Eden looked up. She and Sophia were standing atop a mesa, watching the sun rise. Eden had taken Sophia out to camp overnight and show her this very view. But Sophia’s face was suddenly grave.
“Who is your father?”
Eden knit her brow. “Papa? He was—a stable worker back east…”
“I don’t mean Joe.” Sophia took Eden’s hand. “Please don’t be angry, but Joe isn’t…I mean to say, he is…” She took a deep breath and waited.
Eden took her hand away and walked to the remains of the last night’s campfire. She kicked at it for a minute, the embers going grey under the dust.
“Joe Smith is my father,” she said.
“I know, but…” Sophia didn’t move.
Eden put her hands in the pockets of her jacket, but walked back to Sophia’s side. She was quiet for a long time.
“There was someone—” Eden pulled a cigarette and a match from her pocket and fumbled with them for a moment. “My mother was married—before Joe. But that man isn’t my father.”
Sophia held her breath.
“And you’re right about Joe.” Eden looked at her at last. “But no one knows except Mama and me. Not even Minna.” She reached for Sophia’s hand.
Eden kicked a stone. It went skittering for several yards, scaring a bird into the air.
Sophia’s mind reeled: Joe and Lillian were like Eden and herself. They had made a life for themselves. And the longer she had watched them, the more certain she became that it was as happy and perfect as a fairy tale.
Atop the hill by Eden’s side, her heart fluttered with hopefulness. Minna said Joe wanted to build them a house—a house to live in together forever. Eden could paint—the beauty of the place would never be exhausted. Sophia would learn everything she needed to know from Lillian. Even if they didn’t know Joe’s secret, the others on the ranch had known Eden from childhood. She and Eden would always be safe here.
“Your father wants to build us a house.” Sophia squeezed Eden’s hand.
“You know I would live anywhere with you.”
“Even the desert?”
“Even the desert.”
“What about medical school?”
“I’ll do something else.”
Eden shook her head. “I couldn’t ask that of you.” She threw down her cigarette and stepped on it. “But if you would really live anywhere…”
Sophia waited. Eden met her eye.
“Come to Paris.”