|Date||October 16, 2014|
She never quite gets used to it, the people.
They push and shove and bustle and don't care about her or anything and it's in a way just so refreshing.
They ignore the cigarette on her lips; Camel, filtered, her fingertips a little charred from trying to light it in the cold breeze that seems to follow her everywhere. They ignore the bottle of rum dangling precariously from her hand.
(whiskey hurts too much)
(she don't have the money for vodka)
Elsa still stumbles through the icy streets, looking for some flicker of familiarity.
She sees none.
Even her apartment, full of cheap trinkets—snowglobes and bottled ships—offers no reprieve.
She doesn't make it to that godforsaken place tonight. Tonight, she lets herself drink half the bottle, staggering through a park of some sorts.
And everywhere she steps, ice follows.
Anna likes escaping sometimes to the big recreational field near her house. The snow falls here extra soft, and she spends her days building snowmen.
It lets her escape her life for an afternoon or a day and prepares her for home.
It should really be called something else because it can't be that. Home is where the heart is, right, but her home sunk the same day her parents did. Once upon a time, they called the other places homes but it was always with a sigh, always with pity.
She hated it. She hates it and so she makes snowmen because snowmen are good. Snowmen are simple.
But not today. She doesn't make a snowman because someone's been throwing up in her field and so she clenches her fists in undisguised frustration and proceeds to find the person who would so degrade such a sacred art as snowman-building.
Because, really, she doesn't have anything else without them.
She finds the person who threw up only a few minutes after searching. There's no breeze to blow away the stench, and there's no one around to distract her.
Just the way she likes it.
There's a girl, lying in the snow, pale skin jaundiced. Anna's almost content to let her stay there, but only for a moment. Only for a moment because she can't ever leave someone who needs help.
She doesn't want anyone else to be like her.
So she scoops up the girl who's probably only a few years older than herself and stumbles towards her house. It's not far, and the pale girl is far lighter than any girl had a right to be.
She smells of alcohol and bile and looks so fucking pathetic it's pitiable.
So Anna leaves her in the spare room because she does pity her.
A harsh world that doesn't show kindness is waiting just outside the window, and Anna'll be damned if she doesn't at least try to fight it.
Elsa wakes up dry and hungover, a thick smokey smell in the air that has her gagging. There's someone there, she can feel it.
She hates it.
She makes to stand but falls over, a loud clattering that calls the other being like a dog to a steak.
"Woah, there." The voice is soft and female and gentle and Elsa could just get lost in it forever.
There's something a little more in the voice, but with a blurry vision that helps in only stopping the room spinning so much, Elsa can't decipher it.
When the other person steps forward, she really doesn't want to, either.
The other person—girl, woman, human of the feminine orientation, whatever—steps forward, holding a bowl of something that smells so good Elsa wonders how she can stand not eating it. She's slightly pudgy, baby fat that hasn't disappeared despite her age, and a soft smile covered in freckles that reminds Elsa of innocence.
"I made you some soup," she says, stepping forward with the bowl. Too close, Elsa thinks, and flinches. The girl notices. She says nothing more and leaves the bowl within reach, retreating from the room that's much too small.
A tiara, a stuffed reindeer, and a photograph. Three items catch her attention for no reason other than they shouldn't. The room, pressing thickly down on her, is filled with bed and desk and drawers but there's still enough room for three small pieces of person. There are glow-in-the-dark stars tacked onto the ceiling and smurfs hanging from the knobs on the drawers for handles.
The curtains have dancing snowmen, and for some reason it makes Elsa smile.
It's gone in an instant, though, and so is she, because curtains mean windows and windows mean salvation and she... can't... be here.
So, she does what she does best, and flees.
Anna doesn't quite know what to think. It's not like she wasn't expecting something like this to happen, but still. She supposes she should be lucky that the strange girl didn't steal anything in her hungover stupor, but she doesn't really think that.
All she can see are the bright, ice-blue eyes, desperately searching. Searching for something nameless and indescribable but oh so potent.
Anna didn't realise how monotonous her life was until she saw those eyes.
It's an endless cycle of broken sleep, of nightmares of painful wounds and so much blood. A cycle of eat and cry and go to the field to build snowmen before the frost thaws. A cycle of dinners alone and an empty house.
She sort of but not really realises she's begun to search. She keeps an eye out for something soft and familiar in a harsh world and refuses to let the futility seep into her thoughts because fuck it, she has nothing else but her optimism that doesn't even really deserve to be called such anymore.
(name it hope and say she'll always have it)
(name it faith because she doesn't know if it still exists)
It takes her a week to realise how stupid she's been with her search, and a day of hanging around the local bottle-shops to find the girl arguing with an attendant.
She waits until the other girl is kicked out before she approaches her. Anna has a twenty-dollar note and an inkling, and that's all she needs.
The platinum blonde is so striking, but she can't imagine it's from a bottle. A messy braid and sunken eyes; gaunt, hollow, her cheeks the same.
The first words she hears spoken are, "Fuck off."
The second are, "I'm Elsa."
Elsa. The name dances on Anna's tongue like a music-box figurine, slowly turning in circles but never truly familiar.
Just like the girl herself.
She comes back to the apartment with the snowman curtains, perpetually staggering regardless of her state of sobriety.
Anna bans alcohol in her house and they stand yelling at each other at three am, waking up the neighbours.
Neither apologise when it's over.
They know, though, and it's okay.
Everything is so vitriolic and angry and just so fucking volatile. Anna catches herself sometimes, wondering why in the world she would open her doors to a drunkard that doesn't want help...
... and be reminded with the little smiles that tell her Elsa really does actually care.
Because they both have their own problems and they both have their own shit but that's okay because they both have it.
It takes two months, and an entire week of prohibition, before Elsa takes Anna to her home.
They still haven't touched.
She has a cat. A white cat with an orange nose and a collar that announces 'Olaf'.
She has glass snowglobes and closed windows and it smells of mothballs and kitty-litter but Anna doesn't mind because it's Elsa's home. It's a little draughty and there's a leak where the snow melts into the roof, but it's still home.
She smiles instead because Elsa gulps and is nervous and it's actually a little adorable even though it's painfully obvious she's having second thoughts.
She didn't think this through when Anna finds the cupboard of empty bottles feels the shame burning in her chest the same way the alcohol used to. She waits for Anna to say something.
But, she doesn't say anything because Elsa chose to let her in, and chose to let her judge.
She doesn't really want to be, though, and instead makes enough room on the couch to sit, and asks Elsa if she wouldn't mind putting on a movie, pretty please, because it's snowing and cold and the bestest weather ever to watch movies.
Elsa doesn't touch her as she sits down. She's on the other end of the couch, curled into herself and staring at the screen.
She doesn't pull away when Anna reaches out her hand, either.
Anna has a job.
She works in a bakery.
It's new and little and has a fitting name—(marshmallow's)—but she loves it anyway. The people are kind and have warm smiles and she gets to take little treats home sometimes. There's one boy, Kristoff, who has a big dog and an even bigger smile. The pay isn't fantastic but that's okay because she has her inheritance to keep her afloat for a while. She has an apartment that's paid off and a small savings account. She pays her bills on time and she has the time to herself to do things, but there's no point really when she can't afford it.
She wants to be able to do nice things sometimes because Elsa can't do that and she wants to bring some joy into the other girl's life.
She can't really imagine her own without her now.
And Elsa smiles at her but it's sometimes sad and Anna knows why.
No one wants to hire a fuck-up.
(elsa's words, not hers)
(she only thinks elsa's strong for making it so far)
No one wants to give a chance to a reformed alcoholic who can't–(won't)—feel anything.
But Anna does because that's who she is. She does because she wants to and she likes Elsa's presence.
She likes knowing that someone needs her as much as she need them.
Elsa has bad days.
She has a lot of bad days and it's actually probably more like she has a few good days because they're by far the minority.
Even building snowmen at Anna's insistence didn't help, though that was a fantasy that was doomed as soon as the words were verbalised.
But Anna still smiles because Elsa can't. She still smiles because sometimes she thinks Elsa needs to see it, and sometimes she thinks she needs to feel it.
She smiles when they trade phone numbers and she smiles when Elsa takes a breath and walks into the rehab centre.
They clear out the old bottles and open the windows.
Elsa doesn't shy away from touch, and those are good days.
The good days are when she offers little smiles. When she doesn't think about anything but the here and now and just how right everything is.
But those days never, ever last and she's soon back to thinking about everything else.
Some days, she shuts herself away and Anna can do nothing but sit by her door and hum little lullabies and say little rhymes as though they will chase away the monsters.
(star light, star bright
the first star i see tonight
i wish i may, i wish i might
have the wish i wish tonight)
And Anna sees the cuts.
Anna sees everything because she's not the world and the world is so fucking blind.
Anna sees everything and Elsa realises she shouldn't have to.
Elsa can only hear things when she's really quiet, but that's okay because she's always really quiet.
She thinks it must be dinner-time, but there are no windows for her to peek out of. The room is spacious—'thank you, Father'—but it's so cold and it's so still and she can sort of remember the sunlight but not really.
Heavy feet thud down the hall, and she wonders what it could be.
Her wrists have started bleeding, both from her own efforts and that of the metal around them, but she doesn't notice.
There's a light tapping on her door—tap-tap-tap—and it takes a few seconds for her to find something to throw there.
(father didn't like it when she sat by the door)
(he had the chain shortened by almost three feet)
She doesn't really remember much after that. Shock, they say. Neglect and torture and other horrible words that she doesn't like to think about because it just hurts too much.
She feels everything and nothing at once and she hates it.
She's broken and she can't be fixed because you can't fix something that was never whole to begin with.
Anna used to have episodes. She still does, sometimes, but not really.
The episodes were really more sort of seizures, really, though they've gotten better. The kids at school would think that her family was beating her—(hah what family?)—but really she was beating herself. Thrashing around until she was blue and purple, and again when those marks had faded to mottled greens and yellows.
She wonders if that's another reason to like snowmen. Snowmen don't really hurt when she collapses against them. Snowmen don't really complain when they're broken apart—(just like her)—and snowmen don't ever judge her for it.
Snowmen are better people than real people, she decides, and she lets herself believe it for years.
Anna used to have episodes but they've mostly disappeared and she can sorta maybe theorise why.
But she doesn't because Elsa has just stumbled across the front door, a petite smile on her face as she holds up a new movie.
Theorising can wait.
They soon settle into a cozy routine. Elsa's apartment is aired and clothes are lost between the two.
The snowmen curtains are hung up in the kitchen because Anna likes how they make Elsa smile.
She needs more joy.
They buy books full of chocolate recipes and get cocoa powder and desiccated coconut everywhere, and Anna learns that it's impossible to make Olaf angry and everything is good.
Everything is... nice...
Everything is perfect.
Until it's not, though, and she falls to the ground in a fit.
It takes about three seconds to lose consciousness.
(more than enough time to witness elsa's horrified gaze)
(she hates it more than anything else)
It takes far longer to wake up, but that's okay. Really, it is.
It's okay because she's tired and in pain and she's pretty sure she punched herself a few times but it's okay because Elsa is still there.
It's okay because she's being held snuggly by the one girl who hates contact more than anything.
"I used to be in foster care."
The admission is offhand, and Elsa looks up from the cooking bowl. Anna is sitting on the bench, licking the wooden spatula clean of chocolate.
It's three days since her fit and neither have mentioned it.
Anna doesn't bat an eye at the scrutiny, though there's a red flush to her face that wasn't there before.
"I'm sorry," Elsa says, her voice flat. It doesn't matter to Anna, though. Anything else—anything different—isn't really needed now.
"My parents died," Anna continues. Honestly, she's not quite sure why she's saying this but it feels nice to actually say it. She's not really sad anymore—it's been too long—but there are some remnants of other feelings there. Regret. Desire. Rage.
She doesn't bother feeling these because really, it's just too much.
Maybe she's saying it because she wants Elsa to hold her again.
She's too much of a coward to make the first step.
Her face contorts in an ugly half-grimace of pain and epiphany when she says suddenly, "My dad used to hold me, too." My family used to help me get through them, so what does that make you?
Suddenly Elsa can't make eye-contact and her insides are ice.
Rehab moves onto therapy and therapy moves onto drugs.
Good days are more, and good days are better, but bad days?
Bad days are hell.
But Anna puts up with it because she can't bear the thought of not. Sometimes, Elsa is normal and smiles and is happy and it makes everything worth it.
The shit disappears, if only for a little while, and that's fine for everyone.
But sometimes the drugs don't work. Sometimes nothing works and Anna is helpless against the wooden doors that are far less effective than the barricades Elsa has fortified in her mind.
The cuts get worse and the distancing makes her feel so fucking far away it hurts but Anna can't give up now. It's so easy for her to feel. She can't force that on Elsa.
So she waits until Elsa opens her door. She wants to help and she'll be damned if she can't.
Elsa doesn't know how to be helped.
They both sort of forget about Christmas. The drugs empty Elsa's brain, and Anna's never really celebrated it anyway.
But they try because it feels normal to try.
They buy a pathetic tree and cover it in cheap multi-colour baubles on sale at the local op-shop. They drink non-alcoholic egg-nog and make sugar cookies that they stay up late eating.
They're not really into presents but Anna tries anyway and buys Elsa an expensive snow-globe with half her pay.
It has two little girls, building a snowman, and everything is perfect.
Elsa's face drops and her heart shatters because she hadn't even thought of presents.
"I never celebrated Christmas," she says. "He wouldn't let me."
And Anna knows not to pry any further into 'he'.
She isn't really upset though—having Elsa's companionship, her trust, is far better than any gift. She tries to say so but all she can see is the sad look on Elsa's face because she got a present so perfect and has nothing to offer back.
It doesn't matter that she doesn't have a job. It doesn't matter that what little money she gets from the government goes towards all the medication she has to take. It's no excuse and she almost looks like she's going to cry.
(but she won't because big girls don't cry)
(crying isn't allowed)
So Anna leads her to the kitchen to make a mug of hot cocoa and she stands awkwardly in the door, that same awful hollowness coming back as the life slips from her chest.
She can't even celebrate a fucking holiday like a normal person.
She refuses to look at Anna as the other girl joins her under the doorway and presses the warm mug in her hands. She draws her eyes up in small thanks only to notice something unexpected in Anna's. The other girl's gaze drifts up, up, up to the roof, and Elsa follows it.
She doesn't feel quite so bad because if Anna's giddy smile is anything to go by, she enjoys mistletoe just as much.
And she realises that she's going to break her heart.
She doesn't show up at the coffee shop the two picked out. Secluded, spicy, and small, as Elsa put it, and there's really no better place for... whatever this is. Anna loves it. She wants to talk. She waits nearly an hour before taking both orders to go and making the short trek to Elsa's apartment.
Caramel mocha and a chai latte for Elsa.
She's upset and annoyed but not really angry because maybe Elsa just forgot and she's on new medication, so this could be a side-effect.
She chooses to ignore the fact that the girl isn't answering her phone, either.
The apartment is dark when she arrives and she doesn't really understand. She waits inside with the key once hidden beneath a dirty reindeer figurine that makes its home on the front window-sill.
She's asleep on the couch, huddled in the blanket they use while watching movies, when Elsa stumbles in, giggling.
There's no joy, though, when she noticed Anna. A young man with side-burns stumbles in after her and all Anna can think is she almost made it to the fourth month. She can't really think anything else with the blood pounding through her ears and a strange burning sensation behind her eyes.
The heavy stench of alcohol permeates the room and Anna barely manages to extricate herself. She doesn't look at Elsa.
She doesn't see the guilt.
It's almost strange, in a way, how much her life was filled with Anna.
The man, Hans, is a grabby bastard but she can't find it in herself to push him away when she pulled him close in the first place.
She's disgusted by everything that makes up his person. She's disgusted with herself, down to every last cell, every last fibre of her being.
But it's better this way (she tries to convince herself) and she acquiesces to Hans because at least it makes her feel something.
She ignores the little voice telling her Anna did the same.
Anna's never been good at this. She can help other people. She can't help herself. The snow has melted and she doesn't even have dancing snowman curtains to keep her company.
She walks to the building in which Elsa has her therapy, intent on talking to the girl, but chickens out before she can do anything.
She's a fucking coward for lying complacent. She's a coward for not doing anything sooner.
And to think she felt special when Elsa held her.
Her job was something she did easily, without a care—it didn't really feel like she was working at all sometimes. Now it's a slog to get through the day unscathed, still holding it together.
She can't help but stop outside all the little home shops, full of tantalising décor to the right mind. The last of the Christmas stock dredges up bittersweet memories, and she buys up all the snow-globes they have left.
She puts the unique ones away before hurtling the doubles, the leftovers, down the street, burying her emotions deep in her bones with each resounding smash.
She's been looking her whole life but she's never before felt lost.
She's taken to texting.
Elsa's eyes burn in the flare of the LED screen and her fingers tremble over the letters but nothing sounds right.
How can anything be right when she's sharing her space with someone else?
Hans gives a particularly loud snore and rolls over, dragging the bedsheets with him. Elsa's fingers curl around her middle at the sudden cold and she can feel her ribs through the papery flesh, tender and bruised.
Hans likes it rough.
She finally settles on an im sorry please call but she really wants to say so much more.
She wants to say how much she craves Anna's smile and her laugh and her smell and her warmth. She relives memories of drinking hot cocoa on the lounge together and watching movies and she pretends she's not so alone.
She misses the only other person who ever looked at her like she was there, but mostly...
She regrets pushing her away to start with.
She's taken to ignoring.
Ignoring is easy when she has no one else to talk to. She can let her phone battery gently die and tell the people at work to only contact her home phone if they have to.
She wants to talk to Elsa too much.
She should be used to this, the heartache, but she's not. She figures the easiest way is to cut her out completely but she knows it's a lie.
It's only a a month after Christmas and it feels like the dizzying kiss never even happened.
But she refuses to let herself get down. It's the season for love, or so her calendar tells her, and the bakery begins making roses and hearts and treats to share with a significant other.
But she refuses to let it get her down. Even when the seizures start again and she can barely go two days without collapsing.
She sort of retreats back into the fantasy world of her childhood and pretends the pastries are for her. She still takes home the leftovers and places them carefully in a tupperware container. Some are good for freezing, the treats, and some aren't, but that's okay.
She tries to avoid thinking about Elsa as much as possible while simultaneously holding onto every last memory they ever created together.
Perhaps she's lucky that the spring thaw has begun and snowmen melt from her memory for another few seasons.
It doesn't help her forget, though. Not really. The boy, Kristoff, he's nice though, and he gives her a small chocolate cupcake with a heart on it.
It's Valentine's Day and no one else wanted the shift.
The little bakery is full of customers, each sharing something with someone else. It's loud and noisy and it doesn't really smell like a bakery anymore with all the hot bodies pressed together, but that sort of becomes irrelevant after a while.
She escapes to the back when the telephone rings and takes it in the office that really shouldn't be named as such. A storage room with an old Linux and some unknown brand of printer.
She doesn't know how to respond to the nurse at the other end of the line.
It takes an hour and heavy encouragement from Kristoff to leave the bakery. He even gives her some money to cover the bus because she doesn't drive and there's no fucking way you're walking all the way to that hospital.
She's grateful he cares.
Even when she gets there, it's hard. She doesn't like hospitals, with all their clinical finesse, and it shows as she awkwardly approaches the counter.
"I'm here to see Elsa Snow," she says in a small voice, and the aged nurse offers a small tut.
"Down the hall. Ward 7, bed 10," she says, and with a stiff nod of thanks, Anna's away.
She spends another twenty minutes outside the door, trying to convince herself to go in. The usual affirmations like she's your friend and how would you feel if it were reversed echo and bounce around in her head but it makes little difference.
She doesn't even know what happened, and she finds herself not wanting to.
She does, though, eventually, because really, her feelings don't matter. Not like this. She wants to stay angry but she can't, and so she settles for disappointment instead.
She just can't tell who she's most disappointed in; Elsa, or herself.
Elsa doesn't acknowledge anyone as they walk in. The doctors and nurses flit about but there's too much fucking noise in her head to even worry about them and she can't even remember the last time she took her medication and oh fuck how did everything turn to shit so quick?
She doesn't have time to answer because suddenly it's deathly quiet and even in her near-catatonic state she recognises Anna, crop of red hair and smattering of freckles already pulling her from the depths of her own mind. She's barely inside the door but it's the closest they've been for months and neither know how to feel.
They both know what they're feeling, though.
Anna's voice is small, frail. Tired. "I'm your emergency contact?" she asks and Elsa can't decipher the underlying meaning (is there even one?).
She nods her head, though with such a stupidly redundant question she knows that Anna's not really asking that.
So instead Elsa shrugs, face flat. She wants to sob in relief because Anna's there. She's mere feet away and for the first time in months they can see each other clearly.
Anna can see the guilt now and it burns her inside. It's been months.
This time, the apology isn't sympathetic empathy for Anna's old home life. It isn't monotone and bland. There's a lilt there that she almost misses but doesn't because it's like she's genetically engineered to understand.
She's never hated it more than in this moment.
"You're... sorry?" she asks, as though it hasn't quite sunk in. "You're sorry?"
She doesn't really know what to say after that.
She leaves without getting any answers at all.
She finds her phone wedged behind a door. The charger takes a little longer to locate but she does so eventually.
It takes about ten minutes for it to charge enough to turn on—(stupid fucking piece of shit)—and when it finally does there's the same amount of apprehensiveness as standing outside the hospital door gave her.
That's quickly washed away by the heaping dose of guilt that appears as she scrolls through countless messages. Messages from weeks and weeks ago that she never bothered to check.
And it hurts because she hurt Elsa, too. She was able to pretend that Elsa wasn't hurt by her own actions but... she was.
She hadn't let herself cry before. If Elsa didn't want her, then she didn't deserve her tears.
She was a fucking idiot.
Elsa comes home two days later with a restraining order. She refuses to go to court for to attest to everything else that had been done to her. It wasn't like it would change anything anyway.
(he didn't do much damage)
(she was already broken)
Anna still doesn't understand. She never says anything but Elsa knows. There's a distance that has never been there before and it hurts more than any chains around her wrists. She's quiet—they both are—but even more so now. The silence is deafening.
They start meeting again, though. Anna comes to Elsa's flat, and neither really know why. She doesn't deserve it, they both think, but it doesn't stop them.
Anna comes home from her shift one day to find Elsa waiting for her.
She doesn't know when she started calling it 'home'.
She doesn't know why.
Elsa takes her hand one day and they're both trembling. She guides Anna's soft fingertips over each scar, sometimes explaining them, sometimes not.
She starts taking her medication though she doesn't say why she stopped. She doesn't think Anna would appreciate the because there was no reason to without you, no matter how true it is.
Anna knows, though, she thinks, and already her heart feels lighter at the tentative trust between them.
It takes another two months and it's almost easter before Elsa really talks about anything.
She says it in a rush as though holding onto it too long would taint her. Anna understands why, though, and that's what's important.
Why she doesn't like touching
(touching so easily turns to beating)
Why she turned to alcohol
(she only wanted to feel some warmth)
And, most importantly, why she pushed Anna away.
(because i don't deserve your love)
(i'll never deserve your love)
(i'll be fucked if i don't try)