Trousered knee bumping trousered knee, tie brushing tie, his hands in her short hair and hers in his, Michel’s kiss had been enchanted. It was as if the touch of his lips had transformed her at last into a real man. The taste of coffee and stale cigarettes, the rough worsted of his jacket had awakened her to the revelation that he loved her—as he had feebly tried to explain—not because she was any particular kind of woman, but because she was not one. She felt it in the kiss. To her friend she was an uncanny but marvelous reflection of himself.
She walked too quickly, she breathed too fast. Catching her own image in passing shop windows, she saw the handsome jeune homme Larousse loved. She saw the talented young man who might, with a few strokes of his paintbrush, bring the fashionable circles of Europe and America to his feet.
She was walking with her head high, a smile on her lips when she found herself turning down the rue Jacob and towards home. She had intended to go to the studio again, but her feet had taken her instead to Eleanor’s door.
She stood before it without moving to enter and looked up at the window that belonged to Sophia’s room. She wished Sophia would look down and see her there, see the change Larousse had wrought.
But would she see it?
Putting herself in Sophia’s place, Eden doubted it. What had she lately been to Sophia but a petulant child? What kind of man treated a woman like Sophia with such carelessness? If she was what Larousse believed her to be, she never would have let the woman who loved her worry alone about Bertrand’s advances—or anything else. But she had reacted to Sophia’s trouble as if it were her own and Sophia to blame for it.
A man ought to treat a woman as rare as Sophia like a treasure. Her mother had never had luxury, but Joe Smith had never let her feel herself abandoned for a moment of their life together, Eden was certain. And Joe had put a roof over her mother’s head with his own hands not once, but twice. Sophia was no less deserving than Lillian of such devotion.
Eden knew how to build a house. She had helped raise a multitude of buildings for people and horses when she was growing up. In Arizona, a man built a house in tribute to the woman he would marry. To build a house was to civilize a plot of earth where his beloved could walk in comfort and safety. But Sophia didn’t need a house—Eleanor had a half dozen of them.
What Sophia needed—what Eden had asked her to give away—was her home.
Paris moved fast, and Eden’s career had moved at its pace. The galleries couldn’t keep her work on the walls, and Eleanor’s friends had begun to inquire about portraits. Eden loved Paris only a little less than she loved Sophia, but she knew she didn’t need it anymore. She could work as easily in London, in New York, even in Boston. And so she would.
She would give Sophia Boston.
But first, she had to solve the problem of Dr. Bertrand.