So, here we are with the first chapter of Celui Qui Protège Mon Cœur which translates into 'The One Who Protects My Heart'. We start the story five years on from the last chapter of CQTMC, where Mary and Francis celebrated their wedding anniversary with some lovely news, in mid-September. Here are Mary and Francis's descriptions with their kids' descriptions as well, down below.
Dr Mary Stuart-Valois - 35
Francis Valois - 35
James Pierre Valois - 13
Valentina Anne Valois - 12
Caterina Rose Valois - 8
Christophe 'Christy' David Valois - 5
Leon 'LJ'/'Lejean' Jean Valois - 4
Francis hurries downstairs and finds his wife just sliding something into the oven and setting the timer. "You're needed. Upstairs. Now."
Alarmed, Mary rushes past him and legs it up the stairs and down the hall where she hears her name being called. She finds the owner of the voice curled up in bed, tears sliding down her cheeks.
"Anne? Annie-Bun, what's wrong?" Mary asks, kneeling before the bed and brushing her daughter's blonde locks away from her face. "Talk to me, baby."
"My period's started."
Mary gasps a little before her lips curl into a smile which annoys her twelve-year-old daughter. "I'm so happy!"
"Maman!" Anne cries out in exasperation. "Look at me!"
That's when Mary notices the bloodied sheets and she sighs, her smile remaining on her face. "You scared your dad," she tells her daughter, getting up and heading to the dresser to search for a pair of fresh underwear and pyjama set for her daughter. "Do you have any cramps?"
Anne shakes her head before nodding. "A little. It did hurt overnight but it's fine now. Kinda," she replies, sitting up. "I've ruined the sheets!"
Mary tuts. "Don't worry about that," she chides her daughter, grabbing a fresh set of bedding from the bottom drawer. "We'll change them but first let's get you in the bathroom and get a bath running."
Downstairs, James's eyes wander to his buzzing phone on the table. He's doing his homework and he should really ignore it, especially with his father throwing some sort of consolation treat up for Anne who is having some meltdown or something again, but his fingers grab the phone and his eyes scan the texts.
"What?" Francis asks, turning to him. "James, put that down. Homework."
"But, Dad!" James cries out, showing his father the screen. "Bobby found out that the Crying Cats are in France for a gig. They haven't played in France, ever. I have to get a ticket."
Francis sighs. "How much?"
James looks down at his phone before grimacing. "Five-hundred..."
"It's for the VIP pass, Dad," James cries out. "Bobby's obviously going to get the VIP pass. It's limited in number, I have to be quick!"
Francis crosses his arms and leans against the counter. "What's your offer if I pay for the ticket?"
James gasps and swallows hard before biting his bottom lip. Eventually, he says, "I'll wash the dishes and not use the dishwasher for a month."
"Make that two and you'll clean my car for one month," Francis replies.
"God, your car gets dirty every other day! That's like..." He ponders his thought. "Thirty washes! One for each day!"
Francis rolls his eyes hard at his son's maths. "How badly do you want to see the Crying Cats again?" Francis muses, turning back to his consolation project.
James lets out a low growl. "I'll wash the dishes for two months and clean your car for one," he finally relents, shoving his phone in his father's face.
Francis chuckles, rolling his eyes as he retrieves his card to pay for the ticket. "You have to tell Mum about it," he tells his son.
"I will," James says, gesturing for his father to hurry on. "God, you grew up with technology. How are you so slow-" He shuts up at his father's glare and soon a beep affirms the payment and he squeals.
"Jesus, James," Francis mutters. "You're starting to sound like your sisters."
James laughs, hugging his father tightly. "You're the best! Love you!" He says before hurrying upstairs.
"James, your home-screw it," Francis says, shaking his head before lifting the tray of treats and heading upstairs too.
As he passes, he narrowly avoids Christophe and Leon Jean playing soldiers with their stuffed teddies. At five and four respectively, they're the most energetic and active children Francis and Mary have ever raised. Not even Rose has half the energy to run about, causing mayhem as these boys.
The boys dash into Anne's room, shouting commands as Francis enters, brows raised.
"Captain LJ, any annoying sisters here?" Christy asks.
"No, Captain Christy!" Lejean cries out. "Sir!"
"We'll come back, Captain Leon Jean!" Christy replies, leading him back out as Francis shakes his head in amusement.
"Boys, tidy up before dinner, okay?" He tells them, hearing their giggles as they continue their 'missions'. He places the tray on the bedside table and sighs at the sheets on the bed.
He's grown up with two sisters and his wife obviously has periods but he never thought he'd get to this point where his daughter was having her first period. She's his baby girl, his eldest daughter and she's now properly all grown up. Before he knows it, he's sobbing before bloodied sheets and Mary enters the room, alarmed.
He turns, sniffling. "God, Anne's grown up, Mary!"
Mary laughs, nodding. "She is," she affirms. "Help me change the sheets. I have her in the bath. Poor thing's shaken up."
Francis pouts as he helps his wife strip the bed and pull the pillows and duvet off. "James is going to a concert."
"Yeah, he told me. Said Bobby's dad will take them," Mary replies with an exasperated sigh. "VIP tickets, Francis?"
"The day we had a blonde, blue-eyed kid, we fucked up, okay?" Francis jokes. "Using my damn manipulative charm and looks against me!"
"He is his father's son," Mary states, making them laugh as they start to replace the bedding. "Gosh, we've done well, haven't we?"
Francis looks up at her. "Definitely. Five amazing but stressful kids."
"And thirteen years of marriage," Mary adds.
"Two successful clinics..."
Francis grins. "I think we've done great, Mary," Francis tells her. "That reminds me, it's Mum's birthday coming up and I was hoping you'd bake her a cake."
Mary nods, replacing Anne's pillows back onto the bed. "Yeah, I can do that. I'll take Rose and the boys to the bakery and have them pitch in." Then she swallows hard. "How is she doing?"
"She had a bad week," Francis says quietly, neatly laying the duvet on the bed. "She kept calling for Dad and refusing to eat."
"Do you think she'll like it if we took the kids to see her?" Mary asks him. "I know she told us that if she ever went that far, she didn't want the kids to see her like that but they miss their grandmother. James and Anne know what's wrong with her, I feel bad putting it off telling them properly."
Francis places his hands on his hips, eyeing the laid bed warily. "I hate keeping it from them too. Especially since they're old enough to realise Meme's sick. But I don't want them getting upset, Mary. We agreed on this."
"Bash, Leeza, Claude and the boys," Francis replies. "No telling our kids. Mum doesn't even want us to."
"If you're sure," Mary says softly, crossing her arms. "But I think we should try. She still has her good days, Francis. She recognises you all."
"Yeah, but she doesn't acknowledge that we're not in 2032, Mary," he replies.
"The year she got even worse," Mary mutters sadly. "Francis, she barely knows LJ though. And Christy. Only James, Anne and Rose have managed to get some solid time with her when she was still... well, herself. The younger boys deserve to have time with her too."
Francis sighs heavily. "I know," he says. "We'll see what we can do, okay? Let's just get this ready for Anne and finish up with dinner."
"Yeah," Mary breathes out, finishing up and lighting up a scented candle for Anne.
Her little girl just needs a moment to herself as Mary also collects some special body creams and fixes them up onto somewhere reachable from Anne's bed. When they're done, they head out and both grab at Christy and LJ who are aiming to annoy Anne in the bathroom.
"Come on, you cheeky monkeys. Dinner time," Francis says, throwing Christy over his shoulder as Mary walks LJ down the stairs.
"James, Rose, dinner!" Mary calls out.
When they reach the bottom, she has the little boys get the table ready as Francis goes to make the salad. She heads to the oven and checks on the fish, checking the timer - five minutes left.
"Right, I want hands washed, okay?" Mary tells her sons as the doorbell rings. "Just a second." She heads to the front door and opens it, grinning when she sees Jim and Lenore with their two kids, Samantha and two-year-old Harold. "I didn't know you guys were stopping by!"
"Yeah, we were nearby," Jim says as they enter and Mary closes the door. "Thought we say 'hi'."
"Well, you're just in time for dinner," Mary replies, hugging her niece tightly.
Twenty Years Ago
"You're a late bloomer but that doesn't matter," Marie tells her daughter fondly. "God, my daughter is a woman now!"
"Mum," Mary whines, holding her arms around her stomach. "Everything hurts."
Marie sighs. "I know, it will be like that at first. It's all strange, the changes your body is going through. But they are good changes. You're beautiful, Mary. So beautiful and wonderful and I'm sorry we can't really celebrate."
"Why would I want to celebrate the day I found out blood started coming out of me?" Mary asks, scowling.
Marie giggles, pressing a kiss on her daughter's head. "It's the sign of womanhood, ma cherie."
"Womanhood can go fu-"
"Urgh, fine," Mary mutters. "It's uncomfortable."
Marie nods, grabbing a hot water bottle. "I know. Let me fill this up-"
"No, you stay in bed. I've got this," Mary says. "Just... tell me what to do."
Marie sighs sadly, feeling awful that she can't do this one thing for her daughter. "Well, fill that with hot water. Get some ibuprofen if you need it and we'll... get some chocolate."
"Mum, we can't-"
"There are thirty pounds in my purse," Marie says softly. "Get yourself whatever you want."
Mary blinks in surprise. "If that's for the bills-"
"Mary, get yourself what you want."
"One bar of chocolate. Please," her mother begs her. "And I'll get Jim to fix up the TV signal so we can watch EastEnders this night."
Mary blinks back tears. "I'll get milk too."
"Yes, milk and jam," Marie replies. "And don't forget the bread. And-"
"Noodles," Mary mumbles. "I'll go shopping first. God, what do I even use."
"My period! It was embarrassing, asking the school nurse for pads and she just gave me that look. You know, the bloody pitying one," Mary says tearfully. "I don't know what ones would suit me."
Marie sighs. "Try tampons-"
"I'm pretty sure those cause deaths."
"Not if you use them incorrectly. But I'd advise pads for your first time. Get the cheapest," Marie says. "I would go with you but-"
"Stay in bed," Mary says, getting up. "I'll be right back, okay?"
"Okay. Love you."
"I love you too, Mama," Mary mumbles.
Before she knows it, she's at the corner store, looking at the selection of pads and tampons. She sees the elderly store owner eye her a few times and she blushes, holding the rest of her shopping in her arms.
After a while, she feels a presence beside her.
"Why don't you put those on the checkout desk and we can come back to seeing what options you have," the owner suggests.
Quietly, Mary listens to her advice and they return to the aisle. Mary stares at the endless of options again, biting her lip hard. "I-I don't know."
The woman gives Mary a comforting smile. "I'm sure your mother has suggested pads."
"The cheapest option, please," Mary says tightly. "I can't afford much. S-Sorry."
The woman's eyes widen and she sighs. "Okay, let's try this," she says, grabbing a few options, two of each. "This would normally set you back about ten pounds but why don't you pay me half?"
Mary shakes her head. "I can't. Don't worry about it, I can ask at school-"
"No girl deserves to go without sanitary products," the woman cuts her off. "It's basic human needs. Have it half-price and when you find the one that works best for you, you can come back to me every month and get it half-off, okay?"
"You don't have to-"
"I know about your mother," the woman says softly. "I think you're going through a lot right now. I wouldn't want to add to the stress. Just take them."
Mary sighs and collects the options from the woman, heading to the checkout desk with her. As the woman scans and bags Mary's items, Mary realises with a sunken heart that her jacket as a hole in her pocket. The money is gone.
"I... I had it right here! Oh, God. This can't get any more embarrassing than it is already," she says, sobbing. "I'm so sorry. Forget everything. I'll-"
The woman shoves the bags into Mary's hands and holds a finger to her mouth. "It's on me."
"Go home," the woman says kindly, adding a chocolate bar to the items. "Go home."
The next day, Mary is relieved to find the money tucked under the rug in front of the front door. She must have kicked it in when she was wiping her feet from her return. She heads back to the off-license and gives the owner what she owes, the extra five pounds on top from the half-off deal.
"You showed me kindness. I don't want to steal from you," Mary tells her, pressing the five pounds into the woman's hand. "Please."
Sighing, the woman takes the money and gives Mary a smile. "How are you doing today?"
"Better," Mary mumbles. "Thank you, again."
"No worries. Whenever you're on, just stop on by."
Mary smiles. "I will. Thanks."
"How are you feeling, baby girl?" Mary asks her daughter, later that night. She runs her fingers through Anne's hair as they lay in the girl's bed.
"Better," Anne mumbles. "It's embarrassing. Dad's treating me like I'm glass."
Mary giggles. "Baby, it's his first time, okay?" Mary jokes. "He can't believe you're growing up. Neither can I."
Anne sighs heavily, playing with a loose thread on her shirt. "I've been growing up for a long time now, Mama," she says softly.
"I know. We know," Mary replies. "It's just that... a second ago, you were seven. Now, you're on the Football team at school and you're crushing so hard on boys..."
"Tell me his name," Mary gushes. "I won't tell Daddy."
Anne smiles a little, blushing. "Marcel. He's the captain of the boys' Football team in our year."
"Ooh, love on the pitch!" Mary says, making her daughter giggle. "Have you spoken to him at all?"
"I try to but I get all flustered and my heart speeds up and I can't... Well, I can't quite talk," Anne says, defeated.
Mary sighs, smiling fondly. "You're doing better than I did," she says. "I didn't even have time to think about boys when I was growing up. Your dad was technically my first-ever boyfriend. I had a lot of firsts with him and I just got lucky I had it right the first try. But you can always kiss a few frogs before meeting your Prince Charming. Not everyone finds them on the first go."
"I know," Anne says quietly. "I just wish I wasn't too coward enough to talk to him. Like I'm popular at school, thanks to Ana, but it's still difficult."
Mary chuckles, pressing a kiss on the side of her daughter's head. "The day I met your father, he was working at the Paris restaurant and I was shifting boxes into the bakery for your Grunkle. Every time our eyes met, I just felt like... like the world stopped. I'd become breathless, my uncle would scold me for standing too long, watching your dad but he'd laugh afterwards and say something about young love. He saw what we didn't that day. He saw now. Thirteen years on, five wonderful children, amazing jobs and flourishing businesses... But I'll tell you something, your dad made me so flustered and nervous, I think I called him 'hot' when I had thought I only imagined it once."
Anne laughs, making Mary giggle. "Really? What did he say?"
"He's your dad, you know how cocky he gets," Mary replies lightly. "No, he ignored it. For my sake, to save me from embarrassment but your father is quite the looker."
"Oh, ew, Mum," Anne replies, laughing.
"It's true!" Mary insists. "Like, we'd get compliments for being that hot couple at university. Everyone was jealous of us both." She sighs happily. "Look, go for it, baby girl. You won't regret it."
"Yeah. If I had been more confident when I was your age, I'd be so happy," Mary states. "You've got the looks, the charm, the brains..." She taps Anne's forehead. "Any boy would be lucky to have you."
Anne smiles. "Thanks, Mama."
"Alright. Goodnight, Bun," Mary says, pecking her forehead and getting out fo the bed. "Sleep tight."
"Night, Mama," Anne mumbles tiredly as Mary lets herself out.
She heads down the hall, checking in on each of her other four children before finally heading to bed herself. She finds Francis on his laptop, rubbing the side of his temples as his glasses slide down the bridge of his nose.
"Hey, what's up?" She asks, retrieving a fresh pair of pyjamas.
"Some ingredients company have gone bust so we can't get our delivery for the London restaurant. I'm thinking of having our French connections ship out. I will try and convince them tomorrow morning, we've been great customers of theirs for years. I hope they can do us this solid so we're not constantly balancing two companies."
Mary nods. "Seems like a great idea," she says. "Hey, when's James going to this concert of his?"
"Next Saturday. Mum's birthday."
Mary tuts. "No..."
"Yeah. I don't want to take that away from him. He's got excellent grades at school and well, the Chuckling Cats have never played in France before. It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event," Francis replies.
Mary snorts. "It's the Crying Cats and yeah. How about he helps out with your mum's garden in the morning as a present," she suggests. "The concert's not until four."
"Yeah, I'm sure she'll like that," Francis says, shutting his laptop and taking his glasses off. "Right, Mrs Valois, get in bed."
Mary laughs loudly. "First of all, I'm Dr Stuart-Valois and I don't quite like being commanded."
Francis raises his brows, placing his laptop and glasses on his bedside table. "Oh yeah?" He asks, getting out of bed and coming towards her. "Well, Doctor, I'm not feeling quite too well."
Mary smirks. "And why is that?"
Holding a hand to his head, he says, "I feel dizzy."
"And my heart," he starts, placing his hand to his chest. "Races."
"Okay..." Mary grins.
"What do you recommend?"
Mary eyes his pyjama bottoms. "I think you should take those off."
"And why should I?" Francis asks, fingering the sides of his bottoms.
"I'm going to need to do a thorough inspection. You know, physical health does help with mental health and all that," she says, biting her bottom lip.
Francis takes off his bottoms. "What next, Doctor?"
"A kiss," Mary whispers, pecking his lips as her hand slides onto his arse cheek. "You know, strong connections with your spouse really helps soothe those symptoms you're having."
Francis chuckles. "Great thing I have a great connection with my wife," he says before lifting her up into his arms squealing. "Time for bed, Missy."
So that was the first chapter. A little cheeky and sweet. I hope to get the next chapter done next week but with exams, it will be difficult. Until the next time, thanks for reading.