Chapter IV-
 
 

    The next two days flew by without incident. Clément was getting used to Chloe and Laurence slowly gave Chloe more responsibilities, so by the end of the week the roles of spectator and caregiver had been reversed.

    On Friday morning Chloe was awakened by light taps on her door.

    "Come in," she answered, still half asleep. 8 a.m.÷ I thought I didn't have to work today.

    Laurence opened the door and stood in the doorway.

    "Hi!"

    "Hi...;is something wrong? I thought I didn't need to be ready before 10," asked Chloe.

    "No nothing is wrong. I'm sorry I woke you. I...;just wanted to let you know that Clément and Beatrice are gone already. I need to change our plans for today."

    "Oh...;did something come up?" asked Chloe disappointed.

    "Nothing important...;there are a bunch of errands I have to run, and I don't think I'll be back by 10...is noon okay?" asked Laurence.

    "Yeah sure. I got scared you were going to ditch me," said Chloe, reassured.

    "Nah...;I keep my promises," said Laurence. "So, see you at noon?"

    " 'kay."

    Laurence flashed a smile. "Go back to sleep. See you in while," she said, closing the door behind her.

    Okay, I've got three more hours to sleep...not bad at all, thought Chloe, burying her face in her pillow.

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    At noon, Chloe was waiting for Laurence in the family room, flipping through TV channels.

    "Ready?"

    Chloe jumped. "Man, have you ever heard of announcing yourself? You've got a bad habit of scaring me half to death."

    "I know, and it's so much fun," kidded Laurence.

    "Yeah, yeah...;make fun of me."

    "Chloe, you might want to put on a pair of jeans before we go."

    "Why? What's wrong with shorts? I thought it was warm outside?"

    "Just...;trust me on this one."

    "You're the boss. I'll go change."

    "Put on some tennis shoes also," yelled Laurence to Chloe from the bottom of the stairs.

    The day outside was warm and sunny, a perfect day for the end of August. They walked to the castle taking the same roads as the day before. Once they reached the iron gate, Chloe stopped.

    "What are you doing?" asked Laurence.

    "Wow...;I just can't believe that I'm going to set foot in such an historic place."

    Laurence laughed. "Well, you're not if you don't get past these gates. Come on," she said, grabbing Chloe by her shirt sleeve and dragging her inside.

    "I'm coming...;I'm coming. Don't be so impatient."

    They went across the courtyard, and Laurence headed toward the entrance.

    "We've got to get tickets."

    " Žkay," answered Chloe, taking a place in line.

    "I thought we'd visit the main part of the castle today, and you can do the King and Queen's bedroom some other time."

    "They're not together?" asked Chloe.

    "Technically they are, but to make more money they divide the visit into three sections. So, you've got to buy three different tickets if you want to see everything."

    "Oh, I get it."

    Their turn in line came. Laurence refused to let Chloe pay for her admission.

    "Come on, I should be the one paying for you. I'm sure you've seen this place thousands of times."

    "Don't worry about it. Come on, are you ready for a visit into history?"

    "Oh yeah!" said Chloe.

    "Good, let's go."

    They passed through the metal detector and started their visit.

    "Metal detector? That's not very historic," joked Chloe.

    Laurence smiled. "Better safe than sorry. Okay, let's start with the right wing."

    "You're the guide!"

    They walked through a long large corridor with paintings depicting different royal families. Laurence was walking very fast.

    "Lo, hey! Slow down, we're not racing." If Laurence realized that Chloe had used her nickname, she made no comment.

    "I know, but I want to beat this tour group ahead of us. Plus there isn't really anything interesting until the children's apartments."

    " Žkay, but don't lose me in the crowd, " said Chloe picking up the pace.

    Once they reached the tour group, Laurence took hold of Chloe's hand. Chloe looked at her with a funny expression on her face.

    "I don't want to lose you in the crowd," said Laurence as she pressed through the crowd. Once past the group she let go of Chloe's hand.

    "Is that a habit of yours, holding people's hands through crowds?" asked Chloe jokingly. To her surprise Laurence blushed. I can't believe she's blushing. Did I manage to embarrass her? Chloe decided to take advantage of the situation and continue to tease Laurence.

    "Maybe you just reserve this treatment for Clément and I...;"

    "Okay, okay...;drop it."

    Chloe laughed. "You're funny when you blush."

    "Hey! I don't blush."

    "You do too," answered Chloe teasingly.

    "Do not!"

    "Do too."

    Laurence let out an impatient growl. "Fine...;whatever. Are we going to visit this castle or not?"

    Chloe smiled. "Lead the way."

    "Hey! Wipe that smile off your face, miss."

    "I'm not smiling."

    "Are too." Suddenly Laurence put her hand on Chloe's mouth. "Forget I even answered that." Chloe tried to protest. "Ha ha...;what did I just say? Come on, let's call it a truce, and go." Chloe's eyes were sparkling with amusement. She nodded.

    "Okay." Laurence took her hand off Chloe's mouth.

    Chloe bit her lower lip to keep from laughing. This is a side of Laurence I've never seen...;almost playful. I like it.

    "Are you coming? The tourists are going to catch up with us."

    "Yeah."

    They made their way to the dauphine's apartment. The halls were decorated with rich draperies with faded colors. The bedroom had the same faded drapes, but its bed cover was of bright red velvet. A hairbrush made of gold sat in repose on a dresser. Paintings of the dauphine and her family decorated the walls.

    "Wow, that's quite a bedroom," exclaimed Chloe.

    "Yeah."

    "I guess it doesn't phase you anymore. You've seen it too many times."

    "Come on, we still have plenty to see."

    They walked into a room that Laurence explained had been the Duchesse D'Angoulème's bedroom.

    "I don't get it," said Chloe.

    "What?"

    "I wasn't sure if it was because the dauphine was a child, but it's the same here...;"

    "Stop speaking in riddles. What are you talking about?"

    "The beds...;are they really small or is it just my imagination?"

    "Good eye. Yes, you're right, they're smaller than what we're used to."

    "Why?"

    "You and your historical facts, huh?" joked Laurence. "Back then people thought that you should only be lying down if you were dead. So, they slept sitting up."

    "They were really superstitious."

    "Yeah, let's get going."

    They made their way through the castle. Laurence pointed out details to Chloe, and recounted the many stories about the castle and its residents. The Hall of Mirrors had Chloe in awe. Its hundreds of crystal chandeliers reflected into the mirrors on the walls and its shining marble floor.

    "What was this room for?" asked Chloe.

    "Receptions. The peace treaty of the first World War was signed in this room."

    "Wow, I really can't believe that we're walking on the same floor Louis XIV walked on."

    They crossed the Hall of Mirrors into the coronation room.

    "Stop!" ordered Laurence in a friendly tone.

    "What, what's going on?"

    "You see where you're standing?"

    Chloe stood next to the furthest window in the coronation room,

    "At this exact place ten years ago, two English teachers disappeared in front of their students," said Laurence

    "What? They just vanished?"

    "Yep."

    "Come on, cut it out. What really happened?"

    "I told you, one minute they were walking in front of their group of students, the next they were gone." The intensity with which Laurence was telling this story made Chloe nervous, and she didn't feel too good about standing in the same spot. Come on! It's just a story, it didn't really happen, thought Chloe to reassure herself.

    Laurence continued her story. "They were discovered two hours later in the left wing."

    "Did they explain where they were?" asked Chloe, giving in to the story.

    "Yep, they said they had been walking when suddenly they started seeing people wearing strange clothes. People asked them in old French if they were coming to the ceremony. The two women realized that they were also wearing strange clothes, and when they looked behind them, instead of their group of students was a large crowd wearing what they identified as 18th century clothes."

    "What the hell? Don't tell me that these two women pretended to have gone back to the past."

    "They sure did. They said that the ceremony they were asked to go to was the baptism of the dauphin. They also claimed to have spent more than two years living in the 18th century."

    "That's crazy!"

    "That's what everyone else thought. They got fired for abandoning their students for so long."

    "Wow, that's quite a story. Do you think these women could have been telling the truth?" asked Chloe.

    Laurence shrugged her shoulders. "Don't know. Some scientists say that a bridge between the future and the past is possible. Personally I think it's bull, but hey! Who am I to say?"

    "Yeah...;well I don't know, but I don't want to stand here anymore. It's creepy."

    Laurence laughed. "All right. Let's move on."

    After another hour of touring, they went back to the ground floor using the left wing stairs. They had been following a group for a while now, and Laurence hadn't seemed to mind, but she was now slowing down and looking around as if it was the first time she had seen everything. They stopped in the room of the King's Guard. Laurence bent over slightly and whispered in Chloe's ear.

    "Once this group is gone...;follow my lead."

    "What? What's...;"

    "No time for questions. Now...;come on."

    Laurence jumped above the cord separating the public from the room. What the hell is she doing...;Oh brother! Thought Chloe as she followed Laurence.

    Laurence grabbed Chloe by the sleeve and dragged her behind three standing suits of armor.

    "Duck!" whispered Laurence.

    Laurence reached for a small handle on the floor and lifted a wooden trap door.

    "After you," whispered Laurence.

    Chloe looked down to see a ladder. She seemed hesitant.

    "Come on, we don't have much time before one of the guards comes. Go already."

    Chloe grabbed the ladder and slowly made her way down. Laurence followed closely behind closing the trap door behind her.

    "Laurence, I think I've reached the bottom. It's really dark down here."

    Not getting an answer, Chloe called again, "Laurence, you're scaring me."

    A hand suddenly grabbed Chloe making her scream. Laurence laughed. "Got you."

    "Very funny! Are there any light switches in here?"

    "No, but I have...;." Laurence reached inside her backpack and felt around for a flashlight. "I know I put it here...;ha, here we go," she said turning the light on.

    "Laurence, what is this place?" asked Chloe looking around, but only seeing dirt floors and walls.

    "Follow me, and I'll tell you."

    They walked slowly down the underground tunnel. Chloe, still not reassured, stayed at arm's length from Laurence.

    "This place was built under the reign of Louis XVI. It was supposed to be an escape route for him and his family in case the palace was ever overpowered."

    "His plan didn't work out very well, uh?"

    "Not really. They were stopped from escaping by some of the royal guards before the people of Paris got here."

    "Weren't the guards supposed to protect their King, not betray him?"

    "Yeah, in theory, but I think they were scared senseless of what would happen to them if the people got to the castle and the royal family was gone."

    "Okay, here we are," said Laurence, stopping in front of a door. "You've got to close your eyes before you go in."

    "Why?"

    "Chloe, please humor me," pleaded Laurence.

    Chloe closed her eyes, and Laurence gently took her hand and led her through the door.

    "Okay, now keep your eyes closed until I tell you."

    Boy was I right when I said she's full of surprises! thought Chloe.

    "Okay, open them up."

    Chloe opened her eyes and looked around. Candles had been lit around the room, casting their shadows on tables, sofas, beds, chairs...;

    "Wow, what is this place?" asked Chloe.

    "I'll tell you in a minute, but first I want to show you something else. Come."

    They walked through the long room into another room.

    "My gosh, this is incredible," exclaimed Chloe. The room had more furniture, paintings were piled against the wall, and faded and ripped draperies hung from the wall.

    Laurence reached for something behind a sofa.

    "I though you might be hungry." She walked to a wooden carved table and lay her basket on it. She started emptying it. "We have Perrier, baguette, cheese, dry sausage, and fruit."

    "When did you...;how did you...;?" Chloe was speechless.

    "This morning. That's why I picked you up late. There is another entrance along the canal."

    "Why didn't we use the other entrance?" Asked Chloe.

    "I thought you wanted to see the castle," kidded Laurence.

    "Yeah, but we could have been caught."

    "What's life without a little danger?" joked Laurence.

    Laurence sat on a wooden bench and sliced herself a piece of bread before spreading cheese on it.

    "Is that Brie?" asked Chloe.

    "Mmm," mumbled Laurence with a mouth full of food.

    Chloe looked at Laurence and smiled. "Thanks for bringing me here."

    "You're welcome," answered Laurence.

    "Lo, how do you know about this place?"

    Once again, Laurence ignored the use of the nickname. "My dad. He was born at the end of the second World War. Thousands of Versaillais were left homeless after the war. The bombs also destroyed my dad's house. Anyway, my grandpa was a carpenter, and he got a job restoring furniture for the castle. In exchange for his services, he and his family were allowed to live in the basement of the castle.

    "In this room?" asked Chloe.

    "Yeah, it's been more than 40 years, and they piled up lot of crap through the years, but from what my dad describes it was really roomy."

    "That's such a great story."

    "Yeah, I think it's cool. My dad spent the first six years of his life running around the park and the castle, so he knows every part of it. He showed me this place."

    "That's incredible," said Chloe, taking a bite of her cheese sandwich.

    "Do you think all this furniture is from the 17th century?"

    "Don't know. Those draperies, definitely yes."

    "Do you think I can look at those paintings over there?" asked Chloe.

    "Sure. Don't you want to finish eating first?"

    "I'm hungry, but this is so exiting I can't sit still," she said getting up.

    Laurence laughed. "Okay, go ahead."

    Chloe picked up one of the paintings. It showed the face of a young child with tears rolling down his face. Chloe suddenly felt overwhelmed as if the painting was having an effect on her.

    "Laurence!" she quietly called. "Who do you think this child is?"

    Laurence got up and stood behind Chloe, looking over her shoulder. "I don't know." The next few minutes passed quietly as they both stared at the painting.

    Chloe put the painting down. "Wow, I don't know why I feel like getting all mushy on you suddenly, but this painting is just so real. The tears are just...;" Chloe was speechless.

    "Yeah, I agree with you. It's really well done," said Laurence, squeezing Chloe's shoulder to let her know that she understood her feelings.

    "Do you think it's as old as the 17th century?" asked Chloe.

    Laurence slightly scratched the corner of the painting with her thumbnail.

    "No extra layer of paint...;It's not a fake. Yeah, it might be from back then."

    "Wow! Why isn't it on display upstairs?"

    "Could be many reasons. They have too many portraits, or the child can not be identified and consequently is not important, or the painter is totally unknown, or nobody knows about it. Personally, I vote for the last one."

    "You think nobody knows about it?"

    "Come on, look at this room. Ninety percent of it is filled with antiques, but nobody seems to care about them."

    "Your dad is an art dealer, right?" Laurence nodded. "Then why doesn't he tell them, or just take everything if he knows about this place."

    "My dad is too honest to take anything that doesn't belong to him, and he doesn't want anyone to know about this place."

    "You mean, nobody knows about it."

    "The castle was renovated and open to the public 30 years ago. I think since then whoever knew about it has retired or is dead." She stopped and then added softly, "My mother knew but she passed away, and now you know."

    Chloe walked around the room thinking and passing her hand on a piece of furniture, trailing her hand on the wall, touching draperies...;

    "It's magical," she said.

    Laurence smiled at her and took a sip of her Perrier. "I come here sometimes when I want to think and be alone."

    Chloe stopped and sat next to Laurence on the bench. "I realize how much this place means to you, and I want you to know that I promise not to tell anyone about it." Chloe looked intently into Laurence's eyes, and briefly touched her hand to strengthen her statement.

    "I know you won't. Otherwise I would have never brought you here."

    "Overly confident, aren't you?" teased Chloe.

    Laurence didn't answer, but instead got up. "We should get going. It's almost four o'clock, and I want to show you something."

    " Žkay. So, let's go."

    "Follow me." Laurence walked out of the room into the tunnel. "You're not afraid of spiders, are you?"

    "Why?" asked Chloe.

    "You're about to find out why I asked you to wear jeans," answered Laurence.

    "Oh boy! I don't like the sound of that."

    Laurence chuckled. "Don't worry, they're just little spiders."

    They walked through the dark tunnel with only Laurence's flashlight to light the way.

    "It's really creepy," said Chloe, her voice echoing through the tunnel.

    "Yeah, but I have been here enough times to tell you that there aren't any ghosts running around."

    "Are you purposely trying to scare me?" asked Chloe.

    Laurence smiled, her white teeth showing in the darkness. "Okay, here is the part where it gets messy." She stopped and pointed her flashlight to the floor illuminating a huge mud puddle.

    "Okay, we have to walk around this thing, but as you see there isn't much room. The goal is to walk as close to the walls as you can. Now, remember the spiders?"

    "Yes...;" answered Chloe, suddenly not too sure about this place anymore.

    Laurence pointed the light to the walls, which were full of spider webs and crawling spiders.

    "No way, I'm not going through that," said Chloe.

    "They won't do anything. The annoying part is that the webs get all over you and in your hair.

    "Great, that's just great," said Chloe pacing around.

    "Come on, let's get it over with." Laurence walked to the left of the puddle and flattened herself against the wall facing the mud.

    "Why can't we go through it? I don't care about getting messy," asked Chloe.

    "Because I have no idea what's in it right now, it's really deep and last time I tried I lost a shoe, but be my guest if you want to try it."

    Chloe sighed. "Fine, I see I don't really have a choice."

    "Nope," said Laurence from the other side of the large mud puddle.

    "Okay girl, you've done worse than this," mumbled Chloe to reassure herself. "Yeah, but there were no spiders," she added to herself.

    Chloe copied Laurence's moves and started to cross over. Halfway through, she felt something crawling in her hair. She screamed. "Ah!"

    "What...;what's wrong?" asked Laurence worried, the flashlight not giving her enough light to see what was happening.

    "Something is crawling in my hair," she said frightened.

    "Forget about it. You're almost there. You can do it."

    Chloe arrived on the other side covered with spider webs. "Argh...;it's everywhere," she said dusting herself off and wiping her hands on her jeans.

    "Do you still have something in your hair?" asked Laurence. "Here, let me look."

    "Stay away from me," yelled Chloe. "I hate spiders, I hate you for taking me here. I...;" A sob escaped her. She turned around and kicked the wall. "Arghh...;I hate spiders," she yelled between tears.

    Laurence slowly made her way to Chloe and grabbed her by the shoulders turning her around to face her. "Calm down. It's okay. I didn't know you'd be so scared." Chloe hit her on the chest twice before going limp in Laurence's arms. Laurence put her arms around Chloe to comfort her. "I'm sorry. I swear I had no idea. Why didn't you tell me when I asked you earlier?"

    "Would that have changed anything?" asked Chloe sniffling.

    "No, but I would have crossed with you."

    "Now you tell me," said Chloe trying to joke.

    "Are you okay? Can we keep going? We're almost there," asked Laurence, not daring to move until she was sure.

    In response Chloe tightened her grip around Laurence. I can't believe she got so scared, thought Laurence as she held Chloe.

    Chloe let go of Laurence slowly. "Sorry about that," she said, embarrassed.

    "Hey, it's okay. Really. Are you ready to get out of here?"

    "You bet. I'm glad the spider incident is over."

    "Uh...;there are spiders all over the walls in this tunnel. I didn't point it out before now because I didn't need to.

    "I guess we're going to be walking far away from the walls. After you," said Chloe gesturing to Laurence to lead the way. "What are the walls made out of?" she asked.

    "Mostly dirt and sand."

    "Uh...that explains it." Chloe got closer to Laurence and held on to her elbow for guidance. "So, what else do you want to show me when we get out?"

    "You'll see. Hey, look there," said Laurence, pointing to the glimpse of daylight ahead of them. "Come on," she said as she took off running.

    " Hey, wait up!" shouted Chloe. Laurence was already yards away from her. This girl has too much energy.

    Laurence was waiting for her at the end of the tunnel in front of an iron gate. "How do we get out with this thing in the way?" asked Chloe, pointing at the gate.

    Laurence winked at Chloe and smiled. She crouched and started removing two of the left bars by just untwisting them.

    "Wow, that's cool. You always have an answer for everything, don't you?" asked Chloe squeezing herself through the gap in the bars.

    "I aim to please," kidded Laurence as she joined Chloe on the other side. She carefully replaced the bars where they belonged.

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    They silently walked around the canal toward the park of the castle. They had almost reached it when Chloe stopped.

    "Can you hear music or am I going crazy?" asked Chloe.

    "They do that every weekend. You can walk in the park along with music from the 17th century. They also turn on every fountain in the park, and they have a major finale in front of Apollo's fountain at 5p.m." answered Laurence.

    "Can we go?"

    "Yep, but we better hurry, it's going to start in a few minutes."

    "So what are we waiting for?" said Chloe, breaking into a run

    "Hold on Chloe, you don't even know where it is," called Laurence laughing.

    Good point, thought Chloe, letting Laurence catch up with her.

    Shortly, Chloe and Laurence were sitting on the grass in front of Apollo's fountain listening to the thirteenth requiem from Mozart coming out of the speakers. The fountain was more like a large pond. In the middle was the sculpture of Apollo's horse and carriage jutting out of the water. Statues of Apollo surrounded the pond. At 5p.m. on the dot, water erupted from the center sculpture, pulsing in rhythm with the music. The beauty of it all took Chloe's breath away.

    "Hey, are you okay?"

    "Yes...;I...;I'm fine. It's just so beautiful."

    "Yes, it is," said Laurence staring at Chloe for a few moment and bringing her gaze back to the spectacle. "Are you ready to go home?"

    "Yeah...;I guess," answered Chloe, reluctant to wrap up such a magical day.

    Laurence got up and extended her hand to Chloe who took it. Laurence yanked Chloe back on her feet and gently wiped dirt off Chloe's forehead. "You must have gotten it in the tunnel," she said softly.

    Chloe smiled shyly and lightly leaned into Laurence's hand for a brief second.

    "I tell you what. I'll take you out to dinner to make up for the spider episode," said Laurence.

    "Really? Cool...; I mean, I'd love to. First can we go home and change?"

    "Yeah, restaurants don't start serving before 7. Let's go."

    They walked home in a silent companionship. Chloe's thoughts were filled with memories of the day.

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    "Are you allergic to any food?" asked Laurence as she unlocked the front door.

    "No. I eat pretty much anything," answered Chloe. "Why? What do you have in mind?"

    "Hey! I'm not telling since you eat everything...;you'll see," teased Laurence.

    "Okay, okay, but can I wear jeans or should I wear something more dressy?"
 

    "Hmm...;I don't know because I haven't decided where we're going yet. Why don't you just wear something you're comfortable in?"

    " Žkay, I'll go change."

    "Yeah, be ready by 7, and...;." Laurence was interrupted by the phone. She rushed to pick it up.

    "Allo÷P'pa! Comment ça va?" Laurence walked away from Chloe into the family room.

    Chloe decided that was her cue to go change and give Laurence some privacy.

    As she passed by, Laurence pointed at her watch and mouthed "Seven." Chloe smiled and nodded.

    Once in her room, Chloe set about the task of choosing something to wear for dinner.  "She didn't give me many clues about what to wear...;hmm...;it's kind of warm out...;yeah, that will do."

    At 7 p.m. Laurence knocked at Chloe's door. "Are you ready?" she called through the door.

    "Coming," yelled Chloe from the other side.

    The door opened to reveal Chloe wearing a white tank top with a white long sleeve shirt thrown on top and black jeans. She wore her blond hair up with a touch of makeup accentuating the green of her eyes.

    "You look great," said Laurence releasing a breath she didn't know she had been holding since Chloe stepped out of her room.

    "Thanks. You don't look bad yourself." Laurence was wearing a well-fitted pair of black jeans with a red long sleeve shirt, slightly open and revealing her tan skin.

    Laurence flashed her a smile. "Shall we?" asked Laurence. She jokingly offered her arm to Chloe.

    "We shall my dear," said Chloe, catching on to Laurence's little game and taking her offered arm.

    "Where are we going?" asked Chloe.

    "It's a surprise."

    "Come on, I've had enough surprises for the day. You've got to tell me."

    " I'll give you a clue. It's in Paris."

    "Oh gee thanks! That's a great clue."

    "That's as much as you're going to get," said Laurence as she put on her leather jacket. "You might want to grab something warmer. Do you have a jacket?"

    "Only a winter one."

    "Wait here," said Laurence, running back upstairs.

    "What are you doing?" yelled Chloe, but she got no response.

    Laurence came back downstairs as fast as she had left. "Here," she said, handing Chloe a leather jacket.

    " Do you really think I need it?" asked Chloe.

    "Oh yes...;we are going on my bike. The air can get really chilly."

    " Cool, I love bikes," exclaimed Chloe putting on the jacket. "It fits almost perfectly. It can't be yours, it's too small for you."

    "It used to be mine ages ago. My dad gave it to me for my birthday when I was thirteen. I've outgrown it. Good thing you're a dwarf," joked Laurence as she opened the door.

    "Yeah, yeah, make fun of my 5 feet 2 inches, Miss I-could-out-play-any-basketball-player-in-the-NBA," answered Chloe.

    "Oh, touché!" joked Laurence, pretending to have been mortally wounded.

    "Come on, cut the drama," laughed Chloe.

    "Your carriage is ready my lady," said Laurence, jokingly bowing and pointing to her motorcycle.

    "I'll choose to ignore that one," said Chloe with a pretend frown on her face.

    Laurence climbed on the bike. "Get behind me," said Laurence, handing Chloe a helmet.

    Chloe did as told and Laurence started the bike and revved it a few times until the idle smoothed out.

    "Lo? Where should I hold on?" asked Chloe, raising her voice to make herself heard above the roar.

    "To the saddle or to my waist. Whatever feels safer to you," she answered, pointing the bike out into the streets of Versailles.

    Chloe held on lightly to Laurence's waist and watched the houses go by as they made their way toward the highway. Once on the highway Laurence sped up, and the wind blew harder in Chloe's face forcing her to scoot closer to Laurence and eventually wrap her arms securely around Laurence's waist. Sure beats driving in a car, thought Chloe, smiling to herself.

    Laurence drove her bike smoothly, weaving between cars. She slowed down once she reached Paris. Chloe had been lost in thought when suddenly Laurence poked her hands which were still attached to Laurence's waist. Chloe looked up to see Laurence pointing at something ahead of them.

    "Arc de Triomphe," yelled Laurence through her helmet.

    "Wow!" exclaimed Chloe. The arch was lit up, and what seems to Chloe like hundreds of car lights surrounded it. "Are we going there?" asked Chloe.

    "We have to go around it. We're going down Les Champs Elysees."

    "Okay."

    Once they got closer to the Arc, Chloe heard honking and people yelling. "What's going on?" she asked Laurence.

    "Nothing. You've got to circle around the Arc, and it's always a mess."

    Laurence brought the bike into the traffic circle. Three lanes were painted on the pavement but there were up to five cars abreast and chaos reigned. Some cars were perpendicular to other cars while trying to exit. It was a mess.

    "Now you find out why I like driving my bike in Paris," said Laurence. She expertly maneuvered her bike out of the circle, the small size of the motorcycle letting them weave though the creeping traffic without problem.

    "Wow, is that the Eiffel Tower?" asked Chloe pointing at a tower.

    "Yep."

    Laurence went around the Champ de Mars and parked her bike on the waterfront.

    "Come on, we're running late and we've got 5 minutes before the boat leaves," she said as she grabbed Chloe's hand and ran toward the dock. They climbed onto a boat.

    "Bonsoir. Nous avons des reservations pour Glairon," said Laurence.

    "Par ici, mademoiselle," said the hostess.

    "Are we going to eat on this boat?" asked Chloe.

    "Yep. Hope you don't get sea sick," Laurence said with a smile.

    They were seated at a table next to the window. Fancy silverware, a white table cloth, napkins, and candles decorated the table.

    "Wow, it's great," exclaimed Chloe.

    "They also have great food," answered Laurence.

    The half moon reflected on the river making the surface glitter with silver. The Eiffel Tower with its large shape loomed over the river. The boat slowly started to drift down the river. Musicians played violins and the gentle lapping of the water combined to create a beautiful melody.

    "This is so beautiful...;so peaceful," said Chloe.

    Laurence smiled. A waiter came to the table to take their orders. "Can I order for us?" asked Laurence.

    "Hmm...should I trust you?" joked Chloe.

    Laurence winked and turn to the waiter.

    "What did you get?" asked Chloe once the waiter left.

    "You'll see."

    "I get it, more surprises."

    The waiter came back with a bottle of white sauvignon and poured some in their glasses.

    "Merci," said Laurence, reaching for her glass. She lifted it as a toast. "To you Chloe. I hope you have a great year, and that you actually stay the entire year," said Laurence with a smile.

    Chloe took a sip of her wine. "So, you're leaving on Sunday?" asked Chloe.

    "I have to," answered Laurence.

    "Too bad...; I kind of like having you around," Chloe said smiling.

    "After the way I treated you the first day...;I don't know how you're even talking to me right now," said Laurence sadly.

    Chloe shrugged her shoulders. "Everyone deserves a second chance," said Chloe. "Plus you didn't turn out to be such a bad person after all," teased Chloe. She picked up her glass and drank some more. "Why were you acting so bitchy the first day?" she asked shyly. Maybe she's going to bite my head off, but I've got to know.

    Laurence sighed. "I told you we had so many au pairs before you. I thought you were another one of those pompous little Americans only here for fun."

    "What made you change your mind?" asked Chloe looking into Laurence's eyes.

    Laurence finished her glass and poured herself another before answering. "Don't know...I guess you just seemed so honest and eager to know Clément. You also seemed to be able to handle Beatrice and not everyone can do that."

    Chloe registered what Laurence said about Beatrice but decided to not pursue the topic. "I think Clément likes me," she said.

    "Yeah...;I think so too," answered Laurence. "He is a great little guy...;you'll see," Laurence added. Her eyes shone with excitement every time she spoke of Clément.

    "The food is here," Laurence announced as the waiter approached.

    He deposited a plate with a dozen of escargot in front of each of them.

    "Is that...;"

    "Yep, escargot...snails. Whatever you want to call it," answered Laurence laughing at the face Chloe was making. "Trust me, it's really good. It's cooked in garlic and butter."

    "I'll try, but how do you get them out of their shell?"

    "You use the little tiny fork next to your plate," Laurence demonstrated by popping one in her mouth.

    "Okay...;here goes nothing," said Chloe, closing her eyes, holding her nose and uncertainly placing the escargot in her mouth. "Hey, it's really good!"

    "Told you," smiled Laurence.

    Chloe decided that tonight was the night where she was going to learn more about Laurence. "What are you going to do when you graduate?"

    "Move back to Paris. Get a job."

    "What's your dream job?" asked Chloe.

    "I'd like to work for a magazine like Premiere."

    "Yeah, I love reading that magazine. All their offices are in the States though. Hey, you could move to the States...;your mom was American, it should be easy for you ...;"

    "Hey, hey...;hold your horses. Yes, I can move to the States if I feel like it because I have dual citizenship. But there is no way I'm doing that because I have to think of Clément. I'll have to do with what's around here."

    "Okay," said Chloe, sensing that she would not get more out of Laurence on the topic. "What do you do for fun?"

    "You like asking questions, don't you?" kidded Laurence. "I like to paint, go to the movies, sometimes go dancing."

    "I love dancing!" said Chloe with excitement.

    Laurence smiled. "Do you go clubbing a lot back home?" asked Laurence. She wants to play twenty questions with me...;we'll see who wins, thought Laurence.

    "Sometimes. I'm not twenty-one, so there aren't many places I can go."

    "Right, I forgot you have to be twenty-one in the States for most clubs."

    "Yeah, it's a pain."

    "Did you just graduate from high school?" Laurence asked, suddenly really eager to learn more about Chloe.

    "No, last year. I went to college for a year, but I don't really know what I want to do."

    "Where did you go?"

    "University of Maryland. It's a great school. My dad wants me to study computers. I tried for one year...I hated it. I need to find my own path." Chloe finished the sentence more for herself than for Laurence.

    "Okay, forget about your dad. What do you want to do?"

    "You'll laugh if I tell you. Everyone before you did," answered Chloe.

    "Come on, cut me some slack. I promise not to laugh."

    Chloe pondered the issue for a minute or two. "Okay. I want to major in theater."

    "You want to act."

    "Not just acting...;I love plays. I want to learn more about what's going on backstage...;what it takes to put on a play. It just fascinates me," explained Chloe. She had started speaking with her hands, which she always did when speaking about something she was passionate about.

    "Chloe, you should do it. It sounds great."

    "Really?" asked Chloe not believing that somebody was actually telling her that.

    "Yes. Why don't you?"

    Chloe sighed. "It's complicated."

    "Try me," said Laurence, briefly squeezing Chloe's hand to encourage her.

    "My dad pays for my college. He told me that he won't pay for a theater degree," explained Chloe. " ŽSweetheart, I won't waste hard-earned money on a useless degree. Study computer or law. Those are degrees with great jobs'," said Chloe, imitating her father.

    "What does your dad do?" ask Laurence as she finished her last escargot.

    "He's a lawyer."

    "I figured," answered Laurence. "What does your mom say about it?"

    "My parents got divorced when I was 13. I see my mother for Christmas and sometimes during the summer. She's too busy traveling around the world with her job," said Chloe. She suddenly lost the excitement she had been feeling previously.

    "Sorry, I didn't know. What does she do that keeps her so busy?"

    "She's a news reporter for a TV channel in DC. She covers the crazy things. For example when the US were bombing Kosovo, she was right there."

    "Dangerous job," commented Laurence.

    "Yeah."

    "Listen Chloe. I think you should do what you want with your studies. It's your life, not your dad's. You don't want to wake up in ten years and think, If only I had known."

    "I know, but I really can't afford it."

    "Ask your mother. She doesn't do much for you - she might help out of guilt. Get a loan...;I don't know...;just follow your dreams."

    Chloe looked at Laurence intently. "Maybe. We'll see," she said, indicating she wanted a change of topic by waving her hand.

    They made small talk throughout the rest of dinner, slowly learning more about each other.

    "Boy, I'm stuffed," exclaimed Chloe after finishing the last bite of her chocolate mousse.

    "No kidding! Miss I-have-to-sample-everything-on-the-dessert-cart," laughed Laurence.

    "Hey, you said I could!"

    Laurence smiled. "Tell you what, when we get back to the dock we can take a walk around the Eiffel Tower."

    "That would be great."
 

    "I also think I had too much wine to drive back right away."

    Half an hour later, the boat came to a stop and Laurence and Chloe got off.

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    They walked away from the dock in a friendly silence.  Chloe was the first to speak. "Uh...;I want to thank you for today and dinner...;you really didn't have to. Well, anyway...;thank you."

    "No need to thank me. I had a great time. Do you want to walk some more or go home?"

    "I wouldn't mind walking for while...;if you want to."

    "Fine by me. Let's go to the Eiffel Tower and come back."

    "The Eiffel Tower? That big thing over there?" asked Chloe jokingly. She stopped and turned to Laurence. "I tell you what...;I'll race you." With those words she took off running.

    "You little...;" Laurence took off behind her. Her long legs gave her an advantage, and once she was at arm's length, she pounced on Chloe, dragging her down on the grass.

    "Hey...;" yelled Chloe before falling. Laurence put her body in between the ground and Chloe to soften their fall. They were both out of breath and laughing hysterically. Chloe rolled off Laurence. "I can't believe you...;you're...;" she stopped trying to catch her breath. She then turned on her side facing Laurence. She propped her head up and asked with a smile, "Why did you do that?"

    "Hey, you challenged me...;" smiled Laurence, turning on her side to face Chloe.

    "Yeah, I challenged you to a race, not to a football game," joked Chloe, poking Laurence teasingly in the ribs.

    "Sorry, I got carried away. It was fun." She softly brushed off some dirt from Chloe's sleeve. She looked up to see Chloe looking at her with wonder in her eyes. They stared at each other for what seemed an eternity, neither Laurence nor Chloe willing to break the spell. Chloe's hair had loosened up during the run and was delicately falling in a cascade on her shoulder, the moonlight giving it a slight shade of red. Laurence could not take her gaze away from Chloe. She was mesmerized by the color of her eyes, the shape of her nose, the slight movements of her eye lashes...;Wow, Laurence, get a grip. What is wrong with me...;must be the wine I had for dinner. Laurence broke the silence. "I think we should get up," she said, almost whispering.

    Chloe nodded and slowly sat up. What's wrong with me. I'm never speechless.

    "Lucky us, there aren't that many people out tonight; otherwise we'd have been the entertainment of the evening rolling around in the grass like that," joked Laurence, trying to regain her composure.

    "Yeah...;lucky us," answered Chloe, still not sure of what had just happened between them.

    They got up and decided to call it a night. They walked silently back to the dock. What the hell just happened back there. She's Clément's babysitter for God's sake...;what's wrong with me. I really have to get a grip, thought Laurence. Once they reached the bike, Laurence handed Chloe her helmet and climbed on. Chloe got on behind her and without a second thought grabbed hold of Laurence's waist tightly, leaning forward to rest her head on Laurence's back.


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