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Finding Eden

By:Mia Sheridan

PROLOGUE


"I promise you I will do everything just as you ask. But come closer. Let us give in to grief, however briefly, in each other's arms."

Homer, The Iliad

Eden

I woke up under heavy blankets, opening my eyes wide as I took in the room around me. I didn't move, just listened, trying to understand where I was. It was then I heard footsteps walking toward me and the older man, the jeweler, came into view, standing above me. It all came back . . . breaking the vase, paying for it with the locket, the homeless shelter, fainting. I blinked up at him, my fight or flight instinct kicking in as my eyes darted around the room.

"It's okay, you fainted. My driver helped me put you in my car. You're at my town house."

I sat up, pulling the covers up against my chest. I still had all my clothes on, but someone had removed my shoes.

I opened my mouth to say something, I wasn't sure exactly what, when the door opened again and a woman walked in with a tray in her hands.

Food. My stomach lurched and my mouth immediately started to water at the smell wafting off whatever was coming toward me.

The woman set the tray over my lap and I looked down at it greedily—some kind of soup and several rolls with neat little pats of butter melting on top. My body took over. I'd get out of here after I ate. I had to eat. In that moment, the hunger ruled me and it was too much to resist. I didn't care where I was, or why or with whom. The food was the only thing that mattered. I picked up the spoon with shaky hands and I started shoveling it into my mouth, glancing up at the jeweler and the woman in a housekeeping uniform who stood just to his side. Both of them watched me with sad, curious eyes.

The woman took a step toward me. "Slow down, little one. You haven't eaten for a while. You'll make yourself sick if you eat it too fast. Force yourself to slow down." Then she put one hand on my back and moved it in slow circles while I slowed the movement of the spoon from the soup to my mouth. For several minutes, the only sound in the room was my unladylike slurping and then my own chewing sounds as I picked up each roll and ate them in three bites apiece. The woman's gentle circles on my back never stopped, calming me, reminding me to eat as slowly as I could. A few times it felt like the food would come back up, but it didn't and when I was finished, I picked up the napkin and wiped my hands and my face, and then set it down, embarrassed to look at them. My dignity trickled back in now that my hunger had been satisfied.

"Well then, that's better," the woman said and I glanced up at her sympathetic face. It felt like so long since someone had been kind to me. Tears filled my eyes, but I looked away before they could spill down my face. She took her hand off my back, picked the tray up, leaned into the man and said something softly, and then left the room.

I swung my legs over the side of the bed, but the man put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Please, you're welcome to stay here tonight. There's a bathroom over there." He inclined his head to the left and I glanced at the closed door he was indicating. "And this room isn't used by anyone anymore. Please stay. It's the least I can do after . . . today."

I licked my parched lips, looked around, trying to decide what to do. I desperately wanted to stay here in this warm place where I could sleep in an actual bed, but I didn't understand why this man had taken me in.

"I broke your property today," I finally said.

He pursed his lips. "Yes, and you paid for it. And it could have been handled differently. I'm sorry I didn't step in."

I wasn't sure what to say to that and so I remained silent, looking up at him.

"Please. Let me put you up for the night. We can make other . . . arrangements tomorrow. Yes?"

I looked down, fidgeting with my hands in my lap. It was either say yes or go back out into the cold street. But I didn't know what his "arrangements" might be and that worried me. I nodded my head and when I looked up at him, he looked pleased.

"Good. Take a shower. Get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning." And with that, he turned on his heel and walked quickly out of the room.

Once he had left, I scurried over to the door and turned the lock. Leaning back against the door, I took the time to really take in the room for the first time. It was beautiful. There was a sort of floral fabric on the walls and I walked over to one and ran my hand over the smooth, slightly textured surface. I tried to muster up some gratitude for the lovely surroundings, but there was only numb observance. I turned and looked at the bed again. The luxurious silk and velvet bedding was rich in various shades of cream and lilac. Inviting. I walked back over to it, the call to sleep too great to resist now that my belly was full. I'd shower in the morning.

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