There were few things Elphaba was sure of in that moment — one, that Galinda was saying something (she almost always was); two, that the envelope matched her skin perfectly; and three, that her heart was going to leap out of her throat and spatter the seal, masking the W in a web of blood and hope and disbelief.
"… can't mistake the jagged edges of the W, it's on every tower, statue, poster in Oz, it seems, and —"
Elphaba's thumb traced the wax. She wondered if the Wizard had done the same thing. The Wizard.
"Elphie!" Galinda cried, gripping her arm suddenly and jolting her eyes upward, "Elphie, for the love of Oz, open it! I'm dying from suspense!"
The seal mumbled a satisfying trrr as she gently pried the envelope open and slid out an immaculately folded letter, the paper thick, crisp, and far too formal for her fumbling fingers. She couldn't breathe.
Miss Elphaba Thropp,
It is upon
"Elphaba, read the Oz-forsaken thing aloud or I will wrench it from you and read it myself!"
Elphaba cleared her throat.
Miss Elphaba Thropp,
It is upon great recommendation from your Headmistress of Shiz University, Madame Morrible, that I personally write to you, inviting you to an audience with me on the seventeenth of May this year. ("OH MY OZ!" Galinda shrieked. "Hush!" Elphaba demanded.) I have been told of your magical prowess and your ambitions, and I look forward to having the privilege of discussing your future with you further.
The girls stared in shock at the paper, at the looping curls of his signature. Galinda was the first to shake loose.
"Elphaba!" she cried. "The Wizard — the Wizard himself — he wants to meet you!"
"He wants to meet me," Elphaba whispered. A grin was creeping over her face. "He wants to meet me!"
"More than that," Galinda continued, wonderstruck by every word she said, "he wants to discuss your future! Elphie! You haven't even graduated and you could have a job with the Wizard!"
Elphaba's mind whirred. Like she was lucid dreaming, she could see it all before her — the Wizard, old, stern-looking, but kind and strong, his eyes widening in awe as she performed spells no one had done before; the Wizard, leaping from his throne in joy, offering her a job on the spot; the Wizard, with her by his side, eradicating Animal cruelty once and for all —
"I can do something," she murmured, her rampant thoughts losing room in her head and spilling out of her mouth. "I can finally accomplish something, I can make good, I can do something!" She tossed the envelope onto the table and began to pace, her arms flapping excitedly, giving her the appearance of an oversized bird. "This is the perfect opportunity for me. I haven't had a voice till now, I haven't been able to be anything except that green girl, that freak, that suicidal, violent, disturbed loner — but I'll show them." She grinned, eyes glowing at Galinda. "I'll show all of them — my father, Nessa, these Shiz idiots. When I'm by the Wizard's side, they — they —" Her smile widened and arms stretched further. "And the Animals!" She slowly circled the table, practically bouncing on her toes each time she paused. "I can be their voice, their representative! I'll have the platform, I can help them, I can save them! Glin, I can save them all!"
While Elphaba had been lost in her elaborate scheme of grandeur, Galinda's expression had melted from one of joy into one of divided uncertainty. She lifted the corners of her mouth immediately upon hearing her name, but Elphaba had spun around too quickly not to notice.
"Galinda?" Her face drooped slightly. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing!" Galinda's smile brightened. "I'm sorry, I was just lost in thought. This is so exciting."
Elphaba glared at her until the smile retreated, Galinda's lips twisting in guilt and she immediately looked away. "I'm sorry," she sputtered, "it's silly, really —"
"What?" Elphaba's eyebrows came together.
"It's just — I love seeing you happy, don't get me wrong. I do. Seeing you this happy makes me overjoyed, but I — well, what if —" Galinda took a deep breath and hesitated.
"What if you don't come back?" Clearly, Galinda had meant to phrase that differently, for she immediately turned crimson. "I mean, you could get a job with the Wizard, which is wonderful, but what if — what if I never see you again?"
Elphaba blinked, rendered momentarily speechless by that question. Galinda took that as permission to ramble on, trying frantically to wrap up her fumbled words into something pretty.
"This is an amazing opportunity and I can't wait to see you — to see — to see you soar, Elphie. Really." She paused for a fraction of a second, just long enough for her tongue to dart nervously out and glaze her lips. "You deserve this more than anyone, but what if you get swept away? Lost in — in everything the Wizard offers you? If you lose yourself in it — if I lose — well — what I mean to say —"
"Stop." Elphaba's hands came to rest on the back of a chair. She leaned forward onto it, ducking her head to try and catch Galinda's downcast eye. "You're getting ahead of yourself, Glin. I haven't committed to anything yet. Who knows," she teased, "I could get there and he's really just a stuck-up jerk." She chuckled and shrugged. "And as for losing myself, I've come to the realization that my passions are who I am. I can't hide it, I can't escape it. The Animals are a key component to my existence. I cannot lose myself if I'm surrounded by what makes up my identity."
Galinda slowly sank into the chair beside her, fidgeting with the hems of her sleeves. "You're right. I'm sorry. I'm allowing my — insecurities to steal your joy. It's rude and inappropriate of me and —"
"Well, yes, I suppose it is," interrupted Elphaba, "but luckily for you, I don't care. I'm not like Shen or Pfannee, Glin, where you need to apologize for every minor social mishap you make. Please."
Galinda closed her eyes briefly. A calm silence rippled between them as Elphaba returned to her letter and Galinda to her thoughts.
Elphaba looked up from where she had been examining the glossy stamp. "What?"
"The seventeenth of May. That's in two weeks." Galinda lifted her gaze from her lap to meet Elphaba's, her expression clear of everything except businesslike gentleness and the shadow of a growing smile. "You'll need a new outfit."
Elphaba's eyebrow arched like a steeple. "A whole new outfit? For one audience with the Wizard? I think not."
"What, are you going to meet him in that?"
Elphaba glanced down at her faded black pants, scuffed boots, and snagged gray cardigan.
"Well, not in this," she said indignantly. "In one of my nicer ensembles."
"Which are …"
Elphaba glared at her. Galinda smiled sweetly in return.
"Exactly. I get to take you shopping in preparation. Deal?"
Elphaba huffed, suddenly extremely fascinated with the envelope, tilting it sideways to peer at the bottom edge. "Well, it's not exactly a deal if it's one-sided in such a —" she paused, surprised, and she and Galinda both watched as another piece of paper fluttered out of the envelope and nosedived gracefully to the floor.
"That's odd," remarked Galinda. "It doesn't look nearly as official."
Elphaba bent to retrieve it. Unlike the thick, glossy golds and greens of the Wizard's letter, this paper was reedy, small, and a stale shade of brown. Hastily, she unfolded it and her eyebrows shot up again.
"What?" Galinda demanded.
Elphaba silently began to read, and a fresh smile appeared.
"Elphaba Thropp, would you stop keeping me in suspense —"
"Oh, it's nothing," Elphaba replied nonchalantly, folding it again. "Just a little note from Madame Morrible, nothing to pay much attention to."
Now it was Galinda's turn to glare. Elphaba grinned. Tucking the note in her pocket, she reached into the envelope and pulled out train tickets. Two of them.
"She took the liberty of purchasing a ticket for you as well," Elphaba said, her smile widening. "She, apparently, believes that your presence and talents would be beneficial to me. And she's not wrong."
Galinda stared, wide-eyed, at the tickets. More specifically, at her name, embossed in golden finery. Galinda Upland — Shiz to Emerald City.
"The Emerald City," she whispered.
Elphaba reached forward, gently grasping Galinda's shoulders. The tickets slid against her arm.
"Will you come with me?" Elphaba asked softly. Her eyes were glowing, but no longer with the passion she reserved for the Animals — instead of a wildfire, they were candles, flickering hopefully. "You've done so much. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be here, Glin. In complete honesty, you are the reason I am alive, and the reason I'm able to do this. The reason I can accomplish something." She pulled away, holding up the tickets, her face dropping the slightest bit. "Please?"
Galinda blinked sluggishly, like she was waking from a dream. Her face slowly lit from the inside out into a brilliant smile that made her whole face glow in beautiful radiance. "I can come with you?" she breathed.
Elphaba laughed, a warm sound that echoed around the otherwise silent library. "Have you not listened to a single word I said? Yes! Yes, you can come with me!"
Galinda snatched the tickets out of her hand and gawked at them. "The Emerald City — to meet the — the — oh my Oz, I'm going to have to get a whole different wardrobe —"
Elphaba rolled her eyes, but couldn't keep the girlish grin off of her face. She was going to meet the Wizard. They were going to meet the Wizard.
Elphaba didn't want to forget anything. Nerves and awe set her senses on high alert, her brain running at maximum capacity. Galinda was able to fall asleep after two hours of the train trip and had been in a deep sleep since; it took Elphaba reading the same chapter over three times until she succumbed to the pull of distraction, resigning herself to staring out the window and absorbing everything, everything, everything.
The musty smell of well-worn leather. Galinda's faint, floral perfume. The soft curl of tea steam, untouched on the tray in front of her. The barely apparent whining of metal on metal, wheels on rusty tracks. The blur of grass and hills and sky whizzing by, delivering her farther and farther from the life she knew and into the life she wanted.
Gently, she placed her hand onto the window. It was cold against her emerald skin, blending effortlessly into the passing earth. She let her fingers fall, tracing lazy patterns through the dust on the windowpane as they went, landing in her lap, where she knotted them together laboriously.
No matter how hard she tried, no matter how forcefully she thought, she couldn't fully understand what was happening to her, and she knew it. She was going to see the Wizard. Her whole life was going to change in roughly two hours — one hour — forty five minutes — twenty — fifteen. This she knew. But she couldn't see — couldn't comprehend — just how much her life would change. That feeling, that understanding, was so close. She knew her life would change. She could even guess how it would change. But she didn't know exactly how, and it was messing with her brain more than anything else.
The metallic groaning of the train began to pound in her veins, pressing hot against her skin, turning copper in her mouth. Fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes.
What if this was a mistake?
Something ominous bubbled in her throat.
What if this was all just a mistake? What if the Wizard thought she was someone else, someone better, someone stronger, someone more powerful, someone more?
The cracked leather of the seat squeaked under her suddenly slick fingertips.
Had she been foolish? Coming here, doing this?
Morrible believed in her. Galinda believed in her.
But would the Wizard?
The floodgates of her mind opened. Just a crack. But a trickle began to leak out, picking up steam, dripping steadily on her consciousness. Images began to flow, twirling in the tea, glistening in the glass on the window — she enters his throne room, hands twisting; he looks at her and smiles, but not in the friendly, hospitable I-hope-you're-comfortable-here kind of way, but in a condescending, snake-like, oddly familiar manner; he beckons her over, Morrible and Galinda looking on, watching, waiting; she tries to do what he asks, but she can't, she can't, I can't —
Her breath caught.
You can't do this.
She yanked her gaze to the window, but instead of skies and clouds, all she could see was herself.
Did you honestly think you were capable of this? Did you honestly think the little green girl with an uncontrollable temper would somehow be appealing to him?
She could feel the subconscious laughter percolating under her scalp.
You're a fool.
The floodgates burst open. All the feelings she'd almost forgotten came pouring back, filling her lungs, her throat. Too much. Too much at once.
She was drowning.
Galinda shifted in her sleep, sliding down the seat until her feet almost upended the tea tray. Elphaba reached for the tea instinctively, but her hands had taken to shaking so suddenly that she couldn't tell whether it had been Galinda who had spilled the tea or her sweaty fingers.
You think just because some insignificant, dull-minded blonde girl decided you were a convenient friend means that the Wizard, the ruler of Oz, would want you? You think that because the head of a university wrote a nice recommendation letter means that the Wizard would want to train you? To have you by his side?
She sat back, trembling, in her seat. Galinda's head lolled against her shoulder. Her chest wrung itself out like a wet rag.
"No," she croaked, "not again, I'm not doing this again — I —"
You'll always be doing this. You will never be rid of us. We are who you are. And that hasn't changed, and never will change.
Like a phantom sensation, her scars began to sting. A call.
Her fingers gravitated towards them, nails extended, scratching the itch that refused to go away. The itch of the mind.
Breathe. She forced herself to breathe.
You don't control me, she thought. You exist in me but you are not me. You are not truth, you are not real, you are not welcome, you are not who I am.
She exhaled. Her hand closed around her wrist. Around her scars.
The voices quieted, stunned, for a moment.
Only a moment.
Then who are you? You're pretending to be someone you're not! You think you're powerful now? You think because you faced your father, you're somehow strong? No. You're weak. You failed to kill him, you failed to remove his stain from your life, you've failed at everything you've tried, what is to say this meeting with the Wizard will be any different?
Her eyes squeezed shut. A hissing filled her mind, filled the compartment, rattled the tray. Was it the train?
Your life is a waste. Don't try to convince yourself otherwise; you will always be worthless. You will always be ours. We. Are. A part of you.
"No!" The word left her mouth, a bullet from a gun. Her chest was fire. "You are not a part of me! Not anymore!" Her hand shook, wobbling like a bird in a storm. It landed gently on Galinda's cheek, a thumb sliding beneath a golden curl. "She is a part of me! This —" she yanked the letter from her pocket, shaking it at the air, "this is a part of me! The Animals, their struggles, their need — they are a part of me! You — will — not — destroy me again!"
The rage. In a way, more palpable, more bloody, than anything she had ever done to her father.
Her head surfaced above the water.
You should've died a long time ago, you don't deserve to be here, you're useless, you —
"I — am — valuable!" Her voice rose, shaking, as she gripped the windowsill and spat at her reflection. "I am important, my —" she choked, but didn't stop, "my life has a purpose. I will make good in ways that I never knew, that I never imagined, and I will never listen to you again!"
The pressure on her shoulder stirred and lifted. "Elphie?" Galinda murmured, still half-asleep. "Why are you moving so much? Are we here? Did you spill the tea?"
Elphaba waited, staring at her eyes in the window, daring them to reply. Daring them to tell her she wasn't good enough, to say one more time that she should die.
She fingered the scars, tracing the ridges with her nails.
She stepped onto shore.
"Elphie? Are you okay?"
Elphaba turned to look at her.
"Yes," she said, slowly, hesitantly. A smile blossomed out of uncertainty into confidence. "Yes, I think I am."
Galinda returned the smile, running a hand through her hair. "Good. I may have been dreaming, but I thought I heard you — well, were you talking to someone?"
"No, you must have been dreaming. There's nobody there."
Galinda shrugged. "Okay! Well, I —" she paused, eyes widening as she stared out the window. Elphaba turned and inhaled.
Poking over the horizon, bludgeoning the sky.
Spires of emerald, turrets of green, rising proudly from the ground and glowing at all who dared pass below it.
"We're here," Galinda murmured in awe.
Elphaba slid her green hand in Galinda's pale one.
Perhaps it was the tremor that still remained, or the clamminess of one who just brushed with death, but Galinda understood everything Elphaba was incapable of saying.
"You can do this," she whispered.
Elphaba nodded, taking in the city with hungry eyes. "Yes," she breathed. "Yes, I can."
All that's left to say now, I suppose, is thank you.
Thank you all for following this story for two years to its end. Thank you to those who waited a really long time (and I mean, a really long time) in between chapters and stuck with this story from the beginning. Your reviews have made me so happy. This was my first foray into the fanfiction world, and you all have encouraged me so much.
I leave for college in about a week now, so I will most likely not be creating much work on this site. I leave you with this story in the hopes that you will be inspired to defeat your own voices. It is possible, and you are so unbelievably, remarkably, miraculously important. Don't forget that.
Much love to you all.
"Anyone who is among the living has hope." — Ecclesiastes 9:4
"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him." — Psalms 62:5