Eden 9:2

Eden lay on her bed and watched the shadows the fire made on the ceiling. Just as she didn’t use the electric light, she preferred her own fire to the steam heat. There was always plenty of kindling, since the other girls rarely bothered with fires themselves.

She wondered what Sophia Abington thought of her. She was beginning to have second thoughts about having given her the Ellis book. Eleanor had said they would discuss it when Eden was finished reading it, but she couldn’t face El just yet. She had felt that maybe Sophia would give her some idea of what to say when she next saw her friend. But now she worried that the book might make Sophia wary of her.

She thought she understood that Dr. Ellis believed a person such as Eden to be faultless from a moral point of view, but flawed from the point of view of nature and medicine. Eleanor had said people thought them sinners and criminals and Mr. Ellis’s book seemed to be arguing against this assumption. Eden remembered Eleanor mentioning going to jail for her clothes and wondered if she had been really serious.

It wasn’t that Eden didn’t realize the world thought it strange—even wrong, she supposed—for a girl to go about dressed as a boy. But she had worn boys’ clothes from the age of six. In Arizona, people had not cared so much about such things. At least, Eden’s people had not. Only since coming to Boston had she learned to keep a close observance of herself, making sure she could see what others would, so as to be prepared for the reactions of the world around her.

Under Eleanor’s tutelage he had learned to divide herself. At home she had been just a girl in breeches and work shirts. But in Boston she had had to become two people. She was either Miss Smith—an unconventional girl dressed like a boy from the waist up, wearing a skirt from the waist down—or she was an anonymous young man. Only at Eleanor’s private parties could she simply be Eden—a girl who wore trousers and waistcoats and men’s hats.

Eden wished she could talk to her father about it all. She was sure her papa had never considered her a sinner or a criminal. Her papa kept the fact that he was a woman a secret, and yet, he had never been two people to Eden. Her papa was just her papa. If most people didn’t know Joe’s secret, it was a practical matter. Her father wouldn’t have been able to do all he had done in his life if people had thought him a woman, Eden knew. But wasn’t this was because of the limitations of the world? Eden had never thought it a flaw in Joe.

But Gertrude had said…

No.

Gertrude could go to hell—she and her rich fiancé. Eden tried on the curse in her mind and liked how it felt. She remembered how she had defended the girl when Eleanor had said it out loud last spring. But now, after London, after Paris, after a multitude of small things she couldn’t number or name, Eden Smith was a different person. She was a person, for example, who had no interest in kissing Julia Bloom even when it would be so easy to do it.  Eden was almost shocked by the change in herself—both the fact that she might find it easy to kiss a girl and the fact that she didn’t care to—to kiss Julia, that is.

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