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This is an updated version of "Melodious Rain" that I am working on to have ready for the Page-Turner contest. Target audience would be anyone who enjoys clean romantic fiction with a twist and/or international adventure stories.
Melody awoke with a fright as she reached over to touch the well-worn envelope. Clutching it to her heart with a sigh of relief she collapsed back onto the luxurious four-poster bed from a bygone era. For a fleeting moment her mind was frantic as she couldn’t recall where she was. One glance out the window at the sky awash in brilliant colors barely visible through the pollution and she remembered, Beijing, China. What time was it? Guessing by the lack of activity outside, she concluded that it was still early.
It had been like this for the past four months, sleeping fitfully, if at all, in strange beds in foreign cities. How long would these sleepless nights continue? The answer was still elusive but today an answer seemed within reach. Today the mystery might be solved. 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 all began with circumstances that seemed almost innocent to those who were not paying attention. Melody recollected 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. Sarah Ling’s novels were light hearted and romantic and easily brought the reader into the story. Too many times to count Melody had been so engrossed in the story while on the bus that she almost missed her stop. 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 the first of many international adventures.
It was not the book itself causing trouble but what Melody found tucked inside the book as if someone had folded and 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 locked in a struggle with 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. Maybe that had something to do with how she had not changed her hairstyle much since high school. She only deviated from her blonde ponytail for special occasions when she took the time to curl her hair in ringlets making her almost unrecognizable. Pulling her hair back was just so much easier to handle and fit her busy lifestyle. Even when her mother took her to a salon as a gift for her recent university graduation it had not taken her long after the ceremony to revert back to her signature ponytail. Whenever she had her hair cut she just could not stop herself from requesting a hairstyle that was compatible with ponytails.
Most of her classmates were shocked when they discovered that she was to be teaching English in China for a year starting in the fall after their graduation. China just sounded so foreign to those who did not know her well who would have figured her for becoming a high school History teacher in the suburbs, getting married by the age of 24 and having four kids before her 30th birthday. Melody chuckled at the memory of overhearing a classmate describing her in those exact terms to one of his friends in the campus cafeteria. He obviously did not know her like he thought he did. He did get one thing right though and that was that she had a passion for history that was unrivaled among her peers. Choosing History as a major had been one of the easiest decisions ever and for that reason she had been able to excel.
Before starting work she was to travel around Asia, a graduation gift from her grandparents. They encouraged her to pursue her dream of traveling the world before settling down. And it wasn’t like she had anyone in mind to settle down with anyways. Her sister could play the role of wife and mother in the future and Melody would be content enough to be a cool auntie. Preparing for her trip to Asia was the reason she had been to the bookstore. Although she had been there numerous times, that particular visit had been the launch of her personal international mystery getting deeper by the moment.
Now that her thoughts had come full circle it was time to start her day. After all, if she was to find any answers everything had to be perfect. An audible hiccup escaped her lips as she smiled with giddy excitement at the prospect of what the day would bring forth. 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. Not wanting to lose any of her excitement she showered and dressed in record time leaving a few minutes to get the wrinkles out of the red scarf she was supposed to wear when meeting the stranger with the explanation.
She even had time for a quick prayer of wisdom, asking for protection and the ability to see things from the right perspective. John 15:16 came to mind “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” While boiling water for a cup of green tea Melody prayed for a fruitful day and for her future life as a teacher in China.
They had arranged to meet at the coffee shop of the Forbidden City in Beijing at 10 am. She had told him she would be easily recognizable as an average height blonde with a red scarf. Those were the only details he knew. Never before had a message left with his secretary been so intriguing.
One last glance in the bathroom mirror proved that every detail was perfect down to his choice of pin-striped button down shirt and gray jacket. No stray strand of hair was out of place. He knew the ensemble that went best with his crew cut left over from his days in the US Navy, the outfit that made his crystal blue eyes that much more striking against his auburn hair. “Tim MacSmith you are one handsome fellow, even if you are a bit overweight. Nothing can go wrong today when I meet the mysterious woman and hear the whole story behind what she has to offer.”
After leaving his hotel room he took the bus and then the subway to that most famous of tourist spots and realized that although he had moved to Beijing only three weeks ago this was his first trip to the center of the city alone. Usually he was with a group of his Chinese colleagues as they all lived in the same complex. At least this time he had the chance to practice what little Mandarin he could remember to use.
As he handed over his money at the subway station he said “Wo yao yi ge piao. Xie xie.”
“Dao nar?” the attendant asked.
“Dao Tian An Men.”
The attendant handed over the change and one ticket with a polite “Hao de.” which Tim understood to mean “Ok.”
He knew the route well because his office was located in downtown Beijing just down the street from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Since he arrived at the end of the summer season, he thoroughly enjoyed buying his lunches from little restaurants (braised eggplant over rice was his staple) and sitting at the square taking in all the sights and sounds of the tourists as they gawked at the many symbols of China in the heart of Beijing. Why anyone would find pictures and statues of Mao Zedong fascinating and even want to visit his mausoleum was beyond comprehension but it provided hours of entertainment watching families pose for pictures and children running from place to place. The only large families he saw were foreign families, a result of the Chinese one-child family policy.
Entering the museum after buying his ticket he practically ran through the various rooms of artifacts in his rush to find the coffee shop. He would have to take his time to see everything after his meeting. 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.
Finally at 10:10 he entered the doors and ordered a decaf vanilla latte. He hated being late (and rarely was) but had seriously underestimated his travel time. He chalked it up to being a part of his adjustment to life in China doing business. At 11 am he finally gave up hope of ever meeting the woman with the red scarf. At least he had enjoyed a cup of good coffee.
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