Category Archives: 14 Chapter Fourteen

Eden 14:3

EdenEden pulled back the curtains at the widows and tied them messily. Morning sun streamed in and the room glowed yellow and violet. Sophia lay sleeping, only half covered by the bed linens, an arm thrown over her head.

Eden pulled a pencil from Sophia’s bookshelf and found a sketchbook she had left in the room the week before. She sat down in a chair at the bed’s foot and drew.

After some minutes, Sophia stirred. Reaching for Eden in the bed beside her and finding nothing, she rose halfway up and squinted into the light falling on her from the window.

“Eden?” she asked, shading her eyes and peering at the window.

Eden smiled, put aside her drawing and crawled back across the bed to Sophia’s side. She took the girl in her arms and buried her face in the hair that fell across her neck.

“I love you, Sophia Abington,” Eden whispered contentedly. “And I never want to leave this room again.”

“Not even for breakfast?” Sophia smiled.

“Breakfast? It’s half-past eleven.”

“Lunch then,” said Sophia and she sat up and shivered. “Help me dress?” She looked around the room, saw her variously discarded clothes from the night before and blushed.

She gathered her under things and put them on, with Eden’s help lacing the corset. She stepped to the wardrobe for a fresh skirt and waist as Eden buttoned her own rumpled shirt and set to work on her tie before the little looking glass by the door.

“What’s this?”

Eden turned to see Sophia holding the drawing she’d done while the girl was still sleeping. She smiled. “It’s you of course.”

“Eden you can’t—you must promise me you’ll burn it!” Sophia said, a line of worry crossing her forehead.

“But it’s beautiful. You’re beautiful. I can’t burn it.” And she took it and laid it between the pages of the sketchbook and told Sophia, “I’ll be quite careful with it. I promise.”

“I’d rather you burned it,” Sophia said, but in a less insistent tone, this time.

“Trust me.” Eden held the sketchbook tightly.

SophiaSophia still looked worried, but she turned back to dressing, pinned up her hair and sneaked quietly down the stairs with Eden.

Arm-in-arm, they walked to the square for lunch.

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Eden 14:2

Eden“It’s freezing!” Eden stepped across the threshold of Sophia’s room and tossed her hat and gloves onto a stool by the empty hearth. “You need a fire. I’ll get some kindling.”

“You needn’t go to the trouble. I’ll turn on the steam heat,” Sophia argued.

“Steam heat?” Eden shook her head a little and left the room.

SophiaSophia just smiled after her. It was dark outside and Sophia knew Eden would want candles and kerosene lamps too, so she walked about the room and began lighting the various ones she had collected in the past few weeks. They had just had tea at the cafe but now Eden had promised they would study, if only Sophia wouldn’t send her home.

Eden returned with the kindling, removed her coat, waistcoat and tie, rolled her sleeves halfway up her arms and set about starting a fire.

Sophia looked at the girl kneeling on the floor in shirtsleeves and braces. “I think I can finally imagine you out in the desert as a cowboy, now,” she teased.

“You have a vivid imagination. A Cambridge boarding house is hardly the desert,” Eden said without turning from the hearth.  Then, “It’s going nicely now. Play some music for us on that machine?”

“Phonograph,” Sophia reminded Eden as she turned to it and set it playing.

“Phonograph,” Eden said and stood, the fire growing bright and high in the little hearth. “Come and kiss me.” Eden reached out her hand. “You’re so pretty in the firelight.”

Sophia stepped to Eden and smiled into her eyes. “We have reading to do,” she said half-heartedly, but let Eden kiss her.

Eden ignored the comment about studying. She swept a loose lock of hair from Sophia’s face and tucked it behind her ear. “Take your hair down for me,” she whispered.

Sophia reached behind her head and began pulling pins from her chignon.  Slowly her hair fell down around her shoulders and Eden buried her face there, grasping Sophia’s waist as she did and sighing.

fireplace“Eden?” It was barely a whisper.

Eden looked up.

Sophia held her eyes for a long moment. “What do you want from me?”

“I want to make you happy,” Eden said.

Eden 14:1

Eleanor“You’ve kissed her, haven’t you?” Eleanor Stephens asked as she and Eden sat smoking over brandy in the gentlemen’s parlor of the Hotel Brunswick.

Eden knew of course, that Eleanor was talking about Sophia and she was glad that she had not said the name aloud. She glanced around nervously. The place was not crowded, but it was not empty. She nodded a quiet confirmation but could only stare into her lap when Eleanor continued, “Do you believe she would like you to do more than kiss her?”

Eden blushed crimson. “El—” she protested in a low voice.

“Don’t worry, ‘Ethan.’” She smiled. “They think we’re men. This is how men speak. And besides, no one is listening.” Eleanor returned to the subject in spite of Eden’s blush. “Your little doctor may be a serious girl—but, darling, she loves you to foolish heights. You feel the same. Am I wrong?”

“You are not wrong,” Eden said, still wishing Eleanor was speaking a bit lower.

“Something more than a kiss would make her happy, I think—if making her happy is something you’d like to do.”

Eden blushed again. She did want to make Sophia happy in exactly the way Eleanor was implying… “but how do you know—how can you be certain?” At last she met her friend’s eye.

“Darling, I’m forty-three years old. Can you imagine how many ladies I’ve met in all those years?” Eleanor raised an eyebrow.

Eden glanced anxiously around the room and finished her drink. She wanted to ask Eleanor a question. But she wished she had a little more brandy.

She swallowed hard, her mouth already dry. “El…” she began, “what do I do?”

Eleanor looked at the poor red-faced girl before her. She couldn’t even remember a time in her life when she had not known what to do when a lady made it clear she wanted more than a kiss. She wasn’t sure what to tell Eden. She thought for a long moment.

“Well, I think the first thing you do, is ask her what she wants,” she began.  Eden looked at her with an expression of some concern and Eleanor added, “not that she will necessarily answer you with words. She may. But if she doesn’t, don’t think it means she has nothing to tell you. Pay attention. You’ll get your answer…And—” She tapped the ash from her cigarette into a tray beside her chair. “Whatever else you thought of Mr. Ellis’s book, surely you could find it useful in this area?”

Eden felt nearly as confused as ever, but was more than ready to change the subject of conversation. She didn’t think it was likely that her father would ever speak to her in terms such as these, and she wondered if it was wrong of Eleanor to have done it. But her friend seemed untroubled. She went on smoking and watching Eden.

At last Eleanor shook her head. “Must everything be so difficult? Why can’t you learn from my mistakes instead of your own?” she sighed and raised her hand to signal the steward for more brandy.

Eden gratefully accepted another glass and a fresh cigarette. But her face made it plain that she could speak no longer on the topic of Sophia.

Eleanor leaned back in her chair, crossed her right heel over her left knee and said, in a louder voice than before, “Tell me all about classical architecture now.” She smiled warmly.  And Eden explained with great relief, the subject of an essay she had been working on for her favorite class.