She rose and opened it to find Gertrude standing in the hall. “Can I come in?” she asked with a tight smile. It had been nearly a week since Gertrude had said more than three words to Eden together, and those only when it was necessary to their living in such a close arrangement. Eden had been terribly afraid that she had offended her, but Gertrude had dodged every attempt of Eden’s to discuss it.
“Of course,” Eden’s heart skipped a beat. She reached out to take Gertrude’s hand but the girl shook her head slightly.
“I can’t stay, but I must give you some news.”
“Charles Brunswick asked me to marry him and I told him I would—this summer.” She did not look Eden in the eye.
“But Gertie…” Eden grasped for something. “You…you have another year before graduation.”
By now, Eden knew that Charles Brunswick was the boy Gertrude had kissed at Cathy’s party. The Brunswick family was from New York and very rich. Charles was the eldest of three sons.
“Studying Milton is all well and good for a girl without particular prospects, but I have to consider my future,” Gertrude said.
“Charles Brunswick is your future?” Eden’s heart was pounding now.
“He is. He’ll take his law degree next month. And…”
And what? Eden thought—she feared—she knew exactly what Gertrude was avoiding.
“And I love him.”
Eden swallowed hard. Her voice came out with a crack. “You said you loved me.”
“Eden, I’m sorry. But we were just girls—”
Eden cut her off. “Last year we were girls, so you could love me and this year we’re something else, so you can’t?” She couldn’t make sense of it.
“Well, yes. We have to be adults in the end. Even you must know that,” Gertrude’s tone was growing less and less kind.
Eden was silent. Gertrude seemed to telescope away from her, further and further until she was too distant to touch. And all at once shame filled Eden’s face with heat. She wished she had never met Gertrude, never spoken to her, never told her…
“I pity you, Eden.” Gertrude shook her head a little and placed her hand on the doorknob.
Eden was all hurt confusion.
“You are not a boy. And you never will be,” Gertrude finally looked her in the eye. Then she opened the door and walked out.