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Continuation of Melodious Rain a young adult fiction novel of Melody, an English teacher in China.
The first day of the May holiday Melody and Tom decided to spend time together exploring the older part of Qingdao. Tom had already decided that he really liked Melody and so would use this opportunity to ask her if they could start dating. He had a romantic day planned with walking along the ocean, visiting May 4th Square, the local pier, Badaguan scenic area and Qingdao Underwater World if time permitted. He knew it would be crowded with lots of Chinese tourists but he wanted her holiday to be special so he planned it anyways.
They set out early from the campus to walk along the beach path full of tourists from May 4th Square to Zhan Qiao Pier snapping pictures along the way. It was early May and so the square was full of both tourists and those who had come to Qingdao to commemorate the May 4th Movement of 1919. Since both Tom and Melody were history majors in university they quizzed each other on how much they knew about this most important of student movements/protests in China all the while admiring the gigantic red sculpture symbolizing the “May Winds”.
When they got hungry they enjoyed lunch at their Sunday afternoon usual location. It was nice to spend time just the two of them together getting to know each other better. Once they sat down and ordered Tom couldn't wait any longer so he asked Melody the question burning in his heart for days hoping that she would agree. At her affirmative answer Tom eagerly reached for her hand across the table and she willingly let him rub her fingers between his interrupted only by the waitress bringing them their plate of fried rice, bowl of noodles and dumplings. So, their lunch started as a lunch between friends and ended as a romantic lunch with the rest of the day ahead to spend together around the city. They left the restaurant hand in hand and stayed that way the entire day.
They hopped on a bus and headed to Badaguan Scenic area where Tom knew the flowers were in full bloom and several couples were being photographed for their weddings. He was hoping that the sight of several brides and grooms would put Melody in more of a romantic mood. As they meandered along as if they didn't have a care in the world she laughed at his jokes, leaned into his shoulder and held onto his hand tightly. Tom loved the euphoric feeling of her being near him and didn't want the day to end. The weather was beautiful for the entire day even warming up enough for them to shed the jackets they had brought. Spring was in the air with a hint of summer coming. They lost track of the time and by the time they got to Qingdao Underwater World it was about time for closing so they decided to make another date to explore the aquarium together (one of the best in China). The tickets were expensive so they wanted to make the most of their time at the aquarium.
To end the perfect spring day they took a taxi to a local Mexican restaurant in the shopping district they had both been hearing so much about from others but had never had the time to try. It turned out to be the best place for them as it was a romantic haven in the midst of all the chaos and shopping mayhem outside of May holiday tourists. The music and lighting were both soft and inviting, the food was delicious (and not too expensive) and the ambiance was more romantic than any other place in the city. Very different from the cheap Chinese restaurants they were used to with loud boisterous parties and diluted tea. Not to mention the air was often permeated with cigarette smoke. This new one was definitely a place to return for a second (or third) date they both decided. It was now their new favorite restaurant for just the two of them.
On the taxi ride back to their campus Melody rested her head on his shoulder and almost fell asleep. She let out a little sigh of contentment that sent shivers down Tom's spine. He couldn't have been more happy than at that moment.
The next day was the second day of a three day holiday so after fellowship they set out again on their own making their way to Qingdao Underwater World where they marveled in unison at God's wonderful underwater creation and the exhilaration of being young and in love. They spent many happy moments in the tunnel built underneath the water stopping again and again to watch the turtles and fish swim above their heads still clasping each others hands tightly. On this day Tom even mustered up the courage to put his arm around Melody and she let him know that she liked it by doing the same thing.
Tom had packed a picnic dinner so after the aquarium they headed to the beach again and both sat on a towel eating their sandwiches, chips and bottled tea. It took all of Tom's willpower not to kiss Melody with her blonde curls blowing in the slight wind but he knew that not only was it too soon but also that she would be embarrassed for their first kiss to be so public. It was dark by the time they were heading home but first they stopped at a coffee shop near the campus for a drink and dessert. Melody ordered her favorite which was cheesecake and a vanilla flavored hot chocolate. Tom teased her by taking his fork to try for some bites of cheesecake while Melody kept it away from him. They laughed and talked together until closing and then walked back to the campus entering the gates just before they closed for the night. The student's had a curfew but the teachers knew how to stay out past that time and the security guards still let them have that freedom.
The third day of the holiday they spent in their apartments catching up on schoolwork and grading. Mid-term exams were coming upon them soon. Taking a break, Melody had settled down for a few minutes of relaxing reading when she found something astonishing. She grabbed her book, ran out of her apartment and knocked loudly on Tom's door. “Just a moment” Tom yelled at the closed door as he stepped out of the shower. “Now, what is all the commotion?” he asked her his wet hair just begging for Melody to touch. “Oh, just that I found another clue to our mystery of your father!”
Tom stood there in the open doorway stunned for a moment while he absorbed the news. After a few moments he calmed down enough to ask her some details. “What do you mean? How?” the questions just spilled out his voice cracking with obvious emotion. “Well, you see I was taking a short break from my work, which I do every hour or so, reading a few pages of my book. While reading I came across a page that was thicker than the others like it was two pages stuck together. It is not noticeable unless you are at those pages or know what you are looking for. Anyways, I took a knife and separated the two pages and a sheet of paper fell out. These are clues about your father and grandmother” she exclaimed as she held up a faded piece of paper so thin it was almost transparent.
Tom took the paper from Melody's outstretched hand observing what it had to say being cautious not to tear it. It was a letter written on stationery from a company that neither one was familiar with. It was obviously written with care from a woman to her unborn child. In it she was apologizing for what she was about to do and gave an explanation of her planned action and the motives behind it. She was a teenager who had been raped and was not emotionally nor financially ready to raise a child. She lovingly wrote that she wanted to keep the baby but knew that finding another home for it was best in her circumstances. She also mentioned the name of the woman she intended to leave the baby with. This name just further confirmed to Tom that she was his paternal grandmother. She signed and dated it “I will always love you, your mama, Louisa J. Smith April 18, 1957”.
At this point both Melody and Tom forgot about their academic obligations and went straight to the computer in Tom's apartment looking up Louisa J. Smith, and the mysterious name on the letterhead. What they found was that the company was a cruise line now long out of business that had once been famous for cross Atlantic trips, most notably the UK to the USA and back. A disaster occurred on February 14th, 1957 that ultimately served as the cruise line's demise. A ship sunk off the coast of New England carrying all aboard to a watery grave on their way to the UK. Tom found a list of ticketed passengers for that fated voyage and to his surprise Louisa's name was on it! Impossible! Her letter was dated April, 1957 and his father's birthday was April 27th. How could that be? Yet here it was in black and white. The mystery was growing deeper and more intriguing by the minute.
Tom and Melody knew they wouldn't find any answers anytime soon so they went back to their work. The only thing that could help them now was to Skype with Tom's grandmother to ask her the story. She ought to know the answers to their questions. The time difference was not right until about 7 or 8 pm so Tom and Melody waited until then working hard to get all their work done in the few hours before dinner. They were distracted in their thoughts but they forged ahead and finished their responsibilities in time for a quick dinner at the student cafeteria.
At 7:30 pm they made a phone call to Tom's grandmother making sure she was up and ready to Skype. She was. Tom started the conversation introducing Melody as his girlfriend and telling her the story of how Melody had found an envelope and letter in a book that was connected to his father and birth grandmother. Did she know more about the story? Why was his grandmother on a list for a fated voyage yet survived when there were no survivors?
Tom's grandmother, Sally, began very slowly and softly to explain what she knew about Louisa Smith. Louisa had approached the church when she was about six months pregnant. She turned to the church because she had no where else to go. Her family had abandoned her the moment they found out she was having a baby. They didn't listen to her story nor gave her a chance to explain that she had been date raped by her date after dinner together on their walk home through a park. Because her family approved of him Louisa had trusted the son of a family friend and thought he was being romantic by taking her to a private (dark) place in the park. She had been traumatized but kept it a secret hoping no one would find out her shame. Four months later she could no longer keep the secret, had a huge fight with her parents and ran away from home at the age of seventeen. At six months she had been wandering around all day and sought refuge from the bitter cold in a church. She had been attracted by the choir rehearsing. Sally had been the choir director and church secretary at the time and befriended her even inviting her home to live with her until the baby was born.
From what Sally knew about Louisa she had been planning on returning to the UK to live with her grandparents but while standing in line for the cruise ship had seen her attacker and fled the scene leaving her ticket behind. In other words, he was lost and she survived. Apparently she had grabbed some stationery while checking in. Sally had not known that Louisa was going to leave the baby with her until Louisa checked herself out of the hospital and left the baby behind. The hospital staff had to call Sally to pick up the baby.
At that point she had been engaged to the pastor of another church and he agreed to raise the baby as their own. They named him Tom and eventually he got married and had a son named Tom Jr. Just shy of his fortieth birthday Tom Sr. had been killed in a horrific car accident with his wife at the wheel leaving behind their sons, seven, five, and two.
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