Chapter XIV

    On Saturday morning, Laurence rose early. She quickly checked on Clément, went downstairs for a quick glass of orange juice and rushed back upstairs to put in place the plan she had thought of the night before. She stopped by her old bedroom to pick up her duffel bag, walked back to Clément's bedroom, and silently opened his closet to take out some clothes that she stuffed inside her bag. Still walking as it on eggshells to let Chloe sleep, she then grabbed some clothes from their bedroom and silently left the room.


    Chloe stirred and slowly opened her eyes. She muffled a yawn and stretched out, gradually getting used to the sunlight peering through the blinds. She sat up and ruffled her hair before getting up and going to the bathroom to splash water on her face. She briefly looked at herself in the mirror, her eyes still puffy with sleep, and smiled at the sight the pillow patterns imprinted on her left cheek.

    On her way downstairs, she peeked into Clément's bedroom. His bed was already made, and his pyjamas lay on the bedroom floor. She smiled and quickly picked them up and threw them into the hamper. The house was unusually quiet and Laurence and Clément were nowhere to be found. She peered outside to check on Laurence's car, but it also was missing. A quick look at the clock told her that it was barely past 9 o'clock.

    "I wonder where they are," she said, flopping down on the coach and turning on the TV. She settled for morning cartoons, finding them easier to understand than most programs. A little yellow ball with orange ears and big black eyes came rushing on screen, screaming 'Pikachu!' Chloe chuckled. "This is what Clément has been babbling about for the past few days!" As if he had heard her, Clément suddenly came bursting through the front door, and jumped into Chloe's arms.

    "Hi, sweetheart. I was wondering where you were." She removed his hat and scarf and tenderly kissed him. "Where is Lo?"

    "Outside...Pokemon!" yelled Clément, pointing at a cartoon character on TV.

    "You go ahead and watch that, I'm going to see what Lo is doing." She tied her robe closed before stepping out on the front porch to find Laurence in conversation with Monsieur Cambier on the sidewalk. Laurence winked at her and motioned for her to go in or she'll get cold. Chloe smiled and went back to Clément who was deeply involved in Pokemon.

    A few moments later, Laurence entered the house. She removed her coat and shoes, dropped what she was holding into the kitchen and hurried to the family room. Chloe smiled at her and quickly got up to greet her. Laurence soundly kissed her and buried her face in her neck.

    "Hey, your nose is freezing," yelped Chloe.

    Laurence laughed. "That's exactly why I put it you could warm it up."

    "If you weren't so cute Laurence Glairon...I swear..."

    Laurence stopped Chloe with a kiss. "What were you saying?" she joked after breaking the kiss.

    Chloe pretended to be upset but lost her battle and broke into a large smile. "You're in a good mood this morning. Where were you? I was getting worried since your car was gone."

    "We went to get croissants. It's too cold to walk."

    "Croissants!" Chloe ran to the kitchen where a bag full of warm croissants sat on the table. The scent of fresh pastries filled the kitchen and her mouth watered. "You sure know how to talk to a woman," joked Chloe, grabbing glasses and plates from the cupboard.

    Laurence came up behind her and hugged her, burying her face in her hair. "I know how to talk to you...that's enough for me."

    "Yeah, you know that the way to my heart is through my stomach," kidded Chloe, turning into Laurence's arms to face her. Laurence's eyes twinkled with amusement. "...but I'm not complaining," finished Chloe before placing a light kiss on Laurence's lips. "What's the plan for today?" she asked, settling at the table and grabbing a croissant.

    "I'm taking you guys somewhere."

    "Where?" asked Chloe with a mouth full.

    "Can't tell," answered Laurence, snatching a croissant out of the bag before Chloe devoured them all.

    "I get it...another surprise!"

    "You usually like my surprises," said Laurence, uncertain.

    "I do. I was just teasing you."

    "Great, because we should get going around 11, so you might want to move it a little," said Laurence, jokingly snatching the flaky pastry from Chloe's hand.

    "Hey, give it back...A girl needs energy in the morning."

    Laurence laughed at Chloe's pouting face, took a bite from the croissant and handed it back to Chloe. "I've got to take care of a few more things before we go..."

    "Okay, I'll be right there," said Chloe, stuffing one more piece of croissant in her mouth.


    A few minutes before 11 o'clock, Laurence locked the front door and grabbed Clément's hand to help him down the steps. A sudden flash forced her to look to her right toward the street where, as the day before, a photographer stood. She let go of Clément's hand and walked menacingly toward the photographer. "Go to the car with Clément," she ordered Chloe.

    "No, Laurence...come on, you promised!" yelled Chloe. She watched as Laurence crossed the street in three strides, but instead of jumping on the photographer Laurence surprisingly stopped a few inches from him. She spoke with him for a few moments and walked back toward the house.

    "Shall we go?" asked Laurence as if nothing happened.

    Chloe nodded, still astonished at the control Laurence had just shown. They piled up in the car. Chloe waited for the car to pull away from the house before questioning Laurence. "What did you tell him?"

    Laurence smiled and glanced quickly at Chloe. "Let's just say that I offered him something that he couldn't refuse."

    "What do you mean?"

    "I asked him how much Beatrice was paying him and I offered him more money in exchange for refusing to work for her from now on."

    Chloe looked at Laurence, stunned. "You know, this is starting to resemble a bad cop movie."

    Laurence snickered but kept her eyes on the road. "We'll stop around 1 for lunch," she said, checking Clément in her rearview mirror.

    Chloe raised her shoulders and shook her head. "I guess I won't bother asking again where we're going," she said matter of factly.

    "Look in my right coat pocket," answered Laurence.

    Chloe curiously reached for Laurence's coat in the back of the car and searched her pocket, coming out with a picture. On it was a white house with brown shutters and pine trees, on its right just above the door a sign reading 'Villa Sancho'. "Is that where we're going?"

    "You got it," smiled Laurence, her eyes not leaving the road as she maneuvered the car past a truck.

    "Where is it?"

    "A few hours away from here. It's in Bretagne. The town is called Saint Brevin"

    "So I guess we're not just going for the day."

    "No, we're not and before you panic, I packed clothes for us."

    Chloe stared at the picture again, looking more closely this time. "Is that near the sea?"

    "Two blocks away."

    " did..."

    "I inherited it along with everything else. We used to go there on vacation with my parents when I was a kid. I loved's just so peaceful," she said, her mind getting lost in the memories of her childhood.

    "Thank you," whispered Chloe, putting the picture back into Laurence's coat. "You could have told me before you know."

    "Where is the fun is that? I love to see you sweat for it," laughed Laurence. "Also, I thought it would be a good distraction from all this madness."

    Chloe reached for Laurence's leg and lightly rubbed it. "I think it's exactly what we need."


    Clément was fast asleep in his car seat and Chloe was dozing off when they pulled in front of Villa Sancho. The day was extremely sunny and a slight wind was blowing through the pine trees. Chloe stepped out of the car and the sea smell invaded her senses. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of fresh air. She smiled at Laurence who had picked up Clément and was gently carrying him through the yard. Laurence climbed the front porch steps and knelt, carefully putting Clément down.

    "Hey, babe, we're here," she said tenderly, sitting him down on the steps and looking for the key. She opened the house and motioned for Chloe to step in.

    The front door led right into the family room. It was decorated simply with an old - looking green leather couch and a wooden table and chairs. Laurence opened the window and propped open the shutters, letting the daylight in. Clément, now wide-awake, was already jumping on the couch, giggling.

    "Stop doing that sweetheart. Come on, I'll show you upstairs," she said to Chloe as she took Clément off the couch.

    They went up a narrow wooden staircase and Laurence led them to the master bedroom. In the center of the master bedroom stood a huge wooden sleigh bed with unfinished carvings on the side. "What are those?" asked Chloe, running her hand over them.

    "The house belonged to my grandfather, the carpenter. He started making this bed and carving pictures into it, but he died before finishing it. He actually built most of the furniture in this house."

    "He was really talented," said Chloe, looking around her.

    The second floor also had a bathroom and two more bedrooms. They brought in the bag Laurence had packed and then decided to take a walk on the beach.

    The beach was as Laurence had said, only two blocks away. It was miles and miles of white sand. They spent most of the afternoon building forts with Clément and walking around town. For dinner Laurence took them to the only restaurant in town open all year long. The atmosphere was intimate and warm.

    Laurence looked at Chloe and Clément who were fighting over the last bite of cake, and smiled. Warmth spread through her body, the feeling of having them both in her life to love and cherish almost overwhelming.

    "What are you thinking about?" asked Chloe, reaching tenderly to stroke Laurence's hand.

    "How happy I am," answered Laurence simply.

    Chloe looked at her, and her eyes teared up. "You don't know how much it means to me to hear you say that."

    Laurence smiled warmly, reached for Clément's hand across the table and with the other one drew Chloe against her chest. "I should tell you more often." She released them and straightened out as the waiter arrived with the bill. "I tell you what. We go back to the house, get some blankets, go to the beach and make a campfire."

    "Great idea...too bad we don't have marshmallows."

    "What would you do with marshmallows?" asked Laurence, helping Clément with his coat.

    "Put them on a stick and melt them over the's delicious," Chloe answered, her mouth watering at the idea.

    Laurence laughed as she put on her coat. "Sounds gross to me!"

    "You don't know what's good," teased Chloe.


    "Are you sure we're allowed to do this?" asked Chloe to Laurence before she lit the fire.

    "It's off season so I don't see why not," explained Laurence as she lit a match. They sat together around the fire, Clément's head resting on Laurence's lap, the activities of the day slowly taking their toll. Chloe scooted close to Laurence, kissed her cheek and lay her head on her shoulder.

    "Thank you for taking us away for the weekend."

    "You're welcome," answered Laurence, bringing her arm around Chloe's shoulder and holding her close. "I know that our problems are far from over, but it feels good to be able to breathe once in a while."

    Chloe nodded and got lost in her contemplation of the campfire. She shivered slightly and buried herself deeper into her coat and Laurence's arms.

    "Are you cold?" asked Laurence, concerned.

    "A little, but I don't want to go back just now. Okay?"

    "Okay," whispered Laurence, kissing Chloe's hair and tightening her grip on Chloe.


    When Monday morning came, Laurence felt refreshed and ready to stand up to what was to come. They had come home late the night before and she and Chloe had stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking and simply enjoying each other's company.

    After buttoning her shirt and pulling her hair into a french twist, Laurence took a deep breath and stepped out of the bathroom. "I guess I'm ready," she said to Chloe who was waiting for her.


    "A little..."

    "Yeah, me too."

    "Let's go nail her."

    Chloe smiled at Laurence's statement and followed her out the door.


    "Okay, remember...I do the talking, you do the listening," instructed Monsieur Louvier before they entered the room where Beatrice and her lawyer were waiting for them.

    "As long as she doesn't provoke me," stated Laurence.

    "We know what we're supposed to do," added Chloe, stopping Monsieur Louvier from answering Laurence's previous remark.

    He snickered and straightened his jacket before putting his hand on the knob. "Okay, here we go." He stepped in, followed by Laurence and Chloe.

    Laurence felt Beatrice's stare as soon as she walked into the room. She fought the need to jump on her and shake some sense into her. Instead, she balled her hands into fists and sat down next to Monsieur Louvier. Chloe had followed closely behind and Laurence's attempt to stay in control of her temper didn't go unnoticed by her. She discretely squeezed Laurence's knee under the table and felt her relax.

    "Well, well, well...what have we here? The perfect love birds," said Beatrice sarcastically, breaking the silence and looking directly at Chloe.

    Laurence shot a deadly stare at Beatrice. "Let's get to the point of this useless meeting, shall we?" she said coldly before turning to look at her lawyer and ordering him to proceed.

To be continued

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copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber

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