Chapitre Trente Neuf
Par Jolie Adam
It was a balmy morning, with the air full of mist after a full night of downpour. A few drops of rain from the roof were lightly tapping the window as they fell down. Jen was stirring up to an embrace she’d gotten accustomed to in the last few days. Larry’s arms were around her waist as she lay in bed half-asleep, kissing her midsection. She looked down at him and he was looking adoringly at her belly as if there was something there. There is something there, she corrected herself quickly. She wasn’t showing yet but felt slight internal changes. Her boobs were slowly swelling which Larry was enjoying tremendously. Thankfully, the nausea was no longer part of her daily routine. Maybe it was being around Larry so much, maybe it was a hormonal imbalance but her libido was back with a vengeance. Ever since the big fight with Em on Monday, she had been hibernating at Larry’s house. They did nothing but make love, eat, watch movies, read, listen to music and talk. For four days straight. In Jen’s world, it was heaven and she wished it would last throughout her entire pregnancy. She’d been happier in the last four days in Larry’s doting care than she’d ever been in her entire life. She tried to push the memories of Em to the furthest, darkest, most forgotten corner of her mind. But whenever the thought of him sprung up, she couldn’t help but think about the dramatic change of pace since Monday. She went from a rotten day from hell to being in a blissful love cocoon.
After Larry had made sure Jen was okay, he’d run back out after Em, despite Jen’s pleas not to leave her alone. She stood weakly in her towel, feeling cold and sick at the thought of what could possibly ensue. Larry had chased Em down the street and the two men, enflamed with anger, began physically lashing out at each other on the street. In America, people would have watched, pointed, and taped it on their phones before even considering breaking up such a fight. But in Europe, things were different, the culture was different and the people were certainly different. Therefore, by the time Larry got his second blow in, the police was already on their way to soothe the public disturbance. Larry didn’t care if he was arrested – if anything, it made him want to make it worthwhile. So he hit Em with every force in his body, for the ankle sprain, for touching Jen, for raping her. He beat Em like it was his last day and he needed to unleash all the hurt he’d ever felt in his life on someone. And what better recipient for a throw down than the crazy, vengeful, and dangerous ex of the woman he loved. By the time the police arrived, Larry looked like a madman on drugs, a complete savage brutally attacking a tired, bloody person so the police tackled him first. Forcefully putting handcuffs on him, Larry was so tired and out of breath that he couldn’t muster up the energy to swear or defend himself. Half an hour later at the police station, he gave his statement detailing the events that had led him to the street fight. The cops had a hard time believing it was self-defence due to the fact that the tourist seemed pretty defenceless when they’d arrived on the scene. Both men were detained, preference being given to Larry since he was a citizen and could communicate – a little too extensively at times. Jen had been worried sick waiting for Larry to return and was surprised when a policeman showed up at her doors hours later to verify if Larry’s account of the story had been correct. Seeing the damages and the shaking girl in front of him, he asked her not to touch any of the evidence by trying to clean up the place and refused to answer any of her questions. She sat there, waiting for another couple of hours until Larry returned, bloody, sore but looking triumphant. After fretting over him, she asked about his ankle. He hadn’t been supposed to put any strain on it yet here he was – chasing down an American bandit. He’d been more worried about her and told her to gather some clothes. That night, they slept at a hotel nearby, simply because dinnertime was the busiest time at his house and he didn’t want to have to explain why he was all bruised and untidy and also why Jen was following him home. At the hotel, he refused to have her look after him – more worried about what she’d endured and upset that she hadn’t eaten all day. He was ecstatic to find out that Em hadn’t actually raped her, that he’d miraculously managed to arrive just in time. Even if he was pissed that he’d molested her, it was a relief to know that’s all that had happened. He stayed up for the majority of the night just thankful that she was okay. He didn’t speak until the following morning. He hadn’t even slept much, stuck in his head thinking of all the ways it could’ve gone wrong. An officer had called him as they were checking out of the hotel to advise him that Em was being deported back to America within the hour because they couldn’t keep him in a French prison. Also since Larry didn’t formally press charges, they couldn’t detain him however they could ship him back where he came from and prevent him from ever entering the Schengen Zone. As long as he had that face, those fingerprints and that name, he was banned from twenty-six European countries for the rest of his life. Breathing with relief, Jen and Larry could finally put the episode behind them and finally go home.
“Morning,” Jen stirred, trying not to stretch too much in Larry’s arms.
Larry kissed her stomach, making his way up to her chest, stopping briefly once he reached her neck before laying a loving, fulfilling kiss on her lips. She rejoiced at the feel of his lips against hers, the amount of skin available to her touch in his gray wife beater. Waking up to Larry – happy Larry – this week had been magical. He was surprisingly in a very good mood in the mornings and surprisingly had been content doing boring stuff with her. Like stay indoors and read. Or watch movies. Or cuddle. She’d nicknamed him happy Larry for two reasons. He had a glorious erection every morning and wasn’t shy about it. And he was just a lot more generous with his smile recently, despite what had happened. She loved seeing him happy; it felt just as good as knowing her love for him was reciprocated.
“I know this is going to make me sound boring and corny,” She continued, “But I honestly wish I could wake up to you everyday. You are the best alarm.”
“You make me want to wake up,” He smiled, his face dangerously close to hers, “You’re so much better than any dreams I have.”
“How can you be so smooth this early in the morning?” She blushed as he resumed kissing her softly, letting the soft rain outside provide the romantic background noise for great morning sex.
Lau was in the back of a taxi limo in front of the Ritz Hotel. Ayara was looking back at him, a shy smile etched on her face. It was Friday morning and they’d gotten back a day later than planned. She’d be staying at the Ritz until Sunday night, enough time to attend Lau’s parents’ anniversary party and decide if she had a reason worth staying longer in Europe for.
“Dinner tonight? Don’t leave me alone in a hotel.” She pleaded. In a rather bold move, she’d decided to leave her clique and entourage on the yacht and travel alone. It was the first time in a really long time, she’d gone anywhere without a friend, a parent, a companion.
“Yeah, because staying in a hotel like this is soo bad.” Lau mocked. There was nothing unpleasant about the 5-star hotel and she could have anything she wanted on a whim. But she was back in Paris for him so he wasn’t going to leave her alone. She rolled her eyes playfully at his comment but hoping deep down, he’d agree to grant his company for some of her stay. She supposed she could stay in and watch movies, order room service, anything to avoid going outside and being spotted and mauled. “I’ll see you at 6. I’m just going to go home, shower and change. And say hi to my family and I’ll come back. If you want, I’ll stay the night.”
Ayara beamed up immediately. Her night had gotten a lot more interesting and she couldn’t wait to have a nice night in with Lau.
“Okay,” She smiled and gave him a pristine kiss on the lips before exiting the limo and heading in the hotel hoping not to gather any attention from the paparazzi piled at the entrance, looking for a glimpse of the rich and famous.
Larry gave his address to the driver who turned around and started making his way to the Bourgeois residence. After a week and a half at sea, he was glad to be returning to the comfort of his own home. He’d apologize to Jen when he saw her which might be in a few minutes if she was working. It felt like he hadn’t seen or spoken to her in months but it was merely two weeks ago he’d thrown his promiscuity in her face. In his defence, learning she was in love with someone else was a thick pill to swallow and felt like a slap in the face. It wasn’t like he’d gone on tour for half a year. How could she have fallen in love with someone within such a short time period? Unless she was in love with someone else the entire time they were together? As clarity became affordable to Lau, he pieced together the puzzle that finally made sense of the real reason she broke up with him. Slowly transitioning from apologetic to fed up, he had more reasons to be anxious to get home. He had questions he wanted answers to. Yet letting his suspicions get the best of him, he began to feel ripped off. He had truly cared for Jen but what if she had never cared for him? It hurt just to think about so he tried not to. And he tried all the way home.
After a slow morning tryst, Larry and Jen were thoroughly woken up. She took a shower and he followed suit after she was done. Jen stood at the window in Larry’s room, watching the subtlety with which the rain fell as she massaged lotion onto her damp skin. There was something about rain that heightened all of her emotions and right now, they were all fulfilled and happy. Walking around his room naked, she slid comfortable black leggings on and slipped one of his t-shirts on. Since they spent the majority – if not all – of their days indoors, she didn’t need to wear make-up. Not that she had any on her anyways. Most of her stuff was still back at her place. But she’d brought the necklace Larry had given her since it was an item of emotional and financial value. Considering it her Pièce de résistance to any outfit she wore lately, she clipped the necklace around her neck, suddenly brightening Larry’s white shirt and dressing up her entire casual outfit.
She was smiling as she exited the room just as Lau was coming up the stairs with his luggage. Although she was dressed, she felt naked as she stood awkwardly in front of the door waiting for him to reach the second floor. Hoping to break the ice and offer her conversation initiation as her apology for the last time they spoke, she began enthusiastically,
“Hey stranger. How was St Tropez?” She smiled at him.
Taken back by her bright attitude towards him, he responded in kindness,
“It was really good. Best vacation.” He was now standing near her with his luggage beside him. She decided to go in for a hug. Even if she was madly in love with his brother and carrying his child, Lau had been there for her when she was just a foreigner. At the very least, he was her friend. And a good friend he had been.
“Yeah, I can tell. You got a tan going on.” She held him at arms’ length to admire him and just at that time, Larry came out of the bathroom in nothing but a towel. Caught by the sight of Lau and Jen, he felt uncomfortable. Luckily, Lau didn’t seem to pick up on that, casually greeting his brother as if he hadn’t been gone for more than an hour. What he did pick up on was that beautiful, glimmering necklace shining on despite what little daylight came through the house due to the wet and cloudy weather. He recognized that necklace but he didn’t understand why Jen was wearing it.
“My turn to shower.” He barely managed to whisper, wheels turning furiously in his head, as he passed by both of them, silently making his way to his room.
Jen followed a half-naked Larry after Lau had gone to his room. She wasn’t the only one who felt the tension in that short passing. It looked like Lau had lots on his mind and she and Larry certainly had lots to talk to him about over the weekend. A ghost feeling of dread shook her and Larry noticed her alarmed expression. He didn’t want to admit it but he was just as nervous to break the news to Laurent. That moment was awkward and even having Jen in his room now while Lau was in the house felt weird.
“How are we going to tell him?” Jen asked as if reading Larry’s mind. He was toweling off slower than usual which only meant one thing. His mind was elsewhere.
“Not we. I will talk to him. He’s my brother.” Larry replied abruptly as if being interrupted in his train of thoughts. Jen thought for a moment to argue with Larry but quite frankly after the week she’d had, she didn’t mind not having to run into any sort of confrontation for the remainder of her pregnancy. She’d endured enough stress in one day to last her through the whole term. She nodded in approval,
“I need clothes! As much as I love wearing yours, I need something pretty for tomorrow. Your entire family is going to be here.” She hadn’t met some of the older siblings who’d moved out and away and the majority of them would be present for the anniversary party. Along with cousins, nephews, uncles, aunts, and other relatives. Needless to say, it was going to be a full house and she wanted to make the best impression. Especially since she would be introducing a new addition to the family in a few months. “Maybe I should stay at my place tonight..with Lau back and everything.” She spoke a little quieter as if Lau could suddenly overhear their conversation.
“You’re not staying at your place. I don’t care what the cops say. I don’t care that Em is gone. We’ll stay at a hotel.”
Jen beamed. A night in with Larry in a swanky hotel was promising. They could do everything they had been doing in his room there.
“Okay, well I still feel uncomfortable being in your room right now. So I’m going to get a head start and grab some clothes. You can meet me there?” She meant to state the last part but recently she was lacking the authority to make her own decisions and she wasn’t sure if Larry felt comfortable even letting her out of his sight for one minute.
After what seemed like a moment of eternity, he sighed and replied,
“Okay. But only because I’ll be right behind you. I’ll pack some things and get ready.” She kissed him lightly and he purposely dropped his towel as incentive for her to wait a few more minutes to allow him to get dressed. Jen looked down and bit her lips to prevent a smile from spreading across her cheeks. Larry grabbed her as if it was the most natural thing to hug naked and grinned when Jen squirmed out of his reach.
“Don’t tempt me.” He moved an inch toward her and she stepped back slightly, “And don’t get us in trouble.” She tittered at his surprised expression. “Never mind, your middle name is Trouble.” As if saying the word trouble out loud was some sort of premonition, Larry’s phone began vibrating and since Jen was closer to the table, she absentmindedly looked down and saw Lola’s name flashing on the fluorescent screen. She didn’t know what surprised her more, the fact that Lola was calling or the fact that Larry still had her number saved. Looking down at the pesky annoyance of his past, Larry hurriedly pressed ‘Ignore’ much to Jen’s chagrin. She actually wanted to know what Lola wanted but then again, she hadn’t been honest about everything to be making that type of request.
Still avoiding Larry’s gaze as if she was the one who’d just received a phone call from a crazy ex, she blurted out the truth,
“I saw Lola on Monday. Before Jacques came out and fired me.”
Larry was now the one standing back and looking at her confused.
“And you tell me this now…?” He asked, leaving the question open, hoping Jen would jump in and clarify why she hadn’t mentioned it earlier.
“Well..” She was fidgeting under his intense, patronizing glare. “I just didn’t want to bring her name up because well….it’s Lola. Nothing ever good comes from saying her name, or even thinking about her. Besides she’s familiar with the industry, I just thought she might just be there for a commercial or something. It’s just a coincidence.”
“There is NEVER a coincidence when it comes to Lola.” He scolded her, finally putting the pieces to the puzzle. But what could Lola possibly have that Jacques want badly enough for him to betray his own character and word? Unless she was sleeping with him, in which case, there wasn’t so much of a mystery to solve? But then, if they were sleeping together, that interview with Jen would’ve never aired, much less produce a lucrative job offer to Jen.
“Please just leave this alone. You were right. Life goes on, I have so much more to look forward to besides a job, albeit a very amazing one. Don’t look into this or try to fix it. I can see you’re deep in thought but please, please, please – no more druh-ma.” She feigned being overwhelmed to lighten the mood which worked because Larry managed a smile at her speech and performance. “Let Lola win this time. I’ve won in the long run.” She continued, smiling back at him, before moving away to grab her bag.
“Be careful.” He warned after her, refraining himself from sounding too strict. After all, he was her boyfriend not her father. So even if he was worried, he figured a little time apart even if it was just one hour would do her some good.
“Yes babe.” She said in a sweet tone, exiting his room.
Lau wheeled his suitcase back to his room, still weirded out by his run-in with Jen and Larry. Was it just him or did they seem extremely at ease with each other? The whole situation was uncanny and made Lau feel like he was part of some secret without actually knowing what the secret was. He sat on his bed and looked at his untouched room. It was always a bit off returning home. You are both comforted and annoyed at the fact that everything looks different yet similar. He caught himself looking out into the open, unsure what he was looking at but unable to steer his gaze away as he was stuck in his head.
Why was Jen wearing that necklace? Did Larry give it to her to thank her for taking care of him? Did he buy for her? Were they friends? Why were they suddenly so friendly with each other?
He asked himself every question eluding the very obvious one. His mind just couldn’t, wouldn’t go there. Sure, they’d swapped girls before in the bachelor days when they were single, traveling or touring. But that was different. Jen is his ex. There was a logical explanation for it all and he could get to the bottom of it once he spoke to Jen as he’d planned in the limo.
Opening his suitcase full of clean clothes that had a vacant smell of the sun and clothes’ softener, he began putting his clothes back in drawers and in his closet. He was so glad he’d thought to have them cleaned before his return. Lau slid his suitcase in a storage bin at the corner of his closet and exhaled loudly. He’d been home for barely half an hour and already he was feeling stuck and bored. But he also felt lazy at the same time. He wanted to lounge around, his feelings casting a striking resemblance to the depressing weather. Hoping to get out of his funk, he figured he’d talk to Jen now and get it over with instead of driving himself crazy by dwelling on it.
He knocked once on Larry’s room. He didn’t know if Jen was in there but it was on the way down so he might as well. Larry opened the door, half dressed with boxers and jeans on.
“How’s your foot?” Lau asked, happy and relieved to see his twin.
“Good. How was St. Tro?” Larry asked in return. He’d missed his other half.
“Superb. I invited Ayara tomorrow. I’m going to stay with her at the hotel tonight.” Larry made a mental note as Lau was talking. There was no need for him and Jen to elope to a hotel tonight.
“So things between you are okay?” Larry asked surprised. Even a blind mice could see that Ayara was infatuated with his brother from the beginning but Lau’s change of heart about the pop star is what caught him off guard.
“You know, she’s actually a nice girl. We were seeing each other everyday for two weeks. We got along so that must be a good sign.” Larry had to agree. He’d spent the last two weeks with Jen and they had more-than-gotten-along. It made such a huge impact on your feelings when you could talk, spend time and do things with someone whose company you enjoyed so he was glad his brother and Ayara had managed to go that long without severely injuring one another.
“I’m happy to hear that. Is it serious?”
Lau hesitated, giving the question some hard thought,
“It could be. I know she likes me…”
“Man, everybody knows she likes you.” Larry laughed as if Lau was being oblivious if he thought otherwise for one second. Lau smiled flattered,
“We’ll see. Right now, I like her and we have a good time together.”
Larry nodded. He wanted nothing more than to be with Jen, to love her, to be a good father to their child. But his brotherly bond also wanted for his brother to be happy, to feel that way about someone, and have someone feel that way about him. Lau deserved it. Larry hated to admit it but Jen had changed him. Lau was the nicer brother, the smarter one, the one with all the qualities worth falling in love with. Yet Jen had fallen for him. He didn’t understand it, certainly wasn’t about to question it but he was glad. The only thing missing was someone to make his brother as happy as Jen made him, and if that somebody was Ayara, he’d welcome her into the family with open arms.
“Where’s Jen?” Lau asked, as if reading her name in Larry’s mind.
“At her house. Why?” He hadn’t meant to ask but the question popped out beyond his reach.
“Need to talk to her. Unfinished business.” Lau added as if Larry was supposed to just understand what he meant. Unfortunately, Larry’s mind began to race with worry thinking about all the things Lau possibly had to say to Jen.
“Oh yeah?” He hoped Lau would elaborate on the matter.
“Yeah,” Lau answered, clearly indicating that was the last of what he was willing to disclose to his brother about it. “So the necklace was for her?”
Larry still searching for a shirt to wear over his wife beater, halted in his tracks. He looked at Lau trying to examine his facial expression which seemed pretty casual and normal. No sign of anger or confrontation or deceit. It was just a simple question however how Larry chose to answer it might be the key to unraveling his burning secret.
“Yeah, I got it for her. She asked me to get her a book and on my way out, I saw it and got it.”
“Why? Why didn’t she ask me?” Lau rebuked.
“I guess you were a little busy on tour.” Larry said, referring to his extracurricular activities with Ayara.
Sensing a judgmental tone, Lau was beginning to get aggravated with his brother.
“Don’t even act like what I did is some big deal. You sleep with everything that walks. How many times have I slept with girls for you? Just because you wanted to sleep with their friend, their sister, their cousin? So don’t act like you’re better than me because you went on ONE tour and refused to sleep with some groupie back-up dancer!”
Larry backed off realizing the truth in Lau’s statement,
“I just wanted to do something nice for her.”
“But why? You guys don’t even like each other,”
“That’s not true. We’re good friends.”
“Just friends?” Lau’s inquisition crashed abruptly as he reached the burning question that left him feeling unsettled. Larry felt sweat literally creeping on his skin, despite just finishing a shower and not doing anything physical. He was begging for any sort of distraction, anything to keep him from answering this question. He had nowhere to hide, and no way to get out of this. He was planning on telling him sometimes this weekend, being trapped into answering it due to his brother’s suspicions was not the way he’d wished it to happen. As if the Gods were listening to his silent prayer, the vibrating buzz of his iPhone disturbed the loud silence in the room. Larry looked down and saw Lola’s name popping up again. Hoping to get out of the current conversation-gone-wrong with Lau, he picked up the phone and said to his brother, “Lola!” before pressing the answer button.
“You and Lola are still together?” Lau asked incredulously, completely shocked. He’d written off Lola but if she was calling, obviously there was something still going on between them. Damn, had he been gone that long? He didn’t even know what was going on around here anymore. Maybe he’d just read wrong about Jen and Larry.
Larry nodded as he motioned he had to get the phone which Lau took as his hint to leave the room. He wasn’t sure what to believe anymore. He even tried to convince himself in the comfort of knowing that Larry would undoubtedly tell him if there was anything going on between him and Jennifer.
Larry sighed loudly as he watched Lau leave his room. That had been such a close call and he hated being dishonest with his brother. But being on the other end of the interrogation was much harder than he imagined. He felt as if his twin could
see right through him, could lure out the images of him and Jen in his mind. It was as if he knew everything and just wanted to hear it coming directly from him. He hadn’t been this scared since he opened the door to Jen’s apartment and saw a disheveled Em standing there. He never thought he’d be so glad to hear from Lola.
“Helllloo?” She asked again, her first greeting ignored.
“Yes Lola.” He snapped. She hadn’t even begun talking and he was losing his temper just hearing her voice.
“Oh, we are speaking English now. Doesn’t your girlfriend speak French too?” She replied snidely.
“What do you want Lola?” He cut right to the chase expecting her to do the same.
“Oh, aren’t you happy to hear from me,” She said sarcastically, “I was just calling to see if Jen is having fun at her new job.”
Larry’s intuition kicked in satisfactorily knowing that his suspicion about Lola being involved was accurate.
“Ecoute moi Lola et ecoute moi bien. Jen et toi, vous n’etes pas egal. Je l’aime et elle m’aime. Je m’en fous de toi. Tu peux continuer d’agir comme une adolescente ou tu peux etre l’adulte que tu es suppose etre. En tout cas, nous sommes ensemble et il n’y a rien que tu puisses faire.” (Listen Lola and listen very well. You and Jen are not equals. I love her and she loves me. I don’t care about you. You can keep acting like an adolescent or you can act like the adult you’re supposed to be. Regardless, we are together and there’s nothing you can do about it.)
“Ne m’insulte pas. Tu n’as aucune idée de quoi je suis capable.” (Don’t insult me; you have no idea what I’m capable of.)
“Et tu n’as aucune idée a qui tu parles. Tu penses que tu peux manipuler tout le monde et que tu as droit juste parce que t’es modele. Ma chere, t’es naz…et dans quelques années quand tu serais fanée et tous les mecs du monde t’auront niqués, t’auras personne. Alors pense y avant d’oser me menacer.” (And you have no idea who you’re speaking to. You think you can manipulate everyone and that you’re entitled just because you’re a model. Sweetie, you’re lame… and in a few years when you’re past your expiration date and withered and almost every guy in the world is over fucking you, you’ll have no one. So think about that before you dare to threaten me.)
With that, Larry hung up, certain that if he didn’t he’d say something a lot meaner. Trying to pace himself, he grabbed a sweater to head out, not even noticing the shuffling of feet outside his door. He quickly headed out of the house, grateful when the condensed post-rain air hit him. He needed the fresh oxygen.
And he’d need a lot more than oxygen once he realized that Lau heard every word of his conversation.