by Nina Windia
The knock on the door was still, perhaps, a little hesitant. As if it remembered the chilly years between them. "Are you still awake?" she heard Anna call.
"Come in," said Elsa. She sat up, pushing her braid of ice-blond hair over her shoulder, and swung her legs over the side of the bed.
The door opened a crack, and then a crack more.
"Anna," Elsa said, laughing. "I said you could come in, you know."
Her younger sister appeared, sidling in shyly, running a hand up to her hair, which fell loose around her shoulders. "Right," she said, and her eyes moved to the closed curtains and extinguished stub of a candle. She blurted, "Sorry. I didn't realise you'd gone to bed already. I just couldn't sleep, you see. And I wondered if you- well, nevermind. Goodnight!"
She'd already vanished halfway out the door when Elsa, her hand outstretched, called, "Wait!"
Anna hesitated, wary anticipation on her face.
"You can get in," said Elsa. She pulled back a corner of the feather duvet to make room for her.
"I wouldn't want to-"
"I can't sleep, either," she explained. "It'd be nice... to have someone to talk to."
"Oh. Oh! Are you sure?"
The shy way Anna held herself, the guarded look in her eyes: it was as though she was still waiting for Elsa to say no. It pained Elsa's heart, that her sister, still, was still expecting that slammed door.
But perhaps she was still expecting too much. It'd only been a month since Arendelle was unfrosted. And she'd spent a lifetime before that, ignoring her sister. It was true: old habits, in the end, died hard.
"Anna," she said, trying hard to keep the sadness from her smile. "It's okay. Really." She patted the space beside her. "Now get in. I'm getting chilly," she said, with a grin.
"Hah!" the laugh exploded from Anna's lips. "Yeah right." But all the same, she climbed in next to Elsa and pulled the covers snugly up to her neck. She peered up at the roof of the bed canopy. "Hey," she said. Pointing to the strings of snowflakes like paper-chains, strung across the canopy in intricate patterns. "Elsa, what are those?"
"Oh. Nothing much. Just something I do, when I can't sleep." With a wave of her hand, the crystalline decorations sparkled and vanished.
"You didn't need to do that," said Anna. "They were pretty."
Another old habit. Elsa was still getting used to using her powers, letting alone letting others seeing them.
She'd lived in fear for so, so long.
"What are you thinking?" Anna asked. With a creak of sheets she rolled onto her side, head propped up with her elbow, looking at her. "You've got such a funny look on your face."
"I was just thinking... how long this has been. Do you remember? When you were little and had nightmares? You'd always sneak into my bed like this all the time."
Suddenly, Elsa burst into a laugh. "Right!" She pushed herself up eagerly onto her elbows. "You always had nightmares about an evil dragon. Gerald! That's what you called him. You said he wanted to eat you."
"Wha—at? I don't remember that!"
"It's true! 'Elsa, Elsa!' you'd come crying to me. 'Gerald came into my room and tried to turn me into a barbecue. You need to let me sleep with you!'" Her impression of her sister must have been impressive, because Anna pulled a face. Elsa had forgotten how much fun it was to tease her baby sister like this.
It'd been hard, harder than Anna or her parents would ever know, for Elsa to give her up. And to tell the truth, she hadn't always obeyed her parents' commands.
After the terrible incident, she wouldn't go out and play with Anna anymore, but sometimes, she'd look the other way. Late at night, when their parents and the staff had gone to bed, Anna would sneak out. She would knock on Elsa's door, and receiving no response, the door would creak open.
"Elsa, are you awake?"
Her eyes tightly closed, Elsa practiced breathing slowly and steadily, so that Anna would never figure out she wasn't asleep. She'd hear the murmur of the floorboards, and then the bed would sag, and Anna would snuggle up next to her, all warm and soft. And she'd fall asleep: it never took her long.
Elsa knew she should tell Anna to leave, because this wasn't right, and this wasn't safe for her. But instead, she squeezed her eyes shut, she breathed slowly and calmly. And sometimes, when she was sure Anna was safely asleep, she'd lean over and kiss her, on the freckles she loved.
Now, in her bed with Anna, she felt a glow of warmth inside her stomach that they no longer had to pretend. Now, the only fears left to conquer were their own.
"I have a confession..." said Anna. She was smiling rather sheepishly. "I made Gerald up. It as an excuse. I just wanted to sleep in your bed with you."
"So devious! I'd never have known you were so sneaky."
"I just didn't want you to say no," said Anna.
An anticipatory silence fell between them like snow, full of the sparkle of possibilities. In the twilight darkness of the room, Elsa saw the glitter of Anna's eyes, the adorable stretch of freckles across her nose.
"You don't need an excuse this time," she said. She pushed herself up, and leant across to plant a tender kiss on Anna's freckles. "Stay here with me tonight, okay?"