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Chapter XVI

    Chloe wiped some remaining tears off her cheeks and slowly got up. "Stay here sweetheart, I have to go and ask Madame Cambier something." Clément looked at her briefly and returned his attention to the TV show. Chloe sighed, wishing she could capture Clément's innocence if only for a minute, and forget the events of the past few hours.

    As she stepped out, she almost bumped into Madame Cambier. "Sorry, I didn't see you," she apologized.

    Madame Cambier smiled. "I made dinner, come and eat, after that I'll show you to your room." She walked into the family room, knelt next to Clément and softly whispered something in his ear. Clément giggled, clapped his hands, and left running.

    "Come on C'oe. Food." He grabbed her hand and followed Madame Cambier to the kitchen.

    "What did you tell him? I've never seen him so enthusiastic about eating," asked Chloe before picking up Clément and sitting him on a chair at the large kitchen table.

    "It's a secret," smiled the elderly woman. She picked up a pan from the stove and dropped two spoonfulls of mashed potatoes on Clément's plate, she then got a slice of ham out of a white package and cut it in little pieces for him. To Chloe's surprise, Clément grabbed his fork and started eating. When I think that I have to fight with him everyday for him not to eat with his hands...amazing.

    "Would you like some potatoes?" Madame Cambier asked Chloe.

    "No thanks...I really don't have the heart to eat right now."

    "You eat," said Madame Clément, putting some food on Chloe's plate. "You'll get sick if you don't eat," she said, her tone of voice indicating she would not take Žno' for an answer.

    Monsieur Cambier, who was sitting across from Chloe, winked at her. "Ecoute ce qu'elle dit mon petit," he smiled.

    Chloe nodded, put some food in her mouth and swallowed slowly. Clément finished up his plate hastily, put his fork down and clapped his hands. "More TV now," he laughed.

    "Clément, I think it's bed time for you," answered Chloe, pushing her half-empty plate away. .

    "This is what I promised him if he ate everything on his plate," smiled Madame Cambier. "Viens mon cheri, seulement 10 minutes." She looked at Chloe for acceptance. Chloe, who was too tired to fight, quickly nodded and let Clément go back to the family room.


    Around 8:30, Madame Cambier took Chloe and Clément upstairs to show them the sleeping arrangements. Her house was simple, but nicely decorated. She took them into a large room with a single and a double bed, the walls were covered with light blue wallpaper, and a painting representing a picnic by a lake with people wearing bright dresses and children running around playing ball hung on the wall. The wooden floor squeaked as they walked across it. Pajamas that appeared to be Clément's size were displayed on the single bed.

    "This is where my daughter and her husband sleep when they come visit. They have a little boy," explained Madame Clément. "The bathroom is..." She stopped, thinking. "I don't know the word. I'll show you." She stepped out and showed Chloe a door at the far end of the corridor.

    "Thank you...I don't know how to..."

    "I'm happy to help," smiled Madame Cambier.

    "His sister should arrive tonight. She knows we're here...I...she might come knocking at the door..."

    "You sleep. I come and wake you if she comes."

    "Thank you."

    Madame Cambier lightly kissed Clément on the cheek and left the room. Chloe looked at Clément who had discovered a toy chest in the left corner of the room and who was taking toys out happily.

    "No, no, babe, it's time for bed. Let's get you washed up and in your pajamas."

    "No, I play," whined Clément.

    Chloe sighed heavily. "Please no arguments tonight, okay," she said almost pleading. Her voice must have held a desperate tone because Clément got up and grabbed his pajamas. "Thank you," Chloe said, relieved.

    She quickly got him ready for the night and came back to the bedroom to tuck him in. "You stay with me," asked Clément, petting the area next to him on the bed.

    "Just for a minute," softly agreed Chloe, while climbing into bed and draping an arm around him.

    "I want papa," said Clément, his voice choking a little.

    Chloe's heart skipped a beat at his request and tears sprung to her eyes. "Not tonight sweetheart."

    Clément sniffled a little and cuddled closer to Chloe. "Tomo'ow, papa comes home?" he asked, uncertainty in his voice as if he knew his request could not be answered.

    Chloe took a deep breath and got hold of her emotions before answering. "Not papa, but Lo will be here."


    "Yes, so you have to fall asleep very fast so morning comes quickly, and then you can see Lo."

    "Okay," yawned Clément. He closed his eyes and took hold of Chloe's hand. Once he was sure she wasn't leaving him alone in this strange room, he let sleep take him.


    A soft tap on the shoulder woke up Chloe. She sat up abruptly and looked around the room disoriented. After a few seconds, she got her bearings back and wiped the sleep off her eyes.

    "She is downstairs," said softly Madame Cambier.

    Chloe nodded and got out of bed. I must have fallen asleep, she thought while bringing the covers back up on Clément's sleeping form. She followed Madame Cambier downstairs.

    "She's in the living room. I'm going to bed. Goodnight."

    Chloe thanked her and stood riveted in her spot, her legs refusing to walk to the door and face Laurence and the grief she knew she must be feeling. After a few moments of uncertainty, Chloe walked up to the door and stopped with her hand on the knob, she took a deep breath and opened it. The room was dark, the only light coming from the fire Madame Cambier must have lit earlier in the evening. Laurence was standing tall at the window, her back to the door. She waited for Chloe to close the door before turning. Her face looked tired, the shadows from the flames making it look almost cadaverous, her eyes were red, the lack of light not enough to hide the long hours of crying. Chloe walked up to Laurence, but stopped half way when she realized that Laurence had not moved or even said a word. She looked at her and her heart swelled with pain at the sight of Laurence's torments, she stood there trying to convey her love through her glance.

    "Where is Clément?' asked Laurence, breaking the silence, her voice baring almost no emotions.

    "Upstairs sleeping," answered Chloe, shivering slightly from the cold tone of Laurence's voice.

    "We have to take him to school tomorrow morning. The police wants to talk to us, and I don't want him to be around."

    Chloe nodded. Laurence took a step forward, and stopped again. She briefly rubbed her eyes, and her facial features seemed to soften a little.

    "They wouldn't let me in the house...those dumb cops wouldn't let me into my own house," said Laurence, her voice quivering, and her need for control slowly slipping.

    "I know. It' s just a dumb protocol...I'm sorry sweetheart," said Chloe, stepping closer to Laurence.

    "I couldn't see him...they've taken his body away already...they said tomorrow." Laurence's voice was regaining slowly its coldness. Chloe, who was unwilling to let Laurence go back into her previous mood, took gently hold of her hand. "There is nothing we can do tonight...come with me upstairs," she asked softy. Not getting an answer, she gently guided Laurence out of the room, up the stairs and into the bedroom. Laurence followed mechanically. Chloe indicated for her to sit on the bed, knelt in front of her and removed her tennis shoes, she tenderly stood her back up and removed her jeans and her sweatshirt, leaving her in her T-shirt and underwear. Laurence let herself be undressed like a baby, her gaze fixed on Clément who was sleeping peacefully. Tears started rolling down her cheeks. Chloe looked up at Laurence's face covered with tears, quickly shed her clothes and opened up the bed. She gently wiped off Laurence's cheeks and lightly kissed her on the lips. "Come on, let's get you in bed," she said tenderly, dragging Laurence into the bed with her. She propped herself up on two pillows and drew Laurence into her arms. Laurence  put her head in the crook of Chloe's shoulder and wrapped her arm around her waist. Her brain rushed with thousands of things to say, but fatigue took over, and her eyelids became heavy. She tried to fight sleep, her action not lost to Chloe.

    "Don't fight it Lo. Go to sleep. You'll have to deal with a lot tomorrow." Chloe lightly massaged Laurence's scalp.

    "Thank you," said Laurence emotionally, speaking for the first time since the living room.

    "Together in this mess, remember," answered Chloe, kissing Laurence's forehead and tightening her grip. "I love you Lo," she whispered before closing her eyes.

    "I know," answered Laurence, bringing a smile to Chloe's face. The image of a little girl playing with her mother in a garden full of flowers, under the loving watch of her father flashed into Laurence's mind, tears swelled up in her eyes, and she tightened her grip on Chloe, burying her face even further into her shirt. She forced herself to stop thinking and closed her eyes, willing to surrender to what she knew would not be a restful sleep.

copyright (C) 2000 Malaurie Barber

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Chapter 17

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