Eloise picked up an overabundant handful of silverware. One of her favorite things to do at the Plaza Hotel, where she lived, was hang out with her best friend and favorite waiter Kristoff. He was fun and gregarious and always willing to play along with the six-year-old’s antics, even if they sometimes delayed his work duties. In turn, she often helped Kristoff get back on track whenever she distracted him by doing his work along side him.
Today they were setting up the Terrace room for a Christmas dinner party. After rewarding Eloise with a piano break duet, he told her to sort the silverware while he went to get more plates.
Eager to get the job done quickly, Eloise grabbed too many utensils for her too-small child hands and dropped the whole bunch on the floor. As she went to pick them up, she heard voices.
“We can set up the main aisle right along here, with the altar at that end,” called the pinched voice of the snooty hotel event planner Prunella.
“I’ve forgotten how lovely it is,” a young woman answered.
“Are you crazy?!” Eloise yelled popping up from the floor, to see Prunella standing in the center of the room with Anna, the hotel owner’s daughter and her fiancee Hans. Eloise had had the pleasure of befriending Anna just the day before and the misfortune of briefly meeting Hans mere moments later. It was actually unfair to call it a misfortune; he seemed pleasant enough. But his often cool and smoldering demeanor made Eloise uneasy. Regardless, the idea of a Christmas wedding was so very romantic, and with the big day less than a week away, she needed to make sure Anna wouldn’t be led astray.
“A wedding like this has to be in the Versailles room,” Eloise said making her way towards them, “where there’s sparkle and glitter and beaucoup d’elegance. Honestly, I don’t know where Prunella’s head is these days.” She ignored Prunella’s snide and disapproving look and grabbed Anna’s hand, pulling her aside. “Have you chosen a color scheme yet?”
Suddenly and without warning, there was a loud crash of china shattering on the floor. They all looked up to see Kristoff hunched over, cradling the remaining plates, mouth completely agape. Although there was broken porcelain strewn across the floor in front of him, he remained stunned and frozen, looking up at Eloise and Anna.
“What is the matter with you?” Prunella scolded the waiter, but Kristoff hadn’t heard her. His eyes were fixed on Anna.
“Hello, Kristoff,” Anna said softly, equally surprised to see him.
“You two know each other?” Eloise asked, looking between the two of them.
“Once, a long time ago,” Anna answered. Her gaze stayed on Kristoff. “I didn’t know you were still working here,” she said to him. A gentle smile rose across her face.
“I didn’t know you’d returned home,” he said smiling.
Just then, Hans walked up and wrapped his arm around Anna’s side, staking his claim on her. Her expression jolted at his touch, and she was reminded of where she was, who was with her. “Oh, Kristoff, this is um—”
“Hans Westergaard,” he finished for her, walking up to shake the waiter’s hand. “Anna’s fiancee.”
Kristoff’s face fell at the news. “Oh, I see,” he said, falling back into professionalism. “Well, congratulations.”
After a moment, the event planner guided the conversation back to the wedding and led the couple out of the room. Anna locked her arm around Hans’ as the three of them strolled away from the waiter and the girl. Kristoff looked longingly at Anna, and Anna quickly turned her head to look back at him, an expression somewhere between sadness and excitement residing in her turquoise eyes. He sighed and knelt down to pick up the broken china, maintaining business as usual.
Eloise knew something was up. Kristoff was normally full of funny banter and personality, but for the rest of their time together, he only spoke when necessary, giving vague comments and simple instructions if she needed. This was not the Kristoff Eloise knew. But she also realized there was an entire life beyond her own six years that Kristoff had experienced, and those years held the mystery of the waiter’s relationship with the hotel heiress. She spent that evening probing the housekeepers with questions, anxious to uncover the story of their forbidden romance. . .
FIVE YEARS EARLIER
He had just turned eighteen, but already things were working in Kristoff’s favor.
Compared to the small Adirondack mountain town he’d grown up in, New York City was an overwhelming cluster of elegant people and dazzling sights. Life in the city was non-stop, and despite his own nerves, he was excited for the hustle and bustle of it all.
His aunt and uncle were saddened by Kristoff’s decision to leave the mountains for the big city, but they always wanted what was best for him. And it seemed best for him to go to the city, where there was guaranteed work and people his own age. Sure, this new life on his own would be difficult but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle.
He had spent his first few months hauling stock for a butcher in the meat packing district. It was menial work but he was young and strong and capable of heavy-lifting. Kristoff had gotten the job through the older German man he was leasing a room from. He knew that it was necessary to make connections to thrive, but also enjoyed the no-nonsense solidarity that came at the butcher shop.
Still, if his life in the city were to continue, Kristoff needed a better paying job, something that didn’t make him shiver in freezers and smell like sweat and raw meat at the end of each day.
Fortunately, for him, he had heard talk around the meat district that there was a position at the Plaza Hotel, the grandest hotel in all of New York. Only the wealthiest and most elite clients stayed there, fancy people like foreign ambassadors and old-money snobs from East Egg. Kristoff was sure that any job there would pay a pretty penny.
So the day after he turned eighteen, he walked into the lobby and applied for a waiter job, an obvious step up from packing boy but easy enough skill-wise. He could always fib and say his previous job was also in the food service industry. After a short interview and reference check with the hotel manager, a stern middle-aged gentleman named Salamone, Kristoff was given the job on the spot. What a lucky day indeed! He called up the butcher shop right there at the hotel lobby’s pay phone, giving his resignation.
And now two days later he was clocking in for his first shift as a room service waiter. He pulled at the black bowtie at his collar. While he had been fitted for his uniform upon being hired, this one was on loan to Kristoff until his came in. The too-snug dress shirt which stretched across his larger frame was thankfully hidden by the slightly too big white jacket. But it was the bowtie that bothered him the most; he’d have to get used to feeling choked all day long. Still, it was the nicest thing Kristoff had ever worn.
He took a moment to look at himself in the mirror in the staff quarters, making sure his clothes weren’t askew and his blond hair was out of his face. He was determined to make a good impression. His first room service call of the day was a breakfast order for a room on the seventeenth floor. Kristoff had learned that the top couple of floors were reserved for full-time residents of the hotel, only the richest who had arranged and afforded to actually live in the hotel. The idea of encountering someone so wealthy first thing intimidated Kristoff, but the rest of the waitstaff assured him that the resident in room 1710 would be kind and helpful.
He took the food cart into the service elevator, reminding himself to stay calm and confident the whole ride up. He pushed his way down the hall, took a deep breath and rung the door bell for 1710. “Room service,” he called, nearly forgetting his required line.
A girl, no more than sixteen, answered the door. She had long strawberry blond hair that rested at her shoulders, some of it pulled back with a hairpin. She was wearing a pale pink blouse and pin-striped pajama bottoms, clearly only halfway ready for the day, and not at all ready for any sort of company at her door, even if it was just a room service waiter. Despite her apparent unpreparedness, she had a knowing air about her.
“Good morning,” the girl said sweetly. She smiled at him, her big turquoise eyes closing as she grinned.
“Hello. Um, I have a breakfast order for room 1710,” he said.
The girl scanned him momentarily before noticing his name tag. “Oh, you’re the new waiter,” she said excitedly. “Come in.” Kristoff hesitated. Wasn’t it considered inappropriate to enter a guest’s room, especially when the resident was a seemingly unsupervised teenaged girl?
As if she were reading his mind, she said, “You’re allowed to enter, at the very least to bring the food cart in. Don’t worry. I promise you won’t get in trouble.” Her confidence eased his nerves, and yet again he reminded himself to stay calm and classy.
Kristoff pushed the breakfast cart inside the suite and gaped at the sight of the room. It was actually multiple rooms; he and the girl were only in the living area. There was a crystal chandelier and a large round dining table and a set of cushy upholstered chairs in the living area. This was the first time Kristoff had actually seen one of the Plaza suites. Imagine, he thought, a hotel room that’s more than just a bed and dresser in a single room. He was pretty sure that this suite was larger than the entire house he had grown up in.
“So what do we have for breakfast today?” the redhead asked him. She moved to stand directly in front of the cart, waiting for him to present the order.
Ah, Kristoff thought, she’s testing me. She knows how I’m supposed to go about this.
He cleared his throat. “This morning we have one order of eggs Benedict, toast with strawberry jam, orange juice, and some English Breakfast tea with milk and honey.” He pulled the cloche off of each plate as he listed off the items. “Is that correct, miss?” He looked up at her, realizing now that in revealing the food items, he was hunched over the cart slightly and unintentionally lowering himself to her line of sight. She was much shorter than him; of course, he was also very tall.
She nodded. “Very good,” she said, “that sounds lovely.” She waited for a moment, prompting his next line with her blushing smile.
“Will that be all, miss?” he finally said.
“I believe so,” she said. “Tell me, Kristoff, how old are you?”
He frowned, unprepared for the use of his own name, let alone the jarring question. He couldn’t tell if she was trying to be friendly or if she was testing his professionalism.
“It’s alright, you can tell me,” she said. “You seem young, and there aren’t that many employees my age who work at the Plaza.”
She wasn’t trying to get him into trouble. The waitstaff had said that room 1710 was kind and helpful. And since she was a permanent resident, perhaps she was friends with all the hotel employees.
He relaxed. “Just turned eighteen, miss,” he said quietly.
“So you are the youngest employee at the Plaza right now,” she said curtly. “Well, there’s nothing to be nervous about.”
“I’m not nervous,” he lied and then chided himself for talking back to a guest.
She glared at him, crossing her arms. “It’s your first day at the Plaza Hotel. For one, it’s obvious you’re just wearing a spare shirt and jacket because your fitted uniform hasn’t come in yet. So you’re worried about people judging you for your lack of proper attire. And you keep sputtering a little over your script because you aren’t sure if you’ve forgotten something. I can tell you’re trying very hard to be polite by your posture, like a butler in the movies. Plus they assigned your first ever order to my room. Usually, Jerry brings up my breakfast unless they’re trying to train a nervous new hire.”
So the redhead had read Kristoff like an open book. He apparently couldn’t hide anything from her. And he didn’t even know who she was.
“Take a deep breath,” she said, noticing that his body had stiffened at her explanation. She breathed in and out with him, raising her hands in time with his shoulders. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I promise you’re doing fine.”
“As a hotel employee, isn’t my job to make you comfortable?” Kristoff joked tensely.
She huffed. “Normally, yes,” the girl said, “it is your job to serve the guests of the Plaza and make their stays as enjoyable as possible.” She made her way to stand right next to him. “But I am not a normal guest of the Plaza. I live here, and it’s my family’s job to make sure you’re doing your job correctly.”
“Your family?” he said slowly. Who was this girl?
She grinned up at him and put her hand out for him to shake. “I’m Anna Arendelle. My father owns the Plaza Hotel.”
Kristoff’s eyes widened. “Oh! Miss Arendelle! I had no idea,” he gaped. He suddenly turned to clear the cart’s contents onto the dining table, leaving her hand hanging in the air.
Instead, Anna put her hand on his arm, alerting him to pause. “No need to be so formal with me,” she said, giggling. “Please, call me Anna. Most of the staff does, and I’m not that much younger than you.”
He lowered his arm, gently placing the eggs and toast on the table in front of them. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I can get nervous when I’m around lots of new people,” Kristoff said. “And this place has the highest of standards. I just want to get this right.” Although he had been instructed to maintain a positive and pleasant demeanor around hotel guests, Kristoff allowed himself a single second to sulk.
Anna’s lips formed into an empathetic thin line. “Tell you what?” she began. “I can help you. I’ve lived at the Plaza my whole life, I know everything about everyone and everything.”
Kristoff looked over at her, her arm now resting on his upper back. Again, she was trying to comfort him. “You would really help me, Miss Anna?” he asked.
“Just Anna,” she corrected with a wry smile. “And of course, that’s why they send the new hires to me first and not to my father. That and I like making new friends.” She gave him the same closed-eye grin she made when she had first opened the door.
“Thank you, Anna,” he said quietly, “I could use some friends here.” Already he was feeling a natural kinship with the heiress. Confiding in her was easy.
Anna picked up the juice and tea from the service cart and placed them on the table with the rest of the food. “What’s on your schedule for the rest of the day, Kristoff?” she asked him, fixing her tea. “I assume they’re having you help set up the Gold Room for the university holiday party? I can meet you down there at quarter to two. I think it’s fun setting up for parties.” She glanced over at him with happy knowing eyes as she took a sip of English Breakfast tea.
He nodded. “You really do know everything going on at the Plaza.”
“There’s no place in New York as wonderful at Christmastime as the Plaza Hotel,” she said. “You don’t know how lucky you are that you’ll get to experience it.”
Yes, Kristoff was very fortunate indeed. He had a well paying job at the most prestigious hotel in the city and a pretty new friend willing to guide him along the way. Things were finally looking up.