Eden 24:4

catalogue-for-the-salon-des-independants-in-paris-1903The exhibition was crowded. They looked at almost everything else before they came to Aphrodite. Sophia watched Eden as they entered the gallery where it hung, but found her expressionless. She reached out and squeezed Eden’s hand.

“I’m so proud of you. Look at all the people who’ve come to see your picture!”

“Not just mine,” Eden demurred.

But her painting was quite central in this particular room, hanging at perfect eye level, in the center of a false wall erected in the middle of the gallery.  Several people were milling about it, making it difficult for Eden and Sophia to get close enough to examine it in any detail. But when the small crowd finally dispersed to move onto another picture, Sophia stepped closer. It came at last into her clear view and as it did, she gave an almost indiscernible little gasp and dropped Eden’s hand. She knew at once why Eden had not wanted her to see it.

“Who is she?” Sophia asked.

“Aphrodite,” Eden answered.

“No, Eden.” Sophia turned and looked Eden in the eye. “Who is she? What is she to you?”

“No one.” Eden looked down and pulled at the cuffs of her jacket. “Just a model.”

“She doesn’t look at you as if you’re no one to her.” Sophia did not look away, even though Eden still would not meet her eye.

“At me? It’s just a picture Sophie.” Eden tried again.

“You’re blushing.”

“Am I?” Eden raised a hand to her cheek and finally looked at Sophia whose gaze was almost accusing now. Her resolve fled before Sophia’s stare and she found herself whispering, “It was nothing, just one night. I was drunk. I haven’t seen her since—”

But Sophia was nearly running now, weaving through the people and out the gallery door. Eden turned after her and followed, quickly as she could manage in the crowd.

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