Taming McGruff(73)

By: Laurie LeClair

“Me?” Her mother pressed her hands to her cheeks, and then reached out for the baby, and cuddled her close. With her hair down and cut into a more becoming style and the blonde shade adjusted to bring out the warm undertones of her complexion, her mother looked years younger. Rico had done an amazing job. Tears shone in her eyes, something they’d seen more of as she allowed her guard down and given up drinking. Her emotions ran the gamut, but the Colonel had a sturdy, dependable solidness that she leaned on more now that they had wed. She was finally letting go of the things that had weighed her down for years, including the things in the house.

As King’s decorating consultant, Priscilla’s next huge project would be transforming the King home, ridding them of the ghosts of the past and allowing them all to move on once and for all.

“Me, too,” Rico cried. “I wanna be in the picture with my precious girls. Come to Uncle Rico,” he said to Francie’s little girl, Madeline. She cooed in delight as he snatched her up and swung her high in the air.

“Got it,” Marcus said. “That’s perfect, Rico. Now, you may want to be careful. She just ate.”

Rico stopped immediately. “Thanks for the warning.” He held her away from him, and to the baby he said, “No puking on Uncle Rico, sweetie.” Gingerly, he returned her to Francie.

“Dolly, you come, too,” Charlie called her friend over.

“Oh, my,” Dolly said, coming forward. “Which one do I get? Faith or Hope? I could love you both up.”

“That’s my girl,” Edward said, snapping a shot of his wife.

“Oh, Eddie, I think you got my backside in that one. Delete it,” she demanded.

“Yes, dear.” He grinned, but just pocketed his camera.

“Shameless man.” She turned pink, but didn’t argue with him.

“I remember when we were like that,” Alex’s grandmother piped up.

“We still are,” his grandfather said, leaning over and stealing a kiss from her.

“And we shouldn’t ever let it stop,” Marcus’ mother joined in. “Isn’t that right, Isaac?”

“Lots of sugar is my motto, sweetie pie. That and dancing,” he agreed, tapping his foot to his own beat. “Does a heart good.”

“Holy moly, you should see the article coming out this week. ‘King’s Department Store, The Legacy Lives On.’ We’re numero uno once again!” Peg rushed into the room, waving a glossy magazine. “Griff did it. The Charmings perfume was just the beginning; now the new line of products sent us into the stratosphere!” She tried to catch her breath. “Stu, Geena and their gaggle of kiddos are bringing up the rear with the food and setting it up in your dining room.” Looking around, she asked, “What did I miss?”

“You and me, we gotta get a man,” Rico said. ”’Cause I can’t take being single for much longer, not around this bunch.”

Everyone joined in their laughter.

Priscilla slipped away, leaving the baby with her mother, and joined Griffin. She tugged on his hand, pulling him away from the noisy crowd. “Thank you, for this,” she said, knowing he still shied away from large groups. Letting them in his home had not come easily to him.

“I’m a work in progress.”

“I like it, but don’t change too much. We still need McGruff, especially when our daughter starts dating.”

“Believe me, I still have a lot of him stored up just waiting for that day.”

She stood on tip-toe, kissing him, softly and sweetly.

“What was that for?”

“Because, I love you. I love our lives.”

He kissed her back, long, slow, and deep.

“What was that for?”

“Because you stayed. Because you gave me fairy tales and fate, hopes and dreams. I love you with all my heart.”

She put her head on his chest and hugged him, hearing his strong heartbeat. He wrapped his arms around her. “Life is what you make it,” she whispered. Looking over at her family, talking and laughing, Priscilla thanked the heavens above for everything she had.

Especially for the gift of believing in love, her family, and knowing dreams did come true, even when you didn’t know what they were or how to get them. Hope led the way.

She recalled the last line of her stepfather’s written note to her. Follow your dreams; they will lead you to your heart. He’d given the King daughters a wonderful legacy that lived on. A home. A place to belong. A family to belong to.

The End

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