The hat was clutched tightly in her hands, gazing up at the sky as she walked. And keeping up the graceful step, posture straight, head up. The only thing missing was the smile. That ingenuine, fake smile that she wore almost constantly. It was a defense mechanism. Glinda knew that without the smile, she would be crying the entire time.
Just like she was then. The tears ran down her face, it left streaks as it washed away small lines of makeup on her face, and dripped onto her dress. She realized only then that she should be lifting her dress, to make sure it didn’t get dirty. But there was no point. Either way, she would be scolded for not being proper. Running off into the woods was generally frowned upon by her advisor.
But she needed the space. The fresh air and the time to think, and be alone. For the most part, it was very calming. But of course, her mind would wander. Wander back to her Elphie. Her poor, poor Elphie. Oh, how dearly she missed the green girl. Her bright, yet rare smile. The gentle touch of her green hands. And her burning passion that had come to a stuttering halt, the direct cause of a bucket of water. Thrown by that little girl. And her companions.
First, that young girl had taken poor little Nessie. And then her Elphie. Of course, she tried not to hold a grudge, the girl was young, and she seemed innocent enough. She had made it very clear she didn’t mean any harm. Glinda very much doubted that the girl had any ill intention. But it was difficult not to be upset. She missed her friends so much. Nessie and Elphie and Fiyero, all of them gone. And then there was Boq.
Glinda hadn’t a clue what had become of him since their days at Shiz. He had gone with Nessa, though he didn’t seem too pleased about it when he had told her. His gaze had been sorrowful and sunken. His usually straight and attentive posture had been slumped. Then Nessa had swept him away to the train station. And the last she had seen of the Munchkin boy was his sorrowful, pleading expression. The squeeze of his hand against hers, the lingering touch that was desperate to stay there. Something about the way he looked at her as he walked away with Nessa made her want to reach out, to grab his hand and make him stay.
He had clearly been unhappy. And of course, two weeks after he was gone. The first ban was announced. Glinda couldn’t help but feel she was responsible for the boy's sudden disappearance. Because she wasn’t the only person who couldn’t find him. His mother had come by the palace several times, desperate for any news on her son’s sudden disappearance. But she had nothing to give them.
Her thoughts continued to stray about the boy, and what could have happened to him. When something interrupted her thoughts. An odd squeaking sound, almost like metal, coming from somewhere behind a tree. She stepped closer cautiously “hello? Is someone there?” she said.
Another squeak of metal.
She stepped closer, as she neared the tree, something (someone?) appeared. They were sitting slumped against the tree. And it seemed they were made of tin.
She blinked in surprise. What on earth would the Tin Man be doing so far out in the woods? Goodness, how long had it been since she had spoken with him? Over a year for certain. She almost hadn’t recognized him at first. Poking out of the gaps in the tin were flowers, small and purple.
The metal joints were rusted, lying beside him was an untouched oil can. She ached at the sight of the man this way. He must have gotten rusted, and no one had found the poor old Tin Man and helped him.
“Oh, Tinman. Let me help you, how long have you been here?” she asked, stepping forward in a worried flurry and picking the oil can up. She attempted to oil one of the joints but got a squeak of protest, it was barely understandable, but the screech sounded vague like “don't…”
The reaction confused her. She didn’t quite understand. Hadn’t he been stuck here for quite some time? Judging by the flower growth, he had been here for a while. It seemed only logical that he would want help.
“Don’t?” she tilted her head “well what on earth do you mean? Do you not want to be free.”
Al she got was another painful screech of tin against tin. And she had to use the can despite his wishes. She needed him to be able to talk. So she brought the oil can forward and pressed it to his jaw before pulling on the small trigger that let the oil out.
He sat there for a moment before he spoke again “I don’t want your help, Your Goodness. It’s useless.” his voice was gravelly and rough. But there was something vaguely familiar about it, but she put the thought.
“Well, why not? Since you retired from your position as the governor, everyone has missed you dearly.” that was a lie, of course. She had always felt bad for him. After the novelty of his and his companion's noble deed of killing the Wicked Witch, everyone, even the Munchkins he was now responsible for keeping a safe and orderly, had gone out of their way to avoid the Tin Man. The tin, to them, was unnatural, they knew perfectly well that he should not be able to walk around as he did.
He laughed. It was such an odd, almost unsettling and sad sound. And his eyes moved to look at her, despite being nothing but a blank tin surface, painted to look like eyes, they held such a deep sadness that it seeped into Glinda herself. And almost made her want to reach forward and hug him.
“Oh, don’t try that sweetness on me. We both know that what you say isn’t true. The Munchkins don’t like me.” he said. She shook her head “no no, Tinman don’t say that. You know how much they appreciate you. And I appreciate all you’ve done for Oz.”
He laughed that sad, hollow laugh once again. And something so familiar about the sound panged at Glinda’s chest. But she couldn’t put her finger on it. She was so close, but so far from figuring out why he seemed so familiar. “Now that I know is not true. You never did pay me much mind, Miss Galinda. ”
And it clicked, like a puzzle piece you’ve searched hours for finally fitting into its place.
Her hand pulled back, the oil can falling to the ground as her hand came to cover her mouth. She searched for words, desperate to find something to say, but all that came out was a weak, and broken mutter
“B… Boq?” she knew more tears were spilling down her face, and she knew she should wipe them away, but she couldn’t bring herself to move her hand from her mouth for the fear that she might start sobbing if she uncovered her mouth.
‘ The Tin Man… so he’s been here this whole time’ no, not the Tin Man, she reminded herself of who she was really staring at. He laughed again “so, you know how to pronounce my name after all?” he muttered.
Glinda could practically feel her heart shatter. Oh, how blind she had been all this time. He had been right there in front of her. And she hadn’t had a clue he was there. She only wished she had realized something before he had retired, maybe then she could have helped him.
Although, maybe it wasn’t too late. Surely, there could be some sort of spell to fix whatever it was had happened to him. There must be something she could do. “Boq, I can help. Please let me. I can find a spell to fix this-”
“Miss Galinda, please don’t bother. Besides, there isn’t anything you can do to help me. Spells can’t be reversed.” he explained. So it was the work of some wicked spell. Surely it must have been Morrible’s fault. Glinda couldn’t think of anyone who would harm such an innocent man as him. Boq hadn’t done anything. It made her heart ache even more, looking back on how she and treated him.
And now there wasn’t a single thing she could do to reverse this awful spell “well, you can at least let me get the rust and flowers away” she pleaded. “No, Miss Glinda, there’s no point. I can’t feel anything. Only emptiness now. That’s all there is left of me. So it’s better if I simply let myself rust.”
Nothing could have shocked Glinda more. She had never known Boq, that sweet Munchkin she had known, to ever be hollow. That boy she knew had been ecstatic, and full of emotion if her memory served her right. How much had changed? She supposed that a person made of tin wouldn’t be able to feel much anyways.
She figured, the least she could do, is offer him some company, in the last little moment of consciousness, before he let himself go to waste. So she sat, and crossed her legs, continuing to hold the old, black hat in her hands. She looked at him, inspecting the tin, and the flowers that sprouted from all over, covering him almost completely.
The sprouts were gorgeous, in a very tragic way. Because she knew no one but her, and Boq, would ever pay them mind. “So… why did you do it? Why did you kill Elphie… I know you two were friends.”
She was genuinely curious, she didn’t understand how someone who had been so mild-mannered, and polite. Could ever do such harm to anyone. Especially someone he had once been friends with. “ well, at first, after it happened. I felt something. A fit of burning anger. It wasn’t Elphaba’s fault. A small, sensible part of me knew that it wasn’t her fault. But the rest of me just wanted to get it out. To blame someone, anyone, for what had happened to me. And since everyone seemed to be on Elphaba’s case, I suppose I decided to blame her. It was the easiest thing to do rather than admitting my cowardice, and realizing my own fault that I am where I am.”
Glinda supposed it made sense, but it was awfully sad. She hadn’t realized the distress her friend had been in, and she knew she could have done something. And yet she had stood idly by, doing nothing to help. She wondered what might have had happened if she and Elphaba had never left. If she had never set Nessa and Boq together. If she had not been so young and foolish.
She wiped her eyes and looked back down at the ground, she felt like she should say something, anything. But all she could manage was “oh… I see…” and a heavy silence followed. Looming over the two of them like a raincloud, come to put an end to the conversation once and for all. Until Boq broke the silence, splitting in two.
“I almost miss it, being in love. Even if it was unrequited. Because at least then, I felt something other than this heaviness that weighs in my chest like a stone.” he said. Glinda knew he was right, even if it was unrequited, love was such an amazing, yet a horrible thing. It could lead you to be happy and spending the rest of your life with someone who appreciates you.
Or of course, it could end terribly, with two people sitting by a tree by themselves, both wondering about where they had gone so utterly, and completely wrong. One made of tin, the other made of a sorrowful grace. Both keeping a heaviness in their chests, a spot empty in their heart (or lack thereof) that could never be filled.
Glinda had never wished she could go back in time more than she did at that moment. She wanted to see her friends again. And she wanted to see them smiling. Being happy and young and carefree as they once had. Being together, happy. A Charmed Circle, as they had once called themselves.
She so desperately wished that she had never left Elphaba, she wished she had never stayed with the wizard. That she had never left Boq and Nessa by themselves. She had tried and tried and tried to wish away the look on Nessa’s face when she had told her that Elphaba wasn’t coming back. She tried to wish away the way Boq had looked at her as he had been led away to a fate worse than death itself.
And most of all she wished was that this tragedy had never struck them, and broken them apart. Broken up their circle and sent them their separate ways.
And the silence was back. It weighed heavily on her shoulder, bringing her head down to look at the hat in her lap, and keeping it down. Every part of her felt heavy with sorrow.
Boq broke the silence once again, posing a question “Which do you think is worse, Miss Glinda? A life full of unrequited love, or a life with no love at all?” Glinda didn’t have an answer to give. She wasn’t sure she could open her mouth without crying.
She had never quite experienced unrequited love or such loneliness before now. And now that she had both surrounding her, deep and terrible loneliness, with no love to fill that space. And that longing to have Elphaba back. And she couldn’t quite be sure which was worse.
For both made her heartache. And both brought her misery, both loneliness and unrequited had torn her and her friends apart.
But one look at the man beside her, his flower-covered tin, and rusted joints. And then a look at herself, and the hat sitting in her lap. She knew what had dragged her to this place. She knew what had grabbed her by the arm and dragged her along a dark and terrible path to this spot.
She knew exactly which was worse. And she desperately wished she didn’t.
She realized it was getting late, and it was time for her to leave her friend once more. She almost wanted to stay. To sit there and lay with her friend. Rust away with him and forget everything surrounding her, let the flowers thread themselves through her arms and legs and envelop her.
But she had to rule. She had to watch over Oz and keep everything in line. So she stood and looked at her friend “I’m so sorry, but I have to leave now.” she got a squeak in response, that she assumed to be an acknowledgment, and a reassurance that it was okay for her to go now.
“It’s okay Miss Glinda, I understand. Thank you, by the way. For staying with me, giving me one last moment with a friend.” she nodded, holding back tears to the best of her ability, she kneeled and pressed a kiss to his forehead “don’t mention it, dear friend” she whispered. Then she stood once again and turned away from her friend.
That was the last time she ever saw him.