“She booked her passage?”
“In July. She’ll be here in time for the exhibition. Bette says I should put in the one I’m doing now for certain.”
“You’ve been at that one for a while.” Eleanor frowned. “Will it be finished?”
“By July? Of course.”
Eleanor looked at Eden carefully. The girl had not yet met her eye. “Any reason for it taking so long?”
Eden stirred sugar into her coffee. “I want it to be perfect, that’s all.”
Eleanor glanced at the letter Eden had tossed onto the breakfast table. “What else does Sophia say?”
“She’s working.” Eden’s jubilation faded visibly. “She works too hard.”
“I suppose it isn’t easy to be a medical student.”
“No.” Eden fingered the letter. “I just wish she’d come here to do it. It would be easier if we were together.”
“What would be easier?”
“Oh—everything,” Eden said with a sigh. And she rose and went back into the house.
Eden had left the letter on the table. Eleanor picked it up and read it. She didn’t see any sign of trouble in Sophia’s words. Yet clearly Eden was troubled by something. Eleanor frowned. It might be better if Eden left Sophia in the past. The girls had been a good match in college—both outsiders in their own way—but now… Eleanor’s hopes for Eden went well beyond Sophia’s little sphere of Boston reformers. And whatever Eden thought of her own future, Eleanor was certain that sooner or later the girl would realize how different her destiny was from Sophia’s. But the longer this realization took, the harder their parting would be.
Eleanor didn’t wish Sophia ill. But perhaps this Claire she so often mentioned in her letters was a better companion for a Quaker midwife than Eden would be in the grand scheme of things.
“Lady companions,” her mother had called such women in Eleanor’s childhood. There were always a pair of them floating around the edges of the Stephens’ social circle. They were usually schoolteachers or nurses, though her own cook and housekeeper back on Beacon Hill fit the pattern well.
Eleanor appreciated the presence of these women in her life and there were always some of them among her dinner guests when she was in Boston. But though she found much to admire in them, and often contributed richly to the causes they championed, she did not envy these pairs of spinsters, knitting and reading improving literature aloud to one another through the long New England winters.
Eleanor fancied herself more of a winking troubadour, charming beautiful women wherever she found them. Some of them had spurned her in public but flirted in private…some had done just the opposite, in hopes of shocking their husbands. Some had loved her lavishly for a time, but it required all of them together to keep life from growing dull. The very idea of some plain-dressed old maid pledging eternal devotion to Eleanor bored her to tears.
And Eden was like Eleanor. Eleanor was certain of it, whether the stubborn girl would face it or not. She had only her own parents as examples of what women could be to each other. But even Eden knew there was no disguising herself forever and “marrying” Sophia as her father and mother had done. Girls like Alice Vine were a trial to be sure, but with time, Eden would learn to handle them. And who better than Eleanor to help her along?
It was bound to come clear when Sophia arrived in Paris. Eden belonged in this world. Sophia belonged in another.