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Let Me Call You Sweetheart

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With a fierce determination that she had never felt before, Anna pulled her shawl over her shoulders and headed towards the alleyway where she knew Kristoff would be hiding.

Supper that evening had been a complete and utter disaster. In the middle of the meal, her suitor, Hans Westergaard, had taken everyone - including her - by surprise when he pulled out a ring and proposed to her on the spot. Though she had had no choice but to say ‘yes’ in the moment, with expectant looks coming from her parents and all of their guests, it was not something she wanted. Hans may have had a sprawling estate, a promising career, and enough money to support her and her family for the rest of eternity, but her affections laid elsewhere - with Kristoff Bjorgman, one of her family’s footmen.

What she hated most about that evening was that Kristoff had been present throughout the entire spectacle - that he had to watch her accept another man’s marriage proposal. Neither of them had been particularly explicit about their feelings for one another, but it was undeniable that there was an exciting electricity present in the air whenever they were together. They’d spent years dancing around each other, exchanging coy glances with one another in the dining room while her family was distracted with eating supper, meeting up in secret in the alleyway near the servant’s door, and finding reasons to speak to one another during the workday whenever an opportunity would present itself.

When she finally spotted him, his head pointed towards the floor and a cigarette hanging from his fingers, she picked up her pace. “Kristoff.”

He startled, picking his head up and furrowing his eyebrows. “Anna? What are you doing out here?”

“I need to speak with you.”

“You shouldn’t be out here,” he said, taking a drag of his cigarette. “Not tonight.”

“I think it is of the utmost importance that we speak now,” she insisted, pulling the shawl more tightly around her shoulders.

“Oh?”

Without thinking twice, she rushed forward and pressed her lips against his. It took him a moment to realize what was happening and kiss her back, but when he finally did, it was magical. She had always dreamt that her first kiss would be with someone who meant the world to her, and Kristoff was the perfect candidate. She could taste the tobacco on his lips as she melted against him, wanting nothing more than for the moment to last forever.

“Anna!” Kristoff exclaimed when they broke apart, his eyes wide as he glanced around the courtyard.

“Was it bad? Did you not like it?” Anna asked meekly, suddenly self-conscious over her innocence and lack of practice.

“Of course I liked it!” he said in a hushed voice. “But what if someone had seen us? You are engaged to another man!”

“But I do not have to be! I can -”

Anna,” Kristoff said firmly, his expression pained. “My feelings for you are - I…Mr. Westergaard. You are engaged to Mr. Westergaard.”

“I do not want to marry Hans!” Anna yelled, stamping her foot on the ground and curling her hands into fists. “My father wishes for me to marry Hans.”

“I think you should do what your father tells you to do,” he said, seemingly ignoring her outburst of anger as he dropped his cigarette on the ground and stubbed it out with the toe of his shoe.

“And why do you think that? My affections lay with you, not with him.”

“I cannot give you the life Mr. Westergaard can give you. You will be comfortable with him - your life will stay the same with him. You will have your lady’s maid, and your -”

“But I love you. I do not love Hans.” Tears sprang to the corners of her eyes and without another moment's notice, began cascading down her cheeks. “I do not care about my lady’s maid, or money, or comfort. I do not want to marry a man that I do not love.”

He stared at her, his fingers twitching by his sides. She wished more than anything that he would pull her into his arms and tell her that everything would be alright. “I know, but -”

“There are no ‘buts!’ This is my life and I should not have to marry a man I do not love! If you do not love me, then that is one thing, but do not tell me I should marry a man for the sake of comfort when -”

“Who said I do not love you?” Kristoff asked, huffing a small laugh as he stepped towards her. “Anna, I do love you. I love you more than I could ever tell you. It’s exactly why I think you should marry Mr. Westergaard - because your happiness means more to me than my own.”

“But I will never be happy if I am forced to marry Hans,” Anna sobbed. “Never.”

He brushed his thumbs over her cheeks, wiping her tears away. “Please stop crying, my darling.”

“How do you expect me to stop crying when I am expected to marry a man I do not love?”

“I know, I know. But it pains me to see you so upset,” he said, and she could tell that his own eyes were beginning to water. Even still, he continued to cradle her face with his hands in an attempt to comfort her.

“I am only upset because I am forbidden from spending my life with my one true love,” she choked out. “My Kristoff.”

With a shake of the head, he murmured, “I may be yours, but you cannot be mine.”

“How come?”

“You know why, my love. I am a footman, and you are a lady - we are from different social classes. It is simply unacceptable for a lady of your status to marry a man of mine.”

“But -”

“Anna,” he interjected. “It is not meant to be. Mr. Westergaard will treat you kindly. He will -”

“Please stop trying to convince me that marrying Hans is the best thing for me,” she begged. “For as long as I can remember, I have always dreamt about being Mrs. Bjorgman - not Lady Westergaard.”

“You have dreamt about being my wife?” he asked in a low voice, clearly dumbfounded by her admission.

“I have,” she answered with a nod.

“You want to be my wife?” he continued, obviously seeking confirmation and clarity. “You wish to stand in a church, in front of God and a priest, and take a vow to be my wife?”

“Only if you will have me,” she nodded fervently. “I have not yearned for anything else for as long as I can remember.”

He hesitated for a moment, a fear in his eyes as he chewed on the inside of his cheek. “Before I say what I would like to say next, I just have to make sure you understand that I cannot provide you with a comfortable life. You would be giving up your lifestyle in favor of mine - you would be trading an aristocratic lifestyle for that of a servants'. You do realize that, right?”

“I do.”

Are you sure?” Kristoff asked, his honey-colored eyes boring into hers as he moved his hands to grip her shoulders. “You must be certain. If you have even a shred of doubt, you mustn’t say ‘yes.’”

“Say the words and I’m yours,” Anna breathed. “It is as simple as that.”

“Marry me,” Kristoff proclaimed, his eyes crinkling in the corners as he beamed at her; she had never seen him smile so wide before. “I do not have a ring, and I cannot give you much, but I can promise to love you and cherish you for the rest of my life.”

“That is all I could ever wish for,” Anna answered, her lip wobbling as a set of happy tears pooled in her eyes.

His eyes brightened. “You mean it? You will run away with me and be my wife?”

“I will,” she nodded.

Kristoff wrapped his hands around Anna’s waist and lifted her off the ground, briefly spinning her in the air as she squealed with joy before setting her back down. He captured her lips again, and she knew for certain that their future together was sealed.

Anna was going to marry the man she loved.