The dance was precisely how I expected it to be. I sat off to the side with my ankle aching. Yet my hopes arose when Raleigh came to me and said that no one had asked her to dance. I allowed a tired smile to cross my lips. “No one will be asking me to dance, that I know,” I said quietly.
She looked at me with sympathy. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Maybe you could go and talk with the Barbies. I see Hunter and Elinor over there.”
I’d hardly opened my mouth to reply when Eugene walked up, offering a polite bow to Raleigh and me. “Good evening, ladies,” he said.
I nodded to him, quietly observing the way he and Raleigh acted around each other. Before I knew it Eugene had asked Raleigh for a dance.
I tried to smile as I watched the couple go out onto the dance floor. They seemed so quietly happy to be in each other’s presence, and I found it rather surprising. Anna had told me about her conversation with Eugene, how he had admitted to being in love with Belle. I had felt truly sorry for Eugene, but now that I saw him I wondered how true his words were.
Those thoughts led me to wonder about myself and my sister — why I couldn’t seem to stop thinking of Hans and why Anna was keeping secrets from me. I wondered if I’d done something, or if she had. Or maybe Eugene’s relationship with Raleigh had been bothering her as much as it had me.
But then, I told myself, that that mustn’t be it. Eugene’s heart was his own, and he could do with it what he willed. I assured myself that Anna wouldn’t be offended. Although, Anna had known Belle while I had only met her once or twice. But I didn’t know. Every thought that crossed my mind brought confusion, and for every question I asked, it brought on even more questions rather than answers.
Yet it seemed that fate would have my situation worsen. As I watched Raleigh and Eugene dance, I saw Hans walking between the couples toward me. I pursed my lips, suppressing the urge to run.
When Hans reached me, he bowed as Eugene had done and greeted me warmly. I waited for him to say something about my ankle, but he simply informed me of the reason he was late. Truly, I would have been perfectly all right had he chosen not to come at all.
“I see that you are not dancing,” he said lightly.
I knew it was completely unladylike to entertain such a thought, but right at that moment I wished I could give him a proper jab with my elbow. “It seems that all the gentlemen are quite taken up,” I said through clenched teeth.
“Not all,” he said. When I didn’t reply, he added, “I am here still.”
“Perhaps you ought to ask Elinor for a dance,” I said quietly, almost bitterly.
“I would think it was simply the pain of your injury, but it seems that when in my presence particularly you have the oddest inclination to be rather disquieted and…terse.”
I didn’t look at him. “Perhaps that is because I’m not used to being cared for by anyone,” I said.
“I should find it hard to be in your position,” he said, and something about the soberness of his words hurt in a way I couldn’t understand. “Though I believe I can imagine it.”
I looked down, thinking that if I opened my mouth again I would surely regret whatever I said. It was not intentional, but it seemed to be happening altogether too much of late. Hans was right, though. I was disquieted when I was near him. I had always thought of myself as being the calm and collected one, and somehow that very quality in him unbalanced me. But his countenance seemed a mask, and the reason I noticed it was because I was exactly the same way.
“Elsa,” he said, breaking through my thoughts. “If you would allow me this dance.” He moved to stand in front of me, extending his hand.
I felt stricken and at a loss for words. “But…I can’t,” I managed to say.
“Perhaps if I bear your weight, you may dance without further injuring your ankle,” he said.
“You mean to say that you would carry me?” I said.
He seemed to ponder my words. “No, I would assist you.” He gave me a smile. “For that is what friends do.”
I watched him for a moment, and I felt that somehow, perhaps in some small way, Hans may have been as alone and vulnerable as myself. I nodded, offering him a weak smile he likely knew was forced. But if he paid it any mind, he did not show it as he took my hands and gently stood me on my feet. Then he lead me out, allowing me to lean on him instead of my left leg.
I took a trembling breath as Hans wrapped his arm around my waist. Then he effortlessly lifted me off the ground, beginning the dance as though he bore only his own weight. I knew that my skirt, too long for me as it was, brushed the ground as though I danced with him, and I thought that maybe no one would notice he held me.
I gazed wordlessly into the face of my dancing partner, wondering how it was that the last person I wanted to see was the first person to reach out to me when I felt I didn’t even deserve it. I had been disquieted, and more than terse with Hans. I was afraid, I suppose. Afraid of how friendship with a man might change the way I have lived for so long.
But perhaps you needn’t fall in love for your whole world to change. And I was realizing that no matter how much I would cling to the way that things had always been, change would come. As I had once told my sister, there are certainties in this life.
The challenge is simply finding them.
I watched over Kristoff’s shoulder as Elsa talked with Hans. I felt guilt pulling at me, and I stumbled as I danced with Kristoff.
“Anna, are you all right?” he asked.
I gave him a look that likely spoke my reluctance to tell him anything louder than words (I know that didn’t make sense). “Why did you ask me to dance, anyway?”
“Because you were the only one I felt like dancing with?” He said it almost like a question.
“Seriously?” I cocked my head to the side. “I don’t believe. Just admit it.”
“Admit what?” he asked defensively.
I snorted. “That you don’t want to dance with me — you just feel pressured.” I nodded to Eugene and Raleigh. “Why don’t you go ask Miss Blondie for a dance. Everybody knows she’s the prettiest doll in the room.” I gave Kristoff a knowing smirk.
“I thought you were friends with Raleigh,” he said.
I rolled my eyes. “Of course I am. And it’s not Raleigh I have anything against.”
“Then who is it?”
I blinked. “You really are kind of dense, aren’t you?”
He took a deep breath. “Oh, I don’t know. I’ve always preferred to think in absolutes. So, no, I think I’m completely dense,” he said sarcastically.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” I told him truthfully, though I wasn’t sorry I’d said what I did. “Listen, I don’t really want anyone deciding my future based on what happens in some Disney movie. I’d rather have been made a Barbie doll than this and…to suffer a life of complete arrangedness. Or, you know, no one really knows if you and I end up together. I mean — if our characters, or actually, the movie characters.” I waited for him to tell me my rambling didn’t make any sense.
“I agree,” he said simply.
I raised a brow. “You…do?” I said slowly. When he nodded, all I could say was, “Wow.”
“And just for the record, I didn’t agree with what you said before that,” he said quietly, glancing at Raleigh and Eugene.
I looked at him with suspicion. “What?”
“I don’t think Raleigh is the prettiest doll in the room,” he said.
I blinked. “So, Elsa then? And she isn’t even an option for you, because her ankle is hurt.”
“An option?” he repeated.
I nodded. “For a dance partner, you know…”
“Oh, right. But no, it isn’t Elsa.” He narrowed his eyes. “You really are kind of dense, aren’t you?”
I abruptly stopped our dance, taking a step back from Kristoff. I glanced around the room, searching for an answer other than the one that was staring me right in the face. “Um.” I couldn’t make myself say anything else. Did someone just tell me I’m the prettiest doll in the room? I told myself that someone did not just tell me that, and as these thoughts were swirling in my mind I didn’t even realize that Kristoff was talking to me until he walked away.
I watched him leave the seamstress room with wide eyes (I watched him with wide eyes, he didn’t leave with wide eyes), and after the shock of it all wore off a tiny bit, I gained the wits I needed to run after him. I stepped through the slightly cracked door and called out to him.
He stopped walking but didn’t turn, nor did he answer me.
“I’m sorry, Kristoff,” I said, feeling completely ridiculous for the way I was acting. What was wrong with me, anyway? “Please just talk to me.”
His shoulders sagged. “Anna…” He was silent for what seemed like forever. “I understand how this is for you. There’s nothing more to talk about.”
He started to walk away again, but I ran up to him and grabbed his arm. “Okay, can I, like, just confess something to you?”
He closed his eyes and reluctantly nodded.
“I thought you were kinda cool when I first met you. But then Rapunzel said that you and me might end up together in Frozen, and I started feeling all this kind of pressure and stuff,” I said, talking fast so that he wouldn’t have a chance to interrupt me. If he did, then I might never get to tell him the truth.
“Before I knew it,” I continued, “I felt like I didn’t even like you anymore. I just want to have friends, you know? I’m not anywhere near being ready to fall in love with anyone. I just…I wanna be friends with you without feeling like it’s expected or something.” I was gasping for breath by now. “Does that make sense?” I asked, instinctively wincing as I awaited his answer.
To my complete surprise, he looked surprised. “Why didn’t you tell me that before?” he said.
I winced even more. “I…I was scared. I wasn’t sure what you were thinking, and I didn’t want to open my mouth and mess everything up like I usually do. And then there was the pressure thing, and I had no idea it was bothering me so much until, well…now.”
He looked down at the ground, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “Well, I have something to confess too.” He met my eyes. “I know exactly how you feel.”
I smiled at him. It wasn’t a forced smile, or fake or any of that. For the first time in a while I really felt at peace. But after a minute I imagined what it would be like if someone walked up and saw us standing there, smiling at each other like a couple of dummies. I shook myself from thought and reached out my hand to Kristoff. “Just friends?” I said.
He grinned and clasped my hand in his. “Not just friends, but good friends,” he said.
I nodded in agreement, and suddenly I didn’t care if anyone walked up and saw us holding hands or whatever. We would stand fast and hold onto what we knew, no matter what anyone said or anything that happened, because that’s what true friends do. Perhaps I had just found one of those elusive “certainties” my sister once said were a challenge to find. It was definitely a challenge, but it was worth everything.
That, I was certain of.
I watched as Anna and Kristoff came back into the seamstress room, and when they started dancing again I could tell by the smiles on their faces that something was different. From where Hans and I sat across the room, I met Anna’s eyes for a moment, and I was able to return her smile. It felt as though an eternity passed in those few seconds, and it seemed that whatever secret Anna was keeping from me didn’t bother me so much anymore.
We were both growing up, if that was possible. Maybe Anna was the younger sister, but she wasn’t the only one between the two of us that had much to learn about life and love.
“Your sister loves you very much,” Hans said, as though he knew what I was thinking.
I returned his warm smile. “I know. I consider myself lucky to have a sister like Anna,” I said.
He narrowed his eyes. “Perhaps not luck,” he said thoughtfully, “but providence.” He rose to his feet. “Would you like to dance?”
I smiled and took his offered hand. No words were needed as he once again swept me into the dance. I saw then that there were many things I didn’t understand, some of which I never would. But I also knew that we don’t have to figure everything out here and now. Life is an adventure, one that continues on until the end of our days on earth. And I knew that love was the key to whatever lay ahead, where there would be no room for fear.
Love, I thought. I once again reminded myself that love, not romance, was what was important. Which also reminded me… “Hans,” I said, getting his attention.
“Yes?” he said, and our eyes met once more.
I found my courage and swallowed back my pride. “Thank you,” I told him, my voice hardly more than a whisper.
He didn’t seem to need any more than that, he only smiled and, if I wasn’t mistaken, held me a little closer. So I laid my head on his shoulder, resting in his arms even as we danced.
None of this meant that everything was anywhere near being perfect. In fact, I felt tired and my ankle was as sore as ever. But there was something about knowing that I was safe, knowing that I was loved, that told me everything would be all right. No matter what.
That in and of itself is a certainty to be cherished.