‘But I don’t think I can, Mathilde…’ Taïga is up early this morning, sitting in the kitchen drinking a smoothie and talking to Mathilde Grosjean, their cook. ‘Everybody will look at me… and laugh…’
Mathilde is the only adult the children are on a first name basis with. Probably because Grosjean means fat John…
‘Mais pourquoi riraient-ils? You don’t have anything to lose, just go for it!’ Mathilde is always happy and encouraging, and she’s taken a liking to Taïga who spends a lot of time in her kitchen. ‘You mustn’t do tomorrow what you can do today! Go and find Monsieur Deveze and ask him for a try out. I’m sure he will take the time to listen to you… alone.’
‘Monsieur Deveze is in Champs-les-Sims for the week-end.’
‘Oh… J’avais complètement oublié…’ Taïga feels almost relieved to be let off the hook, but Mathilde’s got another idea. ‘Florence! Florence – I mean Mlle Petit – can surely estimate your talent! And she’s practicing on the piano – I can hear her. If you hurry to get dressed…’
Taïga gets upstairs and changes into the school uniform. She hesitates, and then she pushes the doors into the big empty room. Mlle Petit looks up from behind the grand piano. ‘Taïga? Is something wrong?’
‘Yes. No. Bonjour, Mademoiselle…’
Mlle Petit stands up and frowns. ‘Yes?’
‘Could I sing?’ Taïga blurts out.
Taïga swallows and hesitantly at first but then with more and more conviction, she sings “The Painter” a cappella.
“If I were a painter
I would paint my reverie
If that’s the only way for you to be with me…”
Mon.Dieu! Norah Jones and she’s only a child!
When Taïga is finished, Mlle Petit asks her if she could have a look at the partitions; ‘Maybe there’s a song you’d like to sing I could accompany on the piano?’
They settle for one of Taïga’s favorites, “Apologize” by One Republic.
“I’m holdin’ on your rope,
Got me ten feet off the ground.”
Mlle Petit nods to Charlotte, ‘Give her the microphone over there, please.’
Passing students have heard the music and is silently trooping in, but when Taïga starts on the refrain they all burst out in spontaneous applause.
“It’s too late to apologize. It’s too late. I said it’s too late to apologize. It’s too late.”
When Taïga puts down the microphone nobody says a word. Then everybody clap their hands and cheer! Taïga blushes…
Monsieur Lambert is delighted. ‘I shall have a word with M Deveze as soon as he comes back! And then I’ll talk to your grandmother…’
They have to hurry downstairs to the science lab in the basement.
Clotilde mutters, ‘We’ll be late because of that gypsy trying to get free song lessons…’
The theme this year is survival after a major cataclysm. That’s why they’re growing grapes in the basement…
… to make wine!
After science they have maths. Madame Bonnet is their maths teacher. She’s very strict; she doesn’t hesitate to give detention if they’re late.
‘Alors? Tout le monde est enfin là?’ She always begins class with mental calculation exercises.
‘110×55… +83… /4… Alors?… Louis?’
‘Très bien Clotilde.’ But Mme Bonnet never understands that Clotilde is cheating, that she uses her cellphone to calculate!
Mme Bonnet always picks someone out to check if the homework’s done…
Taüga always does her assignment.
But I don’t like Mme Bonnet, so I don’t particularly like maths either…
‘Salut Jeanne! Where’s Taïga?’ Louise smiles.
‘With Madame Bonnet. Pourquoi?’
‘Oh rien…’ Louise hurries away.
‘Louis! Attends! Il faut qu’on parle.’
‘Oui. I think you’ve proved your point. You don’t have to keep acting.’
Louis scratches his head. What is all this about? He lights up at the sight of Taïga. ‘Désolé, Louise. J’ai quelque chose d’important à faire…’
‘Alors, Mme Bonnet gave you detention?’
‘Nope… I got an A+ on the test, and she gave me another exercise to be sure I hadn’t cheated!’
Louis hugs her and whispers in her ear: ‘Tu étais fantastique ce matin! J’aimerais t’embrasser.’
But he does right now… Oh! Suddenly she realizes. He wants to kiss me! OMG. Eveline is watching. Say something… ‘Eh… Oui…’
Tentatively, a little clumsily, he approaches her…
… Taïga feels awkward and yet at the same time it’s so sweet and innocent…
… Like they have stepped into an imaginary world…
… Then, at the end, they’re both brought back into reality. Taïga blushes… But does her heart beat faster? Or can she feel the flutter of butterflies in her stomach? Maybe when I get to know him a little better…
She studies his face but it’s Derek she wants to see…
Louis is surreptitiously looking at someone. I hope she got the message. It’s Taïga I’m in love with…
Louise got it all right. But Clotilde is outraged! And she does her best to try to win the other girls over, slandering Taïga.
Mlle Petit teaches French and Drama. Taïga excels in both. They’re studying Molière and they’re playing “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (The Would-Be Noble)” for Christmas. It is a five-act comédie-ballet so there will be both dancing and singing – and acting of course! Taïga will play the “Noble’s” wife…
After the first kiss, Louis wants to kiss her all the time! Louise is green of jealousy, and Tristan thinks Louis should spend more time with his friends. He wouldn’t mind being in Louis’s shoes though…
The last leaves are falling and everybody has to help out. Taïga sings softly to herself while she’s raking the path behind the school. She’s soon surrounded by squirrels, jumping around her, generally getting in the way.
Louis can’t believe his eyes; he’s never seen as many squirrels at the same time!
But the small animals scatter when Taïga stops singing.
‘How did you do that?’
‘I guess they like it when I sing…’
‘I think you’re like Snowhite! Or the Sleeping Beauty… A real Disney princess!’
‘Oui. Why don’t you take song lessons?’
‘To sing for the squirrels?’ They are interrupted by the bell and Louis takes Taïga’s hand as they run inside.
Later the same evening.
‘… Granny? It’s me, Taïga! I sang this morning!.. Yes! It was wonderful! I was sooo nervous, but when I started to sing I just forgot everything around me…’
They talk for a long while, Taïga bubbling over with happiness. Oh, and Granny was OK with song lessons…
‘OK… You were quite good this morning.’ Louise continues: ’But don’t even think about taking my place in the musical!’
Clotilde looks at her malevolently and sputters: ‘Or we’ll arrange it you’ll never sing again…’
But Taïga isn’t scared anymore. She just stares Clotilde down…
That night, after writing in her diairy…
She dreams she’s singing, and her voice lifts her up, up, up…
Part I – End of Chapter 44