Laurence lay on the bed with Chloe asleep on her chest. She tried to close her eyes and rest for while, but it seemed impossible. Her heart felt heavy with guilt and anger. After a restless hour, Laurence kissed Chloe’s forehead and slowly moved from under her. She stretched and moved to Clément’s bed. He was still asleep in the same position she had seen him in earlier. Laurence tenderly caressed his brows, and went to close the blinds to protect him from the rising sunlight. His breathing seemed heavy and his sleep undisturbed. Laurence brought a chair closer to Clément’s bed, took hold of his hand and sat down.
"How is he?"
"You’re awake," smiled Laurence at Chloe who had just come up behind her.
"Did you sleep at all?" asked Chloe, rubbing Laurence’s shoulders.
"No, I couldn’t sleep," answered Laurence, trying to keep her voice as quiet as possible, so to not wake up Clément.
"We should probably call your dad now."
"I know. I’ll go." Laurence squeezed Chloe’s hand and got up. "I’ll be right back."
"Don’t you need the number?" asked Chloe with a smile while holding Jean’s note.
"That would help," said Laurence reaching for the piece of paper
Laurence left the room and went in search of a phone. She found one in the main lobby, and dialed the number on the piece of paper. The conversation with Jean was animated. Laurence explained very clearly what happened and ordered her dad to come home right away. Jean was stunt by the news, and extremely worried about Clément, but still could not believe that Beatrice would do such a thing. His skepticism sent Laurence into a fit, and after telling him that he better come as soon as possible, she hung up on him.
Laurence walked back to the room in a very somber mood. Half way down the corridor, she heard Clément cry, and started running. She burst into the room.
"What’s wrong?" Clément sat on the bed, next to him was a nurse removing his bandages. "What are you doing to him?" she asked, walking menacingly toward the bed.
"Lo, calm down. Yelling is not going to help. She is only doing her job."
Laurence looked into Chloe’s tired eyes, took a deep breath and nodded. "Sorry."
"It’s okay. Just go to him."
Laurence came closer to the bed, and sat next to Clément. "Hey, little man. It’s me. I missed you. Shhh, stop crying, this lady is just trying to help."
Clément looked at Laurence, his eyes filled with tears. "Lo," he sobbed.
"Shhh….I’m here, it’s okay." Laurence scooted closer. "Est-ce que je peux le prendre sur mes genoux? Laurence asked the nurse. The nurse nodded and let Laurence lift Clément onto her lap. She wrapped her arms around him, and spoke to him softly. "You see, she is not hurting you, no need to be scared. She is here to help you feel better." Clément’s tears gradually stopped and his body relaxed.
Chloe watched the scene from the window. She had stepped aside, wanting to give them this moment to interact with each other. Seeing their faces so close to each other left no doubts in Chloe’ s mind of the strong resemblance. Clément had Laurence’s clear blue eyes, her thin nose and her black hair.
The nurse finished up and asked Laurence to help her check Clément’s back.
"Okay, sweetheart, you’re going to have to get off me for a minute. I’m right here, holding your hand." She slowly lifted Clément off her, and sat him down on the bed. The nurse quickly lifted his top, and eyed the bruised area. She spoke briefly to Laurence and left the room.
"What did she say?" asked Chloe, stepping back into the picture.
"They are bringing breakfast up. She also heard that social services should be here around 8."
"What did your dad say?"
"He’s coming," answered Laurence briefly. From Laurence’s tone of voice, Chloe knew that there was more to it, but understood Laurence's reluctance to speak in front of Clément.
"Now we wait," said Laurence, grabbing the remote and turning the TV on. She flipped through channels and stopped on one playing cartoons. Clément was still sitting in the same position as before the nurse left. "Hey, babe, you can move now," said Laurence softly. "Come here." She picked him up and sat him down next to her, putting some pillows behind him to make him more comfortable. Clément snuggled next to Laurence, and she wrapped her arm around him.
Chloe felt out of place, as if she was intruding on something special. She stood on the left side of the bed with her hands on the back of the chair. Suddenly, the events of the night before came rushing back to her, and she felt nauseous. "I need to get some fresh air." She left the room in a hurry, not waiting for Laurence to answer. She crossed the lobby and rushed out. The early morning air hit her, and stopped her run. She stumbled to the side of the building and crumpled to the ground, her back against the wall, her head between her hands. After a few seconds, she forced herself to inhale deeply, and closed her eyes. "I don’t know if I can do this…it’s more than what I bargained for," Chloe spoke aloud, tears running down her face and doubts invading her mind. At the same time, memories of telling Laurence that they were together in this mess came back to her. She remembered Laurence telling her she loved her, giving her the painting, the laughs they shared in the past few weeks, and the feel of Laurence’s lips on hers. The more the memories came rushing back, the more the idea of leaving Laurence seemed intolerable.
Chloe shook her head and wiped the remaining tears off her cheeks. "Mom always told me to go with my heart…never thought I’ll find the day where I actually followed your advice mom," said Chloe, getting up and straightening herself out. She wiped the dirt off her pants and walked back into the hospital and up to the room. She stepped into the room, and was immediately grabbed by Laurence and dragged outside.
"Lo, what are you doing?" asked Chloe, once Laurence let go of her arm.
"Clément fell back asleep, and I didn’t want to whisper to talk to you. What the hell was that about?" She asked, her voice on the verge of anger.
"What do you mean?"
"Why did you run out earlier?" Laurence stepped back from Chloe.
"I…I needed some fresh air," answered Chloe, propping herself against the wall.
"Don’t lie to me. You felt like running away from all of this, didn’t you?" asked Laurence angrily. Chloe didn’t answer, and just nodded.
"So why are you here then?" Laurence’s eyes had turned black she looked every bit the Laurence Chloe first met.
"Because I care…because I love you, and the thought of not being with you hurts too much…because I love Clément, and I want to be here for him." Chloe looked at Laurence and tried to convey her honesty with her eyes. She stepped forward and attempted to reach for Laurence’s hand, only to have Laurence take one step back.
"Chloe. I never expected things to get so bad, but they are. I can’t force you to stay…it’s much more than what you asked for…."
"I’m not going anywhere…"
"Let me finish," said Laurence abruptly. "My attention needs to be on Clément. I can’t keep on worrying about you, and if you’re still going to be here next time I turn around. So, I’m asking you this…" Laurence fixed her eyes on Chloe. "If you even have the slightest doubts, I want you to go now. I’m going to walk back in this room, only follow me if you’re sure. This isn’t just about us anymore Chloe. We have a child in the picture…yeah, things just got complicated." Laurence took one last look at Chloe, turned around and walked back into the room. Her heart was racing, her mind telling to run back in the corridor and take Chloe in her arms, but one look at Clément’s sleeping form stopped her. I have to do what’s right for him.
Chloe watched Laurence walk into the room. She stood alone in the corridor, the hospital slowly coming to life around her. She waited a few moments to recompose herself, and opened the bedroom door. Laurence was standing at the window, her back to Chloe. She turned around and looked at Chloe who stood still in the middle of the room. They stared at each other, Laurence’s eyes were full of questions, Chloe’s were cold, anger visible in them. She walked up to Laurence and stopped inches away from her. She stared at her menacingly.
"Don’t you ever…ever push me around or talk to me this way," said Chloe between clenched teeth. Laurence stared at Chloe, stunned by her anger. Chloe put her hand on her chest pushing her against the wall. She spoke coldly, her voice strong vibrating with anger. "I love you. This is one thing I’ve never had any doubts about. Now, I’m tired of having to prove it to you. Yes, I had doubts about wanting to stay, but only for a minute…I’m human too. I know what I want, but I can’t promise that I won’t want to ran away again because I probably will, but you have to trust that my love for you will be enough to stop me." Chloe paused and took a step back she opened her arms and softly said. "What is it going to be Laurence? Trust or doubts?"
Before Laurence had time to answer, someone knocked at the door. "Entrez," she yelled, taking a look at Clément, who was still asleep, mindless of the argument that had just happened in the room. A policeman stepped in the room and asked to speak with Laurence. She briefly looked at Chloe, and followed him out of the room.
The interrogation was similar to the one Chloe received the night before. Laurence was informed that the police tried to go and interrogate Beatrice, but she was nowhere to be found. She gave them the address of Beatrice’s office in Paris, and also told them that she could have gone to her parent’s.
"Vous avez l’addresse de ses parents?"
"Non, mais mon père l’a."
Laurence explained that her father should be here later on in the afternoon. If Clément was not released they could find him in this room; otherwise, they could find him at the house. The policeman nodded and wrote something down on his note pad very quickly. He thanked Laurence and walked away. She breathed deeply, and fought against the fatigue settling in her body, walking toward her were two women wearing blue business suits and high heels. Laurence turned around and walked in to the room, leaving the door open. "Social services is here." She had barely finished her sentence when the two women appeared in the doorway. Laurence greeted them and invited them in. Clément started to stir, and opened his eyes slowly. Chloe moved to his side.
"Hi, sweetheart. Did you sleep well? Are you feeling better?" She asked while running her hand through his hair. Clément sat up, rubbing his eyes. "I bet you must be really hungry and thirsty."
"I want juice," whined Clément.
"Someone should bring breakfast any moment now, sweetheart," said Laurence. She turned toward the women. "Qu’est ce que je peux faire pour vous?"
The shortest lady walked to the table in the corner of the room and put down her briefcase, opened it and retrieved a note pad. "My name is Sophie and this is my co-worker Jeanne, we both know about the language situation in this case, and we can conduct everything in English," she said with a very heavy French accent. "I need to ask you both questions while my co-worker plays with the boy."
"Clément, his name is Clément," said Chloe, holding Clément’s hand.
"Yes, this is right," answered the woman looking at her notepad.
"What are you here for?" asked Laurence, her tone of voice made it very clear that patience was not going to be an option.
"We have to analyze Clément’s behavior, and decide if we can release him or if he is in any danger."
Laurence sat on a chair and motioned Sophie to do the same. Jeanne sat next to Clément on the bed, sending him straight into Chloe’s arms for protection. Jeanne showed Clément a large pad of paper with crayons. "Tu aimes dessiner mon petit," she asked with a smile.
"You like to draw Clément, come on… it will be fun," said Chloe to him while grabbing a crayon from Jeanne’s hand and giving it to Clément. Clément hesitated, but finally took it.
"I d’aw tuk," he said, reaching for the pad of paper.
"If you want to," smiled Chloe.
"Tuk?" asked Sylvie.
"He can’t pronounce Rs yet."
On the other side of the room, Laurence and Sophie were in deep conversation. Sophie needed to know everything from how long did Laurence think the abuse had been going on, to if Laurence thought her father could also be responsible.
Another knock was heard, and two nurses walked in carrying two trays of food. They set one tray on the nightstand, and the other one on the table next to Laurence. One of the nurses smiled at Clément and commented on his drawing. Clément briefly looked up and went back to his drawing. He had picked up a red crayon and was with difficulty trying to draw the shape of a fire truck, he held in his other hand a yellow crayon, and alternated between coloring the truck and the sun he had drawn in the right corner of the paper.
"Clément, you can continue after, what about something to eat right now?"
"Juice?" Clément asked, pushing his paper away and dropping the crayons on the bed.
"I think so. Look your favorite, cornflakes." Chloe reached for the small package and poured the cornflakes into a bowl. She suddenly remembered Jeanne who was still sitting on the bed. "Is that okay, if he eats now? Can he continue later?"
"Yes. I think I’ve seen enough anyway." Jeanne got up and walked up to Sophie. They briefly talked among them, and Sophie turned to Chloe.
"We would like to speak to you now, If you would please follow us outside."
"Why can we do it here?" wondered Chloe, swinging the bed table and adjusting it in front of Clément. She poured some milk in, and set the bowl in front of him.
"This is our policy, now if you would please…"
"This makes no sense…I"
"Chloe, please do as they say," interrupted Laurence.
"Fine," Chloe mumbled, getting up and walking out.
They walked down to the cafeteria and sat down in one of the far corner booths.
"We asked you to be alone with us, so we know you’re speaking the truth," explained Sophie.
"What do you mean?" asked Chloe, annoyance obvious in her voice.
"We have to make sure that you’re not under any pressure, and that no one told you what to tell us."
‘This is absurd." Chloe felt as if she was being trial for a murder she didn’t commit.
"Simple precaution. Now could you tell us everything that happen since you found Clément in the tub last night ?"
Chloe repeated the story again. She was then asked to describe Beatrice’s behavior toward Clément. She passed her hand through her hair, and sighed.
"She never really took care of him. She spent more time going to so - called meetings than with her…son." Not knowing how much Laurence had told them, Chloe decided to not mention Clément and Laurence’s real tie.
"Do you think it was the first time she hit Clément?" asked Jeanne.
"No, and I have no proof." She explained the strange bruise on Clément’s hip a few weeks ago, and told them that his teacher was also suspicious.
"What about the father?" asked Sophie, her wrong pronunciation of the th sound, making hard for Chloe to understand.
"The father?" asked Chloe to make sure she understood right. Sophie nodded. "What about him?"
"Do you think he could also be abusing Clément?"
"My god no," exclaimed Chloe. "He is crazy about him. He is away a lot, but always plays with him when he is in town. He is a great dad."
"What about Laurence?" asked Sophie, making note on her pad.
"She would never. She loves him so much. You know I’m tired of you trying to accuse people of something they haven’t done," said Chloe, getting up.
"Miss, we’re only trying to determine if it’s safe to send Clément back. Please sit down."
Chloe looked at Sophie and Jeanne and sat back down. "You’re going to let him come home, aren’t you?" asked Chloe, fear settling in her voice.
"Only once we’re sure Beatrice is getting some help."
"What if they can’t find her?"
"We’ll see. We still have to talk to the father." They got up and thanked Chloe for her time, and exited the cafeteria. Chloe sat dumbfounded. After a few minutes, she left and headed slowly back to the room.
When she entered, Clément and Laurence were nowhere to be found. Clément’s empty bowl of cereal and glass were on the bed table, the other tray had not been touched. She sat at the table and opened the box of juice sitting on the tray. 10 o’clock, why do I have the feeling it’s going to be a long day? thought Chloe, sipping her drink. Where in the world are they? She waited half an hour and started getting worried, by then she has cleared up the tray from all its food. She walked into the adjacent bathroom and splashed cold water on her face, wishing she had thought of taking a change of clothes the night before.
"Hello." Someone called from the doorway.
"Who is it?" She walked back in the room, drying her face with a towel and saw Jean standing there, wearing a long blue marine coat, and a matching business suit. "Thank God, you’re here. We weren’t expecting you before late afternoon.
"I flew in, instead of taking the boat. Where are they?"
"I don’t know. I just walked back in…I was going to go and look for them."
Jean took off his coat. "Let’s go then. Could you tell me again what happened?"
So, Chloe repeated for the umpteenth time the events of the night before. Jean was confused, not believing that his wife would do such a thing. They spotted Clément and Laurence in the playroom. Clément was playing with Legos while Laurence was speaking with a doctor Chloe had not met yet. Laurence saw them standing at the window, watching them, and came outside the room to meet them. She looked at her dad and spoke sarcastically. "Nice of you to make it." She stared at him.
"Laurence, I know you’re upset, I’m sorry about what happened," Jean moved closer to Laurence and laid his hand on her shoulder. She abruptly moved his hand away.
"Don’t you patronize me. I trusted you with my son. You let a mad woman raise him," she growled. Jean looked at Laurence and glanced briefly at Chloe. "She knows, " said Laurence, not taking her eyes away from her father.
"You know very well that if I had known, I would have never left him alone with her," said Jean, trying to defend himself.
"For God’s sakes, how hard was it to see that he was scared senseless of her? Did you ever wonder why he would never run to her or want her to kiss him? Did you?" Laurence’s voice had raised and people walking by in the corridor where staring at them.
"Lo, calm down," interfered Chloe, only to be dismissed by Laurence.
"Don’t you tell me to calm down. This is my son in this hospital playroom, being psycho analyzed by a shrink because I trusted someone else beside myself to keep him safe," Laurence’s voice cracked up, and she was obviously on the verge of tears. She lower her tone and defeated said, "Go on. I’m sure Clément would be happy to see you, and everyone has a lot of questions for you." She stepped aside. Jean hesitantly attempted to reach for her, but withdrew. He shook his head and walked into the playroom. Chloe watched Clément rush into his father’s arms through the window.
"Lo…" She stopped, knowing that she couldn’t reach Laurence at this moment. Laurence’s hands were balled into fists, and her eyes were glistening with tears. Laurence looked at Chloe and walked away.
"Laurence," called Chloe.
"Leave me alone," answered Laurence, not even bothering to turn around. In a few moments she was out of sight. Chloe was considering going after her, when the policemen from earlier appeared.
"Miss? We were told we’d find you here. Is that Monsieur Glairon?" asked the policeman, pointing at Jean through the glass window.
"Yeah," said Chloe.
"Good. You’d be pleased to know that we found Beatrice. She is in our custody."
"Where was she?"
"At the house."
Chloe shivered, thinking of what could have happened if they had been dismissed earlier. "What’s going to happen?"
"It depends on him," answered the policeman, looking at Jean.
"What do you mean?"
"It depends if he presses charges or not or if she asks for mental help." With a head movement, he sent his co-worker inside the playroom to get Jean. Jean stepped out.
"Chloe, would you stay with Clément?" asked Jean before walking away with the two policemen.
An hour later, Clément and Chloe were sent back to their room, Jean and Laurence had not come back yet. The doctor stopped by, and told Chloe that Clément was free to go as soon as everything with social services was worked out. He told Chloe that Clément should avoid running for the next few days, and that his bandages should be changed twice a day for 4 days, and to let the skin heal without anything on after that. As he left the room, Jean came back.
"What happened?" asked Chloe anxiously.
"We can go," he simply answered, walking to Clément who was watching TV.
"Come on. I’m sure there is more to it. Jean, please I deserve to know," pleaded Chloe.
Jean sighed and sat on a chair. "Beatrice confessed everything. She asked for mental help. We can take Clément back as long as we agree on a visit from social services every week for the next 6 months."
"Is Beatrice coming back?" asked Chloe, almost fearing the answer.
"I’m going to file for divorce. No, she’s not coming back." Chloe released a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. "You know it means more work for you. I would understand if you chose to leave. I’m sure the organization can find you a new fam…"
Chloe interrupted him. "What is it with you guys assuming I’m going to leave screaming? Gosh, I’m sick and tired of it. Read my lips, I am staying. Got it."
Jean could have been offended by Chloe’s tone of voice, but instead smiled. "Good, then let’s go home." He picked up Clément and turned the TV off. Chloe grabbed the diaper bag and followed him out of the room, glad this chapter in her life was over.
"Where is Laurence? Asked Jean, walking down the corridor to the lobby.
"I don’t know, she left after your argument, and I haven’t seen her since."
They took a cab home. Chloe was hoping to find Laurence waiting for them, but no such luck. Jean told Chloe to go and rest for the remainder of the day. She protested that she was fine.
"I’ve spent the night in a hospital before, so I know you didn’t get much sleep last night. Go on, it’s only 2. I’ll call you tonight for dinner."
Chloe kissed Clément who wrapped his arms around her and returned her kiss. "I’ll see you in a little while sweetheart."
Once in her room, she took off her clothes and ran herself a bath. She laid down in the warm water, letting it sooth her tired muscles and closed her eyes. She got out only when the water started getting colder. Chloe put on a robe and quickly brushed her teeth. She couldn’t stop her mind from thinking about Laurence. Where can she be? She came back into her room, and sat on her bed, softly brushing her hair, her hand combing through the locks mechanically, and her mind filled with worries for Laurence. A light knock at the door broke her out of her wallowing.
"Come in," she answered, getting up and making sure her robe was properly closed.
The door opened and Laurence entered. She walked up to Chloe and stopped.
"I thought it was your dad," stammered Chloe.
"I never answered your question," said Laurence ignoring Chloe’s rumbling.
"Trust or doubts?" Laurence lifted Chloe’s face toward her, and stared at her. "The answer is trust," she said simply. Chloe blinked and looked back at Laurence, her face was really close, the blue of her eyes almost transparent. Before Chloe had time to speak, Laurence bent and kissed her. Her kiss was not soft as usual, but instead Laurence let the passion in her release, and poured every bite of it in her kiss. Chloe stood stunned for the first moment, but quickly responded. After long minutes, Laurence broke the kiss. "I’m sorry about earlier, I…"
"It’ s okay," interrupted Chloe, drawing Laurence back for another kiss.
Laurence wrapped her arms around
Chloe’s waist and slowly directed her toward the bed, laying both of them
down. She lay on her side, softly caressing Chloe’s face, and brought her
lips very close to Chloe’s. "No more fear. No more running," she whispered
before rolling them around and lying on top of Chloe. Chloe’s face was
flushed, her mind finding it hard to form any coherent thoughts. She locked
her arms around Laurence’s neck and drew her in. Eyes locked, holding only
love and understanding. Laurence gently nibbled down Chloe’s neck, slowly
undoing her robe, and caressing her stomach. Chloe gulped and tenderly
moaned drawing Laurence back for another kiss. Hands started roaming freely
on each other’s body, but as the passion escalated to the point of no return,
this time Laurence didn’t stop it, but instead embraced it.
Go to chapter XIII