Chapter IX

    After the stop at the bakery, they stopped on a bench a few streets away from Rue de Montreuil, so Clément could eat his 'pain au chocolat'. He stuffed the pastry in his mouth at such a high speed that Laurence had to slow him down. Chloe laughed when after eating the last bite Clément wiped his hand on his pants.

    "I see nothing changes," she said with a laugh.

    "I don't know where he gets his table manners...Clément, how many times have I told you not to use your clothes as napkins?" She sighed and got up. On the way back, they stopped at the Cambier's house. Chloe rang the bell. They heard Monsieur Cambier's heavy steps behind the door and it finally opened. His face lit at the sight of Chloe, he happily kissed her on the cheeks and invited them in. Clément had already made his way down the corridor, screaming "Mims, Mims." Madame Cambier appeared at the kitchen's door, she quickly wiped her hand on the towel she was carrying and hurried to Chloe.

    "It is good seeing you," she said, her attitude more reserved than Monsieur Cambier.

    "I want to play train," interrupted Clément, pulling at Madame Cambier's skirt.

    She smiled at her husband who grabbed Clément's hand and walked with him upstairs to what they liked to call 'the train room.'

    "Please come on in," said Madame Cambier, opening the door to the family room. She offered them coffee and pastries. Chloe smiled after taking a huge bite of a large chocolate pastry called religieuse au chocolat. Its thick chocolate custard, its light pastry shell and its perfect chocolate frosting was delicious. She sighed and wiped her mouth.

    "What?" she asked looking at Madame Cambier and at Laurence who were staring at her with eyes sparkling with amusement.

    "Would you like another one?" asked Madame Cambier with a smile. "You obviously like it very much, " she said teasing Chloe.

    "No, thank's just that I've never been able to find anything like that in the States. It's so good."

    Laurence finally lost her calm and started laughing loudly. "You should have seen your face when you were eating. Every pore in your body was screaming, 'Chocolate!'" Laurence's laugh reverberated through the room.

    Madame Cambier stood up. "Listen. Why don't you go and enjoy each other's company and I'll keep Clément for the evening. You can pick him up before bed time."

    Laurence got up. "That would be gr..."

    "Actually I'd rather not," interrupted Chloe.

    "Okay...why not?" asked Laurence, not understanding Chloe's reaction.

    "Clément is already upset with me. I don't want him to think I'm taking you away from him. Plus I'd like to spend some time with him also," she explained to Laurence.

    "I'll go get Clément," said Madame Cambier with a knowing smile.

    Laurence nodded and reached for Chloe' s hand. "Stop worrying, he'll come around."

    "I know, but it hurt me when he turned away from me earlier."

    "I'm sorry. I promise it'll get better." Laurence lightly caressed Chloe's face. "Letís go, I can hear the little monster coming down the steps."

    They said their good byes to the Cambiers and went home. Once inside Chloe offered Clément to play Legos with her, but he barely acknowledged her offer. She sighed and sat down on the couch.

    "Give him time," said Laurence while sitting next to her. "Okay, I made a few phone calls this morning and I have a few leads on French tutors. One of them I think would be perfect. She is American but has been living here for 15 years. Her French must be great and you won't have the language barrier. I've got to tell you though, if we hire her she will only be allowed to speak English to you if you are really lost."

    "What's her name?"


    "You've got her number?"


    "I'll call her tomorrow and see how much she charges. Who gave you the leads?"

    "My dad's ex-business partner."

    "Anyone else?"

    "Three more numbers. The good thing about Jennifer though is that she is actually a teacher; the others speak French, but that doesn't mean they can teach." Clément came running in, interrupting their conversation.

    "Lo, lo, read to me," he said, dropping a book on her laps.

    Chloe shrugged and smiled. She had forgotten what life with a toddler was. She watched attentively while Laurence read the story of a little lion cub looking for his mother. After the cub asked the fourth animal 'Are you my mother?' Clément put his hand on the book and turned to Laurence.

    "Where is my mummy?" he asked.

    Laurence's eyes grew wide at the question and her heart sped up. She looked at Chloe in panic and tried to come up with an answer. Chloe seeing Laurence's despair was getting ready to come to her rescue when the phone rang. Laurence lifted Clément from her lap and ran to the phone.

    "Allo...Oui, une minute." She turned around and yelled for Chloe. "It's for you."

    "For me? I just got here!"

    "I think itís Vincent. He called a few days ago to ask about you, and I told him you were coming today! Sorry," said Laurence after Chloe rolled her eyes.

    "Vincent, hello how are you?" said Chloe after picking up the phone.

    "Good. So, you're back."

    "Yes, I am. Listen, it's a bad time right now. Can I call you back tomorrow or the day after?"


    "Are you still at the same number?"


    "Okay, I'll talk to you later." She didn't mind speaking to Vincent, but at the moment she wanted to talk to Laurence about what had just happened before the phone rang. Clément had gone back to the playroom and Laurence could be heard in the kitchen banging pots around.

    "Hey, whatcha doing?" asked Chloe, seeing Laurence putting veggies in a blender.


    "You're cooking?" asked Chloe incredulously.

    "Sure. Come on, I wasn't going to feed Clément McDonald's every day!" She closed the blender and turned it on only to have it turned off by Chloe. "What did you do that for?"

    "You haven't had the 'I'm your mother' talk with Clément yet?"

    Laurence sighed and moved away from Chloe. "No, I haven't"

    "Why not?"

    "I don't know...I didn't want to confuse him. I'm the closest thing he has to a mother anyway. I don't really care if he doesn't call me mom."

    "Of course you do. Come on Lo, I know you better than that. What's scaring you?"

    "Nothing really. I just don't know how to tell him."

    "Well, tonight while reading this story would have been the perfect time. You know not telling him might confuse him more than you think. He hears his friends call their mother 'mom'. You don't want to make him feel as if he is different."

    "You're right, I know...can I make my soup now?" asked Laurence, trying to lighten the mood.

    "Yeah, but don't think I'm done with you," smiled Chloe, unwilling to spoil her first evening in France with an argument.

    "I hope not," smiled Laurence seductively.

    Chloe laughed. "I'll be in the library. Call me if you need help."


    The library was as Chloe remembered it and the sight of the thousands of books still took her breath away. "There is something about this room," she said aloud while walking across it. She ran her hand over the shelves, letting her eyes scan through the titles, and settled on a book with a dark green leather jacket. She picked it up and slowly opened it, afraid of touching its pages which had become yellowed by time. "Germinal by Emile Zola. Didn't they make a movie with that name a few years ago?" She settled into one of the leather chairs in the corner of the room and started reading the first page.

    "Dinner should be ready in half an hour," said Laurence, poking her head through the door.

    "Sure. I'll come and set the table. Can I borrow this book?"

    "You don't have to ask!"

    Chloe smiled and walked past Laurence, setting the book on top of the entertainment center, away from Clément's destructive 4 year old hands and close enough to the stairs that she would remember to take it upstairs with her tonight. "Did they make a movie named Germinal?"

    "Yes, 6 or 7 years ago. It was pretty good."

    "Who was in it? No, let me guess," laughed Chloe. "Gerard Depardieu."

    "How did you guess?"

    "He is in every French movie ever made."

    "Hey, not true. He is just very good, that's it."

    Chloe laughed louder. "Feeling a little bit patriotic, aren't you?" She grabbed Laurence playfully and kissed her fully on the lips. The innocent kiss turned into something more passionate before Chloe yelped in pain.

    "Hey, why did you do that for?" asked Chloe to Clément who had slammed the edge of his book on Chloe's bare foot.

    "Mine," said Clément, grabbing Laurence's leg and hanging on to it.

    Chloe looked at Clément not knowing how to reply. Laurence didn't give her a chance to do so. She picked up Clément and sat him on the couch. "You do not hit people. Are you hearing me? This is a no-no," she said to him angrily.

    Clément looked at her with teary eyes. "Go up to your room and stay there until I call you for dinner. Go on," she said pointing to the stairs. Clément got up and walked up to his room with his shoulders low.

    "You were a little hard on him. He's just being protective, that's it,"

    "I know that, but he needs to learn that you can't hit people and not expect repercussion."

    "He is only 4."

    "Chloe, if I let him get away with it now, then there is no stopping him once he gets older. Half of a child's behavior is established the first few years of life."

    Chloe sighed. "Youíre right. I just feel guilty because I'm the one who kissed you. He hit me and he got in trouble. Boy, he's going to hate me even more."

    "He doesn't hate you, he's just confused about you."

    "Why don't you go talk to him. I'll keep on eye on the dinner."

    "There is soup on the stove and mashed potatoes. The meat should also be done in a few minutes."

    "I'll take care of it. Go on."

    She set the table and poured the hot soup into cups for everyone so it would cool off a little. She was barely finished when Clément's sad face appeared in the doorway followed by Laurence.

    "He has something to tell you," said Laurence. Chloe knelt in front of Clément to be at eye level with him. Clément dropped his gaze and stared at the kitchen floor.

    "Go on," said Laurence.

    He raised his head and looked at Chloe. "Sorry."

    "It's okay," smiled Chloe, looking at him deeply in the eyes. She tentatively moved her hand to brush his hair back and was surprised when Clément didn't move away. She smiled and stood up. "I guess dinner is ready."


    A few hours later, Clément was asleep and Laurence and Chloe were getting ready for bed. "That was quite a day. I'm exhausted," Chloe said, letting herself fall on the bed.

    "I bet you are. You've been awake for more than 24 hours. I'm surprised you didn't go to sleep earlier."

    "I wanted to spend my first evening back home with you, not asleep." Chloe yawned and pulled the covers over her.

    "I just have to brush my teeth. I'll be in in a minute."

    "'kay." Chloe settled on the pillows and sighed. She felt happy, any doubts that might have been left in her mind about coming back to France were slowly fading away. Laurence slid into bed and scooted closer to Chloe, putting her arm around her midriff. She lightly kissed her on the cheek and snuggled even closer, burying her face in her neck. Chloe turned her head and kissed her. "I love you," she said, breaking the kiss.

    "Welcome home," said Laurence. Chloe's eyes became heavy and her breathing started slowing down.

    "I'll call this girl for the tutoring job tomorrow," she said sleepily.

    Laurence nodded against Chloe. She tightened her grip on her and kissed her shoulder. "Go to sleep, you're exhausted."

    She only received a soft snore in response.

Part 10

copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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