This is a Beta version of Chapter III.  A revised version should be posted very soon. I decided to go ahead and post this one since so many people asked for it. Enjoy and thanks to everyone for the feedback.

Chapter III

Chloe took a deep breath and released her death grip on the phone. "Are you all right?" she asked again.

"Yes…we…I'm all right," answered Laurence, in a voice betraying her emotions.

Chloe stared at the ring she had taken off earlier and left on her night table. "I'm glad you called."

A silence established itself, but after a few seconds Laurence broke it. "I…I'm sorry."

Chloe sighed and closed her eyes, fighting the tears that threatened to spill. "I probably should go…it's late."

"Yes, I'm sorry…it's late…I didn't think of that…"

"It's okay…I'm glad you called," whispered Chloe with a trembling voice.

"Can I call you again?" asked Laurence hesitantly.

Chloe's breath caught in her throat at the unexpected request and her heart sped up. She passed her hand through her hair, which was always a sign of despair and walked up to her window. The moonlight was reflecting on the immaculate snow, giving it a peaceful and serene aspect, she opened the window and let the cold air penetrate her lungs.

"Chloe?…are you still there? I…you know…I'd understand if you never want to talk to me again."

The hint of sadness in Laurence's voice broke Chloe's resolution and touched her heart in ways she thought she was immune to. "I'd like that," she spoke softly.

Laurence released a deep breath. "I'll call soon…Merry Christmas Chloe."

"Merry Christmas Laurence." Chloe hung up the phone and stared at the receiver, her heart still beating at high speed. She sat on her bed immobile, her mind racing with endless possibilities. So many questions were left unanswered. She slowly got up and went to her bathroom, undressed and stepped in the shower. The hot water as always had a therapeutic effect on her, and after a few minutes she was able to calm her nerves and stepped out. As she combed her long blond hair in front of the mirror, a smile formed on her face, and she realized that for the first time in weeks, she felt light and hopeful.


Laurence hung up and lay back on her pillow. She smiled and let happiness settle in her bones, the sound of Chloe's voice still resonating in her mind. Her alarm clock struck 6:30 a.m. "There really is no point in going back to sleep. Clément should be up in less than an hour." She pushed the cover up and quietly went downstairs, the Christmas tree stood tall in the high ceilinged room, and packages of all sizes lay at its feet, waiting to be open. Laurence smiled and brushed by it, slightly touching some of the decorations on her way to the kitchen. She put the kettle on and opened the window to let some fresh air in. The water had barely boiled when she heard little steps running toward her room and back from where they came, and all the way down the stairs. Clément burst in the kitchen and rushed into her arms.

"Lo, Lo…Santa came." She had barely picked him as he wiggled his way out of her arms and ran back to the family room. "Come on Lo."

She shook her head laughingly, poured the water into a cup, added a tea mix and followed him. Clément was jumping in front of the tree clapping.

"Presents for me," he laughed.

"Go ahead. Pick one up."

He tear opened the first one he came across. "It's Sesame," he said holding a Sesame Street videotape. He unceremoniously dropped the tape to the side, and rushed to open the rest of his presents.


Chloe woke up feeling light and happy. Outside more snow had fallen and since it was Christmas day, there was no way a truck would come and plow the neighborhood before the following day. She lazily relaxed in bed until her father came knocking at her door. "Sweetheart, it's past 11…what about you get up and have a late Christmas breakfast with your dad?"

"I'll be right there," she answered, getting up and grabbing her robe.

Robert had made a large breakfast with scrambled eggs, pancakes, and sausages. He smiled at his daughter’s sleepy face. "Who called so late last night?"

"Laurence," answered Chloe, sitting up at the table and filling up her plate.

"How is she?"

"She seemed all right."

"Are you…I mean…"

"Back together?" interrupted Chloe, smiling at her dad’s hesitation. Robert nodded. "I don't know dad…There are so many questions left unanswered…she said she'll call back. We'll see if she does.'

"Can I ask you a question?" asked Roger before taking a bite of his sausage.


He swallowed before speaking. "Why did you guys break up? You did break up, didn't you?"

"Yes, we did," she said softly. "Laurence said it was for Clément's sake, that he missed me so much he wasn't himself anymore, and that she wasn't willing to put him through that each time I came over."

"Hum…yes, once you have a child everything changes. The child comes first."

"I know. I understood that, but it still hurts."

"Do you think there was more to it?"

"I have no idea."

Robert nodded and finished his plate. "I don't know what you intend to do, but make sure there are no questions left unanswered if you go back with her…honesty is the key."

Chloe smiled at her dad's attempt to talk about relationships with her and nodded her agreement, her mouth too full to answer.

A few days went by without any calls from Laurence. Chloe refused to let herself get upset about it and tried to go on with her normal life. On Wednesday afternoon she was sitting in the family room near the fire, reading a Tom Clancy novel when the doorbell rang. She put her book down annoyed at the interruption. "I'm coming," she yelled to the door. She took a quick look through the deadbolt and opened the door to UPS man. "Can I help you?"

"I have a package for Chloe Jones."

"That’s me."

The man handed her a small square package. "Please sign here." She signed quickly and closed the door, curious to find out what was inside. Her mother has still not manifested herself for the holidays, and Chloe hoped the package would be from her. She carefully turned it around and her heart started beating faster at the sight of the European stamps. Quickly she ripped the package open, inside was a small white box. Carefully she picked it up and opened it. The box revealed a small Santa Claus and memories came rushing back to her. She remembered last Christmas, and how this tiny Santa Claus had been her favorite ornament. A huge smiled crept on her face as she picked up an envelope at the bottom of the package. Her name was written in blue ink in a very neat handwriting. With trembling hands, she tore the envelope open and extracted a note.

Merry Christmas. Clément found it when we were decorating the tree a few days ago. I remember how much you loved it. Maybe if you put it up on your tree, a part of us can be there with you through the holidays. I miss you. I hope you can find in your heart the strength to forgive me for being so foolish.

Call me?


Chloe put the note back in the box and took the ornament to the room where the Christmas tree stood. She carefully hung it up and took a step back to admire her work. She quickly looked at her watch. "Three o'clock…nine in France…I guess it's worth a try." She took the stairs two by two up to her room and grabbed the phone, dialing the number she had tucked safely in the back of her mind, and she thought she would never need again.



"Hi…I take it you got my package."

"Yes, I did. Thank you."

"You're welcome."

A silence settled and Chloe took a deep breath. "I need to ask you something."

"What is it?" asked Laurence, fearing the questions to come.

"What do you want from me?"

"What do you mean?"

Chloe sighed and sat down on her bed. "It's not a trick question. what do you want from me?"

"What ever you can give me."

"Laurence, it's a little more complicated than that…you can't treat me the way you did and expect me to come back running as soon as you snap your fingers. Plus if the reason you broke up with me in the first place was really Clément, than why would anything have changed?"

Another silence passed before Laurence answered. "Because I've been miserable. I can't sleep…I can't draw, I think of you all the time…" Her voice broke down.

"I've never doubted that you loved me, but Clément is still there, so the problem remains."

"I know, and I've thought about it so many times, and I don't have a solution to it, but I realized that excluding you from helping me find a solution wasn't the best way to do it."

Chloe sighed again and got up. "I've lost trust in you Lo…Laurence. I don't know…" She stopped and flattened an imaginary wrinkle on her jeans. "Where do we go from here?" she asked softly

"Let's take it slow…no pressure, I'll do anything to regain your friendship and then if your love for me comes back, I'd like that to," she said the last part of the sentence jokingly, trying to lighten the mood.

"Slow it is then."

"I'll call you tomorrow. Bye…I lo…talk to you later."



Laurence kept her promise, she called the day after and the day after and the day after…They slowly relearned to communicate. The question of how to handle Clément had not been brought back up, and Chloe tried to stay clear from the subject. She missed him terribly, and speaking to Laurence everyday only added to it.

Two weeks after Christmas, Chloe received a letter from her mother. She was sending for her, and wanted her to come visit her in California the following week.

"She just expect me to drop everything and run to her," fumed Chloe, pacing in the kitchen.

He father smiled knowingly, recognizing the temper, which was the trademark of his ex-wife's side of the family. "Sweetheart, she probably thought it wouldn't be problem since you're on vacation."

"How does she know? I haven't heard from her since September."

Robert sighed. "You don't have to go, but California is a great place to be in January. At least you'd be away from the snow. Just think about it. When does she want you to come?"

"Next Monday," answered Chloe, calming down slightly and looking at the plane ticket.

"Then you have three days to decide."

"Why is she in California anyway? I thought the TV station she worked for was in Washington?"

"I don't know sweetheart, you'll have to ask her."

"Probably explains why she didn't ask me to come for Christmas."

"Maybe." Robert finished his lunch, adjusted his tie and got up. "I have to go back to work. Do you need the car this afternoon?"

She shrugged her shoulders and dropped the ticket on the kitchen table, unwilling to make a decision at the moment. "I'd like to go downtown. Can I just drop you at work and pick you up later on?"


"Let me grab my jacket and wallet…I'll be right down," she said while running upstairs.

She dropped Robert at his office, and maneuvered the gray Audi down Wisconsin Avenue to Washington. She had always enjoyed walking around the Washington Mall, it helped her think and put things into perspective. She parked her car near the White House and walked toward the Lincoln Memorial. The reflecting pool was frozen and the early afternoon sun shone right into it, making it glare. Chloe walked slowly around it, and made her way to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The thousands of names, inscribed on the marble walls, always made her heart beat faster. Letters had been left in the snow for fallen soldiers, and as she walked through the path barely touching the walls, she thanked anyone who could hear her for not living in a time of war. The weather was bitter cold, and she buried her face in her jacket to avoid the cold draft that was almost inevitable when stepping out of the monument path. She stopped at the bottom of the Lincoln Memorial and looked up. Its size, as always, took her breath away. She was amazed that such a monument could be there only to honor one man. The walk up the stairs to the top of the monument was like climbing Mount Everest, every step brought her closer to her goal, but the temperature dropped degrees at a time. Chloe reached the top, her fingers numb from the cold. Very few people stood in front of the enormous statue of Lincoln. She stood there for a while, reading the inscriptions and taking it all in. Finally the cold got the better of her, and she retreated the same way she came. "Damn, it's freezing," she told herself while speeding along the sidewalk back to her car. Once in her car, she turned the heat on full blast and waited a few minutes for her fingers to warm up before driving the car away.

45 minutes later, she parked the car in her driveway and walked back in the house. "Warmer in here," she said aloud to herself. She made herself a cup of hot chocolate and grabbed the phone.

"Hi mom…you're not there. I got your letter and the plane ticket. I'll be there on Monday. One more thing, next time ask me first." She hung up feeling better at the situation and took a sip from her cup. The beverage went slowly down her throat, warming her to the core. Once again, she picked up the phone.

"Hi, Laurence? It's Chloe."

"Hey, I was getting ready to call you. How are you doing?"

"Good. I just went down to the mall for a long walk…it was freezing, but worth while."

"Is everything all right?"

"Why are you asking?"

"You hate the cold, and I know that walking or running helps you think…that's why I'm asking if everything is all right."

Chloe smiled at Laurence's clever repartee." My mother sent for me this morning. She wants me to go and visit her next week."

"Are you going to go?"

"Yes. I'll be gone from Monday through next Sunday. Do you want me to give you her number?"

"Sure. Hold on, let me grab a pen." The line went silent as Laurence put the phone down to look for a pen. Chloe finished her cup of hot chocolate, and put it in the dishwasher. "Okay, I'm back. What is it?"

They talked for another 30 minutes and hung up. The more often they spoke, the harder it became for Chloe to put Laurence out of her mind and go on with her every day life. Lately, Laurence was in her thoughts almost every moment of the day and every taste or smell was a sweet reminder.


Chloe got off the plane at LAX and watched the shuttle take them to the terminal. The flight attendant had announced 75 degrees, and she was looking forward to the warm weather. She grabbed her suitcase from the baggage claim, and waited in the passenger pick up area for her mother. A tall and thin woman in her 40's made her way toward Chloe. She wore her blond hair up in a French twist, and her green piercing eyes lit up at the sight of Chloe. "Chloe," yelled the woman through the crowd.

Chloe turned around and smiled at her mother. "Hi, mom," she yelled back, waving at the woman. Finally her mother reached her and gave her a quick hug.

"You look great," said Elizabeth Jones, looking at her daughter.


"Let me get that for you," Elizabeth said, taking Chloe's suitcase away from her. "I parked in parking lot D." They walked out of the airport, across the street, and into the parking lot. Elizabeth pressed a button on her key chain and a blue BMW convertible beeped.

"Like my new car?" asked Elizabeth, opening the trunk and putting Chloe's luggage in.

"Yeah, it's great," answered Chloe, admiring the vehicle.

"Peter calls it my middle age crises acquisition!" joked Elizabeth, while sliding behind the wheel.

"Who is Peter?"

"Oh…he is just a guy I've been seeing for a while. I spoke to you about him."

"No, you didn't," answered Chloe dryly.

"Really? Well, I meant to."

"Mom, the last time you spoke to me was September…just after I came back from France."

"It has been that long…I've been pretty busy."

"So I figured," answered Chloe sarcastically.

Elizabeth glanced quickly at her daughter and sighed. She drove the car to the express way and sped up. "It's early enough in the afternoon, we shouldn't hit traffic."

"I thought you lived in LA."

"No, LA is way too polluted for me. I have an apartment in Laguna Beach."

Elizabeth exited the expressway and drove down a major road that ended right on the water. "On the left is Dana point, you can go on a dolphin seeing tour there. You should do that this week. They drove along the beach for another 10 minutes before Elizabeth made a right. She parked her car on top of a hill and got out. "Here we are." Her apartment complex was a two story white building with a very Mediterranean look to it. The stairs to go up were located at the center of the building, separating it in two. Elizabeth opened the door on the left and stepped into a spacious two-bedroom apartment. She walked through a large family room decorated with a black leather couch and white carpet and turned left into a small corridor. "My bedroom is at the end of the wall, here is the guestroom. Well, it's mostly my office, but there is a bed in it." She dropped Chloe's luggage on a single bed. "The bathroom is across the hall." Elizabeth walked up to her computer and turned it off. "I'll tell you what, go ahead and freshen up and I'll take you out for dinner. Do you mind if I ask Peter to join us?"

Chloe shrugged her shoulders." No, not really."

"Good. It's settled then."

They went for seafood at a restaurant on the beach. Peter seemed very enamoured with Elizabeth and his puppy love look annoyed Chloe immensely. He asked her a few questions to which she answered politely. Deep down inside she had wanted to spend some time alone with her mother, and had hoped Elizabeth would feel the same way, but her request to bring Peter along to their first night together, shattered Chloe's hope. After dinner Peter dropped them back at the apartment, he kissed Elizabeth on the cheek, shook Chloe's hand and left. Inside the apartment Elizabeth poured herself a glass of scotch and offered some to Chloe.

"Mom. Come on!"

"What? What's wrong with a good glass of scotch…facilitates the digestion," laughed Elizabeth.

"Nothing wrong with it, but I'm a little too young for it."

"How old are you? 18?"

"I'm 19."

"Right…so, what's the big deal. I had my first drink when I was 15. Don't tell me you don't drink in college."

Chloe shook her head. "Is it serious with Peter?" she asked changing the subject.

"Of course not. With my job I don't have time for a serious relationship."

Chloe smiled at her mother. "I'm not an expert, but I can tell you that he looks at you with puppy eyes."

"Puppy eyes, huh?" laughed Elizabeth, finishing her drink. "Enough about my love life. What about you?"

"Nothing special.'

"Come on! At your age I had dozens of men calling every week. Drove my mother crazy," said Elizabeth, smiling at the memory.

"That was you mom, not me. Okay, I'm beat, I'll think I'll call it a night," said Chloe, tenderly kissing her mother on the cheek. "Good night, mom."

"Good night, sweetheart." Chloe left for her room, but was stopped before reaching the corridor. "Chloe?" called Elizabeth.

"What is it?" asked Chloe, turning around.

"I'm glad you're here," smiled her mother.

"I'm glad too," she smiled back, surprised that she actually meant what she said.


Elizabeth came stomping into Chloe's bedroom around 8. "Good morning," she said, opening the curtains and letting the morning sun come in.

"Mom!" protested Chloe.

"Come on, it's a gorgeous day. Let's go for a run." Chloe buried her face in her pillow. "Come on lazy butt, get up," said Elizabeth, pulling the cover off Chloe.

"Okay, okay, I'm up," said Chloe. She got up and sleepily walked across the hall to the bathroom to splash some cold water on her face.

15 minutes later, they were jogging down the hill toward the beach. Elizabeth was in great shape, and Chloe had trouble following her rhythm. "Mom, can we turn around, I'm dying here," asked Chloe, out of breath.

Elizabeth smiled at her daughter and nodded. "We're almost there anyway. A few more blocks."

Once they reached the building, Chloe stopped to catch her breath.

"Do you run that much everyday?" she said between two deep breaths.

"If I'm not on an assignment - yes, I do. Come on, I'll race you upstairs."

"Mom!" laughed Chloe, taking off after her mother, who was already half way up the stairs.

As they reached the door, they heard the phone ring. Elizabeth unlocked the door in a hurry and ran across the living room to pick up the phone.

"Hello…what? You've got to be kidding?…fine. What time? Fine… you guys are going to owe me for this one…right, I'll see you there." She hung up the phone and turned to her daughter.

"What's going on?" asked Chloe, taking off her shoes and sweaty socks.

Elizabeth sighed. "I have to catch a plane for Korea at 4."


"I'm sorry sweetheart, I'm the one who has been following the events closely, and some denouements happened. I really have to go…trust me I'd rather stay here with you."

"I thought you were on vacation," asked Chloe, not believing it.

"I am…I was. It doesn't matter in this kind of job…when something major happens you've got to go. You should know that by now," said Elizabeth, tenderly squeezing Chloe's shoulder.

Chloe stepped back from her mother. "Fine. Go. What else can I say? I don't hear from you for months, you make me drop everything to come and spend some time with you, and now you're leaving. Yeah, that's a good one."

"I'm sorry you don't understand, but my job is important, and this is a major assignment."

"What is it mother? Does danger turn you on?" asked Chloe, sarcastically. Elizabeth looked at her daughter sadly. Chloe caught her mother look and her anger fell. "I'm sorry."

Elizabeth smiled. "It's okay. I understand."

"How long will you be gone?"

"Probably until the end of the week. I'll leave some money for you. You can use the car freely."


"I've got to take a shower and pack." As soon as Elizabeth left for the shower, the phone rang.

"Mom, phone?" called Chloe. "Are you going to get that?" she asked when no one was picking it up. "Fine, I'll get it."


"Hi, may I speak with Chloe, please?"


"Hey, I didn't recognize your voice," said Laurence with a smile in her voice.

"What's happening?"

"Nothing much really. Tons of work to do. I just got assigned two more project due in three weeks…it's crazy."

"You sound like my mom."


"She just got a call and has to catch a plane for Korea this afternoon."

"That's too bad. I'm sorry. Are you going to go back to your dad's?"

"Not until the end of the week. I get the use of the car, so it shouldn’t be too bad. I don't know anything around here though. Listen I've got to go, my mom just stepped out of the shower, and I'm still sweaty from our run. Talk to you later."


The day after her mother left, Chloe went for a drive along the coast and sat on the beach reading a book. She felt a little bit lonely, but was also enjoying the silence and sunny weather. At night she found a video place where she rented a couple of movies. She popped "Double Jeopardy" on, grabbed the popcorn from the microwave and settled comfortably on the couch. Her day in the sun slowly took its toll, and she was asleep before the movie ended. She woke up in the middle of the night, the room was dark besides the static from the screen. "Must have been a great movie," she said sleepily, turning the TV off and going to her room. She woke up early, and as she had done with her mother two days before, she decided to go for a run. She paced herself and jogged down to the beach. The early morning sun was barely passed the horizon. She slowed her run and stopped in front of the water, its gentle waves barely touching her tennis shoes. Carefully, she knelt and touched the water with her hand. "A little chilly," she laughed to herself before resuming her run. She circled around the block and came out on top of the hill overhanging her mother's building. She stopped and walked down the hill, slowly catching her breath. As she made the turn to go up the stairs, she stopped dead in her tracks. Sitting on the top of the stairs with a suitcase next to her was Laurence. She wore a pair of blue Levis and a white tank top. Their eyes met and Laurence slowly got up. She walked down the steps and stopped at arm's length from Chloe, who was yet to move.

"Hi," said Laurence, a smile lighting up her face.

Chloe stared at her, still in shock. "What…what are you doing here?"

"You said you didn't know anyone in town…I didn't want you to get bored." Laurence looked intensely into Chloe's eyes, and reached for Chloe's hand, but withdrew before taking a hold of it.

"What happened to 'I have tons of work'?"

"It'll still be there when I get back."

"What about Clément?"

"With Monsieur et Madame Cambier?"

"How long are you here for?"

"Until Saturday." Laurence smiled at Chloe, amused. "If you're finished playing twenty questions, I'd like to come in," she joked.

"Oh…yeah, sure." She went past Laurence, and up the stairs.

Go to chapter IV 

copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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