Chapter XII

    Chloe withdrew from Laurence and ran her hands up and down her arms. "Do you want to cancel for tonight? I'd understand if you don't feel like going out after all of this."

    Laurence shook her head and smiled lightly. "No, we're going. I don't want to give her the power to mess up our plans. Plus I could use the distraction right now."

    Chloe nodded. "So, where are we going?" she asked while linking her fingers with Laurence.

    "I'm not telling," smiled Laurence genuinely. "I wanted to take the bike but because of the snow, we'd better take the car."

    "One more question. How dressed up do I have to be?"

    Laurence looked at Chloe and took her in. Her green turtleneck sweater, the cute ponytail and the light touch of makeup. "I guess just change your jeans for a pair of slacks. That should be fine," explained Laurence, pointing at Chloe's pants.

    "Okay, give me 5 minutes." Chloe rushed out of the room to go get ready. Laurence watched her leave and slowly walked back to the window. She could see the light in the Cambierís house from where she was, and her heart strained at the thought of Clément and what Beatrice's scheme could mean to them. She balled her hand into a fist and hit the wall angrily, trying to push away Beatrice's image from her mind. The pain shot through her knuckles, but it didn't lessen the pain in her heart. She looked at her hand and slowly moved it to assess the damage. The skin of one of her knuckles had broken and was bleeding slightly. It seemed to be the only damage.

    "I guess I'm ready," said Chloe, entering the room. She stopped and looked at Laurence holding her hand, blood slowly staining her skin. "What the hell happened?"

    "It's nothing...I..."

    Chloe sighed and rushed to the bathroom to go get a wet towel. She brought it back, took hold of Laurence's hand and wrapped the wet cloth around it. "Lo, it worries me that you can't control your temper," she said softly while applying pressure on the make shift bandage.

    "I just got carried away...I'm sorry. It's my way of letting things out," Laurence tried to explain.

    Chloe shook her head. "I'm worried that one day I'll be the one upsetting you that much...or maybe Clément..."

    Laurence took her hand away and stepped back. "Are you scared of one day being on the receiving end of my temper?" she asked, her voice slightly cracking. Chloe sighed and nodded. "Chloe, I have never- never-never raised a hand to anyone, and I will never raise a hand to you or Clément. Yes, I hit things, but not people. Please believe me," she pleaded.

    Chloe looked into Laurence's eyes for any sign of lies, but the blue eyes staring back at her only carried honesty. "I believe's just scary sometimes. Come on, let's get you downstairs so we can put a proper bandage on this hand." She pushed Laurence gently out the door.


    By 6 o'clock, they were walking toward the train station.

    "I guess we're not driving," joked Chloe.

    "Good guess," smiled Laurence, taking Chloe's hand and burying their joined hands in her pocket. They walked at a fast pace, each of them lost in their thoughts. As they reached the station Chloe broke the silence.

    "Lo, are you sure you want to do this? You seem thousands of miles away...we can go home, get Clément and spend a quiet evening together."

    "Sorry...I have Beatrice's image in front of my eyes!" Laurence put money into the ticket machine. "No, we're going. I'm not going to let her spoil our evening."

    "Okay," answered Chloe, looking worriedly at her lover.

    The metro was crowded because of rush hour. They stood near the door facing each other, Laurence's body shielding Chloe's from the crowd. Chloe circled her arms around Laurence and dropped a light kiss on her neck. "Where are we getting off?"

    "Porte Maillot. Few more stops."

    "I hate rush hour," whispered Chloe, putting her head against Laurence's shoulder.

    Laurence smiled and rubbed Chloe's neck. "So do I."

    Once outside, they walked a few blocks and stopped on the corner of the street to buy sandwiches from a vendor. "I guess the surprise is not a fancy and romantic dinner," teased Chloe, taking a bite of her ham sandwich.

    "No, and I'm still not telling. Come on, let's sit down on this bench while we eat." They ate in silence for a few moments. "Are you warm enough?" asked Laurence, looking at Chloe bundled in her winter coat.

    "I am. My butt is getting cold though. Can we get going?"

    "Yes, it's almost time," laughed Laurence.

    She grabbed Chloe's hand and directed them to the end of the street. There stood an enormous building with a crowd standing in front of it. Cabs were dropping people off, cars were honking, and people were hurrying to join the line. Laurence let go of Chloe's hand and put her arm around her shoulders while pointing ahead of her with a smile. "This is where we're going." They hurried across the street and joined people standing in line.

    "What is this place?"

    "It's called Le Palais de Congres."

    "Wait a minute, I've read about it in one of those magazines Jennifer gave me. It's a concert place, isn't it?"

    "Sometimes," teased Laurence.

    Chloe looked around in search of a sign indicating what was playing inside. She stepped out of the crowd and looked up. A huge sign read "Notre Dame de Paris." She rushed back to Laurence. "I can't believe I didn't see it when we crossed the street. Is that why we're here? To see Notre Dame de Paris?"

    Laurence smiled. "I thought that since you liked theatre, you must love musicals. The people who wrote this musical are the ones who wrote 'Les Miserables'."

    "Oh, my gosh, I saw that twice in New York and once when the tour came to D.C. You're kidding me right? We're really seeing a musical?" asked Chloe incredulously.

    Laurence took an envelope out of her inside pocket. "Unless they sold me the wrong tickets, I think we are seeing a musical," she said with a smile. Chloe's smile made her worries about Beatrice go away for the moment. She reciprocated the smile and lightly brushed her hand on Chloe's cheek. "This musical has been getting raves. It's supposed to be great...ha, here we go," she said, seeing the crowd begin to move slowly into the building.


    "That was amazing," commented Chloe while stepping out into the cold evening air. "The guy who plays Quasimodo, his voice can't even find words for it, and this song...what's the name again? Belle? Yeah, that's it...that song is amazing, it gave me shivers." Laurence smiled at Chloe's enthusiastic babbling while waving a cab. "Didn't you like it?" asked Chloe.

    "I did. I thought it was nicely done." A cab stopped in front of them, and Laurence opened the door letting Chloe in.

    "Nicely done? It's fifty times better than 'Les Miserables,' and until today Les Mis was my favorite musical."

    "Versailles s'il vous plait," told Laurence to the cab driver. "What did you call it? Les Mis?"

    "Short for 'Les Miserables'."

    "You guys have to abbreviate everything, don't you?"

    Chloe playfully stuck her tongue at Laurence and settled against her shoulder. "Thanks for taking me," she said with a yawn.

    "You're welcome."

    "You know what that reminds me of?" asked Chloe.

    "What?" Laurence ran her hand absently through Chloe's hair.

    "The first time you kissed me," whispered Chloe.

    "That was in my bedroom!"

    "I know, but it was the morning after a cab ride."

    Laurence laughed heartily and tightened her grip around Chloe. She watched the streets go by and the pedestrians hurrying along, and her mind went back to Beatrice as Chloe slowly drifted to sleep against her shoulder.


    "Come on sleepy head, we're here." She paid the cab driver and lightly shook Chloe awake.

    "I guess I must have fallen asleep," said Chloe, rubbing her eyes and stepping out. "Damn, it's freezing, Let's get inside."

    They quickly ran to the door and let themselves in. Without a word, they walked upstairs to their bedroom. Laurence had this faraway look in her eyes again, and Chloe became concerned at the obvious dilemma running through Laurence's mind. "Lo, stop worrying. There is nothing we can do about it tonight," she said softly while approaching the bed where Laurence was sitting, her eyes staring blankly ahead of her. "I tell you what, I'll run you a bath and I'll even add bubbles for a smile."

    Laurence smiled slightly and looked up at Chloe standing in front of her. "Sorry, I can't help thinking about it. What if she wins, what if..."

    She was interrupted by Chloe's fingers on her lips. "Lo, there is no use in making assumptions. Youíre only going to make yourself worry even more. See what your lawyer says tomorrow."

    Laurence got up suddenly. "You don't seem worried at all," she said dryly.

    "I am," answered Chloe honestly.

    "Then you have a weird way of showing it."

    "Lo, that's not fair. What do you want me to do? Sit and mope with you about what might happen? Sorry, but I don't do that!" She walked away from Laurence angrily. "How can you say that I'm not worried? I can't believe..."

    "I'm sorry," said Laurence softly, her head low.

    Chloe stopped and looked at Laurence. She took a deep breath. "No, I am...I know youíre on the edge." She walked up to her, and took her hand. "Lo, everything will be all right. I know it. "She stepped forward and lightly brushed her lips against Laurence's.

    Laurence grabbed Chloe's face and deepened the kiss, her anger and pain suddenly giving away to passion. She broke the kiss panting. "I'll take the bubble bath now...if you join me," she said while tenderly nibbling on Chloe's lips.

    Chloe laughed, planted a kiss soundly on Laurence's lips and ran to the bathroom. "Bubble bath coming right up."

    Later, Chloe slept against Laurence's shoulder while Laurence ran her hand up and down her back. She had been staring at the ceiling for the hours, sleep unwilling to come. Chloe stirred and sat up, rubbing her eyes.

    "You're okay?"

    "I'm fine go, back to sleep."

    She put her head back against Laurence's shoulder. "Lo, would you like me to come with you tomorrow morning?"

    Laurence shifted to lay on her side facing Chloe. "Would you?"

    Chloe nodded, her face barely visible in the moonlight. "You know I would."

    A sigh of relief escaped Laurence's lips. "Then yes, I would like you to come along tomorrow. I didn't ask you before because I have no idea how long it's going to last or if you are even going to be able to understand what he is know how lawyers speak!"

    "Lo, I want to go with you for moral support. When are you going to understand that you can ask me anything?"

    Laurence passed her hand through Chloe's blond locks and kissed her forehead. "I know that already...I just have a tendency to want to shelter you..."

    "I'm not going to break," whispered Chloe, scooting closer and burying her head in Laurence's neck.

    "I know and I love you for it." She felt Chloe's lips break into a smile against her skin. "Go back to sleep now. Tomorrow is going to be a long day."


    Early the following morning they both dressed, grabbed a quick breakfast and hopped into Laurence's car.

    "Where is his office?"

    "Vincennes. Not too far from here."

    They drove in silence and parked in front of a red brick building. Laurence got out and grabbed her briefcase. She readjusted her skirt and quickly passed her hand through her hair. "Here we go," she said, walking ahead of Chloe and opening the front door to the building. As soon as she stepped inside, her vulnerability disappeared and the business side of her took over. As the elevator went up 3 stories, Chloe realized that she was in front of a different woman than the night before. Laurence's eyes had lost their warmth and she looked strict, almost frigid, dressed up in her navy blue business suit. Laurence unceremoniously opened the front door to her lawyer's office and stepped in. She walked straight up to the secretary and announced herself.

    "Monsieur Louvier nous attend."

    "Oui bien sur, je vais vous annoncer."

    A few minutes later a man in his fifties walked up to them and shook Laurence's hand warmly before showing them to his office. They walked into a large office with a view on the castle of Vincennes. The room was decorated with expensive memorabilia from different countries. Chloe smiled at the sight of a small bronze reproduction of the Washington monument. Laurence introduced Chloe to Monsieur Louvier and explained honestly who she was.

    "Hello," said Monsieur Louvier with a smile. He took his place behind his desk and indicated for them to sit down. "I speak good enough English that we should be able to have this conversation in English if it's easier for you," he asked looking at Chloe.

    "That would be great," she smiled. "My French has greatly improved, but I don't think I could follow a legal conversation."

    "Than it's settled. I studied in the US before coming back here to get a law degree," he winked at Chloe with a smile. She reciprocated the smile and sat back in her chair. Monsieur Louvier turned to Laurence. "Were you able to bring what I asked for?'

    "Yes," said Laurence, opening her briefcase and handing him a pile of paper. "Birth certificate, x-rays from his stay in the hospital, pictures of the burns around his ankle and the doctors' statements."

    Monsieur Louvier reached for the documents and looked through them for a few minutes. "Good, that should help."

    "What's the next step?" asked Laurence.

    "We set up a meeting with Beatrice and her lawyer to see if we can avoid taking the case to court."

    "Okay. What's your argument?"

    Monsieur Louvier paused for a few moments. "We have a lot of strong points in our favor. She killed your father, she is barely out of a mental hospital, she abused Clément..."

    "But?" asked Laurence impatiently.

    Monsieur Louvier sighed. "But they also have a strong case. I know it sounds silly," he said seeing that Laurence was slowly starting to lose patience. "Don't get me wrong, I think we have a hundred percent chance to win this battle, but I can't hide from you that it might not be as easy as it seems."

    "Because of us," spoke Chloe for the first time since they sat down.

    "Yes, because of your relationship. This is why I don't want to let this case go to court. If we only have Beatrice's lawyer to deal with and the judge to convince that it's not worth his time, then we should do fine. If this case goes to court, then we have to start thinking about jurors. As you know, some people don't regard homosexuality highly."

    "I don't know what our sexuality has to do with it," barked Laurence. "It doesn't make me a bad mother..."

    "I know, but the jurors might see it differently. It's a risk Iíd rather not take. Listen, stop worrying because I don't think it will go that far. Now...your stepmother is asking for shared custody," he said while looking into his papers. "What we have to decide is what we can offer her in exchange."

    "What do you mean?" asked Laurence and Chloe at the same time.

    "Law is complicated. I can't tell them that you refuse and not offer something in exchange. I could but if we do that we can be sure the case is going to court. So, I repeat my question, what are we going to offer her in exchange?"

    "Money," answered Laurence dryly.

    "Good," he said taking notes. "They most probably have thought of something to ask in case of refusal. From what you were telling me about Beatrice, I wouldn't be surprised that the entire thing is only about money. If you offer a sum big enough we might be able to settle it in one or two meetings." He got up. "I think that's as far as we can go today. I'll call you as soon as the meeting is scheduled."

    Laurence nodded and got up. "Anything else we should do?"

    "No. Just sit back and try not to worry. I'll be in touch." He shook both their hands and they were on their way. As soon as his office door was closed, Monsieur Louvier sat down and shook his head, unwilling to believe that one of his colleagues would agree to defend a woman such as Beatrice.

Go to Chapter XIII

copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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