here i am with another chapter. the first half or so is shiz only because i felt like it:) tomorrow, school starts again, so we'll see how much i'm gonna be able to write. i'm kind of waiting for another lockdown right now since we're currently at the highest number of new cases per day ever. but well, i guess we'll just have to wait and see.
pls leave a review, i'd love to know what you're thinking about this.
stay safe and healthy!
The World Keeps Spinning On And On
'Green absurdity is Nest Hardings's new Eminent' read the front page of the Emerald Post -in all-caps and bold-lettered and definitely not accepting anyone to ignore it. It was a headline, and it was one that attracted readers as free drinks on Saturdays attracted customers and accidents -incidents, they'd tell themselves- on the road did bystanders. And it was a front-page article, no less. Put on display in the shopping windows of the local printing stores, demanding to be seen and read by whoever came to pass it. It was a great economic opportunity for the managers of the Emerald Post -and they had seized it without hesitating once, placating the abnormal goings-on in Nest Hardings, Munchkinland with proud smiles that verged on arrogance and a disregard for the feelings of those involved that could be quite sickening indeed. And the chief editor of the Emerald Post prided himself, without the slightest tinge of sympathy, with being the only newspaper with the right to print this particular story. (He did not pride himself with the fact that it had taken his first secretary quite some time in the ambassador of Munchkinland's private study until they'd gotten permission to print and get the story out there. In fact, he never mentioned it even once. And he was clever enough to have coaxed all his secretaries into signing a contract, binding them to never say a word.) It really was a huge scandal -so it was sold as an enormous one, naturally. For economic reasons only, of course. And scandals always worked in the press's favor. The shares rose on and on, money flowed into the pockets of chief- and senior- and managing editors and no one ever said a word about the dirty work happening underneath said editors' desks. It was all very profitable, after all.
Soon, all shopping windows were plastered with the front page of the latest issue of the Emerald Post, and they even started printing it in color -something rare and expensive and attracting more and more readers still- and boys in wrecked trousers and wrinkled shirts started handing out leaflets in the street (and got nothing in return, usually, and a coin or two if the most generous of the generous had had a particularly great day—which happened rarely, if not never.) Business men in tight suits and almost clinically well-polished shoes sat in cramped little cafés, sipping coffee and reading, not once, not twice, but three times -or even four- what they hadn't believed the first time, and old men, lonely and in great need of someone to talk to and something to talk about, distracted the blonde waitresses for a while to show them the latest news—and the most scandalous ones. Groups of gossipy women were entirely grateful for another topic to chat (tattle) about than Mrs. Backfield's single son and Mrs. Pendix's scandalous tea party. They found great pleasure in badmouthing what they couldn't dream of achieving and judging about what they didn't have a single clue of. They created rumors so big, so false, so scandalous, that they forgot who had brought them to life and started believing them eventually. Like a pack of starving hyenas, they waited for the next piece of gossip, looming in the shadows and on the edge of their seats and leapt at whatever they could find, licking their lips hungrily -insatiably.
And in the midst of it all stood, blonde hair curled to the point of perfection, lips puffed and eyes wide, Glinda Arduenna of the Upper Uplands and couldn't believe what she was reading.
Rarely did she spare the newspapers a second glance, never a second thought. But today, she'd found herself drawn to the café that had all kinds of newspapers from the different corners of Oz stacked on a table in the back -almost as if by magic. She'd gone in there out of boredom, she'd convinced herself, because Pfanee and Milla and Shenshen had still been nowhere to be found and she'd preferred the hustle and bustle of the café over the cold in the streets, naturally. And now she stood, trying hard to reign in her emotions, stop her heart from thumping so hard in her chest, stop her mouth from hanging open. Her lower lip dipped carefully beneath her teeth as if testing the stability of her mind, the control she had over her reaction. Then, with great poise and so slow that it almost caused her physical pain, she turned and tucked the newspaper under her elbow, hurrying out of the café and back into the streets without a single backward glance. Pfanee, Milla and Shenshen would do well without her, she was sure.
This feeling inside her -this nervousness, this strain- didn't still for a long time. Instead, it increased, made her restless, made her more impatient than she'd like to allow herself. So, Glinda sat on the edge of her seat as she watched them closely -Boq, Crope and Tibbett and Fiyero- while they read the paper she'd shoved in front of them, interrupting their meeting in the small café on the edge of the campus. They'd looked quite stunned for a moment, not expecting such great company on a day like this -or any other day, really- and Glinda had chosen to ignore Boq's reddened cheeks, even as she sat down at their table.
Crope gaped, Tibbett stared, Boq frowned. Fiyero stood, cheeks darker than usual with anger -or sadness- that was so unlike him that neither of them could place it at first. He was clenching his fists, a vein on his forehead clearly protruding. They had never seen him like this. -Not that Glinda saw much of him anyway.
"I told her it would end like this!" said Fiyero, lips pressed into a thin line. "I warned her! But she didn't listen. She never listened."
"Wait," Crope sat up. "You knew about this? She told you?"
But Fiyero was too wound up to answer and so, they turned to the newspaper again, as if that could be of any help.
"I wonder," murmured Boq, the only Munchkin at this table, but then wondered about nothing at all and stared on, not at the newspaper but at the air above it.
The rest of them was quite helpless, indeed, or at least felt that way.
Eventually, Boq squared his shoulders and said, quietly, "I was sure there still was the Second Descending to take over the Eminence."
"Her mother, you mean?" asked Crope and Boq nodded, perhaps a bit tiredly.
Meanwhile, Tibbett drew the paper closer to him, bending lower. "It says here that… first public statement of the Thropp family… yada, yada, yada… it has been decided that it would be in the best interest for all of Munchkinland if Mrs. Thropp were to hand the Eminence down to the next heir." He paused there, looking up. "'In the best interest'? Making her rule at—what? Eighteen?"
Fiyero clenched his fists harder. "And with what to build her knowledge upon? She's not prepared -I know for a fact, she isn't. And why should she be? She was never set to be Eminent, or was she?"
He looked around, into the faces of his friends, or whatever he wanted to call them, and found them averted. They stared down at their fingers and laps and whatnot with flushed cheeks because it was only now that they realized that, in spite of all this time they'd known her, they didn't know a single thing about her that swung off the obvious; she was green, smart and passionate and a whole lot of trouble. But they didn't know the girl behind the green, the mind behind the smart, the heart behind the passionate, the story behind the trouble. They didn't know her -not in the way they pretended to.
With a heavy sigh, Glinda slumped on her chair. "So that's why she was so upset."
And Fiyero said, quietly. "So that's why she said she wouldn't return to get her degree."
"She was the smartest of us," Boq stared on at his fingers, twisting them in his lap and looking as if in great pain.
"You're talking as if she had died," Crope joked -without a trace of amusement- and Fiyero let out a hollow laugh from across the table.
"She might as well have. We won't see her again. Perhaps never," he threw his crumpled napkin onto the table in frustration.
"We'll find a way," Boq nodded, suddenly feeling confident. "She'll find a way."
But Fiyero shook his head. "She's Eminent now, Boq. She can't just find a way."
Glinda folded her hands in her lap and stared down at the toe of her shoes. They were fairly new and still all shiny and perfect. It'll fade soon, she knew, so she was ought to enjoy it while it lasted.
"D'you think she'll keep up her plans?" asked Tibbett from the other end of the table. "I mean, as Eminent perhaps she can really achieve something."
"As Eminent, she is really bound by responsibility," Fiyero said darkly and they all averted their eyes.
Fiyero was the only one who could understand politics even just the slightest bit -due to his own experience. Everyone else at this table who had just the smallest bit of knowledge on such things had learned them from books and classes -which simply wasn't the same.
"But it's her," Tibbett pushed on. "She won't rest until this is over, let me tell you, she always gets what she wants."
But the silence afterwards told them otherwise and so did the lack of green skin in this café. She never gets what she wants. They thought to themselves, though no one dared to speak it aloud.
"Well," said Boq after a while, the first one not to stand this silence anymore. "We'll still send her all newfound materials, right?"
They nodded: of course, they would. And Glinda looked on in great confusion.
"Newfound materials?" she asked, and the boys looked at her with surprise as if they'd only now realized that she was still there.
They exchanged a look. One that said 'shit, what are we gonna say' and Glinda sat up straight. "So, this is what all those secrets were about? You're in cahoots with her, right?"
Guilty -they all looked guilty. And reluctant to say anything. But Glinda was smart enough to put one and one together.
"All those books and papers you brought to the carriage… and I'd been wondering how much school material you'd borrowed from her," she almost palmed her face -feeling perhaps slightly humiliated. "What is it about? What are you doing? What is she doing?"
"Miss Glinda," started Crope and Glinda couldn't help but think, bitterly, so now we're back to 'Miss Glinda' again. Somehow, it stung a little.
"I think it's not our place to tell," interrupted Tibbett, raising a hand. "We're involved because we were involved early and because we had something they didn't, and she's involved because she was involved from the start."
Glinda looked at the delicate bracelet slung around her wrist, shimmering in a soft gold of sorts. "And I'm not involved because she doesn't trust me."
"They wanted to keep the number of people that know as small as possible," explained Fiyero. "Only people whose involvement is necessary know. And you- you aren't necessary for this."
For a moment, it was very quiet at their table. None of them dared to raise their voice, awaiting her reaction with bated breath.
Glinda slipped off her chair and stood, the smile on her lips weak and obviously faked. "Well, I think I'll get going, then. I'm said to meet the girls in the city."
She paused. "When you send her your papers, say hello from me."
"Why don't you just send her a letter?" Boq frowned and Glinda huffed and looked down at her folded hands.
"I think we weren't close enough for that."
"Well then…," she pushed her chin upward as if to prove how okay she was with all of this. "Goodbye."
And with swirling skirts, she crossed the café and was out on the streets, gone before either of the boys had the chance to bid her farewell.
"Do you think she's hurt by that?" Fiyero asked the other boys, still trying to catch another glimpse of the blond girl.
He didn't like hurting anyone, he didn't like seeing others in misery. He was sensitive that way.
"Maybe," Crope shrugged. "Girls are easily offended, I think."
It was much later that it occurred to them all that not once in their conversation had they used her name. They'd avoided it like the plague, like some twisted spell.
As if the world might crumple down around them, were they to speak her name aloud—and in public no less.
So, they kept it in their thoughts, and in their thoughts only. They murmured it in their minds, listening to the soft roll of their tongues, cooed vowels resounding in their heads. And they tried to remember what it sounded like spoken out loud, no restraint.
There was this irrational fear in all of them, though especially in Glinda, that if they spoke it aloud, somehow, she would know that they were talking about her. And she'd think they were laughing at her and pulling her to pieces when really, they just missed her so much.
And Elphaba would never know.
Two months passed and soon came the end of the short autumn break. Elphaba's days became more and more crammed with meetings and councils and signing this and signing that and having perhaps ten minutes to herself, sitting on the edge of her chair, only halfheartedly focusing on her book. She adapted quickly to old men with wrinkled foreheads questioning her brains and capabilities, she became a master of ignoring subtle insults thrown her way rather than retorting and putting the other to shame with her wit.
Days were short and full; nights were long and empty. She spent them staring at the ceiling above her or at the stars on the dome of the sky, rising high and higher. Rest was few and far between. Dark circles carved into the skin underneath her eyes, she picked up the habit of letting her fingers dance whenever they could. She seemed restless and strained. Her steps were heavier than before, but they were also faster. There was a different purpose to them now, one that she was running away from rather than striving to achieve. Meals were pushed down, down, down in her schedule. She avoided Melena like the plague -because she couldn't stand the drowsiness, she told herself. (Because she couldn't bear the feeling of loneliness with a parent so close by.) She limited contact with Nessa as to avoid being questioned and then pushed to answer. She tried to escape Nanny whenever she could, professing papers to read and documents to sign and no, I'm not hungry, no, I don't want to have tea.
Crope and Tibbett would have been proud of her sudden, decent acting skills. Perhaps they would've tried to get her to transfer to Three Queens and pick up a theatrical study as well.
The only one she didn't have to avoid was Shell but that was only because Shell was the one doing the avoiding.
She ate alone, mostly in her (her father's) study if time allowed it, and always hunched over some papers stacked on her desk. But time was always running short and moments or relaxation were rare.
And so, Elphaba came to look forward to Sundays. Which she'd dreaded before, because her sister and her father always insisted on a long prayer at the table and a visit to the church. But now, Sundays meant rest. At least until 12:00 p.m.
She had an entirety of about 5 hours to herself, reading books or musing over Doctor Dillamond's scribbled thoughts, but it wasn't enough. Nothing ever would be if it never led to success.
Elphaba thought that if she had more time, perhaps she could achieve something. Perhaps she could string those lose thoughts together and make sense of them and then, with her newfound power, she could tilt the axis of Oz, throw it all off balance and off course and make a change.
She raised her teacup to her lips, glaring at the movement of the liquid inside. Perhaps, if she worked hard enough, she could even make a change from the inside of this tiny office.
A knock on the door -two fingers- had her look up. The door opened -and of course, it was Nanny who stepped through since no one else knocked but didn't wait for an answer before entering.
"We're having lunch," said the old woman and before Elphaba could open her mouth to respond, she went on: "And you're coming downstairs. I don't care that you're not hungry, Elphaba, you are coming."
Some people might have thought the gesture to be caring -look, they'd say, she just wants to see if you're alright- but Elphaba knew better. Nanny would never do anything for the sole purpose of taking care of her. No, there was always something behind her actions, always some game, some scheme, something she wanted. And it never worked in Elphaba's favor.
Still, she slowly rose to her feet, wary eyes set on the old hag in the doorway.
Downstairs in the dining room of the mansion, the remaining members of the Thropp family had not bothered waiting for Nanny's return. Plates were already loaded, and prayers had already been said. Thank Oz.
No one was talking but still, when Elphaba entered the room -with Nanny hot on her heels- it seemed it got even quieter. Apparently, neither of them had expected Nanny's mission to succeed, yet here she was.
"What a surprise," said Nessa stiffly and Elphaba pressed her lips into a thin line.
She was not about to apologize for her absence, that much was clear.
"Sit down," Nanny ordered, a finger poking into Elphaba's back.
It took her great restraint not to whirl around and snap at the woman.
"Fabala, you look awful," sounded Nessa to her right as Elphaba sat down -and wanted to jump back up again in an instant.
She rolled her eyes, if only slightly. "Thank you, Nessie."
"You should sleep more."
A sigh. "I'll try."
"And you should eat more," Nessa turned to Melena, determination settling in a hardened jaw. "You'll see to it that she eats more, won't you?"
But there was a haze to Melena's eyes again and the woman didn't answer. She just continued to stare into void, her fork searching for peas on her plate.
Nessa turned to her sister again. "Really, Fabala, the Unnamed God hasn't gifted us with such plentiful crop for you to waste."
Elphaba said nothing -and Nessa took it as an indication for her to go on. "It's a shame that I won't be here for Thanksgiving Day."
She said it in a way that was surely meant to attract some sort of great reaction from Elphaba, excitement and curiosity making her voice higher in pitch and more straining on the ears. Elphaba barely turned to face her.
"No. I'll be going back to Shiz University in two days."
"Congratulations," she said. "I'm very happy for you, my sweet."
Perhaps she really should've taken on a theatrical course. It seemed she had become an exceptionally talented actress.
Clearly disappointed by the lack of agitation in her sister's reaction, Nessa sank back against the rest of her chair. For a moment, it was very quiet at the table and somehow, Elphaba found her eyes wandering to her brother, sitting diagonally across from her, and looking at her bluntly and without batting an eyelash. His eyes were narrowed, his forehead wrinkled in a frown. Elphaba looked away.
"Well," Nessa said, stretching the vowels in a way very unlike her. "Is there something you want me deliver to the others?"
Elphaba pursed her lips. "Tell Crope and Tibbett to stop going to the Philosophy Club that often" -she thought for a second, she'd seen Melena choke- "and tell Glinda to stop being so blond."
She leaned back, thinking. "Well, and while you're on it, tell Boq to stop moaning after Glinda, it's getting more and more pathetic."
"Fabala!" exclaimed Nessa, feigning disgust.
But Elphaba was too busy biting down on the inside of her cheek, reigning in this rising wave of anger, to answer.
Two days later, Nanny forced her to stand, back straight and shoulders squared, in front of the Thropp mansion and see them off. It was humiliating, it was cruel. It was absolutely what she'd expected from the old hag. (Who she'd come to dislike more and more over the past time.)
"I promise to write to you every other day," said Nessa and turned her face, offering her cheek for Elphaba to kiss.
"Don't bother," Elphaba waved a hand. "I'll be too busy to read them, anyway."
And never would she even consider torturing herself this much.
"Be well," Nanny said, rather halfheartedly, and ushered Nessa into the carriage.
She was going with her, of course. Elphaba was the only one left behind.
Green fingers curled around the black fabric of a skirt.
"Goodbye," sounded Nessa's voice once more, muffled by the walls of the carriage.
And there they went, taking off to Shiz University, following the way miles and miles along the Yellow Brick Road.
Elphaba watched on with jealousy piercing her heart.
"I hope you're happy!" Elphaba spat into her mother's face.
But the woman remained silent and Elphaba fumed.