They got back to Versailles shortly after midnight.
"I’m beat," said Laurence, opening the front door and stepping in.
"Yeah, me too. I think I’ll call it a night. Thanks again for today. I really had a great time." Chloe took her jacket off and handed in to Laurence. "Thanks for letting me borrow your jacket."
"I tell you what. You keep it. It doesn’t fit me anymore, and I’d rather you have it." Laurence walked into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water. Chloe followed her.
"Really…wow…thanks. I don’t know if I should accept this…"
"Why not? I’m telling you, it’s no sweat." Laurence finished off her glass of water and put the dirty glass in the dishwasher. "I’m going up. I’ll see you tomorrow."
Laurence stopped in the doorway and turned to Chloe as if she was going to say something, but instead she shook her head and went upstairs. What the hell was I thinking? I was going to get all mushy again and tell her I had a great day. I said that already. Once is enough. I think I just need a good night sleep. Yeah, that’s it, I’m just tired.
Chloe stood alone in the kitchen staring at the door where Laurence was just a few minutes ago. She slowly shook herself out of her reverie and went up to her room.
The following morning, Chloe woke up around 10 a.m. and went downstairs to have breakfast. She found Laurence in the kitchen wearing her usual spandex shorts and tee shirt, reading the newspaper.
"Good morning," said Chloe while entering the kitchen. "What time did you get up?" She took a seat at the kitchen table
"Around 9. I went for a run and got us some breakfast.
"Really? What is it?" asked Chloe suddenly realizing that the kitchen was smellinof fresh bread and coffee.
Laurence got up and opened the oven, reaching inside for a tray filled with croissants and bread. She set it on the table and opened up the fridge, getting out three jars of jam.
"Wow…maybe I'll have to start running also…If I keep this up I won’t be able to get in my jeans. It smells great…thank you."
Laurence smiled. "Breakfast is served," she said bowing mockingly. They made small talk throughout breakfast. Laurence tried to teach Chloe some simple French words, but each time Chloe would repeat them with her best French accent, Laurence would burst out laughing.
"Hey, stop making fun of me…I’m trying here," said Chloe, becoming offended by Laurence’s behavior.
Laurence calmed herself down "I’m sorry, but you’re just so cute when you speak French. You concentrate so much, your nose wrinkles." Laurence started laughing again just thinking about it.
"Fine…we’ll stick to English."
"No...no…okay, I won’t laugh anymore," said Laurence sincerely. She got up and started cleaning up the table.
"Hey, I'll do that. You got breakfast. I'll clean up. Go take a shower." Chloe pushed Laurence away from the sink.
"Hey…are you saying I smell?"
"Well, now that you mention it."
Laurence picked up the jar of orange jam and filled a spoon with the sticky substance. "I’ll show you stinky." She slowly approached Chloe, spoon in hand.
"Did I say stinky? I meant that you smell great…come on Laurence, what are you doing?" Laurence grabbed Chloe and wiped the spoon across Chloe’s face.
"Laurence, stop it…stop it," yelled Chloe, trying to get away from Laurence’s grip.
"Who is stinky and sticky now? Uh…" Chloe ran to the table and reached inside the jar picking up a hand full of jam.
"Yeah…we’ll see if you laugh when I’m done with you." She pounced on Laurence and tried spreading the jam on her face only resulting in getting the back of her head. They suddenly stopped and looked at each other. Jam ran down their faces and hair stuck to their foreheads. Chloe started to laugh, soon followed by Laurence.
"Boy, I’m glad Beatrice’s not here. She’d have a heart attack," said Chloe.
"No kidding. Okay, I think we both need a shower now."
"I’ll clean up the mess… you go ahead." Chloe picked up some paper towels and wiped some of the jam off her face.
"Are you sure?"
" Thanks." Laurence left the
kitchen, and Chloe started cleaning up.
Chloe finished her chores and got ready for the day. She decided to wear a pair of jeans and a short sleeved shirt. She was getting ready to go downstairs when she heard a knock at the door.
"Who is it?"
"Laurence. Who else is in this house? Can I come in?"
Laurence opened the door and stepped in. She was wearing blue jeans and a white tee shirt, her hair was up in a pony tail, making her look much younger. "Uh…I’m going downtown to meet a friend…want to come?"
"Sure. I have to call my dad though. Do I have time?" Laurence nodded. Chloe put on her watch and tied her tennis shoes. "Car or bike?"
Chloe picked up her leather jacket and stuffed her wallet inside. "Give me five minutes to call my dad, and I’ll be ready."
Chloe ran downstairs and dialed. The answering machine picked up. "Hey dad. It’s me. Just wanted to say hi. I’m doing great. I’ll call next week. Love you." She hung up and yelled. "Okay, I’m ready."
Laurence appeared in the doorway.
The ride to Paris was faster than the night before. Laurence had explained to Chloe that they were going to see a friend she had not seen in a long time. The meeting had been set for 4 p.m. in front of the fountains at Les Halles market. At 4:15 p.m. Laurence parked her bike on a side street and took off her helmet.
"Okay, here we are. We’re not too late. Hopefully Tony is still there."
The street was crowded. Artists were painting portraits, jugglers were putting on a show, and guitarists were playing, hoping for some pocket change. The ensemble created a very busy atmosphere full of music and laughter.
Laurence and Chloe walked into a brasserie called "A la Crepe." Laurence scanned the room for Tony and spotted him in the far corner reading a newspaper. She called across the room. "Hey, Tony!"
Tony waved and got up to meet them.
"Te voilà. Toujours ponctuelle à ce que je vois," said Tony, grabbing Laurence and planting two kisses on her cheeks.
Laurence laughed and moved aside to introduce Chloe.
"C’est mon amie Chloe. Elle ne parle pas très bien le Francais." She then turned to Chloe and introduced Tony to her. "Chloe, this is Tony, a long time friend."
"Bonjour," said Chloe, shaking Tony’s hand.
"My English isn’t as good as Ms. Perfect over there, but I will try," said Tony with a heavy accent as he sat and gestured to Chloe to seat next to him. Chloe smiled and took the offered seat.
The conversation started in English, but as it got more animated French took over. Chloe tried to follow the conversation but soon gave up. Her mind drifted back over the past few days and how much time she and Laurence had spent together. She is quite something. I’m really going to miss her. Boy, I wish she could stay. I wonder if Tony is one of her ex-boyfriends. This last thought somehow bothered Chloe. I can’t imagine her with him…or with anyone for that matter. Come on Chloe! What is wrong with you girl? She probably has boyfriends left and right. Look at her, she is stunning. Chloe looked at Laurence from the corner of her eye. She was engaged in a very animated conversation with Tony. The heat of the restaurant had given Laurence a nice pinkish shade on her cheeks, highlighting her clear blue eyes. Her red tee shirt showed muscular arms followed by very elegant hands. For the first time Chloe saw the tiny scar on Laurence’s left hand. I wonder where she got it. It looks like a bad cut…I guess I’ll ask her. Boy I’m going to miss her…Chloe sighed and took a bite of the chocolate crêpe she had ordered.
"Are you okay? I’m sorry, it must be really boring for you," said Laurence, looking at Chloe with concern.
"No, I’m fine. I was just thinking."
Tony watched the exchange between the two women and smiled to himself.
"Girls, I have to get going anyway. I tell you what. I’m going dancing with some friends tonight. Would you like to come along?"
"Wow Tony, that would be great," answered Chloe with enthusiasm. "Well...that is if Laurence wants to," she added. Laurence had thought of calling it a night early because she still had to finish packing and wanted to have an early start in the morning. She glanced at Chloe who was looking at her expectantly.
"Yes, but we can’t stay late."
"Awesome," exclaimed Chloe, giving Laurence a quick squeeze on the hand across the table. Tony’s smile grew even larger at the display of affection.
"Great. We’ll meet at 11 p.m. at La Joconde, Porte de La Chapelle," said Tony, smiling.
"Tony…" growled Laurence.
"What?" asked Tony, innocently.
"You know what. Don’t even think about it Tony!" Laurence was looking menacingly at Tony.
"What’s wrong? What’s going on?" asked Chloe. If Laurence heard her question she didn’t flinch, but instead kept her gaze on Tony.
"Laurence?" asked Chloe again, not understanding the situation.
"Be there at 11…I promise you, no set up," smiled Tony.
"You better be true to your word my friend," answered Laurence.
"I will…okay, bye Chloe…see you guys tonight." With those words Tony left the restaurant.
Laurence was fiddling with her napkin not looking at Chloe.
"Hey…earth to Laurence…what just happened here?"
"Nothing to worry about…want to walk around before we go home to change?"
"Don’t change the subject on me. Come on, what happened?"
"You don’t take no for an answer, do you?" said Laurence, smiling.
"You know I don’t. So, are you going to tell me?"
"You asked for it…Tony always tries to set me up when we go to clubs."
"Okay, but I don’t see where the problem is. You’re a big girl, you can say no."
"Chloe, do you know what kind of club we just got invited to?"
"Nope. I figure your clubs can’t be that different from ours."
Laurence laughed out loud. "Chloe, you’re so innocent. We just got invited to a gay club." Laurence took the last bite of her strawberry crêpe and waited for Chloe’s reaction.
"La Joconde is one of the biggest gay clubs in town." She finished her drink and took her wallet out of her jacket.
"Is Tony gay?" asked Chloe, hesitantly.
Laurence dropped 40 francs on the table. "What do you think? Come on, don’t tell me you didn’t see it."
"Uh…no, I didn’t. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone …gay." Chloe, suddenly feeling shy, reached for her wallet and busied herself counting her cash.
"No need to, I took care of it," Laurence said, pointing to the money on the table. "Maybe we shouldn’t go tonight…"
"No, I want to go," exclaimed Chloe.
Laurence sighed. "Okay, but you might be in for a shock."
Chloe nodded. "Laurence, you said that Tony always tries to set you up when you go out with him… if it’s a gay club…" Chloe’s voice trailed off.
Laurence looked intently at Chloe and waited for her to finish her sentence.
"…he sets you up with other women?" asked Chloe shyly, finishing her sentence.
"Oh," answered Chloe. Not looking at Laurence she asked, "is he ever successful?"
Laurence smiled at Chloe’s shyness. "Chloe, look at me." Chloe slowly brought her eyes to level with Laurence. "The answer is no. He has never found a match for me."
"Oh…can I ask you a question?" Laurence nodded. " Are you…"
"...gay?" asked Laurence finishing Chloe’s question.
"If being attracted to women makes you gay, then yes I am. But, if having ever had a relationship with a woman is what makes you gay, then no I’m not."
"I don’t get it," said Chloe sincerely.
"Tony thinks I should get involved with another woman because every guy I’ve been involved with so far has been a jerk. I don’t really care at this point if the next person I’m with is a man or woman, I just want them to love me for who I am."
"Oh…that makes more sense."
"I’m surprised you haven’t left screaming yet," said Laurence sarcastically.
"Why? You're my friend. It doesn’t bother me…and thanks."
"For telling me."
"You’re welcome," said Laurence with a smile
They left the restaurant and walked around Les Halles for a little while. It was close to dusk, and the heat of the day evaporated from the pavement, giving place to the cooler air of the evening. The streets were less crowded than earlier during the day. A couple sat next to a fountain murmuring soft words to each other, the artists were packing up their palettes and pencils, and the musicians were putting away their instruments.
"Wow, it’s true what people say," whispered Chloe to herself.
Laurence’s acute hearing picked up on Chloe’s remark. "What do you mean?"
"I read somewhere in a magazine that everything stopped in Paris around 7 p.m."
Chloe looked around her and took it all in. The orange and red color of the sunset reflecting on the pavement, the smell of fresh bread being baked, the sound of the city getting ready for the evening, and the way Laurence’s hair shone with the last sun ray of the day. Chloe shyly smiled at Laurence. "I wish you didn’t have to go tomorrow."
"I wish I didn’t have to go," softly answered Laurence.
"Lo, would you do me a favor?" asked Chloe, stopping and facing Laurence.
"I know you probably are going to be really busy once you get back to school, but would you…." Chloe stopped, suddenly feeling timid.
"Would I what?"
"…call me once in a while…I mean…I don’t really know anyone around here. Well, I did met this guy in the plane, but I mean I like you and…"
"Yes," answered Laurence, speaking over Chloe’s mumble.
Chloe, oblivious to Laurence’s answer, kept on going. "…we spent so much time together. I understand if you don’t think you’ll have time. It’s okay really…"
"Chloe, didn’t you hear?" asked Laurence, grabbing Chloe by her shoulder.
"Yes, of course I’ll keep in touch. Of course, I’ll call you."
"Really?" Laurence nodded, not releasing her hold on Chloe’s shoulder.
"I'll do my best…I…really like you Chloe. I wonder how you put up with me, but I’m glad you do," said Laurence sincerely.
Chloe looked at Laurence, feeling relief wash over her. I don’t know why I care so much, but I’m glad she didn’t turn me down. "Thanks."
Laurence let go of Chloe’s shoulder and teasingly poked her in the ribs. "You’re welcome. We’re friends, you said so yourself." Laurence looked at her watch. "Listen, we probably should get going. By the time we get home and get ready it’ll be time to drive back."
"Okay, let’s go. I like this part of Paris. It’s so exotic."
"I’ve never heard anyone call it that, but if you say so." Laurence led Chloe back to the bike.
As soon as they got home, Beatrice called to see when Laurence was leaving, and if she would still be there by the time they got back. It turned out that she hadn’t planned on coming home before late evening, and Laurence’s train was in early afternoon. Laurence argued a long time with Beatrice about not seeing Clément before she left, but nothing could coax Beatrice into coming home earlier. After the phone conversation, Laurence slammed the phone into its receiver.
"Damn…damn her. ARGHHH…" Laurence paced the living room floor, kicking the furniture in her way. "I can’t stand it anymore!" yelled Laurence to a picture of her dad and Beatrice displayed on top of the entertainment center. She picked up the picture and sent it flying across the room, breaking the frame in pieces. The noise the picture made when it crashed stopped Laurence in her tracks. "What am I doing?" She looked around the room. The phone was on the floor near the door, pieces of glass covered the wooden floor, cushions had been thrown around the room, and the coffee table legs carried the mark of Laurence’s boots.
Chloe, who had left Laurence to her privacy after the phone rang, rushed back downstairs after hearing loud crashes. "Laurence, are you allr…" She stopped in the middle of the stairs seeing the disaster in the living room. "What happened?" She asked making her way to the bottom of the steps.
Laurence was kneeling on the floor picking up pieces of glass. "Don’t walk in here if you don’t have any shoes on," said Laurence, ignoring Chloe’s question.
"Laurence, what the hell happened here?" Laurence stood up and sighed, passing her hand in her hair. "My God! Laurence, your hand…you’re bleeding." Laurence looked at her hands, and realized that the left one was covered with blood.
"It’s nothing…just a small cut."
"Small cut...let me look at it," said Chloe, walking toward Laurence.
"It’s nothing really…just leave it," said Laurence, suddenly embarrassed about the situation.
"It could be deep…it looks deep. Where is your first aid kit?"
Laurence stepped away from Chloe. "I told you it’s okay," she said forcefully.
"Listen, you’re bleeding all over. You need to do something about it."
"Fine…in the bathroom near the library."
"Thanks, now you sit down and let me go get it." Chloe pushed Laurence into a leather chair and ran to get the first aid kit.
"Okay, I got it." She walked back to the living room to find Laurence wearing a defeated look on her face. She chose to ignore it and first take care of Laurence’s cut. She grabbed a chair from the dining room and positioned it, so she could have a clear look at Laurence’s left hand. She softly picked it up and started cleaning the wound.
Laurence stared at Chloe. Why did I let my temper get the best of me? She hasn’t even asked me why I trashed the room.
"It’s going to sting a little." Chloe softly, almost tenderly, tapped some antiseptic on the wound. Laurence didn’t flinch; her eyes were still riveted on Chloe. She was taken by her kindness and could not take her mind away from the softness of her hands. Laurence, you have to get a grip. She shook her head. "Thanks…it didn’t hurt at all…you’d make a good nurse."
Chloe smiled and brushed her blond hair back. She lightly touched Laurence’s knee. "Laurence…what happened?"
"I’m sorry…Beatrice…she really has a way of getting to me." Laurence suddenly felt ashamed of her behavior.
"Laurence, she must have done a little more than 'get to' you…you messed up this room pretty bad." Chloe looked around the room, assessing the damages.
Laurence looked at Chloe and got up. "Yeah…well, I’ll clean up…no sweat.’
"Laurence, please talk to me…what did she say to put you in such a mood?"
Laurence sat on the couch in defeat. "She’s not coming back before late evening tomorrow. I won’t see Clément before I go…it’d be okay if she wasn’t doing it purposely, but she is."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah…trust me." Chloe sat next to Laurence on the coach.
"Why would she do that?" asked Chloe, lightly touching Laurence’s newly bandaged hand.
"Many reasons. Don’t want to discuss them now." Laurence abruptly got up and started cleaning the room, indicating clearly that she wasn’t going to answer any more questions. Chloe sighed.
"Fine, have it your way. Do you still want to go tonight?"
"Yeah, it should be a good distraction. Why don’t you go get ready? We should get going in an hour or so."
" ‘kay," said Chloe, going
Laurence cleaned up the family room and went upstairs to change. Once in her room, she shed her clothes and stepped in the shower. The warm water soothed her nerves, and Laurence made a pact with herself that she was not going to let anything ruin her last evening with Chloe. She turned the water off and got out, grabbing a towel to wrap herself in. She wiped the fog off the mirror and stared at herself. Her black hair hung wet on her broad shoulders, her tanned face looked relaxed and younger than it had in years. Laurence smiled at her reflection, and slightly brushed her fingers under her eyes. No more bags…wow. I guess I have been sleeping better lately. She grabbed a brush and started fighting with the knots in her hair. I bet Chloe doesn’t have knot problems. Her hair always looks so silky. Laurence smiled at the thought. She finally combed through the last knot and ripped the now wet bandage from her hand. The cut had stopped bleeding, and it didn’t look too deep.
"I really have to learn to control my temper," sighed Laurence, walking to her bedroom. She looked through her closet and opted for a pair of black jeans and a pale green silk shirt. She put on a light touch of make up, grabbed a Perrier from her personal reserve and left her room.
Chloe was already waiting downstairs. Her eyes settled on Laurence walking down the stairs.
"Here you are. You took forever."
"Sorry, I don’t usually take so long," apologized Laurence.
"I’m teasing. I just got downstairs. Are we taking your bike?"
"No, I want to be able to drink something. We’re taking the metro." Laurence looked at Chloe. She wore light brown eye shadow that intensified the green of her eyes. She had on tight black leather pants and a sleeveless red turtleneck. Her hair was up but some loose strands of hair had fallen around her face, and her ears bore golden earrings in the shape of a sun.
"Laurence, you're staring," exclaimed Chloe.
"Oh, sorry…I…didn’t mean…"
Chloe laughed. "It’s okay. Are we going or what?"
"Yeah…yeah, we are," answered
Laurence, embarrassed at having been caught staring. "It’s a short walk
to the metro."
They got off at Porte de La Chapelle. Chloe had been surprised and outraged by the number of homeless begging for money inside the train. They would climb on at a stop, give a little speech and go down the aisle with their hands extended, expecting money from people. Chloe’s heart had been broken when she saw a young mother entering the train with her newborn to beg for food and money. She had reached for her wallet, but Laurence had stopped her.
"Don’t. If you start giving you’ll never stop."
They were now walking out of the metro station. The polluted air of Paris seemed almost fresh compared to the smell of sweat and unwashed bodies found in the metro.
"Yukk," said Chloe once they were outside. "God, your metro is gross and dirty. Do all those homeless people sleep in there?"
"For the most part, yeah. It’s dirty, but it gets you where you have to go. Not all stations are this bad."
"Glad to know that."
"The club is a few blocks away. Chloe, it’s not the best area, so stay close to me and keep one hand on your wallet." Laurence crossed the street, followed by Chloe.
The walls were covered with graffiti and a trash can had been tipped over, its contents spilled across the pavement. The remains of a burned car stood next to the sidewalk.
"I’m glad I’m not here alone," said Chloe, getting closer to Laurence.
"It’s creepy, but I’ve walked those streets alone, and nothing has ever happened. Don’t worry."
"Okay, I’ll take you word for it." Chloe answered, speeding her walk.
They took one last turn and found themselves in front of La Joconde. A large crowd was waiting in line, and two bouncers were letting people in after searching them.
"What are they doing?" Chloe asked, taking her place in the line.
"Checking for drugs and weapons."
"Boy, and I thought Paris was the city of love, city of peace."
Laurence laughed. "Come on Chloe, aren’t there any bad areas in Washington?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Same here. We just happen to be in one of them."
"Why put a club in a place where people are scared of walking alone?" asked Chloe sarcastically.
"Because French people are very narrow minded and would never put a gay club in a fancy neighborhood, that’s why."
"Oh…" Chloe had not thought about that. She had always been told that the French were very promiscuous and open to any kind of sexuality.
"I know what Americans think of the French, that we sleep with everyone and cheat on our partners. Isn’t that true?" asked Laurence.
"Well… It’s what I heard."
"Chloe, you can’t believe everything everyone tells you. I know that my family is not the best example because of Beatrice, but trust me, people don’t make a habit of cheating on their spouses. Also, the French are very old fashioned, so the gay movement is not very popular." Laurence pushed Chloe forward. "Go on, it’s our turn."
Once the bouncer opened the door, the music burst out, enveloping Laurence and Chloe in its rhythm. They entered a large room with people dancing in the middle, bars surrounding the room on each side.
"Tony is upstairs. Come on," said Laurence, shouting to be heard above the music. Wooden stairs were placed at the extreme right of the room. The upstairs consisted of balconies overlooking the dance floor below. Different opened rooms were accessible. Laurence pushed Chloe toward the furthest room on the right. Tony was sitting with three of his friends on a couch at the end of the room. The room was small but nicely decorated. Black and white photographs of men and women hung on the walls, and a leather couch and black coffee table completed its atmosphere. Tony spotted Laurence and Chloe.
"Hey, girls! Over here," he yelled.
They made their way to Tony. Laurence kissed Tony lightly on the cheek and shook hands with his friends.
"Guys, this is my friend Laurence and her family’s adorable new au pair coming straight from the States. Honey, what’s your name again?" Tony asked putting his arm around Chloe’s shoulders.
"Chloe, Laurence, those are my friends Sylvain and Marc, and this is my special friend Clovis." Tony plopped himself back on the couch and grabbed Clovis’ hand to drive his point across. Laurence smiled and grabbed two chairs from a near by table. She offered one to Chloe, who sat down smiling at her to thank her.
The room was far enough from the dance floor that conversation was possible. The music was still loud, but screaming was not needed anymore.
"Do you girls want to drink something?" asked Tony.
"Yeah, but I’ll get it," answered Laurence. "Chloe, would you like something?" asked Laurence, getting up.
" A coke please."
"J’croyais que les Americains étez élever à la bière," said Sylvain sarcastically while sipping his drink. He had bleached blond hair, an earring in his left ear, penetrating brown eyes, and was wearing a white tee shirt and a simple pair of blue jeans. Chloe looked at him. She understood what he had said, and knew he was probably joking, but she could not find the words in French to answer.
"Hey, play nice," said Laurence. "Chloe doesn’t speak much French, so the rule is that if you want to make fun, you have to do it in English, so you guys are on equal ground. Get it." Laurence’s face bore a smile, but her eyes were intensely fixed on Sylvain, leaving no doubt that her request had better be agreed to.
"I was just joking," answered Sylvain.
Laurence ignored him and turned to Chloe. "I’ll be right back."
"I’ll keep an eye on her," joked Tony, smiling at Laurence. Laurence left the room glancing one final time at Chloe. "Boy, she sure is protective," commented Tony.
Tony lit a cigarette and offered one to Chloe.
"No thanks. I don’t smoke," she answered.
Tony nodded. "So, Chloe, how do you like your stay so far?"
"I like it. Laurence took me to the castle of Versailles yesterday. It was great." Chloe smiled at the memory.
"You’re here for one year?"
"Beatrice hasn’t driven you crazy yet?" asked Tony with a smile.
"You know about her?" Chloe was somehow surprised.
"Yeah, Laurence and I go back a long way." Tony took a puff from his cigarette and seemed to be contemplating his next question. "You guys seem to get along very well."
"I think so. We didn’t start out that way, but we have come a long way." Chloe looked at Tony, wondering where this round of questions was taking her.
"She’s been through lots of crap, so treat her well." Before Chloe had time to ask what he meant by that, Laurence had made her way back to the table with their drinks.
"Here you go." She handed Chloe her drink and sat down. "Tony, I hope you haven’t been bothering Chloe," she said half jokingly, half seriously.
"No, I’ve been a perfect gentleman." Tony suddenly stood up and grabbed Clovis’ hand. "I love this song. Come on, let’s go dance." Clovis got up and laced his fingers with Tony’s. "Are you girls coming?" asked Tony.
"Let’s go Lo," said Chloe getting up.
"No, go right ahead. I’m just going to sit here for a while."
"You’re such a party pooper," said Tony, putting his free arm around Chloe’s shoulders. "Come on babe, let’s go boogie. Are you guys coming?" he asked Sylvain and Marc. Without further delay, he led Clovis and Chloe out with Sylvain and Marc following close behind. Chloe glanced back briefly at Laurence before being dragged out. Laurence sat back in her chair, and let her gaze wander over Chloe’s form until she was out of sight. She slowly brought her glass to her lips and let the cold liquid go down her throat, the bitterness of the alcohol making her frown.
Meanwhile, the others had made their way downstairs. They forged a path through the crowd of dancers and started moving to the music. Chloe let her gaze wander around the room and stopped it on two women locked in a kiss, dancing to their own rhythm, oblivious to the crowd. She had expected to bolt or even feel disgusted, but instead she was riveted and could not take her eyes away. Tony followed Chloe’s gaze and smiled. Do I see interest? I wonder, he thought, moving sensually against his partner.
Chloe finally turned her focus back to Tony and his partner, and smiled faintly at Tony. The crowd of dancers had gotten larger and space was more and more limited. Tony and Clovis were dancing closer and closer, their bodies almost rubbing against each other. Couples were forming and the throbbing lights were pulsing more and more to the rhythm of the music. Chloe started feeling oppressed, her movements were restricted and breathing was becoming difficult because of the hot smoky air. She suddenly stopped dancing and brought her hand to her forehead wiping the sweat off.
"Chloe, are you okay?" asked Tony, touching Chloe on the shoulder.
"I feel a little dizzy...I…I think I need fresh air." She abruptly pushed Tony out of the way and headed for the exit, elbowing people in her way.
"Go get Laurence, I’m going to go make sure she is all right," said Tony to Clovis. Clovis nodded and hurried upstairs. Tony went in search of Chloe outside. He opened the exit door and stepped into the fresh night air. Chloe was sitting on the side- walk, her back against the wall, her eyes closed.
"Hey, you’re okay?"
She recognized his voice and kept her eyes closed. "Yeah, I just needed some fresh air."
"What happened back there?"
"Don’t know." She didn’t want to answer and just wanted to be left alone. Yes, the throbbing lights and the smoke had been part of her sudden nausea, but her lack of reaction to seeing those two women kiss had surprised her and made her uncomfortable, almost nauseous. I don’t get it, I had never seen homosexuals together before, had never even met one. Tonight I see them in the act, and it doesn’t even bother me. I can’t believe I even wondered how it felt to kiss another woman. What in the world is wrong with me?
"Clovis went to get Laurence. Can I get you a glass of water?" asked Tony.
Tony, I just wish you could go away right now, so I can sort out my emotions…as if bringing Laurence here is going to help.
"No thanks Tony. I’ll be fine in just a minute." The door opened suddenly, and Laurence came rushing out followed by Clovis. She knelt next to Chloe.
"Chloe, what’s wrong?" She had been frantic with worry since Clovis had told her to come quick because Chloe wasn’t feeling well. Laurence touched Chloe’s forehead, her cheeks, and finally grabbed her hands. Chloe had opened her eyes at Laurence’s first touch and was now looking at their joined hands. She felt warmth going through her and a sense of security.
"I just felt a little dizzy inside. Nothing to worry about. Probably the smoke, I’m not used to it."
Laurence brushed the back of her hand against Chloe’s cheek and kept one hand intertwined with Chloe’s. "You feel warm to me. I think I should take you home."
"No. I don’t want to spoil your last night in town. If you call me a cab and give him the address I can go back by myself. Please don’t cut it short because of me."
"No way I’m letting you go back alone." Laurence stood up suddenly and extended her hand to Chloe. "Can you get up?"
"Yeah, I think so." She grabbed Laurence’s hand and let herself be yanked to her feet. As soon as Laurence let go of her hand, she started to crumble. Laurence caught her and held her up. "We’re going home."
" ‘kay," said Chloe, defeated.
Laurence turned to Tony and Clovis who were still standing outside. "Guys, we are going to call it a night. Thanks for everything."
"Okay, call me when you get back to school." Tony lightly kissed Laurence on the lips. "Bye Chloe, I hope you feel better." He gave her a quick squeeze on the arm, grabbed Clovis’ hand and left.
"I have to hail a cab. Do you want to sit back down?"
"No, I’m okay. Go ahead." Laurence slowly let go of Chloe. She stepped off the sidewalk and starting waving at cabs passing by. After a few minutes, one stopped. She went back to Chloe and helped her get in the cab. Once Chloe was secured, she walked around the car, opened the other door and sat.
"Versailles, rue de provence."
"Oui madame," answered the can driver. "Voulez vous prendre l’autoroute ou le periferique?"
"J’m’en fiche, le plus rapide."
Laurence turned to Chloe who was propped up against the door, her eyes closed.
"How are you feeling?" asked Laurence.
"I’m okay. Really, we could have stayed longer."
"Come on Chloe, cut the crap. Five minutes ago you could barely stand up." Laurence’s reply was made with more animosity than she intended to.
"Please, Laurence, don’t be mad…I’m sorry." Chloe said softly. For a brief moment she thought she had been reacquainted with the Laurence she first met, abrupt, rude and constantly annoyed with her.
Laurence’s annoyance vanished as soon as Chloe’s words were spoken. Chloe looked so miserable, her hair hung in her face, and she was staring at her hands lying on her lap. "I didn’t mean to sound bitchy. I’m sorry. You’re not feeling well, and I’m being obnoxious," said Laurence, scooting closer to Chloe.
Chloe looked hesitantly at Laurence who was now only a few inches away. "Sorry I ruined your evening."
"You didn't… I was worried about you," whispered Laurence.
"Yeah." She pulled Chloe towards her, so she could lay her head on her shoulder. "Use me as a pillow, I’ll wake you up when we get home." Chloe let Laurence wrap her arm around her shoulder, and softly put her head down. She tried to fight sleep, but her eyelids felt heavy.
"Don’t try to stay awake. I
promise I won’t leave you in the cab," kidded Laurence, her breath softly
brushing against Chloe’s hair. So, as the car went down the highway and
Paris was left behind, Chloe closed her eyes and surrendered to sleep.
Laurence sat in the cab with Chloe asleep in her arms, and watched the street lights go by, adjusting her hold on Chloe. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I was so worried for her. Why? Less than a week ago we were strangers. Going away is going to do me some good. I’ll go back to school and forget about this week. Forget…yeah, that’s probably the safest…
The cab pulled up to the gate. Laurence softly shook Chloe awake. "Hey, sleepyhead, we’re home…come on, wake up."
Chloe opened her eyes, and sat up. "Are we there already?"
Laurence chuckled. "Yeah, you slept all the way. How are you feeling?" she asked while handing the cab driver money and opening the door. She stepped out and turned to help Chloe.
Laurence slammed the cab door. "Good. A good night's sleep, and you’ll be as good as new."
"Guess so." Chloe yawned and followed Laurence who had just opened the gate. They stepped inside the courtyard. The high brick walls made it a nest away from the city noise. A light was still burning on the second floor of the house next door.
"Guess our neighbors are burning the midnight oil," remarked Chloe.
"Yeah, guess so." Laurence opened the front door and walked into the dark house. She felt around for the light switch. "Damn, where is it? I can never find this damn…here we go," she exclaimed turning the light on.
Chloe walked past Laurence into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water. "Want some water?"
"No, I’m going to call it a night."
Chloe walked into the family room and sat down on the couch, sipping her water. The dizziness of earlier had disappeared. Must have really been the smoke, she thought, putting her glass down on the coffee table and unlacing her shoes. "Lo, when are you leaving tomorrow?"
"Since I can’t see Clément, first thing in the morning."
"Will I see you?" asked Chloe, her heart suddenly beating faster with anxiety.
"Don’t think so." Laurence started going up the stairs. "It was great hanging out with you. Bye." With those words she left.
Chloe sat dumbfounded for a few minutes. What? That’s it. Great hanging out with you, bye! What the hell? Tears started slowly falling down Chloe’s cheeks. She can’t just walk away like that after everything we shared.
"Damn her. I’m not going to let her get away so easily." Chloe got up angrily, and ran up the stairs, decided to at least get a proper goodbye out of Laurence. Who the hell does she think she is?
Laurence’s door was closed, but Chloe didn’t even bother knocking. She barged into the room in a fury. "Laurence, what the hell was all of that about? Great hanging out with you, bye. I thought we had a little more going on than just the usual great to meet you," yelled Chloe, walking toward Laurence who was standing at the window with a surprised look on her face. "What was all this fuss about being worried about me earlier if you feel like you can just turn your back on me and leave? Were you just lying?" Chloe stopped to catch her breath, tears rolling down her cheeks, her eyes a deep dark green, face red with anger.
Laurence had not moved. She was standing near the window, not knowing what to do, not knowing if she should let herself do what she really wanted to do. Her fists were clenched and she was staring intensely into Chloe’s eyes, her heart melting at the view of the tears she had caused. Suddenly she made a decision and stepped forward. She reached for Chloe’s face and gently wiped her tears away, not once looking away. They spent what seemed an eternity staring into each other’s eyes. Chloe’s tears had stopped, and she could only feel the warmth of Laurence’s hands on her face. Slowly, Laurence took a step forward and drew Chloe into her arms, wrapping them tightly around her. Chloe let go of the tension she had been holding and started crying again. Not a word had been exchanged. Laurence tightened her grip on Chloe and lightly kissed the top of her head.
"I’m sorry. I don’t know how to let you go. It scares me, Chloe. I thought that by just walking away, it would be easier. I was selfish, I only thought about myself. I never thought you cared. I’m sorry, please don’t cry. I really was worried earlier, and it scares me to think I could care so much."
Chloe’s tears had dried, giving way to soft sniffles. She lifted her head up and looked at Laurence with red puffy eyes. "I’m sorry I burst into your room like that, but the thought that you could leave without really saying goodbye horrified me. I could not imagine after what we shared this week that you could walk away so easily."
Laurence sighed and squeezed Chloe one last time before releasing her. She walked to her bed and sat down, patting the area next to her for Chloe to sit down. Once Chloe was settled next to her she spoke again. "I don’t know what’s happening to me Chloe. When I’m not with you, I think about you. When I’m with you, I can’t stop looking at you. I…" She stopped at lost with words.
Chloe reached for Laurence’s hand. "Please…go on."
Laurence looked at Chloe and nodded. She took a deep breath and tightened her grip on Chloe’s hand. "Do you remember what we spoke about this afternoon? About what Tony believes about me?" Chloe nodded. "I think he might be right." Chloe suddenly withdrew her hand. "I’m sorry Chloe. That’s mostly the reason I thought it would be better to just leave tonight without properly saying goodbye." Laurence stared at the door, not daring to look at Chloe.
Chloe had been surprised by Laurence’s statement, but still wasn’t sure about one thing. "Laurence, do you think you like me…I mean do you think you…"
"Yes, I think so… Oh, I don’t know, I’m confused. It’s all new to me," interrupted Laurence, roughly passing her hand through her hair.
"What do you want from me?" asked Chloe hesitantly.
"Nothing," exclaimed Laurence abruptly. "Chloe, I’ll deal with it. I know that until today you had never even been in touch with a homosexual…I’m….I’m not asking you for anything except your friendship. I’ll go away for a few months and deal with that on my own. You’ll see, it’ll be all gone by the time I come back," said Laurence, rushing through.
"What if I don’t want you to?" whispered Chloe, fiddling with the blanket.
"What if I don’t want you to?" repeated Chloe loudly.
"What do you mean?"
"What if I didn’t want you to stop thinking about me this way?" asked Chloe timidly.
"Chloe, you don’t know what you’re asking."
"You assumed I want to run away from this. Why? Because I had never been exposed to homosexuality before today? Why do you assume you’re the only one having those feelings?"
"No, let me finish. The smoke wasn’t the only reason why I was sick earlier. Confusion was a big part of it. While I was dancing I saw two women kissing and wondered what it felt like. I couldn’t help thinking about you. My brain was telling me no, but my heart was saying yes. I’m as confused as you are Laurence, but I know one thing."
"What’s that?" asked Laurence, swallowing with difficulty.
"There is something strong between us, and I’m not willing to just brush it away and pretend it’s not here."
A long silence established itself. The only noises in the room were those of far away cars and a barking dog. Laurence broke the silence. "What do you suggest we do?"
"I don’t know," answered Chloe, suddenly feeling drained. "I don’t know how much I’m ready for or what I can give you."
"Let’s take it slow. No strings attached. I don’t know what I’m ready for either."
Chloe nodded. "I guess I should get going." She got up and slowly walked to the door.
"Chloe, wait…please stay…" Laurence got up and extended her hand to Chloe.
"Lo, we just said let’s take it slow."
"I just want to hold you through the night. I’m leaving tomorrow, and I want to know I was with you until the last minute." Her hand was still extended. Her blue eyes almost begging. Chloe paused a few moments and looked at Laurence’s hand, reaching for it. Laurence smiled and walked toward the bed. She removed the top cover, took her shoes off, and lay on the bed. Chloe removed her shoes and climbed in bed next to Laurence. She lay down next to her, not daring to touch. Laurence scooted closer and shyly grabbed Chloe’s hands. "Is that okay?" she asked, unsure.
"I have a better idea," answered Chloe, moving up on her side and laying her head on Laurence’s shoulder. "Is that okay?"
"Yeah, it’s great," answered Laurence. She reached for the switch, turned the light off, and pulled the blanket over both of them. "Good night Chloe."
"Good night Lo." Chloe snuggled closer and closed her eyes. She quickly drifted off to sleep, feeling safe and secure.
Laurence lightly kissed the top of Chloe’s head. Her last thought before falling asleep was, What do we do now?
Laurence finished brushing her hair and looked at the clock. 7:30 a.m. I should get going if I want to get the 8:30 train. She silently put her jacket on and walked to the bed where Chloe was still fast asleep, holding the pillow Laurence had been sleeping on. Laurence contemplated the idea of just leaving her a note but decided against it. No more running away. She quietly sat on the bed and tenderly brushed her fingers over Chloe’s forehead. Chloe mumbled something and buried herself deeper into the pillow. Laurence gently shook Chloe to wake her.
"Chloe, I have to go," whispered Laurence.
Chloe opened her eyes and looked around the room, disoriented. Her gaze settled on Laurence and a smile lit her face. "Good morning."
"Good morning. I have to leave, but I wanted to say good bye."
Chloe sat up in the bed. "Do you really have to go so early?"
"Yeah, my train leaves at 8:30 a.m." Laurence looked at Chloe, not knowing what to do or what to say next. "I…I guess I’ll call you." She got up, straightened her jacket and turned around, but was stopped by a hand on her arm.
"Wait," said Chloe, forcing Laurence to face her. "You forgot something."
"This," answered Chloe, stepping forward and hugging Laurence. Laurence reciprocated the hug and buried her face in Chloe’s hair.
"You should go back to sleep, it’s very early. You can use my room when I’m gone you know."
Chloe released her hold on Laurence, squeezed her hands and stepped back. "Thanks, I probably will. At least you have a phone," she smiled.
"Yep, and cable too."
"Oh yeah, this room is mine," laughed Chloe. Laurence brushed a strand of loose hair behind her ear and picked up her suitcase.
"I should go." She stood for a few moments looking at Chloe, not knowing what to do. She then opened the door and turned to Chloe one last time. Chloe had not moved from where she stood after the hug. Her hair was disheveled, black streaks of make up covered her cheeks and her shirt was wrinkled. Laurence took it all in as if she was trying to store Chloe’s picture in her mind. "I really should go."
Chloe nodded and swallowed hard. " ‘kay."
"I’ll call," said Laurence before abruptly walking out of the room and closing the door. Chloe stood staring at the door for a few moments. She heard the front door close behind Laurence and looked out the window. She yanked it open and shouted to Laurence who was already walking down the sidewalk. "Laurence!" Laurence turned around and looked up at Chloe. They both smiled. No words were needed, their smiles holding the promise of the future. After a few moments, Laurence turned and walked away.
Go to Chapter VI