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There was an uncomfortable moment of silence, then Melissa said:

"Thank you, Mr. Davison, for letting me play your violin. I have to go home now."

"Please call me Joe. And if you must go, you must. Thank you for coming, my dear Melin-Melissa," said the old man. With that, Melissa departed.

"Such a sweet little girl," said Joe aloud, after she had left. "So much like dear Melinda."

* * *

Melinda Davison. Joe rolled the syllables off his tongue. Sweet, serene, young Melinda.

Melinda Anne Davison was born on June 2, 1940. She had never gone through the stage of "terrible twos." Melinda, like Melissa, had bouncy blond hair and clear blue eyes. Melinda had also been a natural violinist. All in all, she had been an angel.

Almost twins, both physically and personality-wise, were Melinda and Melissa.

Then, one day, something happened that changed Joe's life forever.

It was a rainy, foggy Sunday--June 3, 1948--the day after Melinda's eighth birthday. Joe was bedridden with influenza, so Melinda and Joe's young wife, Kyra, had to drive to church alone. They never made it.

Halfway there, a drunk driver had been coming the opposite way, but was swerving into their lane. There was a head-on collision. Both Kyra an Melinda died instantly. The driver, an old classmate of Joe's, escaped with only cuts and bruises. He later committed suicide. Awful. Just awful, recalled Joe. The town had also been shocked, and was in a silent daze for a week.

Joe shook his head, attempting to clear the awful memory. For now, it worked.

There was a knocking at the door, and Joe stumble to it, and took a breath to compose himself before answering the caller.

"Hello, Mr. Davison I forgot my sweater so I came to get it is that okay?" rambled Melissa all in one sentence.

"Yes, my dear, it is just fine. Have you run all the way here?" Joe asked with a twinkle in his eye.

"Yes," replied Melissa seriously, taking her pink wool sweater off of Joe's chair.

"Mama wants me home right away, so I can't stay. But can I come tomorrow?" asked Melissa, first apologetically, then hopefully.

"Of course, Melinda-up, Melissa," said Joe. "You're always welcome here," he added.

"Thank you, mister. Have you ever thought about being in a Christmas movie?" asked Melissa, mimicking a professional talent scout.

"What on earth are you talking about, Melin-MELISSA?" he asked, puzzled.

"You could be one of Santa's elves!!!" she exclaimed joyfully.

"Yes, of course," Joe chuckled, with more than a little hint of doubt and uncertainty in his voice.

"I have to go now," Melissa said regretfully. "Good-bye!"

"Yes, good-bye, Melissa," called Joe as the little girl skipped out the door.

"Lovely little girl," Joe said aloud.

* * *


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