Chapter XIX

    Chloe sat up suddenly and her eyes scanned the moonlit bedroom. Laurence was peacefully asleep next to her, and the house seemed quiet. Chloe fell back on her pillow and closed her eyes, willing herself to go back to sleep. Then she heard it again, a whimpering sound, almost a cry in the night. "Clément!" she said aloud, pushing the covers away and getting out of bed in a hurry. A quick look at the monitor showed that it had never been turned on the night before. "Shit!" she mumbled as she rushed out of the bedroom. She hurried down the corridor, tripping on one of Clément's toy cars which had been left behind. She found Clément curled up in his bed, shivering in cold sweat.

    "Hey sweetheart, it's okay. I'm here." She picked him up and sat him on her lap. Clément stared blankly at her. A quick touch on his forehead was enough for Chloe to realize that he was burning up. "Sweetheart, can you tell me where it hurts?" Clément tried to focus on her with feverish eyes, but gave up and closed them again, exhausted. Chloe quickly started undressing him. She grabbed a large towel from his bathroom and wrapped him in it before starting the water running in the tub. Still carrying Clément, she stepped out of the room and yelled for Laurence.

    Laurence heard her name called from far away and slowly opened her eyes. Another call got her out of bed and out of the room in a few seconds. "Chloe, what's wrong?" she yelled as she ran down the corridor.

    "In the bathroom," answered Chloe.

    Chloe still had Clément's limp form in her arms. She was kneeling at the bottom of the tub, testing the water. "Do you have a thermometer?" she asked once she felt Laurence's presence in the room.

    "Yes, in the medicine cabinet. What's going on?" Laurence looked panicked at Clément's little form in Chloe' arms.

    "He’s burning up…go get the thermometer." Chloe turned toward Laurence who instead of doing what she had been asked, was kneeling beside them and extending her arms toward Clément. "Laurence, this is no game. Do it!" yelled Chloe.

    Laurence stood up and nodded before rushing out.

    "Okay, sweetheart. Can you hear me? We are going to take your temperature and then we'll give you a bath. I swear it's going to make you feel better."

    Laurence brought the thermometer back, along with a fever medicine for children. "Here, give him to me, I'll do it." She took Clément from Chloe's arms and sat on the edge of the tub. "40.2. Shit!"

    "What does it mean? Give it to me in Fahrenheit."

    "About 103."

    "Shit. Okay, I'll give him a bath to bring the temperature down, and you call the doctor."

    Laurence handed Clément back to Chloe, and kissed him on the cheek. "Mommy will be right back," she said tenderly, brushing his warm cheek.

    "Okay baby. You're not going to like this, but it will make you feel better." Chloe unwrapped the towel from Clément and lowered him into the tub. The semi cold temperature of the water sent Clément into a fit.

    "I want out," he yelled, trashing around.

    Chloe held him in it, and gently whispered soothing words to him. Once he calmed down, she started pouring water on his body, making sure his torso was submerged at all times.

    "Okay, the doctor said we're doing the right thing. The bath should lower his temperature. If we can't bring it down, he said to call him again, otherwise he'll come first thing tomorrow."

    Chloe nodded. "Thank God you guys have house calls in this country."

    Laurence grabbed a sponge and gently squeezed water on Clément's head. He had stopped whimpering, and sat there letting them take care of him. After 10 minutes, Laurence took him out and quickly dried him before putting him into an over sized T-shirt. Clément hung on to her and she sat on his bed, holding him against her chest. "Mom is here sweetheart. I know you don't feel well, but I'm not going anywhere."

    Chloe sat next to them on the bed. "I have to take his temperature again…to see if what we did was useful."

    "So what is it?" asked Laurence impatiently once Chloe had removed the thermometer.


    Laurence exhaled and tightened her grip on Clément. "Thank God."

    Chloe passed her hand through her disheveled hair and quickly looked at her watch. "5 a.m…I don't know how long he had been whimpering for before I heard him. I can't believe we forgot to turn the monitor on!"

    Laurence brushed Chloe's hand. "Can you go and get a glass of water downstairs, and mix one of those little packets of medicine in it?" she asked, pointing at the medicine laying on the bed.

    "Sure." Chloe got up, a wave of exhaustion washed over her as she made her way downstairs. She came back up after a few minutes and handed the drink to Laurence.

    "Thanks," smiled Laurence. "Clément, can you do mommy a favor? Come on sweetheart…I need you to drink this glass of water for me." She brought the glass up to Clément's lips and let him sip it slowly. Once he was finished, he closed his eyes again as if drinking had been too exhausting for him. "Let's go back to bed for a little while, and take him with us."

    Laurence settled Clément between both of them, and covered him up with a blanket. "Careful, you don't want to cover him too much…we just broke his fever," said Chloe, getting in bed. She propped herself on her side, facing Clément and Laurence, and gently brushed Clément's hair out of his face. "You scared me," she said softly to him before kissing his cheek. As she brought her head back up, she met Laurence's eyes.

    "Thank you," whispered Laurence.

    "You don't have to thank me."

    Laurence reached above Clément's sleeping form for Chloe's hand. "I wouldn't have heard him if it wasn't for you."

    Chloe smiled and squeezed Laurence's hand before putting her head back on her pillow. Laurence reached for the light switch and flipped it off, sending the room into darkness, but never letting go of Chloe's hand. She scooted closer to Clément and wrapped her arm around him, bringing Chloe closer in the process. She linked their fingers tighter before letting sleep claim her.


    Around 8:30 a.m., Doctor Francis climbed up the stairs to the front door and rang the bell. The door opened a few minutes later to Laurence wearing a robe and rubbing her sleep deprived eyes.

    "Merci de venir si tôt," she said, letting him in.

    She directed him to the family room, where Chloe had just arrived with Clément in her arms. Laurence re-explained quickly what happened last night. Chloe tried to follow their conversation but gave up, her mind still foggy with sleep.

    "Okay babe, Doctor Francis is here to help you get better. Now can you try to tell me where it hurts?"

    Clément pointed to his throat while looking at the doctor with frightened eyes. "Your throat hurts. Good. Anywhere else?" asked Laurence gently. Clément shook his head negatively. "Okay, the doctor is going to examine you. Okay?"

    Laurence spoke briefly to the doctor, took Clément away from Chloe's arms and laid him on the couch. Clément looked around, panicked, and started screaming in terror as Doctor Francis approached him. Laurence and Chloe were beside him in a flash. "Shuh…" whispered Laurence to sooth him. Doctor Francis explained that Laurence could hold Clément while he examined him. Laurence nodded and kept a strong grip on Clément while trying to distract him with tender words. The examination was quick, and a few minutes after finishing, the doctor had signed a prescription and left.

    "What did he say?" asked Chloe.

    "It's strep throat. I can't believe we didn't notice it before last night. He must have been hurting for a while."

    "What do we have to do?"

    "Keep him inside for a few days. Stop him from running around…at least today. We don't want his fever to peak up again."

    "I want to watch TV," stated Clément in a low tone of voice.

    "Okay, but you have to promise me to drink some hot chocolate if I bring some to you."

    Clément nodded. Laurence laid him on the cushion again and put a blanket on him. "I'll be right back." She then left for the kitchen followed by Chloe.

    "That bitch!" said Laurence angrily as soon as she was far enough from Clément.

    "What's the matter?" asked Chloe, not understanding where Laurence's anger suddenly came from.

    "Did you see how he reacted to the doctor? I thought his fear would have gone away by now, but no!" Laurence grabbed a glass from the cupboard and poured two spoons of chocolate powder.

    "What are you talking about?"

    "Ever since he went to the hospital he’s scared to death of doctors. Another thing to blame her for…I swear I could kill her right now." She poured some milk into the glass, put it in the microwave and slammed the door.

    Chloe sighed, understanding Laurence's anger. It was as if no matter what they did, Beatrice always managed to creep back into their lives. She was about to reply to Laurence when the phone rang.

    "Get the milk would you? I'll get that." Laurence rushed to the family room to pick up the phone.

    "So, who was it?" asked Chloe, helping Clément to sit up and looking at Laurence who had returned to stare out the window.

    "We have another date with Beatrice tomorrow at 2. There is going to be a judge there…he is the one who is going to decide if this case should be dismissed or pursued."

    "This is good news right?" Chloe handed Clément the glass of chocolate milk and held it for him as he took a few sips from it.

    "I don't know…I guess we'll find out tomorrow."


    Later, Laurence drove to the pharmacy to pick up Clément's medicine. They spent the day relaxing in front of the TV. Clément, still very weak, slept most of the day. That night they kept him in their bedroom to make sure there would not be a repeat of the night before.

    The following morning they woke to a rainy day. Clément's temperature was still above normal, and Laurence bore a worried face as she put the thermometer down. "It really should have dropped below 99 degrees with the medicine."

    "It only has been one day. Stop panicking."

    "You're right!" Laurence looked into Clément's clear eyes, and kissed him on the forehead. "You're a trooper…a little sore throat ain't gonna kill you!" she joked.

    Clément cuddled up in her arms and buried his face in her neck. "One thing positive about you being sick: you're very cuddly…not that I'm complaining." She hugged him tight and settled back on the coach.

    "We can't have Madame Cambier take care of him like that…he whimpers every time one of us puts him down or goes out of the room."

    "I know, I was thinking of the same thing."

    "I'll stay with him. You go…this is your fight."

    "This is our fight…but it might be best for today." Laurence stood up and put Clément down. As soon as she let go of him he started whimpering.

    "Come one sweetheart, I have to get ready."

    "I'll stay with you Clément." Chloe smiled at Laurence and gently pushed her away before sitting next to Clément. Chloe tried to keep a positive attitude until Laurence left for the meeting. She didn't want to let Laurence know that it hurt her not to be able to be there with her for such an important moment.


    The suspense was driving Chloe insane. Laurence had been gone since one o'clock and it was now 7:30 p.m. She had already given a bath to Clément and was getting ready to tuck him in to bed when Laurence came rushing in. She wore a large smile and without a word picked up Clément and hugged him tight. She then put him down on his bed, grabbed Chloe and kissed her before folding her into her arms. "I take it it's good news," giggled Chloe. Even Clément had a smile on his face.

    "Verdict: case dismissed."

    "What?!" exclaimed Chloe.

    "He said that they don't have a case…funny, Beatrice’s lawyer didn't seem too surprised. Hey what was that for?" complained Laurence, rubbing her stomach after Chloe slapped it.

    "For not calling me as soon as you knew. I was worried sick."

    "I left my cell phone here." Laurence grabbed Chloe's face and kissed her breathless. "Am I forgiven?" she joked.

    "Yeah…yeah," smiled Chloe. "Say goodnight to your son and come meet me in the bedroom…we can see if you have a better way to ask for forgiveness." She kissed Clément and left the room, sticking her tongue out playfully at Laurence.

    Laurence laid down next to Clément and gently brushed his hair back. "I love you…you seem to feel cooler tonight. Are you feeling better?"

    "Yes," said Clément sleepily.

    "You scared me the other night…I love you too much, so you make sure you stay healthy and strong, okay?"

    "Okay." Clément closed his eyes, rolled on his side and buried his face into Laurence's chest.

    Laurence tenderly rubbed his back for a few moments, and once she was sure he had fallen asleep, she slowly got up and left the room. "Now…let's go see what Chloe had in mind," she thought, smiling to herself.


    Laurence woke up in the middle of the night with a feeling of uneasiness. Chloe wasn't in bed and the bedroom door was wide open. "Chloe?" she called. Not getting an answer, she got up. A quick look into Clément's room found him sleeping peacefully. Laurence walked downstairs in the dark, calling softly for Chloe. As she was half way down, a long forgotten smell reached her nostrils. Her body froze and the hair on her neck stood. She finished her descent her eyes nervously scanning the room. "Chloe?" she called again, this time louder. Her eyes adapted to the dark, and she started easily discerning the shapes of objects, the streetlights lightly penetrated the room. As she walked across the family room, a match lit up a cigarette in the corner, illuminating someone's face. Laurence stopped dead in her tracks. Before she had time to realize what had happened, the same hand that held the match turned on the light, blinding Laurence momentarily.

    "Laurence, Laurence…didn't your father teach you better? You see, you should have changed the locks."

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copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber

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