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XXI. Figmentations

1 Day Later

 

Glinda Upland, former Witch of the North and now affectionately known as the Good Witch of the Compass, waved at the Ozians gathering around her glass carriage. The clear dome that enclosed the vehicle was reminiscent of her bubble and always drew a great deal of attention.

 

She smoothed back her dress with her free hand. It had been a long couple of days, and she felt self-conscious in the cloak and traveling gown she was now wearing. Never mind the beautiful silk of the cloak or the stylish one-shouldered design of the dress. Glinda preferred to make public appearances in her fancier, full-skirted gowns.

 

As she continued to wave and smile, Glinda focused on what she would do when she arrived home. She hoped that Psudina and Gabryel would understand if she chose to be alone before dinner.

 

“Thank you, Meinhart,” she said to her Munchkin coachman, as they pulled up to the palace. Meinhart smiled and helped her out of the carriage. Leaving the guards to attend to her luggage, Glinda made her way to the palace door.

 

Glinda was still unnerved by Sarima’s report of Ozma’s Brigade and the two men who had tried to kidnap Nor. Though she knew that not everyone liked her, she was nonetheless fearful that a rebel faction was trying to unseat her. Perhaps a warm bubble bath would help put things in perspective and provide some relaxation in advance of the hectic preparations for her upcoming engagement ball. If she appealed to Boq, then he could inform Psudina and Gabryel of her need to rest.

 

She opened the door to the palace, fully expecting to see her assistant’s shiny silver face. But Gabryel sat at the desk normally occupied by Boq. He lit up when he saw her.

 

“Mom!”

 

“Greetings, dearest!” Glinda said, giving her son a hug. She noticed that Gabryel was wearing a polo shirt and slacks instead of the St. Ozma’s uniform he was still wearing at Camp Gabryel. “Did you and Auntie Psue have a smooth journey home?”

 

Gabryel nodded. “We have so much to tell you!”

 

“I’m sure you do.” Glinda suppressed a shudder as she imagined Gabryel’s tales of their camping exploits. She was thankful that Psudina and Boq were there to nurture Gabryel’s more boyish interests. “Is Boq around, by chance?”

 

“No, Aunt Psudina had him take the day off. He’ll be back tomorrow. But never mind that. Wait till you hear what Aunt Psudina learned yesterday! It’s terrifically exciting!”

 

Before Glinda could protest, Gabryel pulled her into the parlor next door.

 

“Hello, Auntie Psue!” Glinda said, seeing Psudina on one of the sofas. “Gabryel told me that your travels went well?”

 

“The most exciting thing happened to us!” Gabryel said, cutting in. “You’re not going to believe it when you hear.”

 

“Oh, I’m sure I won’t,” said Glinda, forcing a smile. “Be that as it may, I’m horrendibly tired at the moment, and I think I’m going to take a bath. Would you mind telling me the story at dinner?”

 

“But-”

 

“Gabryel, I think perhaps we should wait until later,” Psudina said, surveying Glinda. “Let your mother rest. There’s no rush.”

 

Glinda resisted the urge to hug her aunt in gratitude. “Thank you, Auntie Psue. I do appreciate it.

 

“Besides, Gabry, I almost forgot!” She reached into her purse and pulled out a rectangular package. “I’ve been meaning to give this to you as a welcome home present and congratulotions for finishing your first year at St. Ozma’s. Perhaps you can get started on it before dinner.”

 

Frowning, Gabryel tore open the paper. He stared at the present in his hands. “A book? You got me a book?”

 

“Don’t look so surprised,” Glinda teased, silently thanking Boq for recommending the book in question. “I have seen you read before.”

 

“I know, but you usually-”

 

“I’ll be back for dinner,” Glinda said, kissing Gabryel’s head. “I hope you enjoy it.”

 

Just before Glinda started up the stairs to her bedroom, Psudina stopped her. “Oh, and Glinda? I gave all your servants a few more days off, so I’ll be making dinner.”

 

Glinda suppressed a sigh. Why did her aunt always feel the urge to interfere? She never understood why Psudina was so against the notion of servants. It wasn’t as though they weren’t well paid, after all. “All right. I look forward to tasting whatever you prepare.”

 

Moments later, she breathed a sigh of relief as she inhaled the lavender potpourri of her bedroom. The maids had done a good job of cleaning her room, and everything was in its place. Her pink lace bedspread was neatly folded at the foot of her bed, and her collection of pillows was arranged in just the right pattern. The magazines on her nightstand were carefully stacked, and the objects on the matching white dresser were artfully displayed. She smiled, noting that even her shoes were in their proper places. Glinda had a special shelf for shoes above her bed at Shiz, and she had been using the same storage system ever since.

 

With that settled, she walked to the double doors of her massive wardrobe, threw them open, and prepared to search for her bathrobe. But before she could begin her search, a loud squeal pierced the room. Glinda pulled back one of her dresses and found herself staring into a pair of wide brown eyes.

 

She clapped a hand to her mouth, suppressing a shriek of her own. Though the presence of someone in her closet would have been disarming under any circumstances, it was the familiarity of those eyes that startled her above all.

 

A memory came to her. She saw herself standing in a tower at Kiamo Ko, looking into those same brown eyes for the last time. Though she could feel her own eyes filling with tears, the intensity of those brown eyes stopped her. Be strong, Glinda, they seemed to be telling her. You need to be strong. For both of us.  

 

The sound of footsteps echoed through the room, alerting them to the Witch hunters’ impending arrival. “You have to hide,” Elphaba hissed, and for the first time, Glinda saw her eyes flicker with fear. “No one can know you were here.”

 

So Glinda had hidden, and Elphaba had turned away, and she had never seen those eyes again.

 

Until now.

 

Her heart began racing faster than any time she could remember: faster than when she had been challenged in public, faster than when the Ozians had asked her if she had truly been Elphie’s friend, and even faster than when she heard about Ozma’s Brigade. Glinda was so stunned she could not even squeal.

 

At that moment, more than anything else in the world, Glinda wanted to walk towards those eyes. She wanted to inhale her friend’s rough scent and look from her black dress to her dark hair. She yearned to throw her arms around her and to vow never to let go. Crying and laughing, Elphie would explain everything, and they would never part again.

 

Still, even Glinda knew that this was impossible. Elphaba was dead, and she would never return. She was gone. Except for the world of what-might-have-been, these eyes were not Elphie’s. They couldn’t be Elphaba’s.

 

And they weren’t.

 

Before her stood a small girl just a few years older than Gabryel and about the same height as Glinda sans heels. Her brown hair was pulled back in a long braid that was reminiscent of Elphaba’s at Shiz, and her bangs were in desperate need of trimming. Her thin face and pointed chin were as similar to Elphie’s as the girl’s eyes, but then Glinda lingered on the tiny mole below the girl’s left eye and her straight nose. Why did looking at this girl bring back memories that Glinda had tried to suppress for so long?

 

Fiyero.

 

The girl wore a black dress and brown boots, both of which looked especially plain next to the dresses in Glinda’s closet. Glinda shuddered when she noticed the mud on her boots. Glinda would have explained her objection to mud in her closet had it not been for the girl’s most prominent feature: her skin. It was the same shade of emerald green as Elphaba’s had been. To Glinda’s further surprise, the girl reached down to pick up something on the floor of the wardrobe. When she straightened, Glinda realized that she was holding the Grimmerie.

 

It was the combination of the green skin and the Grimmerie, Elphaba’s parting gift, which sent everything spinning into focus. There was only one logical reason for the girl’s appearance. Without warning, she burst into hysterical laughter.

 

“Very-funny-Boq,” she gasped, looking around for the tin man in question. “You almost had me going! I should have guessed from the moment I saw her that this was another ploy for me to tell Wroc the truth. I can’t believe I almost fell for it!”

 

Still giggling, Glinda turned back to the girl, who was now gawking at her, and gave her the wide smile she used whenever she made public appearances. “You don’t have to play along any longer, dear. I understand about your little joke. Now where is Boq, anyway? I’m sure he’s hiding somewhere.”

 

“Boq has nothing to do with this,” said the girl. “You see, my name is Saguaro, and…”

 

“Of course Boq has something to do with this. I’m sure he made you promise not to give him away.” Glinda motioned for the girl to come out, and, hesitating, the girl complied.

 

Glinda walked over to her nightstand for a handkerchief. “I must say, Boq’s timing has never been worse! I’ve been traveling, and while I never turn down a chance to meet one of my fans, I am quite exhaustified. Would you mind if we make this a short visit?”

 

“Actually…”

 

Glinda returned to the girl and began rubbing the handkerchief against her face. In response, the girl jerked away. “What are you doing?” she snapped.

 

“I’m helping you take off that green makeup. Now come along, dear. I’m quite skilled at this sort of thing.”

 

The girl crossed her arms. “But this isn’t makeup at all! I turned myself green.”

 

Glinda chortled again. The girl was a very good little actress. Turned herself green, indeed! As though any mother in her right mind would let her daughter cast any such spell.

 

“Well, if that’s true, then let me congratulate you on a job well done,” said Glinda. “You’re positively emerald. Phosphorescent from head to toe! I suppose you found the spell in the Grimmerie?”

 

“The what?”

 

She nodded to the book the girl was still holding.

 

The girl looked down at the book. “Is that what this is called? I just saw it in your closet and wanted to look through it. I dropped it when I heard you coming. I’ve never seen such an old book of spells before. The symbols in it are very different from the book I’ve been using. Mine has transliterations.”

 

“My, you really can do sorcery,” said Glinda, impressed. “Boq certainly picked you well! Most people I speak to don’t know anything about the differences between old spell books and newer ones. Who taught you, dear? Perhaps I know your instructor.”

 

The girl opened her mouth, then looked Glinda over, as if contemplating her answer. “Actually,” she said, with a perfect impression of Elphaba’s trademark sarcasm, “I have a feeling that you do.”

 

Glinda, taken aback by this accurate imitation, was stunned into silence. The girl took advantage of the pause and continued to speak.

 

“I’m sorry if I startled you, but I promise that Boq had nothing to do with this. Psudina told me that you think my parents are dead, and even though I don’t understand why, I can understand why you’re reluctant to believe me. I’m sorry for hiding in your closet, too. It’s just that I’ve never met anyone who knew my mother before-I mean, aside from Psudina and possibly Doctor Dillamond-and all my life, I’ve wondered about you. My dad told me that my mom was friends with her roommate, and I’ve never met any of my mother’s friends before. A human one, that is. Sweet falls, she wouldn’t be happy with me if she heard me say that. Of course an Animal friend is every bit as good as a human one. That isn’t what I meant at all!

 

“But the thing is, once I realized this was your bedroom, I couldn’t help myself from looking in-not to snoop, but just to see if you really are as different from my mom as my dad described, which you are, by the way. But since Psudina had promised to tell you about me when you got back, I hid in your closet when I heard you coming, just in case Psudina hadn’t had the chance to explain yet. And I guess I was right; you didn’t know…but the closet wasn’t a good hiding spot, because you found me.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said again, as if finally realizing how much she had said. She twirled a strand of loose hair. “I never talk this much. I mean, I do talk a lot sometimes, but I never ramble, and I don’t ever lose track of my point like this. I don’t even think I’ve told you my name.” She held out the skirt of her dress and bent down in an awkward curtsey. “My name is Saguaro Throgelaar, and it’s so nice to meet you. Gabryel wanted me to tell you that it’s Saguaro with a ‘guh,’ not the silent ‘g’ of the cactus. I don’t know why, but Psudina said you’d explain later and that you would find it funny. I think my parents have an inside joke about it too, because they always laugh whenever I tell people how to pronounce my name, but they won’t ever tell me why. Not that they’ve ever told me the truth about anything else, either.”

 

She looked at Glinda expectantly, still twirling her hair. Glinda felt faint. She found herself wishing for a cool glass of water or the warm bubble bath that now seemed out of the question.

 

You’re dreaming, she told herself. It was the only logical explanation. For as good an actor as the girl might be, that did not explain the Elphie mannerisms she’d just exhibited. Glinda had heard Elphaba ramble in the same way when she was nervous, and Elphaba had also twirled her hair at such times. Boq, who had not known Elphaba very well, would not have suggested these traits to the girl.

 

You’re dreaming, she told herself again. It was the only thing that made sense. That part of her life was over, Elphaba and Fiyero were dead, and the girl was nothing more than a figmentation of her imagination. Perhaps the stress of her responsibilities had finally done her in. For all she knew, she was still in her carriage and had dozed off on the way to the Emerald City.

 

She closed her eyes and pinched herself, half hoping that she would wake up from the mocking dream. It was cruel that even her dreams were intent on showing her something that would never be. But when she opened her eyes, the girl was still there.

 

The girl cleared her throat. “Look, I can tell that I’ve startled you, so I’ll let you be. I’ll get Psudina. She can explain better than I can. But here.” She held the Grimmerie out in front of her in the same way Elphaba had so many years ago. “I’m sorry, by the way. I really didn’t mean to snoop. I was just curious when I saw it in your closet.”

 

As though controlled by an invisible force, Glinda took the Grimmerie from her. This caused something to dislodge from its pages, and a silver locket fell to the floor.

 

Before the girl could respond, Glinda scrambled to retrieve the locket. She dangled the chain in front of her eyes, mesmerized by the heart shaped charm with the handprint engraved on it. Just like the Grimmerie, the locket served as a harsh reminder of how things used to be.

 

She had been nineteen-years-old and still went by “Galinda” when her mother had sent her the locket. Gadonna had included tiny portraits of her and Galinda’s father, but Galinda was young, and for as much as she loved her parents, she loved her friends more. Overwhelmed by the decision of which friends to honor (she did have so many, after all!), she had finally decided on her boyfriend and roommate.

 

Glinda clicked open the locket. A photograph of Fiyero was on one side, still looking handsome after so many years. His arms were folded across his chest, and he playfully smirked at the camera. On the other side, Elphie wore the pink flower Galinda had insisted upon. She was raising her eyebrows, as if to question why this was necessary.

 

Neither Elphaba nor Fiyero had been excited about having their photographs taken. They had made excuses, but Galinda was persistent, and they eventually gave in. For the next month, Galinda wore the locket every day, but she stopped when she received another necklace from her mother.

 

Glinda forgot about the locket entirely until she found it again, shortly after Elphaba’s and Fiyero’s deaths. What had once been a passing fad became so much more. Though Elphaba and Fiyero had not been happy about getting their photographs taken, their eyes still glittered with the jauntiness of their youth. In many ways, these photos captured the old Elphaba and Fiyero more than any others.

 

Just before she died, Elphaba had told Glinda that she would always be with her, like a handprint on her heart. To honor this, Glinda went to a jewelry maker and had a handprint engraved onto the heart shaped locket. Whenever she wore it, she truly felt as though her best friend was with her.

 

She could not wear the locket often, as she could not risk the wrong person asking her about the photos inside. She had hid it in the Grimmerie for safekeeping. In fact, Glinda had only shared the locket with Gabryel, who had enjoyed her stories of Elphaba and Fiyero and had wanted to see pictures of them.

 

We were all so young then, Glinda had found herself thinking a few years earlier, as she watched her little boy study the pictures. She could not believe how long it had been since the photos were taken.

 

Gabryel, then seven-years-old, looked up and said something Glinda would never forget: “They died before I was born, didn’t they?” Although she knew that Gabryel had not meant to be profound, Glinda was nonetheless struck by her son’s insight. Gabryel, who had been born four years after Elphaba’s and Fiyero’s deaths, had never known them at all. How strange to think that the two most important people in her life-Elphaba and Gabryel-would never meet in this lifetime.

 

Now, as Glinda glanced from the photographs to the girl’s face, she was startled to realize that she had not imagined any of it. Everything about the girl reminded Glinda of Elphaba, from the long fingers she was fiddling with to the stubborn dimple on her chin. Her crossed arms even mirrored Fiyero’s in the picture. The only thing that did not add up was that she was clearly too young to be their daughter.

 

For the first time in a long while, Glinda forsook reason and opened herself up to possibility. Fiyero had changed so much in the years since she had first known him, and even Elphie might have had better maternal abilities than she’d exhibited with Dorothy. Glinda remembered a conversation during which she had told Elphaba about a fight with her mother, and the whole conversation had turned to mothers. Elphie’s expression had been laced with the same feelings Glinda was experiencing right now: wishing and wondering.

 

It would hurt terribly if she let herself hope, and this girl turned out to have no connection to Elphaba and Fiyero, after all. But maybe, just maybe, everything would turn out fine in the end.

 

The girl had abandoned her pose and was now kneeling next to Glinda. She reached out, as if to touch the photos in the locket, then stopped herself. She turned to Glinda. When she spoke, her voice was filled with wonder.

 

“Are these my parents?”

 

Glinda gasped. She cupped the girl’s face and allowed herself to absorb the wonderful truth: the girl’s eyes might not have been Elphaba’s, but they were inherited directly from her.

 

“Oh my Oz,” she murmured. “You really are their daughter.”

 

The girl rewarded her with a Fiyeroesque grin. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

 

For one short moment, Glinda was overwhelmed with happiness. All of her dreams had just come true, and she no longer had anything left to wish for.

 

But then reality set back in. If Elphaba and Fiyero were alive, then things had just become very complicated. Glinda, more than anyone, knew the price of dreams coming true.

 

She drew away and looked around the room, suddenly feeling quite light-headed.

 

“Sweet Oz. How will I tell the Ozians that the Wicked Witch of the West isn’t dead, after all?”

 

The last thing she saw before her vision blurred and everything went black was the girl’s profoundly stunned face.

 

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