Chapter 1: First Meeting
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.
Chapter 2: Red Roses
After gently interrogating the housekeepers the night before, Eloise had determined that Kristoff and Anna belonged together. Yes, Anna was engaged to Hans, but Eloise still sensed there was something off about him. And anyway, what Kristoff and Anna had was true love, and what was more perfect and romantic than literal, actual true love?
Still, if she was going to convince them of that, Eloise would need to find legitimate reasons (as if true love needed reason for anything) for the two of them to connect.
But first, she needed to be absolutely sure that Anna still cared for Kristoff. Although Eloise was pretty certain that she did.
Naturally, with the nuptials mere days away, Eloise knew to find Anna in the parlor that morning for a dress fitting. “Hi Anna,” she said, strolling right up to the podium Anna was standing on. “Gosh, fancy running into you here.”
Anna gave the child a polite smile. “Hello, Eloise. What do you think of my dress?” She was wearing an ivory colored satin gown, the flared mermaid hem currently being altered with pins by a parlor seamstress.
Eloise thought Anna looked divine, but only gave a cursory glance. “Oh fine, I guess. Only I’ve been thinking, and aren’t you afraid that you might be rushing into things a little?” She began wandering around the small section of the room, pretending to be more interested in other bridal things as she spoke.
A confused look fell across Anna’s face. “You mean the wedding?” she clarified. “A couple of days ago you thought it was the most romantic thing you’d ever heard.”
“Well, it is,” Eloise said, trying not to back-peddle. A Christmas wedding was the most romantic thing Eloise had ever heard of, but forget whatever she said or thought. Right now she needed to focus on the task at hand, which was to test the waters and see how deep Anna’s feelings for Kristoff still lingered. Eloise continued, “I mean, when you’re absolutely sure it’s the right thing, because you really know the guy. Like really, really, really know him.” She paused in front of a floor length mirror to look back at Anna’s reflection. “Like you know Kristoff, for instance,” she said nonchalantly.
“You’re quite fond of him, aren’t you?” Anna said, laughing.
“Of course. He’s my best friend,” Eloise answered happily. And she listed off all the reasons Kristoff was so great. “He’s funny and charming and he lets me win every sword fight.” That last one might have been a bit biased toward six-year-olds, so Eloise added, “And no matter how tired he is, he’ll always play me a song on the piano.”
Anna beamed. “Did he teach you the little dances that go with them?” she asked, her face lighting up at the memory of playing music with Kristoff. Then right there, Anna hopped off the dress podium (to the seamstress’s dismay) and started tap dancing with Eloise, humming a silly tune before ending in a little surprise twirl. The two girls giggled.
“Oh, he could make me laugh so hard with that,” Anna said full of glee. She lowered herself down a bit to meet the six-year-old’s eye. “Sometimes, I’d sneak down after the parties were over and we’d put on these little shows together, just the two of us. And I remember this one time we—“
Anna stopped suddenly, catching a glimpse in the mirror at herself in a beautiful bridal gown. She was supposed to be preparing to marry Hans, not reminiscing over ancient memories about Kristoff. Her face fell back into a neutral expression at the thought. “Well. It doesn’t really matter now,” Anna said with a sad smile. She rose back up to the podium. “We’ve both moved on.”
Eloise frowned, for only a split second, before changing the topic. “Yeah. Good ol’ Kristoff,” the girl said. “Only I wish I could figure out who his girlfriend is.”
Anna’s head perked up. “His girlfriend?”
“I don’t know for sure,” Eloise started, playing with some veils to seem distracted from the leading comments. “But this morning I was in the kitchen, and I heard him ordering flowers over the phone. I mean, what else could I think? You don’t just send red roses to just anyone.” She glanced at Anna’s reflection in the mirror again, searching for any hint in the woman’s face.
“Red roses?” Anna herself had received an arrangement of beautiful red roses just that morning. It seemed too coincidental that Kristoff would’ve ordered red roses for some other girl, right?
Eloise knew it wasn’t coincidence at all. Kristoff hadn’t sent anyone roses; in fact, Anna’s roses were delivered by Eloise herself. But sometimes true love needed a little help.
FIVE YEARS EARLIER, THE SAME DAY
Kristoff wasn’t at all sure which university the Christmas party belonged to, but he immediately found that it didn’t matter in the slightest. Most parties—especially around the holidays—had the same general decorative layout and duties, he learned.
True to her word, Anna was waiting by the entrance of the Gold room at 1:45, just like they’d agreed. She was wearing the same pink blouse from that morning but now with a brown skirt, her red hair in an elaborate braid. At least she had more appropriate clothes on now. She waved at Kristoff giddily when she saw him, and he gave her a polite smile in return. All of the other employees greeted her as she walked past, but other than that no one really regarded her more. It was as if her presence was a natural occurrence and expected without question. She was just another person helping out.
And yet, every single task she performed with immense cheer, Kristoff noticed. She wanted to help, but more so she was glad to, it made her happy to help. Kristoff smiled every time he looked up to see Anna setting up some table or decoration or another. Her family was so wealthy, she could afford to spend her time doing whatever she wanted, but instead she was helping the waitstaff in the ballroom, because she liked doing it. Because she thought it was fun, she had said.
Anna was not allowed to stay for the party, however; she was escorted up to her room by a well-dressed older woman Kristoff didn’t know around four, about an hour before the party was set to begin. Despite being the heiress of the entire hotel, Anna would not be allowed the fun excitement of attending the actual party. It seemed that there might be many things, perhaps, that Anna wasn’t allowed to do.
Along with setting up for the party, Kristoff was also expected to serve trays of food and drinks during the evening. Normally, Kristoff was not supposed to work such long shifts, from morning till night, but larger events—particularly during the holidays, when there were so many of them—were more demanding. And considering it was only the third of December, he knew he had a lot of long work days ahead of him.
The party finally wrapped up around nine, and although Kristoff was exhausted from the mad rush of constantly running to and from the kitchen to provide food and Christmas ambience for such a crowd of people, he was also pumping with adrenaline. It was hard work, and there was never a moment of rest, but it was interesting just being in the same vicinity as such high society. Kristoff wasn’t sure if he would ever desire to be a part of this elite someday, based on some of the conversations he had eavesdropped on; no, just experiencing it by way of waitstaff was enough.
Since it was his first day, a senior waiter named Robert had taken Kristoff under his wing during the event, teaching him the ropes and showing him how to tear down the ballroom afterward. “Almost every party, from set-up to clean-up, goes exactly the same,” Robert told him.
At ten fifteen, they were just finishing clearing off the tables of their floral arrangements when Kristoff noticed someone standing in the corner of the room. He suddenly realized it was Anna, watching the staff attentively but not reaching out to help.
“Does she always spy on the servers after parties?” Kristoff asked Robert quietly, nodding towards Anna. Robert looked up her subtly. “Not always, but often enough that no one ever acknowledges it,” he said.
She stayed there waiting until finally Kristoff was finished and went over to her where she was leaning against the wall now. “Isn’t it a bit late for girls your age to be down here unchaperoned?” he asked teasingly. He found that the party atmosphere had given him new confidence, and spending the afternoon along side her had made him even more at ease around her.
Her arms were crossed, and she feigned offense at his remark. “Excuse you, I’m not some lost ingenue with no idea of what time it is. My father happens to be the owner of this hotel, and if I am to take over for him someday, I need to be aware of every little thing that goes on.” She gave Kristoff a wry yet encouraging smile.
“Really?” he said coolly. “So then what’s going on at the Plaza for the rest of the night?” Part of him said it to be funny and to hear what crazy excuse Anna would come up with, but another part of him felt his energy waning. Still he humored her. “You’ve only been standing here for the past few minutes, so you must have some kind of ulterior motive by coming down.”
Anna smirked. “As a matter of fact, I was thinking of heading over to the Terrace room, to check on things over there,” she answered. “Would you like to come?”
There hadn’t been anything going on in the Terrace room that day, and she knew it. “What do you want in there?” he asked confused.
“Would you like to join me?” she asked him again. “Seeing as how I’m apparently in need of a chaperone,” she added.
Kristoff blushed. “That was a— I didn’t mean to—“ He stopped talking and took stock in the heiress’s proposal. She wanted to hang out with him. A situation like this could lead into scandalous territory, especially for him as the male and the employee. Still, it sounded like fun, and Anna had promised him that morning that she wouldn’t get him into trouble.
“Sure,” he finally said, giving a small grin. “Just let me clock out.” The least he could do if he was going to sneak around the hotel with the owner’s daughter was to clock out on time.
Anna followed Kristoff into the break area of the kitchen (he had forgotten she was allowed pretty much anywhere) where he punched his card, returned his waiter’s jacket and bowtie, and reached for his own coat. He caught Anna staring at his torso, and he remembered the dress shirt he was wearing was just a bit too tight on him, revealing the tone and outline of his chest. He debated removing the dress shirt in favor of just the t-shirt he had on underneath. Maybe this was actually a bad idea.
But before Kristoff could change his mind, Anna had grabbed him by the forearm and was guiding him through the kitchen to the Terrace room.
Kristoff had only briefly peeked in the Terrace room earlier, just to familiarize himself with all the ballrooms. The Terrace room was one of the larger event spaces at the Plaza and featured a grand piano in one corner. The lights in the room were dimmed, since there had been no event in there that evening.
“What are we doing here, Anna?” he asked once they got there.
“Can you play piano?” she asked him. He shook his head. “I only know the guitar.” His aunt and uncle had gifted him an old guitar when he was a boy and playing it became a happy solace when he tired of mountain life.
“Oh, well, guitar and piano are very similar, I’ve heard,” Anna said. “I can teach you.” She sat down at the piano bench, and when he didn’t immediately join her, she furiously motioned for him to sit to her left.
Kristoff did so but hesitantly. No, she wouldn’t purposely get him into trouble, but they were still two teenagers sitting very close together on a piano bench. As he sat closer to her, he noticed she smelled like lavender and roses. Meanwhile, he smelled faintly of sweat and grilled chicken.
“We’ll play the same notes, but I’ll take the high part and you can do the low,” she said, stretching her hands lightly across the keys. He copied her, focusing on her fingers instead of her face or her scent. Anna showed him which keys corresponded with which notes and taught him some simple chords. She then taught him how to play "Jingle Bells", both just the melody and the full song.
“How long have you been playing piano?” he asked her after about twenty minutes. Kristoff could tell she was downplaying her own skills to teach him the basics and make him less self-conscious.
“Since I was four,” she said without looking up at him. “I stopped taking lessons when I was twelve, so now I just play for fun.”
He smirked. “Do you do this often? Sneak down here and play for fun?”
Anna stopped playing now and looked at his face. “Fine, you caught me,” she said with a reserved expression. “This isn’t a regular thing for me. But I wanted to get to know you better, and I thought this would be a fun way of letting loose.”
Kristoff tried to hide his surprise at her response. She wasn’t just wanting to have fun after the party. She specifically wanted to have fun with him. Was that also not a common thing? Did she pick an employee at random every once in a while to hang out with?
He studied Anna’s face. She had the biggest eyes he had ever seen, the most perfect shade of robin’s eye blue. He noticed a light dusting of freckles all over her blushed ivory skin. And with his body so close to hers, Kristoff realized just how petite she was compared to him, like he could cradle her entire body in his arms alone. She was so beautiful.
In the distance, Kristoff heard the chime of a clock strike eleven. “It’s getting late,” he finally said, stopping himself from continuing his suggestive thoughts about her. He got up from the bench. “I should be going home, and it’s probably best for you to go back to your suite before your family notices you’re gone.”
Anna gave a small smile and sighed. “Perhaps you’re right,” she said. “Thank you for humoring me. But at least you have a new skill to practice in your down time,” she said, gesturing to the piano. Kristoff laughed and helped her up.
They walked back together through the staff corridors—the best way, Anna assured him, to navigate the hotel after hours. He guided her to the freight elevator, which she insisted on using. Never mind that the service elevator would be utilized by any housekeepers making their evening rounds.
Anna leaned towards Kristoff as she waited for the elevator. “You did very well today,” she said, “very good work all around.”
He realized that she was grading his work ethic and laughed. “Glad to hear I’m doing a good job at my job.”
Her eyes lit up with hope now. “Same time tomorrow night?” she asked happily. She did not ask about room service in the morning or setting up for events during the day. Those encounters would be guaranteed. Late night piano sessions were not.
He looked down at her, then past her at a counter with floral arrangements leftover from the university party. Without thinking, he pulled out a rose and gave it to her. Anna cupped it in her small hands.
“See you tomorrow, Anna,” he said.
And with his first shift at the Plaza complete, Kristoff knew he had many more exhausting days ahead of him. But they would all be worth it if he got to spend just an hour every evening being with her.
Chapter 3: Inquiries
“Anna?” Hans’s voice called in the distance. He walking into the dress parlor, a place men normally dared not go unless they absolutely had to. The audacity he had coming in here, Eloise thought. Trying to sneak a peek at the bride?
Anna rushed down from the podium. “Oh, I better get out of this dress,” she said to no one in particular. The seamstress led her over to the changing panel to help her undress. “Just a minute,” she called out to Hans once she saw his silhouette had gotten close enough. “You remember Eloise, don’t you, Hans?”
Hans disguised his sour expression upon seeing the child sitting there. “Of course, how could I forget such an angelic face?” he said, feigning charm. Eloise gave a half-hearted acknowledgement with a fake smile.
Hans leaned toward the dressing panel to talk to Anna better. “I just wanted to tell you, darling, that I’m off to lunch with a colleague of mine. I’ll come back by the room when I’m done.”
And after an agreeing comment from Anna, Hans was off to the Plaza cafe to meet his friend.
Eloise was still tremendously suspicious of Hans. She knew there was something not right, that he wasn’t worthy of Anna the same way Kristoff was. Still, if she was going to convince them of that, Eloise would need to find a legitimate reason for why Hans wasn't a good fit. And she figured that since she so far was the only person skeptical of Hans, it should be up to her—Eloise—to set things right.
She figured spying on his lunch was her perfect chance. She said goodbye to Anna, assuring her they would cross paths again, and then headed to the kitchen.
Eloise knew she couldn’t be too obvious with her spying. She decided to enlist the help of the head chef Patrice, a snobby French man who had the patience for the girl’s antics only sometimes. Her plan was to hide under a dessert cart and have Patrice wheel it out as bribery for Hans and his friend. It was perfect because if Hans was the type of entitled jerk that Eloise thought he was, he would think nothing of being offered free dessert from the hotel.
Patrice surprisingly obliged.
He took out the kitchen tray that was full of delectable cakes freshly baked that morning for display purposes. “Desserts, gentlemen. Compliments of the hotel,” the chef said when he got to their table. “I’ll give you a few moments to decide.” And he stepped aside to head back to the kitchen, knowing Eloise was in prime position to eavesdrop.
Once certain they were alone, Hans’s friend guffawed. “You’ve really got them wrapped around your finger,” he said with a laugh.
“I know,” Hans replied. “Anna is one thing, I never figured her father would be so easy.”
A pause and then the friend asked in a whispered tone, “How’d you do it?”
Hans leaned in closer to the table, and said in a lowered voice, “Borrowed money all across the country, made it look like I had my own fortune, so I couldn’t possibly be after Anna’s.”
“And they really don’t suspect anything?” His friend sounded happily astonished.
The charm arose in Hans’s voice. “I figure once we’re married, I’ll use her money and pay everyone back.” His friend began laughing incredulously again. “No, no, seriously, Wes. She’ll even end up paying for her own engagement ring.”
Eloise almost leaped out from under the dessert cart and screamed upon hearing Hans. She had to fight to stay silent and not blow her cover until Patrice returned for her.
But this was confirmation of what she’d suspected. Hans didn’t love Anna at all! He was just using her for her money!
What a villainous fiend!
But the six-year-old knew that even if she told anyone of Hans’s nefarious motives, no one would believe her. She was just an imaginative, precocious little girl with a knack for well-intended mischief.
The only thing Eloise could do was ensure that Anna ended up with a man who actually cared for her, who loved her, and then Anna would marry that right man instead. And that man was clearly Kristoff.
FIVE YEARS EARLIER
The next day after the late night piano lesson with Anna, Kristoff asked as many employees as he could about their experiences with the heiress. Each one had something different to say.
Miss Anna had been living at the Plaza since she was a little girl, said the housekeepers. She was attending an elite private school in the city until recently. Now she studied French and Spanish from a private tutor, among other subjects.
The kitchen staff said her favorite food was chocolate. You wouldn’t know that from her room service orders, but she always snuck some whenever she was in the kitchen.
The bellhops said that there weren’t many people outside of the Plaza that she was friends with; the Plaza was basically her entire world.
And yet for as much as Kristoff learned about the heiress, no one seemed to have any experiences with her similar to his own from the day before. There was genuine positivity and praise all around towards Anna, comments that she was always helpful and kind, but only ever that. Nothing more personal, whether because the rest of the staff knew how to maintain professional relationships with their employer’s family or because Anna was more keen on distancing herself.
“Perhaps she is more drawn to you,” Robert said to Kristoff after noticing his inquiries, “because you two are so close in age.”
Kristoff gave the older waiter a confused look. “There is no one else in her personal life she can hang out with?”
Robert shook his head. “The only person she was ever close to was her cousin Elsa, but she stopped visiting when Anna was around ten. And now that Anna does all her schooling here, she really doesn’t get out much.”
“Why doesn’t she just go out and make her own friends outside of the hotel?” Kristoff was absolutely flabbergasted that the heiress would willingly seclude herself.
Robert chose his words carefully. “Mr. Arendelle is very protective of his daughter, and he doesn’t want her philandering around the city. At least in the Plaza, he knows everyone and everything going on.”
“Seems like she’s a princess in a tower,” Kristoff said quietly. He knew it would be better for his job if that opinion stayed his own.
Robert assured him that wasn’t the case. “If it’s a tower, Anna has her free run of it. She loves the Plaza with all her heart.”
And Anna loved the people who worked at the hotel as much as she loved the hotel itself, but she clearly had her favorites. As the weeks went on Kristoff observed Anna’s behavior around certain employees.
She preferred Michael out of all the bellhops because he would let her pack and push the luggage trolleys with him.
Even though she wasn’t allowed in the lounge, her favorite bartender was Joe because he would give her a cranberry soda during his shifts.
She loved Ms. Thompson at the front desk because she played punny word games with her.
And very quickly, Kristoff became her favorite waiter. After his first week of serving her breakfast as a new employee, she kept requesting Kristoff specifically. It might have been a bigger deal if Jerry, who normally did that, minded more, but he just went about his work like it was nothing.
Kristoff on the other hand couldn’t keep from analyzing the change. While he consistently enjoyed Anna’s company, he needed to be aware of crossing any boundaries. He was still at work, still a new hire. He didn’t want to do anything that would send him to the manager’s office for a scolding. He always tried his best to treat Anna like he would any other guest or resident.
But that was easier said than done when everyday Anna would sneak a note onto Kristoff’s room service cart. At first it would be a message saying to meet her at this place at this time. But as their late night meetings became more of a sure thing, her notes became less specific and more personal. Sometimes they were just thoughts in her brain that she wanted to share, other times it was a question about Kristoff’s own life and interests.
“White lights are my absolute favorite Christmas decoration.”
“Have you ever listened to the Oklahoma! musical album? I’ll make sure to play it when you come tomorrow.”
“Yesterday I learned the Greek myth about the constellation Andromeda. I really must tell you about it sometime.”
“Do you miss life in the mountains? Because I think living in the city is grand!”
At first Kristoff wondered at the purpose of these non sequiturs; why was Anna telling him these things? But after a while, he grew to expect it, grew to enjoy her randomness. He delighted in answering any of her questions during their nightly piano sessions. He also found he was getting pretty good at playing as well.
Eventually, all the employees began to associate the two together. Anna could always rely on Kristoff, and Kristoff would do anything for Anna.
He was her mostly companion.
Chapter 4: What Her Father Wants
Along with bringing room service meals, it was also part of Kristoff’s job to pick up the used trays and silverware guests left outside their door. Kristoff had gotten pretty good at making the rounds on his regular floors to take away the dirty plates, to uphold the Plaza’s neat and tidy standards.
It was lunchtime now, and while he was usually discrete when he picked up the dishes, he tried to be especially quick when he did this room.
He knew which guest was currently staying in this room. And he had both every and no desire to see her.
She must have been waiting for him on the inside of her door, because Anna opened it as soon as she spotted him.
Kristoff looked up at Anna from the floor. He had seen her from almost every angle, but this one was always his favorite. She looked like a red-haired angel, gentle and kind.
No, Kristoff, he thought.
“Sorry,” he finally said, still hunched over the dirty plates on the floor. “I’ll have these out of your way in a second.”
“Kristoff,” Anna started, but dared not finish. He waited for her to speak, but they both knew there was nothing else she could say.
Just like she had said nothing all those years ago. Back when she would normally go behind her father’s back and stand up for herself. She knew what to say in nearly every situation. Her words were always carefully selected, to retain diplomacy even in her suggestive comments. Never one to rebel, but always one to speak.
Except back then she hadn’t said anything, and neither had Kristoff. It was not saying anything to each other four years ago that had kept him in this same predicament with Anna now.
Well, now Kristoff was four years older and wiser and braver. Now he would say something.
“Is he really what you wanted, or is he what your father wanted for you?” he asked suddenly as he got up from the ground. He knew that by asking such a personal and straightforward question, he would be risking unemployment. If Anna found him bothersome or nosy, she could always report Kristoff to the manager and have him fired immediately. But the Anna he knew—the compassionate, fiery, genuine, caring friend—would never do that to a Plaza employee. Especially to one she was so fond of, or used to be. He could trust that she wouldn’t get him into trouble, even now.
He needed to know how much of her leaving, her relationship, her life was her idea.
However, when Anna remained speechless, Kristoff regretted asking her about it in such a blunt, accusing way.
He sighed. “Just tell me it’s for real,” he started, “and I’ll never say anything—”
“The ice machine on my floor is broken,” said Hans from behind Kristoff, interrupting his thought. Hans was walking towards Anna’s door with a knowing grin, an empty ice bucket and unopened bottle of champagne in either hand. Kristoff knew Hans was staying in a different area of the hotel, but hearing mention of it directly made his ears perk up. Then again, maybe the ice machine was fine, and he was just making up an excuse to get into Anna’s room. Maybe he could sense whenever Kristoff was near Anna by herself.
Hans sidled next to his fiancée before he acknowledged the waiter’s presence. “Hey, Christopher, nice to see you again,” he said in a smarmy tone.
“Kristoff,” the waiter corrected quietly.
“Right,” Hans responded carelessly. “Hey, listen, would you be a sport and fill this up for us?” He held the empty ice bucket out to Kristoff. “I’ve got some champagne that needs chilling.”
Kristoff took the bucket. Returning with ice would mean another guaranteed interaction with the couple. He didn’t know which was worse, seeing Anna or seeing Anna with this guy.
“You don’t mind, do you?” Hans asked him.
Kristoff shook his head and gave the same polite smile he gave all annoying guests. “No, of course not.” He really tried to not think poorly of any guests, and he knew it was unfair to dislike this man only because he was engaged to Anna.
Hans nodded. “Great. Thank you.” He headed into Anna’s room while she remained standing at the door. Anna stared back at Kristoff, sad discontent in her eyes.
“Just call me the ice deliverer,” Kristoff joked, and then said, “it’s my job, right?” His eyes remained on hers, as if focusing on her face would somehow connect him to her thoughts. Why wasn’t she saying anything? He just wanted her to talk to him.
Noticing their mutual too-long lingering, Hans stepped back to the doorway and gave Anna a long soft kiss on the lips. Kristoff felt a pang in his chest. Hans was very clearly marking his territory again. He guided Anna into the room as he closed the door.
Kristoff stared at the closed door for a moment longer. He was disappointed in Anna, but then again what could she even say?
FOUR YEARS EARLIER
After an entire year of working at the Plaza, it seemed like Kristoff was an old pro. He had gotten into a solid routine that usually began or ended with Anna. Either he brought her breakfast and they’d try to exchange as many coded messages as possible in less than five minutes, or, if he was working an evening shift, they would sing and talk into the night during their piano sessions. Kristoff had learned so many of her favorite songs by heart.
But now they were back to December, Anna’s favorite time of year. And while December meant long work days for Kristoff, it also meant even more time he would be at the Plaza seeing Anna filled with joy.
The two teenagers had really grown close over the last year. But it was more than that, Kristoff realized. Before he met Anna, Kristoff had been a quiet loner, completely satisfied with peaceful solidarity. He had had friends back home in the mountains, specifically Sven, a full-time resident of one of the campgrounds who talked to himself and often ventured into town for a drink. But even then, it was Sven who did most of the talking, usually rambling off whatever thoughts he felt like sharing aloud with Kristoff. Other than that, Kristoff was used to keeping his head down, participating only when needed, and maintaining acquaintances.
And yes, working in a heavily populated environment and being required to politely interact with plenty of people had modified Kristoff’s social skills. But really, Anna had changed him for the better, made him more patient, confident, friendlier, happier.
He was happier now. Thanks to Anna.
Because of Anna.
The highest points of any day were the moments he got to spend with her. He looked forward to reading her written wonderings after he dropped off her meals. He smiled whenever he saw her fix something with all her care and concentration. He got excited whenever she was excited about musical theatre and history. He loved her rose-scented strawberry blonde hair and her robin’s egg blue eyes and her freckle-sprinkled face.
Kristoff was not at all an expert on emotions, but he was pretty sure all these feelings added up to more than just friendship.
In fact, rumor had spread—rumors he had tried very hard to quash—that he and Anna were in love.
A week after Kristoff’s nineteenth birthday, just after his one-year anniversary at the Plaza, he was called into the owner’s office. Not the manager’s office—Mr. Salamone, as stern as he was, Kristoff could handle. But the owner. Anna’s father’s office.
It was the very thing he had been dreading since the day he was hired.
Robert tried to reassure him. “Calm down,” he said, patting Kristoff on the back. “Usually if someone’s about to get fired, they’re sent to Salamone so Arendelle doesn’t have to do the dirty work.”
“Why do people get sent to the owner’s office then?” Kristoff asked. What could be worse than getting fired? Killed?
Robert shrugged. “Maybe it isn’t a bad thing. Maybe he knows how close you are with Anna and he’s going to promote you to her bodyguard.”
For as much comfort as his waiter friend tried to provide, nothing could prepare Kristoff for his short elevator ride to the owner’s office. He could feel all the confidence he had accrued over the last year waning.
The elevator doors opened and Mr. Arendelle’s secretary, Cornelia, greeted him. She stayed behind her large desk, her face giving absolutely no indication if what was awaiting Kristoff was positive or negative. She told Kristoff to go inside.
Kristoff—thankfully, up until this point—had never seen Mr. Arendelle’s office. The large room was more like a suave den, with wood-paneled walls and crown molding and well-kept potted plants in the corners. Standing in front of a large, intricately designed pine desk was Mr. Arendelle. His gray streaked blonde hair was perfectly coiffed, his charcoal suit exquisitely tailored, and his slightly aged face completely serious.
“Uh, sir,” Kristoff spoke clearly, “you wanted to see me?” He was trying very hard to stomp the anxiety out of his voice.
“Ah, Kristoff Bjorgman,” Mr. Arendelle said, and he reached out his hand to shake Kristoff’s. “So, you’re the waiter my daughter has talked so much about.”
“Anna has told you about me, sir?” Kristoff asked, and then he wondered if he had made a mistake. He knew that despite Anna’s insistent informality, most of the other employees still called her Miss Anna or Miss Arendelle. Perhaps he should have hid how comfortable he’d gotten around her by doing the same.
Mr. Arendelle raised an eyebrow. “Anna has not told me about you herself,” he said, “I hear things. I know how fond she is of you.” He ended the handshake and went back around his desk.
“Um, thank you, sir,” Kristoff said, standing at attention. “She has been a tremendous help and friend during my first year here at the Plaza.”
“You consider Anna a friend?” the hotel owner asked. Kristoff was reminded of his first encounter with Anna, how he was unsure if her leading questions were meant to mess him up or help him. Was her father giving him trick questions now?
“Yes, sir,” Kristoff answered honestly, “but I would think it is important and necessary for there to be a comfortable rapport between an employer and his staff.”
“That may well be,” Mr. Arendelle started, “but Anna is not your employer. And it has come to my attention that Anna is friendlier and closer with you than with any other employee here at the Plaza Hotel.”
“Sure, we’re close friends,” Kristoff answered, “but I don’t think—”
“Let me rephrase,” the owner interrupted, his voice slightly louder than before, “Anna is closer with you than any other personin her life.” He paused and stared at the waiter.
Kristoff dared not speak. He felt his whole body stiffen.
“I am certain that you are a fine young man. You have proven yourself respectable and hardworking over the past year.” Mr. Arendelle came back to the front of his desk, his hands folded up neatly in front of his stomach. “But there is cause for concern in regards to the closeness of your relationship with my daughter, due to your position.”
Kristoff thought his lungs were about to fall into his stomach. This was it. While he had been so careful about not overstepping his boundaries, he was about to be let go.
“Let me assure you, Mr. Bjorgman,” the owner began. Kristoff shuddered at hearing his last name so formally. “You are not being fired.”
Kristoff exhaled, and he forced a blink. “Thank you, sir,” was all he could manage. It was great news that he wasn’t about to lose his job, but still this conversation did not seem a happy one.
“However, your intimacy, for lack of a better term, with my daughter is worrisome,” Mr. Arendelle continued. “Anna, as kind and well-meaning as she is, should not be flirting with people of your status. She stands to inherit the Plaza Hotel. And you . . . well.”
Mr. Arendelle’s point had come across clear as crystal: Anna, because of her fortune and upbringing, should not consort with room service waiters. Her father would disapprove of anything less than the absolute best. “I understand, sir,” Kristoff agreed sadly.
Mr. Arendelle stood right in front of Kristoff and reached his hand on his shoulder to comfort him. “As I said, I have heard nothing but tremendous things about your character and work ethic. You seem a good, upstanding young man. But I must ask you to no longer associate with Anna, for her sake.”
And for mine, Kristoff thought. If I don’t listen, I risk losing this job, and this job is all that I have right now.
But Kristoff also knew that no matter how hard he could try to stay away from Anna, she would be determined to come back to him. The longer he stayed away, the more furious she might become.
“I understand, sir, but,” Kristoff started, “I cannot stop Anna from looking for me. If I were to cut her off, without any warning, I would think that would upset her deeply.” It would upset Kristoff deeply too, but he was smart enough to not admit it.
Mr. Arendelle moved back to behind his desk again and sat down, looking over some papers in front of him. “I assure you, that won’t be a problem for much longer. I have already spoken with her, and the situation has been handled.” He looked back up at Kristoff. “I just needed to talk to you and make you aware of our concerns.” He gave a firm nod and said, “You may get back to work now, Mr. Bjorgman.”
Kristoff gave a small thank you, and returned to the kitchen quarters, trying to hide his low-hanging head. Robert was waiting for him, and before Kristoff could relay any details of his meeting, Robert shook his head. He guided Kristoff over to a broom closet and pushed him inside.
“Um, Robert?” he called confused, but then a light above him clicked on, and Kristoff saw a tearful Anna huddled beside him.
“Kristoff,” she whispered as she wrapped her arms around him as tight as she could. He could do nothing but hold her too as shock and sorrow swept over him.
“What are you doing in here?” he quietly screamed back. “I just got scolded by your father. We can’t hang out anymore.”
“That’s why I’m here,” she said through silent sobs. “He’s sending me off to stay with some relative in Germany for the holidays, and then I’m set to start school in Paris after the new year. Sorbonne or some university like that. But he’s sending me away so we can’t see each other!” Her tears were flowing more heavily now as she leaned her head on his chest, heaving.
Kristoff could tell Anna was thoroughly distraught. Christmastime in New York, at the Plaza, was Anna’s favorite thing in the world, and she was going to miss it this year, perhaps every year for the foreseeable future, all because of him. He was unhappy because she was unhappy. But he was unhappy that he’d be losing her.
“It’ll be alright, Anna,” he said, trying his best to stay calm and comfort her. “I’m sure you’ll love the holidays in Germany just as much as here. The Germans practically invented Christmas.”
“This isn’t just about Christmas,” she said, pulling back to look at him. “I may never see you again. I can’t do it! I love” --she gasped for air and paused a bit too long-- “seeing you every day. You’re my best and only friend in the world. I can’t do it! I’m staying right here!”
Water welled up behind Kristoff’s eyes, but he sucked it up. This was exactly why she needed to leave, why he needed to let her go. Anna was the heiress to a grand fortune; she was destined for better things, greater things. If she stayed here, she would remain by Kristoff’s side forever. And what would happen if she and Kristoff ended up together? They would live in a small walk-up apartment in a grimy part of the city because her father had disowned her for running off with a waiter? That wasn’t the kind of life she deserved. She deserved the moon and sun and all the stars in the Andromeda constellation.
But Kristoff couldn’t give that life to her. He loved her, but he had to let her go.
He sighed. “Don’t do that,” he said to her. “Go. You’re always telling me about European history and languages and culture. This is your chance to finally live it.” It destroyed him to say these words, but he knew the only way to cheer her up was with the promise of something exciting, something worth experiencing.
Her tears had subsided a little now, but her eyes were still puffy and red from crying. She was gorgeous even now, as always. He stroked a strand of fallen hair behind her ear.
“Your father wants the best for you,” he whispered.
“But what if I don’t want that? What if I want you?” Her voice was shaking again.
“I’ll be right here whenever you come back,” he said with a sad smile, and she hugged him tightly again. He knew his heart was racing, but he could faintly feel her strong beat too, thrumming against his chest.
And then Anna did what Kristoff had never expected but had been thinking about for quite some time.
She kissed him. Quick and gentle, right on the lips, but it was soft and delicate, like her.
“Meet me in the Terrace room tonight, one last time,” Kristoff said without thinking. “I can give you an early Christmas present.”
Anna held his hand loosely, lightly rubbing each of his fingers. She still looked sad and worried, but finally breathed out, “Okay.”
He kissed her the top of her head before slipping out of the closet. He figured he should go out first since he had been seen going in more recently, as well as having duties to do. And while he tried to maintain a cheerful demeanor all throughout the work day, he felt nauseous until that evening, when they would meet for their final private performance. He could talk and sing to her, and maybe tell her how he really felt. Tell her that she would always be his, promise to be there for her, no matter what. It was bittersweet; it was the last time they would see each other, but at least he could see her once more.
Except he didn’t.
He sat at the piano bench in the Terrace room until midnight, well after their late-night lessons typically ended, but Anna never came. Instead of being with the woman he loved one last time, he was alone again.
It was for the best. It was what her father would’ve wanted.
The staff found out the next morning that Miss Arendelle had gone abroad, and Kristoff had received no word from her since the broom closet the morning before.
So that was it. Anna would just go to Europe and live her life, and Kristoff would serve the guests of the Plaza and make them comfortable.
It was his job, right?
Chapter 5: Front Row to a Show
From now on there are no more flashbacks. All the events are now all occurring in the present day, December 1951 (specifically the 22nd and 23rd in this chapter).
So far Eloise’s plan was going just swimmingly.
She knew the best way for Kristoff and Anna to realize they still loved each other was to get them back in the same room together. And what better place than the Terrace room to play piano, where their love began?
So the next afternoon Eloise pleaded with Kristoff to teach her to play a Christmas song as a present for her mother. And finally, thankfully, Kristoff agreed to give Eloise a piano lesson in the Terrace room during his break at 3:30.
Anna had a meeting with Prunella the event planner in the Terrace room at 4pm. But Eloise might have arranged for Prunella to arrive late by erasing and changing it in her schedule.
Kristoff was maybe a bit put off when Anna suddenly entered the room. But Eloise had convinced her to stay and wait with them, and then Eloise just happened to need to slip out to get something.
Instead she stayed hidden in the corner to see the whole thing unfold. To see their love rekindle.
And rekindle it did. It wasn’t long at all before Kristoff and Anna were dancing and singing along to musical and Christmas songs on the piano. They were laughing and smiling like old friends. Eloise very rarely saw Kristoff smile so big. He seemed genuinely joyful and enigmatic. While Kristoff belted out a song from Oklahoma! on the keys, Anna sat on top of the piano, singing along and lightly swinging her legs back and forth like a child. They were both only focused on each other. Anna had never looked so happy since she had arrived at the Plaza last week. Was her engagement to Hans that miserable and dull that a short time with Kristoff made her feel alive again?
“What in God’s name is going on here?!” Prunella’s shrieked suddenly, her screech startling everyone. Eloise sighed. Had it really been an hour already?
Prunella stared at the pair. The waiter quickly lifted the heiress up off the piano, holding her a bit too long and delicately once she was standing back on the ground. Anna flattened out her skirt while Kristoff fixed his hair, the two of them clearly embarrassed.
“Get back to work this instant,” Prunella yelled at Kristoff (as if she had authority over him). “This is the Plaza, not a cabaret! And until you acquire something that passes for talent,” she said to him, more calmly now, “I suggest you remember your place here.” Her words unintentionally slighted both of them, but the insult was surely meant for only Kristoff.
Anna rushed toward Prunella. “Don’t you dare speak to him like that!” She was standing between the event planner and the waiter, coming to his defense while also asserting her place as the heiress of the hotel. “Kristoff happens to be a very close friend of mine, whom I asked to stay because you were an hour later for our meeting.” Her voice started the sentence kindly but the ferocity grew as she acknowledged Prunella’s tardiness.
The event planner look completely stunned. “I beg your pardon?” she gaped.
“Not mine. His.” Anna pointed at Kristoff now, her eyes remaining intently on the woman in front of her. She waited.
Finally, Prunella said very slowly, “I apologize.” The waiter was in disbelief. Everyone knew that Prunella was not the type to ever admit she was wrong. But now she looked like she had just swallowed a lizard.
Anna stepped closer to the event planner now. “I’ll thank you to remember that it’s people like Kristoff that are the very heart and soul of this hotel.” Her harsh tone implied that Prunella was not that.
Anna turned back to face Kristoff and smiled lightly. “Thank you for a wonderful time.” Then she went on her way, completely disregarding any meeting she had scheduled with Prunella.
Kristoff’s shoulders rose as he grinned proudly at Prunella while she pursed her lips.
Eloise could not believe that Anna had gotten that snooty, uptight Prunella to apologize for something. Of course, only the hotel heiress could stand up to an employee like that and get them to listen.
But Anna’s defense confirmed it for Eloise: Anna still cared deeply for Kristoff.
And Eloise had an idea of how to finally get the two of them completely alone together, away from the watchful eyes of the Plaza.
The next day was Christmas Eve Eve, and while Eloise knew it was cutting things close to present her Christmas gift to Kristoff the day before Anna’s alleged wedding, it was the only time her plans could work out.
After searching high and low throughout the hotel for the waiter, she skipped into the kitchen that afternoon, finally spotting him in the corner clocking out. “Kristoff!” she cried excitedly, running to him.
He laughed when he saw her. “Well, look who’s been to the barber shop. How dare they trim the hair of such a fearsome pirate!” He poked the girl playfully as he spoke in a silly accent. It was true Eloise had gotten a haircut for the holidays. She wanted to impress Mother for Christmas. But more importantly, she had followed Hans into the barber shop while got a shave; she needed to make sure he stayed out of the picture that evening. She couldn’t have anything or anyone mess up her plan.
“Have a good one, Kristoff,” another waiter said, patting Kristoff on the back as he passed.
“Thanks, Jerry,” he called in his direction.
Eloise’s eyebrows wrinkled. “A good what?”
“Vacation,” Kristoff answered, as he messed with his bowtie. “I’m taking the train up to the Adirondacks for a couple days.”
Eloise knew his family lived in the mountains, and while it was completely normal and sweet of him to want to go home for the holidays, she simply could not allow it today. “What? Now?” she whined. “Not after all I went through to get you your Christmas present!” Really, Eloise had gone through no trouble; all the effort went to the Plaza’s concierge who had arranged the whole thing for her.
“Here, see?” She held out an envelope to Kristoff, who knelt down to her level. He smiled as he opened it. “It’s two tickets to tonight’s performance of The King and I.” Kristoff smiled at the girl’s thoughtfulness, and then she added, “I figured you could take Anna with you.”
His smile dropped, and he waved the envelope in her face. “Look, Eloise, I know what you’re trying to do here,” he accused. He rose up and started to walk away, heading for the staff quarters.
Eloise quickly inhaled in frustration and chased after him. “Moi? I’m not trying to do anything!” She knew she had to play dumb. No one ever paid attention to her when they knew mischief was on her mind, no matter how innocent her intentions might be. “Jeez, can’t a person want to see two friends go out and have a good time?”
Kristoff finally stopped to listen to the child, and she stopped following him. “Besides,” she continued, “she’ll need some cheering up. Hans had to go out of town on business, and knowing you both love musicals the whole thing is rather perfect.” Eloise knew that Hans’s business trip was a bunch of garbage, but the excuse worked in her favor. Offering an evening of cheering up Anna was exactly what Kristoff wanted. And it encouraged Kristoff to spend time with Anna without Hans lurking over his shoulder. “Which is why you can’t go to the mountains, you absolutely can’t!” Yes, Eloise felt a little bad that she was asking him to put seeing his family on hold, but this was true love on the line!
Kristoff sighed and gave a small smile. “Thank you, Eloise. It’s a lovely gift.”
Eloise lowered herself shyly. “Meaning you’ll take her?” she asked slowly.
Kristoff got down to her level again. “Meaning,” he said in a teasing tone, like an older brother, “I’ll ask her.”
Eloise perked her head up and gave him a knowing smile. “And if she says yes?” She waited for his reply, which he playfully hesitated in giving.
His expression matched hers and he exhaled. Kristoff just could not win against her. “I guess I could take a later train.”
Eloise gasped in excitement. It was all going according to plan. After tonight, Kristoff and Anna would realize that they were madly in love and that no good Hans would be rejected by morning. If only Eloise could hide in the corner of the theater, to secretly watch their love blossom even more.