s messy bun and pulled it back into a neat pony tail, tying it off with a patriotic scrunchy that matched the one holding his own curls back. He fastened a light-up flag pin to Alex’s shirt and stuck a small flag in his pony tail.
Laf himself was even more dressed up. His shirt read EST. 1776 in big block letters, and his shorts were flag-colored. He had two light-up pins on, a flag and the scrunchy in his hair, and a seemingly endless supply of patriotic necklaces draped around his neck and wound into bracelets on both his arms.
“You’re a walking flag,” Alex mumbled.
“Merci!” Laf exclaimed with a smile.
“Boys, you ready?” George called up the stairs.
“Oui!” Laf shouted back. He grabbed Alex’s hand and pulled him down the stairs.
George and Martha chuckled when they saw the boys.
“We need a picture of this,” Martha said as she grabbed her phone from her pocket.
“We need many pictures of this,” George agreed.
The two of them snapped a seemingly endless stream of photos before Alex began to protest.
“Can’t we go already?” he whined.
“And you didn’t want to go before!” Laf said with a wink.
Alex rolled his eyes. “Anything is better than more pictures of me in this state.”
George chuckled. “Okay, boys, we can head out.”
Alex followed his family out the door, watching them head to the car. Safe from their gazes, he let himself smile. He might never admit it, but days like these, well, he finally felt what he’d been longing for ever since his mother died two years ago.