Chapter 1: North mountain
The North mountain was the closest mountain to the city of Trolheim, a thirty-five minutes car ride from the city centre to the base of the mountain. The ride was peaceful and the view was amazing. Winter season was only a few days away and, the whole city and highlands were covered in snow. Kristoff had invited Anna to go with him to visit his sister Elsa, who lived in a cottage uphill at the base of the mountain, for a few days. Anna had been eagerly waiting for the trip, she really liked Elsa even though they hadn't spent much time together. Her sister-in-law was a really easy-going, though a little detached, person. The three of them had shared some family meals at the Bjorgman's house, but they hadn't had the chance to share some real time together. Elsa rarely visited the city, claiming she loved nature too much to spend her time in an apartment building. Anna thought it was a little strange not to spend some time in town from time to time, but Kristoff assured her Elsa had her reasons. The cottage belonged to Mr. Bjorgman who claimed he was too old to take care of the place, especially now that he was over fifty years old. And so, he offered the place to Elsa; if she took care of the lodge, she could live there and teach ski lessons during touristic season. Elsa was an excellent skier, she loved winter sports more than it was healthy – according to Kristoff's opinion – and so, she took on the offer when she turned nineteen years old.
As they reach the base of the mountain, Anna looked away from the window in the direction of her boyfriend who was driving the truck. She decided to speak after some minutes of silence, "So, how's Elsa's place?"
"Meh, it's just an old cottage in the mountain," he said shrugging. "It's a nice place to spend some days in, but I wouldn't live there the whole year like she does." He parked the truck in the deserted parking lot and indicated Anna to step out of the tarnished truck. They had to pick their bags from the back and walk a kilometre towards the cottage. "By the way, I didn't tell Elsa you were coming. So, don't take it personal if she is surprised to see you," he casually commented as he helped Sven, his dog, to climb down from the back of the truck.
"What?! Are you nuts? This is her place and you didn't tell her I was coming?" she said as she raised her head from her bag on the ground.
"Hey! She may be taking care of the place but it's also mine," he arranged his own bag on his shoulders. "Besides, she may not be a really sociable person but she likes you. She won't mind."
"I hope you are right. I'd really like to spend some nice, relaxing days here... Do you think she'd mind teaching me how to ski?"
"Nah, she'd love to. C'mon, I want to get to the cabin before dusk." Sven knew the place as much as Kristoff did and started running in the correct direction in front of them.
Kristoff had insisted the place was only a kilometre away, but he hadn't said it was such a tiring trail. It took them a little longer than they had expected to reach the cottage, but they did it before dusk as he wanted to. Coming out of the snow-covered forest trail, Anna was able to see a beautiful, though old and battered, place. The dimming lights of the day in contrast with the blurred orange lights of the house made the place worth of a painting.
"This place is beautiful," she gasped as they walked towards to cabin.
"It is, isn't it?" he said as he reached the porch. "Oi, Elsa!" he suddenly screamed at the top of his lungs, startling Anna in the process. He laughed at his girlfriend's reaction.
"What is wrong with you? Can't you knock the door like normal people do?" she said amused by Kristoff's antics.
"It's just Elsa. I won't waste my good manners on her."
A loud bang was heard when someone opened the door in a fast motion, crashing it against the side table inside the cottage; with a hand on the lock stile she yelled back, "What is wrong with you? Can't you knock like normal people do? I swear you practise to be a-" she stopped her rant when she saw he was with company. "Oh, sorry, Anna. I didn't see you there for a minute."
Grinning from ear to ear after getting the reaction he expected from his sister, Kristoff walked up the creaking steps and embraced Elsa in tight hug, raising her from the wood floor "How has my favourite sister been?"
Elsa wanted to pretend she was angry with Kristoff's childishness but couldn't keep her acting once they were hugging. She laughed a little and lightly hit him on the back to be put back on the ground. Kristoff complied and heard her say, "I'm your only sister, you idiot. I swear, you have no manners. But I missed you so I'll let you stay. Come on in." She saw Anna was still holding hers and Kristoff's bag, he had through it before reaching to her, "You too, Anna. And you, silly," said pointing to her brother. "be a gentleman and help her with the bags."
The cabin was undoubtedly nicer on the inside than the outside. It was more modern and cosier than it seemed. It was simple and small, but big enough for two people to live in. Anna could see Elsa was a really structured and tidy person, everything seemed to be on the right place with the exception of a mug that rested on the coffee table in front of the stove, in the living room.
"Sorry about the mess. I thought only Kristoff was coming, he is used to it," said Elsa apologetically.
"What mess? This place is spotless," looking around Anna tried her best to find anything out of place or that needed to be organized, she found none.
"There are books everywhere and some windows don't work properly, once the wind starts everything becomes a mess. By the way, the guest room has all the winter equipment I rent to my students. So, you'll be staying in my room," Elsa went into the kitchen to prepare something warm for their guests.
Kristoff through himself in the couch and said, "It's not necessary. Anna is as messy as I am, we don't mind."
"No, Kristoff. I insist," Anna heard Elsa say from the kitchen's door, while she looked at Kristoff in a way that didn't admit any complaints. "The guest room is also the coldest, you know I'm the only one who doesn't mind the cold."
Anna felt bad for Elsa, she knew that if Kristoff had come alone, Elsa wouldn't be changing rooms. She chose that moment was the best to apologise for coming unannounced, "I'm sorry, Elsa. I thought Kristoff had told you I was coming. You shouldn't change rooms just because of me. I don't mind the mess, nor the cold."
"It isn't a problem, Anna. Really. Kristoff knows I don't mind changing rooms," she said with a tender look in her eyes, directed towards her brother and Anna. Turning around to go back into the kitchen she added, "And don't apologise for coming, I'm glad you did."
Anna watched her disappear in the kitchen followed by Sven, the German shepherd seemed to love Elsa just as much as he loved Kristoff. No doubts the dog was adopted when Elsa and Kristoff still lived together in their parents' house. She sat next to her boyfriend and asked him to tell her where the main room was. Since Elsa was so nice to offer the room, the least she could do was putting their bags away.
That night after a delicious meal, courtesy of Kristoff's culinary skills, Anna and her boyfriend went to bed. While changing clothes, Anna noticed the room walls had lots of picture frames. Each photo showed Elsa in company of someone from her family. Kristoff and Elsa were in many photos, together with Sven. Anna noticed the older Elsa was in the photos, the happier she looked. She also noticed there weren't photos about her childhood, which was a little odd.
Kristoff came out of the bathroom ready for bed when he saw Anna with her eyes focused on a picture. In the photo, Kristoff held a tiny Sven with his hands, his arms were stretched towards a happy but doubtful Elsa who had her arms behind her back. She looked joyful about the puppy but she seemed unsure to touch him. Kristoff remembered telling Elsa over and over again to hold the puppy. "That one is from the day we adopted Sven," he told her.
Surprised by Kristoff's sudden appearance, Anna turned around apologetically as if she was caught doing something bad, "I didn't hear you coming. I was mesmerised by that picture, the three of you look too cute. How old were you?"
"I was sixteen and Elsa was seventeen years old. Little Sven was forty days old," he smiled tenderly at the photo as if it was a memory he had forgotten. "Hard to believe Elsa and Sven are so close now. She denies it, but she was terrified about the whole adopting a puppy thing," he laughed a little.
"Terrified? It was just a puppy!" Anna was puzzled about Kristoff's comment which made no sense to her.
Realising it didn't make much sense, Kristoff changed the topic not necessarily wanting to discuss what he meant, "Never mind, just a stupid thought. Let's go to bed, shall we? I want to show you great things about this mountain. Starting tomorrow morning."
Anna looked the photo a little longer before accepting Kristoff's offer, whatever he meant was something he didn't wish to talk about. Maybe Elsa had a thing for animals, similar to the one she had for people.
Morning came with the sky's most beautiful gift for a cold December morning in the North mountain, fresh snow covered the highlands making the scene completely mesmerising. Anna caught Elsa looking out the window with a mug of hot chocolate in her hands, totally unaware of Anna's presence, "the view is amazing."
Turning with a wide grin she answered, "It is, isn't it? I love this time of the year."
"Morning, girls." said Kristoff who had entered the kitchen and was pouring coffee in his mug.
"Have you seen the snow outside? It's perfect. As if it was sent especially for us to enjoy," commented Anna. It was possible to see the excitement in her eyes. Kristoff looked outside and then looked sceptically towards Elsa over Anna's head who didn't seem to notice.
Elsa giggled and answered, "I made sure I had everything Kristoff and I needed to spend a week together. Snow was not in the list, but it's a nice touch." Leaving Kristoff and Anna by the window, she went back to the kitchen counter to prepare breakfast, "Anna, this place is yours during the week; grab anything you want from the fridge. Anything you need just ask me."
"Thank you. You are too nice," Anna poured some coffee for herself and sat in the kitchen table. After thinking for a few seconds, she asked the owner of the place, "What do you recommend we do today?"
"Don't worry, there's plenty to do here. The mountain is perfect for most winter sports, there's even a frozen lake not far away from here. We can walk the woods too, if you don't feel sporty. And we can visit Oaken's during the evenings. Best beer you can find."
"Only beer you can find here," Kristoff said chuckling and sitting by his girlfriend. "But Oaken's far away from the cottage, there's no way we can get there by foot. Especially in the evening."
"I bought an old motor ski. Getting there will be no problem," she answered as she put some toasts on the table. "During the day, you guys are free to use it as you please."
"Are you nuts?! You bought something old without consulting me? Elsa you don't know if it works correctly!"
"What do you know? You haven't even seen it yet. Besides, it's perfect for my ski lessons. If I work as I intend to this season, I'll pay any repairment it needs without a problem. Now, just shut up and enjoy what I offer you," Elsa was not mad with Kristoff, she knew he was always trying to protect her from lousy decisions. She was used to those unrequired warnings and paid them no attention.
"Fine, but I'll pay a look at it later," he answered crossing his arms over his chest. There was no point in arguing with his sister.
"You should be more positive Kristoff. It isn't as she had bought something that doesn't work. Now stop arguing like teenagers and let's do something fun!" Anna stood up from the table and went to her temporary room to change into warmer clothes. She had the intention to enjoy her time there as much as possible. She was not going to let the siblings ruin her week with silly arguments.
By the fourth day since Kristoff and Anna had arrived, the three of them had got the chance to do almost everything they had planned. Anna was enjoying a lot the time with Elsa, she had the opportunity to really talk and get to know her better. The girl was odd, in a good way, no doubt; but she was really sweet and caring. It was easy to see how much she cared for her brother and her family. Almost everything she talked about were stories and anecdotes of Kristoff and her parents. She didn't really mention any friends, but Kristoff had always insisted she was a shy, not really sociable girl. She got along just fine with the people in the mountain but she didn't encourage friendly meetings with strangers.
True to Kristoff's word, Elsa was exceptionally good at skiing and snowboarding, not to mention ice skating. The young woman seemed to have been born ready to walk and live in the snow. During the first few days, she had insisted to teach Anna how to ice skate, but the younger girl had refused. Anna didn't like the idea of falling into the hard ice. But they had agreed on Elsa teaching her how to ski. Elsa was going to show them the slope she had prepared for her upcoming lessons and wanted Anna to be the first person to learn how to ski there. Elsa had worked hard, according to her words, preparing a beginner's slope, which wasn't far away from the main slope where experienced skiers spent their time.
The previous evening to the ski lesson, Kristoff, Anna and Elsa decided to stay at home and rest. "Well, I checked the weather report. Seems like tomorrow will be the perfect day for skiing. You got everything you need?" Elsa asked Anna as she sat on the floor next to the stove.
"Yeah, I was checking through your equipment, I found the perfect snowsuit for tomorrow, helmet, gloves. Everything," Anna came after her and sat on the sofa next to Kristoff who was reading the motor ski's old user manual. "By the way, the guest room is freezing. Are you sure the cold doesn't bother you?"
"Not at all. That's why I offered you, and that cry-baby you call boyfriend, my room. I know the guest room is a freezer… And a mess."
"You really are too nice." Anna turned a little to her right on the sofa and hit Kristoff on the shoulder, "You should thank her a lot more what she does for you."
"Why should I? I didn't ask her. If she wants to freeze her butt for me, I won't complain," said Kristoff not really sorry for his sister.
Anna knew he was joking, but it really surprised her how little Kristoff cared about her sister freezing just for them to sleep more comfortable. Wanting to be more civilised than her boyfriend she added, "Thank you for your room then. And thanks again for giving me a free lesson. I still feel as if I should pay you, it's your main source of income."
"Don't be silly," Elsa shrugged. "I love doing it. Besides, you are family."
"I… I am?"
"Well… yeah. Kristoff? You told me she was your girlfriend. She is, isn't she?" Elsa asked her brother teasingly, but making sure she was not talking nonsense at the same time.
"You well know she is. And you feisty-pants, how many times do you need to hear it to believe it? You are family," he put an arm around her and gave a her a squeeze, then returned to what he was reading.
"You've said it, yes. But it's like a big deal when your sister says it. It's like a passed the test!" grinning Anna leaned into Kristoff's shoulder and hugged her knees to her chest making herself more comfortable.
"A test?" asked Elsa with an amused face. "Why am I a test?"
"Well, your tough brother over here loves you more than he cares to admit. From day one I knew I had to pass the sister-in-law test. Right, Bjorgman?" Anna prodded him a little to make him more aware of the conversation taking place.
"Elsa knows I love her, I don't need to say it every day," he prodded her a little just for the fun of it. "And yeah, you are kind of a test, Elsa. If you don't approve of a girl, I know she is bad news.
"You make it sound as if I'm your shitty-people detector!" she raised her voice a little startling Sven, who was sleeping by the stove next to her.
"You and Sven both. You don't fail me," he laughed when he saw Elsa's angry face after realising her brother had used her all this time.
"You are an ass… Isn't he, buddy?" Elsa petted Sven looking for someone to agree with her. To her delight, Sven barked in agreement and they all laughed a little.
Anna watched as Elsa and Kristoff continued their silly argument as she stopped for a minute to think about their relationship. In the days they had spent together so far, Anna was able to see it was typical for the siblings to fight with each other whenever they had the chance. For someone who didn't know them personally it could seem as if they were in constant disagreement; but the truth was, brother and sister loved each other and just fought for the sake of it. Anna knew it was something siblings typically did -not that she was able to experience it first-hand since she was an only child-. Still, what Anna thought was amazing about their relationship was the fact that they behaved like real brother and sister when actually they were not.
Anna knew Mr and Mrs Bjorgman had adopted Kristoff when he was twelve years old and, apparently, Elsa had always accepted Kristoff as her brother, or that was what Anna believed. She hadn't asked Kristoff about it. Anna didn't feel comfortable making questions about Kristoff's or Elsa's childhood out of thin air; but this time she felt it was the perfect time to make the question, especially now that Elsa was there with them. "Sorry to interrupt your daily quarrel, guys, but I've been wondering something lately… Have you- umm… Have you always been like this?" she finished timidly, not feeling as confident as she had expected. She really didn't want to intrude in their life but she felt she needed to know more about their family. Especially now that she was part of it.
Kristoff and Elsa stopped their meaningless conversation when they heard Anna's question. Not really knowing what the girl meant, Elsa chose to speak, "Have we always been like what?"
"You know, like this. Brother and sister who love each other but fight over anything and everything at the same time. I know it's something normal for siblings to do but I think it's amazing how you guys get along like this when you are not, well, you know…" she didn't really know how to finish her idea, she didn't want them to feel different just because one of them was adopted. She really didn't know how to address this topic correctly. She honestly just wanted to know more about her boyfriend's past.
Baffled about the sudden question, Elsa looked at Anna for a few seconds not really knowing what to answer, a soft 'Oh' was everything she muttered. Kristoff knew Anna wanted to know a little bit more about their lives, especially their childhood; the question was not a surprise. He didn't mind talking about it, but he didn't want to make Elsa uncomfortable. Elsa's past had been a lot more rugged than his own. He chose to simply answer the question for her, "Well, as far as I'm concerned, we have. I've always considered her my sister, long before living under the Bjorgman's roof. What do you think, Elsa?"
Elsa looked at Kristoff while he answered. His answer was short and to the point, just the way she wanted to answer. And she was glad he knew that. She took a deep breath and said, "Yes, we have. The papers just made it official, but we have always considered each other brother and sister, with fights included." She smiled fondly.
His lips turned upwards, "Yeah."
Anna watched them share knowingly smiles and she knew they were not lying. But something was not making sense, "What do you mean 'before the Bjorgmans'?... Did you know each other before being adopted into Elsa's family, Kristoff?"
Kristoff turned to Anna. He looked at her, puzzled by her question. Didn't Anna know Elsa was adopted too? "We did, from the orphanage. I was adopted by the Bjorgmans at least two years before Elsa was. Being a hundred percent honest, I made everything in my power to convince them to adopt her."
Kristoff chuckled at his girlfriend's antics, "The Bjorgmans are not Elsa's biological family. She is adopted, just like me. We met in the orphanage when-"
Elsa, who had been listening the couple talk silently, got suddenly angry with Kristoff. He was addressing the topic just fine a second ago and now he was starting to talk about their past, "Kai and Gerda were nice enough to accept me into their family too. They didn't have to, but they did anyway. I was fourteen when they picked me up." Elsa interrupted Kristoff a little too harsh. She didn't like talking about her in the orphanage. She just wanted to erase her past from memory. People asking questions just made it harder. She wanted to pretend Kristoff was her brother and the Bjorgmans their parents, and that was it. "And to answer your question, yes. We have always been like this," she looked away from Anna and Kristoff and began petting Sven once again. She knew she was being too hard on Anna, but she knew that once people started asking questions about that kind of things it was more difficult to make them stop.
Kristoff watched Elsa with a frown, he was a little disappointed in her. Anna was kind enough to ask about their relationship and not their past necessarily. It was not compulsory to interrupt him like that. She, better than anyone, knew he was not going to talk about the things she went through just like that. He chose to keep talking as if Elsa hadn't interrupted him at all, "When we were kids. We were lucky enough Kai and Gerda took both of us in," he was talking directly to Elsa showing her she was overdramatising the situation. He turned towards Anna and added, "sorry about her attitude."
Elsa stood up without a word and walked towards her temporary room, calling Sven to go with her. Waving its tail, the dog stood up and walked by her side. Anna heard the guest room door close and she knew she had messed up, 'why did I have to make that stupid question?' she thought. She grabbed the blonde's hand in hers and said, "I shouldn't have asked. I'm sorry. I was convinced she was Kai and Gerda's biological daughter."
Kristoff kept his glance in Elsa's door, an angry expression on his face. He was clearly mad at Elsa for her sudden disappearance, but he didn't make the effort to go after her. It was not really worth in his opinion, once she went inside her room like that, there was no point in insisting. He knew she was going to be fine by morning, "You didn't know, don't worry. She's just overreacting because she thought I was going to talk about her past. She hates talking about that time of her life. She'll see reason in the morning."
Anna could see Kristoff had crumpled the old user manual he had been reading in anger and frustration. The way he talked about what had just happened, allowed Anna to see the situation was not unusual, "Still, I shouldn't have. I hope she is not angry with me."
Sadness crossed Anna's face and Kristoff realised he had to lighten up the mood a little, "Don't worry. She is not angry at you. She'll be back to normal in the morning. C'mon, let's go to bed. I'll need all the rest and patience in the world to fix that stupid motor ski Elsa bought."
"Do you know how to fix that thing? Elsa insists it works just fine."
"Of course, I do. And those breaks need fixing, I don't care what she says," he said as they disappeared into their temporary room.
True to Kristoff's word, the following morning Elsa had woken up in a really good mood which only increased when they reached the slope. Elsa had woken up earlier than Kristoff and Anna did, she had prepared breakfast for them and had apologised about her attitude the previous night. Before going to the slope, when the girls were picking up the necessary equipment from Elsa's guest room, the older girl had taken the time to explain her reaction and express her regret once again. Elsa was really vague in her reasons, but she had told Anna how she despised talking about her life before the Bjorgmans. She also explained how she had realised Anna meant no malice from her questions. She knew she had overreacted. Anna accepted the apology in a heartbeat and offered her own; she promised to be subtler before asking questions next time -not that Anna intended to ask questions any time soon-. Both girls had picked everything they needed up and parted towards Elsa's beginners' slope. Kristoff insisted in staying at the cottage fixingElsa's motor ski, against Elsa's wishes.
The place Elsa had chosen was for the slope fantastic. The natural slope had the perfect inclination for beginners to practise all the compulsory techniques. Elsa had worked hard in levelling some other parts in order to make the slope bigger, in case the touristic season ended up being as good as everyone in the mountain expected. Even though she was not a sociable person, Elsa was quite popular among the people who lived in the North mountain. Professional skiers adored her and admired her teaching skills, which resulted in they visiting and offering a helping hand in her slope. Many people who lived there and rented their cabins to tourists were eager for season to come too; the more skiers Elsa and the professional slope's owners had, the better for their business.
After getting to know the things Anna wanted to know about the slope and the life in the mountain, Elsa decided it was time for them to start their lessons. Elsa was a very dedicated teacher, she wanted to make sure Anna learned as much as possible from her lesson. She explained Anna the basic things she needed to know to avoid any accidents.
Just before Anna got into her skies, Elsa stopped her to show her something important, "Look, I know I'm like a safety fanatic but I just want to avoid any accidents. I want to show you something else…"
Anna made a face that told Elsa she was far from fanatic, to which Elsa laughed. After making fun of her sister-in-law Anna told her, "I'm just messing with you. I think you are just being responsible, which is great." Anna put a hand in Elsa's shoulder to stabilise herself while she put on her skis and asked, "What do I need to know?"
"See that red mark at the far-left end of the slope? That one is the first of three different marks which signal you are way out of the slope. That side is dangerous, once you cross the first mark you must stop no matter what. The right side is marked in orange because what comes after it is just a big plain. Nothing dangerous about it, but you'll be out of the slope too," she explained pointing with her finger the left and right ends respectively.
Anna paid close attention to the marks in the distance, "What happens if I cross the red marking and don't stop?"
"As I said, that's the first one of three marks. You'll find two others. If you don't stop after those, well… you will find a cliff. Not a huge one, but dangerous anyway. I don't trust the snowfall we had last night to be enough to cushion your fall if that happens," she commented matter-of-factly.
"So… Stop or die?" Anna paled a little, she was a little worried now.
"I'd say, stop or wake up in the hospital, slash, probably die. I wouldn't say its an instant death," Elsa said jokingly and then laughed really hard at Anna's expression. The young girl was paler than the snow below them. "Don't worry! The first thing you'll learn is how to stop and you have three markings before the cliff. I'll finish adding safety barriers by the end of next week before the tourists arrive."
"All right, that was scary. I hope you are as good teacher as Kristoff tells me!" She pointed her index finger in Elsa's face to make sure the young woman listened to her.
"You'll be a pro in no time," Elsa laughed at Anna's antics moving the finger away from her face. She was beginning to like this girl, 'Kristoff better not mess up with this one' she thought to herself before beginning her lesson. "Okay, to begin with…"
The day flew by for Anna and Elsa. Anna had to admit the young woman knew what she was talking about. She gave clear instructions and always knew what to tell Anna to help her improve. They had started with simple things and Anna was already feeling more confident to try going faster than ever before. Skiing was proving to be more fun than she had ever imagined.
"Great! You stopped without falling this time and you were coming faster than before!" Elsa felt proud in Anna's achievements. The girl was not kidding when she said she was really bad at it. At the beginning, it was difficult for Anna to stand for a second in her skis without falling to the ground, and now she was getting use to ski in the slope without much difficulty.
By the time a proud Kristoff showed up in the motor ski, the young women were in the top of the hill were the slope began. He was satisfied with the way he had repaired the breaks, and so he decided to take the adjacent route to the top of the hill to show his sister. When he reached the top, he saw a really focussed Anna listening to Elsa's explanation of how important it was to try at least once to complete the slope on her own. Anna was supposed to begin her descent, and Elsa was going to go by her side, not far from her in her own skis, in case Anna needed help or couldn't control the speed. Both girls were close to the edge, Anna with her skies ready to go and Elsa half way putting on her owns. Kristoff was getting closer to them when he tried to stop the motor ski by their side. To his bad luck, the breaks didn't work exactly as he had imagined; he was forced to do a fast turn in order to avoid running over Anna and Elsa. Kristoff's mistake startled Anna who jumped a little, losing her concentration and her balance in the process.
Before Elsa knew what had happened, she saw Anna sliding downhill at a faster speed than it was safe for an unexperienced skier. Elsa put on the missing ski and jumped after Anna. She could hear Kristoff at her back yelling something unclear. Elsa was able to see Anna in the distance. In her frightened state, the girl had curled in on herself producing less air friction and more speed in the process. Elsa tried her best to hurry up and catch her before she reached the end, wishing she didn't stray too the left, far from the main slope.
Anna was terrified, this was everything she was dreading could happen. She tried to focus on Elsa's lessons but it was really hard to remember anything. Everything she did resulted in her turning more and more to the left of the slope. When she was trying to get a grip on her anxiety to solve her problem, she saw a red flag which marked the first warning. She knew that if she didn't do something quick, she would end up in the bottom of the cliff. She desperately tried to slow down, but she was going to fast to do it properly. She began crying when she crossed the second mark. Not far behind she could hear someone yelling orders to her, but she couldn't focus enough to do as told.
Elsa was desperately trying to accelerate to get to Anna in time. By Anna's body language, she could tell the girl was not really in control of the situation; probably scared of what could happen. When they were getting closer to the last mark, Elsa was able reach Anna. Out of desperation, Elsa pushed her with her left shoulder, throwing Anna to the ground. Anna rolled a few times in the snow while Elsa steadied herself enough to try to come to a stop. Elsa saw she was coming too close to the edge of the cliff and throw herself to the ground too, in a desperate attempt to stop. The fall was not as good as Anna's, she got tangled with her skis in the process and rolled more than she had expected. She got to the edge before she could fully stop.
From the top of the slope, Kristoff watched in horror how everything went from bad to worse. He had relaxed a little when he saw Elsa throwing Anna to the grown, but it was short lived. He witnessed Elsa's hopeless effort to come to a stop and then he saw her disappear from sight. He cried the name of his sister, climbed in the motor ski and rushed towards the edge of the cliff. "Please be okay. Please be okay," he repeated over and over again in his way down.
Chapter 2: Aftermath
After she was pushed to the snow, Anna had taken some time to come back to her senses. She was still scared of what could have happened to her if Elsa hadn’t been there for her. She had heard Elsa in her way down and once she felt the push that threw her to the ground, she knew she was safe. Rolling in the snow hadn’t been pleasant at all at that speed, but any pain she could feel the following morning was worth it. Elsa had saved her.
Anna was getting up, still a little stunned, when she heard Elsa’s motor ski getting closer. She knew Kristoff was going to come down from the top of the slope at some point to make sure she was okay. She turned around to face him and explain everything was all right but she saw him pass by. He reduced the speed just enough to ask her if she was fine; once Anna nodded, he continued at full speed towards the edge of the cliff. Anna was not sure what was going on, what had happened that made Kristoff so desperate to reach the edge? She was not sure until she noticed the edge of the cliff was not that far away from where she was. And to her dismay there was no sign of Elsa, ‘Oh, no… Oh, no, no, no.’ Anna got on her feet, throwing the ski she still got attached to one of her boots to the side, and ran towards the edge. ‘This can’t be happening,’ she thought to herself while she saw Kristoff leaning towards the edge of the cliff, yelling Elsa’s name over and over again.
“Elsa! Dear God. Elsa, answer me! Are you all right?!” Kristoff was looking down, yelling as loudly as possible. “I can’t see anything! These damn trees! Elsa!”
Anna joined Kristoff at the edge, “Please, tell me you can see her.”
Kristoff continued yelling his sister’s name not stopping to answer. After a moment, in between yells, Anna was able to hear something; but she couldn’t understand anything due to Kristoff. “Shut up! I heard something,” said Anna after the third time she overheard something down there.
“What?” it was possible to see how distressed Kristoff was about the whole situation, he was clearly not thinking straight.
“Yes, shut up for a second. I think I heard something!” Anna leaned forward and, as loud and clear as possible, she yelled, “Elsa, are you down there?!”
They were dead silent for a few seconds, the wind was not helping them hear much, but they were able to perceive a mumbled response in the distance. Kristoff’s face lightened up a little and decided to talk again, “We can’t listen clearly! Try to speak up! Are you okay?”
Anna watched Kristoff’s face contort with worry as he waited for an answer. She felt so guilty for everything that was happening, if she hadn’t insisted in learning how to ski… If she had paid more attention to her lesson… There were many ‘what ifs’ that could have prevented the situation they were living, and Anna felt as if she was the main reason everything went wrong that day. But she also knew there was no point in hoping things would have been different, she only hoped for Elsa to be all right. She wanted to see her, hug her and thank her over and over again for what she did. The young woman hadn’t known her for long and had risked her life to save her; no doubt Kristoff believed Elsa deserved the world. He had told her so once when they had been talking about his sister in the past.
Kristoff was starting to get impatient with every second they didn’t get an answer, “If she doesn’t answer I’m climbing down there…” he muttered to himself. But they soon heard a coughing fit and then, “-said I’m fine! But- leg broken!”
They couldn’t understand every word Elsa had said, but she had stressed the most important parts for them to hear. They breathed a sigh of relief; the situation was not very promising but at least Elsa was fine enough to answer. They looked at each other. Kristoff saw Anna’s guilty face for a second, he knew the girl was probably blaming herself for the accident, but deep down he knew it was his fault. If he had listened to his sister and hadn’t insisted in repairing the damn motor ski, this wouldn’t have happened. But finding who was guilty was not going to help them right in that moment, he focused once again on the best way to help his sister.
He was about to answer back to Elsa when she continued, she was speaking more clearly, “… head hurts like hell. I think I hit a branch or something. I’m stuck in the snow with a broken leg…” She sounded defeated, Kristoff noticed. He thought for a moment how his sister had probably avoided getting more hurt than they expected her to be, but that didn’t mean she was unharmed nor pleased about her situation. Breaking a leg two weeks before the season started was not the best outcome for his sister. She depended on the money the ski lessons provided more than she let the family know.
Anna, on the other hand, was thinking of the best way to proceed. They needed to help Elsa and fast. Dusk was only a couple of hours away, and she didn’t trust Kristoff’s orientation in the dark. Besides, the sooner they helped Elsa the better it would be for her leg. She just hoped it was a simple fracture and nothing too serious, but she knew it was too much to ask. It was a miracle the girl was conscious after such a fall. After a moment, she heard Kristoff mutter to himself a soft ‘damn it’. Apparently, he was lost in his thoughts too.
“I’ll go to the cottage and find a rope to help you climb up. I need you to-” Kristoff began answering when his sister interrupted him.
“No” they heard Elsa say. “It’ll be too difficult; the cliff is too high. The snow saved me, but I hit a buried rock with my leg. I can’t move it.”
“That’s what I imagined,” Anna heard Kristoff say to himself. He turned to her and said, “she may be right. We can see the top of the trees, it must be at least a 12-metre fall from here.”
Anna opened her eyes and raised her eyebrows in surprise, she hadn’t really thought of the height. At that moment, she remembered Elsa telling her, earlier that day, about the cliff and how dangerous it was. The older girl had mentioned not trusting the amount of snow at the bottom but thank goodness she had been mistaken. Anna believed it was a miracle.
“How can we help you?” said Kristoff to Elsa, after noticing that climbing the cliff was going to be too difficult, especially for someone with a broken leg. The last thing he wanted was hurting her more.
There was a moment of silence, Kristoff knew his sister was thinking, trying to find a solution. “Go back to the cabin,” Elsa began saying, the girl’s voice was hoarse from yelling. And Kristoff knew she was making an effort to explain everything as easily as possible. “When you are coming out of the woods, from the path that leads directly to the cottage’s glade, you’ll be facing South; turn left towards the East, you’ll see the forest is thicker in that direction,” another pause, he made sure to remember everything that she was explaining in order to avoid a second explanation. “Still in the glade, walk along the line of trees at your left. You’ll see the earth rising behind the trees. Don’t get into the forest until you see the cliff’s wall behind the trees.”
After they were sure she had finished, Anna asked, “So… if you recommend that route, it means you are not far away from your cottage, right?” She wanted to make sure she understood the directions just in case Kristoff needed help remembering them.
“About a twenty-minute walk. Again, I can’t move, so you’ll have to find me” came the tired reply.
“We’ll find you, don’t worry,” Kristoff said as he began to get up. “Try to stay conscious, okay? I’ll need you to answer if I can’t find you.” Kristoff began walking towards the motor ski and said, “C’mon, Anna. We need to hurry.”
She saw him climb the motor ski and she too rushed towards the vehicle. She climbed behind him, making a mental note to return for the ski equipment once they made sure Elsa was okay. They didn’t say anything to each other at first, it was not until they were close to the glade that Kristoff turned to Anna and explained what she needed to do. He asked her to rush to the cottage once they were at the glade, and look in Elsa’s wardrobe, his sister kept a first aid kit there. He wanted her to pick that up, together with some money and the important documents from their bags. He asked her to take those things to the truck and get it ready for when he returned with Elsa.
Kristoff knew his sister was probably more hurt than she had let them know and wanted to make sure they didn’t waste time once he brought Elsa back to the cottage. He also wanted to make sure Anna didn’t see the place where Elsa had fallen. He was not completely sure where and how his sister had landed, but he wanted to avoid certain questions, just in case. Kristoff stopped the motor ski once the cottage could be seen and asked Anna to climb down and wait for him in the cottage, “If I don’t return in two hours, go and find Oaken. He’ll be able to help you find us.”
Anna nodded and saw him disappear in the direction Elsa had told them. Anna could see how worried he was for Elsa, she was too. And so, she hurried in order to complete all the things she had to do in time. She knew it would take some time for Kristoff to find Elsa and dig her out, but still she wanted to make sure everything was ready sooner than later.
Kristoff drove for a few minutes and then started to go slower, paying attention to the cliff wall behind the trees. For what Elsa had explained, he believed he ought to see the highest part of the cliff before stopping and entering the forest. Once he saw he was in the correct place, he stopped the vehicle and got off. He was silent for a few seconds. It was a shot in the dark, since Elsa couldn’t move, but he still tried to listen for some movement. When he heard nothing, he walked into the forest making sure he was going in the direction of the cliff’s wall. It was logical to think the girl had fallen close to it. After a five- or seven-minute walk, he heard someone cursing in the distance and he hurried in the direction of the sound. He was getting closer and closer to the cliff wall when he found her. He saw a giant pile of snow close to the rock wall, broken pine tree branches were scattered over the pile, together with some ski equipment; in the top of it all was Elsa, buried a little over the waist level. She was trying to dig herself out of the snow, but every movement seemed to hurt. She closed her eyes from time to time, and breathed deeply. She didn’t hear Kristoff until he called her name, “Elsa! Are you okay?”
She had her eyes closed when he spoke, she opened them and raised her head. Her lips raising a little. She sighed in relief, “Thank God you arrived. I swear I was losing my mind here. My right leg hurts like hell and the left one is already numbed.”
Her smile was honest, Kristoff noticed, but her face still contorted with pain from time to time; no doubt, Elsa was really hurt. His sister had a high tolerance to pain; he had learnt that a few months after he had met her in the orphanage for the first time. She felt pain, of course, but she had taught herself how to tolerate it and how to hide it from other people. “C’mon. Let me help you,” he climbed the pile of snow and once he was close enough to help her, he noticed dried blood in the left side of her head. “You are bleeding…” he said to her as he got closer to the wound to look at it.
In an unconscious action Elsa grabbed her left arm, which had a deep gash, it was still bleeding, “Yes, I think I hit it against one of the branches. It really hurts.”
He watched her cover the cut in her arm and grimaced, he hadn’t even noticed it before. “I was talking about your head,” he said as he stood up. He looked around and paid attention to the branches on the ground, and then the ones above their heads. He calculated the distance from where he was standing to the top of the cliff. He had been right; the fall must have been of 13 meters at least. The pile of snow where he stood was at 3 metres above the ground level and he noticed it was taller than the rest of the piles in the forest. Kristoff bent, to look at his sister in the eye, and said “I have to say, you were really lucky. You fell into the only pile of snow that could stop you…” he raised his right eyebrow, waiting for a confirmation of some kind.
Elsa ignored his brother’s remark, “Help me out, please. I was not as lucky as you think, under the pile of snow there is a big rock. I hit it with my right leg, I’m pretty sure its broken.”
Kristoff felt bad for teasing his sister in that situation and chose to finally help her. He asked Elsa to raise her arms, his main idea was to pull her out of the snow but he was surprised by his sister’s denial, “Better dig me out of here. I’m not sure…” the girl doubted for some seconds before giving a simple explanation, “It’s about my leg.” He watched as Elsa began digging around her torso, encouraging his brother to do the same in the process.
“I’m worried, Elsa. Are you sure it’s that bad?” he was not used to seeing Elsa displaying pain or concern so easily.
“Yes, you idiot. Just help me out of here. Everything hurts and I’m already freaking out that’ll have to go to the hospital. Let’s not make more damage to the damn leg than necessary.” Elsa watched Kristoff with pleading eyes.
Kristoff knew this whole situation was coming; with a broken leg a visit to the hospital was imminent, and that meant doctors and drugs… Kristoff heaved a sigh, he knew his sister was going to freak out. He just had to be there for her and help her the best way he could; and he had to make sure he called Gerda too, the woman was the only person who could help Elsa calm down sometimes. The fact that their adoptive mother was a nurse had been a miracle for Elsa since the beginning. But right at that moment, he had to concentrate and help Elsa out of there, his intention was to be out of the forest as soon as possible after all.
In the cottage, Anna was doing everything Kristoff had asked her to do as fast as possible. She didn’t want to waste time and then delay Elsa’s trip to the hospital. She took their things and documents to the vehicle first, it took her some time to find Elsa’s papers but she succeeded and put them together with their things. She felt bad for disarranging everything in the older girl’s room, but she knew it was necessary.
For some reason, Kristoff had asked her to put some blankets in the back of the truck. She was too stressed to think why exactly he wanted them, but she put them at the back anyway. After she made sure she had completed her task correctly, she run into Elsa’s room once again and started searching for the first aid kit, she found it sooner than she had imagined and then chose to look for an extra jacket for Elsa. The girl was buried in snow; obviously, she was going to be freezing the second she returned with Kristoff. The last thing she wanted was for Elsa to catch a cold, or worse a pneumonia; the broken leg was already a big problem. Anna hoped to all Gods above that the girl was all right, but she knew it was too much to ask. It was a real miracle that she was alive, she still couldn’t believe how lucky she had been. After searching for a while, Anna realised the only snow jacket Elsa owned was the one she was currently wearing. Even though she thought it was strange, she went directly to the guest room and picked one the jackets Elsa rented to her students. Once she made sure she had everything they needed, she picked some bottles of water and loaded those things in the truck too. She called Sven to follow her and wait with her outside for the siblings to return. The poor dog had sensed something was not right. He was alert and acting more nervous than Anna had ever seen him. The animal was surely aware of her own nervous state.
After waiting outside for a few minutes, it started to snow. She didn’t remember the weather changing so suddenly the previous days; but dusk was just a few minutes away and the wind was picking up steadily. She loved snow, but she was cursing it, and their bad luck, that day. Driving at fast speed in drizzling snow was not going to be safe at all.
Almost forty-five minutes after she had sat outside to wait for them, Sven heard something in the distance and began running in the direction of an approaching motor ski. She hurried after him to meet Kristoff. When Kristoff reached the truck and stopped the vehicle, Anna was able to see her sister-in-law lying in the motor ski seat; her legs hung at the back. Anna looked at them and paled at what she saw, Elsa’s right leg was in terrible shape. A precarious, blooded bandage covered it from the knee to the ankle, courtesy of Kristoff’s undershirt. Anna could see the odd shape the leg had behind the bandage. No doubt her tibia and fibula were broken and poking to the side, behind the bandages a disturbing protuberance could be seen. Anna checked the rest of her body and saw the leg was not Elsa’s only concern; she had dried blood in the left side of the head and she was holding her left arm, covering a deep gash which, luckily, had stopped bleeding too. Elsa looked pale and sick, she was more focused in her breathing than anything else. Her eyes were tightly closed and her teeth were clenched. ‘If only I had been more careful’ Anna thought as guilt washed over her once again, her eyes moistened. She took a deep breath and turned towards Kristoff, “The truck’s ready.”
“Thank you…” he looked at his sister and said, “She is getting worse.” The man got off the vehicle and put a hand over Elsa’s forehead moving the disarrayed bangs from her eyes, “she was not this bad when I found her, but the second I moved her, the pain took over her body.”
Anna saw the concern in her boyfriend’s eyes and decided to start moving. Elsa needed to get to the hospital and the weather was not going to make things easier for them, “We need to go now. As I said, everything is ready,” opening the truck’s door, she took a small case out. “Here is the first aid kit you asked for.”
The man nodded and went to the back of the truck. He arranged the blankets Anna had put there earlier and made a makeshift stretcher for Elsa.
Anna saw him arrange the blankets and couldn’t believe her boyfriend’s idea, “you are kidding, right? She will freeze back there!”
Kristoff sighed, he didn’t have time to argue about that kind of things, he chose to explain simply his decision, “she won’t. Besides, she needs to have her leg stretched. It’ll be too painful to go in the front seat.”
Anna thought about it for a moment, but soon remembered Gerda was an emergency room nurse. Obviously, everything the Bjorgmans knew about first aid came from her. It didn’t mean she didn’t feel bad for Elsa, “Okay, you may be right. But I’m going in the back of the truck with her. Sven will go with you.”
Kristoff seemed to think about it for a moment and then nodded. Elsa was going to need someone to check on her back there. Anna’s idea was going to be useful. “Go and find another warm jacket for you. It’s snowing. I’ll put Elsa in the back.”
“Right! Be right back.” She put the first aid kit near the makeshift bed and ran inside the house.
When she returned, she saw Kristoff helping Elsa getting comfortable, he was squatting in the back of the truck next to her. Both of them were having a discussion, even in pain, brother and sister were able to start an argument. Anna could hear Elsa’s protests and Kristoff’s frustrated sighs from the distance, but she was not sure what they were arguing about. Her boyfriend seemed to agree with Elsa by the time she reached the truck.
“Fine! I’ll do it! But you know I hate this.”
“Hate what?” Anna asked. She had felt a little relieved when she heard them arguing, she had thought that maybe Elsa was not in such a bad shape after all; but when she saw the siblings’ faces, she knew the discussion was real and Elsa looked even worse with her eyes opened. “Elsa, how are you feeling?”
Elsa looked at her and groaned, “not really good.” Then, she turned to Kristoff and said, “please, you know I need it. And it’ll help me tolerate the pain.”
“Elsa wants a sedative,” explained Kristoff to Anna. He opened the first aid case and took a syringe. He prepared it and asked Elsa to show him her good arm.
“Wait, a sedative?! Are you guys sure?” Anna didn’t know anything about medicine but she was not sure about it.
Elsa blinked slowly and looked at her reassuringly. The pain was visible in her eyes and she looked more tired than before, but she managed a small smile. “It’ll be fine. I’m used to it.”
“There, all done,” said Kristoff taking the needle off her arm. “Anna, climb here and help Elsa with the minor wounds if you can. I’ll try to go as fast as possible but considering it’s snowing and it’s already dark, I’m not sure how fast I’ll be able to go.”
Anna did as told and sat beside Elsa, resting her own back in the truck cab. She covered Elsa with the jacket she had gotten earlier, before they arrived, for her. She zipped her own jacket and told Kristoff she was ready to go. He nodded and told her, “she’ll began to fall asleep before we get there for sure. Don’t worry. Just make sure her leg is steady.”
Kristoff watched them for a second before telling Sven to climb in the truck next to him.
Once they were moving, Anna began healing Elsa’s head and arm wounds as best as possible. Obviously, the doctors were going to attend those wounds too but she wanted to help Elsa in any way she could. She owed her so much, if it hadn’t been for her sister-in-law, she would had been the one stretched in the back of the truck, cursing under her breath. When she finished, she decided to speak with Elsa, at least to distract the older girl from the pain she was certainly feeling.
“Elsa…” she tentatively called.
“Mmm?” came the soft answer, Elsa had her eyes closed, but no longer tightly shut. The sedative was taking effect.
“Thank you so, so much for what you did for me. I feel terrible, if it hadn’t been for my stupidity this wouldn’t have happened and I-” Anna’s eyed burned, she felt terrible. The guilt hadn’t disappeared and she knew her apology was not going to help Elsa at all.
“Hey, hey… It’s all right. I was responsible for your safety. I was your instructor.” Elsa didn’t open her eyes, but her answer felt real. She was conscious enough to understand what Anna was talking about, and she didn’t blame her.
“No, it was not. I should have listened to you. It’s my fault you are hurting like this.” Tears streamed down Anna’s cheeks as she stroked the older girl’s hair. She felt awful and wanted to make Elsa feel better, she felt useless.
Elsa opened her eyes to look at Anna. Her eyes didn’t focus as much as she wanted them to, but she was able to see the girl crying. She smiled and tried to reassure the girl, “It’s not your fault. I should have noticed the slope was not safe enough yet.”
“No, it was my fault really… or Kristoff’s. But not yours. You should be angry with us…” She said as she raised her head to watch how the snow gradually stopped falling, at least the weather was helping them a little. Anna was surprised to hear Elsa laugh a little and looked back down towards her.
“I won’t argue with you if you want to blame Kristoff.” She laughed a little harder.
Anna chuckled, even in pain Elsa was up to bedevil her brother if possible. She dried her tears as they stayed in silence for a few minutes. After some time, Anna decided to ask, “How are you feeling?”
“Like shit,” came the short answer, “but sleepy…” she added closing her eyes.
“Try to sleep. We are only halfway there…” She caressed Elsa's’ hair to sooth her once again. The sedative was clearly taking effect and it was taking a lot of effort for her to stay awake.
“Could you… could you and Kristoff be there when I wake up?” she finished apprehensively.
Anna felt Elsa tense and saw her open her eyes once again. She looked really nervous about her answer, which was weird. She smiled at her and answered, “Don’t worry about that. Of course, we’ll be there.”
The young woman was silent for a minute and then she confessed, “I’m terrified of hospitals…”
Raising her eyebrows, Anna watched Elsa close her eyes and fall into a deep slumber. She was shocked by the Elsa’s confession. Even though fear of hospitals was not something strange, Anna was surprised Elsa had chosen to open up like that to her. She knew from Kristoff’s stories that Elsa didn’t like to show vulnerability to others. She didn’t socialize much and she hated opening up to strangers. Maybe it was the drug talking, or maybe she had earned Elsa’s trust… If it was true she had earned her trust, Anna would promise to keep that trust. In Anna’s opinion, Elsa needed a friend in her life, other than her brother, and she was going to be that friend if she let her.
By the time they reached the hospital Elsa was out cold. Anna was a little concerned, but Kristoff had told her not to worry. Elsa had assured her too she was used to it, for some reason. The whole sedative situation was weird in her opinion. Why Elsa had it and why she was used to it… She made a mental note to ask Kristoff about it. She didn’t want to pry too much but she was concerned for Elsa’s well-being.
Kristoff parked the truck as close to the main entrance as possible and ran inside to ask for help, the man didn’t want to compromise his sister’s leg further by moving her on his own. A few minutes later a couple of male nurses came out and disappeared into the hospital with Elsa.
Kristoff arranged everything he was going to need inside the hospital and helped Anna climb down the back of the truck, “Grab these and go inside, please. I’m going to park the truck somewhere safe and let Sven get comfortable in the makeshift bed at the back.”
“Okay… Do you want me to call someone?”
“No, that’s fine. Once I’m sure everything is ready for Elsa’s care, I’ll call mum.” Kristoff got on the truck and left. Leaving Anna alone for a few minutes, who decided to go into the waiting room. After some time, a nurse approached her to explain Elsa was going to need surgery, and to ask about the sedated state the young woman entered the hospital. She quickly explained the situation and asked them to wait for Elsa’s brother since he was the only one who could give them the answers they needed. Anna looked at her watched, it was already 7:30 p.m. and she knew the night was going to be a long one. She still couldn’t believe everything that had happened in just a few hours, she hoped Kristoff returned soon and could arrange everything for his sister. Sadly, there was nothing else she could do but wait…
Chapter 3: Family
When Elsa came back to her senses, she felt sharp pain shot through her body instantly. It took a lot of effort to open her eyes after she regained consciousness. She had no idea where she was or why everything hurt so bad. The first thing she saw when she focused her eyesight was her right arm wrapped in a small bandage. Elsa became alarmed when she noticed an intravenous tubing attached to it. Immediately, she tried to sit up, helping her torso with her other arm. Pain numbed her left arm making her shut her eyes again and fall back to the mattress. ‘What is this? Where am I?’ she thought, her breathing was becoming more erratic with each passing second, and she knew she needed to focus. Her head pounded, making her feel dizzy and disoriented. She opened her eyes once again, fighting the pain she felt, she decided she had to get out of there as fast as possible; she had promised herself not to endure any more tests on her body, and she was going to keep that promise. She focused on the IV once again and forced her left arm to respond. She tore the needle from her right arm in a rushed movement, she then felt a pair of hands restraining her movements by her shoulders. She didn’t care about the pain anymore, she trashed in bed trying to lose herself from the tight grip. That’s when she noticed her right leg was in a cast, hanging above the mattress. She focused on it and then on the voice that tried to sooth her. That’s when she realised it was Gerda who was grabbing her shoulders and not a stranger. When she recognised the voice of her adoptive mother, she let herself relax a little. She was still scared of where she was, but if Gerda was there, she knew nothing bad was going to happen. Elsa heard her mum telling her over and over again to calm down and she obliged, resting her head in the pillow once again. Her head was killing her and she didn’t know how much she could keep fighting. She was weak and exhausted and so, she chose to trust Gerda.
After Kristoff had returned to the hospital the previous night, he had to explain what had happened and why he had decided to sedate his sister. It took him some time to convince the nurse and one of the doctors to trust his word on which drug he had used. He had explained his mother was an ER nurse and she was the one that had given them the sedative. He had given Elsa a Benzodiazepine dose. Gerda had explained to the both of them, some years ago, the most important things they needed to know about the drug. She was the one who had advised Elsa to take it before going to the hospital for a serious matter, or whenever she needed to treat her anxiety attacks. She had asked Elsa not to abuse it and to always be sure to tell others whenever she had used it. Nonetheless, Kristoff had never felt confident about Elsa being dependent on the drug. But he also knew that if taking the drug avoided further problems for his sister, then he was not going to go against her wishes. This time he knew his sister had been right, doping her had been the best course of action to take. It was thanks to the drug that the doctors had been able to take Elsa inside without inconvenience after all.
He had to answer multiple questions and complete several forms for her surgery. He knew it had been part of the protocol, but he had wanted them to stop questioning him and start performing the surgery at the time. The doctor had explained briefly to him what they had to do to Elsa, and asked him to complete all the necessary papers with the help of the nurse when he finally left. Once everything had been arranged for Elsa’s recovery, Kristoff had used the public phone in the waiting room to call his parents.
Gerda had arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night and had joined Kristoff and Anna in the waiting room. The moment Elsa was moved to a recovery room after the surgery, she had asked the doctors to wait inside the room with her daughter. Her training as a nurse had convinced them it was a good idea, and allowed her to stay with the girl. It was for this reason she had been waiting in a chair next to Elsa, when she woke up in the early morning.
Gerda had seen the girl move a little in her sleep and she had prepared for what she knew was coming. Since the day she had met Elsa, she knew the girl was terrified of waking up in unknown places, particularly if the place happened to be a hospital. Gerda had paid attention to the time since the girl had come out of surgery, together with her vital signs, and she knew Elsa had been due to wake up at the time. Anyhow, being prepared didn’t mean she liked seeing the girl in a state of alarm. Gerda saw her open her frightened eyes and look around not really focusing on anything, until she saw the IV. In mere seconds, Elsa tried to sit up in the bed hurting her left arm in the process; she laid back down to then, in a sudden movement, rip the needle from her good arm. The old woman resigned herself to helping Elsa when she saw the girl was not going to come to her senses on her own. She didn’t blame her, but it was too early to start causing problems in the hospital. She stood up and grabbed her by the shoulders, talking to her in a soothing voice. But, to her dismay, Elsa reacted worse than she had imagined. She trashed in the bed not really caring about the pain Gerda was sure she was feeling. She forgot Elsa had gotten so big in just a couple of years, and so restraining her had become a problem. She called for Kristoff, who was waiting outside the room with Anna, for help; when she saw Elsa relax a little. She began telling her to calm down and trust her, it was then that Elsa finally gave up.
By the time Kristoff and Anna had entered the room, Elsa had stopped resisting and was looking to Gerda with scared eyes. Anna noticed Elsa was not completely aware of what was happening but she had calmed down under her mother’s gentle voice. She rested her head in the pillow and allowed herself to listen to Gerda’s explanations.
“Dear, it’s all right. Please, listen,” the old woman said when she noticed Elsa was finally looking at her. “You are okay. Do you understand?” Gerda made the effort to talk in a serene way, making sure Elsa followed everything she said. “You are in the hospital but it’s fine. You had an accident. Nothing bad is going to happen to you,” she took a deep breath and continued, “the doctors took care of you and now Kristoff, Anna and I are taking care of you. You are safe.”
Anna noticed the woman stressed the last word, making sure it got into Elsa’s head that she had nothing to worry about. She was amazed by the way the woman had talked and convinced Elsa she had nothing to fear. She saw Elsa nod and finally let her body relax completely. Her arms rested in the bed and her legs were clearly less tense.
“Can you talk? How are you feeling?” Gerda asked with worry when she saw Elsa was not going to give another answer than the previous nod.
“I- I feel-,” a coughing fit interrupted Elsa when she began talking.
Gerda asked for Kristoff’s bottle of water and help her daughter drink, “better?” she asked.
“Yes…” Elsa took a deep breath and continued, “I don’t feel so good.”
Anna’s eyes turned downwards with her sister-in-law’s comment. The guilt from the previous day was still present, and to hear the young woman say she still felt bad, even after the surgery, hurt her deeply. Anna felt the need to apologise once again, she was about to voice her remorse when she heard Gerda speak again.
“Can you tell me why?” asked as she introduced the IV in the girl’s arm, despite Elsa’s effort to stop her. Once the needle was in place she said, “You need the IV, dear. Just for another couple of hours.”
“My head’s killing me and my arm too... I can’t feel my leg though,” said Elsa as she looked at the needle in her arm once again. She grimaced at it and looked around the room, finally noticing her brother and his girlfriend were there too. “Kristoff, Anna…”
“Hi, sis. Do you remember what happened?” Kristoff got closer and sat in the chair Gerda had been previously occupying. His mother had stayed standing up next to the head of the bed after helping Elsa. Anna approached the bed too, but she chose to stay next to the footboard by the left side of the bed.
“Yeah, I fell down a cliff. You helped me and…” She made an effort to remember something else, when she couldn’t she admitted, “I don’t recall how I got here, though.” Her eyes fixed in her lap as she made an effort to remember what had happened.
“Anna and I brought you here… Don’t worry about it, you were sedated during the trip to the hospital.” Kristoff explained, letting her know it was not her fault she didn’t remember.
“Oh… okay,” she raised her head to look at her leg. The cast covered it from foot to a few centimetres over the knee. The surgery had taken a little over two hours to complete and the doctor had informed the family he planned on explaining the fracture once Elsa was awake. Logically, Elsa hadn’t been informed of that decision so far, and so it was logical for her to ask about the limp when she noticed the tissue near the cast was swelled and reddish, “how’s my leg?”
Kristoff raised his head towards his mother, he had a certain idea but he chose to let Gerda speak for him. The woman saw it was her time to talk and explained in simple words what the doctor had told them, “We don’t know for sure about the damage, the doctor wanted you to be awake for that. But you had surgery, it lasted a couple of hours.” She grabbed the girl’s right hand and told her plainly, “I wouldn’t get my hopes up about having a fast recovery, Elsa. You’ll need to be patient, okay?”
As fast as lighting Elsa turned her head from her leg to her mother, she had been listening but not actually looking at her, “You mean stay here?!”
Anna thought the fast movement wouldn’t have helped her headache, but the older girl didn’t seem to care.
“No, Elsa. Calm down,” said Gerda comforting the girl once again. “It’s true you’ll probably have to stay here for another day or so, but I mean you’ll need to be patient with your leg. It’ll take weeks to heal.” Gerda let go of her hand and arranged the girl’s pillow to help her be more comfortable in the bed, “I know you must be in pain and still tired. You should sleep some more before seeing the doctor.”
“Weeks? But I have to-”
Gerda interrupted her before she got a chance to argue about something that couldn’t be helped, “I said you should sleep Elsa. Don’t worry about your leg now… Aren’t you tired?”
“Yes… I am. But I need to know if-” she began saying once again when Kristoff cut her off.
“You should sleep, thickhead,” Kristoff teased. “It’ll help you ease your pain. We’ll be here when you wake up.”
She looked at Kristoff with a little annoyance, but then finally accepted, “Fine…”
The truth was she was completely drained. Her body felt heavy and almost everything hurt. Elsa thought she was lucky her leg was still under the anaesthetic effect. She knew it was going to hurt more than she could imagine the first few days. She Tried to get more comfortable in the bed and then succumbed to sleep.
Anna and Kristoff watched Elsa close her eyes again and kept quiet for a few minutes, they didn’t want to interrupt the girl’s rest. The young man stood up from the chair and gestured to his mother to take the place. Elsa was not the only one tired in the room and it was best if Gerda took some minutes to rest her eyes too. The old woman accepted and sat in the chair beside the bed. He then signalled to Anna to follow him outside, both of them were tired too and it was best if they had breakfast before Elsa woke up once again. He explained his idea quietly enough and she instantly agreed with his reasoning. Kristoff was thankful for his girlfriend’s support and for the way she cared for his sister. He made a mental note to thank her later. He knew the accident had been his fault, but Anna was taking half the blame for him; and she was doing everything in her power to be as kind and helpful as possible. ‘I don’t deserve her,’ he thought as the girl exited the room in front of him.
Gerda watched her boy leave the room in company of his girlfriend. The two of them had done everything right the previous day helping Elsa, and Gerda couldn’t be prouder of them. When Kristoff had called explaining there had been an accident, she tried to get ready as soon as possible and rush to the hospital. The nurse inside of her knew there was no reason for her to run, Kristoff had been clear everything had been taken care of; but her maternal instinct had told her she needed to be as close to her children as possible. She had hurried to the hospital on her own, since her husband had been working the night shift, and she had stayed by Elsa’s side from that moment. When the young couple left the room, she watched her daughter doze off and she finally allowed herself to relax. She was now not so stressed since she knew Elsa was okay. The recovery was not going to be easy, she knew, but at least her daughter was alive and conscious. She had been really worried about her baby girl, as she liked to call Elsa whenever she wanted to annoy the girl. Gerda was a devoted mother to both her children and she loved them as if they were her own, it was normal for her to worry so much.
When Kai and her were younger, they had tried to have children of their own; but life hadn’t been fair for the couple. After years of trying to get pregnant, she suffered a miscarriage when they were finally expecting their first child. I took months for them to recover from the incident and start talking about kids once again. Both had agreed they were not going to put themselves through the same suffering and risk another unsuccessful pregnancy. At the beginning, they had agreed on being a childless marriage, but as time passed and they became older, they realised they needed someone to raise and love; even if nature wanted the opposite. That’s how they decided to look for a kid who’d want to be part of their family. The couple agreed a boy would be best, someone who would continue the Bjorgman family name and who would inherit their properties. After visiting the orphanage a couple of times, they found Kristoff. A twelve-year-old boy with golden hair who enjoyed their visits more than the rest of the children. He was all the time trying to get their attention and show them everything he knew and everything he could do. He loved to spend time with them, and they with him. It took them months to complete all the necessary requirements to adopt him legally, but during that time the couple made sure to visit almost every week. Every time they visited, they heard him talk nonstop about his best friend, Elsa. A girl around his age who was, in Kristoff’s words, the most incredible person in the whole world. They had listened to his stories every single time and had encouraged him to introduce his best friend to them with no luck. The boy wanted them to meet her but he always explained the girl refused to do so. They hadn’t had a clue at the time why she refused so much, but they had respected her wishes. With time, all the papers were in order and Kristoff was finally adopted by the Bjorgman family. He had been eager to have a home, but he was miserable about leaving his best friend behind. From the day he stepped into the Bjorgman’s house he had done everything in his power to persuade them to adopt the girl. At first, they thought it had been just his desire to keep his best friend around for as long as possible, but as time passed, they realised the kid was serious in his requests. Two years of Kristoff’s insistence and a series of shocking events, led Kai and Gerda to adopt the girl in the end. Even if the circumstances they underwent to adopt Elsa were not typical in any sense, and having a fourteen-year-old daughter had never been part of their original plan, they ended up loving Elsa more than they imagined it was possible. Watching Elsa sleep in a hospital bed now, triggered many memories Gerda didn’t particularly liked about that time; and even if she tried, she couldn’t help herself from thinking about the first time she had met Elsa.
The old woman sat there in the hospital room, remembering those days, when the door suddenly opened. Her husband appeared through it with a cup of coffee in his left hand, distracting her from her memories. He silently closed the door to then finally greet her with a soft kiss in her cheek.
“Hi, honey,” he gave his wife the coffee and reached the bed. As delicately as he could he caressed the girl’s head, avoiding to touch the bandage that covered the left side of it, “How’s Elsa?”
“She is okay. The doctor hasn’t stopped by yet, but she was awake a few minutes ago. She remembered what happened after we explained to her what she was doing in the hospital,” the woman smiled to herself and added “she was already trying to complain about the time she’ll have to stay here.”
A laugh escaped the man’s mouth.
“But she said she was in pain…” a sigh. “It must be bad, since she admitted it so easily.”
The laugh died and Kai looked concerned once again, “let’s just hope they give her painkillers and don’t try to see how she reacts without them.”
“Yeah…” A few seconds passed with both of them lost in their own thoughts when Gerda decided to break the silence, “Did you see Kristoff and Anna?”
“Yes, they were entering the Coffee shop across the street when I was coming out with your coffee. They look exhausted.”
She sipped the hot coffee and answered, “I bet they are. They were so worried for Elsa they refused to go home and catch some sleep.”
“Kristoff made me promise we’ll call them when the doctor comes to talk about her leg,” Kai smiled thinking about Kristoff’s insistence.
“As if we’d risk not telling him…” Gerda laughed too. “So… How was work?”
After getting coffee for themselves, Anna and Kristoff walked to the parking lot where the truck was parked. They wanted to make sure Sven was all right. The dog had spent the night there and they were ready to take him home. The poor dog didn’t understand what was going on, but he had been patient with his owner. When he saw them approach the truck, he got up from the makeshift bed and barked with joy. Once they greeted him, he started searching for what they could only assume was Elsa. Kristoff made an effort to explain Elsa was not coming home with them and opened the door for the animal and Anna to enter the vehicle.
Once they were on the way to Kristoff’s apartment building, Anna offered a different idea, “why don’t we take him to my house? He already knows mama and papa, he won’t be so lonely. Who knows when you’ll be able return to your apartment … Oh, and we still need to go back to the cabin for our staff an-”
“Are you sure your folks won’t mind? Sven can be a little too much when he is nervous,” he kept his eyes on the road, but used his right hand to pet the German shepherd in between them.
“Of course not! And it would be a good reason to stop by and explain we returned a couple of days earlier than expected…” Anna watched the road to avoid watching Kristoff in the eyes, thinking about the fact that the holidays had been ruined due to hers and Kristoff’s… stupidity, to put it simple, made her guilt return. She knew he felt bad too.
He focused on the right turn he had to make in order to head in the direction of Anna’s house. The place was in the opposite side of town, but it was closer to the hospital than his own apartment. The idea was good, at least he wouldn’t have to worry about Sven during the time stayed in the hospital, “If you say it’s okay, then I’ll trust you. It’ll help me a lot.” When he saw Anna nod with reassurance, he offered, “you should stay too. You need to sleep.”
“Are you sure you won’t need me?”
“Yes. It’ll be practical. Besides, you are right about our bags, we’ll need to go pick them up sooner than later. If you get enough sleep, maybe you can drive me there later this afternoon.” Kristoff smiled at her, he wanted Anna to go home, relax and sleep; but he didn’t want her to feel bad about it. Truth be told, he needed a few minutes to talk with his parents about the accident on his own. And with his sister too. He wanted to clarify some doubts he had about the fall and also wanted to make sure she really was okay.
They reached Anna’s place sooner than they had expected. The snowfall the previous night had stopped people from going out so early on Sunday morning and the roads were practically deserted. They parked in Anna’s garage and by the time they were getting off, the front door opened. Idunn, Anna’s mother, was waving at them from the doorway, still wearing comfy everyday clothes “Sweetheart, you are back early! I was just preparing breakfast.”
Anna walked towards Idunn and hugged her tightly, “Yes… something happened and we had to return sooner than expected…”
She saw the worry in her daughter’s eyes and asked, “everything okay?”
“Kind of… I’ll explain inside,” she signalled Kristoff to come inside too. Kristoff reached the door with Sven following him closely. “And I hope you don’t mind babysitting Sven for a while?” Anna said when Idunn seemed puzzled by the dog’s visit.
Kristoff was entering the hospital near noon, when he ran into his father. Apparently, the old man was coming out to call him. So, it was a convenience they ran into one another. “Elsa is awake. She’s been for the past thirty minutes. Gerda and her are about to talk with the doctor,” said the man to his son.
“Shouldn’t we be there?” he asked passing his father by, intending for the man to follow him.
“Not necessarily. He is going to see if everything is fine. I bet he wants to make sure there are no complications. Where is Anna?” he said as he searched everywhere for his daughter-in-law.
“I left her at her house. She needed to sleep and she offered to watch Sven for me,” he returned to his father’s side when he saw Kai had no intention of following him. If he thought about it, there was no reason for them to be in the room when the doctor checked Elsa but he still wanted to see her. He chose to follow his father when Kai went into the waiting room instead.
“Anna seemed worried…” the statement was meant for Kristoff to continue talking and explain a little better what had happened the previous day.
“We both were… what happened was my fault, but Anna insists in blaming herself.” He sat beside him and continued, “I still can’t believe Elsa isn’t more hurt. Or dead.”
“About that… Gerda and I didn’t have the chance to ask Elsa, how did she avoid getting hurt? I know how high that cliff is.”
“She fell into a pile of snow…” Kai watched his son sigh and rest his forearms in his legs. The young man looked exhausted.
“I see… Were you the only one in the place?”
“Anna saw her fall but she didn’t see the place she landed. I asked her to go to the cottage while I rescued Elsa.”
“No one else?”
He shook his head in denial, “It was just the three of us in the slope.”
“That’s good,” commented Kai, a little more relaxed. He stayed silent for a few seconds before saying, “your mother told me you drugged Elsa before coming to the hospital. I wanted you to know you did the right thing,” he put his left hand in his son’s shoulder and gave it a little squeeze.
“Yeah, maybe it was for the best… But it doesn’t mean I enjoy drugging her as if she was a dangerous animal,” he closed his eyes and his face contorted with sadness.
“That’s not what you are doing. You are just helping your sister face a difficult situation, that’s it.”
Kristoff stood up suddenly, he grabbed his hair in exasperation and began walking the empty room, “It doesn’t feel that way…”
Kai watched the young man pace the room, there was little he could do to calm the boy when he felt remorseful. However, he knew that once Elsa was out of the hospital, Kristoff was going to agree with the rest of the family. He was going to agree with them it was the right thing to do.
At the beginning, he had had his own doubts about Gerda’s idea. When his wife had given sedatives to Elsa when she was seventeen years old, he had thought the idea was ridiculous. To allow a teenage girl to have drugs at her disposal wasn’t the best course of action in his opinion. But with time, Elsa had proved she was mature enough to use the benzodiazepines with responsibility. Over six years later and the girl still used the drugs whenever it was needed. It was a benefit the girl despised the drugs’ effect, and she only used them when she knew it was totally necessary. Kristoff knew how much she loathed them, and felt guilt-ridden whenever he let his sister take them; and even worse if he was the one who gave the dose to Elsa. So, in a way, Kai understood his son’s apprehension and couldn’t blame the young man for worrying.
Some minutes later, Kai decided it was time to return to Elsa’s room. He was sure the test was over and he imagined there was no problem if they showed up a little early in the room. He stood up and walked towards Kristoff who had stopped pacing the room after a minute or two, and was resting against the opposite wall, “Let’s go, kiddo. I guess we can go back to the room now.” Kristoff nodded and followed his father in silence. He hadn’t spoken much after the talk the two of them had shared.
They were approaching the correct room when they saw the doctor walking down the hallway. The man was focused on some papers on his hands. Since the man had left the room, they chose to enter the room unannounced. The first thing they saw was Gerda sitting in the left side of the bed beside Elsa, she was speaking to her in a reassuring way. The girl looked upset.
“Hey,” said Kai. “Everything all right?”
Both women raised their heads in order to address the man. Elsa was not in the mood to answer and let her mother speak for her, “Yes. Elsa is responding as expected to the surgery. The pain she is feeling, and the inflammation, are completely normal.”
“What about the injury? Did he say anything?” Kristoff asked as he approached the bed. He rested his arms in the steely footboard.
After that question, everyone in the room noticed Elsa’s sullen expression as she watched her leg with disdain. Gerda continued explaining what the doctor had told them, “he described the fracture. Apparently, it was an impacted fracture, each bone collapsed onto itself. The bad thing is it was a compound fracture.”
“That makes sense, her leg looked terrible when I found her,” commented the young man.
She agreed with him nodding her head, “It also explains the time Elsa had to be in surgery. They had to repair the bone and the tissue. He also explained the operation in more detail to me.” Gerda didn’t bother explaining every detail about the procedure since it was not really necessary.
“So, now what?” enquired Kristoff once again with curiosity. He didn’t know much about medicine, just the basic things he needed to know during an emergency.
“Well, now Elsa will have to-” Gerda began to say when she was interrupted by Elsa.
“Now, I have to stay in a stupid bed for two weeks. And I’ll have the cast on my leg for eight -if not ten- weeks. Not to mention I can’t concentrate in other thing than the pain right now.” She was irritated, that much was obvious. Being bedbound was a nightmare for Elsa, she hated the idea of not being independent for weeks.
Putting a hand in her shoulder, Gerda tried to calm her down, “the painkillers will kick in shortly, dear.”
“It’s not about the pain… Winter season begins in two weeks and will miss all the tourists. All the hard work I put into the stupid slope will go to waste, I’ll have to stay inside the cottage while-” In her rant, she moved her left arm causing pain to shoot to all over it. She stopped talking and grabbed it with her good arm, trying to soothe the pain. Her body was going against her own words, annoying her even more.
Gerda knew she had to stop Elsa before she continued with her outburst, the girl was going to regret letting go of her emotions in a public place if she continued. The woman didn’t agree with the girl’s allusion to stay in the mountain with a broken leg, but there was no reason in arguing about that at the moment. The most important thing was for them to calm her down and make sure she didn’t hurt herself. Caressing her arm, she said, “Stop, sweetheart. You are only hurting yourself and not helping you at all thinking about this. It is what it is. We’ll help you with anything you need.”
Elsa scoffed at Gerda. How many times had she told herself ‘It is what it is’ trying to accept the things life throw at her face? She was tired of passively accepting everything that happened to her, but she agreed it was best if she calmed a little. Her head still hurt and she was not in the mood to talk, and less to argue. She decided to lay down once again. Gerda wanted to reproach her behaviour, but one look from her husband told her it was best to let it go. Elsa was not a disrespectful person, they thought it was best to just let her vent.
During that time Kristoff had stayed silent, he knew Elsa was not someone who usually lost her temper and nothing he could say was going to help her take the news easily. That’s when he thought he could give her a little task to get her mind off of things, “Elsa, I know you must be tired right know but I needed to ask you something…” He waited for her to look at him before continuing, “Anna and I need to go back to your cottage in the afternoon to pick our stuff and some other things we left behind. Can you write down a list of things you need? I can bring those to you, if you want.”
She thought for a while, “Do you need it right now?”
“Not this instant. If mum and dad don’t need me here, I’ll go home, have a shower and sleep a little. I’ll pick the list just before driving there.” His parents shook their heads indicating they could manage on their own.
“Okay, I guess I’ll need some things. I’ll have it ready for you.”
Standing up, ready to leave, he answered, “Great! I’ll be here in a couple of hours. Try to rest.” Turning to his parents he continued, “If you guys need me, just call.” And with that, he left the room.
Late afternoon found Kristoff and Anna driving towards Elsa’s cottage for a second time that week. They were feeling calmer now they knew Elsa was fine, and her leg was healing the way it should after the surgery. After a few minutes on the road, he asked Anna to pay a look at the list Elsa had given him earlier.
“She just mentions common things like toothbrush and such… She lists some things I have no idea what they are… Do you understand her handwriting?” she said after reading the list a second time, trying to understand what was written on the paper.
“Don’t worry, I do. But I’m not surprised you don’t, it’s terrible.” Kristoff then remembered something his mother had asked him when he was leaving the hospital, “Oh, mum also told me to make sure I bring her enough clothes. Elsa just mentioned essential things, she thinks she is going back to the mountain as soon as she is released from the hospital.”
Anna looked at him puzzled.
“Mum didn’t tell her yet, but she is staying in the city with us, probably me,” he smiled thinking of the way his sister was going to react when she found out about that.
Anna nodded in understanding and put the list away in her bag, “I think that’s for the best. But why didn’t she tell her?” she asked. “And don’t worry, I’ll make sure to pack enough clothes for her.”
“She doesn’t really like the city but she’ll have to get use to it for a couple of weeks. She’ll survive…” Some minutes later, when he recalled he hadn’t asked about Sven, he enquired “how are Sven and your parents getting along?”
“Oh! They love him,” she said honestly. Then she remembered the conversation she had earlier that day with her parents about the accident, “Mama is really sorry about Elsa, by the way. She’d like to thank her properly for what she did one of these days. Papa too.”
“Tell them not to worry. I know Elsa did what she thought was right, there is no need for them to thank her,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Oh, no. They really want to thank her, me too. What she did for me was so selfless! I don’t care if she thinks she was responsible for my safety, like she said to me yesterday when we were at the back of the truck-” she stopped the conversation, thinking about something else from the previous day.
“Look, I’ll let her know. But I’m sure she won’t-” began saying Kristoff when he noticed his girlfriend was lost in thought. “What are you thinking about?”
“Uh?” she raised her head realising she had stopped talking. “Sorry, I was just remembering something,” she continued to ponder the idea in her head for a few seconds before making up her mind and asking, “Kristoff, can I ask you something? It’s about Elsa. I haven’t asked before because her safety was the most important thing yesterday, but still, it’s something that I’d like to know.”
Kristoff grabbed the steering wheel with a little more force than necessary. He knew Anna was going to question some things about his sister at some point, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t hoped for it to be later on in their relationship. He knew Anna was a good girl with a good heart. He knew Elsa thought so too. But still, his sister was a really private person and she had good reasons for that. He hoped Anna would ask a simple question he could answer. He didn’t want to lie to his girlfriend, but at the same time he didn’t want to betray Elsa’s trust. Finally, he said, “sure… What is it?”
Chapter 4: Siblings
Anna caught his hesitation but chose to ask anyway. She was going to end up asking him sooner or later. It was best to just do it. “Elsa mentioned something, in the way back to the hospital yesterday. Something about being terrified of hospitals,” she paused to look at her boyfriend before continuing. “She was under the effects of the drugs so I didn’t really paid attention to it at the moment, but today when she woke up… she seemed so desperate to get out of there. I- I thought she meant it like ‘I don’t like hospitals’, but she truly is afraid of them, isn’t she?”
Kristoff heard the question in silence with his eyes fixed on the road, his stoic face not betraying the multiple things he had thought his sister could have said under the influence of the drugs. When Anna finished talking, he relaxed a little. He thought it was possible to give his girlfriend a convincing answer without divulging anything his sister wouldn’t want him to share. ‘Well, if she didn’t want me to share, she could have stayed silent yesterday…’ he thought to himself before saying, “uhm, yes, she is. I know what happened today, when she woke up, didn’t look good but trust me, she is okay. If that’s why you are asking.”
Anna watched Kristoff give a methodical answer, which was a little odd for her boyfriend to do. “She looked ready to run out of there with a broken leg, Kristoff. Are you sure she is okay?” usually she trusted Kristoff’s answers, but she was genuinely concerned about her sister-in-law this time.
She waited for him to elaborate, but he kept his eyes on the road and nodded as if they were talking about the weather. She believed he was diminishing the situation by not facing the problem, “I understand some people may not like hospitals. I don’t like hospitals, but I understand they are only there to help me. Elsa… she looked utterly terrified of being there. Maybe she needs help…”
At that last statement Kristoff turned his head to face Anna. He wanted to make sure she understood his sister was okay and that the last thing Elsa needed was some strange idiot messing with her head. “No, Anna,” he let out a breath. “She doesn’t need help. She’s got all the help she needs with her family. Mum is the one that helps her with her fears. Don’t worry about it.”
“Not worry about it?” she was surprised to see her boyfriend, usually the first one to look after Elsa, not really interested in his sister’s problem. She understood he may have been used to seeing Elsa in a frightened state, but she felt the girl needed more help than her boyfriend imagined. “Kristoff, I don’t know much about this or about your sister, but she really is afraid of hospitals. What happens if your mother is not there one day? What is she going to do then?”
“Anna, look, I know you-”
“Maybe she should get some professional help,” she interrupted him.
“No, Anna.” The answer short and definite.
Realising Anna was not going to drop the subject, Kristoff chose to explain a little further. However, he was already getting tired of Anna’s insistence. He knew Anna was a sweet girl trying to help and he loved her for that, but how was he going to explain that forcing Elsa to talk to a stranger about her feelings was off the table? Elsa had little to no control over her emotions whenever she talked about personal fears; forcing her to face a professional was not going to help at all. “Look, I know you are only trying to help. And I thank you for that. But it’s not necessary. Gerda is-”
“But she is so afraid! It’s irrational.” Anna interrupted once again, raising her voice a little.
At that last comment Kristoff felt his patience wear thin, “It isn’t an irrational fear, okay?!”
Anna crossed her arms over her chest and looked out the window, talking in a gentle voice once again, “It looks irrational to me. People working at the hospital are only trying to help her. What if Gerda is not there to help her? What then? Is she going to run with a cast and-?”
“Anna!” he grumbled. “Stop it,” he chose to lower his voice once Anna looked at him once again. “I know you mean well and I know it may seem irrational but…” he didn’t know how to continue.
“But Elsa…” the conversation should have been simpler. He should have been able to make Anna stop worrying instead of starting an argument with her. But it was difficult to explain and the suggestion that his sister was anything but normal, even if Anna didn’t mean it that way, got on his nerves.
“Yeah?” she insisted when Kristoff stopped talking.
Sighing with exhaustion, he chose to beg for Anna to let the matter go, “Look, she has her reasons not to feel comfortable inside a hospital room, okay? It’s something she is working on, trust me. Just let this go, please.”
Anna kept looking at him for a few seconds, trying to find an answer in his body language. But Kristoff kept looking at the road in front of him. His face not betraying his feelings. Anna noticed he was tired, that much was obvious, but it could easily be for the day’s events and not the conversation. She did notice the pleading in his voice though. She looked outside once again, dropping the matter.
After a few minutes in silence, when he noticed Anna had dropped the subject, he decided to say one last thing, to let her know he was grateful for her concern. “I know you worry. And I know you do it because you have a big heart. So, thank you.” He felt he owed her a better explanation for his outburst and so he added, “it’s part of Elsa’s past and I don’t feel comfortable talking about it. Just please trust me when I say she is okay and that this fear is not unreasonable. My sister is not crazy.”
The way he uttered the last statement crushed Anna’s heart a little. He was so determined to protect his sister… she felt guilty for prying. “I never said she was… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t meddle like this.”
Kristoff extended his right hand and grabbed Anna’s from her lap. He gave her a little squeeze in reassurance. He didn’t blame her for caring too much.
After their awkward conversation, both of them remained quiet. Fortunately, they reached the North mountain sooner than they had imagined and started working on their tasks. Anna felt it was appropriate to let Kristoff take care of Elsa’s personal list while she packed the girl some clothes. She felt out of place disarranging Elsa’s wardrobe but she knew Kristoff was going to forget half the things girls considered important. She hadn’t talked much about fashion with Elsa, but she noticed the girl cared for her appearance. She always used light makeup and her clothes were stylish, even if they looked a little worn out.
Once they agreed Elsa’s things were ready, they proceed to pick up all the stuff they had left behind the previous day. They arranged their bags and checked every shutter in the cottage was securely closed. The last thing Elsa needed was someone breaking into her place.
It was dark outside by the time Kristoff and Anna got back to the hospital. The young man wanted to deliver Elsa’s things and talk to his parents about Elsa’s accommodation, before taking Anna back to her house and picking up Sven. He thought the best idea, to give Elsa the news she was staying in the city, was by showing her the things he had brought from her place.
Before entering the hospital room, he was able to see Gerda and Elsa talking peacefully. Both women looked tired but Kristoff could notice they were enjoying their conversation by their joyful expressions. It was incredible to see the effect the old woman had in his sister. Whenever she was upset or troubled by something, Gerda was the one who could calm her down. The woman’s gentle nature was something Kristoff admired. He knew he had a similar power over Elsa, more than once the girl had used him as an anchor; but being brother and sister also meant they had quarrels from time to time. So, he considered her mother to be someone sent from above to help Elsa whenever he couldn’t do it. He felt bad for interrupting their moment but he couldn’t waste any more time. He wanted to take Anna home before dinner after all.
After greeting each other, and a quick chat between Anna and Elsa, Kristoff showed Elsa everything they had brought her. Elsa looked through the things, surprised to see there were more things than she was going to need in the few days she was staying there. The doctor had paid a visit during the afternoon and, even if she didn’t feel comfortable by the man’s presence, she had to agree with her mother that the doctor’s visit had been more positive than they originally expected. The man had given them excellent news, everything was going as good as planned with her leg and, if nothing changed during the night, he felt confident about discharging Elsa the following day.
Once she checked all her stuff, she said, “Kristoff, you brought me more things than necessary, what is all this stuff? And… is that my suitcase?” She asked looking at the suitcase by the side of the bed.
She watched his brother smile at her sheepishly before he said, “It is… Sorry, sis.”
From the way he apologised and the way he had shared a quick look with her mother, Elsa knew both of them were plotting against her, “What? Mum?”
“Did you really think you were going back to the mountain?” said Gerda matter-of-factly.
Not believing what she was hearing, Elsa decided to play the ‘doctor’s recommendation’ card on her mother, “I was explicitly told I had to rest. I shouldn’t move from home once I was discharged. Where do you think home is?”
“Home, right now, is a place where there’s someone to look after you, young lady.”
“No buts, Elsa,” said Gerda. She sounded definite but there was certain tenderness in her voice. “You won’t be going to the mountain until you can get there on your own.”
“I can’t believe this,” she stopped to think for a moment about the conversation they were previously having. “Didn’t you say your trip was next week? Where am I going to stay? I’d rather be alone in the mountain than alone at your place.”
“Don’t you remember you have a brother?” countered the old woman.
“What? With Kristoff? But he-.” Elsa stopped to think about a good reason not to stay with her brother, but since she couldn’t come up with something she pleaded, “Mum, can’t we talk about this?”
“Sweetheart, you are not allowed to leave the bed for at least two weeks and then you have to use crutches at least for eight more weeks. Be reasonable, you can’t stay in a cottage in the middle of nowhere.”
“But I- I-… I am not changing your mind about this, am I?” she asked, giving up the fight.
“You never stood a chance,” laughed the old woman.
Laughing at his sister’s crestfallen face, Kristoff interjected, “It won’t be so bad, Elsa. I’ll be there to help you and I promise I’ll keep the place perfectly clean.”
Elsa looked at the man, incredulous of his statement, “You don’t even know what clean means.” Then she remembered something, “don’t you have to work?”
“It’s winter season. The ice factory works part-time at this time of the year. I’ll probably have to work the morning shift though.”
Gerda stood up from where she was sitting and walked towards Kristoff to put an arm around him, giving her boy a side-hug while she looked straight at Elsa. “See? It’s perfect!” she said proudly. “And with your brother’s help, your father and I won’t have to cancel our trip! Unless you want us to, of course.”
Elsa chuckled at the woman’s happy expression before saying, “No, it’s not necessary. You go and enjoy your holidays, you’ve been planning them for months.” She then proceeded to threat Kristoff, pointing her index finger at him, “you better keep the place spotless, Kristoff.” To which he answered by raising the arm he was not using to hug his mother to show his sister he was not going to try anything stupid.
Anna couldn’t help but laugh at the family scene she was witnessing. In her opinion, the Bjorgmans looked so happy and tranquil whenever they were together, it was contagious. She felt it was time to step in and protect her boyfriend from her sister-in-law’s threat, “I’ll help you and Kristoff with the cleaning or anything you need, Elsa… If you want me to, that’s it. I still owe you so much,” she added quickly.
Not waiting for Elsa’s response Kristoff grinned and said, “That’ll be great! See? We’ll even have company!”
Elsa just rolled her eyes at her brother’s happiness, deep down she knew he was just pleased he was not going to be the one doing all the cleaning. ‘That stinker’ she thought to herself.
Once everything was settled, Kristoff and Anna said their goodbyes to Gerda and Elsa. Kristoff had insisted in returning to the hospital to stay for the night after dropping off Anna, but his mother insisted it was better if he went home, slept and prepared the place for Elsa’s stay. When he tried to change his mother’s idea, claiming she needed to rest too, she explained Kai was taking the night off to stay with Elsa. He felt a little guilty for leaving his parents alone at the hospital, but he knew it was best if he did sleep a little that night.
The streets were covered with fresh snow and it took them some minutes to reach Anna’s place. “Want to come in and have dinner with us?” suggested the girl once they were getting off the car in Anna’s driveway.
“I’m not sure, I was thinking of just picking up Sven and then going home.”
“Come on! Mama and papa will be happy if you choose to join us,” she said eagerly opening the door to her house.
“I don’t know… I don’t want to trouble your parents,” came Kristoff’s reply while he carried her bags through the door.
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous.”
When Kristoff entered the house, he was able to see Agdar -Anna’s father- sitting comfortably in the living room. The man seemed to have been reading a novel by the stove when he raised his head to greet the couple.
“Kristoff! It’s nice to see you!”
“Nice to see you too, sir,” Kristoff approached the man and shook his hand. Even after a year of officially dating the Arendelles’ daughter, Kristoff had to admit he was still a little intimidated by the man. He was a nice, kind man who happened to love his daughter more than life itself; so, it was logical for Kristoff to feel he needed to earn the man’s respect. Anna had assured her boyfriend time and time again that Agdar and Idunn loved him just as much as she did, but Kristoff always felt the need to prove he was a nice man with good intentions.
“How have you been, son? Were the two of you able to return to the mountain?”
“Honestly, I’ve been better,” he let out a sigh. “But to your question, we were. We were able pick our stuff from the mountain, together with some other things Elsa is going to need.”
At the mention of their things, Anna realised Kristoff was still holding her things in one hand while he talked with her father. “Oh! It’s okay Kristoff, let me take my bags to my room real quick.”
“I’m sorry about the accident, Kristoff. Anna explained to us what happened. How is your sister doing?”
“She is better. She is fully awake now and she remembers everything, which is good news. We were afraid she had hurt her head at first. Her leg is another story-”
“Kristoff, dear, hi!” said Idunn as she appeared from a door at the back of the room. “It’s nice to see you again. How was the trip?”
“The trip was uneventful. We picked our things and made sure the cottage was securely closed. The last thing Elsa needs right now is someone breaking into her place.”
“That makes sense… How is she?”
Agdar laughed at his wife’s antics and interrupted the conversation before Kristoff had to explain everything once again. “Kristoff was just telling me about it, darling. Before you interrupted him.”
Idunn got close enough to her husband, who was still sitting on the couch, and smacked his arm playfully. “Well, you could have told me Kristoff and Anna were home. I was at the back searching for an old mat Sven could use tonight.”
“Oh! That’s right!” said Kristoff interrupting them both. “Thank you so much for taking care of Sven. I didn’t want him to be on his own the whole day. He seemed a little nervous about the accident.”
“Don’t worry about it, dear. He is really good company. If you need, he can stay with us for a couple of days.”
Kristoff watched Agdar nod behind his wife, agreeing with the woman’s suggestion. But since Elsa was going to be discharged sooner than they expected, he thought it was better if Sven was at his place by the time she was released. “No, it’s not necessary, but thank you. I was planning on taking him home tonight.”
“Are you sure?” asked Agdar as he stood up.
“Positive. I have to stay home tonight preparing everything for Elsa’s stay. I’d rather Sven be there with me.”
“He is sleeping at the back right now. I’ll go fetch him if you want,” said Idunn.
Anna, who was walking down the stairs heard her boyfriend’s answer and knew it was a matter of time before he excused himself and announced he was leaving. She wanted to stop him before that happened. “After he has dinner with us,” she said aloud.
“Anna, I told you-” began complaining Kristoff when he was once again interrupted by Idunn. Kristoff really liked his mother-in-law but the woman needed to learn to take turns while speaking. It was obvious were Anna got that trait.
“Oh, yes please, stay with us. I was just making dinner,” said the older woman with excitement.
“Honestly, it’s not necessary…”
“Stop being polite and stay!” complained Anna. “I know for a fact you have no food at your place.”
The Arendelle family watched Kristoff try to find a way out of the dinner invitation. He loved Idunn’s cooking but he was physically exhausted and just wanted to crash on his bed. Seeing he was dubitative, Agdar decided it was best to give the boy an ultimatum. He wanted to hear a bit more about the accident and the girl’s health after all. “You better hear the ladies, boy. When they made up their mind about something there’s no turning back.”
Kristoff watched both women nod their heads and finally complied, “I guess I don’t have much choice then.”
Dinner had been nice and peaceful as always. Anna had the opportunity to talk with her parents about their week at Elsa’s cottage; what they had done, where they’d gone and even what she had learnt just before the accident. Kristoff joined the conversation too, he had enjoyed himself as well and he had more than one anecdote to tell his in-laws about Anna. Agdar and Idunn listened to their stories laughing and commenting about the interesting things they knew about the place. Agdar was a businessman and he knew a thing or two about the North mountain since it was one of the main touristic attractions of the city. So, the conversation carried out pleasurably for all of them.
It was after dinner, when they were having some coffee, that Agdar remembered about the boy’s sister. “You never finished telling us about your sister, Kristoff. Did you mention her leg was compromised?”
“Yes, her right leg is severely broken,” he said after he finished his cup of coffee. “She’ll have to stay in bed for at least a week or two. And she’ll have a cast for at least ten weeks. She hurt her left arm and hit her head too, but those are minor injuries fortunately.”
“Oh, poor thing. Will she be all right?” asked Idunn with concern.
“We think so, yes. The doctor seems optimistic,” he answered with a smile.
“Anna has mentioned she works as a ski instructor, is that correct?”
“Mhm, she does.”
“Won’t the injury affect her job?” wondered Agdar.
Kristoff nodded in confirmation. He hadn’t had the time to talk about it with Elsa, but he knew the injury was going affect Elsa’s work deeply. She was going to miss winter season, which was a big monetary problem for Elsa; but he believed the biggest problem was going to be her leg. She would need to make a full recovery before being able to ski again, which was certainly going to take more time than they originally thought. “This injury came at the worst time for Elsa. She had been working non-stop in a new slope for her students,” he began to explain. “Everyone in the mountain is positive this season is going to be excellent. Many tourists have already booked cabins to spend winter holidays at the mountain. Even Elsa had some classes booked. She hasn’t mentioned anything about that yet, but she’ll be crushed when she starts returning her client’s money and declining new students.”
He stopped to think for a moment about his sister’s reaction once she started noticing all the money she was going to miss, when he heard his girlfriend’s groan.
“Ugh, this makes me feel even more guilty! I hadn’t even thought about her job!” She put her head in her hand and asked, “What is she going to do?”
Kristoff watched Anna and he felt his heart burst. She was so worried, and she cared so much for his sister he felt the need help her relax. “Hey, I told you Elsa did what she believes is right. She takes very seriously her role as an instructor, and she considers her students’ well-being is in her hands when she teaches. Trust me, this was the best outcome in Elsa’s eyes.”
Anna was still mortified with her hands covering her eyes when Idunn decided to speak, “still, we owe your sister so much, Kristoff. Anna could be the one in the hospital bed right now. We want to thank her as soon as she is feeling okay.”
Idunn and Agdar had discussed earlier that day the accident, and how close Anna had been of falling off that cliff. They’d agreed on thanking Elsa properly one day, so Agdar decided to speak too. “Our Anna means the world to us, Kristoff. Make sure to let Elsa know we are in debt with her. We are ready to help her with anything she needs.”
A little ashamed, even if he was not the one receiving the compliments, the young man said, “Thank you. I’ll let her know.”
“Maybe, when she feels better, we could prepare a special dinner for her, Agdar” suggested Idunn. “To finally meet her and to let her know we are serious about our debt.”
Kristoff knew his sister was going to be embarrassed about the attention if that dinner ever took place, so he chose to try and change the couple’s mind, “oh, no. It’s not necessary. Elsa, she… Well, she doesn’t like receiving too much attention. She is a little weird about social gatherings to be honest.”
“Oh, nonsense. It’ll just be dinner among family. We promise,” said Idunn smiling.
The conversation kept going for a few more minutes until Kristoff decided it was best to call it a night.
The next day, Kristoff drove to the hospital after having a quick lunch by himself in his apartment. He had come home late the previous night, and he had crushed on his bed as soon as he had had the chance. The events the previous night meant he had to spend the following morning arranging his apartment and doing the shopping before picking Elsa from the hospital. His mother had called earlier that day, telling him the doctor had informed them Elsa was being discharged in the early afternoon. So, he hurried in order to make sure everything was ready by that time.
When he entered the room, he saw his sister sitting on the bed already dressed in her normal clothes. Well, clothes as normal as her cast allowed her to wear. She was wearing a worn-out sweatshirt and wide-legged baggy shorts. He thought it was an advantage Elsa was not bothered by low temperatures because any sane person would freeze wearing her outfit outside that day.
She raised her head to greet him with a smile when he entered, “Hi!” said Elsa with joy.
“Hi. Are you free to leave?”
Elsa groaned and said, “Not yet. The doctor told me to wait, he wants to give me some recommendations before I leave. And I’m waiting for a stupid wheelchair.”
Wheel-chair?” he repeated. He knew Elsa’s cast was going to be an inconvenience, but he never thought she was going to need a wheel-chair.
“Yes, I’ll need one apparently,” she answered looking at her cast with disdain.
Kristoff noticed Elsa’s cheerfulness disappear when her attention was focused on the cast once again. For what Gerda had told him that morning, Elsa had had a rough night, she kept complaining about the pain and the bother the cast was going to be in the following weeks. So, it was logical for her happiness to be short lived; leaving the hospital was good to put Elsa in a better mood, but not good enough for her to forget about her injuries. The young man just hoped the doctor could show up and discharge Elsa already. It was clear his sister was needing some fresh air. Until the man showed up, he decided to make his sister company.
“Where’s mum?” he asked, unable to come up with a better topic for conversation.
“I have no idea. Maybe she wanted to buy all the required medicine before we left the hospital.”
“What? I told her over the phone I was going to buy your medicine. Why won’t she listen to me?” he commented, a little annoyed with his mother’s decision.
Elsa was about to give her brother an honest answer, she wanted to tell him not give it a second thought, but after a few seconds an idea crossed her mind. She was bored out of her mind sitting in the hospital bed, so she chose to have a little fun with her brother. She smiled to herself and replied, “Maybe she knows you can’t be trusted. I think she finally noticed how incompetent you truly are.”
Kristoff heard Elsa’s comment and raised his head with fury, ready to ask his sister what her problem was, when he saw her mischievous smile. He realised the comment was only to annoy him and so he chose to reach the side of the bed, where he stood tall by her side. Crossing his arms over his broad chest, he raised and eyebrow and asked, “Oh, really?”
Elsa tried her best not to be intimidated by her gigantic brother and she continued mocking him, “Well, yeah. It was time she noticed, don’t you think?” She raised her chin trying to look at him in the eye and defy him, when she saw how close he was standing. In any other situation Elsa would have backed down, but at that moment she was confident her brother was not going to try anything funny while she was confined to bed. But then again, in her overconfidence she forgot her brother had perfect access to her sweatshirt’s large hood. Before she knew what was happening, Kristoff pulled down her hood and covered her head, not letting her to see a thing.
“Ha! Gotcha!” he laughed.
“Hahaha, let go of me you fool!” said Elsa from behind the fabric.
Kristoff tried as best as he could not to hurt his sister in their childish fight. He knew she still had a bandage over the left side of her head, so he tried his best not touch nor pull too hard on that side of the hood. But he was not going to let her go without an apology first. “Not yet. Say the magic word.”
“Hahaha, come on!” Elsa was trying as best as she could to stop Kristoff with her right hand. She was going to put up a fight before asking for forgiveness.
By the sound of Elsa’s laughter Kristoff knew he was not hurting her in any way. So, he used his free hand to restrain Elsa’s good hand, and repeated, “I said, ‘Say the magic word’.”
Without her good arm Elsa knew she was screwed and finally gave up. “Bawahaha, okay, okay. I yield. I yield.”
“I haven’t heard the mag-” he began saying when he was interrupted by a loud reprimand.
“What are the two of you doing?! Kristoff let go of your sister! Are you crazy?”
Brother and sister stopped struggling after the woman’s scolding and froze in place. They knew Gerda was the sweetest, gentlest person ever; but she was also the scariest when she was angry. After a few seconds, Kristoff gently let go of the hood and took a step to the side, away from the bedside. He looked at his mother and gave her a nervous smile. Even if he was twice as large as the woman, Gerda had the power to intimidate him when she was angry.
“Kristoff, answer me, are you nuts? Your sister is not yet discharged from the hospital! What were you thinking?” Gerda’s face was red with anger.
Not finding a good explanation that could get him off the hook, the young man looked in his sister’s direction hoping she could help him out. That’s when he noticed Elsa had her head down and was trying not to laugh under her hood. He couldn’t see her eyes, but he could see her broad smile.
Kristoff glance to the side and his expression called Gerda’s attention. The old woman turned her attention to the younger woman in the room. She let out a frustrated sigh and said, “Elsa apologise to your brother.”
At this Elsa stopped laughing, raised her head in alarm and asked, “What? Why?!”
“The two of you have been under my care for over ten years, Elsa. Do you really think I wouldn’t notice you started whatever this was?” said the woman unamused. “Please apologise and behave like an adult while I complete your discharge papers,” she finally said as she sat on the chair to complete her task.
Elsa complied and apologised to Kristoff even if she knew it was not necessary. Kristoff was anything but mad at her. In fact, he was completely amused by the outcome of their little fight. After a moment in silence she had an idea and asked her mother, “Mum, where you buying medicine?”
“No, I was picking up these papers,” the woman replied, not raising her head for her work. “Kristoff said he would do it.”
Noticing her mother was not looking at them, Elsa called her brother’s attention and whispered, “It’s a shame. I thought she had finally realised you couldn’t be trusted. I’ll be dead by the end of the week.”
Kristoff just laughed, choosing to let his sister win that round. If he came up with comeback and they started another fight, their mother was going to murder them right then and there.
After some minutes, Kristoff began chatting with their mother about the bureaucracy of the hospital while the young woman remained quiet on the bed. From time to time Elsa would rub her thigh, right over where the cast ended. She hadn’t complained about the pain out loud because she didn’t want Kristoff to think he had had something to do with it. Even if she agreed with Gerda that her fight with Kristoff had been irresponsible, it had nothing to do with the pain she was feeling at the moment. If anything, the fight had helped her distract herself from the constant ache numbing her right leg.
To Elsa’s dismay, they had to wait over an hour for the doctor’s final visit, which made her feel a little anxious, hospitals had the ability to get the worst out of her and staying there was a constant mental strain. When the doctor finally showed up, he was accompanied by a male nurse who brought a wheel-chair for Elsa to take home. The doctor prescribed some more drugs Elsa was going to need and gave strict orders to move as little as possible in the following days. His recommendation was for her not to move from bed until her next visit to the hospital, which was schedule on the first days of January. At the mention of the date, Elsa realised she was going to spend her birthday and the holidays bedridden, frustrating her deeply.
Once the doctor was gone, Kristoff helped her get on the wheel-chair and they left the hospital. The drizzling snow and the cold air outside was calming on Elsa’s nerves, but it just made her wish she was in the North mountain once again. She reassured herself it was going to be just for a few weeks even if she knew the recovery was going to take longer than that; she knew needed to set reachable goals. Right now, her goal was to endure two weeks in bed doing absolutely nothing. And she was not at all happy with the idea. She liked doing things, she loved working. When she was younger, she had found out that being busy kept the mind from wandering. If she kept busy, her mind was set in autopilot and life became easier. She was not sure how her mind was going to react to being inactive for a long period of time, but she was glad to know Kristoff was going to be there by her side to help.
Chapter 5: Confinement
Before going back to his apartment, Kristoff took Gerda home. The old woman had stayed in the hospital most of the time Elsa had being there, and it was obvious she was exhausted. Gerda didn’t really accept she was no longer young, and she had a tendency to overwork herself whenever the health of one of the family members was compromised. She insisted it was her responsibility to make sure everyone in the family was okay, something Kristoff and Elsa loved about the woman but also considered a little ridiculous. They were both adults who could take care of themselves. They understood the woman’s desire to see them well and help in everything she could, but they didn’t like seeing her exhausted. As Kristoff expected, Gerda had complained about his decision before getting off the car, but after a few minutes of insistence Kristoff and Elsa were able to convince her it was for the best.
It was late afternoon by the time the siblings reached Kristoff’s apartment building. To Elsa’s disappointment, her brother lived in the second floor which meant she was not going to have access to the yard nor the street on her own for the time she was going to stay there. But she didn’t feel it was something she should complain out loud, her brother was doing everything in his power to help her and she couldn’t be more grateful. Even if she knew she was going to need a lot of help in the following weeks, she had made the mental promise not to be a bother to Kristoff. The man had a job and a girlfriend to pay attention to, and she didn’t feel comfortable being in the middle. Her desire not to bother her family had been one of the main reasons she had opposed to the idea of staying in the city. Granted, she didn’t like the city, she didn’t like being confined to a relatively small apartment surrounded by strange neighbours, but she guessed she didn’t have another option given her situation.
When Kristoff parked the truck at his garage, she stopped him before he stepped out of the driver’s seat. “Kristoff?” she said grabbing his left arm.
“Are you sure about this? Mum can be a little insistent sometimes. I don’t want you to do this just because she forced you. I don’t want to be a bother.” She asked, not daring to look at him in the eyes. She hated feeling so insecure but old habits die hard.
“Of course, I’m sure about this!” he said. His eyes softened when he noticed Elsa’s lack of confidence. “Elsa, I would do anything to help you. Besides, this was all my fault. If I had listened to you and I hadn’t messed with your motor ski, you wouldn’t be in this situation.” He grabbed her left hand tenderly and added, “Not to mention you saved Anna from a terrible accident or worse… I owe you.”
She took her hand from his grasp and patted his hand, “You are conscious I’m not going to be at my best these following weeks, right? I’m not even sure I’ll be able to have good control over my powers. Especially if I’m in pain.”
He felt her hand was a little colder than in the last few days, but he believed it was normal given everything that was going on, “It’ll be fine, Elsa. You have more control than you give yourself credit for.”
“So far, I’ve been fine because I’ve been under the constant effect of the drugs, but I don’t know how I’ll react once the effect starts to fade…”
At the mention of the drugs, Kristoff remembered all the medicine he had bought for her and thought it was a good opportunity to talk about that topic, “About that… I know you don’t like being under the effect of palliatives but I honestly believe it would be best if you continue taking them for at least the first two weeks. It’ll help you with the pain and the stress.”
Elsa clasped her hands together and looked away. She tried to convey her feelings about the drugs in a simple statement, “You know I hate them…”
“I know. But it may be for the best. Just the first few weeks, okay?”
Elsa thought for some time before nodding, “If it makes things easier for you…” She then remembered she had one last question and turned her head towards him again, “What about your neighbours?”
“What about them?”
“What if something happens?” She gave her hands a quick look and Kristoff understood what she meant.
“Nothing will happen, Elsa. And it’s not like you have to interact with my neighbours. They won’t even know you are here.” He decided it was best to change Elsa’s mood a little, “Well, they will know, of course. They’ll see me carrying a grumpy, scary girl in the staircase whenever I’ll need to take you somewhere.”
The last statement caught Elsa off guard and she raised her head in a sudden movement, “I’m not scary.”
“At least you accept you are grumpy then,” laughed Kristoff.
“You are an ass,” joined playfully Elsa.
“And you love me anyway,” said the man proud of getting Elsa to smile since the conversation started. “What I really mean is, nothing will happen… and if it does, winter is setting earlier this year, they won’t notice a thing. Don’t worry.” He watched the time and finally asked, “Can we go inside now?”
She nodded. She was feeling more relaxed now that her brother had assured her everything was going to be all right. She trusted him more than anyone, and his confidence had helped her since she was a little girl.
Kristoff got off the truck and went to his sister’s door to help her out of the truck. He picked her up and left Elsa’s wheelchair in the back of the truck while he climbed the staircase with his sister in his arms. When they entered the apartment, Kristoff had to avoid an overexcited Sven who tried to jump on top of them to greet them. Brother and sister made everything in their power to calm the animal down until Kristoff was able to help Elsa sit in the sofa-bed he had prepared before leaving the apartment at midday. The moment Elsa was properly sitting in bed, the animal jumped on top of the mattress, tried his best to sit in Elsa’s lap and started licking her face. Kristoff knew the dog had been in a state of alarm since the accident had happened and he had been eager to see Elsa again. So, he let the dog do whatever he wanted. He just laughed at the dog’s devotion and at his sister’s defeated expression accepting the dog’s kisses. Elsa was not a fan of Sven’s displays of affection but she was obviously not complaining. When Kristoff saw the animal was not going to let the girl go anytime soon, he took the opportunity to return to the truck for Elsa’s things.
Elsa was able to calm the dog down after a minute and convinced him to get off her lap before he hurt her. The animal lied beside her and rested his head as close as possible to her while she petted him. She was grateful for the dog’s company; even if at the beginning she had refused to the idea of getting a dog, she was now grateful Sven was part of the family. The dog loved them no matter what, he didn’t need a further reason than the fact that they were part of his family to show his unconditional love. She thought that in a way, Sven and Kristoff were really similar. Both of them had tried their best to earn her trust and once she had let them in, they had loved her more than she thought she deserve. They didn’t care about her flaws, they cared about her the way she was and she couldn’t be more grateful to have them in her life. Maybe staying with Kristoff was for the best, as Gerda had suggested, spending time with her brother was going to have a more calming effect than any drug out there. After Sven began drifting off by her side, Elsa noticed it was the first time in the last few days that she had the chance to be on her own. Her family had made sure she had company at all times while she had stayed in the hospital. And, being honest, she couldn’t be more grateful they had been there for her. She felt an indescribable apprehension every time she was in a hospital room on her own. She felt vulnerable and she hated it. But now that she had a few minutes on her own, she felt the heaviness of the previous days lifting off her shoulders. She felt calm and she chose to close her eyes and she laid beside Sven to rest.
Elsa opened her eyes by the time the sun had set and she was surprised to wake up to an amazing smell. She tried her best to sit on the bed without disturbing the dog that laid by her side, and looked at the brother who was in the kitchen cooking. She thought it was a little odd to wake up and be able to see the living room and kitchen at the same time but she guessed it was better to get used to that idea. Kristoff’s apartment was small but comfortable enough for two people to live in. Elsa was used to sharing a living space with Kristoff since they were children, so living in a small apartment was not going to be a problem for the them. The problem was, it had just one bedroom. Its dining-living room was big enough for him to set up the sofa-bed for her but she knew she was going to miss having a door to close if she felt her emotions were too overwhelming. She knew it was going to take time to heal and go back to the mountain, but if every day was going to be as nice and tranquil as that particular evening, Elsa knew staying there was not going to be a problem. She just needed to find something to do to keep her mind off of unwanted thoughts, and everything would be back to normal before she imagined.
Although she had felt confident the first evening being in Kristoff’s apartment, the pain and boredom proved to be more of a challenge than she had anticipated. The first few days were tolerable for Elsa. She noticed it was going to be a little more difficult than she originally thought to bear being bedridden, but she was taking it in a calm way. There was no reason for her to freak out. The pain was a more intense than she had anticipated but she guessed it was normal. Her muscles and skin had received a lot of damage and where still tender; even under the uncomfortable cast she felt the muscles complain with every little movement. Whenever she was alone at the apartment, Elsa spent her time sleeping or boring herself to death. Since she had started living with the Bjorgmans, she had had adopted the habit of working and helping around the house or keeping herself busy. Therefore, it was normal for her to be bored now since there was little she could do in bed. She was thankful for Sven’s company, even if the dog had liked the idea of being in bed all day and slept most of the time.
Gerda and Kai made time to visit a couple of times before their big trip, to see how Elsa was doing and to help Kristoff with the house chores. She loved their company but to her dismay, the whole family was convinced the best thing for her health was taking the doctor’s advice seriously. He had made emphasis on the importance of the first weeks of the recovery. And even if Elsa agreed it was for the best because she wanted to keep practicing sports, she loathed staying in bed. In her visits, Gerda made sure everything was okay with her arm and she even took Elsa’s head bandage off on the fourth day. Allowing the girl to feel a little less like a patient and more like a normal person. The old woman had also explained the arm was going to take a few more days to heal than the head, but she was positive everything was going better than expected.
Things became a little more tedious for Elsa on the second week. Her parents left for their trip, which meant she was not going to have someone to spend time with whenever Kristoff went to work. She also became more tired of being bedridden since there was nothing interesting to do on her own and, to her disappointment, Kristoff started working on the afternoon shift instead of the morning shift as he had expected. All those things combined with Elsa’s awareness that winter season had began and she was missing clients, resulted in Elsa’s mood changing for the worst. Her patience wore thinner and thinner whenever she cancelled a new client who called asking to book a class or whenever her leg throbbed in pain. She desperately wanted to move around, she wanted to go out, she wanted to work, and she wanted to be on the mountain; but none of those things were possible.
Elsa’s bad mood was evident to Kristoff. The girl spent most of the time sleeping and she wasn’t talking as much as she did in the first few days. Those symptoms made him worry for her emotional stability in the long run. He knew things were going to improve once she was allowed to move a little more freely, but that didn’t mean he was not going to try and help her before that time came. Kristoff believed some company could help her keep her mind away from unpleasant memories and could help her with her mood. He also believed inviting Anna over when he was at work was going to be a good opportunity for Anna and Elsa to bond too. Anna had mentioned to him in the past that she wished she could get to know Elsa better, to understand Kristoff’s sister better. And he had to be honest and admit there was nothing he wanted more than for his sister to find a friend in Anna. Elsa needed a friend in her life to talk and open up to, and what better person for that than a possible sister-in-law. Kristoff had only been dating Anna for a year and half but he was convinced there was no-one out there better for him than her. He was sure they could have a perfect family one day; but for that to happen, he needed Anna to know everything about his life and that included his sister. Elsa was one of the most important people in his life and he had promised to always be there for her; he needed Anna to know and accept Elsa the way she was. In short, he wanted to make Anna part of every aspect of his life before taking any big step. It was for those reasons he came up with the idea of asking Anna to keep Elsa company.
It was one night, while they were having dinner, that he chose to tell Elsa about his idea, “So, I asked Anna to come visit one of these days.”
“That’s fine,” came simple reply.
“You don’t mind?”
Elsa raised her head from her food and look at him in the eye with a puzzled expression, “I know I haven’t been in the best mood lately but that doesn’t mean you can’t invite your girlfriend to your house, Kristoff.”
“Oh, no. I mean… Not only to visit me. To visit us.”
“You know, to keep you company.”
“I don’t need company,” said Elsa as returned her attention to the food on her plate. “Don’t force Anna to spend time with me just for the sake of it. I’m perfectly fine here.” When she didn’t hear an answer, she looked at her brother once again, “Honestly.”
Kristoff noticed Elsa’s ‘honesty’ was not what it claimed to be and insisted once again, “You spend most of the time here alone. Don’t you get bored?”
“Well, yes,” she shrugged. “But there’s no reason to make another person miserable too,” she picked at her food while she explained her reasons. After a minute in silence, she chose to tell Kristoff the real reason, “And think I wouldn’t be really good company.” If she was honest with herself, she was thrilled about the idea of having a distraction, but she didn’t want Kristoff to force Anna to waste her free time with her. She knew the girl had started winter break the previous week, when they had gone to the mountain. And even if Elsa had no idea how many free days Anna had she didn’t want her to waste her holidays babysitting her.
“What are you talking about? You are a blast to be around lately,” he joked trying to lighten the mood but his idea backfired and it only got Elsa angry.
“It’s not my fault I’m in a terrible mood,” she countered. But she soon noticed she had overreacted and calmed down before suggesting something that had been on her mind for the past few days. “I was thinking of not taking the drugs anymore. I’m not myself when I’m under their effect,” she said, trying to explain her outburst.
Kristoff was surprised at first, he definitely had not anticipated Elsa’s temperament change, but he was not so sure about Elsa not taking her medicine. “I was just joking about you being bad company... And about the drugs, I know you hate them but I think you should keep taking them.”
“No buts, at least until we visit the doctor. And don’t try to deceive me, I’ll make sure you take them.” He hated bossing people around, and he loathed being the one forcing Elsa to take drugs but he believed this time they were for the best, as his father had explained to him the previous week at the hospital. He watched her take in the information before he returned to the previous topic they had been talking about. He chose to explain better why Anna was coming and to see if Elsa agreed, “About Anna… it isn’t like I’m forcing her. I told her to come because she wanted to visit you. She likes you.”
The question was simple but full of self-doubt. Kristoff could only look at Elsa with a little pity. It had been years since she had joined the family and she had realised it was possible for people out there to like her, but she still had the same doubts whenever she met someone new. “Of course! Why wouldn’t she? She is coming tomorrow and I think she said something about helping me with dinner until I can change my shift back to the mornings. What do you say?”
“I guess it could be nice to have someone else around...” she finally accepted.
As Kristoff had promised, Anna visited the following day and the day after that, and she kept visiting. She had even named herself the siblings’ ‘Official cook’ by the second day and she had taken her role seriously since that moment. At first the two of them didn’t have much to talk about. They liked each other and enjoyed their conversations but it was true Kristoff was a mutual link between them and, without him in the room, it was a little awkward to find something to talk about. But, to Elsa’s relief, Anna was a really open and talkative person. She didn’t mind speaking for minutes on her own. As long as she knew Elsa was listening, she could speak about anything and everything at the same time. Elsa had been a little wary of the topics Anna would like to talk about, or the questions she would do, but after some time she noticed the girl had a big heart and was very respectful of her privacy. Therefore, she allowed herself to relax and enjoy the company. From time to time, Elsa had to ask Anna’s help for the simplest tasks and the younger woman would simple smile and help her any way she could; something Elsa began to adore about Anna. Her predisposition to help, even when she didn’t have to, made Elsa realise she had more in common with the girl than she had originally imagined.
Things worked fine between the three of them for a few days, but Elsa’s tiredness and mood swings didn’t simply disappear. Day after day she began to feel more trapped and, even if she knew she was being ridiculous because she was safe in her brother’s apartment, she couldn’t stop her mind from wandering into the past. It was by the end of the second week, on the day of her birthday, that she felt overwhelmed for the first time since she had started living with Kristoff.
Kristoff entered the apartment that evening with a joyful expression on his face and he was not surprised to find his sister laying in the middle of her bed – sofa-bed to be specific – with her eyes closed and Sven resting his head on her stomach. The two looked too peaceful and so he decided to go directly where his girlfriend was. She was cooking dinner for them in the small kitchen singing a silly song. He greeted her with a tender kiss on her cheek and sat by the table behind her.
After chatting about their day, Kristoff asked, “How did the animal behave?”
Not really knowing where the question was coming from, Anna answered truthfully, “Uh? Uhm… Fine? I mean, it didn’t really move from the bed to be honest.”
A mischievous smile formed on Kristoff’s face, “Great! And how did Sven behave?
“Sven? I just told- Ugh, Kristoff!” Anna had no idea what he was talking about until she realised it was another one if his jokes.
Anna was about to complain about him making her part of his games when both of them heard a tired voiced from the other side of the room, “I’m awake, you moron.”
“Hahaha. Good! It’s even better if you can hear my comments.”
Anna felt ashamed for falling into one of Kristoff’s jokes. She knew he loved messing around, she should have known better, “You should grow up one day, seriously.”
“Nonsense, that’s for plants. Besides, Elsa loves my jokes.”
“You have no idea… Now shut up. I’m trying to sleep.” Came Elsa’s reply as she put her right arm over her eyes.
“Oh, the two of you are no-fun,” said the man before getting up and walking towards his sister with a broad smile on his face. He wanted to make sure she stayed awake. It was an important day after all. When he was close enough, he sat beside Elsa and raised her arm from her face to make sure she paid attention to him, “what do you mean you are trying to sleep? You just woke up! Come on, get up!”
“I can’t.” The reply was short and it leave no place for argument, or that was Elsa’s original intention. She had forgotten about her brother’s persistence.
“Oh, yes. You can.” He got up from the mattress, grabbed Elsa’s good arm with his and tried pulling her up. “Come on. I bought you a present.”
Anna, who had turned her attention to the sibling’s conversation, was surprised to hear the last comment. “Present?” she asked.
“But I guess if you stay in bed you won’t be able to enjoy it.” He continued not paying attention to Anna’s question. He smirked when he saw Elsa’s curious expression and finally said, “It’s a chocolate cake.”
“Chocolate cake?!” said Anna a little louder. The sole idea of a chocolate cake in the house made her wish she had started cooking dinner sooner that day.
Noticing Anna was a little more invested in the present than Elsa, he turned around and answered, “Yup!”
“Wait… Cake as a present? Am I missing something here?” asked the younger woman noticing there was a connection there.
“It’s Elsa’s birthday!”
“What?” Anna couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She had spent the whole afternoon with Elsa. Both of them had talked and enjoyed their time together, even if Elsa looked a little more lost in her thoughts than usual; but the older girl had never mentioned anything about her birthday. She felt terrible for not knowing the date, but she guessed it was Kristoff’s fault too for not telling her earlier. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”
“I told you!”
“Like a year ago Kristoff, you didn’t remind me it was today!” she was angry with Kristoff for thinking she was going to remember the specific date if she had heard it just once in her life. She dried her hands on the apron she was wearing and walked towards Elsa’s improvised bed and apologised, “I’m sorry, Elsa. I didn’t know.”
Having Kristoff pulling form her arm and Anna apologising next to him obliged Elsa to open her eyes and finally agree to stay awake. There was no point in fighting when it was obvious the couple was not going to leave her alone. She chose to let Anna know she didn’t mind before sitting in the bed, “It’s not a problem. It isn’t really important.”
“Yes, it is!” came Kristoff’s reply.
Looking at her brother with a tired expression she said, “No, it’s not. It’s just another day in the life. Nothing big about it.”
Kristoff had been in a good mood that day, but Elsa’s denials were getting on his nerves. He loved his sister to death but sometimes he just wanted to shake her out of her pessimism, “You are so cynic sometimes. You could be a little more joyful.” He crossed his arms on his chest as he waited for an answer.
“I’m utterly drugged and sleepy, Kristoff. I don’t really see the difference between today and any other day.” She raised her voice a little. She had been in a foul mood all day, and his brother was not helping her at all.
The man’s patience was wearing thin but he tried to keep things away from useless arguments, “The difference is today we eat cake. Now come on, I’ll help you get into the wheelchair.”
“Nothing says ‘Happy birthday’ like sitting in a wheelchair,” muttered the girl with sarcasm.
That last statement got on Kristoff’s nerves. He knew Anna was still blaming herself for the accident and Elsa’s comments were just going to increase that guilt, even if his sister didn’t know that. “Okay, cut it out. We are trying to celebrate your birthday. Can you at least cooperate a little?”
“Sorry, I don’t mean anything by it. I’m just not in the mood right now.” She used her good hand to help herself sit in a better position. “I’m tired and in pain. Thank you for the cake and the birthday dinner idea but I don’t feel like celebrating this year.”
Kristoff, acting as if he hadn’t listen, got Elsa’s wheelchair closer to bed, picked her up and placed her in it by force.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“You’ll have dinner with us. Anna cooked a nice dinner just for you.”
“She didn’t even know it was my birthday. Don’t guilt trip me!” she countered with anger.
Once Elsa was properly seated, he pushed her to the table not really paying attention to her comments. He knew Elsa was going to be pissed with him for a while but he was not going to act as if her birthday didn’t matter.
After the three of them were seated at the table and the food was served, Kristoff decided it was time to cut with the silence that had took over the room. His sister had remained silent with a lost look in her eyes while she looked out the window. Anna, on the other hand, had opted to wait for the siblings to speak before she did. She had the feeling she could mess things up if she said the wrong thing.
“Did mum call you?” asked Kristoff, not coming up with a better topic for conversation.
Elsa, who had been picking at her food pretending to eat whenever she was not looking out the window, answered truthfully, “No. I told her not to call. I want her and dad to enjoy their holidays.”
At the mention of the holidays, Anna saw a perfect window for a pleasant conversation to start and she took it, “Where did they go again?”
“Italy. They’ve always wanted to visit Rome and Venice” said Kristoff, glad his girlfriend was trying to help.
“That’s so cool! I hope they are having a good time.”
He smiled and said, “I bet they are.”
The three of them stayed silent for another while, the conversation about the Bjorgmans holidays had not worked as Anna expected and she was getting tired of the sour mood of the room, so she chose to ask Elsa what she thought was an honest, simple question. “So, Elsa, this is your birthday number…?”
Elsa rested her chin on her good arm on the table and looked outside once again as she answered, “Twenty-four or something like that.”
“Or something like-? Oh! so you are older than Kristoff!” Anna was curious at Elsa’s strange way to answer the question, but got distracted when she noticed she was actually older than her boyfriend. She had always pictured Kristoff as the older brother, probably for the way he tried to protect Elsa at all times.
“For a few months, apparently” she said.
Anna thought the conversation was picking up and she felt assured she could keep it going and help get rid of the awkward situation. “Where were you born?”
Elsa sighed; she knew the girl was just trying to make conversation but she was not willing to pretend she was okay with being forced to participate. She thought it was better to just answer vaguely, it was not Anna’s fault she was feeling down after all. “Here, I guess. Who knows…”
Kristoff noticed the conversation was sooner than later going to turn into a bad direction and he tried to avoid Anna asking more questions than necessary, “Anna remember the thing we talked about in the cottage, the night before the accident?” He wished reminding Anna Elsa was adopted was going to be enough for her to stop asking questions. But he didn’t imagine his comment was going to irritate Elsa even further.
“I’m not a child, Kristoff. You don’t need to talk that way,” said Elsa irritated. She turned to Anna; she was mad but not necessarily at the girl so he felt a little bad for sounding so harsh, but she wanted the questions to stop and for her mind to give her some rest. “Look, I was an orphan. Many things about my past are unclear and I don’t like talking about them unless I’m in the mood to do so.”
“Hey, come on! She was just trying to start a conversation!” Kristoff interrupted not liking the tone his sister was using.
“And I told you I was not in the mood for a birthday dinner.”
“You are not in the mood for anything lately!”
“And whose fault is that?! I told you a few days ago I didn’t want to keep taking drugs but you didn’t listen and kept pushing them down my throat! You keep saying you trust everything will be fine but you don’t seem to trust me if I’m not drugged!” She stopped herself when she felt her emotions quiver under her skin and realised it was best if she left the room before she regretted it. With a sudden change from anger to sadness she muttered a simple, “Thank you for dinner,” to Anna and rolled her wheelchair to the balcony’s door. She needed to be alone for a few minutes and she knew the cold air of the night was going to help her calm her nerves.
The freezing air from outside got into the room and Anna shivered. She felt terrible for being the reason Elsa finally lost patience and decided to leave the room. She had noticed since early afternoon that Elsa was not behaving as she typically did. From the argument, Anna noted the older girl blamed the drugs, but she couldn’t help feeling there was more behind her sadness and anger that day. Anna noticed too that, since Elsa didn’t have a proper bedroom, she was forced to go outside whenever she needed time on her own; and that just fuelled Anna’s guilt. The girl was going to freeze out there with just a light jacket. She thought it was best if she just went home. “I should go home. It’s better if the two of you are on your own right now” she said.
Kristoff, who had stayed silent with his eyes focused on the balcony’s door with a dejected look, cleared his throat and answer in a low voice, “Please don’t take this to heart, she can be a little…”
“No, Kristoff. We were out of place; I should learn when to ask questions. And you, when to stop bothering her,” Anna interrupted. She knew the two of them had ignored Elsa’s wishes that day and she wanted to make sure he understood how it was their fault and not Elsa’s. “I just want to respect her wishes right now. The fact she is on the balcony on this weather clearly means she wants to be alone. Don’t you think?”
He looked at the balcony once again and agreed with what Anna was trying to tell him. He knew Elsa was outside in that weather for more than one reason, but there was no point in letting Anna know about that, not yet at least. He stood up and said, “I’ll drive you.”
Both of them grabbed their coats and left the apartment in silence. They knew Elsa was going to notice they were gone by the stillness of the place, there was no reason in letting her know. Maybe it was best to give the girl some time to herself.
Kristoff opened the door to his apartment almost two hours after dropping Anna off at her place. He had driven around town for some time to clear his mind and give Elsa some time to cool off after it. When he heard Anna’s reasoning of Elsa needing time on her own, he thought it was best to implement that idea that same night. He accepted he had pushed his sister to the limit that day. He knew Elsa didn’t like celebrating her birthday but he had forced her anyway, not really listening to her claiming of being tired and in pain; and now he felt terrible for doing it. His original idea had been to help Elsa distract from the confinement she was surely feeling; however, it had backfired and they had ended up arguing about the stupid medicines instead.
The man was surprised not to find Elsa where he had expected her to be when he entered his apartment. He found his sister’s bed empty when he lit the room. He had been sure she was not going to wait up for him to return; it was difficult for the girl to get off the wheelchair on her own but not impossible after all. Whenever Elsa was angry with him, she had learnt to take some distance and tried to put some physical space between them. Not because she held grudges against her brother, she simply insisted it was easier to control her emotions that way. Even though she had never hurt her brother with her powers, she was aware how powerful they could come to be if she lost control of her emotions. She didn’t want to take any chances and that resulted in her taking some steps back. So, even if their fight that night had not been the worst they had had, it made Kristoff think Elsa was going to take a little longer to open up to him after it.
He searched the room and found Elsa lying on the kitchen table. Her head resting on her good arm while she drew imaginary figures with her left hand on the wood. She had not raised her head when he entered, but she did look at him with a guilty expression when he sat on the empty chair beside her. Both of them stayed there just looking at each other for some time, Kristoff believed Anna was right when she said he had pushed his sister to the limit and he wanted Elsa to be the one to break the silence, if she so desired.
After what felt for a really long time for Kristoff, Elsa decided to say something, “I know you are just trying to help me, but I really want to stop taking the drugs, you know?”
“I sometimes forget when to stop pestering you… Do what you feel it’s best for you,” he extended his hand and grabbed hers, stopping her imaginary drawings and catching her attention. “I trust you. More than you can imagine, Elsa. Never doubt that.”
Elsa simply squeezed his hand and gave him a tiny smile in reassurance, a gesture that said more than Kristoff needed to know. It was impressive sometimes how easily the two of them understood each other. It was in moments like this he liked to believe they were really brother and sister and not just two broken kids, with a harsh childhood on their backs, who had found each other. He thought it was best to change the gloomy atmosphere and offered, “Cake?”
“You know how I feel about my birthday…” she let go of his hand and looked at him in the eyes before asking, “Why did you try so hard this year?”
Kristoff was not expecting that question and the sudden realisation he had indeed tried harder to celebrate her birthday that year caught him off guard. It was true he liked celebrating birthdays in general, but he never insisted on celebrating Elsa’s if she didn’t want to. But this time was different, for a moment he had thought he had lost Elsa on the mountain a few weeks back, and he had felt the need to celebrate she was okay. “I thought it was going to be a nice idea since we are living together this year,” ‘and you didn’t die two weeks ago’ he thought to himself. “Even if you don’t like celebrating your birthday, I do. It’s the day my sister was born.”
She stayed silent analysing what he was saying before correcting him, “You are aware it’s not even my birthday, right? It’s just the date I was dropped at the orphanage’s door, Kristoff.”
“I know that,” he shrugged. “But I see it as the day my sister entered my life.”
“What are you talking about?” she chuckled. “We didn’t meet until we were 8 years old.”
“Well…” he paused to think of the right way to express what he wanted to say. He didn’t want Elsa to think he was a heartless bastard who didn’t care for her feelings. “I know it sounds selfish given everything you went through, but if you hadn’t been taken to the orphanage that night, I wouldn’t be your brother.”
Kristoff was surprised to see her smile at his answer. “I think your life would have been just the same without me in the picture, to be honest.”
“Not really. I believe meeting you shaped me into who I am today. So, your dropped-day means a lot to me.”
Elsa narrowed her eyes for a moment before saying with amusement, “what a sweet but strange thing to say.”
Kristoff laughed at her answer and simply explained, “that’s why we call it ‘birthday’ instead of ‘dropped-day’.”
Elsa joined him and both of them laugh at the strange path their conversation had taken. After they calmed down, she remembered it all started with an offer, “you said something about a cake, right?”
He smiled widely and stood up ready to cut the cake.
Idunn entered her daughter’s room early the following morning and was surprised to find a pile of clothes on the floor by the door. Even more strange was to see Anna kneeling, half body inside her wardrobe, throwing clothes over her shoulder. Only half of the clothes she throwed ended up in the pile, the rest ended up everywhere.
“Anna, darling, what are you doing?”
Anna’s head appeared from the wardrobe, a happy smile plastered on her face, “Oh, hi!” She sat on the floor to give her legs a rest while she spoke, “Nothing, I was just looking for something.”
“And is it necessary to create this chaos to look for it?”
“I guess. I don’t really remember where it is…” it was at that moment an idea popped up in her head. “Wait. Maybe you can help me!”
Idunn sat on the bed, “What are you looking for?”
“Remember that awesome winter jacket you and papa gave me a year or so ago?”
“Awesome winter jacket?”
“Yeah. It was a deep blue colour, it had fur on its hood and it was way too big for me to wear it,” she mimicked the description to help her mother remember. “You guys bought it on one of your trips, and there was no way you guys could return it.”
The older woman thought for a while before she realised what her daughter was talking about, “I think I remember now, yes. It was too long for you and it didn’t really fit me.”
“That’s the one! Do you know where it is?”
“I think I do. Let me check.” Using a chair as a ladder, Idunn opened the upper door of Anna’s wardrobe to search for a big black bag. Once she put it on the floor, she asked Anna to look inside the bag. She remembered she had put it away in that place not long ago. She watched Anna search for the jacket eagerly until she found it and laughed in delight.
“This is the one! Thanks.”
“It’s a beautiful jacket if you ask me. It’s a shame we can’t use it,” she picked the garment and inspected it carefully. “Why were you looking for it?”
“Yesterday was Elsa’s birthday and I thought it could be a wonderful gift for her.” Anna took the jacket from her mother’s arms and folded it neatly inside a delicate box Idunn hadn’t seen on the floor before that moment.
“Oh… You didn’t mention anything yesterday.”
“I didn’t know. Elsa hadn’t told me and Kristoff forgot mentioning it to me until dinner. I was so ashamed; I spent the whole day with Elsa without knowing.” The girl closed the box and put a lovely blue ribbon on top.
“Are you sure about gifting her that? I can lend you some money if you want to,” suggested Idunn.
“Yes, I’m positive. She doesn’t own many warm clothes, which is weird since she lives in the mountain, but I think she can’t afford something like this. It’ll be a nice gift. And useful.” Elsa hadn’t mentioned anything to Anna, but she had heard her complain to her brother about the clients she was missing that season.
Idunn watched her daughter began rearranging the clothes inside the wardrobe. The woman helped her pick up some of the things laying on the floor before asking, “Have you and Kristoff had the chance to tell Elsa about joining us for dinner?”
Not really knowing what her mother was talking about, Anna asked, “You mean here?”
“Yes. Remember we said we wanted to thank her for saving you,” she handed Anna the last few clothes before continuing, “your father and I were thinking New Year’s Eve could be a nice occasion.”
“I had completely forgot about that. I’ll ask her today,” Anna said as she picked the gift from her bed and walked out the door.
Elsa was resting in bed with Sven when she heard soft knocks on the door. She tried to sit and search for her wheelchair when she saw Kristoff walking towards the door.
“Don’t worry,” he said as he reached the knob. “I’ll get it.”
Since she didn’t need to get up, she throw herself on the pillows once again. She was a little tired, but she was feeling a lot better than she had in the last week. True to her wishes, and after Kristoff’s permission, she had stopped taking her medicine the previous night and she was already feeling the difference. Her body was clearly feeling a lot better even if her leg was throbbing with a little more intensity. Elsa knew it was going to be part of the process of getting rid of the drugs to become used to feeling more pain; but a little more pain in exchange of having full control of her body and her emotions was worth it in her opinion.
She was distracted from her thoughts when a big object was placed on her stomach. She opened her eyes and found a large box with a beautiful ribbon on top, and a joyful Anna smiling at her from the foot of the bed. “What is this?” she asked, not really knowing what to expect.
“It’s a gift!” said Anna eagerly. “Now open it!”
Puzzled by the girl’s gesture, Elsa sat on her bed and analysed the box in front of her before obliging to her petition. She considered it was not necessary for the girl to bring her a present for her birthday, but she considered it was a little rude to reject it right away. After her terrible behaviour the previous night, Elsa considered she owned her sister-in-law the decency of acting like a normal person at that moment. When she opened the box and saw the stunning jacket laying inside, she thought Anna was being way too generous with her. “Anna, this is beautiful but this is too expensive. I can’t accept it.”
“Yes, you can!” smiled Anna as she sat on the mattress and helped Elsa take the garment out of the box. “I noticed you don’t have many warm clothes and I thought it could be the perfect gift for you.”
Elsa took the jacket in her hands when Anna offered it to her and she examined the clothing. The garment was indeed gorgeous. The colour was picture-perfect and the fur stunning. Elsa had to agree the present was, as Anna had said, perfect for her; but her guilt from the way she had behaved the previous night prevented her from enjoying or even accepting the gift. “Anna, it’s perfect, really. But I seriously can’t accept it. I don’t deserve this.”
“What?” Anna’s eyes opened in surprised by Elsa’s comment.
“This is too expensive, and after the way I treated you yesterday… I think I don’t deserve it.” Elsa lowered her head when she explained her reasons. She was still ashamed and she didn’t feel comfortable looking at Anna in her eyes.
Anna’s surprised expression turned into a fond smile when she noticed Elsa’s uneasiness about accepting the gift. “Nonsense. You do deserve it. If not for your birthday – because now I Know you don’t really like celebrating your birthday – for helping me in the mountain. I haven’t thanked you enough for risking your life for me, so please accept it as a ‘Thank you’ gift.”
Elsa stayed silent for some time, her eyes going from Anna to the jacket, and to Anna once again. She knew she was supposed to express gratitude but her brain was not cooperating. It was at moments like this Elsa felt silly for being completely socially inept. At the end, she opted to say what was really on her mind. “I don’t know what to say,” she confessed.
“You don’t have to say anything, silly. And you don’t have to worry about yesterday. Actually, I was the one who wanted to apologise. Kristoff and I were out of place.”
“No, you were not. You were just trying to keep me company and…” Elsa ran her fingers through her hair, something Anna had seen her do when she was a bit nervous. “Being honest, I need to learn to interact with people, even if I’m not feeling in the mood to do so.”
“Elsa you don’t have to force yourself to interact with other people if you don’t want to. If you want me to stop visiting just let me know and I-”
“No,” interrupted Elsa suddenly. “No, I- Don’t stop visiting. I’m terrible at interacting with other people but I do enjoy your visits...”
Anna watched Elsa for a few seconds and she grinned when she noticed Elsa was being completely honest with her. “And I enjoy visiting.”
At her response, Elsa tilted her head as a young child would do trying to comprehend a new idea. “You do? Why?”
Anna couldn’t help but chuckle at the question. She didn’t want to laugh at Elsa’s incredulity but the enquiry was in fact so weird in her opinion. “What do you mean ‘Why’? Because you are a nice person and I enjoy spending time with you. I know we are only sisters-in-law, but I think we could be really good friends.” She let Elsa think about it for a minute before realising she didn’t know if Elsa wanted a new friend. “If you want to, that is. It’s not like I’m forcing you, that would be too weird and I don’t want things to be weird between us because that-”
“I would really like that,” she confessed. A big smile plastered on her face.
“Really? That’s awesome! And don’t worry, you can be as socially awkward around me as you want!” Anna put a hand over her mouth realising her mistake. “Okay, that sounded awful. I tried to say that as a good thing. Oh God. Please don’t take it the wrong way,” she explained hurriedly. “Why did I say that?” she muttered to herself as she covered her eyes in mortification.
Elsa laughed whole-heartedly at her, “It’s nice to know I’m allowed to be weird around you. Thank you, Anna.”
Anna moved her hand looking at Elsa through her fingers pleased to see she hadn’t ruined their friendship in the first minute. Still a little embarrassed with herself, she joined Elsa’s amusement and laughed too.
“Awe, look at you two bonding!” he said to caught the girls’ attention. “For a moment you forgot I was in the room.”
Anna saw an opportunity to tease him and asked, “Are you jealous I may like your sister’s company more than yours?”
He crossed his arms over his chest and smiled confidently, “Pff… As if. But I’ve got to admit it’s nice to see you two becoming friends.”
As the weather forecast had announced, a mild snowstorm started by the end of the day forcing Kristoff and Anna to stay inside that evening. Their original plan for that day was to go out on a date. They hadn’t had the time to be on their own since the accident and they wanted to enjoy a nice dinner together, but the weather was not on their side. They thought it was best to stay inside and enjoy a peaceful night.
By the time they were finishing dinner, Anna remembered she had an invitation for the siblings. “Oh, I almost forgot! My parents want to invite you guys to our New Year’s Eve dinner next week. It’s a family thing but they know the two of you are alone this year, and they really want to thank Elsa for what she did for me.”
Elsa raised her head and asked, “Dinner?”
“Yep. Are you guys in?” she looked at them expecting a positive answer.
Kristoff thought about Elsa at that moment. They girl had always said she didn’t feel comfortable spending time with strangers, but at the same time they were only trying to thank her. He knew his sister was probably ready to decline the offer, however he still tried. He didn’t want to say ‘no’ to his in-laws after all. “Elsa? What do you think?”
Caught out of guard, not expecting to be the one declining the offer, Elsa cleared her throat and tried her best to come up with a good excuse not to accept the invitation. “It’s not necessary,” she said. “I mean, it’s a family thing and I wouldn’t feel comfortable intruding. They don’t need to thank me.”
“They invited you,” explained Anna trying to persuade her. “You two wouldn’t be intruding.”
The moment Anna turned her head towards Kristoff, Elsa took the opportunity to shake her head to her brother. Silently asking to help her. “Uhm... Well, Elsa still has to stay in bed. And with the wheelchair and all. It would be too difficult,” answered Kristoff when he understood his sister’s gestures.
“It would be an inconvenience,” stepped Elsa in.
“It’s a shame she doesn’t have crutches yet. Maybe some other time?” offered Kristoff.
Anna watched the siblings and asked Elsa one last time, just to be sure. “Are you sure?”
“Other time would be preferable. Yes. My apologies to your parents, Anna.” Elsa gave her a tender smile to let her know she was honestly sorry.
“Okay,” said a little dejected. She was hoping her parents could meet Elsa. She was sure they were going to love her. “It’s fine. I’ll just let them know.”
Almost a week after New Year’s, Kristoff asked Anna to stay in his apartment to take care of Sven while the siblings went to the doctor’s appointment. Elsa had been waiting for the appointment but it didn’t mean she was not nervous when the day came. Sven had sensed Elsa’s nervousness and refused to be left alone in the apartment. The animal had gotten used to have Elsa around 24-7 and he was not okay with the idea of her leaving the place that day.
Even if Anna had assured them she was going to distract the dog while they were in the hospital, the task proved to be almost impossible. The dog didn’t move from the door the whole time they were gone. At least she had been able to make the dog stop barking after the first ten minutes - the last thing Kristoff and Elsa needed were their neighbours being angry at them for Sven’s behaviour -. She had tried everything she could to make the dog move but she finally gave up after half an hour. She had to admit Sven’s loyalty was endearing but a little ridiculous at times. She didn’t want to imagine what would have happened if something worse had happened to Elsa that day in the mountain.
She was making herself a coffee when Sven started barking once again. “Sven, stop barking, Elsa is okay!” It was then she heard the door’s lock and turned to watch Sven jumping over the siblings. Kristoff did his best to stop the animal before he hurt Elsa in his excitement. After Sven let them in, Anna noticed Elsa was standing behind Kristoff and not sitting in a wheelchair. Anna felt her own excitement raise and walked towards the door to greet them.
“Elsa! You are walking again!”
“Almost,” she said with a wide smile. “The doctor said I was good enough to start using crutches and moving on my own.”
Anna could see Elsa’s enthusiasm and, in an unconscious act, she threw her arms around the older girl to give her a hug. At first, Elsa stayed still not knowing how to react. She didn’t feel comfortable with the physical contact, but after a few seconds she was able to relax into Anna’s hug. She couldn’t really hug her back, since she was supporting herself with the crutches, but she allowed herself to rest her chin on the girl’s shoulder.
When Anna realised what she had done, she detached from the girl and apologised for her eagerness. “Sorry, I got carried away. I’m just so happy to see your leg is healing!”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m happy too.” She gave Anna an honest smile to show her gratitude.
Kristoff held Sven to prevent him from jumping over Elsa and explained, “The doctor says everything is going okay, but he is not pleased with Elsa’s idea of not taking her medicine.”
“The doctor’s just exaggerating. I talked to mum yesterday and she agreed with me.”
“Of course, mum can’t say no to you,” joked Kristoff.
“You are just jealous she likes me better,” counter-attacked Elsa while she crutched towards the nearest chair. She was happy of finally be moving on her own, but she needed to get use to it first. It was a reality her leg throbbed whenever she did a wrong movement.
“So, what now? Do you have to do something?” asked curiously Anna.
“Basically, heal and-” Elsa’s answer was interrupted by the line phone which Kristoff went to pick up. “The doctor wants to see me in a few weeks to see how everything is going.” She finished before turning her attention towards her brother who was gesturing for her to pick the phone.
“It’s Marsh. He needs to talk to you,” said Kristoff when Elsa was able to reach the phone.
“Marshmallow? Hi. Yes, I’m better…” Elsa picked the phone and began her conversation while Kristoff walked towards the couch where Anna was sitting.
Surprised by the sudden call and the strange nickname Elsa had used, Anna couldn’t stop her curiosity from taking the best of her. “So… Who’s Marshmallow? She asked in a low voice. It was clear by her tone of voice she was trying to get Kristoff to start gossiping.
Kristoff just laughed at Anna’s ideas and answered, “It’s a guy who works in the ski resort near Elsa’s cottage.”
“Just a guy, huh? A guy you call ‘Marsh’ but she calls ‘Marshmallow’…” she elbowed Kristoff trying to get him to react to her words. Anna believed Kristoff was a really jealous brother deep down and she was not going to miss a chance to tease him.
Kristoff elbowed her back and answered in a low voice to make sure Elsa didn’t hear them, “No. You are not going to put any ideas into my head. The two of them are something like co-workers. Well, Elsa works independently, but they share clients whenever there are too many tourists in the mountain.”
“Hmm… Are you sure about that?” she whispered. She covered her mouth laughing at her own childishness.
“Yes,” he said trying to change the subject before Anna got ridiculous ideas into his head. “He is the one Elsa has been in contact with since she started cancelling her clients. The ski resort must be having a perfect season now that Elsa is sending all her students there.”
“Oh… So, they are just talking business?” said Anna a little dejected by the realisation that it was not what she had first imagined.
“Probably… And for your information, everyone calls the big guy ‘Marshmallow’. Now stop imagining soap operas and trying to make me part of them,” said Kristoff as he put an arm around Anna to enjoy some time together. Both began chatting about their day when they heard Elsa raise her voice on the phone.
“You told me it was a sure deal, Marshall… Well, then tell your boss to call me.”
Anna and Kristoff heard Elsa quiet down, surely Marshall was talking on the other side.
“We had a deal… What if he doesn’t know me? You know me. You know I’m good at this, why can’t you help me?”
For a moment Anna and Kristoff thought the conversation had ended but then they heard Elsa say in a tired voice before she hung up, “You know I need this.”
Elsa returned to the living room and sat on her make-shift bed and patted the mattress for Sven to sat by her side. Kristoff waited for Elsa to say something, but she clearly was not going to share what had just happened. Against his best judgement he asked, “Hey, everything okay?”
“Yes. Everything’s fine” she continued giving all her attention to Sven. Not really interested in participating in the conversation.
“Are you sure?” he tried one last time.
Kristoff knew something was not right. Elsa really liked Marshall and it was almost impossible for the guy to get in her nerves if it was not something serious. But he thought it was better to let her open up whenever she felt it was right. He just hoped it was nothing too serious.
A week after Elsa had been given her crutches, Anna returned to her classes at university. She was glad she had scheduled all her classes in the mornings because she still had the chance to visit the siblings in the evenings if she was not too busy. She had gotten used to having dinner with Kristoff and Elsa in the last month, and she was happy she was still able to spend time with them. Day by day she understood a little better why Kristoff enjoyed his sister’s company so much. The girl was actually really fun to be around once she felt comfortable enough to open up, and her mood had improved considerably since had stopped taking her medicine. The three of them had fallen into a nice routine since the accident, a routine all of them enjoyed. It was for that reason Anna thought it was impossible the yells she heard in the apartment belonged to Kristoff. Elsa and Kristoff had their quarrels, like any brother and sister, but Anna had never heard them yell at each other. When Anna got close to their apartment door, she was able to actually understand what they were saying.
“That’s it? And you think it’s the guy’s fault? Why don’t you try to do something about it?!” Anna could hear Kristoff’s voice behind the door. It was surreal to hear Kristoff so angry. Anna had only heard him raise his voice when it was completely necessary. Before that moment, Anna had thought the man was incapable of raising his voice to another person. He was always the one who chose to talk things in a calm collected way.
“What do you want me to do? It’s not that easy, Kristoff!” Came Elsa’s reply. Anna could hear Elsa was angry too, but her voice was not as loud as Kristoff’s.
“You refuse to try! You don’t know if it’s easy or not unless you try!”
“Easy for you to say.” Anna heard Elsa mumble. At that moment, she thought it was best to knock on the door and interrupt the argument. They were clearly discussing something Kristoff considered important, but she knew he was going to regret fighting with Elsa after the quarrel was over. She made sure to knock as she always did, just a little bit louder this time, for them to realise she was the one on the other side of the door.
Inside Kristoff had heard Elsa just as clearly as Anna had and was in to process of answering to his sister when Anna knocked on the door. “Elsa, I’m sick of this. You need to-”
“Someone’s knocking,” interrupted Elsa. Using the door as an excuse to stop the fight.
He sighed in frustration before turning towards the door and opening in just one movement. He didn’t even greet Anna before turning back towards Elsa who was sitting on the couch on the other side of the room. Anna noticed Kristoff was going to continue the argument and she chose to interrupt him before he could start again.
“Hi. I’m sorry but I heard you guys over the door. Is everything okay?” she asked.
“It’s fine.” Came Elsa’s reply at the same time of Kristoff’s “No, not really”. Both of them looked at each other, not agreeing with their response.
“Is it a bad time? I could go and return later…”
Elsa chose not to answer. It was Kristoff apartment after all, and she believed Anna had come in the right moment. She didn’t want to continue the argument. She didn’t even want to have that conversation with her brother, so Anna’s visit was the perfect excuse for her to avoid it.
Kristoff on the other side, stayed silent for some time. His angry expression fixed on Elsa while he thought what was best to do. He wanted to talk with Elsa but there was no reason to do so if she was so adamant to ignore him. Maybe Anna’s visit had come in the right moment, he thought. “No. Stay,” he said honestly. “There’s no point in continuing an argument with a wall.”
“As if you are any better than me!” came Elsa’s reply.
“At least I accept when I’m wrong! You can’t live your life avoiding this, Elsa!”
There were many whys and wherefores she wanted to discuss with him but her irritation at the moment only allowed her brain to come up with a childish response. “Watch me,” she said.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake! You are impossible to be around when you behave like this.” He walked towards the coat rack by the door where Anna was still standing and grabbed his jacket. “I’m leaving, I need to do the shopping for tonight’s dinner.” He walked out the door ready to leave the place. He just stopped to say a faint, “let’s go Anna.”
Anna had stayed silent, astonished by the discussion. When she realised Kristoff was talking to her, she couldn’t do much more than ask, “Are you sure? I mean-”
“Yes, let’s go.” Came Kristoff’s short reply and he disappeared through the door.
Not really knowing what to say or do to make things better, she opted to follow her boyfriend. Definitively he was the more pissed off of the two, maybe if she was able to talk to him and calm him down, things could go back to normal a lot faster. She turned to Elsa, who was still sitting on the couch, gave her a reassuring smile and left the apartment to follow Kristoff. She promised to herself she was going to do everything in her power to make things right.
A/N – I needed a guy working on the ski resort and what better name than Marshmallow, right? For those who find Anna’s suggestion weird because, well, it’s Marshmallow, don’t worry. I was just building Anna’s curious/playful nature. I imagine she loves to tease her boyfriend whenever she’s got the chance but that’s it.
Chapter 7: A matter of pride
A matter of pride
It took Anna a while to catch up with Kristoff. He was clearly mad since he didn't take the time to wait for her. When she left the apartment, Anna didn't find him on the hallway. She went to the parking lot; Kristoff's truck was parked in the right place but there was no sign of her boyfriend. She exited the building hoping to find him on the sidewalk, and there she found him. He was laying against a post lamp, casually waiting for her, as if they had agreed to meet in that place. Anna got close to him and opened her mouth to try to convince him to go back inside, but he interrupted her. He explained he was in the mood for a walk and began walking down the street towards the closest market.
The evening was grey and cold, it was not a nice weather to go out on a walk. But Anna thought it could definitely be worse than it was, at least it was not snowing at that moment. Anna struggled to keep up with Kristoff. It was not easy under normal circumstances to walk as fast as him and, right at that moment, he was walking faster than usual. The snow from the previous snowfall on the sidewalk was not making things easier for her. She tried to call for him to wait up, but he just kept walking, hands in his pockets. Anna was pleased when she saw the closest store to his apartment was opened and he entered the place. She followed him inside and finally was able to catch up with him.
She was trying to be patient with Kristoff but if the man kept forgetting she was walking right behind him; she was going to stop trying and she was going to return to the apartment on her own. When he stopped in front of a shelf to look at the prices, Anna took the opportunity to talk to him. She was not going to chase after him the whole time without some kind of explanation. Truth be told, she was worried for Elsa and Kristoff's fight.
"Kristoff? Is everything all right?" she said when he acknowledged her presence. He didn't answer and she tried again, "I mean, it doesn't look like it is and I don't want to meddle but I've never seen you guys yell at each other for real and-"
"What do you want to eat?" he interrupted her.
Confused by the question since it had nothing to do with the fight she said, "Kristoff, I- what?"
"Food. Dinner. Eat," he explained with annoyance. "What do you want to eat?"
Anna was not prepared for that question and decided it was best to just answer him, "I don't know. I thought you had a menu planned for tonight. And don't talk to me like that." She was trying to be nice and patient with him but she was not going to let him talk to her in that way, whatever was going on was not her fault, "I have no idea what's going on, so don't vent your frustrations at me."
Kristoff looked at her, anger still present in his eyes, but after a few seconds he realised his mistake. He sighed tiredly and said, "Sorry. You are right. I- I just can't-" he paused for a moment and frustration took away what he was about to say. "Ugh! I hate when Elsa behaves this way!"
For a moment Anna thought he was going to calm down and explain what was happening. But his annoyance with Elsa was preventing him to speak clearly. She chose it was best to try to get him to explain at least that, "when she behaves what way?"
"Like she was behaving at home! I hate when she won't listen to reason."
Anna didn't know what she was expecting to hear, but that answer was certainly not it. It did nothing to clarify what was going on, "Kristoff, I'm still in the dark here, what happened?"
Kristoff put the bag of pasta he had picked back in the shelf, "Remember the other day she was arguing with a guy over the phone?"
"Yes. Well, I found out what the discussion was about. It was about a vacancy at the ski resort. Marshall told her she was probably not going to get hired."
"Oh, that's a shame…" Anna remembered Elsa's attitude after the call. "But what does that have to do with your argument?"
Kristoff realised it was going to take a while to explain to Anna the whole thing, so he opted to just jump to the part that had triggered the discussion, "I agree with him. And I told Elsa to do something about it."
"So, she got mad because she wants you to take her side?"
"No, she didn't get mad. I got mad. She doesbelieve Marshall's at fault because he didn't try hard enough to convince his boss to hire her, which I don't agree with. But that's not it. I'm mad because she doesn't want to do anything about this situation."
The more Kristoff tried to explain the situation, the harder it was for Anna to understand what the problem was, "I don't understand. You are mad because she is not mad?"
"No. I'm mad because she doesn't want to even try to change her luck," Kristoff picked a few items from the shelf and started walking again. Anna was following him. "She is self-deprecating. She doesn't believe in her abilities and possibilities and she doesn't even try!"
Anna noticed Kristoff was raising his voice and it wasn't a good place to do so. She didn't want people to believe they were arguing in the middle of the store. She put her hand over his arm and asked him to relax.
He noticed his mistake and apologised, "I'm sorry. I just hate when she does that. She talks about herself as if she is good for nothing. And when you try to change her mind, she just won't listen…"
Anna thought she understood better her boyfriend's frustration with his sister, but she still was unsure what he meant, "When you say 'try to change her luck', what do you mean?"
It was at that moment Kristoff realised Anna still didn't know much about Elsa and her past. And it was going to be really difficult for him to explain the whole situation to her, especially in a grocery store. So, he opted to give an honest but vague answer, "She'll have a better chance in life if she studies. She's smart, I know she can do it, but she refuses to try."
"Oh, so you want her to go to college?"
Kristoff looked at Anna with astonishment. Her question only proved his point, Elsa was indeed smart and she had what it took to study and earn a diploma. After all, Anna had spent little over a month with Elsa and she hadn't even noticed the fact that his sister had been illiterate most part of her life. Truth be told, Kristoff believed Anna had noticed, but hadn't mentioned it out of respect. If Elsa had fooled Anna, a girl who was studying to become an educator, then she was indeed smart. Probably she had been studying on her own as she had told their mother once; maybe she was trying to do something about it, but he hadn't noticed. Maybe he should have had a little more trust in Elsa in that matter.
Anna noticed how all of a sudden Kristoff's expression changed and he seemed more at peace. She saw him smile for the first time that evening and then he answered, "You know what? Don't worry about this. We've been having this argument with Elsa since we were teenagers and maybe I shouldn't get so angry."
"Okay… What just happened?"
"Nothing, I just noticed something. Don't worry about it." Kristoff knew Elsa was embarrassed of that part of her life and he knew it was one of the main reasons she refused to try; so, he thought it was better not to explain it to Anna at that moment.
"Are you sure you don't want to talk more about this?" Anna was confused about the sudden change in Kristoff's attitude, especially since she hadn't said anything to help him calm down. Or that's what she believed.
"No. Don't worry about it. Let's buy a few more things and then go back home."
When they returned to Kristoff's apartment Anna saw Elsa was laying on the bed, watching the ceiling motionless. She didn't react when they entered the place and Kristoff didn't say anything to her. He just walked straight to the kitchen to prepare dinner. Anna stayed were she was, watching Elsa waste for some time. She felt bad for her and what the accident had caused. She wanted to help her somehow but she had no idea what to do.
Coming back from the store, Anna had asked why the job in the ski resort mattered so much to Elsa; Kristoff explained that working independently gave Elsa good money, but it was never a sure deal; the accident proved she needed to find another income. Kristoff had also explained he believed Elsa could do great things as a ski instructor but, in his opinion, working for one of the big resorts was the best option. Elsa agreed with him on that matter, however after the conversation with Marshall she was in very low spirits about having a chance in one of the big resorts.
She was not sure how long she stayed there, waiting for Elsa to react, to say something, before giving up and walking towards the kitchen to help Kristoff cook dinner.
It was strange to see the siblings eat dinner in complete silence that night. Elsa had only joined them for dinner after Kristoff's insistence. Something in Anna told her Elsa had joined them to avoid another confrontation with her brother since the girl still looked lost in thought. Elsa picked at her food, not really interested in eating. On the other side of the table, Kristoff kept looking at Elsa from time to time but stayed mostly silent.
Kristoff was silent, but he was not angry with his sister anymore. He was just letting Elsa think over the things they had argued about. He was acting in his sister's best interests by not letting the matter slip under a guilt-ridden apology on his part. It pained him to do it but he knew it was for the best. He knew Elsa had great things waiting for her if only she gave herself a chance.
It was a few days later, on Saturday morning, when Elsa found the courage to ask Anna a question related to her fight with Kristoff. Anna had spent the night in the apartment after a snowstorm had taken place the previous night. Anna and Kristoff had agreed it was too dangerous to drive in that weather and so she had stayed the night. Kristoff was still sleeping in his room while the girls enjoyed breakfast together. Anna was happily explaining a recipe to Elsa when Elsa asked her a question. Anna was not expecting Elsa to speak at all that morning since she had remained pensive after the fight two days before. She was in good humour in general, but Anna had noticed there was something on the girl's mind all the time.
"Anna?" she tentatively called her attention. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure! Anything. Is it about my cooking skills?" Anna had spent the last few minutes commenting on some great recipes she had found online and which she wanted to try. She considered herself a great cook, and was always eager to talk about it. "Because let me tell you I-" she stopped herself when she noticed Elsa's amused but apologetic expression. "It isn't about my cooking skills, is it?"
"Not at all," she laughed. "Sorry."
With a sigh she accepted she could brag about her cooking skills some other time and asked, "What is it?"
"If you owned a shop or something like that, would you hire someone who is not educated?"
"What?" Anna was expecting any kind of question, but that was definitely not on the list.
"I mean…" she put her mug on the table. "If the person was okay, not mean, respectful; would you hire him or her?"
"Umm… Well, that depends." Anna considered the question for a while before answering, something told her Elsa had a real reason to ask that question and she wanted to be honest with her, "If I knew who the person was, maybe I would. But it depends on the job the person had to do; you know?"
"So, no?" Elsa said with disappointment.
"It isn't impossible for that person to get a job, but his or her odds are not so good. No." Anna left her mug on the table in front of Elsa's while she considered asking her why that was important. She was not oblivious to Elsa's pensive mood and wanted to find out what was on her mind. She was about to ask the question when Elsa interrupted her.
"Well, I'd like some kind of guarantee. And a degree, diploma or something like that is a guarantee. That way I'd know the person has some basic skills or knowledge."
"But, what if the person hadn't got the chance to study? What then?"
"Then…" Anna watched Elsa's body language before continuing, she seemed unable to stay still and Anna realised the answer might mean more to her than she originally imagined. "They have to adapt, I guess? They don't have much choice. Why are you asking?"
It was obvious the answer was not what Elsa had been expecting; she sighed as she leaned against the back of the chair in defeat.
"Elsa?" tried Anna once again.
"Kristoff is right. I won't ever find a job."
"Well, that's quite an exaggeration. I'm talking about education in general. There are many places that are more than willing to hire someone with a high school diploma," she stopped when she realised Kristoff's claiming was not making much sense. "Why does Kristoff say that anyway?"
"There aren't many jobs available in the North Mountain and most of them require at least a high school diploma," said Elsa, discouraged.
"And that's a problem because…?" Anna waited for Elsa to elaborate but she didn't. For a moment Anna felt lost not really understanding her problem. But then she remembered her conversation with Kristoff earlier that week. Kristoff wanted Elsa to study, he had said that himself, but Anna hadn't really paid attention to it because she thought he meant study a career – go to college. She never imagined he was talking about high school.
When she noticed Elsa was not going to answer she said, "I'm sorry. It's just I didn't think you hadn't finished high school. That's all."
"Well, actually…" began to say Elsa but she changed her mind in the last second. "You know what, it doesn't matter."
Anna watched Elsa aimed for her crutches and chose to stop her before she avoided the conversation. Something had made her open up and ask that question. Clearly, she wanted to talk about it but for some reason felt conflicted to so. "Wait, Elsa. I can see you want to talk about this. Let's talk."
Elsa left the crutches where they were and sat back down, "I don't really feel comfortable talking about this. But I can't talk to Kristoff because he's mad at me."
"He said he is not mad at you, not anymore at least. Don't worry about him," she shook her hand, gesturing she didn't need to give it importance. "I'm your friend, remember? You can always talk to me."
Elsa felt calm after Anna's statement. She was grateful for the girl and her friendship and so she chose to open up, "I know Kristoff is right. I suspected I had to study to get a better job. And you just made that clear to me. But the thing is I don't really know where to begin…"
"Oh, but it's not as hard as it seems!" Anna said with enthusiasm. "You can go to your school and explain you want to finish. Your headteacher will find your file and-" She noticed Elsa was fidgeting on her chair and stopped her explanation, "What?"
Elsa was nervous about letting Anna know. But she thought it was better to just be honest with her, there was no way the girl could help her if she didn't know; but a part of her was afraid and embarrassed. "What If I never went to school?" she asked. "What do I do then?"
"Well, if you never went to schoo- Wait, what?" Anna leaned on the table and tilted her head asking Elsa to repeat what she had just said.
"I never went to school."
"You were home-schooled then?" she thought it was strange one of the siblings went to school and not the other, but Kristoff had always insisted his sister had had a different childhood after all.
"Something like that."
"So… you never took the MT's to assess your knowledge?"
Now Elsa felt lost. She didn't know much about school but she had no idea what Anna was talking about, "MT's? What's that?"
"Wait, hold up. There's no-way the system would have let you be home-schooled if your parents didn't agree to follow the MT program. You really don't know what they are?" Anna noticed Elsa was an exception to the rule in more than one way.
"Anna, I don't think you understand. I was home-schooled, yes. But, Gerda didn't follow any program she just… taught me."
"Okay." She was still trying to understand what Elsa meant so she plainly asked, "What did she teach you?"
"Basic things, I guess? How to read, write… Math."
Anna looked at Elsa doubting if she had her correctly. 'Read? Write?' she wondered. She knew Elsa was a teenager when she joined the Bjorgmans' family, so that meant Elsa hadn't learnt anything while she was in the orphanage. At that moment she realised Elsa probably had more than one reason not to like to talk about her childhood. Not really knowing what to answer her brain formulated a quick, "What?"
"Math, you know, numbers, the operations and-" said Elsa. Trying to explain in more detail what she was talking about.
"I know what math is. I'm asking about-" Still not believing the orphanage had done something like that to a child she asked, "Are you serious?"
Elsa nodded her head and chose to explain herself better, "I was never given the chance to study when I was a kid. By the time I moved in with the Bjorgmans, I barely knew how to read. Mum and dad taught me. But, with their jobs and making sure Kristoff and I were okay, they couldn't get too far. They arranged for me to take some exams as a free student once I felt I was ready. You know, to earn a primary school diploma, but I cowered. I stopped studying when I started working as a ski instructor in the North Mountain. Being honest, I'm really ashamed about it."
Anna knew Elsa was not lying when she said she was ashamed because she had explained everything as fast as possible. Probably making sure Anna didn't have much time to ask questions in the middle. She couldn't blame Elsa for feeling like that, but she also knew it was not her fault. She was not given the chance to study when she was just an orphan. Anna made the mental note to ask Kristoff about the orphanage they had stayed in when they were children; if that place was still being under the administrator, something had to be done. But she chose not to worry about bad management politics at that moment. Elsa was trying to ask her how to change that part of her life. She wanted to learn and grow, and she had promised to listen to her and advise her if possible.
"I'm sure there are some exams you could take to earn your diplomas, Elsa. Or you could go to an adult school-"
"I tried once and I couldn't do it," interrupted Elsa. "Go to school, I mean. Kristoff convinced me to try. But traveling every day from the mountain was expensive and…" she paused, trying to find the right way to express her feelings without giving to much information to Anna. "I know it may sound weird but… I don't like spending time with strangers."
"You're a ski instructor…" said Anna making her notice it didn't make much sense.
Elsa smiled, as if she was waiting for that question. She began playing with a napkin on the table as she explained, "That's different. They are paying attention to the snow, the skis, and the mountain. Not me. They listen and try, and try again, but their focus is not me. It's their task."
"You are actually right about that," Anna agreed. "Your instructions were clear and I was able to follow them but I don't remember much about what you did around me when you taught me." Anna thought of a solution to Elsa's situation for a while. If she hadn't had much experience with school, it was going to be difficult for her to study on her own; unless she had someone there, guiding her. An idea crossed her mind and offered, "What about a private teacher?"
"It could work I guess, if the person was patient enough. But I don't have the money to pay for a private teacher…" Elsa's short lived enthusiasm disappeared when she realised she didn't have the money. Elsa couldn't find a solution to her dilemma. The only other option was to study on her own, but it was just what she had been trying and she felt it was not working.
After a minute in silence, Anna interrupted Elsa's train of thought. "Okay. Then it's settled!"
Having no idea what Anna was talking about she asked, "What is?"
"I'll be your new teacher!"
"You need a teacher and I'm studying to become one. It's perfect!"
Anna's grin was contagious in Elsa's opinion but she was not going to take advantage of her sister-in-law like that, "I can't pay you, Anna."
"You don't have to pay me. I'll be paying you back."
Anna extended her arms to grab Elsa's hands on the other side of the table, "You saved my life a month ago, Elsa. Teaching you is the least I could do to pay you back. I want to do this. I want to help you too." Seeing Elsa was taking more time to answer than she hoped for, she tried once again, "Please?"
Elsa couldn't help but laugh at her willingness. She remembered the times Kristoff had explained that once Anna chose to do something, there was little he or anyone could do to change her mind. Elsa guessed it was one of those situations. "You'll need to be patient."
Thumb on her chest she declared, "Patience is my middle name!"
"I find that hard to believe," said Elsa laughing in her face.
Laughing even harder at her faked annoyance Elsa thought she was not going to find someone better for the job. At least she trusted Anna and felt comfortable around her. She could try this time, and try for real. Maybe she had a chance to learn after all, "Deal."
Anna stepped out of her house and waved to Kristoff who was waiting for her. She had arranged to have dinner with him after her classes a few days later, and she was eager see him. She run the short distance not to be exposed more than necessary to the cold weather and got in the truck. She couldn't even greet her boyfriend before he trapped her in a strong hug. It caught Anna by surprise since Kristoff was a sweet boyfriend but he was not really a hugger. After a few seconds, she knew the hug had some meaning behind it but she couldn't pin point what it was.
"I missed you too?" she said trying to guess.
When Kristoff let go of the hug, she noticed he was looking at her with more affection than it was usual. He was acting as if he hadn't seen her in a long time and she had no idea why.
"You are amazing. Did you know that?" he said matter-of-factly.
"Okay. I love you too. But this is getting weird. What's gotten into you?" She put her right hand on his forehand to see if he was sick and laughed about it.
He laughed too and grabbed the hand, taking it away from his face. "Elsa told me the two of you talked the other day. She also told me about your offer…" he said and kissed her hand.
Anna blushed at the tender gesture. She couldn't believe Kristoff had such powerful effect in her emotions. "You mean the offer to help her study?"
Nodding his head he tried to make her understand why he was so happy, "You won't just be helping her study, Anna. You'll be giving Elsa what other people were not willing to give her in the past. This means so much to her…" He raised her chin since she was still looking at their hands and added, "It also means a lot to me. Thank you," before kissing her forehead.
"Kristoff, you are exaggerating. I'll just do what any other person in my situation would do."
"Maybe you see it like that, but for me it's so much more. She has always been self-conscious about this, so my parents didn't force her to take those exams," he explained. "I never stopped pestering her about it though. She is too smart to waste her chances. You are willing to help her and that means the world to me."
"I'm just doing what I think is right. And I know how much Elsa means to you. Your sister is a great person, Kristoff. And the more I get to know her the more I understand why you love her so much. If I can help her, I will."
He gave her the biggest smiled he could, "Thank you."
Finally noticing that if Kristoff was talking about that, it meant the siblings had actually talked about their argument, "Did you guys make amends?"
"She did. She said she agreed with me and she was willing to do something about it. That's when she told me about your conversation."
"Did you apologise too?"
"Why would I? She said I was right!" he said half laughing. "Have you got any idea how difficult that is?"
"Kristoff!" Anna smacked him on the shoulder.
Laughing even harder he stopped her and said, "Relax! I'm not a bastard. Of course I did." Starting the engine ready to leave he asked, "Dinner?
"Yes. I'm starving!"
"You are always starving."
Teaching Elsa had proven to be more interesting than Anna thought. She was prepared to teach kids and teenagers, she had had experience teaching them in the past few years, but she had never taught an adult before. It was different, but a good different. Each day she was amazed by Elsa's capabilities. She was smart and naturally curious. She just needed guidance.
In the first week, Anna noticed Elsa needed more help in her confidence than in actually understanding the things she taught her. She had little tolerance to her own mistakes and felt she needed to do everything perfect or she was wasting Anna's time. So, Anna had made everything in her power to help her understand mistakes were part of the process and let her know she had what it took to learn and earn a diploma.
They had chosen to study an hour before dinner every evening Anna spent with them, and Elsa had promised to work on her own during the mornings. Each day they covered a different subject to make things more interesting to both of them. Usually Kristoff took that time to cook dinner or do the shopping so it was working for the three of them.
That evening they thought it would be interesting to start studying biology. And Anna decided it was best if they started by the human body. Something she was sure Elsa had already read about.
"See? Our body is 60% water more or less." Anna pointed to the big encyclopaedia that was opened in the middle of the table between them.
Elsa looked at the diagram on the book with interest and read some of the things related to it before asking, "And how much of that water is ice?"
"In a person, what percentage of that water is ice?" she asked raising her head from the book eager to know the answer.
Anna tried to read the diagram quickly to see what had made Elsa ask such a question, "Ice? No, Elsa. It's just water. I mean it serves different functions but it's just fluids. Not ice."
"But ice is water, isn't it?"
"So, some percentage must be ice," interrupted Elsa.
For a moment Anna thought she was messing with her, but she noticed Elsa was actually trying to find the answer in the encyclopaedia. "Water needs to be below 0 degrees to freeze. Your body temperature is, at least, 36 degrees Celsius," explained Anna.
"Well, that's strange..." mumbled Elsa to herself as she continued to look at the words written in the book.
"You won't find it there, Elsa" Anna chuckled at Elsa's insistence. Usually she just accepted all her explanations.
"Sorry. I trust you. It's just-" she kept reading not finishing her sentence.
"Don't worry. Each question helps you learn, so keep them coming!"
From the couch where Kristoff was laying both of them heard him say, "I think it'd be cool if some percentage was ice... Get it? Cool."
"That's the best you can come up with?" asked Elsa unamused by her brother's antics.
Anna was about to retort saying she was glad she was teaching Elsa and not Kristoff when a couple of knocks on the door called their attention.
"I'll get the door while I wait for your laughs" He jumped from the couch and crossed the room to open up the door. To his surprise his parents were on the other side happy to see him after such a long time.
"Dear! I've missed you!" said eagerly Gerda while Kai shook his hand.
After realising who were knocking at the door, Anna was surprised to see Elsa get up faster than she usually did, almost forgetting her crutches in the process, and crutching all the way to the door to give her parents a hug. She let the family members greet each other before greeting them herself. She was always amazed to see how happy Kristoff and Elsa were around their parents. She thought the siblings were really thankful to the old man and woman who had raised them.
After all of them had sat down and they had talked about the trip and the weeks apart; Gerda noticed the table were Anna and Elsa had been studying minutes before.
"What were you girls doing?" asked Gerda.
Elsa tried to answer but her brother interrupted her, "Elsa is trying to make her thick-skull thinner."
"Shut up, you moron," laughed Elsa throwing a cushion to his brother's face.
"What? It's true!"
"I'm with Elsa, there are other ways to explain it Kristoff," said Anna joining the conversation.
"Well…?" said Kai hoping one of the three was going to actually answer the question.
Anna noticed Elsa and Kristoff were still arguing and laughing so she chose to answer the question herself, "I'm helping Elsa study. She wants to earn her diplomas."
She thought Kai and Gerda were going to be happy about Elsa studying again, but she never expected them to be as happy and astonished as they were after her answer. Both of them didn't wait any second to voice their delight and show how proud they were of Elsa. Anna noticed the situation made Elsa a little uncomfortable for all the extra attention but she looked as happy as her parents in that moment.
Anna looked were Kristoff was sitting and, when their eyes met, she noticed he was just as cheerful as everyone else. She saw him look at her tenderly. In that moment she noticed that what she had offered to Elsa meant more than she had imagined. And felt content to know she was returning Elsa the favour of saving her in the mountain somehow.
Chapter 8: The calm
Anna and Elsa continued studying in the evenings. Their daily study session had become a habit faster than both girls imagined. Anna even found the time useful to complete some of her homework whenever Elsa had to complete activities on her own. She was always ready to help the older girl if needed, but Anna believed it was important to teach Elsa to be independent and not to rely too much on her. It was going to help her in the long run.
Anna quickly noticed Elsa had a natural talent for math - geometry to be specific. She struggled with some things but she was more eager to learn it than language or history. She claimed math seemed more useful to find a job than history did, but still she followed Anna's curriculum without complaint. Her little patience to failure got in the way sometimes, but Anna had found the way to convince her that mistakes were part of the learning process. She was willing to learn and improve in every aspect - or almost every aspect - calligraphy had proven to be one of the main things Elsa was not willing to practice. And that led to the conversation they were having that evening.
"Elsa, I've told you, please, try to write more slowly. I can't understand a thing," said Anna after trying in vain to read Elsa's homework from the previous language class. "You need to practice your handwriting. I'll bring more calligraphy activities for you to complete."
"What? No," said Elsa letting out a sigh. They had had similar conversation in the past weeks and every time Elsa made everything in her power not to complete those activities. "Can't I just keep writing like this. It's not that bad," she picked the paper sheet Anna was reading and checked what she had written to prove her point. "See, it's not that bad," pointing to the different letters she made an effort to let Anna understand her handwriting, "this is an 'n' and this is an 'h' and-."
"No," she said shaking her head. "I'm sorry, but it needs to be clear. If you take a test you won't be able to explain to the person who evaluates you your handwriting. If they don't understand they won't be able to assess your work. It's part of your education."
Letting a tired sigh escape her lips, Elsa rested her chin in her right hand and looked at the piece of paper in front of her. "I know it's part of my education, Gerda insisted I practiced too when she taught me."
"A wise woman," said Anna and laughed when she saw Elsa's unamused expression. "Why are you so adamant to practice? You are willing to do and learn more complicated things."
Elsa thought her answer for a few seconds before asking, "do you promise not to laugh?"
"I would never," she smiled reassuringly.
"After I met Kristoff in the orphanage and he realised I didn't left my room much, he lent me his books to look at," Elsa felt it was fair to open up about some things of her past to Anna, after all the girl was taking the trouble to teach her, but it didn't mean she wasn't ashamed of it. "Even though I didn't know how to read, he thought lending me his books could help me. For the longest time all I did was looking at the pictures..."
Anna felt pity for the little Elsa in the orphanage, trying her best to understand the words and being content just looking at the pictures instead. She chose not to say anything and let her talk. It was not usual for Elsa to start talking about her time in the orphanage and she believed letting her talk was going to be cathartic. So, she waited for Elsa to gather her thoughts and continue.
Grabbing her pencil from the table, she began scribbling on the margins of her notebook. Doing something helped her talk since she wasn't looking at Anna in the eyes. "I imagined what the story was about with the help of the pictures, and tried to find something in the words that could help me understand how reading and writing worked. After some time, Kristoff got me some paper and a pencil, he thought that if I copied what I saw I was going to learn. He said that's what he did at school." Elsa chuckled at the memory, thinking about a young Kristoff showing up in her room with his idea.
Anna giggled at the idea too, it was too sweet to imagine an eager little Kristoff proposing that idea. Anna was glad Elsa was mentioning some things about Kristoff in her story. Just like Elsa, Kristoff didn't talk much about his past. He was willing to answer questions if she asked, but she had noticed he never told her stories about his youth. So, she was happy she could learn a bit more about him too.
With a smile plastered on her face, Elsa continued, "Anyway, after Kristoff got me the materials, I thought it could be interesting to draw what I saw in one of the books. It was my favourite because it had all these beautiful drawings." Elsa's smile turned a bit sad, clearly the memories of the book where something she treasured, but her grown-up mind understood how wrong it was for a child to try to 'learn' the way she had. "At first I just copied the drawings, but after a while I decided to give Kristoff's idea a chance. Maybe if I was able to copy the words I saw, I was going to learn to read and write. And that's what I did."
"You copied every word in the book?" Anna was amazed. She was not sure how old Elsa was at the time, but it was impressive she was so committed to learn.
"I didn't know the letters. I was not sure how words worked so, for me, those words were just weird scribbles. I'm not sure you could say I copied every word. It took me a really long time but I did copy what I saw in the book."
As she explained, Elsa kept her focus on her notebook. Anna noticed she was probably remembering those days copying word after word, and trying to hide her shame.
"I spent months copying something that I couldn't read. And obviously, I didn't learn how to read by the time I finished," a nervous laugh escaped her lips.
Anna saw Elsa laugh at herself and suddenly felt angry at Elsa for mocking her young self; as if it had been her fault she didn't know better. Anna wanted to voice the way she feel, she wanted to tell her it was not her fault. It was not normal for a little girl to try to learn on her own. But she didn't, she didn't want to make Elsa feel uncomfortable. Especially now that she was finally talking about her childhood.
"I kept the handwritten copy of the book with me for years and I traced the words over and over again, especially after Kristoff left. It was all I had to keep myself entertained," she looked away and rubbed her eye with her hand.
The action didn't go unnoticed by Anna, but she didn't make a comment. She felt she needed to offer Elsa some kind of comfort. But what was there to say. She had been born into a perfect family. She had always had loving parents ready to help her with anything she needed. She had gone to school like any other kid. She had always had friends. She had never felt lonely. Sure, maybe she had craved company here and there, but she had never experienced solitude. Anna felt her own eyes moisture but made an effort not to show it.
"When Gerda taught me how to read and write, what I had copied and traced was ingrained in my brain. I never got used to hold the pencil nor draw the letters the right way. And the idea of practicing didn't sound appealing at all," she took a deep breath before looking at Anna for the first time since she began her story. "It still doesn't. It just feel as if I'm about to do what I did with that book all over again."
Anna put her hand over Elsa's, she was surprised to feel it so cold and to see Elsa tense at the contact. Both things combined almost made her let go of it, but she hold it instead and said, "I think I understand your reasons. Thank you for telling me."
Elsa's mouth turned into a hopeful smile and asked, "does it mean I don't have to do it?"
Not expecting that answer Anna couldn't stop herself from chuckling, "I'm sorry. There's no other way. You'll need to practice."
Elsa laughed too before saying, "it was worth the shot."
They both laughed again but Anna felt she needed to let Elsa know it was not right to feel ashamed of what she had done, "you should be proud of copying that book, Elsa. I think it's an incredible achievement for a little girl."
She thought about it for a while, "but it wasn't a real achievement. All I did was copy symbols and trace them over and over again. That's not learning."
"Well, it taught you discipline. Not every kid is capable of doing something like that. Don't be ashamed of it, Elsa." Letting go of Elsa's hand, she straightened her back on the chair and used her 'teacher' voice, "sadly, you'll need to practice and improve your handwriting."
Elsa knew Anna's insistence was for her own good, and accepted, "I know."
After that, Elsa kept working on her assignments unaware of Anna's inner turmoil. Once the conversation was over and she had given Elsa more things to work on, she had had enough time to think about Elsa's story. She knew Elsa hadn't moved into Kristoff's orphanage until she was eight years old, so that meant it was the previous institution who had denied the girl the chance to go to school first. She felt the need to know what had triggered that decision, but she knew she needed to be careful. Elsa had opened up earlier, but that didn't mean she had the right to rummage through her past.
By the time Elsa finished her work, Anna realised they had a few minutes before Kristoff came back from his parents' house. She knew that, with Kristoff presence, she was not going to be able to ask Elsa any questions; he was always fast to tell her not to ask any questions. And she also knew that given Elsa's previous story, she had the perfect chance to ask her about her education - or lack of it. So, she took her chance when both of them had put their things away and she was pouring themselves some tea.
"Elsa?" she asked from the kitchen counter.
"I've meant to ask you something, but I'm not sure if you'd feel comfortable talking about it. Do you mind if I do?" She picked the mugs and sat down on the sofa next to Elsa.
Elsa accepted the mug she offered before saying, "Umm, sure. I guess. What do you want to know?"
"You told me about the way you tried to learn on your own, and how Kristoff tried to help. But, wasn't the orphanage responsible for your education?"
She hesitated for a few seconds, it was hard to explain to Anna why one child was denied education while the others had the chance to study without saying anything about her powers. "The orphanage I was in was a terrible place. They didn't care about the kids. A disgusting man was in charge of it and he couldn't care less if we were getting education." She shivered at the memories of that place. Just thinking about that man made her powers stir under her skin. She needed to be careful and keep the conversation safe. Deep down she wanted to tell Anna about her life, about her past. Since the beginning she had felt a connection with the girl that she had only felt with Kristoff before. But the more time she spent with Anna, the more she felt apprehensive about revealing her powers to her. She didn't want to lose her friend and she didn't want to cause Kristoff any trouble.
"But what about Kristoff? He went to school."
"I was in another orphanage, in another town. That's the place I'm talking about."
"Oh I see…" she realised her assumptions were correct. It was the first institution the one to deny Elsa a chance to study. But there was still something that didn't make sense, "but what happened when you joined the new one here? They just didn't send to school?"
Elsa nodded but she made an effort to explain her situation, "they didn't know what to do with me. I'd always been treated differently because-" Elsa stopped in her tracks when she realised what she was about to say. She quickly decided to say a half-truth so Anna didn't notice, "I was afraid of everything. Even leaving my room."
"You didn't leave your room?"
"The only reason Kristoff and I met was because he tried his best to meet whoever was behind the door." She still remembered how scared she'd been the day Kristoff got into the room.
Anna guessed Elsa had her reasons to be afraid, she'd said the other institution was terrible, but still. "Okay, I understand you were a frightened child, but shouldn't they have tried? I mean it was the best for you and-"
To Elsa's dismay, Anna kept wondering about the reasons behind her lack of education. She couldn't blame the girl, after all she was studying to help people learn and in Anna's mind what had happened to her as a child was unacceptable."They really didn't know what to do with me. They knew I was not their responsibility, they were just keeping me there for a while. I think they never really cared."
"Not their responsibility? You were a minor living there!"
Sighing Elsa tried to drop the topic. She wanted to answer Anna's questions, but she was not ready to answer everything she wanted to know. "Look, it's complicated. I just lived there temporarily. They just pretended I didn't exist for a couple of years. Then I returned to my first orphanage. It was not a big deal."
Every time Elsa dismissed the problem Anna got a little angrier with her. She was not exactly angry with Elsa, after all it was not the girl's fault. But she couldn't stop herself from raising her voice, "Not a big deal, Elsa? They pretended a kid didn't exist! How can you be okay with it?"
"It doesn't mean I'm okay with it now!" Elsa's emotions spiked and her powers asked for release under her skin. She knew that if she didn't drop the subject soon, she was going to need to go outside to release some tension. That was the main reason she hated talking about her past. Half the time her powers wanted to manifest how she was feeling and concealing them was almost imposible. "I know it sound weird but at the time it was the best for me- I- I don't really feel comfortable discussing this." She stood up with a little difficulty and crutched towards the bathroom.
"Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?"
Just before closing the bathroom door she said, "Thank you, Anna. I appreciate your concern. The important thing is I'm finally doing something to change my past."
"Yes, you are right," she muttered. Anna knew Elsa's sudden disappearance had more to do with the conversation than actually needing to go to the bathroom. She felt bad for forcing Elsa to talk about sensitive topics but she needed more information about that place. If the institution was still working there were many kids who could suffer just like Elsa had. However, for Elsa's sake, she was going to stop asking questions about that place. At least for the time being.
On Saturday morning Anna decided to pay Elsa a visit. She had arranged to spend the rest of the day with Kristoff and she felt it was a good idea to spend time with Elsa while she waited for Kristoff to get out of work.
When she got to his apartment, she was surprised to see Gerda opening the door. She hadn't thought of the possibility of her mother-in-law spending time with Elsa, and she felt ashamed not to have called before showing up.
"I'm sorry I came unannounced. I didn't know you were here, Gerda."
"Nonsense, dear. The more the merrier. Come in!"
She greeted Elsa and was surprised to see her focused on a jigsaw puzzle. She hadn't imagined Elsa like the type of person who enjoyed doing puzzles but, if she thought about it, it made sense. She was quiet and liked spending time on her own. However, more than once she had mentioned she needed to keep herself busy with something, and puzzles were a good option if she couldn't move.
Anna soon joined mother and daughter in their activity. She hadn't had the chance to see Gerda and Elsa spend time with each other before, except in the few family dinners Elsa had joined during the year. Anna realised that just like with Kristoff, Elsa's relationship with Gerda was incredible. Anyone could believe Elsa was Gerda's biological daughter. Elsa joked around and made remarks just to get into Gerda's nerves, while the older woman just laughed. They had a similar sense of humour and it was contagious.
"Why did you decide to become a teacher, Anna?" asked Gerda after the conversation had changed towards Elsa's learning sessions.
"I don't know," it was the first time someone asked her that, so it took Anna some seconds to think of an answer. "I guess I always liked the idea of helping others learn. I was all the time helping my classmates in high school."
"I think you're a really good teacher," said Elsa.
"You do?" she couldn't help but grin at the comment.
"Yes. You've got a lot of patience. And you don't judge my stupid questions…"
"There aren't stupid questions, Elsa," said Gerda. "And you make it sound as if I judged your questions."
Elsa chuckled at Gerda and said, "Sorry. You were patient too, mum."
"Well, you are a pretty good teacher too. I loved learning how to ski," said Anna as she clapped with joy after finishing another part of the puzzle.
"I thought the accident had ruined the experience."
"On the contrary, I would love to take a few more classes when you start teaching again."
A big smile plastered on Elsa's face, "I'll be glad to teach you."
Anna then realised it would probably take more time than she originally thought for Elsa to start skiing again. She felt bad bringing the topic to light, but it was something she had wondered before, "will it be difficult for you to start skiing again?"
Elsa stopped working on the puzzle while she gave the question some thought. "I'm not sure. A few months, maybe? What do you think, mum?"
Gerda who was coming back to the table, stood behind her, and grabbed Elsa by the shoulders, "I really don't know, sweetheart. But I don't want you straining yourself."
Elsa's face fell. She knew it was the way Gerda told her to be patient. Elsa's reaction didn't go unnoticed by Anna who quickly apologised, "I wish things would have ended up differently…"
"I'm not going to lie, a month ago I would have said the same thing. But now… Now, I'm not too sure."
"I hate the cast and I can't wait to be able to walk normally again," said Elsa looking at the crutches with disdain. "But things could have been a lot worse. I'm spending more time with my family, I'm studying once again and I'm glad we've got to know each other more. I really like your company, Anna." Elsa felt silly for what she was about to say but it was the truth, "you are the first friend I've made since I met Kristoff."
Anna imagined Elsa didn't have many friends but she couldn't believe she hadn't made any friends in over a decade, "Are you serious?"
Elsa nod her head, "I get along with some people in the North mountain, but I don't know if I can call them my friends."
Anna soon noticed Gerda kept working on the puzzle as if she was not at all surprised by what her daughter was claiming. "What about Marshmallow?" asked Anna. She knew the two of them talked over the phone from time to time. And Elsa had mentioned he was the one who kept an eye on her cottage.
"I like him. But the two of us are too awkward to become friends. We only talk about work."
"So, you like him… mmh?" interrupted Gerda, surprising both girls with her question.
"Yes, he is nice. And he's all the time trying to help me with-" seeing the playful wink Gerda gave Anna, Elsa stopped what she was saying. "What?"
It took Anna a second to understand Gerda was telling her to help her make fun of Elsa. "You like him," repeated Anna, using a mocking tone.
"Not like that!" That was the last thing Elsa needed, her mother and Anna plotting against her just to embarrass her.
"Come on! I bet that's why you don't consider him a friend," said Anna raising an accusatory finger. "You want to consider him something more."
"That's not true."
"Are you sure?" asked Gerda. Truth was the old woman started the conversation just to mess with her daughter, but she was truly curious to know if Elsa actually liked the mountaineer.
"We'll see. I'll believe it when I see the way you act around each other," said Anna.
She chucked at her insistence, "Think what you want. There's nothing between us."
They kept working on the puzzle for a minute before curiosity got the best of Anna, "What about other guys? Are you seeing someone?"
Elsa noticed the question was real this time, "No. I'm not really interested in dating."
"I don't know… It's not for me I guess. I'm not a social person and the idea of dating someone doesn't really cross my mind." She looked at Gerda after giving her answer. She knew her mother was probably thinking her powers had something to do with the way she feel, and she wanted to reassure her that was not the case.
The old woman understood the silent message, but still tried to voice her disagreement, "It has nothing to do with being social, dear. You'll meet someone one day and you'll fall deeply in love."
"I'm not sure it works that way. But if you say so," she shrugged.
Anna had remained silent after the answer. Being honest, she had been waiting for something more than a simple 'I'm not interested'. But she guessed it was something too personal to question. Instead, she chose to continue teasing her sister-in-law, "you aren't interested because you're already in love with Marshall."
"You don't even know who Marshall is!"
"But you said you like him," Gerda cut in.
Resting her forehead in her hands, Elsa let a tired sigh out. "You are nuts. Both of you," but she had to laugh when she heard her mother and Anna's laugh. "Why the sudden interest in my love life?"
"Because we're friends, that's why," said Anna happily. "Also, we need to approve of your potential boyfriend so Kristoff doesn't kill him."
The three of them were laughing when they heard the front door close and the tired voice of Kristoff say, "I don't kill who?"
"No one," Elsa was quick to answer. "Now take your girlfriend on your date so she stops making fun of me."
"I just got home," defended Kristoff. 'How is whatever is going on my fault?' he muttered to himself before throwing his things on the couch.
The following week storms had been worse than the weather forecast originally announced, forcing Kristoff to stay at home, and Anna's classes to be cancelled. For the two of them it meant a relaxing day, while for Elsa it meant more time studying. Anna took the opportunity to prepare a series of exercises and things for Elsa to work on her own. She wanted to test Elsa's understanding on the topic before starting a new one.
However, having Elsa working on her own meant she had a lot of free time just sitting by Elsa's side. She had tried staying silent for Elsa's sake, but after forty minutes not uttering a word, she felt the urge to talk about something.
"How's that exercise going?"
Not really sure if what she was doing was correct, Elsa asked, "fine?"
Anna chuckled at the question, "are you asking me?"
"I don't know. Maybe?" Sighing tiredly she admitted, "I don't know what I'm doing."
"Yes, you do. You said the same thing about the last four and all of them were perfect."
Elsa then tried to persuade Anna to change some of the assignments. She had been working on different math problems for over two hours and she was feeling more and more tired, "can't we go back to study geometry? I liked it better than algebra."
"No, the idea is for you to study and practice things you don't know nor understand, Elsa." Seeing Elsa's crestfallen expression she suggested, "Remember looking at your notes whenever you are in doubt. You are just learning, you don't need to remember everything right now."
That seemed to encourage Elsa who nodded and started working once again.
Luckily for Anna, Kristoff was reading the newspaper on the couch near them, and after a few more minutes in silence she made up her mind and asked, "Kristoff? What's your last name?"
The strange question made Kristoff raise his head with a questioning look on his face, "Uhm… Bjorgman? I thought we had talked about this when we met."
Anna heard the playful tone in her boyfriend's answer and decided to elaborate, "I know, silly. But I was thinking about your birth name. Not that it's important," she added quickly. "I was just curious and I remembered you once told me you changed your surname when you were adopted," she tried to justify her question. Anna knew it could be a sensitive topic. Fortunately, Kristoff just smiled at her and put the newspaper on the armrest.
"It's Hansen," he said simply. "I liked it, but I was never attached to it. When the social worker asked me if I wanted to change it into Kai and Gerda's, I said yes immediately."
"It never meant something to you?"
"Not really." Noticing it probably sounded wrong, he clarified, "I mean, I'd like to think my parents were good people and they deserved someone carrying their last name; but they died when I was four, so I don't remember much about them."
"I didn't know kids were allowed to change their name."
"It's only when the situation requires it," explained Kristoff. "I remember the social worker saying it was going to be easier for Kai and Gerda or something. I was just so excited I didn't really cared about the details, I said yes in a heartbeat and never regretted it."
Anna noticed Kristoff still remembered being adopted as one of the happiest moments of his childhood. It broke her heart to think about him all alone in the orphanage wishing to have a family. "You must have been so eager to go with them."
"You bet I was!" he grinned. "The only thing I liked about that place was Elsa." His smile disappeared as he said, "I felt really bad leaving her behind. That's why I never stopped asking Kai and Gerda to adopt her too."
At the mention of Elsa's name, Anna realised the girl must have had a different name before living with the Bjorgmans too. And so, Anna couldn't stop herself from asking, "What about you, Elsa?"
Elsa had been so focused on her work that she hadn't heard Kristoff mentioning her name before. She raised her head from her notebook, oblivious of the conversation around her, "What? What about me?"
"Your name," said Anna as if it was obvious what she was talking about.
Still a little lost she answered, "Elsa Bjorgman?"
'I'm starting to believe they are really brother and sister and they're just messing with me,' thought Anna as she chuckled at Elsa's answer. "No, I mean your birth name. I know you don't like talking about your past, but I'm curious about your and Kristoff's birth names."
"Oh, it's okay. It's… it's Elsa."
"Elsa…?" encouraged Anna. Hoping she would tell her the last name too.
"Elsa," she said a little embarrassed. "Just Elsa."
"Just Elsa?" That sounded strangely odd to Anna. "No last name?"
"I don't know. I guess-" Elsa cleared her throat. "I guess I must have had a last name. Perhaps the people at the orphanage never found out my real name."
Kristoff decided it was best to help Elsa. His sister usually struggled to explain those things to people, "Elsa was barely a toddler when she was left at the orphanage's door."
"Or that's what they told me," cut in Elsa. "I had a name tag with my name, but no last name."
"Oh." With no proper words to say, she chose to apologise, "Sorry, I- I didn't know."
"It's okay," said Elsa. "You didn't know."
"Have you ever wanted to know your real name?" After asking the question Anna felt like slapping her face. 'What a stupid question!' she thought mortified. But to her surprise, Elsa answered without a problem.
"I'm not going to lie and say I never gave it a second thought, but I don't want to anymore. I'm a Bjorgman now, and before that I was Elsa NN."
"It stands for nomen nescio or no name," explained Kristoff.
They stayed silent for a while and Elsa returned to her work. Both siblings thought Anna's questions were over when she distracted them again.
"Would you like to meet them?"
"What?" said Kristoff and Elsa, unsure to whom she was talking to.
"Given the chance, Elsa, would you like to meet your parents?"
"No, not really," she answered incredibly fast.
Anna was expecting her not to know what to answer, but not a simple no, "why?"
"Anna…" warned Kristoff. Letting her know she was in thin ice with her questions. Kristoff always made sure to keep conversations light when they revolved around Elsa's past.
She turned in her seat to look the disapproving look of her boyfriend, and answered, "What? It's an honest question!" Anna waited for Kristoff's comeback when both of them were surprised to hear Elsa answer the question.
"When I was a child," began Elsa. "I used to think about them and feel as if I had done something wrong, and that's why they had left me behind. For years I felt as if I needed to meet them to prove I was good enough." She took a deep breath, "With time, and the help of Kai and Gerda, I realised I was just a toddler when they abandoned me. I needed a family just like anyone else. Gerda helped me see I was not a nuisance just because I was different." Elsa was startled by her own answer after she finished, she had been thinking about all the things that had gone throw her head as a child, and she hadn't realised she had used the word different.
Anna was quick to catch it and asked, "Different?"
Elsa paled, not knowing what to say. Luckily, Kristoff had been listening to her answer to and was said, "she means different as in different from their original plans, which probably were 'not to have children', right, Elsa?"
"Yes! Yes, that's what I mean. Different than their plans, that is." Elsa made a mental note to thank her brother later that night.
Anna kept quiet for a few seconds, Kristoff and Elsa were waiting for another question but instead Anna put in Elsa's shoes for a second and said, "I think I'd like to meet them if I were you, just once, you know?"
Before Elsa knew what to say, she continued, "To show them who you are and how happy you are. To show them you didn't need them at the end. Now you've got a great family that loves you."
Elsa played with her pencil for a while, thinking about Anna's idea, "I really don't know how I would react."
"Wouldn't you like to tell them off? Just once? I'd certainly like to if I were you."
"Anna-," again Kristoff tried to warn her to stop insisting. But he was interrupted by his sister.
"Maybe… I- I don't know. I think it's best to live my life pretending they never existed." After the incident that led her to live with Kai and Gerda, she had stopped wondering about her parents. So much so, it was the first time Elsa wondered about how she'd react if she happened to meet them now that she was an adult.
"What about you Kristoff? What would you do in Elsa's situation?" said Anna.
"I'm not sure. I think Elsa's way of dealing with it is preferable," he was not going to entertain Anna's idea.
"You guys are goody two-shoes sometimes." She stopped herself and clarified, "No, scratch that, all the time. We are just pretending!"
"It's a sensitive topic, Anna," warned for the last time Kristoff.
Elsa, on the other hand, laughed at Anna's insistence, "Well… I guess that, given the chance, I would let them know how bad they screwed up. Especially, if I find out they never had a real reason to leave me behind."
"See!" exclaimed Anna looking towards Kristoff. "That's more like it! Show 'em, girl!"
Not wanting to start a pointless argument Kristoff said, "shouldn't the two of you be studying?"
"Actually, yes," answered Elsa. "And shouldn't you be cooking dinner?"
Looking at the clock for the first time since he had sat down to read the newspaper, Kristoff realised it was later than he originally imagined. "That's right! What do you want for dinner?"
"Don't count on me to stay. The storm has finally stopped and mum agreed to pick me up if the weather changed. I bet she'll be here any minute now."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, it's best for you too, Kristoff. You won't need to take me home later," she said smiling to her boyfriend. "Are you done, Elsa?"
Elsa had lost track of the conversation once again when the two of them began talking about the weather, so she was surprised by the question. "Oh? Yes. It's done," she said when she realised Anna was talking about her work.
"Great. I'll take it home and correct it later."
"Okay." Elsa then picked a paper she wanted Anna to see, "I've also been practicing my handwrit-"
She was interrupted by some knocks on the door which distracted Anna, "That must be my mum!"
Anna stood up and began picking her stuff while Kristoff opened the door to greet his mother-in-law. He loved the woman, he believed she was one of the nicest people in the world beside his parents. She was always ready to help and ready to give an advice. 'Just like Anna,' he thought smiling.
Elsa kept quiet from her seat on the kitchen table while Kristoff greeted the woman. It was the first time she saw Idunn, so far she had only heard stories about the woman from Kristoff and Anna. She was surprised to see she was younger than Gerda. She was taller than Anna and sophisticated. Something about her made Elsa feel unsure about herself, as if all of a sudden she was not good enough to be Anna's friends. Elsa knew those were just her insecurities playing her mind tricks but still, she thought it was going to be better to remain quiet.
"Ready, Anna?" asked Idunn once Anna neared the door where they were standing.
"Sure!" said Anna smiling, until she realised she had forgotten something important. "Oh! Mum that's Elsa over there," Anna turned around and pointed towards Elsa.
Elsa felt like running into the bathroom but she knew it was too late when she heard Idunn say, "Elsa? It's a pleasure to meet you! I've got to thank you so much, sweetheart!" Elsa waved from her seat and moved to pick her crutches. She knew how much Kristoff respected his in-laws and she felt standing up to greet her was the right thing to do.
"No, please, it's not necessary for you to stand up, dear," said Idunn as she raised her hand to stop Elsa from moving. "I don't want you straining yourself; besides, Anna and I need to go right now before the the snowstorm starts again."
"It's nice to meet you too," said Elsa, though she still felt unease about meeting Anna's mother. 'Why can't I act normal around strangers?' thought Elsa to herself with annoyance.
"I'm sorry I can't stay to thank you properly for what you did. But I tell you what, you and Kristoff are invited to join us for dinner," said Idunn happily.
"Let's say next weekend," suggested Idunn before Elsa had a chance to answer.
"That'd be amazing," cut in Kristoff. "We'll be glad to join you."
For a second Elsa thought Kristoff was going to help her deny the invitation, but his answer forced her to try on her own, "It- It isn't necessary. I mean, I-"
"Oh, nonsense," interrupted Idunn. "Is Saturday okay?"
'Say no' thought Elsa to herself but Kristoff was faster once again.
"It works for us," replied Kristoff not daring looking at Elsa. He knew his sister was going to kill him once mother and daughter were out the door.
"Great!" said Idunn excitedly. "Saturday it is. You don't worry about a thing. Everything's on us." said Idunn before saying respective farewells to Elsa and Kristoff. Then, both women were out the door, leaving the siblings in silence.
Kristoff closed the door and turned around to explain his decision when he heard Elsa's question, "What did you do?"
"I accepted an invitation." Kristoff knew the question was coming and it was easier for him not to make a big deal out of it.
"Because it's the right thing to do," he said as he walked towards the fridge to see what he could prepare for dinner.
"You've been helping me to ditch this dinner for almost two months and now suddenly it's the right thing to do?"
He let out a tired sigh. He had always been the one who had to convince Elsa to participate in social events since they became siblings. He knew better than anyone Elsa's uneasiness; but it didn't mean he didn't wish his sister could join a family dinner for once. "Elsa, we've denied their invitation four times already. We've got no excuse. Besides, they are my in-laws I can't just say no."
"Exactly, they are your in-laws. Not mine. I've got the right to say no."
"Don't be childish. They just want to thank you," said Kristoff.
"They are excellent people! Not to mention Idunn is a wonderful cook. You'll love them."
"I'm not saying they are bad people, Kristoff. I'm saying I'm not comfortable in someone else's house. Especially if it's someone you want to impress…" said Elsa.
"I know you worry about they liking you."
"I don't worry about-"
"I know you do. You can't hide it from me."
Kristoff let out another sigh before admitting he did worry about it sometimes, "I want them to know I'm a good guy. That I would do anything for Anna."
"Exactly," said Elsa. "And I don't want them thinking any less of you because of me."
His sister's claim came as a surprise to Kristoff. He thought Elsa was just saying no because she felt uncomfortable - socially speaking -. He never thought she was doing it because she wanted to avoid any problems with his in-laws. 'As if it is possible they won't like her' thought Kristoff. He walked towards the table and sat beside Elsa, he wanted his sister full attention for what he was about to say, "Elsa, trust me, there's no way they won't like you. They love you already. You saved their only daughter."
"What if I mess up? They won't be okay with the idea of your sister being a freak of nature who could hurt their daughter," said Elsa looking at her hands.
Kristoff put both of his hands over Elsa's, it was something he had started doing whenever Elsa thought about herself as dangerous. "Stop it. You know I don't like that," he said with a tender voice.
"I'm serious. Cut it out. You are not dangerous."
Over the years Kristoff had said that to her so many times, she had started to believe in his words. However, it didn't mean she didn't doubt his words from time to time. Right at that moment, she realised there was no point in arguing with Kristoff and answered, "Fine. But you know what I mean. I get nervous talking with strangers and these strangers are important to you. I can't stop worrying."
"Just be yourself and they'll love you. They already do. Trust me."
Chapter 9: The storm
Saturday evening came faster than Elsa imagined. She had hoped during the week for dinner to be cancelled. She hadn't wished for anything bad to happen, just a simple reason that could postpone dinner for a couple of weeks. Enough weeks to give her time to heal and go back to the North mountain. However, Elsa knew it was ridiculous to hope for something like that to happen. She still had three weeks to go before her appointment with the doctor; and she was not even sure it was going to be the last one.
In the end, her wishes didn't come true and Elsa found herself standing in the middle of Kristof's living room, watching Kristoff arranging things before they left.
Kristoff put on his leather jacket and walked towards the door, making sure he had his keys. "Ready to go?" he asked when he noticed she hadn't moved.
"No." The answer was short and sincere. Elsa knew it was silly to be so apprehensive about dinner, but she couldn't help the way she felt. She had always felt uncomfortable around people, and it didn't help she was the 'guest of honour', as Anna had put it a few days before.
"Stop being silly. Let's go," said Kristoff opening the door and expecting her to move.
She knew the answer to the question before she asked it, but she felt like trying one last time, "Do I have to go?"
Letting a tired sigh escape his lips, Kristoff gave his sister the same answer he had given her all week, "they want to thank you. I think it's necessary for you to be there." Noticing Elsa was truly uncomfortable about the idea of having dinner with his in-laws, he tried to reassure her, "everything will be alright. I promise."
"They'll be your family in the future and I know you love them. I want to give the right impression."
"You are my family. They'll only be my in-laws," he said walking towards Elsa. She was still standing in the middle of the room, and Kristoff knew she needed a little push to start moving. "It's simpler than you think," he stood in front of her and grabbed her shoulders to make sure she listened to him, "just go there, talk, eat, talk some more, eat dessert and you're done."
Her eyes stayed fixed on the floor, "you say talk as if it's easy."
Once again, Elsa's insecurities forced her to believe she was not someone who could participate in social gatherings. Through the years, he had come to accept that side of Elsa. Kristoff knew it was something she was still working on, and he knew being in front of people Elsa didn't know made things more difficult; but for once he wished she could let herself enjoy something as simple as a family dinner. "Idunn and Agdar will do all the talking, just nod and you'll be fine. That's all I did the first time and it worked."
Elsa let Kristoff guide her towards the door. His suggestion didn't sound so bad - at least it was something she knew she could do - but her anxious mind didn't give her much time to enjoy the idea before coming up with another question, "What if I need to go outside?"
Kristoff couldn't help himself from chuckling, "you're not a dog, Elsa. If you are uncomfortable just excuse yourself and go to the bathroom." He knew what she meant though, she was probably thinking about what to do if she felt her powers tickling under her skin. "Deep breaths, remember? That's what mum taught you."
He saw her take a deep breath right at that moment and suddenly noticed how nervous she actually was. "Why are you so nervous? You've been doing great lately. Even in the hospital you were able to control your powers…"
"I was drugged while I was in the hospital, Kristoff. My powers were tamed."
"Still, you've been around Anna and living in the building for over a month and everything's been great. Please stop worrying."
"I really don't want to mess things up," she confessed.
Messing her hair up a little, Kristoff rested his hand on top of her head. "It's all in here," he said. "Inside your head. Fight that fear."
"I trust you more than anyone." He picked the new winter jacket Anna had gifted her, and handed it to Elsa, "you should start doing the same."
Lost for words, Elsa took the garment in one hand as she tried to keep her balance. She thought it was ridiculous to keep fighting, her brother wanted her to be part of his world too. And she felt she owned it to him. She tried to keep her balance as she put on the coat. Once she was ready, she said with resolution, "Let's go."
Her resolution began to shake when Kristoff parked the car in front of an extraordinarily beautiful two-story house. White walls and blue tile roofs let the house became part of the winter scenery. It had a magnificent front garden, everything was covered with snow, but she was able to see the defined lines of flower beds decorating the place. She spent some time admiring the Arendelle's residence before she noticed Kristoff had not only stopped the truck, but had also stepped out of the vehicle. He had stopped moving just to make sure she was okay.
"Are you coming?" he said nearing her door.
"Yes," she said suddenly, coming back from the trance she had been in. She had always admired the fine details of houses just like the one she was seeing. It was weird for her to think she was going to be able to see such an amazing place from the inside. Truth be told, she felt out of place just by standing outside.
"Need help?" he asked.
"No, it's okay." Elsa struggled to get out of the truck by herself, but she couldn't stand relying on her brother for every single thing she needed to do.
Once she was standing on the sidewalk, they began walking towards the main door.
Kristoff began telling an anecdote about the first time he had visited Anna's house, but interrupted his story when he noticed Elsa was nowhere near him. Afraid that something had happened to her, he turned around and saw her struggling to keep up with his pace. The paved entrance was covered by fresh snow, just like the rest of the front garden.
"Right behind you," she said as she approached him. "Have you got any idea how hard it's to use crutches in the snow?
"I think it's the first time I hear you complain about snow," said Kristoff chuckling. The unamused expression on Elsa's face only made him laugh harder. "Don't look at me like that, I'm trying to lighten the mood. Come on, I'll help you the rest of the way."
Kristoff was helping his sister walk when the door opened in a sudden movement. Anna waved at them from the door, "You guys are here!" she said. "I saw you park the truck!" Happiness was evident in her voice. "Come in! It's freezing outside."
"We are coming," answered Kristoff, waving to his girlfriend.
Anna moved out of the way to let them into the house. Once they stepped into the the living room, Kristoff let go of Elsa's arm, allowing her to walk at her own pace again.
Elsa entered the room and was mesmerised by what she saw. Polished wooden floors and wooden furniture decorated the place. It was evident kristoff's in-laws were quite well-off. For sure Anna's parents were important people. And she felt her anxiety return at the idea of not having anything in common to talk about with them.
Anna distracted Elsa from her thoughts when she announced she was going to tell her parents, who were on the kitchen, they had arrived. She watched Anna disappear through a double door, leaving them both on the living room.
Getting closer to Kristoff, Elsa whispered, "you didn't tell me they were rich."
"Well, they are not exactly rich. But Agdar has got a successful business. I think it was his father's."
"Anna doesn't act like they rich people I give ski lessons to. They always make sure to remind me I'm of a lesser level than them," commented Elsa with disgust.
"Her parents are amazing. The first time I met them, I was afraid they were going to think I was not good enough for Anna. But they welcomed me into their family as if I was the best guy out there."
"Compared to the guys I've taught to ski, you are the best guy out there. Trust me," said Elsa before seeing the doors open once again. A tall man whose hair was the same colour as Anna's walked into the room followed by Anna.
"Kristoff!" said the man eagerly. "It's nice to see you, son."
'Son?' thought Elsa. She knew Kristoff was really close to Anna's family, but she hadn't imagined they treated him like a son. She was happy for her brother, but something in her chest hurt at the idea of Kristoff leaving her behind. She knew it was irrational and stupid, but she couldn't control her mind sometimes.
"Nice to see you too, sir," said Kristoff respectfully while he shaked his hand.
"Papa, this is Elsa," said Anna pointing to her. "Elsa, my dad Agdar."
Elsa had felt relatively calm until that moment, but everything changed when Agdar payed attention to her. She knew she was the reason dinner was taking place, however she couldn't stand being the centre of attention. And she felt uncomfortable when Agdar gave her a careful look, as if he was analysing her. She felt the same unease she had when she met Idunn, and all of a sudden she considered she was not good enough to be there. She felt as if Agdar was going to realise something was off with her, and she hated it. It didn't help her nerves the fact that he hesitated before extending his hand to greet her.
Her powers had been tickling under her skin since early afternoon and she was sure her hand was freezing. The cold weather helped her hide it, but still, she didn't feel comfortable extending her hand. Sadly, she didn't have much choice. It was best to act as normal as possible and not give Anna's parents the wrong idea; after all, the man was patiently waiting for her to take his hand. 'Don't screw this up,' she thought before extending her own hand.
If Agdar noticed how incredibly cold her hand was, he didn't comment on it. Instead, he smiled, "Elsa, it's a pleasure to meet you. My wife and I have been waiting for the right opportunity to thank you for what you did." Grabbing her hand in both of his, he said, "Thank you for saving my daughter."
'Bad idea. Let go of my hand,' thought Elsa while she made an effort not to make her hands colder than they were. "It's my pleasure. And there's no need to thank me. I was doing my job." She gave a gentle pull, to ask for her hand back.
Agdar understood her silent request and let her hand go in an instant. Thinking she wanted her hand back to hold her crutch, he turned his attention to her cast, "How's the leg?"
"I can't complain."
Before Agdar could ask any other question, Idunn entered the room. In an instant, she was by their side greeting them, distracting Agdar from his inquiries. Elsa was not sure if it was because she had already met her, but her presence helped her relax somehow. Her energy, which was similar to Anna's, allowed Anna and kristoff join in the conversation. She thanked her and asked a few questions about her leg too, but she was not as intimidating as Agdar in Elsa's opinion. Anna's father seemed like a good person, but he was a lot more analytical than Anna or Idunn. He kept glancing at her from time to time, studying her while they talked.
After some minutes talking in the living room, Idunn commented dinner was almost ready. She told them to go to the dining room and asked Anna to help her carry some things to the table. Both women disappeared through the double doors once again, and Agdar guided Kristoff and Elsa to the dining room where the table was already set. Idunn had made sure everything was perfect for their dinner. Elsa was truly flattered they had taken the trouble just for her, but she guessed they felt it was necessary.
Once she sat down, she realised she was seated opposite to Anna's family, and that allowed her to relax a bit. Her powers were not threatening to escape, but she knew her body temperature was not exactly normal. So, she was thankful the only one sitting close to her was Kristoff.
Anna and Idunn entered the room with their food, and the amazing smell let Elsa forget for a while about her worries. Kristoff had mentioned Idunn was a great cook and so far the smell proved that to be true. Anna had mentioned the previous day her mother was cooking one of her special dishes, and truth be told, Elsa couldn't wait to try it.
Dinner progressed in the best possible way. The food was indeed delicious and conversation had been about simple topics Elsa was able to follow. She stayed silent most of the time, but she was grateful she understood what they were talking about, allowing her to participate when Agdar or Idunn asked for her opinion. Conversation remained neutral and no personal questions were asked. She didn't know if Anna had mentioned to them she was not a social person, but they made sure she felt comfortable throughout dinner.
After everyone had finished, Kristoff excused himself to the bathroom while Idunn and Anna went into the kitchen for dessert. Elsa was distracted looking at the falling snow out of the window, and didn't notice she was alone with Agdar who soon took the opportunity to learn more about her. "Tell me, Elsa," he said calling her attention. "Is your job a good business?"
Caughting her completely unaware, Elsa had to apologise and ask for him to repeat the question.
"I know the North mountain certainly is a great tourist attraction, but is it good enough to provide for the different resorts?"
Finally knowing what he was talking about, she answered, "It's hard sometimes, but it's good enough for people like me to make a living. I can't tell you about the resorts to be honest."
"Why not? Aren't you working in one of them?"
"Oh, no. I- I work independently," she felt like an idiot for stuttering, but she couldn't really control her nerves.
"Isn't it harder that way?"
"Then why not join a resort? I've heard from Anna you are an excellent instructor."
She noticed Agdar was being truly respectful and it was just his business side asking the question. She felt it was better to give an honest answer, "I- I'm currently trying to do that."
"Getting your credentials in order?"
"Uhm…" Elsa felt ashamed all of a sudden. She didn't know what to answer. She was not trying to impress him, but she felt awkward telling Anna's father she was only beginning to study. Not to mention getting into that topic could lead to multiple questions she'd rather avoid.
Elsa hesitated for a few seconds but was interrupted by Anna, who had entered the room by the time Agdar asked the question, "I told you I'm helping her study, papa. The ski resorts won't hire her until she earns a diploma."
"Oh, you did say something about that when I picked you up the other day, Anna," commented Idunn who was just behind her daughter.
Agdar seemed lost for a moment, not really knowing what Anna was referring to, "When you say diploma, you mean-"
"High school diploma," interrupted Kristoff who had returned as well.
Elsa was thankful her brother was back in the room. He was going to help her explain her situation better. She didn't feel comfortable talking about it, but at least she was not going to be alone answering the questions.
"Elsa didn't have the chance to finish her studies before. And now she is working hard to earn her diploma," he explained.
"How is that possible?" cut Idunn in while she handed Kristoff his plate. "You said Gerda and Kai made sure you finished studying, Kristoff. Right?"
Kristoff nodded. He remembered telling Idunn how his parents' main rule was for him to study and how they had helped him in everything he needed throughout high school. Before he got the chance to explain himself better, he heard Idunn say, "I thought they'd do the same for their own daughter."
"They- They made sure I study too," said Elsa, not wanting Anna's parents to think her parents hadn't been there for her too. "But my situation was…" For lack of better words Elsa used the only word that could describe her without saying anything more, "different than Kristoff's." She hated where the conversation was going, but she had been more or less prepared. She knew it was a matter of time until Agdar or Idunn asked some questions.
"Elsa didn't have the same opportunity to study in the orphanage as I did." Once again Kristoff intervened in time to help her. She waited for him to look at her and she smiled in gratitude.
For a moment, Idunn and Agdar's silence gave Elsa the idea they were going to stop asking questions. But soon after, Idunn looked at her and asked, "Wait, you are not Kai and Gerda's biological daughter?"
"No, I'm not."
She seemed to contemplate the answer for a few seconds, "how is it possible the orphanage provided education to Kristoff but not you?"
"It was not the same institution." She took a deep breath to calm herself down before explaining, "we did live in the same orphanage at some point, but I spent most of my childhood in another place."
Wanting to divert the conversation, Kristoff said, "Mine wasn't good either, but at least they made sure I studied."
"I thought there was only one orphanage in town…" said Idunn.
"It's not in Trollheim. It's in a city near the southern coast," clarified Elsa.
Idunn took a deep breath and asked, "Romsdal?"
Elsa nodded but kept silent. Memories of that place were something she wished she could forget. But she knew there was no point in lying about the name of the city. After all, there was no way they could know what had happened in her orphanage before she was adopted. She thought mentioning was safe ground, but soon realised she had been mistaken.
Agdar who had remained silent during the conversation suddenly hit the table, surprising everyone, and said, "That's not possible. You are wrong."
"What?" asked Elsa. She didn't know what she had said to make Agdar angry.
"There is only one orphanage in Romsdal and a great doctor was in charge of it. That cannot be the place."
"Well, It- it is," said Elsa with hesitation. She was sure she was not mistaken, but she didn't know how to react to Agdar's insistence. "I know the name of the city."
"No," he countered, shaking his head. "You must be mistaken."
"Papa, I think Elsa must know what she is talking about," Anna tried her best to stop her father before he made Elsa uncomfortable. She didn't know what had triggered her father so much, but she considered it was not important at the moment.
The man turned to his daughter and clarified, "I've heard about that place. The doctor was renowned for his work helping kids. It's not possible it's the same place."
"Why is it so important if it is the same place or not? I know Elsa remembers the name, there's no need to argue about that." It was the first time Kristoff openly contradicted his father-in-law, but he felt it was necessary to end the conversation.
Hitting the table repeatedly with his index finger, Agdar said, "It's important because getting the facts right prevents misleading information, son."
"What are you talking about?" Anna seemed as puzzled as the siblings by her father's reaction; and she was not willing to let him behave that way in front of Kristoff and Elsa. She also knew how delicate the subject was. "Elsa is telling us about her personal experience in that place, dad. It could easily be the same orphanage. People lie all the time about the good deeds they do."
"The only orphanage in Romsdal is a trusted institution. She must be mistaken."
"I'm not mistaken," said Elsa all of sudden, surprising herself. She never felt comfortable arguing with people, not even her brother. But she had been feeling her powers pulsating under her skin since the conversation turned into an argument, and she couldn't focus on what she was saying. She wanted everyone to stop talking about Romsdal and to stop fighting. Her memories of that city were the worst she had, and the sole mention of such place made her feel uncomfortable.
"Then, if you are not, would you mind telling us what happened there? Are you sure it's not just your childhood memories playing tricks?" Agdar hadn't raised his voice, but it was a clear command.
Elsa knew the man was not going to let the matter slip so easily. She wanted to stop the conversation, but everything she said made it worse. She knew she couldn't answer that question, she couldn't talk about the things she had lived there without expose her powers. Not knowing what to do she said, "I would really like to change the topic of conversation." Elsa hoped she could get the situation under control. Her hands were colder than they had been in a long time, and she was not sure she was going to be able to control her emotions if the argument continued.
"Look, kid," said Agdar calling Elsa's attention. "You can't go around trashing good people's names like that. If you are mistaken, you are-"
Kristoff had the deepest respect for Anna's father, but he felt interrupting him was in order, he was not at all pleased by the way he was speaking to his sister. "Elsa knows what she is talking about. There's no mistake. Now it would be best to-"
Agdar interrupted him back, "Doctor Weselton is a good person. He-" but was cut by the sound of Elsa's chair scraping against the floor.
At the mention of Weselton's name, Elsa felt her emotions spike. There was not much she could do but leave the place before she did something she'd regret. "I need to go outside," she said as she tried to find her crutches and get up.
Kristoff heard Elsa's chair and knew what his sister was about to do, he knew she wasn't feeling okay with the argument and being the reason it started, but he couldn't let her go just like that. It was going to be harder to explain if she suddenly went outside. He grabbed her left arm before she got the chance to pick her crutches and forced her to remain seated, "Elsa, please stay." He then turned to his father-in-law, "Agdar, I'm sorry, but Elsa knows first hand about this. Doctor Weselton is not a good person."
Elsa couldn't focus on what kristoff was saying, she could only see he was preventing her from leaving. She pulled, trying to free her arm in vain, "Let go of my arm, Kristoff!"
"There's no need for you to leave the table, Elsa," said Anna who until that moment had stayed silent watching how everything turned from bad to worse without reason. "Please stay."
"No, I won't believe that's true," a stubborn Agdar replied. "I know wha-"
"You don't know what you are talking about," said Elsa. She was losing control and she couldn't stand to hear Agdar defend the man who had ruined her childhood. "No one knows. Now, please, Kristoff, let go of my arm," her voice cracking towards the end of her sentence.
"No." Kristoff tighten his grip on her wrist. He needed Elsa to calm down so everyone could talk and apologise, but he was running out of things to say to convince Agdar and Elsa.
"Kristoff. I'm serious I-"
Not realising the damage he was causing, Agdar continued to defend what he believed was right, "how could you know I'm mistaken. All I'm saying is-"
"Papa, please drop the subject!" Anna didn't know what had gotten into her father, but he was behaving in the strangest way possible. Not only he was not aware how uncomfortable Elsa was, but he kept talking as if someone else besides himself cared. What was even more strange, was her mother's silence. She had been talking and participating until Elsa mentioned where she had grown up and then she had just stopped.
"Kristoff let go!" Tired and feeling her powers slip from her control, Elsa stood up fast enough to force her hand out of Kristoff's grip. But the rapid movement and the stress of the situation caused her to lose her concentration, letting her powers free for a few seconds. It was enough for a blast of ice to escape her hand, freezing the table and nearly missing Idunn's head in the process.
Everyone in the room stayed where they were in complete silence. Anna was the first to move her head from Elsa's hand to the frozen cupboard situated behind her mother. She followed the frost and rime that covered the table and tried to comprehend what had happened.
Elsa was the second one to react. Unlike Anna, she didn't need time to understand what had occured, to her dismay she was completely aware of the damage her mistake had almost caused. She looked at the frozen piece of furniture and realised how close the blast had been from hitting Anna's mother. She couldn't stop herself from remembering the last day she had stayed in Romsdal's orphanage when she was fourteen. Several memories she had tried her best to suppress returned in an instant, forcing her body to react on its own. She grabbed the crutches from the floor and ran out the room.
Kristoff remained on his chair, unable to move or talk for a few seconds. What had happened before his eyes was everything his family had been trying to avoid since the day Elsa moved in with them. All the hard work Elsa had done to be able to enjoy a normal life disappeared the moment the blast of ice left her hand. And it was in the worst place possible. Not only it was in his in-law's house, but there wasn't any plausible excuse the two of them could give to pretend it had never happened.
He tried to find his voice to say something, to find a solution, but there was nothing he could say to ease the fear in Anna and her family's eyes. Before he or anyone on the table could do anything, he heard Elsa's chair move and he saw her ran by his side. The sound of the front door closing made him aware he needed to go after her before she did something she could regret. He stood up and ran after her, not bothering to explain anything to the rest.
Stepping out of the house, he noticed the sky had turned darker than it had been that day. He was not surprised to see the wind had picked up and he also noticed the previous snowfall was turning into a blizzard. He knew he needed to do something before people in the neighbourhood realised it was not at all normal. Thankfully, it was easy for him to spot Elsa. She had trouble moving fast in the snow and she hadn't been able to get farther than the sidewalk by the time he run out of the house.
When he spotted her, he wasted no time in calling her name. "Elsa!" he said. "Wait!"
She turned her head to look at him, but soon after continued moving in the opposite direction. She wanted to escape before Anna or her family came after her.
"Damn it," he muttered to himself. He knew it was not going to be easy to calm her down, but he didn't expect her to run away from him too. "Elsa!" he called her name once again. He run in her direction hoping to reach her before she got hurt. The sky kept getting darker and the snowstorm was becoming more aggressive. Clear evidence that his sister was suffering an anxiety attack.
"Elsa!" he tried again. "Elsa, please. Calm down."
She turned to him and raised her hand, begging him to stop, "I need to get out of here."
"Elsa, please. Listen to me. We can talk about this."
"I've ruined it. I- I have got to go," she tried to move once again. But the snow on the sidewalk didn't let her move her crutches, causing her to fall over her right side. "Damn it!" she said in pain.
In an instant Kristoff was kneeling by her side. He feared she had hurt her leg on the fall and he knew he needed to talk some sense into her. "Elsa, are you all right? Let me help you."
Elsa slapped his hand away from her and yelled, "stay away from me. Stay away."
"Elsa, listen to me. Listen to me," he repeated grabbing her by her shoulders. Kristoff forced her to look at him in the eyes. "You're okay. I've got you. You're having an anxiety attack, you need to calm down!"
"I- I can't Kristoff," it was getting harder for her to breath. "Stay away. I'm dangerous."
Not listening to her, he shaked her by the shoulders. "We can talk about this. They will listen to us. They will understand," he promised. Deep down he knew it was a lie. He didn't know if they were going to be willing to listen, but he needed Elsa to believe in his words.
Elsa lowered her head, tears streaming down her face. "I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry," she said over and over again.
His heart broke seeing her like that. It had been over six years since the last time she had broken down, and he didn't know what to do. Hugging her tight, he whispered, "It's not your fault."
Her sobs were muttered by Kristoff's chest, who kept hugging her tight while she weeped. The two of them stayed were they were, Kristoff patiently waiting for Elsa to calm down.
After a minute, when he thought the hug was finally working, both of them heard the worried voice of Anna yell from the distance, "Kristoff!"
Elsa, who had been taking some shuddering breaths to regain her composure, froze when she noticed Anna was close to them. She pushed Kristoff away and tried to run away, but the snow and her cast didn't allow her to get up from the icy floor.
He watched her struggle to get up and fall again, and realised Elsa was going to hurt herself before coming back to her senses. Fear was written on her face, and she was not listening to reason. Kristoff knew at that moment what he had to do, even if it was the last thing he wanted to do.
He got up and ran towards his truck, which was parked a few meters away from them. He knew there was a strong sedative in the glove compartment. He hated knocking Elsa out, but it was the only solution he had. Elsa's anxiety was too much to control on his own; and he couldn't risk her, or anyone else, getting hurt. He was opening the first aid kit when he heard Anna's worried voice once again. She had followed him to the vehicle. "Kristoff! What's going on?!"
"Get inside," he said preparing the syringe he needed.
"Not before you-"
"Get inside now, Anna!"
He didn't wait for her to answer, he just ran back to Elsa. The blizzard was getting stronger and he knew things could get out of hand if he didn't act fast. He kneeled by his sister and said, "I need you to calm down, please. I don't want to knock you out but I don't know what else to do. I'm sorry."
She began struggling to free her arm before Kristoff injected the sedative, "No, don't.. Kristoff don't!"
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry…" he repeated. "We are going home. You'll be alright. I promise." He injected the drug and hugged her tight while he waited for it to kick in.
"Kristoff…" said Elsa as her body went limp in his arms.
The blizzard stopped the moment Elsa fall into the effect of the drug. Snow kept falling, but it was the natural snowfall from before. The sky still looked darker than normal, but something told Kristoff it would remain like that for some time.
After the storm stopped, Anna approached her boyfriend. Before she could say anything, Kristoff picked Elsa in his arms and said, "Elsa needs help.I need to take her home."
"I'll explain everything, I swear. Just, please, don't call the police," he begged.
Not understanding his request, she asked, "What?"
"Elsa…" He adjusted Elsa better in his arms before explaining, "she is not a dangerous person. Please, you've got to trust me."
Anna watched him carry his sister back to the truck and make sure she was safe in the passenger's seat. After he picked her crutches and throw them on the back, ready to leave, Anna found the courage to say, "Kristoff, I don't understand…"
"I'll explain this, I swear. Tell your parents I'm sorry." Soon after, he got inside the vehicle and left. Anna stayed were she was baffled.
Anna didn't know how long she stood there, in the cold winter evening, watching the empty street. So many things had happened in such a short time. Her sister-in-law had almost struck her mother with an ice blast. If someone ever told her she was going to witness something like that, she would have laughed in their face. And there she was trying to understand how it all could be real.
She began feeling the cold temperature after a while, she had run out of the house not even thinking about grabbing a coat on the process. She began walking back inside, when she realised her parents hadn't come out, probably afraid of what Elsa almost did. She thought of Kristoff's request too. He had promised to explain everything on the condition they didn't call the police or tell anyone about what they had witnessed. She trusted his word, but she had to make sure her parents didn't do anything. Suddenly, afraid of the possibility they were calling someone, she ran into the house.
Anna began talking before she entered the dining room, "I don't know what just happened, like, I have literally no idea what just happened. But Kristoff told me to trust him. And even if this doesn't make sense, I do… I do trust him so, please let's not call-" She stopped when she noticed both of her parents were still sitting at the table. Her mother was silently crying and Agdar rested his head in his hands. "Are you guys okay?" she asked with worry. Maybe the blast had struck them. She didn't know.
Idunn took a shuddering breath and tried to dry her tears when she heard Anna's question, but it was impossible for her to hide the sorrow she felt.
"I knew it. When she said she was adopted. I knew it was Elsa," murmured Agdar.
"What? What's going on?" asked Anna, looking at her father.
"Anna…" said Agdar raising his head when he finally noticed she was in the room with them. "I- Nothing. Don't- don't worry. What happened with-"
"No," said Anna. "You just said something about Elsa. Do you know Elsa?"
"Anna, I said it's nothing."
Idunn took another breath and dared say, "Agdar, she deserves to know."
"But Idunn…" he had no good reason to contradict his wife. He knew it was only his inner fear and shame that prevented him from telling the truth to Anna.
"We can't keep running from this, Agdar," said Idunn, grabbing one of his hands. She looked at Anna, and said, "Dear, we've got something to tell you."
Chapter 10: The truth
Anna stood in the middle of the room, waiting for her parents to say what they needed to say. The way they were behaving didn't sit well with her, and she was dreading what was to come.
Idunn looked at her into the eye and said, "We do. We know Elsa. She..." A deep breath interrupted her. She knew talking with her daughter about the past was not going to be easy. However, she knew she couldn't beat around the bush anymore. "She's our daughter."
Agdar flinched at Idunn's words. He had hoped Idunn would change her mind and say something different, but he didn't expect her to be so straightforward. Anna, on the other hand, was paralysed, she didn't know how to process what her mother had said. She tried to come up with a reasonable explanation to why her mother would say something like that. Elsa being their daughter didn't make any sense.
After a few seconds in silence, Idunn tried to get a reaction out of Anna, "Dear? Do you understand what I mean?"
"I understand the words…" said Anna, who was still trying to comprehend how it could be possible. "I'm not sure I understand what you mean. If this is a joke, I swear I-"
"It's not a joke, Anna," cut in Agdar, who finally dared looking at her in the eye too. "We are sorry we kept this from you." There was no point in denying the truth anymore.
"How is it possible? It doesn't make sense." Using the table to support herself as she sat on one of the chairs, Anna tried to voice her thoughts, "Elsa is… What?"
"Our daughter," Idunn moved from her place to the chair next to Anna. She sat down and rested her hand on top of Anna's, which was still holding the table. She knew it was going to be hard for Anna to process the truth, so she gave her time. But Idunn knew she needed to explain this situation better before Anna began jumping to conclusions. The conversation was going to be a difficult one, but it was time they tried to make up for their mistakes; being honest with their younger daughter was the first step. "Your father and I had a daughter before you. Elsa. We hadn't seen or heard about her until tonight."
"I can't believe this." Anna's mind was trying to come up with reasons that could justify why her parents hadn't told her about this or why they had abandoned a child in the first place, but she couldn't. Elsa, the shy girl she had met as her sister-in-law, was her sister. 'I'm Elsa's sister...' thought Anna as she felt a wave of nausea at the implication that her parents were the ones who had abandoned Elsa. The ones responsible for the life the girl had had to live before the Bjorgmans. Even if she was not sure what had happened to Elsa in the past, The way Elsa behaved whenever her past was brought up give Anna the idea it had been bad. She knew Elsa's lack of education was just the tip of the iceberg. "Are you sure this Elsa is your daughter? It could be a coincidence. The name an- and the orphanage. It's possible-"
"When I first saw her this evening standing next to you, I felt there was something strange. She looked familiar," interrupted Agdar.
"Then she mentioned she was adopted… She mentioned Romsdal." Idunn tightened her hold on her hand. "I realised at that moment. I knew it was her. All of a sudden her eyes looked at me the way they had years ago. They haven't changed."
"Something similar happened to me," continued Agdar. "The orphanage she mentioned rang a bell in my head. But instead of keeping quiet like I should, I freaked out."
Anna noticed the shame in her father's eyes and finally understood his outburst earlier that night. Both her parents had realised at dinner they were talking with their daughter. "That's why you reacted the way you did…"
He didn't raise his eyes from the floor, "she was sitting there, right in front of me, telling me her childhood had been the opposite of what I had wished for it to be. Telling me the person we had left her with was a bad man." He built up his courage and looked at her, "I had to believe she was mistaken. I had to. I wanted to believe the girl with the sad look on her face was not Elsa, not our Elsa, but-"
"But then she lost control of her powers and we knew. There was no mistake," said Idunn, who was trying in vain to dry the tears that had escaped.
Anna stayed silent after her parents confirmed Elsa was their daughter. What called Anna's attention was they hadn't been surprised about Elsa's powers. They hadn't been shocked at the display of ice magic like she had, they had been shocked to see it was indeed their daughter who was sitting in front of them. They had used them as a confirmation of Elsa's identity.
'Could it be that they abandoned her because of her powers?' thought Anna, who then mentally slapped herself. It was impossible. There had to be a different reason.
"Why would you abandon your own daughter? You need to explain this to me," Anna's vacant expression was changing. She no longer felt lost, but a feeling close to anger was taking over her body. Her parents were not only telling her they had lied her whole life, they were openly admitting they had abandoned a child in another city too.
"It's only fair we do," said Idunn as she began telling Anna the story of their youth. For the first time was willing to tell Anna the truth about their family and her relationship with Agdar. She planned on talking about every single thing they had hidden. Anna had always been a curious girl, she had asked questions about their youth before, how they'd met, where they'd studied and all the adventures they had had together. Every time Anna had asked one of those questions, they had answered as close to the truth as possible, but always being careful not tell her anything about Elsa. This time was different. This time she began her story telling Anna everything she needed to know, including the story of Agdar and his father. Idunn explained he had always disagreed with their relationship and he had forbidden his son to date people that didn't reach his standards for years. Idunn reflected back on that time, and everything they went through back then.
Agdar was in Romsdal's college studying business when he met Idunn. He wanted to show his father he got what was needed to help in the family business and one day inherit his company. He often disagreed with his father's decisions but there was nothing he wanted more than to make him proud. At least that was his aim until he met Idunn, a simple girl from Romsdal who worked at the college cafeteria. Both of them fell in love faster than they had imagined and they believed they could enjoy their romance without worry. They both believed they could work out the details of their relationship in the future, after Agdar could prove his father he was an important part of the family business.
However, life had other plans for them at the time. Only a year into their relationship, Idunn got pregnant. Young, inexperienced and with Agdar's father against their relationship, things became hard for the young couple. They talked about their options in regards the pregnancy, and they agreed to keep the baby. After all, their main problem was not the pregnancy itself, it was money.
Agdar's family had enough money to help them out, but it was impossible for the young man to ask for money without giving his father a reasonable explanation. And telling him the truth was off the table. If he had come to his father's office claiming he was going to be a father out of wed - with a common girl from another town - his father would have made him choose between the Arendelle family or his bastard child. Agdar believed it was best to let his family know once the baby was born, after he had finished studying and he had a stable job to support the baby.
Idunn believed it was best to come clean and accept whatever his father said. But at the same time, she didn't have a plan if Agdar left her. She didn't have a family who could help her, and working was going to be impossible with a newborn baby. That's why Idunn chose to trust Agdar and follow his plan. She continued working and Agdar studying. Both of them cut expenses as much as possible and saved money for when the baby arrived.
The first months were uneventful, giving the couple the impression they were going to be able to do everything on their own; but that ilusion didn't last long. Idunn got sick on the fifth month, and even though the illness was nothing to worry about, it forced her to stop working and to find a doctor for regular check ups. The doctor's appointments cost more than they were able to afford. Even with Agdar finding a part-time job, money didn't seem to be enough to pay for Idunn's medical care.
When thing got out of their hands, and Agdar was about to call home and explain what was going with his life, a co-worker mentioned something about a doctor willing to provide free health care to women who accepted to be studied during their pregnancy. The doctor, Mr. Weselton, was carrying out an investigation on pregnancy and its stages, and he needed a mother and baby to follow and test during the pregnancy.
Out of money and ideas, the couple agreed they could give Dr. Weselton a chance. The tests sounded weird to Idunn, but they thought that being under constant care of a doctor was going to be better than anything at all. And they had to be thankful the man was willing to pay for everything, even Idunn's hospitalization when the baby arrived. After an interview with the man and a brief explanation of his procedures, they agreed to participate in the investigation. Weselton was a really dedicated doctor who kept a close eye to Idunn' and the baby's health. Agdar had to admit he was a little eccentric at times, but he had been the only one lending them an understanding ear. He not only helped the young couple with useful advice about babies; he had even allowed Idunn to stay in a room in his clinic a few days before the delivery, to make sure she and the baby were okay.
After some very stressful nine months, a white-blonde haired girl was born. Elsa. In Idunn's opinion, Elsa looked too small and fragile she was afraid something was wrong with her. But Weselton assured them everything was okay. They stayed in the clinic for two more days after Elsa's birth where Weselton did a few last check-ups, and then the couple was allowed to go back to their apartment.
At the beginning, everything seemed perfect. Elsa was quiet and peaceful, even more than they had imagined a newborn could be. But after the first month, they began noticing Elsa was not like other babies. For starters, she was constantly cold. It didn't matter what Idunn used to wrap her with, Elsa's body was all the time cold. In general, she was a quiet baby, but whenever she began crying, the temperature around her dropped. The couple wanted to believe they were crazy - that it was impossible for a baby to make a room colder -. But by the second month, little Elsa began creating ice and snow around her. She began freezing her crib and Idunn was forced to stop breastfeeding her due to the cold temperature.
Afraid of the worst, they took Elsa to Weselton. They believed the good doctor was going to be able to give them some answers about Elsa's strange condition but, to their dismay, he couldn't really explain why Elsa was born the way she was. He did explain about children who were born with strange abilities. He told them about the academic articles he had read in the matter. He confessed though; he had never heard about a baby creating ice at will. He suggested running some tests on Elsa, to which the couple agreed.
The tests resulted inconclusive, making Elsa's condition a mystery. Seeing the couple's worry, Weselton suggested they left Elsa under his and his clinic care permanently. He had the resources to give the child a good healthy lifestyle, and make sure she had everything she needed in case her abilities grew. He insisted it was best if the baby stayed in the clinic 24-7 taking into account the risks of raising a child with an ability as strange as Elsa's. All the time the doctor focused his suggestions on the baby's best interests and tried his best to convince the couple.
Agdar and Idunn understood his concerns and they knew the risks of raising Elsa on their own but they didn't agree with his suggestions. Elsa was barely two months old and they didn't know if her condition was permanent. They thanked Weselton for his care and support during the pregnancy and explained they were not willing to give their baby up just like that. Idunn was convinced they were going to be able to raise Elsa perfectly fine on their own, even if her "powers" as they called them proved to be a challenge.
Elsa's powers became a challenge faster than they imagined, though. After the sixth month, things became more and more difficult. Elsa began freezing their room and making snow inside their small apartment resulting in severe health problems for Idunn and Agdar. The money was becoming an ever present problem in their life, and they soon realised they were not going to be able to give Elsa the care she needed in that situation.
As a last resource, Agdar travelled to Trollheim and told his father the truth. He confessed he had been in a relationship with Idunn for over two years and he came clean about Elsa. Before he was able to tell him about his baby's condition, his father lost his patience. He condemned Agdar for his actions and gave him an ultimatum. Agdar had to forget about Idunn and the baby, and he had to return to Trollheim, to finish his studies there under his careful watch. Or he could forget about the Arendelle family and their help. He was going to be on his own from then on.
Not knowing what to say or do, Adgar promised his father an answer for the end of the week and returned to Romsdal. He had just a couple of days to decide but he needed Idunn's opinion on the matter - of course he didn't let his father know that asking Idunn was his intention -. With a broken heart and more problems than expected, he travelled back home to talk with Idunn about their options.
They tried to come up with a solution to their imminent problem once Agdar returned. They talked about their options and tried to come up with the best scenarios where they could stay together, keep Elsa and find a solutions to their economic problems. But their future seemed bleak. Every option forced them to leave something behind. After discussing for almost two days, they agreed they were not willing to break apart. They were going to find a way to make enough money to support their dysfunctional family along the way.
Agdar was ready to call his father and give him his answer, when Elsa froze Idunn's arm. Idunn cried in pain and, out of instinct, let go of the cause of the pain. Making Elsa fall to the ground. Agdar jumped from his chair to check on his daughter who, luckily, had created a pillow of snow. The fall hadn't hurt Elsa like they feared, but they realised at that moment that Elsa's powers could be dangerous. Not only for themselves, but for Elsa too. They realised that without proper care, anything could happen to them or Elsa. Elsa's accident forced them to see they were truly out of ideas, and her powers only continued to grow stronger, becoming more and more dangerous in the process.
At that moment, out of fear and lack of options, they changed their original plan. Even if it caused them great pain, they chose to leave Elsa in the hands of Weselton. The doctor had promised to take care of her, which was exactly what they couldn't do anymore. From their experience with the man, they knew he was going to have the baby's best interests in mind. After all, he had kept track of Elsa's development from the beginning. Their only problem was they had cut contact with Weselton after their last meeting. They had left his clinic claiming to take care of Elsa without his help; not calling the man ever again. They couldn't show up asking - begging - for help after that. Besides, they were not sure if a man as decent as Weselton was going to be okay with their idea of leaving Elsa under his care for a couple of years and then return for her, when their situation improved. Agdar and Idunn had agreed to keep fighting for a better future together, even if Agdar had to return home and they had to leave Elsa behind. The plan was for Agdar to return home and for Idunn to move to Trollheim. Idunn was going to find a job and save as much money as possible while Agdar finished his studies and found a good job, in his father's company or any other company.
To make sure Weselton took Elsa in, and to avoid any problems; they waited till the last day they were staying in city before taking Elsa to Weselton's healthcare centre, they knew the facility worked as an small orphanage for kids too; so they knew there was going to be someone at all times to pick Elsa once they left her. They thought the best option was to leave her in the doorstep, with a simple note and her name. They didn't want to face Weselton, sign any papers nor give Elsa's documents to him. They were not sure, but they believed they had better chance to claim Elsa back if they kept her papers with them. After all, their plan was to get back on their feet and return for the girl once they could take care of her the way she deserved.
With pain in their hearts and a silent promise, they left Elsa in a small bassinet in the orphanage's door and went to Trollheim, hoping to change their luck and return as soon as possible for their daughter.
It was the middle of the night when Idunn finished her story. She had had trouble explaining their decisions to Anna, but she had made sure she told her the truth. Agdar had helped her in some parts of the story and had given his own justification for his decisions and his actions at the time. He hadn't felt sure about letting Anna know their story at the beginning, but once Idunn started, he understood his wife's motivation and joined in. Talking had proven to be cathartic for both of them and they felt the need to continue until everything was out; until Anna knew everything they had kept to themselves for over twenty years.
"Elsa was ever present in our mind, but we needed to wait till the right time to get her back at the time," finished Idunn. She knew there were many things to explain yet, but at least she had answered her daughter's question. They had explained their reasons for leaving Elsa behind.
Anna kept quiet for a minute, processing everything her parents had told her. She had always imagined they had had a simple, uneventful life; however, they were there telling her everything they had gone through. What she had believed to be a terrible joke at the beginning was now a truth she couldn't avoid. She had an older sister. She had an older sister who her parents had abandoned.
"How old was she?" asked Anna when she found her voice. The question had come out harsher than she intended, but she guessed it suited the way she was feeling.
The tone Anna used caught Idunn and Agdar by surprise. They had been waiting for Anna to say something - anything - but they hadn't expected her to sound angry and disappointed. They couldn't expect Anna to be okay with their actions, but to hear her talk to them like that hurt more than they imagined.
Angered by they silence, Anna repeated the question, "How old was she?"
"Ten…" murmured Idunn. Not knowing what else to say.
"Ten months old," clarified Agdar.
"Are you really trying to justify the fact that you left a ten-month-old baby in a doorstep in the middle of the night?"
"I know it sounds bad-"
"It doesn't sound bad. It is bad! It is awful!" interrupted Anna with disgust.
"You have to understand. We didn't have an option," counterbacked Agdar, feeling helpless.
Anna tried her best to calm down. Breathing a few times, she chose to give her parents the chance of the doubt, "can you look me in the eye swear you didn't have another option?"
Both looked anywhere but her eyes. They wanted to say they didn't, but the doubt had always remained in their minds.
"Oh, my God!"
"Anna, please," begged Idunn. "We are not proud of what we did, but at the time it was the best for Elsa."
"How can you say that?" Anna said with frustration. "She was just a baby! She needed her family! I don- Why do you think it was the best for her?"
"Because we were young, inexperienced and we-"
"You were young and inexperienced when I was born, why was Elsa any different?" she knew she was being a little too harsh with her parents, but the thought of a baby Elsa all alone in a doorstep make her heart sink.
"Anna, did you see what she just did?" said Agdar exasperated. He needed Anna to understand. He needed his daughter's forgiveness. He had lost a child for his own stupidity, he didn't want to lose another.
"I can't believe this!" That was it, her father had said what she was afraid to hear.
"You abandoned her because she was different?!" 'Different…' the word echoed in her mind as she remembered the conversation she had had with Elsa just a week before, 'Gerda helped me see I was not a nuisance just because I was different.' Realising what Elsa had truly meant that day broke Anna's heart now that she knew Elsa's fears were true.
"No! That was not it!" exclaimed Idunn. Tears streamed down her face. "We… we tried, Anna. We really tried but we were young, we didn't have enough money and… Elsa…" she paused to breathe. "She needed someone who could take care of her. We were not prepared."
Anna was torn. She wanted to believe her parents and to think they had done the best thing. But having heard about Elsa's miserable childhood made it hard for her to accept it. Not to mention she could have had a sister if they had tried a little bit harder. "I don't know what to think."
"I'm not saying what we did was right," tried to reason her mother. "But, please, try to think we did it with the best intention."
The three of them kept quiet. Each lost in their own thoughts. The true was out and it was tearing their family apart.
Anna was the first to break the silence after a few minutes, "you need to apologise. You need to make things right." She was not sure if it was or not for the best. But in her opinion, Elsa needed the truth.
"I don't think that's a good idea, Anna," said Agdar. "How do you expect us to just walk into her life and-"
"You need to fix this shit," anger clouded her judgement once again. She was tired of her parents trying to run from the truth. "She was all alone for thirteen years until Gerda and Kai took her in. The least she deserves is an apology."
"Anna, some things are better-"
"You have to apologise and make things right. I can't keep this secret from Kristoff, you know that, right?" After saying it out loud Anna remembered her boyfriend and the impact this was going to have in his life, too. 'Oh, God, Kristoff. He was so scared for Elsa and for what we were going to think… How will he take this?'
"Can you forgive us?" asked Idunn one last time, hoping to hear a positive answer.
"I- I don't know. It's- This so messed up. I still can't believe what Elsa did tonight was real… And now you guys… This is a lot to take in." Anna put her head in her hands hoping for all of it to be a dream. "I need to lay down," she said, suddenly standing up and leaving her parents alone in the dining room for the night.
Kristoff woke up early the following day. He hadn't been able to sleep for more than a couple of hours. He had laid down in his bed the whole night, but what had happened at Anna's replayed in his head over and over again. The more he thought about it, the more he knew he could have helped his sister before she lost control. He could have avoided the situation they were living, but he had messed up.
He also knew that running after Elsa in the middle of a snowstorm and forcing her to calm down hadn't been the worst of it all. He still needed to explain what had happened to his girlfriend and his in-laws; and he was not sure how Elsa was going to react once she woke up. Waking up after being drugged was always difficult for Elsa. Her mind always tricked her to think she was in some place different than she actually was; and this time, he knew it was going to be even harder for her. Because this time, instead of relaxing after knowing she was in a safe environment, she was going to remember the incident. She was going to realise she had failed at keeping her powers secret. Something she had been trying her best to do for ten years.
He looked at the time again, and seeing it was a few minutes past seven, he got up. He knew there was no reason in trying to fall asleep. He knew Elsa was going to wake up soon. He wanted to be up when that happened.
He wasn't surprised to find his mother sitting in the living room, which was just a few meters from Elsa's room. He was sure she hadn't been able to sleep either. She knew how important it was to be near Elsa when she woke up confused, and knowing his mother's love for Elsa, she surely had stayed alert to be with her in an instant.
When Gerda noticed his presence, she waved at him and patted the cushion next to her, inviting him to sit with her for a while and talk. They hadn't been able to talk much the night before. Kristoff had just showed up in his parents' house late at night with an unconscious Elsa in his arms. He had explained - frantic with worry - that Elsa had lost control; but he hadn't had the chance to explain why it had happened. Kristoff sat down beside her and, before she could ask, he began talking and explaining. He told Gerda about Elsa's insistence in not attending dinner, the dinner itself and the moment everything went downhill. He told her about the argument between Agdar and Elsa; and he told her about his stupid mistake of forcing Elsa to stay in the table, even when he knew she wasn't feeling okay. He explained the accident and everything after until he reached their home. Kristoff was ashamed of the decisions he had made the night before, but he needed his mother to know.
"kristoff…" said Gerda trying to come up with the right words to help her son feel better. She noticed the guilt he was feeling and his worry. "I don't know what to say," she confessed after a few seconds.
Kristoff looked at her with sadness. "What's there to say? I fucked up." He took a deep breath and continued, "I didn't help Elsa get out of there and now we are in this mess. I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't forgive me."
Gerda had expected Kristoff to be worried for many things at the moment, but he being worried about sister's forgiveness hadn't crossed her mind. She gave him a tender smile and hold his hand. "Don't be ridiculous, Kristoff. Elsa would never blame you for any of this."
"You mean she will blame herself?" asked Kristoff. "That's even worse."
Gerda desperately wanted to tell him it was not true, but she was going to be lying if she said Elsa wouldn't blame herself. She knew her daughter was going to have a hard time accepting what she had done. She could only hope Anna's family would be understanding.
Kristoff interrupted her train of thought when he continued, "I've never seen Elsa so scared before. I didn't know what to say to help her calm down… I wish I hadn't need to drug her like this."
"You did the right thing given the situation, sweetheart." She squeezed his hand reassuringly.
"I drugged her against her will in the middle of the street… Right in front of Anna." He could hear Elsa's begging in his head. "The more I think about it, the worse I feel."
"We've talked about this, Kristoff. It's for the best sometimes. Even if we don't like doing it."
He raised his head ready to contradict her, but they had argued about it many times before. And sadly, he knew it was true. "I just wish… I- Damn it."
She noticed a tear roll down his cheek as he slumped back. Gerda understood his frustration and his fears. She knew he didn't like sedating Elsa, but he was not crumbling in front of her for that reason only. Kristoff was fearing for his sister's well being now that someone outside their family knew. What it meant for Elsa. What it meant for his relationship with Anna. A conversation had spiraled into a bigger problem in the lapse of minutes the night before, and what was going to happen was still uncertain. "C'mere," said Gerda, hugging him tight and letting him rest his head in her shoulder. "I know things look bad right now. But everything will be okay. Don't you worry about your sister. She is safe with us. And don't be too hard on yourself. You did what you thought was right."
"Thank you for always being there for us." Kristoff hugged his mother tighter. Trying to show how much he needed her comfort right at that moment. "I know we are broken and we only cause problems but-"
Gerda detached herself and forced him to look at her in the eyes. "You are not broken. Don't ever say that again. Not you nor Elsa. You are the best thing that could have happened to Kai and me. And we'll always be here for you."
Kristoff could only smile at the affection and sincerity in Gerda's eyes. He hugged her once again but their embrace was interrupted by Kai, who had stepped in the room just a moment before.
"Gerda?" he said, calling their attention. "I think Elsa is waking up. It'd be better for you to stay with her now."
"I'll check," said the old woman standing up. "Would you mind preparing breakfast for us in the meanwhile?"
"Not at all," answered Kai, as he watched her disappear into Elsa's room, closing the door behind her. He then turned to Kristoff. He had heard part of their conversation but there was something he didn't understand."Kristoff?" he called his attention.
Raising his head, Kristoff noticed his father was still standing there, and not in the kitchen like he had imagined, "yeah?"
"Why did you force Elsa to stay last night? You know her better than anyone on that matter."
Kristoff knew his father's question was well-intentioned, but he couldn't help but hear some disappointment in his voice. "Because I'm an idiot. She excused herself - like I suggested her doing hours earlier - but I panicked and stopped her."
Kristoff didn't want to admit to his father he had always tried to impress his father-in-law. He had a lot of respect and admiration for the man, and he wanted to prove he was good enough for Anna. Kristoff knew he behaved differently in Agdar's presence - even Elsa had noticed - but he didn't feel comfortable admitting it. Kai and Gerda had worked hard to make him and Elsa understand their past didn't rule their future. And he didn't want to disappoint his father. However, seeing there was no logical explanation for his actions the night before, he confessed, "I didn't want Anna's parents to think any less of Elsa or me. I know it's stupid, but I was afraid Agdar was going to lose respect for us."
"Kristoff, we've talked about this… if Agdar thought any less of you after an argument he started, then that's his problem. Not yours. And especially not Elsa's."
"I know. I- I just wanted the argument to stop and for them to apologise." Kristoff knew Kai was right, but he had noticed how much Elsa enjoyed Anna's company, and he wanted them to be good friends. He wanted his in-laws to like and accept Elsa just as much as they accepted him.
Kai extended his hand to help him stand up, as he said, "I understand. Just remember you and Elsa are as good as anyone else. Next time, let Elsa set her own boundaries, okay?"
Kristoff nodded and accepted his hand, standing up. The two of them walked into the kitchen to prepare breakfast and keep their mind occupied.
Elsa woke up and recognised the drowsiness she felt and the pounding in her head. She knew she had been drugged, but she couldn't remember much about the day before. Her heart rate accelerated as she tried to figure out where she was, but to her relief she was able to recognise the shelf opposite to the bed when she opened her eyes. The stuffed animals Gerda had gifted her when she'd moved in with the Bjorgmans were looking at her; letting her know she was in her old bedroom. She groaned as she felt a too familiar sickness take over her body. She knew the dose of Benzodiazepine had probably been too strong this time, and her body was feeling the effect. She tried to sit, but a warm hand stopped her, caressing her hair. The gentle touch belonged to Gerda, she knew - so, she closed her eyes once again and let her body relax. She was not sure what had happened, but if her mother was there, she could rest assured she was safe.
"Elsa?" asked Gerda after watching her daughter close her eyes again. "How are you feeling?"
Elsa opened one eye to look at the old woman sitting by her side and muttered a simple 'hi'. She knew something had happened the day before, it was the only explanation for her to be waking up there, and for Gerda to be looking after her. But for some reason, she let herself enjoy the feeling of being oblivious, at least for one more minute.
"Are you okay?" It was not normal for Elsa to be so at ease after an anxiety attack, and her attitude worried Gerda. She just hoped Kristoff hadn't used more drug than necessary.
"I feel a little sick," answered the girl as she sat on the bed. With a crestfallen expression she asked, "What did I do?"
The tiredness in the girl's voice gave her the idea Elsa had given up. As if she knew that whatever had happened to her had been her fault, and she was merely waiting for the answer. It broke Gerda's heart to think that she couldn't give her daughter another answer. She couldn't tell her she hadn't done anything this time. But there was no point in lying or delaying the inevitable. She sighed and held Elsa's hand in hers before telling her what Kristoff had told her minutes earlier.
Kristoff and Kai could hear Gerda talking in Elsa's room, and they could feel the temperature in the house dropping. They knew Elsa was reliving what had happened the night before. Years of living with Elsa had got them used to the idea of the temperature changing inside the house at any time, however, it didn't mean it was any easier for them. Especially now that they knew the reason behind it. Both men knew it was best to let Gerda calm Elsa down before going into the room.
An hour later, Gerda entered the kitchen with a sad look. It was all Kristoff needed to know Elsa was not taking it good.
"She wants to talk to you," said Gerda, looking at Kristoff.
Not saying a word, he stood up and walked towards his sister's room. When he entered, he saw Elsa lost in thought looking at her hands. Even with her head down, he could notice her red puffy eyes. Kristoff cleared his throat and muttered her name.
Elsa looked at him and her face contorted with pain. Fresh tears rolled down her face, "Kristoff... I'm so sorry, I-" a sob interrupting her apology.
Kristoff rushed to her side, putting his arm around her. He knew Elsa was crying her frustration and he wanted her to know he was there for her. Since Elsa had joined the family, her life had revolved around keeping her powers under control. Working hard to live a normal life without them getting in the way. For years, she hadn't been able to leave their parents' house out of fear of hurting others; little by little she had found the courage to insert into society and doing things around other people. Moving to the mountain, where the contact with people was more controlled, had given her the chance to find a good balance between being part of society and being on her own. And after six years without an accident, she had believed she had finally found the strength she needed to control her powers. The accident in Anna's house was a slap in the face for the girl. Serving as a reminder that she was not ready. That she still couldn't be trusted around normal people, and it hurt more than Elsa had imagined.
Elsa hugged her brother tight as she cried. There were so many things she needed to say. She wanted to apologise, to beg for Kristoff's forgiveness. After all, she had probably ruined his relationship with Anna's family by almost strucking Idunn. She had probably lost Anna's trust too. There was no way the girl was going to accept her after what she had done. She had managed in a simple dinner to lose the only friend - beside her brother - she had, and probably ruined Kristoff's life in the process. The more she thought about it, the more she cried, not being able to talk and apologise like she wanted.
"Don't apologise, Elsa" he begged. "It's not your fault. Please calm down." He knew his words were not going to have an effect on her in that state, but he needed to try. He needed Elsa to see he didn't blame her. He had no idea what the future hold, but there was something he knew for sure, whatever happened was not his sister's fault.
After a minute, she calmed herself down enough to say, "I ruined everything."
"You didn't ruin anything." The incredulous look on her face force him to elaborate, "I left the house with you yesterday, so I haven't talked to them yet. So, let's not jump to conclusions. I'll explain what happened. They'll understand. You'll see. I know we can trust them." Kristoff didn't know if he was saying it to reassure Elsa or himself. He didn't know for certain how Anna's parents were going to react, but he desperately needed to believe his words.
Elsa detached from him and dried her eyes. She had finally calmed enough to discuss their situation, "they won't be okay with someone like me being around their only daughter, Kristoff." Looking at her hands with disdain, she muttered, "I hope they don't hold a grudge against you for this…"
"If they do, then maybe they are not the right family for me."
Alarmed by his brother's words Elsa turned to look at him, "don't say that! You love Anna. I know it would crush you if you were forced to stop seeing her because of me."
"That's true," admitted Kristoff. "But I know Anna, and she would never let this fall apart because of an accident. That's why I know they will listen and try to understand."
Looking at her hands again, Elsa thought of how close she had been from striking Idunn. "It's hard to ignore fear, Kristoff. If her parents or Anna don't feel comfortable around a freak like me, there's nothing I can do but accept it."
"They shouldn't fear you. You are not dangerous," he couldn't stand Elsa talking about herself like that.
Elsa didn't dare say anything. She couldn't find in herself the strength to believe she wasn't dangerous.
"Do you hear me?" he forced her to look at him. "You are not."
Kristoff's certainty gave her the strength she needed to reckon she was not. "What would I do without you?" It was not the first time she'd wondered about it.
Seeing the perfect opportunity to lift her spirits, he answered, "you would eat a lot of pickled herring. There wouldn't be anyone telling Gerda how awful it tastes."
Elsa laughed wholeheartedly knowing it was true. And Kristoff joined her. There were still things he wanted to talk with her. He still needed to apologise to her, but what was the point of doing it right at that moment. They still had a lot of time.
Chapter 11: Repercussions
Kristoff arrived at Anna's house later that day. After he had talked with Elsa and he had made sure she was more or less okay, he had gone to his apartment to feed Sven and change. He tried to look more presentable, even if it didn't really helped with the conversation he was about to have with Anna and her family.
He stood in their front door for a minute thinking the best way to address the topic, but he thought it was best to just let conversation flow. He knocked three times and took a deep breath to calm his nerves. He was not only going to face his in-laws, he was also about to face Anna and say he had lied to her from the beginning. It was not really his truth to tell to begin with, but he felt guilty for keeping her in the dark nonetheless.
It felt like hours until the door finally opened. Idunn greeted him with something he recognised as surprise, "Kristoff… hello."
kristoff couldn't blame them for not expecting him to visit so soon after the incident, but he felt it was necessary to clear things up as soon as possible. Not to mention convince them to keep quiet about his sister's secret. "Hi," said Kristoff timidly. "I'm sorry I came unannounced, but I felt it was necessary to come and-" he tried to explain his reasons for showing up so suddenly, but she interrupted him.
"No need to apologise. Please, come in," said Idunn reassuringly.
"Hello, Kristoff," said Agdar as he watched Kristoff enter the living room. "Have a seat."
"Would you like something to drink?" asked Idunn, not really knowing what to say or do. Both parties were nervous to talk with the other but for different reasons. Kristoff was still debating what to say while Idunn and Agdar felt Kristoff could guess something was wrong with them. Idunn felt somewhat relieved Anna was still sleeping, she was not sure how Anna was going to react to the new reality she was living in, and she wanted to talk with her daughter once before anything left the family.
"No," said Kristoff, clearing his throat afterwards. He was more nervous than he had anticipated. "No, that's okay. Where is Anna?"
"She is sleeping."
"We had a long night," clarified Agdar.
He had meant to make the comment as part of the conversation, but Kristoff misunderstood the meaning. "Oh, dear. Okay… I can imagine," he said knowing it was time he began talking about Elsa and the accident the previous night. "That's why I'm here actually."
Idunn looked at him, and suddenly realised it was illogical Kristoff knew anything about their past. It was clear the young man was there to talk about the other 'big' thing that had happened the night before. It was not Kristoff's fault Elsa's powers were old news to the Arendelle family after all. He was there ready to explain Elsa's misfortune and he was more nervous than they had ever seen him. She thought it was best to let him know they were not mad or anything, "Kristoff, we can't say we are not surprised." That part was true. "But-"
"No, wait," interrupted Kristoff. Something told him he needed to explain his sister's story and condition before he let them talk. He needed them to hear him out before they made up their mind about anything regarding Elsa. "Before you say anything, I want to apologise," he began. "What happened last night was terrible. I know things shouldn't have ended the way they did, and that's why I'm here. To apologise in the name of Elsa and explain what you saw. Elsa… She has a condition." He made a pause and tried to think the best way to explain his sister's powers. One thing was to talk about them with his family, where everyone knew about them. Another completely different was mentioning 'ice powers' to other people and not sound like a lunatic. "Okay, it's really hard to explain this. Elsa can control ice and snow. She can create ice and snow at will… Well, not completely at will, if her emotions are too strong she loses control, like she did last night," he hurried the last part trying to explain it had been an accident and not Elsa's choice. "What you saw yesterday was an example of what she can do."
"Actually, Kristoff we don't-" tried to say Agdar but once again Kristoff interrupted.
"No, please, let me finish," he would have never interrupted his parents-in-law so much in the past. But this time he felt Elsa's well being depended on his apology and how much Idunn and Agdar understood his worries. "This is really important. I know what happened yesterday doesn't look good." He looked at Idunn directly and explained, "my sister almost struck you with an ice blast and it's understandable if you are afraid of her because of that. But please, believe me when I say she is not dangerous." He turned his attention towards Agdar to make sure both of them listened clearly, "her powers may be scary sometimes, but they can also be incredibly beautiful. She always control her powers and she never uses them in front of other people, never. However, they are connected to her emotions." Truth be told, no one in his family knew if that was the case, but it was the only explanation they had found to Elsa's struggle. "She can't hold her powers back when she is under too much stress."
Agdar and Idunn remained quiet. All their life they had wondered what Elsa's powers were and how they worked, to hear Kristoff reasoning about they being connected to her emotions suddenly made a lot of sense to the couple. Even if the explanation lacked substantial proof, it made more sense than anything they had ever thought.
Kristoff understood their silence as a sign to complete the idea, and so he did, "when that happens, one of us, - my family, I mean - is there to help her calm down. Last night, I should have let Elsa leave the table on time. I should have helped her, but I didn't. So, what happened is not her fault. She tried to do the right thing. She is aware of her power and always tries to protect people. The ice blast was not intentional. She would never hurt other people."
Agdar looked at Kristoff and analysed his body language. The young man still looked nervous, no doubt he was waiting for an answer - a reaction of some kind -. But he seemed sincere and sure of what he was saying. He was ready to take the blame for the accident, even if he was not the one with the powers. Even if the only one to blame was Agdar himself. Agdar knew he was the reason Elsa had reacted the way she did. So, he tried to calm Kristoff's worry, "Her powers were a shocking surprise. We cannot lie." Even if a person possessing ice powers wasn't something new for them, to see them in a young woman who fitted the description of their daughter had indeed been a great surprise. "We are still trying to process what happened here last night. But we can't blame your sister..."
Afraid of what her husband was about to say, Idunn stepped in, "what Agdar is trying to say is… we understand. Well, we don't really understand much about her powers but we don't think she tried to hurt us on purpose."
"She didn't," confirmed Kristoff relieved it was them who were saying it. "And the snowstorm, after she left the house, was an accident too. She was scared. She didn't mean any of this."
"How is your sister?" asked Idunn, worried about the girl. She hadn't stopped thinking about her long lost daughter the whole night, and she couldn't help herself from asking.
"Truth is, she feels terrible for what she did. She is afraid of the repercussions this may have." Kristoff took the opportunity to ask for the only favour he needed from Anna's family. "I beg you not to tell anyone about Elsa's powers. If word is spread about them, we don't know what people may want to do to her. We can talk about her powers if you want. I can explain as much as my family knows about them if that will ease your mind; but, promise me you'll keep the secret. Trust my word when I say, 'my sister is not dangerous'."
Their heart broke at Kristoff's concern. He not only wanted to make sure his sister was going to be safe, but he also wanted other people know - to believe - she was safe to be around.
Before they got a chance to answer, Anna thought it was a good moment to let them know she had been hearing the conversation too. She had heard Kristoff talking downstairs when she woke up, and rushed to the living room to talk and listen to what he had to say. Luckily, she had arrived just as he began his explanation. Not wanting to interrupt him, she sat in the staircase and listened. She was also curious about her parents reactions. She doubted they were going to say anything to Kristoff just like that, but she needed to hear what they thought.
After Idunn's question and Kristoff's plea, she felt it was necessary for her to speak in the name of her parents. She suspected they weren't going to talk, but it wasn't a bad idea to make it clear she didn't want them saying a word about Elsa either. "They won't say a word," she said, surprising everyone in the room. She stood up and walk towards the sofa, where her parents were sitting.
"Anna, I didn't know you were up," said Kristoff, not knowing if she had heard enough to understand Elsa's condition. He made a mental note to ask her about it.
Anna didn't answer and continued, "They can keep the secret. I'm sure they won't say a word."
Idunn and Agdar got Anna's message clearly. She was asking them to comply with Kristoff's wishes, as well as showing she was still hurt by their secrets. Idunn was the first one to assure Kristoff he had their word, "We won't, Kristoff. Your sister's secret is safe."
The young man sighed in relief, "This means a lot to Elsa and my family." He turned to Anna, he still felt guilty for keeping her in the dark about Elsa, "I'm sorry I didn't say anything about this sooner. But you may understand it wasn't easy."
Anna looked at him in the eyes and knew he was being sincere, even more than her parents the night before. Kristoff was truly sorry for not sharing this truth before, even when the secret didn't belong to him. She understood then all the times he had apologised for not explaining Elsa's behaviour. Every time he had said to her 'you'll understand one day', came to her mind and she felt her heart warm at the idea that he had intended to tell her from the beginning, he just didn't know how to do it. And she understood now why; her sister-in-law's powers were something unbelievable; unless you had the chance to see them in person.
Before she could answer or reassure Kristoff she was okay with his decision, her father said, "We understand. There are some things that are difficult to talk about." He turned his head to his daughter for the second part.
The action got on Anna's nerves in an instant. She was trying to be understanding of her parents past, but the way they were acting was not helping her. Before she could analyse what she was doing she said, "That's right. And there's something my parents need to talk about too." She looked at her parents and said, "and it'd be better to talk about it now."
Even if her tone leave no room for contradictions, Agdar tried to dissuade his daughter, "Anna, I don't think it's the right time…"
Kristoff thought it was related to the accident the previous night, and immediately accepted, "I came here to talk. If there's something you need to say, I'll be glad to listen."
Anna's parents felt trapped and soon realised their daughter was not going to let them get away from it. Reluctantly, Idunn took the initiative like she did the previous night, and began talking.
On the other side of town, Gerda entered her daughter's bedroom ready to offer her some food when she noticed she wasn't there. "Elsa, would you like to-" she was surprised to find the bed empty and no sign of her in the room nor the bathroom. "Elsa?"
She walked around the house looking for the girl until she found her standing in the middle of their yard under the falling snow. Gerda had to accept she still found it a bit disturbing how Elsa could stay in the snow with just light clothes on, but she had given up trying to make her wear warm clothes years ago.
"There you are," she said as she walked the distance from the house to the place she was standing. Unlike her daughter, she had taken the time to put on a warm jacket before joining her. "How are you feeling, sweetheart?"
Elsa kept looking at the falling snow, making Gerda think she hadn't heard her, but after a deep breath she answered, "I'm better."
"Would you like to eat something?"
"I'm not hungry… Where is Kristoff?"
"He left an hour or two ago. He wanted to go to his apartment before heading to Anna's house. Did you need anything?"
"I just wanted to talk to him."
"Well, he said he was going to come back later." Gerda noticed Elsa was more distracted than usual. She couldn't expect her to feel perfectly fine after everything that had happened, but she wished the girl could forgive herself for her mistakes more easily. She looked up and noticed the snowfall was steadily becoming stronger, "are you sure you are okay?"
"It's not me. It's the weather," replied Elsa, offended by the question when she noticed her mother had paid attention to the snow before asking.
"I didn't- I was not-" Gerda tried to come up with an excuse, but there was nothing she could say. It was true she had just tried to read her daughter through the snow instead of paying attention to her directly. Something she also knew Elsa despised. "I'm sorry. I just worry about you."
Elsa remained quiet paying attention to everything around her except her mother. She didn't feel like talking, but she knew it was best if she did, "I feel so guilty."
The old woman cut the distance between them, standing by her side and holding her left hand tenderly. "What happened last night was an accident, Elsa. It's not your fault your powers are attached to your emotions."
"I can only hope Anna is not too afraid of me now. I can't blame her if she won't talk to me again after this."
"Don't say that. Kristoff will talk to her." She hold her hand tighter, trying not to shudder at the cold temperature. "Anna will understand. She cares about you."
"Gerda," said Elsa surprising her mother. She only used her name when she needed her to listen. "I almost hurt her mother last night. You should stop pretending I'm not dangerous. It'll be normal for Anna to be scared."
"You are not. And she won't be." When Elsa finally turned her eyes to her mother's, Gerda noticed all the pain and shame she felt.
"I should just return to the North mountain and make things easier for everyone." The idea had been in her mind for the last few hours, and she felt it was time she voiced it.
"Elsa, you can't isolate yourself for the rest of your life. It's not healthy."
"Then what do you want me to do?!" her voice cracked.
Gerda noticed she was exasperated. Her powers and the problems they were causing were taking a toll on her daughter and her patience was wearing thin. "I want you to show Anna your powers are part of you. Show her you try harder than anyone to be the best version of yourself, and she will be your friend... There are people out there who we'll love you the way you are. Just like we did." Gerda raised her hand and kissed it like she used to do when Elsa was younger. The old woman had picked the habit after the first night Elsa had stayed in their house. Elsa, at the time, had been afraid of not earning the Bjorgmans' trust; and kissing her hand had been the only way Gerda had found to prove the young girl she believed in her.
Elsa gave her mother a shy smile. The gesture had meant more to Elsa than she had ever admitted out loud, and ti still had the same soothing effect. The memories brought back a question she hadn't dared ask when she was younger though, "weren't you afraid of me when you first saw my powers? When I almost froze your hand in the hospital?"
Taken aback by the question, since Elsa rarely mentioned that time of their life, she answered, "I was surprised, but not afraid no."
"Because the first thing I saw in your face after it was regret, dear. Dangerous people don't show regret for their actions."
Elsa looked at her with amazement. The answer was so sincere it took down Elsa's belief that Gerda had been afraid of her at the beginning. She had always thought the old woman had fought that fear and conquered it over time, after they got to know each other.
Without thinking it twice, Elsa hugged her mother and hold her tight. Gerda's love and acceptance had always made her feel better, and she couldn't put into words how much she loved her and needed her in her life. Gerda's trust made her feel better, giving her the idea that maybe there was a chance Anna could see past her powers, like the old woman had all those years ago.
Gerda hugged her back, enjoying the rare moment where Elsa let her guard down, forgot about her fears and let herself enjoy human contact. "Don't let your fears and insecurities control your life, Elsa."
The main door of Anna's house flung open and an angry Kristoff stormed off. He had tried to be patient enough with his parents-in-law for some minutes. But as the information and the realisation that they had been the ones responsible for Elsa's miserable childhood sank in, he knew he had had enough. He'd had been patient enough, and he left them talking to themselves as he left the house. He couldn't care less for their reasons - for their excuses - all he knew was they had had the chance to give his sister a good life, but they had chosen the easy way out. He was only half way to his truck when he heard Anna's pleas right behind him.
"Kristoff, wait, come back!"
Of course she was going to follow him. Of course Anna was going to see the good in everything and she was going to try to mediate things between them. Kristoff loved her for that, but at that moment he didn't want to listen. He kept walking in the snow, not bothering to look back.
He heard her closer to him and he knew it was a matter of seconds before she grabbed his arm and tried to stop him. Before she got the chance, he turned around and said, "No!" harshly than intended. "No," he tried again, calming himself down. "I'm not going back there. You know what Elsa means to me. I don't care what they have to say."
Anna stopped in her tracks a few metres from him. She knew the truth was going to difficult for Kristoff to accept, but she hadn't thought he was going to react like that. "Kristoff, this is important. My parents need to talk about this with you, and more importantly with Elsa. They need to-"
"No," interrupted Kristoff. "Whatever they need is not my concern."
"If you could just please listen!" pleaded Anna.
"I don't care for their reasons. I came here to apologise. I came here in name of Elsa, who by the way feels like shit for what she did," he clarified, trying to let Anna understand why he was so angry. The accident the previous night had happened because he wanted Elsa to earn the respect and approval of Anna's parents, and now he found out that they were the ones who should be begging for respect. He felt betrayed by her parents and he didn't like the feeling. "I came here to ask for forgiveness on her part, only to find out your parents knew about her powers all along. I forced Elsa to stay here yesterday because I thought your father deserved respect. And now I find out about this?" he took a deep breath to try and calm his nerves. "I'm not going back there to talk with them."
"What about Elsa?" asked Anna, hoping he was going to change his mind if he thought this was something that could be life changing for Elsa.
He looked down, brows knitted together. He knew deep down this was about his sister's life, but his instinct told him to protect Elsa. His sister usually said she didn't give her biological parents much thought, but Kristoff remembered the conversations they'd had when they were kids. He remembered Elsa confessing her fear was to find out she had been left behind because she was different. And that was pretty much what they had done. Making up his mind, he said, "Elsa's got enough shit in her life to deal with something like this right now." With that, he turned and left in the direction of his vehicle.
"Doesn't she deserve to know the truth?" she tried again as she saw him climb into the truck. She felt her hope raise when she saw him roll down the window, she hurried to listen to his answer.
In a low voice, he answered, "she deserves to live a normal life... A life she could have lived if it wasn't for your parents." He knew his words were hurting Anna, but he couldn't pretend. Not in front of her. "I'm sorry. I am. But I don't care for their excuses."
Anna watched him leave in the same spot she had stood the night before. And just like the previous night, she stayed there for a few minutes before returning to her house. She couldn't blame Kristoff, especially when she felt betrayed by her parents too. But she didn't agree with him, accepting or not her parents' reasons was not his or her decision to make; it was Elsa's, and for that to happen Elsa needed to know the truth. She knew it was going to be difficult, but no one deserved to be left in the dark about something so important.
She entered the living room and soon her mother was by her side, "is Kristoff okay? Is he-?"
"He left," said Anna crestfallen. She had hoped for the conversation to end up differently.
"It was not the right time…" said Agdar.
Anna heard the sadness in her father's voice, but she felt her anger raise again anyway. "Then when was going to be the right time, dad? Somewhere between now and the next twenty-four years?"
Agdar knew there was no point in arguing, he looked down and accepted his daughter's outrage in silence.
It crushed her to see her father like that, but she couldn't find it in herself to forgive them just yet. She knew it was going to be easier for her to accept her parent's past when they did the right thing and finally confessed the truth to the person they had hurt the most with their lies. Still, she couldn't stand looking at her father like that and tried to explain her actions, "I couldn't keep the secret from Kristoff. It was necessary to tell him. I thought he was going to understand this better."
"I don't blame him," said Idunn. "It mustn't be easy. Elsa has always been his sister. Her biological family appearing out of thin air must be a scary idea for him."
Anna felt like a fool for not thinking about that sooner. She had been so focused on the truth and doing the next right thing, she hadn't stopped to think what it could mean to Kristoff and his family. "I hadn't thought about that… But I still believe Elsa deserves to know the truth. I'll let Kristoff think about this; but then, you are going to come clean with Elsa and her family."
"Do you really think it's for the best?" asked Agdar.
"I'm not sure," answered Anna, sitting by his side. "All I know is, it's the right thing to do."
The following day, Elsa got up and found her parents having breakfast together; her father had just returned from a night shift at the police station, and it was usual for them to enjoy breakfast together before Kai catch up on his sleep.
She poured a cup of coffee and sat down on the table with them. After their typical conversation, Elsa thought it was time to ask about her brother. She had hoped for Kristoff to visit the previous night, and tell her how everything had gone with his in-laws; but to her surprise, he hadn't showed up. Elsa had been worried but Gerda convinced her to wait for him to call.
"Did Kristoff call?" asked Elsa, hoping for a positive answer. Her hopes were short lived since Gerda shook her head.
"Not yet. I bet he stayed at her place," tried to reason her mother.
"Kristoff doesn't like staying over. What if something happened?"
"I'm sure everything is okay, dear. But you could try and call him later."
Elsa nodded, thinking it was the best course of action. Besides, she knew Kristoff was not going to be able to show up later, he had to work in the afternoon.
"How's your leg, Elsa?" asked Kai. He hadn't had the chance to ask the day before, since the accident had been their main discussion, but he wanted to make sure his daughter was feeling okay. "Kristoff said you hit the floor pretty bad the other day."
Elsa hadn't given her leg much thought if she had to be honest. It had been throbbing, becoming a little annoying. However, she didn't want to worry her parents, or be forced to go to the doctor; so, she dismissed the pain. "It's okay."
Gerda was not convinced. Elsa could hide her pain very well, but she was a bad liar in general. Her eyes wouldn't meet Kai's when she answered and the old woman knew she was probably hiding how she was feeling. She just hoped it was nothing serious. But she made the mental note to keep a close eye to Elsa's movements, just in case.
Kristoff woke up when Sven jumped over him and licked his face. He groaned, annoyed to be awaken after the restless sleep he'd had the previous night. The news about Anna's parents being Elsa's biological ones hadn't set well with him. He had not only been terribly disappointed by them, but also the idea of telling his sister the truth was worrisome. How was he going to look at her and explain her biological parents had had the chance to raise her but had chosen not to? He had no idea. He tried to fall asleep once again when Sven barked startling him.
"What is it, Sven?" he asked, not being in the mood to leave the bed before it was completely necessary. It was after his question, he noticed the line phone was ringing in the living room. He then understood better Sven's insistence, but cursed his luck. He got up and rushed to the phone. He hoped it was not his boss needing him before his shift.
He answered and Elsa's relieved voiced greeted him back. He cursed his luck again, he was not ready to talk with Elsa just yet. His sister could easily pick up when something was not right - even over the phone - and he was not ready to pretend everything was okay.
"Kristoff. I was worried. You didn't come back yesterday."
"I stayed with Anna for a while and then came home," he lied. "I didn't want Sven to be alone."
"Is everything okay?"
"Yes." Of course she was going to realise in a instant things were not okay.
"Are you sure?" he noticed the apprehension in her voice. "Could you explain things to Anna and her family?"
It was then, he remembered he had left Elsa the day before with the promise of explaining things to Anna and apologising in her name. He mentally beat himself up for not remembering the night before. For sure his sister had thought things had gone wrong with his in-laws. If he had to be honest, things had gone wrong. But not for the reasons Elsa believed. If there was anything good about the truth, it was that they were not going to mention Elsa powers to anyone. They hadn't done so in over twenty years, they were not going to start then.
"They understand," he said. At least that much was true. "They let me talk and explain what happened. They understand it was an accident"
"What about my powers? Will they-?"
Kristoff smiled when he noticed she let a sigh of relief. "They won't say anything. Don't worry."
"What about Anna? Is she disappointed? Scared?"
'Oh, she must be disappointed,' thought Kristoff. He couldn't even imagine what Anna must have felt when her parents told her the truth. He felt guilty for leaving her the way he did the previous day, but his anger had clouded his good judgement.
Before he got the chance to answer, he heard his sister over the phone say, "I would like to apologise to her. I feel better today and I think I should talk to her personally."
"Anna could never be scared. She is… surprised. Things turned out differently than she expected them to be." He didn't know if he was talking about Elsa's truth or her parents' anymore, but he continued, "But she's Anna. She'll see the good in everything."
"Are you coming to mum and dad's place today?" asked Elsa. She was hoping to see her brother in person to talk some more.
"Maybe later, after work," he lied again. He didn't know if he was ready to face his sister just yet. If Elsa saw his worry, she was not going to stop asking questions until he told her the truth. And he didn't know if he wanted her to know the truth.
Brother and sister talked for a couple more minutes and then they said their goodbyes. When Kristoff hung the phone, he sat on the closest chair and rested his head on his hands.
Sven sensed something was off with his owner and rested his head on his thigh. Kristoff scratch his head and said, "what am I going to tell her, buddy?"
"You know Anna's right. You can't keep this from Elsa." It had been a long time since he had 'talked' for Sven. It was a habit he had picked just to annoy his sister when they had adopted the dog; but from time to time, he still did it to clear his mind or put his ideas into perspective.
"But the truth is not always good..."
Kristoff could have swore Sven gave him an skeptical look, as if he knew what he was talking about.
"Don't look at me like that. I'm trying to protect her. If she finds out she's Anna's sister she will know for a fact her childhood could have been amazing, but she was forced to live through hell because Agdar and Idunn didn't try." He let out a tired sigh, before he continued, "she was finally opening up. She had finally found a friend in Anna, and now this comes to light…"
Sven tilted his head and Kristoff interpreted it as a question, 'What are you going to do?'
"I won't tell her. Not yet at least."
Days went by, Kristoff kept avoiding visiting his parents' house. He had only stopped by one day to leave some clothes for Elsa on his way to work, but he hadn't stayed long. Truth was, he didn't want to face Elsa or his parents for real until he made up his mind.
He had talked to Anna over the phone one night, but their conversation hadn't been useful either. He had called her to make sure she was okay with everything that was going on in her life, but the girl just insisted in talking about what was best for Elsa and their families. Making it harder for him to concentrate on Anna's feelings and not starting an argument with her. He wanted things to go back to normal. He wanted his sister return to his apartment and for Anna to visit every night without a worry in the world. He kept beating himself up over the things he had done wrong. For forcing Elsa to attend dinner and forcing her to stay at the table that night. But he knew the past couldn't be changed, he could only accept it and try to move forward.
It was for that reason that, five days after finding out the truth about Elsa's parents, Kristoff thought it was time he faced Elsa. He still had no idea what to tell the girl, or if telling her the truth at all was worth it. But he knew he couldn't avoid his sister forever. It was not his sister's fault Agdar and Idunn had confessed being her biological parents, and it certainly wasn't her fault he had had an argument with them. It was not her fault he couldn't stand the fact that a family like Anna's had abandoned Elsa when she was just a baby. He couldn't stand the fact that they had deliberately chosen the leave her behind just because she was different.
Kristoff parked his truck in front of his parents house and then noticed there was a familiar car parked a few metres from where he was. At the beginning he thought it was just a coincidence, but as he got closer, he noticed the car was not only similar to Anna's family car, it was indeed their car. His stomach dropped and he rushed to the back door. He wasn't sure what his in-laws were doing there, and he didn't want them to see him before he got the chance to talk with his parents. He opened the back door that led to the kitchen, startling his mother in the process.
Gerda, who was making coffee for the guests when he rushed in, yelped, "Kristoff, you nearly kill me!"
"What are they doing here?" he asked in a low voice, as he got closer to his mother.
"What are Anna's parents doing here?" he repeated. "They shouldn't be here."
"Kristoff, what are you talking about? They called yesterday. They said they would feel better if they got the chance to talk with Elsa about what happened. And Elsa agreed," she explained. "I thought you knew."
"No, I didn't." He walked to the door that led to the living room and tried to see if Elsa was with them. She was, and he could see they were exchanging pleasantries. "They have to go," he said, turning to his mother once again.
"What?" to say she was surprised was an understatement. "Dear, what are you saying?"
"It's not the best time for them to be here…" He didn't know how to explain himself without saying they were Elsa's parents, and he wanted to avoid that until Elsa was present. "I need to talk to Elsa."
"Kristoff, Anna called and explained they wanted to talk with your sister. Your sister said she wanted to apologise in person and they agreed to meet. You'd have known that if you hadn't disappeared this week." Gerda took the opportunity to reprimand Kristoff for his disappearance. She, like Elsa, had been worried for him.
Kristoff watched his mother arrange everything in the plate and he stopped her before she could enter the living room. "Mum, listen to me," he whispered. "They are not here to talk about the accident. We need to ask them to leave."
"Kristoff," answered in a low voice Gerda. "what's gotten into you?"
Not knowing what else to say, he grabbed her arm and said, "They are Elsa's-"
He was interrupted by a question Elsa asked Agdar in the living room before he could complete the idea. "What do you mean 'parents'? What is this?"
"-parents…" finished Kristoff, bowing his head and letting out a sigh.
"What?!" asked Gerda as she handed him the plate and rushed into the living room to see what was going on.
Kristoff left the plate on the counter, and followed his mother. When he entered the room, he saw Agdar, Idunn and Anna sitting on the sofa facing Elsa, who was sitting in one of the armchairs.
"We-" Idunn cleared her throat as she tried to say out loud the truth. "We are your biological parents, Elsa."
"The other day," cut in Agdar. "When we got the chance to meet you, we realised you were - are - our daughter." He had corrected himself mid sentence. It was strange to say those words out loud to the girl.
"We know it sounds crazy. We couldn't believe it ourselves, but then… With the things you mentioned and your powers, we- we kind of knew," explained Idunn. She knew the questions how and why were coming and she tried to make things easier for her to understand.
Gerda, who still couldn't believe her ears, soon took the initiative, "you cannot simply come in here and say you are her parents without some kind of proof."
Agdar, diverted his eyes from Elsa, who was frozen looking at the papers he had given her before, and looked at Gerda. "What Elsa is holding right now are her papers. All the information about her birth and her identity." He felt bad for the woman, he knew Elsa's identity affected her life too.
"They came here to come clean and apologise." Anna tried in vain to make eye contact with Elsa who wouldn't stop looking at the papers in her hands. "You deserve to know who you are," she said, hoping she would react in some way.
Kristoff stood frozen in place. He'd had never imagined Idunn and Agdar were going to show up in his parents' house like that, claiming to be Elsa's biological family, just a few days after they had found out themselves. Sure, there was no easy way to tell the truth, but it felt wrong to simply appear into the girl's life that way. His anger was building up and he wanted to yell at them, to kick them out, but he needed to control himself. He was not sure how Elsa was going to take the news since she had remained incredibly still, reading the same papers over and over again. From his place near the kitchen door, he couldn't see what she was holding, but he guessed it was a birth certificate or something of the sort. The only other person who had remained quiet beside Elsa and himself, was his father. Kai remained on his chair, eyes fixed on his daughter.
After a few seconds, Kristoff noticed Anna looking at him from the other side of the room. The moment their eyes met, she mumbled an apology before turning her eyes to Elsa once again. He knew there was no way Anna wanted to create chaos in Elsa's life; but in his opinion, she didn't know what she had done. Since the accident at the slope, Elsa's life had been anything but what she wished for it to be. He knew they were pushing her over the edge, and he didn't know how she was going to react.
Gerda walked to the armchair Elsa was sitting and put her hand on her shoulder to let her know she was there; but the action startled the girl, making her shudder and come out of her catatonic state. Gerda was about to apologise and ask if she was feeling okay, when Elsa reached for her crutches and stood up.
"You should leave," said Elsa in a low voice before walking towards the door that led to her room. She didn't meet the their eyes as she said so, and she made an effort not to look at Anna. She didn't know how to take the news, but she didn't want to find out in their presence. Looking at those papers had made her feel sick, and she was not sure she could stay in the room any longer.
Everyone in the room, out of respect and dread of what could happen, stayed silent and let Elsa leave the room. The accident in the Arendelles' house was still present in their mind, and they didn't want to push Elsa.
Anna was the first to get up, ready to see if Elsa needed someone to talk to, when Kristoff blocked her path. "Don't," she heard him say. His body language leaving no place for arguments.
Kristoff looked at Anna and then at his parents-in-law. A hard stare was all they needed to know they were not welcomed there anymore. When they stood up, Kristoff voiced his anger in a simple request, "You heard Elsa. Get out."
At any other time, Gerda and Kai would have reprimanded Kristoff for the way he was addressing them. But they didn't find in themselves the will to do so. They understood Kristoff's anger. They were not at all pleased with the way they had delivered the news to Elsa.
"Kristoff, I think we should talk-" tried to reason Anna, when a pair of hands on her shoulders interrupted her.
Kristoff turned her around gently, "I need you and your parents to leave the house, Anna." His voice was gentle but he was clear enough for her to understand he was not asking. He was demanding them to leave.
Idunn and Agdar mumbled an apology and walked out the door, leaving the house before Kristoff or anyone else asked them again. Things hadn't worked out in the best way, and they knew the best thing to do was comply with Elsa's wishes. Seeing Elsa, sitting right in front of them - now that they knew she was their daughter - had made them feel sadness and guilt they hadn't felt in years. Seeing Elsa lost for words had made things worse.
Anna left the house reluctantly after her parents. She watched her parents get into the car, and she felt the need to try and convince Kristoff. She hadn't forgiven her parents just yet, but she believed things were going to clear up a lot faster if they gave her parents the chance to talk. She turned around and faced her boyfriend who was walking right behind her.
"Kristoff, please, I know you are mad at my parents but we need to talk about this. Elsa needs to know the truth."
"She already knows the truth. You showed up without consulting me and throw the truth in her face!" Kristoff raised his voice. He didn't like fighting. He had never argued with Anna before, at least not for something serious. But he was not ready to accept what they did so easily.
"What did you want me to do?! To keep visiting the two of you and just pretend?" she yelled back.
"No!" answered back. "Maybe I just wanted you to be more patient! To be more understanding!"
Anna was about to reply, when Kai appeared behind his son and stepped between them.
"Enough," he said. "There's no point in fighting over this. What's done is done." Both of them looked at floor. They knew Kai was right. They were only making things worse.
Kai looked at Anna and said, "I appreciate your concern Anna. I understand your motive, but Elsa's the one who should make the choice to listen or not to your parents."
With that, Anna apologised to Kai, mumbled an apology to Kristoff, and climbed into her parents' car.
Chapter 12: Time apart
Only the dim light of a lamp illuminated the room where Elsa was sitting. She was on the same armchair she had been sitting the previous day when she had been told the truth about her birth parents. She was looking at the papers Agdar had given her. Still incredulous about the information detailed there, she kept reading the same words over and over again, as if those documents were going to answer the many questions she had.
The old clock on the corner had just struck four in the morning, when the young woman realised she had been looking at the same old yellow certificates for over half an hour. Her mind had been trying to go over the multiple reasons Agdar and Idunn could have had to abandon her. But the answer was always the same to her, 'You are different.' Her mind would tell her over and over again. 'They could have raised you. They simply chose not to. They raised Anna. You are the problem. You are dangerous. You are different.'
It didn't matter how hard she tried to look for a different answer, her mind always came back to the same conclusion. And it hurt. It hurt more than she had ever imagined. All her life she had said she didn't care about her birth parents. But deep down, she had always wished they had had a good reason to leave her behind. Kristoff's parents had died in a car accident. They loved him, but destiny had other plans for them. Her parents, on the other side, had decided to leave her behind.
She let out a shuddering breath, and then she noticed Kristoff standing by the door. She tried her best to dry the tears that kept falling down her cheeks, but it was useless. She knew her brother had noticed she had been crying even before she had seen him standing there. She tried her best to avoid looking at him, hoping he was going to understand the silent message and leave her alone; but she knew it was a matter of time until he said something to her.
Kristoff, who had seen the light coming from the living room on his way to the bathroom, thought the best thing to do was make sure that whoever was in the living room at that time of the night was okay. His intuition told him it was his sister, but it could have easily been one of his parents too. The news hadn’t sit well with them either.
He was thankful to see it was his sister the one sitting in the armchair. He hadn't had the chance to talk to her during the day, since Elsa refused to leave her room after the Arendelle family left. And in his worry, he had stayed the night, hoping to be there for her whenever she felt ready to leave her room and talk.
"Elsa?" he said when she noticed his presence. He had seen her crying, and felt it was best to let her realise he was there on her own, rather than startle her. He looked at her, waiting for an answer; but she kept looking at those damn certificates as she tried in vain to dry her tears. He didn’t understand her insistence in showing a strong exterior when it was obvious she was in pain.
“How long have you been here?” he asked in a low voice. He didn’t want to wake his parents up. He waited for quite some time, and when it was obvious she was not going to answer, he let out a sigh and tried again, “Elsa.”
“What do you want, Kristoff?” she hissed. She rested her head on her hands, and tried in vain to use her palms to dry the tears. She had hoped he was going to understand her need to be alone, but clearly he was not going to leave without an answer. She was not ready to talk to him, or anyone for that matter, she was still struggling with the realisation that she could have had a family, but they had been better off without her.
He raised his brows in surprise, he had imagined she was going to be hurt, but he didn’t expect her to be angry. Not at the beginning at least. “How are you feeling?” he asked. “We worried when you didn’t open your door at all yesterday.”
“It was frozen shut,” came the short reply. She had tried to open the door at some point during the evening, when Gerda had begged to see her. But her powers had had other plans.
“Oh…” He understood what that meant. Kristoff remembered all the times his parents had tried to help a scared Elsa who had frozen her door after a nightmare. “Do you want to talk?” he said, gesturing to the papers on the coffee table.
Elsa let a tired sigh escape her lips. The tears had stopped, but she didn’t feel good enough to talk to anyone, especially her brother. She loved him, but being honest, she didn’t want to see him at that moment. “People sitting alone in the middle of the night usually don’t want to talk.”
Kristoff pursed his lips as he thought what to say. It was not easy to get Elsa to open up when she didn’t feel like it. “I thought you just couldn’t sleep...” he said. Part of him knew it was best to return to his bedroom, but the last thing he wanted to do was leaving her alone. He couldn’t imagine what was going through her mind at that moment. ‘Probably nothing good,’ he thought.
He walked to the nearest armchair and sat down. He watched the papers on the coffee table and asked, “What are those? Certificates?” Truth was, no-one in the family had read the documents except for Elsa. They felt it was wrong to do so without her consent.
Elsa hesitated before answering. She really wanted Kristoff to leave her alone, but she didn’t want to start an argument either. She thought it was best to tell him, after all, she had noticed the papers were in the same place she had left them. “They detail information about Elsa Arendelle.” Elsa picked them once again as she read some of the information in the birth certificate. “She was born on February 1st. In Romsdal. Her parents were Agdar Arendelle and Idunn Nilsdotter.”
“Your birthday was last week?” asked Kristoff surprised to find out the date of her birthday. Elsa was still older than him by little over a month.
“No,” said Elsa upset. “My birthday was on December 22nd.”
“Elsa…” Kristoff knew what she was doing. She was trying to talk as if Elsa Arendelle was another person entirely, and he knew it was for the worst in the long run. The truth was out there, and even if they didn’t like it, it was better to accept it. He thought himself a hypocrite at that moment though. Just a few days ago he had been trying to do the same thing as Elsa.
“What, Kristoff?” asked Elsa. It was getting harder for her to stay calm.
“Nothing," he replied unsure of what to say. She was angry at him, that much was clear. He was not sure why, but he wanted her to open up. He didn’t want her to keep everything inside. He raised his hands showing innocence and said, “I- I just thought it was interesting to know your birthday... Don’t you?”
She shook her head and looked down. “I’m not this person. This-" said Elsa shaking the paper on her hand. "This is the person I could’ve been. It’s not who I am. Nor who I want to be.”
Kristoff had to admit her answer made sense. It was true Elsa was not the same person than the baby in that certificate. So many things would have been different in her life if she had grown up with her biological family, it was fair to assume they were different people.
They stayed silent for some minutes, each sibling lost in their own thoughts. Kristoff desperately wanted to say something that could make things better, that could erase Elsa's sadness; but nothing seemed right at that moment.
Elsa, on the other hand, kept debating with herself if she should ask her brother what had been on her mind since the previous day. She had heard her brother arguing with Anna. It had been hard to ignore their yells in front of the house, not far away from her window. She had been trying to understand and process what she had just been told, when she heard them outside. The way they had talked about the truth as if it was old news didn't sit well with her.
Making up her mind, and finding the strength to ask, she said, "Did you know?"
Kristoff thought his sister was going to remain silent for as long as she could, so her question surprised him. "What?" he asked, not sure what she was talking about.
"Did you know?" she repeated. "About this…" She pointed to the documents in front of her. "About who I am."
"I did- No..." he hesitated. Kristoff didn't know where the question was coming from, but he felt lost for words. He wanted to be honest, but he didn't know how to explain he had known for a couple of days.
Not liking his hesitation, she asked again, "I heard you and Anna argue yesterday. Please be honest with me, did you know?"
"Yes." He couldn't do it. He couldn't lie to her.
A pained expression was soon replaced by a glare when she registered his words. “Why didn't you tell me?”
“I tried. I mean, I didn’t try. But I was going to-” He ran his hands through his hair. “I didn’t know how to tell you.”
"Is that why you and Anna insisted I met your parents-in-law?" Elsa thought Anna and her brother had realised she was Arandelles’ daughter even before Agdar and Idunn did.
"Is that why you forced me to stay at their house when I begged you to let me go?" Even if at the beginning Elsa had felt guilty about the accident; as days went by, she felt her brother hadn't been fair with her that night. After the initial guilt had faded, she realised Kristoff hadn't really helped her in the Arendelles' house. Not until she had exposed her powers at least. "Did you and Anna want them to come to the realisation they were my parents or something?" Her brain kept making assumptions about that night and everything that had happened since.
"No! I didn't know the truth then!" he protested, raising his voice.
"Then why?!" she asked. Her eyes brimmed with new tears as she continued, "Why did you force me to go and stay there?!"
They both were raising their voices and he knew things were getting out of hand. He needed Elsa to listen and understand. "Yes, I wanted you to meet them; but it was because I wanted Agdar and Idunn to like you that’s all. I’m sorry I forced you to stay that night but I felt the two of you needed to apologise."
"Why would you care if they liked me or not if it's not for this?" She picked her birth certificate just to toss it once again.
"No. Elsa, listen, you are getting it all wrong." he tried to explain. "Anna and I found out the truth, yes. But it was just a few days ago. After the accident." He needed her to understand he would never even consider doing something like that to her. "And the only reason I didn't tell you this week was because I didn't know how! I was still trying to understand the news myself! How can you think I would do something like that to you?!" He tried to be patient but her mistrust was getting on his nerves.
"Then why did it matter if they liked me or not?!" Deep down, Elsa knew she was mixing things up. All the things she had wanted to discuss with her brother were coming out and she didn't even know what made her angrier.
"Because they are the parents of your first friend in forever!" he yelled. He was frustrated. All he wanted was to help her out, but she wouldn't accept it. "Because you were finally willing to try and let someone in! That’s why I wanted you to meet them, and for them to like you.” He noticed she was finally listening to him and took the opportunity to explain himself better about the truth. “And about your parents… I only kept the truth from you for a few days. I swear.”
“Is that why you avoided me like the plague this week?”
Ashamed of himself when he saw his sister’s disappointment, he nodded. “I wanted to protect you.”
“Protect me? From what?”
“From this!” he said, pointing to her and the miserable state she was in. Elsa was still wearing the same clothes she had the day before. Her eyes showed she had been crying for longer than he had originally imagined; and, to make things worse, she had confessed freezing her room without her trying. “From you and your self-destructive thoughts! Don’t tell me this is healthy, Elsa.”
Elsa kept quiet. She was angry with her brother. Angrier than she'd ever remembered being, but she didn’t know what to say. It was true she was in a deplorable state, but it was not necessary for him to point it out. She couldn’t help feeling the way she did, and he made it sound as if it was all her fault.
“Do you feel better knowing the truth?” he asked.
“Of course not,” she yelled all of a sudden, surprising herself. “But I wouldn’t feel so miserable if I knew my brother cared enough to tell me truth.”
“You think I don’t care about you?!”
Before Elsa had the chance to answer, Kai stepped into the living room and turned on the light, calling the siblings attention. “That’s enough, Kristoff,” he said loud enough for both of them to stop.
“I was trying to-”
“I said it’s enough.”
Kai’s serious expression didn’t leave place for arguments. Knowing it was better to listen to his father, Kristoff stood up, apologised and left the room. Maybe his father interrupting was for the best. Elsa was hurt and it was hard for her to think straight. He just hoped Elsa could see his point of view and understand his intentions.
Kai watched his son disappear in the hallway and turned to his daughter who had remained silent. He soon realised Elsa had no intentions of returning to her room, so he simply said, “don’t stay up all night. Try to sleep, at least for a couple of hours, Elsa.” And with that he turned the light off and left Elsa alone with her thoughts and the dim light of the lamp once again.
The next morning, Kristoff was surprised to see his sister enter the kitchen and sit down to have breakfast with the rest of the family. Even Kai and Gerda were surprised to see her there, but they didn't comment on it.
Kristoff felt bad for their discussion during the night, but he still wished he could spare Elsa the pain of the truth. Elsa looked miserable. It was obvious she hadn't slept more than an hour, and she had a distant look in her eyes. However, he hoped the fact that he kept the truth hadn't affected her too much. He knew part of that sadness was his fault and it hurt.
It took a few minutes in silence for Gerda to lose her patience and ask, "how are you feeling today, dear?"
Elsa took another sip from her coffee. She then said, "I'm better. But I'm still trying to accept the fact that my birth parents couldn't care less about me…"
"Well… We didn't really listen to Agdar and Idunn yesterday. Maybe they had their reasons for what they did. Maybe they did care about you." It pained Gerda to say those words. Even when she knew it was the best for Elsa's peace of mind, she couldn’t help but feel she was hurting her daughter with sugar-coated lies. She didn’t know if Agdar and Idunn had justified reasons for what they did, but to think they were able to take care of a sweet girl like Anna merely four years later didn’t give Gerda much hope. She didn’t feel comfortable defending the Arendelle either. After Agdar and Idunn had left the house, and after Gerda had tried in vain to talk with Elsa through the door, the realisation that her daughter's biological parents had showed up in her life had hit her. The most selfish part of Gerda wanted Anna's parents to disappear and never talk to Elsa again. They had abandoned her as a baby and they were now showing up claiming to be her parents when she and Kai were the ones who had made everything in their power to raise Elsa into the woman she was today. When the world had turned its back to the lonely - different - child, they had stayed by her side and had tried to pick up the pieces. It was wrong for them to show up now and threaten the life they had built as a family. But she couldn’t let Elsa know how much their presence had affected her. She wanted Elsa to make her own decisions about her birth parents.
Elsa raised her head and looked at Gerda. It was clear she didn't believe her words. She noticed how hard the old woman was trying to say the right thing instead of what she truly believed. But she chose to dismiss that, and simply answer to what had said. "I don't think they did."
Kristoff who wanted to lift his sister's spirits, tried to speak his mind and give his opinion based on what the Arendelle family had tried to tell him days before, but he was soon interrupted by his sister.
"You could have said something days before, Kristoff," said Elsa not paying much attention to him.
Her tone was low and monotone, but it carried so much resentment. Kristoff knew there was no point in trying to talk with Elsa when she was in that state. He felt it was best to just excuse himself from the table. "I've got to go see Sven and then go to work," he said, standing up.
"You can stay and finish breakfast first, Kristoff." Gerda tried to make him stay. She had heard their fight the previous night, and it hurt her to see them like that. Kristoff had clearly made a mistake by keeping the truth from Elsa, but she understood her son's intentions. On the other hand, she couldn't blame Elsa for feeling betrayed. The whole situation was a mess and it was taking a toll on everyone in different ways.
"No, thanks. I've got to go," he replied as he picked his jacket from the chair. He kissed his mother on the cheek, bid his father and Elsa goodbye and left, not saying another word.
Some minutes later, after an uncomfortable silence, Elsa thought it was a good time to tell her parents what had been on her mind lately. She had made her mind up about returning home the previous night, and she thought it was best to just tell them. "I want to go home."
"What?" asked Gerda. She wondered what Elsa meant since she was there with them.
Elsa sighed, knowing her mother was not going to like her idea. "I want to go back to the North mountain. I've been in Trolheim for too long."
"Oh, well,I guess we could arrange to go one of these days if you want to make sure everything is okay."
"No, you don't understand. I want to go back. I want to go home to stay."
"What?" She stopped picking up the the cups from the table to look at Elsa. "No," she said. Something told Gerda it was a bad idea. Terrible. Elsa had mentioned going back to the North mountain after the accident, and she felt it wasn't good for her to leave so suddenly. "No, no," she repeated. "You are still healing it's not-"
"I've been feeling good enough to live on my own for weeks now," interrupted Elsa. Gerda was using her leg as an excuse to keep her in town and she knew it.
"Elsa, we've talked about this." There was no point in pretending this was about her broken leg anymore, and said, "It's not healthy to isolate yourself."
Elsa let out a tired sighed, she was tired of this. Of constantly explaining her decisions to everyone. "I'm going back." She left no place for arguments. "If you don't want to give me a ride I could take a bus, and then ask Marshall to help me get to the cottage." Elsa had made up her mind about it. She didn't like living in the city, she found it too stressful. The only reason she hadn't miss the mountain so much in the last few weeks, had been due to Anna and Kristoff's company. But now that was broken. She didn't feel like staying anymore.
"I'll take you," said Kai surprising both women. He had remained sitting quietly since Kristoff left the table.
"Kai!" complained Gerda. "What are you saying?" She then turned to Elsa once again. "Elsa, you should stay here, at least until the next doctor's appointment."
"It's not like I'm not coming back, mum. I just want to be on my own for a while. I promise I'll be back for every appointment."
"Is this because of-?"
Before the old woman had the chance to ask her about the Arendelles, Elsa hurried and said, "It's because I've wanted to be back home since the accident. I miss my cottage."
"I'll arrange to have my shift later tomorrow, so I can take you. You are not taking the bus if I can give you a ride." Kai said matter of factly. He noticed his daughter had made up her mind and it was best to just listen to her.
Elsa looked at him and smiled for the first time that day. It didn't reach her eyes, but it was enough to show her father she was thankful. Kai was a man of few words, but with simple gestures she could see how much he cared about her. "Thanks, dad."
He murmured a 'no problem' as he watched her pick her crutches and walk out the kitchen towards the bathroom.
Once Gerda heard the bathroom door close on the other room, she gave her husband a stern look. "You are out of your mind. Elsa's clearly not okay."
"She doesn't seem to be holding up in the best way, no," he agreed. "But, she's got the right to make choices of her own. She knows what will make her feel better."
“I don’t want to stop her from making her own choices, but she hasn't taken the news so good. It would be better for her to stay with her family,” whispered Gerda just in case Elsa returned.
“Elsa knows better than anyone how to deal with her own emotions. She stayed strong for years, even before we met her. Let her be in a place where she feels comfortable.” He then picked the newspaper and began reading it, showing he - like Elsa - had made up his mind. He was taking his daughter home if that's what she wanted.
Gerda didn’t agree with Kai this time, but she felt it was endearing to see how he went out of his way just to help her feel better. She just hoped her husband was right and they were not making a mistake by letting her go to the mountain after everything that had happened.
Keeping his promise, Kai made sure he had the morning off the following day. He helped Elsa get her things ready and he drove her to the North mountain. Gerda chose to stay at home. She was still unsure about Elsa’s idea, and she knew she wasn't going to be able to keep her mouth shut.
For that reason, father and daughter travelled on their own and Kai, who usually remained quiet on road trips, took the opportunity to talk with Elsa. It had been a while since the two of them had been on their own, and he felt it was time he asked Elsa how she felt about everything that was going on in her life. She was probably not going to open up, but at least she was going to listen to him. He wanted to remind her she could trust her family. Always.
“Are you sure you're going to be alright on your own?” he asked, calling Elsa’s attention. She had been looking out the window since they got into the car.
The girl turned to look at her father. “Yes, I’m sure.”
He thought for a moment what to say, Elsa didn’t seem to be in the mood for conversation. “You know, it may seem like your mother and your brother meddle in your life sometimes, but it’s just because they love you too much.” He felt like an hypocrite since he was meddling himself. But he wanted Kristoff and Elsa to be on good terms once again. It was a matter of time before reality came crashing down on Elsa and he knew she was going to need her brother’s shoulder.
“I know…” she turned her head to the window once again. Looking at the snow covered mountains had a relaxing effect on her. “But one thing is to meddle and another is to lie to me. To keep something so important from me and pretend it isn’t.”
“I don’t think he tried to keep the information from you forever. I think he honestly didn’t know what to do with it.”
“Maybe,” said Elsa thinking about her argument with Kristoff. “But I’ve got the right to be hurt. He wouldn’t forgive me so easily if it was me who kept something important from him.”
Kai chuckled knowing it was true. Kristoff avoided confrontations and he was peaceful guy, but he could take some time to forgive whenever he felt someone had deceived him. “You do. Just don’t be too hard on him.”
“I won’t…” said Elsa sincerely. “I don’t like being angry with him.”
“I think I’ve never seen you angry at him before. I don’t think he understands what’s going on.”
A sad smile plastered on her face. She couldn’t remember a time she had felt like that towards Kristoff either, but she couldn’t just pretend she didn’t feel the way she did.
They travelled the rest of the way in silence, merely commenting a few things about the cottage and things Elsa needed to do once her cast was removed. Reaching the cottage had been easier than they thought since Kristoff and Anna had left the motorski where the trail to the cottage began on their last visit. When both made sure everything was in order for Elsa's stay, Kai informed her he needed to leave if he wanted to get to work on time.
“I’ve got to go,” he said getting closer to Elsa to bid her goodbye. “Promise me you'll call me, or Gerda or anyone if you don't feel okay. Don't bottle up things in here, sweetheart.” He pointed to her chest.
It had been a long time since he called her that, and Elsa noticed how worried he was for her. “I promise,” she said giving her father a hug.
“We are your family,” he detached from his daughter and grabbed her shoulders to make sure she listened to him. “For as long as you want us to be. I don't particularly care what a piece of paper says, you are my daughter.”
Elsa felt the tears gather in her eyes, but tried her best to hold them in. She couldn’t speak so she nodded instead.
Kai smiled at her, understanding her silent answer. “Don't make your mother worry too much. Call her from time to time.”
“I will,” she said when she found her voice.
She watched him leave and she stayed by the door, enjoying the serene snowfall that had just begun. She felt the mountain was already helping her find some needed peace.
kristoff heard the knocks on his apartment door for the third time and he let out a sigh. He had just came back from work, he was tired, and he was not in the mood to deal with whoever was so insistent. He guessed it was his neighbour, who for some reason had the idea that Sven was eating his trash. Kristoff was tired of explaining the old man his dog didn't leave the apartment without him, but he wouldn't listen. They had had the same discussion for months, and he was not in the mood for it.
His intention had been to put the couch bed back together that evening, but Sven was still sleeping on it, and refused to leave. So he had ended up laying next to him. Thinking it was best to just deal with the man. He got up from the makeshift bed his sister had occupied for the last weeks, and opened the door.
He was surprised to find Anna standing on the other side of the door. The two of them hadn't talked since her parents had told Elsa the truth four days ago, and he wasn't expecting her at all. He knew he should have called her, but his fight with Elsa and the fact that his sister had left town to return to the North mountain - without telling him anything - had left him in low spirits.
Kristoff looked at her, trying to come up with something to say. He had opened the door with anger, and he hoped Anna didn’t take it personal. “Sorry, I thought you were my neighbour. That’s why I didn't open the door sooner.”
“Hi,” said Anna timidly. She felt ridiculous acting like that in front of Kristoff, but truth was they had never fought before and she didn’t have an excuse for her visit other than wanting to see him. She chose it was best to act as if their argument never happened, and continued the conversation, “the one who blames Sven for everything?”
“That's the one,” said Kristoff smiling. He had missed her.
“I should've called,” she apologised. “But I really wanted to see you and talk about the other day.”
“Don’t worry about it. Come in.” He took a step back and opened the door completely to let her enter the apartment.
As soon as Anna entered, she noticed how messy the place looked. The tidiness she was used to seeing since Elsa had moved in with her boyfriend was gone, and replaced by clothes and objects scattered everywhere. “Wow, it's been a while since this place looked like this.” She didn’t like to point out the obvious, but she knew there was a reason behind the mess. Probably the fact that Elsa was no longer living with Kristoff. Anna knew she hadn’t returned after the accident, and it seemed that was still the case.
“Yeah.” He bent to pick a jacket that had fallen from the coat rack by the door, suddenly aware of the mess. “I haven't had the time to clean.”
“I guess Elsa is not living here anymore.” She said it as a joke since Elsa liked to keep things ordered around the apartment. But Anna noticed the comment didn’t have the effect she hoped in Kristoff. She watched him walked towards the couch and sit there with a sigh.
Anna walked and sat by his side, she noticed Kristoff's unhappiness and thought it was best to just ask about his sister, for sure Elsa was the reason Kristoff looked the way he did, “how is she?”
Anna grimaced. She knew the truth was going to be shocking for Elsa but she hoped the girl was going to be able to see the good side of finding out the truth. Hearing she was not doing okay didn’t give her much hope for that to happen. “Is she still staying with your parents?”
“She took off,” answered Kristoff not looking at her.
“She went back to the North mountain.”
The way Kristoff said it gave Anna the idea he was not at all okay with that. She knew how much her boyfriend worried about his sister, and having her living in another place while she wasn’t feeling okay surely didn’t sit well with him. “Are you okay?”
“No.” His answer was short and definite. He didn’t feel like beating around the bush.
Anna could feel Kristoff’s sadness, but there was also certain anger hidden behind it. And she had an idea to whom it was directed to. “Kristoff,” she said, holding his hand and calling his attention, silently begging for him to look at her. “I’m sorry. If I had known-”
He turned and look at her straight in the eye. He had missed her, but it didn’t mean there weren’t some things he wanted to discuss with her. “You did know,” he interrupted. “I told you she didn’t need any more shit in her life and you just thought it was best to show up like that.” He watched her look down at their hands and then asked, “What were you thinking?”
Anna felt ashamed. She knew she had overstepped that day; maybe she should have listened to Kristoff and give it some time. Especially if Elsa had taken the news so badly. But she wanted Kristoff to see her point of view too. “I was thinking it’s terrible when people you love keep secrets from you,” she said. She could relate to Elsa in that matter. “I was thinking she deserved to know the truth, even if it hurt.” Kristoff opened his mouth to retort, but she raised her hand and stopped him before he got the chance. “I know what you are going to say... You are going to say Elsa is different; that Elsa didn’t want nor needed the truth, but I still believe she-”
It was Kristoff’s turn to look down; he had to accept he had been mistaken, Elsa thought the complete opposite to what he had originally believed. “She agrees with you,” he interrupted mid sentence.
“She agrees with you,” he took a deep breath. “Or so it seems, she got mad at me for not telling her the truth sooner.”
“She got mad at you?” Now that was something Anna was not expecting. She expected Elsa to be angry with her parents, but not with Kristoff.
“We had a fight," he said running a hand through his hair. "A bad one. The next day she asked Kai to take her back to the North mountain. I haven't heard from her since…"
She felt bad for Kristoff. But the fact that Elsa agreed with her called Anna's attention. "So… she wanted to know the truth?"
"Apparently. Even if the truth made her feel like a piece of garbage."
Surprised by the comment, Anna hoped Elsa hadn't felt that way for real. "Did she say that?"
"No. But she didn’t have to." Kristoff stood up and walked to the fridge to get something to drink. When he returned, he sat on a chair close to the couch, facing Anna. He breath out his frustration and said, "all I wanted to do was to protect her from the truth. Protect her from the idea that her biological parents couldn’t care less about her…"
"Don’t say that." Anna felt the need to stand up for her parents.
"You don’t want me to say that?" countered Kristoff with anger. "Then what am I supposed to say? Huh? Am I supposed to praise your parents for ruining her life?"
"No,” she said appalled. “But we don’t know the whole story. I know my parents. I know they loved her, they made that clear." Anna was sorry for Kristoff, but she was not going to let him talk like that about her parents. Not before he gave them a chance to explain themselves.
"Loved her?" He snorted. "Do you think that’s love?"
"Yes, I do," she said defiantly. "My parents abandoned her, yes. And it’s terrible, I know. But they tried to give her a chance in life! A chance they couldn’t give her... Not at the time at least.” She reasoned. Anna deep down hoped she was not standing up for them in vain.
“I can’t believe you… Do you really think what they did is justifiable?”
“They are my parents,” answered Anna taken aback. “I need to believe they truly did what they thought was best for Elsa.”
“Anna, you can’t live life trying to see the good in everyone and everything all the time! Are you really ready to justify what they did?!”
“They are my parents!” said Anna outraged.
“And Elsa is my sister!” yelled Kristoff. “I just want what’s best for her!” He was tired and angry, he didn’t have enough patience to deal with another argument but he couldn’t just accept what Anna was saying.
“Well, she is my sister too! And my family is her family, Kristoff. I want what is best for her too! It’s best if you come to terms with that.” Anna felt strange saying it out loud. It was the first time she called Elsa her sister since she found out the truth. Saying it made it feel more real. And it was shocking. After a moment thinking about that, she noticed tears had gathered in Kristoff’s eyes and he was fighting to keep them in.
After some time, Kristoff found his voice and said softly. “We are family. Elsa and me. We’ve always been... We were there for each other when there was no-one around." He raised his head and frowned. “So, don’t come and tell me your parents are her family when they are not. Don’t tell me I have to come to terms with this mess.”
Anna glared back. She was not going to back down. “Well, this mess is Elsa’s life. And my life too. So you better get used to it.”
He rested his head in his hands, breathing deeply and trying to calm down. After a few seconds, he came to the realisation they were going to end up saying things they didn’t mean if they kept arguing. “You should go,” he said in a low voice, not knowing what else to say.
“I think it would be best if you just go,” he kept a low tone of voice. He wanted some time on his own and he needed to stop the argument before things got out of hand, if they hadn’t already.
“What’s wrong with you?” asked Anna pained by Kristoff's request.
“I feel like I’m losing the most important person in my life, that’s what’s wrong with me!” he yelled. “And I don’t know how to deal with that! And I’m hurting you because of it.” He brushed a couple of angry tears that had escaped and continued, “I don’t want to fight with you. But I can’t talk about this without getting angry right now.”
He was still sitting on the chair, head down, so Anna kneeled in front of him to be able to see his eyes. It hurt to see him like that, but it was necessary for him to understand they could talk things through. She squeeze his hand and said, “You are not losing Elsa, Kristoff.”
He took a few deep breaths to calm his nerves looked at her and asked, “Do you remember what I said to you when you first asked about my family?”
Anna had to dig up in her memories, she knew he was talking about one of their first dates, but she didn’t remember what he had said exactly. “Something about they being the most important thing you had?” she asked, hoping her memory was correct.
“The only thing I had… I don’t want my family to fall apart because of your parents, Anna. And I feel you don’t understand that, so please, just leave. Give me some time to get used to all of this.”
Anna realised then, there was nothing she could say to Kristoff that could change his mind. She wanted to shake him and make him understand that things could get better if they talked, if all of them took some time to actually talk things through. However, insisting was only going to cause more harm than good at that moment. She stood up and walked towards the door. She opened it and stopped, giving him a few seconds to change his mind, but he didn’t. Before she closed the door behind her, Anna took the opportunity to say, “your family is not the only one that feels like it’s tearing apart Kristoff.”
Chapter 13: Guilt
After Anna left Kristoff's apartment, she decided to walk back home. It was a long distance and the weather was cold, but she needed some time on her own to think things through. Walking had always helped her clear her mind, and she desperately needed to understand how her life had changed so much in just a few weeks.
In the lapse of just two weeks, Anna had not only found out about Elsa’s powers, but she had learnt she was her older sister. And now, due to her stupidity, her relationship with Kristoff was going through a rough patch. She wanted to believe it was just a fight, a temporary one. But still, the feeling of hopelessness at that moment was unbearable. They had always been there for each other whenever they felt down, but now she couldn’t turn to him.
Truth was, Anna had visited Kristoff that day not only because she wanted to know how he and Elsa were doing; but because she needed him. She needed to talk to someone about her family and the way things were. Her parents hadn’t been the same since they saw Elsa again. Especially since they saw the way she took the news. Anna was trying to stay strong for her family, but each passing day things were getting harder and harder, and she couldn’t help but feel it was her fault. All she had wanted to do was the right thing. She believed that doing the right thing was going to help them get their life on track once again, but her plans had backfired and everything had turned for the worse.
Now that things looked like they couldn’t get worse, there was nothing she could do but face the reality she was living. Even if she didn’t want to, she had to face the truth that her parents, who had always showered her with love, had lied to her all her life. She had to accept they had left Elsa alone in the middle of the night. She had to make up her mind that maybe things were never going to be the same again. Not for her, nor Kristoff’s family.
She walked at a slow pace, not bothering about the falling snow nor the freezing wind. She had no hurry to reach her home and face the disaster her life had become. But it didn’t matter how slowly she walked or how long she wandered the city, she was going to reach her house at some point and life was going to come crashing down on her.
It was already dark outside when she entered her house and sat down on the couch by the window. Her mother, who had been wondering where she had been, came into the living room when she heard her.
“Anna, there you are. I was getting worried,” said Idunn letting a sigh of relief when she saw her. She then noticed Anna’s crestfallen expression. “Are you okay, sweetheart?”
Anna shook her head, showing her mother she was not okay, but stayed silent looking out the window. Strolling back home had helped, but she still didn't feel like talking to anyone about her argument with Kristoff.
“Want to talk about it?”
“No,” she answered. “There's no point in talking about it.”
It was so weird for Idunn to hear her daughter talk in that way. Anna was a person who always needed to voice her worries. “Why don't you try? Maybe talking can help-”
“I don’t want to talk, mum,” she interrupted.
“Anna-” she began to say, but stopped. She knew Anna was going to open up when she felt the need to. But as her mother she couldn't help but worry for her. Idunn knew Anna was mature and responsible when life needed her to be, but Idunn felt she was putting too much pressure on her shoulders trying to bring the family back together. Even when she didn't agree with the decisions they had made in the past, Anna was doing everything in her power to set things right.
Mother and daughter stayed in the living room in silence after that. Idunn had picked a book to read and distract her mind from her worries, while Anna just sat on the couch looking at the falling snow.
An hour later, Anna stopped looking out the window and began paying attention to her mother. She paid attention to her eyes and the shape of her face. To the way her eyebrows knitted together when she was reading something she didn't clearly understand. And she noticed Elsa and her mother weren't all that different. Sure the hair colour was completely different, but if she focused hard enough, she could identify some traits. It seemed impossible to think Elsa had been part of her family at some point in life, but nature had a funny way of telling her it was true.
Not being able to stop herself, Anna asked, "Why didn't you mention I had an older sister?"
Idunn, who had not been expecting a question, especially not that one, put her book aside and looked at Anna before saying, "what was there to say? Sweety, you have an older sister who we abandoned when she was a baby because we couldn't raise her?" She took a deep breath and added, "there isn't an easy way to say something like that to your child."
"It isn't really different from what you said to me two weeks ago," Anna reasoned. "You could have tried to explain things to me."
"We were - and still are - really ashamed of what we did Anna. It is really hard for us to talk about it, even if we only wanted what was best for her." Idunn put her hands on her lap, trying to keep them from shaking. Talking about Elsa with Anna still proved to be a challenge.
"Do you regret abandoning her?" asked Anna. She knew there existed the probability that her mother wasn’t going to be completely honest with her, but she needed to know.
Different to what Anna expected, Idunn answered in a heartbeat. "Everyday. Even before we found out your sister-in-law was Elsa. She has always been in my mind in some way or another." She took a deep breath to calm her nerves. A sad smile formed on her face when she noticed how interested Anna was in her answer. "I wish I could change the past. I know you must be ashamed of us. I feel I've failed you, and there's nothing I can do to amend my mistakes."
"You didn't fail me," said Anna. She was hurt for the lies and the secrets, but her parents had always helped her in everything she needed. "I may be disappointed in you, but you have always been there for me. Even now, when I'm not sure I've forgiven you, you are here trying to make me feel better…” She took a moment and then said, “I think you failed Elsa. I feel it's unfair I got to enjoy your unconditional love while Elsa was pushed aside just because she was different."
Idunn looked down in shame, knowing exactly that what Anna was saying was true. It didn't matter how much they had tried to keep Elsa by their side, at the end, her powers had forced them to leave her in that clinic. So in a way, it was true… But she needed Anna to know they hadn’t just pushed her aside and forgot about her. “There was a time we tried to make things right. We tried to find Elsa after some years,” confessed Idunn, catching Anna’s attention.
“After a couple of years living here, your father and I couldn’t keep living in secrecy and we came clean about our relationship. We then decided to get married," she began. "Your grandfather was still against our union, so he cut ties with us, not allowing your father to work in the company anymore."
"I can't believe Grandfather would do something like that." She thought about those times she had asked her father about her grandfather. How he would always say they weren't close. She now understood why.
"Anyway, we still struggled with money, but at least your father had graduated. He was getting more job offers, as I worked at a store," continued Idunn. She didn't feel like discussing about Runeard with her daughter. She still hadn't forgiven her father-in-law for treating Agdar the way he had. "We were raising as much money as possible to be able to return for Elsa and attend to her needs. We were even discussing the possibility of going back to Romsdal and get her back at the time, but then we found out we were expecting you."
'Oh, no,' thought Anna. Hoping her parents hadn't chosen her over Elsa.
"I’m sorry to say this, sweety; but you can imagine you weren’t in our plans at that moment. We had jobs and a plan, but we still didn’t know how to raise Elsa and now you were on the way," she explained, apologising for saying something like that to her daughter. "So we were forced to make a hard decision once again. And since Elsa was, as far as we knew, in a safe environment, we chose to wait to get her back." Idunn then noticed Anna's sadness, and walked to the couch where she was sitting. She sat by her side, and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
Anna tried to smile to her, but she felt guilty. Even if she hadn't asked to be born, knowing Elsa had been so close to get back to her family hurt. "What happened then?" She knew there was more to that story, if not her mother would have never told her.
"It wasn’t until a couple of years later, that we tried to find her. But things didn’t turn up the way we expected." She looked out the window as she remembered those days where they had tried in vain to find Elsa. "The clinic where we had left Elsa in Romsdal was empty, and no-one in town knew where the people in charge were. Dr. Weselton had closed it all of a sudden. And they said the few children who lived at the clinic's orphanage were adopted or taken to different cities. But no one knew where. We tried to find Weselton or someone who had worked for him but we had no luck."
Anna suddenly felt a lot of relief. Her parents had tried to find her. Her parents hadn't forgotten about Elsa. "Did you look for her in other places?"
Idunn hold her daughter's hand and answered, "We did. We tried a couple of orphanages in neighbouring cities. But all gave us the same answer. They said no kids from Romsdal were living in their institutions. We even asked for Elsa specifically. We described the way she looked, and we showed them her papers. But they all insisted they didn't know any girl who fit those characteristics."
"They didn't offer to help you find her?"
"They all agree that she had probably been adopted. It was the only logical explanation." Before Anna could ask if they hadn't looked for her in the registries, Idunn continued, "However, they warned us against trying to look for her. They said we had lost our rights over Elsa the moment we abandoned her. The fact we didn't have any papers to prove she had been admitted into Weselton's clinic, classified us as 'Baby dumpers'."
Anna noticed how much it hurt her mother to say those words and to accept that in fact, that's what they were.
"If we did find her, the adoption agencies had the right to raise charges against us. And if that happened, we risked losing your custody." Idunn caressed her cheek, as if the idea of losing her still affected her. "We were trying to fix what we had done, not make things worse." She sighed with sadness and looked away from Anna's eyes. "So, after some consideration, we gave up, thinking that maybe Elsa was with a good family and we were going to ruin your life in vain."
Anna was speechless. They had stopped looking to make sure they could remain together as a family. It broke her heart to think all the things they had gone through since Elsa had been born. She now believed in her mother's word that they loved Elsa. Everything they had done was because they were thinking in their daughters’ best interests. Before she got the chance to say anything to her, Idunn made a comment that Anna hadn't been expecting.
"And thank God that was the case," she said. "We feel bad for what we did and for not being able to get Elsa back in our lives, but at least she found a good family. I'm glad she was with Kai and Gerda all this time."
"How old was Elsa when you tried to find her?" asked Anna. She needed to know just to make sure that Elsa had been with Kai and Gerda at the time. Though it seemed weird her parents had tried to find Elsa when she was a teenager.
Idunn thought for a moment. "You were four years old at the time. So, she must have been eight or nine years old. Your father had just inherited your grandfather's wealth and we felt confident we were going to be able to raise the two of you."
She knew the information was going to shake her mother up, but she needed to tell her. "Mum… Elsa was not adopted by the Bjorgmans until she was fourteen years old."
Idunn looked at Anna with confusion. "That doesn't make sense."
"Did you look for her here? Did you try to find her in Trollheim?" asked Anna. The question was stupid, she knew they must have tried their own city. "She lived in the orphanage for a couple of years, together with Kristoff. I don't remember exactly, but they said they were eight years old when they met.
“Of course we did. It was the first place we visited.” Idunn looked at her daughter, trying to find the answers she needed. “I thought the Bjorgmans raised her… Anna, are you sure?”
Anna nodded her head. “And I don't think she was with any other family before them.”
“Why would they lie to us,” she mumbled to herself. “Why wouldn't they let us see her?”
Anna was puzzled. There must have been a reason for the orphanage to deny them to see Elsa. Then she remembered. She remembered the only story Elsa had told her about her past, and the discussion they had had afterwards. She also remembered how that discussion ended with Elsa disappearing into the bathroom all of a sudden. She now understood she had been trying to hide her powers that day. “Elsa told me some things about her time in Trollheim’s orphanage,” said Anna. “She mentioned being neglected. She said it wasn’t as bad as the orphanage in Romsdal; but they didn’t sent her to school, and she barely left her room. Kristoff was the only kid she had contact with…” Saying those things out loud, and thinking about what her mother had said, let Anna come to a conclusion she hoped was wrong. “I think they tried to hide her from you.”
Idunn stayed frozen after hearing her daughter. She hadn’t felt so terrible for Elsa because she believed people as loving as Kai and Gerda had raised her. But now she found out that wasn’t true, together with some gruesome details about Elsa’s childhood. The more she thought about Elsa being neglected in both orphanages, the worst she felt about her decisions in life. “Oh, my God,” she muttered.
Anna realised her mother had heard her, but she hadn’t really paid attention to her idea. “Mum?”
“What have I done?” said the older woman, not registering her daughter’s words. She put her hand over her mouth as she asked, “does this mean my baby girl suffered during her childhood?”
Anna’s eyes brimmed with tears at her mother’s words. To hear her mother call Elsa ‘her baby girl’, let Anna see her mother hadn’t stopped thinking about Elsa in that way for over twenty years. “She doesn't really talk about her childhood… Kristoff says it’s because it was too painful... I'm sorry.” She wished she could spare her mother the pain, but what was the point of lying to her.
Idunn pressed her hand harder against her mouth as she muffled a dry sob. “No wonder she couldn't look at us… I should have- I wish I-” she tried to say but the pain and guilt was too strong to let her continue. She excused herself and left the room in a hurry.
Anna stayed on the couch thinking about the things her mother had told her. It was so strange to see her mother in that state, full of guilt for the things she had done in her past. Anna realised then that Kristoff was mistaken. Maybe her parents had done things wrong. Maybe they had chosen the easy way out. But her mother did love Elsa. And maybe she had truly believed she had been doing the best for her that day she left her at Wesealton’s clinic.
Almost a week later, Anna found herself in the North mountain walking the trail leading to Elsa's cottage. It was the first time she walked there on her own, so she made an effort to remember every turn and landmark she could. The last thing she needed was getting lost there, when no one knew she had taken the last bus out of town to reach the mountain before sundown.
She knew it was a crazy idea to travel all the way there on her own when she wasn't even sure Elsa wanted to see her. She was aware it was a shot in the dark, but she couldn't stand the way things were at home.
She couldn't keep seeing her mother's melancholic expression and she couldn't stand her father's sulk mood. She wanted Kristoff to be happy again, and for both of them to enjoy their evenings together. She also had to admit there was a selfish part of her that wanted to have Elsa back in her life too. But her main objective still was to set things right for Elsa. She wanted to make sure Elsa was actually okay. She hadn't heard about her friend since her fight with Kristoff, and she worried how Elsa was dealing with everything on her own.
She shivered from the cold as she made a right turn near a large aspen tree, she remembered it from the last time she walked that path with Kristoff. She walked a few more metres until she was able to recognise Elsa's cottage in the distance. And just like the first time she had arrived there, she felt captivated by the view. Once again the yellow lights from the cottage were a perfect contrast with the darkening sky. The light snowfall made the place look even more beautiful. Anna thought she understood better Elsa's desire to always return to the mountain. The place was enchanting.
However, she wanted to reach the cottage as soon as possible. It was getting colder and she was exhausted. She had taken the bus after her classes that Friday, and she needed a warm place to rest. At least for a few minutes. As she got closer, she noticed there were two people sitting in the front steps of the cabin. She recognised one as Elsa, but she had no idea who the blond man sitting by her side was. It was strange to see Elsa spending time with someone other than her brother. She noticed Elsa looked happy in the company of that stranger, making Anna regret not calling to let her know she was going to show up.
From where she was, she noticed it was Elsa the one talking while the guy sat there in silence looking at the distance. Elsa was looking at the sky, so she didn't see her approach, but the big guy sitting by her side did. He touched Elsa's arm to call her attention and gestured where Anna was. She couldn't hear what he said, but she saw Elsa open her eyes in surprise. Once again, Anna felt bad for interrupting their evening, but she couldn't really go back. She didn't have a way to return home unless she called someone. It was at that moment, she realised how incredibly stupid her idea had been. If Elsa chose not to listen to her, she had no way of returning home that night. Though, she knew Elsa was too nice to let her freeze outside, even if she didn't want to see her.
When she got close enough, she stopped walking and greeted both of them. "Hi," she said with a small wave of her hand. "Umm… I'm sorry I came unannounced. I hope you don't mind," she said to Elsa.
Elsa, who was still surprised to see her there, shook her head. "It's okay…" She didn't know what to say really. She hadn't seen or heard about Anna since the day she found out the truth.
Before they could say anything else, the blond-bearded man sitting beside Elsa stood up and walked the short distance separating Anna from the stairs. When he stood in front of her, he extended his right hand and said, "I'm Marshall."
Anna raised her eyebrows in surprise. 'Marshall as in Marshmallow?' she thought. The man was tall. Huge in Anna's opinion. He was clearly a head taller than Kristoff. His broad shoulders and thick arms let her see he was strong, and probably the sporty type of person. Anna couldn't help but feel intimidated by the guy. He was not only big, but he seemed too serious for Anna to feel comfortable by his presence.
Not sure what to do, she smiled and extended her own hand to shaked his. "Anna," she said in a low voice. The fact he hadn't smiled back made her feel unsure about him.
He then turned around and walked towards Elsa. He helped her stand up and handed her the crutches that had been laying on the snow between them. "Are you gonna be okay?" he asked.
Elsa smiled and nodded.
He then gave Elsa a tender hug, something that caught Anna by surprise. Elsa didn't particularly like human contact but she seemed comfortable in the big guy's arms. Maybe he wasn't bad. Just intimidating.
"Call me if you need anything," he said before he let her go. He waited for Elsa to nod, before picking up his bag and leave.
Anna couldn't help but turn around and watch him disappear into the same trail she had used to reach Elsa's cottage. The man seemed to know his way around the forest, since it only took him a few seconds to disappear from sight.
Both girls stayed quiet for a few seconds. Anna tried to forget about Marshall and explain to Elsa what she was doing there, but curiosity got the best of her. "Was that Marshmallow?" She still couldn't believe the giant guy was the same who called Elsa from time to time.
Elsa couldn't help but chuckle at Anna’s stunned expression. "Yes."
"That huge guy. That is Marshmallow?"
"He is… why?" Elsa could imagine why she was asking, Marshall was taller than average, and his nickname didn't really suit him, unless you got to know him.
"I thought he was- You know I expected him to be-” she stuttered.
“I don't know... Tinier. Smaller. Softer."
Elsa had to laugh at that. "He is kinda soft," she murmured. She then cleared her throat and said, "That's him. He's a nice guy."
Anna noticed the way Elsa smiled when she answered, and for a moment, she felt like making fun of her. She had always enjoyed getting the chance to mock Elsa about her ‘mountain lover’ as she liked to call Marshall; and now that she had met the guy, the situation was even funnier. She had never imagined Marshmallow was such a tough guy. However, she thought better of it. She didn't know how Elsa was going to react. Sure, nothing bad had happened between the two of them, exactly. They were still friends as far as Anna knew. But she felt it was not the right time. She made a mental note to ask Elsa about him in the future, though. A huge mountaineer who looked like he could smash anyone’s face, but acted super soft around Elsa, was an opportunity she couldn’t let slip through her fingers.
Anna came out of her train of thought when she saw Elsa struggling to climb the stairs. The steps were covered in fresh snow, and she was doing her best to keep the balance with her crutches. Anna hurried and hold her arm to keep her steady, and helped her reach her front door.
Elsa turned to look at her and muttered a 'thank you' before she entered the house. She left the door open for Anna to follow. But to her surprise, she remained outside. "You can come in, Anna" she said, hoping things wouldn't be so awkward between them.
Anna entered, closing the door behind her. She stayed there, standing, unsure of what to say or do. Yet once again Anna regretted not thinking before acting. What was she hoping to achieve going there? Was Elsa even okay with her visiting? She was, after all, the daughter who had had it easy. The one who was showered with love and affection while Elsa struggled in different orphanages. What was Elsa's opinion of her now?... Before Anna could regret her decision further, she heard Elsa clear her throat, calling her attention. "I'm sorry. What?" asked Anna.
"I asked if you wanted something warm to drink. It's really cold outside," offered Elsa.
Anna noticed then Elsa must have noticed she had her arms wrapped around herself. It was true it was cold outside, and she was freezing. The bus heater didn't work, so the travel to the North mountain had been intolerable, and then walking to Elsa's cottage hadn't been at all comfortable. She wondered for a second if Marshall had ice powers like Elsa, since he was able to sit outside with her in that weather. "That would be nice," she said.
“Do you mind setting up the fire while I heat some water and find something warm for you to wear?”
“Elsa, it's not necessary for you to-”
“It gets colder and colder here at this time of the year, Anna. I don't want you to get sick.” Elsa interrupted not giving Anna the chance to argue.
Anna did as told. She took her wet boots off and left them by the door. She then walked to the fireplace, and before Elsa could return, she got the fire going. She was in front of the fireplace on the floor, trying to heat herself up, when she felt the weight of a winter jacket on her shoulders. She turned around and saw Elsa walking back into her kitchen.
She stayed by the fire for a few minutes before thinking it was best to join Elsa in case she needed help with the mugs. She entered the kitchen and saw her standing by the counter, looking out the window. The evening was dark and the snowfall was increasing. She was sure it would transform into a snowstorm soon. She silently thanked Elsa for letting her stay, even if she hadn't really said anything to her yet. She thought it was time she thanked her properly and explained what she was doing there.
"Thanks for letting me stay, Elsa."
Still paying attention to the tea she was preparing, she answered, "You travelled all the way here in this weather. I would be a heartless bastard if I didn't."
Anna knew Elsa had only tried to make a point, but the word ‘bastard’ carried a meaning Anna didn’t particularly liked given their situation. She thought it was best to just ignore her remark, since probably Elsa hadn’t paid attention to the word. "I'm sorry I didn't call to let you know I was coming, but I wanted to see you. Make sure you were okay. And I felt it was best to just come here," she explained. "Now I think that maybe it wasn't a good idea. I'm sorry I interrupted your evening with Marshall."
Elsa chuckled, she knew Anna was going to think Marshall and she had planned to spend the evening together. "Don't worry about it. Marshmallow just stopped by on his way back home. It looks like a storm is coming and he wanted to make sure I was going to be alright on my own."
"Oh…” Anna looked out the window, over Elsa’s shoulder once again. “You guys knew a storm was coming?" She hadn’t imagined one was coming until a minute ago when she heard the wind picking up.
“Yes. Years living here makes you aware of the sudden changes… Having ice powers makes you somehow more aware. But he doesn't necessarily know that," Elsa commented.
Anna opened her eyes in surprised. She knew about Elsa's powers. Kristoff and her parents had mentioned them a lot over the last two weeks. She had seen Elsa losing control in front of her too. But for some reason, Elsa talking about them so casually made the whole thing more real. "Right. Powers… I keep forgetting about those."
Elsa turned around with a sheepish smile on her face and asked, “do they make you uncomfortable?”
“What? No. No, not at all,” she answered in a hurry, shaking her hands in front of her. The last thing she needed was for Elsa to feel uncomfortable for who she was. “It’s just- You hid them so well for so long. It’s strange to picture you with them now.”
Elsa smiled and looked down at her hands. “I’ve been hiding them for years. I don’t remember the last time I used them in front of someone else…” She thought for a few seconds before saying, “not counting the accident at your place.”
“Not even in front of Kristoff?”
“I don’t feel comfortable using them. I’m afraid I could hurt him.” She then turned around once again and poured the hot water into two mugs and handed one to Anna.
She accepted the mug and let out a content sigh when the hot surface touched her hands. She was surprised to see Elsa had prepared her favourite tea without even asking.
“Would you mind carrying mine to the living room?”
“Sure,” she said. “Just hand it to me.”
Anna walked directly to the spot where she was in front of the fireplace. She put Elsa’s mug on the coffee table and sat down on the wooden floor near the fire.
Elsa sat down on the couch and threw a cushion to her. “Your butt will freeze.” She picked her own mug and extended her broken leg over the wooden table.
Both girls stayed silence for a while, enjoying the sound of the fireplace and the wind outside. They both felt they had to address the elephant in the room, but they knew they were risking ruining the peaceful atmosphere if they did. After they couldn’t stand the silence anymore, they both said, “So-” and “I wanted to-” at the same time and stopped to listen to the other. Anna chuckled nervously and Elsa prompt her to say what she was about to say.
“I wanted to apologise,” said Anna when she noticed Elsa was not going to speak until she did. “I was so focused on telling you the truth about your birth parents, I didn’t stop to think how much it could affect you.” She kept her head down as she apologised. She didn’t want to see Elsa’s reaction. “That’s why I’m here. I felt terrible when Kristoff told me you had left town.”
Elsa smiled sadly. She understood Anna’s regret but she couldn’t help but feel a mixture of sadness and anger. She wasn’t mad at Anna, the poor girl had come all the way to the North mountain just to apologise, and for something she shouldn’t even be apologising in the first place in Elsa’s opinion. In Elsa’s eyes, Anna was the only one willing to tell her the truth. But, sadly, Anna was also the reminder of the childhood she could have had but didn’t. The reminder she hadn't been good enough for her birth parents.
She took some time to answer as she struggled to keep her emotions in. She didn’t want to show Anna how much the truth had affected her. When she felt good enough to talk, she said, “you don’t need to apologise. You did the right thing.”
Elsa’s voice hadn’t betrayed her emotions; but her lost look, watching the fire behind Anna, did. Elsa had, in mere seconds, lost her composed expression. Anna could see she was trying her best to hide the way she felt. She was keeping her sadness and anger inside, and in Anna’s opinion that wasn’t healthy at all. The worst thing was, she had probably been doing it since the day she found out the truth.
Anna took a deep breath after making up her mind about what was the right thing to do, and dared ask, “how do you feel?”
Elsa looked at her for a fraction of a second, but then turned her face in the opposite direction. It was enough to let Anna see tears had gathered in her eyes though.
Even if she knew she was risking her friendship with Elsa by meddling in her life; Anna couldn’t let Elsa suffer in silence. She couldn’t let her bottle things up inside till the point it was too much to endure. “Elsa?” she insisted. “I know the truth mustn’t be easy for you, please let me know how you feel.” Her voice had a pleading tone.
“How do you think I feel?” asked Elsa. Her voice trembling as she let a few tears escape. She tried to dry them before Anna noticed, but she knew it was useless. She had felt awful since she found out the truth and it was a matter of time before everything came crashing down on her. Having Anna in front of her was not helping, and she knew she was going break down any minute.
Anna kept looking at Elsa as she thought of an answer. ‘What would I feel in Elsa’s situation?’ she thought. She knew she would be mad with her birth parents. She would feel betrayed, she guessed. Though she wasn’t sure if that was the case. She knew Elsa’s childhood had been anything but good, but how bad it had been, she had no idea. “Hurt?” she tried. “Disappointed?... I really don’t know, Elsa. All I know is that whatever is going on through your head mustn’t be good. Try to open up. Let me help you, please.”
Elsa kept battling with her emotions and the storm inside of her at the same time. When she felt like she couldn’t take it anymore, she rested her head on the back the couch and let the tears fall; she only hoped her powers weren’t going to betray her and do something stupid.
“I wish I could do something to make you feel better.” She saw how inconsolable she looked. “I’m sorry our parents did this to you.” Anna said in a low voice.
“They are not my parents…” muttered Elsa, still crying. “They thought they were better off without me. I have no reason to consider them my parents.”
Anna knew what Elsa meant, she did. Elsa didn’t know her parents like she did, but it still hurt to hear her say that. She did the most logical thing and kept quiet though; there was no point in trying to change her mind at that point. It was even cruel to try to do it. She thought it was better to stay silent and wait for Elsa to open up. To her relief, she did.
“The only thing I’d wanted to know about my past was that my parents had had a good reason to leave me behind. That all the shit I went through was because they didn’t have another option…” She dried her tears and continued, “but they did. They just chose it was easier to continue without the abnormal, dangerous baby.”
“That’s how you see yourself?” asked Anna surprised by her words. “Abnormal and dangerous?”
“For years I was treated like a dangerous animal who deserved no rights…” She looked at one of her hands before saying, “you start to believe it’s true after some time, you know?”
“What?” Anna wondered who could be so heartless to make a girl like Elsa feel like that. ‘Elsa, what have you gone through?’ Anna wondered, not knowing if she had the right to ask the question out loud.
Elsa didn’t pay attention to Anna and continued, “and when you find out that even your parents thought so, it becomes almost impossible not to see yourself in that way…”
“Mum and dad didn’t see you like a dangerous animal, Elsa. Please, don’t think that!” Anna’s eyes brimmed with tears for her sister.
“Didn’t they?” she scoffed. “Then what made them keep you and not me? They raised you, they loved you... Didn’t I deserve that too?” Elsa felt bad for bringing that up to Anna, but it was the truth.
“Yes, you did. Of course you did!” Anna felt lost for words. She didn’t know what to say to make Elsa see she wasn’t what she believed.
“Then why was I denied that for years? Why did every single person treat me the way they did?” her breath was laboured, and she recognised the signs of an anxiety attack.
“Elsa, what happened to you?” asked Anna, not noticing Elsa's state. She didn't care if it was not the right time for that question. The way Elsa kept mentioning the past didn't set well with her.
Instead of answering, Elsa picked up her crutches and walked towards the door. She needed to leave if she wanted Anna to be safe.
Anna stood up from her place on the floor, and ran to stop her. "Elsa-"
“I need to go outside,” she interrupted.
“No. Elsa, wait.” Anna put her hand over the door to prevent Elsa open it.
Elsa controlled her laboured breaths to be able to explain things to Anna. “You don’t understand. I really need to go outside right now.”
“Elsa there’s a raging storm outside.”
“And if I don’t leave right now, there’s going to be one inside the house." Elsa raised her eyes to meet Anna's. "Please, move aside.”
Anna heard her pleading tone and noticed how cold the room had become. She took a step away from the door and watched Elsa leave in a hurry, closing the door behind her. There was nothing Anna wanted more than to go outside and show Elsa she deserved love and respect as much as any other person. To show her she was there for her. But she guessed it was best to let her calm down on her own. She had mentioned being afraid of hurting people with her powers, and she knew her presence was only going to increase her anxiety.
She sat by the door for over an hour hearing the howling wind outside. She waited for the storm - natural or not, she was not sure - to calm down before going out. The moment she couldn't hear the wind outside, Anna wrapped the jacket Elsa had given her around herself and left the cottage. She was surprised to see Elsa sitting down on the front steps like she had earlier that evening. Anna walked slowly towards her and sat down by her side. She didn’t say anything, she just stayed by her side.
Elsa tried her best to ignore Anna. She was more calmed, but she felt ashamed for the way she had reacted inside the house. It was not Anna’s fault her life was miserable. It was not Anna’s fault her parents had loved her. Anna didn’t deserve to deal with her shit just because she was her biological sister. Elsa waited for Anna to just get tired - or cold - and go back inside; but to her surprise, Anna didn’t. She just sat there, by her side, for what seemed like hours.
“I can’t get my brain to stop telling me how different I am. How undeserving of love I am. And I just want it to stop,” confessed Elsa, when she understood Anna wasn’t going to leave her side.
Without warning, Anna put her arm around Elsa’s, and rested her head on her right shoulder.
Elsa stiffened, but didn’t pull away from her.
“You are not different,” she said when she felt Elsa relax. “You are special. And you do deserve love.”
Elsa looked at Anna and then at her arm wrapped around her own, but didn’t say anything.
Taking Elsa’s silence as a good sign, Anna continued, “I don’t know what you went through, so I won’t ask you to give our parents a chance… But I’ll make everything in my power to help you see yourself the way Kristoff, your parents and I see you.”
Elsa felt tears gather in her eyes once again; but this time there was a warm feeling in her chest, instead of the storm she had felt for the past two weeks. She didn’t know what to answer back. So, she rested her head against Anna’s, hoping her sister could understand what she meant by it. Thank you, Anna.
I wanted to thank you all for your comments and encouragement. Your reviews inspired me to upload this chapter so soon, thank you!
As always, let me know what you think. Things still look grim but at least the girls are together now.
Wish you guys the best!
Chapter 14: The way I see it
Elsa woke up startled by the incessant ringing of the telephone. Even if she recognised the sound, it took her some seconds to understand where she was. She was confused by the fact she was waking up in her living room that morning. But she soon realised she must have fallen asleep at some point during the night. Thus, explaining why she was waking up on her couch.
After the initial confusion, she remembered the events the night before. Both girls had returned inside, once Elsa had calmed down, and they had sat down close to the fireplace once again. Elsa hadn't really noticed how cold Anna was until she saw her shivering in front of the fire; and, not thinking twice about it, she offered Anna her room to sleep in. Anna had refused as Elsa had expected her to do, but she had been determined to make the girl sleep in the only warm bedroom in the house. It had taken Elsa some time to convince Anna she didn't feel the cold like other people did, which led to a conversation about Elsa's powers and the way she experienced heat.
Elsa didn't quite enjoy talking about her powers since every question reminded her of the multiple questions she had been asked over the years by the nurses and doctors in Romsdal. But she had been patient with Anna and she had explained that, even if she wasn't affected by cold, she did feel it. It was just a different feeling than what the rest of the people experienced. While for the majority the cold was something uncomfortable, for her the cold had a soothing effect she couldn't really compare to anything else.
Elsa had then stayed in the living room, after Anna had accepted her offer. She had stayed awake thinking about her family, Anna and everything that had happened in the last three weeks.
The phone rang for the fifth time forcing her to stop thinking about the events the previous night, and get up. And, even if she wasn't in the mood to talk so early in the morning, she smiled when she heard the voice of her mother on the other side...
Anna, on the other hand, had woken up earlier that it was usual for her that morning. The conversation with Elsa the previous day kept replaying in her head and she couldn't help but feel bad for the older girl. There were many things she had wanted to ask Elsa, since it was obvious she had years of pain bottled up inside of her chest, and Anna suspected she suffered from anxiety and depression. But she knew she had to be patient and thankful that Elsa was at least willing to accept her in her life after everything that had happened.
In a twisted way, Anna had been right about the truth. It could be considered a good thing. Her parents had finally come clean about their past; and Elsa had the chance to use the truth as an inflection point in her life. Whatever had happened to her in her childhood had left an open wound, which was still in the process of healing. And Anna thought this could be her opportunity to heal.
Anna heard Elsa pick up the phone and start a conversation in the other room, and thought it was a good opportunity to get up, use the bathroom and start her day. She thought she could prepare breakfast for Elsa, as a thank you for letting her stay and use her bed.
When Anna left the bathroom, she waved a silent morning greeting to Elsa who was still speaking on the phone. The older girl just smiled in return, as she continued her conversation. Anna didn't want to overhear, but the word hospital had called her attention when walked by Elsa's side. She knew it was probably just another doctor appointment, but she heard Elsa's discomfort about the idea of going to the hospital once again. She was really curious to know the reason behind Elsa's fear of hospitals, but she thought it was best to wait for Elsa to tell her on her own.
Once inside the kitchen, Anna focused all her energy in her task at hand. She checked the fridge and she picked some milk, eggs and butter; and began cooking. A couple of minutes later, Elsa entered the room, and sat down in front of Anna, who was setting the table by that time.
"Morning. Did the phone wake you up too?" asked Elsa, worried she had disturbed Anna in her sleep.
"Morning," answered Anna with a smile. "Not really. I was awake before it started ringing." Anna got everything she had prepared to the table and offered, "coffee?"
"You didn't need to make breakfast."
"Of course I did. It was the least I could do since you let me stay and not freeze to death outside…" She gave Elsa a big smile and showed her the coffee pot. "So, coffee?"
Elsa chuckled as she handed her the empty cup. The idea of anyone letting someone like Anna outside in that weather was ridiculous to Elsa, but she guessed she could accept the girl's gratitude and enjoy breakfast.
Anna sat down, and only then she noticed the books piled up on one of the corners of the table. She had been so focused on breakfast, she hadn't really seen them before. She smiled when she realised they were coursebooks and a worn out notebook. Asking Elsa for permission, she opened the notebook to pay a look.
"I've been trying to study on my own," explained Elsa when Anna began reading what was written in it.
As she turned the pages, Anna saw Elsa had been practicing her calligraphy, together with some math problems. There were some notes about nature, which she guessed were part of Elsa's curiosity of how things in the world worked. It was fascinating for Anna to see Elsa's hard work and determination to learn. There were a lot of things she needed to improve, but the amount of work she had done on her own in the last few weeks was impressive.
"You've done a lot of work," said Anna. She couldn't help but feel proud of Elsa.
"I've been trying. But I'm not doing really good."
"I think you're doing great," said Anna as she turned a few more pages. "I'm sure you are learning a lot on your own."
"I don't think so." Elsa extended her hand asking for the notebook. Once Anna gave it to her, she began turning the pages, looking at all the exercises she had done wrong. "I try but I don't understand a thing. It was easier with you," she confessed.
Anna smiled at her, but something told her Elsa was not just being nice. She actually looked frustrated. It was then Anna picked the math book that was on the pile in the corner. She read its title and she was surprised to see it was a book of a higher level than she originally imagined. She showed Elsa a sympathetic smile and said, "no wonder you think things were easier with me. Elsa, look at these…" She opened the math book and showed her some exercises. "They are too complex for you right now."
"I don't have a lot of books." She sighed. It didn't matter how much she tried, she always found a way to make things more complicated than it was necessary. "I thought Kristoff's old books could work."
"They could be useful in the future, but right now I wouldn't recommend them."
"What books can I use then?"
"Well, my books could help... I'm still available if you want to continue studying." She wanted to let Elsa know she was more than willing to help her. "I know things have been weird these last few weeks, but my offer to help you earn your diplomas stands. I could come here on weekends to teach you, and you could practice on your own during the week."
"You would do that for me?" Elsa was surprised to hear Anna's offer. One thing was to teach her when they spent almost everyday together, and another was to take the time to travel every weekend just for her.
"Of course! If you want me to, that is."
Elsa played with the napkin in front of her while she thought about her options. She really wanted to study and do something with her life, but on the other hand, she didn't want Anna to sacrifice her weekends just to help her. "Why are you so nice to me?" she asked after a moment.
Anna put her hand over Elsa's to make sure she payed attention to her words. "Because you are a good person and everyone deserves a chance to study. It's unfair you didn't get yours when you were a kid." Anna stopped for a moment when she noticed how cold Elsa's hand was. It was obvious she was nervous, but that didn't stop Anna from saying what she wanted to say. "I want to help you. That's what family do."
Elsa opened her eyes in surprise at that. She still had mixed feelings about the idea of the two of them being family. She didn't feel comfortable accepting Agdar and Idunn into her life after everything she had gone through. However, Anna's help and comforting presence was something she could accept.
"Anna, I-" She began to say but since she found no words to explain the way she felt, she thought it was better to let the comment slip and simply be thankful for Anna's offer. "Thank you."
Anna hold her hand a little tighter, glad to feel it was a bit warmer than before. "So, that's a yes, right?"
A chuckle and a nod gave her the confirmation she was waiting for.
After talking with her daughter on the phone, Gerda began arranging things in the house for Elsa's stay that weekend. She was making a list of the things she needed to buy, when she heard knocks on the front door. Curious to know who would visit on a Saturday morning, she stopped what she was doing and opened the door.
To say she was surprised to see Idunn and Agdar at her door was an understatement. The last thing she expected was for them to show up at their house after Kristoff had practically kicked them out a couple of weeks before. She hadn't heard anything about them in the past weeks; but if she had to be honest, she hadn't really given the couple much thought. Her main concern had been Elsa, and how she was coping with the news. She had wondered about Anna and how the sweet girl was dealing with everything too, but she hadn't seen her since that day either.
Making sure not to show the way she felt, Gerda greeted her guests and invited them in. Years of working with people had taught her how to keep a gentle expression, and to treat each person equally. There was nothing she wanted more than to give the younger couple a piece of her mind for showing up in Elsa's life the way they had, but she thought it was better to have a civilised conversation instead.
"How can I help you?" she asked, as she sat in the armchair in front of them.
Agdar and Idunn looked at each other, trying to come to an agreement about who was going to speak. They knew their chances to get closer to Elsa, and to know more about her life depended on how that conversation played out. Making them feel more nervous than they already were.
Agdar took the initiative and said, "first of all, we wanted to say we are sorry for any problem our presence may have caused in your household. It was wrong to overstep your boundaries and come into your house claiming to be Elsa's parents. We didn't stop to think before acting, and for that we apologise." He tried to be as methodical as possible. The last thing he wanted was to disrespect the Bjorgmans after everything they have caused. "We also wanted to talk with you and Kai, if that's possible."
Gerda smoothed the wrinkles on the cushion she was holding, as she tried to come up with a respectful answer. "I'm not going to lie and say everything is okay," she began. "I wish you could have been more careful in the way you delivered the news to Elsa, but there's no point in discussing that now. What's done is done." Not waiting for an answer, she left the room to call her husband, who was in the garage. He had been preparing the car to travel to the North mountain and pick Elsa up.
Kai stopped his work when Gerda explained to him Agdar's request, and soon joined them inside. He knew there was a good reason for their sudden visit, and he wanted to be present. Any topic that involved Kristoff or Elsa, was top priority to him. He also knew his wife was still struggling with the news, and he wanted to make sure she didn't say something she could regret. Agdar and Idunn were Kristoff's in-laws and, even if it pained him to admit it, they were Elsa's biological parents. The least they could do was have a good-natured relationship.
"What can we do for you?" he asked once he greeted them both. He sat on a chair by his wife's side, and patiently waited for them to speak.
Agdar waited no time, and soon began explaining what they were doing there. "Ever since we saw Elsa at our house, we haven't stopped thinking about her. About who she is, who she has become. We were wondering if you could help us get in touch with her again."
"We know Elsa has all the right in the world not to forgive us if that's what she wants," said Idunn joining her husband's explanation. "But we would like a chance to talk to her. At least once. To tell her how sorry we are. To let her know why we did what we did."
"Let me get this straight," replied Gerda. "You want us to convince our daughter to give you a chance?"
Agdar nodded. If he put it simple, that was exactly what they wanted.
"I know it's a big favour to ask," continued Idunn. "But we don't know what to do. Seeing Elsa after so many years was a shock to us. We would really like a chance to see her."
"I don't think she is ready to meet you yet. So, no," she answered, cutting to the chase. Even if she felt some pity for the couple, Gerda was not going to go against her daughter's wishes. "I won't force her to listen to you if she doesn't want to."
"We understand," interjected Agdar. "but, please, try to see things from our perspective. How would you feel if you found your daughter after over twenty years? Wouldn't you like the chance to talk to her?"
"I would certainly do," she said honestly. "Nonetheless, I would be aware I gave up the right to be part of her life the moment I abandoned her."
"Gerda, please," interrupted Kai, not wanting her wife to start an argument.
Looking at her husband she said, "No. I'm sorry. I'm not going to pretend this okay, Kai." She turned to the younger couple again and explained, "I understand this must have been a shock for you. But the way I see it, Elsa is not your daughter anymore. You can't see her if she doesn't want to."
The remark about Elsa not being their daughter angered Agdar. He knew it was true to some extent, but the truth hurt him more than he had imagined. "Even if the circumstances are not what one would call ideal, she is our daughter. We can't just be erased from her life."
"Of course you can," said Gerda raising her voice. "You abandoned her. You were the ones who walked away from her first. It's only logical she doesn't want to reach out to you now. Have you ever stopped to think about her feelings?"
"You don't understand," cut in Idunn. She felt terribly guilty for her past decisions and she needed a chance to talk with Elsa. "We had our reasons. We-"
"We all have reasons for our actions." Gerda was not willing to sit and hear excuses. "It's important you remember that there are reasons and then there are consequences."
"We are aware of the damage we have caused." Agdar tried to explain. He knew it was going to be difficult to change Gerda's opinion, but he needed to try.
"No, you are not." She was not going to let them act as if they knew what Elsa had been through. "You left Elsa to face the world alone. A world that casts aside those who are different. Did you really think she was going to be okay on her own?" Part of her wanted to listen them, to give them a chance. But she couldn't. She had promised to do everything in her power to protect Elsa's best interest when she adopted her.
"We did what we thought was best for her," said Idunn, blinking away her tears. "We loved her."
"Well, you made a mistake."
"Gerda, please, stop. I'm sure they know they made a huge mistake," interrupted Kai once again. "Look," he said, calling the Arendelles' attention. "Elsa's childhood wasn't conventional, and she's only now finding out she could have been spared the pain if only you didn't abandoned her." He was not okay with the way Gerda was addressing the topic, but he agreed with her. "All we are trying to do is respect her wishes." He looked at his watch and thought it was better to end the conversation there. "Now, if you could excuse us. We need to go pick Elsa up for a doctor's appointment. Can we discuss this some other time?"
Agdar nodded and stood up. He knew there was no reason to keep insisting. He had to be thankful Kai was willing to discuss the matter in the future. Maybe it was best to respect their opinion now and give Elsa some more time too.
As they were leaving the house, Idunn tried her luck and asked them for one last favour. She held Gerda's hands in hers and said, "please, I beg you, at least tell her we tried. Let her know we tried to get her back. We just couldn't find her."
Gerda noticed the pain in her eyes and, feeling bad for the woman, she thought she could agree to her request. She was about to answer, when Kai stepped in and asked, "what do you mean by that?"
Hearing Kai's interest, Agdar walked back to the door and explained, "Idunn and I, we searched every orphanage when we had enough money to take care of her. We wanted to do the right thing, but we couldn't find her."
"Is that true?" asked Gerda, suddenly feeling bad for the couple.
Idunn nodded. "Would you mind telling us were she was? Where did you find Elsa?" She had been wondering about that since she found out Elsa had been living with the Bjorgmans.
Gerda looked at her husband, silently asking if it was okay to tell them.
Kai shook his head and answered for his wife, "we adopted Elsa under special circumstances. All I can say is she was not living in a proper institution, if that's what you are asking."
Kai looked at his watch once again and thought it wasn't the right time or place for that conversation. "I'm sorry. We really need to go."
Taking a card out of his wallet, Agdar said, "Here. This is my number. Please call me whenever you are available. We would really like to know where she was. It would help us understand a lot of things. Trust our word when we say we tried to find her."
"Or call if Elsa changes her mind and she wants to meet us," interrupted Idunn. "All we want to do is apologise and make amends."
Kai picked the card and nodded. He didn't mention it, but he was already thinking meeting them again was going to be necessary. "We will," he promised.
The weather outside and Elsa's limited movement didn't give the girls much options on what to do while they waited for Elsa's parents to come and pick them up. It was for that reason that they found themselves slouched on Elsa's couch talking about life.
Elsa had told Anna about her appointment in the hospital, and how she hoped for the cast to be removed that day. She was eager to start moving more freely and return to the way things were before the accident once again. They had then talked about Elsa's plan for the future, and what she wanted to do once her leg healed.
It was through this conversation that Anna found out Elsa's work wasn't just limited to the winter season like Anna had imagined. The mountain gave her and the rest of the people working there the chance to earn good money from winter sports almost all year long. Experienced skiers paid good money to those willing to show them the best natural slopes at the top of the mountain; and Elsa was one of the most trusted for that kind of work. The bad thing was the trails were too dangerous if you couldn't trust your body, and her leg needed to be in the best shape possible to be able to accompany experienced skiers.
Anna was surprised to find out Elsa knew the mountain like the back of her hand, and that she was - together with Marshall - one of the few who regularly climbed to the different mountain shelters to supply them with essential goods too.
"I had no idea you did something like that!" exclaimed Anna, surprised to find out Elsa was more adventurous than she had imagined. "So, you climb up there even during the winter?"
Elsa leaned forward and left the photo album she had been showing Anna on the coffee table. It had a few pictures of her and Marshall in the different shelters, and one of the first time she had reached the summit of the North mountain.
"We try to provide the shelters with everything they need before winter sets in. Marshall and I are experienced enough to climb in case something happens to those living in the shelters, but we avoid climbing during the coldest months. It's too dangerous."
"What about the people living there? Isn't it dangerous for them too?"
"They don't come out much during winter. Only if there's an emergency." Seeing Anna's confused expression she explained, "I know it sounds like they are risking their lives unnecessarily, but someone has to be up there in case something happens to hikers and skiers."
"Have you ever stayed in a shelter?" Anna was still amazed by the life the girl had chosen, and she wanted to know more about it.
"No, I haven't." She looked out the window in the direction of the highest peak. "I'd like to, but you need to live with someone for at least three months. I've never trusted my powers enough to do something like that."
"No one knows about your powers here?"
She shook her head. "No. Only my family, together with some policemen and doctors know. And now you, of course," she said smiling. "As far as I know, that's everyone."
"Policemen and doctors?" Anna thought it was logical someone besides her immediate family knew, but it was strange to think some policemen were involved.
"It's a long story. It has to do with how I came to live with the Bjorgmans," she answered. She didn't elaborate showing it was something she didn't want to discuss at the moment.
The younger girl understood her request and asked a different question, "What about Marshall? He looks like someone you trust."
Elsa smiled, she knew some question about the mountaineer was coming. She had, after all, told Anna some things about the times they'd climbed together. "I do trust him. We both know we can count on the other out there. But I'm afraid he wouldn't look at me the same way if I tell him." She looked at her hands for a moment and confessed, "the same happened with you. I wanted to stop lying and show you before, but the idea of people being afraid paralyses me. I'm still amazed you feel at ease around me."
"Well," she said, patting her hand. "I see the person you are. Not the powers." Anna then scratched her chin as she thought about Elsa's powers. "To be honest, I wish you could show me what you can do. You've only used them once in front of me."
"I told you I don't feel comfortable. And technically, I used them twice in front of you," clarified Elsa.
To this Anna opened her eyes in amazement. How Elsa had been able to use her powers in front of her and get away with it was a mystery to Anna.
Seeing her expression, she explained, "you didn't see me, but I used my powers to cushion the fall that day in the slope. I didn't anticipated there was going to be a massive rock in the place I landed though."
"Are you serious?"
She nodded. She had to admit it felt nice to tell Anna the truth about that day. She was always careful not to talk to much about the accident in fear of revealing something.
"Elsa…" Anna was astonished. She was finding out she could really have been dead if not for Elsa. "You really saved my life that day."
"I was going to use my powers as a last resource if I didn't get to you on time. Even if I freaked you out in the process." Elsa smiled sheepishly. "I know it sounds crazy, but there was something that pushed me to the limit that day. I couldn't have let you fall."
Both girls stayed in silence for a couple of minutes. Anna was still processing what Elsa had just confessed. She couldn't believe she had done something so brave that day, she chose to save her even if she knew she was putting her life - or her secret - at risk. A tender smile plastered on her face. "It's like you knew we were family from the start."
"You said something pushed you to your limits. Don't you think that's it?" The idea was exciting to Anna. She had to admit she had felt a strange connection with Elsa from the start, and maybe the fact they were related could explain that feeling.
Not daring look at her, Elsa fixed her eyes on the table in front of her. "No, I- I don't think that's it."
"Why?" Anna's smile dropped.
Elsa glanced at Anna for a second before turning her attention to the table in front of her. She didn't know how to explain she still found it hard to accept they were related. She liked Anna and she enjoyed her company, but she couldn't find in her heart to accept Anna's family as her own. "I told you last night, I don't consider Agdar and Idunn my parents. As far as I am concerned, we are not part of the same family."
Anna tried not to take her words to heart, but it hurt to hear her say that. "You don't have to forgive our parents, but you have to accept we are family. What's the point of denying it?"
Suddenly standing up, Elsa picked the photo album from the table and crutched her way to the bookshelf on the opposite wall. "I don't want to talk about this."
"We'll need to address this at some point, Elsa." She wanted to help Elsa overcome her problems, but she thought the least she needed to do to begin healing was accept who she was. "Are you listening?" she asked, when she noticed Elsa was giving her the cold shoulder. Anna sighed, annoyed by Elsa's attitude, and focused her attention on the magazine in front of her. If Elsa wanted to ignore her, then so be it.
For the next minutes, both girls spent their time in complete silence. Anna reading the oldest and most boring magazine she had ever seen, while Elsa ordered and rearranged the books in her bookshelf. Anna glimpsed Elsa's back from time to time, trying to read what the girl was thinking, but it was useless.
Anna had no problem in keeping herself busy, but the silence was something she couldn't really stand. So after some time, she dared ask, "mind if I turn on the radio?"
"Be my guest," came Elsa's reply. She didn't sound angry or annoyed. But it was clear she still didn't want to talk.
Anna walked the room until she found the radio on the other side, opposite to where Elsa was standing. She had some trouble finding something good to listen to, but after a while she was able to tune in a radio with soft rock music playing. She returned to her place on the couch and continued reading. The music changed from an acoustic guitar melody to a different song after a while, and she soon felt drawn to the rhythm and the voice of the singer.
How much of my mother has my mother left in me?
How much of my love will be insane to some degree?
And what about this feeling that I'm never good enough?
Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?
She noticed Elsa drop a book, sigh in frustration and then struggle to pick it up as the first verse played. She was about to stand up and offer her some help, when Elsa reached it and in a sudden movement, she straightened up and threw the book directly at the radio. The song continued playing even after the book struck it and it fell to the ground.
Startled by what had just happened, Anna stood up in an instant. She couldn't believe Elsa had done something like that completely out of the blue. She raised her hands in front of her in case Elsa chose her as her next target. "Hey, what are you doing?" she asked, still astounded.
"I- I can't- It's that stupid song!" replied Elsa. She looked angered, frustrated. She rested her back on the bookshelf and let herself slide to the floor. She put her head in her hands as she explained, "it's been on repeat for a week already. I can't stand it!"
Not knowing what to say or do, Anna walked to the radio and picked it up, putting it back on its table. She turned the volume down enough for only her to hear, and she continued listening.
How much like my brothers, do my brothers wanna be?
Does a broken home become another broken family?
Or will we be there for each other, like nobody ever could?
Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?
I can feel love the I want, I can feel the love I need
But it's never gonna come the way I am-
She turned the music down, and walked back to where Elsa was sitting. Anna believed she understood why Elsa didn't particularly liked the song. The lyrics did seem to be mocking her in a way. Nevertheless, she thought it was ridiculous to lash out on the poor radio like that. Whatever was going on in her head was not going to solve in that way. She sat on the coffee table, resting her arms on her knees and leaned in closer to Elsa. "It's just a song, Elsa."
"I know," she admitted in defeat. She let go of her head and looked at Anna in the eyes. "How can it have such an effect on me? I hate feeling like this."
Anna noticed then Elsa looked a lot more tired. Almost defeated. Gone was the composed girl she had been talking to mere minutes before. Anna's heart ached for whatever had gone through her head in such a short period of time. Trying to make Elsa see the good side of the song, she tried, "that's the beauty of music, isn't it? It allows us to feel things. Even when we want to ignore our feelings."
"It messes with my head." She let a tired breath escape her lips, and hid her face in her hands once again.
"Maybe it messes with your head," she poked Elsa's head to stress her point, "because you are not letting yourself talk about the way you feel."
Elsa stayed silent for some time trying to make sense of what Anna was telling her. She wondered if it was possible to feel better if she just let herself talk about her worries. She looked at Anna and noticed she was patiently waiting for her to say something. "I'm afraid my family won't see me the same way anymore," she confessed. "I fear I may lose my family now that your parents showed up."
"Why would that happen?" Even if she tried, Anna couldn't make sense of what Elsa was saying.
She built up her courage and said, "I've been nothing but trouble for Kai and Gerda since they took me in. Maybe they'll follow your parents' example, and see they are better off without me."
"And I can't trust your parents," she interrupted. She didn't want to stop now that she had finally voiced her fear. "Not the way I trust Kai and Gerda... What if I end up alone again?"
Anna hurried to answer her question before Elsa's brain jumped to another absurd conclusion. "Finding out who you are - and where you come from - shouldn't change anything, Elsa. It doesn't work that way." She took her hand in hers and said, "you won't end up alone. They love you."
Elsa didn't meet Anna's eyes, letting her see she didn't believe that to be true.
"Hey," said Anna kneeling in front of her. "Listen to me. They do. Right now they are worrying they may lose you. Kristoff said so to me the other day."
"Because you won't talk to them. And they don't know what's going on in here." She poked her forehead once again. "You're just so frightened of losing your family, you keep pushing them away; and me too. You won't heal if you keep hiding from everyone who's ready to help you."
She built up her courage and looked at Anna once again. "I really don't want to push you away. But I can't call you my sister yet. I'm sorry."
Anna smiled at her comment. She could see the guilt written on her face, like she was actually trying to change the way she saw her. She felt she had been a little unfair with Elsa by trying to push her on that matter. Thinking it was best to just accept her friendship for the time being, she replied, "don't worry about it." She moved and sat down, resting her back on the bookshelf next to her.
After some minutes in silence, Elsa thought it was only fair to ask Anna how she was feeling. She had been so focused on her pain she hadn't stopped to think about her. "Aren't you afraid your family won't ever be the same after this?"
Anna, being caught by surprise, thought her answer for some time. Things had seemed bleak for Anna too. However, even if she had cried herself to sleep, and she had blamed her parents for the lies; she hadn't let her fears control her life. She had simply chosen to make everything in her power to keep her family together.
She thought the best thing to do was be sincere with Elsa. "No, I'm not," she smiling. "Deep down I know that if we can overcome this, then we'll become stronger. I trust in my parents."
"They lied to you." Elsa didn't want to remind Anna of her parents' mistakes, but her trust was something she couldn't comprehend.
"Yes, they did," she agreed. "But I think they did it to protect me in some way… So, I trust their word when they say they loved you and they tried to do the right thing."
"I don't know if I'll ever be able to trust your parents."
She found Elsa's eyes once again and said, "you don't have to trust them. But I will, okay? For both of us."
On their way to the North mountain, Gerda noticed Kai was more distracted than usual. He wasn't really paying attention to their conversation. He seemed to be only focused on the road, and whatever was in his mind. It called her attention since he rarely got lost in his thoughts like that.
"Kai, are you okay?" she asked when she saw him frown for the third time. "You've been quiet since we left home."
"Do you think it's true?"
"What Agdar and Idunn said…" He looked at Gerda. "Do you think they tried to find Elsa?"
"I don't know," answered Gerda, thinking about what the couple had said at their place. "I hope it is. It'd mean they actually cared." She thought it was weird he was worried for something like that. "Why?"
"At first, I thought they hadn't tried to contact Elsa since the day they abandoned her." He began explaining. "But, what if what they claim is true? What if they did try to find her? Wouldn't that prove that Weselton purposely made Elsa go missing?"
"Kai…" said Gerda in a warning tone. She remembered a promised he had made long ago. "After Weselton's sentence you promised you were not going to work on his case anymore." She remembered clearly Kai sitting down to talk with Elsa. "What's more important, you promised Elsa it was all over."
"I know what I promised," he knew she was not going to like what he was thinking. It was the main reason he had been so quiet. "But at the time I didn't imagine her parents were alive. This changes everything." He looked at the road to make sure it was safe, before looking at Gerda once again. "If we can prove the Arendelles were looking for her, then Weselton's defence won't make any sense."
"Kai, enough," she begged.
Suddenly feeling exasperated, he said, "Elsa didn't found justice in that trial. He was convicted for his medical crimes, yes. But the justice didn't even consider Elsa's case."
"We already went through this. There was a reason why we followed the prosecutor's advice and we didn't get Elsa involved years ago. It was for her own good, remember?"
He did remember, and he knew it had been for the best at the time. But now they had more information about Elsa's past. Maybe they could find a way of helping Elsa find justice and closure. He needed to talk with Agdar and Idunn about Elsa's childhood and find out if they knew more about Weselton than just his name. After all, they had mentioned his name the night Elsa lost control of her powers.
Gerda noticed the expression on his face, and realised he was still thinking about digging into the past. Hoping he was going to listen to her, she said, "Elsa's been trying to bury the past. This won't help her."
"I won't get Elsa involved in any of this. I promise."
Gerda dropped the subject when she noticed they had reached the base of the mountain. In a few minutes they were going to meet Elsa, and she didn't want to be discussing when they did. She made a mental note to talk with Kai once they were on their own again.
The song lyrics belong to John Mayer – "In the blood"
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