Monsieur Louvier nodded to Laurence, cleared his throat, took a deep breath and got ready to speak. As he opened his mouth, Laurence raised her hand in a silent order, stopping him.
"En Anglais," she said coldly.
Beatrice shot her a deadly stare and waved her hand, agreeing with the request. Monsieur Louvier wiped his forehead and turned to Laurence once more. "Would that be all?" he said, looking at her intensely.
Laurence ignored Monsieur Louvier's stare and nodded nonchalantly. "Yes, you may proceed," she said her eyes never leaving Beatrice. Laurence's mind was at work. She knew that Beatrice liked to be in charge and always felt very disconcerted when someone showed more authority than her. Laurence's plan was clear: she wanted to throw Beatrice off balance by making her believe that she didn't for one minute consider her request seriously. Despite Laurence's exterior show of strength, deep down inside she was shaking and her stomach was very tightly knotted.
"Very well," said Monsieur Louvier. "We would like to understand why your client would asked for shared custody of a child she has never considered hers," stated Monsieur Louvier to Beatrice's lawyer before shuffling through the documents placed in front of him.
"My client feels that she was a mother to the child for the first two and a half years of his life. She recognizes that she wasn't an exemplary mother, but she has been treated and we have letters from doctors proving that her previous behavior was due to a chemical inbalance in her brain. She is now under treatment." Beatrice's lawyer slid the documents across the table to Monsieur Louvier.
While Monsieur Louvier was reading through the paperwork, Chloe looked back and forth between Beatrice and Laurence. Laurence had adopted a relaxed posture, sitting sideways with one arm thrown casually over the back of the chair. Chloe wasn't fooled; she knew her lover too well, and a quick look at the back of Laurence's contracted neck would have been proof enough to anyone that her relaxed attitude was just an act. Beatrice's eyes had almost never left Laurence; she seemed to be studying her like a predator studies its prey before going for the kill.
"Those letters do not prove that Beatrice is capable of caring for an active four year old. Let's not forget that she killed Jean Glairon, and also sent Clément to the hospital with cigarette burns on his ankles and bruises all over." Monsieur Louvier reached inside his briefcase and pushed a large brown envelope across the table. "Here are medical documents describing Clément's injuries."
Beatrice's lawyer didn't even pick up the envelope. "Yes, I am familiar with those documents, but as I recall it was never proven that my client did it."
"She was the one in charge, and Monsieur Glairon was out of town."
"Maybe, but what proof do we have that my client was the one who administrated the injuries and not this young lady?" said Beatrice's lawyer coldly while staring at Chloe.
Chloe reacted instinctively and sprung on her feet. "Are you out of your mind? I would never…I found him sitting in a tub of cold water, crying his eyes out," she spoke loudly before sitting down. Laurence discretely reached for Chloe' s hand under the table and gave it a supportive squeeze. She slightly bent toward Chloe and whispered in her ear. "Please don't let them get to you."
Monsieur Louvier took a deep breath. "We are not here to condemn your client for something that never even went to trial, but do you think a judge would grant your client custody of a child knowing she has killed, was in a psychiatric hospital and might possibly have abused him before?"
"It's a risk we are willing to take. For the child's sake I would advise you to convince your client to try to resolve this matter in a friendly manner. Also, I forgot to show you this." He handed Monsieur Louvier a stack of pictures. Monsieur Louvier reached for them and his face turned pale at the sight of the first picture. On the gloss paper was Laurence pinning a man against a wall. Monsieur Louvier slowly shifted to the next one and a small sigh escaped him when seeing the still frame of Laurence angrily smashing a camera on the ground in front of the fearful eyes of a man.
Chloe had gasped slightly at the sight of the pictures. It was a set up, she thought, remembering Laurence's anger last Friday.
Laurence had briefly looked at the picture and even though a pang of fear had invaded her heart, she managed to control her reaction and calmly turned her attention back to Beatrice.
"I would like a minute alone with my client," said Monsieur Louvier, his hands slightly shaking.
"Very well," said Beatrice's lawyer, indicating for her to follow him.
As soon as they were out, Monsieur Louvier turned to Laurence. "What in h… what in the world is that about?"
"Beatrice had one too many of her goons invade our privacy, so I jumped him," explained Laurence, her arms crossed on her chest.
"Great. Do you realize what that does to our case? Do you?" asked Monsieur Louvier angrily. "It diminishes our argument that Beatrice is a violent person since they have proof that you're not better…"
"Let me stop you for a minute here. This thing was obviously a set up. She knew I was going to get upset and she planned this whole thing. Yes, I fell for it, but it doesn't make me a bad mother. I am not a murderer as she is and I have never raised a hand against Clément." Laurence's voice had risen slightly and a hint of panic could be heard in it.
Monsieur Louvier sighed. "I am not saying we are going to lose. I'm saying that we are losing credibility. I do think that for Clément's sake we should settle before this goes any further."
"I am not settling," said Laurence smashing her hand on the table to make her point.
Chloe grabbed Laurence's hand and brought it to her lap. She gently brushed a strand of loose hair behind Laurence's ear. "Listen, it doesn't cost anything to listen to what they have to offer. We don't have to accept," she said softly, trying to calm Laurence with her voice.
"Fine," said Laurence, flopping back on her chair.
"Okay, good. I'll ask them to come back in." Monsieur Louvier got up and indicated for Beatrice and her lawyer to regain their seats. "We are willing to hear what you have in mind so we can settle this matter in a friendly manner."
Beatrice's lawyer looked briefly at Beatrice and shook his head at her placid expression. "My client changed her mind about settling. She won't accept anything else except what she came for, and that is the child's custody, but we are willing to hear your offer…"
"No we are not," interrupted Beatrice, her eyes not leaving Laurence's face for a minute.
Laurence grabbed her armrests and tightened her grip around them, her knuckles turning white. "His name is Clément - not child," she said, her teeth almost grinding with anger. "I wish to talk to Beatrice alone." When no one seem to be acknowledging her request, she spoke menacingly. "NOW!"
Beatrice nodded her agreement to her lawyer, who got up. "If my client has no objection to it, then I think we should respect your client's wish."
Monsieur Louvier looked at Laurence, but she dismissed him with a cold stare. He got up and left.
"You too Chloe," said Laurence while staring at Beatrice.
"No," said Chloe, sitting back in her chair to emphasize her decision.
Laurence abruptly turned and coldly looked at her, but Chloe's determination was apparent in her eyes, and Laurence sighed in defeat. "Fine." She got up and went to close the door Monsieur Louvier had left open and then turned back to Beatrice. She slowly walked back, taking a few seconds to recompose her self, and leaned on the table, her blue eyes staring intensely into Beatrice's. "What do you want Beatrice?" she asked in a growl.
"I thought it was clear. I want Clément," answered Beatrice calmly.
"Cut the crap," said Laurence, walking around the table and stopping only a few inches away from Beatrice, her tall frame towering over her. "What do you really want? You and I both know that you don't give a damn about my son and you never did. You were only after my father's money…Is that what you want Beatrice? Money?" Laurence was now behind Beatrice, her hands on her shoulders, the last words whispered menacingly into Beatrice's ear.
Beatrice removed Laurence's hands from her shoulders, got up and turned to face her. The two women were now face to face only a few inches away from each other. "What do I want Laurence? Simple, I want you." Beatrice turned around and walked away stopping next to Chloe who was still sitting. "You made my life impossible when I lived with your father. I want everything you care for, your son, your money, and even your lover," said Beatrice, sarcastically running her hand through Chloe's hair. Chloe whipped her head around and jumped up.
"Keep your hand away from me."
"Now we are getting to the bottom of it. This is what you want, money. How much is enough to make you go away?" said Laurence, taking her checkbook out of her inside pocket.
Beatrice laughed even harder. "I want it all Laurence. I want you to be left out on the street with only your eyes to cry. Unless you are willing to give me that, don't flash your checkbook in my face."
"My father worked hard to get where he was, and if you think I'm going to turn it all over to you, you are sadly mistaken," said Laurence, not even trying to hide her anger.
"Well then, I'll see you in court," said Beatrice, walking toward the door. "One step at a time, isn't it?" she said before stepping out.
Laurence watched Beatrice leave and once the door closed she slammed her fist against the table and fell into the chair Beatrice had been previously sitting on.
Chloe offered to drive home and Laurence simply nodded, handing her the keys. Slightly after noon, Chloe maneuvered the car into the courtyard. Laurence slowly opened the car door and stepped out, her walk heavy, her mind cloudy with dark thoughts. She opened the front door and let Chloe in.
"I probably should go to work now," she said absently. "Madame Cambier will pick up Clément from school…I…"
"Lo. Just come in, okay?" said Chloe softly, removing Laurence's jacket, taking her hand and pulling her into the family room. She gently pushed Laurence down on the couch and sat next to her. "Sweetheart look at me…please," said Chloe almost begging, worried at her lover's depressed expression. Laurence looked at Chloe, her eyes filled with tears. Chloe lightly brushed her thumb across Laurence's cheek, catching a falling tear. "Lo, we've lost a battle not the war. There is a way out of this, I swear there is. We'll find it together," said Chloe softly. She tenderly kissed Laurence's eyes. This gesture brought more tears to Laurence's eyes. Chloe washed Laurence's face with her kisses, and lovingly kissed her lips. As she did so, a sob escaped Laurence. Laurence reached for Chloe's face as her body was racked with sobs, she kissed her, letting her tears mingle in their kiss. It suddenly seemed as if she couldn’t get close enough to Chloe, her need almost overwhelming. Chloe understood Laurence's sudden abrupt movements to get her closer and melted her body to hers. Laurence's kisses turned from need to passion, and her hand starting roaming all over Chloe' body, lifting her shirt and unhooking her bra in the process. Chloe's breathing was ragged and she suddenly grabbed Laurence's hands and brought them to her mouth.
"Lo, slow down…"
Laurence's eyes burned with passion and tears. She shook her head and looked at Chloe, almost pleading. "Please don't push me away…please," she said, her face again bathed in tears. "I need you…please…" she begged, bringing her lips back to Chloe's and taking her in her arms.
Chloe nodded and let Laurence's need take her. Their love making was wild and passionate, the need to love, please and be loved in return driving Laurence to extremes. Once they came crashing down, Chloe hugged Laurence tight against her chest, accepting her tears and whispering words of reassurance to her.
Go to chapter XVI
copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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