Eden 27:3

carriageEleanor was at Bette’s door again, wearing evening clothes and carrying a top hat under her arm. Bette opened to her knock in a gown of ivory satin embroidered with red and gold that nearly took Eleanor’s breath away as she took Bette’s arm and walked her to a waiting cab.

“Is the hotel all right?” Eleanor asked as they settled in.

“The Continental?” Bette guessed. “Of course.”

The dining room of the Hotel Continental was full of expensive women and the men who paid their bills. Bracelets clinked against champagne glasses. A general murmur of the talk of many people in many languages filled the air.

The Maitre D’ seated them in a corner by a window that looked out upon the street and across to the Tuileries.

Eleanor ordered a bottle of wine before Bette had even sat down and soon the sommelier was pouring it for them.

“Eden will come back,” Bette told Eleanor after he had left and Eleanor had finished the first glass.

“How do you know that?” Eleanor asked skeptically.

“I know because I know her work. I know it won’t let her go. She can run for a while. But she will be back.”

“She’s stubborn,” Eleanor said.

“I know.”

“She has been on the edge of something ever since I’ve known her, Bette. It’s always been a close thing—whether she would choose this life, or run back to her people. Now she’s run.” Eleanor drained her second glass and reached for the bottle.

“Drinking like this won’t get Eden back here sooner,” Bette said levelly.

Eleanor frowned, chagrined at the reminder of what had happened the night before. “I would not be repaying your kindness by forcing you to repeat the whole production, would I?”

“That’s not my concern.”

“What is your concern? Why are you here with me, now, looking so…” Eleanor stopped.

“Why are you here? Why dinner at the Continental and not leave it at the violets?” Bette returned.

“You have influence on Eden,” Eleanor said, ignoring the question. “Have you written her?”

“No. And I won’t. Don’t bother to ask me to.” Bette sipped her own wine. “She doesn’t need a letter from me. She knows how I feel.”

“What did you tell her?” Eleanor asked. “The day after you talked to her she booked her passage.”

“I certainly didn’t tell her to leave,” Bette said with a trace of defensiveness.

Eleanor sat waiting.

“I told her that I had my heart broken once, and that I worked through it. I told her I have always worked my way through my difficulties. I told her to come to the studio and I would get her painting again.”

“That’s it? ‘Difficulties’?” Eleanor leaned back and crossed her arms.

“I didn’t say who or when.  And I told her about Adelaide.” Bette grew quieter.

“Adelaide?”

“My twin sister. I told her the day Addie died was the worst day of my life.”

Eleanor put her head in her hands now, elbows on the table.

“What, Eleanor?” Bette asked with concern.

“She has a twin sister,” Eleanor told her. “Myrna. In Arizona.”

“Oh,” Bette said quietly. “So she went home. Of course.”

The food arrived and they ate in almost grave silence. But when the orchestra came in and the ballroom adjacent to the dining room began to fill, Eleanor looked at Bette.

dance“May I make it up to you for stepping on your feet last Thursday?” she asked.

They danced.

It was after eleven before they stepped into another cab. As it crossed the river, Eleanor turned to Bette in the dark. “Come in for a drink?”

A streetlamp illuminated Bette’s face for a moment before the cab passed it and the shadow fell again. “All right,” she agreed in the darkness.

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