Laurence slid her shoes on and bent over Chloe's sleeping form, lightly brushing her lips on Chloe's cheeks. "Sweetheart, I have to go."
Chloe slowly opened her eyes and tried to focus on Laurence's face that was barely visible in the darkness of the room. "What…what…Lo, where are you going? It's not even light out." She sat up and rubbed her eyes.
"I have to take care of some things. Can you get Clément ready this morning? Madame Cambier should pick him up as usual."
"Sure…are you going to work?" Chloe tried unsuccessfully to utter the sentence without yawning.
"I don't know yet…I have things to take care of. Trust me. I'll tell you all about it when I get home." She kissed Chloe and smiled. "I love you."
"Not only are you mysterious this morning, but you're also romantic…not that I'm complaining," joked Chloe, bringing Laurence's face toward hers for another kiss.
"I'll call you later on." She placed one last kiss on Chloe's forehead and left the room. A quick stop by Clément's bedroom reassured her that he was still asleep. She brought the cover back over his shoulders and kissed him on the head. Clément moved slightly and whispered something before settling back on his side. As silently as possible, she crept down the wooden stairs, grabbed a piece of bread from the kitchen and left the house.
A look at her watch indicated 6:45 a.m. She covered her hands with a soft pair of leather gloves and buttoned up her leather jacket as she walked quickly to her car, which was parked at the end of the courtyard. As she drove passed the house, she smiled at the sight of a light turning on in Clément's bedroom, leaving no doubt that Chloe's sleep time would be interrupted in the next few minutes. She pressed the gate opener and maneuvered the car into the street.
Clément ran down the corridor and burst into the room where Chloe still lay asleep. He giggled slightly and screamed, "Here I come!" before launching himself onto the bed and landing half on Chloe and half on the spot previously occupied y Laurence.
Chloe yelped and turned just in time to catch Clément. "You little monkey, what do you think you’re doing?"
Clément worked his way under the blankets and cuddled against Chloe's side. "Good morning."
"That's quite a wake up call you just gave me," smiled Chloe while gently rubbing his back.
"Where is maman?" he asked.
Chloe sat up suddenly, bringing him with her. "What did you just ask?"
"Where is maman?"
"Maman?" asked Chloe again, making sure she heard it right.
Clément jumped out of bed. "I'll show you," he said before running out of the room.
"Gosh, can this kid walk anywhere instead of running?" said Chloe before flopping back on her pillow. She sighed and got up. The cold morning air of the room sent chills through her spine, and she quickly grabbed her robe from the bathroom. Before she had time to go in search of Clément, he came rushing back inside, holding a drawing in his hand. He jumped back on the bed and proudly presented it to Chloe.
The drawing was, as one would expect, extremely childish, but Clément had picked distinctive colors, which made the person in the picture easy to identify. Chloe took the drawing and sat next to him. She had no doubts she was holding a drawing of Laurence, the black hair and blue eyes making it easy to recognize. At the bottom of the picture was a sticker that read 'maman.'
"This is Lo," said Chloe to Clément, searching his face for a better understanding. "Did you draw it at school?" Clément nodded. "This is a very good picture…you have your mother's talent," she said jokingly, feeling a little awkward for using the word mother when speaking about Laurence. I guess there is no point in denying it…this kid is smart. "We better get moving if we want to have you ready on time. Can I keep the drawing?"
Clément nodded, jumped off the bed and ran out screaming. "Come get me!"
"Oh, boy!" said Chloe, putting the picture on Laurence's pillow before going after Clément.
After Madame Cambier picked up Clément, Chloe turned on the TV to have a background noise and went into the kitchen to get some breakfast. As she was putting strawberry jam on a piece of toast the phone rang.
"Shoot," she quickly liked the sticky substance of her fingers and ran to get the phone. "Allo."
"Chloe. Hi, it's mom!"
"Mom…how are you doing?" asked Chloe, smiling into the receiver. Her relationship with her mother had improved a lot, and she always looked forward to her mother's calls.
"I'm great. I'm at Charles de Gaulle, right at the moment."
"Charles de Gaulle airport?" asked Chloe, incredulously.
"Yes, we just landed a little while ago. How are you doing?"
"Wait, mom back up for a minute. You are in France!"
"If Charles de Gaulle is in France, then I guess I am," joked Elizabeth.
"What are you doing here?"
"Covering some events," answered Elizabeth without elaborating. "I would have told you earlier, but I just found out yesterday."
"How long are you staying?"
"No idea…a few days I guess. I'm waiting for a cab right now to take us to the hotel."
"Where are you staying?"
"Hold on, let me look at the paper they gave us. Royal Monceau, somewhere on avenue Hoche. I have no idea where that is," said Elizabeth with a laugh.
"Mom, why don't you come and stay with us?"
"And miss staying in a five star hotel…I think I'll pass. I'm just joking sweetheart, it's easier for me to stick around where the rest of the crew is."
"Oh," said Chloe with disappointment. "Will I get to see you?"
"I think we have the afternoon off tomorrow to do some site-seeing. Are you free?"
"Great, I'll call you tonight and we can work on the details. I've got to go right now. I'll talk to you later."
Before Chloe had time to answer the line went dead. She had barely time to hang up when the phone rang again.
"Hey, it's me. How was Clément this morning."
"Good. Really good. Lo, he knows."
"That you are his mother."
"Did you tell…"
"No, of course not - how could you even ask that? I think it came from his teacher, He drew a picture of you at school and put a sticker saying 'Maman' on it."
Laurence sighed on the other side of the line. "What did you tell him?"
"Nothing really. I don't see the point on denying it."
"I guess I'll deal with it tonight."
"Also, my mother is in town…some assignment she is working on. She said she'll call tonight so we can see each other tomorrow…I'm telling you weird things are happening today. What have you been up to?"
"Here and there. I'll tell you more later on."
"Are you coming home right now?"
"Not yet. Can you meet me around noon in front of the indoor market?"
"I guess…what do you have in mind?"
"I'll tell you when I get there. See you then."
Chloe stared at the phone. "What is it with people hanging up before I have time to say good bye?" She put down the receiver and went back to her breakfast.
Chloe reached the market exactly at noon. She spotted Laurence, who was waiting for her, casually propped up against the wall, her hands buried inside the pockets of her jacket. "Hey?" she said with a smile. "Have you been waiting long?"
"Not really, I just got here." Laurence took Chloe's hand and started walking toward the castle.
"Where are we going?"
"To lunch," answered Laurence with a smile.
"Where would that be?" asked Chloe playfully while trying to keep up with Laurence's long strides.
"Some place where we haven't been in while." Laurence looked at Chloe with a smile without stopping.
They walked up to the entrance of the tunnel. Laurence looked briefly around and, not seeing anyone, she twisted the bars off and slid inside followed by Chloe. Once inside, she withdrew a flashlight from her pocket and put the bars back in place. Chloe looked around while waiting for Laurence. Even though she had come here by herself, the darkness ahead of them always gave her chills. Laurence illuminated the corridor, grabbed Chloe's hand and started walking.
"It's been such a dry winter that the mud is almost gone," said Chloe while stepping over what used to be the mud puddle. "I hope the blankets are still there because it must be 20 degrees colder in here."
They finally reached the room and entered. It was as Chloe remembered, filled with antiques and paintings. They crossed the first room and Chloe held her breath in anticipation of going into the room they used to call 'theirs.' She walked inside and a sigh of happiness escaped her lips. Nothing had changed. The makeshift bedroom they had built on the far right with blankets and pillows was still there.
Laurence walked to the table where a basket lay. She then proceeded to take out food and set it on the table.
"The first time you brought me here we had a picnic also," said Chloe, remembering.
"And that's when I realized that I was head over heels in love with you," smiled Laurence, tenderly brushing Chloe's hair back behind her ears. "Let's eat, shall we?"
They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes before Laurence spoke again.
"Chloe, I also brought you here for a reason." Chloe put her sandwich down and looked up at Laurence expectantly. Laurence smiled and reached inside the food basket for an envelope which she handed to Chloe.
Chloe reached for it and looked at Laurence who motioned for her to open it. She quickly scanned through it. "Lo, what is this?"
"This morning, I went to my lawyer's office and I had a will done…"
"Lo, you're only twenty fi…"
"Wait!" said Laurence, raising her hands to stop Chloe from arguing. "This is a copy of the will. It says that you and Clément are the full beneficiaries of my fortune if anything were to happen to me. Before you say anything, let me finish." Laurence took a deep breath. "I would like you to adopt Clément."
"What are you talking about?" asked Chloe, not understanding.
"I thought about it all night. If anything were to happen to me, I can't risk having Clément raised by Beatrice. You would have no rights Chloe…love doesn't matter in this case." She got up and started pacing. "I thought of everything…we are getting out of here. After what happened yesterday with Beatrice, I've lost my faith in the French legal system …I won't let her have Clément…"
"What are you suggesting?"
"We move back to the States…listen, I have American citizenship so once we get there I should have no problem naturalizing Clément. If we stay here, I don't know if the adoption would be possible soon enough because of your visa situation…if we move back I don't see any problems…."
"Lo slow down, would you? You are saying that you want me and Clément to inherit all your money, you want to move to the States, and you want me to adopt Clément?"
"Right," answered Laurence, flopping back on the bench.
"Can I think about it?"
"What's to think about?" asked Laurence, reaching for a piece of fruit.
Chloe reached for Laurence's hands across the table. "Lo, what you are asking me to do is extremely important. You are talking about me taking responsibility for the life of another human being."
"You care for Clément every day. He loves you. What would the difference be?" asked Laurence, her eyes baring into Chloe's.
"It's hard to explain…I don't want to rush into making a decision…can you give me a few days?" she asked honestly.
Laurence sighed and got up. "We might not have a few days the way things are going with Beatrice," she answered with animosity.
"Lo, it's the best I can do right now."
"Then a couple of days it is," answered Laurence, grabbing another piece of fruit. "Let's get going, I need to drop by work."
"Are they okay with you missing so many days?"
"Not really, that's why I'm going there…I'm quitting . Too many things are going on right now…I don't really need to work, I was just doing it for the fun of it. It's stopped being fun…time to move on." She finished her bottle of water and walked out of the room abruptly.
Go to chapter XVII
copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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