Chapter XXIII

They spent the day at the Cambiersí house. Clément refused to be anywhere but in the same room as Chloe. Around 6 oíclock, she took him upstairs and drew him a bath, hoping the warm water would have a soothing effect on him. She sat next to the tub as Clément splashed around, playing with Madame Cambierís grandsonís bath toys.

"Chloe, look!" He lay down on his stomach and happily blew on a small plastic boat, making it float across the tub.

Chloe smiled at Clémentís simple pleasure, and wished Laurence could be here with them, enjoying this moment. "Come on, let me wash your hair, and itís time to get out."

"No, I want to play more."

"Sweetheart, Mims went to get you your favorite for dinner. You wouldnít want it to get cold, would you?"

Clément sat up and wiped some suds from his face. "McDonalds?"

"I think so!" she smiled.

Clément suddenly dunked his head under water. "Come on, wash my hair," he said, suddenly in a hurry.

Another bright smile lit her face as she reached for the Babydop shampoo.

Madame Cambier asked Clément if he would like to watch TV while eating dinner, which he happily accepted. She put in Le Roi Lion video, and whispered in Chloeís ear, "Once he really gets into it, go and take a break."

Chloe smiled and murmured. "Thank you."

After the first ten minutes, Clément started yawning. He sat back on the couch and put his head on Chloeís lap. "Is mommy coming?"

"Not tonight sweetheart."

"I want to," he whimpered.

"I know. I promise you weíll go see her tomorrow. Would you like to talk to her before you go to bed?" He nodded, lightly sniffling. "All right. Letís call her." She had tried earlier in the afternoon, but without success. Laurence had been given a strong dose of sedative to help with the pain, and that had knocked her out for a while.

The phone rang, and Chloe was getting ready to hang up when she heard it pick up.



"Hey yourself. How are you doing?"

"Weíre okay. How are you feeling?"

"As if was run over by a truck," Laurence graoned, stifling a wary chuckle when she realized she wasnít exaggerating as much as sheíd intended.

"I wish I could be with you."

"Youíre not coming tonight?"

"I donít know if I canÖhold on, Iíll tell you the story in a minute, but here is someone who wants to talk to you." She gave the phone to Clément.


"Hi, baby."

"Can you come home?" Clément asked in a little voice.

"Not tonight sweetheart. Remember the big white bandage on my shoulder? It still hurts a lot, so the doctors want to keep me for a few more daysÖClément are you still here?" she asked after a brief silence.

"Yes," came a teary reply.

"Sweetheart, I swear I wish I could be with you. Youíll come to see me tomorrow. I love you."

"Okay." He sniffled and wiped his eyes. "I love you." He then handed the phone to Chloe.

"Is he okay?" asked Laurence worried.

Chloe sighed and got up to walk to the window. "Physically he is fine. Mentally he is a mess. He refused to go into the house earlier."

"Where are you calling from?"

"The Cambierís. He has been following me every step I take, and he is scared senseless to go home. I couldnít force him to go inÖ"

"You did the right thing. Iím sorry."

"For what?"

"Not being there to help you."

"Donít be silly. Weíll be okay." She ran her fingers through the condensation on the cold window, slowly tracing circles.

"Stay with him tonight. Iíll be all right."

"Thatís what I had decided before I called you. I still wish I could be with you."

"I know." A silence established itself.

"I guess I should let you rest. Lo, the way itís going with Clément, we might not have a choice about selling the house."

"I guess thatís a good thing because I havenít changed my mind about it."

"I should let you go. I love you."

"I love you too. Iíll see you tomorrow."

"Count on it." She slowly hung up.

Laurence stayed in the hospital for another week, and Chloe and Clément stayed with the Cambiers during that time. Clément seemed to have relaxed a little and Chloe was able to put him back to school only for the mornings toward the end of the week. They spent the afternoons with Laurence.

On Wednesday Laurence was released. Her shoulder was still aching, but the doctor said that any risks of complication were gone. She shook the doctorís hand and went to meet Chloe and Clément who were waiting for her in the corridor.

"Ready to go?" asked Chloe with a smile.

"You bet. I canít stand the hospital smell and if I see another white wall Iím going to explode."

"I canít believe theyíre letting you walk out like that."

"What do you mean?"

"In my country, youíre forced to be in a wheelchair until youíre outside of the hospital. No matter what your injuries are."

"I guess it makes sense. Better safe than sorry. Did you call a cab?"

"Yep, it should be waiting for us in front."

"Then letís go." She picked up Clémentís hand and smiled tenderly down at him.

On the way back, she asked the cab driver to drop them at the castle.

"Iíve been cooped up inside for a week. Itís a nice day." She handed the cab driver a few bills and watched him drive away. He had dropped them right in front of the main gate, and they walked slowly through the paved courtyard toward the gardens. It was barely two oíclock and the sun was out, gently beating on their faces. A group of tourists came rushing by them, taking pictures left and right, barely taking the time to enjoy the scenery. They walked in silence through the royal gardens. The bushes were already starting to bloom on this early April day, and the only sounds were the ones of their footsteps on the sandy ground. They stopped near the fountain of Apollo and settled on a bench.

"Are you all right?" Chloe, lightly touched Laurence strapped shoulder.

"Iím fine. Stop worrying." Laurence linked her fingers with Chloe and bend over to kiss her. "Iím okay," she whispered.

Clément had gotten up and went to lie down on the edge of the fountain, so he could touch the water.

"Clément, be careful!" Chloe called, getting up to go to him.

"Stop worrying. Heís fine. There isnít even twenty centimeters of water right now." She gently yanked Chloe back to the bench. With one eye still on Clément, she turned to Chloe. "I missed you." She kissed her and lingered a little on the kiss. "How is he doing?" she asked directing the conversation back to Clément.

"Iím not sure, Lo. Iíd like to try to send him back to school for the whole day maybe starting next week." Laurence nodded her approval. "He is still refusing to go home. I donít know what to do about that."

Laurence frowned worriedly. "Iíve had time to think this past week. There are a lot of things I want to discuss with you."

"Okay. Tonight when Clément is asleep." Laurence nodded for the second time. "Iíd say we try to get Clément home tonight, but I doubt itís going to work since my past attempts have been unsuccessful. We can always stay at the Cambiers."

"I know, but I want to be alone with you and Clément. Weíll check into a hotel for tonight."

Chloe smiled at the idea. "Shall we go now?"

"Okay, Iím tiring a little."

"Whatís the plan?"

"We go to the Cambiers. While you explaine whatís going on to Mims, Iíll go home to get some clothes."

"Sounds good. Just make sure Clément doesnít see you going."


They checked into Le Petit Trianon hotel, just next to the castle. Its beautiful courtyard and its lavish interiors had Chloe in awe. "Lo, this room must cost a fortune." She walked around like child in a candy store, touching the marble statues, running her hands along the edge of the fireplace and testing the softness of the mattress by letting herself fall on it. Laurence looked at Chloe with a smile. Clément had run into the other room.

"Mommy, is this my room?" he called.

Laurence and Chloe walked next door to see what had him so exited. He was sitting on a large bed, holding a remote, which belonged to a wide screen TV.

"I guess itís yours for the night."

Clément smiled brightly and for the first time in days seemed happy. He turned the TV on and continued to explore the room.

For dinner they ordered room service and decided to turn in early. After tucking Clément in for the night, they settled into bed. Laurence lay on her side facing Chloe. She didnít waste time and jumped into their earlier conversation.

"Iíve thought a lot. I know itís not fair for me to ask you to do thisÖespecially after the arrangements you made to come and be with us, but I want us to move to America."

Chloe looked at Laurenceís tired face. Black circles still stood under her eyes, and she bore a serious look. "Youíre willing to give up everything you and Clément have ever known."

Laurence nodded and closed her eyes briefly. "Chloe, right now youíre on a tourist visa. You might get accepted for a student visa later on, or you might not. Itís a gamble. Iíve come to realize that it doesnít matter where I am as long as I am with you."

Chloe scooted closer to Laurence and brushed her cheek with her knuckles. "Lo, I know the events of the past week have been very traumatic, but why would you want to move to America now when a year or two ago, you were willing to let me go because you didnít want Clément to lose everything he had ever know? Whatís changed?"

Laurence closed her eyes and when she reopened them tears slowly rolled down her cheeks. "Because we almost died. Itís sad to say, but I had to nearly lose Clément and you to realize that where we are doesnít matter." She took a deep breath. "I have American citizenship, and so does Clément."

Chloe kissed Laurenceís forehead and gently wiped her tears away. "We could just sell the house and move somewhere else. It doesnít have to be America."

"No." She shook her head. "I want you to have a chance at a good career. Here no matter how many years you get on your student visa, youíll never get a work permit, and then what? I know we could sell the house, buy a new one and stay here until you have your degree and then move, but why not now?"

"Itís a big change." She squeezed Laurenceís fingers between hers.

"I need a change. There is nothing left here for us."

"Okay, then letís do it. Lo, where you go, I go. Itís been this way since the beginning. I love you, and if moving to America is what you want, then Iíll support you one hundred percent."

Laurence broke into a smile mixed with tears. "Thanks."

Chloe propped herself against a pillow and opened her arms to Laurence. Laurence, mindful of her sore shoulder, put her head on Chloeís shoulder and hugged her waist with her good arm.

"Get some rest now. Weíll work out the details later on," whispered Chloe, kissing Laurenceís hair and tightening her grip on her loverís shoulders.

Go to chapter XXIV

copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber

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