Chapter XX

    A few nights after Christmas day, Chloe woke up in the middle of the night and found her self alone in bed.

    "Lo," she called, turning the light on and scanning the room. Not getting an answer, she got out of bed. The cold wooden floor made her shiver, and she grabbed her discarded robe on the floor and put it on. The bathroom door was open but no light came from it. She must have gone to check on Clément, she thought, opening the door and walking out. Chloe walked silently down the dark corridor, but as she was about to turn towards Clément's bedroom, her eyes caught lights coming from under Laurence's bedroom. Chloe lightly tapped on the door. She waited a few seconds for an answer, and slowly opened the door. Laurence was standing in front of her easel, her back to Chloe, tubes of paint lay scattered opened on the floor, two blank canvases had been thrown across the room and another one lay with its surface torn at Laurence's feet.

    "Lo?" called Chloe softly while coming up on her side. "What are you doing, it's the middle of the night. Come back to bed."

    Laurence didn't respond, but instead turned her head suddenly toward Chloe and flashed her a dark glare. She picked up the canvas she had been working on and threw it across the room. Instinctively Chloe took one step back. "Arghh," yelled Laurence, pushing the easel and making it fall. Chloe jumped at the loud impact of the easel on the floor.

    "Laurence, what is your problem? You're going to wake up Clément. Come on, speak to me here," said Chloe, trying to calm Laurence.

    "I can't do it Chloe, I can't paint anymore," answered Laurence frustratingly. She passed her hand through her hair in anger and walked away.

    "Lo, please calm down and come sit here," said Chloe, petting the bed and sitting down. She had not seen Laurence so angry since the time Beatrice refused to bring Clément home before Laurence had to leave.

    "I don't want to sit down," said Laurence angrily. "Talking about it is not going to help. The last time I had this kind of block was after my mother's death, and it took me a long time to be able to recapture the drive." Laurence kicked one of the discarded canvases on the floor.

    Chloe got up frustratingly. "Fine, have it your way. Maybe talking is not the key, but it can help you remember how you got over it last time...remember you told me about it, your shrink asked you to draw an happy memory of your mother..."

    "I just said I don't want to talk about it," said Laurence with a growl. She kicked the canvas once more. "Wouldn't help anyway. The last time I was young and was having trouble getting over my mother's death...I'm fine now, I've accepted that my dad is gone. I don't know what the freaking problem is." She picked up one of her brushes that had fallen along with the easel and looked at it with eyes darkened with anger and broke it in two.

    Chloe walked up to Laurence impulsively, and snatched the broken pieces from her hand. "You're right, there is nothing to talk about if you're going to keep on having this violent spur of yours." She thew the broken pieces back at Laurence and walked to the door. "But let me tell you one thing. If you'll stop lying to yourself for only 5 minutes, pretending that everything is all right and that you don't miss your dad, than maybe you'll realize what the cause of all of that is. ..." Chloe put up her hand to stop Laurence from interrupting. "Let me finish. I know you say everything is fine, and it's all because of me, right? I give you strength....well, Laurence I'm very flattered, but I'd rather see you admit that you miss your dad than you counting on me to get you through everything. It's just not healthy." She stepped out of the room and held the door opened for a few moments. "I'll be in our room," she said before closing the door.

    She waited hours for Laurence to come, but dawn filtered through the blinds and she still lay alone in bed. Around 6:30, she heard the sound of Laurence's motorcycle and ran to the window, only to catch a glimpse of Laurence driving away. Before she had time to react, Clément called over the monitor. She looked one last time down to the street where morning rush hour traffic had started to form, and left for Clément's room.

    Morning went by without Laurence coming back. Chloe played with Clément, who was on Christmas vacation, and tried to keep him busy, but her mind was preoccupied and she was worried. Around lunchtime, the phone rang, and she rushed to pick it up.


    "Hi sweetheart, it's dad."

    "Oh, hi dad," she said with disappointment in her voice.

    "Well, you don't seem too exited to hear me," commented her dad.

    "Sorry, I'm just busy. What's happening? I spoke to you a few days ago."

    "I have been thinking. I know you couldn’t come back home for Christmas, so I was thinking that I might come visit for a week or two."

    "I don't know... I guess that would be great."

    "You don't seem too convinced. Is everything all right? The family you're staying with is still treating you nicely, aren't they?"

    "Yes, dad, don't worry about it. I have to talk to them, but I'm sure they'd love to have you over."

    "Great, it’s settled then. I'm thinking of coming at the end of January. Talk to them and call me back."

    "I'll do that."

    "Okay, bye sweetheart. I love you."

    "Love you too dad."

    "Damn," she said while hanging up the phone. "How am I going to explain to him what happened? What about my relationship with Laurence?....damn," she repeated, walking back to Clément who was playing with his fire trucks.

    Morning slowly gave place to afternoon and afternoon to evening, and there was still no sign of Laurence. By 8 o'clock, she was worried sick and thinking of calling the police and checking the hospitals. Putting Clément to bed was not easy, and he started crying and asking for Laurence.

    "Come on babe, don't cry...she'll be back really soon. You'll see her tomorrow, I promise." She tenderly rocked Clément in her arms and rubbed his back for comfort. Clément's tears soon stopped and changed into whimpers. "Shuh, " she kept whispering in his ears. After a while, her soothing was rewarded, and Clément fell asleep in her arms. She held him for a little while longer, and gently put him down on his bed.

    She walked out and left the door ajar, her mind was going through places where Laurence could be. Tony's house...yeah, but I don't have the number. Her friends in Lille?.... It suddenly dawned on her that Laurence must have run to a place were she felt safe. She remembered the words spoken by Laurence a few months back when showing her the hide out underneath the castle. "I come here when I need to think," had said Laurence. It's got to be where she is. Feeling slightly better at the idea that she might know where Laurence was, Chloe settled on the couch and turned the TV on.

    "As usual nothing on," she spoke aloud, her only answer silence. She flipped once more through the channel and turned the TV off. As the TV clicked off, the door opened, and Laurence came in. Chloe jumped on her feet and tried not to laugh at the sight of Laurence standing in the hallway. She was covered with mud from head to toe. Chloe wiped the smile off her face and regained seriousness.

    "I don't know if I should be mad or laugh right now, Lo," she said sadly. "I was worried about you all day."

    Laurence's eye carried a sad expression. "I'm sorry. I had to think." She took off her jacket and dropped it in a corner to be picked up and washed later, and she removed her muddy boots. "I...I went to the cemetery today...I should have done it earlier...I miss him Chloe, I really do. Thank you for helping me come to terms with that." Chloe smiled at her. "Another thing, I love you and don't you ever doubt me again when I say that you give me strength..."

    "I never did, I was just trying to shake things up this morning, make you realize certain things. That's it. I would have done it some other way, but you were too mad to listen to reason, so I figured that verbally hurting you was the best way to go, I'm sorry."

    "No, I'm glad you did it. Are we okay?" Laurence asked unsure.

    "Yes, we are," Chloe stepped close to Laurence. "We have another problem though."

    "What is it?" asked Laurence, looking intensely into Chloe's eyes.

    "My dad wants to come visit."

    "So, where is the problem? I'd love to meet him."

    Chloe sighed and walked away, sitting down on the couch. " I haven't told him any of the last events."

    "Does he know about us?" asked Laurence, already knowing the answer from Chloe's body expressions. "You haven't told him, haven't you?"

    Chloe shook her head 'no'. "I don't want to hide it though. If he comes I'll tell him."

    "When does he want to come over?"

    "End of January."

    "Then we have time to think about how to explain things to him." She extended her hand to Chloe. "Come upstairs with me...I really have to take a shower."

    Chloe reached for Laurence's hand. "How did you get so muddy anyway?"

    "I spent the afternoon in our hideout. Remember the puddle? I fell in it." Chloe chuckled. "Are you making fun of me?" she asked jokingly, grabbing Chloe's hand and yanking her to her feet and straight into her arms.

    "You should see yourself," laughed Chloe.

    "Oh, really," smiled Laurence, tightening her arms around Chloe's waist and rubbing her muddy cheeks against Chloe's

    "Lo, stop it," said Chloe, between laughs.

    The cheek rubbing turned into kissing, and Chloe forgot about the mud covering Laurence's clothes and stepped as close to her as she could. Laurence broke the kiss and tenderly nipped on Chloe's lips. "How about you join me in the shower?" she whispered sensually into Chloe's ear, sending shivers down her spine.

    Chloe swallowed with difficulty. "Lead the way," she said taking Laurence's hand.


    Chloe's father gave them January 29th as his date of arrival. A few weeks before Laurence had found a job as a part-time news reporter for a local newspaper. She had told Chloe that she intended on working even if she didn't need the money. 'I can't stay home all day, I'll go crazy, and I'll for sure drive you crazy,' she had explained. So, on this cold morning of January, Chloe took a cab to the airport to go pick up her dad. The traffic was really bad on the expressway, and she arrived at Charles de Gaulle half an hour late. Hopefully he's still waiting where we told him too, she thought while pushing her way through the crowd of people. She spotted him waiting impatiently, his eyes glued on his watch. Robert Jones was a man in his late 40's with blond hair and clear eyes, he hated lateness and had never had any patience for it. She smiled to herself, and waved at him. "Dad," she called, walking to him.

    "There you are. You're late. I was getting worried," he answered, hugging her. "You look great."

    "Thanks dad. Sorry about that, the traffic was awful. I took a cab up here, but I don't think he waited, so let's go hail another one." She picked up one of his suitcases and showed him the way. They chatted all the way back to Versailles, Chloe had asked the cab driver to take them through Paris, and she pointed out some of the monuments.

    "You're happy here, aren't you?" asked her dad with a smile.

    "Why are you asking that?" asked Chloe, as the cab pulled in front of the gate.

    "You have this huge smile on your face when you describe things," he answered, getting out.

    "I love it here," she answered simply while dialing in the code to open the gate. She walked through the courtyard, opened the front door and stepped in.

    "No one is home," asked her dad, putting his suitcases down.

    "No. Laurence is working and Clément is at school."

    "What about...what's their names again, Beatrice and Jean?"

    Chloe picked up one of the suitcase suddenly. "...let me show you to your room, and I'll give you a tour of the house." They had chosen one of the guestrooms next to Clément's room. She opened the bedroom door, stepped in and dropped the suitcase on the bed. "This is where you sleep." Her dad walked in and looked around.

    "This is great. There are antique dealers, right?"

    "Right," answered Chloe quickly. "The bathroom is over there," she said gesturing toward a far door. "Would you like to rest for a while? You must be jetlagged."

    "No, I'm all right. I'm so happy to see you. We have so much catching up to do. I brought you something." He opened up one of his bags and retrieved a plastic bag. Chloe opened the bag and smiled.

    "Peanut butter and syrup. Thanks," she said laughing.

    "I have something else." He looked through his suitcase and took out a present. "Merry Christmas. I would have sent it you, but I was afraid it would get lost."

    Chloe picked up the present. "It's heavy." She ripped the paper. "Dad, this is too much," she exclaimed, staring at a laptop.

    "It's so hard to get in touch with you, I figured that if you could get e-mail, then it would make communication easier," he smiled.

    "Thank you," she said, hugging him.

    She gave him a tour of the house, and then they settled in the library to talk. She tried to dodge the question about Beatrice and Jean, but finally gave up and spilled out the story.

    "You are kidding me, right?" said her dad, getting up and pacing.

    Chloe sighed. "No, I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to worry. It was hard on everyone, but everything is okay now."

    "This mad woman could come back any time. This is a dangerous place to stay..." He walked up to Chloe and grabbed her by the wrist. "Come on you are packing up, and we're leaving," he said, bringing Chloe to her feet.

    "Dad, calm down. I'm not going anywhere," she said angrily. "I like it here, and I was never in any danger. The way you’re reacting is exactly why I didn't tell you sooner." She yanked her wrist free of his grip.

    The last sentence seemed to affect him because he stepped back. "I think I'm going to go rest for a while. I'm staying for a week. If at the end of the week, I think you're not safe here, you're coming home with me."

    "Fair enough," she answered, deciding not to argue. As her dad made his way upstairs, the phone rang.


    "It's me. How is everything going?"

    "I told him about what happened. He is persuaded that I'm in danger."

    'That's not good."

    "No, that's not. I calmed him down. If we can make it to the end of the week, we'll be okay," joked Chloe.

    "You can tell me more about what happened tonight. I have to go. I'll pick up Clément on my way home. See you then."

    "Okay. I love you," answered Chloe before hanging up.


    Around 3: 30, Laurence and Clément came back home. Clément ran to Chloe's arms with a drawing in his hand. He gave her the drawing. "Is that for me?" she asked, looking at it. Clément nodded.

    "He drew it at school...pretty good isn't it? I think it takes after his mother," smiled Laurence proudly.

    The drawing was of three stick figures. The tallest one stood on the left with black hair, the smallest one in the middle with black hair and the medium one on the right with yellow hair. They were connected as if holding hands. "This is a picture of us, isn't it?" smiled Chloe. "Thank you, sweetheart," she said, kissing Clément on the cheek. She turned to see her dad standing in the doorway.

    "Lo, this is my dad, Robert. Dad, this is Laurence and Clément," she explained introducing them.

    Her dad politely shook Laurence's hand and smiled at Clément. Clément looked at Robert and grabbed his hand.

    "Play with me?" he asked sweetly.

    Robert couldn't help smile, and nodded. "Sure, show me the way."

    After seeing them turning the corner toward the playroom, Laurence took hold of Chloe's hand and lightly kissed it. "You see, it's not going so bad."

    "So doesn't know about us yet."

    "You know I'd understand if you don't want to tell him. We can just behave for a week," she smiled.

    "I don't want to bluntly tell him, but I want him to figure it out."

    "Okay, it's your call."


    They went out for dinner, and Robert and Laurence chatted amiably about differences of life in France and the US, jobs, sports and pretty much anything else that crossed their minds. Robert seemed to relax a little and Chloe felt relieved. After coming back, Laurence excused herself and went to put Clément to bed while Chloe hung out with her dad downstairs.

    "She is nice," said her dad, speaking of Laurence. "Surely strikingly beautiful, she must have many men crazy about her," he joked.

    "Dad!" reprimanded Chloe.

    "What about you?" Any lucky French man?"

    "Yes, I have someone."

    "I hope I get to meet him before I go. This is a really beautiful house," commented Robert, his eyes scanning the room.

    "You already have," answered Chloe, ignoring the comment on the house.

    "What do you mean?" asked her dad, not understanding.

    "Dad, you know sometimes I wish you wouldn't ask so many questions," sighed Chloe. "You've met her, not him. It's Laurence." She looked at him intensely and waited for his reaction. Robert looked at her speechless." Dad, I'm sorry. I never intended to lay everything on you the first day, but you asked for it...and I don't want lie to you anymore."

    Robert stood up. "I think I'm going to retire for the night. I honestly don't know what to say. Good night."

    Laurence and Robert crossed path on the stairs, and he cordially wished her good night. "He is going up already?" asked Laurence, coming down the rest of the steps.

    "He knows about us."

    "You told him?" asked Laurence incredulously. She sat next to Chloe on the couch.

    "I had too, he basically asked if I had met anyone here, and when I told him I had, he said that he would like to meet him!"

    "He didn't seem too upset when I just saw him."

    "He is confused. What a mess!" She laid her head on Laurence's shoulder and closed her eyes. "I'm exhausted. Today has been emotionally draining to me. Can we go up?"

    "Sure." Laurence got up and walked upstairs holding Chloe's hand. Once they got to the bedroom, she engulfed her in her arms. "Thanks for not lying to your dad about us."

    "I couldn't do it, Lo," she said, holding Laurence tight. "Hopefully, he'll understand."

    "I hope so," answered Laurence, kissing the top of Chloe's hair.


    The rest of the week went actually really smoothly. Robert seemed to enjoy his stay. They took him to the castle and walked all over Paris. The night before his departure, Robert asked what Chloe had in mind at the end of her year.

    "I don't know dad. I have a few more months to think about it."

    "Chloe, you seemed very happy here, but you can't be an au pair forever. What about your visa? It expires at the end of the year, and then what? Don't you want to come home and finish your studies?"

    "I don't know," repeated Chloe. "I haven't really thought that far yet."

    "You should," answered her dad. "Don't get me wrong, I like Laurence. I think she is a good person, and she really cares about you. I can't say that it's the kind of relationship I had always dreamt of for you, but I'm okay with it. I'm also happy you could be here for her with everything she's been through, but don't throw away your future. That's the only thing I'm saying."

    His plane was early the following morning. They took a cab to the airport. Chloe told her dad good bye, she waited for the plane to take off, and took the metro back home. Her dad's last words still in her mind. 'Think of your future.' She shook the memory from her mind and concentrated on not missing her stop.

copyright (C) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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