Laurence stayed throughout the end of the week. Together with Chloe and Jean, they tried to help Clément, but if his external scars healed quickly, the damage done to his mind was taking longer to heal. He woke up almost every night drenched in sweat and screaming. He refused to take a bath, unless the stopper was removed from the tub, and the water left running.
Laurence's heart broke every time Clément had a nightmare. She felt useless and unable to help him. She spent most of her day reading and playing with him. On Thursday, Jean went back to work, but he made a point of calling many times a day to check on Clément. Laurence and Chloe's relationship grew stronger during the week. Chloe showed patience toward Clément and helped Laurence with moral support. She never once complained that Laurence spent all her time with Clément and always tried to eclipse herself and leave them alone.
At the end of the week, Laurence stood with her jacket on in the entrance, her hands were balled into fists inside her pockets, and her eyes were shining with tears. Clément was crying in the background, and Jean could be heard trying to comfort him.
"Lo, he'll be okay. Jean and I will make sure of it. You have to go back to your studies. Come on, you're only a few months away from graduation," said Chloe, trying to persuade Laurence.
"I know, but I feel that I'm giving up on him," she answered, her shoulders hunched and her voice trembling.
"You're not." Chloe stepped closer to Laurence and tenderly caressed her face. "Hey, Lo, come on, look at me," pleaded Chloe. Laurence looked up. "You're coming back next weekend. It's only 5 days. I'll call you every night and let you know how things are going. Okay? Lo, your dad is here too, and he proved to us this week that he can be really counted on."
"You're right, I'm being stupid," said Laurence, shaking her head.
"No, you're not...you're just being overly protective, and it's normal. Now, go on, it's getting late, and you have quite a drive."
"Plus, Jackie is coming back from her trip tonight, I should bring her car back...gosh, her plants are probably dead."
"I'm sure she'll understand if you explain to her what happened."
"She should." Laurence looked at Chloe and smiled. "Thanks for everything...I'm sorry if I didn't spend much time with you this week...I'll make it up to you."
"Don't worry about it." Chloe hugged Laurence briefly, and stepped back. "I'll see you next weekend."
Laurence nodded, passed her hand trough Chloe' s hair and gently brushed her lips against hers. "I'll call you when I get home."
"You'd better," smiled Chloe.
Laurence looked at Chloe one last time, opened the door and left. Clément's cries had slowly become whimpers. Chloe stepped on the front porch and waved at Laurence. The car went past the gates, Laurence honked and waved and expertly maneuvered the car through the parked cars on each side of the street, and disappeared down rue de Provence.
Chloe walked back inside, lost in her own thoughts.
"Chloe, phone call," called Jean.
"Okay." She rushed to the phone. "Allo?"
" Chloe, it's Vincent."
Chloe realized that they never called him back after Monday's incident and started apologizing profusely.
"I know you had a lot on your plate. Don't worry about it. I know how you can make it up to me though," joked Vincent.
"If you're not busy right now, let's go out for a drink."
"I don't know, it's been really hectic here lately..."
"Come on. You probably need a break."
"I'll ask. Hold on a minute."
Chloe went in search of Jean and Clément and found them in the playroom. "Jean, if you don't need me tonight, I'd like to go out with a friend."
"Please go ahead. We'll be fine," smiled Jean, putting an extra block on Clément's Lego construction.
Vincent happily told Chloe he'd pick her up in 45 minutes and hung up.
"Boy, I think I'm going to have a talk with him," Chloe sighed, after hanging up.
"Are you okay?" asked Jean, coming out of the playroom, followed by Clément.
"Sure," answered Chloe, absently.
"You don't look to happy."
"I'm going out with Vincent. I feel that after Monday, I owe him that much."
"I don't see what's the problem in that?" Jean picked up Clément who was hanging onto his leg.
"He has a crush on me."
Jean stopped and laughed. "That might be a problem. Just tell him."
"I know, I'm planning on it. I just feel bad about it....I never thanked you for being so open-minded about Laurence and I," said Chloe, following Jean to the kitchen. Jean sat Clément at the table, and opened the fridge.
"What am I going to give you for dinner?" He picked left over mashed potatoes, and a slice of ham and closed the fridge. "Why wouldn't I be open-minded? I haven't seen my daughter that happy and open to anyone since her mother died. You bring out something in her that even we can't." said Jean, motioning to him and Clément.
"Thanks," smiled Chloe. "I guess I should go get changed." She ruffled Clément's hair and left the kitchen.
Exactly 45 minutes later, Vincent rang the doorbell.
"Boy, you're right on time," said Chloe while opening the door.
"I hate being late," smiled Vincent, handing Chloe a bouquet of roses. "These are for you."
Chloe looked at the flowers surprised. "I...thank you..." Why don't you step in for a minute while I put them in a vase."
"Sure," smiled Vincent, following Chloe.
She went to the dining room buffet and picked the same vase she had put Laurence's flowers in a few weeks back. Chloe smiled at the memories of the flowers and how much Laurence's bouquet symbolized a change in their relationship. She had dried the flowers carefully after a few days, and they were now displayed upstairs in her room. Chloe filled the vase with water and put in the flowers.
"Okay, Vincent. I'm ready,' she said, walking back to the entrance where Vincent was waiting.
"Did you have dinner?" asked Vincent.
"No, but I'm really not hungry. Let's just get a drink."
"Okay, what about we go to the same place we went to last time?" asked Vincent, opening the door and letting Chloe go by.
"We can make it our special place," smiled Vincent.
Oh, boy! I really have to talk to him, thought Chloe, choosing not to answer Vincent's remark.
They drove to the small café on the left bank, the traffic was almost non-existent on this Sunday night. Vincent parked his car a few spaces away from where he had previously parked.
"There are no lights. Are you sure it isn't closed?" asked Chloe, pointing at the dark café.
"They've been here forever, I don't get it." Vincent walked up to the door. "There is an eviction notice...I guess now we know why it's closed." He turned and walked back to Chloe who was waiting on the sidewalk. "I'm sorry. I really had no idea. Can we just go for a walk around the lake, or do you want to try to find another place?'
"A walk sounds fine," answered Chloe.
They walked, chatting about the week. Chloe explained to Vincent what happened with Clément, and how her week had been spent trying to help Clément overcome his fears.
"They don't sound like a very good family to stay with," stated Vincent. "You know you could probably find another one...I mean you've been here for what almost two months? That shouldn't be a problem."
Chloe laughed. "I don't know why everyone tells me that...I'm not going anywhere. I really like the family. I'm staying."
"Your choice," answered Vincent. They walked silently for a few minutes, slowly circling the lake. "Chloe can I ask you a question?"
"Sure, what is it?"
Vincent took a deep breath. "I...well, my...I'm stuttering like a teenager," smiled Vincent. "There is this big formal dinner at the University next weekend, and I want to know if you'd like to come with me."
Chloe stopped. "Why don't we sit down for a while?" Vincent nodded, and they walked to a bench closer to the water. "I don't know if I can come with you..."
"It would be fun. Chloe, I'm trying to do things right here. I could be the typical male, and just kiss you and try to get you in bed, but I'm asking you out as a date. I'm trying to be a gentleman here," interrupted Vincent, smiling tenderly at Chloe. He scooted closer to her, and looked at her in the eyes. "I like you Chloe. I think you're beautiful, and you have something I've never met in any girl in this country...I think I'm slowly falling for you. "Vincent suddenly stopped. "So much for doing that the proper way...I'm sorry, I'm probably scaring you."
Chloe couldn't help smiling at Vincent's attempt to do the proper thing. "Vincent, I appreciate the offer, but there is something I think you need to know..."
"You didn't have anyone in your life last time...don't tell me you've fallen in love in this period of time." Chloe nodded. Vincent sighed. "That will teach me to be so slow. Is it just a flame or are you guys serious about each other?" asked Vincent, testing the water.
"I think it's the real thing," smiled Chloe. "I'm sorry. I should have told you at the hospital when you tried to kiss me, but so much was going on..."
"It' s okay. What's the lucky person's name?"
Vincent looked at Chloe surprised. "You're kidding, right?" he asked incredulously.
"Why didn't you say something? Why didn't you tell me that no matter what I had no chance?" asked Vincent, a hint of anger in his voice.
"Because this is new to me. I wasn't expecting to fall in love in this country, even less with another woman." Chloe got up. "I think you should take me home."
Vincent nodded. The ride back was filled with tension and unanswered questions. Vincent pulled in front of the house. "Is she Clément's sister?" His words the first spoken since Chloe's request to be driven home.
"Yes, she is."
"I remember her picture from the plane. She is really beautiful."
"Yes, she is," smiled Chloe, images of Laurence dancing in front if her eyes. She turned to Vincent. "Listen...I'm sorry, I should have told you earlier. I like you. You're a great guy, and I want us to stay friends. I owe you for Monday..."
"You don't owe me anything." Vincent turned and faced Chloe. "I really have no luck with girls," he smiled. "Friends it is," he said, the tension quickly fading.
Chloe smiled, and hugged him. "Thanks. I'll call you this week. Maybe we can do something this weekend, and you can meet her."
"I'd like to meet her...I really feel dumb pursuing you when...."
"Vincent. Don't. I'm flattered, really." Chloe stepped out of the car. "I'll call you."
Vincent nodded and started the car. Chloe waved one last time and disappeared behind the gates and inside the courtyard.
Go to chapter XV
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