Chapter II

    Chloe woke up to the sun shining on her face. She yawned. "Wow, it's 5 p.m. already. Boy, I slept for 6 hours." Chloe stretched, and pushed the covers away from her. She got out of bed, and went to the bathroom to splash some cold water on her face. She passed her hand through her hair rapidly, grabbed a pair of sweat pants from her suitcase and decided to go downstairs. She opened the door to her bedroom to find herself in front of her pile of suitcases. She told me she was going to bring them in later on...Okay, let's put stuff away.

    Chloe dragged her suitcases in one by one. She was busy trying to find a place for everything when someone knocked at the door. "Come in."

    The door opened to reveal Laurence wearing bike shorts and a sports bra covered in sweat; her long black hair was up in a ponytail. She obviously had been working out.

    "Beatrice is calling for you," said Laurence flatly.

    "Oh, she's back. Okay, I'll be right down...I just have to brush my hair, and I'll be right there."

    Laurence had already started closing the door.

    "Hey, Laurence," called Chloe.

    "What?" asked an annoyed Laurence.

    "Thanks for bringing my suitcases up for me...I know I have a lot..."

    Laurence was patiently waiting for Chloe to finish her sentence, but showed no sign of answering.

    "Well, yeah...anyway, thanks," finished Chloe.

    "You're welcome," said Laurence before leaving the room.

    Wow, she was in a better mood! Good maybe she was just having a bad day earlier, or maybe it was way too early for her...who knows. Chloe quickly brushed her blond hair, put on some socks and was out the door.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Chloe entered the family room.

    "Ah! Chloe, there you are. Did you sleep well?" asked Beatrice.

    "Yes ma'am."

    "Please call me Beatrice. I really hate being call ma'am or madame...makes me feel old."

    "Okay," answered Chloe.

    "Did my stepdaughter show you around the house or was she a bear as usual and only talked to you in monosyllables?" Beatrice asked sarcastically.

    Chloe looked at Laurence who had just stepped into the family room. She kept staring at Laurence while answering. "No, she was nice. I was just too tired to take a tour of the house, but I'd love to now."

    Laurence was surprised by Chloe's answer. You'd think I'd given her the royal treatment the way she said it...nice...that's funny. I've been called many things lately, but nice isn't one of them.

    "Laurence?" Beatrice called. Not getting an answer, she raised her voice slightly. "Laurence!"

    "Uh... what?" said Laurence.

    "Haven't you been listening?" Beatrice sighed. "I was asking you to take Chloe on the nickel tour."

    "I have to take a shower. I just came down to get a drink...I'm not your tour guide, Beatrice!" barked Laurence.

    "Young lady, as long as you are under my roof you will do as I say," answered Beatrice angrily. "Now, you will show Chloe the house, and when you come back I want you to have a better attitude. Is that understood?"

    Laurence was obviously fuming.

    "Fine," she said between clenched teeth. "Come on, we'll start upstairs."

    Once upstairs, Chloe reached for Laurence's arm to stop her.

    "Hey, listen if you don't have time to do it, no big deal. I'll learn my way around the house soon enough."

    Laurence sighed, and her eyes softened a little. Gotta give her that, she is trying, thought Laurence.

    "It's okay. I'll hear about it for days if I don't do it." Laurence looked at Chloe. She looks so young. I really hope she can stand up to Beatrice, otherwise her life is going to be a living hell!

    "Oh, okay, I just want you to know that I won't hold it against you."

    Laurence gave her a half smile. "Come on, it's a big house, it'll take a while."

    Chloe followed Laurence from room to room admiring the antique furniture and the care with which each room had been put together. After being shown Jean and Beatrice's bedroom with its rich draperies, its king-size wooden sleigh bed, and its beautiful porcelain doll collection, Chloe was in awe.

    "Wow, what do your parents do for a living? This is amazing," exclaimed Chloe.

    "They are both antique dealers. My step mother runs the stores, my father travels around to find rare paintings or furniture or...well, anyway, you get the picture."

    Chloe realized that Laurence had put a strong emphasis on the word stepmother. From the scene I just saw downstairs, I can guess they don't like each other very much...Okay Chloe, remember that, don't call Beatrice her mother, but stepmother.

    They slowly made their way to the end of the corridor.

    "The rooms in the right corridor are nothing but storage rooms for the antique business."

    They walked down the left corridor where Laurence showed Chloe more bedrooms and bathrooms.

    "That's it for the upstairs."

    "Wait. What about you?" asked Chloe.

    "What about me?"

    "I mean...where is your room?"

    "Right corridor."

    "You just said that there were only storage rooms over there."

    "Yeah, and my room." Laurence was getting really annoyed with all the questions.

    "I would be scared to death to sleep all alone on this side of the house surrounded by antiques."

    "Well, I'm used to it."

    "Why is your bedroom there anyway? It's not like there isn't enough room."

    "Why do you care? Have you ever thought that maybe I wanted to have the bedroom the furthest away from this family?" Laurence answered with anger.

    "Sorry. Don't get upset."

    "Let's finish, so I can get some peace and quiet." Laurence walked away from Chloe.

    Wow, another mental note, avoid personal questions or she'll go off.

    The main floor was as grandiose as the upstairs, but the room that really caught Chloe's attention was the library. Thousands of books lined the wooden shelves.

    "Amazing. How many books are in this room?" asked Chloe. She walked up to a shelf and picked up the nearest book. "Look at that, this book is so old its binding is made of thread and its pages are yellow. Les Fleurs du Mal from Baudelaire. I've heard of him, he was my French teacher's favorite poet. Wow, it's from 1898!" Chloe softly ran her hand over the leather cover and traced the engraved title with her fingers. She turned toward Laurence who was still standing in the door. "Do you ever come here and spend hours just reading and relaxing?" she asked Laurence.

    Laurence could not help but crack a smile. Chloe's enthusiasm was contagious.

    "No, I don't have time for that, but yeah... it's a pretty amazing room. Come on."

    Chloe followed Laurence out of the library and was still digesting everything she saw when Beatrice appeared.

    "Here you are. Chloe, do you like pizza?"

    Chloe laughed. "Hey, I was raised on pizza!" Beatrice looked at her with surprise.

    "It's a joke! We eat lots of pizza in the States." Chloe added.

    "Oh! Well, our cook is on vacation, and I must go back to the office, so I ordered pizza for the three of you."

    "Wait...wait a minute, I am not babysitting tonight. I have plans," said Laurence.

    "Well, cancel because there is no way I can get out of this meeting."

    "I told you last week that I was going to a concert tonight," said an irritated Laurence.

    "Well, your dad was supposed to be back, but you don't see him here now do you? So, who do you think is going to take care of Clement?"

    "Uh, I can do it," said Chloe.

    The two women turned toward Chloe.

    "I can. Really! I'll take care of Clement, so you can go to your meeting and Laurence can go to her concert."

    "I don't know. Clement doesn't know you yet," stated Beatrice.

    "Yeah, I know, but what better way for him to get to know me than to be left alone with me. After all that's what I'm here for, to be his babysitter." She said the last word while staring intently at Laurence.

    "Okay, I guess that's fine by me. He goes to bed by 8:30 p.m. Give him a bath around 8...for the pizza, I left money on the kitchen table. Emergency numbers are on the fridge." Beatrice grabbed her coat and called her son who was quietly watching a Sesame Street videotape.

    "Clément, viens me donner un baiser." When Clément didn't seem to answer, Beatrice walked to the family room. "Maman doit partir mon cheri. Bonne nuit." She bent over to kiss him on the forehead. If Clement heard his mother, he never made any move to say goodbye, and barely looked at her when she walked away.

    "Okay, Chloe. Ask Laurence if you have any more questions. Bye."

    "Bye."

    During the entire exchange, Laurence had not moved. After Chloe closed the door behind Beatrice, she faced Laurence.

    "Would you tell me a little more about Clément? Does he have a favorite bed time story? Does he mind water in his eyes? Does he use regular..."

    "No need to, I'm not going."

    "Why?"

    "I'm not leaving you alone with him."

    "Laurence, I'm going to have to be left alone with him sooner or later. What's wrong with tonight? I thought you wanted to go to this concert."

    "He's more important than some concert." There was no anger in Laurence's voice, and Chloe detected a hint of sadness.

    "You have to trust me. I can do this. You don't know me, so how can you judge me so fast?" Chloe was now pacing.

    "You said it yourself. I don't know you. That's why I don't want to leave you with Clement."

    "Your stepmother didn't see any harm in it, so I don't know why you..."

    "She doesn't care. She would have left him to the first guy on the street if it meant that she could go to her so-called meeting!" snapped Laurence.

    "Okay, okay, we're not getting anywhere by arguing." Chloe sighed. "I'll make you a deal. What time were you planning on leaving?"

    "Why do you..."

    "Just answer." Chloe was getting more than irritated with Laurence's irrational behavior. I am not going to let her step all over me, no way.

    Laurence was surprised by Chloe's abrupt tone of voice, and found herself answering the question. "Eight o'clock."

    "Good, Beatrice said that Clément takes a bath by 8. Well, we give him a bath earlier, you put him to bed by 8 instead of 8:30, and you leave me in charge." Laurence did not answer. "He'll be in bed; what could go wrong?" said an exasperated Chloe.

    "Okay, but you have to call me if he so much as wakes up. Got it?"

    "Yeah." Chloe smiled to herself at the small victory. "One more thing."

    "What is it now?" asked an annoyed Laurence.

    "I do everything with you. I want to be there when you bathe him, when you feed him, when you put him to bed..."

    "Okay, okay, I get the point."

    "Thanks. It's the best way for me to learn what he likes and doesn't like."

    "Fine."

    The doorbell stopped the conversation.

    "Pizza is here," said Chloe.

    Laurence opened the door to be faced by a young boy carrying two pizza boxes.

    "Vous avez commander deux pizzas?" asked the delivery boy.

    "Ouais, c'est nous," answered Laurence.

    "48 francs, s'il vous plait."

    "Attendez, je vais chercher de l'argent."

    "I'll get it," said Chloe as she ran to the kitchen to pick up the money. "Here it is." She handed the money to Laurence.

    "Merci, et bonne soiree."

    Laurence closed the door. "You understood what he said," said Laurence.

    "I had 3 years of French in High school, and also took classes my first year of college."

    "How old are you?" asked Laurence.

    Boy, here we go again. "I'm 18."

    "Good," answered Laurence before walking away.

    Chloe looked puzzled. Good, what kind of answer is that? This girl is a real enigma.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Dinner was a quiet affair. Clément ate his piece of pizza or at least the toppings, and declared himself done with dinner.

    "Done Lo. More TV?" Clément asked while pulling off his bib and wiping his hands on his sweatshirt.

    "Clément, how many times have I told you not to use your clothes as a napkin?" said Laurence while bringing her face closer to him. Clement sized the opportunity to grab Laurence's bangs with his dirty hands.

    "Clément, let go."

    Clément giggled and let go of his sister's hair. Chloe could not restrain a laugh.

    "You think it's funny?" asked Laurence.

    "Sorry..." Chloe could not stop herself from giggling. "...but you should see yourself in the mirror."

    Laurence got up to go look in one of the mirrors in the entrance. She took one look at herself and understood why Chloe was laughing. Her bangs were glued together with some gooey substance and a piece of melted cheese hung from the right side of her forehead. How in the world did the little monster manage to do that? She walked back to the kitchen to find that Chloe had taken the initiative to extract Clement from his high chair and was helping him wash his hands at the kitchen sink.

    Chloe heard Laurence walk back in, and gently put Clement down.

    "I'm sorry...I shouldn't have laughed at you, but it was too funny," Chloe apologized.

    Laurence grabbed a napkin to wipe her hair.

    "Nah, it's okay. I looked funny." Laurence smiled at Chloe and ran toward Clément.

    "You little monster... I think... it is ...tickle time!"

    Clément took off running with Laurence right behind him. She caught him and proceeded to tickle him. Clément was laughing really hard when Chloe heard, "Damn it!" from where she was in the kitchen. She came running into the family room.

    "What? What's wrong?"

    "He peed on me."

    "What?"

    "You heard me. I forgot that he's just starting potty training, and when I tickle him too hard he can't hold it."

    "Oh." Chloe was trying very hard not to find the situation amusing.

    "You can laugh, but it'll happen to you before you know it," smiled Laurence.

    Chloe finally burst out laughing.

    "Come on, I thought you said you wanted to be there when I give him a bath."

    "I'll follow you." Chloe was finally starting to calm down.

    "Come on munchkin, bath time. You are climbing up the stairs yourself little man. I'm not picking you up after what you just did." Laurence took his hand, and led him up the stairs with Chloe close behind.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Chloe was waiting downstairs for Laurence to finish saying goodnight to Clément. She had observed Laurence's interaction with Clement the entire evening, and the tenderness and patience Laurence showed puzzled her. Wow, it sure is different from the way she was with me this morning, thought Chloe.

    Upstairs, Laurence kissed Clément one last time, and slowly walked out of the room.

    "Lo," whined Clément.

    Laurence sighed and reopened the door. "Sweetie, you've got to go to sleep now."

    "Lo, stay," Clément cried.

    Laurence walked back and knelt next to his bed. "Listen, I'll sing you a song, but you have to close your eyes and go to sleep."

    "'kay," sniffled Clément.

    Laurence started singing a lullaby her mother used to sing to her.

    "Dors Seraphine

    Tu seras marine

    Dors Sebastien

    Tu seras marin

    Les bateaux poussent

    Graines sous la mouse

    Leurs voiles sont

    Grandes comme un liseron

    C'est les reves..." Laurence stopped and gently caressed Clément's cheek before lightly kissing him.  "I love you," she whispered in his ear. Stepping out of the room she came close to colliding with Chloe, who had been standing behind the door.  "What are you doing?" growled Laurence.

    "I...I was wondering what was taking you so long, so I came up to see if everything was all right. I heard you sing...wow, you have a great voice, you know that? Is he asleep?"

    Laurence was furious. She grabbed Chloe by the arm and dragged her down the corridor without saying a word.

    "Hey, let me go. What are you doing?" demanded Chloe.

    Laurence stopped and backed Chloe against the wall. She lowered herself to eye level with Chloe and put both hands on each side of Chloe's head.

    "I'm going to say this once. Bedtime with Clement is sacred. I let you stay while I told him a story, and you had no business spying on us after that. Get it?" Laurence said in a very sharp voice.

    "Okay, okay...let me go now. Man, you are a total loony."

    Laurence looked at Chloe straight in the eyes. "Maybe I am. You don't want to find out now, do you?" she asked with a sickening smile. She then moved away and walked toward her bedroom.

    "I'm going to go take a shower. There's a monitor in your bedroom. Plug it in, so you can hear if Clément wakes up," Laurence said as she walked away. She then disappeared into the right corridor.

    Boy, this girl is a nut case! Okay, today is Tuesday and she said she's leaving at the end of the week. Yikes, 5 more days with her!

    Chloe went into her room looking for the monitor, found it and plugged it in. Now what? It's only 8. I guess I can watch some TV. I don't have a phone, but I have a TV...weird. Chloe sat on her bed and turned the TV on. She surfed through the channels. Damn, no cable and only 6 stations...that's great. She settled for an old rerun of Bewitched. It is so weird to see Elizabeth Montgomery and hear someone else's voice dubbed in French. Chloe laughed to herself. Look at that! Her lips don't even match what she's saying.

    A light knock at the door was heard

    "Come in."

    Laurence poked her head through the door.

    "Hi, uh...I've got to go. Did you find the monitor?" she asked.

    "Yeah," Chloe answered shortly. She was still irritated by Laurence's previous reaction, and intended to let Laurence know that she was upset.

    "Okay, I wrote my cell phone number down, so you can call me if there are any problems." Laurence walked in the room holding a piece of paper.

    "Just put it next to the TV," said Chloe, not taking her eyes off the screen.

    Laurence did as told. "Okay, don't hesitate to call," she said before leaving.

    Chloe didn't even bother answering and did nothing to show Laurence that she had heard her last comment.

    A couple of minutes later, the sound of the gate opening was heard, followed by the loud noise of a motorcycle. Chloe ran to her window and gazed outside to see Laurence putting on a helmet and riding off into the streets of Versailles.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A scream woke up Chloe. "What? What the hell was that?" Another scream was heard followed by sobs. "Damn it, Clément!" Chloe ran to his bedroom.

    "Hey, it's okay. I'm here." She picked up Clément and hugged him whispering calming words in his ears. "It's okay, you just had a bad dream...shush..." Chloe's words only made Clément cry louder. Oh, boy, what am I gonna do?

    Chloe walked to her room with Clément screaming in her arms.

    "Look, Clément, TV. You like TV. Isn't this special? You're gonna get to watch TV past your bedtime. Now, you have to stop crying." Clément's screams slowly turned to soft sobs. "Okay, sweetheart, you and I are going to lay on my bed and see what's on, kay?" A teary Clément nodded. "Good, now I'm going to put you down on the bed, and I'll get in next to you." As soon as Chloe had laid him down, Clément started screaming again. "Oh boy, you aren't going to make it easy for me." Chloe quickly climbed into bed next to Clément and pulled him into the comfort of her arms. Instantly Clément stopped crying.

    Chloe let out a sigh of relief. "Okay, let's see what's on the French tube late at night." Come on, please let me find some cartoons, thought Chloe. "Thank God for Bugs Bunny," said Chloe when she saw the famous rabbit on the screen.

    "What do you say munchkin? Is Bugs Bunny all right with you?" Chloe looked at Clément, who was nicely tucked against her shoulder, to find him with his eyes closed. "So much for Bugs Bunny, eh?" She smiled and tenderly wiped away a few remaining tears on Clément's cheeks.

    What time is it? Man, 1 a.m. I guess nobody is back yet. Chloe yawned. Somebody should be coming back soon. Come on Beatrice. How long does a meeting last? I guess I'll keep him here with me and watch TV until someone comes home.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Laurence unlocked the front door and stepped into the silent house. She hung up her leather jacket in the hallway, and went upstairs to Clément's room. She softly peeked through the open door and panic rose when she discovered an empty bed.

    "What the hell?" She ran to Chloe's room and burst in.

    "Where is...." She stopped dead in her tracks. In front of her were Chloe and Clément fast asleep. Clément was still gently secured in Chloe'arms. Chloe's head had dropped sideways and was resting against Clément's.

    Laurence just stood there for a few minutes, unwilling to disturb their restful sleep. I can't believe Clément let someone he barely knows hold him that way, and on top of it he fell asleep! Laurence was surprised; it had taken the past au pairs weeks before getting Clément to let his guard down and show any sign of affection toward them. Maybe...maybe this one is going to stay, thought Laurence. She quietly turned off the TV and tried to pick up Clément without disturbing Chloe.

    Chloe stirred and opened her eyes. "Hey, you're back." She let go of the hold she had on Clément so Laurence could pick him up.

    "Yeah." Laurence managed to pick up Clément without waking him up.

    "What happened?" Laurence whispered.

    "Nightmares...I'm sorry, I didn't know what to do, so I took him back here with..."

    "No, no...that's fine," Laurence smiled. "Thanks."

    "No sweat," said Chloe smiling back.

    "See you in the morning," mouthed Laurence.

    " G'night," whispered Chloe.

    Laurence walked carefully out of the room.

    "Hey, Laurence!" softly called Chloe.

    "What?"

    "Can you wake me up in the morning? There's no alarm clock in this room." Chloe asked.

    "You got it," answered Laurence. She then shut the door behind her.

    Chloe slumped back on her pillow and shook her head in disbelief. I've been here less than 24 hours, and I've never seen someone with so many mood swings. Earlier she was ready to kill me, now I'm her best friend. Chloe yawned. Gosh, I'm beat. She pulled the covers up and in a few minutes was asleep.
 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 

    Chloe woke up and stretched. Boy, I really needed a good night's sleep. I wonder what time... Shit, 10 a.m. Why did she let me sleep so long? Chloe jumped out of bed and grabbed a pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt and ran downstairs.

    "Laurence?" she called.

    "In the playroom," Laurence answered.

    Chloe hurried. "Why did you let me sleep so long?"

    "Good morning to you too," said Laurence sarcastically. "I thought you might still be jetlagged," Laurence stated simply.

    "Yeah...well...thanks, I guess."

    "You're welcome," smiled Laurence.

    "What time did you get up?" asked Chloe.

    "6 a.m. This little man right here doesn't know what sleeping in means," said Laurence, pointing at Clément who was absorbed in a Lego construction.

    "Oh," said Chloe, giving an understanding smile. "I guess Beatrice never made it back home, huh?"

    "Good guess."

    "Does that happen a lot?"

    "Her not coming home?"

    "Yeah, I mean...does she often not sleep at home?" asked Chloe.

    "Yeah, especially when my dad is out of town."

    Chloe found it better not to ask where Beatrice was spending her nights.

    "Listen..." said Laurence. She sighed before continuing. "You didn't get assigned to the easiest family in the program. We've been through four au pairs in the past two years."

    Chloe's attention was riveted on Laurence.

    "I can't hide from you that the main reason they left was that Beatrice overworked them and drove them crazy..." continued Laurence.

    "What about Clément?" interrupted Chloe.

    "What do you mean?"

    "Weren't those girls attached to him? It ought to be enough to make it bearable."

    Laurence smiled happily. Girl, you are earning points with that answer. "Obviously not. Not everyone comes here because they love children. Most of them come to France as an au pair because it's a cheap way to live here for a year."

    "Does Beatrice know that there are rules she is supposed to obey?" asked Chloe, sitting down on the floor next to Laurence.

    "Like what?"

    "Before I left the US we had an au pair meeting, and they gave us a booklet about our rights."

    "I don't know if she does or not. I guess you'll have to take it one day at a time." Laurence looked at Chloe straight in the eyes. "That's only if you think you can handle it. It's not too late for you to back out. I am sure the organization would find you another family very quickly."

    "Are you kidding? And miss all the fun living with you and your family will bring?" answered Chloe jokingly. She realized that Laurence was extremely serious in her offer. "Listen...I know you don't really know me. I also know that we started out on the wrong foot yesterday, but the reasons you gave me are not good enough for me to leave," Chloe said seriously.

    Laurence let a sigh of relief escape. "Okay."

    "Plus..." Chloe paused and looked deeply into Laurence's eyes. "...I think Clément needs to have someone around he can trust when you are not here..." She then added shyly, "I think you need to leave someone you can trust in charge of him...and I hope I can be that person."

    Laurence looked intensely at Chloe. "Well...Clément let you hold him last night, and he never does that with anyone he doesn't trust, so who am I to deny him anything?" smiled Laurence. "But don't worry, when my dad is here you'll never have to baby-sit at night. He is crazy about Clément."

    Laurence got up. "What do you say I show you what's going to be expected of you when I'm gone?"

    "Sounds great, but...uh...do I have time to go shower first?" asked Chloe, standing up.

    "Yeah, sure...Clément isn't even dressed yet," answered Laurence, picking up Clément.

    "Okay, I won't be long," said Chloe while running back upstairs.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The morning passed quickly. Laurence showed Chloe where everything was located in the house. They even went for a quick ride around town and Laurence pointed out to Chloe the closest supermarket, the "boulangerie," and the place where Clément would start pre-school next week. Chloe took notes, to be sure she remembered everything Laurence said. After lunch Laurence put Clément down for his nap, but this time she let Chloe stay in the room while she tucked him in.

    "Chloe, would you mind if I go for a run while he is napping? He should be out for at least two hours, and I should be back in 45 minutes or so."

    "No, go right ahead."

    "Okay."

    "Hey, Laurence? Can I borrow some books from the library or your dad will kill me if I touch anything?" asked Chloe.

    "Nobody ever uses the library...go right ahead. I'll see you when I get back." Laurence went up to get changed. She is absorbing information like a sponge, and Clément really seems to like her...good. She is kind of cute also I'm sure that if Beatrice gives her any free time she is going to break some hearts, thought Laurence as she changed into spandex shorts and a sports bra.

    Chloe opened the library door and was once again mesmerized by the number of books. She left the door open behind her, so that she could hear Clément if needed. She ran her hand lightly over the lowest shelf of books. Wow, there are titles in everything from Russian to Chinese. Okay where was that Baudelaire I spotted yesterday? Here it is. She picked up the book and sat in one of the leather chairs distributed around the room. She slowly opened it to reveal worn yellow pages. There is nothing like the smell of an old book, thought Chloe as she inhaled deeply. She then lost herself in the poems.

    "Hey, what're you doing?" asked Laurence, popping her head through the open door.

    "Damn, you scared me!" said Chloe while trying to calm down her racing heart.

    "Sorry," apologized Laurence with a smile.

    "This is amazing," said Chloe pointing to the book lying on her lap.

    "What's amazing?" Laurence walked up and propped herself on a desk.

    "I have been reading for almost an hour...I don't understand a word of what I'm reading, but the language is so beautiful and the atmosphere of this room...I think Baudelaire is going to become my favorite poet."

    Laurence laughed, "Yeah, I like him."

    "You like poetry! Somehow I have trouble believing that," joked Chloe.

    "Hey, I go to college, I'm not ignorant," said Laurence, feigning hurt.

    Chloe smiled. "Oh, yeah I forgot."

    "Page 41."

    "What?"

    "Open the book to page 41."

    Chloe did as told and let her gaze wander over the page. "What's on page 41?" she asked.

    Laurence did not answer, but instead proceeded to recite a poem. Chloe listened in awe, and even if she didn't understand what Laurence was saying, she could easily make out the sounds and match them to the poem printed the page. When Laurence stopped, Chloe swallowed hard.

    "You know it by heart! It was beautiful."

    "Yeah, thanks...it's my favorite poem...Le Serpent Qui Danse."

    "What do you study?"

    "Journalism."

    "Neat, it must be very interesting. Are you almost finished?"

    "I would have been finished in June if I didn't have to pull out to come and take care of Clément in the middle of the semester. I missed the final exams."

    "You mean that you postponed everything to come here and take care of your little brother?" said Chloe in disbelief. She abruptly stood up and starting pacing.

    "Couldn't they get another au pair faster? I don't get it. How could they do that to..."

    "Hey, slow down, I didn't say that I regretted anything."

    "Still, it infuriates me to think that you..."

    "Listen, stop fuming over something that's not your problem," said Laurence with annoyance.

    Chloe stopped her pacing. "Sorry, I guess I got carried away," she apologized while tucking a loose lock of hair behind her ear.

    "Yeah, you did. And trust me, I'm not worth getting angry for."

    "That's my decision to make," Chloe answered. "But Laurence, why couldn't you work something out with them? Come on, it's your life we're talking about!"

    "Listen, that's my problem and no one else's, get it? Stop asking so many damn questions!" said Laurence furiously while storming out of the room.

    "Wow, what was all of that about?" said Chloe aloud. I forgot...avoid personal questions...Mental note: you've got to get better at remembering your mental notes.


Go to chapter III

Return to Main Page