3rd and last term. The rainy cold winter has finally given place to spring with flowers and sunny warm days.
On the 30th of April, the teachers transform into sophisticated fundraisers and the most influent parents and benefactors are invited to the Pink Ball.
The teachers mingle with royalty, famous artists and producers, ensuring the school’s future. But it’s also the student’s ball, and all the girls have received nice gowns from their parents and relatives… Granny has sent Taïga a sheer pink fairy-like dream, with satin shoes and flowers to wear in her hair.
Clotilde comes running out of breath. ‘It’s done!’
Louise taps her feet impatiently. ‘Are you sure she won’t find them?’
Clotilde looks over her shoulder to make sure no one is close enough to hear what she has to say. ‘Well… if she finds them, she won’t be able to use them anyway…’ Clotilde smiles evilly, ’… as I put them in the kitchen trash can!’
The three girls pinch their noses and giggling they enter the ballroom.
Louis finds Taïga in her room, crying. ‘What happened? Why aren’t you ready? Everybody’s already in the ballroom!’
Taïga is devastated. ‘I’m sorry… I can’t go.’
‘What?’ Louis is worried. ‘Why? Tell me what happened. Is it your grandmother? Has something happened to her?’
‘No! It’s just… I can’t find my shoes! And my hair is a mess…’
Louis smiles. ‘You are beautiful! You look just like a barefoot princess! Aucune fille est aussi jolie…’
Taïga cries even harder and throws herself in Louis’s arms. ‘You’re so kind. But you must understand I can’t come like this, n’est-ce pas?’
‘Non. What I understand is that Clotilde – and Louise – will be more than happy to know you’re crying the night away in your room! Now dry your tears and come with me – we’re supposed to have fun, remember?’
‘OK. But you must promise me one thing, though.’
Louis raises an eyebrow. Taïga looks at him through her long lashes. ‘You mustn’t walk on my toes!.. When we dance!’
He stares at her, then they both starts to laugh.
Louis takes her hand and together they go downstairs to the ball room.
Taïga takes a deep breath; she can see Clotilde searching for someone… What if they all start to laugh at me? I’m barefoot after all! Louis can feel Taïga hesitate. He tugs gently on her hand and smiles reassuringly.
‘Remember – nothing can hurt you, they are just jealous…’
To her surprise, Louis stops on the doorstep, and kisses her. Everybody stops dancing and just stares! Tristan cheers and everyone applaud! Agnès and Jeanne hugs her and cries out so Clotilde won’t miss a word: ‘You’re so pretty!’ ‘Just like a fairy!’ ‘What a good idea to let your hair hang loose!’
Taïga blushes, she’s not used to getting so many compliments…
Both Louis and Taiga are soon having fun with the others.
Mademoiselle Béjart has had a little too much champagne. ‘Wait a minute! You’re THE Monsieur de Montvilliers. The producer?’
Philippe’s father nods: ‘Actually it’s my father.’
‘But that’s perfect! We have a boy in Philippe’s class who would like to make a CD. Could you listen to him?’
‘Pourquoi pas.’ Monsieur de Montvilliers hates it when he has to listen to people sing every time they make the connection between his name and “Montvilliers Productions”. But it’s good to have Philippe’s teachers on his side…
‘I’ll be right back!’
‘Wait!’ When Louis leans in and whispers ‘Je t’aime…’ in her ear, she can finally feel butterflies in her stomach. Smiling she hurries to the ladies room.
Suddenly Louise and Charlotte comes into the ladies room.
‘Je ne comprends pas…’ Louise whines, ‘She shouldn’t have come tonight. I think she looks like a beggar, a gypsy beggar. A barefoot gypsy beggar!’
Charlotte mumbles: ‘I think she’s a beautiful barefoot beggar…’
‘How dare you, you fat pig! Get out! We threw away her shoes, but we should have thrown her gown with it! Next time we’ll shred yours! GET OUT!’
As soon as Taïga hears Charlotte leaving, she bursts through the door. ‘Who.Else.Hid.My.Shoes?’
Louise tries to stare her down, but Taïga has had enough. She closes her fists – hard. Suddenly Louise starts to scream. ‘My eyes! They hurt! What have you done! Make it stop! Please. It was Clotilde’s idea! Please!’
‘Just tell her I’ve had enough.’ Taïga walks out, leaving Louise sobbing on the floor. As soon as the door closes behind her, the burning pain in Louise’s eyes disappear…
Henri is waiting outside the bathroom.
‘They want me to sing! Can you believe it?’ He grabs Taïga’s arm and drags her with him. ‘You must do this for me, please… I need backup!’
Taïga doesn’t have to answer, Henri is nervously talking non-stop on their way back, and she stays discreetly in the background while he shakes hands with all the important people in the room.
The headmaster is anxious to please his important guests, so when one of them requests an oldie, he quickly assesses that Henri knows the song.
‘Yes, of course Monsieur Lambert. It’s a classic!’
Henri searches Taïga’s eyes and she nods, they’ve sung it karaoke, and the lyrics are basic. With trembling hands she accepts the microphone. What if she can’t remember the words? If she makes a mess of everything? This is Henri’s chance to show what he’s worth and she mustn’t let him down…
But when her friend starts on the first strophes of “Là-bas”, her stress gradually disappears…
N’y va pas
Y a des tempêtes et des naufrages
Le feu, les diables et les mirages
When Taïga starts to sing, the three men look at each other. ‘Is she in Philippe’s class?’
‘Indeed she is… Mademoiselle Grey. Taïga Grey.’
‘I’ll have my father listen to her. She’s got potential…’
N’y vas pas…
All the students whistle and cheer. Taïga blushes and lets Henri bask in the spotlights. Louis takes her hand and drags her back onto the dance floor…
‘I won’t step on your feet.’ He winks. ‘Promise!’ Taïga smiles. I will remember this night for the rest of my life…
Louise is back, steering clear of Taïga, but there’s no sign of Clotilde… A perfect evening…
Last day at school before summer break. It’s with a twinge of sorrow Taïga listens to Monsieur Lambert’s speech. Two months without Agnès, Jeanne… and Louis. And Jeanne won’t be back next year anyway as she couldn’t keep her grades up… Taïga sighs. I wonder if Granny’s here yet. She promised to pick me up… I have to ask her about her feelings towards Monsieur Lambert…
‘This is always an exciting time as we say good-bye to our gifted students. But it’s just an “au revoir“…’
Part I – End of Chapter 57
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