Eden knew of course, that Eleanor was talking about Sophia and she was glad that she had not said the name aloud. She glanced around nervously. The place was not crowded, but it was not empty. She nodded a quiet confirmation but could only stare into her lap when Eleanor continued, “Do you believe she would like you to do more than kiss her?”
Eden blushed crimson. “El—” she protested in a low voice.
“Don’t worry, ‘Ethan.’” She smiled. “They think we’re men. This is how men speak. And besides, no one is listening.” Eleanor returned to the subject in spite of Eden’s blush. “Your little doctor may be a serious girl—but, darling, she loves you to foolish heights. You feel the same. Am I wrong?”
“You are not wrong,” Eden said, still wishing Eleanor was speaking a bit lower.
“Something more than a kiss would make her happy, I think—if making her happy is something you’d like to do.”
Eden blushed again. She did want to make Sophia happy in exactly the way Eleanor was implying… “but how do you know—how can you be certain?” At last she met her friend’s eye.
“Darling, I’m forty-three years old. Can you imagine how many ladies I’ve met in all those years?” Eleanor raised an eyebrow.
Eden glanced anxiously around the room and finished her drink. She wanted to ask Eleanor a question. But she wished she had a little more brandy.
She swallowed hard, her mouth already dry. “El…” she began, “what do I do?”
Eleanor looked at the poor red-faced girl before her. She couldn’t even remember a time in her life when she had not known what to do when a lady made it clear she wanted more than a kiss. She wasn’t sure what to tell Eden. She thought for a long moment.
“Well, I think the first thing you do, is ask her what she wants,” she began. Eden looked at her with an expression of some concern and Eleanor added, “not that she will necessarily answer you with words. She may. But if she doesn’t, don’t think it means she has nothing to tell you. Pay attention. You’ll get your answer…And—” She tapped the ash from her cigarette into a tray beside her chair. “Whatever else you thought of Mr. Ellis’s book, surely you could find it useful in this area?”
Eden felt nearly as confused as ever, but was more than ready to change the subject of conversation. She didn’t think it was likely that her father would ever speak to her in terms such as these, and she wondered if it was wrong of Eleanor to have done it. But her friend seemed untroubled. She went on smoking and watching Eden.
At last Eleanor shook her head. “Must everything be so difficult? Why can’t you learn from my mistakes instead of your own?” she sighed and raised her hand to signal the steward for more brandy.
Eden gratefully accepted another glass and a fresh cigarette. But her face made it plain that she could speak no longer on the topic of Sophia.
Eleanor leaned back in her chair, crossed her right heel over her left knee and said, in a louder voice than before, “Tell me all about classical architecture now.” She smiled warmly. And Eden explained with great relief, the subject of an essay she had been working on for her favorite class.