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For Years I've Roamed These Empty Halls

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Anna smiled before babies were supposed to, and Iduna knew it was because she meant to. She knew her daughter was looking at her, reacting to her, and didn't need Midwife Jora to explain about babies and gas.

Anna was inconvenienced by her swaddling, and was always breaking free, one arm popping out to drape over her head, her red hair sticking out in soft wisps.

At the age of one, Anna played with Elsa's Noah's Ark set and hid the animals around the castle. She never found the lions or giraffes again and the lone elephant was eventually reunited with its partner when the Duke of Weselton sat on it during a state dinner, jumping up and yelping, his hair flapping in an unnatural way.

Anna, at two years old, climbed out the window and onto the roof in the time it took her nanny to use the water closet, arms outstretched, feeling the breeze and wanting to climb even higher. In the same year, she found a set of garden shears and gave all of her dolls haircuts and would have given Elsa one too if the shears hadn't frozen over.

Anna, at three, knew all the gardeners and cooks and servants in the castle. She had a friendly wave or a sticky piece of chocolate or a sloppy kiss to give each one when they passed. She thought Elsa's magic was the best toy and relished in directing her how to use it, a three year old queen, high on her power. "Quick! Another fairy to save the trolls from the soldiers!" Elsa would oblige, making the figurines that she was so good at creating, now better able to control what she intended to do with her ice magic. Elsa and Anna at play were a blur of motion, Elsa happy to do what Anna directed, to do what Anna voiced with characters and stories that she listened to raptly. Elsa playing alone had been silent. Elsa and Anna playing together were loud and funny and could turn entire ballrooms into skating rinks and ice palaces and snow forts.

Anna at four directed their adventures outside of the castle as well. She told Elsa to freeze over the duck pond so the ducks could learn to skate. She climbed trees without any fear of falling because Elsa would create a hill made of snow to catch her if she fell. Anna sat on her father’s shoulders and held her arms out, trying to hug the breeze and calling it a friend. It gave Iduna a sensation of loss to see her daughter want to play with the wind, some inherent, inherited memory, and to know that the wind in Arendelle would never heed Anna’s call. Anna at four would scrawl invitations to her parents and sister by drawing a room in the castle and directing them to attend her parties. She hosted tea parties and garden parties, and Agnarr and Iduna sat on pillows and wore the paper crowns Anna had made, Elsa adding garlands of ice flowers wherever Anna asked.

But Anna at five didn't know her sister had ice powers. Anna at five didn't know why so many of the castle staff had left, and why her sister wouldn't play with her anymore. She was glad to have more time with her mother. They climbed trees and onto the roof, and explored the clocktower and the lighthouse. They gardened and got dirty and mashed and mixed herbs, but a mother sometimes has to attend state dinners and write letters and be the queen to the whole kingdom. A mother wasn’t the same as a sister.

Anna at five was lonely, and the sister her parents hoped would be her dearest friend seemed to not care that she existed at all.

Anna at six named all of the suits of armor in the castle and carried on conversations with them, hoping that if she talked to them enough, they might talk back.

Anna at seven stayed up to watch the Northern Lights, thinking the sky looked like a friend, and not entirely sure why.

Anna at eight liked going into the kitchens to sneak treats, now easier with so few servants. She ate alone in a fort made of pillows.

Anna at nine named all of the ducks in the pond and taught them to follow her in a straight line and to quack on command.

Anna at ten learned how to ride a horse, and became a frequent visitor at the stables, where she brushed and curried and patted the horses, asking them where their favorite spots were to ride and graze.

Anna at eleven could ride her bike down the stairs, and only crashed the first six times she did it. Her mother and father would sometimes ride with her on the two-seater bike, but Elsa never did.

Anna at twelve tried to go an entire day without speaking once. She did it easily, and hated every minute.

Anna at thirteen began talking to the pictures in the portrait gallery, acting out the dramatic and romantic scenes in them, wishing her life would look like that one day.

Anna at fourteen read everything she could and imagined the characters in her books were friends. Her mother showed her a tree with a crook in the branches like a seat, and she would read up there for hours, always a little disappointed when she returned that no one had come looking for her.

Anna at fifteen mourned the loss of her parents alone, and thought she would never again know the love of family, even though family was just on the other side of a closed door.