I wish for someone to play with. Someone like a sister.
I wish for someone I can’t hurt. Someone like a sister.
She wasn’t sure which one of the Princesses made the wish first. Was it joyful but bored Anna? Was it hidden and scared Elsa? Or was it both of them, at the same time, like via telepathy?
But she did remember standing in the middle of the ball room of the Royal Castle of Arendelle and opening her eyes slowly. There were numerous portraits hanging from the walls and something akin to sinister lurking around the corners. She recognized it. It was loneliness. Something dark, something dangerous. Something to drive even the sanest people into insanity and something to destroy even the strongest bonds between people. And she knew it. Naturally; she was born from it.
But she didn’t have a name. She didn’t have a personality either. She didn’t know any emotions and she didn’t know what was expected from her. She only knew that she was needed. That her purpose was to keep that darkness out of sight. And she knew there were two people who both needed her but could never meet each other.
So she sought the sister who seemed to be needing her most. The Crown Princess Elsa. Anna had imagination and could fare a moment longer. The dark hadn’t reached her yet.
The ball room faded out and she found herself in another location. It was a room of a young girl. The girl herself was sitting by a window and reading a book. Snow was falling outside. It was winter.
She stood still, unsure what to do. She’d never interacted with anyone. She’d been born only minutes ago.
It took almost a half an hour until Elsa put the book down and looked up. Once seeing the other, the Crown Princess jumped and backed against the window, gripping the windowsill.
“W-Who are you?” Came the frightened whisper. The Other blinked. What should she answer? She opted on honesty. Well, what was honesty when you didn’t know the concept of lies? Didn’t know the difference between true and false? She merely answered the only thing she knew.
“I don’t know.” was the answer in complete apathy.
Elsa gaped. She openly gaped at the Other. And she was scared. Ice began to form from her hands and creep along the wooden structures and glass panes of the window. The Other watched her and the ice impassively. It was something the Other had also known beforehand. The Ice was after all the reason she’d been born.
“Y-You don’t know?”
The Princess took a hesitating step forward. She was curious now. She wanted to know who was this other girl. She also wanted to know why she was so… so lost.
“What’s your name?” Elsa asked this time. The answer came automatically.
“I don’t have one.”
“I haven’t been given one.”
The platinum blonde girl held back a gasp. Who could possibly be so cruel and leave a child without a name? She took another step forward. The Other was standing near the door so Elsa wasn’t able to leave even if she wanted to.
“Why are you here?”
“I was needed.”
“You, Princess Elsa of Arendelle. And your sister, Princess Anna of Arendelle.”
Elsa swallowed. She didn’t know what it meant. Where were momma and papa? Maybe they’d know what she should do…
The Other looked around the room and while her attention was elsewhere, Elsa had a chance to take a proper look on her. The Other looked like a girl a bit younger than her but older than Anna. She had sandy blonde hair just barely touching her shoulders. Her clothes consisted of a light violet dress and black vest. There were floral decorations in the hem but they seemed a sort of… frosty.
Suddenly the Other’s deep blue eyes were on Elsa again. The older girl flinched away. The Other cocked her head.
“What now?” The Other asked. It was the first time she had spoken first.
“W-What are you?” Elsa couldn’t help but ask. She’d never before even heard of a person who could be so… emotionless. Was it sure she was a human and not some magical being? Elsa had ice powers and even trolls existed so maybe…
“I’m…” The Other hesitated. “I’m something like a personal guardian or an imaginary friend.”
“An imaginary friend?”
“Yes. You wished company and you sister wished for company. Considering the amount of magic in this place it became true since it was two identical wishes.” Oh, well that answered to Elsa’s second question.
“But… I might hurt you… I hurt Anna. There’s no way I could have anyone else here with me!”
“…I can’t get hurt.”
“I can’t get hurt. You wished so. You wished for someone who won’t get affected by cold and your powers. I’m that.”
Elsa hesitated. She took a careful step forward. Then another. Slowly she made her way across the room, to the other girl. All this time the Other watched her through half-lidded eyes. The Princess reached a hand carefully towards the Other’s face. The Other didn’t move, didn’t blink, didn’t even breath for a moment. The ice-cold pale hand touched a soft cheek before pulling back quickly. This gained no reaction. Elsa looked at her hand and then at the Other whose cheek remained unchanged. In wonder the Princess reached out again and this time held her hand on the younger girl’s cheek. Despite the paleness of the skin, the Other still had a healthier flush on her face.
During the whole exchange the Other remained quiet. But then…
“What is my name?”
“Yes, that’s my name.” The sandy-blonde girl nodded to the younger of the Princesses. Anna looked at her for a moment before opening her mouth again.
“Will you play with me?”
“That’s why I’m here.” Isla replied. Anna’s mouth stretched into an impossibly wide grin and the ginger dashed forward to hug the ‘older’ girl. Isla staggered to stay upright and she flailed around with her hands, no sure what she should do. This was her first meeting with the younger Princess. Elsa was much calmer and usually company was the only thing she needed. But Anna… She was more complicated.
“Yay! Let’s go and build a snowman. Please, please, pleeeeease?” Anna jumped up and down and looked pleadingly at the Other.
“Yippee! Let’s go!” And the girl was off to fetch winter clothes. Isla followed her with more sedated pace and at the same time pulled on a winter coat and a little hood to cover her ears. The mittens were found from the pockets of the coat and so was the scarf. By the time the Other was in the hall, Anna was also ready, beaming at her.
“C’mon, let’s go!” And the sandy-blonde was pulled to the yard. From the upper floors Elsa watched all that exchange quietly.
“I… I-I want you to stay here. With me.” Elsa ordered with a trembling voice. She’d just received her first gloves from her father and told the guidelines she’d try to follow the rest of her life. Conceal, don’t feel. Don’t let them see.
Isla looked up from her book she’d been reading for a while. She’d seen and heard everything but Elsa’s father hadn’t seen her. And that thought scared the Crown Princess. She thought she was becoming mad. And Isla still didn’t exactly have a personality to ease those fears.
“And what brought this one up?” The Other asked.
“I won’t let you go to Anna. You are mine. You belong to here. You came to me first. You…” Possessive streak… Isla merely blinked.
“You… What?” Elsa looked up from her fearful rant.
“I’ll stay here if you wish so.” Isla repeated and went back to her book. She didn’t really care. She wasn’t capable of caring. Elsa also realized that. Isla could write and read. She could hold a conversation. But she wasn’t human. She looked human but she lacked something that made humans what they were. And those were emotions. Elsa had noticed that Anna had done some good to the Other thus making the Crown Princess feel like her younger sister was there occasionally. But Isla was still far from having a personality. Maybe… she could allow her to spend some time with Anna too…
The King and Queen were used to hear about this ‘Isla’ from both of their daughters. They weren’t worried. The girls were young and they both needed friends. Since they could be together of with any children from outside, it was only good that they had an imaginary friend.
“Isla doesn’t know how to laugh.” Anna told them one day. It concerned them. How could their so energetic and joyful daughter create and imaginary friend that didn’t know how to laugh?
“Doesn’t know how to laugh?” The King repeated.
“Yeah… She isn’t boring or stuff and does play with me… but she… doesn’t know.” The ginger shrugged. The man let the topic be. Anna was too young to be concerned about it.
Later Elsa told the King about Isla too.
“She… Isla was born from a wish. She told me so. When I met her, she didn’t even have a name until I gave her one. She only knew why she was here but nothing else.” The platinum blonde peeked at her parents through her bangs. She hoped they wouldn’t tell her to keep Isla away. She was nice even if a bit… cold.
“What is she?” Queen asked gently. “Could we meet her?”
“I… Her…” Elsa glanced at the chair near her in front of the bookshelf. Isla was reading again. “She is sitting right there.” The girl pointed at the Other who didn’t bother looking up from the book she was engrossed with. The Queen and the King turned to look at the direction pointed. But naturally they couldn’t see Isla.
“Isla, can you hear us? Could you talk to us?” The King asked a bit awkwardly. Isla lifted her gaze and glanced at the royal couple.
“I hear just fine. If you have questions, just ask.”
Elsa relayed the message to the adults.
“Isla, how long have you been with Elsa and Anna?” King asked then.
“A couple of months.” The snow was gone by now and the first flowers were blooming on the lush green fields.
“Who are you, exactly?” The Queen asked this time. Isla blinked. Were they worried? Must be. In all the books, parents usually were worried about their children.
“I’m Isla. I’m an imaginary friend or a personal guardian. More like the first one I guess.”
“What are you?” The King frowned at the response.
“I don’t know.”
The Royal couple came to accept Isla’s presence. Naturally they still were worried of what sort of influence she’d be to their daughters due her lack of emotions but decided then that even quiet company was needed company. And due time and the influence of the girls, Isla began gaining more personality…
Nine-year-old Anna dragged the sandy-blonde girl with her to Elsa’s door. The ginger knocked eagerly.
“Elsa, do you want to build a snowman?”
“Or ride our bike around the hall?” Isla chimed in cheerfully and jumped on the front seat of the bike while Anna stood on the back seat. They drove into the stairs and while Anna ended up on the arms of armor, Isla sat in the corner upside down. She wasn’t as energetic as the younger girl but now she could smile and form her own opinions too.
“I think some company is overdue…” The ginger sighed with them racing to the ballroom. “I’ve started talking to the pictures on the wall.”
“Hey, what about me?” Isla huffed.
“It gets a little lonely… all these empty rooms.” Anna laid on her back at the base of the grandfather clock and Isla sat nearby, leaning against the clock. Sometimes the ginger got struck by these moments when she wanted Elsa and only Elsa. And then Isla could do nothing.
“Just watching the hours tick by...”
It was night. Elsa was anxious. She was panicking. Isla could see the darkness eating her away and feeding her fears at the same time. The sandy-blonde girl stood still. She didn’t know what to do. She knew her purpose was to keep that darkness at bay but how it actually happened… she didn’t know. No one had taught her. She was just a figment of imagination and neither Elsa or Anna really thought about things like that. They had their own wishes and fears but neither of them were Isla. They could never fully understand her and how she worked. How she molded herself to their wishes…
So Isla only watched passively when the entire wall of the Crown Princess’ room froze behind her. On times like this she shut down. When she was completely clueless.
“I’m scared. It’s getting stronger.” Elsa stared at the wall before looking at her parents who were standing before her.
“Getting upset only makes it worse.” The King explained and tried to hug her but the young teen shied away.
“No! Don’t touch me. I don’t want to hurt you.” The Princess hugged herself in fear. When the King and the Queen looked at each other with alarmed sadness, Isla realized something. She could provide Elsa what the others couldn’t. She could stay with her and touch her. The Princess needed physical contact but if she didn’t accept it even from her parents… There was no one else but Isla. Because she was made to be some that the Ice didn’t have an effect on.
But the problem was… Elsa was growing up. She was beginning not to believe in imaginary friends while she concentrated in her studies as the future ruler of the country. Seeing Isla made her fear she was losing her mind and her parents not seeing the Other didn’t help the matters. The adults weren’t even sure completely did Isla exist. Hearing Elsa talking to empty air frightened them even though they never showed it.
“Elsa…” The Other took a step forward. She reached out in the same manner the Crown Princess had when they’d met for the first time. Elsa recoiled even from her, backing up against the door. Isla continued approaching until she stood between the older girl and her parents. She cupped the girl’s face with both hands and leaning their foreheads together. “Elsa please… Let me help you… Let others see me. I know you can do it. If your magic really is getting stronger, then I’m sure you can make me stronger too. So people will believe in me.”
Elsa stared wide-eyed at the girl. The Other was quiet now, not meeting the icy blue eyes. No one was saying a word, not even the King and the Queen who were watching it all in confusion.
Hesitatingly, Elsa slid off the glove of her right hand brought it to Isla’s face.
I wish you were real. I wish everyone could believe in you. I wish you… I wish I could believe in you. I need you.
To the King and the Queen it was something most bizarre thing that happened. True, they believed in magic and were used in Elsa’s powers but for a person solidify from midair… it was something unbelievable. They could only watch as a girl a bit shorter than Elsa and with sand-brown hair falling down her shoulders. She was wearing a deep purple dress with long sleeves and simple decoration and holding Elsa’s face gently.
That day was the day Isla was accepted as a member of the household. That day was the day when she began spending even more time with Elsa as the older girl wanted Isla barely to leave her side. Elsa room was now modified to accommodate also the Other and the servants were given orders to treat the girl with the same amount of respect as the Princesses. Soon the whispers about the middle child of the Royal couple were broken out and people of Arendelle were guessing why no one had ever before heard of her. The explanation that the servants provided satisfied the curiosity for the most part: Princess Isla had been sick since birth and the King and the Queen decided to keep her out of the public eye until she was either cured or the sickness claimed her. And now near the mark of her eleventh birthday, she was finally free from the sickness.
From the crack between the door and the door frame, Isla watched Anna sliding past Elsa’s room without stopping. The younger Princess was heading to see her goodbyes to her parents who were to leave soon to another country to strengthen the diplomatic relations to it.
And soon the Royal couple was saying goodbyes to Elsa and Isla too. The Crown Princess curtsied in front of her parents, formally, not touching them while Isla stood on the side, her hand folded in front of her and head bowed.
“Do you have to go?” Elsa asked sadly.
“You’ll be fine, Elsa.” The King smiled. “Isla will be here with you.” The man spared a glance on the ‘middle child’. Isla looked up and nodded quietly. It was her job after all. Her only purpose.
“Goodbye.” She only said. Since she was a magical being, she was having a strange foreboding feeling. Something telling her about an approaching tragedy. And that something told her that her services would be even more needed in the future.
And true to that… The King and the Queen met their demise in the crashing waves of the ocean.
Throughout the funerals, Isla sat beside Elsa and held the crying girl. The room had frozen all around the only things not covered in ice and frost were the two young women sitting on the floor near the door. Silent tears were flowing down also on Isla’s cheeks but she didn’t know what that emotion was. She’d never before been sad. She’d never before cried so she didn’t know why she was now.
There were knocks on the door. Anna. Isla had never forgotten the youngest of them even though she’d spent less and less time with her. The only times she had really interacted with the ginger was during dinners and lessons that she’d been also required to take. Isla brushed a hand like to keep her hair out of her face before realizing it was braided and thus didn’t fell on her line of sight. That had also been something for her to get used to too. It had been strange for her to be treated as an equal to the Princesses and been clothed and taken care by someone else. Her hair was now always braided now and her clothes were similar in fashion to Anna and Elsa’s.
“Elsa? Please I know you’re in there. People are asking where you’ve been. They say have courage and I’m trying to…” Anna spoke to her older sister. “I’m right out here for you. Please let me in…
There was a sound of fabric chafing against wood and Isla guessed Anna had slid down to sit on the floor. She waited quietly for the ginger to speak again. And what she heard made her feel anxious: was she not needed anymore?
“We only have each other.” Isla was about to stand up but Elsa gripped her sleeve. “It’s just you and me. What are we gonna do?”
Isla placed her hand on the door and closed her eyes, leaning her forehead against it. It was indeed just three of them and the servants in the big castle. The big castle with darkness lurking in the corners.
It took a few more years. Elsa was now twenty-one and the day of her Coronation was approaching. During the years preceding that, Isla had learnt more about herself. She now knew that she loved ice-skating and chocolate. She was quite good dancer and had a talent on languages. She loved winter and cold like Anna but also reading like Elsa. The Other had also taken on her shoulders to manage the affairs in the city around the capital. Since no one knew her face it was safe for her to leave the confines of the castle. She always brought back stories for the Princesses and befriended some of the townspeople and travelling merchants.
But now… it was the Coronation day. Isla had gotten up early and dressed in her new dress. While Elsa donned dark violet, turquoise and black, and Anna had different greens in her outfit, the Royal Tailors had opted for pale lilac and blue in Isla’s dress. It was quite nice, she liked it, and per her request, Isla could have her hair more free now. She still had braids on the sides of her head but otherwise it was not tied up. And now it was about as short as in the beginning of her story.
The Other glanced at her reflection in the mirror of her room (she had gotten one after the Royal couple died. Elsa had ordered it) and fingered nervously the tips of her blonde locks. For some reason her hair was now of lighter color than before. Isla took a deep breath and exited her room… almost colliding with Anna who was running on the corridor in excitement.
“Who-Whoa! Careful, Anna.” Isla stepped back on the last moment. The ginger whirled around and scooped the about nineteen-year-old girl into a hug.
“It’s coronation day!” The younger of the two laughed.
“Yes, it is.” Isla smiled and was immediately dragged into the little song of Anna’s.
“The window is open! So's that door! I didn't know they did that anymore.” The Princess looked around in excitement.
“Who knew we owned 8000 salad plates...?” Isla laughed, looking at her reflection this time from one of the plates before she and Anna made their way to the ballroom. The floors were scrubbed so clean that they could even see their reflections from it, not to mention skidding across the hall in their socks. When Isla glanced behind, she could only wonder… was everything being like a shiny mirror so the guest could only see themselves and not concentrate on what was hidden inside this castle? Let them have a taste of splendor before the gates would be shut again?
“For years I have roamed these empty halls…Why have a ballroom with no balls?” Sliding down the stairs by sitting on the railing. It was something Anna had given Isla as a bad habit much to the dismay of the servants. But the blonde just laughed as they made their way down and down and down.
“Finally, they’re opening up the gates!”
“The gates!” The Other echoed. Singing was wonderful. It could convey so many different emotions…
“There'll be real, actual people - it'll be totally strange. But, wow, am I so ready for this change!”
One of the windows was open. And from there Anna jumped on a swing meant for washing the window. She raised herself up to see the ships arriving. Isla herself stood on the windowsill, seeing perfectly well those ships too. There was such a magnificent sight, especially when there were so many of them.
“For the first time in forever…” Anna sung and began swinging a bit.
“There'll be music, there'll be light…” Isla looked up at the ginger who looked back at her with a smile, continuing their little duet.
“For the first time in forever…” Anna sung again.
“I- We'll be dancing through the night.” They shared a smile.