Supper had been quiet. Lillian and Joe seemed almost afraid to speak, but communicated mostly in small smiles and little nods. Sophia ate silently, watching Eden surreptitiously, glancing now at her drawn, tired face, now at her hands, rough and tanned after weeks of working with her father. They were so different from the hands she had seen hold a paintbrush, the hands that held a book or a pencil. She wanted to take them in her own and smooth the palms, kiss the fingertips, make them familiar. But she was almost afraid to touch them.
Now she sat with Eden on the porch steps, Lillian and Joe having gone early to bed. Eden took out a cigarette and lit it, shaking out the match. Darkness came quickly and the stars began to appear, first in faint clusters, then gradually in brighter and brighter swaths until the sky was so heavy with them, it seemed a wonder they didn’t begin to fall like drops of rain.
Eden smoked in silence, while Sophia examined the side of her upturned face in the tiny glow of the cigarette. So many things had happened to them since the first time she had seen Eden watching stars, in her room in Cambridge, after the Chopin concert.
“You are so different here,” she finally said.
“Not so different on the inside,” Eden argued softly. “I still love you as much as always, Sophie. Every day. Every minute.” But she didn’t meet Sophia’s eye. “It’s like a bruise that won’t heal.”
“Is it only a pain?”
“It has been. When you didn’t write to me in Boston, I thought you must hate me. I thought—”
Sophia interrupted her. “I didn’t know you were in Boston.”
“But I came to your house. I left messages. I wrote you that I—”
“I don’t live there anymore.” Sophia gave Eden a pleading look. “I only got your letters last week.” She did not say that Eleanor had been intercepting them.
Eden knit her brow and looked at Sophia. “Where do you live?”
“Near the medical school,” Sophia said. Then, quieter, “with Claire.”
“Claire.” Eden looked away now and tossed the end of her cigarette into the yard, its orange glow fading slowly and winking out. She ran her hand through her hair.
“Eden…” Sophia reached up to touch her shoulder. “If I had known how…unwell you were…”
“I was not unwell. Just a stupid fool.” Eden put her head in her hands. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
“No, I’m sorry. I was a coward.” Sophia swept a stray lock of hair behind Eden’s ear. “Please forgive me for running away.”
“It was nothing I didn’t deserve,” Eden told her, looking up now and meeting her eyes in the starlight.
Sophia took Eden’s face in both of her hands, pulled it down to her own and kissed her gently.
Eden fell slightly off balance and put a hand on the porch by Sophia. She reached for the girl’s waist with the other and pulled her hard against her, kissing her back with ferocity.
Sophia did not shrink, but met Eden’s passion with her own in equal measure, until Eden drew back, trembling.
“I’m sorry. It’s too soon,” Eden apologized.
No,” Sophia whispered. “I have been thinking of this for months.”
“I have wanted you so badly,” Eden admitted softly in Sophia’s ear.
“Have me,” Sophia said.