Prince Almando

When he reached sixteen, Prince Almando refused to be treated like a child, unlike his siblings, Williant, Sarafina, and Gretona.

The day after his birthday, instead of leaving his pajamas on, he put on his royal robe of red silk. He sat down straight like a king. My, he thought, my sisters and brother look so young compared to me in their silk pajamas.

Gretona sat on Father’s lap. Williant was eleven, and allowed Mother’s arm to be around him. And Serafina was almost ten and still cuddled with her china doll. Almando was so deep in thought that he spilled his porridge on his lap, leaving a gray, gooey stain.

“Almando, my dear, dear boy,” Maid Sylvia cried. “How many times do we have to talk about table manners!?”

“I am not a child,” Almando declared. “I would like to no longer be called ‘my dear boy.’”

“Almando,” his father said sternly, adjusting Gretona on his knee. “Please go change.”

Almando stood up politely and took steps one at a time like a gentlemen. In his room he slid on his horseback riding uniform, blue with gold trimming. Then, he quietly walked down the stairs.

“There’s a nice mud pit outside from that rain,” the children’s ‘playmate’ said, “you just yank on those ol’ mud bathin’ suits and you’ be ready to go.”

“I will not be prancing around with that diaper on!” Almando declared.

“Almando,” Lilika, the Queen, said. “They are not diapers. And I think it was very generous of Harry to offer to take you out. If you continue to have this behavior you will go upstairs.

Almando scowled at his mother. “Ma’am…”

“Almando!” the King thundered, “She is your mother! I appreciate your politeness but it is not needed!”

Angrily, Almando got up. “I’m going horseback riding.”

Two hours later, Almando’s uniform was torn and he was bleeding. The royal horse was running around in circles trying to get the too-small bridle out of his mouth. Almando pulled himself to his feet and stumbled to the castle.

After escaping his father’s scolding, Almando went up to the boys’ room, which used to be a nursery before he was sixteen. Williant sat on his bed, smushing the blue comforter.

“Still trying to be a man?” he asked, sounding almost pitiful. “You’re brave, Almando.”

Pondering the meaning of his little brother’s words, Almando strolled to the bathroom in a would-be casual way, as if he hadn’t been bleeding. Hoping not be caught by a maid, he crept into the crystal bathroom. Finding it empty of people, he wrapped bandages around his bleeding fingers.

He walked back downstairs, wanting to read one of his father’s books just to prove that he could. Almando read quickly, mostly to get to the good part: the end. It was some book about rules and courtesies, and it was very boring. Almando’s father walked in and sat down on the couch next to him. Almando’s father pointed to rule number two hundred and one.

“What does this mean?” his father asked.

“When one reaches the age of eighteen years he will be considered a grown man and shall be treated like one,” Almando read aloud. He frowned. The king smiled wisely.

“Almando, I’ve been meaning to talk to you. You are sixteen. I know this will ruffle your feathers, but you are still a child. Manhood will come, Almando, manhood will come.”

He wrapped his arm around Almando’s shoulders, and, Almando, even though he was sixteen, leaned his head on his father’s shoulder.

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