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XXII. Saguaro’s Discovery

 

“Vile, green, obscene, libertine. Wicked Witch of the West haunted me once, but not now…never again…”

 

“I don’t doubt they have. You see, the Wicked Witch of the West was also green.”

 

“Are you related to her? I bet you are. I bet she’s your mother, and she was so Wicked that you ran away. Then we found you, and you’re safe, but you’re still scared that your mother will find you at any minute.”

 

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

 

Saguaro had been frightened the first time her heart raced back in the tunnel. Now she recognized that she hadn’t known anything about real fear.

 

It isn’t true, she thought. She repeated it again, fiercer this time. I must have heard Glinda wrong. It isn’t true!

 

She raced over to Glinda, who was sprawled on the floor, and began shaking her. After a few moments, Glinda opened her eyes. Saguaro offered her hand and helped her sit up.

 

“Are you all right?” she asked.

 

Glinda nodded, still looking a little dazed. Her voice came out softer than before. “Yes, I don’t know what happened. I used to be prone to fainting when I was younger, but I haven’t fainted in a long time.” She forced a laugh. “I suppose you gave me a bit of a shock.”

 

She said something else, but Saguaro was no longer paying attention. Nothing in the world mattered besides Glinda answering her question.

 

“Tell me it’s not true,” she said, cutting her off. Her voice came out low and pleading. “Tell me that isn’t what you meant.”

 

Glinda’s forehead wrinkled. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about, dear.”

 

“Yes, you do. You said something before you fainted about telling the Ozians that the Wicked Witch of the West is alive. I just don’t understand what the Witch of the West has to do with my parents.” She swallowed hard. “Did you really mean what I thought you meant?”

 

Glinda’s whole expression began to change. She stared at Saguaro, as if seeing her clearly for the first time.

 

“Oh my Oz,” she said quietly. “They didn’t tell you, did they?”

 

“Tell me what?” said Saguaro, her anxiety escalating.

 

“I thought it was strange that you had willingly put yourself in danger by coming here,” said Glinda, shaking her head. “I just didn’t expect anything like this.”

 

“Anything like what?”

 

Glinda put an arm around her shoulder. “Give me just a tick tock. It’s been a very exhaustifying day for me, and I need some time to process this. Would you mind bringing me a glass of water? There’s a pitcher on my nightstand.”

 

Saguaro forced herself to stand up and walked over to Glinda’s nightstand. Her stomach was beginning to hurt from the anticipation and anxiety.

 

As Saguaro poured the water, Glinda examined her. “You look so much like her, you know-your mother, that is. Even if you weren’t green, I would think so. You have the same shaped face as she did-well, does.”

 

Saguaro’s stomach ached. Though she never liked being compared to her mother, under the current circumstances, it was the last thing she wanted to hear.

 

Saguaro finished pouring the water and brought it to Glinda. “Are you going to answer my question now?”

 

Glinda accepted the glass and smiled at Saguaro. “If you don’t mind, I think we should talk elsewhere. I have quite a few questions myself. Do you like tea? Perhaps I can make us some. It would be the perfect drink for a conversation like this.”

 

“I don’t want to wait for tea,” said Saguaro. She had never felt such desperation. “I want to know now. You don’t have to tell me everything. Just answer my question. Please.”

 

Glinda ignored her. “Do you prefer herbal or caffeinated? I generally prefer mine caffeinated, since I have trouble starting the day without it, but under the circumstances, I think herbal might be better. We have chamomile, mint, and ozerberry. Of course, Auntie Psue may have brought some special tea from Quadling Country, which is certainly worth a try. I can never remember the name of it, but it is especially soothing. If you do favor caffeinated tea, then we have-”

 

I already told you. I don’t want to wait for the tea!”

 

The force of her words hit Glinda like a blow to her chest. She stared at Saguaro, her mouth open. Saguaro took advantage of this lapse in conversation and continued speaking.

 

“Psudina told me that if my parents could pick one person besides themselves to tell me this story, it would be you. So you have to tell me. You just have to! I don’t care whether you break the news gently or whether you shout it out. I’ve come all this way, and I can’t stand a minute more of not knowing. You must tell me! Please!

 

“I know you’re scared about what my reaction is going to be, but I can promise that whatever I’ve built up in my head is far worse than what you’re going to tell me. I’ve imagined things, so many things, like my mom being sick or my dad not being my real father, neither of which is remotely true.” She realized for the first time that she was close to tears. “If you asked me what I thought the secret was now…and this is crazy…but if you were to ask me what I thought the secret was now…well, I’d say that my mother is the Wicked Witch of the West. But that’s-that’s crazy, isn’t it? I mean, there must be a reasonable explanation for why you thought the Wicked Witch is alive after you found out about my parents! There has to be!”

 

Tears were streaming down Glinda’s face. She moved her lips, as if to speak, but no sound came out. After trying to talk again, she shook her head and pantomimed that she could not speak.

 

A horrible thought occurred to Saguaro. Strange magickal things had happened the last times she’d become angry or hysterical, so was it possible that she was responsible for Glinda’s muteness? She had wanted Glinda to stop talking about the tea, after all.

 

Jolting Saguaro back to the more pressing matter, Glinda put down her cup and opened her arms for a hug. When Saguaro stared at her, she moved her lips again. This time, Saguaro could easily read what she was mouthing: I’m sorry.

 

Time slowed at that moment. Glinda did not have to say anything else, but Saguaro knew.

 

It was now no surprise that her powers had erupted in the past, Saguaro realized as she tore out of the room. After all, her mother was the Wicked Witch of the West.

 

****

 

Psudina had given Saguaro a guest bedroom on the floor above Glinda’s. Once there, Saguaro flopped onto her bed and clung to her pillow, as if the pillow would stop her from floating away.

 

When she felt more grounded, Saguaro buried herself under her blankets. The silky duvet cover was a stark contrast to her patchwork quilt at home.

 

Glinda and Psudina each knocked at her door, but Saguaro ignored them. She needed to be alone.

 

Normally, when Saguaro was upset, she was able to reason out the situation at hand. Even when she’d learned about her father being Fyre, she had been able to put aside her own feelings and approach Psudina. Now, Saguaro could not even think. She was only conscious of the word Wicked repeating itself over and over in her head.

 

She curled up in a ball and tried not to let the word overwhelm her.

 

****

 

Saguaro was walking along a street in the Emerald City when a mob of Ozians marched past her. They were all waving pitchforks and were dressed in heavy, dark clothes. The green lights of the Emerald City illuminated their sinister grins.

 

“Kill the Witch!” yelled a woman, standing next to her. When Saguaro turned towards her, she was gone.

 

Nearby pedestrians began rushing to join the rabble. Saguaro recognized the little girl who had bought the green lemonade from the day before. She blinked, and the mob tripled in size. Now, only one man stood with her.

 

“Good fortune, Witch hunters!” the man cried. He then joined the crowd, leaving Saguaro alone.

 

The mob started racing through the city. Saguaro tried to run after them, but it was as though she were running through sand or mud. She opened her mouth, but found that she could not speak.

 

I have to stop them, she thought to herself, as she struggled to catch up. I can’t let them get to her!

 

Suddenly, the mob stopped. One beady-eyed man waved his pitchfork and addressed the others. “I bet it’s Glinda!” he said. “She’s the one who’s hiding her!”

 

Then they were all standing outside Glinda’s palace, and the beady-eyed man was ramming against her door…

 

“Um, Saguaro? May I come in?”

 

The next thing she knew, she was back in her room again, tangled in her duvet cover. Her entire body was clammy with sweat.

 

It was just a nightmare, she told herself, taking a deep breath. It wasn’t real.

 

Nonetheless, she could still hear the Witch hunter’s voices ringing behind her eyes.

 

The door opened. Gabryel stood in the doorway with a plate of cookies in his hands. His expression changed when he saw her.

 

“What happened?” Gabryel asked.

 

Saguaro smoothed back her hair and hoped she did not look as bad as she felt. “Everything’s fine. I just had a bad dream.”

 

“Was it about your mother?”

 

When Saguaro frowned at him, Gabryel came into the room. The sugary scent of the cookies wafted towards her. “Mom and Aunt Psudina told me what happened. We’re all really worried about you. That’s why I made you these cookies.”

 

“You made cookies for me?” Saguaro said in surprise.

 

Gabryel nodded. “Aunt Psudina taught me how to bake a long time ago, and I hoped it might make you feel better. Would you like one?

 

Before she could respond, he sat down on the floor and motioned for her to join him. Once she was seated, he handed her a cookie. It appeared to be a cookie that was dusted with sugar and cinnamon.

 

Upon taking her first bite, Saguaro discovered that she had been right. “This is so good,” she said, swallowing. “Thank you.”

 

“Aunt Psudina is the one who made them up,” said Gabryel. “It’s my favorite recipe.”

 

“Well, it’s delicious.”

 

The cookie reminded her that she had not eaten dinner. She gobbled her cookie in just a few bites, but Gabryel was slower with his. Rather than taking a bite from the whole cookie, he broke off a small piece.

 

She had just bit into her second cookie when Gabryel said, “You know, for what it’s worth, I’ve always admired your mother.”

 

She choked on her cookie. Gabryel blushed.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said, as she struggled to swallow. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

 

“No, it’s all right,” said Saguaro when she could breathe again, ignoring the sinking in her stomach. Hearing Gabryel’s reference to her mother jolted her into remembering what she’d been trying so hard to forget. “I just didn’t realize you knew anything about her. Do Psudina and your mother talk about her?”

 

“Mostly my mother,” said Gabryel. “She used to tell me all sorts of stories about her. She wanted to make sure I knew that she wasn’t really Wicked.” He glanced at her face and froze. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that, not when you just found out.”

 

“No, it’s okay,” said Saguaro, pushing her feelings aside. “I didn’t realize your mother ever talked about mine.”

 

Gabryel nodded. “She doesn’t talk about her as much now, but she used to all the time when I was younger. She’d tell me stories every night before I went to bed. She said that I reminded her of your mother because of how much I love to read. I’ve always looked up to your mother. I even pretended for a while that she and Fiyero were my biological parents and that Elphaba gave me up for adoption after Fiyero died.” His ears turned pink. “I knew it was impossible, since they were supposed to have died years before I was born, but I still pretended. I can’t believe they’ve been alive all this time.”

 

Against her will, Saguaro thought of Fyre. She, better than anyone, understood the allure of bedtime stories. It just hurt that Gabryel knew more about her parents than she did.

 

“Well, if it makes you feel better, you’re not the only one having trouble digesting this,” she said bitterly. “I can’t understand why everyone thinks my parents are dead.”

 

Gabryel broke off another piece of cookie. “Aunt Psudina told me yesterday that you ran away from home to find out about your parents. Is that true?”

 

Avoiding Gabryel’s gaze, she nodded. “I bet you’re glad they’re not really your biological parents now, aren’t you?”

 

Gabryel shrugged. “I can see why it might be hard to be their child, but I still think your parents are great. I don’t think I would be very good at being their child, though. I could never do something brave like running away. They were brave, so it makes sense that you are too.”

 

“You wouldn’t think my parents were brave if you knew them,” said Saguaro, ignoring the tiny, internal voice that was questioning her own motivations for running away. “If they were truly brave, they’d have faced their pasts, and I never would have had to run away in the first place.”

 

“Well, maybe you’re more like they used to be, then.”

 

She chewed on her bottom lip, considering this. Gabryel swallowed his last bite of cookie and then grew somber.

 

“I’m really sorry for the way I reacted when I saw you talking to Doctor Dillamond,” he said quietly. “I know I already apologized, but I didn’t really explain. You see, Doctor Dillamond was really close to your mother, and I didn’t want him to get his hopes up by seeing another green girl. That’s why I made you hide before my mom saw you. But I shouldn’t have. You are their daughter.” He looked down at his lap. “Maybe if my mom had seen you then, she wouldn’t have blurted out the truth like she did, and we wouldn’t be here now.”

 

Observing the guilt-stricken boy before her, Saguaro was overcome with a surge of tenderness, not unlike what she’d felt for Nor. Though Gabryel was only three years younger than she was, she suddenly felt much older. She sensed herself beginning to soften.

 

“You shouldn’t beat yourself up about that,” she said. “There’s no way you could have known that I was their daughter. And even if you did overreact to me talking to Doctor Dillamond, you’ve more than made up for it with your thoughtfulness and concern.” She attempted a joke. “You may not think you’d fit as the son of my parents, but you’re certainly good at being the son of Glinda the Good.”

 

An unreadable emotion crossed Gabryel’s face. “Maybe so.”

 

It occurred to her for the first time that both she and Gabryel were connected by the identities of their mothers. Not only had their mothers been best friends, but Saguaro and Gabryel were the only children of the four Witches of Oz. She was not sure what to make of this realization.

 

Before Saguaro could consider this much further, the door opened behind them. Gabryel and Saguaro turned around to see Psudina holding a silver platter of spinach and artichoke tart.

 

“Did you enjoy the cookies?” she asked, putting down the platter.

 

Saguaro stiffened. She had been able to distract herself from thinking about the implications of her mother’s identity with Gabryel, but she could not do so with Psudina.

 

Before she knew it, Psudina’s arms were around her in a strong embrace. “I’m so sorry, dear,” she kept saying. “I’m so, so sorry.”

 

Saguaro was too tired to hug her back.

 

“Where’s Mom?” said Gabryel after Psudina let Saguaro go.

 

“She’s over at Boq’s,” Psudina said. “She’s still trying to get her head around all of this. Boq has always been good at calming her down.”

 

“Is she going to tell Saguaro everything after she comes back?” asked Gabryel.

 

“Actually, she hoped that I would tell the story for her. I hope you don’t mind, Saguaro, but neither of us wants you to wait any longer than you have to.”

 

Saguaro considered this. Lately, she had been feeling like a marionette that had no choice but to conform to other people’s wishes. What she thought no longer felt important. Though she would rather have had Glinda tell the story, she was too exhausted to fight it.

 

She glanced across from her, where a mirror was hung above her dresser. Her reflection gazed back at her, looking even more haggard than she felt. This was perhaps the last time she would see herself before she discovered the full extent of the truth. In just a few moments, Psudina would begin the story, and everything would change.

 

She would no longer be Saguaro Throgelaar, the daughter of the green-skinned sorceress and the half Scarecrow of Cascadia. Instead, she would be the daughter of Elphaba Thropp and Fiyero Tigelaar, two people she barely knew existed.

 

“Are you ready to hear the story?” Psudina said quietly.

 

Saguaro tore her gaze away from the mirror as she said, “Go ahead.”

 

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