A rigid military uniform, a strict, disciplined upbringing, and tall, heeled boots. She was a force to be reckoned with!
Ah, Oscar, the people would say when they saw her in Versailles, walking down the corridors as if she owned the place. She's so brave! She's so strong!
And she was. She could fence better than most men, she had sustained countless injuries in her duty to the Queen of France, and she had completed every assignment ever given to her.
He knew all of this. He knew she could best him in a fencing match without even blinking. She was far too agile to let him win! He knew every assignment given to her, and he had spent many evenings at the side of her bed while she recovered from injuries taken while on duty.
He heard the talk throughout Versailles of Oscar's beauty, of her straight posture and her permanent "I could care less" expression…even her reputation of being made of ice. The women adored her, the men admired her… They all thought they loved her.
But they didn't. They couldn't. How could they love Oscar François de Jarjayes when they did not even know her?
She turned away from the lustful gazes of men, not because her heart was encased in ice, but because she did not want them. She had accepted her fate of a life without love. She wore men's clothing because she was raised that way, forced to grow up and pretend to be someone she was not, and they thought she made a beautiful, dashing man. Oh, the women tittered. If only she really were a man! We would never let her go!
The men respected her for the most part. She does a fine job, they said to one another when they thought André was not listening. But wouldn't she be happier at home learning embroidery or the harp?
They could not see what he could. Oscar was the most beautiful woman alive, in his eyes. When she was astride a horse wearing that rigid military uniform, she looked as if she were comfortable, at home. Stitching and learning things women had to learn would never suit her. Never!
She would not be content to play the harp for guests.
She preferred the violin and the piano for their long, soothing notes.
Oh, Oscar! You're so strong! You're so brave! What is it like to work so hard and go home to lie alone in your big bed? We wish we could be more like you, Oscar. The men are always looking at you! The only woman above you is Marie Antoinette herself! Oh, how wonderful it must be to be you!
He wanted to tell them so many things. How many of those men would love to see her confined in their home, running a household rather than a military regiment? Was her popularity the only thing others cared about? Why did they fail to realize that Oscar herself could care less about what other people thought?
The Colonel was admirable, was lovely and amazing and wonderful, just as all of Versailles said when she passed them by in her splendid uniform. Everyone loved Colonel Oscar François de Jarjayes. They loved looking at her, loved gossiping about her, loved wondering about her life.
But Oscar François, the person under the uniform, was someone they did not even know.
Could they still love the Colonel if they saw her slumped in her chair in front of the fireplace, a glass of wine in her hand with two already-empty bottles on the floor? Could they still claim to love her if she dared to cry in front of them—something she would never, ever do, even in front of her own father, because it was too feminine and it would anger him?
He sighed and looked over at her as he set the empty bottles of wine on the table next to her chair and gently pried the glass, still half-full of wine, from her fingers. After pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, he wiped away the evidence that she had been crying before he covered her sleeping form with a light blanket that was folded across the back of her chair.
Could they still say that they loved her if they saw her like this—vulnerable and not looking confident or brave at all?
He doubted it very much.
They only saw The Colonel; they refused to see and love the woman underneath the uniform for everything that she was.
But he did.
Well, that was interesting… I don't really have anything to say about this one. Thanks for reading! Constructive criticism is appreciated, as always.