Mrs. Charles Brunswick was wearing a long glittering gown of silver-threaded chiffon over a deep blue satin dress and draped in a mink cape much out of season for a July morning. It was her husband’s choice, and her husband was paying for the portrait, which would hang prominently in the dining room. Gertrude held the hem of her gown carefully off the floor for fear of dust as she walked slowly around the perimeter of Eden’s studio investigating the paintings piled along the wall. She skimmed by the seascapes and still life but stopped to look closer at the portraits and scenes of children playing on the beach.
“This is nice,” Gertrude said, examining a picture of Vivienne Webb with her small granddaughter on her knee. “She looks a bit familiar, should I know her?”
Eden didn’t turn to see who Gertrude meant, but kept busy with her charcoal and paint, then in arranging the drape behind the couch where Gertrude would sit.
“Is this your cook?” Gertrude asked now, and Eden finally turned.
“Lucy, yes,” Eden smiled. It was her favorite of the paintings she’d done so far in the new studio. Lucy had sat before a butcher block, shelling peas into a copper bowl, humming to herself giving Eden a peaceful sense of home as she had worked. She could recall the tune every time she looked at the picture.
“What about Sophia Abington? You’ve one of her somewhere don’t you?” Gertrude asked.
“No,” Eden said.
“You haven’t painted her?”
“No.”Eden let go of the drapery behind the couch. “Here,” she said. “Sit down and let me see where the light is going to fall.”
Gertrude sat where Eden directed her and Eden touched her here and there, turning her shoulder one way, tilting her chin another. Then she stepped to her canvas, took up a stick of charcoal and began to sketch.
“Is she not here with you?” Gertrude asked.
“Who?” Eden said.
“Miss Abington. I had thought you lived together. Perhaps Cathy was mistaken. Or I misunderstood,” Gertrude said.
“She works at a hospital in Boston. She comes to the cape when she can.” Eden did not want to talk about Sophia to Gertrude. “Lift your chin a bit?” she said.
“How many sittings do you suppose the picture will require?” Gertrude asked.
“I can’t say today,” Eden said.
“I hope it is enough to give us heaps of time to talk,” Gertrude said, and flashed a smile upon Eden.
Eden kept her eyes on the canvas. “Chin,” she reminded Gertrude.