This is inspired by two deleted scenes from an old version of the show. One took place in the first act; Frex, whilst on his deathbed (long story), presented each of his daughters with a gift (Elphaba received her mother's bottle, Nessa received the shoes). The other was very similar to the post-Dear Old Shiz scene that's in the musical today, but the dialogue was different; Frex was more impatient, gushed over Nessa a great deal, and mentioned Melena. I combined these two scenes, added some stuff of my own, and out came this...
We'd made it.
Shiz University stood before me. Shiz University. The very name sent a shiver of silent delight down my spine. A great chalk-white slab of a building, the outer walls rising before me in sheer cliffs of pallid marble. Untainted. Perfect. The picture of wealth, of superiority, of high society, the right kind of people Father was always so eager to impress. Oz. It was everything I'd ever dreamed it would be and more. The driveway spread out before me was edged with shrubberies, trimmed into imposing figurines with array of various complex instruments and books clutched in each pair of hands. The flowerbeds overflowed with orderly rows of blue and white shrubberies, matching the colours of the uniforms every student around me wore. I squinted through my glasses; two enormous double doors stood open at the entrance to the front of the building. Burnished oak, with ornate carvings melded expertly into the wood, and almost twice as tall as me.
My stomach gave a little lurch. The greatest educational institute in the country. Renowned for its distinguished professors, its impeccable results.
And Oz, didn't it show.
I fiddled absentmindedly with the handle of my suitcase, switching it from hand to hand. The stares were, as always, gathering in swarms around me, but I hardly noticed. This was it. This was the beginning. Nothing would ruin this moment for me. I closed my eyes. A light breeze ruffled across my face, a half-hearted attempt to throw my plait into disarray. I smiled slightly. This was what I'd been waiting for. Waiting for so many years now. Finally, finally, finally…the day had come. The hour had come. The minute...had almost come…
"Elphaba! Elphaba! Don't just stand there like a stump, come and help!"
I tore my eyes from columns of Shiz University. My father approached, Nessa's chair inching laboriously forward before him, his face flushed with sweat from the work. I bit back a rueful smile. Harder than it looks, isn't it, Father? Not that you'd know.
Nessa looked every bit as tragically beautiful as always. She was done-up in her brand new blue-and-white uniform, with her little hands folded in her lap over a pure white shawl I had tucked there before leaving, in case of cold weather. Her face was shining with a mixture of excitement and nervousness, her eyes their usual crisp nut-brown. Her hair, auburn when the sun shone through it, was held back by a rosy-pink hair band of pure silk. Father had seen her eyeing it in the shop window of a store on the way here, and ordered the carriage to be stopped at once so he could buy it for her. It wasn't Nessa's fault the trinket had been so expensive we'd had little money left for our lunch-stop, and I'd had to go without. I didn't mind. She just couldn't help liking trinkets like that.
My Nessa. My pretty, pretty Nessa.
Her eyes glowed as they met mine.
"Doesn't it look big?" she gushed, voice trembling with excitement. I nodded, not trusting myself to speak with Father scowling at me as he was, though exactly what I had done, I still had no idea. Always like that, with Father. And it would be unwise to get on the wrong side of him today, of all days – any tirades he saw fit to foist upon me would be embarrassing for Nessa. I hurried to take her handlebars.
"Oh Father, I'm going to miss you so much," she sighed, as I set about adjusting the height of the bars for me to steer her better – I had long-since overtaken Father in that area. His features melted into sugary warmth at her words, and he bent to take both her hands in his.
"My dear little girl. All grown up and going off to Shiz. Merciful Oz, I can hardly believe it."
She giggled, holding his wizened hands to her pale pink cheeks, closing her eyes.
"Lurinemas seems so far away. Oh Father, I'll miss you every day."
I bit back a sardonic smile, noting to myself that there was one feeling I most definitely did not share with my sister.
"I shall miss you too, my dearest, more than you can possibly imagine," Father gushed, his eyes glazed with familiar, blind adoration as he gazed down at Nessa. "But you must remember, darling girl, if Shiz does not suit you well, you can write to me at once – or if the other children aren't welcoming to you, or if the food appears to rich for your poor stomach, or the lessons too tiring, or if she –" – and here he shot a poisonous glower up in my direction – "is neglecting you in any way, or causing you any concern…you need only send me word, and I shall come at once to make everything all right for you, understand?"
Nessa smiled, holding out her arms like a child reaching for its mother, and the two of them embraced, Father stroking her hair with one pudgy hand. I looked away. The jealousy that used to consume me in moments like these had long since muted itself into a distant hum, deep in the depths of my heart – but that was no reason to give it any excuse to return. Better to play safe.
"I love you always, my Nessa. Oz…if only your dear departed Mother was here to see you. How proud she would be."
My hands curled into fists, knuckles clenching tight. Those words stung more than Nessa would ever understand, with her eyes full of that detached grief that came from never knowing the Mother she was expected to mourn. Father drew in a quiet breath, shaking his head. His eyes flickered to mine for the briefest of seconds; I looked quickly away.
"…I love you too, Father," Nessa was murmuring, unaware as always. He sighed, a little ruefully.
"Don't you go forgetting your old Father now, will you?"
Nessa laughed under her breath, the sound bubbling, blissful – and I closed my eyes, revelling in the moment. Nessa was happy. Nessa was content. That was all that mattered.
"I won't. Really Father, you needn't worry. I'll be just fine – and besides, Elphaba will be here to look after me."
My father shot me another glance; warning, this time.
"Yes. She will."
The insinuation – unlike your mother – was spoken in all but words. I stuffed my fists in my jacket pockets and stared very hard at the handlebars of Nessa's chair. Keep it together, Elphaba. Deep breaths. You promised her things would be different here. No. Losing. Control.
Father drew back, caressing her cheek once before turning to snap his fingers at our carriage driver, who had been skulking behind me with Nessa's many pieces of luggage tucked under both arms. At father's gesture, he handed over the smallest of the cases – a silver-painted shoebox with gold trimming. I restrained from rolling my eyes with extreme difficulty. Here we go. Yet another goodbye present, no doubt. Ah well. If Nessa liked it...
"Here, my darling girl," he murmured, as he bent to Nessa's side again; I steadied her handlebars as she leant intently towards him. "A parting gift for you. Just a small something I spotted in a shop window down in West Hardings the other day."
Nessa clapped her hands in delight, watching with wide eyes as Father unclasped the box's lid, and lifted it swiftly, dramatically, like a magician revealing his finest act.
Inside the box, nestled between soft waves of scarlet velvet, lay a pair of slippers.
My fingers slipped on Nessa's handlebars. Oh. Oh. I was certainly not one to gush over pretty trinkets and all, but…oh. Nessa's eyes were wide as saucers.
"The finest money can buy," he beamed, hands clasping tight over both of hers. "Do you like them, Nessa?"
Nessa laughed again, longer and louder than before, almost piercing – then her hands dived for the slippers, and she drew them out. I bit back a gasp as the sunlight caught the thousands of splintered, sparkling jewels embedded in the leather. So beautiful. So…unusual. A one-of-a-kind pair. Glittering in the afternoon sun with such life, such magic…my fingers twisted and clasped together in restraint. Oh, I wanted to touch them, stroke them, caress every tiny shard…would she let me when Father was gone, perhaps?
"Oh Father…I love them, I love them! I've never seen shoes so beautiful! Have you, Elphaba?!"
Her eyes met mine, alight with pleasure – and I struggled to summon a smile, for her sake. "Never."
"Father…you shouldn't have!"
"Oh yes, I should!" he laughed. "Nothing's too good for my little girl. Nothing!"
And my eyes locked with his, just for a moment, as he rose to hand the shoebox back to our driver. He must have glimpsed my true feelings – the mad fervour with which my gaze devoured the gift he had given his favourite daughter – before I ducked my head away in a vain attempt to hide them.
Oz-damnit. Now I was for it.
"Elphaba, look at me when I'm talking to you."
It was an order, edged with father's all-too-familiar expectance of being obeyed without argument, without delay, without exception. I looked.
There was something odd about his expression. He stared at me for a long moment, all aggression stilled into silence; those cold grey eyes, so impossibly different from mine, held no emotion. Nessa was busy calling to our driver to help her fasten the slippers on her feet and a part of me knew I should help, as I always did – but Father held up a hand, shaking his head, snapping out –
He drew in a weary breath, eyes still locked with mine. Then he grimaced – shrugged – slipped a hand into his coat pocket, drawing out a tiny something wrapped in crumpled paper. I squinted through my glasses.
He silenced me with a look. His fingers clutched the little package with the same iron-clad fervour I so often saw him grip Nessa's hands with; the grip of protection, of possession…of love. What in the name of Oz…
He hesitated – and then abruptly mumbled in a rush, "This was – this was Mel – your mother's. This was your mother's. I don't want it. Take it."
Your mother's…your mother's…your mother's…
The words seemed to take an age to make their way to my brain. Mother's. It was something of mother's. He was…giving me…something…
"Well, do you want it, or not?!"
My hand moved of its own accord, seizing the folded paper parcel from him. Unbidden. Instinctual. Mother's. Something of mother's. There was an awful, strained moment of silence as we regarded each other – him blinking, taken aback by my forwardness, me dreading the inevitable outburst…but it never came. Thank Oz. His face relaxed; softened, almost as though a weight had been lifted from it. As though that little package had been a burden – and only now, after all these years, was he finally free of it. He let out his breath in a gush of something akin to relief, at the same moment I did.
"Open it," he instructed, rather than ordered. I blinked and shook myself a little, trying to wake up. This was unreal. Tentatively, I peeled back the edges of the folded paper, letting it crackle away to reveal…
"She…she used to sleep with it under her pillow. Every night. I do not know – I cannot imagine why. There must have been a reason. Cheap, silly trinket like that. She never told me…"
It was. It was beautiful. Polished glass, the colour of emeralds, spun into a delicate bottle no bigger than the length of my palm. In the afternoon sun, it seemed to glimmer with a faint, ethereal light. Mother's. Her name trembled on my lips, ached deep in my chest. A desperate, hollow sort of longing.
When he spoke again, Father's voice was strained with the kind of grief neither of us had ever been able to put into words. "Perhaps…that's why she loved it."
Our eyes met. No hostility, no anger. Not even a scowl. And I found myself wondering…wondering…did he feel her loss as sharply, as painfully as I did, even now? Did he wake at night, wracked by nightmares of the night Nessa came into our world, just as much as I did? Did we, in fact, suffer together? Grieve together? Miss her – every day, even minute, every second…together?
How could two people so similar be driven so apart, I found myself wondering, before…
Nessa's voice rapped out – bless her, already adopting father's way of calling for me – making us both jump.
"Elphaba, we need to get going. I don't want to be late! Father, I need my things – where's the porter, we need the porter –"
And that was it. The moment was passed. And father was snapping at me to take Nessa's handlebars again, and the porter came stumbling along with the luggage, and Nessa was chattering away about Shiz's flowers and the figurines, and the staring eyes of the students devoured me once more, and Father was saying a last goodbye to Nessa, and turning away, and heading back to the carriage, and…
…and pausing, just for the briefest of moments, as he passed me by…whispering…
"For Oz's sake, take good care of it."
He was gone before I could answer.
I let my left hand slip into the pocket of my coat…and there, nestled amongst its crumples of paper, I could feel the little green bottle.
Something of Mother's.
I had to remember to slip it under my pillow, tonight.