“Peter! I’ve been looking everywhere for you…”
Honey came bounding across the grass to where Peter was laying, sprawled on his stomach, peering nervously over the precipice into the void.
“I don’t know why you look so nervous. You can’t fall off,” she laughed.
Peter slid back from the edge and sat up. “I dunno. It’s weird. It seems such a long way down.”
“What are you looking at, anyway?”
“Mum and my brothers. I always like to check in on our birthday, but I can’t see them. The house seems to be full of boxes.”
Honey leaned over and squinted through the mist. “Perhaps they’ve moved. Oh no – there’s your mum, perched on the top of that pile by the stairs. Wow! That’s impressive!”
“What is? Let me see!” Peter flattened himself on the grass again and slid himself gingerly to the edge. “Hold on – those are all birthday presents? What’ve those two louts done to deserve so many? I haven’t had anything…”
“Don’t be daft,” said Honey. “Those gifts are not all for Ray and Egon. They’re donations for the shelter. Remember, they did it last year too?”
“And anyway,” said Honey, “who says you haven’t had anything for your birthday?” From behind her back, she drew a red balloon on a string, and a small cake, with two layers – one tuna and one chicken – slathered with fresh cream frosting. Stuck in the top was a small, burning candle.
“Happy birthday, Peter” she said.
“Thank you. How do I eat it?” He was entranced by the tiny candle with its dancing flame, but felt it was a little impractical to set a fire on top of food he was about to eat. His whiskers were definitely at risk.
“You blow the candle out.” Honey told him. She’d done her research.
“But you only just lit it…”
“It’s a hoomin tradition. You blow out the candle and make a wish. And don’t tell me about it.”
“Ah, I see.” said Peter, not seeing in the least. He blew out the candle and made his wish.
“What did you wish for?” asked Honey.
“Hey! You told me I wasn’t to tell you….”
She sighed – it had been worth a try – and handed him his balloon instead. He reached out a paw to grab it, claws extended to get a better grip on the smooth surface and, with a loud pop that sent them both scurrying behind a small shrub, it completely disappeared.
“Where did it go?” asked Peter, mystified, as his tail began to return to its normal size.
“I don’t know,” replied Honey, peering behind a rock, just in case. “Hoomin customs are weird. Better to just stick to our own. What did you wish for?”
Peter ignored this, and went back to watching his family. “They’ve grown so big.” he said, a little envious.
“And handsome….” said Honey, which did nothing to allay Peter’s envy. Life on the other side meant perpetual kittenhood, which was wonderful, but sometimes he wondered what it would be like to grow up.
He didn’t ponder for long, as a rustling in the nearby bushes prompted him to look around. Heading towards him, bows round their necks and fancy hats on their heads, were about a hundred cats and kittens – all of his many friends. They were carrying toys and treats and platters of food and more cakes – no candles, sadly – and more balloons (he made a mental note to keep his claws tucked away this time), ready to start the best birthday party a kitten could ever want.
While they set everything up in the silver birch glade, laying out blankets and tables and hanging lanterns in the branches of the trees, he took one last look at the box-filled house, his big and – yes, he had to concede – handsome brothers and his beloved mama. Next to him, something caught his eye in the grass. The candle from the cake was alight again, its tiny flame dancing like a firefly. So, birthday wishes did come true after all….
He carefully placed the little wax stick with its dancing flame on a rock at the very edge of the void. “This is for all the lost and lonely kitties down there…” he whispered, “…a light to guide you home.”
And down in the house, among the boxes, Janine gazed at the darkening sky. She knew exactly where to look – she looked every night – but on this one, she couldn’t help but notice that his little star was twinkling more brightly than usual. “Looks like you’re having a good party, darling” she whispered. “Happy birthday, Peter.” And, blowing him a kiss, she hopped down and went to find her big (and handsome) sons.