Five-year-old Molly Davis twirled her ruffled skirt in the foyer, barely able to contain her excitement. This was her first truly grown-up outing; the family was going into the city to see a matinee of the musical Wicked, which had come to town on tour. Meanwhile, her twelve-year-old brother slumped against the wall, muttering to himself about being forced to dress up and watch some dumb play for girls. Mrs. Davis came rushing down the stairs, rifling through her purse to make sure that three tickets were inside, then opened the front door. She called her two distracted children to attention.
“Ready kids? Let’s go to Oz!”
By the time the Davises returned hours later, Molly was completely enamored; even Andy had to admit that seeing a Broadway show wasn’t such a bad thing. All the next day, Molly played the cast album on an endless loop. She danced around the house, recreating moments from the show. She studied her new Grimmerie book, which she had begged for at the theater. And when her brother came home for dinner, after being out with his friends, she chased him with her plush green monkey souvenir, making it “fly.”
The toys in Andy’s room couldn’t help but notice Molly’s raucous performances, and before long were curious as to what had caused such a stir. So when the house was finally empty on Monday morning, it was time to investigate. Certain the coast was clear, Jessie sprinted down the hall to the little girl’s room, where she met Bo on her way to join the others.
“Howdy!” the cowgirl greeted her friend. “Wanna come with me and see what Molly’s so fired up about?”
“Sure,” the shepherdess responded eagerly. “She was talking about it in her sleep, and I’d love to make sense of it all.”
The two girls made their way down the staircase to the living room, and were happy to find the music CD still in the family’s stereo and the Grimmerie on the sofa where Molly had left it. Jessie walked over and pressed “play” before giving Bo a helpful boost onto the sofa, and they settled down to flip through the large, illustrated book. As the two friends followed along with the pictures and the script, they were captivated by the story the songs were telling, and remained mostly silent as they focused on the plot. Once it was finished, Bo spoke.
“We’re a lot like them, you know.”
“I do. You—well, Elphaba’s kind of rough around the edges—“
“Oh come on, Jessie, you know what I mean. She’s tough and independent. She loves animals. And she hates pink. YOU hate pink. She’s even got a braid like yours in act one.”
Jessie couldn’t deny that she had found herself relating to the character. “Okay, ya got a point there.”
“And look at me,” Bo gestured to her frilly dress and blond curls. “I don’t think I could possibly be any more like Galinda.”
“Not really, ‘cept that ya don’t travel by bubble,” the cowgirl laughed. “You’ve tried to fuss me up plenty’a times. But we’ve never hated each other, though.”
“No. And we’re not in love with the same guy, either,” replied the shepherdess with a smirk.
“Eww, no!” exclaimed Jessie, scrunching up her face in exaggerated disgust. “Can ya imagine either of ‘em as Fiyero?”
Bo thought for a moment. “Well, both of them do have sort of tight pants,” she reasoned, causing both girls to burst into hysterics.
Over the following weeks, the two friends listened to the Wicked album often when then family wasn’t at home. They spent hours sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the stereo, singing along; they practiced constantly, determined to master all of Galinda and Elphaba’s lines and harmonies. Although the cowgirl and shepherdess had become confidantes in the four years since Jessie had come to Andy’s, their interests were rather different; now they found themselves bonding over the story and songs that they saw so much of themselves in, and that they had both come to love.
Jessie stood in the doorway of Andy’s bedroom, and turned to meet a nod from Bo. They tiptoed over to where Woody and Buzz were sitting, engrossed in a game of Battleship. The cowgirl stopped behind Woody, planted her feet, and raised her hands to cup either side of her mouth. Buzz looked up just in time to brace himself.
The cowboy flinched violently at his sister’s shrill cry, his limbs flailing, scattering his game board and its pieces across the wood floor. The other toys looked up momentarily, then went back to what they were doing, being accustomed by now to Jessie’s outbursts.
“Why do you always hafta cause a commotion, Jessie?” asked an exasperated Woody, trying to clear the ringing in his ears.
“I don’t cause commotions; I am one,” she giggled.
Woody turned to Bo, who was now sitting beside him. “Did you put her up to that?”
“Who, lil’ ol’ me?” his girlfriend purred innocently.
He raised an eyebrow. “Mmmhmm, thought so.”
The shepherdess kissed him on the cheek. “Oh Woody, don’t be so moodified.”
“Mood-what?” he puzzled at the strange term.
“I think he’s confusified,” Jessie whispered to Bo; they snickered.
“Will someone please explain to me what you’re talking about?” Woody was growing even more annoyed with the two girls’ inside jokes. He slouched dramatically in his seat.
“Oh look, now he’s slumpified,” Jessie added under her breath. Even Buzz was fighting back laughter now.
“That’s it,” the cowboy threw his hands in the air. “I’m gonna have to cut you two off from that show. Hide the CD, the book, something—”
“Can’t hide somethin’ that belongs to Molly,” Jessie shrugged. “’Sides, it won’t do a bit’a good. We know it all by heart.”
“Bo? Jess? You in here?”
It was a lazy Saturday afternoon; the Davis family was away, allowing the toys freedom to scatter throughout the house. When Woody and Buzz wandered into the living room in search of the girls, it was no surprise to find them together.
“See? This is how you toss your hair: Toss. Toss.”
Jessie and Bo sat on the sofa; the Grimmerie lay next to them, open to the play’s script. What had begun as simply singing along with ‘Popular’ had turned into them reenacting the entire scene as best they could. Jessie’s unbraided yarn locks swept freely across her shoulders as the pair swung their hair from side to side in a choreographed motion.
Buzz stared, spellbound. It seemed to him as it her fiery tresses swayed in slow motion.
“Easy, ranger,” Woody chuckled, before approaching his girlfriend and sister. “We thought we’d see if you wanted to watch a movie.” They continued with their rendition; he rolled his eyes. “Aren’t you sick of that yet? You two are obsessed.”
Jessie crossed her arms and scowled at her brother’s teasing.
“Just a little more, please, Woody?” Bo batted her eyelashes at the cowboy. “You could listen with us.”
Woody knew he was outnumbered; Buzz would undoubtedly cave to please Jessie. “Okay, fine,” he relented, “but just a little. Then we turn on the TV.”
Their song finished, Bo and Jessie made room for Woody and Buzz on the sofa. The cowboy and shepherdess snuggled together against the soft cushions on one end; and Jessie scooted closer to Buzz, where he had positioned himself at the opposite end. The space ranger was still entranced by the sight of the cowgirl’s tousled hair; and his gaze remained fixed on her as she twisted it back into its usual style, catching his breath as the soft strands brushed lightly against his shoulder. She smiled knowingly at his reaction.
“So what is it about this that makes you two so crazy, anyway?” Woody questioned, skimming through the pages of the still-open Grimmerie, and honestly wanting to know. He would never admit it to the girls, but he was amused by their singing; and he was glad to see Bo and Jessie have the kind of friendship he knew they had both been missing before.
“I dunno, it’s fun,” answered Jessie, tying the yellow bow at the end of her braid. “And it reminds us of, well, us.”
“It’s about friendship, Woody,” Bo explained further. “And being true to who you are.”
As they all listened to the rest of the album, Bo and Jessie put their hours of practice to good use and enjoyed showing off; yet they still took breaks to explain the story to Woody and Buzz and point out illustrations in the book. When ‘As Long As You’re Mine’ began to play, the girls shared a mischievous glance, and proceeded as if their actions had been rehearsed.
“Kiss me too fiercely, hold me too tight
I need help believing you’re with me tonight…”
The two friends sung along fervently, Jessie gesturing wildly and making sure her hand or arm grazed Buzz to accentuate specific lyrics. At the song’s conclusion, however, Bo remained silent, and Jessie recited the last line, looking askance at the space ranger next to her.
“It’s just, for the first time—I feel wicked.”
Buzz’s eyes locked with Jessie’s, and he felt a familiar heat rising in his jetpack. The cowgirl grinned at him, and he froze.
Woody noticed what was transpiring and intervened on his lovestruck friend’s behalf. “Really, girls? Jess, you’re gonna make Buzz’s wings go,” he groaned, eliciting a glare from the space ranger.
“Don’t worry, that’s all the romance,” Bo sighed, patting her boyfriend on the arm. “You’ve gotten this far, though; you might as well see how it ends.”
It all happened so fast.
Four years had gone by, and Andy and Molly were spending a weekend with their grandparents, leaving the toys to anticipate a couple days of quiet and a much-needed break from the stifling toy box. So when Mrs. Davis swept through the house early Saturday morning, gathering her children’s outgrown toys and no-longer-used belongings, the residents of the two kids’ rooms were caught completely off guard. As soon as the pilfering was complete, a frantic Woody raced down the hall to Molly’s room, and his worst fear was realized when he saw who was among those taken.
Despite the cowboy’s best efforts to rescue his love, he was only met with failure. The pretty lamp sold quickly, before Woody could even reach the table where she was displayed. And with Lenny having been sold several years before, the others had no way to read the far-away license plate of the car that drove off with her, which had been parked some distance down the street.
The day was quiet, indeed. They had lost friends over the years at other yard sales, but no loss had been as great as this. Nobody was sure how to help Woody, who sat distraught on the windowsill, staring blankly in the direction that the car carrying Bo had driven. Buzz promised to help him find her; but the space ranger had no clue how to follow through with his promise with absolutely no leads.
Hours passed. Mrs. Davis cleaned up her yard sale, counted her earnings, and left to meet a friend for dinner. As Andy’s toys began to occupy themselves with hushed pursuits, Buzz took over the leadership duties on Woody’s behalf and scanned the room to verify where everyone was. Noticing one toy missing, he was fraught with panic. Jessie. He hadn’t seen her for hours.
The space ranger ran down the hall to Molly’s room, calling out to the cowgirl. No reply. There was no sign of her anywhere upstairs at all. Then, as he hurried down the stairs, he heard faint music coming from the living room below.
When he turned the corner and neared the sofa, he saw her. Jessie sat in front of the stereo, the music playing softly enough for her to hear without the other toys being aware of what she was doing. Her chin was resting on her drawn-up knees, and her face bore the telltale signs of recent tears. She looked up briefly when she heard Buzz enter the room, then hung her head again in sorrow.
Buzz was crestfallen. Everyone had been so worried about Woody, and had tried to be of some help to him; but nobody had stopped to think of Jessie’s loss. Bo was her closest friend. Overcome with guilt, the space ranger put his usual nerves aside and immediately went to comfort her.
The instant he sat down beside the cowgirl and wrapped an arm around her shoulder, she melted into his embrace, sobbing. He boldly took off her hat and rested his head against hers, letting her cry it out.
“She was my best friend, Buzz. Now who am I gonna talk to?”
“You have me. Always.”
As they sat together in the stillness, it didn’t take the space ranger long to realize what Jessie had been listening to. He stayed with her, her strong support, and let the song’s lyrics speak to the cowgirl’s heart…
It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me, like a handprint on my heart;
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine, by being my friend…
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But, because I knew you,
I have been changed for good.