Leo gripped the book in his large, sweaty fist. It was the last hope he had to open a familiar door to his past. All his bridges had burned except for this one. Desperation drove him to knock, hoping it would be opened to him.
He reached, shivering from the damp as he pressed the button. The light came on in the dusk of the misty sunset. It’d been years since he’d shown his face.
The door opened; a little boy peaked around the corner.
“Is your Mommy or Daddy home, young man?”
The boy nodded, leaving the door open wide. Leo could see into the house. Soft warmth beckoned to him, a feeling that tugged at his long numbed senses. What was this feeling? He had never felt this way, back when this family’s friendship meant so much to him. What had changed?
Footsteps startled him as a woman came to the door. “Leo, is that you? What a pleasant surprise! Come on in out of the rain, silly.”
He ducked through the door, his head brushing the doorjamb. At 6’6” he had always ducked through doors. Back in the seventies his ‘natural’ hairstyle created quite a scene, but he’d lost much of that through the years.
Still gripping the book as the door shut behind him, his radiant white smile shined through the deep ebony. “I’ve come to return this book I borrowed fifteen years ago, Kate.” He held it out to his long lost friend.
She took it, turning it over. “I remember this book. Thanks! It belonged to my grandma. Why did you take so long to bring it back you naughty man?” Direct blue eyes seared into his soul. “We’ve missed you, big guy!” With that, Kate reached up to kiss Leo on the cheek and hugged him quickly.
Leo hoped to be taken in, but he sensed something both warm and unexpected upon entering the room.
“Well, take your coat off and stay a while, my friend.” Kate reached out to help him out of his coat, hanging it in a nearby closet. “We have a lot of catching up to do. We can talk over dinner.”
Kate noticed Leo peering at the little boy hiding behind her. “Oh! This is my grandson Jason. All our grandchildren are here today. He’ll have a million questions for you as soon as he warms up.”
“I see,” Leo said. “Last time I was here your daughters were teenagers. Now you have grandchildren?” Leo raised a single eyebrow.
“Oh, we have eleven grandchildren and counting.” Kate beamed.
“Wow! I’ve been gone for a coon’s age.” Leo felt his chilled soul defrosting for the first time in months.” Jason smiled up at him, his copper locks catching the light.
The whole family seemed to converge suddenly as someone yelled, “Uncle Leo’s here!” Kate’s husband was the first to hug his long, lost best friend.
“Welcome home, my brother.”
Leo swept a tear from his eye. “Man, got some dust in my eye again.”
Jack said, “I think I have the same stuff in mine.” Both men laughed, gripping hands and patting each other’s backs. “Please have a seat.” Jack pulled a chair out for Leo, taking his own seat at the head of the table.
The family gathered at the dinner table. The turkey dinner with all the trimmings made Leo’s mouth water. It had been a while since he’d eaten.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Uncle Leo!” Jason chimed ducking under the table. Everyone laughed.
Jack said, “Everyone please bow you heads.”
Leo was startled. Things were so different. He found both his hands caught up by the children on either side. Bowing his head, his chest felt like it would burst as he savored each word of the prayer.
“Our beloved Heavenly Father, we are so thankful for this holiday. We are especially grateful for our knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has blessed our lives. Thank you for returning Leo to our family. We have missed our friend for so long. Please help each of us to be missionaries, reaching out to the hearts of all our friends with the knowledge of your love. In Jesus name, Amen!”
Leo had questions, but for now he chose to enjoy the meal with his friends. He made a mental note to find out exactly what they’d found, and what he’d missed while he was away. He had a feeling that life was about to change for the better.
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