Eden 38:1

candleslitEden, Sophia and Eleanor sat together at dinner.

“Why didn’t you tell me, Eden?” Sophia asked before anyone had even raised a fork.

Eden looked up. “Tell you?”

“About meeting Dr. Bertrand.”

“I’ve barely seen you since…” Eden began. It had only been yesterday. She was surprised Dr. Bertrand had mentioned it to Sophia already. “I meant to tell you.”

“Now he wants to study you.”

Eleanor’s eyebrow went up. “Study her?”

“She is a ‘perfect type of the invert,’ he says.”

“Sophie—” Eden began.

“I told him it was not a thing to be considered,” she interrupted Eden. “But then he told me I should not let my pity for you bind me to personal promises; that I owed you nothing but professional compassion and should feel free to marry—for example.” Sophia had picked up her fork, but now she put it down again.  She had not yet touched the food. “He said I was hysterical.” She glared in Eden’s direction. “You might have warned me.”

Eden looked at Eleanor.

“Sophia, when are your examinations?” Eleanor asked quietly.

“Next month.”

“Well I suppose in a month’s time this will all be over, one way or another,” Eleanor said.

Eden looked at her in shock. “One way or another?”

“What do you propose to do but wait?” Eleanor asked. She looked at neither of them and it wasn’t clear if she meant to address Eden or Sophia.

“Eleanor’s right,” Sophia said quietly. “There’s nothing to be done. Obviously, I can neither marry Dr. Bertrand, nor present him with Eden as a case study. But you ought to have told me right away, Eden. It was embarrassing.”

Eden put down her fork. She looked at Sophia. “You ought to have been more professional with him. You should never have let him fall in love with you.”

“Let him? How should I have prevented it?”

“You went to his home, sat around his table with his children. I’m sure it was a charming scene. You ought to have refused such an intimate invitation. Of course he thought you would listen to his proposal when you’d gone there alone.”

Eden’s voice rose enough that Marie, about to enter the dining room with a bottle of wine, shrank back to the kitchen instead. Eleanor, noting Marie’s attempt at discretion, raised a hand and looked at Eden.

“Eden—Sophia certainly didn’t go to the man’s house to put herself in the way of his advances.”

“I am not saying it is all her fault—” Eden began.

But Sophia herself rose now, tossing her napkin on the table. “How understanding of you,” she said, icy eyes on Eden’s. And she left the room, found her hat in the hall and stepped into the darkness.

“Sophie!” Eden called as the door closed. She turned back to Eleanor. “She can’t go out alone, El.”

“Let her go,” Eleanor said. “She’s a sensible girl. She won’t be out long. Help me finish this bottle of wine.”

But Eden left too, and rather than following Sophia, found her way to the rue d’Asass and her studio.

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