Chloe kissed Laurence one more time and got up. "Are you sure you don't want to come with me?" she asked.
"No, you haven't seen your mom in a while. You guys must have some catching up to do. Just ask her to come over for dinner tonight." Laurence walked Chloe to the door and helped her put her jacket on.
"All right then. Are you going to cook?" she teased, knowing her lover's lack of culinary talent.
"Very funny! I'll work something out. Go on, you're going to be late."
Chloe stood on her tiptoe and kissed Laurence lightly on the lips before opening the door. "I love you."
"I love you too. Go already, you're letting the cold air in!" Laurence teasingly pushed Chloe out.
"You are so happy to get rid of me for the day!"
"Have fun," smiled Laurence before closing the door.
Chloe smiled and walked down the street toward the metro station. The weather was beautiful and the temperature had considerably warmed up over the past few days. It was still not sweater-weather, but warm enough not to keep the cold from creeping into your bones.
Chloe sat on the train lost in her thoughts, her eyes blankly staring at the empty seat in front of her. She was still pondering Laurence's request from the day before, not knowing if she should accept or not. Why is it such a big deal? I love Clément. If Lo feels that she is backed up against a wall and needs my help… Chloe stopped her train of thoughts, the truth suddenly dawning on her. "That's it!" she expressed aloud, nd received deadly stares from the other passengers. She smiled lightly to excuse her outburst and settled back in her seat. I don't want Lo to ask me to adopt Clément because she is scared she'll lose him at the moment. I don't want to say yes and have her regret it later on. Chloe smiled to herself, glad she finally understood what had been bugging her.
The train pulled into Les Halles station and she got up to get out. The metro was unusually calm for a weekday, and Chloe enjoyed being able to walk freely without being pushed and shoved along. She got out of the station and spotted her mother waiting for her on a bench.
"Mom," she called, walking fast toward Elizabeth.
"Hey!" waved Elizabeth, getting up to meet her daughter. They hugged briefly, and Elizabeth kept her hands on her daughter's shoulders to scrutinize her face. "You look tired."
"Gee, thanks mom!" answered Chloe bitterly. "Nice to see you too."
"I'm sorry sweetheart. I'm glad to see you, but you still…"
"…look tired, I know. It's because I am. What would you like for lunch?" asked Chloe, changing the topic.
""Anything would do. The food in this country is amazing. I don't know why everyone isn't obese!"
Chloe laughed. "The food is really good, you're right! The secret, mom, is: No snacking!"
"Then where is the fun in that?" smiled Elizabeth.
"Lo and I came here last year. There is a nice crepe restaurant a few blocks from here. Are you game?"
"Sure. Crepes are like pancakes, right?" Elizabeth casually put her sunglasses on and buttoned up her long leather coat.
"Technically you can say that they are flat pancakes, but don't tell Lo I told you that, she'll have my skin," laughed Chloe happily.
"Very protective of her culture, huh?" asked Elizabeth.
"You could say that. Do you now know how long you're here for?"
"Not really. Could be a few more days, could be another week. No clue."
They walked leisurely down the street toward the restaurant Chloe had in mind. Chloe glanced side ways at her mother while she was busy describing her last assignment where she had to investigate one of the worst parts of Los Angeles. Elizabeth wore her hair long and floating around her shoulders, she had a slight touch of make up on her cheeks, and the dark brown mascara on her eye-lashes made her eyes stand out. She was slightly taller than Chloe and walked with her shoulders back and her stature firm, commanding respect. Chloe had no doubt that her mother was very good at her job and well-respected by her co-worker.
They reached the restaurant and sat next to the window.
"No hostess here," remarked Elizabeth.
"In fancier restaurants you'll find a hostess, but it's not very common."
"Weird," said Elizabeth matter-of-factly before picking up the menu. "Well, everything is in French. Why don't you order for me?"
"Okay, I think I know what you’d like. Before I forget, Laurence asked if you'd come over for dinner tonight."
"Assuming I don't get called in, I'd love to."
Chloe ordered two Perrier bottles from the waiter and turned back to her mother. "How do you like France so far?"
"Well, like I said before, the food is amazing. People at the hotel are a little rude though."
"What do you mean?" asked Chloe, smiling at the waiter who had just come back with their drinks.
"Rae and I were out for dinner last night at the hotel's restaurant. She speaks a little French, so she tried to order in French…"
"Big mistake, huh?"
"That's the least I can say. The waiter told her very politely but with sarcasm dripping from his voice that he spoke English and there was no need for her to try to speak French."
Chloe's eyes twinkled with amusement. "They are every proud of their language. Don't ask why, I have no idea!" she laughed.
Elizabeth picked up a piece of bread. "So, how is Laurence?" she asked, changing the topic.
"She is okay."
Elizabeth looked at her daughter for a few moments and took a sip from her water. "Just okay? Is everything all right between you guys?"
"Everything is fine, mom," answered Chloe, unwilling to go into details.
"Chloe, I know you. Come on spill it out."
Chloe sighed and passed her hand through her hair. "We've just been dealing with a lot lately. Beatrice is trying to get Clément's custody, and Laurence is on the edge…"
"Beatrice is Laurence's…"
"Ex-step mother, Clément's so-called mother, the one who killed Laurence's father…you get the picture…" They were interrupted by the waiter who came to take their orders. Chloe ordered for both of them and handed the menus back.
"You speak French like a native now," smiled Elizabeth, approvingly.
"I don't really. Ordering food is easy."
Elizabeth nodded. "I guess it must be really hard for Laurence to have to deal with Beatrice again. Do you really think Beatrice stands a chance?"
"I didn't use to think so, but after Monday's meeting…I don't know what to think anymore," Chloe dropped her head and mindlessly played with her napkin.
Elizabeth looked at her daughter worriedly and poured herself some more water, She looked at the bubbly beverage for a few seconds, her mind trying to find an answer to her daughter's problem. Before she had time to speak, Chloe broke the silence.
"Lo wants to move to America and she wants me to adopt Clément." Chloe lifted her face to look at her mother, her gaze searching for an answer in Elizabeth's face.
"Wow, adopt Clément…that's a big step." Elizabeth reached for Chloe's hand across the table. "What did you answer?"
"I said I have to think about it."
Elizabeth nodded her appreciation. "You have to follow your heart."
"I know. I think moving to America is backing down. We let Beatrice rule our lives. Right now I feel like she is in control."
The waiter came back and set their meals on the table. Elizabeth looked at the steamy hot crepe on her plate with melted cheese on top, and smiled appreciatively. She picked up her silverware and cut out a piece. "What about Clément? Adoption is nothing to take lightly."
"I'm not taking it lightly, mom!" said Chloe, louder than she meant to."Sorry…I'm just a little on edge. I love Clément, but…"
"…you don't know if you want to be responsible for him for the rest of your life," interrupted Elizabeth.
"No, that's not it. Mom, you don't seem to understand that I want to spend the rest of my life with Laurence. I don't fear being responsible for Clément. I…I just don't want her to regret it later on."
"What do you mean?"
"She is asking me to adopt him right now because she is scared, but she had never mentioned it before. I don't want her to ask me such an important thing for the wrong reasons."
Elizabeth put her fork down, and slid her chair closer to Chloe. She grabbed both of Chloe's hands in hers and looked at her in the eyes. "I can't give you the answer. I wish I could, but I can't. It wouldn't be right for me to tell you what to do. Sweetheart, I know you'll make the right choice."
"Thanks mom," answered Chloe softly, her eyes slowly filling with tears.
Elizabeth wiped a lonely tear from Chloe's cheeks. "Eat now, your food is getting cold."
After lunch, they leisurely strolled around town. They roamed through small antique shops along the Seine, just enjoying each other's company and making small talk. In one shop, Chloe stopped to admire an old set of paintbrushes sitting in an old wooden oak box. The box was carved with intriguing patterns forming geometrical figures, inside it on a red velvet interior were the brushes.
"This is beautiful," Chloe said, running her hand across the smooth wood.
"What is?" asked Elizabeth who had been looking at an old map of Paris.
"This box. Laurence would love it."
"Yes, she's a great painter. I'll show you some of the paintings she's done. They are amazing." Chloe went to the shop attendant and asked for the price. She walked back to her mom, shaking her head.
"Too expensive?" inquired Elizabeth.
"More than I can afford." Chloe delicately put the box back on its shelf. "Oh well! Let's get out of here."
Elizabeth picked up the box. "I'll buy it."
"Mom! I can't let you do that. It's way too expensive. I can't even bargain the price down because I don't have enough vocabulary."
"Chloe, I'm sure I can afford it. Call it an early birthday present from me to Laurence. When is her birthday anyway?"
"In August….Okay, I'll let you buy it on one condition."
"What would that be?" smiled Elizabeth.
"I'll pay you back when I have the money."
Elizabeth looked at her daughter's determined face and sighed in defeat. "Fine…you are so stubborn. You are so much like your dad when you are like that!"
"Hey, I take offense to that. Plus dad used to say that I got my stubbornness from you."
Elizabeth laughed and handed the box to the cashier.
Go to chapter XVIII
copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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