The Cave

Kristoff took a deep breath. The men of the family were helping him get ready–well, they weren’t family by blood, but that didn’t matter. He had grown up here, and watched others go through this ceremony, and now it was his turn. It was his wedding day.

Somehow, Anna had agreed to this. He had explained to her in detail what would go on, and as insane as his family’s traditions were, she had agreed. He had heard people use words like “cult” or “commune” when he told them how he grew up, but she had been merely curious, not judgmental. That meant a lot. He often felt bad that she didn’t have much family, but her sister, Elsa, would be coming.

“She’s here!” one of his cousins whispered through the door.

“Are you ready, Kristoff?” Cliff asked him.

“Ready,” Kristoff affirmed.

He had seen this countless times growing up: they put the white linen over his head, tying it with a blindfold over his eyes. He would see Anna again once they were married.

He stood there under the midsummer sun listening to the familiar incantations and exhortations about the meaning of marriage, which all took a deeper meaning now. He was glad they hadn’t invited any of their friends to this, because he was pretty sure he would be an emotional wreck at the end of this once the blindfolds came off and they were really married.

He heard the final words of the ceremony, and someone linked their hands. He didn’t remember Anna’s hands feeling so cold before, but she was probably nervous.

The blindfolds came off.

“Elsa?” he gulped.

“I said I’d be here!” she said cheerfully.

“Where’s Anna?” he whispered, realizing that his family was already coming over to congratulate them.

Elsa didn’t seem to immediately grasp what had happened. Bulda came over to congratulate her.

“It’s so nice to finally meet you, Anna!” she gushed.

“I’m not Anna,” Elsa told her.

“You’re not Anna?” Bulda repeated, looking confused. “Would you prefer we called you another name?”

“Elsa, I’m Elsa. Anna is my sister.”

“Ah, I’ll go let everyone know that we should call you Elsa.” Bulda cheerily went off to inform the rest of the family.

Elsa was looking over at the road to the farm. Kristoff realized it was Anna’s car that they were watching approach.

Elsa looked at Kristoff. He stood, staring. Anna cheerfully stepped out of her car.

“Elsa! Kristoff! Oh! I hope I haven’t kept you waiting too long!”

“Anna, there’s…” Elsa began, obviously not sure what had happened.

“Kristoff,” Anna said as her sister trailed off, “I thought you said I wouldn’t be able to see you until the ceremony was over.”

“So, um, Anna,” Kristoff began, “it’s a funny thing…”

“Well, if everyone is just waiting around,” Anna said, “maybe I should just go introduce myself and then get changed.”

“Anna,” Elsa grabbed her sister’s arm, “I’m so sorry, I have no idea how it happened, but the women thought I was you, and they dressed me up in this, and blindfolded me, and I’m not quite sure-”

“Technically, Elsa and I are married now,” Kristoff explained.

“Wait, what?” Anna exclaimed.

“We had no idea,” Kristoff blurted out, grabbing her hand. “I swear, or it wouldn’t have happened!”

Anna stood, twisting her mouth, then biting her lip. “So, um, what have you done… like… with each other?”

Elsa and Kristoff stopped and looked at each other, and burst out laughing.

Elsa took a moment to catch her breath. “No, Anna, that wasn’t part of the ceremony. They had us holding hands, that was it.

“Oh, good!” Anna sighed in relief, “because that would’ve been kind of awkward, really.”

Kristoff gave half a smile, simply thankful that Anna wasn’t making this more stressful than it already was. He cleared his throat. The three of them had been in a bubble, with nobody else bothering them for now.

“So, um, we need to figure out what to do about this,” he finally said.

“At least nobody’s signed the license yet,” Anna laughed, pulling out a large manila folder from her bag.

“Oh! Of course!” Elsa said with relief. “You told me you were getting that.”

“Wait,” Kristoff said, looking around, does that mean none of this is legal?”

Bulda looked over. “Shhh! Kristoff!”

“Oh, sorry, Ma,” he said, looking suddenly guilty, “I wasn’t talking about the… crops.”

“Wait, Kristoff,” she asked, “who is this?”

“This is Anna.”

“Oh! Oh! I see!” the woman said giddily, going over to shake Anna’s hands. “We need to perform the annulment ceremony now!”

“Um, hello?” Anna said.

“Wait, annulment?” Elsa asked. “What do I have to do?”

Kristoff shrugged. “I’ve never seen that one.”

“I can’t remember the last time we had one,” Bulda admitted. “Cliff! Can you come over here?”

A man walked over toward them. “What’s going on?”

“It seems the girl we married our Kristoff to wasn’t the one he meant to marry. Do you remember how to perform the annulment?”

“I don’t remember. When was the last one?”

“Maybe Hank will know? Didn’t he marry the wrong girl at first?”

“This has happened before?” Kristoff asked.

“Before you came here, Kristoff,” Cliff assured him.

“What about Grandpabbie?” Kristoff asked.

“We didn’t want to bother him,” Bulda said, “but we’ll go ask.”

Bulda and Cliff started their way over to the other side of the yard. Kristoff looked at Elsa and Anna, and started walking, giving them a wave to follow.

Kristoff realized he had never given much thought to the traditions here, and while he knew very well that it was all much newer than the members of the Community liked to claim, he also thought that the elders had a better grip on what was what. But as long as they could fix this, who was he to complain?

“Grandpabbie!” Cliff called into the house.

“What is it?” the old man called as he slowly came down the stairs.

“It seems we married Kristoff to the wrong person,” Bulda explained. “Do you remember how the Annulment ceremony works?”

Grandpabbie looked solemn and thoughtful. “It’s been many years.”

He gestured for Cliff and Bulda to follow him inside, closing the door behind them.

Kristoff glanced over at Elsa, who was looking like a deer in headlights. Anna was still holding on to the blank marriage license.

“Kristoff,” Anna wshispred.

“Yes?” he said as quietly as he could.

“Can we, maybe, just head to the courthouse on Monday?”

“Totally,” Kristoff nodded, but then stopped himself. “Just… let’s get this part done, or else visiting my family will be really awkward.”

“How long will this take?” Elsa asked. “Even if this isn’t legal, it’s… weird. No offense, Kristoff.”

“None taken.”

A crowd was gathering behind them. Kristoff introduced Anna to a few of his younger cousins, and she and Elsa explained the confusion.

The door opened and everyone immediately hushed.

Grandpabbie stood in front of them. “Kristoff, Elsa, follow me.”

“And me?” Anna asked.

“Another day,” Grandpabbie told her gravely.

Kristoff looked over his shoulder and mouthed “Monday” to Anna as she stood watching them be led off by Grandpabbie.

Kristoff and Elsa were led to the edge of the woods, and Grandpabbie opened the gate along the barbed wire fence.

“Wait,” said Kristoff, “I thought this was the neighbor’s property.

“Kristoff,” Bulda said, walking over. “We told you it was off limits, that’s all.”

“Oh.” He looked around. The woods beyond the fence looked just like the rest of the woods in the area.

Then they arrived at a small cave.

Grandpabbie stood at the entrance, facing them, not saying a word.

Kristoff was used to this. Many ceremonies involved standing silently.

“What’s going on?” Elsa asked after barely a minute.

Kristoff cleared his throat, but it wasn’t his place to speak here.

“The first to speak goes into the cave,” Grandpabbie told her.

“A cave? Really? Then what?”

“Return, and it will be as if nothing ever happened.”

“And will someone come and find me if I get lost?”

“No one has been lost yet,” Cliff assured her.

Elsa looked at Kristoff before crawling into the cave.

“Where does the cave go?” Kristoff asked.

“I don’t know,” Grandpabbie admitted.

“I thought you said you’ve done this before!”

“Everyone comes back,” Cliff assured him.

Elsa sat in the cafe and sipped her coffee.

“Wait,” Honeymaren said, “I’m confused. So you were lost in a cave? What then?”

“The cave went into somebody’s basement.”

“At that commune?”

“No, I don’t even know whose house it was, but nobody was home. I snuck out the back, and luckily the wedding tents were pretty easy to see,” Elsa laughed. “Anna was pretty surprised, I have to say.”

“So, they got married then?”

“Of course. They just skipped having Kristoff’s family do it after that.”

“And his family?”

“They were too embarrassed to say anything about it. Thankfully they’re Anna’s in-laws, not mine.”

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