“Saguaro, I’m not going to make excuses for my niece,” said Psudina. “She did choose fame and fortune over her friendship with your mother. But you must realize how young she was at the time. I know there hasn’t been a single instant when she hasn’t regretted her choice.”
“She was older than I am,” said Saguaro stubbornly. Especially after the way Glinda had chosen to talk to Boq instead of telling her the story, she was not sure she was ready to forgive Glinda just yet. “I haven’t ever had a best friend, but I do know that I wouldn’t choose fame and fortune over anyone I care about.”
“Yes, I’m sure you wouldn’t. But you’re much more mature than Glinda was at that age. My sister has always refused to look past her private bubble, and Galinda was raised to be the same way. At the time, she was just beginning to see beyond her own small world. She’d always been popular, and for her to imagine a future in which she was hated by everyone…well, I don’t think she had the same strength your mother had.”
Saguaro repeated this last line in her mind. The same strength your mother had. Did Psudina mean the past tense, as in the same strength her mother had but no longer possessed? Or was Psudina still convinced that Elphaba Throgelaar, who could not even hear the word “Oz” without flinching, was as strong as Elphaba Thropp had been?
Saguaro blinked away a tear. It was too painful to think about.
“So after my mother left, Glinda got the job that was meant for her?” Saguaro asked.
“More or less. She went back to Shiz and got her degree, though she occasionally went to the Emerald City to see the Wizard. When she finished school, the job was waiting for her. The Ozians were quite eager to accept her as Glinda the Good.”
The implication of Psudina’s words struck her. Her mother, who shook her head after she read Saguaro’s report cards and lectured that she should be “living up to her full potential,” had not completed her degree. In some ways, this information was the most shocking of all.
“Glinda put on a smile for the public, but I could tell she wasn’t happy,” Psudina continued. “For the first time, I think she began to realize the consequences of her dreams coming true. Yes, she had achieved the fame and fortune she’d always dreamed of, but it had come at a terrible cost. She didn’t share her feelings with me, but I could tell from the hasty scribbles of her letters and the sad eyes behind her smiles how she was feeling. And, of course, she was still pretending not to see how your father truly felt about her.”
“You mean they were still dating?”
“You know, Saguaro, I’m a bit concerned about how you’ll react to the next part of this story. I know you’re still angry at your father after what you learned about his stories, and I don’t want this to make you more upset than you already are.”
A horrible thought occurred to her. “Was my father against my mother publically?”
Psudina hesitated. “Well, he was made Captain of the Guard, and although his primary job was to lead the search for your mother, I could tell that his love for your mother was what propelled the search. Still, I never heard him refer to your mother as the Wicked Witch in public. But that isn’t what I was referring to.” She cleared her throat. “You see, your father was engaged to Glinda.”
It was as though someone had drenched Saguaro with a bucket of cold water. Fiyero Tigelaar, who, as a boy, had rebelled against an arranged marriage, had been engaged to Glinda before marrying her mother.
She felt a little sick.
“It wasn’t what you think,” said Psudina, seeing her expression. “Your father wasn’t the one who got down on one knee.”
“You mean Glinda asked him to marry her?” asked Saguaro.
“It wasn’t as much a question as a declaration. During one of Glinda’s public appearances with your father, someone asked him how it felt to be engaged, and the whole story came out. I was visiting at the time. I’d tried to convince Glinda otherwise, but she had insisted that it would be more romantic that way, and I was powerless to stop her.”
Though she wasn’t thrilled that her father had been engaged to Glinda, Saguaro was relieved to hear that he hadn’t initiated it.
Psudina explained that she found Fiyero after the announcement and asked him about his feelings for Elphaba. Fiyero didn’t contradict her theory, but pointed out that it was clear that Elphaba didn’t want to be found. Still, Psudina suspected that something else was holding him back.
“His parents approved of his relationship with Glinda. Even though your father had spent most of his life disregarding what his parents wanted, I’m sure it felt good to have their support for the first time in his life. I’m not saying that this excused his actions, but I think it might help you to understand them.”
Saguaro considered this. From the Fyre stories, she knew how much her father had struggled over his relationship with his parents. Ever since his younger brother was born, his parents never seemed to notice their older son one way or another. If Psudina was right, Fiyero had received his parents’ approval because of his relationship with Glinda. Then he had forsaken it when he chose her mother.
It was so unbelievably sad.
Glinda wanted to keep Saguaro’s secret. She really did. The last thing she wanted was to betray Saguaro’s trust. But Boq’s eyes were so warm and inviting that she found herself itching to be honest. Despite what he had done in the past, despite how much Elphaba would disapprove, Boq had become her closest friend. If she couldn’t tell him, then whom could she tell?
“You promise you won’t let on to Saguaro that I told you,” she asked, “or even mention anything to Psudina?”
“Of course not, Glinda,” Boq said. “You can trust me.”
Still, Glinda could not bring herself to make eye contact with Boq. Her voice was so soft it was almost a whisper.
“When Saguaro and I went shopping that day, she mentioned that her mother didn’t want her. I’ve been trying to tell myself that Saguaro was just being dramatic, but I’m not sure she was.”
She glanced at Boq, expecting him to say something, but he seemed to be waiting for her to finish. With a start, she realized how much more she had to say.
“I don’t know what to do, Boq. I just don’t know what to do! Saguaro’s been so angry at Elphaba, and even though she hasn’t mentioned it again, I can tell how hurt she is. And the thing is…well, she’s not the only one who’s angry at Elphaba. All of you expect me to be happy about Elphaba, but sometimes, I’m not. Yes, I’m grateful that she’s alive, but things were also a lot less confusifying before I knew.”
She felt ashamed as she spoke the last words. What must Boq think of her? Boq, however, took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze-no easy feat, considering that his hands were so inflexible. This small gesture gave her a surge of strength.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you,” he said. “That must have been a terrible thing to deal with on your own, and I wish I’d been more sensitive. If it makes you feel any better, I don’t blame you for feeling that way. I can see why you hold Elphaba responsible. ”
“Thank you,” she whispered. They smiled at each other.
“You know, Glinda, the last thing I want is to add to your stress, but I think there’s a good chance that Elphaba will be coming soon,” Boq said after a moment. “I might not have known her well, but I saw the way she was willing to do anything for Nessarose. Whether or not she initially wanted a child, I’m sure she’d do anything for Saguaro, too.”
While Glinda had been trying not to think about it, she had considered this possibility before. “I haven’t mentioned it to Saguaro because I don’t want her running off again, but I think you’re right. I just hope Elphaba has the sense not to leave Fiyero behind.”
Boq frowned. “You think she’d come without him?”
Glinda nodded. “If there’s one thing Elphie’s good at, it’s blaming herself. I can’t say yet whether this is truly her fault, but I’m sure Elphaba will think it is. If I know her-though Oz knows, sometimes I’m not sure I still do-she’s taken this on herself without bringing Fiyero into it. She wouldn’t want to burden anyone else with her problems.”
“But…if they’re married…then surely she’s learned to let him in a little?”
Glinda smiled wanly. For as much as Boq had learned about Elphaba and Fiyero in the past sixteen years, he still did not understand the extent of the situation.
“Coming to Oz would be a big risk, Boq, and not just for Elphaba. If she comes without Fiyero, it isn’t because she’s not letting Fiyero in. It’s because she’s protecting him, physically protecting him from something like the Gale Force happening again.”
While Glinda had only recently learned that Elphaba had turned Fiyero into the Scarecrow, she shuddered at the memory. Fiyero’s expression just before the Gale Force guards hung him on the poles was forever etched in her consciousness.
“But wouldn’t Fiyero try to go after them?” Boq asked. “Elphaba and Saguaro both, I mean.”
Glinda considered the way Fiyero had followed Elphaba to Nessarose’s grave, where the encounter with the Gale Force had taken place. “I’m sure he would. The real question is whether he has the transportation to do so.”
Neither spoke for a few moments.
“You know you need to talk to her, don’t you?” Boq said finally. “Saguaro that is, not Elphaba.”
Glinda sighed. “I know, Boq. But what am I supposed to say? You didn’t see Saguaro’s expression just before she told me. And the truth is, I’m not sure I’m ready for the answer, either. I have enough going on without this.”
“Maybe, but you’ll never stop wondering until you talk to her.”
She realized for the first time that Boq was still holding her hand. She was about to pull away when she realized how nice it felt. She could keep holding Boq’s hand forever.
Boq seemed to realize this too, because his eyes grew wide. “Sweet Oz, Glinda, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.” He attempted to pull his hand away, but she stopped him.
“Boq, it’s all right. Your hand is very nice. A little cold maybe, but otherwise very nice. Here.” She took Boq’s hand in both of hers and began rubbing it in an attempt to warm it. “Does this feel better? I’m afraid I don’t know much about changing the temperature of tin, but…”
She stopped, noticing Boq’s expression. His grey eyes were intently focused on her. In this light, they looked almost blue.
I wish I’d noticed Boq standing there before it was too late, she found herself thinking. If I had, perhaps we’d-
He suddenly broke free of her grasp and stood up. He wore a very strange expression on his face.
“I’m sorry, but now I’m getting hot. Do you want me to bring you a glass of water? Maybe that will help you cool down if you’re feeling the same way.”
“But Boq, you know you can’t go near water,” said Glinda, confused.
“Oh. Right.” He laughed a little and then shook his head. “You know, sometimes I think I’m the one who is allergic to water-since it turns out that Elphaba wasn’t, I mean.”
He glanced towards the doorway. “At any rate I, uh, need to oil up. I’ve been feeling especially stiff today. In fact, would you mind if I took the rest of the day off? I’m really not feeling well.”
“Of course not,” said Glinda, feeling more confused by the minute. “But Boq…”
He paused before exiting the room. “Oh, and Glinda? Good luck with Saguaro. I’m sure your conversation will be easier than you think.”
Glinda wrinkled her forehead as Boq shut the door behind him. Now that was odd.
Still, as Glinda returned to the seating chart, she found herself feeling warm, as well. She held up her hand mirror and was surprised to see that her cheeks were pink.
Boq was not the only one who felt overheated.
Glinda found herself thinking about Boq for the rest of the day. She saw his tin face in the silver platters at dinner and his grey eyes in the color of the napkins. She excused herself as soon as dinner was finished.
Boq’s home was located towards the back of Glinda’s property. The tiny hut looked as though it belonged in Munchkinland, where many of the houses were blue and domed. Though Glinda had pestered him to build a larger house, so far, Boq had resisted. She sometimes wondered if Boq had kept his house small in order to punish himself for his role as a witch hunter.
When she approached the hut, she noticed that the windows were dark. “Boq?” she asked, knocking on the door. There was no answer.
Glinda was concerned. As a tin man, Boq could not sleep and thus had no reason to turn out his lights. She had never known him to venture out so late, either.
A flash of white from under the door caught her attention. She bent down and picked up an envelope with her name written in Boq’s familiar handwriting. When she ripped it open, she found herself holding a piece of the same stationary that she had recently given him.
Boq Chopper, assistant and adviser to Glinda the Good
I’m finally using your stationary. I still have issues with it-the grey ink for my name is great, but the bright pink for yours is a little much-but seeing as you’re the only one reading this, I suppose I can make an exception, just this once.
I feel terrible for what I said today. As I mentioned before, I never would have said any of those things had I been aware of what happened with Saguaro. It wasn’t my place to comment on your relationship. I should have chosen a more constructive way to bring up my concerns about you and Gabryel, but I stand by what I said. Whether or not I disapprove, I should trust you to tell Wroc when you feel the time is right.
I’ve been thinking lately about how far we’ve come from the awkward Munchkin and the popular girl at Shiz. I thought I knew you then, but I didn’t. Not really. I was in love with the Galinda I thought I knew, the pretty girl with the gold hair and winning smile who charmed everyone with how “Good” she was. At the time, I thought you were perfect. You were the only thing that kept me going during my terrible bout after Shiz.
We both remember what happened the next time I came to see you. Just before his departure, the Wizard asked Scarecrow to be your adviser, as his great brains would assist you in making decisions. When he declined, for reasons now clear to me, I offered to step in.
Of course, when I came to you and explained that the Wizard had appointed me, you were rightly putout, as the Wizard had never mentioned this to you. You were even more putout when you realized that I had helped kill your friend after dating her sister. In a fit of anger, you exploded with the truth…and I was horrified when I realized that the sister had been lying; your friend had only been trying to save me. I’d helped kill the very person who saved my life.
You appointed me as one of your guards to honor me for my “bravery” as a witch hunter, but we avoided each other for a few years. And then, against all odds, we became friends. After you realized how much I knew about politics from my time with the sister, you promoted me, and I became your assistant and adviser, after all.
To be honest, Glinda, I was disappointed when I realized that you aren’t as perfect as I’d always thought. But when I got to know you, I realized that I liked you, flaws and all. You aren’t the same person I had a crush on at Shiz; you’re a lot better.
I suppose I should just say it. I think I’m still in love with you.
Now, I don’t think I have been this entire time. I can’t say when it began. But I’ve grown to love everything about you. I love your commitment to your work and how much you love Gabryel, and I love the way you act annoyed when I tease you, but have no trouble teasing me back. I love that you’ve been so worried about Saguaro that it’s been tearing you up inside and that you are still so dedicated to your friendship with her mother. I even love the way your voice gets too high when you’re rambling on about something and how you giggle like a teenager and glare at anyone who insults the color pink. I know I’ve given you grief for my stationary (see above), but I smile when I see it, because it’s just so you.
And, of course, you’re still beautiful. That goes without saying.
I’ve been able to suppress my feelings for a while. But today, as you tried to warm my hand, I realized this couldn’t go on much longer. No one could possibly love a man made of tin, especially someone who is already engaged. So I’m taking a break and will be out of commission for a few weeks.
I won’t tell you where I am. But please believe that I will be back. We will stay friends, Glinda. I just need some time. I’ve been struggling with my past since seeing Saguaro, and I think that this break may help, especially if a certain friend of yours decides to visit.
Tell Gabryel I’ll miss him and that I’m sorry I won’t get to spend time with him at the ball. I have faith that he’ll get through it, because he’s stronger than he thinks he is.
He gets it from his mother.
A blot of oil had been spilled on the bottom corner of the page.
Glinda’s head was spinning. She reread the letter, but this did not relieve her confusion. She could not believe that Boq had been hiding his feelings for her all this time.
She knew that she loved Boq. He was kind, funny, honest, and sensitive, and he was wonderful with Gabryel. Sometimes, she suspected that he knew her even better than she knew herself.
Still, there were two reasons Glinda had not given more than a moment’s thought to a relationship with him. Boq had played a prominent role in the witch hunt, and he was tin. Though she accepted these things in her friend, she was not sure she could look past them in a potential lover.
Wroc was kind and handsome and had a prominent position in society. He did not know Gabryel well, but he had always expressed enthusiasm over Gabryel’s various accomplishments. She had no doubt that they would get along after they got to know each other. Glinda was confident that, by the time the wedding arrived, Wroc would make a perfect husband.
But how would her friendship with Boq be altered after she was married? He claimed that his feelings would not impact their friendship, but she was not sure she believed him. And without Boq’s constant presence in her life…Glinda’s heart began to beat faster, and she had to force herself to calm down. Without Boq as a friend, she was not sure where she would be.
Whenever Glinda had a problem, she usually turned to Boq for advice. But as she traced her finger over the header on Boq’s stationary, Glinda realized something else.
For the first time in many years, she could not ask her adviser what to do.
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