They waited for the elevator in silence. Laurence's jaw was tied, her blue eyes had turned gray, and she had a death grip on her brief case. Once the elevator arrived, she walked in abruptly and stood rigid against the car's wall, her eyes fixed on a point ahead of her. Chloe shook her head and sighed as she leaned against the wall. As they walked back, Laurence remained silent. Upon reaching the car, she stiffly opened the door, got in and started it. She glanced briefly at Chloe before pulling out of the parking spot. She drove fast, weaving between cars, barely stopping for red lights, her eyes fixed on the road, her knuckles white from her tight grip on the steering wheel.
Shortly after leaving Vincennes, Laurence floored it and sent the car flying down the road. They had been driving at high speed for about 10 minutes when Laurence took a sharp curve without slowing down. The tires squealed and the car swerved into the left lane.
"Laurence, careful!" yelled Chloe suddenly. Laurence sharply turned the steering wheel to the right and barely avoided the car that had been coming toward them. The sudden change of direction made their car fishtail and for a brief moment it swerved out of control. Laurence slammed on the brakes and managed to pull the car to a stop on the side of the road.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" screamed Chloe, still scared. "You could have killed us!" She angrily opened the door, stepped out and slammed it. She took a deep breath and tried to regain control of her emotions before looking at Laurence who was still sitting in the car, her hands still gripping the steering wheel, her eyes staring blankly ahead of her. Chloe walked around the car, and opened the driver's door.
"I'm sorry I screamed…I got really scared. Lo, it's okay…why don't you step out and take a breath of fresh air?" She gently removed Laurence's hands from the wheel. "Lo?" she called, staring into Laurence's blank eyes. "Hey…anybody home? Come on sweetie, we're not dead," she said with a smile, trying to pry Laurence out of her shell. Suddenly, Laurence's eyes filled with tears, and a sob escaped her. Chloe quickly forced Laurence to turn to face her and knelt in front of her. She grabbed both her hands and brought them to her lips. "It's okay. Lo, you can let it go…I'm right here," she said, bringing their joined hands to her heart. Her words triggered a chain reaction and before she knew it, she was holding Laurence tightly against her chest, gently whispering in her ear, trying to soothe her.
Laurence let Chloe hold her and allowed herself to give up the fight. She had been holding her tears, trying to be strong, but Chloe's love and compassion broke her restraint. They held each other on the side of the road, oblivious to the cars driving by and the obvious stare of the occasional pedestrian.
After a while, Laurence let go of Chloe and stood up. She straightened her suit and quickly wiped her eyes. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Lo…"
"No, I'm not sorry for letting it out. I'm sorry for almost killing us earlier. I let my anger blind me." She passed her hand through her hair and sighed. "I'm scared, Chloe. I'm really scared because I don't know what to do…I feel helpless. A mad woman is threatening to take my son away and it seems as if there is nothing I can do about it."
"Lo, come on, think positively here. You lawyer just told you that we have a good chance. Come on, any sane person will realize how crazy and unrealistic such a claim seem." She gently pushed a strand of hair back behind Laurence's ear. "Let's go home, 'kay?"
Laurence nodded. "Can you drive?"
"You want me to drive?" asked Chloe incredulously. Laurence nodded for the second time in a row. "Okay, that's not how I imagined my first driving experience in France, but whatever," she said, slipping into the driver's seat and adjusting the mirror. "You've got to give me directions."
"I will…just keep going straight for now."
Chloe started the car and drove away.
They didn't hear from Monsieur Louvier for another ten days. Laurence was constantly on the edge and the atmosphere in the house was electric. Even Clément wasn't his usual happy self. On Thursday when Monsieur Louvier called to ask them to meet with him at his office early the following morning, Chloe felt as if she could finally breathe and that maybe the end of their turmoil was near. The meeting was to get them ready for their first encounter with Beatrice the following Monday.
On Friday morning they got ready as they had done ten days before, and stepped out. Rain was pouring down, making the day dark and gloomy. Laurence opened her umbrella and turned to Chloe. "Wait for me here, I'll go get the car," she said before stepping into the rain, leaving Chloe on the front porch. As Laurence walked down the stairs, a sudden flash came from the sidewalk. Laurence growled, dropped her umbrella, and before Chloe had time to react, she was half way across the street, going full speed toward a man dressed in a greenish trench coat. Laurence grabbed him and pushed him violently against the wall.
By the time Chloe reached Laurence, Laurence was tearing film out of the man's camera. "Lo, what are you doing? Let him go." The rain increased, and drops slid down Chloe's neck inside her jacket. She shivered and pushed her soaked hair away from her eyes.
Laurence spoke to her without releasing her grip on the man's collar. "This goon is one of Beatrice's henchman." She shoved the film in her coat pocket and slammed the camera forcefully on the ground, shattering it into pieces. She then abruptly stepped back, glanced one more time into the man's eye, grabbed Chloe's hand and hurried them back toward the house. Chloe hurried along side Laurence, and took a look back at the man who was kneeling on the ground picking up pieces of his camera.
Laurence reopened the front door and walked back inside the house. "We're soaked, we should probably changed before we go."
Chloe nodded, still shocked at Laurence's reaction and what she had just witnessed. Laurence started upstairs and, seeing that Chloe wasn't following, came back down. "Chloe, stop day dreaming, we've got to get moving here," she said impatiently.
"Who are you?" asked Chloe, her eyes scanning Laurence's face.
"What do you mean, who am I?"
"I don't recognize you Laurence…this temper of yours is getting out of control…I…I know this man was taking pictures of us, but he was only doing his job. You didn't have to be rough with him and destroy his camera…"
"Chloe, he was one of Beatrice's private eyes, or whatever you want to call him. He is just lucky I didn't catch him earlier. Come on, we don't have time for that right now."
"No, we do. I want to address this problem right now," she said taking her stand. Seeing that Laurence was going to interrupt she started talking again. "The car incident last time, your impossible mood swings for the past ten days, and not this…I know you're under stress and you're worried, I've tried to stand by you, but you act as if you don't want any help. Don't start taking me for granted Laurence."
"Are you done?" asked Laurence dryly.
"Good. Now I'm going to change and go to a meeting that might stop a mad woman from claiming my son. If you think I'm taking you for granted then do so because I don't have time to argue with you. I never said it would be easy, and if you're not strong enough for the ride maybe you should rethink being in this relationship." Laurence stared coldly at Chloe for a few moments, turned around and left the foyer.
Chloe stood there dumbfounded, fighting the tears coming to her eyes. She then followed Laurence upstairs. She walked into their bedroom as Laurence was finishing putting on a dry sweater over a pair of gray slacks. Laurence passed her hand quickly through her damp hair and turned to face Chloe. She acted as if she was going to say something, but instead shook her head and walked past her without a word. A few minutes after, Chloe heard the car drive away from the house.
"I guess she didn't need me to go with her after all," she said to herself angrily before shedding off her wet clothes.
Laurence came back from the meeting with Monsieur Louvier around noon. She felt a little lighter than she had for the past week. The meeting had gone well, and they had spent the entire morning getting her ready for her meeting on Monday with Beatrice. She walked upstairs looking for Chloe, but didn't find her. She called her name, but only silence answered. Worriedly she called the cell phone she had given to Chloe a few weeks back, but only got the answering machine. She pushed her worries aside and decided that Chloe had probably gone for a walk. A part of her wanted to believe that the argument they had earlier had nothing to do with Chloe's disappearance, but the most practical part of her knew that it was the sole reason.
She sighed and decided to try to relax while waiting for Chloe to come home and to go pick up Clément from school.
"Where is C'oe?" asked Clément when Laurence tucked him in for the night.
"She went out with some friends. You'll see her tomorrow," she lied.
"'kay," said Clément turning to his side and burying his face in his pillow. Laurence kissed him goodnight and left the room.
She settled downstairs in front of the TV, willing to stay up all night to wait for Chloe. She went trough her collection of video cassettes and popped in her all time favorite, The Last of The Mohicans.
The last credit of The Last of the Mohicans rolled and still Chloe wasn't home. Laurence turned the TV off and started pacing. She opened the front door, walked up to the front gate and looked down both sides of the street to see if she could see her. After a few minutes, the cold crept through her bones and she hurried back inside. She couldn't help feeling guilty for all the times she had disappeared and left Chloe wait for her. With a sigh she flopped herself back on the couch and flipped the TV back on. A quick look at the clock indicated 11:30. The worries she had tried to suppress came rushing back.
"Where in the world can she be?" she called aloud in frustration. She had barely said that that the front door opened and Chloe walked in. Laurence jumped to her feet and rushed to her. "I was worried sick. Where were you? You could have left a note…"
Chloe looked briefly at Laurence and walked past her without a word, leaving Laurence stunned behind her. Laurence waited a few minutes to calm herself down and followed her upstairs. She rushed to their bedroom only to find Chloe's clothes piled up on the floor and the bathroom door closed. She took a deep breath and sat on the bed, willing for the second time today to wait for Chloe.
Twenty minutes later, Chloe stepped out of the bathroom wearing a robe and a towel wrapped around her head. "Where were you?" asked Laurence softly, knowing she was on dangerous ground.
"Reconsidering this relationship," Chloe answered calmly, while looking through her dressers for something to wear for the night.
Laurence swallowed hard at the blow, knowing she deserved it. "About earlier, I'm sorry…it's just that we really didn't have time to discuss it, I'm willing to right now."
Chloe laughed dryly. "You're willing to right now! Well, maybe I'm tired and I don't feel like it," she said, putting on a pair of flannel boxer shorts and dropping her robe to slide on a t-shirt.
Laurence stood up, slowly considering her answer. "I know my temper scares you, but I thought you understood that I will never take it out on you."
"No Laurence, that is not what you said. You said and I quote, 'I hit things but I will never never touch anyone.' Well you crossed that line when you went wild on this poor guy earlier. That's not even why I'm so pissed off at you right now…you left without me, and that really hurt. I care about what happens with Beatrice as much as you do, but you don't seem to understand that." Chloe paused to catch her breath. "I knew that a relationship with you wouldn't be all fun and games and I accepted that, but I'm tired of you doubting my involvement in this situation," she paused again before continuing. "And I'm also tired of your acts of violence. In a way you're not better than Beatrice." She stared at Laurence waiting for the beast to explode.
Laurence's blood boiled in her veins and she abruptly walked up to Chloe. Chloe stood her ground and looked at her with arms crossed in front of her chest. Laurence stopped dead in her tracks and her eyes filled with tears. She slowly stepped back, looking at her hands and dropped onto the bed. "You're right, I'm no better than her," she said softly. "I was going to hurt you right now." A tear rolled down her face and her hands balled into fists. Chloe rushed to Laurence's side and carefully reached for her hands. She opened Laurence's hands and linked fingers with her. Laurence looked at Chloe, her blue eyes sad and teary. "How can you even sit next to me right now?" she said with a tight throat.
"Because I love you," answered Chloe honestly.
Laurence' s tears now flowed freely down her cheeks. "I need help Chloe…please don't leave me…"
Chloe smiled and wiped Laurence's tears off. "I'm not going anywhere, Lo. The first step to recovery is to admit that you have a problem. Maybe you should go and see a psychologist. You have so much going on, anyone would snap." Laurence nodded. "Come on, let's go to bed. It's late and I'm really tired."
Laurence got up. "I'm sorry I left without you…I don't know what came over me…blind rage…The meeting went well. I feel ready to meet Beatrice on Monday."
"Good. You can fill me in tomorrow. Go get ready, I'll wait for you."
Laurence left for the bathroom and came back out a few minutes later with her hair brushed and wearing a long nightshirt. She lifted the covers and slid in next to Chloe. "Where did you go today?" she asked, scooting close to Chloe.
"I spent most of the day with Vincent…I needed someone to talk to. I walked a lot and I went back to our little hideout…it's still the same."
"I haven't been there in a while."
"We should go, I miss the place." She turned to face Laurence and lightly kissed her.
"I'll call my doctor on Monday and ask him to refer me to a psychologist. I know I've never been a very passive person, but until today I never lost it on another human being. It scares me."
Chloe kissed her, not knowing how to answer. "We'll work it out."
Laurence pulled Chloe into her arms. "I love you," she said before kissing her. "I don't know how I survived before meeting you…without you I feel lost. I was so worried when you didn't come home tonight." She brought their foreheads together.
"I had to think…I should have called."
"I've done it to you before and I never called."
"I guess we're even then," smiled Chloe.
"Yes, we are," answered Laurence
before burying her face in Chloe's hair.
Go to chapter XIV
copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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