"Elsa! Pssst—Elsa! Wake up, wake up, wake up!"
"Anna…it's 6AM…go back to sleep…"
"Look, Elsa! It's snowing!"
Thirteen-year-old Elsa's eyes shot open and she sat upright. Pushing aside the curtain, she peered through frost-stained glass. Indeed, the lawn was covered in a sheet of thick, white powder. The sun was just beginning to creep over the horizon, its rays shining on the fresh snow, turning them from ice to glittering diamond. Excitedly, she turned to look at her rambunctious sister, who was already carelessly pulling on her rubber boots and looked ready to bolt out the door.
"Anna, wait! Put on warmer clothes!"
Elsa hopped off the bed and quickly wrapped Anna in the warmest clothes she could find. "Let's go, let's go!" The fiery redhead was jumping all over the place, barely able to contain her excitement and tugged her sister toward the door, not that her sister minded. Despite her composure, the older girl was just as eager to get outside.
The two sisters exploded through the front door of the mansion they lived in and, without a second thought, raced to throw themselves into the snow, revelling the rare treat. It did snow often in Vancouver, but it only occasionally piled so high.
"I'm going to make a snow angel!" Anna laughed, flailing her arms, throwing fistfuls of ice everywhere.
"Let's see how well you do that…when I do this!" Elsa grabbed a handful of snow and threw it playfully at her sister.
Anna clumsily rolled out of the boundary of her snow angel to dodge her older sister's assault, giggling uncontrollably. "Hehehe…missed me!"
"But I ruined your snow angel," Elsa teased, looking smug.
Anna immediately swung to her feet, despite the thick snow around her knees. Her snow angel was more of a snow square and she giggled again. "It looks like a snowman rolled through my snow angel!"
Elsa laughed with her sister. "Do you wanna build a snowman?"
"Yes, yes, yes!" Anna squeaked.
Together they rolled two large snowballs, and stacked them. Due to their impatience and tendency to get sidetracked by throwing fistfuls of whatever they could grab at each other, the snow 'balls' ended up more like snow 'squares'. Well, this was not unusual for them, anyway. Elsa formed the signature oblong shaped head and triumphantly stacked it above the other two. "Hi, I'm Olaf and I like warm hugs!" she sang, in the goofiest voice she could muster.
"I love you, Olaf!" Anna sprinted over and hugged the snowman, almost knocking it over. Elsa smiled at her. The little redhead's eyes lit up with an idea. "Oooh, let's see if the pond is frozen!" she exclaimed, jumping up and down in her excitement.
"Race you there!" her older sister responded, grinning from ear to ear.
Running toward the pond near their house at full speed, the two girls stopped when they reached the pond.
"Ooooooooh…" they breathed in unison. The pond was frozen over, reflecting the yellow rays of the rising morning sun, the thin sheet of solid water looking more like crystal than ice.
Impulsively, Anna scrambled onto the surface of the pond, screaming, "This is so cool! It's like magic!"
Remembering that her sister had never been skating before, Elsa panicked, and reached out a hand to grab her. Her hand whiffed cold air however, as Anna was already sliding herself toward the middle of the pond. "Anna, come back! It's dangerous!"
But the mischievous redhead, in her glee, paid no heed to the call of her older sister. Mezmerized by the beauty of the ice, something she had never experienced before, she stood up and jumped excitedly. "Elsa, come on, come—"
Her last words were stolen from her as the watery glass beneath her cracked and sucked her below.
Elsa's eyes widened in alarm. "Anna! No!" Devoid of all playfulness now, she got down on all fours, spreading her weight, and crawled to the cracked ice her sister fell through. Luckily, the pond was shallow, so she could reach Anna's hand.
"E-E-E-E-lsa…h-h-h-h-h-h-help m-me…" Anna stuttered through chattering teeth.
Desperately, Elsa pulled on her sister's arm with all her might, but with the added weight of the ice water soaking through Anna's puffy winter jacket, she couldn't pull the younger girl out of the freezing abyss.
"H-h-h-h-help…" were Anna's last words as she sank into unconsciousness.
"No! Anna!...MOMMA! MOMMA! HELP! PLEASE, SOMEONE!"
Their mother was already running toward them, a scowl gracing her usual nonchalant features. She too crawled toward the middle of the pond next to her eldest daughter and pulled her youngest out of the freezing water.
"Elsa, hurry, run into the house and call 911!"
Without having to be told twice, Elsa bolted.
The sting of disinfectant burning her nose and the ringing of phones echoing through her skull, Elsa hugged herself as she sat in the waiting area of the ER, tears stinging her eyes and staining her cheeks. If only she had been more careful. If only she had warned Anna earlier. If only she had not been so impulsively blinded by the prospect of fun that she agreed to visiting the pond. This was all her fault. Anna almost died from hypothermia, and it was all her fault.
Her mother thanked the EMT who was explaining the situation and turned to face her. Without warning, Elsa felt a cold hand slap her across her right cheek.
"What were you thinking, Elsa?! Were you trying to kill your sister?" her mother yelled, the only time Elsa had seen any emotion on her face. "Your sister might not have known, but you did. You knew how dangerous ice is. I've explained it to you all before, haven't I? How dare you put your sister in danger like this! How dare you! Your father was right. You bring nothing but misfortune."
Fresh tears broke free from the blonde girl's eyes as she was crushed under the weight of accusation and the memory of her father. "I'm s-sorry, momma. It was an accident. I won't…I won't ever do it again." Sorry? A voice in her head spat. You think sorry is enough to make up for what you almost did to Anna? No. Sorry is never going to be enough. Your sister almost died, and you think sorry is enough to cover it?
As if she was having the exact same thoughts, her mother turned around, with her back to her daughter.
Before either of them could say anything else, a stretcher with an unconscious Anna on it erupted from the emergency room. Elsa immediately got to her feet, her eyes following her sister's prone body as it disappeared down the white halls of the hospital. One of the nurses wheeling the stretcher stopped and promptly reported, "We managed to warm her back to normal body temperature, but she may develop a fever, which is one of the body's natural responses to hypothermia. She'll need to stay here for a couple nights, just until we're sure there's no permanent damage."
"Will she be okay?" Elsa squeaked.
"She should be fine." The nurse smiled. "It's good that you were able to keep her head above the water. Otherwise the damage may have been worse."
"Thank you for your help," Elsa's mother interrupted. She didn't turn to look at her daughter before following the nurse to fill out paperwork.
"I'm sorry, Anna." Elsa murmured as she held her unconscious sister's hand, brushing the young girl's ginger hair with the other. "I'm so, so sorry. I'll protect you better from now on. I swear." She pressed a kiss to Anna's forehead, a silent plea of forgiveness.
"Elsa, dear? I'm sorry, but visiting hours are over. You can come back tomorrow, okay?" One of the nurses rubbed Elsa's shoulder comfortingly as she guided the young girl to her mother.
The car ride home was quiet. Neither Elsa nor her mother felt the need to interrupt the silence with unwelcome chatter.
Anna stood outside her sister's room, thoughtfully eyeing the door. Knocked on it. Once, twice. Three times. "Elsa? It's snowing outside." No response. "Do you…do you wanna build a snowman?" The question was like their secret code. No one said no to building a snowman. Ever. Whenever she asked her sister, or her sister asked her, the answer was always an excited squeal of yes. Until now.
"Go away, Anna. I'm studying."
"Yeah, right. It's winter break. Who studies during winter break? Come on, let's play. I never see you anymore. And it's the first time it's snowed for two yearsssss…Elsa, come on."
"Anna, don't bother your sister. You have other friends." Came the cold response of her mother from the grand foyer of the house.
Anna never really understood why her mother bore so much animosity toward her sister. Why she was always discouraged from even talking to Elsa. And her sister was perfect. Perfect grades, perfect manners, even perfect speech. She never stammered through her words like Anna did. She was never caught off guard. Never once has Anna seen a gap in her perfect demeanor. At least, that was the way it was since her incident with the pond two winters ago. Even before that, before their father died, Elsa was always the face of perfection. Anna never saw Elsa be anything less than perfect when they were in front of their parents. Especially after the incident where Anna fell through the ice, Elsa was more distant than ever.
How was she going to break through the wall of perfection that Elsa had built up between them? There is no way that her older sister wanted this. To be separated. To be alone. But something (or someone) was forcing her perfect, platinum blonde sister to be this way.
She was going to have to devise a plan that would force her sister out of her shell. Something that Elsa couldn't resist. Then it clicked. Of course!
Grinning slyly to herself, Anna ran to the kitchen. There, she fixed two steaming mugs of rich, aromatic hot chocolate. The mere smell of it made Anna's mouth water. There is no way her sister is going to say no to chocolate.
Knocking on Elsa's door again, Anna cleared her throat. In her best British accent, she announced steadily, "Dear lady Elsa, the best chocolate from Belgium is right outside your door, in rich, hot, liquid-y form."
"Okay, who is that doing the horrible British accent impersonation?" came the teasing voice that Anna missed so much.
The door opened. Anna grinned crookedly at her sister, "Excuse you! That was my best impression of a butler."
Elsa shook her head and rolled her eyes playfully, "Why am I sisters with such a dork?"
"Oh, you know you love me. Let me in already! I have an offering to shrine Elsa that I knew you couldn't resist!"
Elsa looked around the hall for signs of their mother. When she found none, she beckoned to Anna, "Okay, okay, feisty-pants. Come in already."
Eyeing her sister's desk, which was littered with drawings of ice sculptures and snowflake patterns, Anna laughed. "You liar! You weren't actually studying, were you? I knew it! 'I'm studying,'" Anna teased, sticking out her tongue, " What kind of nerd studies during winter holidays? Not that you're, you know, a nerd-nerd but still!"
Elsa smiled wryly at her sister. It seemed her sister could transmit warmth and laughter just by being in the same room. "Really? Nerd-nerd? What kind of word is that?"
Anna pouted. "It's the perfect description for you!"
A sudden silence descended upon the two girls as they sipped their hot chocolate at, coincidentally, the same time. Looking up from their mugs, they caught each other's surprised glances and burst out laughing.
Elsa had almost forgotten how easy it was to be with Anna. How her presence in the room was like an oasis in the desert of perfection that she had forced herself to tread through everyday. How laughing with Anna was as natural as breathing. But she knew as blissful as this was, it would have to end. Still shouldering the blame that she and her mother had stacked upon her, she couldn't shake the feeling that whenever Anna got too close to her, she would get hurt.
A couple of weeks after eleven-year-old Anna was discharged from the hospital, Elsa had brought her the same hot chocolate that was in her hands right now. Elsa hadn't noticed the crack in the bottom of the mug, and as soon as Anna's hands reached to cup it, it split. The mug broke at that moment and burned Anna's fingers.
A few months after school started, their elementary took a field trip to a skating rink. Elsa was holding onto Anna as the redhead was taking her first few steps gliding on the ice, when a hockey puck struck the latter on the side of the head.
In the summer, when the sisters were fighting over who gets the first sip of an exotic drink they'd ordered at a fancy restaurant, they knocked the glass into the table and it shattered, one of the pieces cutting Anna's hand.
By then, Elsa was convinced that she was cursed. If only she'd been more careful, she always told herself, when the aftermath of the accidents unfolded around her. It was always her carelessness.
So when Elsa graduated from elementary and moved on to high school, she told herself that she should distance herself from Anna, to prevent her beloved sister from being hurt by her carelessness time and time again. In fact, in distancing herself from Anna, she also broke off friendships with her other friends, convincing herself that if she can't be friends with Anna, her own sister, why did she deserve to have friends at all?
And so she started her journey of solitude. And it was going okay. Until now.
Maybe it was the snow that reminded her of all the fun she had had with Anna in their childhood. Maybe it was the sting in her heart that came from the realization that Anna had remembered what her favorite food was, despite being so abandoned and ignored by her. Maybe it was the suffocating loneliness that made her want so much the closeness she had shared with her sister before.
So lost in her despair, she almost missed Anna's next words.
"So, I'm gonna be going to high school next year, and maybe we could have lunch together like we did before? And laugh at teachers behind their back, and make fun of the really mean ones."
Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. Anna couldn't be seen with her at school. She was a freak now; the girl who took classes two grades above her age. The girl who had straight A's and no friends, the freakshow who never said a word. No, that would make Anna a prime target for the merciless bullies, the audible whispers that stung like knives, the glares of disgust and prejudice. Such a kind soul would never survive the hellish torture that she was subject to almost everyday at that purgatory.
If no one knew Anna was her sister, if no one knew of their familial connection, Anna could easily have a wonderful high school experience. Anna always made new friends effortlessly, peers and teachers alike. But if anyone ever got wind of Elsa being Anna's older sister…
No. The mere thought of her kind, innocent sister being bullied caused a burning ire that threatened to—
Anna must have seen the anger on her sister's face because her next words were pleading, apologetic, "Elsa? What's wrong? I'm sorry, I mean, I understand if you don't want to, 'cuz you're so perfect, you know. I mean who would want to be seen with a girl who barely scrapes a B plus and stumbles over her own words and is so awkward, right? Sorry I suggested something so stupid, haha."
What? No. Are you kidding? Have you seen yourself? You're like the sunshine, so bright and vibrant. How could you ever see yourself like that? It's me who can't be seen with you, silly girl. It's me who doesn't deserve such a kind sister like you. It's me who can't stop hurting you. Don't you see? It's ME. It's ME.
Elsa tried to form words around the lump in her throat. "No, no. You don't have to apologize. This is not your fault. I just…It's just…"
You should just push her away now. Stop being nice to her. Stop making her want to be close to you. Stop her. Stop her! Before she gets hurt again. By you. By you.
"That's not a good idea. And I think you should leave. Now." Before Anna could protest, Elsa shoved her out the door, slammed it shut, and locked it, but not before catching a glimpse of her little sister's heartbroken face. Her vision blurred as she turned around and leaned against the door. Sinking to her knees, she finally let loose the tears she had been holding back, and her thoughts bombarded her again.
That night, Anna lay wide awake in bed, trying to make sense of what happened between her and Elsa. She cursed herself, having messed up such a precious chance to spend time with her sister. She had to ruin it by impulsively blurting out stupid suggestions. The look on Elsa's face when she had shoved her out of the room sent chills down Anna's spine. It was a look of pure loathing. Did Elsa hate her that much? Did her sister blame her for the consequences of all the stupid, careless things she did? Like jumping on thin ice. That was her first act of ingenuity. And ignoring the crack in the mug when her sister offered it to her, which caused both of their fingers to get burned by hot liquid. And almost pulling Elsa into the path of a flying hockey puck. Not considering the table when she was fighting with her sister over the first sip of some stupid coconut drink, and carelessly pushing the glass into it. She was grateful that Elsa wasn't physically hurt by any of her carelessness, but she had always heard their mother berating Elsa, when it was her own fault.
She was sure her older sister resented her, and she deserved it, for the times that their mother blamed her for incidents that she shouldn't have been faulted with. Now Elsa didn't even want to be seen with her in public. Elsa would probably be the laughingstock of her school if anyone found out she had such a stupid klutz for a sister.
I'm sorry, Elsa, were Anna's last thoughts as she finally let fatigue claim her.