Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chapter 7 Henri

Henri Smith stands in the apartment in front of the door that he just entered without knocking. He surprises me, and I almost lose my place in the book I'm trying to slowly read when I nearly drop it.

Brandon had warned me that Henri would stop by. I wasn't sure I wanted to see him after yesterday. Now I know I don't want to see him.

He's larger than I remembered him being. Or maybe now that I know more about him, I realize just how large he is. His entire frame blocks the doorway. He wears a shirt, but it doesn't do much to hide his blocky muscles underneath the thin fabric. I partially wonder if I would be able to see the dark stain of a tattoo on his back through his shirt.

"We need to talk," he says as he walks into the apartment towards the sofa I'm sitting on. His deep and slightly scratchy voice is strange to me. We didn't really spend a lot of time chatting on the drive out here.

I close the book in my hand and put it on the end table next to me. "About my mother?"

"Partially." He smoothly moves into the room and sits down on the coffee table in front of me.

His face is drawn making him look as exhausted as someone who probably hasn't slept for days. There's a good amount of stubble on his chin, but it appears as ever present as the lines on his face. A permanent five o'clock shadow that he rubs at subconsciously with one large hand.

For a moment he looks down at the ground as if contemplating what to say, and I fear the worst. I blink back the tears, trying to be brave enough to hear the news but the silence stretches out too far. I know only seconds have passed, but the fear creeps up my spine and I can't help softly asking, "My mom?" Prompting him to glance up at me as if he just realized that I'm sitting before him waiting for him to give me the news that will completely devistate me and my already ruined life.

"She's alive," he says, but he says it cautiously, softly, in a way that makes me think she really isn't but he's just saying what he thinks I want to hear so that I won't start to cry in front of him. But then he reaches into his front pocket and pulls out a small envelope which he hands to me. It has my name on it in her curly script, slightly squished together as if she wrote it in a hurry. At the sight of the familiar handwritting, my stomach hops like it's been poked by an electric prod.

The thought hits me suddenly that this may be my last communication from her, and that I never even got to hug her one last time. But I have to push those thoughts away or risk drowning in them.

Henri clears his throat as I work on mentally drying my eyes before they start to overflow. "How much do you know about what she did?"

His eyes, already hardened by surrounding lines, narrow as he watches me. The question scares me. I can feel my stomach tightening into a high up ball as I do my best to meet his gaze. "I knew she was a politician. She never said more than that. Other than," I add softly and slightly shakily, "to warn me to never get into politics."

His hand rests on his thighs, slightly pressing on the fabric, legs open wide before me so that he looks even broader sitting than he did standing. The other hand lifts to his chin again as he hesitates, thinking of what to say or how to say it. With a sigh he lowers his hand to his other thigh. "She wasn't just a politician; she was an activist. There were things she didn't like, and she told people so. But she has enemies."

He levels his gaze at me and I try my best to meet his eyes without facing away. "They're the ones who have her now. There aren't any strings I can pull to get her out."

My mouth feels weird. It contracts into a small frown, my cheek slipping between my teeth where I press on it with my pointy canines. The letter between my now moist fingers is suddenly very heavy and I glance down at it, my hair falling into my face and covering my view of Henri.

I think this quiet lasts longer than the initial quiet at the start of our conversation, but neither of us interrupt it, I assume he's letting it sink in. This isn't the bad news I was expecting, but it was still the same.

For as long as this quiet lasts, it isn't enough. Henri eventually breaks it, his deep voice pulling my eyes up just enough to look at him through my hair. "You can't stay here. I want you to go with me while we figure out what to do with you."

"Go with you?" In my surprise, it comes out louder than I expected it to. Somehow it never occurred to me that my staying with Brandon was only temporary. We'd never discussed it and he's never made mention of it. I was starting to feel bad for taking his bed and making him sleep on the couch, but in comparison to what's out there it's so easy to ignore common sense and find comfort here in this little apartment with a man who acts more like my family than my own father does.

I don't want to go. Henri can probably read it in my face. His eyebrows draw down. "It's disrupting to his relationships to have you here."

Right away my mind hops to girls even though Brandon hasn't said a word about the inconvience of having me. He hasn't even complained about my taking his bed. But he's a nice person, so he probably wouldn't. Still, I'm gripped by a selfish terror and I don't care if I'm disrupting his relationships; I still don't want to leave from the one place I do feel safe.

"What would you do with me?" I ask suddenly thinking of Mitchell and that stray girl Brandon saved.

Henri sighs, looking at me through weary eyes. "That, I'm not sure yet."

Back home I had a mother and a future, and suddenly I have nothing-- no mother, no home, and a rapidly diminishing future. I want the time to grieve it all properly without having to deal with this large and gruff man who's supposed to be my father.

I look away towards the windows by the front door, trying not to cry in front of Henri and appear even weaker. That's when the door opens. For half a second, I worry that it'll be Henri's second in command, the one who beat that man and killed him right under our balcony, but it's Brandon who steps through, his eyes on Henri.

"H-hey," I say softly, the words leaking out of me like air as I hop up from the sofa and over to Brandon.

Brandon's hand falls on my arm. "Paula, why don't you go outside for a minute."

I nod as I feel Henri standing behind me. The door shuts softly and I'm alone on the balcony glancing around nervously to be sure no one else came with Henri even though I know with certainty that Brandon wouldn't have sent me out on the balcony if he'd noticed that someone was out here waiting for Henri. Still, I wait while holding my hands together around the small envelope, almost wringing them, the thumb and forefinger of one hand squeezing the third finger on the other hand.

I don't dare look down over the railing. They don't exactly have a cleaning crew here. There will be reminder down below left from the brutal attack yesterday.

I'm not waiting long before the door opens again and Brandon and Henri come out.

"You've got one more week with Brandon," Henri says. "Then you go with me."

Next Chapter -->


  1. What a twist! I think, if I was in Paula's position, I would definitely prefer the kinder, gentler Brandon to the sterner Henri...but doesn't look like she has a choice in the matter either way.

    I wonder what Brandon negotiated with to get even that extra week for Paula and what he plans to teach her. I suspect that Brandon has his reasons and maybe he wants to impart some knowledge to Paula that might just help her get through her forced stay with Henri.

  2. *exhales* I didn't even notice I held my breath while reading this chapter.

    Wow, Henri is terrifying. My heart fills with dread for poor Paula. Like Carnaxa said in her comment, I also wonder what Brandon had to do to get that extra week. I hope he has some good advice for Paula.

    (Henri is such a handsome sim, by the way. I love the character in his face. I like all of your sims, to be honest. :) )

  3. If I was Paula I think I would not only dread but hold off reading that letter for a long time. The finality of what it may contain would make me want to prolong the inevitable. It must be very bad if Henri cannot negotiate her release.

    I am surprised that he acquiesced to Brandon's request and am also curious about what he negotiated with. Obviously it would be better for Paula to have more knowledge of how things work in order to survive with Henri and she needs time to absorb everything that has just happened.

    I'm very curious about why Henri wants her...

  4. Carnaxa, yeah I'm with you! I'd definitely take Brandon over Henri any day.

    Definitely interesting thoughts on the whole thing though. Of course I can't actually say anything one way or the other, lol!

    Nicole, isn't Henri intimidating? That sim came out awesome.

    Now you put it a different way. Carnaxa suggests Brandon had to negotiate. Initially, I took that the same way you did, that she was suggesting he had to do something. Which is an interesting assumption.

    (And thanks! I was sort of not liking those head on shots of Henri cause his face is so wide, but he's older, so his head and body would be wider than the younger guys.)

    Gayl, oh yeah, definitely agree with you. So well put. I wouldn't want to read that letter, and yet at the same time I wouldn't be able to help wanting to read it as soon as possible.

    And you bring up a great question-- why Henri wants her.

    But Paula does need some time. This here is only her fourth day, and two of those days she witnessed things that were horrible shocks to her system.

  5. Interesting...

    I'm of two opinions about Henri.

    On one hand, certain aspects of his behaviour suggest he is actually concerned about Paula's welfare, even if he shows a hard exterior.

    On the other, you have this bit here: "How much do you know about what she did?"

    His eyes, already hardened by surrounding lines, narrow as he watches me.

    Which suggest he has an ulterior motive and his plans may not be pleasant for her.

    It looks like Paula is in for an 'interesting' couple of weeks.

    Great stuff, as always.

  6. Henri is so compelling to watch and listen to! He doesn't waste words at all. He really does look tired of everything.

    I wonder where he's going to take her? Where does he go? And when he says she is disrupting Brandon's relationships, I have a feeling that it's disrupting them in a different way than Paula fathoms--namely that people are starting to challenge him for access to Paula. Or that he can't conduct himself as he usually would (as violently, maybe) because he doesn't want to traumatize her.

    Wow. Man. So much to think about! I'm so looking forward to the next chapter!

  7. Poida, nice catch. I think Paula caught that too; that's why the question scares her.

    Thank you for your insightful comment.

    Oh, Rachel, those are some good questions, and ones I only recently answered myself, lol.

    Also, a good speculation. A very good speculation!

    Thank you also. ^_^

  8. Oh, wow, I was captivated by this chapter! Holding my breath, actually, like Nicole!

    Poor Paula - her mother is locked up and even Henri can't do anything to help. It must be bad then, if it's beyond his abilities. He's got a lot of power, right? Not enough, this time, I guess.

    It's funny that Paula's mind went straight to "girls" when Henri said she was disrupting Brandon's relationships. I suppose it's possible that's what Henri meant but somehow, I don't think so. There's a lot going on that Paula doesn't know about, that much is clear, and I feel Henri was more likely talking about "relationships" in that arena. Not girls.

  9. He's got a lot of power in the Wildlands, but in the Neutral Territory, well that's a different game. But, yes, it definitely is a bad sign, unfortunately.

    I am really glad to hear you and Rachel bringing up the fact that Paula's probably thinking wrong. There's a lot she really doesn't know, and so her assumptions are based off of her own experiences. Basically, yeah, never trust my first person narrators, lol.

  10. Oh no! I don't want Paula to leave! I love Brandon! And Paula likes Brandon too! It sucks that she has to keep moving around. Things are hard enough as it is for her, right?

    I can't wait to see what happens next!

  11. To be honest, I don't want her to leave either. I really love Brandon. Oh, but I also thing you might have inadvertently said out loud what Brandon's probably thinking...

  12. Oh wow... I read it three times now and it still takes my breath away!

    I think I understand why Paula's mum fell in love with Henri. She sounds like a gutsy woman (and obviously pretty) and Henri has got so much going for him... he's handsome, has this powerful aura, exudes authority and more importantly... a wonderful side to him hidden beneath the gruffness.

    He is tired, exhausted even, but has come to talk to her... despite what is probably an excruciating schedule.
    He could have easily expected Paula to stand up for him. Instead he lowers himself to her eye level.
    In pic three he narrows his eyes: his gaze is direct, intense but also a little curious and certainly not unfriendly.
    I LOVE the fact he would have pulled strings to get Paula's mum out if he could! And I think it's very thoughtful of him to let Paula know that.
    I think he wants to keep Paula safe - maybe even from her mum's enemies - and I think that he feels he is the only person who can really do that...
    Even if I'm wrong there, I'm thrilled he is showing interest in her, wants to take her with him... That can't be easy for such a busy man - I mean, he is the big leader and all that in a very dangerous world.
    And again, I'm happy he expressed concern for Brandon too. Shame Bandon can't come with them... I guess he is 'needed' where he is.
    And isn't it nice he actually listens to whatever Brandon had to say about it? And actually allows Paula some more time with her brother?
    Oh, I like him... I really, really do! :)

  13. I can't get past this statement:

    "I want you to go with me while we figure out what to do with you."

    oh that's sweet. That a father comforting his daughter.

    and this one:

    "It's disrupting to his relationships to have you here."

    you are a disruption like a leaky faucet, something to 'deal with'.

    and then he hands her a letter from her mother and starts in about her mother and what did she know about her mother, as if all this was somehow her mother's fault.

    I cannot imagine, under any possible conditions, talking to my daughter like that. It is cruel, remote, and demeaning.

    And actually realistic that her brother would try to intervene.

    Every chapter you write, you pull out the most intense emotion. I want to HIT the characters! Wonderful writing!

  14. LMAO! Moondaisy and SB, your comments could not have been more the opposite of each other! That has absolutely made my night. Neither of you are wrong, and you both use the text to make your points. Awesome!

    Moondaisy, this will have to be one of the posts we'll have to remember and come back to. Because everything you've said, I've thought. I mean, does he really have to come see her? And yeah, he's pretty busy, so he's definitely got to take some time out of his day in order to come visit with her and give her news.

    As for Brandon going with them, well that's complicated of course.

    And SB, everything you've said I've also thought! The way he speaks about her as if she's a disruption is like she's less than human, just another issue he has to deal with. That's probably why he looks so tired.

    He is a remote man, especially to Paula. She assumes this is because he didn't know about her, so she's nothing more than a stranger to him. Though she has noted the distance between Brandon and Henri too.

    Every chapter you write, you pull out the most intense emotion. I want to HIT the characters! I hope that I will be able to turn the tables on you and on Moondaisy as well. Because no one is ever all good or all bad.

  15. ok! :) I will have to think deeper in shades of grey. He is good, though, nothing will sway me from that point of view. :)

  16. lol, oh Moondaisy, if you only knew what I know! Oh wait... someday probably soonish you will. ;)

  17. Sheesh, I'm late to the party, lol! But wow, this chapter was just packed with stuff!

    Ha, just when Paula mentioned it, I also wondered what Henri's tattoo might look like ;)

    I agree with a lot of what Moondaisy said. Henri was actually more accommodating than I expected him to be. I wouldn't go as far as to call him good (he's probably not), but he doesn't seem exactly cold toward her, and he did go out of his way to come talk to her. He could have easily had someone deliver that letter for him. I can see how, given his circumstances, he could care what happens to her without feeling or acting tender in the least. I'm sure a man like him, in the current state of his life, probably has no concept of tenderness.

    A question I'm wondering: Did Henri know that Paula existed before she was given to him? I guess we don't really know much about what kind of relationship her parents had, so it could just as easily be one way or the other.

    Because oooh, her mother was an activist, and I want to know more about that too! I wonder if she was fighting for Henri's cause or against it.

    This is really telling a lot about Brandon too though, that he never made her feel inconvenienced to the point she didn't even know he had "relationships". And that even, relationships, makes me curious. Rachel has a good point, maybe they don't mean relationships in the way Paula (or I) would first think.

    I'm so very curious as to what's meant to be accomplished by this one more week! And what's in that letter? Oooh, oooh! Can't wait for the next one! :)

  18. Oh thanks you Laura. Another comment that shows I'm on the right track. That's good. Definitely we're hitting on questions I had to give a lot of thought to as I worked on this.

    There are quite a few elements. You ask a good question. Chapter 2, Paula reflects on it a little. "My father didn't exactly seem happy to have me... I guess he was just finding out too."

    And her mother! Well, that is definitely something. I think her story, like Henri's, probably has a lot I can delve into. So I have to focus.

    As for Brandon, see why I love him yet? XD

  19. Mr Smith is a bit of an aloof character, but thoroughly in command, like entering a room without knocking. I like a guy that can fill a doorway myself, LOL!

    I wonder if Brandon knew along Paula's stay with him was only temporary, could explain his indulgent kindness toward to prepare her...for what?
    And would love to know the conversation Henri and Brandon had while Paula cooled her heels on the balcony, was some deal made?
    great update!

  20. He's very aloof. I have a hard time getting him to even talk with me. He seems to prefer sighing in exasperation and grumbling.

    Oh, you bring up another good point. Whether or not Brandon knew it'd be temporary and if that's what affected his behavior. You know, that very well could be. Good one Drew.