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This is young adult fiction with a little bit of mystery, suspense, and romance.
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 and finishing 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 of who he was talking to. 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 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 the UK 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. Her 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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