A few weeks after Chloe's arrival, Clément came into their bedroom as he had been doing every morning, but instead of cuddling against Laurence's side, he gently woke up Chloe and snuggled against her chest. She carefully tightened her grip around his body, intently afraid he was going to bolt at any minute. Clément raised his head from her chest and looked at her. "You're staying," he said, half questioning, half ordering. His eyes bore a serious stare and the importance of his statement was not lost to Chloe.
She took a deep breath and sat up, bringing Clément with her, her mind looking for the right answer to appease this 4 year old. She tenderly brushed a strand of black hair behind his ear and squeezed his shoulder. "I'm not going anywhere. Not now, not ever."
Clément nodded and jumped into her open arms. She rubbed his back and whispered words of love, slowly soothing him back to sleep. She didn't know if the mind of a four year old could grasp the concept of eternal devotion, but it was the way she felt about Clément and Laurence. The feelings she had for them grew stronger every day and this final breakthrough from Clément was just the proof that her love and patience had finally won. She sighed and turned her head slightly only to have her gaze captured by Laurence. They stared at each other for a brief moment before Laurence mouthed, "Thank you."
A routine established itself. Madame Cambier would drop Clément off at school and Chloe would pick him up. She met with Jennifer three times a week and slowly her French improved. She was now able to have short conversations in French with Laurence and in February when Vincent came over for dinner, he almost choked on his lasagna when she asked him in perfect French if he liked the dinner and if he would like some more. The only cloud in Chloe's happiness was her father's unwillingness to communicate. She had called many times and left numerous messages which he had never returned.
One morning as Laurence was getting ready and passing the brush one more time through her hair, she popped her head through the bathroom door and called out for Chloe who was still in bed.
"By the way, tonight we're going out."
Chloe sat up suddenly. "We are! Where?"
"I'm not telling," joked Laurence, coming into the bedroom and buttoning her blouse. ''I'll come home early. The Cambiers are babysitting and we've got the night off." She smiled and quickly kissed Chloe. "I've got to get going. You have a lesson today, right?"
"Yes, at 2. I should be back by 4 though."
"Good, then we can get going when you come back."
"You're not going to tell me anything, are you?" asked Chloe, pretending to pout.
Instead of an answer Laurence kissed Chloe's lips again. "I'm not. Just be ready. You'll see it'll be worth while. We haven't really had an evening away since you came back home, and I need to be alone with you." She kissed Chloe one last time and left the room, winking at her playfully.
Shortly after lunch Chloe left the house bundled up in a heavy winter coat, ready to fight the cold February wind and snowflakes. As she locked the door the odd feeling of being watched again crept through her body. Once again she whipped around and saw no one. She shook the idea out of her mind as she had done so many times over the past few weeks and walked out of the courtyard. "I should probably tell Laurence," she thought aloud.
The lesson went well as usual and shortly after 3, she found herself back on the metro headed toward Versailles. She got back home around 4, and smiled at the sight of Laurence's car parked in the courtyard. She hurried up the front steps and opened the unlocked door. As soon as she stepped in she was taken back by the sound of Laurence's voice yelling at someone. She found her in the library, pounding her fist on a desk and barking into the phone. Chloe stepped into the room, her eyes questioning, her level of French not strong enough to follow a conversation spoken as such a high speed. A dozen pictures were scattered across the floor, and a letter lay crumpled at Laurence's feet. Laurence barely acknowledged Chloe's arrival before finally slamming the phone down and stamping out of the room.
"Lo! Lo, what the hell was all of that about?" asked Chloe, following Laurence out of the room.
"Not now Chloe, not now," answered Laurence angrily before taking the steps two by two and running upstairs.
Chloe stood there dumbfounded. Her first impulse was to run after Laurence, but she knew from experience that it was better to let her cool off first before attempting any kind of conversation. She walked back into the library and knelt to pick up the pictures. The sight of the first one made her gasp. There was Laurence and Chloe exchanging a goodbye kiss on the front porch, another one was of the three of them at the park a few months ago, one of her leaving the house....their life was there laying in front of her eyes, the pictures obviously taken by a stranger. All the times she had felt as she was being watched came back to her and a shiver ran through her body. She picked up the crumpled letter with trembling hand and slowly unfolded it. The legal speech of the document made it impossible for her to understand, but it was easy from the address printed at the top to see that it came from a law firm. The name read "Burnet et fils, avocat depuis 1978."
She got up and stretched her legs after dropping the pictures and the letter on the desk. She knew where to find Laurence and instead of turning right at the end of the corridor once upstairs, she walked towards Laurence's old bedroom. The door was ajar and Chloe popped her head through it. Laurence was sitting on the floor next to the window, her face hidden in her hands. "Can I come in?" asked Chloe softly. Laurence nodded, looking at Chloe blankly. "Hey," she said, sliding onto the floor next to Laurence. "Want to tell me what was all of that about?"
"You were speaking to Beatrice on the phone!" exclaimed Chloe, memories of the despicable woman rushing back to her.
"No, I wasn't."
"Okay, who were you yelling at?" She was very careful not to sound forceful as she slowly moved closer to Laurence and briefly brushed her hand.
Chloe sighed at Laurence's short answer. "Lo, I'm trying to understand here, but you have to feed me a little."
Laurence got up suddenly and started pacing around the room. "It's complicated."
"Start from the beginning. First of all what happened to Beatrice after the trial?"
stopped pacing and sat on the bed. "They found her not guilty."
"What? She confessed, how could they find her not guilty? That's is insane," blurted Chloe passing her hand through her hair nervously.
"They found her mentally incapacitated and not responsible for her actions. She was sent to a mental hospital."
"Where is she now?" asked Chloe, trying to coax Laurence into opening up.
"She obviously was released last month."
"You've got to be kidding. The woman killed your father!"
said Laurence sadly. "I guess a year and half was enough time for them to think
of her as cured! From what I understand she has to check in twice a week and
will be sent right back if she doesn't. That's not the point though..."
"I can't believe it. What kind of system is that? She got away with murder. In America that would have never happened..."
"This is France, Chloe. Things are different here," interrupted Laurence.
"I'm sorry, it's just that...never mind...She hired a lawyer. What does she want? Money?"
Laurence got up and walked to the window. The snow was now falling harder, slowly covering the roofs and cars, and she lightly passed her hand across the foggy window, drawing unshapen forms. "No, that would be easy." Anger had totally left her body and she felt totally drained. "She wants Clément."
Chloe looked at Laurence whose eyes were shining with unshed tears. She got up, walked to her and took her hand. "Lo, no one would ever give her Clément's custody. No sane person would ever do that. She is a murderer."
"It's a little bit more complicated than that. She doesn't want Clément full time, she only wants share custody. You see by doing that she is showing to the judge that she is reasonable. Did you take a look at those pictures?"
Chloe nodded. "Itís like if someone uninvited had invaded our life."
"Homosexuality is not really well regarded in France, Chloe. People ignore it until there are kids involved...that's what I was arguing about when you came in. Her lawyer threw it in my face telling me that our lifestyle would play against us, and his client had a fair chance since she raised Clément for the first two years of his life."
"Did you call your family lawyer?"
"As soon as I got the letter."
"What did he say?"
Laurence shrugged. "Not much. I'm meeting with him first thing tomorrow morning. Things got out hand with Beatrice's lawyer earlier...it shouldn't have happened..."
Chloe grabbed Laurence's hand. "Don't worry, okay? Lo, she has no chance. We have proof that she hit Clément, she killed your father...why would anyone give a woman like that custody of a child? Why would she even want custody? If I remember right, she never really wanted to be with him, but always relinquished the task to your dad or to you. Plus Lo, you are his mother..."
"I wish I had your optimism," said Laurence, holding onto Chloe's hand tightly.
"She has to have some kind of hidden agenda...I'm not buying it."
Laurence smiled slightly. "Chloe, I'm not giving my son to her... I'll do what ever it takes."
Chloe looked at Laurence and brought their forehead together. "Remember...we're together in this mess. Okay?"
"Okay," whispered Laurence.
copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
Feed the bard firstname.lastname@example.org
Return to Main Page