It was near sundown three days before Christmas, and Oscar still had no gift for Rosalie.
Everyone else had been surprisingly easy to shop for this year, even Lady Antionette. Mother and Father, her sisters, André, Nanny...their gifts had been bought and paid for weeks ago. But the right gift for her protégé seemed to elude her, no matter how hard she thought.
It seemed like only yesterday Rosalie had mistaken her for a man, offering her body in exchange for coin. Who would have guessed that this same girl would become such an important part of her life? Please, you must train me so that I may avenge my mother's death! Oscar had taken pity on her at first, inviting her to live with her family so she'd have a warm place to stay. She'd trained her in swordfighting, even though deep down she hoped Rosalie would forget about seeking revenge on Madame de Polignac.
The girl had become a part of her daily routine after a while. They ate together, took tea in the afternoon. Rosalie grew more and more adept at swordplay with Oscar's guidance, and some nights Oscar would even help her polish her dance skills.
She hadn't expected them to grow as close as they had. Rosalie, who had suffered so long and worked so hard to support her dear mother only to lose her in the end, who'd had to do without even the most basic comforts her whole life. Rosalie, who had captured Oscar's heart in a way she'd never thought anyone would.
The problem wasn't that Rosalie was difficult to shop for; Oscar knew she could give the girl a clump of dirt from the garden and Rosalie would cherish it as if it were gold. But that was the main problem, Oscar couldn't just get her any old thing. It had to be absolutely perfect, something that expressed her feelings in a way mere words never could.
Oscar sighed, browsing the racks of gowns and capes and hats. They were all beautiful, there was no doubt, and any of these things would have looked lovely on her protégé. But even if she did want to get her one, how could she decide which? Pink and blue were her best colors, but a soft burnished gold velvet would suit her as well. Red, of course, would be perfect for the winter, but it would only sit in her closet come spring.
Do I even remember her measurements? Oscar realized. She'd asked the family's tailor and written the numbers down but in her haste had forgotten to take the paper with her. And the more she thought about it the more she realized clothing was too practical a gift for such an occasion.
Perhaps a figurine was a better way to go, Oscar thought as she turned her attention to a shelf on her right; she chuckled as she noticed just how many different figurines of the Queen there were this year. There were also figurines of elegant ladies and gentlemen and horses and birds, all exquisitely made but none of them what she could see herself giving Rosalie.
She abandoned that shelf for the time being, turning her attention to the one opposite it. Perhaps a book? Rosalie was coming along wonderfully with her studies, and a beautiful love story or book of sonnets seemed like the ideal gift. But like the gowns and the capes and the hats, there was the matter of choosing which ones. Oscar could easily afford more than one of anything, and the temptation to spoil the girl was a strong one. But she knew Rosalie would object to such a thing. No, it was best to remain within the realms of sensibility on this matter.
Oscar mentally filed books on the list of possibilities, left the shelves altogether and examined the jewelry case. A lavish ruby necklace her eye and she imagined Rosalie taking it from the box, gasping with delight as Oscar helped her put it on. The shine in her eyes and the smile on Rosalie's face would be worth every copper spent on it.
But again, it didn't seem like nearly enough.
You could buy her the necklace and a set of books! a little voice in her head suggested, but Oscar shook her head. In any other case that would be the ideal solution, but in this case quality mattered far more than quantity. It was better to get her one perfect gift than several "good" ones.
She hadn't had this much trouble with André's gift, and he'd basically said the same thing as Rosalie had. Then again, Oscar had known him since childhood and knew all of his interests by heart.
But she also knew Rosalie's interests, her passions and preferences. Ths should have been just as easy, yet here she was close to sundown, three days before Christmas, frustrated and confused. Why did it matter so much? Why did this gift have to be so perfect? Rosalie was part of her family, but something kept Oscar from thinking of her as just another sister, or even just a close friend.
And then something in the jewelry case caught her eye: a silver locket with a rose insignia on a delicate chain.
It wasn't fancy, it may have very well been the least fancy thing on display. But it was beautifully crafted and in her heart she knew it was just what she'd been looking for. Sweet, simple, beautiful...just like Rosalie herself. A warm sense of realization washed over her; it was more than simply wanting to give a poor girl a happy Christmas.
Rosalie meant everything to her.
"Marcel!" she called to the thin, elderly shopkeeper. "I would like to buy the silver rose locket, please." The man was only too happy to help her, and before she knew it she was carrying her purchase home with a sense of true accomplishment.
Tomorrow she would take it to the engraver's, and she already knew exactly what she wanted engraved on the back. Three little words that would say exactly what was in her heart.
To my Rosalie.
Come Christmas morning Rosalie would open her gift, and in return gift Oscar with her brightest smile. No matter what the girl gave her, that smile would be the most priceless gift of all.
Fresh snowflakes fell, dusting her cheeks, but Oscar had never felt warmer.