Eden 27:1

Two months later, Eleanor had still heard nothing from Eden.

It was her turn to get drunk. She was working hard at it now, at Liz Vielle’s New Year party, where she stood talking to the hostess over a glass of champagne.

“What has become of your young artist Eleanor?” Liz asked her. “Girls like that are what make my ballroom such a success.”

candleslitEleanor gave Liz a wry smile. “She’s gone to do whatever artists do when they grow bored with Paris.”

“And what is that?” Liz asked with some shock, though whether it was real or pretended, Eleanor wasn’t sure.

“I wouldn’t know,” Eleanor demurred. “I’m not an artist. I never grow bored with Paris.”

feast-champagne-glassLiz laughed and took Eleanor’s empty glass. She sat it and her own on a table nearly overflowing with others like them and took Eleanor’s hand. “Then you won’t object to dancing with me?” she asked and led Eleanor to the floor.

Bette Nourse stood in a corner, pretending to listen to a woman with a monocle tell a story about some comptess she had met at a wedding and had a scandalous moment with behind some topiaries. But Bette’s eyes were on Eleanor and Liz Vielle, waltzing and laughing across the room.

Beth“Excuse me,” Bette said, and stepped out of the little circle around the woman with the monocle.

She stood at the edge of the dance floor and waited for the waltz to end. When it did, she strode to Eleanor and took her hand. “Pardonez-moi, Liz, mais je vais dancer avec Eleanor maintenant.”

She smiled at Mme. Vielle and reached up to Eleanor’s shoulder. “All right?” she asked.

“Oh…yes,” Eleanor agreed with no little surprise. She put her hand on Bette’s waist, the music began again, and they danced.

“Things are spinning a bit more than they should, I think,” Eleanor confessed to Bette halfway through the waltz.

“How many glasses of champagne have you had?”

“I lost count after four.”

“Let’s get some fresh air,” Bette suggested and they found their way to the garden and sat for a few minutes, not speaking.

Bette lit a cigarette and handed it to Eleanor, then lit another for herself.

“I suppose I should get home,” Eleanor said, smoothing the legs of her trousers.

“Why don’t I see you there?” Bette suggested.

“It’s not so far. The air will revive me if I walk,” Eleanor objected. The ash at the end of her cigarette fell into her lap. She half stood to brush it away, lost her balance and sat down again, catching herself with the hand that held the cigarette, dropping it beneath the garden bench.

“I’m not sure you can walk,” Bette said as Eleanor reached below the bench in a vain attempt to retrieve the cigarette.

Eleanor sat up. “It’s me should be seeing you home—a lady alone at night,” she insisted.

“All right then, you see me home,” Bette agreed gently, and they left through the garden and headed to the rue d’Assas, arm-in-arm.

Bette opened her door with a key and turned to Eleanor, “Come in.”

Eleanor didn’t pause to object, but stumbled into the dark hallway and followed Bette slowly up the stairs.

Bette opened the door to a small room and lit a gas sconce on the wall.  “Louise’s room,” she said. “Sleep now. Go home in the morning.”  Her tone held neither warmth nor coolness.

“Louise’s room?” Eleanor looked wary.

“She’s in New York for the month. She won’t even know you were here,” Bette assured her.

“Louise has always hated me,” Eleanor said, sitting heavily on the bed anyway.  “Help with these cufflinks?” she added.

Bette sat beside her, unfastening her cufflinks and studs. “Louise doesn’t hate you,” she said gently.

“She thinks I’m a deviant,” Eleanor argued.

“You are a deviant,” Bette said.  “You’ve made a career of it, Eleanor.”

She stood and walked to the door. “Go to bed now. Let’s not say anything more tonight.” She put out the light.



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