Princess Elsa awoke with a start. It was in the dead of night, and outside murmured a balmy summer storm. She heard the soft patter of rain and the warm rumble of thunder. Slowly, she sat upright. There was a cold sweat on her brow. She looked around the dark room. She spent so much time in here that she could make out every detail therein with a fine precision, even in the gloom of the night. Everything was still.
She turned her head to look at the large, triangular window to her left. Occasionally, the window lit up in time with the distant sound of thunder. The rain fell against the window in a steady rhythm, though its tempo paled in comparison to that of Elsa’s beating heart.
She had the dream again. It went the way it always did, which meant that Elsa dreaded it more and more with each passing night. Even the way she felt when it began, before the event, even that was now touched by a dark worry. Every pounded mound of snow, every immaculate snowflake, every look of wonder - she still treasured those, but she mourned - so much - the cost. The cost was too great.
She experienced the dream at least once a fortnight, it seemed. Before that, it had been every other night. And before that, her every waking hour was plagued by the memory. She thought that she might never be happy again. She didn’t take meals at first. She lost weight. She became sick. In her feverish sleeps, she muttered always, “Sorry, sorry, I’m sorry…”
It had been some time now. In the day, nobody saw her. All her tears were behind a marble dam, her face carved from the same stone. She would raise her chin and cite her duty. She was the model of elegant royalty: poised, pristine, professional, and perfect. The singers sang of her beauty. Lords and ladies came to court to praise her: the beautiful princess, heiress apparent of the Kingdom of Arendelle.
But some nights, the dam broke. The marble cracked and shattered. It was better that she was alone when it did. She still hated herself for it. It had been so many years.
“Touched,” said the shadows in her dream, and they nodded in unison. She hated the shadows.
“It will only get worse,” said another shadow.
“Only one solution,” said yet another shadow.
“Or else, you let come what may,” warned the shadows.
“No,” said her father. “We’ll do what we must.”
“Please, Father,” said Elsa. The fear drowned her. She was choking on every word. “I promise… I… I’ll be good. Please. I’m sorry.”
Her father looked her full in the face, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. He knelt down and embraced her, his face buried in her platinum locks, but his arms felt cold. They always felt cold.
“It’s not your fault, honey,” her father murmured into her hair. She tried not to cry, but she always did.
“I’m sorry, I’ll be good. I promise. I’m sorry.”
She wondered if she had been sorry enough. What she might have done to prove it, she still didn’t know. When she cried, her tears froze the ground beneath her feet. She hated herself for that. She wanted to hit herself, pull out her hair, anything.And then she would awake, just as she and her parents drove away, her last plaintive screams drowned out by the patter of horse-hooves and the thundering in her chest.
Her heart felt heavy that night. It had been a long time since she had cast ice. She had attempted to bargain with this, once upon a time, but her parents just shook their heads. There was nothing they could do, and she knew they were right. It was for the best, really.
Elsa threw the covers off and slid out of bed. She walked over to the window and looked out at the falling rain. Raindrops slid down the window, each one tracing a different treacherous path across the polished glass. A flick of the wrist and they’d all be snowflakes. She couldn’t bring herself to do it, however. She wasn’t sure she still could, and she did not want to. The cost had been too great. She looked at herself in the glass, icy blue eyes boring deep into her own. Her lower lip trembled slightly.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered to the storm, and still the rain fell, and the thunder rolled, and night turned into day.