Eleanor sat in the garden at a table scattered with breakfast ruins, a cigarette between her lips, pondering a manuscript, pencil in hand, when Eden stepped out of the house.
“She returns!” Eleanor announced, as Eden sat heavily down and reached for a discarded bread crust and some cheese.
“Surely you weren’t painting all night,” Eleanor began. “Did you find your way to Liz’s party after all?”
Eden just shook her head, and Eleanor noticed for the first time, the stricken look upon her face.
“Eden?” Eleanor asked with real concern.
“My model…” Eden began, but couldn’t finish.
Eleanor guessed the trouble immediately. “Your model… was struck by a streetcar? Fell into the Seine? Ran away with your picture?” Eden did not smile. Eleanor sighed. “What happened?”
“I finished the picture. She had some…something. It was awful really, but I drank four glasses of it—I think.” Eden rubbed her temples. “She was so kind. And so…”
“Beautiful? Persuasive?” Eleanor pursued.
“Sophia is never going to forgive me.” Eden finally uttered her despair, head in her hands, elbows propped on the small table.
“Your model—what is she called?”
“Well, are you planning to run away with your Caroline?” Eleanor asked, not unkindly.
“Of course not. I told her to leave. I hope I never see her again,” Eden sighed dramatically and finally drank the black coffee the maid had brought.
Eleanor propped her cigarette in an ashtray and gave Eden a serious look. “Listen to me, Eden. This isn’t worth mentioning to Sophia. She doesn’t need to know. You’d be a fool to tell her.”
“She will know. She’s like that. She will take one look at me and just know.” Eden toyed idly with a teaspoon, a look of despair in her tired eyes. Eleanor didn’t doubt Sophia would know—not because of any special powers of perception—but because Eden was so visibly wracked with guilt.
Eleanor tried again. “Darling, the world is full of women. Why the fuss over Sophia Abington? She’s an ocean away and has been for months. She’s busy with her work as you are with yours. Enjoy Paris, Eden! You are young for god’s sake.” When Eden still didn’t meet her eye, she sighed impatiently. “What I wouldn’t give…”
“I don’t care about other women,” Eden said, finally returning Eleanor’s gaze. “Haven’t you ever felt that way about anyone? Honestly, have you really not?”
Eleanor picked up her cigarette, tapped the ash into the tray and smoked wordlessly until she nearly burned her fingers. She contemplated the girl across the table from her, wanting to take away some of her pain. But there were some things she would not say to Eden—not today.
“Don’t pretend there wasn’t a part of you that wanted this.”
“I was drunk, I told you, and she—”
“You were drunk when you kissed Alice Vine too.” Eleanor raised an eyebrow. “Take it from a libertine, darling, sometimes alcohol is just an excuse to do the things we can’t admit we want to do when we’re sober.”
“I’m not like you.” Eden gave her a hard look. “I don’t want my life to be nothing but a series of meaningless conquests.”
Eleanor rose silently and went back into the house.