Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: ZENITH (04/21/16)
TITLE: Sweet Dream and Sour Lemons
By Karen Dick
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“Good day,” a smiling elderly woman courting a brightly colored turban greeted her. “Won’t you come in? You are Sophie?”
She nodded and entered the sparsely furnished apartment as the woman closed the door. This is Madame Renata? There must be a mistake, she looks ancient.
Madame motioned for Sophie to follow her as she walked across the room, but Sophie felt uncertain and simply watched the woman in her bat winged dress.
“We will begin with warming up dear, or have you already?” Madame asked kindly as she sat down at her piano.
“No,” Sophie answered as she cautiously moved that direction.
The woman began playing scales and looked at Sophie expectantly.
Sophie tossed her handbag on the floor, straightened, and sang the notes using her finest soprano voice.
Suddenly Madame stopped playing. “You have too much vibrato dear. You are too stiff, please stand naturally.”
Sophie glared at her in shock. “No one has told me that before,” she blurted. “My professor sent me here because supposedly you have expertise to help me improve, not criticize my talent.”
Madame Renata eyed her with piercing black eyes. “That is how I teach my dear. We stop unfortunate habits and begin anew.”
The women studied one another for several seconds. “Why don’t we have tea then you tell me why you are here.”
Madame Renata motioned for Sophie to sit on her small flowered sofa. She complied as the elderly woman disappeared behind a swinging door. Sophie gazed around at the small living room, contemplating her exit.
Soon, Madame returned with two mugs of steaming liquid and handed one to Sophie. She took a sip and nearly sputtered the ill tasting liquid out of her mouth.
“What is this?” She asked curtly.
“It is hot lemon water. What opera singers always drink.”
Sophie shook her head. “I was told you were famous.” She waved her arm around. “I don’t see any trophies, photos or any proof of that.”
Madame Renata looked at her questioningly. “Yes, this is true. However, the zenith of my opera life was many years ago. I prefer not to dwell on it.”
“I don’t understand that. When I become a star, I will be famous until I die.” Sophie stared at her with determination.
Madame threw her head back and laughed eyeing Sophie. “Aw yes, the dreams of youth.” She took both mugs and again left the room.
Sophie stood and held her handbag tightly. Enough of this, she is wasting my time. As she started toward the door Madame Renata spoke.
“I will show you some photos. Will you sit with me?”
Sophie turned then hesitantly returned. Madame joined her on the sofa and opened a thick photo album.
“This is my opera life. The fame you mentioned.”
As Sophie examined the photos with the elderly woman, she became transfixed with the beauty and elegance of the costumes, stage, and audiences. They looked for several minutes when Sophie whispered, “You were beautiful.”
“It was a long time ago. You must understand that this life ends.” She looked at Sophie intently. “Eventually you fall from that high point, and then you must have something or someone to catch you.”
She gazed at Madame. “What happened to you?”
The woman took Sophie’s hand. “I returned to my faith and my Lord I knew as a youngster,” her eyes crinkled as she chuckled.
Sophie absorbed what Madame Renata was telling her. “Do I have the talent to become famous? Will you teach me?”
“My dear, it is not just talent I look for, but a teachable spirit. You must surrender your will in order to be transformed.”
Biting her lip, Sophie looked at her pleadingly. “My college is performing “Madame Butterfly” and I would like to audition for it.”
“You think about what I said.” Madame led Sophie to the door. “I will let you know.”
As Madame Renata closed the door, Sophie left with a much lighter step to her walk, and in a much lighter hallway.
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