|Primary Characters:||Carole, Jerome, Thomas, Stephane|
|Spoilers:||It’s a movie, what did you expect?|
|Warning:||m/m sex referred to, rape and violence referred to|
|Description:||Carole knows Thomas and Stéphane love each other more than they love her. In this story, she decides to give Jérome another chance, but what’s happened to him? Can she do something to make him feel better? She finds her ex has changed a lot in a short time and this time around, he’s more understanding of her situation.|
“Mm. But just get her, will you? Bring her back here so we can get some sleep.”
Jerome stopped talking and tiptoed over to the crib over by the opposite wall. He knew he’d better hurry, or maybe one of the boys would wake up in the room down the hall. Not that it really was his problem. Their dads could see to them. Besides, Marc was already four. He’d probably be able to sleep one whole night through without crying. Even little Michel might actually stay silent, if they were lucky.
But though their own little Sophie was the youngest and thus most likely to cry during the night, Jerome didn’t complain about the lost sleep. He was just happy Carole had given him a second chance. That she had allowed him back into her life, and for letting him give her Sophie.
There was just one thing bothering him. It had been close to five years since he saw his father. They had invited him to Sophie’s christening, but the old man’s health had been precarious. That was more than three months ago. Though his father kept reassuring him over the phone, Jerome had a bad feeling about the whole thing. Here he was shirking his duties to the family business, leaving his father to deal with all that. Martinique could be a paradise, but it wasn’t exactly a healthy climate for an old man with a heart condition.
The concerns temporarily vanished as he picked up his daughter. Just like always, Sophie stopped crying when one of her parents, or one of her ‘uncles’ came to her rescue. With a skilled hand, Jerome patted her little behind and to his surprise, everything appeared to be fine. No changing diapers in the middle of the night.
“So you want to sleep with mom and dad? Come on. See how smart she is. She knows what I’m talking about.”
“Mm. Get back here. It’s cold. This weathere is so tedious. Don’t you miss the sunshine and the warmth?”
“Yes. But this place has its good points. The vineyards -”
“I don’t care about the vineyards.”
Hurriedly, Jerome crawled back under the covers, carefully placing the little girl in between them. The best thing about this place was his lover, Carole. With her, he’d make his home in the Sahara desert or the frozen tundra north of the polar circle.
If only his dad had been in touch lately. He should call dr Durand and find out what was really going on. As he drifted off to sleep, Jerome’s last thoughts were of his father and his home, so many miles away in the tropical sunshine.
At breakfast the following morning, Stephane had an announcement.
“I suppose I don’t need to remind you what day it is Saturday one week from now?”
Thomas already knew what his lover was going to say, and he didn’t know why he needed to make such a song and dance about it. In a couple of years time, he’d bring Michel to the surgery with him. As for now, he wasn’t sure the child understood the concept of the celebration.
Carole and Jerome exchanged a look. What was this? Someone’s anniversary? It sure wasn’t theirs, no matter which date they counted from.
“No. Don’t have a clue. Why don’t you just tell us? Jerome wants to make a call to Martinique.”
“Maybe. I’m just worried about my dad.”
Thomas nodded his understanding. In the years since Jerome had moved in, the friction between them had dwindled to practically nothing. He could almost understand what Carole saw in the guy.
“Listen to me. I’m not finished. On Saturday a week from today, is Father’s day, and I suppose you all know what that means?”
“We’ll have a party, of course. Celebrate the miracle of life.”
Carole concentrated on stuffing her mouth with toast, done to perfection by Stephane. Jerome’s and Thomas’ eyes met over the newspaper Thomas was holding, raising their eyebrows in unison. If Carole, who was a woman, didn’t make such a fuss about sentimental stuff like that, why did Stephane need to? But they’d learned from experience that it was no use trying to dampen Stephane’s enthusiasm.
“Alright. You’ll make all the arrangements, I guess?”
“I certainly will. We’ll invite your mother and -”
“Yes, yes. You see to all that. I need to look in at the office. Anyone need a ride into town?”
“No thanks. We’re fine.”
“Oh, absolutely. I need to buy a million things and -”
“Alright. Can you be ready in half an hour?”
“Yes, of course. Are you sure you don’t need anything, Carole? Jerome?”
“I don’t think so. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to make that call. I’ll pay you back, of course, Thomas.”
“That’s ok. Don’t bother.”
Thomas and Stephane left in Thomas’ car, Stephane babbling excitedly about his plans. After a while, Thomas turned up the radio a little, to drown out Stephane’s words. His lover was only thinking out loud anyway.
Carole did her best to keep an eye on the boys, especially Marc, who was now quite proficient at grabbing vases and other ornaments and smashing them on the floor, while feeding her daughter. If Jerome didn’t return soon, she’d have to –
“There you are. What did your dad say?”
“You know what he’s like. He never tells me anything, except that he’s ok. Do you think I should call dr Durand?”
“Yes, that won’t do any harm. And I could call your dad and try my interrogation technique on him.”
Jerome smiled affectionately. Carole would have more success than he did, he was sure. Besides, the old man had always been very fond of Carole.
Saturday came around, and everything appeared to be going according to Stephane’s plans. The guests arrived, and helped themselves to the special food Stephane had cooked for them. For the boys and a few little playmates there were cookies, candy and lemonade. Later there would be cake. None of the essentials for a successful family party were missing.
Around 5.30 the phone rang. Thomas could see that Stephane was busy playing host, and Carole was holding the baby, while Jerome was playing with the boys, so he got up and walked into his study. It would be his assistant at the surgery. Possibly an emergency had come up and – But the voice at the other end of the line wasn’t familiar and the connection was unusually bad. Still, Thomas had no trouble understanding the lilting island accent.
“Just a second. I’ll get him.”
Gravely, he stepped out onto the patio, searching for Jerome among the guests milling about, or sitting down at the table. There he was, allowing himself to be pulled to the ground by four four-year-olds.
“Jerome. It’s for you.”
Gently, Jerome disentangled himself from the boisterous children and brushed off his clothes. With grass stains on his trouser knees and his hair ruffled by the wind and the rough games, he looked like a larger version of the little boys. Thomas regretted having to cause the smile to fade.
“Martinique. You can take it in the study.”
The playful mood from earlier was gone. Jerome knew far too well what he was about to learn. At the very best, his father would have fallen critically ill. But he had a premonition that this time, the news would be far worse. Carole could see right away that something was wrong when Jerome returned from inside the house. Placing Sophie into the capable hands of Mireille, Thomas mother, she got up and walked over to her boyfriend.
“Jerome? What’s the matter?”
“It’s dad. He -”
“Is he -”
“Yes. It was very sudden. This morning he was alright. Then – Dr Durand said he didn’t suffer.”
“I’m so sorry. Taking Jerome’s hand, she discreetly led him back into the house, away from the prying eyes of the guests.”
“I have to go back home. There are arrangements to make. The funeral. And the will has to be read and the business must be dealt with.”
“Yes. I’ll go with you. It’s time Sophie saw her home.”
“He never got to see her. And I never got to say goodbye. It was Father’s day today, and I didn’t even call him. I was going to but -”
“He knew how much you loved him. Just as much as he loved you.”
“Yes, but -”
Knowing that words wouldn’t comfort him now, Carole just held Jerome until the worst of the shock had passed. Losing a parent was never easy. But she would get him through it, just like she’d nursed him through the other crisis a few years ago.
They booked a flight the following morning. If no seats had been available, Jerome would have chartered a plane for their use. Carole was in the seat next to him, and they took turns holding Sophie. The child seemed to sense her parents’ emotional state and made very little trouble about the unfamiliar mode of transportation.
As the plane flew in for the landing, Carole looked out and was greeted by the sunshine she had been used to for most of her life. The contrast between dreary Bordeaux in February and Martinique was startling. How had she ever been foolish enough to leave her home? She didn’t belong in cold, distant France. This welcoming island was their home.
A limousine arrived to take them to Jerome’s home. This was quite a change. Both Carole and Jerome used to drive jeeps, if Jerome didn’t prefer the Ferrari. But the towering black car fitted the occasion.
Jerome hardly remembered the time leading up to the funeral. In the old days, burials normally took place before sunset, but today, things were a bit more civilized. On the third day after his death, Jerome’s father was lowered into the ground in the private cemetary facing away from the sea.
The reading of the will revealed an astonishing turn of events. Apart from a few bequests for faithful servants, and a small sum of money, the bulk of the estate went to Carole, not the great man’s own son. Carole, who had been forced to leave Sophie in the care of Jerome’s old nanny, got up from her chair as if she’d been stung by an insect.
“I refuse. That money belongs to Jerome. There has to be some mistake.”
“No. No mistake. The will was changed to this effect some five years ago. Five and a half years ago to be exact.”
Jerome looked down at his hands, clutching the edge of the desktop until the fingers turned white. He knew exactly why this change had been made. This was his father’s way of showing his disapproval of the brutality against Carole.
But why hadn’t his father changed the will again? He knew that the relationship with Carole was happier than ever. Jerome had never in the five years since coming to Bordeaux ever raised a hand against Carole. But it really made no difference. His father was right. What he’d done was unforgivable.
And what did he need the money for anyway? Carole’s and Sophie’s future was the only thing that mattered. Now they’d be taken care of. And somehow he doubted that Carole would turn him out into the street, or down onto the beach, in this case.
“Carole, it’s not worth making a fuss about. I’m sure dad had his reasons.”
“No. I want you to have the money. If you want me to, I’ll deal with the company.”
“We can do that together.”
Jerome turned back to the attorney.
“What about the house?”
“The house goes to Carole as well. But the cars are yours. Your father specifically stated that -”
“I see. If Carole wants to return to France -”
“No. Absolutely not. We’ll stay here. It’s our home. Your home, Sophie’s home.”
“And yours, Carole.”
“Then that’s settled.”
In the car on the way back to the house, they discussed the future. It seemed to Jerome that Carole was happy to be back, despite the sad occasion for their return. That cheered him up a little. If she hadn’t loved him, she wouldn’t have wanted to stay. And though he didn’t want to admit it, he was glad she didn’t show any signs of missing Thomas and Stephane.
But what about her sons? No matter what she’d promised the two Frenchmen, those children were hers as much as they were theirs. As if reading his mind, Carole brought up the topic that had been in his thoughts.
“I suppose I’d better call Thomas and Stephane and tell them the news. I wonder -”
Carole nodded thoughtfully.
“So I was thinking, maybe we could find jobs for Thomas and Stephane. Or if they prefer, they could come here on vacation each year. But I’d like it if they’d just settle here. Mireille would love that, I know.”
“Yes. I’m sure she would. There’s a little bungalow right on the beach for them. Thomas and Stephane would probably prefer the town house.”
“If you talk to them, I’ll ask around. I’m sure there will be jobs for them. In my grandfather’s day, he would only have had to spread the word and something would have been arranged. You know I don’t like to use my position like that, but I think maybe -”
“That’s wonderful. Just this once won’t do any harm.”
Carole had been right. Mireille and her friend positively adored the idea of retiring to a bungalow right on the beach. Thomas and Stephane needed a little more persuasion, but in the end they gave in. They knew how much they owed Carole for allowing them this chance at fatherhood, and anyway, by now, they’d grown fond of their arrangement.
It was as if they were all a large family. Jerome couldn’t help thinking that they might have found this solution earlier. Then he wouldn’t have missed out on his father’s last years. But he knew it was no use dwelling on the past.
As soon as the newcomers had settled down in their new homes, Stephane again proposed a party. Knowing it was useless to fight one of Stephane’s ideas, everyone agreed to come. Again, they found themselves gathered in Thomas’ and Stephane’s house. No other guests were invited than the immediate family.
As they sat down to dinner, Thomas stood up to make a toast.
Stephane now called everyone’s attention.
“I want to make a toast too. Don’t worry. This won’t be a long speech. To fatherhood. To fathers. And mothers.”
“To parenthood, you mean.”
“Yes. To parenthood.”
This was a toast everyone was happy to make. In that moment they all felt they were home to stay. On the way home, Jerome concentrating on driving, though he did steal a look at Carole and their daughter, out of the corner of his eye. Finally, he pulled to a stop outside the house.
“You know, I think I know what the old man was trying to do.”
“The will. Why he left everything to you. It was his way of punishing me for what I did to you, but there was more to it than that. I think he wanted to make sure that we’d settle here. With you here, I’d stay too. That was the only way he knew of bringing us home again.”
Carole remained silent, deep in thought. Then she nodded.
“Yes. You’re probably right. And I’m really glad we’re home at last. I’m just sorry we didn’t go sooner. Still, I’m not sorry about having had Marc and Michel. Our lifestyle might seem weird to some people, but who cares? We all love each other and that’s all that matters.”
Jerome took Carole’s hand and pressed it to his lips.
“For everything. For being here. For giving me another chance. And for Sophie.”
“No, thank you. For being there for me. And for loving me the way Thomas and Stephane never could.”
“Do you wish that they could have?”
“Not anymore. I was so busy running from you, and so intent on replacing your love. But that was never meant to be, and you and I were. Despite everything that’s happened to us, and between us, I’m happy to be here with you and Sophie. And speaking of Sophie, we really should get her upstairs before the mosquitoes make a meal out of her.”
Careful not to wake their sleeping daughter, Jerome and Carole tiptoed up the stairs and placed her in her crib.
Jerome let his fingers weave through Carole’s hair. She was so beautiful. And she was here with him, not with those two gays. He had a lot to be grateful for.
“Remember the toast Stephane made tonight?”
“To parenthood? Yes. He was talking about your dad. And about Mireille.”
“I know. And you. I was just wondering – What would you say to having another child?”
“What? Are you out of your mind? I’ve had three babies in five years. That’s enough. If you want another baby, you have it.”
“Alright. So what are you waiting for? Aren’t you going to make me pregnant?”
“We’ll see about that.”
Carole’s fingers did a little exploring of their own, ruffling Jerome’s hair. She loved him so much when he was like this. Playful, but serious. The love she could read in his eyes almost made her cry.
Earlier in the evening, she had listened more to Thomas’ toast about homecomings. There was no doubt in her mind that she was home to stay, and that Jerome and Sophie were her family.
She’d go and see that attorney and have him set up a marriage settlement. That way Jerome could get his money back, or at least half of it. The rest she would find a way of giving to Sophie. Who needed all that money anyway? She had all that she needed right here. In this house and on this island.