In the Land of Oz, it's said that nobody ages, but that isn't quite true: it's just that everyone ages so terribly slowly that they're lucky to have a birthday every ten years. Princess Ozma herself only celebrated her birthdays every twenty, and so it was that a century after Dorothy Gale first came to live forever in Oz that she saw her dear friend turn eighteen.
“I 'spect you're an adult now,” said Dorothy, after saying good morning to Ozma with her usual kiss on the cheek.
“Hardly,” said Ozma, with a soft laugh. “Didn't you tell me yourself that in the world outside people come of age at twenty-one—and in a Fairyland like Oz, people are only as adult as they ever wish to be.”
Dorothy poured her some tea. “That's how it was when I came here, but they've changed it to eighteen since.”
Even though she'd been in Oz so many times longer than her previous life in Kansas had been, Dorothy still found the time to borrow Ozma's Magic Picture and keep watch on the world she had left behind. It wasn't that she missed it—Oz was her home and she wanted no other—but she still felt a connection between herself and the world she'd left behind and that was enough to keep watching, even though there were times when what she saw broke her heart.
“Mmm,” said Ozma. “I don't think it matters, though—I don't feel like an adult just yet—do you?” She sighed softly. “Do sit down and eat, Dorothy. The parade is scheduled for half-past ten and we'll be needed at the head of it.”
But somehow it did not matter that Ozma did not feel adult at all, for everyone who greeted her that day commented on how grown-up she looked.
The Royal Birthday of Princess Ozma was traditionally one of the grandest celebrations in all of Oz. Absolutely no expense was spared in celebrating the natal day of the beloved girlish monarch. It was, in fact, not at all surprising that the occasion came about only once every two decades. More often would have bankrupted even so rich a kingdom as Oz.
Nearly anyone who was anyone in Oz had been invited—and all of the nobodies-in-particular were encouraged to attend if they could. So, too, were the monarchs, nobles and notable persons from the neighboring countries lying on the other sides of Oz's deserts: Zixi of Ix, Dox the Fox, Kika-bray of Dunkiton, the Doll Queen of Merryland, John Dough of Hiland and Loland, Budd of Noland and his sister Fluff, the Royal Family of Mo, and the even larger Royal Family of Ev (who Dorothy had once saved from being ornaments of the Nome King), Rinkitink of Gilgad, Inga of Pingaree, and the formerly caprine Bobo of Boboland. Santa Claus was there, of course, with his Rylls and Knooks, as was Polychrome, the Rainbow's daughter, and the fairies of Burzee and other such enchanted places were well-represented. Even the Nome King was there—though, of course, the Nome King in question was Kaliko and not the scheming villain Ruggedo who had given everybody such troubles in the past. All these people and many more were brought across the desert by means of Ozma's magic belt and it was Dorothy's job to greet them and make them feel at home before the festivities proper were to begin.
The festivities themselves began at sundown on the evening before the birthday and were to carry on through the week, for every Royal Birthday Celebration was to be grander and longer-lasting than the one before it had been. On the day of the birthday itself was the Birthday Parade—the nights of the Birthday Week were to be filled with dancing and music—the days filled with poetry, exhibitions, public performances, and diverting displays—until finally, sundown on the last day of the Birthday Week, all the guests were to be sent home by bubble, balloon, or belt.
Or, at least, that was the plan. For nobody at all had expected that half-a-dozen of Ozma's guests would simply refuse to leave the Emerald City.
“I'm sorry,” Ozma said, pursing her lips into an irritated moue. “I think I must have misheard you. Why do I have half-a-dozen princes who refuse to go home to their own kingdoms?”
The Wizard rubbed his brow and repeated himself: “They're here to court you. And strictly speaking, it's five princes and the king of Noland.”
Ozma sighed. “That was what I was afraid you had said.”
“Can't we just use Ozma's Magic Belt and wish them home?” Dorothy asked, impatiently. “It's what we were s'posed to do anyway, isn't it?”
“Unfortunately,” the Wizard answered, “that wouldn't do much for diplomatic relations with their countries.”
“Does it matter?” Dorothy said under her breath. “We've got a desert between all of them and us, don't we?”
“We'll just have to save it for a very last resort then,” said Ozma. She sighed again, louder this time. “Why in the world do they think I would welcome their suits—any of their suits—especially since I've reigned perfectly well for the last century on my own.”
“Like Queen 'Lizabeth,” Dorothy added helpfully. “She never got married neither.”
“Yes,” said Ozma, looking at Dorothy gratefully. “Exactly.”
The Wizard had the queerest expression on his face as he looked first at Dorothy and then at Ozma. It was as if he knew something they didn't—and was absolutely set on not telling them what it was he knew.
“I don't s'pose we could at least send one of the Ev princes home?” Dorothy asked plaintively. “There are three of them after all.”
The silence that followed was not at all encouraging.
Dorothy was swiftly beginning to hate the very idea of princes.
For one thing, they got dreadfully underfoot. They were always around Ozma when Dorothy wanted to spend time with her and it was very, very irritating to have to share your particular friend with a pack of boys, all of whom were trying to outdo the others. The three Evites were particularly bad, but the Mo prince wasn't much better. Of the six, the only one Dorothy felt any sympathy to was Inga and it probably was because he wasn't trying as hard as the others.
It didn't really help that she knew Ozma wouldn't marry any of them. They were still there, making a nuisance of themselves and wrecking their cozy domesticity.
It had been a month since the princes had refused to leave Oz. Dorothy was starting to think they'd still be there by the time Ozma had her next birthday.
Dorothy had never before in her life wanted so much to become a bad witch. Something would have to be done—and soon.
Dorothy was already waiting by the Saw Horse when Ozma finally crept out the gates of the Emerald City.
“I'm sorry I'm so late,” she said in a quiet voice. “I had to wait until Fiddlecomedoo stopped playing beneath my windowsill—and then I had to write the note so everyone would know I hadn't been kidnapped again and to let the Scarecrow be my regent until we came back.”
Dorothy through her arms around her friend and hugged her fiercely. Then she took a step back and exclaimed, “Why Ozma, you're wearing blue jeans! I didn't know you owned any.” Or at least she didn't think Ozma would have looked so enviously at Dorothy's own pair which she wore from time to time if she had. (Dorothy, Betsy Bobbins, and Trot all had pairs of blue jeans, for the three girls from America liked to keep track of fashion from the land they'd left behind, even if some of them were awfully silly.)
Ozma blushed. “I borrowed them.”
“Well,” said Dorothy, “you look good in them. As good as you do in your white dresses and poppy flowers, I reckon.”
And it was true. Ozma didn't look very much her usual self in blue jeans and a white tee shirt, with a purple plaid flannel shirt to keep her warm and her black curls pulled back from her face in a pony-tail—but she still looked very Ozma.
Dorothy's words, however, only made Ozma blush redder and redder. Dorothy laughed softly and kissed her friend. “C'mon,” she said. “We've got all of Oz to visit.”
Dorothy and Ozma hadn't made any especial plans as to where they wanted to visit—just as long as it was far away from the Emerald City. Accordingly, they'd told the Saw Horse to run wherever he wanted to, as fast as he wanted to, and so that was what he did.
From time to time, whenever a bit of the whizzing countryside looked particularly interesting, they would ask him to stop and there they would rest and eat. Ozma was particularly prone to asking to stop whenever she saw a likely river or stream—for one of Ozma's most secret pleasures was the enjoyment she found in fishing, something she had spent much time doing when she'd been a boy. Dorothy was less interested in the sport—but she enjoyed lying on the grass and talking idly to Ozma enough to make up for that.
Occasionally they came upon one of the many curious tribes or towns that dotted the Ozian landscape and the change that came upon Ozma was astounding. Gone was the teasing, boyish playfellow of their more intimate moments—Ozma was once again the regal and dignified girl ruler of Oz, even if she was in blue jeans. But her frank and merry manner remained the same, alone or in public, and Dorothy knew that both the private and public faces were still Ozma—just one was an Ozma that very few people had seen since she was Tip.
And so the days passed in an easy, happy fashion. The two girls breakfasted on fruit from the trees, generally had the same for luncheon, and roasted nuts and Ozma's catch for their supper. They drank cool spring water and slept curled up together while the Saw Horse kept watch. Ozma had left her Magic Belt behind, asking for them to be wished back whenever they were truly needed back it the Emerald City, but their friends seemed happy to let them have this holiday. Dorothy wished it could last forever.
“I know,” said Ozma when Dorothy had told her. “I do too, sometimes.”
“Dorothy,” Ozma said softly. “I can't spend all my time playing and ignore my duty to Oz.”
“I know,” said Dorothy peevishly. “Just—just don't let your duty to Oz make you do something stupid, like marry one of those princes if they're still there when we get back.”
Ozma took Dorothy's hand and squeezed it. “I wouldn't do that.”
“I know you wouldn't,” Dorothy said. “Just...”
“Just it's easy to worry,” said Ozma softly. “I know.”
Dorothy nodded. She wondered if Ozma ever worried about her getting married and leaving her. She suddenly thought maybe she ought to make sure she didn't.
“Ozma,” she said, turning her head so that she could look the other girl in the eye, “you do know that the only person I would ever want to marry is you, don't you?”
Ozma didn't answer her with words. She didn't need them. Fishing pole was abandoned completely, her arms wrapping tightly around Dorothy and squeezing her.
“I wish I could marry you,” Dorothy whispered fiercely, hugging tightly back. “I would do it in a minute.”
“Why can't you?” Ozma said, letting go of her with a puzzled expression on her face.
“Because you're a girl,” said Dorothy. “And I'm a girl. And girls can't marry other girls, not back in Kansas, not when I left and not now either. People in the world outside, they've been fighting about girls marrying girls and boys marrying boys—I've seen it in your Magic Picture—and every time they do, other people stop them. It makes me so angry—”
“Dorothy,” Ozma said firmly. “We aren't in Kansas. And if the Royal Princess of Oz wants to marry a girl named Dorothy Gale, there is no one that can stop her.”
When Dorothy and Ozma returned to the Emerald City, the very first thing Ozma did—after relieving the Scarecrow from his post and washing the dust from the road from her face—was to call for her subjects to assemble in the square so that she might make a proclamation concerning her marriage.
Dorothy went in search of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. She felt that she ought to tell them about herself and Ozma before they heard it with the rest of Oz. She was very frightened, of course—but she knew that the sooner they were told, the sooner she could get Aunt Em's crying and Uncle Henry's shouting over with, for Dorothy had no illusions that her dear guardians wouldn't be terribly upset to find that she would be marrying another girl, even if that other girl was the ruling princess of Oz.
She found the two of them in the parlor of the little apartment Ozma had given them in the castle—Uncle Henry puffing at his pipe and Aunt Em darning one of Ozma's stockings. Both pipe and stockings were put aside, however, so that they could embrace her as tightly as if she'd been gone for a month.
“Dorothy,” said Aunt Em, “you're crying. What's wrong?”
“Oh, Aunt Em,” said Dorothy, “I'm getting married.”
“But isn't that a good thing?” asked Aunt Em.
Uncle Henry nodded. “We've known all along that you'd be married someday. Oz gave us more time with you, but you were bound to grow up 'ventually.”
“And now you are,” said Aunt Em. “Why, you look just like your mother did when she was eighteen.”
“Who's the lucky boy?” said Uncle Henry. “Is it Ojo? I always thought he was one of your more sensible friends.” He frowned, slightly. “It isn't that Button-Bright, is it?”
“No,” said Dorothy, turning her head so she couldn't see their faces. “It's Ozma.”
Aunt Em and Uncle Henry were silent for a very long time—or what Dorothy felt was a long time, anyway, although if she'd counted the ticks of the clock she'd have been amazed to find it wasn't even five minutes.
“I ought to have known,” Uncle Henry said finally. “I just never would have thought—but Oz is a fairy country and fairy countries have such queer ways—“
A pair of soft lips brushed against Dorothy's forehead. She looked up to see Aunt Em smiling down at her. “Now I won't say that I don't find this business of you marrying Ozma to be mighty queer, for I do, but she's a sweet young girl and I can't think of anyone who'd love you more.”
Dorothy's heart beat wildly. “You're not cross with me?”
“Of course we ain't,” said Uncle Henry. “Now, if we'd never come to Oz, perhaps we might be, but after spending a hundred years in Fairyland where animals talk and there are people made of puzzle and paper dolls, you marrying a girl is positively normal, even if she is the princess.” He chucked softly. “We ought to have 'spected it, really. 'Tweren't as if she made any of your other friends princesses with her, after all.”
Dorothy laughed softly, blinking back tears. “No. No, it isn't.”
Half the princes left after Ozma made her announcement—two of the Evites and the one from Mo—but oddly enough, three of them stayed. Dorothy thought it very queer at first, until she noticed how much time King Budd spent with Trot and Prince Evington (the eldest of the three Ev princes) spent with Betsy Bobbins. Why Prince Inga stayed she wasn't quite sure, but she thought she might ask Button-Bright, who had been spending a lot of time at his side—though she was sure any answer he would give her would be nothing more revealing than “Don't know.”
The people of Oz were all happy to find out that Dorothy would soon be Ozma's Princess-Consort—in fact, the general opinion was that she'd been as good as for nearly as long as she'd been in Oz and that it was high time the two made it official.
Their friends were just as happy as the rest of Oz. The Wogglebug offered to officiate at the service, which the two girls thanked him very prettily for, and the Wizard volunteered to walk Ozma down the aisle. The Shaggy Man and his brother promised themselves for the ushers, the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger agreed to pull the wedding chariot, and Betsy and Trot were to be bridesmaids, with the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodsman as groomsmen, even though there wasn't a groom. Glinda, of course, would be the maid of honor. The wedding itself was scheduled to take place a year and a day from when Dorothy and Ozma had returned—although the girls would have been happy to have it the next day—because as the only Royal Wedding that Oz had celebrated in a very long time, they needed that year to prepare.
Jack Pumpkinhead asked if he ought to start calling Dorothy “Stepmother” now. Dorothy laughed and laughed.
The remaining princes (and king) announced their intent to stay in Oz until the wedding. Dorothy found she didn't mind them at all.
The day of the wedding dawned clear and bright, for Glinda and the Wizard had spent most of the week before making sure that it would be. The morning itself was nothing but a pleasantly heady blur, until Dorothy found herself face to face with Ozma as the Wogglebug told her she could kiss the bride.
So she did. For a very, very long time.
The rest of Oz cheered.
“Oh Dorothy,” Ozma said, “we've had our happily-ever-after after all.”