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Slight of Cold Hands

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           A gloved hand rapped on the wood three distinct times.

            There were stories, hushed whispers throughout town that something extraordinary happened within those walls. Something inexplicable. Some called it witchcraft; others called it a trick of the light.

            A young woman cracked open the door, just enough for her freckled face to peak through.

            “Anna Arendelle?”

            “Yes?”

            He plucked his hat from his head and held it to his chest. From where Anna was standing, his hair seemed to shimmer in the sunlight. Auburn, she noticed. Just like hers.

            “I would like to see your sister, if I may.”

            Immediately, her face fell. “I’m afraid she’s not taking visitors.” She moved to close the door and he stuck his foot out to stop her.

            “Please. I would like to discuss something with her of great importance.” He leaned towards her, voice hushed.

            “What could be so important?” Anna’s face scrunched, skeptical.

            “I hear you’re in search for a job.”

            Her eyes widened in horror. “We have no need for the kinds of positions you’re offering, thank you very much!” She moved to shut the door again, this time with much more force. Again, he stopped her (despite the growing pain in his left pinky toe).

            “You misunderstand. I only wish to make use of your sister’s incredible talents.”

            Her hands loosened their grip on the door and he smiled.

            “Talent?” The voice did not come from Anna’s mouth. Instead, a soft, feminine voice sounded through the door. Anna froze and whipped around.

            “Elsa I—”

The door was pulled opened fully, revealing a frail-looking woman. Her eyes were a cold blue and her skin was pale—almost sickly. She wore two patched gloves on her hands. Her hair was stark white in a loose braid. Side by side, it was obvious they were sisters; Elsa looked as if someone had slapped all the color out of Anna.

            “You think I have a talent?” Elsa asked again, stepping out in front of Anna.

            “Well, if what I hear is true, then yes. I do.” He reached to take Elsa’s hand and she recoiled. Behind her, Anna stiffened. “I would love the opportunity to see you at work.” He persisted, giving the pair a bow.

            Elsa pursed her lips. “You would give us employment? Paid employment?”

            “Of course. That is what I have come for.”

            The sisters shared a look before Elsa took a deep breath and slipped her hand out of her right glove. She touched the doorframe. Slowly, frost began to curl around her fingertips and seep into the wood, making it glitter and shine.

            The man stood for a moment, taking it in. Then, he did something incredible.

            He laughed.

Anna thought it sounded warm and inviting. To Elsa’s ears, it sounded like madness.  

            “Wonderful! Absolutely unique.” He leaned closer to Elsa and she could smell his cheap aftershave, sweet and thick. “I must have you.”

            She doesn’t like that, the concept of “having” her. It sent chills down her shoulders and made her stomach flip.

            “What would you have me do Mr…”

“Everyone calls me Hans.” This time he reached for her hand and she allowed him to take it. As he kissed her knuckle, it felt as if his lips would stick to it like ice. However, when he leaned up to speak, they left her hand unscathed. “I would have you perform, Ms. Arendelle. Show off the beauty you possess. In exchange, I would give you food to eat, a place to live and a decent salary.”

            She thought for a moment, allowing her hand to stay in his. No one had ever dared to kiss her, let alone her hands. If he was foolish enough to try, then was either incredibly brave, stupid or desperate. Perhaps all three.

            “What of my sister?” Elsa asked, nodding behind her. Anna looked up and wrung her hands.

            “Hm. What of you, Anna?” Hans asked. “What can you do?”

            “Nothing.” Anna’s eyes fell to her shoes. “I can do nothing.” Hans frowned. Elsa jumped to her rescue.

            “She’s a fortune-teller. She reads tea-leaves at times.”  A memory of the two of them having afternoon tea, giggling over their cups flashed through her mind. It was never taken seriously but it wasn’t a lie, per-say.

             He settled. “Of course Anna would be given a spot to perform.” He smiled.  Anna glowed.

            “Then that’s enough for me.” Elsa held her gloveless hand out to him.

            He grasped it in his own. His palm swallowed hers and they shook.

            Hans almost didn’t notice the harsh bite of frost twisting around his knuckles. He didn’t flinch.

            “When would you have us?” Anna peaked her head from behind Elsa’s stance.

            “How soon can you gather your things?”

            “Today,” Anna said. Elsa started to protest but Anna continued. “We can leave most things. It will take only a few minutes.”

            Hans’ smile only grew wider. “Wonderful. I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

            Elsa closed the door.

            Then, she was a hurricane around the room. She began shoving things into a nearby bag. Anything she could find; Sacks of flour, a dress, yarn. She pushed the back window and it swung open.

            Elsa held out her hand for Anna to follow.

            Only to find her sister with her own bag, standing by the front door.

            Elsa deflates with confusion. “What are you doing?”

“I…think maybe…possibly…we should take the offer.” The statement shocks Elsa like a slap to the face. It floats in their tiny cottage and through their empty shelves before striking her in the chest.

            “I…” Anna swallows and flexes her hands. “I think that if we keep running, soon there will be no place to run to. We’re out of food, out of money.” She takes a step towards Elsa. “Out of options.”

            Silence hangs in the air and, for a moment, Anna is terrified. She’s terrified that Elsa will yell and argue. Terrified that they’ll move on “one last time”. Most of all, she’s terrified that Elsa will turn around and run without another word.

            She doesn’t.

            “Do you trust him?” Elsa asks, closing the space between them.

            “Yes.” Anna’s surprised to find the simple word drop from her mouth. She doesn’t know Hans. But for some reason, she feels as if he means what he says.

            Elsa takes in the image of Anna by the door. Thinning, hungry Anna. With her patched dress and fraying knapsack.

            “Alright. Alright if you think so. Then, I think so too.”

            Anna’s grin threatens to split her lower lip but she couldn’t be bothered to give a damn.

Only when the three of them pile into Han’s carriage, does Anna realize that she has no real idea of where they’re going.  

And that she can’t actually read tea leaves.