Laurence’s eyes fluttered open. The room was cast in the late afternoon light, and strange shadows projected by the trees outside danced across the walls. She ground her teeth as pain suddenly shot through her shoulder. Slowly she freed her hand from Chloe’s and reached across the bed for what she hoped would be a call button. After searching for a few seconds, her fingers came across it and she pressed it numerous times before letting her hand fall back on the bed. A slight shift of her body helped release some of the pressure on her shoulder, and for a few moments, the pain almost seemed to go away before returning with a vengeance.
Chloe stirred slightly and blindly searched for Laurence’s hand, but when she finally found it, it was balled into a fist - so tight Laurence’s fingernails were dug deeply into her palm. "Lo, you’re awake?" She got up and sat on the edge of the bed. "Lo?"
"It hurts so bad," said Laurence between her teeth.
"The pain killer they gave you after the surgery must have run out. I’ll go get the nurse."
"No…it’s okay, I already pressed the call button…please just stay with me."
"Okay…I’m not going anywhere."
"How is Clément?" Laurence grabbed Chloe’s hand and squeezed it tight.
Chloe flinched slightly at the pressure applied to her hand, but refused to complain. If it helps her with the pain, I’ll take it gladly. She brought Laurence’s hand to her lips and kissed each knuckle lovingly. This gesture seemed to relax Laurence temporarily. "He is fine. A broken arm and a few stitches…nothing to worry about."
"What about you?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. Look at you, you’re the one lying on an hospital bed, and you’re worried about me." Chloe’s voice was packed with emotion. "Gosh, I refuse to get mushy right now," she said, smiling through unshed tears.
Laurence smiled, her features brightened for a few moments before being replaced with pain. "Can you tell me what happened?"
"What do you mean? You were right by me the whole time."
"After I got shot…can you tell me what happened after I got shot?"
"I…I…got you out."
"You don’t remember?"
Chloe sighed. "I jumped her and disarmed her."
"Thank you…you’re my knight in shining armor." Laurence laced her fingers with Chloe’s. "One thing though…don’t ever put yourself in danger for me….I’m not worth it."
"You let me decide that…plus I didn’t have time to think, I just reacted."
Laurence smiled and suddenly squeezed Chloe’s fingers and whimpered. "What is the fucking nurse doing?"
"Let me go get her." Chloe got up, only to be held back by Laurence.
"Sweetie, you’re being silly. Let me get her."
Laurence released Chloe and sighed, giving up. "You’re right." Chloe kissed her quickly and turned to go. "What about Beatrice?"
Chloe shut her eyes at the question, memories of the sound of a gunshot and a body falling to the floor rushed through her mind. "She’s dead." She walked out in search of the nurse.
Laurence took a deep breath and tried to relax. Far away noises coming from the corridor filtered into the silent room. Tears fell silently down Laurence’s cheeks, slowly splashing on to the pillow. What started as tears of pain turned into tears of despair as the memories of the previous night and what could have happened came rushing back.
"The nurse is coming." Chloe walked back to Laurence and sat on the edge of the bed. Gently she wiped away Laurence’s tears. "Be brave just a little while longer. Okay?"
Laurence nodded and grabbed Chloe’s hand, bringing it to her wet cheeks and kissing the palm. "I want out," she said between her tears.
"I guess they are going to keep you a few days…"
"No…I want out of this city…of the house. Too many bad memories…"
"Lo, don’t make any rash decisions." Chloe brushed a lose strand of hair behind Laurence’s ear. "You grew up in that house. It’s filled with your childhood memories."
"Maybe, but lately the bad ones have overstepped the good ones. Once I’m out, we’re selling the house."
"Here is the nurse," said Chloe, happy to see the woman in a white uniform and jumping on the opportunity to stop the conversation.
The nurse administrated a painkiller and a sedative into Laurence’s IV, and explained before leaving that it was necessary for Laurence’s recovery that she get plenty of rest. Shortly after, Laurence succumbed to the medicine, Clément woke up. In a few seconds Chloe was next to him. His still sleepy eyes looked at Chloe frantically. "Mommy," he said with a broken voice.
"She is right here sleeping…see?" Chloe got up with Clément in her arms and gently sat him next to Laurence on the bed. "We have to be very quiet."
"Is mommy hurt?" Clément’s eyes were riveted on the white bandage covering Laurence’s shoulder.
"She was, but she’s okay now. You see you have a cast also." Chloe pointed at Clément’s arm. "Does it hurt?" He shook his head and scooted close to Chloe on the bed. "I tell you what. Let’s go see if we can find something to eat. I’m afraid hospital food isn’t the best, but that’ll have to do for now."
Clément smiled and let Chloe carry him out of the room. The clock indicated 7 o’clock, the corridors were busy with the last visitors making their way out and nurses finishing their rounds. They found the cafeteria and Chloe ordered some soup for both of them. "I know soup isn’t your favorite, but I don’t know if I’m even supposed to bring you here…I guess so since you and I have officially already checked out…what do I know?" Chloe’s rambling brought a smile to Clément’s face and he hugged her waist with his good arm.
Chloe kissed his head. "Thanks sweetheart, but that won’t get you chocolate mousse…soup for you until I know that the medicine they gave you earlier hasn’t upset your stomach." They ate their soup quickly and hurried back to the room where Laurence was still sleeping peacefully. They had just gotten back when a nurse came in with two trays filled with food. She dropped the food, asked if they needed anything for the night, and left them.
"What do we have here?" She looked at the yellowish substance. "I guess that’s supposed to be mashed potatoes…yuck." She laughed at Clément’s look of disgust as she picked up a spoon of the food and let the food drop back with a splashy sound. "Unless you want some of that I say we forget about it." Clément nodded his approval and climbed on his bed. "I guess we could turn the TV on. I think Lo is gone for the night." She flipped the TV on and settled for the Disney channel at Clément’s loud verbal request. Chloe propped pillows behind Clément’s back and helped him sit up. She covered him with a blanket and settled next to him.
Half way through a rerun of Beauty and the Beast, a nurse came by to check one more time on Laurence, and this time also on Chloe and Clément. Once she made sure they were doing fine, she left.
The last credits of Beauty on the Beast
rolled off the screen and Chloe turned the TV off. Clément had fallen
asleep shortly after the nurse came in. She tucked the blanket around him,
kissed him and walked around the bed to her reclined chair. She settled
as well as she could and after taking hold of Laurence’s hand, she once
again closed her eyes.
"I’ll come back later on today…I just want to go home and change."
"Don’t worry about it. I’m fine. You guys go home and relax."
"Are you sure? We can stay if you prefer…"
"Chloe! It’s okay. These painkillers have me so tired that I’m probably going to sleep most of the day."
"Okay." Chloe sighed worriedly, and lightly kissed Laurence on the lips. "I love you."
"I love you too." Clément jumped on the bed and rushed into Laurence’s arms. "Hey, hey, careful," yapped Laurence, her face grimacing in pain.
Clément withdrew quickly and looked at his mother with teary eyes. "Sorry," he apologized with a small voice.
"It’s okay baby. It’s just…my arm still hurts a lot." She reached for him and drew him back slowly against her with her good arm. "You take care of Chloe, okay?" She whispered in his ear.
Clément nodded, got off the bed and proudly took hold of Chloe’s hand. "Great, now why do I feel that I have a body guard?" joked Chloe.
Laurence smiled. "Go on now."
"Okay, I’ll see you in a few."
They grabbed a cab and fifteen minutes later got out in front of the house. As Chloe dialed the entrance code, the Cambier’s door opened and Madame Cambier came rushing outside. She grabbed Clément into a bear-hug and wiped away the tears on her cheeks. "Thanks God, you’re home." She kissed Clément soundly before putting him down. "They cleaned up everything. There is no trace of…" She stopped not wanting to mention Beatrice in front of Clément.
"Thank you." Chloe squeezed Madame Cambier’s hand and stepped into the courtyard. "Would it be all right if I left Clément with you overnight, so I can go and stay with Lo? I don’t want her to be alone."
"Of course. Just come by when you’re ready."
Chloe thanked her and walked through the courtyard holding Clement’s hand. They both stopped at the front door hesitantly. Clément got close to Chloe as she unlocked the door, and attached himself to her leg.
"Come on sweetie, let’s go in."
Clément looked at her with terrified eyes, unwilling to take a step further. She knelt at eyes level and tenderly brushed his black hair away from his face. "It’s okay…I promise she’s not here anymore." Clément’s eyes watered with tears and he shook his head violently.
"I don’t want to," he said loudly. "I don’t want to," he repeated almost hysterically.
"Oh, sweetheart. It’s okay, we don’t have to go
in." She drew his trembling body into her arms and stood up. "Shuh, we’ll
go to Mims, okay?" She didn’t wait for an answer and made her way to the
"What happened?" asked Madame Cambier, letting them in and getting alarmed at Clément’s distress.
"He’s scared of going in. I don’t want to push him. Can we stay with you?"
She directed them toward the family room where Monsieur Cambier was watching TV. He tuned the TV down and walked up to Clément, who was still in Chloe’s arms. Without a word, he rubbed Clément’s back to get his attention and extended his arms to him. Clément took refuge into Monsieur Cambier’s arms and buried himself into his chest, looking for comfort.
Chloe passed her hand through her hair. Clément seemed to be really traumatized by the events of last night, and she didn’t know how to help him. "I’m going to go next door to get some clothes, and I’ll be right back," she told Madame Cambier. "Clément, I’m going to get us some clean clothes. I’ll be back in a minute." As she made her way to the door, she was stopped by Clément’s screams as he came rushing towards her.
"Please don’t go," he cried, hugging her legs, refusing to let go of her.
"I’m coming right back. I promise."
"No," he sniffled. "Don’t go there, it’s bad." His body was racked with sobs as he tightened his hold on her legs. Chloe looked at Madame Cambier, at a loss. She couldn’t stop her eyes from watering with tears. She dropped to her knees and pulled Clément tight into her arms, holding him with everything she had.
"Okay. Okay, I’m staying right here." They stood in the corridor for a long time, holding on to each other tightly, tears falling freely from their eyes.
Madame Cambier mouthed "I’ll go," to Chloe before slipping by them, unknown to Clément, and rushing toward her neighbor’s house.
Go to chapter XXIII
copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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