The La-Iin Series
“Happy First Birthday, An-Tois”
“When are your friends coming, Cou-Riette?”
“They should be here any moment now. At least, I hope so. I certainly hope nothing happened to them on the way here.”
“I’m sure that’s not the case. Though you must admit our residence is fairly out of the way.”
An-Tois babbled. “I do admit that.”
“Your son certainly has come a long way in the past year, hasn’t he?”
“Oh yes, he has! Last year he was a newborn, and now he can talk a few words–though he prefers to babble–he can walk, slightly, and he can fly quite well for an infant. It’s rather amazing, being here to watch him grow up like this.”
“I can imagine. I grew up around siblings, but I’ve never watched anyone grow from infancy. At least, not that I know of. I think little An-Tois might be the first, and I’m not even watching him from the beginning!”
Cou-Riette smiled. “Well, you might be here to see him grow for a long while onwar–”
A knock sounded at the door, followed by several more. “That must be them!” Holding An-Tois, she head for the door and nearly flung it open. Lishe-Ashyo, Mali-Ana, Gen-Reiya and Xhen-Wu stood together at the entrance, a few of them holding small gifts.
“Hey there, Cou-Riette, birthday boy!” Lishe-Ashyo exclaimed. “Really, happy birthday, An-Tois.”
“Li!” An-Tois called out, reaching for Lishe-Ashyo. Lishe-Ashyo smiled.
“How have you been, Cou-Riette?” Mali-Ana asked.
“Just fine. Although I’m still in shock at the fact that it’s been a year since An-Tois hatched!”
“Didja keep track of the day he was laid, too?”
Cou-Riette glanced away. “I’d rather forget that day…anyway, why don’t you all come in? We can celebrate An-Tois’ birthday together.”
“I see some of you have presents.”
“Ma!” An-Tois said, pointing at Mali-Ana. “Ge!” He pointed at Gen-Reiya.
“I’m surprised he can talk any words at all,” Gen-Reiya said.
“So am I. But he’s got to grow up, and this is one of the first steps. So, what are the presents?”
“Geez, can’t you be patient?” Mali-Ana said.
“It’s been a while since I got presents on my birthday, so I want to see what you all got for him.”
“If you’re hoping it’s stuff for you to help you out with him, you’ve got another thing coming,” Xhen-Wu said playfully.
“I didn’t think it was anything like that!”
“Sure you didn’t.” Xhen-Wu winked. “But go ahead, let him open them now.”
“Should I really let him open them?”
“Why not? I’m sure he likes tearing into things.” Gen-Reiya blinked. “Right?”
“Well…we’ll see….” She sat Xhen-Wu’s present down in front of An-Tois. “Go ahead, An-Tois. This is a present for you.”
An-Tois looked up at Cou-Riette curiously, then began to slowly open the present. He gave a squeal of delight when he opened up the plush Bearperson.
“I know it’s generic, but hey, don’t Wiench children like teddy Bearpeople?”
“I’m not sure. I may be Wiench, but I’ve spent my whole life here in Vaelyn.” Cou-Riette gave her friend a wry smile. “But thank you regardless, Xhen-Wu. I’m very grateful, and it looks like An-Tois is too.”
An-Tois was holding tight to the plush, looking completely content.
“Can he do mine next?” Gen-Reiya asked. Cou-Riette nodded and set down in front of An-Tois Gen-Reiya’s present. An-Tois gave it a curious look, then still holding tight to his plush, gently opened it up.
“Those Birdmix claws probably help a lot with tearing off wrapping paper,” Xhen-Wu said. Cou-Riette nodded. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Gen-Reiya’s present was a can of powdered milk. An-Tois stared back at Cou-Riette, looking confused.
“Oookay, so mine is kinda something to help you raise him, but hey, he’s the one who gets the beneficial stuff from it, isn’t he?”
“He certainly is. Thank you for this, Gen-Reiya.”
“Have him do mine next!” Lishe-Ashyo complained.
“Wait, Lishe-Ashyo. He should see mine next.” Mali-Ana held out a small rattle. “I wasn’t able to get wrapping paper in time. Sorry.”
“No need to apologize.”
“I saw his rattle broke last time I visited, so I thought this’d be a suitable replacement.”
An-Tois took the rattle from Mali-Ana and shook it, smiling wide.
“Well, it’s certainly made him happy enough, and so long as he’s happy, I am too,” Cou-Riette said. “I suppose that leaves your present for last, Lishe-Ashyo. I hope it’s not a deluge of items like that ultimate mommy pack you got me once.”
“Nah, it’s something exclusively for An-Tois.” He handed An-Tois the present. An-Tois tore it open. Inside the wrapping paper was a blanket. An-Tois held it close along with the rattle and plush.
“Aw, he looks so sweet like that,” Cou-Riette said. “Uncle, where do you keep your camera? I think I finally have an excuse to take a picture of An-Tois!”
“I’m starting to wonder who’s more happy about today–An-Tois or Cou-Riette,” Gen-Reiya said.
“I don’t know if An-Tois even gets that it’s his birthday,” Mali-Ana said.
“Who cares? Whether he gets it or not, it’s still his birthday, and birthdays are a time to celebrate!”
An-Tois was fast asleep, cuddling his plush and wrapped in his new blanket. Cou-Riette and her friends watched him sleep, completely at a loss of what to do.
“So, uh…birthday boy’s asleep, and it’s still light outside.” Lishe-Ashyo said.
“My Dad isn’t expecting me back until a lot later,” Mali-Ana said.
“Did you have a back-up plan in case he fell asleep, Cou-Riette?” Xhen-Wu asked.
“No, I didn’t, but something has come to mind in these minutes we’ve been watching him. Think about it, all of us are practically adults, right?”
“We’re eighteen. I don’t think that counts as adult, depending on what you plan on doing.” Gen-Reiya said.
“Well, we’re close enough, and there’s something I’ve been wanting to try for a while. When my parents would host large parties, late in the night they would drink wine. I only had a few tastes of wine when in the most ceremonial situations–and around family members whom my parents wanted me to think I was an adult, thanks to An-Tois–but I’m sure none of you have.”
“Is that even legal?”
Cou-Riette shrugged. “If we only drink a little bit, I don’t think it will be a problem. And my uncle most certainly does have wine in the house, before you ask. Most Fasoucies do. It’s almost one of our staples.”
“What makes it not one?” Lishe-Ashyo asked.
“The fact that most Fasoucies have children. Some even large families where there are multiple small children in the house at once. I always planned on being one of them, but whether I end up that way or I don’t, for now all I have is An-Tois, and he is fast asleep. So let’s take this time while uncle’s at work!”
Cou-Riette flew out of the room; as soon as she was out of earshot, her friends huddled together.
“Who else thinks this is gonna be a bad idea?” Lishe-Ashyo asked.
“Of all the people here, I honestly thought you’d be the last one to say that,” Mali-Ana said.
“Cou-Riette seems like she really wants to try it, though. Maybe we should indulge her. I mean, all of us are here. We’ve all got common sense. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Gen-Reiya, when people say something stupid like that, they’re usually setting themselves up for something bad to happen.”
“What are you four talking about?”
The foursome broke from their huddle to face Cou-Riette, who was carrying a bottle of wine and a few glasses.
“Er, nothing!” Lishe-Ashyo chuckled. “Hey, Cou-Riette, I’ll drink some of that wine, but what do you say we keep it to small portions?”
“That’s as I intended it, anyway,” Cou-Riette said. She poured a small amount of wine into each of the glasses, then handed a glass to each of her friends. “Did you think I would do something as silly as let us all get drunk? I do have common sense.”
“Like I said.” Mali-Ana said as she lifted up her glass.
“No you didn’t.”
“Yes, I did!”
“Now, now. Don’t wake An-Tois. It’s his birthday, and if he wants to spend it sleeping, I’d rather let him do that. Let’s just enjoy our little celebration, okay?”
“Before we go on, though,” Cou-Riette said.
“I actually have been thinking about trying this wine for a while. I always feared that with all my stress, I would end up over-indulging like you four feared. The reason why I suggested we try this now is just so I wouldn’t do that. So don’t worry, I’ve put a lot of thought into right now.”
She lifted her glass. “To our friendship, and to An-Tois’ birthday.”
Her friends nodded and clinked their glasses against hers. Then all five of them quickly downed their samples of wine.
The five friends had taken the time An-Tois was asleep to talk and play together as they had when they were younger. Cou-Riette in particular enjoyed the time they spent together. She felt as though it was something that had been missing from her life lately.
Now, late into the night, she had fallen asleep on them as they talked. Although they were tempted to wake her up, they decided against it. They helped her into her bed, tucked her in, then left the house, keeping silent the whole time until they made it outside.