Mr. Midnight and Itward surprise Fran with another Birthday party. An even bigger cake is sitting on the table. Instead of the plushed bunnies and animals like her last party, the chairs are filled with Itherstians. The trees look quite happy to see her and all have presents in their hands. Fran covers her mouth with her hands in suprise and almost squeals.
“Thank you, everybody!”
She is now 13. To her friends and to her kitty, Fran was growing rather fast. She is maturing only a tad bit but has not changed her kind and curious nature. Itward prepared for her a caramel cake this year with vanilla buttercream frosting. Mr. Midnight stands beside Fran and eyes the cake hungrily. He licks his lips.
“Ooh! Very delicious!” The cat comments.
“We’ll get to the cake after her presents,” Itward says. “Fran, come here. We all have something for you.”
Fran quickly makes her way over and bows to the Itherstians. They hand her the gifts they had been carrying and say somthing to her in their language. She falls silent at the lack of understanding and gives them a polite smile. The effects of that seed given to her as a tree must have worn off long ago.
“They’re telling you how much you’ve grown.” Itward suddenly explains. Fran realizes that he speaks and reads Itherstian fluently.
“Oh?” She asks. “Well, they aren’t wrong! I’m in middle school, now.”
Ryde, the King’s assistant, hands Fran a small gift. She gives him a bow of thanks and sets all of her presents on the table beside her cake. There were just so many! Each of them were a different size and she had no clue what might be in them. She hasn’t had so many gifts at once. Her previous Birthday parties were kept rather small but Itward gave her something every year. She ought to get used to being showered with gifts...
King Ziar comes over and drags two large presents with him. He sets them next to the table and takes a deep breath after. He goes to crack his back and everyone around him hears something pop.
“Oof! I’m getting old. I guess I can’t lift things like I used to...”
“Hello, King, Sir!” Fran curtsies. She gets his attention right away. Ziar smiles at the sight of his old friend and visitor.
“Good evening, Fran! Do you like the party?”
“Yes! Very much so!” She looks around. “Itward always throws the best parties.”
“Yes, he does.” King Ziar nods. “Fran...I would just like you to know that you are always welcome here in Ithersta. I know it has been awhile but I want to make sure you know you can come anytime.”
She clasps her hands at her waist respectively. She says, “Yes, I know. And I thank you! Kitty and I will be sure to visit more often. I’ve just been busy with school and all.”
“School?” He asks. “Ah, yes. The place where they teach you knowledge. Be sure to come there everyday. You know how much Ithersta treasures knowledge!”
He gives her a dismissive wave and makes his way over to the other Itherstians. Mr. Midnight comes over to Fran and sits down in front of her. The two of them take a look around and marvel at the beautiful sight of summer in Ithersta. The place hasn’t changed much since their last visit. Fran truly wishes she could be there more often. She makes a silent promise to herself to come next weekend.
A colorful creature soon passes by her and Fran gasps in delight. The colors of green, white, and pink flash by her eyes. In the next second she sees a large creature in front of her hovering over the land. Black eyes met with hers and Fran gave her friend a polite bow.
“Welcome to my Birthday party, Palontras!”
“Thanks for inviting me, Fran!” He brushes his fur quickly. “I got you something! Where should I put it?”
“On this table here.” She points. “Thank you very much!”
Palontras nods and sets down a gift on the table. He takes a moment to eye his friend and he tilts his head curiously. His mannerism hasn’t changed through these years. Fran hadn’t been able to play with him for awhile because Ithersta was quite far from home. She hopes he isn’t upset about it...
“You look different!” He soon exclaims. “Have you done something with your hair?”
“Not really...” Fran observes it. “I’ve gotten much taller, though! Kitty tells me I’m going to be one of the older kids soon.”
Palontras looks confused. He asks, “Older kids?”
“Yeah! They’re the ones usually telling what the smaller kids to do. Sometimes they’re mean but I’ve made a few friends that are older than me that are pretty nice.”
“Well, that’s good! Say, I’ve gotta’ go, Fran. Happy Birthday!”
Palontras drifts away in the sky as fast as he came. Fran watches him fly away for a bit and observes his colorful nature. The creatures of Ithersta never ceased to amaze her with their beauty. Now that she was older she was realizing how much she took for granted. Her friends, her kitty, the King, Itwar-
She turns around and finds her skeleton giving her a patient look. Fran realizes that all of the Itherstians are waiting behind her for her to open her presents. She turns red in embarrassment and quickly comes back to the table. She takes a seat in front of the gifts and flattens down her dress. She takes a look around at all of the gifts and silently decides which one to open.
“Ah!” She grabs a medium-sized one. “I’ll open this one, first.”
The tag was in Ithersta’s language. Fran looks around in the crowd and finds one tree giving her an eager look. She returns it and unwraps the gift. It was a well-crafted ceramic bowl with a branch theme. Fran thanks the tree afterward and sets it to the side. She has no idea what to use it for but doesn’t want to be rude.
Opening the presents from the other Itherstians, Fran notices that they are general gifts. It is very nice of them to get Fran something and she didn’t take offense to them not trying to be personal. She even got a book about geometry from someone and said nothing besides “thank you”. The therapists back at the Asylum had always told Fran to watch her manners.
Fran opens the gift from Palontras and finds it’s a big book filled with riddles. It was so much like him to give her opportunities at solving puzzles. She wishes she could thank him as she sets his gift aside. All she had left to open was the two big presents in the back.
Fran has to get on her tiptoes to see the tag. This one was from King Ziar. She wondered what could be in it?
Opening it, she notices that it’s a figure. It is a wooden model replicating how Fran looked like as a tree. It reminded her of those robots she’d see at Chuck E Cheese’s, except it wasn’t moving. What did they call these things, again? A mannequin? Fran eyes it rather curiously.
“I wanted to commemorate your stay here,” King Ziar explains behind her. “I had our best artist work on that for you. Do you like it?”
“I love it!” Fran smiles. “Thank you! I’ll be sure to keep it in my room. It’ll be like I’m looking in a mirror! Sort of.”
She moves onto the next big present. She checks the tag and finds it’s from Itward. Curious, she begins tearing it up and gasps at what is underneath. It’s a life-sized plush of a black kitten! If she wasn’t mistaken, he made it to look exactly like Mr. Midnight. Fran isn’t able to contain herself as she hugs it tightly.
Itward stands beside her and chuckles. “I’m assuming you like it?”
“Yeah!” She takes a step back and observes it. “You usually make me small plushes of Mr. Midnight. This is....really big!”
“I thought I’d change things up a bit. I made it to your size. Now, come on, the cake is waiting for you.”
A skeletal hand comes on her back and ushes her back to the table. Fran finds the Itherstians sitting and patiently waiting for her to come. She takes a seat at the head of the table and rubs her hands together. Mr. Midnight comes and makes his way into her lap. Fran pets his coat and thinks of a wish to make this year.
“Hmmm...” She muses.
What could I wish for? I have all of my friends here and school is going pretty well. Ah! I know...
She leans forward and furrows her eyebrows in thought. She wishes for it to never change. As soon as the candles blow out, everyone claps and makes their way to the cake. Itward is able to get Fran a good portion of a slice before the trees devour the rest. He sets the plate down in front of her.
“What did you wish for, my dear?” He asks.
“If I tell you, it won’t come true!” She hums. “-And I REALLY want it to come true.”
Itward is silent as he starts to eat his thin slice of cake. Fran watches him curiously and finds that his sharp teeth work great at eating food. The slice is gone before she is able to finish hers. Mr. Midnight nibbles some off of her plate while she isn’t looking. Fran notices and silently scolds her kitty. Itward wipes his teeth with a napkin next to her and looks down at the table in thought.
“You know,” He begins. “When you were little, you made me a promise before you wished on your Birthday. Do you remember it?”
Fran takes a moment from eating the cake to think. A promise? She didn’t quite remember promising anything to Itward. She soon shrugs and gives him a look.
“No, I don’t. What was it?”
“You promised you’d never forget me.”
She goes silent at this. Mr. Midnight takes this chance to finish the rest of the cake on her plate. Fran doesn’t mind it as she lets him have the rest and thinks in silence. Did she really make that promise? If so, it might have been her own fault when she started to forget him. A twinge of guilt came in the pit of her stomach.
“Are you mad?”
“About what?” Itward asks.
“That I forgot about you...?”
He shakes his skull. “Of course not. You were going through a lot, my dear. You wanted your kitty back while you were admitted to the Asylum. It isn’t your fault you forgot me. You were just busy.”
“Still...” She says. “It wasn’t right of me to forget you. Especially that I wouldn’t have gotten kitty back if it weren’t for you.”
“I guess it was rather selfish of me to take you home by myself that day.” He looks up in thought. “At least you remembered me. Do you still promise not to forget, Fran?”
“Of course not, Itward. You’re my most faithful friend.”