Chloe let Laurence in, and looked at her while shaking her head.
"What is it?" asked Laurence, putting her suitcase down.
"Nothing…it's just that you were the last person I was expecting to see today," she answered honestly.
"I'm sorry…I probably should have called."
"It's okay…I'm glad to see you." Chloe smiled at Laurence and gestured for her to have a seat.
"To be honest with you, I didn't call because I was scared you would say 'no'." Laurence looked at Chloe, her eyes sincere.
"I wouldn't have," Chloe answered softly.
Laurence smiled knowingly and sat down on the couch.
"Can I get you something to drink?"
"Water would be fine." She got up and poured Laurence a glass of water.
"It's freezing," said Laurence, after taking a sip from her glass.
"Yeah, we don't drink boiling water here," teased Chloe.
"Room temperature…Cold water hurts your teeth."
"You get used to it." Chloe looked at Laurence. She had lost weight and her cheekbones were much more prominent. She also had huge bags under her eyes, and Chloe wasn't too sure if they were only due to the jet lag. "You must be exhausted."
"I'm getting there."
"I tell you what, why don't you go lay down for a few hours?"
"I just got here…I haven't seen you in so long."
"Lo, I'm not going anywhere."
"I like it."
"When you call me 'Lo'. You haven't done that since…" she stopped, unwilling to bring back bad memories to the surface.
Chloe smiled and tucked a strand of loose hair behind her ear. "Come on, you can lay down in my room. I'll wake you up in a few hours." Laurence followed Chloe to her room. "Here you are. By the way, how did you find the address?"
"I called your dad, and he gave it to me."
Chloe nodded. "Okay, I'll wake you up in a few."
"Thanks." Laurence waited for Chloe to close the door and lay down on the bed. She buried her face in the pillow, inhaling Chloe's scent. A smile spread on her face, and she let herself fall asleep.
They spent the afternoon walking around Laguna. Laurence seemed more relaxed than she was in the morning, and the bags under her eyes had lessened. In the evening, Chloe took them to the place she ate with Peter and her mother a few nights before.
"They have great seafood," said Chloe, as she sat down at the table. Her face had tanned in the past few days and tiny freckles had appeared on her nose. She hastily ordered a large lobster. "What are you going to have?"
"I think I'll try the lobster too."
"Good choice, it's delicious." Chloe handed the menu back to the waiter and absently played with her napkin. Laurence's heart swelled with sadness once she realized that Chloe wasn't wearing her ring anymore. "I still have it," said Chloe, softly as if reading Laurence's thoughts.
"Sorry…I have no right to expect…"
"It's okay. I took it off a few weeks ago. I was just trying to move on."
"Did you succeed?" Laurence mindlessly ran her fingers around the rim of her glass.
"In what, moving on?" She looked at Laurence who nodded. "I'm here, aren’t I?"
"Yes, you are," answered Laurence, lightly brushing Chloe's hand. Chloe had barely time to register the touch before it was over.
They spent the rest of the dinner making light talk, and simply enjoying each other's company. The temperature had dropped, making the air chilly and Chloe shivered as they stepped out.
"Cold?" asked Laurence.
"A little. We're not parked too far…I'll live," she joked.
"Tell me again, why you left money for the waiter?" asked Laurence.
"I tipped him. That's how he gets paid."
"But, he wasn't even really nice. Why did you leave so much?"
"Lo, trust me okay? This is my territory," she said laughing.
"Well, I don't get it."
Chloe opened the car, giggling. She had forgotten why she fell in love with Laurence in the first place, and everything was coming rushing back to her. They drove back to the apartment in silence.
"It's late. We should probably call it a night," said Chloe, looking at her watch while opening the door.
"I agree. I'm exhausted."
"My mother told me about a place where you can go dolphin watching. Would you like to go tomorrow?"
"That would be great." Their eyes met, and Chloe's breath caught in her throat. She tore her gaze away reluctantly.
"You can take my room…I'll sleep on the couch."
"No, I don't want to steal your bed. I'll sleep on the couch," said Laurence, disappointed at the sleeping arrangements.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure."
"I think there are pillows and blankets in my bedroom closet. Let me check." She turned around and left for her room, followed by Laurence. "Yeah, that should do it," commented Chloe while reaching into the closet. She turned around her arms filled with pillows and blankets and almost bumped into Laurence. Time suddenly seemed to stop as Laurence slowly took Chloe' s burden away from her and dropped it on the side. With trembling hands she caressed her face, never once leaving Chloe's eyes. Hesitantly she moved forward, her lips stopping only a few inches from Chloe's, she looked into her eyes for any sign that things were moving too fast, but when not seeing any, she slowly brought her lips down. Their lips moved tenderly against each other, undemanding, gently rediscovering. After a few moments Chloe broke the kiss and stepped back. Her cheeks were flushed. "I…I probably should go." She ran out of the room, leaving Laurence standing there speechless. Laurence had barely time to register what happened when Chloe came back in. "Wait a minute, you should go, I sleep in this room."
Laurence smiled and stepped closer to Chloe, this time staying at arm's length. "I'm sorry if I startled you…I've wanted to kiss you since this morning."
"It's okay…it's just too soon," answered Chloe honestly. "I still have lots of questions left unanswered. You can't expect to just come here and make it all better…"
"Then let's talk," interrupted Laurence.
"Lo, not now. I'm tired and….ask me again tomorrow."
Laurence sighed. "Okay." She quickly kissed Chloe on the cheek and left the room, picking up the blankets and pillows on her way out.
After Laurence left the room, Chloe threw herself on her bed and covered her eyes with her arm, her heart and mind racing. She touched her lips lightly and her face flushed at the memory of Laurence's kiss. After a few minutes, she brought herself back under control and got ready for the night. Lying in bed, she tossed and turned, her body exhausted, but her mind unwilling to shut down. After a few hours, she gave up and got up. She silently opened her door and walked into the living room. In the darkness, she could discern Laurence's shape, rolled up in blankets on the couch. She tiptoed to the couch and gently nudged Laurence. "Lo?"
Laurence rubbed her eyes. "What is it?" she asked yawning.
"Why did you leave me?"
Laurence sat up, suddenly awake. She looked up at Chloe who was standing above her and motioned for her to sit on the couch. "You couldn't sleep?" asked Laurence, trying to clear her mind.
"I'm sorry. It's the middle of the night, I don't know what I was thinking." She got up, only to be stopped by Laurence.
"Wait. It's okay. Just give me a few moments to wake up fully." The moonlight shone through the blinds, gentlylighting their faces. Laurence sighed and passed her hands through her hair, ruffling it slightly. "I told you why because of Clément…"
"I know, but I don't believe that's the only reason. Lo, I deserve to know."
Laurence looked at Chloe, her eyes barely visible in the darkness. She fumbled with the blanket still wrapped around her legs and took a deep breath. "Fear," she said simply.
"Fear? Of who? Me?" asked Chloe, not understanding.
"I don't understand."
"When you left, I could do nothing else than think about you day and night, and it scared me. I was so dependent on you… when Clément went to the hospital, you were right there, when my father died, you were right by me every step of the way…I felt as I had to get you out of my life, so I could prove to myself that I didn't need you. Then, Clément was also having troubles getting over you, so I took the easy way out."
Chloe swallowed hard. "So, why did you change your mind?"
"Because I realized that I was even more miserable without you in my life than with you thousands of miles away. I told you, I missed you terribly."
Chloe didn't answer for a while and finally broke the silence. "Did you go out with anyone else while we were apart?" she asked her voice shaking, the thought of it almost unbearable. Laurence's silence was enough of an answer. "When?"
"Sometime in December," answered Laurence in a whisper.
Chloe nodded and got up. "I see," she said dryly, fighting tears. She made it half way through the living room before being spun around by Laurence.
"Wait…Chloe, I couldn't do anything. Please hear me out." She waited for Chloe to nod before stepping back. "I couldn't do anything…I wanted it to be you, and it wasn't. Before things went too far I stopped it. Please believe me."
Chloe looked up at Laurence, her eyes shining with tears. "Why should I believe you? Since I've known you, every time I think things are fine, you turn around and hurt me," said Chloe, bitterly, not fighting her tears anymore.
"One day at the beginning of our relationship you told me you wanted the truth from me Chloe, only the truth, you said you wanted to know when I felt like running and what I was thinking. You also said you knew things were not going to be easy, but as long as we were together it was okay. Do you remember?" asked Laurence, almost pleading with Chloe to listen to her one more time.
"Yes, I remember," Chloe answered with tears in her voice.
"I'm asking you to please believe in me one more time. I need you, and I'm welcoming that now, not fearing it anymore. The ride won't be the smoothest, but I promise you I'll make it worth while." Laurence looked at Chloe, her eyes pleading.
"God be my witness Laurence, if you ever ever hurt me this way again, I will forever banish you from my life," said Chloe, sobs slowly taking over he body.
Laurence stepped closer to Chloe and hesitantly put her arms around her. This simple gesture brought more tears to Chloe's eyes and made Laurence drew Chloe closer. Laurence kissed the top of her hair, and whispered tender words in her ears to calm her. After a few minutes, Chloe withdrew.
"I'm sorry," she said wiping her eyes.
"No, I am," said Laurence, tenderly brushing Chloe tears away with her thumbs. "I love you," she said, looking deeply into Chloe's eyes. This time Chloe initiated the kiss. She brought Laurence's lips down on hers and tightened her grip around her neck. Laurence's hands tenderly roamed across Chloe's back, gently drawing her closer in the nest of her arms. They broke the kiss and Laurence let her forehead rest on Chloe's. "I missed kissing you," she said.
Chloe took Laurence's hand and without a word pulled her toward her bedroom. There she climbed into bed and patted the spot next to her. Laurence lay down and pulled the covers on top of them. It was a tight squeeze for both of them in Chloe's single bed, but Laurence lay on her side and drew Chloe against her body. "Is that okay?" she asked.
In response Chloe scooted closer to Laurence. Her last words before falling asleep were. "I love you."
Go to chapter V
copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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