Hi everyone! Writing this, I felt a lot like Galinda does with her essay in this chapter. At least in my case, this chapter eventually got written. ;) I hope you all are doing wonderfully. Thanks, as always, for reading.
What does it mean to forget? Is the forgetting of someone, or something, possible? Explain.
Galinda stared at the blank paper, that one word nagging at her.
Someone walked by, so she lifted her pencil and leaned over her notebook, head cocked to the side like she was deep in thought. The person passed without looking at her. She relaxed immediately.
This essay had been assigned two weeks ago and was now due tomorrow. Galinda had wanted to forget about it and had succeeded, until the night before.
She lifted her gaze from the paper and out the library window. She wished she could merely point to circumstances rather than formulate them into an introduction, thesis statement, body, and conclusion, because Shiz was dripping with them.
It had been three months since Elphaba's father had come and left, since Nessa had spat in her sister's face and abandoned her. Nobody spoke openly about it anymore, but Galinda knew that didn't mean forgetting. She could see everyone's memories of the incident come out in little ways — sidelong glances, pointed avoidance, tension. It was so subtle, but Galinda knew it was as real and present as the empty paper taunting her.
It's like everyone wanted to forget, but couldn't.
"That might make a good thesis statement," Galinda murmured.
She felt eyes on her hairline and she glanced over her shoulder. The group at the next table abruptly stopped talking. One offered a limp smile and wave before quickly turning away.
Her stomach twinged and she spun gracefully back to her homework before anyone could see the blush creeping to her cheeks.
She wished everyone could forget, too.
For several weeks after the incident she had wished she'd been there, wished she'd seen what Elphaba had done, wished she could have stopped her. But every wayward stare and whisper made her more and more grateful that she hadn't been.
Before, everyone had seemed so willing to overlook her association with Elphaba in exchange for what Galinda had to offer — her status, her popularity, her money. Galinda didn't necessarily like it, but it was the truth. Yet now — now, were people still as willing?
Did it matter?
Galinda gripped her pencil, turning back to the paper.
Chairs groaned suddenly in protest as their occupants shot upward. Papers rustled frantically, hushed whispers peaked, then grew silent. By the time Galinda spun around to see what was going on, the group at the other table was already rounding the corner, barely holding all of their things.
She took a deep breath.
Elphaba appeared from between the bookshelves, clutching at least four books against her chest while also struggling to keep a very full book bag on her shoulder. "Glin!" she smiled. "There you are." She deposited all her books on the table with a relieved sigh. "How's the essay writing going?"
"Terrible." Galinda tossed her pencil onto the table and brought her manicured nails to her temples. "Absolutely terrible. I feel like I've been at this for hours and I have nothing."
Elphaba blew a stray strand out of her eyes as she flopped into a chair, dropping the book bag and massaging her shoulder. "Which essay was this again?"
"The one about forgetting. For Philosophy?" Galinda rolled her eyes. "And, ironically, I had a thesis statement in mind moments ago but I can't seem to remember it now."
Elphaba laughed. "You could even use that as an example if you wanted."
"Sure, because that would look professional." Galinda buried her face in her hands. "Oz, I hate this class. What kind of question is that? Forgetting? And how am I supposed to explain it?"
Elphaba lifted her shoulders. "If I told you what I did, that would be cheating, wouldn't it?"
"I suppose." Galinda inhaled, sitting up and running her fingers through her hair.
The two worked in silence for a while — or, rather, Elphaba took up half the table with her books and appeared to be working on three projects at once, while Galinda stared at her paper and scratched a sentence every five minutes and then crossed one out every ten.
Forgetting, forgetting, forgetting.
Elphaba paused mid page-turn. "Hm?"
"Do you think you could ever forget?" Galinda's eyes flickered from Elphaba's to her own hands to her paper filled with scribbles. "What's happened to you, I mean?"
Elphaba's tongue flicked across her lips briefly. Her hands hovered over her book before she closed it.
"I don't know," she replied quietly. "I honestly don't. I'd like to imagine that as I grow older the details will fade, but — but —" she shook her head. "So far, they're as fresh as the day I, um, experienced them." Her gaze dropped to her fingers, toying with her sleeve, lifting, tugging, tucking the fabric to the point of fraying. "Of course, the scars don't help either." She chuckled miserably. "I almost think I was born to be damaged."
"But also to be smart," Galinda reminded her gently. "To be passionate, to be strong."
Elphaba waved a hand. "Yeah, yeah. But that doesn't change the fact that I can't — can't close my eyes without seeing or feeling or remembering. But at least it's not my reality anymore." She sighed. "At least it's gone. All gone, save for what's left in my head."
Galinda bit her lip, allowing a heavy pause to blanket them until she spoke. "Do — do you miss her?"
Elphaba's jaw worked, eyes stared furiously out the window.
"I miss the memories I have of Nessarose," she said. "But I do not miss the person she became." She chuckled darkly. "It's those memories I wish I could forget — I wish I could just love her or just hate her, not both." Her knuckles tapped anxiously against the table, but her face was all inquisitive calm as she turned to Galinda. "What about you? Do you — do you think you could ever forget?"
Blood on the countertop, I hate myself I want to be dead, nightmares, pills, I care about you, Elphie.
"No," she whispered. "No, I don't think I could." She hesitated. "But I'm also not sure if I'd want to."
But I wish everyone else would forget.
She inhaled shakily, hoping the air would settle her chest.
Elphaba's shoulders slowly began to scrunch upward in discomfort, guilt seeping from every green pore. "I'm sorry," she mumbled. "It's my fault."
Galinda frowned. "What is?"
"That you have so much you can't forget. If you didn't know me — if you didn't know me —"
"If I didn't know you, I don't know what I would do," Galinda said firmly. Her chest squirmed again. She ignored it. "You may have brought a lot of chaos into my life, Elphie, but it was worth it. Okay? It was worth it."
Elphaba looked at her for a moment from behind her shoulders before she broke into a small smile. Shyness rarely graced her face, but it made her look almost childish, and it never ceased to make Galinda grin. "Listen, I'm truly grateful for you," Elphaba said softly. "I really am. I don't know what I would do without you." She turned away, but Galinda didn't need to see her uncomfortable blush, her allergic reaction to vulnerability, to know it was there and rampant. "But anyway. Um. I —"
"Hey." Galinda reached across the table and squeezed her shoulder. "I don't know what I'd do without you, either."
Elphaba glanced at her and offered a smile in response before taking a breath and turning back to her books. "Did you know that the Ozmopolitan reports that the Animal population has decreased by forty-five percent just in the last six months?"
Galinda chuckled a little, leaning back in her chair. "No, I didn't."
Elphaba pulled her braid over her shoulder, twisting at the ends. "I figured, but that's a large number. They naturally aren't accounting for the Animals in hiding, either — I'm certain there has to be an underground of some sort, somewhere — but still, isn't that disconcerting? And I just can't help but feel like no one's doing a single thing about it."
"Perhaps that's where you come in," mused Galinda. "If anyone could do anything about this, you could."
Elphaba sighed. "Yes," she said sardonically. "The green girl and the Animals. What a great fit." She looked at Galinda's paper. "I'm assuming you got nothing done?"
"Do you even need to ask?" Galinda shook her head and tossed her hair over her shoulder. "Whatever. I'll finish it tonight. I think I just need to clear my head."
"Agreed." Elphaba began the hefty task of cleaning up. "Do you want to walk with me?"
She opened her mouth to agree, but no words came. Her eyes were drawn to the window, to students buzzing between classes, to all those eyes and mouths, all of the conduits for the whispers and rumors. Shame filled her body but it didn't stop her from speaking, ever so gracefully, ever so diplomatically. "No, I think I'm going to head straight back to the dorm. Take a nap, maybe. That would probably help."
"Of course." Elphaba shoved the remaining books in her bag and slung it over her shoulder with some difficulty. "Honestly, sometimes sleep is the best remedy for writer's block. There was a passage in our Psychology textbook about it, actually, or something similar! I'm not sure if you remember, but …"
Galinda let Elphaba prattle on as they made for the stairs and the door. It didn't take long for Galinda to tune Elphaba out; her heart seemed to be beating too loud for her to hear anything else.
Was it wrong to feel every stare, for discomfort to rise to her collarbone at the very thought of the gossip about her, for her to want, more than anything else in the world, all of this to go away?
"… and sleep, overall, is just an amazing tool that few people take full advantage of. But, I suppose, that's just the —"
The two girls stopped walking. Elphaba twitched at the name.
"Professor," she nodded, turning towards the tall man approaching them. He taught all the Literature classes, and his oversized glasses made him appear bug-like and as awkward as he actually was.
"Madame Morrible wanted me to deliver this to you." He held a small, brown package stiffly out in her direction. "She said that you, ah, never checked your mail, so it was best to be delivered this way."
Elphaba's eyebrows curled in confusion, but she took it from him anyway. "Thank you."
"She also would like you to report back to her with your response as soon as possible," he said quickly. "Um — have, er, have a great day, ladies."
Galinda chuckled as he walked briskly away. "Poor guy. He's always had trouble around women."
"Or maybe it's me." Elphaba smirked as she held up the package — if it could even be called that. It was incredibly small and looked to be impossibly light.
"What do you think it is?" Galinda wondered.
"I don't know, but since it's from Morrible, it's bound to be interesting," Elphaba said. "Let's find someplace quiet to open it."
"We're in a library, everywhere's quiet."
Elphaba huffed. "Oh, you know what I mean. Come on."
It didn't take long to find an abandoned corner. Carefully, Elphaba tore the edge of the package open and withdrew a large, emerald envelope.
Galinda's breath caught. It was a vivid green, the same color as Elphaba's skin, only brighter and glossier. The gold lining twinkled in the light. Elphaba held it in an almost confused, stunned awe. It took her several moments of shock before she flipped it over, her fingers beginning to tremble. Galinda gasped audibly.
There, in a beautiful blend of green and gold, gleaming proudly from the center of the thick wax, was an unmistakably elaborate W.