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Sands of Time(31)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

"Now, Renee. You can't invite one of the De Fosse children without the other. It would be bad manners."

Monique was ashamed to have an ugly sister. She felt that it was somehow a reflection on her.

Their parents behaved properly toward their elder daughter. They fulfilled their parental duty punctiliously, but it was obvious that it was Monique they adored. The one ingredient that Teresa longed for was missing: love.

She was an obedient child, willing and eager to please, a good student who loved music, history, and foreign languages and worked hard in school. Her teachers, the servants, and the townspeople felt sorry for her. As a tradesman said one day when Teresa left his shop, "God wasn't paying attention when He made her."

The only place Teresa found love was in the church. The priest loved her, and Jesus loved her. She went to mass every morning and made the fourteen stations of the cross. Kneeling in the cool, vaulted church, she felt God's presence. When she sang there, Teresa was filled with a sense of hope, and of expectation. She felt as though something wonderful were about to happen to her. It was the only thing that made her life bearable.

Teresa never confided her unhappiness to her parents or her sister, for she did not want to burden them, and she kept to herself the secret of how much God loved her and how much she loved God.

Teresa adored her sister. They played together in the estate grounds surrounding their chateau, and she let Monique win the games they played. They went exploring together, down the steep stone steps cut into the mountain to eze Village below, and wandered down the narrow streets of shops to watch the artists in front selling their wares.

As the girls grew into their teens, the predictions of the villagers came true. Monique grew more beautiful and the boys came flocking around her, while Teresa had few friends and stayed at home sewing or reading or went shopping in the village.

As Teresa passed the drawing room one day, she heard her mother and father having a discussion about her.

"She's going to be an old maid. We're going to have her on our hands all our lives."

"Teresa will find someone. She has a very sweet disposition."

"That's not what the young men of today are after. They want someone they can enjoy having in their bed."

Teresa fled.

Teresa still sang in church on Sundays, and because of that an event occurred that promised to change her life. In the congregation was a Madame Neff, the aunt of a radio-station director in Nice.

She stopped to speak to Teresa one Sunday morning.

"You're wasting your life here, my dear. You have an extraordinary voice. You should be using it."

"I am using it. I - "

"I'm not talking about" - she looked around the church - "this. I'm talking about your using your voice professionally. I pride myself on knowing talent when I hear it. I want you to sing for my nephew. He can put you on the radio. Are you interested?"

"I - I don't know." The very thought of it terrified Teresa.

"Talk it over with your family."

"I think it's a wonderful idea," Teresa's mother said.

"It could be a good thing for you," her father agreed.

It was Monique who had reservations about it. "You're not a professional," she said. "You could make a fool of yourself." Which had nothing to do with Monique's reasons for trying to discourage her sister. What Monique was afraid of was that Teresa would succeed. Monique was the one who had always been in the limelight. It's not fair, she thought, that God should have given Teresa a voice like that What if she should become famous? I would be left out, ignored.

And so Monique tried to persuade her sister not to audition.

But the following Sunday at church, Madame Neff stopped Teresa and said, "I've talked to my nephew. He is willing to give you an audition. He's expecting you on Wednesday at three o'clock."

And so it was that the following Wednesday a very nervous Teresa appeared at the radio station in Nice and met the director.

"I'm Louis Bonnet," he said curtly. "I can give you five minutes."

Teresa's physical appearance only confirmed his worst fears. His aunt had sent him talent before.

I should tell her to stick to her kitchen. But he knew that he would not. The problem was that his aunt was very rich, and he was her only heir.

Teresa followed Louis Bonnet down a narrow hallway into a small broadcast studio.

"Have you ever sung professionally?"

"No, sir." Her blouse was soaked with perspiration. Why did I ever let myself get talked into this? Teresa wondered. She was in a panic, ready to flee.

Bonnet placed her in front of a microphone. "I don't have a piano player around today, so you're going to have to sing a cappella. Do you know what a cappella means?"

"Yes, sir."

"Wonderful." He wondered, not for the first time, if his aunt was rich enough to make all these stupid auditions worthwhile.

"I'll be in the control booth. You'll have time for one song."

"Sir - what shall I - ?"

He was gone. Teresa was alone in the room staring at the microphone in front of her. She had no idea what she was going to sing. "Just go and meet him," his aunt had said. "The station has a musical program every Saturday evening and..."

I've got to get out of here.

Louis's voice came out of nowhere. "I don't have all day."

"I'm sorry. I can't - "

But the director was determined to punish her for wasting his time.

"Just a few notes," he insisted. Enough so he could report to his aunt what a fool the girl had made of herself. Perhaps that would persuade her to stop sending him her proteges.

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