October flew by. Chloe and Laurence’s relationship grew stronger as the weeks went by. Sunday night separations were becoming harder and harder, neither of them willing to let go and be apart for 5 days. Clément had slowly come back to his old self, playful and full of energy. Life was good, and without the dark presence of Beatrice, much more enjoyable and relaxed. Jean had started to travel again, but he always made a point of never being gone more than 2 or 3 days at a time.
The only stressful time for Chloe was when social services came over for their weekly visit. She felt judged and was always scared of doing something wrong. Jean always tried to be present during those meetings, but he unfortunately wasn’t always able to. The same women from the hospital had been assigned to what they called "Le dossier Glairon," and each time one of them would insist on playing with Clément while the other spoke to Chloe or Jean.
On a cold November day, Chloe and Clément were walking back home from school. They stopped at the boulangerie to buy Clément a snack, and were back on their way. Clément was excitingly explaining to Chloe how a clown came to their classroom today, and how he blew up balloons and made animal shapes with them. Clément ran down the sidewalk with his arm dangling in front of him, pretending to be the elephant the clown had made. Chloe ran behind him laughing, and caught him as he ran through the open gate of their courtyard.
"Caught you," said Chloe, laughing and grabbing Clément by the shoulders. Clément didn’t seem to respond, his gaze was fixed ahead, and his body was shaking. "What is it sweetheart?" asked Chloe, following Clement’s gaze. There, at the end of the courtyard, was Beatrice’s gray metallic Mercedes. "Okay, babe, no need to panic." Chloe picked up Clément and slowly walked back out. Once out of the courtyard, she rang Monsieur Cambier’s bell urgently.
"J’arrive, J’arrive," Monsieur Cambier called. He opened the door, and Chloe almost pushed him out of the way to get in. Clément was still holding on to Chloe trembling. A panicked Chloe rushed to explain why she was there.
"On se calme mon petit. Je ne comprend rien si tu me parles dans ta langue de sauvage."
An older woman’s voice was heard coming from the another side of the house. "René, qui est ce?"
"La jeune voisine. Quelque chose c’est passé, mais je ne comprend rien elle parle Anglais."
A woman with long gray hair pulled into a ponytail came toward them. She carried herself elegantly, and was wiping her hands on a kitchen towel. She walked up to Chloe, and smiled, warmly extending her hand.
"I speak a little English if you speak slowly," she said with a smile and a thick accent.
Before explaining anything, Chloe took a deep breath, and asked to use their phone. Madame Clément directed her toward the living room. Chloe tried to put Clément down, but he started crying, so she tenderly kissed him on the head and sat down with him on her lap, one arm holding him, and the other holding the phone.
"Monsieur Glairon s’il vous plait. C’est une urgence."
"Tout de suite mademoiselle."
"Jean, it’s Chloe. We have a problem. Beatrice is here."
"What? Are you guys okay?"
"Sort of. Clément is panicked. He is the one that saw her car first…we were coming back from school…"
"Did you see her?"
"No, as soon as I saw the car, I picked him up and left."
"Where are you?"
"At our neighbor’s house. Monsieur et Madame Cambier."
"I want you to stay there with Clément until I come. Let me talk to Monsieur or Madame Cambier, and I’m on my way."
"Okay." Chloe handed the phone to Madame Cambier who had come back into the living room with two glasses of milk and chocolate cookies. She took the phone from Chloe, and as she spoke with Jean, her expression grew concerned. She hung up the phone and looked at Clément while shaking her head in consternation.
"He said to stay here," she said, gently brushing Clément’s hair back. Clément had relaxed a little, but still kept hold on Chloe’s arms. "You want cookies?" she asked in broken English. Chloe smiled at her kindness, and picked one up from the tray. She broke it in half and offered the other half to Clément, who refused it. "Children always want cookies…not good, not good," said Madame Cambier, shaking her head once again. She got up and came back shortly after, carrying a box full of paper and markers. She smiled at Clément and set them up on the table in front of him. "Draw?" she asked. Clément looked at her and slid from Chloe’s lap slowly, making his way to the box of markers and paper, he looked back at Chloe, silently asking for permission.
"Go on, sweetheart," smiled Chloe, grabbing another cookie.
She got up and walked to the window, trying to see if she could still spot Beatrice’s car, but the placement of the window made it impossible to see anything besides the sidewalk. Damn, what can she be doing inside? She walked back to her seat and smiled at the sight of Clément drawing away with Madame Cambier happily helping him choose different colors.
An hour went by when suddenly police car sirens were heard coming down the street followed by an ambulance, but instead of passing by, they stopped in front of the house. Chloe rushed to the window, and turned back. Clément was still peacefully drawing, unaware of the outside noises.
"Madame Cambier. The police car stopped at our house. I need to know what’s happening. Would you please keep an eye on him for a few minutes?"
"Go ahead." She smiled.
Chloe ran outside. On the sidewalk, a small crowd was starting to form. The front door was open, and Jean’s car was parked in front along with the police cars and the ambulance. Chloe pushed her way through and ran up the front stairs, but before she had time to step in, was stopped by a policeman.
"Let me go. I live here," she yelled, not understanding.
"Non, personne ne peut entrer," said the officer, holding her. Another officer popped his head through the family room door.
"Qu’est ce qui se passe?" he asked.
"J’en sais rien, je comprend rien a ce qu’elle raconte."
The officer in the family room came forward. "Hello, I’m officer Pernat. You can’t stay here"
"I live here…what’s going on/"
"You live here?" he asked.
"Yes, yes, I babysit Clément, the little boy, I…"
"Where is he now?"
"At the neighbor’s house. We were coming back from school…what’s going on? Why are you here?" asked Chloe, fear suddenly gripping her. "Jean," she called, snatching her arm out of the policeman’s hands and running toward the family room. She was stopped by one of the policeman before she had time to make it up the stairs.
"Jean," she yelled, not getting an answer.
The officer turned her around and looked at her. His eyes held compassion and sadness. "Miss, I think you should sit down." Chloe looked at him and let him take her to the couch. "Miss, I’m sorry, but Jean Glairon was shot less than an hour ago."
"What?" asked Chloe in shock.
"His wife called us to confess…she has already been arrested…I’m sorry."
"If this is a joke, this is sick," said Chloe, getting up angrily.
"Miss, please sit down," said the officer gently.
"No…you liar," Chloe ran upstairs in despair, tears pouring down her face, calling for Jean. She got to the top of the stairs and was stopped by a paramedic. She pummeled his chest and yelled for him to let her through. He softly but strongly held her at arm’s length. Chloe looked past him and froze. A few feet away was Jean, laying under a white sheet, the bottom of his shoes the only thing visible. Before being able to control herself, Chloe screamed.
The paramedic kindly walked her back down and handed her to the officer with a sad smile. Chloe sat on the couch in shock, unaware of the tears falling down her face.
"Miss?" called the officer. Chloe slowly looked at him, her eyes blank and unexpressive. "You said the little boy is at the neighbor’s house. Can you both stay there for the night? Is there any other family we can contact?
Chloe nodded. "His daughter in Lille. I’ll call her…I"
"No, we’ll take care of it. Do you have the number?" asked the officer, making sure his voice was calm and gentle. Chloe nodded and wrote it down on the officer’s note pad. "Thanks. I’m going to take you back next door now. Tomorrow we’ll come and ask you some questions."
Chloe mechanically followed him. Before reaching the door she stopped. "I want to call her myself."
The officer turned around and looked at Chloe. "Miss, calling someone to tell them that their father was shot is not an easy thing. I think you should let us handle it…"
"No, I want to do it," said Chloe, wiping off tears from her eyes.
The officer sighed. "There are no laws stopping you from doing it. Please let us handle the details."
Chloe nodded. "I just want to tell her. You can talk to her after I do." She didn’t wait for the officer to answer, turned around and walked back to the family room. She stared at the phone for a few moments and picked it up. It rang five times, and Chloe was ready to hang up when Laurence picked up.
"Lo, it’s me."
"Hi. You got me to run, I heard the phone ring from downstairs….wait, you never call in the middle of the day. Are you okay?" asked a concerned Laurence.
"I’m fine…so is Clément….Lo, there’s been an accident."
"What do you mean?" Laurence’s voice trembled, the worse possible scenario passing through her mind, but she was not prepared for the news Chloe announced. Laurence swallowed hard. "Is that a joke?"
"I wish it was sweetheart," answered Chloe softly.
"Where is Clément?" asked Laurence with tears in her voice.
"At the neighbor’s house."
"You go to him, you hear me. Stay with him until I get there….I can’t afford to lose him too…I.."
"Lo, he is safe there, I swear. Beatrice has been arrested already."
"I’m on my way."
"Okay," murmured Chloe, hanging up. She walked back to the officer who was waiting for her in the entrance. "She’s coming," she said flatly. The officer nodded and walked Chloe back to the Cambier’s house.
Meanwhile, in Lille, Laurence stared at the phone still in her hand, and slowly put it down. She balled her hands into fists and hit the wall, the pain shooting through her hands, not enough to appease her. She slid down to the floor and sobbed.
Chloe found Clément watching TV with Monsieur Cambier. She silently sat next to him.
"Look, Sesame," laughed Clément, pointing at the TV screen. Chloe looked, almost unable to focus, felling really numb. She heard Madame Cambier close the front door and come back to the room. She walked in, and motioned for her husband to come, leaving Chloe and Clément alone in the room. Chloe looked at Clément who was happily giggling at Cookie Monster’s last joke, and started sobbing. Clément turned to Chloe, his eyes questioning. She picked him up and squeezed him against her chest.
"I’m sorry sweetheart, I’m okay," she took a deep breath and tried to calm down.
"Let’s go home," smiled Clément, getting up and pulling Chloe’ hand.
Chloe’s tears started again on Clément’s statement. "Oh, babe not tonight, okay?" she said sniffling. "Tonight, we stay here…it’s going to be so much fun."
"Tomo’ow we go home?" asked Clément.
"Tomorrow," answered Chloe, her voice barely a whisper.
"Okay," said Clément, happy with the answer, and turning his attention back to his TV show.
to chapter XVI
Go back to main index
copyright (C) 2000 Malaurie
Feed the bard: firstname.lastname@example.org