Back then, I didn’t know anything about the cursed shard of glass that had pierced my heart. They don’t teach you about things like that in school. Only strange old women talk about that kind of old magic, and you have to really listen and pay attention, because they don’t raise their voices for anybody.
All I knew was that one moment, I was a happy kid, climbing from my window and into Gerda’s, the sting of cold air the only thing indicating the meager space between my house and hers. Houses close and warm like the two of us, close in the way only siblings could be.
Then I blinked, and the world had changed. Too distorted and ugly for me to love anything in it, and I thought, with horror, “What if this is adulthood? What if this is just what it’s like?” I had no way of knowing.
They say the Snow Queen took me, but I begged her to take me away. Because the snowflakes were the only things in the world that still looked beautiful to me, and I sat and watched them for hours just to feel something like joy. Because I didn’t want to hurt anyone I loved before I learned to love them again.
I resolved myself to stay in her kingdom of sugar-white snow, which might not have looked beautiful to me before. But it did now, which, I suppose, is something.
“There’s a warm world waiting for you,” she told me, in her voice as cold and beautiful as ice. “There are people who love you. Who will never stop looking.”
“I know.” Guilt didn’t come as naturally to me anymore, the cursed shard of ice blocking most of my emotions like a valve, but I still felt some. A numbed version of guilt. “But I can’t be around them until I’m better.” I paused. “What if I never get better?” I asked, because I knew she wouldn’t.
“Then you’ll get stronger. Like the warm-hearted creatures who live in this world of ice,” she said. She didn’t even have to pause first. “Warmth is more precious out here. And beauty is worth more to the people who have to search for it.”
I’m grown now, and I’ve learned to love again. To see beauty again. But on snowy nights, the Snow Queen’s face will still appear in my window, just to say hello, her cold breath making spiderwebs of ice splay across the glass. And I still don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so beautiful.