Chapter IX

    Chloe woke up alone in bed. She grabbed a pillow and covered her face with it to protect herself from the sunrays, piercing through the blinds. I wonder where Lo went. After a few moments of trying to go back to sleep, Chloe sat up, rubbed her eyes and stretched. She glanced at the alarm clock and realized that it was only 8. I can't believe I am awake so early on a Sunday morning. She got up and went to the bathroom to splash some water on her face.

    "Hello," said Laurence while opening the door.

    Chloe stepped out of the bathroom smiling. "Hi, where did you go?"

    "For a run, and I got us some breakfast," she explained showing the bag of croissant she just got from the boulangerie.

    "It smells really good. Do you go running everyday?"

    "Yes, I try," said Laurence, going into the kitchen and coming back with two plates, the butter and two knives. "Can you get two glasses and the orange juice in the fridge?" asked Laurence while setting up the table.

    "Sure." Chloe got what Laurence asked for, and put everything down on the table next to the rest. "Thanks for getting us breakfast."

    "You're welcome," smiled Laurence, motioning for Chloe to sit down. Instead of that, Chloe moved and hugged Laurence. "What is that for?" asked Laurence, teasingly.

    "It's a good morning greeting," answered Chloe while releasing Laurence.

    "I see. Wouldn't thisbe more appropriate for a good morning greeting?" said Laurence, drawing Chloe back into her arms and kissing her tenderly. The kiss was brief, almost teasing.

    "Lo, are you trying to torture me here?"

    "What do you mean?" asked Laurence, not understanding the question.

    "If you keep on kissing me like that, I don't know if I can keep up with our bargain," answered Chloe, sensually rubbing her hand up and down Laurence's arm.

    Laurence blushed. "Well...I...I didn't realize that ..."

    Chloe laughed. "It's okay. Come on, let's eat."

    They ate leisurely, enjoying the feel of the warm croissant melting in their mouth.

    "What is that?" asked Chloe, pointing at a jar containing a brown substance.

    "The best thing on earth. It's called Nutella. It's Roche D'or chocolate with hazelnut."

    "How do you eat it?"

    "Like this," said Laurence, opening the jar, digging her knife in it and spreading a large amount on one of her croissant.

    "Yuk," said Chloe, making a face.

    "Don't knock it before you've tried it." Laurence broke off a piece of the croissant and handed it to Chloe who took it hesitantly. "Come on, I'm not trying to poison you," joked Laurence.

    "Fine." She took a small bite and waited for the taste to register. "Wow, it's really good."

    'Told you," smiled Laurence, finishing her croissant and licking the left over Nutella off her fingers.

    They finished off breakfast, and Laurence sent Chloe to go shower first while she cleaned off the table. Chloe showered quickly and put on a pair of jeans and a long sleeved University of Maryland t-shirt, dried her hair, brushed her teeth and stepped out.

    "How many sweatshirts and t-shirts with a University of Maryland logo do you have?" asked Laurence, jokingly.

    'Try living on campus with no car and the closest mall 10 miles away, and you'll see if the bookstore doesn't become your favorite clothing store."

    Laurence laughed. "Okay, my turn. I won't be long. We can get going after that."


    Laurence grabbed some clothes from the closet and closed the bathroom door behind her. She came out 10 minutes later dressed in a pair of jean overalls and a white tank top. "Okay, are you ready?"

    "As I'll ever be," said Chloe, putting her jacket on. "I like your overalls."

    "When I wear them, it means I ran out of clean pants, and I have to do some laundry," smiled Laurence. She opened the door and let Chloe slip by before stepping out and locking it.

    They got into a tiny little yellow car that Laurence said was called a Clio.

    "Where are we going?" asked Chloe seriously as Laurence started the car.

    "To a small town call Leware. It's only half and hour away from here. We'll be back on time for your train. It's at 4:30, right?"

    "Yeah. Are we going to visit a mine?"

    "That's the plan. Is it still okay with you?"

    "It should be interesting."

    "It is." Laurence drove through the streets of Lille and got onto the expressway. Chloe relaxed and put her hand on Laurence's lap. Laurence reached for it and stroked it lightly. 10 minutes later, Laurence maneuvered the car into the exit ramp. They drove through the countryside and fields surrounding it.

    "What is that?" asked Chloe, pointing at a black mountain.

    "This is a coal mountain."


    Laurence pulled the car into a parking lot and stopped. "Here we are." They got out and walked into a building where miners' memorabilia was exposed everywhere. After paying for the tickets they were asked to wait for a bus to take them to the mine, and were handed a protection hat.

    "Now we are going to look really goofy, wearing those things," laughed Chloe.

    Laurence shrugged and put her hat on. After taking a look at her, Chloe started laughing. "Go ahead and make fun," smiled Laurence.

    "Sorry, you look like the perfect miner with your overalls and your hat," laughed Chloe. Before Laurence had time to answer, the bus arrived. It took them to the entrance of the mine.

    "Lo, is that really a mine or a reproduction?"

    "It used to be a real one, but it hasn't been working for over 10 years now. It's only for visitors."

    They stepped into a room with thousands of lanterns hanging on the wall. The guide explained that this was the room where the miners would come, register for work and grab their lanterns.

    "What is he saying? " asked Chloe, not understanding.

    "It's very dark down there, so the lantern was the miner's best friend," explained Laurence. As they followed the guide through the visit, Laurence
translated everything. What really fascinated Chloe was the wooden elevator, it was more like an open cage hanging from a cable. Laurence explained that sometimes up to 30 people would climbinto it to be sent to the bottom. The elevator would go down 30 meters in 8 seconds.

    "Like a small roller coaster," stated Chloe.

    "Worse than that. The guide said that anyone who would go in it for the first time would puke."

    "Yuk, that's a pretty picture."

    They went through tunnels and were showed how a miner would keep the tunnel from crumbling by reinforcing it with wood. The darkness and suffocating air were oppressing, the mine was silent except for the voice from the guide, making Chloe want to run up for fresh air and light.

    "Hey, are you okay?" asked Laurence to Chloe who had stopped.

    "Yeah, it's just so hot in here, and somehow freaky."

    "We are almost out," answered Laurence, taking hold of Chloe's hand and leading her toward the group.

    "How deep are we?" asked Chloe.

    "I'm not sure, but I'll guess 80 or 100 meters."

    "What's that in feet?"

    "I have no idea, sorry. Trust me though it's fairly deep."

    "It's why we can't hear anything."

    "What do you mean?"

    "Listen...beside the guide's voice, you can't hear the traffic or the birds...I can't even imaginehow people could work in those conditions."

    "Children came down here also. They were allowed their first descent at the age of 9."

    Chloe looked at Laurence. "It's crazy."

    Laurence nodded and let go of Chloe's hand as they caught up with the group. A few minutes later they were back to the surface.

    "Okay, I'm happy to be back topside again," said Chloe, taking her hat off.

    "I agree, and I'm hungry. I tell you what, it's only 11:30, we could go to the local supermarket, get some food and have a picnic."

    "That sounds great." Chloe smiled.

    "So, let's go." They waited for the bus to take them back to the parking lot and got in the car. Laurence drove downtown Leware and stopped in front of a small grocery shop.

    "I don't think we're going to find any major supermarket. Let's check this shop out."

    The shop had the minimum necessities, but they were able to buy a baguette and dry sausage to make sandwiches. Laurence drove them out of town, and after they had been driving on a country road for a couple of minutes, turned right suddenly into a dirt road.

    "Where are we going?" asked Chloe curiously.

    "You'll see," simply answered Laurence.

    They drove down the very chaotic road for a few minutes, and Laurence stopped the car under a tree.

    "Come on," she said grabbing the grocery and getting out of the car. She started walking into a wheat field.

    "Hey, Lo, you can't do that," called Chloe.

    "Why not?"

    "It's a private propriety."

    Laurence looked around amused. "I don't see anyone for kilometers. Come on. Trust me, nothing is going to happen."

    "Okay," answered Chloe unsure.

    Laurence walked through the field, followed closely by Chloe. Once Laurence thought they were deep enough, she started running and jumping in circle, flattening the wheat so they could sit down. "Come on, help me out."

    "Lo, you're crazy," laughed Chloe, joining in.

    After a few minutes of jumping around, Laurence took her jacket off and laid the food down on it. "Lunch my lady," she said, gently mocking Chloe.

    Chloe sat down and looked around. They were surrounded by wheat, and she couldn't see anything besides the intense blue sky above them. The sound of cars passing by could be heard, but it sounded very far away, almost as if they had managed to isolate themselves from civilization. "This is great."

    "I told you there was no reason to worry," smiled Laurence, cutting the baguette with her pocket knife.

    "Pocket knife, huh?"

    "Never hurts to be prepared." Laurence handed Chloe a piece of bread and sliced one for her.

    "Lo, this field belongs to someone. What if this person comes and catches us?"

    "Not a chance. People are very religious around here, and trust me, nobody works in the fields on Sunday unless it's harvest time." Laurence cut off some slices of the dry sausage and put it on her piece of bread.

    "What's the name of this thing again?" asked Chloe, pointing at the sausage.

    "Saussiçon. It's really good."

    "You guys really eat the strangest things," said Chloe, imitating Laurence and putting some slices of the dry sausage on her bread.

    Laurence chuckled. "I'm going to drop it this time." She opened the bottle of water they bought and drank from it before handing it to Chloe.

    "How did you find out about this place?" asked Chloe before drinking.

    Laurence sighed. "One of the guys I used to party with a few years back...his parents own a farm not far away. I got really drunk one night, and somehow woke up here."

    "In this field?"

    "Where the car is parked..."

    "Some party it must have been," joked Chloe.

    "I don't remember." Laurence finished her sandwich and lay down with her hands behind her head. She slowly closed her eyes and let herself bask in the sun.

    Chloe took off her jacket, and lay down next to her. She propped herself on her elbow and looked at Laurence. She looked relaxed. Her chest rising slowly up and down with the rhythm of her breathing, the wheat slowly casting shadows over her face, her hair shining with red highlights from the sun.

    "I can feel you staring at me," smiled Laurence, her eyes still closed.

    "Sorry..." said Chloe, embarrassed from having been caught.

    Laurence sat up smiling. "Don't be. It's okay," she said tenderly.

    Chloe looked at Laurence the blue of her eyes was almost transparent, giving her a very surreal aspect. "Your eye color is so strange. It changes with your mood. Black for anger, deep blue for amusement, green for passion, but right now I can't read's so clear it's almost white," explained Chloe softly.

    Laurence smiled and gently brushed a lock of blond hair behind Chloe's ear. She let her hand linger on her neck and drew her in for a kiss. She slowly pushed Chloe back down and lay down next to her. Her hands caressed Chloe's face, her lips tenderly moving against hers. Chloe ran her hands along Laurence's back and pulled her closer, deepening the kiss, and making Laurence gasp. Passion slowly started to build and hands got more adventurous. After a few moments, Laurence withdrew, her breathing ragged, her voice quivering. "I...think we should stop..."

    Chloe was going to protest, but one look at Laurence made her change her mind.

    Laurence looked flustered, her eyes almost scared. "Sure," she answered softly, sitting up.

    "I'm sorry...I started it and I shouldn't have," apologized Laurence.

    Chloe reached for Laurence's hand. "Lo, it's okay. Remember, kissing is a must," smiled Chloe.

    "Yeah, But how long can we control it?"

    "Until you find it in your heart to trust me and let go." Chloe didn't wait for an answer and got up. "I guess we should probably get going."

    "You're right, we should." She got up and followed Chloe, who had already started to make her way back. She caught up with her and stopped her. What she was going to say vanished at the sight of tears in Chloe's eyes.

    "Chloe, I'm sorry, I..."

    "It's okay, you were honest with me. I'm just expecting too much from you," said Chloe with a shaky voice.

    Laurence wiped the tears rolling down Chloe's face with her thumbs and brought Chloe's face to eye level with her. For a few moments they stared at each other.

    "I love you Chloe," said Laurence, breaking the silence.

    "I love you too. I thought I would try to prove to you that I love you, and that you can trust me, but the truth is that I don't know how. I can only tell you and hope you'll believe me. I'm not giving up on you Lo, it just hurts me that you can't trust me enough to give me this part of yourself I yearn for."

    Laurence dropped her gaze and stepped back. "I'm sorry."

    "I know, you've said that already. Lo, I believe you, I'm not mad. Please look at me." Chloe touched Laurence's shoulder gently turning her to face her. "I guess I'm also sexually frustrated," joked Chloe, wiping remaining tears off her cheeks.

    Laurence smiled and took Chloe into a hug. She buried her face in her hair and whispered, "I love you."

    "I know," answered Chloe her voice barely a murmur.

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