Chapter XXIII

They spent the day at the Cambiers' house. Clément refused to be anywhere but in the same room as Chloe. Around 6 o'clock, 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 Cambier's grandson's 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 Clément's simple pleasure, and wished Laurence could be here with them, enjoying this moment. "Come on, let me wash your hair, and it's time to get out."

"No, I want to play more."

"Sweetheart, Mims went to get you your favorite for dinner. You wouldn't 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 Chloe's 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 Chloe's lap. "Is mommy coming?"

"Not tonight sweetheart."

"I want to," he whimpered.

"I know. I promise you we'll go see her tomorrow. Would you like to talk to her before you go to bed?" He nodded, lightly sniffling. "All right. Let's 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?"

"We're okay. How are you feeling?"

"As if was run over by a truck," Laurence graoned, stifling a wary chuckle when she realized she wasn't exaggerating as much as she'd intended.

"I wish I could be with you."

"You're not coming tonight?"

"I don't know if I can...hold on, I'll 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 days...Clément 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. You'll 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 Cambier's. He has been following me every step I take, and he is scared senseless to go home. I couldn't force him to go in..."

"You did the right thing. I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"Not being there to help you."

"Don't be silly. We'll be okay." She ran her fingers through the condensation on the cold window, slowly tracing circles.

"Stay with him tonight. I'll be all right."

"That's 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 it's going with Clément, we might not have a choice about selling the house."

"I guess that's a good thing because I haven't changed my mind about it."

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

"I love you too. I'll 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 doctor's 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 can't stand the hospital smell and if I see another white wall I'm going to explode."

"I can't believe they're letting you walk out like that."

"What do you mean?"

"In my country, you're forced to be in a wheelchair until you're 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 let's go." She picked up Clément's hand and smiled tenderly down at him.

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

"I've been cooped up inside for a week. It's 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 o'clock 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.

"I'm fine. Stop worrying." Laurence linked her fingers with Chloe and bend over to kiss her. "I'm 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. He's fine. There isn't 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.

"I'm not sure, Lo. I'd 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 don't know what to do about that."

Laurence frowned worriedly. "I've 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. "I'd say we try to get Clément home tonight, but I doubt it's 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. We'll check into a hotel for tonight."

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

"Okay, I'm tiring a little."

"What's the plan?"

"We go to the Cambiers. While you explaine what's going on to Mims, I'll go home to get some clothes."

"Sounds good. Just make sure Clément doesn't 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 it's 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 didn't waste time and jumped into their earlier conversation.

"I've thought a lot. I know it's not fair for me to ask you to do this...especially after the arrangements you made to come and be with us, but I want us to move to America."

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

Laurence nodded and closed her eyes briefly. "Chloe, right now you're on a tourist visa. You might get accepted for a student visa later on, or you might not. It's a gamble. I've come to realize that it doesn't 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 didn't want Clément to lose everything he had ever know? What's changed?"

Laurence closed her eyes and when she reopened them tears slowly rolled down her cheeks. "Because we almost died. It's sad to say, but I had to nearly lose Clément and you to realize that where we are doesn't matter." She took a deep breath. "I have American citizenship, and so does Clément."

Chloe kissed Laurence's forehead and gently wiped her tears away. "We could just sell the house and move somewhere else. It doesn't 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, you'll 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?"

"It's a big change." She squeezed Laurence's fingers between hers.

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

"Okay, then let's do it. Lo, where you go, I go. It's been this way since the beginning. I love you, and if moving to America is what you want, then I'll 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 Chloe's shoulder and hugged her waist with her good arm.

"Get some rest now. We'll work out the details later on," whispered Chloe, kissing Laurence's hair and tightening her grip on her lover's shoulders.

To be continued

copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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