The next evening, very late, Eden and Alice climbed into a cab and sat side-by-side in the dark. The play had been a silly one—a new comedy Alice said her friends had liked—and Eden had barely noticed the plot, so absorbed had she been in her own thoughts.
“Alice,” she said now.
“hmm?” Alice asked, waving her playbill before her like a fan.
“I apologize for my behavior at Miss Hyland’s ball. I had too much champagne and I treated you with less respect than you deserve.” Eden spoke stiffly, having rehearsed the words in her mind all evening.
But Alice gave a little laugh. “You must be joking!” She countered. “Do you mean that you’re sorry you kissed me?”
Eden was glad of the dark, for she was certain she must be red to the roots of her hair.
As she cast about for something to say, she felt Alice’s weight shift beside her as the girl turned to face her and placed her hand on Eden’s thigh. “I’m not sorry you kissed me,” and in spite of the rattle of the cab, they were kissing again.
Eden pulled away and caught her breath. The lace of the curtains at the windows made florid patterns of light on Alice’s face as they passed the flickering gas lamps outside.
“It’s only that I think we had better not,” Eden said. “I’m going to Paris next week and I’ll be back in Boston in another six, and I won’t be able to see you at all for a year at least after that.”
Alice laughed again. “What does next year have to do with whether or not you should kiss me tonight?”
“Well, I didn’t want to merely…” Eden stumbled.
Alice arched an eyebrow and smiled. “Next year, I’ll probably be married anyway. You had better kiss me while you still can!”
“Married? Is there someone…”
“Several someones—well, several possibilities, I suppose—each more boring than the next,” Alice said with a little sigh.
“Why marry, then?”
“What else should I do? I’ll be twenty-one in three months. The older a girl gets the fewer her options, you know.”
Eden didn’t want to know. Gertrude’s marriage to Charlie Brunswick had tarnished the ideal of love her parents had gilded for her. Now Alice threatened to smash it.
“Oh,” was all she said.
They were quiet for a while, but when the cab turned onto Bayswater Road, where Eleanor’s house waited, Alice spoke again. “Will you call on me before you leave for Paris? We might walk in the park, or ride, if you’d rather.”
“I don’t know. Eleanor has planned some things…” The cab pulled to a stop. “Goodnight Alice. Thank you for the play.” Eden kissed the girl’s hand chastely. She heard, but did not watch the cab roll away as she turned to the front door.