The recent Kane shorts spurred a conversation between my husband and me over the character. Kane intrigued him, and he decided to try his hand at a short story featuring Kane.
I am extremely pleased with it, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Kane’s First Birthday Party
Acrobats. Trained bears. Musicians. And clowns.
Kane was fascinated by the clowns. Not entertained, exactly, there was something about them…
Francis disengaged himself from a group of brightly dressed party guests and sprinted over to the table where Kane was sitting alone, sipping a cup of punch.
“Kane!” Francis beamed at him. “You came to my birthday party!”
Kane put down the cup and frowned at Francis. He tried to read the other boy for any signs of sarcasm, hidden meanings, or obligatory politeness. None. Francis was genuinely happy to see him. As he always was.
“Baffling,” Kane muttered to himself, still not understanding why. But he sighed, got out of his chair, and allowed Francis to give him a big, joyful hug. Kane awkwardly hugged the other boy back. Hugs were something Kane was never sure he was doing correctly as Francis was about the only person he ever hugged.
“So this is a birthday party,” Kane said. “Their Graces, the Duke and Duchess Fullbright, throw you a party just for being born? And they do so every year, even though you were only born once?”
“And later we’re serving cake!” Francis grinned.
“Francis,” the Duchess Fullbright called.
“Be right there, Mother,” Francis said. “Enjoy the acrobats. They’re quite good. I will be back as soon as I can.”
Kane ignored the acrobats. He struggled to see the point of the entire event. Francis had turned seven years old, but was that really an accomplishment worth celebrating? Did Francis suffer from some grave malady that significantly limited the number of years he had?
It seemed unlikely. Francis was the sole heir to House Fullbright, and if he were ill, Kane would have learned of it.
Retreating to the edge of the gathering so he could watch the other guests, Kane waited for the promised cake. He’d never had it before, and Francis’s excitement over it made him curious.
“Cake” turned out to be a nauseatingly over-sweet bread that made Kane gag. The texture was nice, but it was topped with an even-more-sugary kind of grease called “frosting”. To Kane’s disbelief, the other children devoured theirs. Kane had two bites, managed not to vomit, then discreetly scraped the rest behind some rose bushes in the garden.
“No need to waste good cake,” said a voice. “If you didn’t want it, you could have given it to someone else.”
Kane’s eyes widened in surprise. He stood up straight, turned to face the voice, and bowed low, holding his plate and fork behind him.
“Your Highness,” Kane said. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
Prince William’s smile was warm and genuine. “You can relax with all that ‘your highness’ stuff. Only our parents care about it. Please just call me William.”
Prince William was seven-and-a-half summers, and one of the few people Kane liked and respected.
“I didn’t expect to see you here, either,” Prince William said. “You’ve never attended any of the other birthday parties. Your parents always said you were too busy.”
Kane didn’t reply. He had only just learned yesterday that there were such things as birthday parties. He was still trying to grasp their purpose.
“Your Highne….I mean, William,” Kane said, “have you ever had a birthday party?”
Prince William grinned, appearing more like a boy and less like a prince. “Of course! But not one like this. Francis’s mother and father want everyone to have a good time. With my mom and dad, it’s all about security. I was only allowed to come here because…” William trailed off.
The prince had almost said too much, and Kane could guess what he’d been about to say before he caught himself.
As the clowns juggled, danced, and pulled coins from behind people’s ears, they also watched.
They didn’t watch William, but they watched the people who watched William. Especially anyone who was near him or moving in his direction.
Knowing this helped Kane relax. Prince William’s life was both very important and very targeted, and Kane harbored doubts about Francis’s family fully understanding that. But of course Their Majesties would not have allowed the only royal heir to attend a birthday party without generously supplying some of the entertainment themselves.
William smiled as he surveyed the festivities.
“Francis seems to take after his father.”
Kane had wanted to ask William more about birthday parties, particularly the why of them. But he let it go for the moment.
“How do you mean, Your High…err…how do you mean?”
William kicked a pebble and looked up at the clouds as he answered. “Most kids our age, at their own birthday party, want to have as much fun as they can. Now watch Francis for a moment.”
Kane raised an eyebrow and frowned, but did as William suggested. Francis was sitting amidst a group of children watching one of the puppeteers.
“He seems to be having an awful lot of fun to me,” Kane said. As he watched, another party guest got nudged by a child chasing after a ball and dropped her ice cream. Francis got up and left the puppet show, went over to where the ice cream was being served, and pointed to the girl. The server gave him a new cone, and Francis brought it over to her just as she was beginning to cry.
“He’s spending his own party trying to make sure everyone else is having a good time,” said Kane. He remembered Francis talking to him earlier and telling him to enjoy the acrobats. Talking up the cake. But Kane had been too puzzled by it all to enjoy any of it.
“Is this another birthday thing?” Kane asked. “Is Francis rewarded in some way if he makes enough people happy?”
William smiled. “It’s not a birthday thing. It’s a Francis thing. And I think he does it because, to him, it is the reward.”
The cake had been eaten, the games played, and the musicians and animal-trainers were packing up.
Kane still didn’t understand why so much fuss had gone into an anniversary of Francis’s birth, but aside from the cake, he had enjoyed himself. He must have enjoyed himself, he reasoned, or else he wouldn’t be feeling disappointment that it was over.
The adults were finishing up their conversations and saying goodbye to one another. Soon they would begin rounding up their children for everyone to head home.
Kane found Prince William, still being discreetly guarded by the “clowns”, with several of the other children all saying their goodbyes to each other and to Francis. Many were admiring Francis’s presents. Kane figured he’d say goodbye to William because he genuinely admired the young prince, and he’d bid Francis farewell because it was his party and politeness demanded it.
To Kane’s surprise, when he got near enough, the other children smiled and cheerfully said how happy they were that he’d been able to come. A few of them even hugged him. Kane stood stiffly as they did so, then realized he should be hugging them back, and made his best attempt.
William didn’t hug him, but gave Kane a warm smile and a respectful nod. Kane imagined what it would be like when they were grown. He would be the Duke of Erembour, and William would be the king he faithfully served. William would be a good king. Kane wasn’t sure that he would be a good duke, but was determined to try his best for William.
Francis, of course, did hug him. He hugged everybody.
On the coach ride home with his mother, Kane’s thoughts swirled in a vortex of questions. He wondered which ones he could ask without upsetting her.
His Highness, Prince William, says that the children of all the other Paragon Houses have parties for their birthdays.
Phrased that way, it wasn’t a question. But his mother would know that a question was implied.
His Highness, Prince William, came to Francis’ birthday party. Do you think he would come if we had a party?
That was just as blatant, but might convince her that he cared about the sort of things she wanted him to care about. There was nothing more important in House Erembour than serving the royal family.
I’d never even heard of birthday parties before, but everyone else seemed to know what they are.
That was another statement that just implied the question. He could probably state it with enough disinterest to avoid setting off one of her moods, and she might even give him a casual explanation.
Why were you and Father telling everyone I was too busy to visit them? And why aren’t you telling them that anymore? Is it because Father is dead now?
He pressed a hand his chest where he could still feel the raised edge of the scar through his tunic.
No. Kane could imagine her fury if he came right out and asked that.
Kane knew the anniversary of his own birth (his “birthday” as everyone apparently called it) was only a few weeks away. He’d be turning seven as well. He wondered if his mother, the Duchess of Erembour, would host a party for him.
He wasn’t sure what he wanted the answer to be.
But he hoped that she would at least ask him.