She recognizes his handwriting on the package. Part of her has been expecting this – he did tell her to look for a package – but she knows it's from him, even without the return address. She recognizes the slightly cramped printing, listing a little to the side, thin lines. His cursive is nicer, she thinks, nicer than hers, even if she did start writing in cursive first.

She brings the package upstairs, fumbles with the scissors. Her host-sister helps her cut it open, teases her gently for the silly grin on her face.

The word "apologize" in the note is spelled wrong. She giggles more than necessary about it, but his spelling is atrocious. She would have known it was from him even if he hadn't signed the card.

Her name takes up too much space at the top, and then he wrote too much – his own last initial is barely crammed in, squished between his first name and the edge of the note. It's mostly written in cursive, even the capital G's and S's (she prints those; it's easier), but a few words are printed, randomly. He does that sometimes.

She traces the words, lays the card aside – well, more like tosses it, she's so eager to get to the present – but she'll pick it up again later, memorize it, savor every word. Now, though, she wants to see what he got her.

Inside the tissue paper is a necklace.

She's not surprised – she asked for one for her birthday – but it does make her wonder if the present is for her birthday or Christmas. In the note he apologizes for sending it late – but it's only two months late for Christmas, and she honestly wouldn't be surprised if he only thinks it's late for her birthday, which was much longer ago.

The necklace is beautiful. It's the second one he's given her, and she's really starting to wonder how he has such good taste in jewelry. (She decides to give him – or herself, maybe – the benefit of the doubt and say he asks his mother or sisters)

The colors are very different from what she usually wears, but maybe that's why she likes it so much. A dark, faintly glittering, bronze background, with a leaf prominent in the middle. Blown glass, but that she wears a lot.

It's beautiful.

She pulls it out of the packaging, swings it immediately around her neck, brings it closer to her face to look at it again.

And again.

And again.

The day is not perfect. In fact, a lot goes wrong – a lot has been going wrong lately.

It's funny, how even when he's not there with her he manages to influence her life.

Because suddenly, it doesn't matter how imperfect her life is. It doesn't matter how sad she feels sometimes, how hopeless.

It came at the perfect time, this necklace, and it hangs around her neck, gives her strength.

In fact, the chain is extra long, and the pendant rests right next to her heart.

It must be a sign.