Eden 21:1

EdenEleanor took Eden to her summer cottage in Kent where Eden passed the weeks of weak English sun painting landscapes and making pencil drawings of the neighbors and servants. On one occasion, Eleanor received an invitation to tea at Lamb House in Rye, but she declined, telling Eden, “I’d rather Mr. James didn’t put you in a novel, darling. I’m certain he’d get you all wrong.”

So the summer slipped quietly by and soon Eleanor was writing to her friends in Paris, looking for a good house to rent. In short time, she agreed to take a furnished, staffed place in the Rue Jacob, on the recommendation of one Madame Vielle who had gone to school with Eleanor in Boston before she married a French diplomat who had died soon after his retirement to Paris.

The house was a stone’s throw from the Beaux Arts and though Eden would be attending studios at l’Academie Julian across the river, the atmosphere of young artists at work filled the neighborhood. Eden couldn’t stop smiling as Mme. Vielle delivered Eden and Eleanor to their new home.

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The house itself was ordinary—perhaps even a bit small—by comparison to others on the street, but was distinguished by an unusually spacious back garden. In front, it was walled with grey stones that crept with ivy and sported not one but two fountains that made watery music and attracted all manner of city birds in the mornings. A gardener kept all of it trimmed in neat flowerbeds and three apple trees burdened with a late summer crop.

Eden had little to unpack, and chose the smallest of the house’s four rooms. It was at the back of the second floor and its single window overlooked the garden and into the neighboring ones as well. She looked at her trunk in the corner and decided to leave it for now. Instead, she drew a folded sheet of paper from the breast pocket of her jacket and opened it carefully. It was the drawing she had made of Sophia two years ago that Sophia had wanted to burn. Eden tacked it carefully to the wall with a whisper: “Don’t forget me, darling.”

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As she turned from the picture, the maid came to her open door and tapped on its frame. “Mademoiselle Smith? Mademoiselle Stephens voudrait savoir ce que vous voudriez pour diner.”

And all at once, Eden realized she was famished. She wanted to go out—to eat and eat, to drink good wine, to watch everyone and see everything in Paris. Now. “Je lui parlerai,” she told the maid. And she nearly ran down the stairs to find Eleanor.

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