Characters in this chapter: Anna, Elsa and Olaf.
Spring is cool in Arendelle. Mothers dress their daughters with thin cloaks and their sons with light jackets. Flower buds scattered about are peeking out and gradually unfurling. As summer gradually approaches, the day stretches on for just a few more minutes, then a few more hours. However, as the citizens go about their daily routines welcoming the upcoming warmer season, there is an unusual chill that still pervades within the large castle that sits at the edge of the kingdom.
Gossip spreads about last autumn. At the time, a member of the castle's staff had whispered that the inside was getting colder again, much earlier than expected. It was only for a few days and only by a few degrees, but it is still enough to be noticeable. The locals are beginning to wonder if the fallen temperature means a repeat of what occurred that autumn or worse yet, a repeat of the Freezing of Arendelle during the summer. When they manage to glimpse at the Queen through the windows, she seems calm - not as frightened as she had been when she had run away, but her expression lacks… something. Her smile is limited only to the mechanics of her mouth, nothing more.
The princess does not complain. She never addresses it to anyone, though one person might have overheard a private conversation with the Official Ice Master and Deliverer ("I just don't know what to do sometimes." "Anna, maybe she needs some time for herself."), but gossip is gossip and can never be trusted. Princess Anna never asks for favours from the staff, but when no one is looking, she will take an extra blanket from the closet. She will wear outdoor clothing inside without giving a reason. She will watch Queen Elsa with extra concentration at supper, but never will say why.
Instead, she and everyone else living in the castle will wait for this week to end. The castle's temperature will soon rise to normalcy. The Queen will smile as she always does before and will wave back to those who cheer for her. She will request extra chocolate with her dessert and will laugh at jokes. She will aim to please and entertain her denizens. Until then, everyone waits.
Anna knows that with Elsa as Sovereign, a woman with responsibilities, council meetings to attend to and public appearances to make, she cannot afford to hide in her room as she did before. Elsa cannot lock herself in. She has to keep on moving, even if the feeling to run away is as overwhelming as ever. So, as she walks between halls from breakfast to preside over meetings in the Cabinet of Arendelle, there is a frost that follows her, whitening the halls and cooling the indoor air. A new mantra is on her lips, "Love will thaw, love will thaw," but sometimes it is as if love is not enough. It keeps her going forward anyway.
After a long day, Elsa will return to the dining hall for supper, though she might only eat a few bites, then disappear into her bedroom until the next day. Anna is cautious. The first occurrence had shocked her. Since their return, the sisters had spent as much time as they could trying to catch up on lost years and relearning each other… until that autumn day came, and Elsa retreated to her room. The temperature in the castle had dropped to below freezing. Anna was so lost at what to do that she sat at Elsa's door as she used to as a child until her body was stiff and sore. Kristoff had to come and retrieve her. Eventually, Anna learned that these episodes come and go and the only thing she can really do is simply love, support and wait on her sister.
Anna is in the library this time with a blanket draped around her shoulders and the fireplace alit and crackling. Olaf is opposite her, entertaining her over a game of chess. She plays rather well; many years of loneliness will provide a bizarre number of talents. However, Olaf is a surprisingly fast learner and she finds it embarrassing when his skills are now exceeding hers. His hands caress his upper lip in deep thought. She can almost see him melt from the intense concentration. She on the other hand, has her chin in her hands, her eyes slowly closing... sleep creeping up on her very gradually. The game's strategy has been gone from her mind and so any move she makes is thoughtless and sudden.
"Hmm, interesting, interesting." Olaf says, focusing entirely on Anna's knight, completely unaware of the bored girl in front of him. His arm extends to move a bishop. "Check."
Her eyes drop to the board. With Olaf in control of over half the board and with two bishops, a rook and a queen gone, compared to his dead bishop and rook, Anna is left with a pathetic-looking army. "Ok, Olaf, you win." She knocks down her king.
"But you're only in check, Anna. Don't give up! Let me show you. You move your rook like so -."
Olaf stretches to take her tower-shaped piece, but Anna immediately stops him, resting her hand over his.
"Let's choose a different game."
"Oh ok! What do you have in mind?" He jumps a little on his chair.
Anna looks about the library. The warm fireplace is welcoming, casting the room in an earthly glow. Her fingers touch the blanket around her. Perhaps leaving the castle to visit Kristoff might be a good idea. Outside is definitely warmer than inside. She looks at the grandfather clock: fourteen past eleven. She knows he will be awake. Maybe she can surprise him?
No, I won't.
Whenever Elsa faces one of her bad weeks, Anna refuses to leave the castle, believing that if Elsa ever needed anything, Anna would be able to help. So far, Elsa has never asked Anna for anything.
I will not leave.
"Hello? Anna? What game do you want to play?" A stick-hand waves in front of her face.
"It's getting late, maybe we should go to bed."
"I don't have organs that need resting."
The cogs in Anna's brain begin to move. "Well, maybe you can help me. What do you think I can do to cheer Elsa up?"
He takes the question seriously and strokes his upper lip again. "Hmm... When I'm sad, I like to imagine I'm on a beach, soaking up the sun with my friends."
Anna smiles at his sincerity, though the advice is entirely useless. "I don't think I can drag Elsa to the beach."
"Is there a way to bring the beach to her?"
She opens her mouth to respond before a thought suddenly sparks awake in her brain. "Olaf, that's a great idea!"
He gasps, suddenly just as thrilled as she is. "Ohh! This is so exciting! We can bring the water from the fjord and – umm, where will we get sand...?"
Anna tugs at Olaf's arm to pull him out of the room along with her, only to disconnect it from his body. "Sorry, sorry. Just... follow me into the kitchen."
He waddles out after her.
The hallways in the castle seem much more different now than it did when Anna was a child. Before they seemed enormous, separating everyone from each other by stretching for miles and miles. The castle seemed haunted in the constant darkness despite having residents. There were never any echoes, so as one speaks aloud to no one, he or she would never receive a mimicked response. Now with the windows open, one could once again see the rosemåling details in the walls that were easily missed before. The rooms feel much bigger. Even the paintings in the portrait room seem a little livelier.
A snowman follows a princess down the hall as she awkwardly carries thick blankets and several pillows in her hands. The snowman holds two mugs of steaming hot liquid. It sloshes about and spills onto the rugs. The princess stops at a familiar white door, decorated with carefully painted vine-like motifs and diamonds.
She frees one of her hands and lightly knocks.
There is no response.
She could use Olaf's nose to pick at the lock... No, she would never invade her sister's privacy like that.
She frowns. What did she expect? Was Elsa just supposed to open the door and let her in as if nothing had happened?
Experimentally, she touches the door handle. It surprisingly turns with ease. Her heart begins to race, beating madly in her chest.
She pushes the door open, knocking again.
A streak of light lands on the large bed in the centre of the room. In the large bed, a young woman sleeps. Her white hair is still kept in a neat braid and her face maintains a calm expression in sleep. Around the room, remnants of ice damage are present. Some of the furniture, though painted with a mature white and blue, has cracks in them, from years of freezing, unfreezing and ice shards cutting into the wood. The others are new – obviously there to replace old damaged ones. Ice surrounds the windows and snowflakes are constantly gradually falling, creating a thin layer on every surface, from the rugs and parquet floor to the chairs and the bed. Several objects are on the floor, completely encased in ice. Anna could not tell what they were or why they were on the floor either, but the spikes formed on some them hint of a secretive emotional release.
She spends a little more time observing the details and remembering which pieces were there from when they were children. A doll in the corner, untouched. Some toys packed neatly in the corner, telling a different tale of Arendelle's queen. She pushes the blankets inside the room as quietly as she can and moves to take the mugs from the snowman.
"Thanks, Olaf. I think might need some alone time with my sister again."
He waits outside by the closed door just in case.
Anna stops beside the bed.
What if Elsa wakes so suddenly that she strikes Anna again? Anna does not even question this. She believes in her sister so strongly, it is almost blinding and foolish.
The sleeping queen does not stir. Anna frowns and lightly shakes her sister's arm.
"Psst Elsa." Anna starts poking lightly.
Blue eyes blink open in sleepy confusion. "Anna? Is something wrong?" Her voice, crackly and thick with slumber, betrays slight concern. Years of wariness and fear have taken its toll leaving her always on guard.
Déjà-vu stirs in Elsa as she turns to face away from Anna. "Then go back to sleep."
Anna chews on her lip. "We should have a sleepover. Like when we were kids."
Elsa turns back to look up at Anna, and if it wasn't the lost dark look in Elsa's eyes, she might have looked like she was all right, again. "What time is it?"
Anna mentally calculates how long she and Olaf were preparing everything. "Twelve...-ish? I brought some hot chocolate." She holds up the two mugs – both already too cold for consumption. The beating in her chest has died to a dull ache. "I um... I did not mean to wake you. I know you have another busy day with the ministers tomorrow. You know what, this was a bad idea."
Her blankets and her pillows on the floor are probably soaking on the floor, but before she can grab them, run out and hide in her bedroom until the sun comes up with Olaf questioning what went wrong and Kristoff trying to cheer her up and the staff being polite in not prying and just letting her do everything for herself, Elsa gently puts reaches her arm out and takes Anna's hand.
Anna smiles and runs to shake the blankets and pillows out of the snow. As she spreads the duvet and pulls the sheets above her head, she mumbles to herself, trying to remember the exact instructions for building the proper fort. Elsa walks over, her arm across her waist in habitual hesitation.
"Here." She conjures several stalagmites from the floor to hold the sheets up. "That's how we used to do it when we were kids."
The fort is a cloth cave, formed with both Anna's bedsheets and Elsa's own bedspread and magic. The sisters are cosy within this cave: Anna surrounded by her mass of pillows and thick warm blankets and Elsa, beside her, elegantly resting her head on a single pillow and a thin sheet covering her body. A surge of childhood memories crashes to both of them, leaving them in heavy silence. The blankets may be large, and the fort may be big enough to hold them both but Anna cannot help but feel a little ridiculous and infantile.
She tries to explain herself. "This was Olaf's idea. He said something about bringing the beach here and I thought: 'Well, that's kind of like camping. Maybe I could bring camping to her.' Sort of."
Elsa giggles, her hand covering her mouth as she always does, and for an instant, Anna could almost hear something behind the hollowness. Anna continues to talk to maintain some momentum and to break through the quiet.
"So... how's being queen?"
"It's manageable. Sometimes tiring." Her voice is exhausted and with a false enthusiasm.
"... I see." Apart from the falling snowflakes there is no other movement in the room. The silence between them is so prominent, it's almost curiously deafening. It is a strange reminder of their youth: together beneath the same roof (this time, very, very literally) but completely apart as strangers.
Anna is desperate to ensure that they will never repeat that, yet she is so uncertain how to treat Elsa sometimes when Elsa suffers deeply like this. The worst part is, Anna does not know why, nor will she ever completely know. "Elsa, I understand... these weeks happen, and you can't help it, but I don't want you to think that you need to go through it alone. I don't think I can ever fully know how you feel, but I'm here for you."
Elsa speaks to the cloth ceiling above her. "I know. Thank you, Anna. I'm sorry if I haven't been a good sister to you sometimes."
"No! Don't think that! You're the only sister I would want."
Elsa gives the smallest smile in the darkness. "You too."
From their low position on the floor, Anna can see the snow float onto their fort in perfect softness. It continues to fall throughout the night.
Depression can appear in various degrees and in various ways. Always be supportive and kind.
(Next chapter will be Kristanna, to cheer you up – promise!)