Just as Mr. Henri walked up to the counter of the bakery to ask Keagan about showing him the apartment upstairs, Claude came out of the kitchen and gave the teen a big hug. "Well, little bro, I'm off for my last day of classes. Starting tomorrow I can work here with you and Chay all the time if you two will keep letting me stay."
"What's this I'm hearing, Claude? What do you mean your last day of classes?" Mr. Henri demanded.
"Oh, Un... PawPaw, I didn't know you were still here," Claude stammered.
"Claude's father refused to pay for his education any more, PawPaw, so he has to drop out today," Keagan informed the old man.
"Keagan!" Claude hissed. "You shouldn't have told that."
"You don't think I would have eventually gotten a little suspicious when I never get invited to your graduation?" Mr. Henri said in a scolding tone. "Now you may not had that pile of merde for a Papa anymore, but that don't mean you don't got no family... or money. You get your butt to your classes and you let me worry about those bills."
"PawPaw, I couldn't ask you to did that," Claude denied.
"You ain't asked me to did nothing. I'm your PawPaw now and I'm telling you how it's going to be. Anything you two need for your education, you tell me about it. I'm not going to be some kind of freeloading grandfather that just sits around getting hugs from his boys and never helps them out when they need it." He looked at both young men who were staring at him with their mouths open. "In case you college boys missed it, there was a hint in there that I should be getting hugged right about now." He was instantly wrapped up with two large human leeches both professing their thanks and their love. "One more thing we got to took care of, boys," Henri said with a smile. He took Claude's face into his hands and gave him three kisses on his forehead, followed by kisses to his cheeks. He then turned and did the same to Keagan.
"PawPaw, you.... " Claude said softly.
"That's right, I make you both princes in the Lafayette family," Henri confirmed. "I mean what I say when I spoke the words downstairs. You two my grandchildren now, just the same as if you was born direct to me."
Claude left for class and Keagan helped the old man up the stairs to the apartment. They stopped in the living room first so that PawPaw could rest a moment. "This is our living and dining room, PawPaw, and the kitchen is just through that door there," Keagan said as he pointed in that direction.
"Grandbaby, I don't mean to offend, but this the most uncomfortable couch I ever been sat on," the old man grimaced from his seat.
"I'm sorry, PawPaw," Keagan blushed profusely. "Chay has put everything he had into the business so he couldn't afford as much for up here, I think."
"Now, don't get all broke up, sunshine baby," PawPaw waved a hand dismissively. "I wouldn't have said something if I weren't going to fix it."
"Oh, PawPaw, that would be.... but... Well, Chay did pick it out. I wouldn't want to hurt his feelings by replacing all his furniture he worked so hard for, even if it isn't very comfortable."
"This man mean a lot to you, don't he?" PawPaw asked softly. When Keagan nodded and blushed, he continued. "Well, I got the idea then. You come over here and took my hand and close you eyes. I want you to thought about Chay. Concentrate on him. Think about all that he done for you, and how much you care for him. Think on how you feel about him, grandbaby." A second later the old man cried out in surprise and nearly fell over.
"PawPaw, are you all right?" Keagan blurted in concern, never letting go of the man's hand and holding him up with his other arm. "I don't want to lose you the day I get you."
"I'm fine, sunshine," the old man gasped. He slowly pulled away from Keagan and looked down at himself. He bent his knees a bit, and flexed his arms and fingers. "In fact, I don't think I been this good in twenty year. You the marvel, my grandbaby, you the marvel."
"What did I do?" the teen asked in confusion.
"I told you some other time, after I spoke with you Aunt Dixie," the man replied mysteriously. "Now let's go up another flight of them stair. I think this time go a little faster."
"Ok, but I will stay right beside you just in case, PawPaw," the teen vowed.
"I think you by my side, I could climb the mountain," PawPaw smiled and hugged the boy to his side as he started for the stairs. They did indeed make much better time up this section of the climb. "This the room you grandmamma bed in?" he asked as they stood outside Chay's door.
"Yes, sir," Keagan told him. "He said it was ok to show you in since you want to see the furniture."
"I don't spill no secrets, baby," the old man assured him. "What I see with these eyes don't ever cross these lips without you and your man permission."
"He's not... I mean you make it sound like... but it's not. I swear. He would never... and he wouldn't with me even if he did, but he wouldn't."
"Calm you self, child," PawPaw said softly. "I don't accuse you split apart of nothing wrong. I know he don't did nothing he shouldn't yet. And don't you worry about he don't did nothing with you. When the time right, what going to happen going to happen, and I promise you won't never feel so good you whole life."
"Do you really think he likes me?"
"No, child, I don't think nothing. I knowed he love you much as you love him. I also knowed he an honorable, good man. He don't did nothing you don't want and even that he don't did till you old enough for it to been proper. Now showed me this bed, grandbaby."
Keagan was blushing all over but he opened the door and let his new grandfather into the room. He was surprised when he stepped in to see that the old man was on his knees with a hand resting gently on the hand carved footboard of the bed. "PawPaw, did you fall?" he asked quickly.
"I don't fall, baby, I just showing my respect," the old man replied as tears rolled down his face. "I feel all the love you Grandpapa have for you Grandmamma when he make this bed. I feel all the love she have for you. I been touch many family heirloom in my time, but I never feel so much love and power like this."
"Now you know why I buy this set at that sale." They both turned to see Aunt Dixie in the doorway.
"Dixie, we got to spoke," Mr. Henri said quietly. As he stood up and walked closer to her, the woman's eyes opened wide. "You see what I feel. Did you know about this when you meet him?"
"I only know I found the boy what need love and family," she answered. "I knowed the minute I lay eyes on him, I do anything for to make that face and that heart and that soul happier than he is when he walk in my store."
"He got power, Dixie. Power I never feel in all my born days," Henri told her. "I test him when I put the blessing on that couch down stairs. I tell him think on all his love for Chay. I expect the little boost, but he near knock me down."
"I would never knock you down on purpose, PawPaw," Keagan blurted. "I swear. I am so happy that I have family again. It's all I ever wanted all those years in the children's home. I never dreamed that I would get it, but I wanted it so much. Then Chay took me in, and he introduced me to Aunt Dixie, and I felt so loved and.... accepted. Like she could see all the secrets in me, but she loved me anyway."
"That's cause that exactly right, Chipper Sunshine," Dixie told him as she hugged him tightly. "You never hide nothing from me, and I love you much as if you my own child. I tell you I'm you Aunt Dixie and I mean it. Don't nothing ever change that. Nothing ever, you hear me?"
"I love you too, Aunt Dixie," Keagan mumbled from somewhere between her quite ample bosom. "I want you in my life for a long, long time to come, just like PawPaw." The old woman gasped this time and staggered a bit.
"Keagan, baby, let you Aunt Dixie took a breath for a minute," PawPaw said and pulled the boy to him. "Dixie, you all right?"
"Henri? Was it like that for you, too?"
"Just the same, I think," the old man answered. "We got us some powerful sunshine here, Dixie."
"Umm... could somebody explain to me what's going on?" Keagan asked shyly. "I think you're talking about me, but it doesn't seem to make any sense."
"Sunshine, you been give the gift," Dixie told him with a smile. "You been give a gift like I never seen in my life, and only hear of in stories my grandmamma tell me while she training me. Stories she hear from Old Marie herself about folks born like you. They don't happen but ever so often in history, skipping sometimes four or three generation."
"You believe there power all around us, Keagan? That everything that live on this planet part of that power?" Henri asked the teen.
"Well, I was taught..."
"Don't think on what you taught in them phoney church that just work to control people and their money," the old man corrected him quickly. "I'm asking what you believe you self."
"Well, I think, no, I know that everyone and everything is connected," Keagan answered. "Everything that each of us does has an effect, good or bad, on ourselves and everything around us."
"That's exactly right, Sunshine," Dixie said with a proud smile. "Now there's some people that have more control over that power that connect everything than most."
"Like you and PawPaw?"
"Such a smart grandson I find myself today," Henri said proudly. "You hit the nail square on the head. What you Aunt Dixie spoke on about you is that there also some people, some very few, very, very rare few people that don't control the power, they give the boost to them folks what can control the power."
"So, I'm like an amplifier?"
"You the amplifier and the generator combine," Dixie told him. "You not just the power booster, you a source of power. I only hear tell of people with your gift in the legend my Grandmamma tell me when I'm the baby."
"But... but... I'm just a homeless little orphan kid from the children's home," Keagan protested.
"You a gift to this old world, baby," Dixie told him.
"And don't you never think you homeless or worthless again, you hear me?" Henri ordered. "You for sure not worthless and you got you split apart, and you Aunt Dixie, and you PawPaw Henri for to made sure you never homeless again. You family to us, just as much as we family to you. We love you, baby boy."
"Now you made sure you listen to your Aunt Dixie right now, Sunshine," the old woman ordered. "I meet you I love you right off the bat. You the cutest, sweetest little scrawny piece of sunshine I ever knowed in my born days, and I knowed right then I want to just hug you to pieces and made for sure your Sugarman fatten you up with his sweet cooking. I don't knowed nothing about what your family do for mine when you just a baby, or nothing about your power you got. I seen a boy I want to love and get loving from. That was all I needed to know then, and that's all that matter now. Now what your family do for mine, that do change things, just a bit, but the important part you always remember is that Aunt Dixie loves you just as much as you my blood. I make you a prince in my family because I want my Sunshine boy to have that love and protection from my kin. The fact you an angel right from God, that just lucky for me."
"I'm not an angel," Keagan blushed and denied.
"I think you Aunt Dixie mean it a little different than you think, grandbaby," Henri smiled and hugged his boy. "You see, in our culture, what your parents do for Dixie's sister and brother-in-law when they come to tell them how their son die a hero, that mean something real special. They gave meaning to that loss, meaning that was needed bad for that stupid senseless war. The fact that they gave their lives to do such a thing for people they don't even knowed.... well they angels in our eyes now baby boy."
"That's what the nurse said when she had to tell me that they weren't going to get better," Keagan sniffled. "Come upstairs and see." He led them both up to his room on the top floor of the building. He pointed to the sticker on the twin sized bed. "The nurse at the hospital gave me that sticker the night my parents died and told me that it was a guardian angel, just like my parents were. Grandma had me put the sticker on the bed right there so that this angel could watch over me that night, just like Mom and Dad would be."
"They still do, grandbaby, don't you never doubt," Henri said. "This bed, you Grandpapa make this for your papa before he even born. They love and power flowing out of this too. This even more protective power than the big one. Your Grandpapa he put all the love and protection of being a father into this wood as he carve it."
"Henri, touch the bed again," Dixie asked him, as the old man did so, she laid a hand on him. "Now Sunshine, you come over here and put a hand on me and a hand on your PawPaw."
"Yes, Aunt Dixie," Keagan agreed and did as he was told. Both elders shuddered a moment at his touch.
The three of them suddenly saw the face of a dark haired man as he bent over a work bench carving the footboard of the bed. They heard his voice as he worked talking about his hopes for a son to carry on the family name. He faded away and they saw a small brown haired boy climb into the bed cuddling a homemade teddy bear lovingly. Keagan gasped as he saw it. They could hear the boy calling out goodnight to his mommy and daddy. The scene in front of them changed again and Keagan saw himself holding that same bear as he climbed into the bed. His young voice was crystal clear as he said goodnight to his grandma. Surprisingly to all of them, little Keagan was replaced by another small boy. This boy had short blondish brown hair and bright blue eyes. He too was cuddled up with the teddy bear and he called "Ni ni Daddy, Ni ni Papa. Daddy you say ni ni to Unca Cassie and Unca Cwaude for me too?"
The image faded quickly as Keagan fell back onto the floor on his butt, staring at the bed in front of him. "What just.... Who was that?"
"We just seen the people whose spirit touch this bed," Henri told him. "You Grandpapa, you Papa, you, and you son."
"Don't worry about it for now, Sunshine," Aunt Dixie told him as she bent to kiss him on the head. "He be in your life and you in his when the time right. What you worry about now is getting you scrawny little butt down there for to help Cassius bring that chest up here we dig out my storage building."
"What chest?" Keagan asked and then his eyes grew wide. "You don't mean it. You got Grandma's hope chest too?"
"I get the chest the same day I get the rest this furniture, but it lock and somehow I don't never feel right to been open it or sell it. Now I knowed why. It still locked from that day to this. They try a bunch of keys that day at the sale and it don't open for none of them. I got me the good deal on it because they can't open it."
"I promise you I will pay you back for the furniture someday, Aunt Dixie," Keagan vowed.
"I'll pay for your furniture," Henri spoke up.
"Henri, don't made me smack you," Aunt Dixie scolded. "You know durn well family don't pay for nothing in my shop. I just wish we don't had to break it up to get into it."
"Aunt Dixie, you don't need a key for that chest," Keagan told her as he left the room. "I just hope I remember how to do it."
Dixie and Henri followed Keagan down to the living room where they all met up with Cassius as he came up the stairs with the chest in question. It clearly matched the two beds and the dresser. Cassius grinned at Keagan as the teen bounced around him like a happy puppy.
"Give me time to get it set down, little prince," the big man laughed. He lugged the chest into the living room and Keagan sat on the floor next to it.
"I can't believe I have this now," the teen sniffled as he literally hugged the wooden box. "Grandma always called this her heart. She kept all the important things in here." He ran his hands over the carvings on the top of the chest. "Oh I do remember," he mumbled quietly. "First is the oak leaf that landed on his face and caused him to run his car into the ditch in front of Grandma's house." He grasped a carved oak leaf on the lid of the chest and gave it a twist. "Then there is the rose that he gave her on their first date," the teen continued as he crawled around to the side of the big box and pushed in on the carving there. "Then there's their hearts the day he proposed." Keagan rushed to the other end of the box and found the carved double heart design and gave it a twist. "Finally, the ring that he gave her on their wedding day." On the front of the chest, he found the carved wedding rings and pushed in on them. There was a click and the lid of the chest twitched. Keagan was holding his breath as he pulled it open and looked inside. On top of the things in the chest were a pile of pictures of Keagan as a little boy.
"Yep, that's the little golden baby that came to see me that day," Cassius laughed as he looked at the pictures.
"You've been the living embodiment of sunshine all your life, my grandbaby," Henri said as he took his turn with the photographs which Keagan had handed to them. "Oh ho ho, but you got the full moon in you, too," he laughed and held up a picture of a very naked Keagan about a year and a half old running through the back yard of a house, while his mother chased after him waving clothes at him.
"PawPaw," Keagan squealed and blushed intensely. "I have to burn that picture. Give it to me."
"No, you don't burn nothing, Sunshine," Aunt Dixie scolded as she took the pictures. "You maybe don't leave these out where eyes that don't need to see can find them, but you keep all of them. Besides, your Sugarman might like the pictures of you nekkid."
"He better not," Keagan gasped. "I was just a baby."
"Yeah, he'd much rather see you naked now, I bet," Cassius teased. Keagan squeaked like a little mouse and blushed all over again. He turned to go through the chest again as Cassius rubbed his head where Aunt Dixie had just swatted him. "Owww, Aunt Dixie, I was just teasing."
"You was being crude," Aunt Dixie corrected. "You gonna spoke about your split apart in his altogethers in front of me and his PawPaw, too?"
"No. No, ma'am, I wouldn't do that even I did know," Cassius replied solemnly.
"Well, this grandbaby here might not be, but Claude legal," Henri announced. "What you and him do you own business. Just knowed if he is your split apart, I couldn't be more happy to have more connection to your family, or ask for a better man to took care of my Claude."
"Thank you, Mr. Henri," Cassius said seriously. "I plan to speak with Claude when he, Chay, and Prince Sunshine come to my restaurant tonight for dinner. If the talk goes the way I hope it does, I'ma be calling on you for to ask to court him proper."
"You ain't got to wait for that, Cassius," Henri smiled. "I, Henri Jameson Lafayette III, welcome Cassius Dominique LeVeau as a suitor for my grandson, Claude Etienne Guibert. Furthermore, I give my permission to forego the required chaperone for your courting as Claude is growed enough to know what he want, and legal to do it if he want."
"Cassie, I thought you wanted to talk to Chay tonight," Keagan asked after a moment.
"What did you just call me?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to," Keagan apologized. "It just slipped out."
"I'm not mad at you, little prince," Cassius said quickly as he scooped the teenager off the floor and hugged him. "You don't remember it, do you? That's what you called me that day your family came to visit mine. You tried a few times to say Cassius, but you just couldn't quite manage it, so you called me Cassie. My sister ain't let me live it down to this day. Thanks to you, that's what all my nieces and nephews call me, Uncle Cassie. I love it, just like I love you, little prince."
"Cassius, you know a prince that ain't of age yet got to have a protector," Aunt Dixie said with a smile. "I think I just found Sunshine a warrior. You all right with that, Henri?"
"I can't think of anybody better, Dixie," Henri smiled. "Let me took care of something first," he added as he did the kisses on Keagan's face again, but this time he added a kiss to the forehead at the end. "Keagan Denys Guibert, I, Henri Jameson Lafayette III name and lay claim to you as a High Prince of the House of Lafayette. So, mote it be." There was another of those waves of power through room around them. He turned to Cassius then and said, "Cassius Dominique LeVeau, I charge you as protector and warrior for my grandchild, Keagan Denys Guibert, High Prince of the Lafayette family. Do you accept your duties and responsibilities?"
"I do and gladly, my liege," Cassius said as he knelt in front of Henri and kissed the man's hand. He continued to kneel but turned to his Aunt Dixie.
"Cassius Dominique LeVeau, I charge you as protector and warrior for one I have named a prince of the LeVeau family, Keagan Denys Guibert. Do you accept your duties and responsibilities?"
"I do and gladly, my Queen," Cassius responded and kissed her hand. He started to get up, but Dixie stopped him.
"It not fitting and proper you take this responsibility for both our families without you get your rightful place along with it," she said as she bent forward and kissed his forehead three times, his cheeks each twice and then once more on his nose and then a final time on his forehead. "Cassius Dominique LeVeau, I, Dixie Chanteusse LeVeau, name and lay claim to you as my only heir. You are the crown prince of the House of LeVeau from this day forth. So, mote it be." She clapped her hands and the room shook as if there had been a clap of thunder inside it. "Now for you, Sunshine," she said as she took his face in her hands. She kissed his forehead three times, one kiss to each cheek, and a final kiss to his forehead. "Keagan Denys Guibert, I, Dixie Chanteusse LeVeau, name and lay claim to you as a High Prince of the House of LeVeau. So, mote it be." Another shake of the room.
"Umm... could someone explain to me what a high prince is and what that means?" Keagan asked shyly.
"That wait for another time, Sunshine," Aunt Dixie told him with a hug and a kiss to the cheek. "Right now, you got your memories to gone through. You want we should leave you to it?"
"Oh no please don't go," Keagan begged. "I know I'm going to be really emotional about this stuff, but I really think it will help me if I have you all here to talk to as I do it."
"Tell us about each and every piece, grandbaby," Henri told him with a warm smile as he took a seat on the sofa. The rest of the morning was spent with Keagan sometimes grinning, sometimes blushing, and sometimes crying as he showed off the contents of his grandmother's chest, while Cassius went back downstairs and helped out in the bakery.