"Do I really have to wear this dumb thing, it keeps leaning the wrong way."
Elsa lifts her hands and tries to adjust Anna's graduation cap, but after seconds of shifting and pulling, it just leans back awkwardly to one side. "I don't know," she laughs. "Maybe you got it a size too big or something."
"Elsa you have to fix it," Anna whines. "I can't give my speech like this. It's embarrassing."
"Speech?" Elsa asks, incredulously. This is the first time she's heard anything about this.
"What?" she gasps. "Anna why didn't you tell me about this? Are you ready? Has anyone heard it yet? Do you want to read it to me? You could have told me about this."
Anna places a hand on Elsa's shoulder, giving the older woman a concerned look. "I'm fine, Els. Remind me not to let you have that much coffee in the morning. You're more nervous than I am about a speech I have to give."
Elsa takes in a deep breath, attempting to calm herself, fearing she might end up making a scene on Anna's big day. "Sorry, but we were up pretty late and I just needed a boost. Why are you giving a speech?"
"Maybe some people think I actually have something interesting to say," Anna laughs.
Elsa blushes and runs a hand through her bangs. "I wasn't trying to say you didn't, Anna. It's just… most graduations are pretty straight forward, and there are always designated people to give speeches."
"Ah, well each year the senior class votes for one designated person to give a speech, and that happened to be me this year… And before you ask again- yes I'm ready… and I had to read it to the principal because she thought I might say something inappropriate."
Elsa opens her mouth to speak again, but a loud booming voice comes from behind her.
"Anna! Get over here you little punk."
Elsa turns to find Olaf with outstretched arms as Anna runs to him colliding with his chest. "Glad you could make it," Anna smiles as he pulls her into a hug.
Olaf pushes her back and places a kiss on her forehead. "I wouldn't miss this for the world, Banana. You ready to make that speech?"
Elsa's eyes widen as she steps closer to the two of them. "He knew about the speech, and I didn't? Anna-"
Elsa is once again interrupted by someone, but this time it isn't a welcomed voice.
"Hey, coach Askeland," Hans smirks as he walks up to her. "You ever get tired of Anna, you can always come hop on this-"
Olaf places a firm hand on Hans' shoulder, his eyes burning with a calm hostility. "Go ahead and finish that sentence, buddy. I dare you to."
Elsa, desperately wanting to avoid conflict that revolved around her, puts a hand on Olaf's chest- prompting him to take a step back. "Come on, guys. Lets not do this. This is a graduation. Please," she pleads.
Olaf takes in a breath and removes his hand from Hans' shoulder, taking a step back. Elsa turns to face him with a smile. "Thank y-"
"Ow, shit!" comes Hans' cry from behind Elsa.
She then closes her eyes and takes in a deep breath. This day is becoming too much for her to handle. She's tired, hyped up on caffeine, and slightly overwhelmed.
After a couple seconds of deep breathing, Elsa opens her eyes and turns around to Hans clutching his lip, glaring at Anna, who is shaking her hand in pain.
"What happened?" Elsa asks, not hiding the frustration in her tone. "I literally turned around for one second."
"He had it coming," Anna quips. "He crossed the line talking to you like that… and he's just a dick in general."
Hans goes to lunge forward, but he stops last minute, his eyes widening as he begins to retreat. Anna turns and looks behind Elsa with a laugh. "It's good to see you, Oaken," she chirps.
Elsa steps aside, making room for Oaken in the conversation, and he steps forward, giving her shoulder a friendly squeeze. "It's good to see you, as well, Ms. Perelman. It's good to see both of you doing well," he finishes, looking to Elsa with a smile.
Anna nods, shooting him a large toothy grin. "I'm just so excited," she starts, "-I really wasn't sure if you'd make it. Like, that was a real long shot."
"Well I can't miss your speech, now can I?"
Elsa's ears start to burn as her irritation rises. "Seriously, Anna? He knew. Of all the people… I'm just not... Are there going to be anymore surprises today, because I can't take much more."
Anna twists her fingers together, and tilts her head, her hat coming dangerously close to tipping off. "There's just one more," she says apprehensively. "It's… well, they're behind you."
Before Elsa can turn around, she hears the familiar voices of her adoptive parents. If they know about the speech, she's going to lose it.
"Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Askeland. I'm glad you could make it," Anna waves.
Gerda walks up behind Elsa, placing a hand on her back. "We wouldn't miss the graduation of our future daughter-in-law."
Elsa quickly turns toward Gerda. "Really?" she whines.
Gerda gives her a soft smile, before tilting her head. "Do you think we can talk alone for a moment, Elsa? There's something I need to tell you."
Elsa searches her mind for what her Mother could possibly want to talk about, but she comes up empty, so she shrugs. "Sure, is everything okay?'
"Yeah," Gerda nods. "Just come with me."
Elsa follows her mother to a small alcove in the hallway, where there aren't many people around. Gerda gives her a small, strained smile before she begins to speak. "Elsa, when you broke down in front of me in that room, it made me start thinking-"
"Mom…" Elsa interrupts, sensing where this might be going. "You don't-"
"No, Elsa," Gerda continues, "-let me finish." She takes in a deep breath, folding her hands together, but maintaining eye contact. "As I sat there giving you… half-assed advice, and… I realized that you've been going through a lot. You've went through a lot and I haven't really stepped up to the plate and just been a mother. I always try to tell you good things, or what you want to hear. I always tell you that life is great."
"But life is great, right?"
"Yeah," Gerda agrees, "-but that isn't what you need to hear. It's been a long time coming, but here I am, saying what needs to be said. You're an adult now, so I'm going to speak to you like one. You deserve that."
Gerda takes in a breath and closes her eyes briefly before reopening them. "You have been through so much in life. More than anyone should ever have to go through. And just…" Gerda trails off, and looks away.
Elsa lifts a hand and gently rubs her mother's arm. "What is it?"
"Look," Gerda starts, looking back to Elsa. "I know sometimes the world feels nine sizes too small for our pain, but no matter how dark and overwhelming… and unbearably worthless it all seems, the world will get a fraction of a centimeter bigger every day. Every freaking day."
She swallows and takes in a breath. "You don't even notice it for a long time, until suddenly it's only 8 sizes too small, and then seven. The world will just keep getting larger and larger compared to your torn soul, that it will eventually be able to hold it… and then outgrow it to the point where your pain is just a speck in your world."
Elsa remains silent, staring her mother in the eyes. The words are resonating with her on the deepest level, and Gerda was right- these are the words she needed to hear, coming from the person she needed to hear them from.
"It's supposed to feel like the end of the world right now," Gerda continues. "You regret not doing therapy, or making other decisions and that hurts you… but Elsa, that's how you know that you're growing up, and experiencing things, rather than living safely in risk-free choices."
Elsa takes in a sharp breath, because until this moment, she'd never thought about her life in that way.
Gerda runs a hand through her hair. "Everything is going south, and the only part of you that knows it won't be like this forever is in the most dormant recesses of the backmost corner of your soul. That is how it's supposed to be."
She pauses, her eyes lighting up as she smiles. "You're supposed to know elusively, and abstractly that your purpose in life is so much larger than you can imagine. You'll eat waffles with Anna on hot summer nights, and watch bad indie movies or secretly read trashy novels and join online book clubs to discuss. And you will get to a point where you can look back on the pain with a distance… and to a point where you know, for a fact, that you are happy."
Gerda then pulls Elsa into a hug, pressing a kiss to her cheek. "I love you, Elsa. You're so brave and so strong… and I'm so proud of you for everything you've accomplished."
Elsa smiles, and closes her eyes, melting into the hug. Sometimes she gets overwhelmed, and sometimes the world does feel like it's ending, but she has a mom, two dads, a brother, a loving girlfriend, and a detective who cares enough about her to show up to her girlfriend's graduation.
She has everything she needs to survive.
Sure, she's made plenty of bad choices in her life, but even if it meant that only an inconsequential fraction of what she has now could be jeopardized, she'd never in a million years take any one of them back.
A/N: Hey, friends. So, this is the end of this journey. It's been fun, and challenging, and a little time consuming (in a good way), but I'd like to thank everyone for reading/reviewing/just coming along for the ride. You guys and gals are great!
I might post an epilogue in the near future, but other than that, good luck with life and stay cool.