Chapter 27

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“Close your eyes and try to relax,” Ms. Tragent said as she circled around her.

Maude closed her eyes, but was unable to relax under Ms. Tragent’s stern stare.

“Did I say close your eyes and tighten your fists?” Ms. Tragent sneered. “Loosen your shoulders, Ms. Laurent.  Now turn your head in slow circles. Round and round clockwise. That’s good.”

Having slept with difficulty the previous night, Maude was afraid she’d doze off if she relaxed completely.

“Relaxing before singing is essential, Ms. Laurent. Stress won’t help your technique and it certainly won’t help your singing or my ears. My ears cannot tolerate mediocre singing.”

Maude flinched. How could she have fallen from singing Cinderella’s part to being accused of “mediocre singing”?

“I never said you were a mediocre singer, Ms. Laurent,” Ms. Tragent said as if reading in her student’s head.

Maude’s eyes shot open in surprise.

“Eyes shut, Ms. Laurent!” she ordered sharply. “Your face is an open book. The least observant reader can read your emotions. I am far from being your average reader. You have to learn to control your emotions. Your audience isn’t interested in your personal life. They don’t want to see you battling against your inner demons on stage.”

“For sure,” Maude nodded her agreement.

“Did I ask you to speak, Ms. Laurent?” Ms. Tragent asked coldly.

Maude almost answered “no” but stopped just in time.

“How can you relax if you’re speaking?”

How could she relax when her teacher was mentally torturing her? Maybe giving her private lessons wasn’t a privilege. Perhaps it was just Ms. Tragent’s way of exacting vengeance.

“Is my voice a distraction, Ms. Laurent? Do you think I am torturing you for my own pleasure?”

Maude shut her eyes tighter and tried to steady her breath.

“Open book,” Ms. Tragent observed disdainfully.  “How’s my nephew?”

Maude’s face flushed, but she remained silent.

“Silence. Finally. The sound I wanted to hear.”

She circled around Maude like a hawk.

“You obviously have feelings for my nephew,” she continued, turning her back on Maude.

Maude’s eyes opened wide, and she was about to protest, but again held back just in time.

“Eyes closed,” Ms. Tragent repeated tiredly without bothering to look at Maude.

“When will you learn to hide your emotions, Ms. Laurent?”

Maude tried to wear a mask of indifference, but couldn’t quite succeed.

“My nephew is a player, Ms. Laurent. Any tabloid will tell you that.”

Maude’s breath quickened, but she struggled to maintain an impassible expression.

“I don’t think he’s ever been in love, and it is unlikely he will ever be. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking you can change a man. You will only waste your time.”

Maude steadied her breath and erased any trace of emotion from her face.

“Good,” Ms. Tragent acknowledged satisfactorily. “Open your eyes, Ms. Laurent.”

“As a singer, you will sometimes have to perform in the worst conditions. Sick, hungry, cold. Conditions won’t be ideal. The people you love won’t always be a means of support. It may happen that they will be the cause of your distraction. A bad break-up right before you perform, bad news, a dying brother, a pregnant sister going into labor minutes before you go on stage. Whatever the reason, life has a way of butting in. That is why it is important for you to learn to put that aside before you go on stage. Before ruining another one of my shows,” Ms. Tragent admonished sternly.

Maude smiled already imagining herself as a lead in an upcoming opera.

“Not that I would dare put you in another one of my operas,” Ms. Tragent added. “Now, straighten your shoulders for the following vocal exercises.”

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