Chapter XVII

    Dawn crept slowly through the parted blinds. Chloe opened her eyes and smiled tenderly at the sight of Laurence sleeping peacefully. They must have moved during the night because Laurence was now on her side facing her. She propped herself up on her elbow and tenderly passed her hand through Laurence's hair. She watched her eyes flutter open, still foggy with sleep.

    "Good morning," said Chloe softly.

    Laurence didn't answer, but instead looked at Chloe and gently drew her in for a kiss. The kiss was tender; their lips softly moving against each other, only conveying the love they felt for each other. Chloe broke up the kiss and caressed Laurence's face.

    "Do you still want Clément to go to school today?" she asked. Laurence nodded. "Okay, then I should probably get him ready, it's already 7:30," said Chloe, sitting up. Laurence stretched, got out of bed and put her jeans on.

    "If you don't mind I'm going to let you walk him to school. I... have to call my dad's business partners and tell them what happened. I also have to make some arrangements for the funeral, and we have to talk to the police...."

    "Lo, slow down. One step at a time. Yes, I'll take Clément to school, but after that I can help you..."

    "I appreciate it, but he was my father, and it's my job to handle things," answered Laurence. She had gone back to the cold business attitude of the night before. Chloe realized that she was now facing the non-emotional business like Laurence, and even if she didn't like this side of her, she understood Laurence's need to be in control of her emotions.

    "Very well. You know I'm here if you need help," answered Chloe, wishing Laurence would let her help.

    Clément's voice suddenly stopped their conversation. "Lo," he called.

    Laurence rushed to his side and picked him up. "Hi babe. Happy to see me?"

    Clément smiled and hugged Laurence. "Today we go home?" he asked.

    "I hope so," answered Laurence, putting him down. "Listen, Chloe is going to get you ready and walk you to school. I'll see you when you get back, okay?"

    "Okay," answered Clément smiling and running to Chloe, who was putting her sweatshirt on.

    "Let's get you ready" she picked up his discarded clothes. "I wish I had something else to put on you beside the clothes you had on yesterday."

    "How did he get those pajamas?" asked Laurence, pointing at Clément.

    "Madame Cambier has a grandson who is Clément's age."

    "Then asked her if she has clothes for him to wear today," said Laurence, sitting up on the bed and tying her tennis shoes.

    A light knock at the door surprised them. "Come in," called Laurence, getting up.

    Madame Cambier's head popped through the door. "Breakfast is ready," she said, opening the door completely.

    Chloe nodded. "Madame Cambier, do you by any chance have clothes for Clément to wear today?"

    Madame Cambier smiled and walked up to a large dresser in the corner of the room. She opened a drawer and took out a pair of sweatpants and a matching top. She then opened another drawer and retrieved socks, underwear and a t-shirt. "I like to be prepared for when Frederic's my grandson's name," she said, handing the clothes to Chloe.

    "Thank you," smiled Chloe.


    An hour later, Chloe and Clément were walking through the kindergarten school's courtyard. Mothers whispered to each other as they walked by. Clément's teacher came rushing toward them.

    "Bonjour...hello, I didn't think you'd come today."

    "You speak English," exclaimed Chloe, not believing it.

    "Well yes, I do," smiled Clément's teacher.

    "Why didn't you say something earlier? You've seen me struggling trying to put a sentence together, so I could speak to could have said something," said Chloe, angrily.

    The teacher gave a polite smile and looked at Clément. She spoke to him briefly, asking him to go play with his friends in the playground.

    Clément turned to Chloe. "You come get me?"

    "Of course sweetheart," smiled Chloe, kissing him and gently pushing him toward the playground. "Go play now." Clément waved and left running.

    "I heard what happened," said Clément's teacher.


    "The news on TV. I'm sorry. What is going to happen to Clément?"

    "His sister will take care of him...I suppose."

    "Yes, he has been through a lot lately...I think she will be a good mother to him."

    Chloe smiled briefly at the truth of the statement. "Yes, I agree. Now, if you'll excuse me I have to get back."

    "Of course."

    "One more thing...Clément doesn't know, and we'll appreciate if it could stay that way for now."

    Clément's teacher nodded. "Of course. We'll see you at 3," she said turning and walking away.

    Chloe left the school under the scrutiny of every parent who had come to drop off their kids. As she walked by them, she felt like screaming at them to mind their own business, but instead she chose to ignore them. The sky was really cloudy and a cold wind grabbed her when she turned at the corner of the street. She zipped up her jacket and put her hands into her pockets, unconsciously speeding up her walk. The streets were busy; pedestrians walked fast, their heads low, and their shoulders hunched to protect themselves from the wind, and cars weaved between lanes trying to get through the morning rush hour traffic. Chloe walked lost in her thoughts, rain started falling, but she barely felt it. She walked with her eyes fixed on the pavement, her body in cruise control mode, her mind miles away. Suddenly a loud bell brought Chloe out of her trance. She looked up just in time to jump aside and avoid a bicycle coming down the sidewalk at full speed.

    "Et fait attention," yelled the cyclist at Chloe, while going by her.

    Chloe shook her head in disbelief and tried to stay focused on the activities around her. Shortly after, she turned on to rue de Province. Four police cars were parked in front of the house, the gate was wide open, and Laurence was talking with a policeman on the sidewalk. Chloe walked up to her. "What's happening?"

    "You're back. I guess let's get this interrogation over and done with," said Laurence, smiling coldly at the policeman.

    The interrogation went fast. They were asked about Beatrice and her relationship with Jean, and why Jean was home in a middle of the day. After writing down a few more things, the policeman got up.

    "Thank you for your help. The bedroom has been cleaned up, and we have everything we need. Since Beatrice confessed, there will be no investigation. You might both have to testify in court." He stiffly turned to Laurence. "I'm very sorry about what happened. If you wish we can take you to see your father."

    Laurence's face became white and her hands balled into fists. She took a deep breath. "Yes, I'd like to see him."

    "I'll come with you," said Chloe.

    "No," answered Laurence abruptly. "Sorry...I'd rather go alone." Laurence looked at Chloe, her clear blue eyes filled with sadness. She squeezed Chloe's shoulder. "I have to do this alone," said Laurence, looking at Chloe for understanding.

    "I'll wait here."

    "Thank you," said Laurence before walking out.


    Once Laurence left, Chloe was alone in the house. The silence gave her a chill, she walked around the main floor scared of going upstairs, fearing what she would find. After a few moments of aimless walking around the family room, she directed her steps toward the stairs. She took each step slowly, the top of the stairs had never looked so uninviting. At the top of the stairs, she looked toward Jean and Beatrice's bedroom door. Chloe slowly walked up to it and opened it. She stepped inside the brightly illuminated bedroom and gasped. Everything looked the same, as if yesterday's tragedy had not happened. A book lay open on a night table with Jean's glasses beside it, Jean's robe was negligently thrown on the bed and one of his suits hung from the dresser, still wearing the dry cleaner tag. Chloe walked carefully across the room and picked up a picture frame with Jean and Beatrice holding hands on a beach.

    "They look so happy...what happened?" asked Chloe to herself aloud. She put the picture back in its place and walked out. "It's hard to believe someone got killed in this room yesterday." Chloe shook her head sadly and walked down the dark corridor to her bedroom.

    As soon as she crossed her doorstep, the doorbell rang. "Damn, who is that?" She rushed downstairs and opened the door to the mailman. He handed her a large envelope in her name.

    "Merci," she said before closing the door. Chloe rushed back to her room, and sat on her bed tearing open the envelope. She reached inside and retrieved an envelope containing pictures. Memories of sending out a roll of film to be developed a few weeks back came back to her. With trembling hands, she opened it. The first picture was of Clément and Laurence playing with Legos. Chloe slowly put the picture on the bed and closed her eyes, remembering the next picture she took. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes; there was Jean with Clément in his arms laying on the couch. A sob escaped Chloe, and she abruptly put the pictures down. She slowly got herself back under control and got up, deciding to hit the shower and hoping it would relieve the enormous heartache she felt at the moment.


    Hours went by, and Laurence had still not come home. Chloe went to pick up Clément and came home to a empty house. As she got ready to call Jean's office to check if Laurence had been there, the entrance door opened and Laurence came in. She looked exhausted and her eyes bared a coldness that made Chloe shiver. Clément rushed to her, screaming her name. She picked him up without saying a word and sat on the couch holding him.

    Her stiff appearance stopped Chloe from asking any questions, and she waited patiently for Laurence to speak. Clément not understanding why Laurence would not answer his questions or come play with him, got off her lap and started playing with his favorite red fire truck.

    Laurence looked at him briefly, and once she was sure his attention was on his truck, she spoke. "The funeral is on Thursday. On Wednesday I have to meet with my dad's lawyer to read his will. I spent the afternoon with his partner discussing what was to happen to the business. Technically until the will is read, we have no idea what my dad would have wanted in this case."

    Their eyes met for the first time since Laurence had walked in. "Is there anything I can do? " asked Chloe softly.

    "No. I'm going to go upstairs to change and shower." Before Chloe had time to say anything, Laurence was already half way up the stairs.

    "Arghhh," yelled Chloe, getting up abruptly. "Why won't you let me in?" she yelled to the space where Laurence stood a few moments ago.


    Laurence only came out of her room when she heard Clément and Chloe coming upstairs.

    "I'll get him ready for the night," she said, while entering Clément's bedroom behind them.

    "Fine," answered Chloe, kissing Clément good night and leaving the room. She stamped back into her room and flunked herself on her bed. I know she is hurting, but she is driving me crazy, thought Chloe. A few minutes later, she heard Laurence's voice coming out of the baby monitor. She got up to turn it off, not wanting to intrude on Laurence and Clément's privacy, but what she heard stopped her.

    "Sweetheart, I have to talk to you," said Laurence.

    "Okay," giggled Clément.

    Chloe heard Laurence take a deep breath. "I want to talk to you about papa."

    "Papa come home?" asked Clément.

    "No, he isn't coming home."

    "I want him," said Clément, his little voice almost angry.

    "Something happened Clément, and I know you're too young to understand, but..." Laurence's voice cracked slightly. "Papa isn't coming home for a very long time. Chloe and I are going to take care of you now. It'll be fun, you'll see. I'll live here all the time, and we'll have so much fun."

    Chloe heard Clément's voice break into a scream. "I want papa," he cried.

    "I know, I know do I," said Laurence softly. A shuffling noise resembling bed sheets followed, and Laurence started singing. Chloe turned the monitor off and went back to her bed.

    She waited for Laurence to come to her room after putting Clément to bed, but 11 o'clock stroked and she was still alone in her room. She decided that Laurence must need some time alone and with an heavy heart got ready for bed. She had just turned the light off and settled when a light knock at the door startled her.

    "Come in," she called, her heart racing.

    Laurence entered the moon lit room and stopped after taking a few steps. They stared at each other, the moonlight barely giving them enough light to discern each other's face. Chloe got out of bed and walked to Laurence, stopping an arm's length away.

    "One day you told me that you only wanted the truth form me. Do you still want that?" asked Laurence, breaking the silence.

    "Yes, I do," answered Chloe honestly.

    "I can't do it, Chloe. I'm not strong enough to handle everything. I have nothing...what kind of role model am I going to be for Clément? I need you so badly right now because I really feel like taking the first train out of here and never coming back..."

    "You can do it Laurence. You have gone through so much. You are strong. I believe in you....not a good role model for Clément? Are you kidding? His eyes light up when he sees you, he thinks you have all the answers." Chloe took a breath and laid her hand on Laurence's chest. "Reach inside yourself Lo...I know you have it in you."

    "I love you," said Laurence suddenly.

    "I lov..." Her words were cut off by Laurence's lips. Her kiss was demanding almost fierce as if her need to be with Chloe could never be satisfied.

    "Promise me you won't leave me," asked Laurence between kisses, her voice almost begging.

    "I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."

    "No... promise me," begged Laurence, backing up and laying Chloe down on the bed. Tears flowed freely from her eyes as she went back to Chloe's lips. "Please," she pleaded, lifting Chloe's nightshirt and running her hand on her bare skin.

    "I promise," answered Chloe, understanding Laurence' s need to know that someone else she loves wasn't going to go away.

    "I can't lose you too," said Laurence as sobs wracked her body. She could not get close enough to Chloe, her need to be held and loved almost overwhelming. "Please love me," she asked, her voice filled with tears. Chloe sat up and rolled Laurence on her back, she kissed Laurence deeply, trying to convey her love into one kiss. She kissed Laurence's tears away and took her face between her hands. "I love you," she said before losing herself into Laurence. She poured every ounce of love she had for Laurence into her lovemaking, and at the end when Laurence sobbed in her arms, she promised her again that she'll always be here for her.

copyright (C) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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