Sophia stood in Minna’s kitchen, rolling out gingerbread dough. Through a small window that looked into the yard, she watched Nate bounce up and down on a pony as Eden led it around and around in a wide circle.
“Be careful!” Minna called through the kitchen door, then joined Sophia and handed her a coffee cup. “You can use this to cut them out,” she said.
The two women worked quietly for a few minutes, Sophia cutting dough, Minna laying it out on a sheet and putting it in the oven. When they were finished, Minna reached into a cupboard and brought out a small tin. “I just have a little tea,” she said. “Would you like some?”
Sophia nodded and when the tea was poured, Minna sat down with her at the table and asked, “Are you going to stay?”
“In Arizona. Papa was talking about building a house by the river.”
Sophia bit her lips.
“You don’t want to?” Minna put down her cup, brushed a stray lock of hair from her eyes and looked at Sophia.
“I want what Eden wants.”
“Do you think Eden wants to stay?”
“I don’t know… She’s happy. She’s painting again. She’s so proud to show me everything.” Sophia glanced out the window. Eden was laughing. “It’s beautiful here.”
“What about your plans? I thought you were going to be a doctor.” Minna eyed Sophia across the rim of her cup.
Sophia dropped her gaze. “Sometimes plans have to change.”
They were quiet for a moment.
“Don’t worry. She doesn’t want to stay,” Minna said at last.
Sophia looked up.
“She wants to go back to Paris and she wants you to go with her.”
“It’s where she has sent all her pictures.”
“Well…Eleanor is there.”
“Eden wants to go back. But she’s afraid.”
Sophia knit her brow. “Did she tell you so?”
“I just know,” Minna said. “And she wants you to go with her—to protect her.”
“To protect her from what?”
“From Paris. From whatever she ran away from when she came back here.”
“That was my—”
“No. It wasn’t your fault. She lost herself.She isn’t like those people out there—no matter how good her pictures are. She needs someone to remind her of herself.”
“You think I can do that?”
“She said you’re like me. And now I know what she meant. She means you know who she really is.”
“That’s what she tells me—about you, I mean,” Sophia said.
“She’s right. But it isn’t me she needs. Not anymore.”
Sophia was quiet. Minna rose and opened the oven, took out the sheet of cookies and put them on the table.
“But it’s so much easier here,” Sophia finally said.
“Easier than Paris?”
“Easier than anywhere.”
“The ranch would be enough for you?”
“Maybe it would.” Sophia looked again out the window, but all she saw was the top of Nate’s head. A giggle drifted in.
“Well it isn’t for her,” Minna said. “When she asks you, say you’ll go with her.”
“If she asks…”
Minna walked to the door and called into the yard. Eden helped Nate to the ground, tied the pony in the shade and followed the little boy into the kitchen.