Chapter 14

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“The djembe is a very popular instrument in West African countries especially Mali from where it is originated.”

“I started researching on the djembe and read it was used in Western music as well.  Artists such as Ben Harper and Jason Mraz have used it in their recordings,” Maude commented.

“Exactly,” Victoria nodded. She loved to pass on her knowledge and was pleased to see Maude so enthusiastic about learning to play the djembe.

“Now about sound. People often erroneously think that beating a drum just means slapping your hands on it as hard as you can. That isn’t true. Technique is just as crucial as it is for any other instrument, like the piano for example.”

“Say Victoria,” Maude wondered. “Did you learn to play the djembe in Nigeria, or did you learn after you moved to the States?”

“I started learning in Nigeria and continued here later on. There weren’t many women djembefolas because it was traditionally played by men. But that didn’t stop me,” Victoria explained with a mischievous glint. “It is mostly played in a large ensemble with a number of other djembes and with people dancing, clapping, and singing to the music.”

Maude listened and watched Victoria strike, slap, and tone the drum with palm and flat fingers near the edge and center of the skin of the drum. The altering of her hand position gave high, medium, and low pitches respectively in a complex rhythmic pattern. Victoria’s love for her country reverberated in the instrument she skillfully played with calm concentration and a loving smile.

“Why did your family move to America?” Maude ventured to ask. “You seem to love Nigeria so much, I can’t understand why your family would want to leave?”

Victoria stopped playing, and her gaze seemed to drift.

“Have you ever heard of the Biafra War?” she asked.

Maude shook her head. History was one of her favorite subjects, but she was quite sure she hadn’t heard of that war.

“It was a terrible conflict that took place in Nigeria when I was ten. My family and I fled the war,” she explained, her voice sounding distant.

Maude regretted having forced Victoria into painful recollections and couldn’t bear the thought of war. She shuddered involuntarily and looked at Victoria wondering if her veiled sadness stemmed from the Biafra war. 

“The war has been over for years,” Victoria continued. “But my life is here now.”

Victoria saw Maude’s look of anguish and not wanting to sadden her, cleared her throat, and forced a smile.

“Now take your djembe. It won’t play itself, you know!” she said in an attempt at lightheartedness.

Maude looked at Victoria adoringly and took her djembe with a renewed sense of admiration. There wasn’t a thing that woman couldn’t overcome.


The night before the results for the Cenerentola auditions, Maude barely slept a wink. She was kept awake by a range of tangled emotions. She wanted the role so badly! Performing in front of a real audience would be a milestone in her existence, especially as Rossini’s Cenerentola.

But also, she wanted to make James and Victoria proud. They had already given her so much. A home, clothes, food, kindness, and most importantly, a sense of belonging. Maude wanted to give back with the only way she knew how: singing.

When she went to Morningside Theater the next morning, accompanied by Jazmine, she was determined to take whichever news with the bravery of a Viking and the stoniness of a stoic philosopher.

“If you don’t get the part, we’ll drown our sorrows in buckets of ice cream,” Jazmine reassured.

Maude nodded limply. She could no longer bring herself to speak until she knew the results.

As she got closer to the theater, the girls saw Thomas surrounded by a happy crowd of congratulatory followers.

Maude beamed.

“Thomas got the male lead! Let’s go congratulate him! He deserved that part.”

“Don’t you want to find out your results first?” Jazmine asked as she hurried behind Maude.

Then suddenly, a girl with short blonde hair cried out: “Hurray for Maude, the new Cinderella!”

Maude’s heart stopped for a full second. Could it be true? Maude ran to the results posted at the entrance of the theater.

Sure enough, her name was there: “Maude Laurent, Cinderella”.

Jazmine and Maude squealed with delight and hugged each other.

“Congratulations, Maude,” Jazmine squeezed Maude tight.

When she let go, Maude stepped back and bumped into someone. She whirled around and faced a disgruntled Lindsey, who’d just seen her result. Maude turned back to the results to see which part Lindsey had.

“Clorinda,” Jazmine read out with a satisfied smile. “The role of the evil stepsister befits you perfectly, Lindsey. I see you’re also the understudy for Cinderella. Understudy!” Jazmine mocked.

“Jaz,” Maude admonished in a gentle tone.

Maude looked at Lindsey and couldn’t help but feel a creeping feeling of sympathy towards the girl who had been nothing but mean to her since she’d arrived.  Lindsey remained silent for a moment, her face appeared to be fighting back tears and rage at the same time. Her lower lip trembled for a split second. Then she straightened in an attempt at dignity and turned to Maude.

“You don’t deserve this part. You’ve been in Ms. Tragent’s class for barely two minutes. Your voice is weak, your technique is next to none. You can’t act, you can’t sing, you barely manage to finish your vocal exercises!”

Maude’s budding sympathy instantly dissolved into thin air.

“You’re entitled to your own opinion,” Maude conceded nevertheless with graciousness. She was too happy to let Lindsey’s foul mood get to her.

“Maude deserves this part, and you know it, Lindsey,” Thomas put in as he got nearer the small group.

“You should be grateful Ms. Tragent even gave you a part in this opera at all,” Jazmine added.

“She’ll ruin the whole show, you’ll see,” Lindsey taunted with a distasteful grin. “Good thing I’ll be there to pick up the pieces. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!” she called out as she walked away.

“Don’t listen to her, Maude,” Thomas said.

“Lindsey can’t rattle me,” Maude laughed. “I guess congratulations are in order Mr. Prince Charming.”

“Congratulations to you too. I’m sure we’ll do a great job together,” he replied solemnly.

Maude nodded energetically, then searched for her phone.

She couldn’t wait to tell James and Victoria.


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