Chapter 29

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“There, all done,” Cynthia said as she put the final touches to Maude’s hair.

Jazmine and Cynthia took a step back to admire their work. They had braided her hair into a Grecian-inspired braid making Maude feel like one of an ancient goddesses she had seen in the Louvre’s Antiquity wing.

“You look great,” Jazmine sighed. “Thomas won’t know what hit him.”

“Simple, but elegant. You look perfect,” Cynthia chimed in.

“You’re the best,” Maude thanked Cynthia. “Hey, can I check my emails on your laptop?”

“Sure, go ahead!”

“Thank goodness Mom and Dad went out, or they would’ve wanted a picture and Mom would’ve chatted with Thomas and everything,” Jazmine remarked while Maude checked her emails.

Maude had contacted a French administration called CNAOP when she had learnt that more and more adopted children were looking for their parents’ identity, whether dead or alive. Although she had never been adopted, she could turn to the administration to find out who her real parents were. She had been checking her mail and emails for days, waiting for the French administration to answer her about her parents.

Maude sighed interiorly. Still nothing.

“This evening is no big deal,” Maude insisted for the hundredth time while turning the laptop off. “We’re just good friends going out on a Friday evening.”

“At a fancy restaurant,” Cynthia added playfully.

“After having spent over two months working long hours together every evening,” Jazmine added, laughing.

“Why do you make it sound dirty?” Maude asked, laughing in spite of herself. “Looking attractive in Cinderella’s rags is far from easy, believe me!”

The girls dissolved in giggles and almost didn’t hear the doorbell ring.

“That’s your cue,” Jazmine said.

“Hum, maybe I should go check out this young man,” Cynthia said, wagging her finger.

“I think I should too. You know, check out his background, his family, their profession. And have the talk,” Jazmine said, shaking her head.

“Don’t you two dare!” Maude warned giggling. “Just stay locked up in this room. I don’t want to see you peep.”

She hurried downstairs to open the door. The Baldwin sisters discreetly ran to the top of the staircase to watch them talk.

“They’re so cute,” Jazmine cooed.

“Cuter than Matt and Maude together?” Cynthia asked raising an all-knowing eyebrow towards her sister.

“Matt told you?”

“He didn’t have to!” Cynthia exclaimed. “You prevented him from coming to the Opera!”

“I did no such thing, Cynth! I swear, I just told him not to play with Maude’s feelings. He interpreted what I said his own way!” Jazmine exclaimed indignantly.

“You had no right to meddle in their business. How would you feel if I meddled in yours? How would you react if I told Jonathan what I thought of him for pushing away the prettiest girl at Franklin High?”

Jazmine hid a smile. “Come on, you know how Matt is, Cynth.”

“I know how he usually is, and I’ve seen how he’s been with Maude, and I can’t say he’s the same. At any rate, their relationship isn’t yours to tamper with. It’s up to Maude to decide what she wants, and I’m not entirely certain it’s Thomas.”

“Since when have you become an expert on love?” Jazmine scoffed.

“I, at least, am an expert in being an older sister. You’ve had a little sister for three months, and you’re already acting like a dictator! I, on the other hand, have had the most annoying little sister for sixteen years and still manage to keep my cool.” Cynthia pointed out in a matter-of-a-fact tone. “I owe so much to yoga,” she sighed, glancing slyly at her indignant little sister.

***

Matt was bored. Bored out of his mind.

He’d been haunting the halls of the Met for two long hours and still there was no sign of Maude.

“Rubens’ Prometheus Bound is quite fascinating, don’t you think, Sheryl?” a tall, slim man in a dark turtleneck asked his fashionable date.

“Not as much as the Van Dyck, honey,” she chirped.

Matt let out a deep, frustrated groan.

“Shoot me now,” he murmured helplessly.

Just when he felt he had reached the bottom of an endless pit of Baroque misery, he saw Cynthia admiring a Van Dyck not far from him.

Matt tried to walk away discreetly. But he wasn’t quick enough.

 “Matt!” Cynthia shrieked in disbelief. What are you doing here? I didn’t know you liked Bar­—”

“Shhh!” he hushed her. “Don’t even think about it. I’ll never go with you to another exhibition,” he hesitated.“Where’s . . . er, I mean, did you come here alone?” he asked.

Cynthia eyed Matt suspiciously, then her eyes widened in shock.

“Did you come here because . . . !” The rest of the sentence was muffled by Matt’s hand.

“Stop yelling!” Matt urged her. “You are completely mistaken.”

“Did you come expecting to bump into Maude?” Cynthia asked in a ridiculously loud whisper.

Matt rolled his eyes.

“Of course not,” he huffed. “I was just­­—”

“Don’t bother,” Cynthia interrupted with one of her no-nonsense looks. “If you came for Maude, you’ll be disappointed. She made other plans for this evening.”

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