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XXIII. Alterations

Not wanting to intrude, Gabryel left the room. Saguaro glanced at Psudina, feeling more nervous now that the two of them were alone.

 

“You know, Saguaro, I will do my best with the story, but I wasn’t there for most of it,” Psudina said. “I was more behind-the-scenes, as it were.”

 

Saguaro moved a piece of food around her plate. “I don’t care about the details. I just want to know why everyone thinks my mom is wicked.”

 

“I can explain that. It’s a long story, and it will take a bit of time to get to the part you’re most curious about, so you may have to be patient. I suppose I should start with how your mother and Glinda first met. Do you remember how I mentioned that your mother met your father and Glinda at college?”

 

“Shiz University,” said Saguaro. “Yes, I remember.”

 

“The last time I saw your mother was a little before she started Shiz. We corresponded for a while after that and we almost saw each other a few times because of our mutual connection with Glinda, but it never worked out. Both your mother and your aunt Nessarose started Shiz at the same time, despite being eighteen months apart. Your aunt was confined to a wheelchair, and as a result, I think Frex coddled Nessarose and relied on your mother to look after her. He always referred to Nessarose as the future governor of Munchkinland who would one day take his place. Frex claimed that he was only sending your mother to Shiz because of her responsibility for Nessa, but your mother was still very excited about going. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so excited.”

 

Saguaro tried to imagine a younger version of her mother, her eyes aglow with excitement. The image eluded her.

 

“If my aunt was in a wheelchair, why didn’t my mother share a room with her at Shiz?” Saguaro asked, recalling how her mother and Glinda had been roommates. “Surely my aunt needed special assistance.”

 

“You know, that’ s a good question, Saguaro. I’m not quite sure how it happened. All I know is that a few days after the term began, I got a letter from a distraught Galinda, which is what Glinda went by at the time. Galinda always looked up to me and wanted to follow in my footsteps by studying sorcery. Madame Morrible, the headshiztress of the school, was a renowned sorceress who only taught a few talented students, and Galinda was devastated because someone else was selected instead of her.”

 

“My mother?”

 

“Exactly. I received a letter from your mother a few days later, which also described the experience. She had not been aware that she could do sorcery until that point and wanted to know if I had sensed her powers.”

 

“And what did you tell her?”

 

Psudina’s eyes grew sad behind her glasses. “I told her the truth. I’d sensed the strength of her powers when I first met her, but I chose not to say anything since I was afraid that Frex would react badly because of his religious views. I didn’t want to give him more of an excuse to resent your mother than he already had.” She glanced at Saguaro, who had begun to study the floor. “Are you angry with me?”

 

Saguaro shrugged. “It happened a long time ago, so there’s no use being mad now. I just had no idea that my mother had secrets kept from her, too.”

 

 

Saguaro was awakened the next morning by sunlight streaming through her windows. She closed the curtains, but the sunlight still peeked through. Clearly, the sun did not care about the terrible revelations of the night before.

 

She’d had a horrible night. After Psudina told her the story, Saguaro had been plagued by nightmares. This time, she saw them through her mother’s eyes. In one, her mother was trying to escape the Wizard’s guards, and in another, she was at Kiamo Ko, convinced that both her sister and Fiyero were dead. It was one thing to live through the events in the dreams, but quite another to experience her mother’s feelings.

 

Saguaro had no idea if she was having visions from her mother’s time as the Wicked Witch of the West or if she was imagining things. Psudina had warned her that traumatic shock could affect the nature of one’s sorcery powers, but Saguaro had not been prepared for this. She had enough to worry about without adding visions of the past to the mix.

 

Just as she closed her eyes in an effort to go back to sleep, the door opened. A singsong voice rang through the room. “Good morning, Saguaro! Time to wake up!”

 

Saguaro groaned. Glinda stood before her, dressed in a glimmering, full-skirted gown. Her hair was in a bun like the day before, and her earrings and necklace complimented her dress. Examining Glinda’s perfect makeup, Saguaro hoped that Glinda would not insist on giving her a makeover.

 

“Goodness, you’re not an early bird like your mother, are you?” Glinda said, as Saguaro continued to stare at her, a bit bewildered by Glinda’s peppiness after her grave mood the day before. “When we were roommates, she had to practically drag me out of bed so I would have time to get ready and make it to class on time. Of course, I thank your mother for that. I always make sure to wake up extra early now.”

 

“On weekends, my mother lets me sleep in,” said Saguaro, recalling that today was Saturday.

 

Glinda’s laugh resembled a high-pitched bell. “Oh, I don’t doubt that she does! But I’m sure that is when you have nothing else going on, and I have lots and lots planned for us today! How do you fancy a trip into the Emerald City?”

 

“Psudina told me that I need to stay hidden so people won’t suspect who my parents are.”

 

“Yes, but did she also mention that she asked the guards to ensure that everyone wear green glasses like they did during the Wizard’s Regime? The guards are locking the glasses in place to be true to how things were done in the Wizard’s time, so nobody will be able to take them off. No one is going to suspect who you are through those glasses. As long as we come up with a plausible lie regarding your identity and make sure that we stick to it, there’s no reason you can’t come along with me on my errands for the engagement ball.”

 

“Engagement ball?”

 

Glinda wiggled her left ring finger to reveal a ring with a large diamond surrounded by smaller pink sapphires. “Yes, I’m hosting an engagement ball next Friday. I’m afraid you won’t be able to come…I’m not going to force people to wear green glasses there, so it would be simply too dangerous…but there’s no reason you can’t come with me for a little shopping today. We might trim your bangs too, as long as we’re at it. I’ve noticed that they’re getting a little long.”

 

“I don’t like shopping,” Saguaro said quickly. She had never gone shopping and thus had no opinion, but shopping would ruin her plan to sleep all day. “And I’ve always trimmed my own bangs, so you don’t have to worry about that, either.”

 

Glinda laughed again. “You’re just like your mother! She didn’t like shopping, either. I’m sure she ruined your opinion of shopping before you could even give it a chance.”

 

“Actually, there aren’t many stores in Cascadia, so whenever I need a new dress, we usually go to the dressmaker.”

 

Glinda clapped her hands together. “Then you’ve never truly gone shopping! Oh, this is so exciting! Perhaps I can make a fashion lover out of you yet. I’ll let you get changed, and you can meet us downstairs for breakfast in fifteen minutes. We always have breakfast at eight, you see. After that, we can begin our day!”

 

“But-”

 

“Goodness, it’s so dark in here!” Glinda opened the curtains and beamed. “There, that’s better. Bye-bye, Saguaro! I’ll see you downstairs.”

 

She flounced out of the room. Saguaro turned to her stuffed Hedgehog, Bramble, with whom she had slept the night before.

 

She was my mother’s best friend?” she wondered aloud.

 

Bramble’s button eyes were scrunched in similar confusion.

 

*****

 

Though Saguaro normally did not put much thought into her appearance, Glinda had made her more self-conscious. All of her clothes were either wrong for her skin color or too dowdy. Her mother had always stressed practicality over appearance. While Saguaro normally agreed with her, today she wished that her mother had learned more from Glinda’s influence.

 

She finally settled on a black-and-white gingham dress and her straw hat. The gingham dress fit her better than any of her other outfits, and the straw hat had a pink ribbon that she thought Glinda would appreciate.

 

By the time Saguaro came downstairs, Gabryel, Psudina, and Glinda were already in the middle of their breakfast. “I’m sorry I’m late,” she said. “I must have lost track of time.”

 

“No worries. It was my fault,” said Glinda. “I should have known better than to give a girl your age only fifteen minutes to get ready. I’ll wake you up earlier tomorrow.”

 

Saguaro suppressed another groan.

 

“So, how are you feeling today?” Psudina asked her when she sat down. “Did you sleep all right?”

 

Saguaro shrugged, not wanting to explain about her nightmares. “I’m okay, I guess. No better or worse.”

 

“Saguaro, I feel posifyingly awful for the way I broke the news yesterday,” said Glinda. This was the first time she had spoken about the night before, and Saguaro was relieved that they were no longer tiptoeing around it. “I simply can’t tell you how sorry I am. I wouldn’t have mentioned anything if I’d known that Elphie and Fiyero hadn’t told you. I know that you talked to Psudina yesterday, but I would also like to talk to you when you’re ready.”

 

Saguaro’s heart sank. She had already done enough talking the previous night to last a lifetime.

 

“Maybe later,” she said. “I’m not in the mood to talk right now.”

 

“Oh, of course!” said Glinda. “We’ll have the conversation any time you wish. I just want you to know that I’m here whenever you’re ready.”

 

Psudina had prepared breakfast as she had their previous meals. Though Glinda employed a cook and other servants, they had been given leave while Glinda was at Camp Gabryel. Psudina extended their leave to minimize questions about Saguaro.

 

“I do miss their help, but it’s safer this way,” Glinda said, after explaining this to Saguaro. “I don’t want to worry about what I say in my own home.”

 

“Good thing Gadonna isn’t here now,” Gabryel said, referring to his grandmother, who was visiting the Upper Uplands and would not be home until Glinda’s engagement ball. “I don’t think she could live without servants.”

 

For her part, Saguaro could not imagine the cook’s food being better than Psudina’s. Today, Psudina had scrambled eggs with spinach and cheese and baked fresh muffins to go along with them. The eggs were so delicious that Saguaro took a second helping even though she was not very hungry.

 

The only inedible part of the meal was the sausage. While Saguaro knew from Ie’ello that the sausage was made from artificial meat proteins in accordance with the Animal Alternative Act, she still felt nauseous as she watched Gabryel and Glinda eat theirs. Even though it was not real meat, the prospect of eating anything that tasted like an animal revolted her. She wondered how Psudina, who was also a vegetarian, had stomached cooking the sausage.

 

After breakfast, Psudina and Gabryel took care of cleaning up, so Saguaro and Glinda could plan their day. As Gabryel and Psudina cleared the table, Glinda explained about their errands. She had a final gown fitting at nine-thirty, and from there, they would buy decorations for the ball. After that, they could spend the rest of the day however they chose.

 

“I’ve decided to introduce you as a distant cousin on my father’s side,” Glinda added, at a point when they were alone. “Most people know my mother’s family because of Auntie Psue, so my father’s side is safer. I can still introduce you as Saguaro Throgelaar, even if you won’t be Elphie’s daughter.”

 

“Why do you always call my mom Elphie?” said Saguaro.

 

“You’ve never heard anyone call your mother that?” Glinda asked, looking surprised.

 

“Never,” said Saguaro. “It seems too perky to fit my mother.”

 

“Then it probably won’t surprise you that I came up with the name,” said Glinda. “I’ve always like having special nicknames for people, and Elphie was my name for your mother.” She studied Saguaro. “You’re sure your father hasn’t called your mother that? Not even once?”

 

“Not that I can recall,” said Saguaro. “The only thing he’s ever called her besides her name is ‘greenest’ and ‘Fae,’ and that one was in a story.”

 

“Hmm,” said Glinda. A faraway look overcame her, and she was silent for a few minutes.

 

It wasn’t until Gabryel came to retrieve her cup that she said, “I suppose I need a nickname for you, too. Psudina tells me you also go by Guarie, but I want to call you something special that I come up with.”

 

Saguaro was not sure she was looking forward to this.

 

The Emerald City was more crowded than it had been on the first day she’d visited. From the dome of Glinda’s carriage, Saguaro looked out at the people carrying bags from recent purchases. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits. Just like the sunlight, these people were completely indifferent to her revelations from the night before.

 

The various shades of green began to blur around her. How could a color that was responsible for so much happiness also produce so much fear?

 

Glinda’s coach stopped in a quieter neighborhood. Only a few women walked along the street, and they barely glanced at Glinda and Saguaro as they exited the carriage. Saguaro noticed that their dresses were filled with even more adornments than the other outfits she had seen. She guessed that they were now in a more exclusive area of the city.

 

“We’re here!” Glinda said, pointing to a jeweled green sign that read “Lanetta’s Dresses For Ozsome Occasions.” Several mannequins showed off gowns in the boutique’s window. “Just in time, too. Ooh…look at that!”

 

She took Saguaro’s hand and rushed her towards the shop next door, where a ten-tiered wedding cake, adorned with intricate frosted flowers, was displayed in the window.

 

“I’ve always wanted a cake like that,” said Glinda wistfully. “This is the bakery that’s going to be supplying the treats for the ball, but I still need to think about my wedding cake. I’ve always liked white cake best, but I wouldn’t want to disappoint my guests who prefer chocolate. Perhaps I should do a mix. What do you think?”

 

“I’ve always been a chocolate fan myself,” said Saguaro, her attention no longer focused on the cake. A tall, well-dressed woman sneered at Saguaro as she walked by. Clearly, Saguaro should have chosen a different outfit.

 

She continued to feel self-conscious as they entered the boutique. Fancy dresses of all styles and sizes surrounded her, mocking her with their elaborate details. Saguaro gasped when she noticed one of the price tags. She had not even known that such expensive dresses existed.

 

A woman rushed towards them. “Lanetta!” Glinda squealed. The two embraced.

 

“I’m simply thrillified to see you,” said Lanetta, once the two had broken apart. She had short auburn curls peeking out from under a feathered hat and wore a layered, turquoise gown. “How was your trip?”

 

“Exhaustifying, but productive,” said Glinda. “Still, I am very grateful to be home. Speaking of which, allow me to introduce you to someone. Lanetta, this is Saguaro, a distant cousin of mine on my father’s side. She’s staying with me for a few weeks.”

 

“Hello,” said Saguaro, holding out her hand.

 

Lanetta ignored her hand and instead hugged her tightly. “Oh, how positively fortuitous to be related to Glinda! Your friends at home must be so jealous. Tell me, Miss Saguaro, what Land of Oz do you hail from? I’m usually quite skilled at determining where someone resides, but I’m having more trouble with you. I can see you’re not very Gillikinese, despite your relationship to Miss Glinda, but I can’t tell whether you’re Winkie or Munchkin.”

 

“As a matter of fact, I’m both Winkie and Munchkin,” said Saguaro, ignoring the voice reminding her that she needed to be as inconspicuous about her parents as possible. “My father’s from Winkie Country, and my mother is from Munchkinland, although we live in Winkie Country now. My mother has some Gillikinese blood, though, so that’s how I’m related to Glinda.”

 

Lanetta raised her thin eyebrows. “How very interesting! I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone half Munchkin and half Winkie before. It’s such an usual pairing!”

 

Lanetta looked so serious that Saguaro could not resist playing with her. “Theirs is a very interesting story. Nobody wanted a Winkie and a Munchkin to get together, but true love won out in the end, of course. Why, I doubt there’s ever been such an epic romance in all of Oz!”

 

Lanetta bought her act and expressed her enthusiasm over the story. When she left to retrieve Glinda’s gown, Glinda shook her head.

 

“What?” said Saguaro.

 

“I was just thinking how very much like your father you are. He wouldn’t have been able to resist toying with Lanetta, either. Still, it is nice to see you smiling.”

 

Saguaro, who had not realized she’d been smiling, frowned instantly.

 

Lanetta returned with the dress and herded them into a back room for the fitting. When Glinda stepped into the changing room, Lanetta bombarded Saguaro with a stream of questions about the plans for her stay. Saguaro responded with short, clipped answers and tried to pretend that she was somewhere else.

 

Despite her current mood, Saguaro was amazed when Glinda returned wearing a dark blue dress with ribbons sewn into the hem. On the bodice of the dress were tiny yellow and white rhinestones. They glimmered against the blue fabric like stars in the evening sky.

 

“What do you think?” said Glinda, holding up the skirt of the dress. “I decided to wear different shoes from the ones I wore at the first fitting, so I’m worried that it’s a little long.”

 

“It’s exquisite!” said Lanetta. “I agree that we should take off another inch, and I might need to resew the ribbons on the hem, but that should be all. You’re a vision, Miss Glinda. Positively splendified. Doesn’t she look beautiful, Miss Saguaro?”

 

Glinda’s and Saguaro’s eyes met. While Saguaro knew that she was supposed to agree with Lanetta, she was still angry at Glinda for dragging her there in the first place.

 

She gave a noncommittal shrug. “I don’t know much about dresses, but you look all right.”

 

The corners of Glinda’s mouth twitched, but she pulled herself together as Lanetta began pinning up her hem.

 

Saguaro had hoped that they would leave as soon as the fitting was completed, but Lanetta had other plans. “Miss Glinda, Miss Saguaro mentioned that she doesn’t yet have a dress for the engagement ball. I hope this isn’t too forward, but I have one that would be simply darling on her.”

 

“That really won’t be necessary,” said Saguaro quickly. “Glinda and I still have many other errands.”

 

“Oh, I think we can spare a few tick tocks,” said Glinda. “Thank you, Lanetta. That would be lovely.”

 

As Lanetta left to find the dress, Saguaro frowned at Glinda. “I thought you said I couldn’t go to the engagement ball.”

 

“True, but we don’t want to be rude. Besides, even if you can’t use it for the engagement ball, perhaps you can use it for another occasion.”

 

“Here it is,” said Lanetta, returning. “I do hope you like it!”

 

She held up a violet dress, which was much simpler than the others in the shop. Silver beading was sewn into the bodice, and the pleated skirt flared slightly at the hem. Unlike Glinda’s gown, which reached the floor, this one looked as if it would fall just below Saguaro’s knees.

 

“Oh, Saguaro, it’s perfect!” said Glinda. “You simply must try it on. Lanetta, would you mind leaving the two of us? It’s my first time taking Saguaro shopping, and I’d like to share this moment with her alone.”

 

“Of course not,” said Lanetta. “I’ll hang up your dress for alterations.”

 

Left with no other choice, Saguaro headed to the dressing room. Even as she began to slip it on, she could tell that it would fit. Perhaps Lanetta knew what she was talking about, after all.

 

“Saguaro, would you like me to come in and button the back?” Glinda called from outside.

 

“I’m fine!” She struggled to fasten the buttons, but finally succeeded. “Okay. You can come in now.”

 

Glinda caught her breath when she came in. “Oh, Saguaro, you look beautiful. Lanetta was right. The dress is perfect for you.”

 

Saguaro glanced into the full-length mirror. Even she had to admit that the dress looked good on her. The dress made her appear delicate rather than scrawny, and its color brought out the brown of her eyes and hair. She almost felt pretty, something she had never felt before.

 

Saguaro gave an experimental spin. The dress responded by circling in the air. She was surprised by how good it felt to twirl.

 

“We’re buying that dress,” said Glinda. “I don’t care if you wear it for the ball and nobody sees it, but we are getting it. Dresses like that don’t come along everyday.”

 

“Are you sure?” said Saguaro, not quite ready to admit how much she liked the dress.

 

“Positive. This gift is long overdue.”

 

Glinda sat down on a nearby chair. Saguaro caught a glimpse of her reflection in Glinda’s eyes and almost did not recognize herself.

 

“I so wish I had known you before now,” said Glinda. “I feel cheated that I didn’t get to be part of your life from the very beginning.”

 

Saguaro was taken aback by this more serious topic. “It’s okay. It isn’t your fault my parents never told me about you.”

 

“I know, but I still feel responsible. There’s so much of your life that I’ve missed. I would have taken you shopping long before now.”

 

“Knowing my mother, I’m not sure she would have let you,” said Saguaro.

 

Glinda winked. “I can be very persuasive when I want to be.”

 

She cleared her throat. “There’s something else that’s been bothering me. I apologize if this is inappropriate to ask, but are you sure your mother never mentioned me? I’ve always told Gabryel about your parents, and it seems odd that neither of your parents said anything. There’s the way you pronounce your name, of course, so I know they can’t have forgotten about me completely…but there’s a part of me that feels as if they have.” She spoke this last statement softly, as though ashamed of feeling this way.

 

Just like that, Saguaro’s carefree mood disappeared altogether. She could not believe she had almost fallen for Glinda’s bait.

 

“Is that why you’re buying me that dress?” she said quietly. “So you could get on my good side and ask me that?”

 

Glinda looked as though she had been slapped. “Saguaro, of course not! Wherever did you get such a cruel idea?”

 

“Well, what else am I supposed to think?” Saguaro snapped. She had been struggling to control her emotions all morning, and Glinda’s self-pity was the final straw. “You drag me out of bed the day after I find out the worst news of my life-on a trip that hasn’t been any fun, I might add-and then you start asking me why my mother never mentioned you without even asking me how I’m feeling. I don’t know why my mother never mentioned you! I just know that she never did!

 

“She isn’t the same Elphaba you knew, Glinda,” she added, lowering her voice. Upset as she was, she wasn’t about to reveal her identity by speaking too loudly. “I’ll answer your question, but I’m not sure you’ll like it. When Psudina told me what happened yesterday, I couldn’t believe she was talking about my mother. Yes, she still cares about Animals and stood up for me whenever anyone made a comment about my Ordinariness, but when it comes to the big things…well, I can’t even ask about her past without her shutting down. So I know you want to believe that there’s a reason my mother never mentioned you, but maybe there isn’t. Don’t waste your time wondering like I have.”

 

“Saguaro, that isn’t true,” Glinda said. “I refuse to believe that. And you haven’t wasted your time wondering. She’s your mother. It’s natural that you’ve wanted to learn more about her.”

 

“No, it’s not natural,” said Saguaro. “And do you know why?”

 

Her entire body tensed at the prospect of finally admitting her secret aloud. Still, she forced herself to continue.

 

“I’ve been wasting my time on someone who doesn’t care. My mother never even wanted me.”

 

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2 Responses to “XXIII. Alterations”


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