Mama liked to take them on picnics often in the summer. While their father was usually too busy to attend it was a nice retreat from the cold palace, even if Elsa never did truly feel comfortable around her mother the way Anna did. This week, Mama had opted to take them to a little island on the fjord, covered in trees like a miniature forest overlooking the kingdom. "This spot will do nicely, don't you think girls?" Mama asked. Elsa looked over at the patch of grass and nodded. Anna bounced into the clearing.
"It's a perfect view of the castle Mama! I wonder if we could see Papa if he waved really big!" Anna demonstrated her biggest wave and her awkward 14-year-old body fell right over. She laughed and swung her arms as if to make a snow angel in the grass.
"I don't think your father could spot us even if we jumped up and down," Mama laughed.
"We could try," Anna said.
Elsa just stood awkwardly, hands clasped in front of her. Her parents gave her permission to go gloveless in the summer but Elsa knew better, even now she felt frost at the tips of her fingers. But the gloves did make her only more uncomfortable in stiffing July heat. As a child she recalled often passing out while playing with Anna in the summer. It was the first sign that something was wrong and her parents feared their precious firstborn child was diseased in some way.
Well, with the way they acted about the powers, she may as well have been diseased.
"Elsa," Mama called, "Help your sister set the table."
Elsa made brief eye contact with Anna before moving wordlessly to set out plates and utensils, always wary never to touch Anna as they circled the table placing things. She could feel her sister's eyes like a bug crawling up her neck. Anna was practically begging her to say something to her.
"I heard you practicing on the piano yesterday," she said, "It sounded quite good."
Anna's face turned redder than an apple in an instant and Elsa suppressed a grin.
"Oh! Th—thank you! I'm sure your piano's better-Not to say your actual piano because-well—we use the same one-obviously, just that you playing on piano is…better," Anna said. She slumped her shoulders and went back to setting the table.
"Thank you Anna," Elsa said.
Elsa's gloves remained on through lunch. She would have preferred Mama pick a spot closer to the shade the forest provided. As lunch continued she felt herself grow fainter. She drank her tea in thirst but the warm only upset her stomach and no food could fight the feeling of dizziness coming over her.
"How far does the kingdom go Mama?" Anna asked.
"Miles my dear, in all directions. There's villages all along the way that look to your father to protect them and lead them. And one day they will look to your sister when she is queen," Mama explained.
Anna turned to smile at Elsa and say something but stopped at the sight of her graceful, poised, and regal future queen slumped in her chair, eyes unfocused, and sweat covering her brow.
"Elsa! You look pale…well paler. Not that you're pale! Just, you have a better complexion than me—and you just look sort of…you should drink water," Anna said. For once Anna's struggles to impress her older sister did not amuse Elsa. The more Anna rambled the more frustrated Elsa became.
"Thank you, Anna," she muttered.
"She's right dear, you look a bit peaky." Mama said.
Elsa raised her head up to her mother's eyes. Mama looked at Elsa for a few seconds before understanding spread on her face. And she looked both annoyed and sympathetic.
"Your sister is not quite at home in the heat Anna." That was one way of putting it.
A light breeze rustled leaves and branches from the nearby trees and even with that slight relief Elsa was sure she was going to pass out. It wasn't even that hot out today, it was like someone through a bubble around her and raised the temperature just for her. It was always this way. How badly she simply wanted to spray a flurry of snow over herself head but Anna's silver streaked hair was facing her.
Control it. Keep breathing. It's not that hot, calm down. Calm down. Calm down…
"Elsa!" Anna cried. Elsa jumped and felt an icicle form beneath her fingers where she gripped the chair. "Your nose!"
Elsa's hand swung up to her nose and pulled away a dark red stain on her green gloves. Oh, perfect. Mama rushed over and pressed her napkin to Elsa's face, not unkindly. She used her free hand to brush loose strands of near-silver hair behind Elsa's ear.
Elsa felt like crying. And she just might, whether Anna was here or not. But she might throw up first.
"Anna I hope you don't mind, but I think we'll have to cut today's luncheon short, your sister is ill," Mama said.
Ill. Your sister is ill. Elsa was ill, some disease squatted in her body at birth and never left. She was sick and always would be. Your sister is a freak, Anna. Your sister is a monster, Anna. Your sister almost killed you, Anna. Run from your sister, Anna.
Anna jumped up from her seat and moved to help Elsa up. She placed her hands on Elsa's elbow to force her to her feet. Elsa immediately jerked away and Anna looked hurt.
"I-I don't want to get you sick," Elsa mumbled through the stained napkin.
"I'll take my chances," Anna said, getting a tighter grip on Elsa's elbow.
And the type of warmth Elsa felt at her sister's touch was not stifling at all. In fact, she felt calmer with Anna's hands cradling her weakening body. And on the boat back to the castle, Elsa felt herself pass in and out of sleep with her head resting on Anna's shoulder and Anna's hand supporting the napkin until Elsa's nosebleed ceased.
She meant to move away, she meant to lift her head away and put distance between them. She meant to not touch her sister, to not hurt her. But sleeping against her shoulder was so comfortable and warm in a way Elsa never knew she could enjoy warmth. And for once Elsa was contented by Anna's presence, the stress of harming her drained from her body.
Elsa would have to remind Mama to pick a spot closer to the forest next time.