This story was inspired by a friend introducing me to a lullaby a few days ago, and I wrote this story after hearing it. the song is called "Lullaby for a Stormy Night" and it is beautiful... I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Anyway, I wrote this in response to it, and the lullaby the main character sings is one of my favorites titled "Goodnight my friend" from the Musical comedy Galavant. The songs are on Youtube and the series is on Netflix, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all.
I do not own the song, however, I will be covering it soon! :D
Also, this story is a present for Milde the tough Teddy, a great author, friend, and roleplayer... who also likes pandas! ;D
I hope you enjoy!
Melissa walked through the bamboo forest, machete out to shove plants aside and her backpack brushing the low hanging branches as she walked through the trees. Her red hair was tied in a ponytail under a wide brimmed jungle hat, and she carried a bullwhip at her side.
The cool breeze moved past her, caressing her face and hands as her boots squelched on the muddy ground. It had been drizzling for the past few days, and despite her best efforts, she hadn't seen a single panda.
Seeing a panda was one of the reasons why she was in Western China, in a bamboo forest, miles away from any civilization dressed in jungle gear, throwing herself into this crazy adventure.
But it wasn't the only one.
Her life, despite large amounts of begging, pleading, and praying to any deity she could think of, was taking a nosedive into a pool of failure, coupled with a lot of rocks weighing her down.
She was highly successful at her job as a department store manager, had a loving boyfriend, a lot of hard earned money she could spend however she wished, and free time to spend on her dancing, which was her passion.
Or at least she did.
It had started with her boyfriend, they'd been together for about two years, and she had a big anniversary dinner planned as a surprise.
After she had spent the better part of the afternoon making the meal, she walked to his work in order to invite him.
Her boyfriend was a lawyer, and mostly had his phone off during the day, so she normally walked to the firm to speak with him during his breaks. She smiled, squeezing the loose fabric of her jeans with her hands as she walked inside.
Her feet took her to the cafeteria while her mind wandered, attempting to figure out how to invite him for the dinner tomorrow, without making it seem too obvious that she was up to something.
She scanned the room without seeing him and walked over to one of his lawyer partners. The man smiled at her and read her mind instantly "Hey Melissa, Tony is in the back storage room, said he was looking up a cold case. That was…" He checked his watch "Ten minutes ago now, he should be done."
She nodded, feeling a surge of pride fill her as she walked away. That was her Tony, always working harder than the rest.
Her hands trembled with excitement as she walked towards the back room, quietly turning the doorknob. She wanted to surprise him because the way his face was lit up when he saw it was her was always priceless.
As she threaded her way through the shelves and piles of files and binders, she walked towards the sound of movement. Tony's back was to her which wasn't new, as he was always absorbed in his work, but the set of female arms wrapped around his back was.
"Tony?" She asked, clamping down on any feelings of anger or hurt or betrayal that wanted to flare up in her heart. Hugs were nothing new to either of them, she hugged other guys, and he hugged other girls, they'd both established long ago that that was okay.
As he turned, Melissa's eyes picked out the lipstick on his face and neck as well as the disheveled clothing both he and his secretary wore. Whatever they were doing back here, it sure wasn't just platonic.
"Melissa? You aren't supposed to be here." Tony blurted out after a minute of silence.
Anger filled her chest as she bit down on the torrent of words she wanted to spit at them, most of them unsavory, before she turned on her heel and left, slamming the door.
Once she was outside, she broke into a run, letting her dancer's legs prove their worth. Countless years of practice had made her muscular, and all of that had made her fast.
So she ran home, imagining the pain was leaving her body with every single breath she took. Her boyfriend, the man she loved and trusted, had fallen prey to cheating on her with his secretary.
The worst part was… she knew why.
She was an old fashioned girl when it came to dating and relationships, so naturally, she wanted to cherish her boyfriend, take everything slow, and nurture their love over time. He was faster paced and very physical with his affections, and he only wanted to think about the present, not the future.
So before they began dating one another she made her thoughts about the speed and the steps their relationship would take clear to him, and he accepted her terms.
She could see the frustration in his eyes every time she had to remind him of those terms, but she never thought the frustration would lead to him seeking satisfaction elsewhere.
Apparently, it had.
When she got home, she saw the fruits of her labor resting on the table, and she forced herself to calm down.
She'd spent the better part of a day making Tony's favorite food, and now their relationship was over, but she wasn't going to let it go to waste.
She whistled and let the other occupant of her small house come to her.
Her black and white cat, Mittens, scampered over when she called, staring up at her with big brown eyes and her cute little face opened in a yawn.
She scraped the food on a plate and set it down in front of her cat, watching Mitten's nose curl up as she leaned closer. "I know it's different looking from your regular canned meal, but the chicken flavor is still the same."
Mittens tilted her head and took a big bite, meowing in approval as she took more in more mouthfuls of the roast chicken, holding it in her claws as she tore chunks from it.
Melissa smiled "Glad someone enjoyed it" She placed the rest of the meal in containers for Mittens, so at least the roast chicken wouldn't go to waste.
She wasn't going to eat it because she knew what her body needed, and it wasn't a healthy meal.
An hour later she returned home, bags of chips, soda, pizza, and store-bought cookies under her arms, along with the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy.
She was going to binge.
Mittens danced around her legs as her tail tickled her skin, and she sat down, pulling out the food as she slid the first movie of the Hobbit into her DVD player.
She spent that Friday Afternoon and the next Saturday bingeing the entire two trilogies, losing herself into the fantasy world that was Middle Earth. When she left the couch, it was either too warm up more food, feed Mittens, or use the bathroom.
Other than that she stayed glued to her television, fully immersing herself into Middle Earth. When the credits for "Return of the King" finally rolled across her screen, she stretched and smiled to herself.
She wasn't even sad about the breakup anymore, all she wanted was some adventure for herself.
As she turned the TV her eyes caught an advertisement that was playing, and she listened idly as she cleaned up the last of the sugary food.
"All expense paid trip to China! Safari included, along with a chance to see wildlife… including pandas…. Call this number now!"
That trip could be fun… she thought… I enjoy pandas as much as the next person, and I've got enough vacation days lined up to take a trip. What's the harm in entering, not like I'll win anyway?
As her brain thought these thoughts, her body was three steps ahead, and before she knew it the receiver was up to her ear and her fingers were dialing in the number.
She entered her information to the person on the phone and was told she'd hear about the winners in a week.
One week later, the phone rang, informing her that she had been randomly selected as the winner of the contest.
So she packed her bags, did research, left Mittens in the care of a neighbor, and soon after was trekking through China's jungles in search of a panda.
It had been four days and she'd seen plants, birds, other animals, and enough breathtaking views to fill her phone's memory, but no pandas at all.
Her eyes blurred as the light drizzle that had been turned on and off all day, intensified into a stronger rainfall, turning the muddy ground into sludge as she stepped through the trees with the squelches of her boots echoing behind her.
She managed to find a clearing and got to work pitching her tent, glad that the one year she spent in girl scouts had taught her something before she heard the first crack of thunder.
It was far off, but it signaled for her she needed to stop for the night.
She unrolled her sleeping bag lengthwise in the tent and turned on her lantern before a noise startled her.
It was probably just an animal, and her curiosity demanded that she see what animal it was. So she slid the tent zipper open and poked her head out.
A panda cub was walking through the rain, before it sat down beside a bush, munching on the berries that grew on it with its little mouth.
Melissa chuckled and grabbed her phone, thankful she still had enough memory and battery life to take a few pictures.
The panda cub seemed oblivious to the rain falling as its paws reached out to grab at branches, pulling them down to mouth level as it kept eating.
When it was done the cub turned towards her, walking up to the tent with an expression of confusion on its face.
"Hello little one" She whispered, feeling a sense of joy descend upon her. She was so close to a panda she could make out its teeth as it yawned.
The rain was plastering its fur to its body, and that somehow made the fuzzball that the panda had become even cuter, so cute that her heart melted and she forgot everything bad that had led to her coming on this adventure.
Then the thunder boomed, much closer this time.
The panda cub jumped in fear and bolted into the tent, knocking her backward as it charged into her like a cannonball.
It rushed towards the back of the tent and hid in fear, burying its head into its paws as it quivered.
Melissa retrieved her phone and placed it into her pocket before moving over to the cub, unsure what to do. If a mother panda discovered her cub here… well, things could get messy, but she couldn't just leave it out in the cold rain. It was terrified.
She reached out towards the cub and smoothed its fur, petting its head softly as she shushed it. "It's okay, it's just a storms… storms go away…"
The cub didn't understand what she was saying to it, but it leaned into her chest and calmed down, taking cute breaths as it shook.
Melissa nodded "Alright cub, you can stay with me until the storm ends, and then we'll go look for your family in the morning."
The cub looked at her, brown animal eyes locked onto blue human ones before it stood and walked over to her backpack, nosing the flap open and shoving its head inside to investigate.
She laughed and grabbed the cub's sides, pulling it out as she righted her backpack. "You smell the food, don't you? You'll get your share in a moment, once I find it."
Thank goodness for her research on pandas, because she knew they could eat apples and other fruits, and she had plenty of that in her bag, so feeding wasn't a problem.
She busied herself with cutting an apple in half and then into slices, placing them as well as a carrot stick in front of the cub.
After a sniff, the panda cub began eating, munching on the food as it watched Melissa prepare her own meal.
As she pulled out her can opener and began unpacking the components for her dinner, the cub finished eating and began exploring the tent and her belongings.
"Hey, little one… that's mine" She smiled, watching her new guest play with her hat that was by her backpack, managing to somehow get it on its head.
She fed herself with one hand and used the other to pull the hat off, placing it on her own head. "There. Looks better on me don't you think?" She asked.
The cub nodded and sat down, content with watching her eat.
Finally, she made up a little bed out of a spare blanket and some extra clothes, noticing the storm had once again turned into a light rainfall which provided an almost soothing ambiance.
"You sleep here tonight" She muttered sleepily, patting the bed with her hand as the panda cub lay down, nuzzling into the soft cloth.
Melissa curled up into her sleeping bag and closed her eyes, only to have another flash of thunder fill the sky as the rain intensified. Her ears detected movement as the panda cub left its bed and nosed her chest as it whined in fear.
She sighed and opened her sleeping bag, letting the panda cub crawl inside and huddle against her, as it whimpered softly.
The panda wiggled into her warmth as it nuzzled its head under her chin, still quivering a bit as she wrapped her arms around it. "Just calm down" She whispered, hugging the cub tightly as her fingers massaged its fur.
Another crack of thunder exploded above them, as the panda wiggled in fear. She gripped it tighter, not wanting the cub's claws to scratch her.
"Calm down cub…. Please…" She whispered. "Storms go away."
She hugged the fury bundle, getting a crazy idea in her head.
"Lay by my side, and we'll sail away
Off to the shores of another day
All set to go once I hear you say
Goodnight my friend, until the morning
Up we will float as we close our eyes
Stars all around us like fireflies
Just me and you drifting through the skies
Goodnight my friend
And so we'll rock on a nighttime ride
Cozy and warm on the rolling tide
Till we arrive on the morning side
Our journey's end
Goodnight my friend"
The song was part of a lullaby that her mother always sang to her when she had trouble sleeping, and she figured it would help her now, at least the parts she could remember.
As she kept singing the panda yawned and sniffed before closing its eyes and rolling over to hug her arm with its paws. She kissed the panda's head and fell asleep as well.
The next morning she woke up to a sunny day and a snoozing panda curled up next to her head, breathing softly. She stood and stretched, noticing how when she moved the panda cub did so as well, yawning loudly.
"Alright, let's find your family little one." She smiled, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She fumbled with the tent flap as she opened it, exiting into the day.
The landscape showed all the signs of having weathered a storm, as small trees, debris, and leaves littered the ground and the churned up soil. She picked up the cub and began walking away from her camp, looking for any other panda tracks that may have survived the storm.
After about half a mile in a straight line, she found tracks, fresh panda tracks, and followed them. "So, do those look like your mama's feet?" She asked.
The cub wriggled in her arms as she kept going until she finally sighted a trio of pandas taking advantage of the storm's aftereffects. They were poking around the debris, looking around for bamboo shoots and stems knocked loose by the wind.
The cub began to shake and grunt, swatting its paws at the trio as Melissa set it down "Alright, go to your family okay?"
The cub licked her leg and turned to head towards the other panda, who roared and rushed forward, nuzzling the baby.
The joy at reuniting the panda family filled Melissa's heart as she took a few more photos before smiling and turning away. She'd head back to her camp and pack up, before going to the nearest town and catching the plane back home.
As she walked back into her home, sleepy from jet lag, she grabbed Mittens and hugged her tightly, causing the cat to yowl in surprise.
"You aren't a panda Mittens, but you're a sight for sore eyes!"
She then stumbled to her bedroom, sliding under the covers. She still had some vacation days left, and she was going to use at least one to get her body used to the time zone change.
All this had happened because her boyfriend had cheated on her, and just like the hobbits of the Shire, she'd turned it into an unexpected, but a welcome journey.
And she'd saved a panda, who else got to say that after a breakup?
Who's paralyzed with cuteness right now? I sure am!
I kinda wrapped the ending up a bit faster than I would have liked, but I still hope you enjoyed! :)
Please leave a review, feel free to check out my other works, go read Milde's stories, and have a great day!