Galinda scrunched up her face in concentration and bit her tongue gently. The middle finger on her right hand was always the hardest, and this polish needed to be perfect. After all, she had gotten it especially for her new dress, and the dress would be worn tomorrow. It had been pure luck that she had found this polish, really. After buying that new dress (fitted bodice, puffed sleeves, gathered waist and ruffled hem all in a peachy pink), Milla had insisted that they all make a quick stop for accessories (she had needed a new purse for the jacket her mother had sent her the week before), and Pfannee, quickly bored with the purses (she already owned all of them) dragged her over to the cosmetics, and the polishes. It had been a perfect match. Now to get the perfect coat on her nails.
Elphaba had been feigning interest in her book for the past fifteen minutes. Her roommate was always quite the character, but tonight she was surely an unwitting clown. Her bright pink tongue sticking out of the corner of matching pursed lips, her eyes narrowed, brows furrowed, and cheeks flushed with effort. And she was still on the first hand. It was taking all of Elphaba's strength not to topple out of her bed with laughter. As it was, she remained smirking into her book, watching Galinda struggle with the tiny brush and globs of gaudy pink out of the corner of her eye.
Once Galinda had finished putting the color on her hand, she spread her fingers wide, bent her arm at the elbow and waved her hand stiffly in front of her face, her face still contorted with exertion. Elphaba, having never seen such an exhibition, snorted loudly. The motion stopped immediately. Galinda looked up at her roommate, seemingly still reading her book (whatever boring subject it was on), and sniffed. She resumed waving the polish dry, inspected her hand carefully for streaks, and reached for the top coat (a brand name quick dry glosser).Seeing another bottle opened, Elphaba could hold herself together no longer.
"Galinda, what on earth are you doing?"
"Painting my nails, what does it look like?" Galinda huffed in reply.
"You need three bottles to paint one hand?"
"Of course, silly," Galinda rolled her eyes. For one so worldly, Miss Elphaba often knew next to nothing about appearances, "First the bonder, to keep the color on, then the color itself, two or three coats depending, and finally a glosser, to keep it shiny and un-chipped." Elphaba stared at her blankly.
"But you'll only be taking it off again in a few days. Why all the trouble?" Galinda was surprised to note that she looked genuinely confused.
"Because for those few days it has to look perfect. Accessories are funny things, they are not noticed if you wear them properly, but if they are missing or ugly, you are hated, avoided and dismissed." Elphaba looked shocked.
"So when are they liked?"
"If they are creative," Galinda's eyes glittered oddly, as though this were a greatly desired achievement, "Or unusual. It's a fine line, Miss Elphaba, one people are continually cautious of. It's that sort of thing that makes the cover of Ozmopolitan: the things people are afraid to do in public, but work well with a famous face." Elphaba seemed to consider all this deeply, and did not reply. Galinda swelled, feeling she had finally taught her roomie something about fashion. She quickly finished off her nails (being right handed, the left hand was always the easier one), and began to put her polishes away when an odd thought struck her. She eyed her roommate carefully before asking.
"What's your best color, Miss Elphaba?" Elphaba jumped and stared.
"Black, I think. It doesn't clash, you see."
"Black is not a color, Miss Elphaba." Galinda could already tell that this was going to be difficult.
"Blue, then," Elphaba replied, turning back to her book, "Navy or indigo, something dark enough to look black in the right light." She waved a single hand dismissively at Galinda.
"I've always thought pink went well with green," Galinda muttered, walking up to her roommate's bed slowly, holding several colors of polish out in front of her. She was only a few inches away from Elphaba, holding the different shades of pink polish up to the green arm, when Elphaba noticed her. Immediately, Elphaba seemed to fly to the other side of her bed, hands curled protectively up to her chest.
"What do you think you're doing?" She stammered
"I'm trying to see which color would look best on your nails," Galinda replied smoothly, as she leaned over the bed, holding out the color's to her roommate's skin once more, "but you seem to have moved," Elphaba flinched, "Oh come now, it's not so bad." Actually, Galinda could tell that it was. All her polishes were far too bright for Miss Elphaba's condition complexion. A pastel pink would have been rather nice (acceptable, in any case) but even her new peach color wasn't quite the right shade. Elphaba correctly interpreted Galinda's slight headshake.
"Oh well, then," She said quickly, laughing nervously, "we just won't worry about my nails, then. I don't mind." But by now, Galinda was determined that her roommate would experience her first coat of nail polish tonight. She dashed over to her vanity, tossing her pinks carelessly on top, and threw open the top left drawer. Quickly she past her many creams and whites (a Glikkin manicure would look simply hideous next to that green), and the off-pinks (the lavenders, fuchsias, peaches and the like. Galinda had coined the term ages ago and knew of no other that used it) and darted to the "odd colors" in the back. Most of these, Galinda had not purchased for herself, but had ended up in her possession as party favors gag gifts, presents from relatives and other miscellaneous sources. Here was a sky blue, a silver that shone dark purple in the sunlight, a bright green (how ironic), a black (which Galinda shoved to the very back corner, lest Miss Elphaba get any ideas) and several other hues in varying degrees of garishness. Quickly, she scouted out a silver (that stayed silver in the sunlight, and all other lights as well), two golds (one with glitter, and one without), a darker green (just for laughs), and a quick handful of other shades. Galinda was just about to shut the drawer again and make sure Miss Elphaba hadn't made one of her infamous escapes (the ones that everyone noticed, but no one cared to point out) when one last bottle caught her eye. Picking it up, she could vaguely remember ShenShen pressing it into her hands, saying it was in the "height of fashion" and would look "so rosy on Galinda's creamy hands." Sniffing at the thought, Galinda inspected the color. It would of course, look dreadful on the wrong person (she and ShenShen both fell in that category), but was a beautiful hue nonetheless. The color of unripe blackberries in the summer sun, a rich rose red. No not rose, closer to blood, Galinda noted with a grimace. Oh well, she'd stick with the blackberry description.
Turning, she was vaguely surprised to see Elphaba still jackknifed at the head of her bed, her nose once again buried in that book. Quietly, Galinda gathered all the colors she had picked out, shut the drawer and tiptoed over to the dorm door. Locking it, so as to get a head start should Miss Elphaba attempt escape, Galinda crept up to her roommate's side. Once again, Miss Elphaba jumped at the sudden nearness of blonde and pink, but did not move as Galinda settled herself on the foot of the bed and laid out the polish colors. Elphaba eyed the procedure warily and tucked her feet further up under her frock.
"You are not painting my toenails, Miss Galinda," She hissed. Galinda did her best to muster a giggle.
"Of course not, Miss Elphaba," She cooed, "You're fingernails would be such a better target." Elphaba paled visibly, dropped her book, not even bothering to mark the place, and crossed her arms firmly over her chest, giving Galinda a glare that surely would have killed a lesser being. "Oh, come on, Miss Elphie! It'll be fun!"
"I don't have much experience with 'fun', and I find that my definition of the term varies greatly from yours," Elphaba snarled, "I also resent that nickname." Wordlessly, Galinda picked up the colored bottles one at a time and held them up to the exposed green legs, tossing them to the left if they didn't work, and to the right if they needed closer inspection. The bottles on her left piled quickly and soon began to tumble to the floor. The glittering gold was quickly tossed out, as was the silver, an orange she had grabbed by mistake (and didn't bother holding up), a deep purple, and several others. The other gold, the dark green (surprisingly) and the red were kept.
"All right, Miss Elphie," the eye roll Elphaba gave her was palpable, "Which of these do you like best?" Snorting, Elphaba quickly looked the three shades over and nodded at the green. Galinda tossed it aside and Elphaba curled her lip. Galinda held up each remaining bottle to one of Elphaba's legs and studied them. The gold, while pretty would require certain outfits, and may have looked rather silly on her nails when it was all said and done with. Besides, the color was a bit bright for Miss Elphaba. The red it would be then. Galinda stood up to gather her base and top coats. Elphaba, thinking perhaps that Galinda had decided not to go through with her scheme, relaxed her stance for a moment, only to tighten back up more rigorously than before when she caught sight of the other bottles. Carefully, Galinda set the collection of polish on the wooden nightstand and looked at her roommate, trying decide how best to obtain one of her hands. She looked Elphaba in the eyes, trying to silently reason with the green girl, but was met with a fierce and unyielding determination. Galinda, undaunted, matched the look with one of her own, a puppy face that had always done wonders for her in the past. Miss Elphaba was utterly unfazed.
For a few minutes, both girls remained in the same position, each trying to silently out wit and out last the other. Finally Galinda became fed up and threw her own hands in the air. Elphaba, sensing victory, sniffed and reached down for her fallen book. Galinda, having guessed her roommate's actions correctly, leapt forward and seized the emerald wrists in an iron grip.
Elphaba shrieked. Startled, Galinda shrieked as well but did not lose her grip. The battle of wills became a physical battle as Elphaba yanked her fists back to the sanctuary of her chest, and Galinda, unrelenting, toppled onto the covers, her face landing squarely in Elphaba's lap. Both girls shrieked again. Kicking and flailing, Elphaba succeeded only in falling further down on her covers, losing her protective jackknifed position. Galinda however, using much the same tactics, fought her way to her knees, never relinquishing the jade wrists, and used her leverage to straddle Elphaba's hips, where she promptly seated herself. Elphaba was temporarily knocked breathless from the sudden weight on her stomach.
"Now," Galinda heaved as Elphaba attempted to breathe beneath her, "we can keep this up and draw the whole dorm to our room, or you can let me paint you nails just this once." Elphaba looked about to retort, but midway through her breath, clenched her jaw shut and looked Galinda over, studying their position.
"Fine," She huffed, letting her arms fall limp, "Just this once." Galinda squealed in delight and bounced off of Elphaba, who sat up wheezing. Curls bouncing and cheeks flushing with excitement, Galinda gathered her supplies, including a file and buff, and bounded back to Elphaba's bed. The green wrists were thrust out unceremoniously, and Galinda grabbed the right hand, positioning it gently in her left palm. With great care, she filed and buffed the nails into shape (they were longer than Galinda had expected), and uncorked the bonder.
"The first coat may feel a little cold," She said, wiping the brush on the inner edge of the bottle. Slowly, Galinda lifted the brush to Elphaba's thumbnail and lightly pulled it down the center. Elphaba flinched, ("Don't do that! You'll mess it up terribly!") however, seeing no change in the color of her nail, she relaxed and let Galinda continue the work.
"This particular bonder has some minerals that help keep your nails healthy. It's also supposed to last for three weeks, but it doesn't really," Galinda paused, seeing Elphaba's stricken look, "Oh, there are removers for the polish, you know that. You won't have to wear this for three weeks," Elphaba relaxed again and watched intently as Galinda replaced the cap on the bonder and pulled out the red polish, shaking it for good measure. Galinda deliberately avoided Elphaba's wide eyed stare as she lifted out the brush, wiped off the excess polish, and slid the color down Elphaba's thumbnail. Galinda instantly knew she'd made the right color choice. The red worked surprisingly well next to the green skin, dimming down the bright jade of the fingers while giving the nails an ethereal glow that stood out sharply against the black of Elphaba's frock. Sharp and intense, Galinda mused, moving on to the forefinger, just like Miss Elphaba herself. Due to Elphaba's stillness and the relative newness of the polish itself, Galinda was able to finish Elphaba's hand quickly.
"Now," She said, replacing the top on the colored bottle, "Let me have your hand,"
"You already have it," Galinda could tell Elphaba was trying to growl out the words in her usual tone, but her nervousness made her voice higher and the effect was all but lost.
"I'll need it more than this," She said gently, pulling the hand lightly to her lips. When Elphaba made no moves of resistance, Galinda blew softly on the wet nails. Elphaba jumped slightly, but feeling that this was better than waving her hand in wild, stiff circles, made no move to stop the gesture. Galinda inspected her work, then, being satisfied, quickly laid on the top coat and told Elphaba sternly to keep her hand still. Elphaba nodded replacing her hand palm down on the blanket next to her hip.
"Now the other one," Galinda chirped, holding out her left hand expectantly, and grabbing the file with her right. Sighing, Elphaba held out her left hand, much more gently than before and the process was repeated. Once that hand too was resting on the bed, Galinda packed up her materials and bounced back to her vanity, keeping an eye on her roomie in the mirror. Elphaba lifted her right hand off the blankets and, hearing no objections from Galinda, inspected it carefully. Brows furrowed, she studied her nails, much to Galinda's amusement. She did not take on a look of disgust or cynicism, but rather a look of wonder and perhaps, Galinda thought, a bit of excitement. Her face glowed a rich forest hue, and her eyes lit up. The brows unfurrowed and lifted appraisingly, and Galinda caught herself halfway through a sigh of relief. Elphaba spread her fingers wide and stretched out her arm, her head tilting to one side. She waved her hand in the air slowly, fingers splayed, then began furling and unfurling them gently, admiring the glint of light off of each blood red nail as she did so. Galinda smiled.
"You know," She called, pointlessly bustling around the drawers of her vanity, "you do have nice hands. Long fingers like that are quite pretty, especially with a slender wrist. It's elegant on you."
"Thank you," Elphaba called out softly, her eyes never leaving her hands.
"They'll be completely dry in just a minute; then you can get back to your book."
"How long must I keep them like this," despite her words, Elphaba seemed to be asking when she would have to remove the polish, rather than when she would be allowed to. Galinda giggled.
"One day, Miss Elphaba, then I will show you where the remover is and how to use it," Galinda bit the end of her tongue gently, "You can have that color if you want it." Elphaba looked up, startled.
"No, I--" she began, but Galinda wouldn't let her cut in.
"It was a gift, well, in a sense, and it looks positively hideous on me. I would think it better to be in the hands of someone who might use it." Elphaba was silent for a moment, and Galinda caught her eye. For a moment, the girls held each others gaze and a million thoughts were shared without a single hindering word.
"Thank you, Galinda."
"You're welcome, Elphie."
They shared a smile briefly before looking away, and the moment was over. Over, but not gone.
"So, when will you let me do your toenails?"