When she arrives in Barcelona as a young woman, Sophie has to eke out a living as a piano teacher for arrogant and rude young girls. Fortuny begins courting her. She knows she’ll never love him, and always refuses his proposals. Still, she spends time with him because she likes to bask in his desire and affection.
This portrayal of Sophie and Fortuny’s courtship shows Fortuny in a much more positive light. Even among literary accounts of the past, there can be serious discrepancies about how events actually occurred.
Sophie meets Mr. Aldaya in the grand house of one of her employers. They have an immediate connection, even though he “radiates cruelty and power.” They become lovers, and meet in an empty apartment Mr. Aldaya owns for ninety-six days of violent and upsetting encounters. When she gets pregnant, Mr. Aldaya orders her to get an abortion and, when she refuses, abandons her. She agrees to marry Fortuny so her child won’t be illegitimate. On her wedding day, Mr. Aldaya sends a funeral wreath to the church.
Sophie’s liaison with Mr. Aldaya is potentially troubling, both in its suggestion that “cruelty and power” are essential to masculine appeal and that some women are drawn to relationships that center around possession and abuse. However, no matter how submissive to Mr. Aldaya she seems, Sophie is still strong-minded enough to act independently when it comes to protecting her child.