This is set just after Elphaba enters the Ozdust wearing her new hat, and follows the dance she and Galinda share, plus her meeting with Fiyero. Just a little piece. Enjoy!
That was all it was. Pathetic, inescapable humiliation. I was drowning in it – wanting to fight, fight back, confront them, defy them…
…instead, I was drowning. Drowning in the smirks, the sniggers, the squeals and jeers. They filled my ears, numbed me to silence. I couldn't hear myself think. My face felt like someone had branded hot coals all over it. I wanted to scream, to sob like a baby. To curse them all into oblivion. To drop through the floor. Run from the room. Bury my face in my hands. Never look anyone in the face again.
I saw Nessa, far across the ballroom, hands clamped over her mouth, eyes scrunched closed as though hoping to wake herself from a nightmare. And there was Avaric, doubled over next to a pack of his friends, howling like a hyena. Moron. And Miss Pfanee and Miss Shenshen, giggling fit to burst. And Miss Milla, mopping her eyes on her frock. I couldn't even tell whether she was pretending or not.
Ignore them. Ignore them all. Ignore them, Elphaba.
The lights were blinding, dazzling; a million colours shooting at me from all angles. I could only blink stupidly, sweat trickling down my forehead in a single rivulet. A foot tripped me – I stumbled like an idiot, nearly falling as my boot laces tangled together. Someone applauded.
Ignore them. Ignore them.
I jutted up my chin. Kept on walking. One step. Two steps. Three steps.
"Did you ever see anything so ridiculous -?"
"- seriously, didn't think she could get any worse -!"
"Where did she get it -?"
"- just look at her boots -!"
Fingers pointed, jutted, jabbed in my direction. I pressed my lips together and forced my chin higher into the air.
Ignore them. You're above them. Ignore them.
I was near the centre of the room now, close to the silvery spotlight, the students moving in a slow, circling mob around me. Everyone buzzing, babbling about me, so close yet so far. Shrieking with laughter.
Elphaba Thropp, world-renowned artichoke, comedian extraordinaire…
And then I saw her. Oz-damnit, she was beautiful. Under the lights of the ballroom, her curls bounced and shone as only gold could. Her dress was simple, soft pink, lit to a glow. Rustling and rippling in little waves out from her slender waist. Her shoes were high-heeled three inches up at least. I almost smirked at that; she was still tiny. Delicate. A fairy. An angel.
An angel sent from hell. I clenched my fists, a bitter taste seeping into my mouth. How deceiving appearances really could be. Though the only thing wrong with the vision of perfection was in fact the face, her face – crumpled with horror, with realisation, with…was that…shame…?
No. No, it couldn't be.
Her eyes met mine. I struggled to narrow them, to make them burn, make them blaze…but it wouldn't come. There was water in my eyes, not fire. Extinguishing the flames I wanted so badly. Blurring my vision as I stumbled to a stop, tripping on my laces again. My hand moved of its own accord, ripping the hat from my head.
And suddenly, everyone was quiet.
I swallowed. Get a GRIP, Elphaba. Fight it down, for Oz's sake. Don't let them see it, see the pathetic, the weak, the naïve…stupid…
How, I asked myself, how, Elphaba. How could you believe, even for a second, that things were changing. That someone – that she – was changing. That certain possibilities…were now open to you. That friendship was now open to you. How could you be so…so…brainless…
The answer to that was standing right in front of me.
She was shaking now, her little hands balled into fists. Pfanee and Shenshen were still smothering silent giggles by her side, but she wasn't laughing with them. Just staring. Numb. Hopeless.
Exactly how I felt.
But I remembered how it had been, just a few hours ago, when she'd come bounding across the dorm room towards me, face alight with warmth, something black and pointed clutched in her hands. I hadn't thought twice. She had won me over in minutes, all smiles and kindness and rosy cheeks and open arms and…
...Oz, Elphaba, you idiot. You idiot, you idiot, you idiot.
Well, there was going to be no more of that, now.
I took a deep breath – the air rasped down my throat, and Avaric sniggered – then stepped into the spotlight. Several pairs of eyebrows raised. I ignored them.
Think this is for you, Miss Galinda? Think again. This is for me. Me. I'm having myself a night out, a dance at the Ozdust. And so help me, I'm going to DANCE.
I squared my shoulders. Fixed the impossibly lovely blonde with the filthiest look I could muster. Placed the pointed black hat back on my head.
Then began to dance.
Milla was the first to break down. As I started to sway, to throw up my arms, to shuffle my feet, to swish my head back and forward in the best attempt of gracefulness I could muster, she collapsed against her boyfriend's shoulder, shaking with silent mirth. Avaric followed suite, his so-called friends joining in soon after. Whispers broke out, hissing like snakes as they wound their way through the crowds of students.
I tilted my head to the ceiling, and closed my eyes.
Think of Madam Morrible. Think of what she said. You're above them. You're beyond them. You're training to meet the Wizard. The Wizard of Oz, the Wizard, the wizard and I…who cares what they think? Who cares what any of them thinks? Least of all Miss Galinda…
Just dance, Elphaba. Just dance.
Cold sweat trickled down my back. The lights above me seemed suddenly much too bright. My hands trembled as I raised them above my head, and tried a little spin – the hat wobbled precariously, threatening to fall, and I clutched at it, desperate, falling to pieces -
- a hand caught my shoulder. I froze.
I whipped around, eyes widening to saucers at the voice because it couldn't be, couldn't be…
"…may I…cut in…?" the familiar lilt of my roommate murmured, her eyes very cautious, her hand very gentle on my shoulder. I could only gape.
Her face was white as bone, her eyes faintly bloodshot. Oz, she looked…almost bad. Like someone had slapped her. Slapped this mocking, scheming, slippery mite of a girl. This sweet, angelic, oh-so-selfless Gilikin beauty I loathed, loathed…
…Oz, she was so beautiful…
Well. If she wanted to make a fool of herself too, who was I to stop her? Be my guest, Miss Galinda.
I stepped back and out of the spotlight, gesturing with a jerk of my hand. She drew in a shuddering breath, closing her eyes a moment. Her expression was unreadable. Then she tiptoed forward and…and…
…began to dance my dance.
For several moments, I could only stare. A hush had settled over the crowded students, a thick blanket of silence spreading out from us both. Galinda didn't seem to notice. Her eyes were on me; deceptively wide, baby-blue, innocent – empty pools, as I knew only too well, yet…
…yet there was a glimmer of something, of some meaning, some intention, some…depth, that I had never seen in all the time I'd had to put up with her. My own eyes blinked, taken aback. She copied my movements, replicated them with such grace and poise; every line faultless, every position executed to perfection. Her body moved so easily, so naturally, I found myself thinking – and then shoved the thought away, shivering. Oz.
Before my very eyes, Miss Galinda was woven my stumbling, staggering travesty into a delicate, alluring dance.
Far across the room, the orchestra cleared their throats – along with those of their instruments – and began to play. Tentative at first, a little faint and out of tune. But growing, rising till every note rang full out, and the gathered students began to disperse, some heading for the bar, others for the free spots of dance floor, chattering and giggling and altogether slipping almost effortlessly back into wasting of time as thoroughly as one could at a party down at the Ozdust ballroom…
I hardly noticed.
Miss Galinda was dancing my dance. Defying her friends, defying the sneers and smirks, sharing my humiliation…bringing herself down in a way I'd never have dreamed she would, not in a million years. A high society Gilikin, dancing like – dancing for – dancing with? – the laughing stock of Shiz, the artichoke of Crage Hall.
Why, I questioned, in wonder. Why.
Her face was very cautious as it turned to mine, finishing a twirl with flawless elegance. But her lips twitched, just the tiniest bit – and then she was smiling, and twirling again, around me and behind me and before me and for me and…with me…?
…and then my arms were swaying, my feet shuffling, my body mimicking hers in the dance she'd created, we'd created, and impossibly…impossibly…nobody was laughing. Of course not. I was with Miss Galinda. She had approved of me. Accepted me. Now everyone else had to do the same. Or at the very least, give me a break. Some breathing space.
Some dancing space.
Her face lit up, her smile dazzling, blinding; sunlight breaking through clouds. She whirled towards me, her movements mirroring mine, and before I knew it…we were dancing. Together.
Of all things…of all people…of all the students in Shiz…
"Galinda," my lips mouthed, the word hovering somewhere between a question and a marvel. Galinda.
She only smiled – only slowed her movements, just a little, leading us to a perfectly timed finish as the music reached a break. It was only when we stopped altogether that I realised how close I'd drifted to her.
Her cheeks were flushed from exertion, her eyes over-bright as they gazed up into mine. No hint of malice, of loathing, even of faked charms and smiles. This was real. This was Galinda.
And I couldn't help myself. My lips pulled up, and I was smiling at her, my head shaking from side to side in disbelief. She giggled – and the sound was open, free, natural. Not a shrill shattering of glass to catch some boy's attention, make some impression to a teacher. No. This was true laughter, real laughter. Bubbling and sparkling and exquisite to listen to.
Her eyes seemed wider, more intent than usual, almost as though she were struggling to take something in. They raked me up and down, lingering on my muddy boots, the lank shape of my dress. As though she was only really seeing me for the first time.
I waited, heart thudding, till suddenly she grinned at me – and linked her fingers with mine.
"Come on!" she whispered, face shining. "I'll introduce you to Fiyero!"
And then she was pulling me away into the crowds, and I was following, my feet on carters; automatic. Nobody stared. Nobody jeered. Nobody even glanced twice at me.
I moved in a daze, unable to believe my eyes. This was impossible. Unbelievable. How…why…
I blinked. Galinda was beaming at me, hand settling mine in that of another person – a taller, less familiar person. The Winkie prince.
"Hey, Elphaba." He grinned at me, flashing twenty perfect teeth. Oh. Great. I remembered him – he'd arranged this whole thing, hadn't he? Made a ridiculous racket down in the grounds, too. Nessa had told me about it.
His hand was heavy and warm around mine as he shook it. I scowled up at him, not saying anything. Galinda giggled.
"It's all right, Elphaba. He doesn't bite – I should know."
They both laughed.
"Come on," Galinda's voice chirped in my ear again, and her hand caught mine, pulling it out of Fiyero's. "Let's dance again – all three of us – this way, Elphaba!"
She skipped off, heels clacking, dress flouncing, face glowing, hand tight, possessive, protective around mine…
…whilst I followed, without a second thought.
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