Chapter VIII

    They hit traffic on the way to Versailles. Cars were lined up for miles, and Chloe laughed at the irony. "This makes me feel right at home...worse than DC traffic." Laurence smiled and quickly looked in her right mirror before switching lanes.

    "No way I'm sitting in this traffic. We'll go through Paris instead of around." She expertly maneuvered the car out of the beltway and onto the exit ramp. She had sold her father's Mercedes a few months ago and replaced it with a Golf convertible. The smaller car gave Laurence more freedom to weave around traffic. She put her hand on Chloe's knee and lightly stroked it while driving. "Are you hungry? We could stop for Breakfast."

    "Sure, I wouldnít mind...I'm a little bit jet lagged, but I can stay awake for breakfast," smiled Chloe, bringing Laurence's hand to her lips and briefly kissing it before releasing it.

    "I know this nice café a few blocks down. They have awesome croissants and make their own jam."

    "Then let's go there," answered Chloe with a yawn.

    "I know it's hard, but you should try to stay awake until tonight, so your body can adapt to the change in time. You lost 6 hours, so of course you're tired, but trust me on this one."

    "I'll do my best," said Chloe with sleepy eyes.

    Laurence parallel parked the car in such a small space that Chloe had doubt the car would fit. "I guess I was wrong," she commented while stepping out of the car.

    "Hey, never doubt my abilities. I've parked in smaller places," Laurence smiled jokingly. Chloe took a deep breath of the different smells running through the air and smiled to herself. She felt at home in this busy city. Parisians were walking down the streets at a fast pace, some with briefcases under their arms, others with backpacks, and the occasional tourist could be recognized walking around with a map and a look of wonder in his eyes. "You're coming," asked Laurence, gently grabbing Chloe's hand.

    "Sorry...I was just taking it in. It's good to be back."

    "It's good to have you back." Laurence kissed Chloe tenderly on the cheek and pushed open the door to a café named "A la bouffe."

    The café was warm and decorated with bright colors, and old chocolate and alcohol advertisements hung on the wall. They sat at a small table at the end of the café and ordered hot chocolate, croissants and jam. Laurence dipped her croissant in her chocolate, eliciting a frown from Chloe. "What? Don't knock it before you try it," she said before taking a bite of it.

    "I think I'll stick to drinking my chocolate and eating my croissant separately," Chloe laughed. After breakfast, they lingered a little walking down the streets. Chloe was taken even more this time around by the charm emanating from this historical city. Each building and street had a history, and the mystery of it all brought wonder to Chloe.

    "You're okay?" asked Laurence, after a long stretch of silence from Chloe.

    "Never been better." Chloe stepped closer to Laurence and wrapped an arm around her waist, lightly resting her head on her shoulder.

    "Let's get back to the car and take you home, it's kind of cold, and I'm scared you'll get sick since you're so tired."

    "I'm okay. It's not half as cold as back home."

    "Let's go anyway."


    Once they got closer to Versailles, Chloe's heart sped up. She nervously twitched on her seat. "Calm down. It's nothing you haven's seen before."

    "I know, but somehow I'm nervous...a few weeks back I thought I would never be able to see it again, and now I'm here with my entire life packed in my suitcase." Chloe looked outside and recognized the street where Laurence turned in. "It's just weird that's all."

    Laurence smiled knowingly, turned into Rue de Provence, stopped the car in front of the gate and press the remote to open it. The gate opened slowly and the car drove into the courtyard of 18 rue de Provence. She stopped the car in front of the house and got out. "We should empty the trunk first, then I'll go park."

    They each picked up a suitcase and Laurence opened the entrance door. Chloe stepped inside the house, her heart beating like a drum in her chest. Laurence quickly kissed her on the cheek. "I'll go park and bring in your other suitcase. You're staying in the same room as before."

    Chloe nodded and walked slowly through the entrance lobby and into the family room. The room had changed slightly, its huge mirror still hung on the far wall, but the burgundy velvet couch had been replaced with a beige leather couch. She walked up the stairs, lightly touching the wall. At the top, a shiver ran through her at the sight of Jean's bedroom door, she walked quickly past it and down the corridor. With shaky hands, she opened the door to her bedroom and stepped in with her eyes closed. After bringing her heart back to a normal speed, she slowly opened her eyes and gasped. Above the bed stood an abstract painting, she moved closer and looked at the yellow and red colors intertwining on the canvas, the lines seemed to spiral together, separate and meet again. A red rose lay on one of the pillow with a card and she hastily picked it up and opened it. It read "Welcome Home." A small tear ran down her cheek, but she quickly wiped it off. On the side table stood a picture of Laurence and Chloe holding hands. Above the desk, Laurence had framed Clement's drawing of his family, and Chloe smiled at the memory of the first time she saw it.

    "Hey," said Laurence, stepping in with two suitcases.

    "Thanks for the rose," said Chloe tenderly while bringing it to smell it.

    "You're welcome."

    "Lo, this painting, did you..."

    "Paint it?" Chloe nodded. "Yes, I did. I finished it the night I came back from seeing you. It's us. We are the red and yellow line, intertwined, sometimes apart, but at the end always together."

    "It's beautiful. I'm glad you found the heart to paint again."

    "It took time, but I think I'm back into it...I kind of like this abstract business though."

    Chloe smiled and walked closer to Laurence who opened her arms to let her in. She buried her face against her chest and tenderly ran her hands up and down her back. Laurence brushed her fingertips on Chloe' s neck, making her shiver. She slowly brought Chloe's face up and kissed her eyelids before lovingly letting her lips trace Chloe's face. "I missed you," she whispered before kissing her. Chloe deepened the kiss, and pulled Laurence's shirt out of her jeans. At the first touch of Chloe's hand on her bare skin, Laurence gasped and broke off the kiss. "Let's slow down okay? We've plenty of time...I..." She was cut off by Chloe's lips reclaiming hers, and any argument was forgotten when Chloe gently pushed her on the bed.


    Around 2:30, they walked to Clément's school. Chloe felt the nervousness she had felt earlier come back to her. "Stop fidgeting," laughed Laurence, taking hold of her hand.

    "I'm nervous...I missed him so much. What if he doesn't recognize me?"

    "He will."

    "Lo, I left 6 months ago with the promise to be in touch, and he hasn't heard from me since. He might be only 3, but he isn't stupid."

    Laurence sighed and stopped. She looked deeply into Chloe's eyes. "I can't lie to you and tell you it's going to be easy, but you won him over once, you'll do it again. I'm the one who stopped you from keeping in touch with Clément and I'm sorry," she said dropping her gaze.

    Chloe looked at Laurence and felt her sincerity. "What's past is past...let's get the little monster, shall we?"

    They waited for Clément outside the courtyard, and shortly after heard a small voice yelling. "Lo, lo!" Clément came running and jumped into Laurence's arms. She hugged him and kissed him before turning to face Chloe. He had grown taller and his baby face was starting to fade to leave place to a beautiful young child. His resemblance to Laurence was even more obvious now than it had been months ago. "Look who is here!" said Laurence, pointing at Chloe.

    Clément looked at her, his blue eyes staring deeply into hers. She took a step forward and extended her hand as if to caress his cheek, but as she got closer he turned around and buried his face into Laurence's neck. Chloe felt his action like a stab in her heart, but instead of giving up, she tenderly finished her movement and caressed his hair. "Hi, sweetheart. I know it's been a long time. I missed you," she said with a tremble in her voice. Laurence briefly squeezed her hand to show her support.

    "Come on little man, let's go home."

    "I get a snack, Lo?"

    "Sure. Pain au chocolat?"

    "Yeah," said Clémenet happily, wiggling himself out of Laurence's arms.

part 9

copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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