Illustration by Kally.
The Prodigal Parents
"Attention, everybody! I'd like to propose a toast!" Quentin announced as he got up from his seat and held his glass of iced tea aloft.
Everybody stopped eating and looked up at him.
It was the twenty-first of December -- the thirteenth anniversary of Jessie and James's wedding...and one month since James had made peace with his parents, and Meowth and Charms had been reunited with Meowsie. In celebration of all of these joyous occasions, Quentin and Judith had invited James, Jessie, Miya, Eric, Rose, Meowth, and Charms over to spend the day with them and Meowsie.
Since the first snows of winter were beginning to fall, the ten of them had spent most of the afternoon in the parlor, enjoying the warmth of the fireplace and each other's company. While the cats and children had been munching on Christmas cookies and sipping hot cocoa, Quentin and Judith had given Jessie and James their anniversary presents. For Jessie, they'd prepared a scrapbook filled with photographs from James's childhood. And for James, they'd made a wooden plaque with the inscription:
To our son, James:
We held you in our arms
And dreamed of all that you might be.
You've grown into a special man
With traits we're proud to see.
Love, mom and dad.
After thanking Quentin and Judith for their gifts, Jessie and James had spent the rest of the afternoon looking through the scrapbook and admiring all the old pictures of James. Quentin and Judith had even entertained them by telling stories of what an adorable boy James had been and recalling some of their fondest memories. And Jessie and James, in turn, had shared some of their favorite stories about Miya, Eric, and Rose.
When afternoon gave way to evening, James had surprised everybody by giving Quentin and Judith's chef the night off and making dinner himself. For the appetizer, he'd prepared a spicy seafood gumbo, and for the main course, there was succulent grilled salmon with honey-bourbon sauce, red beans and rice, and roasted vegetables. He'd even made rice pudding for dessert!
And now, everybody was enjoying James's latest culinary masterpiece and anticipating what Quentin had to say.
He cleared his throat and continued. "Son, your mother and I once told you that our highest hope was for you to marry a good woman and have a respectable family. And we're so very proud to see that you've fulfilled our hopes...and in a better way than we ever could've imagined. What you have with Jessie is something truly special. She's a fine woman -- beautiful, intelligent, strong, and refined. A lady in the truest sense of the word. But more important than any of that, she respects you and loves you for who you are and makes you happy. You're truly blessed, James -- it took me and your mother nearly seventeen years to realize that...but now we wouldn't have it any other way. We're proud to call Jessie our daughter-in-law, and we couldn't ask for better grandchildren than Miya, Eric, and Rose. And on this, your thirteenth anniversary, we want to congratulate you and wish you countless years of wedded bliss to come."
Judith held up her glass as well. "Hear, hear!"
The ten of them clinked their glasses together and drained their iced tea. Then, they all went back to eating their meal.
"Mom, dad, I wanted to thank you again for inviting us over," James said as he polished off the last of his salmon. "We're having a wonderful time."
Judith cast an adoring look at her grandchildren, then smiled at James. "You're welcome, sugar. This is the first anniversary we've celebrated together...and we wanted it to be something special."
"It is," James assured her. "You can't imagine how happy it makes me and Jessie, that you're here with us."
"It makes us happy, too," Judith replied. Her expression grew serious. "Your father and I are just sorry that we weren't here sooner. We've missed out on so much, and...."
"It's okay, mom. Really," James assured her as her voice trailed off. "What matters is that you're here now. I know we can't change the past, but there's no sense in regretting what we can't change...especially when we have so much to look forward to."
"You're right, James," Judith admitted. "You've always been so wise. Even when you were a little boy. Must get that from your grand-papa...."
"Speaking of daddy, I had a dream about him and mom last night," Judith continued. "They told me that Quentin and I had done the right thing, asking you for forgiveness, and that they were proud of us. They also said the exact same thing that you just did -- that we all have a lot to look forward to. Birthdays, holidays, pokemon journies, graduations, weddings...even great-grandchildren someday! They told me that even though there was a lot Quentin and I had missed out on, there's even more that we will be a part of. I know that probably sounds crazy, but...."
"It doesn't sound crazy at all," James told her. "And grand-mama and grand-papa are right."
This made Judith smile again. "I hope so."
"Okay, everybody! Who wants rice pudding?" The sound of Jessie's voice broke in.
"Me!!!!" Miya, Eric, Rose, and Charms exclaimed.
"Me-owth, too!" Meowth chimed in.
"Me-meow!" Meowsie added.
"I believe we're all ready for dessert," Quentin told her.
"Yer in for a real treat, ma!" Charms said to Meowsie as Jessie went to the kitchen. "Uncle James makes the best rice puddin'!"
"He makes the best everything!" said Meowth.
Meowsie's midnight blue eyes sparkled as she looked from Meowth to Charms. Yes, I remember that. I missed James's cooking almost as much as I missed the two of you!
Meowth rested his forehead against hers. "Well, you'll never hafta miss any of dat again," he assured her.
Never.... she echoed.
When Jessie returned to the dining room a few minutes later, she was carrying a tray with the rice pudding and ten crystal bowls. As she handed a bowl to everybody and began serving the pudding, James smiled at his mother once more.
"I know so," he said, getting back to the original subject. "Things are only going to get better from here!"
Special thanks to Kally for the sweet illustration of Jessie & James on their anniversary! ^__^
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