Wander stared out his window excitingly. He sat on the very same spot on top of the couch where he looked out the grown up window months ago. Back when he didn't have a single friend and everyday seemed like an unpleasant time. He was practically vibrating with his hands twitching and body bouncing. He couldn't sit still, and he had every right to be excited.
Today was his birthday. A very special day. A day meant to be celebrated just for him! And unlike previous birthdays today was going to be the best by far. Why? Because he had friends to visit for the birthday party for the very first time in years!
"Honey, you'll end up breaking through the window if you continue to push yourself against it like that." Wander's mom walked in holding a handful of party decorations all hand-picked by Wander himself. Naturally most of the color was orange and blue with a side of yellow. It was always the same three colors every year, but to her surprise this year he added the colors green, a pink mixed with orange and red in the selection. She had a clue the colors were encouraged by his friend's influence for he had never done so before, and now more than ever she was eager to meet them.
Wander pulled his face away from the window, leaving behind a smudge about the size of his head. "But what if they get lost? Or they end up missing the house? Or they don't show up at all." He said sounding a bit worried and lowered his head a bit.
"Did you show them where the house is?" Wander nodded. "Did you show them how to get here?" Another nod. "Then they will be fine, dear. They will find the house and won't get lost searching for it. And if they do we have birthday signs outside." She walked over to him and kissed his forehead. "They know today is a very special day and I'm sure they won't miss it for the world."
Her reassurance made Wander smile. "You really think so, mama?"
She nudged him with her nose. "I know so. Now come on and help me finish up. The sooner we put up these decorations the sooner they will show up."
Wander jumped off the couch excitedly with an adorable squeal and quickly scooped up some of the decorations threatening to fall from his mother's arms. Together they got to work and put up letters that spelled out 'Happy Birthday' together and covered the tables with colorful, decorative tablecloth. On the table she got to work making goodie bags and set up a stack of silly party hats on the corner. Wander snatched one without her noticing and eagerly put it on. When she finally turned to look at him she had to cover her snort from the funny, and yet equally adoring, image her son made. Wander had misjudged how far to pull the silly hat to make it sit perfectly on the very top of his head and it ended up sliding down and covered his right eye. He played along with it and started making faces and pretended to be a one-eyed candy pirate out to steal the goodie bags.
Wander's mom tried her best and sacrificed her neat hair in order to protect the goodie bags, but it was all in vain. Both mother and son ended up on the floor after a gruesome tickle fight with scattered candy surrounding them and an empty goodie bag to show for it.
She got up, dusted herself and got to work picking up the pieces of candy. Wander started helping her when he finally decided to get up. When he reached out for the last candy a knock came from the door that made him freeze momentarily before becoming giddy all over again.
"They're here!" He shouted excitingly.
"Go get the door, dear while I fix this bag, and fix your hat while you're at it too. Go on, don't be rude and keep them waiting outside."
Wander did just that and practically ran to the door and nearly slammed it against the wall when he pulled it open. The folk standing outside were the very people he was waiting for moments ago.
"Happy Birthday, Wander!" All three cheered together. In their hands they each held a present. Sylvia carried a bag that was about as big as her. Peepers had a box that he could barely carry and Hater had a small item shaped like an animal and wrapped with paper.
"You guys!" Wander rushed forward and hugged them together. "I'm so glad you came!"
Sylvia looked a bit off. "'Course we came. Why wouldn't we? Today is your special day."
"Did you think we would miss it?" Peepers asked from behind the box. His eye completely hidden.
"Well… I, uh…" Wander didn't know how to answer. If he was truly honest he did think they would end up deciding not to show up and miss it. It happened twice before with his fourth and fifth birthday. The Nomad children he thought were his friends promised they would come, but by the end of the day it was obvious they didn't remember.
Thankfully he didn't have to answer when his mom returned to greet their newly arrived guests and her son's friends for the first time. She stopped on her tracks when she got a good look at them and then had to look at them again to make sure she saw what she thought she saw.
A Zbornak, a Watchpup and a Skelloid. No, that couldn't be right she thought, but the evidence was right in front of her and were looking at her adorably. A Zbornak, a Watchpup, a Skelloid… and a Nomad.
There had been talk circulating the village about four children, the same race as mentioned before, who were friends and were running around having fun and helping the folks. They had gained a small reputation and a title naming them 'The little helpers.' She always thought it adorable when she heard it and found respect for the parents for raising them with no prejudice on other species.
Now, however, after realizing the possibly that Wander, her beautiful, wonderful son, had been the Nomad child running around with the Zbornak, Watchpup and Skelloid children that respect was quickly changing into… changing into…
Suddenly everything made sense.
"Hello there! You must be Wander's little friends. How nice to meet you all." She walked over and gave them a warm smile.
Peepers finally put the box he was carrying down and looked up at her with his one eye. "Hi, Mrs. Wander!"
Wander laughed. "No, you silly! Her name is not Wander. I'm Wander!"
Peepers looked a bit embarrassed, which in turn made Wander's mother laugh.
"It's fine, dear. If you want to be respectful than my name is Fragrance. Mrs. Fragrance." Fragrance finally revealed.
Peepers tried again. "Hi, Mrs. Fragrance!"
"And hi to you too. What are your names?"
"I'm Peepers!" The Watchpup answered with a jump.
"I'm Sylvia, please to meet you." The Zbornak bowed her head a bit, making Fragrance giggle to herself.
"Hater." The Skelloid finished.
"It's a pleasure to meet all of you. Wander has been waiting eagerly to get this day started." Fragrance placed an arm on his shoulder. "Go on then. Play outside. You can leave the presents on the table and I'll call you when dinner is ready and the cake."
Wander squealed and quickly ushered his friends to leave the presents and head outside. For the next few hours the house was surrounded by the sounds of screaming, and laughing children. When dinner was ready those same children ran inside with uncontrolled giggles and hardly got a bite to eat from their insane, hyperactive mood. Fragrance couldn't bring herself to care. Today was Wander's special day and for the first time since he could walk and talk he was finally enjoying his birthday.
When it was finally time for cake Wander was the first at the table. The cake was grand, at least compared to the children. It covered half the table down to the corners. The cake spelled out "Happy Birthday, Wander" with a couple of yellow stars and a greenish hat. Fragrance didn't know if Wander explained what the hat truly meant to his friends, but all that mattered was that Wander knew and from the way he looked at her she knew he knew.
After a birthday song Wander quickly blew out the eight candles, and after being tempted by Sylvia leaned his head down to the cake for a bite and ended up getting his head pushed all the way through. Everyone was laughing when they caught sight of him, even Fragrance. His face was covered from top fluff to furry chin in cake icing. Very delicious cake icing. His face covered with sugar didn't even seem to faze the little nomad. In fact he quiet enjoyed it. After licking his entire face clean Wander just smiled and laughed along with them, and when nobody was looking he swiped some icing on his fingers and smeared Sylvia's, Hater's and Peeper's faces with it. The resulting icing battle was something Fragrance could live without, and after cleaning every inch of their faces (and eyeball) she declared it time for presents.
Like before Wander was the first to sit on the couch and eagerly held his arms out. Sylvia grabbed her present from the table and handed it over. Inside the bag Wander found a beautiful, orange blanket with blue and black smudges. The texture was soft, really soft, almost as soft as his fur. He ran a hand gently over it.
Sylvia shrugged. "I saw it and it reminded me of you. Something to keep you cozy and warm during the nights."
Wander gave her a hug. "I love it!"
"Me next!" Peepers cheered and waddled over with his box. Inside the box was a soft and cuddly little Cyclops bear. It's giant, adorable eye and one horn on its head gave the bear a huggable appearance, and Wander did just that.
"He's adorable, Peepers!"
"He's my Cyclops' brother! He will watch over your room and keep baddies away!"
Wander hugged him. "I know he will. Thank you."
Hater was last, and the animal shaped wrapping he gave wander turned out to be a wooden carving of a roaring tiger-elephant creature. Wander looked at every detail presented in the creature closely.
"I made it myself." Hater said.
"You made it?" Wander was in awe.
"It's beautiful." Peepers commented.
"Cool." Sylvia looked it over.
"My, you are extremely talented. You made this all by yourself?" Fragrance asked after looking over the work.
All the compliments made Hater blush and duck his head a bit but he still nodded at her question.
"It's amazing! Thank you, Hater!" Wander jumped and hugged Hater. Thanking the three all over again for the wonderful gifts.
"Well now." Fragrance stood and clapped her hands. "Off with you. There's still time to play outside a bit more. I'll start getting this place cleaned up."
The children cheered and ran outside. Fragrance got to work and started packaging away cake individually for the children and separated the goodie bags. Once she placed the presents away she got to work with the leftover food and wondered if the children's parents would like some and if she should pact some for them.
The entire process took longer than she had thought and before she knew it the sun was nearly down. Thinking that Wander was inside and already said bye to his friends she headed for his room and found the most surprising and by far most adorable sight she had ever laid eyes on. On the carpet of her son's room was Wander, tucked away comfortably with the new blanket given to him by his friend, but Wander wasn't alone. Oh no. Sylvia, Hater and Peepers were also there by his sides, tucked inside the blanket and snoozing away together. Both Wander and Peepers were tucked and cuddled in the middle between Hater and Sylvia.
The sight alone almost brought Fragrance to tears. Quickly she went to retrieve her camera and snapped a picture before it was too late. And after making sure she got a decent number of photos she hid it away and walked closer to the sleeping children. It was close to nighttime now and she wasn't sure if the children's parents were going to come and pick them up. Even if it nearly broke her heart to ruin the beautiful image she had to wake them in order to know how they'll get back home.
She nudged Wander first. "Wander? Sweetheart? Wake up, I need you to help me." Wander cracked open one eye and looked at her. "Do you know if your friends' parents are coming to pick them up?"
Wander looked to be thinking about it before suddenly opening both eyes and jumping up. "You guys! We overslept!"
His cry caused a chain reaction with Peepers jolting and crashing into Sylvia, abruptly waking her and made her jump only to trip over her own feet and land on all three of them. Her snout smacked against Hater's head and gave him a run for his nap.
Fragrance stood a distance away now. She held her stomach with one arm and covered her uncontrolled giggles with the other. To think she was lucky enough to witness such a scene and forever engrave it in her head for future torment. Oh the stories she will tell them when they are older. She couldn't wait!
"Children, are your parents coming for you?" She finally asked when she calmed down long enough.
All three looked outside through Wander's room window. "I told my dad I was going to return back before nightfall." Sylvia answered.
"I told my mom the same thing." Peepers whined. "She doesn't know where this house is."
"Same." Hater finished.
"Seems we're in a pickle." Fragrance thought it over. "Well, come on then. There's still a bit of light but not enough for me to feel comfortable letting you walk alone. I'll take you three home. You'll just have to lead the way."
And lead the way they did. After locking up and making sure she had everything she felt she needed Fragrance allowed the children to decide between who will be dropped out first. Sylvia was elected since her home was the farthest away, followed by Peepers and finally Hater, who refused to say anything about his place.
The walk was relatively quiet. The children exhausted themselves out and sluggishly walked across the village. It got to the point that Fragrance had to pick Wander and Peepers up and carry them. With her hands full Sylvia and Hater had to make do with either holding onto her fur or leaning against her in order to stop themselves from falling headfirst to the ground by sleep.
Somehow they made it to their first destination, Sylvia's home. The stone stairs proved to be a challenge, especially with hands full and trying not to knock the children near her feet down. It proved to be an even bigger challenge when they reached the door. How in the world was she going to knock with both her hands full and children ready to knock out?
Thankfully she was saved when the door was yanked open by a silver adult Zbornak who looked shocked to find them just outside his door, but that shock was quickly replaced with relief when he spotted Sylvia.
"Sylvia! Where on cr-earth have you been?!" He quickly scooped her up and hugged her. The sleepy child barely flicked a tail in response.
"Forgive me, it was mostly my fault. She was at my son's birthday party but I lost track of time and they ended up falling asleep." Fragrance explained with her hands still full.
The Zbornak looked at her and nodded, accepting her reason. "Thank you. You must be Wander's mother."
She nodded. "Yes, my name's Fragrance, nice to meet you."
"The name's Everett. It's nice to finally meet the one responsible for that respectful little Nomad." Everett commented.
"And it's nice to meet the one responsible for that wonderful little Zbornak. She's simply lovely."
Everett puffed his chest out in pride. "I'd shake your hand but it seems you're occupied at the moment."
"Yes, perhaps another time. I still need to drop these two home before their parents worry."
"Then I better let you go. Let us properly meet next time." Everett waved goodbye.
Fragrance nodded. "Until then."
The trip to Peepers house was about the same but took a little longer with the Watchpups sluggish answers. Somehow Fragrance found the right hut with the right wall and right color described by Peepers, and with one foot free she knocked by kicking the door, gently.
The one to open it was a slightly rounded Watchdog with long eyelashes compared to the Watchpup in her arms. She scanned them all with her one eye that stopped when she spotted the sleeping Watchpup.
"Peepers! Oh, you silly pup! You promised to return before sundown and yet here you are sleeping in Wander's mother's arms after undoubtedly losing track of time!" The Watchdog quickly snatched the sleeping Watchpup and cradled him in her arms. "Thank you for bringing him to me…?"
"Fragrance. My name's Fragrance. I'm Wander's mother, as you have guessed."
"Salteen. Very nice to meet you, and I'm sorry. Usually I jump ahead of myself and end up saying things that make others uncomfortable. It was easy to put the two of you together and figure out you are Wander's mother. He's such a wonderful boy."
"No, no, it's fine. I'm actually impressed at how fast you got it, and how fast you figured out the reasons to why he's late."
"Oh yes, terrible curse being able to piece everything together, figure things out with the smallest bit of detail and remember things that happened 20 years ago down to the detail of the dirt." Salteen sighed pitifully.
Fragrance looked dumbfounded for a second. How in the world was all of that a bad thing? It sounded incredible to her. "I think that's fascinating."
"You say that now. Just wait until I'm out there spouting nonsense about the lifespan of certain plants and the circuits needed to make a nuclear engine." Salteen explained distantly.
"Well… perhaps another time we can get together and talk about such things then?"
"Oh yes! I'm most eager to know the one responsible for the wonderful little Nomad."
"Then I will be off. I still need to drop this guy." Fragrance lifted Hater and tried her best to carry the little Skelloid. The child took up half of her chest and almost reached her hip.
"Do take care then! And don't take insult if his father doesn't say much! He's a wary sort and needs to trust you first!" Salteen said and waved.
Fragrance considered her words and walked on. The last trip of the night was a tad more difficult compared to the first two. Not because of the sluggish walking or slurred words, but because there was hardly any words at all. Hater was downright difficult to get to say anything and the only responses she got was a hand pointing this way and that.
Hater led them somewhere distant from where the common houses were placed. There was hardly any sign of architect anywhere, only a wide empty spot that lacked houses except for one. A lone house rested a distance away. It was about the same size as her own but was a bit more rundown. The house wasn't creepy per say, but the lack of neighbors and lack of front decorations made it look plain and kind of deserted.
Once in front of the door Fragrance kicked the door similarly to that of Salteen's home. It was only a second later when the door was abruptly yanked open to a tall, sharp figure who looked her over as if their very safety depended on it. Their glowing, green eyes softened a bit when they landed on Hater, and with slow, cautious arms they reached out to take him.
Fragrance cleared her throat. "I'm Fragrance. I'm Wander's mother." She moved the sleeping Nomad a bit to clarify. "Your son went to my son's birthday party and lost track of time. I'm sorry for bringing him so late but I had to make two other stops before this. All four of them ended up falling asleep."
The figure stepped out a bit, making their appearance clearer for her to see. It was a Skelloid. An adult version of Hater almost, but with a tad sharper chin. He was wearing a simple red robe with a hood that was covering his head.
It took seconds before Fragrance noticed that the figure had said something. "No problem!" She answered too loudly. "Forgive me for bothering you in this late hour."
The Skelloid nodded. "It's fine."
An uncomfortable silence fell on them.
Fragrance blinked. "I'm sorry?"
"I'm called Wrath."
"Oh! It's very nice to meet you Wrath. You are Hater's father, right? He's such a lovely boy."
Wrath nodded. "Thank you. Your son is great too. Thank you, for looking out for Hater."
Fragrance didn't know if he was saying it to her or to Wander but she accepted it none the less. "I better get going. Got to tuck this little one in."
"It was nice to meet you."
"Pleasure to meet you too." Fragrance bowed a bit in respect and walked off, eager to get back home and just go to sleep.
"Oh you silly boy and your antics." Fragrance kissed her son's head on their way home. "You make me so proud."