Her voice was little more than a breath; choking, trembling, teetering on the edge. Heels click-clacked across the floor, tentative at first, then faster, frantic, pounding full out…
"Oh Elphie, Elphie, Elphie -!"
I curled myself against the rank wall, curling my hands into fists and clenching them tight against my mouth. Not a sound, Elphaba, not a sound, no matter how much you might want to.
I'm sorry, Glinda. I'm so sorry.
"E-Elphie…E-Elphie…" she wept, wept like I'd never heard her weep before; raw, grating sobs that made me want to scream my existence out as loud as I could because I couldn't stand it, couldn't leave her, how could I, how could I…
"…E-Elphie, I'm so…so…sorry..."
Her hands must have fumbled with the hat, because it fell with a flump against the floorboards again. One small hand pressed the floor, supporting, fingers spread over the trapdoor's invisible latch. I scrunched my eyes shut against the damp warmth of my own tears and buried my face in my knees to stop myself crying out to her. Glinda…Glinda…
I'm here, Glin. I'm here.
"…oh E-Elphie, I'm s-sorry…"
I'm sorry too, Glin. More than you'll ever know.
…I reached out, reached up. My fingers spread against the ceiling, as precisely underneath hers as I could. So close. So close. A mere slice of wood separating us. How paper-thin it seemed. How fragile. How insignificant, compared with what we shared. Keeping me from her. Keeping her from the truth.
Her sobs choked away, drifted into faint, gasping cries of pain, of loss, of my name spoken a hundred times over. I doubled-over, hunching myself into myself, letting the tears stream. No one here to see. No one who would ever know. Why fight, when I had never been less able to fight in my entire life. The salt of my tears was an unfamiliar taste, wet upon my lips.
My hand flattered, flush up against the wood, pushing with all my strength. It was all right – the trapdoor wouldn't open without my disabling the jinx, so I was safe – but it felt good, felt good, to feel the resistance. Feel myself trying, straining, hurting to reach her. Reach Glinda.
I'm here, Glin. I'm here...
I lost track of time. Twenty, thirty, a hundred minutes? I would never know. All I knew was that when the time came…it was all too soon.
There was a creak of wood. A rustle and swish of fabric against the floorboards. A click-clack of heels steadying themselves. A hiccough; a sniff. A deep, shuddering breath.
I groaned under my breath, pressing my face against the icy stone of the wall to muffle the sound. Not yet, please Oz, not yet. Just a bit longer. A few more moments. Let me steal a few last…last moments.
Chistery. The sound of his voice brought an unbidden smile to my face; the expression felt wrong, unnatural. It had no place, making its appearance at a moment such as this. I heard a clink, glass on stone. Then another one, as Glinda picked up whatever it was Chistery had dropped for her.
"Thank you…Chistery. Now I…I must go…"
Don't, Glinda. Don't go. Don't leave me.
I stretched up on tip-toes, scrabbled at the ceiling for a handhold. Pulling myself as high as I could, I squinted through a crack in the floorboards, catching a glimpse of glittering skirts and blotched cheeks and a flash of green…green…
…Mother's little green bottle…
Glinda had the pointed black hat clutched tight to her chest, face buried out of sight. One hand clasped Mother's bottle – how fitting, that she would look after it for me. Her lips moved around my name, again and again, whispers, prayers, pleadings…and other words…words I couldn't make out. Her voice was warm with emotion, her words so tender, spoken with such care. The sentences lilted, flowed a lullaby, a prayer…a goodbye. Tears glistened on her cheeks in the half-moonlight from the window. I wondered exactly what she was telling me, and if I would ever find out. Then I wondered if I already knew.
She stopped murmuring. Crushed my hat close a moment. Kissed the top of it. Opened her eyes.
Bent and placed it in the exact spot it had sat before, just a hand stretch to my left. Her face was so close I could have touched it. Her lashes shimmered with fresh tears. Her eyes passed over me and I stopped breathing. Gazed full-on at her through the crack. But her eyes were glassy. Unseeing. I was too well hidden.
I drank in the sight of her – last chance, Elphie, last chance – making sure to commit every microscopic detail to memory. Everything, Elphie. Remember everything. The precious gold of her hair. The exact, crystalline shade of blue that belonged to her eyes and her eyes alone. The arch of those pale, pristinely plucked eyebrows. That little freckle on her cheek she always tried so hard to hide. That full lower lip that never sat quite, quite straight with the upper one. Her tiny hands. Her tiny waist. Her tiny feet. The clasp of her fingers entwined with mine. Playing with my hair. Forcing me into a dress I didn't want to wear. Her voice, always there for me. Her smile, cheering me. Her…her…loving me for all I was, all I wasn't and everything in between. Her. Glinda Upland. My Glinda.
She was up and away and out of the room, Chistery by her side, before a clock-tick had passed.
I would never see her again.