The sweet scent of jasmine drifted into the room one sunny June afternoon. Sparrows and robins chattered among themselves in the garden beneath Melia's window as she stood before her mirror and straightened her heliotrope dress. She then smeared a wine colored lipstick across her lips and smiled.

"Da, I will be going out to eat with Callum in about ten minutes," she said to the knock at her door, scarcely audible over the stereo playing "Solace" by Plumb at her dresser. Elias Moody entered her room wheeling an air conditioning and heating unit on a dolly.

"I hate to ask this, but Herman is sore with arthritis. Could you help me lift this into your window?"

Eli heaved it into his arms with a grunt, and she reached to support the closer half. With his lengthy fingers curled around the edge, he staggered with her toward the window and wrestled it onto the plywood platform he had placed there earlier in the morning.

"There. That will have to do until we clean the fireplaces. One can never be too careful these days."

He brushed his hands together and smiled with a spark in his brown eyes when he glanced her up and down. She colored when she glanced down at her own apparel.

"You are lovely, mo chroí."

"Go raibh maith agat," she answered as she threw her arms around his slender middle. The melody of their doorbell made her release him and rumple his dark hair. "I will be back in around three. I love you."

"Love you. Herman is going to his cottage, so should you need anything, call me on the mobile. I should be gardening a bit around the house."

"I will," she kissed his cheek and rushed to the stairs, calling "I'm coming!"

Her hand skimmed across the cherry wood banister and her shoes echoed against the creamy marble floors. The parlor was a beautiful room, with the lower portion being a champagne color with a lace pattern separated by a coral ribbon pattern from a mural of delicate skies and vintage clouds illuminated as though the sun was behind them. The light of a chandelier danced across the door as she reached it and withdrew it open.

"Good afternoon."

Callum smiled with his soft blue eyes and gently escorted her into the hot sunshine with his arm. "Good afternoon. Are we going to the same restaurant?"

"Please," she smiled as they made their way past the wisteria and abundant cornflower hydrangeas on each side of the path. The beaten primed car Callum purchased with money he scraped together in the last several years was visible in the grass past the blanched picket fence and gate.

After two attempts at starting it, the car rasped to life and rumbled toward the street.

The small city devolved into scattered homes in a field beside a rough curving road with a mere two lanes. There appeared the small country kitchen where the pair often met to eat on pleasant afternoons such as this. Callum emerged out of the car and came around to pull open the passenger side door for Melia. She smiled her gratitude as they entered the restaurant and were seated immediately in a booth beside the window.

"Chamomile and plum teas, please," Callum asked the waitress and smiled across the table. His cheeks colored and he dropped his eyes. When he darted them toward the window, he smiled again at the sight of a badger nosing at the grass.

"Remember that time you asked for a badger to keep, and I tried to catch one for you?"

"Yes! Your Da was so surprised to see you crawling on your stomach through the blackberries in the pouring rain with that butterfly net."

His smile died away and he met her eyes. "I'm glad we've known each other as long as we have."

"Me, too," Melia raised the printed teacup that had been set on the table and touched it to his.

"And what will you have?" asked the waitress.

"Barmbrack bread and coddle, and egg rolls for the lady," Callum gave her a polite smile and cleared his throat when she returned to the kitchen. He raised his tea to his lips and drank deeply until he was able to set it emptily beside him.

"So, is your family doing well?"

"Money is scarce, and Da gets concerned. But the lads have no idea," he chuckled to himself and shook his head. "Alasdair was sorting through all the shirts the rest of us had and said that if the plaid shirts Rearden wore got him women, those were his priority."

Melia smiled. "Please don't feel obligated to pay today just because you asked me here."

He started and shook his head. "No, no. I have the money to pay today. That was never a concern. You see," he leaned his elbows on the table and stared down at his cup. "I, erm… we have known each other all our lives, and I… I wanted to ask if you wanted to get to know each other better."

He raised his eyes to see her staring. There was never any awkwardness between them until this day, and seeing the clear anxiety he generally projected toward people he never met made her unsettled.

"Well, we gather together sometimes and we get closer every time."

"No, I mean," he straightened and cleared his throat again. "Do you want to get to know each other as – as a couple?"

The blood drained from her cheeks and sent him into an obvious panic.

"We can pretend I never asked," he rushed.

"Why?" she smiled with fresh color in her cheeks. "You are me best mate, and you always have been. There is no one I would rather get to know better a-as a c-couple than you."

He smiled his relief as their meals were placed before them. Together, the two conversed in their usual gentle manner as they ate. The minutes progressed swiftly, and the two allotted hours were completed by the time they rose and Callum laid money beside their empty dishes.

The poppies in the fields seemed especially vivid as they passed them the second time around. Melia smiled the entire drive until he pulled to a stop in the grass at the gate. He climbed out of his car and came around the passenger side to open her door.

"Go raibh maith agat. And I appreciate the meal," Melia smiled as he opened the small white gate and stepped aside so she could pass through. He cleared his throat when he closed it between them and dropped his eyes.

"I would love to do this again sometime."

"As would I," she moved closer to press a kiss against his cheek. To her surprise, he gently returned the kiss to her lips. A thrill shot up her spine and she blushed rosily. With a shy smile, she threw him another glance and strode toward the house. "Da, I'm back."

She was met with silence. Curious, she called him again as she poked her head around one side of the house. No one was there. She made her way to the other side and stopped cold in her tracks. Elias Moody lay sprawled in the garden with blood matting his dark hair and the air conditioning and heating unit beside him. After a moment of shock, she released a blood curdling scream.

. . .

A soft breeze drifted through the drawn lace curtains. Melia stared at her clasped hands as she sat on one of the bottom stairs. The sapphire velvet-lined casket stood within her peripheral vision, but she skirted her eyes around it as much as she could manage. At the end of the railing was nailed "Gathering Flowers" by John William Waterhouse, and beneath it was a round wooden table with a crystal vase of ivory wisteria and a similar dish of dry potpourri petals. She could see a couple beneath the table from when she swatted the dish and scattered its contents early that morning.

She clasped one of the brass bars of the stair railing and propped her head against it as a shadow was cast across her. Herman crouched down with the pop of his knees to meet her eyes with misted ones. He raised a crystal plate of apple-blackberry tart to her with a wry smile.

"Ta brón orm, Miss Melia. I believe this is all me fault. But you have to eat something."

"No, this was not your fault," she soothed. "This was an accident. And my Da would rather he be in that casket than you. He would never have wanted you to take that hit for him."

Herman gave a melancholy smile, and raised the tart to her. She accepted it reluctantly, and he dropped down beside her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Your father was a good man, Melia. And so long as you would have me, I'll be here for you."

"Thank you, Mr. Hayes," she leaned her head against the shoulder of the elderly man. She watched shadows cast across the swirling vines and coral rosebud pattern in the marble floors and raised her eyes to see the entire McCallister family standing ahead of her.

Herman released her so she could rise and embrace them.

"Melia," Callum murmured as he received her into his arms and clutched her against his chest. She wrapped her arms around his waist and released all the tears she had pent back onto the ebony shirt. She sensed the eyes of his family on her, but there was a security in his arms that helped her to not mind. There was soon a motherly stroke of her hair that awakened her to the presence of Abigeál, whom she embraced as soon as she released Callum.

"I am so sorry, love," Abigeál soothed and kissed the girl on the cheek as she wept. What a welcome sensation, to be in the arms of a mother! She released her reluctantly when the time arrived and smeared her palms across both eyes in a feeble attempt to dry them.

"I appreciate you all being here."

"We won't leave until he is buried," Callum assured her. "And then we will give you time to grieve"

"The procession will be after the service in the evening. I have something for you," she slipped an envelope from her purse and placed it in his hand. "It's from me father."

Callum accepted the letter and immediately stowed it into the inside pocket of his coat. He then slipped an arm around her shoulders and grasped her against his side. With the corner of his eye, he peered into the casket at the middle-aged friend in his ivory suit. Cairbre stood with his hands rested on the edge and reached down to touch his companion the last time.

"Good-bye, dear man."

Abigeál approached him and laid a hand on his back. He moved back and strode toward the door with his wife staring after him.

"Where is Da going?" Alasdair asked.

"I'm not sure, but leave him be," Callum answered.

"Well, I'm hungry."

"I have tarts and candied violets in the kitchen," Melia suggested.

"I will get them," Herman pushed to his feet and disappeared out of the parlor.

The clock seemed to tick slowly by as mourners gathered and visited, and sometimes left prior to the service. Melia rarely met the eyes of anyone who greeted her, and while this was not unusual, Callum sensed a profuse sadness saturating the atmosphere.

When the time to leave arrived, she quietly accepted the invitation to ride with the McCallisters in their ancient twelve-seating van and rode silently to the service.

. . .

The church was adorned with calla lilies pinned to each end of all the pews and twisted crystal vases of softly-colored irises on either side of the gold cross on the alter. A reverend approached the display as people gathered in the sanctuary and cleared his throat.

"Aristotle once said that dignity is does not consist of possessing honors, but in deserving them. Elias Moody certainly deserved those honors which he has been recognized for, and I believe a great many more we have never known of."

Melia was searching the pews with a peculiar yearning in her eyes. Callum reached to the pew ahead to caress her shoulder. She clasped his hand with her own and gave it a squeeze. She smiled through her tears the way sunlight sparkles through a river.

Then suddenly, she sobered. Callum followed her gaze to a woman with an ivory shawl and short ebony hair pinned to the back of her head, who stood one pew behind and to her left. The stranger stared straight ahead with dark eyes and her lips pursed firmly together. She appeared to be maybe a decade older, and a lovely vision in her prime.

"Anyone who would wish to speak about Elias Moody should do so now."

Melia rose and moved toward the alter to stand at the microphone. She surveyed the vastness of the mourners until her eyes dropped upon the stranger she had caught sight of moments previously.

"Elias Moody was strong, and a visionary. He was brilliant enough to imagine for what he hoped for and learn the science of making it a reality. He strove to see his ideas to their completion. But not only was he an amazing man, but a loving father."

The mystery woman snapped her eyes up at these words.

"There were times in his life where he did not know what to do," Melia continued, "but he always loved his family and his friends. People were always more important to him than ideas. There was a sort of vibrancy about his soul that attracted people to him, and he was always equally attracted to them."

The woman crossed her arms and dropped her eyes with an awkward shift of her weight.

"And when the love of his life died after fifteen years of marriage, he made sure he was every bit the father he could possibly be. Even without perfection, he saw that vision to completion."

Melia cleared her throat and smeared the tears away again. After a moment, she rushed to return to her seat in case she lost control of the rest.

Many rose and spoke similar words of innovation and inspiration. Employees of the Tristis Opera instrument company and the Adrina teddy bear company shook hands over stories of their late employer. One man even shared that the teddy bear company was named for a small girl in the hospital dying of cancer at the same time Ashley Moody was there for a biopsy. The only way the girl would accept treatment was if she could squeeze her golden brown teddy bear at the same time.

By the time mourners rose to bid their final farewell to the deceased, Callum realized Melia still had her eyes on the strange woman. He rose and hurried after her when the service ended and she made a beeline toward her.

There was a lengthy line of people to pay respects one last time. The woman was ahead of the rest and smoothed her hand over the polished casket. She sneaked a glance at Melia and Callum as they approached and dropped her eyes away.

"Melody," Melia started tentatively. When the woman did not decline that was her name, Melia reached into her purse for an envelope. "I have something from Dad. I also added me contact information, in case you ever…"

She hesitated, then presented it to the lady, who accepted it with much reluctance.

"That was a beautiful speech," she said with a lovely low voice and met her eyes.

"Thank you for saying so."

With a gracious smile, the woman moved aside and made her way across the church to assemble with the procession. Callum stared curiously at Melia, but dropped his eyes when she remained silent. Eventually, she said –

"She is me sister. Dad had her a decade before me. I never met her."

"That's why his slogan is 'All the moody melodies at your fingertips.'"

"He would have called the company Moody Melodies, but her mother refused to let him."

And she started toward the procession.

Soft white clouds streaked the crisp sky when the mourners reached the cemetery. After Elias Moody was eased into his grave, each pressed a kiss to their morning glories and forget-me-nots, and dropped them onto the beautiful casket. Melia swept away the last of her tears and stared after Melody as she made eye contact with her sister for one moment and started toward a black car with a lean man.

Callum wrapped his arms around her shoulders and kissed her head. She latched her arms around him and closed her eyes until Cairbre lay a hand on his shoulder. With a soft kiss to her lips, Callum released the girl and watched her as he left with his family.

As their scarlet van rambled down the street, he reached into his coat for the letter Melia had given him. He ripped the edge open and withdrew the stationary with its Prussian blue border, upon which was the artful cursive of Elias Moody.

"Dear Callum McCallister,

I apologize if this comes as a shock to you, but I have willed that each of my companies be left to you in the case that I should die. Your father was a great help to me when I started them, and continued to advise me even after he left to help your mother with her family farm. I have seen that you have similar common sense and an honest mind, and I remember you mentioning to me that you were considering a similar path as the one he took. Therefore, I am also leaving the amount of money currently needed for a business degree. Should the price have been raised, I am sure your Aunt Darcy would be more than thrilled to help a member of your family return to such a position. She has mentioned this to me more than once since she accepted your grandfather's company.

While you are earning your degree, a man by the name of Adare Moran Stewart will manage both businesses. And after you assume leadership in each, he will mentor you until you are comfortable before he retires. He is a sound and honest gentleman, and I believe he will be someone you'll enjoy.

Do not be burdened by this news, son. I have every confidence in you, and I realize there may well be a rough transition of ownership and leadership. But do not fret if you seem to stumble at first. Growing often come with painful trial and error. These two companies are founded on love and beauty. I know you will maintain them well. I pray for you, and that you will accept this letter well.

Sincerely,

Elias Moody"

P.S. – I know you will look after my Melia. To be honest, I have always expected the two of you would marry one day. But even if I am wrong, I ask and trust that you will ensure she is doing well. God bless you and all your endeavors.

Callum knew his heart was thundering so hard that he wondered if his family could hear it. At the age of nineteen, the entire Moody empire was in his hands. He reread the letter again and slipped it back into his coat in silence. He sensed his father sneaking glances at him as he drove.

"Well," he said, "What did Eli say that has you startled out of your wits?"


MUSIC:

* Melia's Room After Birds– "Solace" by Plumb [0-40]

* Running Down Stairs – "Solace by Plumb" [40-59]

* Funeral setting – "Sumiregusa" by Enya [0-1:11]

* Line at the coffin – "Sumiregusa" by Enya [1:45-2:06]

* Start of procession – "Sumiregusa" by Enya [2:16-2:45]

* Burial – "All My Tears" by Plumb [0-1:22]

* Letter – "All My Tears" by Plumb [1:22-1:44]

* As Callum rereads and Cairbre asks about the letter: "All My Tears" by Plumb [1:44-2:22]

* After Cairbre asks, as story ends: "All My Tears" by Plumb [2:22-3:17]