Sophia lay in Eden’s arm sighing with the pleasant vertigo of approaching sleep, when Eden whispered into the dark. “Let me paint you, Sophie. Please let me paint you.”
Sophia said nothing, but she was awake now.
“Why not?” Eden sat up and lit a candle by the bed. She leaned over Sophia and traced the curl of a lock of hair that fell across her shoulder with the back of her hand.
“I’ve given you every particle of my body and soul, why do you need to paint me?” Sophia picked up Eden’s roving hand and kissed it.
“I look at you and see nothing but paintings—Sophia tossing a dressing gown over her shoulders; Sophia on the veranda with a book in her lap; Sophia in the music room, playing her etude… I close my eyes and I can feel the brush in my hand. I need to paint you. Please.”
“You have enough things to paint without me. Paint Gertrude Brunswick—her husband will pay you as much as I can earn in a year—more.” Sophia got up and pulled a dressing gown over her shoulders, much as Eden had imagined. She walked to the mantle and poured a small glass of port for herself and another which she handed to Eden.
Eden didn’t know how to explain it to Sophia, but this growing need to paint her lover was nearly a madness. She felt it like she felt the physical desire for Sophia’s body when they were apart.
“It’s—it’s another way to touch you, Sophie—the only way I can reach…”
“Maybe I don’t want you to touch me that way,” Sophia admitted softly.
“But why not?” Eden’s expression was pained.
“I don’t want to be just another sitter—just another model—if you paint me…what’s left? You can toss me on the pile of your triumphs and be finished with me.”
“It’s not like that,” Eden said. “It wouldn’t be like that.”
“What would it be like?” Sophia asked, and sat in the chair by the fire, the wine, untouched, in her hand.
“It would be…” Eden reached to explain. “It would be the last thing—the only thing I ever needed to do. I could spend the rest of my life painting nothing but you.”
“Your public would find that rather dull, I imagine,” Sophia said, her eyes on the fire.
Eden ignored her. Instead she emptied her own glass and sat it on the mantel. “Look at you now,” she whispered, “Sophia, by the fire, a glass of ruby liquid in her perfect hand…”
Eden walked to Sophia and knelt at her feet, laying her head in the girl’s lap. “I would do anything, if you would only say yes.”
Sophia stroked Eden’s hair softly. But she said nothing.