Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Chapter IV-
 
 

    The next two days flew by without incident. Clément was getting used to Chloe and Laurence slowly gave Chloe more responsibilities, so by the end of the week the roles of spectator and caregiver had been reversed.

    On Friday morning Chloe was awakened by light taps on her door.

    "Come in," she answered, still half asleep. 8 a.m.Ö I thought I didnít have to work today.

    Laurence opened the door and stood in the doorway.

    "Hi!"

    "Hi¼is something wrong? I thought I didnít need to be ready before 10," asked Chloe.

    "No nothing is wrong. Iím sorry I woke you. I¼just wanted to let you know that Clément and Beatrice are gone already. I need to change our plans for today."

    "Oh¼did something come up?" asked Chloe disappointed.

    "Nothing important¼there are a bunch of errands I have to run, and I donít think Iíll be back by 10...is noon okay?" asked Laurence.

    "Yeah sure. I got scared you were going to ditch me," said Chloe, reassured.

    "Nah¼I keep my promises," said Laurence. "So, see you at noon?"

    " íkay."

    Laurence flashed a smile. "Go back to sleep. See you in while," she said, closing the door behind her.

    Okay, Iíve got three more hours to sleep...not bad at all, thought Chloe, burying her face in her pillow.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    At noon, Chloe was waiting for Laurence in the family room, flipping through TV channels.

    "Ready?"

    Chloe jumped. "Man, have you ever heard of announcing yourself? Youíve got a bad habit of scaring me half to death."

    "I know, and itís so much fun," kidded Laurence.

    "Yeah, yeah¼make fun of me."

    "Chloe, you might want to put on a pair of jeans before we go."

    "Why? Whatís wrong with shorts? I thought it was warm outside?"

    "Just¼trust me on this one."

    "Youíre the boss. Iíll go change."

    "Put on some tennis shoes also," yelled Laurence to Chloe from the bottom of the stairs.

    The day outside was warm and sunny, a perfect day for the end of August. They walked to the castle taking the same roads as the day before. Once they reached the iron gate, Chloe stopped.

    "What are you doing?" asked Laurence.

    "Wow¼I just canít believe that Iím going to set foot in such an historic place."

    Laurence laughed. "Well, youíre not if you donít get past these gates. Come on," she said, grabbing Chloe by her shirt sleeve and dragging her inside.

    "Iím coming¼Iím coming. Donít be so impatient."

    They went across the courtyard, and Laurence headed toward the entrance.

    "Weíve got to get tickets."

    " Ďkay," answered Chloe, taking a place in line.

    "I thought weíd visit the main part of the castle today, and you can do the King and Queenís bedroom some other time."

    "Theyíre not together?" asked Chloe.

    "Technically they are, but to make more money they divide the visit into three sections. So, youíve got to buy three different tickets if you want to see everything."

    "Oh, I get it."

    Their turn in line came. Laurence refused to let Chloe pay for her admission.

    "Come on, I should be the one paying for you. Iím sure youíve seen this place thousands of times."

    "Donít worry about it. Come on, are you ready for a visit into history?"

    "Oh yeah!" said Chloe.

    "Good, letís go."

    They passed through the metal detector and started their visit.

    "Metal detector? Thatís not very historic," joked Chloe.

    Laurence smiled. "Better safe than sorry. Okay, letís start with the right wing."

    "Youíre the guide!"

    They walked through a long large corridor with paintings depicting different royal families. Laurence was walking very fast.

    "Lo, hey! Slow down, weíre not racing." If Laurence realized that Chloe had used her nickname, she made no comment.

    "I know, but I want to beat this tour group ahead of us. Plus there isnít really anything interesting until the childrenís apartments."

    " Ďkay, but donít lose me in the crowd, " said Chloe picking up the pace.

    Once they reached the tour group, Laurence took hold of Chloeís hand. Chloe looked at her with a funny expression on her face.

    "I donít want to lose you in the crowd," said Laurence as she pressed through the crowd. Once past the group she let go of Chloeís hand.

    "Is that a habit of yours, holding peopleís hands through crowds?" asked Chloe jokingly. To her surprise Laurence blushed. I canít believe sheís blushing. Did I manage to embarrass her? Chloe decided to take advantage of the situation and continue to tease Laurence.

    "Maybe you just reserve this treatment for Clément and I¼"

    "Okay, okay¼drop it."

    Chloe laughed. "Youíre funny when you blush."

    "Hey! I donít blush."

    "You do too," answered Chloe teasingly.

    "Do not!"

    "Do too."

    Laurence let out an impatient growl. "Fine¼whatever. Are we going to visit this castle or not?"

    Chloe smiled. "Lead the way."

    "Hey! Wipe that smile off your face, miss."

    "Iím not smiling."

    "Are too." Suddenly Laurence put her hand on Chloeís mouth. "Forget I even answered that." Chloe tried to protest. "Ha ha¼what did I just say? Come on, letís call it a truce, and go." Chloeís eyes were sparkling with amusement. She nodded.

    "Okay." Laurence took her hand off Chloeís mouth.

    Chloe bit her lower lip to keep from laughing. This is a side of Laurence Iíve never seen¼almost playful. I like it.

    "Are you coming? The tourists are going to catch up with us."

    "Yeah."

    They made their way to the dauphineís apartment. The halls were decorated with rich draperies with faded colors. The bedroom had the same faded drapes, but its bed cover was of bright red velvet. A hairbrush made of gold sat in repose on a dresser. Paintings of the dauphine and her family decorated the walls.

    "Wow, thatís quite a bedroom," exclaimed Chloe.

    "Yeah."

    "I guess it doesnít phase you anymore. Youíve seen it too many times."

    "Come on, we still have plenty to see."

    They walked into a room that Laurence explained had been the Duchesse DíAngoulèmeís bedroom.

    "I donít get it," said Chloe.

    "What?"

    "I wasnít sure if it was because the dauphine was a child, but itís the same here¼"

    "Stop speaking in riddles. What are you talking about?"

    "The beds¼are they really small or is it just my imagination?"

    "Good eye. Yes, youíre right, theyíre smaller than what weíre used to."

    "Why?"

    "You and your historical facts, huh?" joked Laurence. "Back then people thought that you should only be lying down if you were dead. So, they slept sitting up."

    "They were really superstitious."

    "Yeah, letís get going."

    They made their way through the castle. Laurence pointed out details to Chloe, and recounted the many stories about the castle and its residents. The Hall of Mirrors had Chloe in awe. Its hundreds of crystal chandeliers reflected into the mirrors on the walls and its shining marble floor.

    "What was this room for?" asked Chloe.

    "Receptions. The peace treaty of the first World War was signed in this room."

    "Wow, I really canít believe that weíre walking on the same floor Louis XIV walked on."

    They crossed the Hall of Mirrors into the coronation room.

    "Stop!" ordered Laurence in a friendly tone.

    "What, whatís going on?"

    "You see where youíre standing?"

    Chloe stood next to the furthest window in the coronation room,

    "At this exact place ten years ago, two English teachers disappeared in front of their students," said Laurence

    "What? They just vanished?"

    "Yep."

    "Come on, cut it out. What really happened?"

    "I told you, one minute they were walking in front of their group of students, the next they were gone." The intensity with which Laurence was telling this story made Chloe nervous, and she didnít feel too good about standing in the same spot. Come on! Itís just a story, it didnít really happen, thought Chloe to reassure herself.

    Laurence continued her story. "They were discovered two hours later in the left wing."

    "Did they explain where they were?" asked Chloe, giving in to the story.

    "Yep, they said they had been walking when suddenly they started seeing people wearing strange clothes. People asked them in old French if they were coming to the ceremony. The two women realized that they were also wearing strange clothes, and when they looked behind them, instead of their group of students was a large crowd wearing what they identified as 18th century clothes."

    "What the hell? Donít tell me that these two women pretended to have gone back to the past."

    "They sure did. They said that the ceremony they were asked to go to was the baptism of the dauphin. They also claimed to have spent more than two years living in the 18th century."

    "Thatís crazy!"

    "Thatís what everyone else thought. They got fired for abandoning their students for so long."

    "Wow, thatís quite a story. Do you think these women could have been telling the truth?" asked Chloe.

    Laurence shrugged her shoulders. "Donít know. Some scientists say that a bridge between the future and the past is possible. Personally I think itís bull, but hey! Who am I to say?"

    "Yeah¼well I donít know, but I donít want to stand here anymore. Itís creepy."

    Laurence laughed. "All right. Letís move on."

    After another hour of touring, they went back to the ground floor using the left wing stairs. They had been following a group for a while now, and Laurence hadnít seemed to mind, but she was now slowing down and looking around as if it was the first time she had seen everything. They stopped in the room of the Kingís Guard. Laurence bent over slightly and whispered in Chloeís ear.

    "Once this group is gone¼follow my lead."

    "What? Whatís¼"

    "No time for questions. Now¼come on."

    Laurence jumped above the cord separating the public from the room. What the hell is she doing¼Oh brother! Thought Chloe as she followed Laurence.

    Laurence grabbed Chloe by the sleeve and dragged her behind three standing suits of armor.

    "Duck!" whispered Laurence.

    Laurence reached for a small handle on the floor and lifted a wooden trap door.

    "After you," whispered Laurence.

    Chloe looked down to see a ladder. She seemed hesitant.

    "Come on, we donít have much time before one of the guards comes. Go already."

    Chloe grabbed the ladder and slowly made her way down. Laurence followed closely behind closing the trap door behind her.

    "Laurence, I think Iíve reached the bottom. Itís really dark down here."

    Not getting an answer, Chloe called again, "Laurence, youíre scaring me."

    A hand suddenly grabbed Chloe making her scream. Laurence laughed. "Got you."

    "Very funny! Are there any light switches in here?"

    "No, but I have¼." Laurence reached inside her backpack and felt around for a flashlight. "I know I put it here¼ha, here we go," she said turning the light on.

    "Laurence, what is this place?" asked Chloe looking around, but only seeing dirt floors and walls.

    "Follow me, and Iíll tell you."

    They walked slowly down the underground tunnel. Chloe, still not reassured, stayed at armís length from Laurence.

    "This place was built under the reign of Louis XVI. It was supposed to be an escape route for him and his family in case the palace was ever overpowered."

    "His plan didnít work out very well, uh?"

    "Not really. They were stopped from escaping by some of the royal guards before the people of Paris got here."

    "Werenít the guards supposed to protect their King, not betray him?"

    "Yeah, in theory, but I think they were scared senseless of what would happen to them if the people got to the castle and the royal family was gone."

    "Okay, here we are," said Laurence, stopping in front of a door. "Youíve got to close your eyes before you go in."

    "Why?"

    "Chloe, please humor me," pleaded Laurence.

    Chloe closed her eyes, and Laurence gently took her hand and led her through the door.

    "Okay, now keep your eyes closed until I tell you."

    Boy was I right when I said sheís full of surprises! thought Chloe.

    "Okay, open them up."

    Chloe opened her eyes and looked around. Candles had been lit around the room, casting their shadows on tables, sofas, beds, chairs¼

    "Wow, what is this place?" asked Chloe.

    "Iíll tell you in a minute, but first I want to show you something else. Come."

    They walked through the long room into another room.

    "My gosh, this is incredible," exclaimed Chloe. The room had more furniture, paintings were piled against the wall, and faded and ripped draperies hung from the wall.

    Laurence reached for something behind a sofa.

    "I though you might be hungry." She walked to a wooden carved table and lay her basket on it. She started emptying it. "We have Perrier, baguette, cheese, dry sausage, and fruit."

    "When did you¼how did you¼?" Chloe was speechless.

    "This morning. Thatís why I picked you up late. There is another entrance along the canal."

    "Why didnít we use the other entrance?" Asked Chloe.

    "I thought you wanted to see the castle," kidded Laurence.

    "Yeah, but we could have been caught."

    "Whatís life without a little danger?" joked Laurence.

    Laurence sat on a wooden bench and sliced herself a piece of bread before spreading cheese on it.

    "Is that Brie?" asked Chloe.

    "Mmm," mumbled Laurence with a mouth full of food.

    Chloe looked at Laurence and smiled. "Thanks for bringing me here."

    "Youíre welcome," answered Laurence.

    "Lo, how do you know about this place?"

    Once again, Laurence ignored the use of the nickname. "My dad. He was born at the end of the second World War. Thousands of Versaillais were left homeless after the war. The bombs also destroyed my dadís house. Anyway, my grandpa was a carpenter, and he got a job restoring furniture for the castle. In exchange for his services, he and his family were allowed to live in the basement of the castle.

    "In this room?" asked Chloe.

    "Yeah, itís been more than 40 years, and they piled up lot of crap through the years, but from what my dad describes it was really roomy."

    "Thatís such a great story."

    "Yeah, I think itís cool. My dad spent the first six years of his life running around the park and the castle, so he knows every part of it. He showed me this place."

    "Thatís incredible," said Chloe, taking a bite of her cheese sandwich.

    "Do you think all this furniture is from the 17th century?"

    "Donít know. Those draperies, definitely yes."

    "Do you think I can look at those paintings over there?" asked Chloe.

    "Sure. Donít you want to finish eating first?"

    "Iím hungry, but this is so exiting I canít sit still," she said getting up.

    Laurence laughed. "Okay, go ahead."

    Chloe picked up one of the paintings. It showed the face of a young child with tears rolling down his face. Chloe suddenly felt overwhelmed as if the painting was having an effect on her.

    "Laurence!" she quietly called. "Who do you think this child is?"

    Laurence got up and stood behind Chloe, looking over her shoulder. "I donít know." The next few minutes passed quietly as they both stared at the painting.

    Chloe put the painting down. "Wow, I donít know why I feel like getting all mushy on you suddenly, but this painting is just so real. The tears are just¼" Chloe was speechless.

    "Yeah, I agree with you. Itís really well done," said Laurence, squeezing Chloeís shoulder to let her know that she understood her feelings.

    "Do you think itís as old as the 17th century?" asked Chloe.

    Laurence slightly scratched the corner of the painting with her thumbnail.

    "No extra layer of paint¼Itís not a fake. Yeah, it might be from back then."

    "Wow! Why isnít it on display upstairs?"

    "Could be many reasons. They have too many portraits, or the child can not be identified and consequently is not important, or the painter is totally unknown, or nobody knows about it. Personally, I vote for the last one."

    "You think nobody knows about it?"

    "Come on, look at this room. Ninety percent of it is filled with antiques, but nobody seems to care about them."

    "Your dad is an art dealer, right?" Laurence nodded. "Then why doesnít he tell them, or just take everything if he knows about this place."

    "My dad is too honest to take anything that doesnít belong to him, and he doesnít want anyone to know about this place."

    "You mean, nobody knows about it."

    "The castle was renovated and open to the public 30 years ago. I think since then whoever knew about it has retired or is dead." She stopped and then added softly, "My mother knew but she passed away, and now you know."

    Chloe walked around the room thinking and passing her hand on a piece of furniture, trailing her hand on the wall, touching draperies¼

    "Itís magical," she said.

    Laurence smiled at her and took a sip of her Perrier. "I come here sometimes when I want to think and be alone."

    Chloe stopped and sat next to Laurence on the bench. "I realize how much this place means to you, and I want you to know that I promise not to tell anyone about it." Chloe looked intently into Laurenceís eyes, and briefly touched her hand to strengthen her statement.

    "I know you wonít. Otherwise I would have never brought you here."

    "Overly confident, arenít you?" teased Chloe.

    Laurence didnít answer, but instead got up. "We should get going. Itís almost four oíclock, and I want to show you something."

    " Ďkay. So, letís go."

    "Follow me." Laurence walked out of the room into the tunnel. "Youíre not afraid of spiders, are you?"

    "Why?" asked Chloe.

    "Youíre about to find out why I asked you to wear jeans," answered Laurence.

    "Oh boy! I donít like the sound of that."

    Laurence chuckled. "Donít worry, theyíre just little spiders."

    They walked through the dark tunnel with only Laurenceís flashlight to light the way.

    "Itís really creepy," said Chloe, her voice echoing through the tunnel.

    "Yeah, but I have been here enough times to tell you that there arenít any ghosts running around."

    "Are you purposely trying to scare me?" asked Chloe.

    Laurence smiled, her white teeth showing in the darkness. "Okay, here is the part where it gets messy." She stopped and pointed her flashlight to the floor illuminating a huge mud puddle.

    "Okay, we have to walk around this thing, but as you see there isnít much room. The goal is to walk as close to the walls as you can. Now, remember the spiders?"

    "Yes¼" answered Chloe, suddenly not too sure about this place anymore.

    Laurence pointed the light to the walls, which were full of spider webs and crawling spiders.

    "No way, Iím not going through that," said Chloe.

    "They wonít do anything. The annoying part is that the webs get all over you and in your hair.

    "Great, thatís just great," said Chloe pacing around.

    "Come on, letís get it over with." Laurence walked to the left of the puddle and flattened herself against the wall facing the mud.

    "Why canít we go through it? I donít care about getting messy," asked Chloe.

    "Because I have no idea whatís in it right now, itís really deep and last time I tried I lost a shoe, but be my guest if you want to try it."

    Chloe sighed. "Fine, I see I donít really have a choice."

    "Nope," said Laurence from the other side of the large mud puddle.

    "Okay girl, youíve done worse than this," mumbled Chloe to reassure herself. "Yeah, but there were no spiders," she added to herself.

    Chloe copied Laurenceís moves and started to cross over. Halfway through, she felt something crawling in her hair. She screamed. "Ah!"

    "What¼whatís wrong?" asked Laurence worried, the flashlight not giving her enough light to see what was happening.

    "Something is crawling in my hair," she said frightened.

    "Forget about it. Youíre almost there. You can do it."

    Chloe arrived on the other side covered with spider webs. "Argh¼itís everywhere," she said dusting herself off and wiping her hands on her jeans.

    "Do you still have something in your hair?" asked Laurence. "Here, let me look."

    "Stay away from me," yelled Chloe. "I hate spiders, I hate you for taking me here. I¼" A sob escaped her. She turned around and kicked the wall. "Arghh¼I hate spiders," she yelled between tears.

    Laurence slowly made her way to Chloe and grabbed her by the shoulders turning her around to face her. "Calm down. Itís okay. I didnít know youíd be so scared." Chloe hit her on the chest twice before going limp in Laurenceís arms. Laurence put her arms around Chloe to comfort her. "Iím sorry. I swear I had no idea. Why didnít you tell me when I asked you earlier?"

    "Would that have changed anything?" asked Chloe sniffling.

    "No, but I would have crossed with you."

    "Now you tell me," said Chloe trying to joke.

    "Are you okay? Can we keep going? Weíre almost there," asked Laurence, not daring to move until she was sure.

    In response Chloe tightened her grip around Laurence. I canít believe she got so scared, thought Laurence as she held Chloe.

    Chloe let go of Laurence slowly. "Sorry about that," she said, embarrassed.

    "Hey, itís okay. Really. Are you ready to get out of here?"

    "You bet. Iím glad the spider incident is over."

    "Uh¼there are spiders all over the walls in this tunnel. I didnít point it out before now because I didnít need to.

    "I guess weíre going to be walking far away from the walls. After you," said Chloe gesturing to Laurence to lead the way. "What are the walls made out of?" she asked.

    "Mostly dirt and sand."

    "Uh...that explains it." Chloe got closer to Laurence and held on to her elbow for guidance. "So, what else do you want to show me when we get out?"

    "Youíll see. Hey, look there," said Laurence, pointing to the glimpse of daylight ahead of them. "Come on," she said as she took off running.

    " Hey, wait up!" shouted Chloe. Laurence was already yards away from her. This girl has too much energy.

    Laurence was waiting for her at the end of the tunnel in front of an iron gate. "How do we get out with this thing in the way?" asked Chloe, pointing at the gate.

    Laurence winked at Chloe and smiled. She crouched and started removing two of the left bars by just untwisting them.

    "Wow, thatís cool. You always have an answer for everything, donít you?" asked Chloe squeezing herself through the gap in the bars.

    "I aim to please," kidded Laurence as she joined Chloe on the other side. She carefully replaced the bars where they belonged.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    They silently walked around the canal toward the park of the castle. They had almost reached it when Chloe stopped.

    "Can you hear music or am I going crazy?" asked Chloe.

    "They do that every weekend. You can walk in the park along with music from the 17th century. They also turn on every fountain in the park, and they have a major finale in front of Apolloís fountain at 5p.m." answered Laurence.

    "Can we go?"

    "Yep, but we better hurry, itís going to start in a few minutes."

    "So what are we waiting for?" said Chloe, breaking into a run

    "Hold on Chloe, you donít even know where it is," called Laurence laughing.

    Good point, thought Chloe, letting Laurence catch up with her.

    Shortly, Chloe and Laurence were sitting on the grass in front of Apolloís fountain listening to the thirteenth requiem from Mozart coming out of the speakers. The fountain was more like a large pond. In the middle was the sculpture of Apolloís horse and carriage jutting out of the water. Statues of Apollo surrounded the pond. At 5p.m. on the dot, water erupted from the center sculpture, pulsing in rhythm with the music. The beauty of it all took Chloeís breath away.

    "Hey, are you okay?"

    "Yes¼I¼Iím fine. Itís just so beautiful."

    "Yes, it is," said Laurence staring at Chloe for a few moment and bringing her gaze back to the spectacle. "Are you ready to go home?"

    "Yeah¼I guess," answered Chloe, reluctant to wrap up such a magical day.

    Laurence got up and extended her hand to Chloe who took it. Laurence yanked Chloe back on her feet and gently wiped dirt off Chloeís forehead. "You must have gotten it in the tunnel," she said softly.

    Chloe smiled shyly and lightly leaned into Laurenceís hand for a brief second.

    "I tell you what. Iíll take you out to dinner to make up for the spider episode," said Laurence.

    "Really? Cool¼ I mean, Iíd love to. First can we go home and change?"

    "Yeah, restaurants donít start serving before 7. Letís go."

    They walked home in a silent companionship. Chloeís thoughts were filled with memories of the day.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    "Are you allergic to any food?" asked Laurence as she unlocked the front door.

    "No. I eat pretty much anything," answered Chloe. "Why? What do you have in mind?"

    "Hey! Iím not telling since you eat everything¼youíll see," teased Laurence.

    "Okay, okay, but can I wear jeans or should I wear something more dressy?"
 
    "Hmm¼I donít know because I havenít decided where weíre going yet. Why donít you just wear something youíre comfortable in?"

    " Ďkay, Iíll go change."

    "Yeah, be ready by 7, and¼." Laurence was interrupted by the phone. She rushed to pick it up.

    "AlloÖPípa! Comment ça va?" Laurence walked away from Chloe into the family room.

    Chloe decided that was her cue to go change and give Laurence some privacy.

    As she passed by, Laurence pointed at her watch and mouthed "Seven." Chloe smiled and nodded.

    Once in her room, Chloe set about the task of choosing something to wear for dinner.  "She didnít give me many clues about what to wear¼hmm¼itís kind of warm out¼yeah, that will do."

    At 7 p.m. Laurence knocked at Chloeís door. "Are you ready?" she called through the door.

    "Coming," yelled Chloe from the other side.

    The door opened to reveal Chloe wearing a white tank top with a white long sleeve shirt thrown on top and black jeans. She wore her blond hair up with a touch of makeup accentuating the green of her eyes.

    "You look great," said Laurence releasing a breath she didnít know she had been holding since Chloe stepped out of her room.

    "Thanks. You donít look bad yourself." Laurence was wearing a well-fitted pair of black jeans with a red long sleeve shirt, slightly open and revealing her tan skin.

    Laurence flashed her a smile. "Shall we?" asked Laurence. She jokingly offered her arm to Chloe.

    "We shall my dear," said Chloe, catching on to Laurenceís little game and taking her offered arm.

    "Where are we going?" asked Chloe.

    "Itís a surprise."

    "Come on, Iíve had enough surprises for the day. Youíve got to tell me."

    " Iíll give you a clue. Itís in Paris."

    "Oh gee thanks! Thatís a great clue."

    "Thatís as much as youíre going to get," said Laurence as she put on her leather jacket. "You might want to grab something warmer. Do you have a jacket?"

    "Only a winter one."

    "Wait here," said Laurence, running back upstairs.

    "What are you doing?" yelled Chloe, but she got no response.

    Laurence came back downstairs as fast as she had left. "Here," she said, handing Chloe a leather jacket.

    " Do you really think I need it?" asked Chloe.

    "Oh yes¼we are going on my bike. The air can get really chilly."

    " Cool, I love bikes," exclaimed Chloe putting on the jacket. "It fits almost perfectly. It canít be yours, itís too small for you."

    "It used to be mine ages ago. My dad gave it to me for my birthday when I was thirteen. Iíve outgrown it. Good thing youíre a dwarf," joked Laurence as she opened the door.

    "Yeah, yeah, make fun of my 5 feet 2 inches, Miss I-could-out-play-any-basketball-player-in-the-NBA," answered Chloe.

    "Oh, touché!" joked Laurence, pretending to have been mortally wounded.

    "Come on, cut the drama," laughed Chloe.

    "Your carriage is ready my lady," said Laurence, jokingly bowing and pointing to her motorcycle.

    "Iíll choose to ignore that one," said Chloe with a pretend frown on her face.

    Laurence climbed on the bike. "Get behind me," said Laurence, handing Chloe a helmet.

    Chloe did as told and Laurence started the bike and revved it a few times until the idle smoothed out.

    "Lo? Where should I hold on?" asked Chloe, raising her voice to make herself heard above the roar.

    "To the saddle or to my waist. Whatever feels safer to you," she answered, pointing the bike out into the streets of Versailles.

    Chloe held on lightly to Laurenceís waist and watched the houses go by as they made their way toward the highway. Once on the highway Laurence sped up, and the wind blew harder in Chloeís face forcing her to scoot closer to Laurence and eventually wrap her arms securely around Laurenceís waist. Sure beats driving in a car, thought Chloe, smiling to herself.

    Laurence drove her bike smoothly, weaving between cars. She slowed down once she reached Paris. Chloe had been lost in thought when suddenly Laurence poked her hands which were still attached to Laurenceís waist. Chloe looked up to see Laurence pointing at something ahead of them.

    "Arc de Triomphe," yelled Laurence through her helmet.

    "Wow!" exclaimed Chloe. The arch was lit up, and what seems to Chloe like hundreds of car lights surrounded it. "Are we going there?" asked Chloe.

    "We have to go around it. Weíre going down Les Champs Elysees."

    "Okay."

    Once they got closer to the Arc, Chloe heard honking and people yelling. "Whatís going on?" she asked Laurence.

    "Nothing. Youíve got to circle around the Arc, and itís always a mess."

    Laurence brought the bike into the traffic circle. Three lanes were painted on the pavement but there were up to five cars abreast and chaos reigned. Some cars were perpendicular to other cars while trying to exit. It was a mess.

    "Now you find out why I like driving my bike in Paris," said Laurence. She expertly maneuvered her bike out of the circle, the small size of the motorcycle letting them weave though the creeping traffic without problem.

    "Wow, is that the Eiffel Tower?" asked Chloe pointing at a tower.

    "Yep."

    Laurence went around the Champ de Mars and parked her bike on the waterfront.

    "Come on, weíre running late and weíve got 5 minutes before the boat leaves," she said as she grabbed Chloeís hand and ran toward the dock. They climbed onto a boat.

    "Bonsoir. Nous avons des reservations pour Glairon," said Laurence.

    "Par ici, mademoiselle," said the hostess.

    "Are we going to eat on this boat?" asked Chloe.

    "Yep. Hope you donít get sea sick," Laurence said with a smile.

    They were seated at a table next to the window. Fancy silverware, a white table cloth, napkins, and candles decorated the table.

    "Wow, itís great," exclaimed Chloe.

    "They also have great food," answered Laurence.

    The half moon reflected on the river making the surface glitter with silver. The Eiffel Tower with its large shape loomed over the river. The boat slowly started to drift down the river. Musicians played violins and the gentle lapping of the water combined to create a beautiful melody.

    "This is so beautiful¼so peaceful," said Chloe.

    Laurence smiled. A waiter came to the table to take their orders. "Can I order for us?" asked Laurence.

    "Hmm...should I trust you?" joked Chloe.

    Laurence winked and turn to the waiter.

    "What did you get?" asked Chloe once the waiter left.

    "Youíll see."

    "I get it, more surprises."

    The waiter came back with a bottle of white sauvignon and poured some in their glasses.

    "Merci," said Laurence, reaching for her glass. She lifted it as a toast. "To you Chloe. I hope you have a great year, and that you actually stay the entire year," said Laurence with a smile.

    Chloe took a sip of her wine. "So, youíre leaving on Sunday?" asked Chloe.

    "I have to," answered Laurence.

    "Too bad¼ I kind of like having you around," Chloe said smiling.

    "After the way I treated you the first day¼I donít know how youíre even talking to me right now," said Laurence sadly.

    Chloe shrugged her shoulders. "Everyone deserves a second chance," said Chloe. "Plus you didnít turn out to be such a bad person after all," teased Chloe. She picked up her glass and drank some more. "Why were you acting so bitchy the first day?" she asked shyly. Maybe sheís going to bite my head off, but Iíve got to know.

    Laurence sighed. "I told you we had so many au pairs before you. I thought you were another one of those pompous little Americans only here for fun."

    "What made you change your mind?" asked Chloe looking into Laurenceís eyes.

    Laurence finished her glass and poured herself another before answering. "Donít know...I guess you just seemed so honest and eager to know Clément. You also seemed to be able to handle Beatrice and not everyone can do that."

    Chloe registered what Laurence said about Beatrice but decided to not pursue the topic. "I think Clément likes me," she said.

    "Yeah¼I think so too," answered Laurence. "He is a great little guy¼youíll see," Laurence added. Her eyes shone with excitement every time she spoke of Clément.

    "The food is here," Laurence announced as the waiter approached.

    He deposited a plate with a dozen of escargot in front of each of them.

    "Is that¼"

    "Yep, escargot...snails. Whatever you want to call it," answered Laurence laughing at the face Chloe was making. "Trust me, itís really good. Itís cooked in garlic and butter."

    "Iíll try, but how do you get them out of their shell?"

    "You use the little tiny fork next to your plate," Laurence demonstrated by popping one in her mouth.

    "Okay¼here goes nothing," said Chloe, closing her eyes, holding her nose and uncertainly placing the escargot in her mouth. "Hey, itís really good!"

    "Told you," smiled Laurence.

    Chloe decided that tonight was the night where she was going to learn more about Laurence. "What are you going to do when you graduate?"

    "Move back to Paris. Get a job."

    "Whatís your dream job?" asked Chloe.

    "Iíd like to work for a magazine like Premiere."

    "Yeah, I love reading that magazine. All their offices are in the States though. Hey, you could move to the States¼your mom was American, it should be easy for you ¼"

    "Hey, hey¼hold your horses. Yes, I can move to the States if I feel like it because I have dual citizenship. But there is no way Iím doing that because I have to think of Clément. Iíll have to do with whatís around here."

    "Okay," said Chloe, sensing that she would not get more out of Laurence on the topic. "What do you do for fun?"

    "You like asking questions, donít you?" kidded Laurence. "I like to paint, go to the movies, sometimes go dancing."

    "I love dancing!" said Chloe with excitement.

    Laurence smiled. "Do you go clubbing a lot back home?" asked Laurence. She wants to play twenty questions with me¼weíll see who wins, thought Laurence.

    "Sometimes. Iím not twenty-one, so there arenít many places I can go."

    "Right, I forgot you have to be twenty-one in the States for most clubs."

    "Yeah, itís a pain."

    "Did you just graduate from high school?" Laurence asked, suddenly really eager to learn more about Chloe.

    "No, last year. I went to college for a year, but I donít really know what I want to do."

    "Where did you go?"

    "University of Maryland. Itís a great school. My dad wants me to study computers. I tried for one year...I hated it. I need to find my own path." Chloe finished the sentence more for herself than for Laurence.

    "Okay, forget about your dad. What do you want to do?"

    "Youíll laugh if I tell you. Everyone before you did," answered Chloe.

    "Come on, cut me some slack. I promise not to laugh."

    Chloe pondered the issue for a minute or two. "Okay. I want to major in theater."

    "You want to act."

    "Not just acting¼I love plays. I want to learn more about whatís going on backstage¼what it takes to put on a play. It just fascinates me," explained Chloe. She had started speaking with her hands, which she always did when speaking about something she was passionate about.

    "Chloe, you should do it. It sounds great."

    "Really?" asked Chloe not believing that somebody was actually telling her that.

    "Yes. Why donít you?"

    Chloe sighed. "Itís complicated."

    "Try me," said Laurence, briefly squeezing Chloeís hand to encourage her.

    "My dad pays for my college. He told me that he wonít pay for a theater degree," explained Chloe. " ĎSweetheart, I wonít waste hard-earned money on a useless degree. Study computer or law. Those are degrees with great jobsí," said Chloe, imitating her father.

    "What does your dad do?" ask Laurence as she finished her last escargot.

    "Heís a lawyer."

    "I figured," answered Laurence. "What does your mom say about it?"

    "My parents got divorced when I was 13. I see my mother for Christmas and sometimes during the summer. Sheís too busy traveling around the world with her job," said Chloe. She suddenly lost the excitement she had been feeling previously.

    "Sorry, I didnít know. What does she do that keeps her so busy?"

    "Sheís a news reporter for a TV channel in DC. She covers the crazy things. For example when the US were bombing Kosovo, she was right there."

    "Dangerous job," commented Laurence.

    "Yeah."

    "Listen Chloe. I think you should do what you want with your studies. Itís your life, not your dadís. You donít want to wake up in ten years and think, If only I had known."

    "I know, but I really canít afford it."

    "Ask your mother. She doesnít do much for you - she might help out of guilt. Get a loan¼I donít know¼just follow your dreams."

    Chloe looked at Laurence intently. "Maybe. Weíll see," she said, indicating she wanted a change of topic by waving her hand.

    They made small talk throughout the rest of dinner, slowly learning more about each other.

    "Boy, Iím stuffed," exclaimed Chloe after finishing the last bite of her chocolate mousse.

    "No kidding! Miss I-have-to-sample-everything-on-the-dessert-cart," laughed Laurence.

    "Hey, you said I could!"

    Laurence smiled. "Tell you what, when we get back to the dock we can take a walk around the Eiffel Tower."

    "That would be great."
 
    "I also think I had too much wine to drive back right away."

    Half an hour later, the boat came to a stop and Laurence and Chloe got off.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    They walked away from the dock in a friendly silence.  Chloe was the first to speak. "Uh¼I want to thank you for today and dinner¼you really didnít have to. Well, anyway¼thank you."

    "No need to thank me. I had a great time. Do you want to walk some more or go home?"

    "I wouldnít mind walking for while¼if you want to."

    "Fine by me. Letís go to the Eiffel Tower and come back."

    "The Eiffel Tower? That big thing over there?" asked Chloe jokingly. She stopped and turned to Laurence. "I tell you what¼Iíll race you." With those words she took off running.

    "You little¼" Laurence took off behind her. Her long legs gave her an advantage, and once she was at armís length, she pounced on Chloe, dragging her down on the grass.

    "Hey¼" yelled Chloe before falling. Laurence put her body in between the ground and Chloe to soften their fall. They were both out of breath and laughing hysterically. Chloe rolled off Laurence. "I canít believe you¼youíre¼" she stopped trying to catch her breath. She then turned on her side facing Laurence. She propped her head up and asked with a smile, "Why did you do that?"

    "Hey, you challenged me¼" smiled Laurence, turning on her side to face Chloe.

    "Yeah, I challenged you to a race, not to a football game," joked Chloe, poking Laurence teasingly in the ribs.

    "Sorry, I got carried away. It was fun." She softly brushed off some dirt from Chloeís sleeve. She looked up to see Chloe looking at her with wonder in her eyes. They stared at each other for what seemed an eternity, neither Laurence nor Chloe willing to break the spell. Chloeís hair had loosened up during the run and was delicately falling in a cascade on her shoulder, the moonlight giving it a slight shade of red. Laurence could not take her gaze away from Chloe. She was mesmerized by the color of her eyes, the shape of her nose, the slight movements of her eye lashes¼Wow, Laurence, get a grip. What is wrong with me¼must be the wine I had for dinner. Laurence broke the silence. "I think we should get up," she said, almost whispering.

    Chloe nodded and slowly sat up. Whatís wrong with me. Iím never speechless.

    "Lucky us, there arenít that many people out tonight; otherwise weíd have been the entertainment of the evening rolling around in the grass like that," joked Laurence, trying to regain her composure.

    "Yeah¼lucky us," answered Chloe, still not sure of what had just happened between them.

    They got up and decided to call it a night. They walked silently back to the dock. What the hell just happened back there. Sheís Clément's babysitter for Godís sake¼whatís wrong with me. I really have to get a grip, thought Laurence. Once they reached the bike, Laurence handed Chloe her helmet and climbed on. Chloe got on behind her and without a second thought grabbed hold of Laurenceís waist tightly, leaning forward to rest her head on Laurenceís back.

Go to chapterV