Wednesday, January 22, 2014

chapter Eleven, continued

to read from the FIRST CHAPTER

previous CHAPTER


'You were such a pretty baby, Laurent. Such a sweet little boy. Unless you weren't having your basic needs tended, you would never cry. You were a quiet, smiling baby, friendly to everyone in the house, and trusting even with the visitors.'

I was impressed with my father's confessional mood. And I smiled tenderly at his comments about the time when I was a baby. I had had several experiences, so many and so intense, having lived for so long in town -- yet, Vice City had never heard about baby Laurent. It was sweet to listen to my father's tender recollections, as we crossed the city by car.

I did want him to talk, and I tried to encorauge him.

'I can imagine how difficult it must have been for Catherine... Becoming a mother, I mean...'

'Your mother has always wanted to give that impression, right?' -- Carlo replied, pondering -- 'You know what I think? Of course, back then I did not have this reasoning, since I was very young, had little experience and was extremely worried and scared trying to put together our little family... But I think Catherine was expecting to have with her son the same complicated relationship that she herself had always had with Celeste and Gaston. I mean, in her mind, and heart, she was reproducing with you that dreaded relationship she had with her parents... A projection, I guess that's what it is called... But that was before you were born. Because you proved to be a very easy going and loving baby, and I guess she was nicely surprised when you finally disarmed her worst expectations and fears... Does that make sense to you, Laurent?'

'Catherine had a complicated pregnancy.' -- Carlo went on -- 'and during this period she was indeed very upset. As she used to say, she was "so annoyed, wanting so much that the baby left her belly" that we think she might have somehow expeled you -- and you were born prematurely.' 

'One afternoon, she told me she was not feeling quite well, and she wanted to go to the hospital to be examinated. In she went, but did not leave that same evening -- and the next morning, you were born. I was scared and apprehensive, since she did not let me accompany her inside the hospital. She was hospitalized nearly a week after you were born, but all went well -- and when she came home with you, she had started to value Joanna's food, haha!'

'As you know, Laurent, you were born with the sunrise. I remember it so well... Several artificial lights were still on, especially indoors, but we had the glorius tropical sunshine as well, golden and radiant... You could not have chosen a more poetic time to be born, my son, when all things were illuminated... And when I first saw you at the hospital, with a shudder I recalled the sunrises apparition on the Île du Blanchomme. And indeed the baby was a boy, contrary to Catherine's expectations that it would be a girl.'

'There is controversy about it! You cannoy afirm I'm hundred percent a boy...' -- I said, laughing, and I made a very effeminate gesture -- 'But then the right to choose the baby's name was yours, wasn't it, Carlo? I love this anecdote so much... It is true, isn't it?' -- there were now so many lies around my birth that I was afraid to lose all my references.

'Yes, Laurent!' -- my father laughed too -- 'Catherine had chosen the name Sophie for the baby, but when it was my turn to choose your name... Well, at the time there were so many things happening at once that I could not foresee them all... And I saw myself having to think quickly on your name, at the door of Punaouilo's Register's Office...' -- Carlo smiled sweetly -- 'By then, Celeste was already regretting the cruelty with which she had treated Catherine, I guess. She had ruthlessly exiled her own daughter, something out of a Greek tragedy, but since she did not want to seem to have abandoned her too, Celeste regularly sent shipments of books and clothes and perfumes for Catherine... Just a few days before your birth, more gifts had arrived... Among them, a summer dress by Yves Saint-Laurent, your mother's favorite French couturier at the time...'

'She had asked me to take that new dress to her. She wanted to walk out of the hospital carrying you and dressed in it... Holding that beautiful dress in my hands, its silk so exquisite to the touch, reminding me of the tenderness of your baby skin that I had touched for the very first time, I had a sudden inspiration... I made a connection to the Louis Malle movie that I had watched with Armand in Paris, at the Cinémathèque Française, the one that he had mentioned to me at least twice on the Île du Blanchomme, whose main character was a boy named Laurent... I thought by naming you Laurent I would in a way be pleasing Catherine... And your mother did approve my choice, "You actually have good taste", was what she told me upon leaving the hospital, dressed in her Saint-Laurent and carrying her Laurent baby...'

'I love that anecdote so much!' -- I murmured. I was so glad it was not just another lie. And I now knew I was somehow connected to my movielover uncle Armand by that name, too -- 'It was a lovely choice, Carlo!' -- my name had never sounded sweeter. 

But I don't think Carlo heard me, for he was back again in Punaouilo.

Though premature, you were perfectly healthy, and that was a great relief to us! And I think the correct word to describe Catherine as a mother is "intrigued". As you well know, she was unable to take care of all things basic and trivial -- like to bathe you, or change your diapers. And for those we were glad to have Joanna, and of course I always did everything I could to help, whenever I was at home -- but at that time I had already started working on painting houses around the island.

Johnny gave me my first job -- painting the mansion where we were living at. It was the oldest and most important colonial house on the island, and it turned out to be my greeting card to my all my future painting and gardening works in Punaouilo. It was a huge, time consuming job because they wanted both the indoors and the outdoors newly painted, and just once in a while Will, Joanna's husband, would have helped me.

During that period, Johnny and Clothilde were absent from Punaouilo, and Catherine said she felt truly isolated from the "civilized world" -- but we also had the privilege of Joanna dedicated exclusively to our little family, and that was such an immense luck and joy.

  Johnny and Clothilde were to see you only when you were a little over one year old, already -- and they also marveled on your beauty and your sweetness, Laurent.

You did melt Clothilde's heart, my son. Not even that mutual antipathy between her and Catherine could wear out your baby charms, and Clothilde used to bring clothes and toys for you, from the United States and from France, too. Your first toys were given by her, for in our first years in Punaouilo we had no money to buy them.

Celeste would not send us any money. Justifying it was too complicated and expensive to wire money overseas, she paid our lodging and food directly to Johnny and Clothilde. Of course, her intention was to keep us away from any sum, so that we could not buy our tickets back to France. Later, through Clothilde she would send some books and summer clothes for Catherine, and toys and clothes for you. 

Despite having known of my existence, Celeste simply ignored me, and personally, I never received anything from her. Not that I was expecting anything... As far as I was concerned, her silence probably meant that Monsieur de Montbelle was unaware of my relationship with his daughter, and secrecy was all that I needed from Celeste!

'Catherine's main grievance in Punaouilo, Laurent, was her distance from the "civilized world", her involuntary exile from Paris, and not your birth.' -- Carlo clarified -- 'But she came up with this anecdote about being surprised by her pregnancy and your premature birth as the cause of her exile in the tropics... when, in fact, you might have already understood that the culprit was your grandmother Celeste.'

'Celeste never, ever visited us at Punaouilo...' -- my father had again fallen silent, and I was trying to reminisce myself -- 'And when I asked Catherine about "grandma", she justified Celeste loathed leaving Paris, "the only civilized town in the world", she quoted her. Though of course she loved visiting the Chateau de Montbelle, where she would actually never reside. And I happen to know that once or twice Celeste visited Paul Bowles in Tangier and Yves Saint-Laurent at his Marrakesh home -- but I once heard Catherine saying that Celeste was too snobish to be welcome more than once by any host. You might have heard that yourself, Carlo.' -- I laughed -- 'But what I do not remember is what she used to tell me about Gaston... I mean, "my grandpa", I used to ask simply about "grandpa", since until a few hours ago I did not know who he was.... In adolescence, Catherine told me that he had already died, which I believe was true...'

'Yes, Gaston was dead when you and I were finally able to go to France. And if I remember correctly, Catherine replied to your child question simply saying "there is no grandpa". Though sometimes you mistook Tarso for your grandfather, from my side they had both actually died, and Catherine wanted to imply that she had also already lost her father. I'm sorry, Laurent, but I never understood her complicated relationship with Gaston, nor with Celeste, and I think rather unexpectedly Catherine overcame her own difficulties to become a good mother...'

'Catherine, a good mother?' -- it sounded so incongruous, and I laughed at it.

'Don't you think so, Laurent?' -- I was surprised that Carlo would actually take Catherine's defence -- 'I would never have imagined that she could put such an immense patience and dedication in teaching you how to walk. But of course you don't remember that, do you? And how she took interest in teaching you to speak properly. Everything that had to do with your intellectual growth and progress fascinated her. She just was not very interested in the more mundane parts of your upbringing, like food and baths and diseases... Those she delivered to me and to Joanna...' -- I was perplexed with Carlo's justificatives, and then even more at his next surprising comment -- 'You received loads of love in your childhood, Laurent.'

'Funny, but that's not how I remember it!' -- I replied promptly -- 'I recall Joanna's affection, of course, and also at some extent having it from her husband Will, whom I'd call uncle. But in regard to Catherine, I just remember being a beggar, all the time and not very succesfully trying to divert her from the books she read or wrote...' -- purposely, I did not mention my father, because I was not willing to make peace with him yet.

'This was later, Laurent!' -- Carlo was becoming an expert in contradicting my memories -- Because you cannot remember the very beginning. Just when you started to stand on your own legs, did Catherine decide to do the same. I guess maybe it was the amount of books sent by Celeste that inspired your mother to become a writer, since she would not any longer be teaching at the Université. My best bet is that she was trying to build herself a new bridge with France, and in reverse, sending back to her country novels written by her. I had started walking by my own legs myself, and making a bit of money with the painting and gardening jobs, just enough to buy your diapers and, later on, the school supplies.

Carlo's constant mentions of his humble jobs in Punaouilo actually hurt me. It was cruel that a celebrated painter like Carlo had to do gardening services to make a living -- nothing against gardening, but it had kept my father from painting.

'Really, Carlo?' -- I still doubted him -- 'I just remember gravitating around my mother, trying to get her attention... I don't even think affection was something I expected from her, just her attention... And it was you who helped me with my homework, wasn't it?'

'Most of the time, yes.' -- Carlo aswered, carefully picking the words -- 'But Catherine was the one who corrected your exercises before you went to school... because she did not trust my French... nor my Italian, haha!' -- I wondered when my father had grown immune to Catherine's disdain -- 'Too bad we don't have many pictures of that period... Johnny had given me an old camera, but we rarely bought a roll of film, and of course we never had the money to develop the photographs... If I'm not mistaken, Catherine sent them to Paris, but your grandmother never sent them back for us to see...'

'I have never heard about the existence of such photographs, Carlo!' -- I gasped, and no longer having any doubt that I would have a very long telephone conversation with Catherine in Russia, I had mentally began to assemble the extensive questionnaire that I would ask her.

'There is a question I want to ask you, Carlo, about my childhood...' -- I paused, trying to sense whether my father would be open to it or not -- 'It is a very intense memory, and a little... shocking. May I?'

My father was silent for a few moments, watching the metropolitan landscape of high rises violently lightened that paraded behind the windows of the cab.

'I know what you want to ask, Laurent.' -- Carlo sighed -- 'Your response was shocking, both for Catherine and me. It was the first time you were really sick, not just a child's flu. You spent days in bed, perhaps even two weeks, having outbursts of crying while Catherine and I quite unskilfully quarreled outside of our chalet.' -- he paused -- 'But after that, she never dated in the house again.'

'Who was he, Carlo?' -- after so many years, it seemed sad that my voice trembled in asking that question. But the question had remained stuck in my throat, and it was the voice of the four or five years old boy speaking through me, at the age of  thirty three.

'Who was the guy my mother was kissing, Carlo?' -- I choked again. 

I had kept that question to myself for almost thirty years. I probably would have talked to my dad about it before, if he had not left home. But things had not happened that way.

One day, I had come home from school and I surprised my mother kissing another man, on a pavillion at a corner of the pool that was rarely used when the house was not full of guests.

No one used to go there, and thus had I chosen that spot as my favorite hideout, where I could play my solitary games without anyone seeing nor hearing me. No one had ever found me there, either. And I would leave it only if I heard someone calling my name.

At that pavillion that I considered my refuge, I had seen Catherine and a guy kissing -- although they had not seen me. 

And since I had never seen Catherine and Carlo kissing, I was completely confused and perplexed.

Inconspicuously, I had ran to the back of the property.

 Just when I saw myself inside the empty chalet had I started crying, then sobbing and for hours I went on crying, all alone, lying on my little bed next to the bathroom door, until I had finally slept, exhausted. 

And it took me several days to begin to reveal my suffering.

'Do you kiss Aunt Joanna in the mouth, Dad?' -- I remember asking Carlo, although I'm not sure that I actually knew what kissing was. 

Maybe first, I had asked him what a kiss was, for I remember having shown him the cover of one of Catherine's books, where a passionate kiss between a man and a woman was depicted.

'Of course not, Laurent!' -- Carlo had been intrigued with my unexpected question -- 'Aunt Joanna is married to Uncle Will, and they only kiss between themselves... Do you understand it?' -- Carlo answered honestly -- 'Why are you asking me this?' -- at first, he had thought I had had my first stolen kiss at school.

For days, my parents were trying to understand where my suffering came from.

'Then why was mommy kissing that other man?' -- I asked Carlo, perhaps many days later, when we were just the two of us. 

And thus I unleashed the first serious crisis in our small family.

'Mark.' -- Carlo replied to the question I had asked him in the cab -- 'His name was Mark.'

'Who was he?' -- I insisted. Carlo could very well think that by just saying the guy's name, he would be answering my question. Almost thirty years later, my perplexity and my sorrow were the only things I could recall from the episode. That name did not ring any bells.

'He was the only son of Johnny and Clothilde.' -- my father sighed before continuing -- 'He used to come to Punaouilo when his parents were not there. To feel free. He enjoyed racing fast cars around the island, to drink and to spend the night at the clubs.' -- Carlo was describing what seemed like a spoiled brat, yet he uttered no word of criticism --  'I think he was the one who introduced Catherine to heavy drinking, for he would take your mother with him to the best restaurants and the pool bars of the resorts... and pay for everything, of course. All the glamor that Catherine had been missing, she found it again in Mark's company.'

'You knew about it, Carlo?' -- in fact, what I wanted was to ask how Carlo could have accepted Catherine's infidelity. It seemed shocking that she was already unfaithful to Carlo in such an early stage of their relationship.

But anyhow, it was enough to think about my own reasons for having stayed with Angelo for eight years, during which he had constantly cheated on me -- "I'm exercising my freedom", he used to say, which meant having sex with other guys whenever he felt like it -- and he always felt like it! Angelo had "opened" our relationship, although I had never agreed to it.

'"We have had a child together. We're not married, Carlo!" Catherine had stated the conditions of our relationship very clearly.' -- Carlo sighed -- 'To stay in a relationship with me, she had to remain feeling free, and act according to her own desire. Unltimately, for us to be a family, to remain being a family, she had to feel free... Even when she wasn't so free... Do you understand me, Laurent?'

I closed my eyes and inhaled and exhaled deeply. Carlo's response that he had accepted Catherine cheating on him so that we could remain a family, implied and reiterated not only the love he felt for her, but above all the love he felt for me.

'Catherine did not want to give up her practice of free love. I guess she saw in Punaouilo the same flow of transient foreigners that had constituted the river of her sex life in Paris. But after all, Punaouilo was not Paris. There was a small local society watching and judging her, all the time.' -- Carlo reflected in silence, before resuming -- 'Actually, I think that Mark was Catherine's only boyfriend in Punaouilo. Even so, she was unpopular and poorly spoken of on the island, which led her to further isolate herself from the local society, which she considered "old fashioned".'

'How long did it last, Carlo?' -- I tried to stimulate my father's unusual openess on that subject.

'A couple of years. When Mark met Catherine, he started coming twice or three times a year, to his own family's surprise, until their affair finally came to an end. "They are so rude", Catherine had said one day, returning home almost in the middle of the morning, after a night out with Mark. They sometimes would spend the night at a hotel, since you had caught on them. You were at school that morning, Laurent, and I was home in between jobs, as usual worrying about not having enough money. Catherine was scared and saddened. Apparently, Mark had "recommended" her for his American friends visiting the island. "They think l'amour libre is just an easy fuck. Fuck them all!" she had yelled, and it was one of the very few times I saw Catherine crying.' 

After that, I think she never got involved with another man in Punaouilo, except perhaps for an occasional sailor or a tourist.

'I imagine she wouldn't tell her affairs that she had a son...' -- and with that I implied not only Punaouilo, but Catherine's love life in France, too. 

I had a clear memory of our bedroom, or "the chalet" as my parents had preferred to call it. Quite small and cramped. Even on the sunniest days, it was dark inside, and always damp. I remember the perfect silence that Catherine demanded of me when I was in there, or even nearby, and that obligation had always made me tense and apprehensive. I tried to never displease her, and trying to get her affection, I was possibly the most obedient boy that has ever lived. Sometimes I think my mother realized it, and my silent begging that kept me under strict obedience was quite to her liking. Yes, I mean it -- maybe Catherine was never very affectionate so that I would remain obedient and docile. And she might have handled my father just the same.

But suddenly I realized that the strain I felt in that room was not only my struggle to be a good boy. There was a constant tension between Carlo and Catherine, and to that the horror with which I anticipated their quarrels. But even their silence was stressed and uncomfortable.

'Nor even that she had a...' -- Carlo thought for a moment before answering me what he had been for Catherine. Not her husband, for they never had married. Companion, partner? Hardly ever. In fact, since my father had told me that Catherine had tried to treat him as an employee from the beginning on the Île du Blanchomme, I was considering whether she wouldn't have succeeded after all -- 'I suppose she wouldn't mention it, no...' -- Carlo replied simply, and then he quit talking. 

Cheating on her own child might not have been very appealing to Catherine, but it seemed like she had enjoyed cheating on Carlo... "It's so sexy, babe!" Angelo had thus justified his constant cheating me in the final years of our relationship. For the first time I thought that maybe I had found and taken "my own Catherine" for my first love affair -- and that thought seemed so depressing and wicked. I had never developed an Oedipus complex, but now that I was associating Angelo to Catherine's updated image -- I felt sick. 

I hadn't been a victim, it is what dawned upon me during that taxi ride through Vice City -- I had volunteered to suffer in Angelo's hands. Because I might have been used to suffering in Catherine's hands? Or because I had gotten used to seeing my father suffering in my mother's hands? My head was spinning.

'Did you think she would have returned to Punaouilo, Carlo?'

The taxi had taken the longest detour, just like I had asked the driver to do, but in fact none of us paid much attention to the city parading behind the windows.

Carlo and I had never talked about the time when Catherine had returned to France on her own, leaving us both in Punaouilo without any news for a long while. "I was on a slow ship to France, did you forget it, mon trésor?", Catherine had tried to justify her silence to me, "And when I got to Paris I was so busy for a while that I might have forgotten... You're not mad at me, are you, mon cher?" -- it had felt so weird to be talking to my mother over the telephone for the first time, and I'm not sure I quite understood what the distance between Paris and Punaouilo was.

'Mommy, where is mommy? I want to see mommy... I want to talk to mommy...' -- I remember crying for my mom, but when I realized how saddened Carlo was with my crying, I had hidden my tears and then also my sadness from him. 

Unless, perhaps, by the fact that in our little chalet I started occupying the chair and the desk that had belonged to Catherine.

'At the beginning... Yes, because I did not understand her intention of again estabilishing herself in France. Apparently, she had gone to see Gaston, who was already very sick, completely sclerotic, and he wouldn't even acknowledged Catherine. And she had mentioned she might spend a longer while in France since she had also wanted to promote her first book, released just over a year before, and to supervise the editing of her second novel. But with Gaston's death, Celeste and Catherine decided to again join forces against the only remaining de Montbelle -- Armand. At this point, I guess, she already wanted to definetly live again in France. But she still spoke about her return to Punaouilo over the phone, though maybe just the thought of her journey back to the Pacific Ocean might have scared her...'

'Upon returning to France, Catherine finally discovered "who I was"...' -- Carlo murmured -- 'And I mean "persona non grata" for Monsiuer de Montbelle, her father. Celeste had taken a few years to find my true identity, because Jonnhy had kindly kept it a secret. But once Clothilde had learned it from him, she had immediately told Celeste, who actually was aware of the hatred Gaston cultivated for me.' 

And Celeste had implied it was the main reason to keep Catherine in exile -- her daughter's damned husband, companion, partner or whatever kind of doom I was to Catherine.

'Just imagine if Gaston learned that your partner, Catherine, was the man he hated and despised most in the world!' -- Celeste narrowed her eyes and groaned dramatically, bringing a hand to her forehead, as if she felt a twinge there -- 'The man who misconducted his beloved firstborn son! Gaston surely imagined that man to be the companion for Armand's follies in India... But I'm glad he died without knowing that his son had this dreaded guy for boyfriend...' -- Celeste did not hide her disgust -- 'Congratulations, my child, for having snatched Armand's lover!' -- Celeste sniggered at her daughter's creative way of hurting her half-brother -- 'But why make a baby with him?' -- Celeste was indignant -- 'Why tie yourself to such an uneducated pauper? You should have investigated this guy much better before going to bed with him, Catherine... It was tremendously foolish!'

'Celeste! You forget that I was at the end of the world? There was nothing to investigate! I just took what Armand held as his sweetest, most precious... toy. At this point...' -- Catherine wondered -- 'I imagine he must have learned that his ex-lover is the father to his own nephew, and I rejoice thinking that he suffers from this fact every single day of his existence...'

"You deceived me all these years!" -- Catherine had quarreled with Carlo over the phone, screams and accusations being exchanged between Paris and Punaouilo, once she had learned through Celeste how Gaston had hated and despised Carlo.

"How could I know that he hated me so much?..." -- Carlo had helplessly lied to her.

'If Armand never said anything to Carlo...' -- Catherine drew her own conclusions -- 'if he hid Gaston's wrath, it was because he really wanted... needed... Yeah, I think Armand really loved Carlo!' -- and Catherine dissolved into laughter, again pleased with the taste of renewed vengeance. Armand had once gotten the best share of life, ignoring or trampling his half-sister's existence, but now Catherine rejoiced thinking she had hurt him for the rest of his life -- 'Sometimes I like to think he goes to bed and when he closes his eyes he starts wondering if Carlo is doing it to me...'

'Oh please, Catherine! Are you actually defending this Carlo guy?' -- Celeste was disgusted -- 'Do you like him at all? How can you, after all the education and culture and refinement I tried to pass on to you...'

'He is a good man, Celeste. Maybe you will like him, when you get to know him...'

'Oh no!' -- Celeste gave a little shriek -- 'God grant it never happens! Why would I want to meet this obnoxious young man, who caused so much suffering to my dear Nanon?' -- that was how Celeste was calling Gaston, Monsieur de Montbelle, when he was sclerotic, as if he were a two years old child.

'What a shame.' -- Catherine waited, to see whether she could continue, not wanting to attract Celeste's wrath upon herself -- 'I think you'd like him. He is very docile. And very obedient, too. In fact, I never met a man as easy to handle as Carlo. He is probably the most obedient man I ever knew... And I think Laurent inherited it from him... thank God!'

'These qualities are excellent for a servant, Catherine!' --  Celeste joked -- 'I figured you were talking about your man... I imagine that he... has other talents?' -- Celeste asked, slyly.

'Of course he has!' -- and Catherine decided to tease her mother -- 'In fact... sometimes I think I should respect Armand if only because he had to be very manly to take Carlo up his...'

'Oh my God! Please, child! Spare me these hideous details!' -- Celeste screamed, while Catherine laughed -- 'So... you are determined to bring the boy to France... together with that rude pauper, I understand...'

'Of course I'll bring Laurent home! You know...' -- Catherine tried to sound jokingly, but it was pain in her heart that lead her to her next remark -- 'I don't think I could spend six years away from my own son...' -- this was the ammount of time that Catherine's exile in Punaouilo, imposed by her own mother, had lasted. And it had only been interrupted due to Gaston's irreversible disease.

'If that was so, Catherine, why did it take you two years since you have arrived in France to bring your son over?' -- Celeste ironized -- 'If you miss the kid so much...'

'Time flies, doesn't it, Celeste?' -- Catherine had tried to dismiss her mother's accusations, seeing she would not arouse guilt in Celeste's heart -- 'But not two full years have passed by, yet! And now they are already packing to come!'

 'They? Did you say it in plural?' -- Celeste asked indignantly -- 'I have already said that I will pay only for the boy's ticket!' -- she carefully picked a loose thread from a cushion, not demonstrating her rage.

'Do not worry. Carlo seems to have received some money for those paintings of him, and even a comission for new ones... I still don't quite understand how it suddenly changed for him, but...' -- in fact, Catherine had not paid much attention nor shown interest in the episode of Davez Drew's stay in Punaouilo, for she had never heard of the rock star before, nor how it had changed Carlo's luck -- 'He will pay for his own ticket. And you don't want an eight year old boy to travel all alone by ship to France, do you, Celeste?'

'Well, if the kid needs a travel companion, then I guess it's ok ... But please, Catherine, I'm not going to host this guy here in Paris!'

'You still don't quite get it, do you Celeste? Laurent is the sole heir of the De Montbelle family! That's why I want to go to court for the posthumous recognition of paternity... on behalf of my son! It's no longer about me, Celeste! I want to see Armand legally accepting Laurent in the De Montbelle family, knowing that he is the son of his former boyfriend!' -- Catherine chuckled -- 'I'll give Armand the gift of a lovely nephew... and upon looking at his only relative, he will forever see the lover whom he lost... Do you understand it now, Celeste? Father and son together, in this case, become my most powerful blow, the strongest revenge spell I could cast on that... fag.'

'If this is good or bad, we shall see...' -- Celeste replied, hesitantly -- 'I have to talk to my lawyers again. Your case cannot hinder Gaston's inheritance process. And that little pederast is not making it any easier for us!'

Celeste had decided to contest Monsieur de Montbelle's will, claiming that she had often helped Gaston to contact politicians and businessmen whom she knew, and those manouvers had benefited his businesses immensely. Despite having obtained large amounts of money and several properties from Gaston when he was still alive, Celeste was not satisfied yet -- and perhaps she never would be, since Monsieur de Montbelle had never married her.

'Anyway, I do not want this guy here at my home!' -- with her usual assertiveness, Celeste was peremptory in proclaiming Carlo's final sentence -- 'And please give me some time before I meet the boy...' -- Celeste gulped and grimaced, as if she had sucked on lemon -- ' I'm not ready yet to be a grandmother!'