Chapter 26

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Maude spent the entire following day moping in pajamas with Cynthia and Jazmine who were trying to cheer her up after the debacle.

“Maybe we could go shopping or something?” Cynthia tentatively asked after they had watched the fourth chick flick in a row.

Shopping usually made Jazmine get out of a moping state, but Maude certainly wasn’t Jazmine. She shook her head.

“I am never seeing the light of day again. Or answering my phone ever again,” she said as she looked at the twentieth missed call Thomas had left on her phone.

“Okay, let’s open another box of vanilla ice cream,” Jazmine suggested as she leapt off the couch.

At that moment, the doorbell rang.

Cynthia went to the door and when she came back to the living room, the cold and stately Ms. Tragent followed her. Maude gasped and tried, uselessly, to hide the empty ice cream boxes under the sofa. Ms. Tragent raised a stern eyebrow, and Maude left the boxes to greet her teacher.

“May I speak to you alone, Ms. Laurent?” Her question was more an order than an actual question, but Maude nodded, nevertheless.

While they went into the dining room, Maude wished she had been wearing anything other than ridiculous pajamas she wore in front of Ms. Tragent.

Her teacher, on the other hand was elegantly dressed, and not one hair strand stuck out of her tight bun. Maude tried unsuccessfully to smooth her rebellious curls down, but just succeeded in making them stick out further.

“Ms. Laurent, you disappointed me greatly yesterday evening,” her teacher started.

“I­—” she started to protest. Ms. Tragent silenced her with a wave of her hand.

“James Baldwin insisted I take you into his class, and I trusted him. You showed remarkable raw talent for someone who had never trained her voice properly. You made a great impression during auditions for the lead. Your technique wasn’t perfect, but I still chose you over Lindsey Linton. But yesterday, you disgraced yourself and me. And now you have me saying something I thought I would never say: Thank God Ms. Linton was there. I want an explanation, and I want it now.”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Tragent,” Maude protested. “I can’t explain what happened. I had a serious case of stage-fright.”

Ms. Tragent sneered.

“That wasn’t stage-fright, Ms. Laurent. Half an hour before, you were perfectly well. You were calm as a cucumber. I’ll tell you what happened since you refuse to be honest. You let your personal life interfere with your professional life. You let your emotions get the best of you!”

Maude’s eyes blazed.

“Your nephew once advised me to do so,” she argued, her face getting warmer with shame and a sense of indignation. “He told me to dig deeper in my emotions.”

“Don’t twist my nephew’s words. If he told you to use your emotions, your suffering and joy to give depth to your performance, he certainly didn’t mean to tell you to let them get out of hand, like they did last night! I taught her everything she knows. And I never taught her that,” Ms. Tragent snapped angrily.

“You mean you never taught him that,” Maude corrected.

“No, I meant her, Ms. Laurent. I meant Isabella Beauchamp née Tragent, Matt’s mother. My baby sister,” she said.

“Your sister was Matt’s mother?” Maude asked incredulously. She’d assumed Matt’s father was the connection between Matt and his aunt.

“She was. And she was a lot like you. Very gifted. But too emotional. And in the end, she surrendered to her husband’s pressure and gave it all up, She wanted to be a good wife,” Ms. Tragent threw out the last word as if it were an insult.

“I need to know right now, Maude Laurent, are you committed to singing?”

Her eyes pierced Maude like daggers. She took a deep breath and calmly replied

“Yes, I am committed.”

“Then, be at Morningside Sunday morning at six o’clock sharp for your first private lesson,” Ms. Tragent declared before standing up and walking towards the door.

Maude almost fell off her chair.

“But you never give private lessons!” she exclaimed.

“Is that complaining I hear, Ms. Laurent?”

“No. Of course not!”

“Good, because I cannot stand complaints. Six o’clock sharp. Don’t be late.”

She passed the living room and looked haughtily towards the sofa where Jazmine and Cynthia were sitting.

“Jazmine Baldwin, shoulders!” she ordered sternly.

Then she continued her way and showed herself out.

“She’s giving me private lessons,” Maude said dazedly.

“Ms. Tragent?!” Cynthia exclaimed in wonder. “She never gives private lessons. Even some of my friends at Julliard didn’t manage to convince her.”

“I can’t wait for Lindsey to find out!” Jazmine cried excitedly. “Promise me you won’t tell her without me, Maude.”

The girls laughed and proceeded to celebrate Maude’s success with vanilla ice cream.

When Maude went up to her room that evening, she turned on her laptop and typed in the Google search bar: “Finding your real parents + France”

She never wanted the Ruchets to rattle her again. Before having the courage to face the future, she needed to know about her past. She needed to know where she came from, who she was in order to stand up to the Ruchets. There was no way the Ruchets would hide her parents’ identity any longer.             

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