Sometimes Anna felt like her whole life was a no. The things she couldn’t do, couldn’t have, vastly outnumbered the things she could. She wasn’t stupid; she knew she’d had an expensive education, the best clothes, the finest foods. She’d never lit a fire or swept a floor or mucked out a stable.
She’d just thought open gates would be - different. But after the initial upset, the halls are almost as silent as ever; there are a few more meetings, dull discussions that drag on interminably; there are occasional visits from other heads of state, and they all bring an eligible young prince or duke to kiss Anna’s hand and look her over as if they are buying a horse in the market. Arendelle is powerful, now, and the main way that is manifesting - to Anna, at least - is in the interest in her hand.
She is in earnest when she first tells her sister that she will, of course, not be marrying any of them. She’s going to marry Kristoff; it’s only been a few months but they’ve already discussed it. They’re in love. She doesn’t think she needs any further justification.
Elsa’s response is swift and chilling. She doesn’t know where on Earth Anna got that idea. Anna is a princess; she cannot, legally, marry a commoner. Yes, she’s sure. It is the law, and Anna is as bound by those as any other citizen of Arendelle.
Pointless to argue. Pointless, and frightening; Anna is still sensitive to the cold and there is no quicker way to make the temperature drop than to disagree with her sister. Elsa softens slightly when she sees Anna’s face, but is still immovable. The answer is, and always will be, no.
The gates are open, but Elsa’s door is still shut. If Anna knocks, she will at least get a reply; but she is interrupting. There is work to be done, but no, the queen doesn’t need any help. Maybe later. Shut the door on your way out, please.
Sometimes Anna goes and walks in the market. There are always plenty of people there to talk to, and sometimes they will let her help them; she will gladly watch a baby while its mother is busy, or hold a skein of yarn, or shell peas. Soon, though, someone will find her and take her back to the palace. Not maliciously; she is not doing anything wrong; but she must be returned to her proper place, as if she is a teaspoon that has found its way into the garden.
The door of Elsa’s study remains closed.
And Anna realises you can love someone but not know them at all. You can love them constantly, pour it out into their hands, and watch it slip through their fingers. All the times she knocked on doors that weren’t opened, drew pictures and wrote notes that weren’t answered, gave invitations that were rejected. She knows from experience that banging on a closed door for too long only leaves you with bruises.
The days are bad but the nights are worse. The ice is in the air, the chill of silence and loneliness pervading everything. Sometimes Anna gets up and sits by the dying fire, wrapped in a blanket, and tries to convince herself that everything is fine now.
You are warm, she tells herself. You are safe. You are loved.
There’s another attraction to the market, of course, and another reason why she is not suffered to linger.
No one has told her she may not talk to Kristoff, so she does. But this is when the guard or the maid or whoever appears as if by magic. One time she touched his hand and the palace gardener almost lifted her up bodily and carried her away.
During those endless evenings and hours-long dinners with her would-be suitors, Anna has to - behave herself. Sit straight and not fidget and give the correct responses. Be Princess Anna, not just Anna (and it makes her think of all the years when no one ever called her by her name - always Your Highness, always ma’am, and the one person who could use her name never did).
One glorious afternoon Anna sits behind Kristoff’s sled for fully half an hour, and talks, just whatever words she feels like saying, and he talks with her and makes jokes and smiles, and it is the most free she has felt in months. She watches him sell his ice and take down orders and wishes for things she can’t have. Ordinary things.
Elsa has never once said sorry. The realisation hits Anna so hard that it almost takes her breath away. Anna has said it, a hundred, a thousand times; whispered it to herself, said it pleadingly through a closed door, shouted it across the mountainside. I’m sorry, Elsa. This is all my fault. I’m sorry.
But Elsa has never apologised. For the silence, for the years, for the deep scars she left through her sister’s childhood. For almost killing her in anger and fear.
She is, apparently, unrepentant.
Anna finds it in the library, the answer to a question she dare not ask. The nice thing about laws is that they’re all written down; the nice thing about the library at the castle is that no one else ever seems to go there, so Anna can work her way through likely-looking volumes until she finds the right one.
Elsa was wrong. Anna can marry whoever she wants.
When she is alone with him she is happy. It doesn’t happen often, it can’t, but sometimes they manage it. She lets him kiss her - or rather, she tells him to, and he always hesitates but he always does it. And one day she tells him what she found in the library.
“I can’t ask you to do that,” is the first thing he says.
“You know what I mean.”
“Don’t you want to marry me?”
“You know I do - more than anything - but if you have to give up everything else....”
She thinks of the castle - cold, empty, silent. She thinks of the material possessions that she has neither earnt nor done anything to deserve. She thinks of her royal duties and how little she is allowed to do, how little it means to her.
“I’m only happy when I’m with you,” she says. “So nothing else matters.”
He kisses her, without prompting, then says “You need to go back.” She is supposed to be just taking her pony for a short ride; she has already been away long enough to provoke suspicion.
“Take me home with you,” she says, only half-joking.
“It would be polite to tell everyone where you went, wouldn’t it?”
“Not today, Anna.”
“Another day, then.”
He doesn’t say anything, just lifts his hand and runs a finger along the side of her face, his eyes sad.
You are warm. But whenever she is in the same room as her sister, she can feel the temperature slowly lowering. They both feel the tension, but Anna is the only one who shivers.
You are safe. But her sister has nearly killed her twice now, and Anna flinches from her anger, scared to speak her mind in case she provokes her, finds it easier to be alone where she doesn’t have to watch every word.
You are loved. For too long love has been abstract, distant. She doesn’t want to just know it, you wants to feel it, and finally she knows what she has to do. It is time.
It’s a lot easier to break rules when you don’t care about getting caught. Anna feels as if a dam has burst, overnight, and maybe she has gone mad or maybe she is finally seeing clearly, but it is enough and she is done and it will be today, it must be today.
I can’t live like this any more.
As soon as she is awake she dresses, as quickly as she can, and runs out of her room and down the hall and out of the castle and out of the courtyard, still tying her hair ribbon as she crosses the bridge.
He is in the market. He does not take much persuasion.
“Do you wish to marry my sister?” Elsa says, and Anna waits. She is not afraid when he is here. She holds his hand and knows nothing can hurt her any more.
“Yes,” Kristoff replies.
“I need to make sure you understand what this means,” Elsa says. “If she marries you I must disown her. She will no longer be a member of the royal family. She will hold no title, her children or their children can never hold the throne. She comes with no dowry. The only things she will be permitted to take from the castle will be her clothes. She will not be a princess any more.”
Kristoff’s voice is clear and level. “I wish to marry the woman, not the princess. All I need her to bring are a loving heart and willing hands.”
Elsa watches him, coolly, then turns her gaze to Anna. “On your own heads be it,” she says.
Mrs Bjorgman walks through the castle for the last time. Opens her bedroom door, and looks at the room that is so familiar she could traverse it with her eyes closed. There has been too much sadness in this room; she can almost feel it, solid, the walls and furnishings steeped in it, their bright colours and rich decoration turned into something dull and haunting. She has wept so many tears into that pillow, for her parents and her sister and herself. She hopes that one day someone will be happy here but she has no idea who that would be.
It doesn’t take long to pack the bag her husband gave her. She takes clothes, though just those that will be suitable for her new life. There is precious little else that belongs to her and her alone. An old journal goes in her bag; a few short notes from her parents. And that is all.
In a drawer she finds two rag dolls, made to look like the two young princesses who played with them a long time ago. Anna smoothes their hair. There are no princesses here now. She sits the dolls side by side on the dressing table, picks up her bag, and leaves.
He is waiting for her in the stableyard, and helps her up into the wagon seat. The sun is just setting. No one has come to say goodbye; Anna wonders if the staff were told to stay inside.
“It’s not a long drive,” he says. “An hour, perhaps. Are you ready?”
“Yes. Let’s go.”
As they leave the town she turns in her seat to take one last look. The walls and towers that were her whole world for so long look small, now, and the grey stone fades into the grey-blue of the water and the sky as they move away.
Anna sits straight and looks ahead at the horizon. Her husband takes one hand off the reins and puts his arm around her shoulders. And she is warm, and she is safe, and she is loved.