Chapter 3

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Chapter 3 

The sun shone brightly, its rays bouncing off the majestic Eiffel Tower. The Iron Lady clad in iron and steel stood firmly on her four-legged pedestal, towering over the entire city of Paris, carefully keeping watch over its millions of worshippers, following the city's incessant murmur, its fast-paced heartbeat. The Iron Goddess beamed proudly over the Seine River, which flowed to the rhythm of the city, transporting gaping tourists in bateaux-mouches, eager to see the capital's monuments, its captivating historical and modern beauty. Maude's class, before sailing on a gigantic bateau-mouche, had visited the Eiffel Tower and visited the Louvre Museum to her delight. 

The teachers then announced three hours of free time before the departure at nine p.m. at Notre-Dame.  

"Nine o'clock sharp," reminded Ms. Clement as her students wandered off in groups. 

Maude wandered off alone, but so incredibly happy, mesmerized by the beauty surrounding her. She was just happy walking around aimlessly in Paris. She visited the small shops in l'île Saint-Louis, although she had little money to spend, walked along the Seine looking at the elegant houseboats, and smiled at the artists painting portraits of tourists. After two hours rambling in the city, Maude, leaving Place Georges Pompidou and heading towards Notre-Dame, was thinking about how hungry she was. Being surrounded by a large variety of food only makes choosing harder, and Maude was having a pretty difficult time deciding whether she wanted to eat sweet crêpes full of strawberry or peach jam or French hot dogs in which the sausage is wrapped in a baguette or croque-monsieurs.  

That's when she heard it.  

Coming from the café right in front of her, Le Cavalier Bleu, a musician surrounded by a crowd of entertained customers, was at the piano singing, full of enthusiasm, "Milord," one of Edith Piaf's most famous songs. 

Maude, who knew this song, instantly felt drawn to the place, its lively atmosphere, its crowd, and especially its music.  

She entered the café and sat at a table by the bar. Without even knowing it, she was singing softly and playing the notes, which she knew by heart, on an imaginary piano. 

At the table next to her was sitting a tall, black man drinking an espresso. He had a kind face though the several gray hairs that curled up against his temples indicated a certain maturity. The crease on his left cheek showed he was a man who smiled easily at life, and the absence of wrinkles on his forehead revealed him to be a man who never let a worry hassle him too long. His eyes gleamed with a gleeful twinkle as if always laughing at a private joke. He was wearing a dark business suit and sitting lazily in his chair. He'd had a long day. He'd come to Paris for business but had been quite disappointed with his meeting and felt a wave of fatigue and the bitter aftertaste of unfinished business. Besides, usually when he came to Paris, he was with his wife, Victoria. They always came to this café in which the music always lifted his spirits. Victoria would sometimes even play, to the delight of the owner who was a good friend of theirs. As he looked around the room, he saw Maude at the table next to his, singing softly and playing notes on an imaginary piano. She reminded him of his own daughter who was about her age.  

When the owner, who was also waitressing that day, came to his table, his friend whispered something in his ear. The owner nodded, smiling. 

Maude was completely oblivious of everyone around her and could only hear the music. So when it came to a stop, she came back to the real world with a start. 

The owner, M. Beauregard went to the piano and told the pianist to get up. 

"As you all know, this café is opened to any new musician who wants to give this piano a try. Now, I couldn't help but notice a very talented young girl among us." He paused looking at Maude who had been listening, her eyes wide with anticipation, wondering who would be next to claim the dark, grand instrument. 

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