They walked back to the car, each lost in their thoughts. Before getting into the car, Laurence tried to apologize again, but Chloe refused to hear her.
" Lo, enough, okay. I don’t want to talk about it anymore," explained Chloe, suddenly feeling extremely tired.
Laurence nodded and got into the car, unlocking the door for Chloe. Not a word was exchanged as Laurence drove the car down the dirt road. Her hands were holding the steering wheel very tightly, her knuckles were almost white, her jaw was clenched and her eyes were fixed to the road. In one look, Chloe saw Laurence’s tension, and suddenly felt guilty for the way she reacted. She sighed and shook her head. She’s been through a lot and she has every right to want to wait before taking our relationship further. What has gotten into me? Not knowing how to apologize for her reaction at the moment ...while driving 120 kilometers per hours down the express way... Chloe decided to wait until they got back to Lille.
Twenty minutes later, Laurence parked the car in front of her building and got out, followed by Chloe. Still no words had been spoken. They walked into the apartment, and Laurence dropped her keys on her desk. She stood at the window, her hands in her pocket, her shoulders slightly hunched. "You should probably pack. Your train is in an hour," she said, breaking the silence.
Chloe came up behind Laurence and forced her to turn around and face her. "Listen, I’m sorry about my reaction earlier. You don’t understand how frustrating it is to realize that someone you care so much about just doesn’t see it…just doesn’t believe you." Chloe looked at Laurence, but Laurence’s eyes held no answer, no sign of understanding. "Fine, be mad. Have it your way," said Chloe frustratingly. She walked to her suitcase and stared packing.
"It’s true, isn’t it?"
"What?" said Chloe, surprised at hearing Laurence’s voice.
"You really care for me."
Chloe stopped her packing and came close to Laurence. "When is that thick head of yours going to understand that? I don’t just care for you…I love you. It’s deeper, more powerful." Chloe stopped and looked at Laurence, whose eyes had lost their anger and intensity to be replaced by a hint of hope. "Lo, I don’t want to keep going over that with you. Either you believe me or not, it’s up to you. I know how I feel and I know what I want."
"I’m being stupid, huh?" asked Laurence.
"No, you’re being careful, and I can’t blame you, but I don’t have to agree."
Laurence nodded and smiled tenderly. "The roles are reversed now. Yesterday, I was telling you to take your time and to make sure you knew what you wanted. Today, I’m asking for more time…"
"You don’t know what you want anymore," asked Chloe, hesitantly.
"No, no I do," rushed Laurence. She stepped forward and took hold of Chloe’s hands. "Nothing has changed. I still want you. I guess the physical relationship is scarier than I thought it was going to be…kissing is okay, but more is frightening,more intense than anything I have ever felt. I’ll get over it," she smiled.
"But…do you believe me now when I say that I know what I want," asked Chloe, slowly.
Chloe’s face lit up with a smile, and she threw herself into Laurence’s arms almost knocking her over. They hold each other tightly for a few minutes before letting go. "We should really get going," said Laurence, caressing Chloe’s face.
"Yeah. I know. I’m basically packed."
"Okay, let’s go then." Laurence picked up Chloe’s suitcase and left the apartment followed by Chloe.
Laurence drove Chloe to the train station. Contrary to the day before when she had not hugged Chloe in public by fear of embarrassing her, Laurence took Chloe into her arms and briefly kissed her on the cheek.
"Call me when you get home, would you?" asked Laurence.
Chloe nodded. "As soon as I get home." She picked up her suitcase and climbed into the train. Chloe waved at Laurence as the train left the station, and settled back on her seat once Laurence was out of sight. The train ride was uneventful, and shortly after 7, Chloe arrived at her destination. She got out of the station and hailed a cab.
"Rue de Province, Versailles," she said to the cab driver while climbing in.
The ride back to the Versailles house was smooth and fast, the traffic almost non-existent on this Sunday evening. The cab pulled in front of the house around 7:45, and Chloe rapidly got out after paying the driver. She opened the door and was treated to Clément’s screams coming from upstairs. Chloe dropped her suitcase and rushed upstairs calling Jean’s name, and not getting any answers. She burst into Clément’s bedroom and rushed to the bathroom where the screams were coming from. There was Clément sitting in the tub, his little body racked with sobs.
"Hey, hey, sweetheart, it’s okay. Where is everyone?" she knelt in front of the tub and called again for Jean and Beatrice, once more getting no answers. "Let’s get you out of here." Chloe bent to pick up Clément. "My gosh, you are freezing…oh, sweetheart, how long have you been in this water?" She picked up Clément, whose sobs had turned into quiet tears, and wrapped him in a towel, rubbing him to warm him up. She carried Clément to his room and put him gently on his bed. "Hush, hush, I’m just getting you something warm to wear." She quickly grabbed a pair of pajamas from his dresser drawer and returned to him. She unwrapped the towel from his body and sat him up to put on his top, but suddenly stopped terrified by what she saw. "Oh, my gosh, Clément!" Clément had a large bruise going from his lower back to the middle of it, and his legs bared cigarette marks. Chloecontained a sob, and took a large breath to calm herself down. Think Chloe, think. How did I not see that in the tub?
"Okay, what does Laurence put on your cuts when you fall to avoid an infection? Come on, damn it ... what is it?" Chloe mumbled to herself. She tenderly checked Clément for any other injuries, slowly lay him down on the bed, and draped a blanket over him. "It’s okay pumpkin, I’m going to make it all better, just let me get something in the medicine cabinet…hush, hush…I’ll be right back." She ran downstairs and opened the cabinet, frantically dumping its content in search of the medicine. "Yes, Neosporine, that’s it?" She ran back upstairs and found Clément exactly in the position she left him.
"Okay, sweetie, this is going to help with your burns." She softly applied the transparent gel to his ankles and put bandages on his burns. "Okay, now your back." She turned him on his side and gently ran her hand on the bruise, making Clément cry. "Oh, babe, I’m so sorry…I think we need to have a doctor see it." Chloe started feeling very angry. "If I ever see your mother again, I swear I’m going to kill her…how could she? How…." Chloe let tears of anger fall and hugged Clément to her chest. "And where is your dad? He said he’d be here when I get back…this is all my fault." After a few minutes, she stopped and got up, carrying Clément with her. "We’ve to get out of here. Who knows what she’ll do when she comes back." With one hand, she picked up Clément’s old diaper bag and threw in some socks, underwear, a pair of sweat pants, t-shirt and a sweater. She quickly put his pajamas on and wrapped him in the blanket again, being careful of his injured back. Clément was now sniffling and clenching to Chloe. She ran to her room and picked up her address book, as she was rushing out of the room again, she saw a note lying on her bed. She quickly opened it.
Hi, this is Jean. I hope you had a great weekend. I’m sorry I had to leave. I will be in England until Friday. Here is the hotel I’m staying in. Ritz hotel-21-45-67-89. I’ll call with the room number.
"Damn you Jean," she said, stuffing the note in her pocket and rushing downstairs. She put Clément down on the coach, and grabbed the phone.
"Come on, come on…please pick up….Allo?"
"Vincent, this is Chloe."
"Hey, Chloe, how are you?"
"I need your help right now. Please come get me as soon as you can."
"Chloe, what’s wrong?"
"Vincent please," begged Chloe.
"Okay, I’ll be there as soon as I can."
"Thanks," whispered Chloe, hanging up the phone.
She then dialed Laurence’s number, but got the answering machine. "Lo, we have a problem here. I…I…Call me at this number later on." She left Vincent’s number and hung up, thinking it was no use to alarm Laurence for the moment.
Chloe went back to Clément and sat him on her lap. "Okay, babe, I’m taking you out of here. It’s going to be all right." Fear suddenly replaced the earlier adrenaline rush, and Chloe tighten her grip on Clément and waited for Vincent to come to the rescue.
Go to chapter XI