The bright morning in February greeted him to the sound of footsteps in his room well before might expect them. Victor barely opened his eyes to spy a familiar shape in the darkness. It was his head housekeeper and while she was under strict orders not to disturb him until he woke, he could see the outline of the girl following closely to her. In their attempts to be quiet, they carried something wrapped in paper that sparkled in the morning light. Feigning that he was still quite asleep, he allowed the two to continue their stealth attempt before quickly retreating back to their regular duties. While a part of him truly did not want to worry about these kinds of intrusions becoming habit, he couldn’t pretend that he couldn’t see the innocence in the gesture. Victor also couldn’t deny the way those two bonded over the holidays. His housekeeper, a spinster who had strong-armed her way into this position through sheer will alone, had always taken her role and responsibilities very seriously. She’d worked harder than anyone else and would do anything faster than someone a fraction of her age. She’d been surprisingly mute when Victor had first switched the girl’s role from a lower ranking maid to one entrusted with the dealings of his own personal affairs. He’d been very quiet about the girl’s role otherwise and since she’d been so valuable in ensuring that his household was trustworthy, he’d rarely needed to consult with her over more business-like matters in some time. Since then, he’d been content to allow her to fall into whatever routine suited her best and, as was her strength it seemed, she dutifully followed whatever it was that she was told to do without complaint. He’d perhaps been somewhat aware that there had been a softening between the girl and the head housekeeper for a while, the girl’s duties relegated to minor things that would have been easily finished early if the girl would have been inclined to play after. With the dealings of Mr. Gray and all the other nightmare business of running the house, his finances and his company, he had been happy to turn a blind eye towards it.

Since his falling ill, however, it was more evident to him that they were quickly growing much closer than this, particularly since the holidays. While he’d been growing more aware that the girl was becoming less of a maid and more of just a girl sent to do chores every day, he couldn’t truly object and as it was, he’d noticed that he’d started to feel somewhat more guilty about the idea of having her under his employ the more he thought about it. It had been different before he’d been paying attention to anything other than his own sorrow. Hiring for the household had been something he did under absolutely no consideration whatsoever. He had hired people for their usefulness and when that old witch Mary had come to him as a package deal with a girl child to play maid, he’d been skeptical only because of her age. If he’d been more aware, less consumed by his foolish wallowing, he might have seen what that was to be. The girl was to be sold to him as a means to keep the hag in the laundry room long enough to get some dirt on him that could be sold to her partner in crime. The one that he had sought to take care of and his lifestyle and gone and taken care of him before he could get there. It didn’t change the plot that had been set in motion, however. The girl had been brought to him as a product to be sold to him as a means for pleasure. It was a deal that was bound to end in failure and when that had happened later on down the road, she would have been snatched out of the house to another bidder who might have seen better fit to take her. And to think that he’d once so naively thought that she was only being brought here to be cared for like the orphan she was. He was ashamed now to think of the man he’d been when he believed that he would only end up babysitting the girl. How ironic now that he’d been the one under her careful kindness and watchful eye for so long now. Perhaps if he had not fallen into Charlotte’s wicked little trick, he might yet have missed what was going on until the spinster would put up with this no more. The girl was a child. She did not belong here and it was becoming increasingly apparent that though he was lenient towards her, she was still an employee and he saw this each time he saw her dressed in that pressed uniform that the house staff wore. Perhaps this was also why he knew that he would soon have to make some kind of amendment to this situation. It had not caused really any difficulty with the other staff. If anything, they only regarded her as they would a girl who lived here and was working on simple tasks as a parent would ask.

He waited until the sound of their footsteps faded and were gone. He did not want them to see him as he rose from his thoughts. He was aware that he was a beast to contend with in the morning and they were clearly enjoying the rare instance of the sun shining through and making the day seem like something lovely. If he’d learned anything over the Christmas season, it was that he was content to watch the happiness of others and it was actually pleasant to see if he did not disturb it with his own tempers. It was a small break in his thoughts that often strayed to the melancholy and he was so much more relieved to see nothing of the brooding difficulty that he often shouldered on their faces, particularly that of the girl’s. Aside from that, he wished not to make a fuss. He knew that they would behave differently as soon as it was seen that he was aware and sitting up. The head housekeeper would stand before him, ever the professional, if not a little bit nagging about his health no matter how much better he was doing. The girl, as she always did, would snap to attention and go about bringing him something either to wake him or to ease him into a state of comfort if she thought he was in pain. They were good at what they did and he appreciated it more fully now than ever before. Victor was aware that he was spoiled for staff these days and anyone else in his position would likely have someone trying desperately to pay him to trade places with him for even a day. That said, he was also aware that the girl and his housekeeper were able to become so much better at their positions because they were having fun and as such, he felt no need to spoil it. After all, the sun was shining for a change.

As he slowly eased himself out of bed and partially dressed, his eye caught again the shimmer of the small package they had placed in the room. It sparkled in a dazzling manner in the morning light and when the sun’s touch had reached it, the paper bathed the room in its glimmer. Victor hesitated to rise fully. His one leg was becoming more sore from lying down but he had been over extending lately and it had begun to show. He resented his cane more and more and he wished vehemently to be rid of it. He knew that this was folly since the healing process only seemed to go slower each time his tempers got the better of him and he tried to prove to his body that he had mastery over it. Still, the idea that he had to use the bloody thing at all made him cringe. Yet the package they had left called and he knew that he would have to examine it before he left the room. He could assume from the way that they had chosen to present it, he was in for a small surprise and as grumpy as he felt at his own failed body, he couldn’t let their efforts go unappreciated. He sighed as he heaved himself up off the bed and made his way to the small table in his room where he often took his meals. As he got closer, he saw the dazzling paper was much like some that had been used to wrap the gifts that the girl had gotten over Christmas. It was no trick of the light on his eyes at all, he realized as he got closer. She had indeed saved the lovely wrapping from her gifts and used it to create something for him. The note gingerly placed on the top said everything he needed to know and he resolved that no matter how much stress or displeasure he carried over his situation or his body, he could not show it. He shook his head as he lifted the small handmade paper note folded on top.

Bonne Fête from Paulette and Rosemary!

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