Chloe slept very little and was woken up around 6 a.m. by Jean calling to tell her that he should be back by Thursday. Chloe hung up and laid in bed for a while, waiting for Clément to wake up. Her mind still sleepy, but happy to know that Jean would be around this weekend to take care of Clément. She had a strong feeling that Beatrice never came home the night before. Shortly after 7 a.m., Chloe heard the sound of Clément waking up. She got out of bed, and went to get him. Clément seemed refreshed by his night of sleep and in a very giggly mood. He asked for Laurence and his dad, but never mentioned Beatrice. Chloe put on a sing along tape for him while she quickly showered. She fed him, dressed him and walked him to school. Clément's teacher handed her a note saying "Clément's parents."
Chloe slowly walked back form the school, enjoying the fresh autumn breeze, and the early morning sun. She stopped by the boulangerie as she did the day before, and bought a croissant for Clément's snack and one for her breakfast. On her way home, she waved at the neighbor, who as every morning was sitting on his front step sipping his coffee.
"Bonjour monsieur Cambier?"
"Bonjour ma p'tite Chloe. Comment vas tu ce matin?" asked the old man, dipping his toast in his coffee, and swallowing the morsel.
"Je vais bien et vous?"
"Oh, tu sais, j'suis plus tout jeune." He slowly got up and walked up the steps. "Bonne journée ma grande."
"Oui, vous aussi."
Chloe enjoyed her morning small talks with monsieur Cambier, she didn't always understand what he was talking about, but he was always very nice and polite to her. She had learned a few weeks back that he was a veteran of The World War II, and had worked all his life in the mines in the North of France before retiring and moving to Versailles with his wife. His wife was an aristocrat, and their marriage 40 years ago to a commoner had broken any bounds she had with her family; except with an old aunt who when she died gave her her Versailles' house. Monsieur Cambier was quite a character, with his old overalls and constant cigarette hanging of his mouth. He spent most of his day sitting on his front steps watching the traffic and people walking by.
Chloe opened the gate, and was surprised to find Beatrice's car parked in the courtyard. She found Beatrice lying on the coach wearing her robe and covered by a blanket. "Hi, I wasn't expecting you home before tonight," said Chloe, entering the family room.
"Hello, Chloe. I don't feel very well, so I decided to spend the day home," explained Beatrice, her voice was low and almost shaking. Chloe felt absolutely no compassion for the sick woman.
"Okay, I'll go up to my room and let you rest."
"Chloe, wait. Could you bring me a cup of tea?"
Chloe looked at the woman lying on the coach, ready to tell her to do it herself, but instead nodded and left for the kitchen. She warmed up water in the microwave and dumped a tea bag in it. "Here you go," she said, handing Beatrice the beverage.
"Thanks. I don't know what's wrong with me. I never get sick." Beatrice took a sip from the warm beverage." Hum…this is good. What did Clément's teacher say yesterday?"
Chloe looked at Beatrice trying to evaluate how much she was willing to tell her at the moment. She sighed and reached for the note Clément's teacher had just gave her. "She gave me that this morning."
Beatrice took the note and opened it, scanning quickly over it. "She wants to see Jean and I as soon as possible." Beatrice fell back on her pillow and threw her arm over her eyes. "Oh, God, what has this kid done now?" She said exasperated.
"It's not what he has done she is concerned about, it is what you have done to him." The words flew out of Chloe's mouth before she had time to react. Damn, why can I just shut up? Chloe froze and waited for Beatrice to react.
"What do you mean?" asked Beatrice, sitting up.
"I don't think it's my job to tell you. Why don't you discuss it with her?" Chloe slowly backed up towards the stairs.
"What did she say yesterday Chloe?" asked Beatrice, her voice almost menacing.
Chloe sighed. "She said that Clément reacts strangely to people touching him. She said that she has seen strange bruises on him." Chloe held Beatrice's gaze, refusing to back down.
"She said that. Interesting. Well, we'll have to see what she is basing her convictions on," said Beatrice, lying back down.
"To the bruises she has seen on Clément, Beatrice," replied Chloe angrily.
Beatrice propped herself in her elbow and looked at Chloe. "Well, well, young lady. Are you insinuating that we hit our child?"
"I'm insinuating that you hit your child, Beatrice. Not Jean," barked Chloe, slowly losing her temper.
Beatrice laughed sarcastically. "You know young lady, you are not irreplaceable. You have done a good job so far, but I'll not tolerate any insults in my house. Is that clear?"
Chloe looked at Beatrice coldly. "I don't know what this child has done to you, but I swear if you ever…ever touch him again…"
"What? Are you menacing me?" Beatrice asked amused.
"Take it as you will," answered Chloe. "And for your information…I might not be irreplaceable, but I'm your only choice. Nobody wants to come and work for you Beatrice. Also, if you call the organization and asked them to send me back, I'll explain to them what your idea of being a good mother is." She stared into Beatrice's eyes for a few seconds and walked away. Before she had time to reach the stairs, Beatrice's voice stopped her.
'This argument would work if I were really his mother, Chloe."
"What?" Said Chloe loudly, turning around to face Beatrice.
"Don't tell me you didn't know," smiled Beatrice amusingly.
"Know what?" Asked Chloe incredulously.
"Come on Chloe? Does Clément look anything like me?" laughed Beatrice.
Chloe walked back near the coach. "No, but I don't look anything like my mother, and it doesn't mean that… Are you saying that Clément is not yours?"
"Yes, it's what I'm saying. Now, please I'm really tired, and I'd like to rest."
"Wait a minute. You can tell me that and expect me to walk away. What do you mean he is not your son?"
"What do you think I mean? I'm not his mother."
"Is Jean…" Chloe could not finish her sentence almost scared to hear the answer.
"No, he isn't either."
Chloe sat dumbfounded on a chair. "So, he is adopted…big deal. It still doesn't give you the right to mistreat him. He is legally young son." She abruptly stood up, her anger suddenly back.
"Oh, Chloe, you are so naïve," laughed Beatrice. "Who does Clément look the most like? Come on think a little." Beatrice had sat back, obviously thinking the situation was quite amusing.
Chloe thought for a minute, and suddenly the answer dawned in her. "No, it's impossible…"
"And…you probably thought you knew everything about her, didn't you?" laughed Beatrice.
Chloe stared at the coffee table her mind not wanting to believe what she had just learned. "Laurence? It can't be…"
"Well, it is. Someone has to cover for this little brat's mistake. She is lucky Clément is healthy and smart with the drugs she took while she was pregnant with him." Chloe looked at Beatrice, finding nothing to say. "Come on. Have you nothing to say?" joked Beatrice, sarcastically.
"Why did she give him away?" asked Chloe, wanting to understand what happen.
"Jean thought he would be the best thing for the child. Anyway, she was in rehab and really didn't have much say in the situation."
Chloe nodded. "She is fine now. Why is she still pretending to be his sister?"
"Missed goody two shoes is too concerned about his well-being. Anyway, this little brat looks exactly like her," said Beatrice with spitefulness.
Beatrice's last sentence refueled
Chloe's anger. "The bottom line Beatrice is that Clément think you
are his mother, and if the reason you mistreat him is because he looks
like Laurence, you are even more pathetic than I thought. What I say earlier
still stand." She abruptly turned around and ran upstairs
Chloe's first reaction was to go to Laurence's room and dialed her number in Lille. She let the phone rang twice and hung up. Her anger slowly leaving place to disbelief. "Why hasn't she told me? Why?" she called aloud, the only answer the noise of the cars passing by in the street. The phone suddenly rang, making Chloe jumped.
"Hey, it's me. You called?"
"Hey, yeah…I…I didn't think you'll be home. How did you know it was me?"
"You're home early," said Chloe, trying to change the subject.
"I only have a class from 8 to 9a.m. My next class is not before 3."
"Is everything all right?"
"Sure, why are you asking?"
"Because your voice sounds a little shaky."
Chloe found nothing to answer.
"Chloe, are you still there? Chloe, what's wrong?"
"Yeah, I'm here."
"Are you okay?" asked Laurence, her voice showing concern.
"I just had a talk with Beatrice…and…"
"Did she say anything to upset you?" asked Laurence, anger in her voice.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Tell you what?"
"About Clément?" A long silence happened before Laurence spoke again.
"What did she tell you?"
"She is not his mother, nor is Jean is father. Why didn't you tell me Laurence? Why didn't you tell me he was your child?" yelled Chloe.
"What would it have changed, Chloe? Clément doesn't know, and it's probably for the best."
"How can you say that? How could you….?"
"Wait, don't be too quick to judge me before you've heard my side of the story. Chloe, please don't do that," asked Laurence, almost begging. When she didn't get an answer, she continued. "I don't know what she told you, but it' complicated, and I can't explain it over the phone. This weekend?" She asked, fearing the answer.
"Do you ever regret giving him away?" asked Chloe.
"Every day of my life," answered Laurence, her voice barely audible.
"You dad is coming back on Thursday. My train gets in at 10 a.m. Be there."
"I will be…Chloe?"
"What?" She asked her tone harsher than she intended it to be.
"Thanks," said Laurence, her voice slightly trembling.
Chloe sighed deeply. "Together in this mess, remember?"
"Together," said Laurence before hanging up.
Chloe hung up the phone and
stared at it for a moment. Her anger replaced by sadness. She felt sad
for Laurence, and what she probably had to go through alone. "Explains
why she doesn't trust anyone." Chloe laid down on the bed staring at the
ceiling, letting the emotions of the morning washed over her. Closing her
eyes, she let images of Laurence playing with Clément invade her
mind, and slowly fell back asleep. She woke up shortly before 3 and had
to run to pick up Clément on time.
The rest of the week happened without anymore complications. Chloe tried to take care of Clément as much as she could, always keeping an eye and ear open when Beatrice was in charge. They had not talked anymore about the conversation they had, and what Beatrice told Chloe. When Jean came home on Thursday, Chloe felt relieved and for the first time in 3 days, relaxed. She decided to not tell Jean that she knew about Clément until she got the story from Laurence, and to wait for him to speak to Clément's teacher to voice her suspicions toward Beatrice.
When Chloe told Jean that she was going to spend the weekend at Laurence's his face lit up with a smile, and he gave his approval right away. Even going to the extent of canceling a meeting on Saturday, so he could take care of Clément.
Saturday morning arrived very fast, and Jean dropped Chloe at the train station a little after 7 a.m. As he drove away, Clément waved goodbye to Chloe.
The train ride was smooth, and Chloe slept through most of it. She woke up as the train pulled into Lille's train station.
"Arrêt Lille," called the conductor's voice. Chloe grabbed her bag from the overhead and got off the train. She scanned the crowd for Laurence, but could not see her. "Okay, she said to wait for her and not move," repeated Chloe to herself, planting herself near a ticket booth. Suddenly someone touched her shoulder from behind making her jump.
"Sorry I'm late."
She turned to find herself staring at Laurence. Laurence was smiling, her blue eyes shining with excitement. She wore her usual blue jeans, white T-shirt and leather jacket outfit, Her black hair was pulled back behind her ears, and she wore a small pair of silver earrings representing the moon.
"I thought you had forgotten about me," answered Chloe with a smile.
Laurence bent to pick up Chloe's bag and lightly brushed her knuckles over Chloe's hand. "Of course not. Come on let's go. I'm only 5 minutes away.
They stepped out into the busy street of Lille. After going down a big boulevard, they turned into an older neighborhood. The houses had a rustic aspect, and the streets were narrower.
"My apartment is in this building," pointed out Laurence. She retrieved a key from her back Jean pocket and opened the main entrance door. The lobby was large with high ceilings, mirrors were placed on each side of it, probably giving it a larger appearance. Laurence took the stairs two by two, stopping at the first floor and opening the second door. "Welcome to my home," she said smiling, bowing mockingly to let Chloe in. Her apartment was very small, but warmly decorated. The main room was used as a study room, a living room and a bedroom. A large futon was set again the wall, large built in closet doors were on the left wall separated by a fire place, the opposite wall from the futon had big windows half way covered with heavy curtains. On the right were two doors, which Chloe assumed were for the kitchen and bathroom. Paintings hung on the walls, some reproductions of Matisse's By the Sea works, other original works from Laurence. The carpet matched the blue of the futon, a large TV was placed on a dresser near the windows, a lap top had been left open near the TV, and a small table and two chairs stood next to the other window.
"Lo, this is great," exclaimed Chloe.
"Thanks. I'd give you a tour, but trust me what you see is what you get. The only other rooms are the bathroom and the kitchen.
"Yeah, I figured," smiled Chloe.
"Oh, here let me take your jacket." She removed Chloe's jacket and put it on the back of one of the chairs. Laurence turned to Chloe and stepped closer, lightly running her hand along her arms. "Thanks for coming," she said softly.
"I would have had it any other way," smiled Chloe. Laurence only hesitated a moment before slowly drawing her in her arms.
"I wanted to do that at the train station, but I didn't want to embarrass you," explained Laurence, tightening her hold.
"What?" Chloe moved slightly back and looked at Laurence." Lo, I come from a country where everyone hugs everyone. What are you talking about?"
"Maybe in the states, but not here. It's very rare to see people hug, unless they are…you know more than just friends."
Chloe laughed softly at Laurence's slight attempt to protect her. "Lo, aren't we more than friends?"
"Huh…yes…I mean, only if you want to…" Laurence rushed to answer, staggering on the words.
"Lo, how can you even doubt that we are more than friends after Monday?" smiled Chloe.
"I don't. I know where I stand," she answered seriously.
"Me too, so stop being insecure, and don't ever fight the urge to hug me gain, okay?"
"Yes, m'am," joked Laurence. "What about we go site-seeing for a while and grabbed lunch later on," asked Laurence, tenderly passing her hand in Chloe's hair.
Chloe took one step back and looked at Laurence. "That sounds great, but before we do anything, I want to finish the conversation we had the other day on the phone." She backed up and sat on the futon, waiting for Laurence to come and join her. Laurence sighed and sat next to her.
"What do you want to know?" asked Laurence with a defeated ton of voice.
"Only the truth. Lo, please look at me. I'm not judging you, but I think I deserve to know what happen." She grabbed Laurence's face and turned it gently toward her. "Nothing you say is going to make me run away screaming. I swear," she intensely looked into Laurence's eyes, trying to convey her honesty.
Laurence sighed again. "Okay…I don't even know where to start."
"Why don't you just tell me why you let your dad raise Clément, and we'll see where we go from here," said Chloe, lightly stroking Laurence's hands.
"I told you that when my mother died, I didn't accept it very well." Laurence looked at Chloe, waiting for a sign that she remembered talking about it. Chloe nodded. "Anyway, I was impossible to deal with, and my dad could not trust me to stay out of trouble when he was in business trips." Laurence posed for a few moments and ran her hand through her black hair. "He sent me to boarding school. Thinking that there they would be able to keep an eye on me…and they did…well, at least for a while. The people in the school were strict, and forced me to calm down and get myself back together. I stayed away from home for 6 months before coming home for vacation. It's when my dad introduced me to Beatrice…I hated her from the start." Laurence suddenly got up and went to stand by the windows. "After that I went back to my wild days, and got expelled from the school. It was only 3 months before my senior high school exam, so he registered me into a correspondence program, and somehow I managed to pass the exam. By then Beatrice and I couldn't stand each other, and the atmosphere at home was unbearable." Laurence paused and walked through the kitchen door.
"Do you want something to drink? I have Perrier and Coke?" She asked from the kitchen.
"Perrier would be great, thanks."
Laurence walked back in with the cold beverages in hand and handed one to Chloe. She opened hers and resumed her story. "Where was I? Oh, yes…well, Beatrice talked my dad into having me move out. So, during the summer I registered for College in Lille, got a place to live in and left. My dad paid for everything; probably out of guilt I guess…anyway, I got into drugs and alcohol, never went to class and somehow got pregnant." Laurence stopped and finished her Perrier.
"What do you mean, somehow got pregnant?" asked Chloe uncredoulously.
Laurence stared at the blank TV screen, refusing to look at Chloe. "I don't know Chloe…I was drank and probably high, and I don't remember." Chloe sat next to Laurence not knowing what to say. "I love Clément more than anything in the world, but I had nothing to give him." Laurence's voice had dropped, and she was playing with her empty bottle.
"What happened next?" asked Chloe, slowly taking hold of Laurence's right hand and squeezing it. Laurence looked at Chloe, her eyes filled with tears threatening to fall.
"When I found out I was pregnant I took even more drugs until one day I over dosed and passed out. The hospital called my dad, and told him what happen and in which state I was. He came and took me home." Laurence stopped again.
"Lo, if you want to we can stop for now, and you can tell me the end tonight," said Chloe, not wanting to upset her even more.
"No, no, I need to say it…I need you to know."
"Okay," answered Chloe softly.
"There was no way I could have taken care of Clément, so my dad and I struck a deal. He would help me clean up my act, forget that anything happen and try to put me through college again, at the condition that he and Beatrice raised Clément as his parents."
"You agreed?" interrupted Chloe.
"Yes, I had no other choice. I was in no physical or mental shape to raise a child. I thought it would be the best for him…. Chloe, I had nothing, and if I had refused my dad would have thrown me out in the streets, and then what kind of life would Clément had had?" Laurence got up and started pacing. "It made me feel better to know that I would still be part of his life, even if he was never to know that I was his mother. I thought my dad was trying to do what was best for me…"
"I can't believe he would put such an ultimatum on his own daughter," said Chloe in disbelief.
"That wasn't all his idea."
"Let me guess…Beatrice?"
"Yes, she is the one who had the idea of the ultimatum, and somehow managed to convince my dad. Anyway, the rest is history. I went to rehab, never touched a drop of alcohol or drugs again, and went back to school." Laurence sat back next to Chloe and hesitantly looked at her.
"I'm so sorry," said Chloe.
"For what?" asked Laurence.
"That you had to go through that alone," answered Chloe, grabbing Laurence's hands and lightly kissing them. The tears that had been in the verge of falling, suddenly starting spilling from Laurence's eyes. "Lo, please don't cry," said Chloe, brushing the tears off Laurence's cheeks. "Shh, It's okay." She pulled Laurence in her arms and stroked her hair whispering tender words in her ears to sooth her. Laurence buried her face into Chloe's neck and wept.
Chloe held Laurence until her tears stopped, and Laurence sat up wiping the remaining tears away from her eyes. "Sorry."
"For what," asked Chloe.
"Acting like a cry baby," answered Laurence.
"Lo, don't ever apologize for that. I'm glad you told me, and I'm glad you let yourself go."
"Well, your shirt is soaked now," said Laurence, trying to lighten the mood.
"Oh, big deal," smiled Chloe. "If you're still up to it, I'd love this site seeing tour and lunch you promised."
"Sure, let me rinsed my face…my eyes must be really puffy...damn, I hate crying," said Laurence, walking to the bathroom. She came out a few minutes later, feeling slightly refreshed and for the first time in a long time, she felt relieved. "What about lunch first? It's almost noon, and I'm quite hungry."
"Sure. You're the boss," smiled Chloe, getting up and putting her jacket on.
"Okay, do you like Chinese food?"
"Huh…yes, remember is was one of my first meal in your house. I still think that French Chinese food taste different than American Chinese food," laughed Chloe.
"I'm sure it is. Come on, I don't have a car here, so we have to walk."
They walked back down the same streets as earlier, but instead of turning into the train station, they kept on going. They went through a pedestrian street, lined up with restaurants and clothing stores. They walked through an under ground tunnel to cross a major intersection and a few minutes later got to the restaurant. It was a very tiny place with the menus written in French and Chinese. Chloe found the food delicious and at the end of the meal she had eaten more than her share.
"Gosh, I feel like I'm going to explode," she said while rubbing her stomach.
Laurence laughed. "I guess walking around for a little while won't be a bad thing."
"Lead the way," said Chloe getting up.
Lille was a big city, but the center of town was only pedestrian, helping the crowd to forget the craziness of the traffic and insolating them from the noise. They walked through the street, arms touching, hands sometimes brushing against each other. They walked pass the movie theater.
"I can't believe that. They are playing the six sense in French," exclaimed Chloe, pointing at the gigantic poster.
"Have you seen it?" asked Laurence.
"Yes, months ago. I loved it. Have you?"
"No, it just came out you know."
"You're kidding, right?"
"No. Would you like to see it again? They have a showing at 3:30 p.m. It's in 20 minutes."
Chloe looked at Laurence and nodded. "Yes, it could be fun to sit through it in French."
"Okay, let's go then."
Laurence bought tickets and led them into a large theater. They chose a row far back and sat down in the center. The room filled up fairly fast, and at 3:30 the movie started. Laurence waited only a few moments before lacing her fingers with Chloe's and bringing their linked hands on her lap. Chloe smiled in the dark, but didn't take a gaze from the movie. If she seemed engrossed in the movie, her mind was on the light stroking Laurence's thumb was doing in the inside of her wrist, and the sensations such a small movement produced in her. Laurence didn't release Chloe's hand until the lights came back on.
"That was a great movie," she said with a smile.
"Yeah, I'm glad I had seen it before because I had trouble concentrating," said Chloe jokingly. "Don't take this innocent look, would you? You know every well, that when you take my hand, I can't concentrate on anything else."
"Huh…well…" Laurence didn't know what to reply. "Maybe we should go," she said blushing.
Chloe laughed. "Yeah, let's go. What time is it?"
"Past 6. Do you want to come back to my place? We can order pizza for dinner."
"You are not much of a cook are you?" joked Chloe. "I'd love to go back to your place, but honestly I'm not hungry at all right now."
"I'm sure you'll be later on."
They walked back leisurely to Laurence's apartment while talking about the movie.
"I knew there was something wrong after he went to the restaurant to meet his wife, and she never even once looked at him."
"When I first saw it, I had no clue until the end. Isn't this little boy great?" asked Chloe.
"Yes, he sure is. He has such a spooky gaze," said Laurence, opening the door to her apartment.
Chloe collapsed on the futon and sighed. "Gosh, I'm exhausted. Don't know why, we didn't do much."
"You got up very early," answered Laurence. "Hey, I make a mean non-alcohol fruit cocktail, want one?"
"I'd love to." Laurence left for the kitchen, and for the next few minutes the blender noise stopped any possible conversation. Laurence came back and handed Chloe her glass. She sat next to her and clinked their glasses together.
"To this weekend," she said, looking at Chloe and taking a sip of her drink.
Chloe nodded and drank. "Hum, it's good. What's in it?"
"Can't tell," teased Laurence with a wink.
"Secret composition, I see," joked Chloe. "Wow, you have quite a large number of CDs," said Chloe, looking at the CD tower standing next to the desk. She got up to take a closer look. The CDs were from a variety of French singers, American rock bands and classical music. "Boy, I wouldn't know what to chose. Can I just turn the radio on?"
"Sure," answered Laurence.
Chloe pushed a couple of different radio stations before stopping on one playing songs from the '80's. "I love the '80's. It's still remain my favorite music period."
"I like it too. They had great bands back then. Not those boys bands crap."
"Hey, hey don't forget New Kids on the Block. I was a big New Kids on the Block's fan," smiled Chloe. Outside the sun was slowly setting, darkening the room. Sweet Dreams from Eurythmic came on. "Lo, come on dance with me," asked Chloe, grabbing Laurence and yanking her to her feet.
"Chloe, come on…not here in my apartment.'
"Why not? Plus I never got to dance with you at the club," said Chloe moving to the music.
"Fine, I'll dance," said Laurence, picking up the beat and starting to move. The next song was from the Pogs, and Laurence started jumping everywhere.
"Hey Lo, what are you doing?" asked Chloe laughing.
"Didn't you guys have this dance in the States? It's called the pogo, you just jumped and smashed yourself against everyone. Brings back memories," laughed Laurence, throwing herself against Chloe.
"Hey…wait a minute, I can do that too," chuckled Chloe. She started jumping and also throwing herself on Laurence. A stronger shove sent Chloe flying on the futon, she grabbed Laurence in her fall, and they both fell laughing. Laurence ended on top of Chloe, and her sudden goofiness turned to embarrassment. "Sorry," she said, trying to extract herself, but was stopped by Chloe.
"Lo, stop running. It's okay. I swear you're not scaring me," whispered Chloe. The song ended, and a slower beat replaced it. "I love this song," said Chloe recognizing Still Loving You from the Scorpions. "Would you dance with me?" She asked shyly.
Laurence nodded and slowly got up and extended her hand to Chloe. She led her to the center of the room and wrapped her arms around her waist. They stared at each other and started moving to the rhythm of the music. Chloe came closer to Laurence never leaving her gaze. The room had become darker, casting shadows on their faces. Laurence drew Chloe closer into the circle of her arms and touched their foreheads together. No words had been spoken since Chloe's question; none were needed. Laurence started rubbing her hands up and down Chloe's back while Chloe moved even closer and buried her face into Laurence's chest. She tightened her grip around Laurence's waist and lightly kissed her collar bone through her shirt. This slight kiss sent tingles all the way down Laurence's spine. She tenderly took hold of Chloe's chin and lifted her face to her. She scanned her eyes for any signs of discomfort and lovingly brought her lips to Chloe's. Chloe passed her hands through Laurence's hair and softly ran them at the base of her scalp while pressing their lips closer together. The dancing was suddenly forgotten, as they got lost into each other kiss. Laurence brought her hands up to caress Chloe's face and gently deepened the kiss. Chloe gasped and stopped her hands' movements on Laurence scalp, Laurence's lips distracting her from anything else. As the song ended, Laurence slowly moved away.
"Wow," she smiled, opening her eyes slowly. "Are you okay?" she asked suddenly concern that she had pushed Chloe too far.
Chloe looked at her, trying to regain control of her emotions. "Would you stop asking me that? I think I was a willing participant, and yeah, I agree…wow," she said with a huge smile on her face.
Laurence smiled back and caressed Chloe's face. "I'm sorry, I just don't want to push you into something you don't want."
"Lo, please stop worrying," said Chloe, leaning into Laurence's hand. The room had gotten really dark, making it hard for them to discern each other. The darkness brought an air of mystery to the situation. Chloe moved toward Laurence and lightly pushed her back until she encountered the futon and had to sit down. Chloe kept on staring at Laurence, the green of her eyes turned green with the darkness of the room. She gently straddled Laurence's laps and sat down facing her. "Lo, I know you said that you've never been with another woman, but I'm sure you've been with guys. You probably didn't stop every minutes to ask them if they were okay and if you were going too far."
"It's different, Chloe," answered Laurence, putting her hands on Chloe's laps.
"How? Why do you assume I'm this fragile little girl who is going to leave screaming as soon as you do anything to her?" asked Chloe, suddenly feeling frustrated with the situation.
Laurence sighed and shook her head lightly. "Chloe, why rush? I don't know what I'm doing here, and I want to make sure that whatever I do I do it right."
Chloe got off Laurence's laps and knelt in front of her, taking her hands. "Lo, I don't want to rush into anything either, but you have to trust me that if you do something I don't want, I'll tell you. We have to stop woondering if everything we do is right and go with our instincts like I did in the forest on Monday, and like you just did a few minutes ago when you kissed me. Okay?"
Laurence nodded. "Go with my instinct, right?"
"Yeah, no holding back."
"Okay," said Laurence, getting up and pulling Chloe back on her feet. She suddenly picked up Chloe, making her yell, and laid her down on the coach. She knelt in front of the coach near Chloe's head and lightly kissed it before slowly kissing her way down to her mouth where she placed a tender kiss. Chloe brought her arms behind Laurence's neck and drew her closer. The kiss, tender almost like a dream sent shivers down Chloe's body, making her gradually close her eyes. She tucked Laurence closer, and her heart started beating faster when she felt the weight of Laurence's body settling next to her. She opened her eyes to gaze into Laurence's the blue of her eyes had turned smoky black, revealing passion. Laurence resumed her kissing, and ever so slightly let her hands roamed over Chloe's back before tucking her shirt out and running her hands on bare skin. At the feel of Laurence's hands on her skin, Chloe stopped the kiss and buried her face into Laurence's neck. The gentle stroking suddenly stopped, and Chloe looked up.
"Why did you stop?" she asked.
"I…I think we should slow down. Before you say anything, listen to me. We're moving fast, and it's scaring me." Laurence paused and looked at Chloe for some sort of understanding, finding Chloe looking at her very intensely, she continued. "I have never been in any type of serious relationship and honestly…I can't even remember the last time I slept with someone. Neither of us has been with a woman before. I want to make sure that when we do make love, neither of us has any doubts…"
"I don't have any doubts now," said Chloe softly.
"…but I do," whispered Laurence.
Chloe extracted herself from Laurence's arms and got up. "What do you mean you do?"
"You told me you only wanted the truth from me. You said that you wanted to know if I felt like running away. Chloe I'm only being honest."
"What are you scared of Laurence? Haven't I showed you enough you can trust me? I don't get it. I thought you cared for me…"
"Wait a minute. Who said that I don't care for you? Chloe, if I didn't care for you I wouldn't care if I slept with you or not. I don't want to be some sort of experimentation or the affair you have while spending a year in Paris…"
"Then what do you want?" asked Chloe harshly.
"Everything." Laurence got up and walked to Chloe.
"What do you mean?" asked Chloe her anger slowly dropping.
"What I mean is I want you to consider having me in your life for a very long time…and unless you are sure than I don't think we should cross the line," explained Laurence stepping closer to Chloe.
"Lo, I can't predict what is going to happen between us, but I can tell you that I really care for you, and…"
"Chloe, I don't doubt for a minute that you care for me, but what I'm asking for you is a commitment. I want us to be on the same level, so there are no surprises. No one gets hurt unexpectedly, and we know were we stand," explained Laurence, taking Chloe's hands and lightly kissing them.
"You drive a hard bargain," said Chloe with a slight smile.
"I love you," answered Laurence, looking straight into Chloe's eyes. "No, please you don't have to say anything unless you really mean it," said Laurence, stopping Chloe from replying. "Just think about what I said, okay?'
Chloe nodded. "Does this mean no more kissing, hugging or dancing?" asked Chloe jokingly to lighten the mood.
"Hum…no…I think kissing is required…hugging is a must, and we'll have to see about dancing," said Laurence with a wink.
"I promise I won't make you wait too long for?"
"Chloe, there is no rush. I just want you to be together for the right reasons." Laurence walked to her desk and picked up the phone. "What about this pizza now?"
"Sounds great. I'm starving."
"What do you like?"
"Ham and Pineapple?"
"Yukk…I'm a cheese and sausage kind of girl. What about we do half and half?"
"Sure, that's fine." Chloe watched the traffic outside while Laurence placed the order. Her mind replaying the conversation they just had. Do I love her? Am I just attracted toher? Chloe looked at Laurence, her black jet hair shined in the darkness, her figure stood elegantly propped up against the fire place, her hands playing with the telephone cord. Chloe let her eyes roamed over Laurence's body, and her heart skipped a beat. I don't think I could let her out of my life right now… she matters too much. I think I'm in love with her. Chloe smiled at Laurence who seemed to be in an animated conversation with the pizza place. I'm going to have to prove it to her, I have to show her that I want to be with her for her and not for sex or anything else.
"What are you thinking about?" asked Laurence, interrupting Chloe's musing.
"You," answered Chloe honestly. "Do you think we should call home to check on Clément?" asked Chloe, stopping Laurence from answering.
"I was thinking about that. Yes, I think we should." She dialed the number and waited for someone to pick up.
"Laurence. Comment se passe ton weekend?"
"Très bien. Comment vas Clément?"
"Il coure partout. Nous sommes allés à Disney World aujourd'hui."
"C'est surper," giggled Laurence.
"Est-ce que Chleo est près de toi?"
"Passe la moi pour une minute."
"Chloe, my dad wants to talk to you," said Laurence, handing the phone to Chloe.
"Hi, is she driving you crazy yet?" he joked.
"Yeah, but I can deal with it," teased Chloe.
"Are you having a good time?"
"Yes, I am."
"Okay, what time are you getting back tomorrow?"
"My train arrives at 7p.m."
"I'll come get you."
"No, it's okay, I can take a cab. Plus it's Clément's bath time."
"That's okay Beatrice can do that."
"No," answered Chloe more forcefully than expected. "I mean really you don't need too. Lo and I were thinking that I might grab a later train, so you see we are not sure yet."
"Oh, okay. Call me if you change your mind."
"You are welcome. Bye."
"Boy, that was a close call," said Chloe, hanging up the phone.
"He wanted to come and get me from the train station tomorrow night and leave Clément with Beatrice."
"He is not going to, is he?" asked Laurence, worried.
"No, I changed his mind. Lo, you have to talk to him."
"I know. I don't want to do that over the phone though. I'm thinking of going home next weekend to talk to him."
"That might be a good idea."
"Do you think you can keep Beatrice at bay for another week?"
"Yeah, it shouldn't be a problem."
"Lo, can I ask you something?"
"Sure go ahead," answered Laurence. "I'm getting another drink. Do you want something?"
"No, thanks. Maybe later on with the pizza."
" 'kay." Laurence disappeared into the kitchen and came back a few moments later holding a glass of water. "What's your question?"
"What are you going to do about Clément?"
"What do you mean? I'm going to talk to my dad…"
"No, I mean, have you ever thought of raising him as your own?" Chloe walked back to the futon and sat down.
"He is not mine anymore. I explained that to you."
"Yes, I know, but you technically could. Think about it…he loves you more than Beatrice, and no offense but even if your dad is a great dad, he is not around very much." Chloe paused and smoothed out some imaginary wrinkles off her Jeans.
"Chloe, can't we drop it? This conversation is going to bring us nowhere," said Laurence a hint of sadness in her voice.
"But Lo, don't just give up so easily. There is something you can do about it. I'm sure that you could prove to the judge that you were forced to give him up and signed the papers…"
"I never signed anything," interrupted Laurence.
"What?" exclaimed Chloe.
"Drop it," said Laurence dryly.
"No. What do you mean you never signed anything?" asked Chloe insistently.
"I never signed any papers saying that my dad was allowed to adopt Clément, that's it."
"Wait a minute. If the law here is the same as in the US, the mother automatically gets reported as the legal parent unless she signed paper agreeing to have her child adopted. The father is the one who has to go and declare the child, so the child can carry his name. Have you ever looked at Clément's birth certificate?"
"Come on here me out," Chloe got up and started pacing. "To know if your dad ever went and declared himself as the father, you just have to look at the birth certificate. If he did his name should be on it. If he didn't, it should say father unknown." Chloe suddenly made a realization. "Oh, my God. Laurence, you know what that means? Since you never signed anything, it means Beatrice is not legally Clément's mother."
Laurence looked at Chloe not knowing what to say. "Chloe, either way it makes no difference. Clément thinks she is his mother, and I don't want to confuse him."
"Laurence for God sakes, you have to face the facts. He is scared of her, she beats him."
"We have no proofs," answered Laurence frustratingly.
"What is wrong with you? A little while ago, you were ready to talk to your dad about it, now you are throwing this "we have no proof" crap at me! Come one what's really bothering you?" asked Chloe. Her voice had raised a notch, and she was getting really animated.
Laurence sat on the edge of the window, her face illuminated by the outside lights. "I can't be a mother to him, Chloe. A sister, yes I know how to do that, but not a mother."
"This is bullshit Laurence. You have so much patience with him, you are so concerned about everything he does. How can you say that?"
The interphone suddenly buzzed. Laurence walked up to it and pressed talk.
"D'accord. Premier étage. Première porte sur la gauche." She buzzed the pizza guy in and turned to Chloe. "I don't want to talk about it anymore. Can we do that?" She asked firmly.
Chloe sighed. "Fine. Let's
Laurence paid for the pizza and closed the door. She dropped the pizza on the table and went into the kitchen to retrieve two plates.
"Dinner is served," she said jokingly, sitting down.
Chloe couldn't help smiling. She sat down facing Laurence. "What do you have in plan for tomorrow?" asked Chloe, reaching for a slice.
"My friend Jackie who lives next door is leaving for a trip early tomorrow morning, and in exchange of watering her plants, I get to use her car. I thought we could drive up North a little, and we could visit one of the old coal mine. If you are interested that is." Laurence took a bite of her pizza.
"Sounds like fun. How come you left your bike in Versailles?"
"I don't usually do, but I had too much crap to bring back here. If I come next weekend, I'll take it back."
They finished eating while making small talk.
"How did it get to be so late already?" asked Chloe, looking at the alarm clock on top of the TV.
"It's only 10. Do you want to watch a movie?"
"That would be fun. What do you have?'
"One of my old time favorite is this movie called La Grande Vadrouille. It's with this French comic actor, Louis De Funes. He is hilarious…I think you might understand better if it's a comedy." Laurence got up and opened one of the closet doors in search of the tape. "Here it is," she said showing off the tape. "Are you game?'
"Sure, you have to tell me what it is about though."
"It's hard to explain. What about I stop the tape every once in a while to check if you understand."
Laurence opened the futon and grabbed two pillows from the closet. She sat down with her back propped up against the wall and petted the area next to her. Chloe flopped herself next to Laurence and adjusted the pillow behind her head. Laurence pressed play, and turned the lights off.
They had not touched since the conversation they had earlier, so Laurence hesitantly took hold of Chloe's hand interlacing their fingers together. Chloe turned to her side and looked at Laurence. They stared at each other, the movie playing in the background, the only words spoken in the room those of the characters on the screen. At the same time they move forward as if drawn by a supernatural force, their lips softly pressed together, their eyes closing. The kiss was gentle, undemanding, just a reassurance that things were still possible between them. It stopped as gently as it started, nose and forehead touching, heart beatings faster, eyes looking deeply into each other and hands linked together.
Laurence lay back on her pillow and opened her arms for Chloe. Chloe scooted forward and put her head down in the crook of Laurence's shoulder, she wrapped her arms around Laurence's waist and sighed.
"What's that sight for?" asked Laurence, gently running her hand through Chloe's hair.
"Nothing really. It just feel so right."
"What feels so right?"
Chloe sat up. "You holding me, kissing me…I know you think I'm not ready to make a commitment yet, but you are wrong. I…think…I love you. No wait, that came out wrong. I don't think I love you, I know I love you…please don't say anything. I respect what you said earlier, and I'm not asking you to change anything. I just want you to know, and I'm going to do everything in my power to prove it to you."
"Thanks," whispered Laurence.
"For being so understanding."
"Yeah, yeah, don't get use to it," teased Chloe, lying back down. Laurence chuckled suddenly. "What's so funny?"
"Those guys are too much," said Laurence, pointing at the TV. "I have seen this movie so many times, but this scene still makes me laugh."
"Care to explain," said Chloe sarcastically.
"Sorry, I keep on forgetting that you don't understand everything. Those two guys are trying to run away from the Germans. They stopped in a hotel for the night and have to share the same room. Well, the two German officers running after them just stopped in the same hotel and are also sharing the same room."
"I don't see what's so funny."
"Wait, I'm not finished. Okay, The Germans are in room 9 and the French guys in room 6. One of the German just got up to go get something to eat, and one of the French guy got up to go to the bathroom. While they were gone, the 9 falls, spins and now looks like a 6…"
"I get it. The German guy and the French guy are going to walk back into the wrong room. The French guy is going to spend the night with the German guy, and vice-versa."
"You got it!"
"French people have a weird sense of humor. Sorry, but I don't find it funny…"
"We have a weird sense of humor. I recall seeing a movie call Austin Power…that was twisted humor."
"Okay, okay, so we don't agree on movies," yawned Chloe.
"Are you tired?" asked Laurence.
Laurence reached for the remote and turned the TV off, plunging the room in the dark. She disengaged herself from Chloe and turned the light on.
"You didn't have to stop the movie."
"I know, but I don't want to get up too late tomorrow, so we should probably get some sleep. It's getting late anyway." Laurence got up and grabbed a tee-shirt and boxer shorts from the closet. "I'll go change for the night. Be right back."
Chloe was left alone in the room. She went into the kitchen to get a glass of water. "Boy, it's tiny in here," she exclaimed when stepping inside the room. The small kitchen was barely large enough for a small fridge, a stove and a sink. Chloe extended her arm on each side and laughed when she realized that she could almost touch the walls.
"What's so funny?" called Laurence from the other room.
"Your kitchen," answered Chloe, pouring herself a glass of water. "It's minuscule," said Chloe, continuing the conversation as she came back into the main room.
"It fits its purpose," answered Laurence pulling off the cover and slipping into bed. "Plus I never cook. I don't have time, and I hate it."
"That explains it." Chloe looked through her bag and retrieve a night shirt and her toothbrush. "I'll be right back."
"There are clean towels on the rack for you."
Five minutes later, Chloe came out carrying her clothes and dumped them next to her bag. She suddenly stopped and looked at Laurence who had already made herself comfortable in bed.
"Where do I sleep?" She asked awkwardly.
Laurence laughed. "Are you going to go shy on me?" She tapped the area next to her.
Chloe smiled and got into bed. Laurence reached for the light switch and the room went dark. Chloe adjusted her pillow. "Thanks for inviting me this weekend. I'm having a great time."
Laurence propped herself up on her elbow, her face barely visible in the dark. "Thanks for coming. A week ago, I wasn't too sure you'd be here right now."
Chloe smiled in the dark and softly caressed Laurence's face. "You know when we first met I used to think you were such a cold b…"
"Bitch?" asked Laurence amused.
"Well, yeah, but I changed my mind very fast."
"I wasn't too easy to deal with, so no offense taken," said Laurence, bringing Chloe's hand to her mouth and kissing them. "We should really get some sleep."
"You're right. I'm beat." Chloe turned to her side, facing the windows and closed her eyes. "Good night, Lo." Instead of an answer, she felt the bed shift, and Laurence wrapped an arm around Chleo's waist, drawing her close.
"Is that okay?" asked Laurence.
Chloe scooted back closer and rested her hand on Laurence's arm. "More than okay."
Laurence lightly kissed Chloe's hair. "Good night Chloe," she whispered before closing her eyes.
Go to chapter IX