18: Walk With Me
"Wow, am I glad that's over," Rapunzel said as she threw open the double doors and led her cousin into a sun-light tearoom. Elsa agreed. It seemed that there was a manual on how to receive a foreign noble, and another on how to deal with a planetary security crisis, and the two had collided, generating meetings. Lots of meetings. Rapunzel passed by a table and casually dropped her crown onto it with a metal-on-glass thunk, then crossed to the tea cart and opened herself an unmarked bottle of some kind of soda pop.
"I hope you're not upset that your father won't invite you."
"Oh, no. Well, maybe. Just a little. I suppose I should be grateful that he doesn't think I need to be involved in the security stuff, but if it's really as important as it seems to be...?" Elsa smiled at her attempt to get more details, but didn't rise to the bait. "Oh, what the hey. It's so good to see you, Elsa! I can't believe you're here! I can't believe I finally have time to talk to you!"
Elsa smiled. Rapunzel was just a year younger than she, yet somehow she had managed to be both more experienced and more innocent. "I'm glad, too. I just wish there were better news."
"We'll rescue the ship, Elsa. We will. Your friends will help. I mean, will they? Are they trustworthy?"
"I think they are."
"That will have to be good enough for me," Rapunzel said. "So, you said you wanted to talk. About what?"
Elsa remained silent and regarded the crown for a moment. Rapunzel followed her glance and said, "Oh, that. It's beautiful, but wow, does it get heavy sometimes."
"I think that's part of the point."
"Says the queen whose full crown is barely, barely a tiara."
Elsa grinned. "You might have a point there, cousin. Aunt Kimberlyn's crown doesn't look much heavier than the one you wear to those formal events."
"No, it doesn't. And I hope I don't have to wear it for a long, long time." She raised her fizzing glass. "Oop. Can I get you one?" Without waiting for an answer, she turned back to the table, poured the contents of two different bottles into a glass, and handed it to Else. "Here. French lemonade with crushed mint."
Elsa took a sip. It was not too sweet, slightly bubbly, and definitely lemonade. "That's delicious. So if being queen doesn't work out, you're ready to become a bartender?"
"Ha! No, I have a lot of different talents. Mother thinks I'd make a great artist, if I didn't have to be a Queen someday. I'm pretty good with pencils, oils, and acrylics, but I can work with almost anything. I've done a few sculptures, too. I recently started doing computer art."
Elsa smiled at her and hoped that was true. She envied Rapunzel's ability to look so beautiful despite the sun-warmed heat. Elsa felt like she was melting here in Corona's capitol city. She'd left late winter two days ago only to land in a perfect, cloudless, tropical summer. "Let's take a walk. My father used to say that every problem can be solved by walking." She pointed out the door toward a large, brightly-tiled courtyard. Rapunzel nodded, and the two of them went together out onto the terrace.
The kingdom of Corona seemed to spread out below them, a single city-state of less than a quarter million people. The streets were narrow, but that kept the people close to each other, kept the communities vibrant and alive. Chantel followed a similar design. The kingdom of Corona was beautiful, bright, even noisy.
For a moment, Elsa envied them their eternal summer. But without the cold and even the rain, would anyone on Arendelle remember how beautiful the bright summer days could be? She turned to regard her cousin. Rapunzel was perfect for Corona. Her incredibly long bright hair, her bright eyes, the way she dressed, was entirely light and lovely. Summer. That was Rapunzel.
Rapunzel returned the regard, her eyes narrow and curious. "Okay, Elsa. You said you wanted to talk about something?"
Elsa took a deep breath. "Fine. Rapunzel, despite how far away you were, I've always felt close to you. I hope you feel the same way." Rapunzel's eyebrows rose slowly in acknowledgement, and she nodded. "I was reviewing the last message I sent you that you might have received, which has to be two years old. And the one I got from you, that has to be four years old."
"Four years," Rapunzel said. "Four years."
"You were on your second boyfriend."
"Oh! Max!" Rapunzel's eyes seem to fade with memory. "Max. God, what a... He was going through security school. Big, tall, strong. Serious, very serious. Not very creative in bed. Not very creative period. But he was hung like a--"
"I do not need to know that," Elsa said quickly.
"No, I guess you don't," Rapunzel said, giggling. "C'mon. Out with it."
"Rapunzel, I want your advice. I... I've met someone."
"Oh? Oh! Oh, good! Who is she? Is she here? With you? Can I meet her? Is it Meke? Tell me it's Meke, you were always so fond of her."
"Wait, what? 'She?' Don't I even have to get to the part where I tell you I'm a lesbian?"
"Nope," Rapunzel said, grinning. "Known that since you were twelve."
"What?" Elsa cried. "That's exactly what Meke said. If everyone knew I was attracted to girls when I was twelve, why for God's sake do my dukes insist on sending me their sons?"
"Because you told us, Elsa. Not in so many words, but it was just the way you talked to the people you trust made it clear. You didn't tell your dukes. From what other people have told me, you did a pretty good job of putting on a show for them. How were they supposed to know?"
Elsa blew out a long breath. "I suppose that's true," she said. "Damn. And no, it isn't Meke. She's not, she doesn't turn that way. She loves me, and wished me luck, but even she called it 'an affliction' because it cut down my possibilities. A lot." Elsa looked down into the glass in her hands and wished it held wine. "A hundred and forty thousand is still a lot of people."
Rapunzel did a quick calculation on her fingers. "I think that would mean there are twelve thousand lesbians on Corona. Twelve thousand would still be a lot of women to check out," Rapunzel said, grinning. "Oh, Elsa, it's still a haystack you're searching through. So, who is she?"
"Anna?" Rapunzel's brow furrowed. Then her eyes widened. "Wait, you mean the starship captain? From Manti-whatever?"
"Oh. Oh! Yes, I've met her. I like her. Actually I like a lot of the Manticorans."
Elsa wondered how much Rapunzel actually knew about the attempt on her life, or what came afterward. If Rapunzel really understood what Olaf and Anna had been-- and maybe still were-- would she still have such enthusiasm? "Do you think it would work?"
"Does it matter?" Rapunzel asked. "Do you trust her?"
Elsa smiled. "Anna is one of the most trustworthy and generous people I've ever met. I trust her completely."
Rapunzel paused. "Wow. Coming from you, that's... that's something I have to take seriously. Really, Elsa, what matters more than that you and she would be happy together?"
Elsa looked out the window. "My people would have to accept her."
"Do you mean your subjects, or your nobles?"
Elsa thought about it for a moment. "Both, preferably."
"Oh, forget about your nobles. You know, the ones that matter are the ones that don't mind."
"I know," Elsa said. She looked at her hands, lifted them to make the point to Rapunzel. "But it's the Curse of Anton, Rapunzel. I want to be trusted, not feared. I want what your father has. I don't need to be loved, just... trusted." She raised her eyes, met Rapunzel's. "It would be nice to be loved."
Rapunzel smiled slowly. "I love you. Not like that, though, but that would be a heck of an arrangement, wouldn't it? Would Anna love you?"
"I wish she would. She can. She's had girlfriends before."
"A lot?" Rapunzel asked.
"A... a few, I'm led to understand."
"Then maybe she won't compare you too much to the others." Rapunzel leaned forward. "Elsa, don't be shy. Go for it. Nothing else is more important." She leaned back and sighed. "I wish I had someone."
"No," Rapunzel said, almost growling. "I mean, you know I've had a few, oh, I can't even call them 'romances.' Dalliances. But everyone on Corona is boring, and everyone on Arendelle is too far away!"
Elsa laughed. "Weren't you just saying something about having a lot of people to look through?"
"Yes, I was," Rapunzel said. "But..."
They were silent for a time. Elsa said, "Rapunzel? I understand."
"Although, that Flynn man is very handsome."
"Doctor Fitzhubert?" Elsa sighed. "Yes. He is. That's the problem. I look at him and I understand-- I do!-- but I don't feel it." She looked down at her glass.
"I do!" Elsa glared at her, and it was Rapunzel's turn to smile at someone who was essentially her life-long pen-pal. "Elsa, let me help you. Tonight, you should totally go to Anna and propose."
"Propose? Like marriage? No, no, no, no, no."
"No, not marriage, silly. Dinner. Romance. Maybe sex. S. E. X. There've been a lot of happy lesbians in history, so that has to work somehow." Rapunzel stepped forward and put her hands over Elsa's. Elsa noticed they both wore gloves, although Rapunzel's were small, cream-colored and very fine. Almost not there at all. Elsa thought her own gloves were dramatic. They were colorful and went halfway up her forearm. "And no wine."
"But, Rapunzel, I've never... I mean...."
"Really?" Rapunzel's eyes widened. "Not even with men?" Elsa shook her head, her face bright and blushing with the agony of this revelation. Rapunzel barrelled on, ignoring her cousin's discomfort. "Oh. Well, Anna has. So you said. And it'll be a good test. Either you work well together, or there's no chemistry. May as well find out now."
"You're serious, aren't you?"
"Yup." Rapunzel touched the back of her wristcomp. "Let me make some arrangements with my staff."
"Are you sure?"
"Elsa," Rapunzel said firmly. "You have to do it someday, with someone. Don't die wondering. If you like this Anna, ask her. What can it hurt?"
Elsa almost told her.