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TRUST JESUS TODAY
This is the version I just submitted to a book contest. It is young adult fiction.
Melody awoke with a fright as she reached over to touch the envelope. With a sigh of relief she collapsed back onto the bed. It had been like this for the past four months, sleeping fitfully, if at all, and more often than not in a strange bed in a foreign city. How long could she continue like this? The answer was still elusive but today she might find an answer. With that thought of encouragement she allowed her mind to wander to the recent events that seemed like a bad dream but were in fact very real.
It began with circumstances that seemed almost innocent to those who were not paying attention. Melody remembered going to the local used bookstore and finding a book of interest, a work of fiction by a woman who was fast becoming her favorite author. Little did she know then that buying that classic book, to read on the long plane rides, would change her life and lead her on an international adventure, the first of many. It was not the book itself causing trouble but what Melody found tucked inside the book as if someone had inserted it for safekeeping, a family heirloom probably never meant to be sold, especially to a stranger. As she started the hunt for the owner of that envelope she found herself being chased by someone who did not want those contents exposed at any cost.
Melody was not the type of person anyone would guess would be involved in this type of thing. To most everyone who knew Melody she was typecast as predictable and stable. She had just graduated from university with a degree in history and applied for and been accepted as a foreign English teacher with a company working in China. Even working in China sounded so foreign to most of her classmates who would have figured her for becoming a high school English teacher in the suburbs, getting married by the age of 24 and having four kids before her 30th birthday. With her beautiful long golden curls and blue eyes she had had her share of boys interested in her but that was just it, they were boys, therefore held no interest for her. Before starting work she had been traveling around Asia, a graduation gift from her grandparents. They encouraged her to pursue her dream of traveling the world before settling down.
Her parents were heavily involved in their church and she had been going as long as she could remember. She was a member of the church choir having sung a solo at last year's Christmas concert where she also served as Mary in the pageant. Her sister was still in high school dating the local football hero. Melody had never really dated but that was because she was very picky in choosing who to go out with and had not found anyone of interest yet.
Things were about to change for her. She could just feel it. Today she was finally meeting the man in the picture she had been carrying around since finding it just before graduation, a mere four and a half months ago. Of course he was all grown up now and not a baby anymore but it was him nonetheless. She was sure of it. They had arranged to meet at the coffee shop of the Forbidden City in Beijing. She had told him she would be easily recognizable as an average height blonde with a red scarf. She dressed with excitement making sure every detail about her appearance was perfect. She knew the outfit that went best with her curly blonde hair and the red scarf, the outfit that made her crystal blue eyes that much more stunning. A little mascara and lipstick and she knew she could catch any man's eye, even if she was a tad overweight. Nothing could go wrong today if she wanted to return the envelope and hear the whole story behind it.
She took the bus and then the subway to that most famous of tourist spots and realized that although she had been in Beijing two weeks this was her first trip to the center of the city alone. The English teacher training was almost over and tonight she would find out where she had been assigned and who she would be working with. After navigating the city transportation successfully she bought her ticket at the ticket counter and entered the museum. Thankfully it was a nice day and not too hot for early September, nor too crowded. The summer crowds were gone and the October holiday crowds had not yet arrived. She made her way to the coffee shop and waited.
She had intentionally arrived early so that she could see him trying to look for her. Instead she found one of her fellow trainees,Tom, sitting at the bar stools. He waved her over to him and invited her to sit with him. Together they chatted while they sipped their coffee.
A little taller than normal with straight brown hair almost into his eyes Melody had already decided that he was a nice enough guy and not too shabby. Some women might even call him handsome. Today he was wearing a pair of jeans with a blue t-shirt he must have bought on their field trip to the Great Wall as it bragged about his climbing ability. They had just met two weeks ago and so Melody enjoyed the chance to get to know him better. After all, they might end up in the same city as co-workers she reasoned. She knew he was a fellow believer because their company only employed people who passed the strict questionnaire about their beliefs. They were to be employed as foreign English teachers, using their native English speaking abilities, but were really in China as missionaries.
Although he was too young to be the man she was looking for, Melody instinctively knew that she could trust Tom. So, before she knew what was coming out of her mouth she found herself telling him her story about how she had found an envelope by accident and was trying to hunt down the owner. She showed him the picture of the baby and was completely unprepared for his shocking response.
“Where did you say you found this? That's my father!”
“Are you sure? Where did you say you grew up?”
“Yes. I grew up in New Haven, Connecticut and recently my grandfather told me what he knew of the story of his son's birth. He didn't want me living on the other side of the world without knowing the story. It was quite shocking to learn that my father was not his biological son. In fact, I am still processing that news in my mind. The writing here with the name of the church matches what he told me.”
“Really? I grew up in New Haven as well. Wow, that certainly changes things. I was supposed to meet a man here who also claims to be the baby in the picture.”
After a little more discussion they decided that it was not the best idea for her to meet the man because they didn't know his motives for his claims about the picture. Melody immediately took off her scarf and hid it in her bag. Now they looked like a typical American couple having coffee together and they prayed together that whoever the man was he would not recognize her and start to ask questions. A few minutes later they did see a man arrive who was looking around for someone. The man was about their age and this just confirmed their suspicions that he was not to be trusted. When he didn't find her he ordered his coffee and sat at a table for two. Tom and Melody knew that was their signal to leave out the other door so they didn't have to pass by the stranger.
Once outside among the tourists of Tiananmen Square and the cacophony of sights and sounds that are uniquely Chinese they found a place to sit down to start processing the information.
“What just happened?” was on both of their minds.
Why did Melody have a picture of Tom's father as a baby in an envelope, a short apology, and the name of the church he was left at written on a single piece of now fading paper? Who had originally hid the envelope for safekeeping? Who was the man in the coffee shop waiting to meet Melody? She had found him through asking around at the church mentioned and had made contact with someone who apparently knew the family and had given her a number to a company in Beijing. Since Melody knew that she would be in Beijing soon she called him and left a message saying she had something he might be interested in and where to meet her and when. The man obviously knew that she had the photo and now that Melody knew he wasn't who she had been looking for the question remained as to why he wanted the contents of the envelope. What was he going to do with them? Who else knew about the envelope and its contents?
All the questions without answers made them both hungry so they made their way back to the conference center where 24 hour snacks and coffee were waiting. It was also a lot quieter and more comfortable for talking and trying to piece together the puzzle emerging in their stories that were being intertwined together, maybe for a reason? While Melody served herself a pastry and made a cup of tea for the both of them Tom found a table in an out of the way corner where they would not be disturbed.
As she sat down Melody began telling him what she knew and how she had come to find the envelope with its mysterious contents. She mentioned that the moment she found them tucked inside a classic book she knew that someone had put it there for a reason and it needed to be found by the rightful owner. She also explained to Tom the mysteries of the past four months of her stay in Asia and how she constantly felt like she was being watched. Could that have been the stranger in the coffee shop? Why would he be following her when he knew how to contact her? She was grateful that she had never given him a photo but had relied upon him recognizing her wearing her favorite red scarf. The scarf she had been given by her mother on her 18th birthday and carried with her everywhere. With his broad shoulders and tall and skinny physique she knew that she could easily spot him in a crowd anywhere and that would be to her advantage if she ever came across him again.
Tom stirred his tea while listening intently to Melody's story and when he was sure she was finished he started with his own part. His father had been abandoned after his biological mother left him (without saying goodbye) with Tom's adopted grandmother when he was a newborn. The baby's adoptive mother had been engaged to his adoptive father at the time and serving as a secretary for a church with her intended the pastor of a neighboring church. He never knew his real parents nor the reason he was abandoned. Eventually he had other brothers that were Tom's uncles. Tom's parents died in an accident when Tom was seven so his grandparents had raised him since then. They had always encouraged his love and fascination for China and his commitment to being a missionary. He had studied history and the Mandarin language at Yale University. Now, he was living his dream of living in China and he was really looking forward to finding out which city he was going to and meeting his students for the first time.
Meeting Melody and hearing her story convinced him that his biological grandmother had been the one to hide the envelope for safekeeping. But, who was she and how had Melody ended up with his father's baby photo? How had he grown up in the same neighborhood as Melody and never known her before now? The respective churches they attended were only blocks apart and they had even attended the same high school!
The hours passed quickly with their chatter. People were starting to gather for the evening meal and yet with all the commotion going on around them it could have been just the two of them in the room for all they cared. Tom's roommate finally intervened introducing himself to Melody and convinced them to stop talking long enough to get in line for something to eat. They sat at a table and continued to talk only this time about their lives and included others in the conversation. Soon it was time for the conclusion to their two week visit in Beijing.
The moment of truth arrived when the new teachers had completed their training and finally knew both where they were to live and teach for at least two years and the names of their teaching partners. Everyone was nervous as they took a look around the room hoping and praying to work with those they had befriended during the training. Alas, most of them were not paired with those they wanted. There were ten schools/cities with contracts for teachers and about four teachers per school/city. Tom and Melody were paired together along with Paul and Cindy, a freshly retired newlywed couple both previously widowed, from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. After the announcement was made they broke up into their small groups. Melody and Tom's group was going to a university in Qingdao, Shandong Province, an overnight train ride from Beijing and famous for Tsingtao Beer and the Tsingtao Beer festival every August.
Upon finding out the news both Tom and Melody sighed a huge sigh of relief at the same time. The afternoon at the Forbidden City was at the forefront of their minds and they both knew it was a positive move to not be working in Beijing where the chances of running into the stranger were greater. They were also both secretly overjoyed that they would be working together. Now that she had found the rightful owner Melody could cut off her contact with the stranger and they could move on with their lives and together talk about and get to the bottom of the unfolding mystery before them.
As Tim sat waiting with his coffee for the woman who left a strange message he let his mind wander back to the time he first read “The News”. The news that he was not to inherit as large of a fortune from his grandmother as he expected. He was the only known living relative and so he was counting on his inheritance to be a generous amount, after her donations to charity of course. He never could have imagined the story that emerged as he read her last letter to him.
On that fateful day of her funeral his grandmother's lawyers had asked him to stop by their office for a few minutes. He complied thinking they were going to tell him when to expect to know his fortune. Instead they gave him a handwritten letter written by his grandmother before she was to old and frail to write for herself. She had been saving it for him to read after her death.
That letter began with confirmation that his trust fund would continue, managed by her lawyers, and a few million were to be added for him to spend as he wished. This was followed by an apology before divulging the family secret of a long lost relative, an uncle he never knew he had. She had deliberately kept that information from Tim so that he could begin the search after her death. She did not want to tell her son the news herself but was entrusting her grandson to do the work. In other words, Tim's grandmother had left the largest part of her fortune to a stranger who happened to be her first born son, an illegitimate one at that! He apparently had no idea what was coming to him.
No one living knew the circumstances surrounding the boy's birth except a select few. His grandmother had kept it that way because she didn't want to live in shame and ruin her chances of finding a good man with a fortune to marry. Not even his grandfather (may he rest in peace) knew the story. Tim was spellbound as he read her letter in its entirety right there in the office. All his appointments for the day were forgotten as he continued reading.
The unknown story started with the fact that she had been raped as a teenager and had no option but to bear the child. Even when her family disowned her she still chose life for the child and when an invitation was extended to stay with a family from a local church she readily accepted. Almost immediately after her son's birth she wrapped him in a blanket, and in tears left the hospital for good without him and without saying goodbye. She knew that the woman would be a better mother to raise the child and he would have a loving home with her and her betrothed. She felt like that was the best she could do for the newborn child. This was her secret and she just had to share it with someone before her death or she knew she could not die in peace. Writing that letter gave her the sense of relief she needed.
She told Tim that she had preserved a picture of the newborn and a letter with the name of the church in an envelope. She informed him of where he could find that envelope, and another letter with the name of the woman, so that he could somehow find the man after all these years to apologize and notify him of his rightful inheritance. It was in her attic hidden in a specific book on the bookcase holding her collection of classic and rare books, some of them first printings. Tim was brought to tears as he realized that he had just that morning sold her entire collection of books to a used bookstore outside the city! They were worth a fortune in themselves but now one specific book was worth more than all of the others combined and he just lost it. Even returning to the bookstore for the book resulted in nothing. It had already been sold, as classic books like that didn't last long on the shelf.
He spent weeks in a daze as he settled her other affairs and then returned to Beijing to continue his work in international trade. In the eyes of the world he was a successful businessman creating and trading holiday tablecloths to decorate American tables during the holidays. No one (not even his girlfriend) knew that he was a gambler and had recently lost everything in a gamble he thought he was sure to win. That was the reason he had sold the books because he could not wait for the long time it would take to process his inheritance. Now he was stuck with nothing but barely enough money to cover his debts and a few million in inheritance wouldn't last long with his lavish lifestyle.
As he pondered his predicament he received the telephone message that piqued his curiosity and he knew that he just had to meet the blonde woman with the red scarf. How did she know how to contact him? Who else knew about the child born under difficult circumstances? Was he even still alive? What did she have to offer him? Could she have found the envelope to return to him? It was a long shot but he was lost and desperate in his search for his uncle without the name of the church or the woman. He waited for an hour after the scheduled time before he finally left the coffee shop feeling like a loser having been stood up by a stranger. The worst part was knowing that he wouldn't receive the answers he wanted today, maybe never.
The next few months flew by so quickly that before they knew it Thanksgiving was upon them. Since it was not celebrated in China the whole team would have completely forgotten it if it were not for Paul, an American teacher from Hawaii. Thanksgiving was very important to his family and so he had it marked on his calendar and reminded his students about it till they could all recite the first Thanksgiving story by heart in English and tell it to their classmates without really thinking about it. Paul was popular among the students not only for his teaching skills but also his ability to make everyone feel comfortable with their language ability and camaraderie in the classroom. With his receding hairline, wire-rimmed glasses, thick mustache and almost a foot taller than his wife, Cindy, he attracted attention everywhere he went inside or outside the campus.
The one thing Melody thought best about Thanksgiving was that directly after that holiday she could officially begin preparing for Christmas. Christmas was by far her favorite holiday and she let everyone know it. She had Christmas music playing in her room 24/7 for the entire month of December. She found a Christmas tree and lots of decorations at the local Wal-Mart and put those up as soon as she could. Her students had to put up with learning Christmas songs for caroling to other classrooms in December and learning the true Christmas story. They even caroled around the dean of the Foreign Language Department's office. Melody had discovered that her leader was secretly sympathetic to Christianity having studied for a year in Australia.
Melody had come prepared with lots of Christmas activities to keep the students busy with learning their English and getting excited about this most important of American holidays. Santa and the reindeer were taught alongside Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus so that it wouldn't look like Melody was preaching her beliefs. She even prepared a Christmas party with her students. The gift exchange was the highlight of the evening as students laughed whenever someone put on the flashing Santa hat Melody had picked up at the market indicating whose turn it was to open a present. Luckily she had also found out that Tom was an excellent guitar player and singer and so he was encouraged to participate with his classes, of which he did willingly if only as an excuse to spend more time with Melody. All in all it was a fun holiday season for those students lucky enough to be in Melody's classes.
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the holidays because they all knew that the hard work of two weeks of exams were just around the corner. After that they could enjoy six weeks of winter vacation before another semester. The team had been regularly meeting for planning once a week so it was a surprise for Cindy to request their presence on Friday afternoon of the first busy week of oral exams. Tom and Melody met up outside of their respective apartments and walked over together discussing their opinions for the reason behind the special team meeting.
When they arrived at Paul and Cindy's room they were met with a predicament that exposed them to the academic culture in China leaving them all feeling woefully unprepared in a search for the answer. Basically, while preparing for an exam with yet another set of students Cindy had found irrefutable evidence that one of her students had cheated on her exam! With her shoulder length auburn hair streaked with gray she may have looked small and helpless but inside she was a real powerhouse and this situation just upset her.
The student had left behind a piece of paper that was not in the teacher's handwriting, meaning the pupil had deliberately chosen the topic they wanted to talk about instead of it being random like Cindy had tried to plan it. Cindy knew that it had to be from one of two classes but she was at a loss on how to address the problem and if it needed confrontation or not. Before asking for prayer and advice on the situation she shared her feelings about how she felt violated by the students she had trusted. The general consensus was that they should all sleep on it for the weekend, gathering together again Sunday morning before heading to church at the international fellowship. At least they had one more week of exams to address the problem if needed.
Sunday morning dawned bright and clear but bitterly cold. The four educators had decided to meet together for breakfast at Melody's place to discuss their solutions. Over steamed bread (bao zi) and porridge from the cafeteria they each gave Cindy their answers in turn. It was a unanimous decision that the situation did indeed need confrontation. They all wanted to set an example for the students and let them know that cheating in their classes would never be tolerated no matter what the circumstances. The teachers were encouraging in their recitation of scripture to back up their feelings. When breakfast was finished they walked to the bus stop together.
“Oh no!” Paul exclaimed wildly searching through his pocket just after they got on the bus.
“What's the matter?” his wife asked as she tried to stay calm.
“I forgot my passport at home! Will they let me into the fellowship?”
“I think they should since you don't look very Chinese to me!”
Everyone laughed at Melody's answer and they continued on to the fellowship where the sermon just confirmed their convictions about cheating. The speaker spoke on Colossians 3:9 “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds” and Luke 6:31 “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” (NKJV)
The after-church tradition was to head to their favorite chain restaurant, a Japanese noodle place in the local mall near a major supermarket. Usually they would eat lunch, do some shopping and if they felt like it grab an ice cream from Dairy Queen. This weekend time was relaxing for all especially in the midst of a stressful time like final exams. They often laughed about eating Japanese food, shopping from a French supermarket and savoring American desserts all in China!
On Wednesday afternoon, armed with the knowledge that she was doing what was right, Cindy confronted her students. She had already sent a message to all the students through their class monitor that although she had previously told them that only half of the class had to be there that they were to all attend on this particular day. This was out of character for any of their teachers to do so understandably the students were all on edge.
She presented the evidence and told them what was to be expected. She wanted both an answer and for it to be a lesson in ethics for all the students at the college. She was not going to fail them if they came forward but if no one came forward she had no choice but to fail the entire class. They had until Sunday evening to find her on campus and confess privately or everyone would suffer. On Monday morning her grades were to be posted and it would be too late. Before continuing on with the exams Cindy made it clear to both classes that it was up to the cheating student to decide what to do. Although she knew other teachers were more tolerant and no one wanted confrontation, it was her class and she could manage it the way she wanted.
Friday afternoon as the bus was leaving the west campus to take the teachers to their residences at the east campus a female student named “Xiao Chen” (small (Shao) Chen for her family name) approached Cindy. Xiao Chen wanted to meet with Cindy for dinner that night near the east campus. Could she make it? Of course she could.
The two of them found a spot in Cindy's favorite restaurant just outside the campus gate and ordered a couple common dishes with rice. Xiao Chen confided in Cindy that scrambled eggs with tomatoes was her favorite dish and the first dish she ever learned how to make. When the dishes arrived Xiao Chen could not hold back her laughter watching Cindy unsuccessfully try to eat with chopsticks. In frustration Cindy gave up and reached in her purse for the plastic forks she always carried for these occasions. When the meal was almost over Xiao Chen finally worked up enough courage to confess to Cindy that she had been the one to cheat.
Cindy's best student had her full attention as she continued. Xiao Chen had been the top student in her high school but had suffered a setback in the college entrance exams because of a family situation and not having enough time to study. Her parents still wanted her to go on with her education so although it was at least a day's travel from her home she had enrolled in this college that accepted students with lower scores. She missed her family terribly but she knew education was important to her family and herself.
At first she had been so disappointed at not realizing her dream of a prestigious university in Shanghai or Beijing that the summer before starting college she had been deeply depressed and suicidal. It was only through the friendship of her best friend that she survived. The most amazing part was that her friend had also chosen a university in Qingdao so they could visit as often as they wanted. Of course her friend's university was a top university in China and hers was just a common vocational college but the thought that they were close by comforted her. She looked forward to traveling together back home and meeting up for dinners. As a result she applied herself to her studies and was once again at the top of her classes her depression vanishing more and more with each passing day.
However, this was the first time for her to have a native speaker for her English classes and she found it a little overwhelming at times. She had been ashamed of her English level and wanted a high score to prove to herself that she could do it. That was her drive to cheat. She worked harder than any other student but was still afraid of not doing well on the exam. Her plan was to write her own slip of paper and have it in her hand somehow sneaking it by Cindy to withdraw her topic from a hat instead of one of Cindy's chosen topics. That way she could focus on one topic instead of being ready for ten. She executed it flawlessly but was faced with a moment of panic when Cindy insisted on the return of her piece of paper. All she could hope for at that moment was that either Cindy would not reuse the slips of paper for another class or she wouldn't notice.
Cindy made it so easy for Xiao Chen to pour out her life story, even in English. Xiao Chen once again asked Cindy if she was to fail the class and Cindy assured her that she wouldn't nor would anyone in the class unless they deserved it on their own. However, Xiao Chen was to make a promise and put it in writing that she would not cheat again in any of her classes for any reason while she was a student. Did she learn her lesson? Of course she did because she did not want to “lose face” again by confession. She would be reminded of this situation whenever the temptation arose. Thus began Xiao Chen's journey of the Christian faith.
In April Tim made a working business trip back to the US where he had a long talk with his grandmother's former butler, Allan. The butler confessed what he knew about Tim's uncle's birth and that he had been bringing monetary donations to the church on his employer's behalf for years. Allan was the one the church had contacted when a woman had found the envelope. He had been stalking her all summer long through her travels around Asia by tracing her phone calls but had eventually lost that contact sometime in the fall. She just stopped using her phone. The last connection he knew about was from Beijing to Tim's office. At least now Tim knew that the woman with the red scarf in Beijing knew about his uncle and had the evidence. Now if he could only find her somehow to solve the second half of the puzzle.
The next morning he paid a visit to the church but that proved to be fruitless as no one knew what had become of the woman who had adopted that baby. Nor did anyone recall her name. It was just too long ago and they had lost track of her when she left the church upon her marriage. Frustrated with himself for losing the envelope in the first place he finished his business and headed back to China.
On the long international flight to China he let his thoughts wander to the quandary he was in and other unanswered questions. Were the church people lying about what they knew? Who was his uncle's father? How was he to find him (the father) and if he did how did that play into the situation? How was he to find that woman and retrieve the envelope? If he ever found his uncle what would he do? Could anything end in his favor? Could he find someone to assassinate him so he could inherit everything? Did he have children and if so would he have to get rid of the entire family? How would he do that without leaving a trace? He knew that the fortune was sizable but didn't know how large it was as his grandmother's lawyers would only reveal that information to the right people, in other words his relatives that were to inherit millions and had no clue at the present moment. It depressed him to know that he would never find the answer until he brought them in. He needed them alive for that so harming anyone was out of the question. Tim was well informed that his grandmother employed the best lawyers in the area therefore he had no chance of winning the battle to claim the funds in court. His current circumstances looked hopeless.
When he arrived in Beijing he was comforted by the thought that his Chinese girlfriend was waiting for him. They had only been dating for a year but he just knew that he was going to marry her. In fact, he had been planning to propose to her before he found out about his missed fortune. He had not told her anything yet although he planned to when things were settled. He had wanted to give her a bright future and had given her the impression that he was a very successful businessman.
The last few months made him feel like a failure and a phony but just seeing her smile and wave at him at the terminal made him forget all his troubles. She was the one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy life. He was really looking forward to being with her again tonight and was planning on telling her he loved her over a romantic dinner at their favorite Western restaurant.
Lily saw Tim and waved enthusiastically almost to the point of embarrassment at the terminal in Beijing. When he joined her she grabbed one of his bags and they set off together to find a taxi settling into their usual comfortable pattern with their arms around each other and holding hands as they rode into the city. She was not looking forward to tonight and her plan to leave him and the relationship. Her focus now was on just being with him and pouring her attention into making him feel good for a few final hours.
She had been sensing for awhile that they were drifting apart because he was not being honest with her about something. She couldn't live with a man who kept secrets from her. And she had a nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach that he was not as rich and successful as he pretended to be. But for now she just enjoyed being with the man she had grown to love in spite of herself and her personal commitment to marry a rich foreign man. She would enjoy her time with him for a few more fleeting moments and then discard him, disappearing from his life forever.
He had decided that to do it right he needed to have the ambiance of the most romantic restaurant in the city. After dinner they went to a spa but he had still not said anything, saving it for the ride back to her apartment. That moment never came. While he was busy with another massage she slipped away without saying goodbye. Phone calls to her phone went unanswered. How could he have misinterpreted her feelings for him? Was this a final goodbye? He laid back and wept like he had never wept before, already missing the woman he loved, couldn't imagine life without and feeling foolish for having fallen for a woman he now knew was only interested in money and he had nothing to offer her.
Three days later Tim made the decision to make a clean start of his life and move to Qingdao where he heard that business in international trade was booming. A former colleague of his had already moved down there and had started his own company with the help of some local students. Tim could get involved if he wanted as they could really use his international contact list and expertise.
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.
Despite knowing they would be fighting the crowds of Chinese tourists at every attraction, he planned a special day alone with her outdoors. He sensed that the walls gave the campus a confining atmosphere. At the same time the duties of teaching restricted their freedom to observe the life of the average Chinese. Maybe a spring day in the open air was just what they needed.
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 fiddled around with his chopsticks, took a sip of tea and said
“Melody, I really like you and I am praying that it is mutual. Would you like to be my girlfriend?”
“Oh Tom, I thought you would never ask.”
At that response 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 confident 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 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 happier 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.
“What would you like this evening?” the Chinese barista asked in perfect English with a slight European accent.
“I think I will have the cheesecake and a hot chocolate with vanilla” Melody ordered.
“Nothing for me thanks. I will just share with her” Tom said as he took a fork and tried to take a bite of her cheesecake.
“I don't think so!” Melody giggled while trying to keep the plate 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 tumbled out.
“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 Great Britain 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 Great Britain. 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 Great Britain 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.
Towards the beginning of summer was when Tim's life started turning around. He had been in Qingdao two months when he discovered a big Chinese church just around the corner from where he was working. It belonged to the Three Self Movement meaning that it was monitored by the local government. While riding by on his bicycle one night the strangest urge to enter came into his mind. It was the music that attracted him. The song was vaguely familiar but it was all in Mandarin Chinese so he didn't know if he knew the song or not.
After locking up his bicycle he quietly stepped into the church so as not to disturb the evening service. The music was so beautiful and he had never heard anything like it. A Chinese man approached him and introduced himself as David (Chinese name Da Wei).
“Ni hao. Wo jiao Tim” responded Tim in introduction.
“Oh, you speak Chinese very well” Da Wei said in amazement.
“Why thank you, or should I say xie xie. This song is so beautiful. What is the name of it? I feel like I should know it but somehow don't.”
“Oh that's right. It was my grandmother's favorite song and the last time I heard it was at her funeral service.”
Over the next few months Tim kept returning to the church and eventually met some other foreign Christians who started witnessing to him. He became a regular at the Sunday morning services which were translated from Mandarin to English. He learned the lyrics to Amazing Grace and when the church sang the song he joined in English with all his heart. It was magnificent to hear the two languages at once blending in such a way that it seemed the song was always meant to be that way. He decided early on that it was a little taste of the heaven he was learning so much about and was finding himself being drawn to, like a moth to a light. The first Sunday in August he was baptized along with three of his new Chinese Christian brothers.
Along with his new life he noticed that his old desires were slowly fading away one by one. He no longer wanted to pursue riches and fame but wanted to live a simple life and to find a good wife who loved him for himself. It was important that they share the same values and that she did not care about his riches (or lack of them). His intentions of hurting those who were to inherit his grandmother's fortune also disappeared as he continued to associate with those of the same faith. He still didn't know how to make contact with his uncle but he now lifted it up in his prayer life.
The school year ended in early July preceded by busy weeks of exams and a week of grading for the four foreign English teachers. Once finished they were all looking forward to a time of relaxation and getting to know the country they had chosen to live in for at least two years. Paul and Cindy planned a four week tour of all the major cities of China just hoping that their private Mandarin lessons with a student would be enough to carry them through. They had been preparing for months with Max. He had approached them to help with their luggage on the first day they arrived, eagerly befriending them hoping to improve his English. Since he was not in any of their classes nor would he ever be in the future (he was in his final year) they agreed to be language partners dedicating equal time to both languages. Tom left the day of turning in his final grades and returned to the US intending to spend his summer with family.
Melody was to host her college roommate from the States for two weeks and then head to Beijing by train where her friend would fly back to the US. They planned four days in Beijing together to see the sights, staying at a local hostel. She had heard from more than one student that you are not a true man (or woman) unless you have been to the Great Wall so that was a definite stop. She was looking forward to her best friend experiencing China at its best for the first time and Melody for the second. And finally, she was excited to play tour guide around Qingdao, the Chinese city she had come to love with its unique characteristics.
The day after she finished grading Melody ran into some students who were working during the holiday. These students were staying in Qingdao for their summer vacation on a campus that was almost completely deserted. The school paid students to work in security so some students took advantage of those opportunities to make a little extra money.
There were four Chinese that Melody talked with that day. Jack and Rose were dating and called themselves those English names because their favorite American movie was Titanic. They thought it was romantic to choose those names. John and Mike were the other two who hadn't gone home. Since Melody didn't have any other plans she agreed to join them for dinner that night.
The five of them really enjoyed their time together. The students relished the time spent with Melody, a popular teacher on campus. Jack, Rose, Mike and John were all in an academic program/major that was not to have foreign teachers teaching English because the school could not afford them for everyone. So, this was their one opportunity to chat with Melody, practicing their English, and enjoy a dinner with her. It was Jack's birthday and so they had cake for dessert.
During the dinner Rose asked Melody if they could hang out more while Melody was in Qingdao and Melody agreed.
“What shall we call you then?”
Rose asked her bright eyes observing Melody, a slight smile on her face. Melody's mind went blank for a moment as she tried to come up with a suitable answer.
“My students all called me Miss Melody but that seems a little too formal for you. I don't know what else is appropriate.”
Mike then asked if “Mei Jie” was suitable but what Melody heard was “May J”.
“How do you spell that?” Melody responded.
“You mean in Pinyin?”
“Right. I guess so.”
“M-E-I J-I-E” Mike replied.
"Does it have a special meaning?” was Melody's next question.
John was the one to answer. “Mei means either beautiful or one of the characters for the USA and Jie means older sister so it could be interpreted as either beautiful sister or American sister.” “That's it! That's what you all will call me from now on! Thank you Jack for the beautiful nickname and the wonderful dinner!”
After dinner Melody happened to glimpse Rose with one of the tiny forks in her hand full of frosting. She was holding it in such a way that it seemed to Melody that she was teasing her and would flick that frosting towards Melody's shirt any second. Melody responded to the “test” by pretending to flick frosting back at her. From that moment on Melody regretted her action because the five of them ended up in a full-fledged frosting fight. Frosting was everywhere from the table, to the walls, to the chairs and on their clothes and faces. What a mess! The cake was ruined. It took them a full ten minutes in the bathroom to get the frosting off of just Melody's face. She couldn't recall an evening filled with more merriment and laughter than this one. A fitting evening for having just finished final exams.
The next day a very bored Melody went looking for her new friends. Tiffany was not due to arrive for three days and she was all ready for her but had nothing to do for the day. Her friends were all gone and she had finished all her work. She found Jack and they decided to play badminton in the courtyard. It was fun while it lasted but the wind hampered any progress they were making in their skills. Melody's athleticism was not doing them any favors either.
They then decided that since it was a nice day and May 4th Square was within walking distance from the campus they should definitely visit the unique red sculpture. They found two others hard at work and convinced them to head to the local square after they finished their duties. The wind was too much for badminton but it was perfect for flying a kite! When they arrived they saw several others flying kites so Melody bought a kite from a kite vendor and when Mike and John joined them they flew it! Unfortunately Rose was not able to join in the fun that day.
Soon they were attracting attention from everyone around as most of the tourists had never seen a foreign woman having fun at the square with Chinese students. One person watching with interest was a photographer from the city newspaper. After watching them for about a half hour he finally approached Jack and asked them if he could photograph them and use their story in the local paper. He was to title it “Mei Jie takes her younger brothers to fly a kite”. They all agreed and tried to focus on their kite flying to make it look natural even though they were all nervous about the story. When he was done they told the photographer their story and how they were students and she was a teacher at their school. Now the title of “Mei Jie” was to be in print and they would all have their picture in tomorrow's paper!
The next day they all walked around the city together buying as many copies as they could find to give to family and friends. John was the one that saw it first pinned up on a bulletin board at a bus stop. It seemed like everyone in Qingdao stopped to look at the picture of the blonde woman flying a kite at May 4th Square. What an exciting start to their summer holiday!
In early August Melody was back from her short trip to Beijing and still alone on campus. One afternoon she took a bus into the city and did some shopping in preparation for the next school year. She took the last bus back to her campus, like she had done many times before, yet this time the bus stopped at a different terminal which confused Melody. Since she was on the last bus for the day she couldn't just cross the street to take the bus the opposite way to where she knew she could take a taxi. On top of that it was starting to get dark in an area of town not well populated and this started to scare Melody.
When she was waved down by a motorcycle rider offering her a ride she could just imagine her name in the paper tomorrow as a gullible rider who was raped and left for dead. She had never experienced fear like this before as a foreigner in China, where most of the time she felt safe at any time. Finally, a Chinese woman in a taxi waved her over in an attempt for them to share the taxi. Melody instinctively trusted that woman more than the motorcycle rider and quickly ran over to the taxi. The lady's name was Apple and she was fluent in English.
It turned out that while Melody was in Beijing the city had changed the bus route due to construction and posted signs at the bus stops. However, since Melody didn't read Chinese characters she was unaware of the change. Construction was constant in cities all over China causing headaches to those inconvenienced but this was the most troublesome situation Melody had ever come across.
“Is there a word for this type of trouble?” Melody asked Apple.
“Yes. We call it mafan.”
“Ma fon” Melody repeated trying to copy Apple but she just could not get it right. This caused Apple to chuckle.
“You will learn it and then you will use this word all the time. It is a good expression.”
Apple made sure that Melody arrived back at campus safely and even invited her to join her at the Sunday service at the Chinese church a few days later. Melody agreed. She was glad she had found a nice Christian woman to get to know better and that she would soon have her first experience at a Chinese church. Melody sometimes felt like her life was all about school and she didn't spend enough time with Chinese people outside of campus. So she was glad to have a new off-campus friend.
When Sunday arrived she was ready at the appointed time and made her way down to the church handing the taxi driver the slip of paper Apple had written her for this occasion. It was much larger than expected and Apple explained that it was because it was a Three-self Church versus a house church. Foreigners were not encouraged to go to house churches, as they attracted attention, but these churches were fine.
The music was inspiring and nothing like Melody had ever heard before. It was moving because now Melody knew why she wanted to learn Chinese characters, so she could sing along in the future. Maybe she could talk to Apple about writing down some of the pinyin (Romanized characters) for her so at least she could pretend to sing along. Looking around she spotted other foreigners listening to the headphones with English translation and to her surprise she saw the man from the coffee shop she stood up almost a year ago in Beijing! What was he doing here? There was only one way to find out and right now she didn't have the courage to entertain that thought. She decided it was best to discuss it with Tom first.
When Tom arrived back from the US they had another date at the local version of a Mexican restaurant where they eagerly told each other all about their holidays. Melody was now “Mei Jie” and famous and Tom got to see his new little niece (the only one so far) who was already six months old. Tom had spent a lot of time talking about Melody and so his entire family wanted to meet her. They knew they would probably have to wait at least a year until the next summer when they finished their current contract. After catching up, Melody told him about seeing the man at the Chinese church. They discussed ideas on when and where to approach him (if at all) and finally decided to continue praying about it first.
The answer they came up with was to attend the service again the next week and try to at least talk to him to see who he was. Melody struggled with that idea for days but finally surrendered it to God knowing that HIS purposes were higher than hers anyways. She really couldn't identify why she didn't want to talk with the stranger other than the fact that she knew who's photo she had found. She didn't know his connection and didn't really intend on finding out. When they went on Sunday Melody sighed a huge sigh of relief that he didn't show up. At least she could introduce Apple to her wonderful boyfriend Tom.
The next week they returned and he was there. After the service Tom took Melody's hand and she reluctantly followed him over to the stranger's side. Tom introduced himself and said that they were English teachers at a local school. The man's name was Tim and he was a businessman. Tim was from New York and still had no idea he was talking to the woman with the red scarf. After exchanging pleasantries Tom and Melody left to go back to their college.
On the way Tom turned to Melody and said “Now that wasn't so bad was it?”
The next Sunday was the Sunday before another school year started. All four American English teachers were on campus for preparation. Melody and Tom talked with Paul, Cindy and a middle-aged African-American teacher named Ruth. Ruth had just joined the teaching team. The young couple told the older ones the story of “The Envelope” and what they had discovered thus far. They knew that the photo was Tom's father and that his grandmother's name was Louisa Smith. She had been set to return to Great Britain but never made it, on a voyage where she would have surely perished. They also told them about meeting Tim the previous week and how he was obviously related but not sure how. Would the other three join them at the Chinese church and meet him? Could they trust him enough to tell him the story and apologize for standing him up a year ago in Beijing?
The five of them arrived early at the church and found a spot near the back sitting with Apple. They saw Tim arrive and sit on the opposite side of the church. Tom had already decided that it was best if he invited Tim to join them for lunch after the service. This way they could talk with him in an informal setting and hopefully get some answers. So, Tom stood up, walked to Tim's side and invited him. Tim readily accepted. They parted ways with Tom going to sit near Melody again taking her hand in his.
After the service they went to a local dumpling restaurant and they were all amazed at how Tim ordered so well! Of course he was a businessman and had been in China for a few years so that explained his excellent Mandarin skills. Nobody complained when the order came and they all ate until they were stuffed. Tim chatted a little about his life in New York and in Beijing and how he had just recently changed his life around. That encouraged Melody to finally admit to him and apologize for her actions in Beijing last September.
“What? You are the girl with the red scarf? Now that I think of it I did see you and Tom in the coffee shop that day! Does that mean what I think it means?”
“Yes” exclaimed Melody getting excited in spite of herself. “That means that I have a picture of a baby and a letter found in a book but I am still confused as to how that relates to you. I mean, since I found out the baby was Tom's father the mystery is solved as far as we are concerned.”
Many thoughts were going through his head but all Tim could respond was “Uhhhh . . . are you telling me that you know the baby in the photo? And did you say WAS?”
Tom chimed in “Yes. The baby WAS my father. We are both sure of that. He died when I was about seven. Now tell me again how does that concern you?”
“Well . . . you see . . . I don't know how to say it so I will just come out with it. I have been searching for over a year now for that picture and envelope because my grandmother told me in a letter given to me after her death that she had a son before my father. No one knew about it except those she chose to tell. She hid the details in a book that I had sold to the used bookstore in New Haven before I knew anything valuable was in those books. I didn't want anyone to know that I was selling her prized collection of antique books so obviously I couldn't do it in New York. Those hidden details were supposed to lead me to my uncle who I guess was your father.”
With his voice cracking with obvious emotion Tim continued “What would that make us – cousins?”
“I guess so cousin Tom” Tim said as he extended his hand for a handshake.
Tom grasped it firmly and responded “Nice to meet you cousin Tim.”
“Wait, wait, wait” interrupted Melody. “I am confused. What was so valuable about the book? I have read it now from cover to cover and except for the photo and a hidden letter explaining how she was going to abandon her son with Tom's adopted grandmother I did not see anything extraordinary about the classic book.”
“It was not the book itself nor the envelope Melody. It was that my grandmother's will left the bulk of her fortune as an inheritance to her firstborn son which would be Tom's father. So, by default as his father's oldest son Tom is now a multimillionaire!”
Cindy, Paul and Ruth's jaws all dropped at that proclamation. “Did you say millions?” was the question in unison. They didn't know how else to respond.
“So, let me get this straight. I inherited Louisa Smith's fortune? How much is it?” Tom asked.
“Well, first of all she was Louisa Jones when she died and I am not so sure about the numbers because I am not privy to that information. I tried but my grandmother's lawyers wouldn't divulge anything to me. She married my grandfather, Peter Jones who was CEO and founder of his own very successful oil company. So it has to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars I am guessing” was Tim's response.
A collective “Wow” was spoken by the entire group as they absorbed the fact that they were now in the presence of an instant millionaire.
Tom broke the silence with the question directed to Tim “So, what happens next?”
“We go to New York together and I introduce you to our grandmother's lawyers. They will carry out the details from there. When are you available?”
“We are to start classes tomorrow but I can talk with our supervisors about it. The freshmen are in mandatory military training for the first two weeks. This frees up our schedule a little bit. If they agree with it Melody, Paul, Cindy and Ruth can cover for me.”
“Yes” they all responded in unison. “Of course, yes.”
“So, there you have it. We leave as soon as we can get it all arranged. Thank you for inviting me to lunch. It was delicious” Tim said.
After giving their contact information they parted ways with Tom's promise to contact Tim as soon as he knew anything. On the bus ride back to the college the five teachers were chatting about the recent events of the day. They still couldn't get over the shock.
Although she had only known the other four about one week Ruth still felt comfortable enough to ask Tom “Do you have any idea what you will do with the money?”
“Not yet, but the first thing I must do is share my new wealth with my long lost (and now found) cousin. He definitely deserves it.”
Two days later Tom and Tim were on their way to New York to meet with their grandmother's lawyers. On the long flight Melody was a favorite topic of conversation between the cousins.
“You must really like Melody as that is all you care to talk about.” Tim stated.
“Oh yeah. She and I are becoming real good friends.”
“Friends? I thought she was your girlfriend.”
“That's true. But, since I was young I always wanted to marry my best friend and I can definitely see myself marrying Melody. In fact, since she has entered my life there has been nothing but blessings rained down from heaven in my life. The inheritance is only a small part of that. I call it melodious rain.”
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