It was Azure who woke Elphaba that morning with the soft, musing coo he had made every morning in the mauntery. She opened her eyes to see him with his nose pressed against hers, cheeks rosy with warmth and eyes sparkling with delight; he reached out and pawed at her cheek with limp, curled fingers. Watching him, Elphaba allowed herself a faint smile.
After a moment staring into her son's wise blue eyes, Elphaba rolled slowly off of the bed, cringing a little as her feet touched the cold floorboards, and moved quietly to the huge hearth at the opposite end of the room. In the soft blue light of dawn breaking over the city, Elphaba looked almost spectral, ethereal, a slip of a green ghost as she stood in front of the glowing embers. She stoked the dying cinders with an iron shaft that had been propped against the stone wall, sending a flurry of orange sparks into the dark depths of the chimney, and then returned to Azure. She moved him to a depression in the center of the bed, wrapped his naked body in a quilt to keep him warm, and found an engraved silver spoon for him to play with. "Are you warm?" Elphaba whispered, pressing her sharp nose against his small, round one. Azure smiled gummily and hit her in the face with the bowl of the spoon that he clutched in both of his little fists.
A knock sounded timidly at the door, and Elphaba jumped, startled, away from her son, as if afraid to be caught so near to him. "Wait," she said, raspily, grabbing her shift from the floor and sliding out of the thin nightdress. "Wait, one minute."
When she was suitably dressed, Elphaba took a piece of cord from around her wrist, knotted her hair up behind her head in a messy tangle, and thrust open the door, expecting Glinda. She wasn't sure if she wanted to face her old friend, or if either of them could bear it, and already her face was dark green with shame from her tattered appearance. But it was only a Glikkun maid, a squinty-eyed cousin of Sira's who stared gapingly up at the green woman from the doorway. "What?" Elphaba said, brashly, convincing herself she was relieved and not disappointed that it was not Glinda knocking.
The maid, her lower lip trembling and her eyes the size of saucers, thrust a tray into Elphaba's hands. "F-f-for you—" she started, blanched, and fled back down the staircase.
Elphaba watched the receding back of the Glikkun girl stiffly and wordlessly, then turned, tray in hand, and returned to her chamber. "Look what we've been brought," she said to Azure, smiling crookedly, as if she was out of practice. The green woman set the tray on the bedspread next to her son, who was watching her attentively with his wide, flickering eyes. There was a clay jug of milk for Azure and a breakfast plate for Elphaba—bread and fruit preserves and a small porcelain tub of butter—and beneath the food a stack of folded clothes, all arranged neatly and delicately. Elphaba pushed her breakfast aside to examine the clothing, and saw that beneath them somebody had tucked a small glass vial of oil, the kind Elphaba had always used to clean herself with in Shiz.
Elphaba unfolded three sets of infants' clothes—trousers and shirts and booties made from the softest, best-woven fabric in the Emerald City—and beneath them a simple black wool dress with a finely crafted button-up bodice. She shook tangles of hair from her eyes and looked shamefacedly down at her own dress, stained and shapeless and tattered. "I suppose we must learn to take charity," Elphaba said, more to herself than to Azure. She laughed bitterly. "I wonder what I would have said four years ago if somebody had told me I would be getting my food, clothes and shelter from Glinda of the Arduennas."
Her long green fingers trembled as she unwound the quilt from Azure's small, frail body. She dressed him in a blue silk shirt and trousers, the least gaudy of the garments she had been given, and slipped his tiny feet into soft leather booties; her son's gaunt, sallow frame was hidden in the folds of well-tailored clothing, and in them he looked well-dressed and healthy. You look like a wealthy businessman's son, she thought, cupping his small head in her lithe green hands and lifting him to her breast. You look like…like you don't belong in the arms of a tattered, green-skinned pauper.
Are you really my child, beautiful boy?
Azure grunted and reached for her, brow knitted in consternation, watching the tears slide down his mother's cheeks with a sad look in his deep blue eyes. Elphaba gazed down at her son for a long time, communicating to him with her dark, sad eyes something she had forgotten years ago how to say with words. She felt within her a love so deep, so much a part of every fiber of her being, that she could hardly begin to fathom it.