Hometown Love
who tried not to laugh. “Right. Fairy houses. I should have known that.” He pulled out an empty chair near his daughter. “Did you make these delicious cookies, Grace?”
    His daughter looked up long enough to answer. “Jessie helped me.”
    “I hope you don’t mind. I brought the ingredients with me from home.”
    Mack finished the cookie in his hand and shook his head. “No, they’re delicious.” He watched as Grace spread paint on the fairy house roof. “How much do I owe for the bird, I mean, fairy houses?”
    “Don’t worry about it. They were on sale at the craft store.” As she spoke, Jessie came to her feet. “Now that you’re here, I’m going to go.”
    Immediately, Grace stopped painting and looked at Jessie. “No, not yet.”
    Although he didn’t say it Mack shared his daughter’s opinion. After thinking of Jessie often during the week, now she stood here in the flesh. “I plan to throw some burgers on the grill. Why don’t you stay and eat with us.”
    “Daddy promised we’d roast marshmallows tonight. He bought huge ones at the store. You can roast some, too.”
    Indecision filled Jessie’s face and Mack wondered what enticement might push her into staying.
    “Please, Jessie.” Grace pleaded, her head tilted to one side and her large eyes fixed on Jessie.
    He noticed a slight change in Jessie’s expression the moment she made up her mind.
    “Okay. If you really want me to.” Jessie sat back down.
    Mack almost shook his head. His daughter had a way of getting people to do whatever she wanted without pitching a fit or even raising her voice. “Great. You two stay here and I’ll get the burgers going.” Mack switched on the gas grill before he headed inside.
    Big turkey dinners and casseroles he’d never mastered, but cooking outside he excelled at if he did say so himself. Over the years, he’d prepared everything, from burgers and hot dogs to venison and salmon. More nights than not, he cooked dinner on the grill, even in the winter. Tonight, after placing enough patties on the grill he went back inside and prepared a salad while Grace and Jessie cleaned up their painting project. Unlike most children he knew, his niece included, Grace liked salad. In fact, she preferred it to most cooked vegetables. As a result, they had one almost every night with dinner, regardless of what he cooked.
    While he worked chopping up the celery, he could hear Grace chatting away outside. Every once in a while, he’d hear Jessie’s voice when she answered whatever question about fairies and fairy houses Grace threw at her. For the past month or so, they were all she talked about. He’d long ago run out of ideas for answers to her questions. From the sound of it, Jessie was holding her own, though.
    “Brianna says fairies can live anywhere.” Grace said as they ate. “I told her she’s wrong. Fairies only live in the woods like in the movie I watched at your house. Do you think fairies can live anywhere?”
    “How about we give fairies a rest and finish eating?” While he’d started on his second burger and Jessie was almost done with her first one Grace’s remained almost whole.
    “It’s my last question, promise.”
    “Last one. Then you eat, right?” He tried to maintain his stern tone. “Otherwise, no marshmallows after.”
    “Promise.”
    Mack looked over at Jessie who was smiling at the two of them. Behind her, the setting sun bathed her in light, and he noticed for the first time the blonde highlights her hair. “I never win with this one.” He pointed his thumb in Grace’s direction.
    Jessie’s smile grew wider at his comment and a tiny dimple appeared in her left cheek. “Gran says the same thing about me all the time.”
     
    The flames in the fire pit danced, making shadows on the side of the house as the smoke curled into the sky. Next to him, Grace sat licking the remnants of her last marshmallow from her fingers while he roasted one for himself.
    “Can I have

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