“You know, I feel badly for Glinda,” said Saguaro. “It must have been hard to share a room with someone who was chosen to be a sorcery student instead of you.”
“Yes, I imagine it was,” said Psudina. “I received many letters from Galinda, complaining about her green roommate. To be fair, I don’t think your mother liked Galinda very much, either. The two of them were so different. Galinda was very popular, and she focused on material concerns. Your mother had no time for that sort of thing. I believe you remember Doctor Dillamond, the Goat you met at Camp Gabryel?”
Saguaro recalled the way Doctor Dillamond had asked about her mother. “He was my mother’s teacher, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, and as I understand it, they were very close. Both your mother and Galinda were in his history class. Galinda often complained about how much time Doctor Dillamond spent praising your mother’s essays. Of course, she also had a personal gripe with Doctor Dillamond. He had difficulty saying Galinda’s name and always called her ‘Glinda’ by mistake. She liked to rant about it in her letters to me.”
“If it mattered so much to her, why she didn’t correct him?”
“Actually, she did. And do you know what she said to him?”
“She told him her name was, ‘Galinda with a guh’…a phrase I’d nearly forgotten until you came into the picture.”
“Saguaro, please wait,” Glinda said as the girl rushed towards her bedroom. “I need to say something.”
Saguaro paused midway up the staircase, her eyes flashing. For a short moment, Glinda was reminded so strongly of Elphaba that she had to force herself to think of Saguaro.
“What is it?” Saguaro said.
“I want to apologize. I know that you don’t understand why I took you with me this morning. I just wanted to do something fun with you after the way we started off last night. I’m so sorry it didn’t turn out that way.”
“Is that all?” said Saguaro, crossing her arms.
“Not exactly. We also need to have a little chat.” In truth, Glinda was not looking forward to this conversation, but she knew this was what she was supposed to say.
“I understand that you’re exhaustified, and I don’t blame you for wanting to end our shopping trip early, but we must talk.” She forced the encouraging smile onto her face that she used whenever she made public appearances. “I’m sure you’ll feel much better once we do.”
Saguaro’s eyes narrowed further. “I just want to be alone.”
“That’s understandable,” said Glinda, trying to mask her relief. “Just tell me when you’re ready.”
With only a short glance in Glinda’s direction, Saguaro rushed up the staircase. Glinda sighed, feeling more exhausted than she had in a long time.
She went to her bedroom to calm down and climbed into bed. But when she closed her eyes, everything hit her at once. Her responsibilities as Glinda the Good. Her upcoming engagement ball. Wroc. Fiyero. Elphaba.
“I’ve been wasting my time on someone who doesn’t even care,” Saguaro reminded Glinda in her mind’s eye. Though the real Saguaro had shrunk at this declaration, this Saguaro stood as tall as her mother. “My mother never even wanted me.”
The scene changed. Elphaba stood before her, dressed in the same black dress she had worn before her melting. “Promise me you won’t try to clear my name,” she told Glinda fiercely. “Promise me.”
For the past sixteen years, Glinda had tried to live up to that vow. She had restored Animal rights, learned spells from the Grimmerie, and smiled during the yearly anniversary of her friend’s death. Every time she was tempted to tell the Ozians the truth, she thought of her promise. It was all she had left of her best friend, and she was determined to keep it.
She missed Elphaba. She couldn’t pretend otherwise. For the past sixteen years, she had failed to fill the void that Elphaba’s death had created in her life. She’d adopted Gabryel and forged a friendship with Boq, but she continued to feel empty every time she thought of Elphaba. Her best friend was irreplaceable.
Sometimes, when Glinda felt the most alone, she would stare at the sky and imagine Elphaba looking down at her. “I hope you’re happy,” Glinda would whisper, the words tender instead of bitter, as they had been when she’d shouted them at Elphaba so many years before. “You and Fiyero both.”
Glinda was not a very religious person, but she did believe in the afterlife. It gave her the hope that Elphaba and Fiyero had found happiness together and that her own life’s work would not go unappreciated. Every time Glinda visited Doctor Dillamond or established another reform, she imagined Elphaba watching her. This helped whenever she received letters from disgruntled Ozians or wondered if her efforts were all for naught. As long as Elphaba was there for her, she knew she could handle anything.
But Elphaba hadn’t been there. Elphaba was not a spirit in the sky, but a real person with a life and family of her own. She hadn’t been supporting Glinda’s proposals, because she hadn’t known about them. She had not even told her own daughter about Glinda.
Her daughter, who was convinced that her mother did not want her.
Glinda opened her eyes and noticed a small hairbrush on the edge of her nightstand. Impulsively, she took it and flung it across the room. As the brush landed, Glinda was surprised by how good she felt. When she heaved one of her shoes against the opposite wall, the same pleasant sensation washed over her.
Before she knew it, she couldn’t stop herself, and soon the whole room was in disarray. Shoes and paperwork were scattered everywhere, blankets and pillows were tossed on the floor, and drawers were left hanging open. The only untouched part of the room was her closet, which had already transformed her life enough.
Once she was satisfied with the state of her room, Glinda took one of her pillows and screamed into it. Though she knew that no one could hear her, she felt a bit paranoid as she continued to scream.
A moment later, she understood the reason for her paranoia.
Boq stood in the doorway, a sheepish grin on his face. “I always seem to find you like this, don’t I?”
She brushed back her hair, though she knew it did not matter. Boq had comforted her through countless meltdowns over the years and had seen her cry just the day before. Ever since Dorothy’s departure, he had walked in on her worst moments of panic and self-doubt. When she was with Boq, she did not have to play the part of the Good Witch of the Compass. She could simply be Glinda.
Ordinarily, she would have rushed into Boq’s tin arms and explained everything. Boq had become her closest friend since Elphaba’s departure and always managed to put things into perspective. But as she looked into the grey eyes that had survived Elphaba’s spell, Glinda was reminded of the person Boq had been before. True, he had not known the truth, but he had tried to kill her best friend.
Their Shiz days felt so long ago.
“What are you doing here?” Glinda said, not quite meeting his gaze.
“I wanted to know how your shopping trip went,” said Boq. “You two were back earlier than I expected.”
“It went well.” Her back to Boq, Glinda began picking items off the floor. “Both of us were tired, that’s all. And don’t worry about any of this. I just had trouble finding something.”
Boq raised his eyebrows. Exactly three parts of Boq’s appearance had remained unaffected by the spell: his lips, his eyebrows, and his eyes. “Having trouble finding something doesn’t usually make your room look like it was hit by Dorothy’s tornado.”
“Well, that thing was especially difficult to find.” She replaced a pair of shoes on the shelf above her bed, then turned back to Boq. He was not smiling anymore and was now looking at her with concern.
“If you don’t mind, Boq, I’m very tired. I think I’ll take the bubble bath I was so looking forward to last night. I desperately need some time to relax.”
“Um-all right.” Boq cleared his throat, suddenly looking uncomfortable. “Do you want me to run the water for you? Well, I obviously can’t do it myself or I’ll rust…but I can ask if someone else will do it for you.”
“No, it’s fine.” Glinda had to smile at the image of Boq rusting in her bathroom. “I think I can do it myself.
“I’m sorry, Boq,” she added, as he turned towards the door. “I’m just so exhaustified. I promise I’ll find you if I need to talk.”
“All right.” He glanced over the room again, and when he looked back at her face, she knew that he understood what had really happened. “I’ll be happy to help you clean up the room when you’re ready.”
Just before he left, he touched her arm. His tin fingers felt cool on her skin. “Glinda, you don’t have to pretend with me. You know that, don’t you?”
But she spoke the words so softly that she was not sure Boq could hear her.
Glinda’s relaxation was short-lived. The next morning was filled with chaos. Boq had heard about a lecture that one of Gabryel’s favorite authors was giving nearby, and he and Psudina decided to take Gabryel to see him. When they announced this to Gabryel, he looked like Lurlinemas morning had just arrived.
“Which one of my stories should I give to him?” he asked at breakfast. “I really want to get his feedback, but I’m not sure which story is best. I was going to give him the beginning of my sequel to his Langwidere book, but maybe I should pick something original instead.”
As Gabryel continued to fret about which one of his stories to bring, Glinda snuck a glance at Saguaro, who was sitting across the table. For a very brief moment, their eyes met. Glinda quickly turned away. The two had still not had their conversation, but Glinda did not feel any more ready than she had the day before.
By the time Gabryel decided upon the stories he would bring (the start of the Langwidere sequel and an original short story), it was already noon. Boq, Gabryel, and Psudina would have to rush to arrive at the lecture on time.
Just before he left, Boq turned to Glinda. “Good luck with Saguaro,” he said quietly. Glinda, already suspicious that Boq had arranged the entire event to give her some alone time with Saguaro, did not respond.
She found Saguaro in the parlor, reading the Langwidere book Gabryel had lent her.
“Are you enjoying the book?” Glinda asked.
Saguaro responded without looking up. “So far.”
“I can’t say I understand the appeal of it,” Glinda admitted, taking the chair next to her. “The story of Langwidere gave me nightmares as a child, and chapters from the perspective of each of her heads seems rather pointless. They’re all defeated in the end, so why waste time getting attached to them?”
“You wouldn’t understand this book, then,” said Saguaro, finally looking up. “I’m not very far into it, but I think the writer is trying to make the point that the heads weren’t just heads; they were people, independent of Langwidere and her crime. You’re supposed to get attached. If you don’t, the story isn’t as meaningful.”
So much like Elphie, Glinda thought. Aloud, she said, “I suppose your mother taught you how to read? She does still read, doesn’t she?”
Saguaro shrugged. “I suppose. I haven’t spent much time with her as of late. But yes, she did teach me.”
She returned to the book. Knowing that it would be fruitless to start up another conversation, Glinda instead began to study Saguaro.
She certainly was quite Ozian in appearance, even if she hadn’t been raised that way. There was a reason Lanetta had not challenged Saguaro on her background. Saguaro’s nose was long and characteristically Winkie, and her small stature, something neither of her parents possessed, was clearly inherited from her Munchkin side.
Even Saguaro’s accent was not foreign. Though Glinda had noticed that Saguaro’s “a’s” were soft, for the most part, she pronounced her words like most Ozians Glinda knew. Glinda wondered if Cascadia did not have a distinctive accent or whether Saguaro had simply spent more time with her parents growing up than with her peers. Judging from Saguaro’s history as the “Ordinary” child of Cascadia, which Psudina had explained to her, Glinda guessed it was the latter.
“Well, I’ll be going now,” Glinda said, as Saguaro turned another page. She felt very much as though she were talking to Elphaba at Shiz. When Elphaba had been lost in a book, Glinda could barely get her attention, either. “I have some papers to look over, so I’ll be in my office if you need anything. Perhaps we can have tea later.”
Still not looking up, Saguaro said, “Have fun.”
Glinda snuck a final glance at Saguaro. With her green nose above her book, she looked exactly like her mother.
In her office, Glinda struggled to concentrate. Her mind kept drifting to Elphaba and what Saguaro had told her. Every time she read another sentence of the proposal she was reviewing, Elphaba’s face popped into her head.
Setting her work aside, she took out a fresh piece of paper and began to doodle, something she hadn’t indulged in since Shiz. She drew flowers and hearts and then, as an experiment, wrote out her old signature: Galinda Upland of the Upper Uplands, with a heart dotting the “i.” It still looked exactly as it had so many years before.
Halfway through an attempt to capture her old name in bubble letters, the lights flickered and then went out. Glinda stood up and tested the light switch, but nothing happened. When she opened the door, she discovered that the hallway was also dark. A quick survey of nearby rooms confirmed that the power was out.
Glinda’s maternal instincts kicked in. She thought of Saguaro, sitting by herself in the dark. Though she knew that Saguaro would not be afraid-it was still early afternoon, and there was enough light from outside to see-she was still consumed with worry. She rushed to the parlor to see how Saguaro was doing.
Once she arrived, she discovered that the room was empty. Saguaro’s book rested on the chair she been sitting on, as if forgotten.
“Saguaro?” Glinda called. The only answer was a faint sobbing from a room nearby.
Glinda’s anxiety intensified. She followed the sound until she reached the nearest bathroom, where the sobbing was considerably louder.
Glinda knocked on the bathroom door. “Saguaro, are you all right?”
Saguaro’s voice came out muffled from behind the door. “I’m s-so s-sorry!”
“What are you sorry about, dear?” Glinda asked. Saguaro sounded so different from the strong girl Glinda had come to know. Even after learning about the identity of her mother, Saguaro had not cried in front of her. “I’m quite sure you haven’t done anything wrong.”
“The power. It’s my fault. It’s all my fault!”
“Oh, Saguaro, I’m sure that isn’t true,” said Glinda, wondering where in Oz the girl had gotten such an idea. “I don’t know what made the power go out, but it certainly wasn’t you! Are you sure you’re all right in there? You aren’t sick, are you?”
“I need to be alone.”
“Saguaro, I’ve let you have time to yourself, but I’m not comfortable with that under the current circumstances. What’s wrong? Please tell me. I want to help.”
Saguaro’s next words came out in a rush. “Doyouhaveanysupplies?”
“…I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch that, dear.”
“Do you have any supplies?”
At that moment, Glinda understood and recalled a younger version of herself, also shut in a bathroom.
“Oh, Saguaro,” she said softly, “this is your first time, isn’t it?”
The door opened. Saguaro stood before her, her eyes red and swollen. Wordlessly, she nodded.
Glinda reached out to hug her. For perhaps the first time, Saguaro did not turn away from her. Instead, she sank into Glinda’s embrace.
“I’m so, so sorry, dear,” Glinda said, squeezing her tightly. She wiped away a tear from Saguaro’s face. “What dreadible timing. I can still remember my first time. I was younger than you, about twelve, and I was at a sleepover with one of my friends. I thought my timing was bad, but I was lucky compared to you. Everything seems to be hitting you at once.”
Saguaro looked down at the floor. “We had a plan…my mother and I. We didn’t talk very much before I left, but she made sure I knew what to do. I was going to find her, no matter where I was, and then she was going to take care of me.”
She looked up at Glinda, her eyes gleaming with fresh tears. “I miss her, Glinda. I know it’s foolish, and I’m still so angry…but I really, really miss her. She was supposed to be here for this.”
Glinda’s heart ached. How in Oz’s name could this wonderful, spirited girl blame herself for missing her mother?
“Of course you miss her,” she said quietly. “Don’t be hard on yourself for that! All girls long for their mothers at times like these.”
“What about my mom?”
It took Glinda a moment to realize what Saguaro meant. “Are you asking if your mother thought of her own mother when she was in this situation?”
Saguaro nodded. “Since my mom didn’t have a mother, it would have been even harder. Do you think that’s why she was so insistent that we have a plan…so I wouldn’t be alone like she was?”
As Saguaro’s brown eyes shone back at her expectantly, Glinda was struck by the most obvious realization of all. She had spent so much time trying to ignore the secret that Saguaro had revealed about Elphaba that she hadn’t considered the source of her best friend’s misgivings. Elphaba had never known her mother. Of course having a daughter would be difficult.
“You know, Saguaro, I think you’re right. Your mother never told me that story, but I’m sure she went through it alone. I know I’m not your mother, and goodness knows, I never can be, but I’m here for you. I don’t want you to go through this by yourself.”
She wet a washcloth with warm water, then wiped away Saguaro’s tears. Though Saguaro’s eyes were still red, it was less evident that she had been crying.
After Glinda gave Saguaro her supplies, she paused. “Saguaro, what did you mean earlier? You don’t really think the power went out because of you, do you?”
A shadow fell over Saguaro’s face. “I know it did. It’s the same thing that happens to me whenever I get too frightened or angry. It’s why you couldn’t speak after I yelled at you last night and why other things have happened since I ran away. I think it has something to do with my powers, but I can’t seem to control it. I don’t know how.”
A wheelchair rolled across her mind’s eye. “Did your mother never tell you?”
Saguaro stood up straighter. “There’s not another secret, is there?”
“No, of course not! This is actually a good thing. Well, not exactly…but it does mean good things for you. I don’t suppose Auntie Psue told you how the headshiztress of Shiz discoverated your mother’s powers?”
“No, she didn’t say.”
Glinda smiled. While her other memories of Shiz were distant, this one felt a little less faraway. “Well, it was the first day of Shiz, and all the freshmen were congregating, awaiting our room assignments. Your mother had just discovered that your aunt Nessa would be rooming with Madame Morrible instead of with her. It was all right, of course, as Madame Morrible was more than equipped to look after your aunt, but your mother grew very frightened. She had always looked after Nessarose and had promised her father that she would continue to do so. When Madame Morrible started to wheel Nessarose away, Elphaba demanded that she let her go. A moment later, the wheelchair spun around and started to wheel towards Elphaba, as if of its own accord.”
Saguaro’s eyebrows furrowed. “You’re saying that strange things happened when my mother got upset, too?”
“Oh, yes, especially during that first year. Things were always happenating. I’m surprised your mother never mentioned it to you. She later learned to control her powers, so I thought she had taught you how to manage yours.”
“My mother never let me work on sorcery,” said Saguaro. “She thinks it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Even though she taught some of my classmates, she refused to teach me. I didn’t even know I could do sorcery until I turned myself green.”
“But that’s ridiculous!” Glinda said. “Your mother is the most talented sorceress I’ve ever known. It’s ludicrous to think that you wouldn’t inherit her powers. She must have known your powers couldn’t stay dormant.”
Saguaro rolled her eyes. “That’s my mother. Whenever she gets something in her head, it’s impossible for her to see reason.” She scrutinized Glinda, as if still searching for an answer. “You’re saying that the strange things that have been happening to me are good? That I might be powerful, like my mother?”
“There is no doubt in my mind,” said Glinda firmly. “It’s true that I’m not as good at determining these sort of things as my aunt or Madame Morrible, but I have a strong feeling about you. As soon as you’re able to control your powers, I’m sure you’ll be able to make good.”
Saguaro threw her arms around her, nearly knocking Glinda over from the force of the hug. “Thank you. You have no idea how much that means to me.”
“Actually, I think I do,” said Glinda, considering the similarities between the two green girls. “It meant just as much to your mother.”
For a moment, Saguaro frowned. Then she began to grin. With a smile, her entire face lit up, and her green skin seemed to glow.
At that moment, Glinda realized something. It was true that she did not know much about Elphaba now, but she could feel Elphaba’s presence, just as if she were in the room with them. “Take care of my daughter,” Elphaba seemed to be telling her. And Glinda would.
It was the new promise that she was determined to keep.
“Will you swear not to tell anyone this happened?” Saguaro asked, no longer the painful reminder of Glinda’s best friend, but an ordinary teenage girl. “Even Psudina?”
“Of course. It will be our secret.”
Perhaps she did not know Elphaba Throgelaar. But as Saguaro’s face relaxed, Glinda realized something else.
In the form of her daughter, Elphie Thropp’s spirit lived on.
Behind them, the lights flickered.
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