Chapter 2 - A Slight Interruption
"Life was always a matter of waiting for the right moment to act." - Paulo Coelho
Louis paused to think for a moment and then gestured towards Peter as he recalled, "I remember I had just posted a letter to you Pierre, congratulating you on your release from hospital."
Peter nodded. "That's right. I'd just moved in with Mave." He glanced at Jo and smiled. "I was gettin' my 'onorable discharge and lookin' for a job without any success. Plus I was startin' to be more than a little distracted by a certain beautiful nurse. Sorry I wasn't the most faithful correspondent at the time Louie."
"I understand completely mon ami!" laughed Louis. "I certainly could not blame you for neglecting me."
Peter smirked at Louis. "You make it sound like I deliberately ignored ya Louis!"
Louis just gazed knowingly at his English friend until Peter rolled his eyes and admitted, "Okay, well, I s'pose yer right. It was kinda deliberate. Sorry mate."
Louis laughed and shook his head. "Mon ami I cannot blame you as I felt the same when I met Danielle."
"Good! At least you know 'ow I felt. Carry on lil' mate." Peter stifled a yawn as he spoke and Louis chuckled to himself.
"Oh mes amis I was so relieved and thankful to find that my family had survived the war. I will always be grateful to God for such a blessing! Plus my home, my beautiful city Paris, had escaped the war virtually undamaged."
Unlike my London! Peter thought ruefully. Jo knew exactly what he was thinking and glanced up at him as she gently squeezed his hand. He smiled sadly at her as Louis continued.
"I felt very fortunate to be able to freely walk about in my Paris so I decided to cast my fate to the winds. I made up my mind that I would take the very first offer of employment I received."
"Really?" asked Peter. "That doesn't sound like you Louis."
"Pierre, I was very nearly drunk with happiness at being back home so you are correct, I was not my usual self. As it happened, it was a very good decision." He glanced at Danielle before he resumed speaking. "I had been walking for quite some time, so I decided to stop and rest for a while at the Jardin du Luxembourg."
"That's on the Left Bank, isn't it Louis?" asked Jo.
"Oui, it is Josephine. We visited the gardens when you were here last, remember?"
"Oh yes, that's right. That's why it sounded so familiar. Such a lovely place." Jo was turning to ask Peter if he remembered when she heard something that sounded suspiciously like a snore. She glanced up just in time to see Peter's head loll forward, his eyes shut. She gently prodded him in the ribs with her elbow and he startled a bit.
"Wake up darling!" whispered Jo. "A bit too much brandy methinks."
"Oh…um…righto…." Peter inhaled deeply and sat up, seeking to wake himself up.
Danielle whispered to Louis and he nodded as he spoke, "Oui, you are right my dear. Josephine, it has been a very long day for you and Pierre. We should let you get to bed."
"No Louie, don't stop on my account…." Peter's voice trailed off as he tried to hide another yawn.
"No mon ami, I insist. We will continue tomorrow."
Jo nodded at Louis and Danielle. "Thank you both! And thank you again for the marvelous meal." She stood up and gently tugged on Peter's arm to encourage him to get up as well.
Peter shook his head to try to rouse himself enough to get to his feet. "G'night Louis, Danielle. Sorry…."
"Do not apologize Pierre! We have several days yet, my tale will hold. Good night, mes amis, sleep well!"
Jo stood before the vanity mirror as she removed her earrings and necklace. Peter sauntered up behind her and lazily wrapped his arms around her waist as he gently kissed the back of her neck.
"Mmmmm, remember the last time we were 'ere?"
Jo chuckled, "How could I forget, love? That was one of the happiest times of my life."
"Me too darlin'. It's nice to be back, innit?"
"Yes, it is," she replied as Peter reached to run his fingers through her hair. She nudged him away gently as she headed to the bath. "Hold that thought, love. I'll be right back."
He nodded and began stripping off his clothes. By the time Jo returned, Peter was already in the bed. He patted the empty space beside him invitingly.
Jo smiled at him and said, "I want to go check on the boys before I come to bed. I'll be right back."
"No worries, I'll be right 'ere." Peter finished his reply with a huge yawn.
"Are you sure you'll be awake when I come back?" teased Jo. The trip across the Channel that morning had been extremely tiring, so she wasn't going to begrudge Peter his rest. She leaned down and gave him a preemptive good night kiss just in case.
"Uh huh. Never too tired to 'ave me way with you darlin'," he murmured drowsily.
She laughed to herself and shook her head as she stepped out the door. She needn't have worried about the boys, as they had been completely worn out by the excitement of the trip and were sleeping peacefully. When she returned to the guest bedroom, she wasn't surprised to find her husband also asleep. She slipped quietly into the bed and cuddled up to his back.
He stirred and mumbled, "Jo?"
"Yes love. Go back to sleep, you're exhausted. We've both been up quite a long time." She gently massaged his shoulders and he sighed in response.
"Mmmm...'kay. G'night darlin'. Love you..."
She kissed him and whispered, "I love you too darling. Sleep well." She then nestled against him and soon fell asleep herself.
The next morning, Peter stretched and reached over for Jo as he usually did. When he found he was in the bed alone, he suddenly remembered that they were in Paris, staying with Louis and Danielle. He rolled back onto his side and let his eyes slip closed again. A few minutes later, the enticing aroma of fresh, strong coffee prodded him to open them again. Jo was sitting beside him, cup in hand.
"Here darling. Louis brought a tray for us."
Peter sat up and gratefully took the hot coffee from her. "'e thinks of everythin' doesn't 'e?"
Jo sipped from her own cup. "Yes he does. He's a wonderful friend, isn't he?"
Peter nodded and then frowned as he caught a glimpse of the weather through the nearby window. "Still rainin'?"
Jo leaned over his shoulder and looked out as well. "Looks like it." She sat back and sighed. "We may have to stay in today love. If you go out in this cold, wet weather you may get sick."
Peter rolled his eyes as he set their empty cups down on the nightstand. "Darlin' do I look like one of the boys?"
"No, but sometimes you act like them." She put a gentle hand on his arm. "Please Peter, let's stay inside whilst it's cold and rainy. For me?" She leaned in to kiss him.
He pulled her closer as he lingered in the kiss. "Okay darlin', we'll stay in," he murmured against her lips. He gently lowered her back onto the bed and paused to gaze deep into her eyes. "As a matter of fact, I believe I have a much better idea."
Jo laughed, "Oh I'm sure you do!"
He leaned down to nuzzle her ear and murmured, "What about the boys?"
"Don't worry darling, I checked on them before you woke up. They're still asleep. Danielle asked me if she could get them up and ready."
"She really likes 'avin' the boys 'ere doesn't she?"
Jo nodded pensively. "When I told her she could awaken them she seemed so happy, yet somehow...somehow sad at the same time. I wonder if she wishes she would've had children of her own."
"Well, she's more than welcome to the boys whilst we're 'ere." Peter propped himself up on one elbow and smiled down at his wife. "Let's take advantage of 'er kindness, 'ey?" he whispered as he swept her into his arms.
Louis joined Danielle as she went to awaken Robbie and Andrew. They both quietly entered the bedroom and gazed silently at the two boys as they slept.
"They are little angels. Pierre and Josephine are good parents," said Danielle.
"Oui," nodded Louis. "That is true."
Danielle sighed, "Oh Louis, how I wish I could give you..."
He placed a gentle finger against her lips, cutting off her words. "Shush mon amour. You know how I feel about you. My love for you does not depend upon us having children."
She nodded sadly as Louis continued, "Let them sleep a little longer Danielle. It will give Pierre and Josephine more time to..."
It was Danielle's turn to cut Louis' words short with a shocked, "Louis!"
Louis shrugged, chuckling softly at her mock disapproval. "There is plenty of time my love. I have decided that we are staying indoors today. The weather is still far too cold and wet. I will not be responsible for Pierre becoming ill again. We will all stay here where it is comfortable and warm."
"And how do you think Pierre will feel about you making that decision for him?"
Louis nodded knowingly. "I am sure that Josephine feels as strongly as I do. She will convince Pierre that he should stay indoors."
"As you say Louis. You know Pierre far better than I."
Louis took his wife's hand and guided her out the door. "Come Danielle, let us finish preparing breakfast for our guests. I have a feeling they will be ravenous when they come to the table."
Peter walked over to the double doors leading out to the balcony just outside the lounge and peered through the sheer curtains. "Looks like it's rainin' even 'arder than last night. Plus it's just as cold, maybe even colder."
Louis and Jo shared a meaningful glance before they walked over to join Peter at the balcony doors. Louis looked outside and said, "Mon ami, I believe we will stay indoors today. I do not want to be responsible for you becoming ill."
Peter snorted, "Oh Louis! Still the mother 'en?"
Jo snaked her arm around Peter and laughed, "No darling, that would be me."
Peter turned and took her in his arms. "I 'ave to say you're the prettiest mother 'en I've ever seen!"
Jo shook her head. "You can flatter me all you want love, we're still not going out in this weather." She softened her words with a quick kiss.
"Okay you've convinced me," conceded Peter.
Louis laughed and gestured towards the dining room. "Come mes amis! Let us now enjoy a leisurely breakfast since the weather is not cooperating this morning. Danielle already has Robbie and Andrew settled at the table."
Peter nodded and sniffed the air appreciatively as he walked to the dining room. He caught Louis' eye and sheepishly lowered his head.
"You will never change, Pierre!" laughed Louis.
They entered the dining room, where the boys were already hungrily devouring their breakfasts. Danielle stood off to the side, happily watching. She looked up as Louis, Peter and Jo entered. "I hope you do not mind Josephine. Your little ones woke up very hungry and I served them first."
"No, not at all Danielle! I appreciate your help. I'm sure the boys are very grateful as well, right?" answered Jo, as she looked expectantly at her sons.
Robbie quickly swallowed a mouthful and said, "Yes ma'am, thank you!" whilst Andrew, mouth still full, nodded vigorously in agreement.
Jo shook her head as Danielle laughed, "You are very welcome mon petits!"
"Come mes amis! Let us join Robbie and Andrew," called Louis as he pulled out a side chair for Danielle. Peter did the same for Jo, then Louis gestured for Peter to sit at the head of the table whilst he sat at the end.
After Louis' promised long, leisurely breakfast everyone retired to the lounge to again relax before the warmth of the hearth. Louis brought in a large tray that was well stocked with coffee, hot chocolate and tea, as well as an assortment of bite sized Madeleines and Macarons. Robbie sat beside Danielle as she shared an illustrated book on paleontology with him. Like most children his age, Robbie was enthralled with dinosaurs.
Andrew, clutching a stuffed teddy that Louis and Danielle had presented to him, nestled himself between his parents and was soon sleepily sprawled across his father's lap. Peter gently massaged his youngest son on the back until he fell asleep.
Louis made sure everyone had a drink in their hands and then sat down. "Now mes amis, where was I?"
"In the Jardin du Luxembourg," said Jo.
"Ah yes, the gardens. I sat there for quite some time, simply delighting in the beauty surrounding me..."
A/N I neglected to note that this story picks up five months after my previous one "Tears Such as Angels Weep".