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XXVI. Dances and Discussions

 “I don’t understand where this is going,” Saguaro said, pushing aside her conflicted feelings about her parents’ relationship. “My mom was just a normal college student. Well, not completely normal, because she was green and that isn’t common in Oz, but still, as normal as she could be under the circumstances. How did she become the Wicked Witch of the West? Was it just because of her skin?”

 

Psudina sighed. “Are you sure you’re ready to hear about it?”

 

Saguaro shot her a look.

 

“Of course you are,” Psudina said, half to herself. “You did travel all this way.

 

“During that time, the Wizard ruled Oz. He’d taken over as ruler a few years after your parents were born, though I myself had never met him. I must admit that I’d always been rather suspicious of him. My priority was to better Quadling Country, which was always the region most cut off from the rest of Oz, but I had noticed some of the negative changes that had come into effect since the Wizard took power. Animals’ rights had greatly declined, for one. I didn’t often voice these suspicions aloud…Ozians were very loyal to the Wizard, my sister and Galinda in particular…but I wondered if the Wizard was as wonderful as everyone thought. Not that I could have proven this. The Wizard was very secretive, and he’d turned down our invitations to join the Council of Four as the fifth member.”

 

One detail stood out. “So it was because of my mother’s involvement in the crusade for Animal rights, wasn’t it?”

 

Psudina studied her for a moment. “You know, Saguaro, it’s funny. Even though I know that she is alive and you are her daughter, every time you make a comment like that, I’m still taken aback. I keep forgetting that in some ways, you know Elphaba better than even Glinda. I take it that your mother is still a strong supporter of Animals?”

 

“There isn’t as much to do in Cascadia, but she does what she can.”

 

Psudina shook her head. “Yes. Well. It’s simply a lot to get used to, that’s all.

 

“Part of the reason Madame Morrible was so excited when she first discovered your mother’s talent was because she believed Elphaba’s powers would be an asset to the Wizard. She wrote to the Wizard, suggesting that he see Elphaba after her powers were more developed. Your mother, of course, was thrilled. I can’t tell you how many times she mentioned the Wizard when I visited. She looked up to him in a way she had never looked up to her own father.” Psudina’s shoulders fell. “Perhaps that’s the reason I never had the heart to tell her of my suspicions.

 

“In the spring of her second year, Galinda wrote to tell me that Elphaba’s dreams had come true; the Wizard had finally offered to see her. Your mother’s letter came just a day later. She was very excited, and she told me that part of the reason she was so eager to see the Wizard was because she wanted to tell him about what was happening to the Animals in the hopes that he would be able to help. But as happy as I was for your mother, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something didn’t add up.”

 

“You were right, weren’t you?” Saguaro said quietly.

 

Psudina did not speak for a few moments. When she did, her voice was softer than it had been before.

 

“The day after your mother was to see the Wizard, I was awakened by shouts outside my door. When I stepped outside, I discovered that my Quadling neighbors were in a state of panic. They kept talking about a Wicked Witch who was intent on destroying all of Oz. As I remembered Elphaba’s meeting with the Wizard, I began to get a very bad feeling. I rushed to the newspaper stand and skimmed the headlines. Sure enough, on the front page was an article that warned us of a Wicked Witch who had fled the Wizard’s palace on broomstick the night before. We would be able to recognize her from her green skin, which was an outward manifestation of her Wicked nature.” Her voice broke. “Damn that Wizard.”

 

Psudina’s glasses became foggy. It took Saguaro a moment to realize it was because she was crying.

 

“Are you all right?” she asked.

 

“I’m afraid it still hurts. Still-” Psudina took off her glasses and wiped away her tears. “Crying won’t change what happened.

 

“I never believed it for a single moment, of course,” she added, looking at Saguaro. “I knew your mother was-is-the most righteous person I ever met, and even though the article described that she had somehow been responsible for the mutilation of several now winged Monkeys, I knew that there had to be a good explanation. I found out what it was just a few weeks later. Galinda-now Glinda-came to visit me for her Estival break, and she told me the whole story.

 

“Apparently, Glinda had come with Elphaba to see the Wizard at the last minute. When they arrived, they discovered that the Wizard had made Madame Morrible his new press secretary. Madame Morrible asked Elphaba to read from the Grimmerie, an ancient book of spells and enchantments, in order to prove herself, and Elphaba obliged. To everyone’s amazement, the spell was successful, and several nearby Monkeys started to convulse in pain. They soon began sprouting wings. The Wizard revealed that he planned to use the Monkeys as spies to report on subversive Animal activity. Glinda confirmed the two things I’d been suspecting all along. The Wizard had no real powers, which was why he planned to use your mother, and he was actually responsible for the great decline in Animal rights. Your mother, of course, asked how she could undo the spell-”

 

“And Madame Morrible answered that spells are irreversible.”

 

“Exactly.”

 

Saguaro recalled Caper, the winged Monkey outside Camp Gabryel. That explained what happened to him.

 

It wasn’t until she spoke that she realized what she had been thinking. “And then my mom ran away, because there was no way she could work with the Wizard after that. But the Wizard and Madame Morrible realized that she knew too much and would say something if they let her go, so they announced that she was the Wicked Witch to protect themselves.”

 

“Once again, you amaze me with how well you’re able to understand things,” Psudina said. “As a matter of fact, I couldn’t have put it better myself.”

 

“She’s my mother,” said Saguaro, ignoring the tightness in her throat. “It’s not hard to guess what she would have done. I’ve known her my entire life.”

 

“Yes, I suppose you have.”

 

She swallowed hard. Everything was finally making sense, especially the way her mother had reacted when she first saw Saguaro’s green skin.

 

Still, one thing was not adding up.

 

“Psudina?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Why didn’t Glinda go with my mother?”

 

As Psudina smiled sadly, Saguaro realized that she already knew the answer.

 

 

The following night, Glinda took Saguaro to the theatre. She wanted to give Saguaro a break from the difficult transpirations of the last few days, and live entertainment seemed like the perfect distraction.

 

After a wonderful dinner at Verde (green glasses were still required inside), they settled into their theatre seats on a secluded balcony. A wide-eyed Saguaro looked down at the well-dressed audience below. Glinda, who had been attending the theatre since she was a little girl, found herself charmed by Saguaro’s awe.

 

“Does Cascadia have any plays?” she asked, when Saguaro praised the way the set had been built.

 

“Once a year, we have a performance to celebrate Founders’ Day, but that’s all.” Saguaro wiggled her new satin shoes, a gift from Glinda. “It’s nothing like this.”

 

Grateful that she had not missed every milestone in Saguaro’s life, Glinda squeezed Saguaro’s hand.

 

There were two productions currently playing in the Emerald City. One was Good, the musical extravaganza sequel to Wizomania, based on Glinda’s life. Glinda had not wanted to take Saguaro to that one (it was unsolicited and contained quite a few cackles from a certain disfigured Wicked Witch), so she took Saguaro to the second show, Quadling Flatheads of 1916. Quadling Flatheads was the latest song-and-dance spectacular from the famous Flatheads, who established their career shortly after Wizomania closed.

 

Saguaro enjoyed the show. She giggled at all the right jokes and gasped when the Flatheads first extended their long necks and rotated their heads in full circles. Glinda even caught Saguaro humming along to a more melancholy ballad about the Flatheads’ war with the Skeezers, which had occurred a few years before.

 

The highlight came at the very end. During the curtain call, the Flatheads once again extended their necks, and two of their heads collided. This caused the two Flatheads to fall to the ground. While the rest of the audience had the dignity to look concerned as the Flatheads struggled to stand back up, Saguaro caught Glinda’s eye. A moment later, they burst into laughter.

 

“It was just so funny,” Saguaro said, still giggling a few minutes later, as they picked up their programs and prepared to return home. “The whole time, I kept wondering what would happen if their heads collided, and then they did!”

 

Glinda smiled as she played the scene over in her head. “It was truly hysterical. You know, watching this brings back such vivid memories of when I helped Auntie Psue during the Flatheads-Skeezers War. I didn’t dare tell Auntie Psue, but I was tempted to break into song every time I saw a Flathead…the Flatheads who live in Quadling Country, that is, not the ones we saw tonight.”

 

Saguaro grinned. “I bet.

 

“They really are good, though,” she said in a more serious tone. “They were very coordinated with each other. How long have they been performing?”

 

“Actually, would you believe that your mother and I saw one of the first shows they performed together?”

 

“Really?”

 

“Oh, yes. It was the first show I ever attended in the Emerald City. Of course, the night didn’t end smoothly, but I like to think that your mother and I have at least one good memory from that day.”

 

Though Glinda could tell from Saguaro’s expression that she recognized what Glinda was referring to, she did not comment on this.

 

“I still can’t get over that you knew my mother,” she said instead. “I know it’s old news by now, but it’s strange to meet her best friend when she’s been so solitary for my entire life.”

 

Glinda brushed off lint from Saguaro’s dress. “I feel the same way. I can’t believe I’m here with Elphie’s daughter, either!”

 

Just before they stepped out of the carriage, Saguaro turned to Glinda. “Thank you, Glinda. I had a really good time tonight.”

 

Glinda’s heart soared. She winked at Saguaro before revealing the nickname that she had chosen for her. “I’m so glad everything worked out, Crowsie. It was my pleasure.”

 

Even though Saguaro rolled her eyes, Glinda noticed that her eyes were shining.

 

*****

Two days later, Glinda and Saguaro were giggling again. During a break from work just before lunch, Glinda told Saguaro about Fiyero’s command of the Ozdust Ballroom. The conversation somehow turned to Elphaba’s infamous dancing skills.

 

“So you’re telling me that my mother showed up to the dance and did something like this.” Saguaro attempted to move her arms in an imitation of her mother’s disjointed dance, but dissolved into laughter before she could finish.

 

“Let me show you. Perhaps I can remember it.”

 

Glinda, who indeed remembered more than she thought, showed Saguaro the dance. It didn’t take long before Saguaro was imitating Glinda, and the two were dancing around each other.

 

“Why, look at that,” said Glinda, when she noticed that Saguaro was spotting during her turns. “It seems that a certain Miss Saguaro has inherited her father’s dancing skills, after all.”

 

Saguaro blushed. “Dad taught me. He said it would come in handy, although I think he just didn’t want me to turn out like my mother. He’s always teased her about her dancing, but I didn’t realize she was that bad.”

 

They continued to dance. A few minutes later, Gabryel entered the room. When he noticed what they were doing, he gaped at them.

 

“What are you doing?” he asked.

 

“It’s a replica of the dance Crowsie’s mother used to do,” Glinda said. “Care to join us, dearest?”

 

“Uh, no thanks,” said Gabryel, still staring. “I, um, think I’ll wait outside until you’re done. Tell me when lunch is ready.”

 

He left the room. Recalling the dumbstruck look on his face, Saguaro and Glinda turned to each other and dissolved into laughter once more.

 

Glinda was in a cheerful mood when she returned to work after lunch. As she added the finishing touches to a seating chart for the engagement banquet, Glinda found herself humming a song they used to play at the Ozdust.

 

“Oz,” said a voice, “I haven’t heard that song in years.”

 

Glinda turned to find Boq in her doorway.

 

“Taking a stroll down memory lane, Galinda?” he teased her, settling into the upholstered chair on the opposite side of Glinda’s desk. Since Boq spent so much time in her office, Glinda had bought a more comfortable chair for him. Because of his tin body, Boq preferred cushioned chairs to wooden ones.

 

“As a matter of fact, yes, Biq,” said Glinda. “I was just sharing with Saguaro the story of Fiyero’s first dance at the Ozdust. Don’t you remember? I went with Fiyero and then Elphie showed up in her pointed hat, and when she noticed everyone staring, she started dancing as if she didn’t care what anyone thought of her.”

 

An unreadable emotion flickered across Boq’s face. “Yes. Of course I do.”

 

“Anyway, I think they played this song that night. Or perhaps they played it at another dance. Fiyero had so many dances, after all. At any rate, I really should request that this song be played on Friday night. There will be mostly classical music at the ball, of course, but I’m sure the guests won’t mind a few songs from our generation. It will be a nice change of pace.”

 

“Speaking of the ball, how are the preparations going?”

 

“It has been horrifyingly stressful. But Saguaro’s been such a dear, accompanying me on last minute errands, even though it isn’t her favorite thing to do. On the bright side, it’s given us the excuse to go shopping afterwards. I love Elphie dearly, but how she allowed her daughter to go around in such plain clothes, I’ll never know.”

 

“I’m sure the options were more limited in Cascadia.”

 

“Still.”

 

Boq shifted in his seat in an attempt to get more comfortable. “You know, I still can’t get over what happened with Grygoro McGregor. It was so nice of him to encourage Gabryel like that.”

 

“Grygoro McGregor?” Glinda repeated.

 

Boq gave her a funny look. “The author who wrote to Gabryel?”

 

“Oh.” Glinda forced a smile. “Of course.”

 

That morning, Gabryel received a letter from the author who gave the lecture that Gabryel attended a few days before. The author had read the stories Gabryel had given him and wrote to inform him that he had real talent. While Glinda was proud of her son, she also knew that any author would be a fool not to encourage the son of Glinda the Good.

 

This subject, however, reminded her of something else. “Boq, I’ve been meaning to ask you. Do you think you could keep a special eye out for Gabryel during the ball?”

 

“What do you mean?” asked Boq, now frowning.

 

“Well, you know how he is. Gabryel, poor dear, is so dreadifingly shy, and he’s much worse around large groups of unfamiliar people. I’ll be too busy entertaining guests to properly look out for him, and as a public official, I doubt Auntie Psue will have time, either. Of course, Momsie will be there, but I’m afraid that she’ll be so busy with her own friends that she’ll forget about poor Gabry.”

 

“What about Saguaro?” Boq said. “Is she coming?”

 

“I’m surprising her by inviting Caper. He’s the only Monkey who was able to come, and I think it will be a treat for Saguaro to spend time with one of her mother’s Monkeys. That way, she won’t be too lonely during the ball.”

 

When Boq did not respond, she made her voice more pleading. “Please, Boq. Gabryel looks up to you so much. I know he’ll appreciate spending time with you.” She tossed her hair for emphasis. “Besides, it would mean a lot to me as well.”

 

Boq made his voice higher in an imitation of himself at Shiz. “And if I do that, Miss Galinda, will you make sure to save at least one dance for me?”

 

Glinda suppressed a smile. She could always count on Boq to come up with a clever retort. Thank Oz she now had one less thing to worry about.

 

She decided to play along. “I wasn’t planning to, but if you’d like that, I’m sure Wroc won’t mind…”

 

But Boq had begun to purse his lips. “What is it, Boq?” she asked. “Is something wrong?”

 

“I was just thinking about the Ozdust. Not about Elphaba’s dance or Fiyero, but about a certain Gillikinese girl who told me I’d be her hero if I asked a girl in a wheelchair to the dance, and the way I foolishly believed her.” He laughed bitterly. “Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d seen through you.”

 

Glinda was taken aback. For the most part, Boq went out of his way not to mention Nessa.

 

“Boq, I don’t understand why you’re bringing this up now,” she said. “I apologized for that a long time ago. I know I played a part, but you can hardly blame me for your entire relationship with Nessarose. Besides, this isn’t an appropriate conversation for right now. ”

 

Boq raised his eyebrows. “Oh, so you don’t think there’s any similarity between the way you pawned me off to Nessarose and the way you’re asking me to look after Gabryel now?”

 

Glinda was shocked by this accusation. “Of course not! Boq, he’s my son! I was simply asking for a small favor. You should be honored that I trust you with him.”

 

“It isn’t about that, Glinda. You know I’d do anything for Gabryel. I love him as if he was my own son, and that’s the honest truth. But it’s you who should be looking out for him at your ball, not me. Did you know that he had trouble making friends at St. Ozma’s because they had no idea he was shy and they thought he snubbed them because he felt superior to them? Or that he was so homesick he would sometimes write me in tears, but begged me not to say anything because he didn’t want to worry you? You’ve been so busy with your own life that you haven’t given more than a fleeting moment to your son. There’s a reason you couldn’t remember McGregor’s name.”

 

“That has nothing to do with it,” said Glinda coldly. She had no idea what was compelling Boq to say such horrible things, but she did not like it. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

Boq ignored this comment and spoke right over her. “Then there’s Wroc. Gabryel barely knows him, so I doubt that you asked Wroc to look out for him, but that’s beside the point. You met Wroc for dinner yesterday, but you still haven’t told him about Elphaba or Saguaro. He’s going to be your husband. If you can’t trust him with this, then how can you trust him enough to marry him?”

 

“That’s enough, Boq. My relationship with Wroc isn’t any of your concern.”

 

“And then there’s me. Me. I know I’m not Wroc or even Elphaba, but I thought we were friends. Yet ever since you came back from your first shopping trip with Saguaro, you’ve become a different person. I haven’t felt this much like Biq since Shiz. And to make matters worse, Saguaro hasn’t looked at me once since Psudina told her what happened. She has the same hair as Nessarose, and even though Elphaba is alive, that doesn’t take away the fact that I-”

 

“Stop it!”

 

Boq stopped talking. Glinda took a deep breath and ignored Boq’s astonishment at her uncharacteristic outburst.

 

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, her voice shaking. “Wroc and I are perfectly suited, Gabryel and I have never been better, and if anyone else decides to share more tidbits of advice with me, I just might explode. I can’t deal with anything more right now.

 

“Curse you, Elphie!” she said suddenly, the anger overwhelming her. She wished that her friend could hear her. “This is all your fault! Why in Oz’s name didn’t you tell me to begin with? If you had, then none of this would have happened!”

 

In an impulsive fit of anger, she grabbed the seating chart that she had been working on and tore it straight down the middle. The same surge of satisfaction she felt after throwing the hairbrush ran through her.

 

Before she could grab anything else, Boq placed a hand on her wrist to stop her. “I’m sorry for my outburst. I should have chosen a more constructive way to say those things to you. But you don’t need to create extra work for yourself.” He nodded at the torn seating chart. “Now, tell me. I’m getting the feeling that I’m missing something here. Is this something to do with whatever happened during your shopping trip?”

 

She shook her head. There was no way she could betray Saguaro. “I can’t tell you, Boq. I really can’t. Even if I wanted to, this isn’t my secret to share.”

 

“Is it Saguaro’s secret, then?”

 

When Glinda did not respond, Boq spoke again. “You know, a long time ago, you told me the truth about Elphaba, even though you promised her you’d never tell anyone. A few years later, you admitted how good it felt to tell someone. I’m not saying you should tell me if you’re not comfortable, but I can see how taxing this is on you.”

 

“I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

 

“I’m saying that perhaps it will make you feel better to say it out loud. This may be Saguaro’s secret, but you owe it to yourself not to let it become your own.”

 

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