Glinda Upland swung her feet beneath the bench she sat on, her eyes focused on the ground. Next to her, Boq was putting forth what was probably a compelling argument, but she had stopped listening a while ago. She toed a small rock, then kicked it gently out into the sidewalk.
Her gaze followed the rock, lifting to stare at the nearly empty campus. The late summer heat seemed to slow everything down—not that Shiz had been all that busy the past couple months. Most of the residents were home, leaving only a handful of students and teachers who stayed to work or conduct research.
She brought her knees up to her chest and rested her chin on them. “I’m sorry, Boq. I can’t.”
“I think getting off campus for a while will do you some good,” Fiyero said gently.
“I am perfectly fine here, thank you.”
“It’ll be fun,” Crope said. “Just a nice, relaxed dinner at the Peach and Kidneys.”
Tibbett nodded. “Come on, Glinda. You deserve to do something nice.”
She glared, but didn’t quite have the energy to turn and face them. “I want to stay here.”
“I’m tired,” she announced, standing up and smoothing out her skirt. She meant to say more, but no words would come, so she turned and left the boys on the sidewalk, no doubt staring hopelessly after her.
She knew better than to be mad at her friends. They were worried—she had given them plenty reason to be over the last few months. Oz, it was practically a miracle when they got her out of the room for the first time that summer. But this? This was asking too much. Maybe getting off the campus would be good for her, but the Peach and Kidneys? She couldn’t even think of the restaurant without remembering…
Stop. She couldn’t let those thoughts take hold. Not now.
Glinda stepped into Crage Hall, grateful for the change in temperature, and wandered up to her room. She slipped slowly out of her shoes and collapsed onto the bed closest to the door. Not much had changed in the room since summer began. Her side was clean, if only because she never did anything but change clothes. Elphaba’s side was empty.
Her chest tightened and her throat closed up. She lowered herself onto the mattress and curled up in the green girl’s sheets. Elphaba’s scent had all but faded from the bed, and for a moment Glinda felt the sheer panic and despair of losing her, as fresh as it had been that first night.
There were no tears. She had stopped crying weeks ago. She stared dully across the room, where her own bed sat, neatly made and completely untouched. In fact, no one had even sat on her bed since the boys were in here a few weeks ago, begging her to come outside again.
As the light faded slowly from the window, Glinda contemplated washing up and getting ready for bed. She supposed she should find something to eat for dinner, but the idea was so daunting it only made her curl tighter into Elphaba’s blanket.
Go to the bathroom, she told herself. Wash up, change clothes, and then you can sleep.
Sighing, she pushed herself up from the bed and shuffled to the bathroom. The counter that had once been full of little jars and bottles was now almost completely bare. Her own perfumes and soaps had looked wrong without Elphaba’s oils beside them, and she had thrown them all to the ground in a fit of rage during finals week, shattering them and spilling their contents across the room. The mess had stayed there for nearly a month, until the boys had pounded on her door and demanded she let them in.
“She used to complain I had too many things, anyway,” Glinda had mumbled when Fiyero asked about it.
They had all stared at her, but Crope put an arm around her and said, ever so softly, “I miss her, too.” She broke down then, and they didn’t get another word out of her for the rest of the night.
Glinda avoided her reflection as she splashed water over her face. She had meant to take a bath, but…this would have to do. As she stumbled back into the room and searched for a nightgown, her thoughts turned to the rest of that summer.
The weeks had been long, blurring together in a dull haze. She could remember instances: Avaric and Pfannee trying to get her attention at dinner one night, Crope and Tibbett walking her to classes, Boq looking over his shoulder to ask Elphaba’s opinion of something, his face crumbling when he remembered she wasn’t there.
He had started taking shifts at the girls’ library as well as the boys’, to earn a little more money. A few weeks after Elphaba left, he reported that the books that had gone missing the last few months were slowly returning. Out of curiosity, Fiyero checked the labs they used to break into, only to find that the materials they had once needed were there again. No one in the group had even seen Morrible since the end of the semester. It was as if none of it had ever happened, had ever meant anything.
Glinda supposed she should be grateful for the long days and empty campus. Facing the rest of her classmates still seemed unbearable. She had managed to avoid them those last few weeks of the semester, mostly by locking herself in her room and leaving only to go to class. If it weren’t for the boys taking turns sneaking into Crage Hall to bring her food, the blonde very well may have starved to death by the time finals came around.
She somehow managed to get through her exams—though she’d stormed out of Morrible’s classroom halfway through, fire still swirling around her hands. But the headmistress simply marked something down on her papers and went about cleaning the room Glinda had all but blown up in her anger.
She had told herself that she was just waiting out the rest of finals week. When the majority of Shiz’s students had gone home for the summer, she would get up and hang out with the boys again. When the time came, though, leaving the room was just too daunting of a task. So she stayed curled up in Elphaba’s bed, hoping that if she pulled the blanket just a little tighter around herself, it would feel like green arms were holding her again.
Summer was almost over. In just a week or two, her classmates would be returning. She would have to face them and whatever rumors they brought with them. And what about Professor Nikidik, with his smug grin and arrogant tone? What about Morrible? How would she act, now that it was clear she had won?
Glinda shook her head at herself and crawled into Elphaba’s bed, pulling the thin, useless blanket up to her shoulders. She grabbed the pillow and flipped it over to rest more comfortably beneath her head. The faint smell of fresh wood and new parchment hit her and, whimpering, she screwed her eyes shut and buried her face into the pillow. As she gulped in deep breaths, trying to drown herself in Elphaba’s scent, she felt the fabric dampen beneath her cheeks.
She would apologize to the boys tomorrow. They were only worried about her and anyway, they were probably right. This campus held too many memories, and getting away for a little while could be good. Just, not to the Peach and Kidneys. Tomorrow, maybe, she would suggest doing something different. Tomorrow, she would pick herself up and try again.
But for tonight…well, perhaps there were some tears left, after all.
Elphaba refolded the letter and set it on the floor next to her. She leaned her head back against the wall and let her eyes slide shut. Not for the first time, she wanted to tell Nessarose that she was asking for too much.
She cracked one eye open and looked down at her sister’s letter. Grandfather isn’t feeling well… Please, visit us…
Elphaba tried to picture the stubborn, willowy man who was the ruler of Munchkinland. She couldn’t imagine him in anything less than perfect health. He had seemed fine when she was there at the beginning of the summer. Moving a bit slow, perhaps, but that was a given at his age, wasn’t it? How old was the Eminent Thropp, anyway? Elphaba sighed and picked up the letter again.
I know you didn’t leave on great terms last time.
“That’s an understatement,” Elphaba muttered. In fact, she had hardly left on any terms. She’d just stormed out in the middle of an argument with her father and never came back. But of course, that wouldn’t be a problem this time around, according to Nessa.
Father is leaving tomorrow to give his sermons. He won’t be back for nearly a month. I don’t know where you are now, but please come back.
It was unlike her sister to be pleading with her. It was also unlike her to admit that their father’s presence had anything to do with Elphaba’s decision.
Elphaba pulled the end of her braid over her shoulder and started tugging at it absentmindedly. It wasn’t as if she had anything else to do, and she was desperate to be up and moving again. She gazed around at the run-down house she had been staying in the past couple of weeks. She wasn’t sure what had brought her to her father’s old home in Rush Margins, yet here she was.
It wasn’t exactly a place of happy memories.
“I suppose that means it’s time to go, then,” she muttered, reaching over to pick up the letter once more. The Colwen Grounds weren’t terribly far. It would take two days, maybe three if she wanted to avoid the major roads. She could get there, figure out what Nessa wanted, and then…
Shaking her head, Elphaba climbed to her feet and brushed herself off. Her clothes were more ragged than ever, and this particular frock had accumulated so much dust from the Munchkinland roads that it could hardly be considered black anymore.
But thinking about clothes made her think about someone else, so she set her jaw and picked up her bag. Whatever was waiting for her at Colwen Grounds, she would just have to wait and see. She shoved Nessa’s letter in her bag and walked out of the house, glaring down at her feet to keep the flashes of blonde out of her vision.
She didn’t look back.
Elphaba had gotten used to traveling alone. The summer had been spent wandering through Munchkinland, avoiding most of the towns and main roads, until it became a familiar rhythm she could fall into.
This trip proved to be no different.
As she walked, she couldn’t help but think back on the last couple months. So much had happened since she left Shiz last spring, and yet, it seemed like nothing had. She had gone to the Colwen Grounds first, but it had only taken a few days before she couldn’t stand being around her father any longer. After leaving the Grounds, she simply wandered around Munchkinland. Every once in a while she would stumble across an Animal in need of help—a Squirrel caught in a hunting trap, a Cow tied to a fence post—but for the most part, she was simply…roaming.
Sometimes she would find an abandoned farm house or granary and camp out there for a few days, spending her time trying to recreate parts of Dillamond’s research. Most of what she had done was destroyed with the journal, of course, but she wrote down all she remembered and did her best to fill in what was missing.
It was a hopeless effort—at least, while she was working alone. There were nights, after late hours of scribbling down vague details and examples in the almost non-existent light of the moon, that she would sit curled up and stare out into whatever field she was staying in and let her thoughts travel miles away to the Emerald City. She wondered how much of the research Dillamond had sent to the Resistance, and how much she could do if she ever found them.
She tried not to think about it too much. For now, this was all she could do.
And then there were the hours upon hours of walking, feet dragging in the dirt, baking in the dry Munchkinland heat, with nothing but her own thoughts to keep her occupied. She wasn’t quite sure when she first pulled out the sorcery book, or why, but she had, and now her travelling days were spent practicing magic. She lifted pebbles without touching them, dug ruts in the ground beside her, and even patched up small holes in her shoes. One time she had tried to create fire in the palm of her hand, but her mind was soon consumed by the memory of Glinda’s hand between her fingers, discussing bone structure and energy points, and the little jar of pink flames that accompanied them on their first outings together around campus.
Fire had flared, deep red and uncontrolled, across her arm. Growling and pulling out her jar of burn cream, Elphaba had decided she was done with magic for that trip.
On her journey back to the Colwen Grounds, she spent her time moving objects about. Her bag hung in the air beside her for most of the trip, and she did her best to find other objects to throw around. A rock, a fallen branch, a broken, abandoned wagon—the larger it was, the harder it was to move, and the more determined she was to succeed.
She hated every second of it. The familiar ripple of energy beneath her skin, the hum of the air when she concentrated hard enough—it reminded her of terrible things. More than once she was forced to stop, gasping, as flashes of memories invaded her vision: fleeing from the library, or Dillamond’s room at the inn. Magic reminded her of Morrible, and it made her sick.
But other times, just once in a while, it would remind her of Glinda. She would remember the dress Glinda had fixed, back before they were even friends. She would remember the jars of flames and the rattling of furniture when she was upset and the way her eyes brimmed with energy when she was deep into her sorcery textbooks. These memories hurt, too, but they also helped. It was like being with Glinda again—a small connection that she could keep up, even from half a country away.
All of this was how she spent the long summer days, and at night, after she walked until she could barely stand upright anymore, she would stumble into an abandoned shack or a cluster of trees and settle down for a few hours. When the sun rose, she would get up and be on her way again.
She had lost weight. Her only source of food was what she lifted from farms she passed, leaving a couple of coins if she had them. Her clothes had lightened in the sun and the dust. Her boots were worn and cracked. Her hair was almost always clumped with dirt or twigs. Her voice was deeper and raspier whenever she murmured enchantments. Time passed strangely, both too fast and too slow, and she was always hungry, or thirsty, or tired, or sore.
And always, always, with every step she took, as subconscious as breathing, she missed Shiz and the boys and, above all, the tiny blonde she had left behind.