Laurence hugged Chloe one more time and shook Elizabeth's hand. "I'll see you very soon," she told Chloe, briefly brushing her cheek with her fingertips. She smiled at Elizabeth and disappeared through the gate. Chloe stared where only a few moments before Laurence stood, and sighed.
"Okay, let's go," she told her mom, turning around and walking back toward the parking area.
The trip back to Laguna was quiet. Elizabeth drove smoothly through traffic while Chloe was lost in her thoughts. "When are you thinking of going?" asked Elizabeth, breaking the silence.
"To France? As soon as I can. I guess I'll go to the French embassy on Monday and see what's required for a student visa."
"I thought you said you weren't going to ask for a student visa before June or July." Elizabeth parked the car in front of the apartment building and turned it off.
"I'm not, but I don't want any surprises once I do ask for one."
"Then, if the visa is not what's worrying you. What is?" Elizabeth walked up the stairs followed by Chloe. She opened the door and stepped in her apartment.
"Dad," answered Chloe with a sigh.
Elizabeth looked at her daughter's worried face and smiled knowingly. She knew for a fact that her ex-husband wasn't going to be too happy about Chloe's decision, she also knew that he always dreamt of seeing Chloe in court defending the innocents or behind a computer solving the world's problems. During their years of marriage, she had been able to moderate him and talk him into letting Chloe make her own decisions, but after the custody of her only daughter was granted to her ex-husband, she lost all power of persuasion over him. "You said that he accepted your relationship with Laurence, I don't know why he would get upset if you want to go back to be with her."
"Mom! I don't think he is going to care about that, his problem is going to be my studies. He refused to pay for school if I wasn't studying computer or law." She sighed and started pacing around. "How do you think he is going to take it when I tell him, that not only I'm giving up my studies in America, but I'm going to France and probably getting a theatre degree there."
"Then don't tell him."
"What?" Chloe stopped and faced her mother.
"Chloe, don't you know how to deal with your father by now? Let him believe you're going to continue your studies in the same field once you get there."
"I can't lie to him." She sat on the couch and passed her hand through her blond locks.
"You're not lying, you're just not telling him. If he asks, which I'm sure he won't, then answer honestly; otherwise, don't make a big deal out of it and act as if the only thing you're doing is moving your studies somewhere else."
"How do you know he won't ask?"
"I was married to the man for 12 years," smiled Elizabeth. She picked up a bottle of scotch and poured the brown liquid into a small glass. "He'd rather not know than to be told the truth."
Chloe looked at her mom and shook her head. "Not true. When I told him about Laurence and I, he didn't like it, but he didn't blow up or anything…"
"Right," interrupted Elizabeth. "But what happened during the week? Did he ever acknowledge your relationship with Laurence?"
Chloe looked up from the spot on the table where she had been staring and shook her head slowly. "No, he never did," she answered softly.
"Listen sweetheart, you don't have to worry about him questioning you about your studies, but instead find a way to deal with his reaction when he tells you he thinks you're too young to know what love is," said Elizabeth, sitting next to Chloe and briefly squeezing her hand. "I know I haven't been the most perfect mother, and you and I don't really know much about each other, but trust me, I know your father."
Chloe nodded and smiled lightly. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," answered Elizabeth, getting up and finishing her glass. "Tell you what? Let's go shopping. What about I replenish your wardrobe before you go?"
"Great idea," laughed Chloe, pushing her worries aside and deciding to enjoy her last afternoon in California.
The plane landed and Chloe got up, picked up her carry on and exited. She had decided to tell her father right away that she intended on moving back to France with Laurence, and not to mention anything about her studies. She silently prayed that her mother was right and that he wouldn't ask any questions. As planned he was waiting for her at the gate. He had obviously just gotten out of work and still wore a gray business suit, his tie a light blue navy, and his hair impeccably brushed back. He hugged Chloe and grabbed her suitcase.
"How was it?"
"Laurence came," Chloe said, deciding to be blunt. Robert nodded and kept on walking. Once outside, the bitter cold of January grabbed Chloe and she shivered. "You gave her mom's address."
"Yes, she called." Chloe sighed and sat in the car her dad had just opened. "So, did you have a good time?"
Chloe smiled. "Yes. It was great seeing her. Great distraction since mom left for Korea."
"Your mother, always putting her job before her family."
Chloe raised her shoulders, unwilling to argue with her dad about her mom. "Dad, listen. When Laurence came I made the decision to move back to France with her." Chloe sat back in her seat, waiting for her father's reaction.
Robert's hands tighten on the steering wheel. "I don't think it's a good idea," he said calmly.
"Dad, I wasn't asking you, I was just telling you," said Chloe, trying to keep her voice leveled.
"So was I," answered Robert, his voice still calm, not revealing any of his emotions.
"Dad, I spoke to mom about it, and she thought it was a great idea."
Robert parked the car in front of the Bethesda house and got out. "Chloe since when does your mother know what's good for you?"
"Dad! That's not the point. I thought you liked Laurence. I thought you didn't mind my relationship with her."
"I don't, but as long as you still depend on me financially and live under my roof, I expect certain things from you, and you moving back to France is out of the question."
Chloe stormed inside the house and threw her bag next to the stairs. She turned to her dad angry. "You haven't even asked why I want to move back," she barked.
"I know why!" Robert answered, nonchalantly.
"You think you love her."
"I do," she yelled back.
"Sweetheart, you’re 18, you're too young to know that. Stay here finish your studies, and then if t you still love her, then I won't stop you."
Chloe looked at him stunned, her mother's words of warning ringing in her ears. "You can't stop me dad," she said, picking up her luggage. "Oh, and by the way, I'm 19," she said stamping upstairs.
Robert sighed and shook his head, thinking that she would see reason once she calmed down.
Once upstairs, she reached inside her jean pocket for her wallet and took out a piece of paper and reached for the phone. "United Travel, please…Bethesda…thanks." She hung up and dialed the number the operator gave her. "Yes, hello, I'd like to talk to someone about booking a flight for Paris… Sure I'll wait." She paced around the room while waiting for a travel agent to get on the phone. "Yes, hello….yes, Paris. As soon as possible would be great…no, I'd rather wait…sure." She started pacing again and stared at the number she had written down in California. Her mother had insisted in giving her her credit card number to pay for her flight. 'Call it a late Christmas present,' had said Elizabeth with a smile. "Yes…you have a flight for Wednesday…arrival Thursday 7 a.m.…that's perfect, I'll take it. Thank you." She gave the credit card number and hung up, a weight lifted from her chest. She smiled and felt that she had made the right decision. Quickly, she picked up the receiver and dialed Laurence's number.
"Hi, it' s me," she said as a way of introducing herself.
"Hey, you're home."
"Yes. Listen I hope you meant it when you said you wanted me to move with you because it might happen sooner than planned."
"You know I meant it. When?"
"Thursday. I get in at 7 a.m."
"I'll be there," said Laurence with a warm voice.
"Good. Now pray that my dad doesn't tie me up to keep me here."
"He didn't take it very well?"
"Not really. He didn't even try to understand…he thinks I'm too young to make my own decisions."
"No regrets?" asked Laurence, feeling suddenly insecure.
"None," answered Chloe sincerely.
"Good …remember what you told me one day, 'together in this mess.' "
Chloe smiled. "Yes, I remember. I'll see you Thursday."
"I love you."
"I know," answered Chloe, relief obvious in her voice. "I love you too. Bye."
After hanging up with Laurence, she grabbed the phone again and dialed Sean's number. She quickly explained the situation to him and asked him if she could stay over until Wednesday. Sean was the only one who knew of the nature of her relationship with Laurence, and he also had the advantage of living in an apartment instead of the dorm.
"No sweat," answered Sean. "You can stay in my roommate's bedroom, he went home for the holidays. Do you need a lift?"
Chloe sighed. "I don't know yet…I have to try to go and talk to my dad again, and see if I can make him change his mind. I really don't want to leave with bad feelings. I'll call you back."
"I'll be around all afternoon," answered Sean before hanging up.
She hung up for the third time in a row, but this time instead of picking up the phone, she left her room in search of her dad. She found him in the family room, sitting in front of the fireplace, reading a book. He had changed and now wore a pair of beige pants and a brown woolen sweater. "Dad?" said Chloe while entering the family room. Robert raised his head from his book and removed his glasses.
"Are you calm now?" he asked, putting his book down on his laps.
"Yes, I'm sorry I got upset."
"Good, I'm glad you heard reason," he said, picking up his book again.
"What do you mean?"
"Changed your mind."
"Dad, who said I changed my mind? I said I was sorry I got upset, and I am, but I didn't change my mind," Chloe said, trying to remain calm.
Robert sighed and got up, leaving his book on the couch. He walked to the fireplace and opened a wooden box. He took out a pipe and stuffed it with tobacco. He lit it and slowly puffed from it. Chloe looked at him, her heart beating faster. Robert rarely smoked, and when he lit his pipe, it was always a sign of anger and a need to control his rising temper. Chloe knew that, and even if she had only but a few times seen her dad mad, she kept a very unpleasant memory of them.
Robert finally spoke after a few minutes of silence. "Let's make it clear. You're not going to France. I thought the Laurence's story would only be a flame, obviously I was wrong. If I had known I would have never given her your mother's address or encouraged you in any way."
"Dad, you're the one who said we should talk our problems out…we did, and now you are going back on what you said."
"That was before my only daughter told me that she wanted to move to a foreign country. A year is one thing, a life another."
"Who is talking about life? I just want to go to school there and be with Laurence. Once I'm finished, we might come back."
"Arghh…you're impossible to talk to." She stormed back upstairs and called Sean. "If the offer still stands, I need a ride."
"Okay, give me your address."
She gave it to him and hung up. "Okay, packing time," she said, quickly picking up empty suitcases and piling in clothes. As she dropped her passport in her backpack, Sean pulled in front of the house. She rushed down the stairs and opened the door. Sean got out and came forward to hug her.
"Hey, you're okay?"
"Are you sure you're doing the right thing?" he asked. The dark clouds that filled Chloe's eyes made him withdraw his question. "Sorry…I had to ask. I guess you know what you’re doing."
Chloe smiled. "Yes, I do. Come one, let's get my luggage."
They picked up three suitcases from her bedroom and her backpack. "What's going on?" asked Robert, coming out of the family room.
"Dad, this is Sean. I'm going to go and stay with him until my flight on Wednesday."
Robert looked at his daughter incredulously. "What?"
"Dad…I'm not a little girl anymore," she said softly, walking toward him. You can't fight my battles anymore, and you can't make decisions for me. I love Laurence…I know you think that I'm too young and I have no idea what love is, but you're wrong. I feel it here," she said putting her fist on her heart. "It hurts inside when I'm not with her, I get up and she is the first one I want to see in the morning or talk to." Chloe looked at her father, her eyes pleading for understanding.
"Go then," said Robert, giving up. "Go."
"Dad," said Chloe, coming closer to him, only to have Robert step back.
"Go," he repeated, putting his hand to stopped Chloe from moving forward.
Her eyes filled with tears. "Fine. Come on let's go," she said to Sean, grabbing her suitcase and walking out.
The next few days flew by. On Tuesday, Chloe ran to the French embassy and got information about student visas. On Wednesday, Sean dropped her off at the airport and waited until she boarded to leave. Her heart felt heavy at her father's refusal to understand, but she felt that she had made the right decision and it was time to live for her and not in her father's shadow.
The flight was smooth and the winds favorable. They landed in Charles de Gaulle a little before planned, and as Chloe stood in the line for immigration, her heart beat faster. After clearing up her paper and getting her suitcases, she rolled her cart out. The airport was as crowded as a year and half ago when she stood on French ground for the first time. She scanned the crowd for Laurence, fear taking her when she could not see her. She moved forward and suddenly felt herself pulled into a hug. She quickly turned around and faced Laurence's smiling face. Laurence giggled and kissed her soundly on the lips.
Chloe buried her face in Laurence's chest and hugged her tight. "Gosh, I'm glad to be here."
Laurence smiled lightly kissing Chloe's hair. "We should move, we're in everyone's way."
"Let's them complain," Chloe answered, tightening her grip on Laurence.
Laurence laughed. "Come on sweety, let's go."
Chloe reluctantly let go of Laurence. "Did you leave Clément with Madame Cambier?" she asked, slightly disappointed of not seeing the three years old.
"No, he is in school. I wanted to spend the day with you," she said, taking hold of Chloe's hand, and pushing the cart expertly out of the crowd. "We'll go pick him up together."
"Does he know I'm coming?"
Laurence sighed and looked briefly Chloe. "Yes, I told him." What she wasn't telling Chloe was that when she had shown Clément pictures of Chloe the night before, he had angrily grabbed them from Laurence's hands and thrown them on the floor. She knew his reaction was normal, but she was worried about Chloe's reaction if Clément refused to interact with her at the beginning.
Go to chapter VIII
copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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