Thumbing quickly through them, she gave one to Eden and frowned. “You’ve had a letter from Alice Vine,” she said.
“Oh.” Eden took the letter, but did not open it.
Eleanor frowned again. “Is she planning a visit to Paris?” she asked, hoping Eden wouldn’t find her to be prying.
“No.” Eden bit her bottom lip. “I mean, I haven’t invited her. In fact, I…” She looked at Eleanor. “I don’t quite know what to do about her.”
“What do you feel ought to be done?” Eleanor asked carefully.
Eden looked up guiltily. “She kissed me—or I kissed her—at Wil’s party… And in the cab… but I told her…” Eden passed the unopened letter from one hand to the other and back again as she stumbled through her words. “I told her I didn’t think we ought to—to be kissing, I mean—since I had to go back to Boston. And she said she didn’t care, she’d be marrying next year anyway. I swear, I didn’t encourage her, but now she’s written me.” Eden looked at Eleanor with open helplessness. “What does she mean by it?
“Clearly, she wants to have a little fun with you. The girl is every bit like her mother,” Eleanor told her. “That woman has had Wil Hyland on and off her hook for years, now.”
“But if she means to marry…”
“Marriage has nothing to do with this,” Eleanor said, glancing at the letter in Eden’s hands. “I know you don’t have much experience with it, but marriage among people like Alice Vine and her mother has very little to do with kisses stolen at parties. It’s simply what such girls must do. So they kiss us…and marry men.” Eleanor softened her tone a bit and added, “much like your Miss Prescott, darling.”
Eden said nothing.
Eleanor finally gave her a little smile. “The secret is, often enough, they come back—after they’ve lost count of their husbands’ mistresses, or after their children have gone off to school. They come back for those kisses when their husbands aren’t watching them so closely anymore—which is usually sooner than they expect.”
Eden looked at the letter in her hands. She looked at Eleanor. “I want nothing to do with that,” she said quietly. She laid the letter on a table, walked into her room and closed the door behind her.
Eleanor watched her go. Then she stepped to the table, picked up the unopened letter and went out.