Chapter XVIII

    "Let me call Lo and tell her that we should be there in less than half an hour," said Chloe to her mom as they stepped into the metro station.

    "Why don't we take a cab?" asked Elizabeth, looking around the station with a look of disgust on her face.

    "Mom! You took the metro to come meet me didn't kill you!"

    "True, but I don't have to like it."

    Chloe shrugged her shoulders and smiled as she dialed her home number on her cell phone.

    Elizabeth sat on a bench while waiting for her daughter to finish with her conversation. Chloe hung up quickly and shoved the cell phone back in her pocket.

    "Is everything okay?" asked Elizabeth, worried by her daughter's preoccupied expression.

    "Sure...everything is fine. Lo was having a little talk with Clément when I called...I just wished I could have been there, that's it." Chloe shook the idea out of her mind."Come on, let's go," she said, walking toward the train that had just come into the station.

    "What's so special about this conversation that you wish you could have been part of it?" asked Elizabeth while sitting down.

    "Clément found out that Lo is his mother. Actually I'm the one who found out he knew...that's all. She is talking to him about it."

    Elizabeth laughed and shook her head. "I swear, you guys could write a book out of this story!"

    "Mom, this is not funny," scolded Chloe with annoyance.

    "I know, but if you think about it, everything is so absurd and so out of the ordinary that it becomes funny...Forget what I said," she said hurriedly, seeing Chloe's serious expression.

    "Mom, I know the absurdity of the situation, but I am involved in it all the way."

    "I know sweetheart," answered Elizabeth, lightly brushing her daughter's shoulder to emphasize the truth of her statement.


    They arrived in Versailles shortly after 6:00. The night had already fallen and the flickering streetlights lit their steps. Businessmen were hurrying home with their briefcases tucked under their arms, and teenagers walked leisurely down the sidewalk carrying their heavy backpacks. Cars were bumper to bumper down Boulevard de la Reine, their lights illuminating the dark street as if it was daylight.

    They turned on to Rue de Provence and Chloe started walking faster up the hill. "We're almost there," she said to her mother.

    "I'm enjoying the walk," smiled Elizabeth, matching her stride to her daughter's.

    They reached the house, and Chloe let them in.

    "Lo!" she called, taking her coat off.

    "I'm upstairs," Laurence answered.

    Chloe indicated for her mother to take her coat off and hang it up next to hers. They barely had time to make their way to the family room when Clément came rushing downstairs followed by Laurence.

    "Hi," he said with a smile, stopping in front of Elizabeth.

    "Hi," smiled Elizabeth, kneeling in front of him. "You must be Clément."

    "Yep," Clément answered, taking hold of Chloe's hand and hiding slightly behind her legs.

    Elizabeth smiled warmly at Clément's attempt. "I've heard a lot about you," she said, looking at him.

    Clément slowly let go off Chloe's legs and walked up to Elizabeth.

    "You're Chloe's mom?" he asked, pointing at Chloe.

    "That's right," smiled Elizabeth. She could not help but be fascinated by the color of his eyes. They were of the clearest blue she had ever seen, but what drew her in was the intelligence hidden behind them. Clément might physically look like a 4 year old little boy, but his posture and eyes revealed a child with extreme awareness of the world around him.

    Laurence came forward and ruffled Clément's hair before shaking Elizabeth's hand. "Nice seeing you again."

    "Same here. You have a beautiful house," commented Elizabeth, looking quickly around.

    "Thank you. Chloe can take you on a tour if you would like."

    "I'd love too," said Elizabeth enthusiastically.

    "All right mom! Then follow me. We'll start upstairs." Chloe motioned for Elizabeth to follow her. Clément immediately tagged along.

    "I'll just wait for you down the way, we're having Chinese for dinner. Is that okay with everyone?"

    "Fine by me," answered Elizabeth and Chloe simultaneously.

    "Fine by me," echoed Clément, making everyone laugh.


    Clément insisted on showing his room in detail to Elizabeth, and Chloe had to pry them out when Clément started showing his drawings. Elizabeth promised to look at them after dinner and Clément agreed reluctantly. He stayed behind to play while Chloe took her mother down the corridor.

    The last room they stopped at on the first floor was Laurence's ex-bedroom, which was now her art room.

    "Remember when I told you that Iíd show you some of Laurences's artwork?" This is where she keeps everything." Chloe opened the door to the bedroom. She rarely came in here, wanting to leave the privacy of the room to Laurence. On the easel was a painting Chloe had never seen. She couldn't make out what it represented, but the blue and yellow colors were very soothing to the eyes. Elizabeth walked around the room, admiring every painting.

    "She is extremely talented. Has she ever thought of selling her work?"

    "I think she only does it for pleasure."

    "Then she is wasting her talents away. Look at that," said Elizabeth, pointing at a small painting she had just picked up from a pile. The painting was of a stone beach surrounded by small wooden cabins. The painting technique used for the cabins made them look three-dimensional to the eye.

    "She is really good," said Chloe with a sigh.

    "Do you think I could take a few back home with me?"

    "I don't know, you'd have to ask her. Why?"

    "A friend of mine owns a gallery in D.C. and I bet you she would be in awe of Laurence's talent."

    "Really!" answered Chloe with excitement.

    "Let me ask her if she'd let me have a few." Elizabeth put the painting down and followed Chloe out.

    Clément popped his head out when he heard them walk by and followed them back downstairs. Chloe finished showing her mother around the house, and they settled into the living room for drinks.

    Laurence had lit a few candles around the room and dimmed the lights. Classical music played softly in the background. She sat across from Chloe's mother, nervously rubbing her finger across the rim of her glass. She didn't know why, but she was nervous She knew that the last time she met Elizabeth was awkward, and she wanted to make sure she made a good impression the second time around.

    They made small talk until the food arrived, and the conversation seemed to become more lively over dinner.


    Elizabeth pushed her food away. "I'm full!" she said, holding her stomach and exhaling heavily.

    "I'm full," repeated Clément, imitating her. Everyone around the table laughed. "Now I show my drawings," he said matter of factly.

    "Oh boy! I forgot about that," said Chloe, burying her face in her hands. "Okay, go get them." She sighed and answered Laurence's questioning expression. "I promised him earlier that he could show my mom his drawings after dinner."

    "Oh boy, you don't know what youíre in for," laughed Laurence.

    "How many drawings can a little boy have?" asked Elizabeth

    As if to answer her Clément came back carrying a backpack. He grabbed Elizabeth's hand and dragged her back to the family room where he emptied his backpack. Elizabeth understood what Chloe and Laurence were laughing at when she saw the amount of paper coming out of the bag.

    "He keeps everything he draws," laughed Chloe, sitting on the couch.

    Clément then proceeded to show Elizabeth the contents of his bag. Laurence settled next to Chloe and warmly rubbed her neck for a brief moment. Chloe scooted closer to Laurence and intertwined their fingers together.

    "You're quite an artist," complemented Elizabeth. "I see you have your mother's talent." Laurence straightened up and looked at Elizabeth questionably. "Chloe showed me your art room. You are very talented," said Elizabeth sincerely.

    "Thank you."

    "I mean it. Have you ever thought of selling your work?"

    "No, not really...I'm not that good."

    "I know good when I see good, and you are more than good. Would it be okay if I took one or two canvases back home with me?"

    "I don't see why not," shrugged Laurence.

    "Great. Why don't you go get them for me, and after that I should probably get going."

    Laurence nodded. "Why don't you come with me upstairs, and tell me what you want?"


    "While you guys do that, I'll get Clément ready for the night," said Chloe.


    Half an hour later Elizabeth was gone. She refused Laurence's offer to drive her back, and called a cab. They tucked Clément in for the night and retired to their room.

    "Did you have a good time today?" asked Laurence, coming in behind Chloe and drawing her against her chest.

    "I did." She rested her head on Laurence's shoulder and wrapped Laurence's arms around her chest.

    "Good," said Laurence, tenderly nipping at Chloe's ear.

    Chloe closed her eyes and let herself enjoy Laurence's ministrations. "Have you heard anything from Beatrice yet?"

    "No. Have you thought about my offer?"

    "Yes," answered Chloe softly.

    Laurence stopped the gentle caress on Chloe's neck and turned her around. "Can you tell me what youíve decided?" she asked with uncertainty.

    Chloe sighed and pulled Laurence toward the bed. They sat facing each other. "Lo, you know I love you, right?'

    "It doesn't sound good when you start a sentence by 'you know I love you!'" stated Laurence.

    "Lo, I don't want us to run away. It would defeat everything you have been fighting for. If we do that, she wins."

    "I know..."Laurence passed her hand through her hair. "What if we lose!"

    "Then we run away." She grabbed Laurence's hand. "What I'm trying to say is, we haven't lost yet. We still have options. If we lose then we pack up and go, but we would be doing that because we have no other choice, not because we are scared of the result."

    "Maybe you're right."

    "I know I am." Chloe scooted until her knees touched Laurence's.

    "What about the other thing I asked?"

    Chloe looked at Laurence, knowing she was speaking of the adoption. "Ask me again in a few years," she said with a smile.

    "What to you mean?"

    "Lo, I don't want you to ask me to adopt Clément because we are in a time of crisis. I don't want you to regret it later on."

    "Are you saying you're refusing?" Laurence got up and walked away from the bed, hurt visible on her face.

    Chloe sighed and followed her. "Yes, that's what I'm saying. I'm doing it because I love you and I love Clément. I think you're just scared right now and that's why you want me to adopt him. I don't want you to ask me because you're scared, but because you love me."

    "But I love you..." argued Laurence.

    "I know," interrupted Chloe. "You are also very confused, and I refuse to take advantage of that."

    Laurence looked at Chloe. She was standing there, jaw clenched, and tears in her eyes, waiting for Laurence's answer.

    "It always comes down to that, huh?" asked Laurence, stepping close to Chloe.

    "What do you mean?"

    "You're always the one to make me see're always looking out for me. I understand your decision. The offer is an open-ended one, when you feel that you're ready...when this mess is resolved then maybe..."

    'Then we'll talk about it," answered Chloe, stepping close and drawing Laurence in for a kiss.

    Laurence picked Chloe up in one swift motion and walked back to the bed. She softly put Chloe down and lay next to her, intertwining their legs together. She spread kisses over Chloe's face and went back for a more lingering kiss before slowly making her way down her neck. Chloe's breathing became ragged and she tangled her fingers into Laurence's hair, bringing her face closer. Laurence undid Chloe' s belt with more urgency and once again closed her eyes at the feel of Chloe's smooth skin. She tenderly nipped Chloe' s lower lip, and whispered "I love you" before letting her hands and lips explore the rest of Chloe's body.

To be continued

copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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