Chapter 35

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Soulville Towers had been turned inside and out for this occasion. It was like an open house where the guests were flowing from room to room with glasses of champagne in one or both hands.  Alan Lewis had used his connections to gather the most influential people in the music industry to promote Maude’s first single while her music filled each room of Soulville.

Matt was waiting for Maude, who was due to arrive soon, all the while speaking with an attractive reporter from the magazine Beats.

The room quieted down as Maude made her entrance on the stage. Matt held his breath as if he was seeing her for the first time. She glided softly in an elegant coral, one-shoulder dress with a ruched bodice and flowing skirt. Her shoulder was draped with a row of flowers, the floral applique looking as soft as her brown skin. Her hair was elegantly coiffed but nothing stood out more than the wide smile that lit up her face, her eyes, and her entire being.

“Hello, everyone,” she started smoothly. “I want to thank you all for coming this evening for the release of ‘Betrayed But Not Broken.’ I would also like to thank Soulville Records for making this dream come true. I especially couldn’t have done it without the most talented singer-songwriter I’ve met. Matt, thank you.”

Matt understanding his cue, went on stage beside her like they had planned, and diligently proceeded to smile at the cameras.

“We will be answering all your questions. I hope you’ll enjoy this wonderful evening!”

Maude and Matt left the stage and were immediately led away by Beats reporter Lexie Staz who led them towards the studio. She was tall, in a silver dress and black Louboutins. She hid behind large Ray-Ban glasses and a childish grin. Behind her glasses and her naïve look was a woman with a remarkable sense of detail. She fed on information and reveled in discovering hidden detail, masked expressions, and secrets of any kind.

“So, I want to know everything about your collaboration,” she started with a dazzling smile.

“Ask away,” Maude answered.

“How was it? Did you always see eye to eye on everything, or were there times where you wanted to rip each others throats?”

Maude and Matt looked at each other and laughed.

“I can’t say we got off on the best foot,” Maude answered between laughs. “The first time we met, Matt spilled coffee on my brand-new coat.”

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” Matt put in playfully.

“As we worked together, we got to know each other better. Matt has taught me so much about music, about writing and singing, and gradually, we really . . . clicked. When I arrived from France, all I knew were French artists and classical music, and he really helped me discover all sorts of different styles and rhythms.”

“Like you said, you’re French and so is Matt.  Which language do you speak when you’re together?”

“English, of course!” Maude exclaimed, thinking of the only time she had spoken in French to Matt.

“Except when she’s angry at me,” Matt added slyly as if reading in Maude’s thoughts.

“That happened once!” Maude exclaimed in mock indignation.

Lexie Staz laughed at Maude’s indignation then pursed her lips musingly.

“And you’re away from your family and friends in France? Don’t you miss them?”

A dark shadow clouded Maude’s face for a split second. She quickly smiled again before answering.

“James Baldwin and his family have been great. They’ve treated me like I was one of their own and I will never forget it.”

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