Love is about being selfless. It's about putting other people's needs before your own. It's when you give them the last piece of chocolate even as you crave for it. It's the late-night talks where you hold on to their every word.
That was what I thought as a child.
It was around a year ago when I noticed the difference. Elsa's features changed in a way none of us ever imagined. As a teen, she was chubby and wore these huge and thick glasses that nearly covered half of her face; pimples were even littered across her cheeks and dotted her forehead; her hair was also always stuck in this immaculate bun.
No one dared get close to her. Someone who didn't know how to look presentable would always be shunned by teenagers. I was able to relate to her in that regard. I wear ripped jeans, geeky shirts, and dirty sneakers all year round. Sure, it wasn't on the same level, but I was also given the stink eye way more times than I could count.
We had different interests, which was interesting in its own way. Looking at her, one wouldn't think she was into dancing. It was also a surprise when I heard her singing in the showers after a strenuous P.E. class; she had the most angelic voice. Her stutters after my praise were something that's been stuck in my head since.
I was her only companion until we hit college. Until things changed. Up until now, I couldn't figure out if it was for the better. Maybe for Elsa, it was. People started noticing her in a way she had always wanted. She was appreciated.
Gone were the unmatched clothing she was known for and those thick glasses. Her hair, after so many years, forewent the usual bun and was replaced with this well-done french braid draped salaciously around a shoulder. Her baby fats were close to nonexistent. Each day that pass, I could see how fitter she was getting. I'm sure she knew it too because she was no longer as reluctant with her words and actions like she was back in high school. She gained confidence.
It scared the shit out of me.
While she was undergoing these changes, I remained stuck in the way that I am. Change is something I've always been afraid of. I've never embraced it willingly. There is a certain comfort in routine and repetitiveness. Just knowing or having an idea of what the result might be, gives this wonderful sense of security.
I wanted time to stop. I didn't like where this was going, how people were flocking around her because she looked amazing. I didn't like the boys flirting with her because she was hot. They ignored her before! Elsa, on the other hand, didn't mind. She loved the attention, and I guess I can understand. All her life, she was looked down upon. Maybe that experience made her crave for intimacy. An intimacy that I cannot provide.
Affection wasn't something I liked showing in public places because I believe in a private intimacy setting. I find it more special. Then one day while we were walking around the mall, she asked, "What do you think these people will say if they see us holding hands?"
I almost tripped on air then. I had admitted to being bisexual during our 3rd year in high school, but that question was the last thing I expected from her and in a place where she knew was filled with homophobic people. She didn't give me much time to respond though. She held my hand like it was the most precious artifact that ever existed.
That was the first time I felt something for her. A mere twinge in the chest.
I may not have any experience when it comes to romantic relationships, but even I knew what that twinge meant. I decided to distance myself from her, but when she ran after me with tears in her eyes, clueless and asking for an answer I couldn't admit just yet, I realized it was useless. Distance didn't matter; she would still be in my head wherever I go.
There were no sparkles, fireworks, or any kind of starry-eyed moments when I accepted the fact that I was in love with her. Instead, there were tears behind closed doors and silent sniffles under the covers. No wonder I was afraid. Boy, I was jealous of every person that captures her attention. I had to force a smile every time we met because I didn't want her to know about my feelings. I didn't want to ruin what we have.
I didn't want anything to change.
Ever since that time, our relationship blossomed into something more complicated. Like there was an us, but not really. One moment, we were showing the kind of care and love for each other that couples would have been jealous of. The next, we'd be having some kind of misunderstanding. She would get agitated easily for reasons unknown, and while she was facing her own issues, I was trying to hide these feelings.
There was a time when I couldn't handle her mood swings any longer and I let it slip. "For God's sake, I don't hate you, Elsa! I'm in love with you!"
"You don't have to say anything. I... I'm trying, okay? Just... please."
What that 'please' meant, I honestly don't know. I didn't know what I was asking from her. Maybe for her to love me too? Who doesn't want their loved one to feel the same way for them? But I knew that wouldn't happen between us. Elsa would never see me that way.
"Anna, I... I'm not like that."
I remember it like it was yesterday. My fingers ached from twitching; I wanted to reach out. I wanted her arms around me because it was always that that comforted me the most. It didn't help that it was evident in her eyes that she was also struggling. Like she wanted to do the same thing, but she was unsure whether it was a great idea, knowing how I feel about her.
In the end, she let the instinct take over and embraced me. That was when I broke. My trembling fingers curled around her clothes as tears spilled from my eyes. How pathetic I was back then, being comforted by the very same person that caused my heart to break.
After that, I decided to distract myself with other things. Things that didn't remind me of her. I wanted to move on because I wanted us to be normal again, to share secrets and laugh as if there was no tomorrow. With her not reciprocating my feelings for obvious reasons and me feeling the way that I do, 'normal' wouldn't be possible unless I moved on.
"Why is it so easy for you to avoid me?"
This would always happen.
Every time I'd do something to let go and forget about these feelings, she'd ask me that simple question. She'd tell me that my avoidance was hurting her, tell me that I didn't care anymore, and how insignificant she must be in my life for me to be able to do these things in an instant. Because I didn't like seeing her reverting to her old nature that always thought she did something wrong to make people leave, I'd come crawling back. I thought I would be able to handle the pain as long as she was happy, as long as she wouldn't look down on herself again.
It went on for months—me trying to move on and her reacting this way every time I try.
It was unfair. I developed these feelings because of her silly little games. I was in love with her; she had control over me. If she was angry, I'll apologize. If she was sad, I'll be her emotional comfort. It was expected of me to cave. I tried to understand her because I thought it was the right thing to do. When you love someone, you value your relationship more than your own ego. You don't want them gone.
There is a famous saying 'the first step will always be the hardest'. I used to agree. For someone that is afraid of experiencing new things, it was a serious challenge taking that first step. I did, however, and each step after that felt heavier than the last. It caused me many sleepless nights.
It wasn't the letting go that was difficult.
It was forcing myself not to go after her again.
Moving on is a constant struggle. A daily battle I have to face while hoping that every single time, I won't give in. That I won't fall back inside that painful loop. Every day, the struggle against the dreams and wonders of true love that I had hoped was possible to achieve with her saps the energy from me. I fight against these false hopes that I am fully aware I'm just deluding myself with.
What if I wait, will things work out?
What if I fight for her?
What if this is just a challenge to see how strong we can be?
What if, what if, what if?
Convincing myself to stay strong and remain optimistic in this relationship was easy. She was the only constant in my life and I didn't want to let that go. Even if my friends tell me how toxic and one-sided this was, even if I can see a thousand reasons why they were right, I'd always, always, find a reason to stay.
I was such a romantic.
The words "I'm okay" had slipped from my mouth countless times that it already became a reflex, an empty response when people ask. My naive heart told me I would be. That Elsa and I can get through all these issues that came out of nowhere. We made it through different struggles together; this wasn't any different.
"The idea of her is nice." Rapunzel had said when I realized how foolish I've been. "Maybe she is worth the wait. We'll never know. But, Anna, you are worth more than all these hurt she'd put you through."
Merida rolled her eyes then. "She knows it's okay tae hurt ye coz she's confident ye willnae lae!"
"Merida!" Rapunzel slapped the fiery redhead's arm. "Anna, listen. I know it's not going to be easy, but for your sake, stop hoping that things will go back to the way they used to be. Yes, you and Elsa were close, but that was before you fell in love with her. Things already changed."
"Ah agree wi' th' lassie. If Elsa doesn't want anythin' romantic wi' ye, she shoods gonnae-no bein' possessife. It's loch she wants ye tae loove 'er but isnae willin' tae tak' a romantic step. It's incredibly toxic."
"She means Elsa's being kind of manipulative."
"A lot manipulatife!" Merida spat. "I've seen hoo fowk help others move oan frae them, an' thes isnae hoo they dae it!"
The truth is that I've noticed it after a few fights. How Elsa would always make it seem like I'm the one at fault. Back then, I believed she was right. I was the one being toxic and destroying our relationship. It was much easier to digest than accept that she was manipulating or using my feelings for her own gain. As things kept happening over and over again, I began to think that maybe it wasn't entirely me that was the problem.
I don't know if she was doing it on purpose or not, but it hurt me just the same. Of all people, I never expected her to be the one to hurt me the most. The thought of Elsa still makes me sad. I thought love conquered everything. I envy the best of friends ending up as a couple. Elsa and I would never be like that. Yes, there are moments when I wished things were different. Times when I hoped she truly reciprocated my feelings. I still want her close, but the urge isn't as strong as when I was in denial. When I let my heart control everything that I do.
Moving on is a process. Even now, as she stands in front of me with tears in her eyes, apologizing for the first time ever, it's a battle I have with myself. I badly want to give in.
"I'm sorry for being insensitive. Please, Anna... I don't want to lose you."
Change isn't something I fully embraced until now. I don't know if what I'm doing makes me look heartless. My care for her still exists, along with the walls I built between us. Things will never be the same. I knew that before, and this time I accept it. Elsa was my best friend before she became the woman I fell in love with. I will be here if she needs a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen when something frustrates her, and a body to embrace if she gets scared of any storm that comes her way.
But this time, I know my limits.
For once, I want to be the main character in my own story. For once, I want to be the lead actress of my own film and the princess of my own fairy tale. I don't want to let my feelings towards someone else dictate my every move. No one has to have control over me except for me alone. Yes, it is selfish and, yes, it can be insensitive. The surprising part is that I can't find it in me to care. It is clear to me now. I am in love with Elsa, but I refuse to let my world revolve around only her again.