A/N: Here is a new story I've thought up. It kind of combines elements of both the book and the musical, although I think most of the characters will be more musical-ish, especially Fiyero (later, when he comes in) although I'm making Boq a combination of both. It shall be interesting, at any rate. So, for this chapter the only characterization necessary is that Elphaba's father is, in fact, the governor of Munchkinland, and Nessarose is only one year younger, and there is no Shell.
Disclaimer: Ti t'nsi enim. (What? Just saying "It isn't mine" is boring).
Prologue Part I
The day I was born, I'm told, my father refused to touch me, or even to look at me.
My mother fainted when she saw me.
"It probably wasn't because of you," Nessarose said once. "She'd just had a baby. She was tired."
I could read Nessa's nine-year-old thought process clearly, hear her unsaid words:
If Mother fainted when she saw Elphaba, because of Elphaba, well, when I was born, she died. That would make it my fault, if it was Elphie's fault she fainted, wouldn't it? No, that can't be right.
It was much safer to blame me. I was the scapegoat of the family. I learned the meaning of that word early.
Nessarose. Nessa. Nessie. My baby sister. I loved her, you know. It wasn't her fault that our father did, too. In a slightly less dysfunctional family, Nessarose might have been the one blamed for our mother's death. After all, my mother died giving birth to her.
But perhaps that's why Father always loved her so- maybe in some twisted way, he believed she was some sort of reincarnation of Mother, or something.
On second thought, maybe it was just because she wasn't green.
Father told me I was a freak, evil, a demon, a horror. He told me other things, too, though. He told me the Wizard was wonderful, farmers should be able to work Animals for nothing, and many other like things. I discarded all of the above. But there was one thing he told me that I held on to.
A perceived weakness can be your greatest strength. It can save your life. It's an emergency getaway, an ever present backup plan. A back door. If someone believes that something can hurt you, when, in reality, it cannot, they will use that against you rather than something that actually will. It's like the tale one of the village women told Nessarose and I, once, about Brer Rabbit begging to be thrown into the Briar Patch, knowing of course that he would be, and he would be absolutely fine. Reverse psychology, in a way. And one day, my perceived weakness saved my life.
Prologue Part II
I was ten years old before I discovered that I was not, in fact, allergic to water.
The governor's mansion in Munchkinland overlooks a lake from the back.
One day, when I was ten years old, after a particularly bad bout of screaming from my father, I decided to, well, go jump in a lake.
As a baby, I'd supposedly screamed and kicked and bit when brought near water, and no one was willing to reckon with my fearsome teeth for a bath after I'd bit off the midwife's finger when I was about three minutes old, so it was milk they used, and then oil, when I got older.
But that day, I wasn't trying to clean myself. I was- I don't know. I suppose I was going to prove my father wrong- or I was going to die trying.
"Elphaba!" my father had boomed from downstairs. I appeared at their head.
I was cautious. I knew that the smallest things were liable to set him off where I was concerned. I was vague, not overly polite- he'd accuse me of kissing up- not overtly defiant- that would earn me a slap- and not subservient, for even at ten, that I couldn't bear.
"Come down here." The voice was cold, dangerous. My heart sinking, stomach rising, I obeyed. Robotically I descended the stairs, filled with dread.
"Did I not ask you to clear the table?" he said.
"I did!" I protested truthfully.
"What is that?"
A single cup had been left on the table. "You can't even do this one thing right," he said in disgust.
Bile and anger rose together, intertwined, in my throat. The bile I held in. The anger, I could not. It swelled up wine-dark in my stomach, burned fire-red in my heart of hearts, and it spread, hot and deep, through my body and into my mouth.
"It's just one cup!" I burst out. "Everyone makes mistakes, Father, even Nessa, even
you-" The rush of words was cut of by the cold slap of his hand to my cheek. Cold, then burning. I held my face in shock; surely something so trivial as a cup could not have brought this on?
But everything is backed up in this family; residual anger from a thousand other things held in and compacted until it explodes. Bottled up, if you will.
"You useless little bitch!" he told me, low and cold. I felt my face tense, my features harden, my burning tears dam up and freeze.
"Stupid whore-child, little witch girl, bane of my life," he went on, each word an electric shock jolting my heart with pain. Was he drunk? In a twisted way, I hoped so. It would make him less culpable, lessen the sting of his words somewhat. "You're worth nothing," he said, "Jackshit, you hear me? Worth nothing! And you never will be!"
I was only ten, and I still loved him, and this was by far the worst display ever.
"Worse than worthless!" he yelled. "You little freak, you took Melena from me! You made Nessa paralyzed, you-"
I couldn't take it anymore. It'd been drilled into my head since I was a year old that this was true, that I'd killed my mother and ruined my sister. I believed it, heart and soul. I couldn't it in- my tears, my amateur curses ready to be lobbed at him- so I fled.
Through the double doors, feet hit the ground, thud-thud-thud, into the grass, biting softly at my ankles- and then the lake.
Sparkling in the fading sunlight, the violet hills of Rush Margins backlit with an unearthly glow of gold radiating into soft pinks, oranges, and purples, the edges of it nearly blinding me. I kept running –sink or swim, do or die- into the lake, water in my shoes, hitting me ankles, knees, thighs, waist- and then, only then, did I pause. I was standing there, my skirts and boots soaking wet. But I was alive.
My first real curse, genuinely meant, at the failure of a ten-year-old's half-heartfelt suicide attempt.
But I would have died for this.
Water, glorious water! Cold, clear, filling me with its clarity and purity. I reveled in it, I slipped beneath its glowing surface, splashed my face, smoothed it over my hair. It sheathed me like a second skin. I sprinkled drops of it from the tips of my fingers into the sky, filigreed gold in the sunset. My body seemed instinctively to embrace it; I dove beneath and half swam to shore, even though I'd obviously never learned.
I hid my wet clothes, though, and dried my hair quickly. I never told anyone for a very, very long time (seven years, in fact).
Perceived weaknesses can, after all, save your life.